Yep, I'm a quack...
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
I would be, anyway, if I had a medical license.

This post has been percolating for a while, but I'm finally going to post it in the hopes that it will help someone else. I'll be including links, so you can read and evaluate for yourself. Remember, use your critical thinking skills and to note the source! Is it an independent study, a nutritional supplement trying to sell vitamins, a pharmaceutical website hoping you don't take vitamins? Some of the studies are very clinical and quite dry reading... take them in small doses!

My son was diagnosed with early-onset bipolar disorder (used to be called Manic Depression). He was on a prescription antipsychotic for
6 months. Now, his illness is managed solely by nutrition and supplements. Here's the story.

He's only been off the meds for 4 weeks, but his behavior scores at school have actually increased.
(Bipolar disorder - wikipedia)
(Bipolar disorder in children)
(Nutrition and biplar disorder)
St. Dympna, patron saint of mentally ill and also family harmony.

Before everyone jumps into the comments to flame me about bipolar kids, please know that I am not one of those moms that makes excuses for every little thing her kids do. My discipline is a mix of James Dobson, common sense, and St. John Bosco. With a little Dr. Ray thrown in. I truly, truly believe that many cases of "A.D.H.D." stem from institutionalized education designed for girls and not little boys, for auditory learners, not kinesthetic, and from bright children who are bored while they wait for slower kids, who happen to be the same chronological age and not the same intellectual ability.
(St. John Bosco's Discipline) St. John Bosco took hundreds of parentless boys off the streets - think Oliver Twist, but worse - and turned them into healthy, happy, productive citizens. His methods were endorsed by the Pope in 1854 - the only discipline method to officially be endorsed.

(Dr. Ray) Father of 10, psychologist, love his down to earth understanding of kids!

(Focus on the Family) James Dobson's ministry. Love Plugged In movie reviews, and Adventures in Odyssey!
I am the second oldest of eight children, the youngest of whom was born when I was in High School. I worked my way through high school babysitting, and taking nanny jobs in the summer. The church I attended was full of large families. I have 6 kids. My dear son acted like no child I've ever seen. Except maybe Linda Blair, when he was really mad. It was not that he was high spirited (he is), strong willed (he is), very creative (yep), with poor impulse control (pre-pubescent boy, what do you expect?). It was way more than that. It was not something that could be cured by a good thrashing, more discipline, or relaxing the rules. It was not a rebellion against authority, or a passing bad attitude. My other children were completely different, and normal parenting things worked with them. Not dear son.

At age 4, I decided there was NO WAY the kid would make it in a public school. There was also no way we could afford to put him in a private school. So I started my doomed attempt at homeschooling him. We started with "This is A. It says /a/."

When he was 5, we removed all of the furniture and the light fixture from his room.

When he was 6, we removed the bed as well. He would sleep underneath it because he liked the closed in spaces and was that terrified of his closet. He still didn't get that A made the /a/ sound, after two intense years of collages and flashcards and letter theme days and "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons". This was a big lesson God taught me. I learned to read when I was 4, and thought that children who couldn't read by kindergarten had lazy moms. How I could ever have been that judgemental, I'll never know. But I was a snob in that department.

When he was 7, I sought treatment for an eating disorder - his eating disorder. He would eat everything in the house (raw spaghetti noodles, too). Then, he would say he was so fat he wanted to die. He told me if he saw a car driving down the road, he would jump in front of it so it would squish him. Then he wouldn't have to be fat. The child was small for his age, and you could count his ribs if he did a backbend. We put grates on his windows so he couldn't climb out or break them. We had padlocks on the pantries and a bicycle chain on the fridge. Turns out he didn't have an eating disorder. He has BiPolar disorder (BP). I was glad to finally get his diagnosis, since I had come to that conclusion independently based on my own research.

Also at age 7, he began attending a small private school with his brother. He was in a mixed Kindergarten/First grade classroom. His brother, a newly minted 6 year old, was in Kindergarten - and my son was placed there as well. Brother made progress - his teacher called him a model student. My BP son would have failed Kindergarten, except I withdrew him early because of a lot of complicated politics at the church. He was there on scholarship - my family has been associated with that church for quite a while, and although I didn't attend the parish, my brother, landlord, and several friends did. I cleaned the school twice a month and volunteered as part of tuition, as well. My son's first grade teacher, in her sixties and truly a gifted educator, agreed with me that something was seriously wrong.

Before he started school that year, I took him to our priest for a special blessing. Not quite a full exorcism, which requires an investigation and the approval of the bishop, but one step down from that. I really do think I explored every option. (well, I didn't do past life regression. I said I'm a quack, not stupid and crazy.) I read all manner of books, prayed, slipped Scripture verses under his pillow. Husband annointed the house with oil and rebuked Satan. (He's a Baptist turned non-denominational).

I had him tested by the local school district, who gave him the ironic label of "Significantly Identifiable Emotional Disability". I say ironic, because they did not identify the emotional disability, just called him SIED. But he did qualify for services, which, in that rural district and through the private school, was going to consist of twice weekly sessions with a social worker to work on self esteem issues.

I declined, and was then accused of child abuse. It seems that putting dear son in the shower to help snap him out of his 6 hour rages is abusive. I thought not giving your child a bath was abusive, but I guess I'm not a trained social worker. A child voluntarily taking a bath is ok. Making them do it is not. Go figure. I think it's because the school district, one ofthe less affluent, wasn't going to get their federal funds for my son unless they provided some sort of service for him, and they were trying to pressure me. Ha! I am not easily pressured, swayed, or influenced. I believe I am what people call mule-headed.

Anyway, throughout all of this, I was working 2 jobs, then 1 job, had a baby, and spent several months with my husband working out of state to support us. Still seeking treatment through the medical establishment. Finally getting a diagnosis. My husband and I made the decision to put dear son, age 7, on antipsychotic medication. A dangerous proposition, especially as this was an off-label use (that medication has been approved for use in autistic children over this summer, however). However, bipolar disorder has a 15% fatality rate (from suicide), not counting shortened lifespans from alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and risk taking behaviors, which BP's do at an astronomical rate. He had already talked about killing himself, and we ended up having to lock the knives up for a while, with the food, since I kept finding them in his room. Remember, this kid was a scrawny 7 year old, not a troubled teen!

A few weeks went by. Dear son, always the special one, will not take medicine or pills. Those little Triaminic strips were my lifeline when he's snotty! Unfortunately, they don't come dye free, but then again, he hasn't been sick since we started the supplements and probiotics, so maybe he's finally getting a healthy immune system. He's also the biggest wimp. So, we figured out how to put the pills in a spoonful of applesauce - sometimes several spoonfuls - and tweaked the dose and the timing. The medication made him more normal. Able to stop himself before he got mad- and when he got mad, it was all over. Could be 4-6 hours before he was coherent again, another 2-3 before he was a little boy again. He had those rages several times a week. He is about 18 months to 2 years behind in emotional development, plays better with 6 year olds than 8 or 9 year olds, and I think a large part of this is the time he missed when he was raging. He would rarely remember anything that happened, would express surprise at broken toys, would ask me what happened to the wall... he literally had 15-20 hours a week of his entire life missing.

The medication gave our family a break. It allowed my spirit, as well as his, to heal. I had a heart for my son again. I had been praying for years - literally - to love him the way I do now. So much damage is done, however, when I would spend hours holding him in the basket weave hold while he thrashed and spit and bit and said all manner of nasty things. Everything was on hold all of the time because of him. Property was damaged, meals destroyed, siblings caught in the crossfire, and many trips were not taken. Family relationships were affected as many thought I was too easy, should spank him more, needed to crack down, needed to be consistent. Even though my other children were turning out pretty good. Others in my family thought I needed to lighten up, relax, give the kid a break. I couldn't win for losing. My dear son also developed quite and acrimonious relationship with his grandmother -but a detailed look into her family relationships will probably never appear on this blog!

The meds helped us heal, and allowed us to get on with our lives. I took dear son out of school in April. He turned 8, I quit my job and was home with him, again trying the homeschooling to catch him up. Husband went out of state for 7 weeks, we moved across the country, and dear son started in a wonderful special education program at the public school. His class has 5 students, 2 adults (teacher and assistant), and is designed specifically for children who are behind grade level due to emotional/mood problems. It is truly a godsend! Everything I love about dear sons class, however, I hate about Son #2's. I believe I've ranted previously about Everyday Math and invented spelling, so on with the BP story.

The medication sabbatical, and a training system detailed in "Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach", really helped us get our feet back under us. The credit system from the book has since been dropped, but it allowed him to see he could do better. It allowed me to replace my mental image of him, to see he could do well, even excel, be normal, have a conversation. It was exactly what we needed. However, I wasn't comfortable giving him this medication for life. There are serious side effects, including heart disease, high cholesterol, and long term use can cause diabetes. I kept looking for a better way.

I had been searching for answers for him for years. Through lots of research, I settled on a plan. At first, I banned sugar. Turns out the real problem was the fake food dyes that sugary kid treats contained. Now he can eat sugar - as long as it's in something natural! Lucky for him, his SAHM is taking up baking again.

Now, his diet is no artificial food dyes (Red #40, Yellow #5, Blue Lake, etc.). No MSG. No petroleum based preservatives (BHT/BHA/TBHQ). They put those things in the bag that keeps cereal fresh! Should we really eat these? No artificial sweeteners. I use Equal to kill fire ant mounds in my yard. Again, can this possibly be healthy? I've got a ton of links, and books, that helped me come to this conclusion - you are what you eat, and what you don't eat. I'll try to post them sometime in the future. I also am making my way through my 6th bout of Gestational Diabetes, so nutrition and health is very interesting to me.
(Side effects of food additives)
(Links to studies on apartame)
(Links to studies on MSG)
(More on MSG)
(Anecdotal evidence, plus recipes and resources)
(The Straight Dope on MSG) (this is like
(Studies on BHA/BHT/TBHQ)
Next, I treated him for a condition known as Pyroluria. It's standard to treat BP people in the Netherlands for this, but in America, big Pharma would never allow that! I'm down on the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA, and my skepticism grows everyday - again, that's another story (did you know a major sponsor of the American Diabetic Association is Hershey? And Cadbury-Schweppes, the creme egg people?). Now, pyroluria is a vitamin deficiency - like scurvy or rickets. Specifically, it is a B vitamin deficiency, and usually zinc too (B vitamins and zinc are linked in their metabolizing process). Often, there is a copper toxicity. Too much copper displaces the zinc. There is a simple urine test for this, but it costs $70 and I haven't had it done. In one study, interestingly, almost 7o% of schizophrenic patients, and 80% of alcoholics were diagnosed with pyroluria, and their symptoms improved or disappeared once they started taking the vitamins! Alcoholism and bipolar are well known to be co-morbid, that is, appearing together, and the current theory is that many bipolar people use alcohol to self medicate.
(Treatment history and results)
(Natural treatments for pyroluria)
We also supplement with omega-3 fatty acids. Even American studies have shown that in addition to heart health, these important nutrients increase focus, help alleviate depression, and stabilize mood.
(Omega-3 influences mood)
(Omega-6 fatty acid linked to depression) Omega-6's replace Omega-3's if deficient
(Double blind study - BP cured or relieved)
(Essential Fatty Acids and the Brain)
Throw in some acidophilus - yeah, the stuff in yogurt that you take so you don't get a yeast infection - to cure his burpy/fart problem. That's it.

Now, the kid, as I mentioned, would probably die before swallowing a pill, so I searched high and low and found chewables without food dyes in them for the B vitamins and Zinc, and he takes Coromega, which is like a spoonful of orange pudding in a little packet. Acidophilus is naturally chewable.

That's the story of our journey into, and out of psych meds. I'll try to keep this updated with links to my other, future posts where I detail my sources, research, and anecdotes.

We are successfully treating bipolar disorder through nutrition. Dear son can read at grade level now, and is in a mainstream classroom for math and science. He loves school and gets good reports and progress reports. He knows many sounds for A - apple, father, ate, and the silent one - read (past tense). He is teaching himself cursive (so he can read my notes to his teacher, I suspect!) and also teaching himself to draw from books and online tutorials.

He's a regular kid again! Thanks be to God.

Books that helped tremendously: (plug it into my Amazon link on the right side to be taken to ordering info and reviews)

No Greater Love, by Mother Teresa

The Explosive Child, by Dr. Ross Greene

The Myth of the ADD Child (and 50 ways to help them), by Thomas Armstrong

Eating Well for Optimum Health, Dr. Andrew Weil

The Strong Willed Child, Dr. James Dobson (didn't help with dear son, but sure did for brother #2 and sister #3!); The Difficult Child, by Stanley Turecki

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas A Kempis

The Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer. (The old one, not the new 2006 one. The new one uses things like cream of mushroom soup - can't do that if you're avoiding MSG! The old one tells you how to make everything from scratch. I got mine new in 1997.

Transforming the Difficult Child, The Nurtured Heart Approach by Howard Glasser I was truly desperate to try this approach, but something had to give. I thought it was a miracle short term, we used it for 3 months when I was home alone and husband was out of state. It helped us "reset" our expectations, and our other discipline works very well now.

Tags: Family Life, Nutrition, Special Needs, Bipolar, Mama Says

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posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/29/2006 11:37:00 PM | Permalink | |
WFMW - Quick and Easy Pantry cooking
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Your pantry is your friend. Your pantry doesn't have to a fancy, organized cupboard wit integrated sliding shelves. I've had pantries in Rubbermaid totes, plastic bookcases, andh cardboard boxes turned on their sides. Finally, after living in several rentals with minimal cabinet space, my husband bought me these on clearance at our local furniture store. They are the build it yourself, adjustable shelf laminate type cabinet, but they were on sale for $50 each and I love them! Our new house has an entire wall of cabinets, so now I have one of these for my craft stuff and one for our Montessori play room - I took the doors off to make open shelves.

In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has. - Proverbs 21:20

Everything here is under 30 minutes, and uses ingredients from the pantry. I actually keep a list taped to the inside of the pantry door, of "emergency meals", and this one is a staple for me.
I keep a stock of rice in the pantry, various and sundry canned veggies (and always diced tomatoes - they go into so many things and a great way to mix vegetables into a main dish!). My freezer -yes, your freezer is part of your pantry - always has a stock of ground turkey, ground turkey sausage, and kielbasa/link style sausage. It freezes for a long time, and I stock up on the sales. MSG free sausage is hard to come by, so I try to always have some on hand. I am so blessed by this house - not only is there a wall of cabinets, but there is an upright deep freezer that helps our budget so much! Right now it has 30 pounds of turkey. Even if I spent nothing on groceries next week, we'd still be able to eat healthy, tasty meals thanks to the freezer.

These recipes are great for when you forget to take something out for dinner, burn the dinner beyond repair, or are super short on time. These are great for those busy December days, and easy on the budget!

Sausage and rice casserole:
In a large pot, start the rice. If you do brown rice from scratch, this meal will be closer to 45 minutes than 30; if you use instant, this meal will be around 10 minutes. You can cook a big batch of rice and freeze it, though - making your own instant rice without the price tag.

Brown 1 lb. of ground sausage (breakfast sausage is fine). Even if it's frozen, this should take no more than 10-15 minutes.
Add 1 pkg. frozen spinach, or well drained canned spinach. Stir it around until the spinach defrosts.

When the rice is cooked, dump the sausage mix on top (grease too) and mix thoroughly. Season to taste (you know what your family likes. I season with garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper.)

If you are feeling "chef-y", cut up onion and fresh garlic and add to sausage when browning.

Or, make jumbalaya casserole:
Instead of spinach, add 1 can red beans, drained, 1 can corn, 1 can drained diced tomatoes. Cayenne pepper, and lots of garlic. Works with polish sausage links, too. Money especially tight? Add more rice and beans, use 1/2 lb. of sausage. The spices and seasoning are what makes this tasty.

Or, make an Italian rice:
Add spinach, 1 can drained diced tomatoes, 1 can olives chopped up, 1 can mushrooms if you've got them. Add garlic, onion, oregano or italian seasoning.

Or, make it fried rice style: (2 pots required)
Make the rice in a pot with a wide bottom. Brown sausage or ground meat. Add 1bag of peas and carrots (you know, the "balls and squares" kind) or mixed veggies/stir fry veggies to the meat pot. When the rice is done, turn the heat on high and make a well in the center. Add 2 beaten eggs to the hole, and scramble them into the rice. Add the meat/veggie mix, season with soy sauce and garlic, and serve. My family likes kombu (dried seaweed flakes - my husband loves asian cuisine and feeds stuff like this to the kids all the time), so I might add some of that to the rice. You can also add sesame seeds to the rice (after steaming, before you add the eggs) or coat the pot in sesame oil before making the rice.

No rice? Cook the sausage, again 1 can drained tomatoes, and then add beaten eggs for a pan style stovetop fritatta. Or get fancy and make omelets. No eggs or rice? Try pasta. No pasta either? Go to the store and restock your pantry!

Tags: Works for Me Wednesday, Nutrition, Crafts and Cookery
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/28/2006 02:18:00 PM | Permalink | |
Always be ready
to give an answer for the hope that is within you. Peter 3:15

Always be, also, a shining example of your faith.

There was a man who was a US soldier in Europe during WWII. He was a Catholic. He always acted like a good Christian should, with a well developed conscience, and showing love to others, even though it was war, and after all, God would understand the extenuating circurmstances if he acted selfishly, neglected his prayers, and cussed out his CO, fellow GI's, or the enemy. But he didn't. Another soldier was so impressed with his conduct, that he asked the man his secret. Upon hearing it was religion, specifically, the Catholic religion, that governed his actions, the second soldier became a convert upon returning home from the fighting.

That second soldier had 4 children, all baptized Catholics. One of those children was my mother, who was responsible for at least 12 more baptized Catholics. Those 12 Catholics were responsible for seeing 16 more people join Christ's church (16 and counting - I'm due in April).

Because that one soldier lived his faith in difficult circumstances, the Church (and hopefully, the Heavenly choirs someday) are at least 32 souls richer (not counting my cousins, and their children!)

Imagine his joy and glory at the final Judgement!

Always preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words. - St. Francis of Assisi

Tags: Catholic, Need to Know, Mama Says
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/28/2006 07:03:00 AM | Permalink | |
It's over
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Whew. It's finally over. I'll let you in on my dirty little secret: I hate Thanksgiving.
When I lived in my home state, I would get together with family for dinners often - at least once a month, usually more. Now that we live far away, we had Thanksgiving with just our family, which is still 8 people even if one of them is only 2 feet tall. It's not really *that* special. It's actually just a lot more work, and becoming Mom made it worse.

I don't know why. I just hate it. I hate the glurgy, public "We're so thankful for what we have" speeches that are usually insincere and run on every channel, every newscast. You're so thankful that the turkey's not even cold before fistfights are breaking out over a video game? Come on. I hate the anticipating Black Friday that goes on, complete with news coverage of people in tents outside of Best Buy. I hate the Macy's day parade - it puts me in a coma. Maybe if I was Elizabeth Perkins, looking for love but not knowing it, and having to staff up at unexpected times, I would like it. I love solving problems under pressure. But watching it while peeling potatoes? No thanks. I hate the specials that run, about "the real story of the Mayflower", and that always include things like "Most people don't know that the Pilgrims didn't eat pie on Thanksgiving - sugar was running low and there were no ovens", "The first Thanksgiving probably took place in early fall as a harvest festival", and such. Really? I've only heard it every year for the last two decades. Not many "surprising facts" about the Pilgrims actually surprise anymore.

My husband loves the turkey, and is always up to the challenge of cooking a good bird. This year, he used Liquid Smoke, inspired by Alton Brown's smoked turkey. My husband is also a nerd like me, and I watch Modern Marvels with him and he watches Good Eats with me. He also loves the Iron Chef - even though there's no way I'd ever eat a single thing that came out of Kitchen Stadium. Husband also makes the stuffing - oyster - leaving me with just the sides.

Yeah. He puts foil on a bird, turns on the oven, and leaves the kitchen. Actually, then he started making all kinds of other things, including eggs and caramel popcorn, preventing me from using the stove for a good portion of the morning. I made rolls using the breadmaker (note to self: test recipes before the big day. They were good, but had a crunchy shell). Brussels sprouts (husbands favorites, but I finally found an awesome way to cook them so I could stand to eat them). Potatoes, gravy. I was going to make a froo-froo "chick" salad with spinach, red onion, mandarin oranges, and rasberry vinaigrette. But my husband stole the red onion in the wee hours of the morning for his stuffing and then fed the kids the oranges. So I had spinach. Which I really like, but it's nothing special.

I love the pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. For the first time, my husband did not have to work on Thanksgiving. He was actually home Wed - Sun, which was a nice mini-vacation, but it also stinks to have a 15 hour week right before the rent is due.

I guess it's the let down - Thanksgiving is quite ordinary. I broke out the cloth napkins and good plates, but we always eat as a family. We always say grace before dinner. I always cook for a crowd. We're a 2 chicken family on a regular day, and a 10 lb. turkey is nothing special, except my husband fusses over it instead of me.

We even have turkey throughout the winter. I scored 4 turkeys for less than $5 each. They're good for at least 3 meals! We'll be eating them all winter. I hope to score some good hams for the freezer in December, too.

My pies turned out well, although not as pretty as the picture. I smack Cool Whip on top, instead of crushed pralines and greenery. I made an Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie, which I thought was a little sweet but everyone else loved. Also a pecan, which was really good but didn't slice very well. But again, that's not too special. I bake often, and my husband does too. He made $6 last week selling his chocolate chippers at work, and $7 selling my sausage kolaches. He's giving the tamale pushers a run for their money!

The kids were off for 5 days. We had a little bit of a rough time. Had a showdown with the 2 year old. I just threw away a stack of papers with childish writing scrawled all over them - I will obey. I will not hit my sister. I will not spit. I will not burp in people's faces.

Maybe I'm just in a cynical, melancholy mood this weekend.

But, we're done now, for which I can be truly Thankful.

Tags: Family Life, Mama Says
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/26/2006 08:04:00 PM | Permalink | |
A recipe today!
Monday, November 20, 2006
If you grew up eating cranberry colored jello material from a can every year, you'll love this! So simple, so good, and kids love to make it.

Cranberry Relish

1 pkg. Cranberries (12 oz., rinsed)
1/2 - 1 c. sugar (use 1/2 c. for tart sauce, 1 c. for sweet)
1 c. orange juice (fresh, carton, made from frozen concentrate, it doesn't matter)

Dissolve sugar in orange juice over medium heat. Add cranberries and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries start to pop. When all cranberries have exploded, stir again and remove from heat. Cool and serve.

If you continue boiling for 3-5 minutes, you'll get a more jelly like consistency.
Freezes very well. You can make it ahead.

Garnish with candied orange peel or orange curls if you love your inner Martha Stewart.

This year, I'm going to attempt pie. Well, pie filling anyway, as I bought the frozen crusts. Hey, if it's good enough for Alton Brown, it's good enough for me! I made a pie 8 years ago - butterscotch meringue - and it was good...but it was also 6 kids ago. This year I'm trying Pecan (I hate it but it's my dear husband's favorite) and a new pumpkin recipe I got off the Food Network. I love pumpkin pie, and my goal is to find the perfect, best recipe so I'll be known for what a great pie I make. Makes me feel all housewifey inside - who knows, next I'll finally get around to making those matching aprons and pot holders!

I'm also attempting kolaches this week, because I'm feeling my ethnic pride plus, their really, really good. Who knows, maybe it'll make me some money - dh made $7 selling chocolate chippers at work last week!

Tags: Family Life, Crafts and Cookery
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/20/2006 11:04:00 AM | Permalink | |
Cleaning kids? Read this!
Friday, November 17, 2006

I am one of those (cheap) moms who doesn't follow every fad. I finally broke down and bought the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, after my darling daughter decorated the front door (and hood of the white car) with a red Sharpie.

I usually make my own cleaners. I use vinegar and water in a spray bottle for household cleaning - cuts grease on the stove, shines mirrors, and even if the kids drink it it won't hurt them. I generally use baking soda for things that need a good scrubbing. Baking soda dampened with ammonia will clean just about anything. I make my own bleach cleaner for the toilet, and other jobs that require disinfecting.

I do this because I'm cheap, I'm usually pregnant and it's safe, and we have lots of babies around all the time. I often spray the table or stove, and let it sit for a few minutes, and don't want to worry that my children will blind themselves if they happen to touch the wet table. Also, they love to help me clean - er, actually, they love to spray, and they can help me at the same time.

The few non-organic cleaners I actually buy are Odoban and GooGone.

The Magic Eraser was great - it worked like, well, Magic... but I probably won't be using them again (I still have one left, but it's gonna be for Mama Use Only) because they are toxic and dangerous, it turns out! (The fact it removes permanent marker and wax crayon should have clued me in to this fact, but it didn't.)

Read the full story here.

Don't let your kids have these. Most household dirt can be wiped up with plain water and a nubby washcloth (swipe it once across a bar of Ivory soap for heavier jobs) - both of which are safe for toddlers.

Here's the MSDS sheet.
This is the document required by OSHA for all employers to keep on file, so their workers know exactly what chemicals they are being exposed to, as well as proper treatment.

Treatment for skin contact with Magic Eraser includes removing contaminated clothing and washing with soap and water for 15 minutes. Oh, and it decomposes into formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide.

Tags: Family Life, Need to Know,
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/17/2006 11:36:00 AM | Permalink | |
More invented spelling
As regular blog readers may be aware of, I am not too happy with the curriculum at Mr P's school. I hate Chicago/Everyday Math, and I hate their "invented spelling". I love his teacher, she is truly gifted, but my son is repeatedly bringing home classwork that is misspelled, letters backward, etc. He is in first grade, but thanks to homeschooling and private school, reads well above most of his peers. I've brought this up with his teacher before, and she assured me that when the class is writing in their journals, she does correct them verbally; however, their journals are *their* works, and she does not require that they actually change anything in it.

Today, he brought this home. There is no grade, comments, or correction on it, front or back.

Notice that he spelled "crack" correctly, but "cracker" wrong. There are a few nonsense words (Ckape, crake), a few misspelled words (cracer, dall) and one word that doesn't fit at all (day). No one bothered to tell him that.

I understand it was displayed in the classroom along with the other children's work. He also brought home a pumpkin on which he wrote "I hate you", again with no comment, correction, or indication the school told him this was inappropriate. Well, until he brought it home! *grin* They're not real in to "value judgements", I guess.

He brought home another project, which was displayed in the hallway next to his classroom for all to see, that said "I wan to learn". No one helped him hear that final /t/ sound in "want", or encouraged him to do his best work for the display. Another paper, also brought home today (apparently they are cleaning out their cubbies) had short /u/ words. It included the word underpants (inappropriate, in my opinion, and crude for a boy to write on a project to be viewed in mixed company, but I'm a throwback Victorian) and the words "thum" and "fus". No need for the instructor to mention silent letters, apparently!

How is he going to learn to spell, punctuate, and use good grammar if no one will correct his work? I realize the school's policy is "invented spelling" to encourage children that they can do it and boost their confidence. But you can't expect students to learn the English language in a vacuum, without someone teaching them spelling, punctuation, and word usage.

I think it's futile to give children a false sense of self esteem based on fuzzy feelings, instead of actual achievement, and I wonder how fast their confidence will crash when they are grown and not literate enough to spell.

Tags: Family Life, Homeschooling, Mama Says
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/17/2006 08:33:00 AM | Permalink | |
A Twofer! Works For Me Wednesday and Christmas Club
Wednesday, November 15, 2006

An Advent tradition, in many Christian homes, is to give extra to charities at Christmastime. An especially meaningful custom is to give to places that help pregnant mothers - in remembrance of Mary, her search for a safe place to give birth, and in honor of Jesus, who chose to become the humblest of men, a helpless newborn baby.

Where is this money to come from? Many of our budgets are stretched thin, caring for our own little ones. Well, since Advent is also a season of penance, of preparing for the coming of the Lord, it is fitting to cut back in order to give more.

For one week, go on a strict budget. Make small sacrifices that will add up to big amount of extra money. Give it away, or use it to supplement your own Christmas celebration. One of the easiest ways to save money is the grocery budget. Hillbilly Housewife has a $45 or $70/week menu.

My son (age 8) is on a diet - no artificial food dyes, no MSG (no ramen noodles or canned soup for us!), no BHA/BHT/TBHQ (if you knew about these, you wouldn't eat them either). Also, I am diabetic when pregnant. So here is my version. You'll see a lot of veggies, a lot of ground turkey instead of ground beef, tweak it to suit your family's tastes. It doesn't do any good to make a frugal meal if you end up scraping it into the garbage disposal!

I am including some convenience foods - canned beans instead of dried, for example. You can save even more by doing everything from scratch. Prices are from my local WalMart - the tiny grocery stores around here cost double for canned goods, and I buy generic, store brand usually (unless noted). The veggies will be your choice. My family will eat 1 16 oz. bag of frozen, or 2 15 oz. cans. The cost is about the same, around $1.00 (buy store brands on sale!) The recipes are also easy 'no brainers' - 6 kids, Christmas time, pregnant... I don't have the time, energy, or motivation for fancy dinners.

I buy meat and stock up when it's on sale - and rarely, if ever, pay more than $2.00/lb. for meat. Watch the loss leaders! It's not uncommon to find pork chops for $1.49 or $1.99; boneless chicken breast and chuck steak for $1.99/lb/; whole chickens for $.49/lb., and our Walmart even offers 10 lbs. chicken quarters for $2.95. I would buy one 8 oz. package of shredded cheese for $1.25 - $1.50, and use it as a condiment for 3-4 meals.

Note that the quantities are for 2 adults (1 construction worker, 1 pregnant mama), 4 medium sized children aged 4-8, and 2 toddlers. Adjust quantities accordingly!

Menu: (on the 7th day, Mama rests and we have leftovers or beanie weanies)
Taco Salad: $5.75
1 lb. gd. turkey (I buy the frozen rolls, $1.37)
Add 1 drained 15 oz. can each of: Black beans, corn, diced tomatoes (.44 each, tomatoes,
.56 = 1.44) The canned tomatoes are much cheaper than fresh, easier, and you won't
have to wash the cutting board. I save the tomatoe juice when draining and freeze it to
add to spaghetti, Spanish rice, or when a dish needs a little something extra. Waste
not, want not!
Add garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and/or crushed red pepper to
taste. Cumin is the magical spice that makes these taste like tacos.
Wash, dry, and tear into bite size pieces one head of lettuce (Get the good kind - red
leaf, romaine, green leaf... skip the nutritionally void iceberg. Approx. $1.50)
Mix half and half ranch dressing and salsa in a small bowl (I use my pyrex measuring cup, it has a pour spout), . (estimated cost- $.75) This is the taco salad, and here's the
Toppings 4 oz. shredded cheese (flavor of choice) $ .65
Crunch up some tortilla chips for a topping. Good use for those little bits in the bottom of
the bag that are too small for dipping. I save these in a baggie - if they are stale, bake for a couple of minutes in the oven and they'll be nice and crisp again).
Spoon the meat/bean mix on top of a plate of salad, and top with cheese, dressing,
salsa, and chips. This is much healthier and less fat than those fried tortilla bowls! Add
another can of beans if you need to stretch the meat.

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry (or chicken. Use what's on sale) $ 4.00
Make steamed rice. 2 cups dry, $.35 ? I'm not sure, I buy big bags of brown rice and 2
cups is hard to estimate.
Cut up 1 lb. boneless round steak or chuck into bite size strips (about the size of a domino,
maybe a little skinnier). $1.99 (stock up when on sale) Or use boneless chicken thighs,
Heat sesame oil in pan, and cook the beef. If you don't have sesame oil, make some by
toasting sesame seeds (buy these in the Mexican aisle bagged spices, NOT on the spice aisle.) Lightly crush, then put in cold oil. Heat the oil - and it will sesame flavored. I just buy a can at the Asian store - $3.50 for 56 oz. I use approx. 2 oz (if that) = .15
Dissolve some corn starch in soy sauce, add onion powder and garlic (or cook fresh onion
and garlic to the beef when cooking) and add to meat. Cook until thickened. Or, use
Oyster Sauce, available at any Asian store or in the Chinese section of the
supermarket. It's pretty strong, a little goes a long way!
Add one and a half bags of (thawed) frozen broccoli. $1.50
Cook until heated through. Adjust seasonings to your taste - add hot sauce or red chili
sauce if you like. Serve over steamed rice.

Sausage and Cabbage $4.50
up one head cabbage (approx. 3 lbs.) $1.50. Put in a big pot with enough water to
cover. You can also use apple juice, or half and half cider vinegar and water for a more
sauerkraut flavor. Season water with caraway or coriander, if desired.
Add a cut up apple (golden delicious or granny smith work well) and some cut up potatoes
if you're feeling sassy. Simmer veggies, covered, until tender. $1.00
Cut 1.5 lbs Polish Sausage links into coins. I buy a 3 lb. package of Bar S brand for $3.50,
and it freezes perfectly for any quick meal. $1.75
Cut up half an onion - yellow's fine. ($.25) Cook sausage and onion in frying pan until
onion is translucent and sausage is browned slightly.
Add meat to veggies and serve. Especially good with sourdough bread or just plain bread
and butter.

Hamburger Helper (a healthy, easy, homemade version) $4.90
***Kids love it!***
Brown 1 lb. of gd. turkey in pan. $1.37
Add 2 jars of premade spaghetti sauce (generic, $2.00), or 2 cans 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
and appropriate spaghetti spices . You know what your family likes!
Bring to boil, add 12 oz. broken lasagna noodles or egg noodles. $1.00
Simmer until noodles are tender, adding water if needed and stirring occasionally.
(10-15 minutes)
Serve with sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, or dollop of ricotta/cottage cheese. (.50)

Garlic Lime Chicken (the famous FlyLady recipe), Roasted Potatoes, veggie. $6.00
Cut up potatoes (3-4 lbs?) and a pound of carrots. Throw in an onion too. Put in
of crockpot. $1.50
Put 5 lbs. chicken legs, quarters, thighs or even whole chicken, rinsed, on top. ($3.50)
Sprinkle with chopped garlic or garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Squirt lime juice over the chicken.
Carefully add water in the side (not over the chicken, you'll wash the garlic off!) to
almost cover the veggies.
Cook on LOW 8-10 hours or HIGH 4-6 hours (crockpots will vary, you know if yours
runs hot or cool)
Serve with one bag of green veggies (broccoli mix) or 2 cans green beans $1.00
Save the broth in a freezer bag to make soup or flavor other dishes if you are unable to eat
canned broth or use cubes, like we are. Or put them in an ice cube tray for extra

Ropa Vieja (Cuban Pork Chops)***CROCKPOT*** $6.50
Add 2 lbs. boneless pork chops, pork roast, or ribs to crockpot. Season with lots of garlic,
onion powder, and cumin. $3.00
Dump in 1 can drained black beans, corn, and 1 can undrained tomatoes. $1.44 Dump
some salsa in if you like, too, or add red pepper to taste if you're not cooking for
toddlers. I like to add chopped green chiles. $.75
Cook on LOW 8-10 hours, HIGH 4-6 hours.
Make some rice. $.35 Serve pork mix over rice, and top with sour cream or plain
yogurt, or salsa.
Serve a side salad or Fiesta Mix frozen veggies. $1.00

Okay, so you've spent a grand total of $26.00 for a week's worth of dinners. Plan your snacks and lunches (keep it simple! Sandwiches, etc. Remember, you are eating light and healthy to prepare for the holiday foods of Christmas!)

The other key to staying in budget is to make a snack menu - Ex: Monday, grapes, Tuesday, apples, etc. Cold cereal or whole wheat toast with peanut butter makes an excellent, long lasting snack. Breakfast should be cheap and simple as well. I like to make oatmeal (don't buy packets, buy a huge tub of Quick Cooking Oats; microwave 1/2 c. oats and 1 c. water. I add in half a carton of yogurt instead of sugar (pregnant and diabetic, remember?) or a mushed banana and handful of walnuts.

Now, actually take the money you've saved and remove it from the bank. Place in an envelope, and use for Christmas giving!

Tags: Catholic, Prolife, Less is More Christmas Club, Works for Me Wednesday, Nutrition, Special Needs, Crafts and Cookery

Labels: , , , ,

posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/15/2006 08:00:00 AM | Permalink | |
More proof Europe is in trouble...
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life—the sick, the needy and the handicapped.
--- Hubert Humphrey

Anglicanism is not "Catholic Lite", but a church by itself, the blind leading the blind. Case in point:

The Church of England is calling for doctors to be able to withhold medical treatment from disabled babies. Especially if they are expensive.
Article here, and here.

Am I the only one detecting a conflict of interest, in that the healthcare system is run by the State and the government sets the euthanasia rules, deciding who has a right to live and who should die?

An actual quote:

"The principle of justice inevitably means that the potential cost of treatment itself, the longer term costs of health care and education and opportunity cost to the NHS in terms of saving other lives have to be considered."

So, if it is expensive, and they could spend the money saving someone else's life - someone who isn't blind, brain damaged, is old enough and eloquent enough to plead their case in a way a newborn cannot - spend the money elsewhere.

What if the baby would grow up in poverty, with a reduced quality of life? This one was:

Even more amazing, the OB/GYNS are the ones who came up with this!

It's all downhill...if contraception is okay to prevent a pregnancy from invading a "free woman's" body, leading to abortion being okay in order to prevent a woman from being forced to bear a child (as if that is the worst thing that could happen!), now we'll stand around and let babies die if they are inconvenient, expensive, disabled... soon we'll be killing those babies. Then withholding treatment from adult disabled people (remember how they refused to feed Terry Schiavo? All she needed was food, as she was unable to feed herself - not a respirator, not machines, not dialysis). Actively killing infants, next - after all, why should it matter which end of the birth canal they are on? If it's okay to kill a 38 week baby in utero, why not in the incubator? A slippery slope indeed.

Tags: Catholic, Special Needs, Prolife, Mama Says
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/14/2006 12:17:00 PM | Permalink | |
Mama says...
Monday, November 13, 2006
Important Mama factoid:

The esophagus is the smallest part of the digestive system of a small child. So, if it goes in, it will come out. Eventually.

(Note: If your child swallowed a Lego, a toothpaste cap, or half a stick of chalk, relax. If your child swallowed a razor blade, battery, or something truly dangerous, go to the doctor.

Tags: Mama Says
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/13/2006 08:52:00 AM | Permalink | |
Less is More Christmas Club #3
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Every year, do you spend the weeks before Christmas visiting Santa at malls, and paying $10-$15 for a picture?

Do you buy cheap coloring books of Christmas stories, in which the characters strive to "save Christmas" - by making sure everyone has plenty of presents? Do they have to "save Santa" so that he can dish out the loot?

Do you park your kids in front of Nickelodeon "Holiday" specials, so that you can get all of the extra holiday chores done?

I have a great product for you. You can train up your child, in the way he should go, and put the Christ back into Christmas. Playmobile makes a plastic Nativity set for the kids to play with. Let them spend their time reenacting the Christmas story. You can set this up for the little ones to play with and interact with. It comes complete with Wise Men, manger, Holy Family, and shepherds.

I've seen them at Target, for $14.99 - but they are almost always sold out by Thanskgiving, so hurry! Or, you can search my Amazon sidebar for "Playmobile Nativity".

One thing my family did when I was a child, was gather all of the little animals in the house - the farm set, the dinosaurs, the plastic giraffes - and make a parade of animals, gathered around the stable to pay homage to their Creator. Your kids will love it!

Tags: Catholic, Family Life, Less is More Christmas Club
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/12/2006 11:40:00 AM | Permalink | |
If Norway's the Best We've Got...
Thursday, November 09, 2006
... then we're in a heap of trouble.

Norway is officially the best place to live, according to the UN. The UN's criteria is typical, and includes factors such as wealth (everyone knows money makes you happy, right?), educational levels (because a degree in art history adds so much to the quality of life), health care (unless you are unborn) and life expectancy (ditto).

I guess big government = good life, in the view of the United Nations.

Top Ten Reasons I think Norway, and second runner up Iceland, are NOT the most ideal places to live:

1. 60% of children are born from parents who are not married.

2. Norway requires military service from every man between 18 and 44, whether you want to be a soldier or not. Conscientous objectors are still forced into 12 months of public service.

3. Although there is technically 'freedom of religion', there is an established State Church. (Lutheran)

4. If you run a company, 40% of your board members are required, by law, to be female. They are not required to have any qualifications, just be a girl.

5. Half of the population growth is attributed to immigration. Norwegians are not reproducing themselve. (Could the demise of marriage and imposition of same sex unions have anything to do with it?)

6. Norway supports abortion worldwide, being one of the major funders of the UN Population Fund.

7. Norway has one of the highest teen abortion rates in Europe; almost 20% of all pregnancies end in abortion (reported abortions of all women, not just teens, only) How can a country that kills one out of five children be a good place to live?

8. The climate is strange. There are up to 24 hours of daylight in the summer... and 21 hours of darkness in the winter. Talk about depression!

9. It's cold. (Where do you think reindeer come from, people?) Today it is 1 degree Centigrade - which is 33 degrees F. It's 70 over here in South Carolina. And sunny. Maybe that's why there are only 4 million Norwegians - the population of my state, or the population of the entire Denver Metro area.

10. Their Christmas traditions are downright scary. Their "Santa Claus" is fjøsnissen, literally: the Goblin who Lives in the Barn. A good Norwegian housewife makes SEVEN different kinds of cake for Christmas - scary to everyone but Martha Stewart, and her staff! Holiday meals include, in addition to seven kinds of cake, porridge and boiled cod. If it's a really special occasion, they might dip the cod in lye first.

Although, the government pays people with more than one child. They get a check, and possibly even their rent paid... maybe I'll move there after all!

Tags: Prolife, Mama Says
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/09/2006 01:05:00 PM | Permalink | |
Works For Me Wednesday: Odoban
Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Odoban! How do I love thee, let me count the ways!
It kills odors (not just covers them up) on any surface imaginable.

It cleans and disinfects.

It costs less than $3 a bottle.

It works on fabrics, the air, or hard surfaces - in fact, I found out about it when I cleaned the little boys bathroom at my kids' school last year.

It took the formula throw up smell out of the sofa cushions when Baby C was sick this weekend.

So far, it hasn't stained anything, including clothing, carpet, upholstery, bathroom, trashcan, or wood cabinet with rotten potatoes.

It is a thousand times better than Febreze and Oust.

I love you, Odoban!

Tags: Family Life, Works for Me Wednesday,
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/08/2006 10:00:00 AM | Permalink | |
Less is More Christmas Club #2
Friday, November 03, 2006
Start Now...

Start shopping now. Oh, wait, you say, but isn't less is more about... buying less? I said go shopping, not go buying. Window shop. Look around. The stores have all their Christmas goodies out, so take a gander, and see what's popular, thinking carefully how you can recreate the same effect for less.

Spend this week in reflection: what gifts do you want to give your kids? What do they like? What character traits do you want to foster and develop?

Judging from Wal-Mart shelves, candles are big. Scented, embedded, in decorative glasses with swirling painted finishes. They also have a plethora of gift baskets with the usual soap, candle, body lotions, and new this year, incense holders. Take a close look at how things are put together and packaged. Gift baskets are popular, easy, and cheap if you do it right - but the key is to be prepared! Buy up some black baskets at Hobby Lobby this week, when the Halloween stuff is on clearance. Black is classic and elegant - and will make a nice looking gift. More on how to make these at home in another post...
This basket is on the WalMart website for $28.50! It's 5 pillar candles in a basket with a pretty ribbon. I could make it for under $10, or even less if I made my own candles (I've got a super quick, no fail way to do it! Save your candle ends and bits. That's coming soon too!)

Start saving jars now - mayonaisse, spaghetti sauce, jelly. I also start buying coffee in the smaller cans (11 oz. I think) around this time of year. You can bake holiday bread (banana, pumpkin, etc.) right in the can and then it's already packaged for shipping. Save Pringles cans (if you eat them) and other containers as well.

Start Buying Now but only selected items! Don't go crazy! Go get the leftover Halloween candy that's 50-75% off and stash it for stockings. I got a giant bag of Tootsie Rolls for 2.40, and a big bag of Smarties for 1.00. I also got black and orange Mary Jane Peanut Butter Kisses for $1.00 - the black ones will be potty treats and I'll save the orange ones for the candy bowl at Thanksgiving. I rounded it off with a big bag of Twizzler stuff (all with non-Halloween wrappers) for anouth $2. So, for around $6, I have 8 pounds of candy for stockings. Candy that will not melt into the baby's hair and require me to bathe her on Christmas Morning before Mass!

I also saw that a new product, "Eat Your Own Haunted House", was apparently not a big seller and there were tons left for a dollar. It's essentially a gingerbread house, but they include black frosting glue and ghostie candies. If you are planning to make your own Ginger bread house this season, but are not a baker, it might be worth your while to pick one up. Use the black to outline 'light' strings, sidewalks, or roof shingles. Eat the ghosts.

I did buy some Christmas presents last night. I bought... Halloween costumes. 2 Ninjas, 1 Knight, and 1 Princess. My kids are still little, and they LOVE to dress up. Especially if it involves swords. This is going to be a big hit, and at $5, I couldn't even make the costumes for less money. Dress up clothes are a classic gift that fosters imagination, story telling, cooperative play, and can be done inside on a rainy day or outside on a sunny one.

Tags: Less is More Christmas Club
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/03/2006 07:18:00 AM | Permalink | |
Because They Can't Help Themselves
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Today is the Feast of All Soul's Day in the Catholic Church. It's one of only 2 days when priests are obligated to say three Masses - the other one's Christmas - meaning you should probably show up even though it is not a HDO and you just went yesterday.

My Baptist/Non-Denominational/But Definitely Not Charismatic, aka "Generic Christian" husband just doesn't get most Catholic holidays, but this one in particular flummoxes him. Today we go to Mass to pray for the dead. Not in a Witch of Endor divination kind of way, but in a "Go Team Go" kind of way. We're not looking for lotto numbers or the name of our future mate, we're asking God to have mercy on them.

See, Catholics believe in an immortal soul. They believe that when someone dies, just because they are separated from their body does not mean they have no idea what's going on down here on earth with the rest of us mortals. Scripture tells us that the angels in Heaven rejoice when even one sinner repents... Catholics believe the Saints in Heaven are rejoicing too, especially the souls of that sinner's family and friends, who knew and loved him on Earth. This is why Catholics pray to the Saints - we ask them to pray for us, just like we would ask our neighbor or parishioner to pray for us. Except they pray for us literally in front of the throne of God.

We pray today for the dead in Purgatory. Purgatory is another Catholic doctrine that Luther wasn't too fond of and got rid of when he decided to invent his brand of cafeteria Catholicism.
Basically, Catholics believe that sin marks your soul. Makes it look like the undercarriage of your car after a jaunty 4-wheeling adventure. (Catholics also believe that Baptism leaves an indelible character on your soul, forever marking you as belonging to His Church). We don't believe that we are a dung heap covered with a blanket of snow, as it were. If that were the case, well, there'd be a lot of cr** in Heaven, covered or not, which doesn't make much sense because we know that everything in Heaven is perfect - not just masked by a quick spray of Febreze, as it were. Catholics believe that Christ actually forgives and forgets, and the marks caused by sin are actually removed. Our souls, in Heaven, are actually snow white through and through, not just a thin layer.

Often, sin has a great impact both externally and internally. We have do penance and make reparation in order to actually get all the grubbies off our soul. We can ask for forgiveness and receive it, but if you've ever been a teacher, you know that sometimes there's residue left over even after erasing. Purgatory is the stopover to perfect our souls before we are admitted to the Beatific Vision. Kinda like the Lion in the Wizard of Oz got his hair curled and beribboned before getting an audience with the big Kahuna. Purgatory is not a second chance - if you die condemned, then, well, you're condemned, and we all know where that leads. Straight down.

Catholics also believe that no man is an island... we're all in this together. Just as St. Paul beat his flesh and suffered to make up what was lacking in the body of Christ, His Church, our suffering isn't wasted. We can offer it up in place of the penance and purgation (hence the word, Purgatory) our brothers and sisters in Christ should suffer. We can help a brother out.

And nothing helps out the suffering souls like a Mass offered on their behalf. So go to church today. If you can't make it, at least take the example of the children of Fatima, and do some small penance. If you don't have a hair shirt, put a rock in your shoe. If you can't go on bread and water all day, skip meat at one meal or pass over dessert. For a real penance, make brownies and give them all away. And don't forget to offer it up!

DISCLAIMER: This is not an exhaustive theological dissertation. But I can give you links for some if you're interested, or just follow the linkies in my little essay for a good start straight from the horse's mouth.

Tags: Catholic
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/02/2006 03:24:00 PM | Permalink | |
The Goose is Getting Fat...
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Christmas is coming... just 8 weeks away.

Consider this my gift to you: The first post of the Less is More Christmas Club!

I'm posting this now, before you all get carried away with Half-Off sales, White sales, Pre-Thanksgiving sales, Post-Thanksgiving sales, and Pearl Harbor Day sales.

If any of you know how to make a button for the LIMCC, let me know. Because I don't have a clue. Stop back for more posts on celebrating Advent, putting Christ back in Christmas, and things to do with kids who are home all day.

This is for all of you who were downsized this year, who have more than 2.5 children and less than 2 incomes, who long for simpler times, and who are already tired of hearing little voices chant "I want that!".

12 Days to a No-Cost Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas traditionally started on Christmas and ended in January, with the Epiphany (celebration of the Three Kings finally making it to the manger). This was because the four weeks preceding Christmas was Advent season, a time of penance and preparing hearts for the coming of the Christ Child. The tree would not have been decorated until Christmas Eve; all parties were post-Christmas.

Times have changed, though, so do these whenever it fits your schedule, mixing and matching to fit your life. I would recommend doing them on consecutive days, and not telling the kids ahead of time; these tips fit best when started on the 12 days preceding Christmas.

A Christmas without gifts under the tree does not have to be a Christmas of deprivation. Don't tell the kids "We're broke this year, no presents". Instead, put it in a more positive light: "This year we are going to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas". Then, grab the kids and do the following:

1. Keep the Memory Alive: Use old Christmas cards and make a scrapbook. You could do a theme, such as the alphabet: A is for Angels, B is for Bells, etc. (or POEM, here) Challenge your kids to a contest to make up a 2 or 4 line poem. You don't need fancy, expensive scrapping supplies. All you need are basic art supplies: scissors, glue, markers/crayons. Have the kids bring their school supplies home for the winter break. Bonus: You can keep it forever and it will be a treasured Christmas heirloom.

2. You Light Up My Life: Most large cities put out maps of the best displays, and they also often have a parade in December as well. If the cost of gas is keeping you out of your car, take a walk. Too cold? Watch parades on TV, or take the bus to the mall. Don't take any money, but maybe take a notebook. Rate the store displays as you walk through them - think Joan Rivers on the Red Carpet. Which store is the tackiest? Most inspirational? Most unusual?

3. Give Unto Others: Give the year-round Meals on Wheels volunteers a day off, and go with the kids to deliver the meals. Greet the recipients with a Christmas carol, wear a Santa hat, make it fun! Help out at a soup kitchen, or, if you don’t feel comfortable taking the kids to a homeless shelter, you could also help your local church package Shoebox Christmas for Billy Graham’s ministry, and someone has to put the food baskets together for the needy!

4. The Reason for the Season: Using your nativity set, have the children create a play of the Christmas story. Don’t have a nativity set? Act it out in real life, make paper cutouts glued to popsicle sticks, or print one out. Perform for family members or neighborhood friends. For an added twist, try telling a part of the story from a different angle, from the point of view of the innkeeper or a cow in the stable. Be creative.

5. And All Through The House: Make a chain of silver bells for the window: Cut out pieces of egg carton, cover with aluminum foil, and add a small ball of foil on a twist tie wire inside for the clapper. There is an abundance of recipes for homemade play clay on the internet; choose one and add cinnamon to create your own ornaments. Small children love stringing macaroni to make garlands, and at 16 oz. for less than 50 cents, it’s economical too. Pretty pictures cut from wrapping paper, greeting cards, or even newspaper advertisements make classic ornaments when mounted on cardstock or a doilie. You can also cut out Christmas themed pictures from the wishbooks that get mailed to every house and decoupage an old picture frame to make decorative, seasonal desk accessories. Do a juice can or flowerpot for a nice pen holder. Make snowflakes from coffee filters (fold into eighths, and cut small shapes out. ) Unfold and hang. More ideas here.

6. Be a Couch Potato: Most family stations air Christmas classics, like “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, or “A Christmas Story”. Find out when your family's favorite one is one, and make it a special night. Invite some friends over, and have a “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” party. Serve hot chocolate or apple cider (make your own from apple juice and spices) and popcorn. Plan it as an event, instead of just flipping channels, and your kids will remember it as a special time.

7. Play Together and Stay Together: Have the kids each create their own winter or Christmas themed game. One could make a crossword, one could do a wordfind, an older kid could make some cards for a “Scattergories” type game. Then, play them together as a family. For crosswords, wordfinds, or other pencil games, put the master copy in a page protector. Use washable crayons or a dry erase marker – it will wipe right off for the next person to solve. Use the cardboard from a cereal box and the Sunday ads to make a jigsaw puzzle. Play charades – chances are, your children never have before!

8. Christmas in other Cultures: Investigate what people in other countries do to celebrate Christmas, and talk about it at home. You could make it a theme night, and serve traditional food from that country. Kids can draw pictures of traditions, the country’s flag, etc. for placemats. Give each family member a name from that country, and use it for the rest of the night. For example, make tacos and call Dad “Pablo” all night. Make spaghetti and call your daughter “Francesca”. Tell your son, “Hans”, the story of Black Pete and St. Nicholas.

9. Christmas is for the Birds: Spend one evening helping out wildlife. Make pinecone bird feeders with peanut butter and unsalted sunflower seeds; string popcorn garlands and decorate the outside trees, or collect old towels from the neighbors and deliver it to an animal shelter.

10. Sing for Your Supper: Caroling is traditional, but let’s face it, it’s generally not easy to take the kids around the neighborhood at night singing on people’s porches like they used to in the old days. You can still put on a show at the local nursing home, though. Or, stay in and have a Carol Challenge. How many tunes can you sing? How many verses do you know? How fast can you learn a new song? You can find songs and lyrics online, at the library, or from a church hymnal.

11. Culture Shock: Often museums have free days during the winter break, and churches will put on plays open to the public. The local high school will usually have a winter concert featuring choir and orchestra. Many cities sponsor ‘tree art’, and encourage businesses and artists to decorate pine trees, often elaborately and according to a theme. Admission is free or cheap. Department stores will usually have a time when Santa is going to come for a visit (avoid the Mall Santa and the $10 pictures.) Other business will often do special things for kids, whether it is sponsoring coloring contests, baking contests, or just having a story time with Santa's elves.

12. Make a Gingerbread House. You can make actual gingerbread, or just use graham crackers. Mix together a thick paste of powdered sugar and milk or water for glue. Fruit flavored Tootsie rolls can be cut into all sorts of shapes and decorations when rolled flat, or use fruit rollups. If you are a baker, make your own fondant and create wreaths, trees, and more. Enter it in a contest, or just admire it as a family. All of the ingredients and supplies can be found at the dollar store, or even cheaper during holiday loss leader sales at the supermarket.

Make Christmas Eve special. Spend the day together. Make your family's traditional foods and treats, or try your hand at something new and different. Never made bread? This is a great day to try! Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect, and if the bread comes out too chewy or falls before it is done baking, that’s ok. Use it for stuffing and have a good laugh. Cookies get burned? Make another batch. If they are cookie cutter ones, spray paint them and use them for ornaments. Keep the TV off today, and make it a day of peace. Decorate your tree. Tell your kids the stories behind the ornaments you've been collecting. (Yes, "I bought this for my neighbor in 1995 but forgot to wrap it, and that's why we have a German Beer Stein Reindeer ornament" counts as a story!)

Top it off with midnight Mass – it is a beautiful, serene experience if you’ve never been. Bonus: the kids *might* sleep in a little the next day!

The real bonus comes when you can pay the January rent and open the credit card bill as soon as they arrive, instead of hiding them from your spouse.

Tags: Less is More Christmas Club, Works for Me Wednesday, Crafts and Cookery,
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/01/2006 08:45:00 AM | Permalink | |