Merged and Moved

I have merged Attached At The Heart and Raising Knights and moved them here.

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Sweet Sixteen

My first-born son turned 16 yesterday. Wow. Babies do grow up in the blink of an eye. As a new parent, you can’t wait for your child to hit certain milestones, like rolling over, crawling, walking, talking (you know better after the 1st one), pottying (and wiping) on their own, riding a bike, and reading their first book.

But once they get older, you start wanting them to hold back on their firsts, like dating, driving, leaving home. You wonder if you taught them everything they need to know and wish you could redo some things. Time is running out to pass on all the important stuff. I suppose all a mother can do is pray and have faith that God will continue the work he started.

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Mexican Rice

Mexican Rice

  • 3-5 Tbl olive oil
  • 2 c uncooked rice (I prefer Basmati)
  • 1/2 c onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed (1 1/2 tsp of jarred)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 4 c chicken broth

Heat oil in large deep skillet over medium heat, then saute garlic and onion until tender. Add rice to skillet, stirring constantly, until golden. Stir in salt, cumin, tomato sauce and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

I found this recipe on Recipezaar and we all love it. If there is any left over after dinner, it definitely gets eaten for a before bed snack or next day’s lunch. My husband says the flavor reminds him of his late grandmother’s vegetable soup, which is a good thing because I have tried unsuccessfully to duplicate it with my own veggie soup.

Amazing Chicken Tortilla Soup (adapted from Recipezaar)

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 med. onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (or 2 tsp jarred)
  • 2-4 Tbl chopped green chilies (1/2 of 4 oz can)
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 c frozen or fresh corn
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 8 c chicken broth [you can use 4 (14 oz) cans + 1 c water OR 2 (28 oz) aseptic boxes]
  • 2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 (16 oz) can tomato sauce (or 2 (8 oz) cans tomato paste)
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed & drained

Saute onion, garlic and chilies in olive oil in large pot until soft. Add rest of ingredients to pot and bring to a  boil. After about 20 minutes, remove chicken, shred with two forks, and return to pot; simmer for 45 minutes more. Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream and shredded cheese.

Optional methods:

  • Skip sauteing and put everything in crockpot (except olive oil). Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours. Shred chicken and stir into soup before serving.
  • Make your own chicken stock using a whole fryer and debone the chicken. Takes longer but you end up with a more nutritious and delicious soup.

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Grow Green

I know that it’s a little late for planting now but I am reposting this from a different blog of mine.

There is a lot of information on “going green” right now to help preserve the planet, including living simply, reducing toxins in your home and life, and choosing natural or organic foods and products. With the economy the way that it is, many people are looking for ways to stretch their money. Then, you have the increasing epidemic of chronic illnesses and disease which many health professionals say is linked to diet, lifestyle and environment. One way to affect all three issues is to get back to your roots. Well, maybe not your roots, exactly. Plant a garden. An organic garden will help the earth, your wallet, and your health.

No room for a large garden? Try square-foot gardening or container gardening on your patio. I decided to repurpose the flower bed next to my garage for strawberries and plant a blueberry bush in a large patio container. No time for your own garden? Support your local farmers’ market or CSA or seek out a neighbor with an over-producing garden. Put your children to work and make them responsible for their own garden. Many children have too much free time on their hands during the summer. And they are more likely to eat fresh vegetables that they have had a hand in producing, as well as ones that taste better than store-bought. My boys will be putting together raised beds for our square-foot gardens next spring.

Need a little more motivation? Read here about the new organic garden at the White House, the first one since WWII. Perhaps the first lady can inspire you to grow green. For even more instruction and inspiration, visit the following sites:

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Homeschool Preschool

I recently met a mom who asked about homeschooling her preschool-age son. I shared the following information with her:

As a dedicated stay-at-home mom, I’m sure that you may already do many of these things, but sometimes parents underestimate the impact they have. Everything is a learning opportunity for a 3 year-old and there will plenty of time for formal learning in the future. They need concrete, hands-on activity, especially 3-5 year-old boys.

My first recommendation to you is to READ, READ, READ. This one thing will set a foundation for all later learning. It will not only strengthen the bond between you and your little boy, but it will expand his worldview, help him develop a rich vocabulary and the ability to listen, and give him a knowledge base to build on later. Choose good quality books, like Newbury & Caldecott Award winners and classics. Avoid too many “junk food for the brain” books. Don’t limit yourself to fictional stories, also read non-fictional books about things he’s interested in. For example, if you dig up some worms while planting flowers and he’s excited about them, get a book on worms from the library. Or tigers, sharks, race cars, etc.

Continue to include your child in your everyday activities, such as cooking, shopping, errands, and chores, including some of his own. Explain what you are doing as you do it and why.

Go on field trips to the museum, botanical garden, nature trails, the zoo, farmer’s market, orchard, and the library (storytime).

Plant a small garden together, grow sunflowers, put out a bird feeder and watch the birds, go on a nature walk and observe bugs, flowers, trees, etc., collect things (rocks, leaves, etc.), catch tadpoles and watch them grow into frogs, order some caterpillars, press flowers.

Count everything (beans, M&Ms, cars, houses on your street, etc.). Sort legos by color or size.

Make playdough. Play with rice in a plastic tub or dishpan. String large wooden beads. Work with wooden puzzles. Practice pouring water or rice from cup to cup.

Sing songs, read silly poems and nursery rhymes, listen to classical music, limit TV to educational programs or DVDs like LeapFrog Letter Factory.

Let him have lots of time to run around in the yard and just play. Provide toys that promote creativity and imagination (instead of toys that have only one use), like blocks, play food, dress-up stuff, little people (my 5yo loves Playmobil).

If you are looking for something more, literature-based unit studies are a fun way to teach to kids of all ages and you can do as much or as little as you want. Basically, you read a book and do activities that go along with the theme. For example, read Blueberries for Sal, then pick blueberries, create blue art, make blueberry muffins, learn about bears, etc. You can also make a lapbook, which is a very clever way of recording what your child has learned and makes a great keepsake to look at again and again to reinforce learning or to show to doubtful friends and family.

Sometimes, your preschooler may want to do “real” school, which to them, most likely means paper and pencil work. This website has printable learning pages and activities for a wide variety of subjects. You can also utilize technology for preschoolers with interactive websites for  pre-reading and other basic skills.

Some would try to make you believe that it is necessary to send your young child away to preschool. Usually, the reasons all boil down to socialization, but this article tells you why you should NOT put your child in preschool. You know your child better than anyone and you have taught your child so much already. Keep up the good work!

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Healthy Snacking

We are a family of snackers. So when we made the change (actually, a steady series of changes) to healthier eating, I had to come up with several healthy alternatives to tame my snacking beasts. I aim for natural, whole foods as much as possible. In order to maintain my sanity and harmony in our home, I also purchase some convenience foods. But these convenience foods must meet specific criteria to be considered worthy of being eaten by my family. Here are some suggestions for healthy snacking:

  • Fresh fruit (no-brainer)
  • Fresh veggies (with or without dip)
  • Air-popped popcorn (drizzled with olive oil & sprinkled with sea salt, chili powder, lemon-pepper, etc.)
  • Apple slices or celery with peanut butter
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Tortilla chips and salsa (baked are the better choice)
  • Hummus and pita chips
  • Fruit salad(made with seasonal fruits)
  • String cheese (organic is best)
  • Yogurt (organic is best)
  • Yogurt parfait (yogurt, granola or wheat germ, fresh fruit)
  • Fruited yogurt (plain, organic yogurt with mashed fresh/thawed frozen fruit & honey, opt.)
  • Green salad (anything other than iceberg lettuce,add veggies, dried fruit, nuts/seeds, light vinaigrette)
  • Granola (homemade is better than store-bought)
  • Trail mix (we like dried cranberries,pecans or walnuts, & dark chocolate chips)
  • Nuts (handful of almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.)
  • Whole wheat pretzels
  • Whole grain muffins
  • Natural applesauce (no sugar added)
  • Frozen juice pops (homemade with 100% juice or smoothies)

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