Jesse’s Easy Vegan Chili

Jesse has long been the chili master in our house. With our recent switch to an oil-free vegan diet, we weren’t sure how to keep up the tradition. Yesterday, Jesse just decided to “go for it,” and this is what he came up with. I must say, it was very tasty, and I ate WAY more than I should have in one day!

3 cans beans (we used red kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans)

10 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles

6 oz. can tomato paste

½ caramelized red onion

3 T. chile powder

1 T. cumin

1 T. parsley

1 T. basil

½ c. apple cider vinegar

6 drops liquid smoke

Salt to taste

Enjoy!

Music Practice, the Easy Way

Ian had been flying through his drumset and guitar books. Up until last week, that is. Last week, things became suddenly hard. He knows the top three open strings on the guitar, and F and G on the E string. So far, so good. On his drumset, he has learned to play several patterns and read a bit of music. But last week, his guitar method introduced C on the B string, and his drum method introduced fills. Ten different fills on one page. Enter the crying sessions. Well, Monday night, we had such a terrible night. We probably spent 90 minutes on his music practice. I felt so sorry for him, but I could not allow him to throw a temper tantrum and win. So we pressed on, but I knew I needed to do something different. So Tuesday and Wednesday, here is what we did: after finishing every subject in school, Ian always receives a ten minute break before he starts his next subject. Well, we decided to throw in a bit of music practice here and there throughout the day. So after his first break, he played the first song in his guitar book 5 times. It took him all of about 3 minutes. Not scary, right? Even for an 8-year-old. After his second break, he played the second song, and so forth. Well, things are going much smoother now. He’s happy and he’s learning, and that makes me happy too!

Awesome Hummus Recipe!

Jesse and I recently watched Forks Over Knives (you can stream it on Netflix), and we decided to try the Esselstyn diet. …Well, now, that’s the wrong choice of words. Yoda would get on to me. We’re not going to try it; we’re going to do it. By the way, I mean diet in the following sense: “The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” Not: “Restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.” I think the second definition is the one most people generally think of when they hear the word “diet.” (I used the Google search to find these definitions, but I didn’t see a page to give them credit. The definitions just showed up in the search screen. So my apologies to Mr. Webster, or whoever coined the definitions.)

e2book-MAnyway, for those of you who would like to try some nice and easy vegan meals, I would recommend the Engine 2 cookbook. We’ve had it for 10 days, and we’ve already tried seven recipes. I think that’s a world record for me. (I usually get a cookbook and try one or two recipes.) :/ I had two more picked out to try today, but we decided that we need to eat some of our leftovers before trying anything new. Honestly, I’m running out of storage containers!

So far, all of the recipes have been fantastic! (They have reheated well too, but since we got rid of our microwave, we’ve been reheating in a skillet, so take that into account.) Unless you count my ineptitude at chopping vegetables, nothing has been difficult or less-than-tasty. In fact, we have found ourselves asking the same question over and over again this last week-and-a-half: If it’s so easy and yummy to eat healthy, why in the world would we want to eat any other way? We did have to buy some of the ingredients at Whole Foods Market, but we’ve been buying the bulk of our food there anyway, so this wasn’t really a problem for us.

My advice: take $200 of your tax refund and invest in some shelf-stable health foods. Look at some recipes to get an idea of what you’ll want to purchase. It’s not that much more expensive to eat healthy, especially considering the facts that we rarely eat out any more, we buy zero convenience foods, and our stomachs are shrinking so we consume less than we used to. Even if it is a bit more expensive, money shouldn’t be an issue here anyway because it is cheaper BY FAR to maintain a healthy body than it is to have your symptoms treated by a doctor. (We just found this out the hard way last month, which is what prompted the paradigm shift in our thinking and lifestyle.)

Here’s my favorite recipe so far. (Actually, it’s between this one and the Raise-the-Roof Sweet-Potato Vegetable Lasagna, but that one has too many ingredients to type out!)

Healthy Homemade Hummus, The Engine 2 Diet, pg. 236Screen-shot-2012-10-18-at-6.10.00-PM

This is the most basic of the spreads. You can find a variation of this recipe in almost any grocery store, but 95 percent of them are made with either olive oil or tahini (sesame paste), which pushes up the fat content. Your best bet is to take three minutes and make a batch on Sunday that will last you for the week.

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or low-sodium tamari

3 tablespoons water or vegetable broth.

Blend all the ingredients into a thick past, using a small amount of water as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

The book also goes on to list several hummus variations, such as roasted red pepper.

I used dried, cooked beans instead of canned beans, vegetable broth instead of water, itty-bitty whole lemon pieces (rind and all – I just dropped the whole thing in my blender, and I’ve been using bits of it in different recipes all week. I just guessed at the amount to use – maybe 1.5 teapoons – and it turned out great!), and Bragg Liquid Aminos instead of tamari (both of which can be found near the soy sauce at your local health food store, such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market. You can also order them from Amazon. Make sure you get non-GMO soy products.) I also took out a piece of pita bread and tore it into chunks and popped it into my toaster oven at 350° for about four minutes. Actually, that’s what I’m munching on as I type this up – hummus and pita chips!

Enjoy!

New Homeschooler Packet Ideas

I get questions about homeschooling all the time from various people. In some cases, it might be a wife who is trying to persuade her husband (or the other way ’round!). Other times, they come from families who are on the verge of homeschooling, but haven’t started yet. Parents in their first couple years of homeschooling are often full of questions as well.

What I am wanting to do is put together a packet for new and potential homeschoolers in my area. Once I have everything together, I will probably post it to my blog as well, although some things (such as local resources, field trip sites, co-ops, etc.) will be location specific. Perhaps I can just give pointers on how to search for these things in any given area.

Anyway, I know I have lots of homeschoolers who read my blog, so I was wondering if you all could help me come up with a good list of resources to include in the packets. So far, I have thought of things such as:

Two or three catalogues from major curriculum companies,

A description of the HSLDA, with a link to their website (possibly even a registration form),

A couple of articles on time-management, budgeting, discipline, etc,

FAQ,

Local groups and activities,

Copy of current homeschool laws,

Etc.

If you all could help me out with the FAQ aspect, and maybe some other ideas of what to include, I would be very grateful! For instance, what do you think are the most frequently asked questions, and how would you answer those? I would like to include several different perspectives as long as I can do so without creating confusion. After all, each family is different.

To get the discussion started, what do you think is the absolute best advice you could give a new homeschooler, concerning any main issues such as socialization, curriculum, schedules, etc.

Homemade Spanish Flashcards

Okay, so I just spent the last several hours making Spanish flashcards to coordinate with Ian’s elementary Spanish curriculum (Monarch online – published by Alpha & Omega). I really like the course, and so does he, but it seems like it could be largely improved by some good flashcards. These are for the first unit, and all of the vocabulary words can be found in the second-to-last lesson in unit one: Meeting Esteban at the Beach. I know they covered a few more words in this unit, but I didn’t take the time to look through every single lesson to find all of the vocabulary words. As it stands, there are over 100 words in this file, all with nice pics to go with them. (I did add in a few words myself – maybe 10 or so, because I just thought they made sense.) I’ll most likely do this at the end of each unit, so if you are using the Monarch Spanish curriculum (or if you just want some free Spanish flashcards) check back occasionally. I tried very hard to make sure none of these pics had copyrights on them, but if you catch something, let me know, and I will change the file. I’m going to cut out each card and write the Spanish word on the back. I’m not sure I’m gonna write the English word on them at all, but I haven’t decided yet. I really just want Ian to associate the Spanish words with the items/actions they belong to, and not constantly be translating from English. Here they are, for anyone who wants them: Spanish Flashcards

By the way, if you want to make more, all I did was type in the word I wanted, followed by the word clip art. Then I just looked for pics that didn’t have a copyright symbol of any kind.

Sugar Creek Gang: Swamp Robber

I met Heather Idoni on my birthday this year – on FaceBook! She happened to notice it was my special day, and popped on over to say “hi.” And, boy, am I glad that she did! When I asked her how we were acquainted, she remembered that I had been to visit her website, www.belovedbooks.com

I checked out her delightful site (more thoroughly this time), all the while regretting the fact that my son has shown little interest in audio books. That is, until we received our copy of Sugar Creek Gang: Swamp Robber. It came in the mail on two CDs. Each is about an hour and twenty minutes long. I immediately dug out an old CD player, and we began listening to them!

I must admit, I allowed myself to become distracted while these CDs were playing in the background, so I couldn’t possibly give you every single detail. I write a lot, and I totally lose myself when I am reading or writing; I never hear what’s going on around me. I know I’ve been like this since at least the 6th grade, when I looked up from my book to find my teacher sitting at her desk smiling at me. The rest of the classroom was empty. And where had all the kids gone? To recess! I was so busy reading, I didn’t hear them leave.

Anyway, while I couldn’t give you a book report on the story, I do have several things that I want to say about this audio book:

First and foremost, this book clearly communicates the gospel message to children, or to anyone who might be listening for that matter. While nothing can replace a child’s own parents setting a godly example and taking the time to instruct him in righteousness, this book will help your diligent teachings to gel in your child’s mind.

Second, the narrator is phenomenal! I kid you not. No matter how long I sit here and try to explain to you how fantastic he is, there is no way you can possibly wrap your mind around it without listening to him for yourself. He portrays little Bill Collins so perfectly, it’s impossible to imagine that an older man was actually sitting in a studio somewhere reading from the book while being recorded. He does a great job with the other characters as well.

Third, this book is not only parent-approved, but kids like them too. My son wanted to listen to the story over again, and that’s a first for him. Also, even though I was zoned out most of the time, my son could actually play with his toys and pay attention at the same time. He came up to me several times while the story was playing to remark on something he heard. The book spawned several very good conversations between him and me.

Forth, Beloved Books offers great customer service! (Or is it friendship?) When I mentioned to Heather how much we were enjoying the CDs, until our CD player finally gave up the ghost, she sent me a couple of links to download the MP3 files for free. I downloaded them without telling my son what I was doing. I then pressed the play icon and waited for his response; he was so excited when he realized just what was coming out of my laptop. It felt like Christmas! We were so grateful to Heather for helping us out.

The only thing I could wish is that the other books were available individually. It’s going to be difficult to save up the money to buy a whole volume at a time (6 volumes in all – 32 different books), but considering how perfectly amazing the first book was, how can I skip this opportunity? I can’t imagine, now that I know what we would be missing, not having these CDs around for years to come. If you’d like to read more parent reviews, check it out: http://www.belovedbooks.com/page/page/1567675.htm

Conclusion: order the sample for $4.95 plus free shipping. You can do that here: http://www.belovedbooks.com/page/page/1567474.htm

 

Consistency & Boundaries, Guest Post

CONSISTENCY & BOUNDARIES:

Two Absolute Necessities For Guiding Your Child’s Behavior

by Eileen von Seckendorff

Amy asked me if I would be willing to share some of my own experiences and observations on the subject of discipline. It should be noted emphatically that I am not an expert in child rearing or in child psychology and as a parent I am constantly reminded of how much more I need to learn and grow. I also know there are no guarantees. I’ve seen “good” kids go bad and kids whose parents gave up on them turn out amazingly well. That said, I believe that children who grow up in a loving and consistent home stand a much better chance of having a successful and happy life. That’s not to say that there won’t be trials, hard times, and bad choices at times, but hopefully they will have the tools they need to persevere, evaluate their options, and make better choices in the future.

When I was growing up there was a complete lack of consistency in our home. I don’t blame my parents at all. They did the best they could raising ten kids in their situation and I don’t think I could’ve accomplished half as much as they did if I had been in their shoes. The fact remained, you never knew what to expect. The same infraction could be a huge deal or not, depending on the climate in the home on any given day. Not knowing the consequences or even the severity of an action ahead of time added a huge fear factor to us as kids. That fear led to panic which led to lying which led to all sorts of problems which could have been avoided.

If that wasn’t confusing enough, the rules we did have did not necessarily apply to everyone equally. For instance, let’s say my little sister did something we weren’t allowed to do and I got blamed for it (which NEVER happened). Even if I could prove my little sister did it, I was told that I was still responsible because I was the older sister. That may make sense to a Mom, but to me the message was clear; I was responsible for my own actions and hers and she wasn’t responsible for anything. Not only was that not fair, it could easily have led to bitterness and resentment between us and caused countless other problems.

It has been said that when a child does something wrong, their actions usually fall into one of three categories: Disobedience, Disrespect, or Irresponsibility and there are three easy solutions. If they are disobedient, they need to obey. If they are disrespectful, they need to show respect, and if they are irresponsible, they need to assume the responsibility. My husband and I have really taken this to heart and have had this at the core of our home discipline.

  1. If a child was told to clean their room and they didn’t, that’s disobedience. I would tell them they had to obey and then I would sit in their room while they cleaned it. Did that kill my afternoon plans? Maybe, but they eventually learned that our rules are not multiple choice and that next time it would just be faster and easier to clean it on their own. (When they were really small, I did not expect them to clean their own rooms by themselves, but I did expect them to help Mommy while I cleaned it.)  
  2. If a child was mean or rude to someone, that’s disrespect. I would have them apologize and be nice to that person. 
  3. If a child spilled a drink, that’s not disobedience or disrespect (unless they were throwing it at someone), it’s irresponsibility. I would tell them accidents happen, give them a hug, and have them clean it up (or help me clean it up if they were little). This is a biggie. If they know they’re going to have to clean up all their own messes, the number of messes will decrease dramatically.

If your children are anything like I was as a kid, their infractions will involve a combination of the above. For instance, I knew I wasn’t supposed to play with my older sister’s record player. I also knew if I did, someone might hear me and I would be busted, but I was so fascinated with it I just couldn’t leave it alone. My solution? Put a record on it, put the needle down, and manually spin it as fast as I could to see if I could still hear it making music. I could! I was so excited
…until my sister found her record all scratched up and told Mom.

  1. I disobeyed. I needed to say I was sorry, and recognize that I did not have the right to play with other people’s things without permission.
  2. When confronted, I got sassy about it. That’s disrespectful. I needed to be reminded that I shouldn’t speak to my mother that way, and told to apologize for it. (If I refused, that would’ve been disobedience again).
  3. I damaged my sister’s record. That’s irresponsibility. If I didn’t have the money to pay to replace the album, then I should’ve been given some work to do around the house to make the money so I could assume the responsibility and pay her back. Odds are, if I’d had to pay for the album, I would’ve been less likely to do that kind of damage again.

Bottom line: If there are no consequences for bad behavior, there’s no incentive to avoid it.

I’ve also found that there are some times when apologizing alone for disobedience is not enough. Kids need to learn that their actions have consequences (whether it’s a time out, or a loss of privileges, or a grounding, or a spanking ~ whatever you choose). They also need to know that it doesn’t just apply to kids, that adults can get punished too. (i.e, If I get a traffic ticket, it’s going to cost me money … even if I’m sorry.) Once they realize that consequences are something that follow you throughout your whole life, their perspective will change.

I think the most important part of all of this is that you take your time in deciding the consequences. Never decide on or impose punishment when you’re angry, and be consistent in enforcing the rules. My kids have known since their first driving lessons that if they get a traffic ticket, they will have to pay the fine and they will lose driving privileges for a time (how much time will depend on how far over the speed limit they were traveling). They know what to expect and are not fearful of Mom or Dad “losing it” and grounding them ‘til they’re 70.

I think the second most important part of this is being approachable. I’ve always told my children that they can communicate anything to us (they can even tell us we’re bad parents), as long as they do it respectfully (no “I hate you!”s, or lashing out angrily). If we tell them to do something, they know they should never answer with “but…”, because that sounds argumentative. I’ve told them to always say yes sir or yes ma’am first (so we know they’re willing to obey) and then they can ask their questions or bring up their objections for discussion. Along with that, we need to clearly communicate not only what the rules are, but why they’re important. That may seem obvious to you and me, but it’s not always obvious to kids. There are plenty of kids out there who think that their parents are just mean (because they do not understand why they’re being punished) and that if they just ran away from home, they wouldn’t have to deal with stupid rules any more. I can think of countless stories of teenagers who’ve had it with their parents telling them where to go and what to do all the time … so they left home and joined the Army. They eventually learned why discipline and hard work were important, but they learned it the hard way. Help your kids to understand why the rules are important and that your actions are done out of love and concern for who they are now and who they grow up to be.

That’s pretty much all I have to share. Are these good principles? Yes. Is it easy to be calm, consistent, and disciplined as a parent? No. Will I mess up? Daily, but when I do I admit it to the kids. It’s important for them to see that we all struggle to do the right thing and that we all fail at times. With lots of prayer, and guidance from the Lord, I find the strength to get back up and try again and I try to teach them to do the same.

I hope you’ve found something helpful in all of this and I wish all the best for you and your family.

Eileen