Q&A: Podcasts

I was wondering: Does your site recommend a list of podcasts that your readers might be interested in subscribing to? I found the 'Revive Our Hearts' one through Girl Talk (a site you referenced just recently), but was wondering if you had any others to suggest?

This great question landed in my inbox a little while ago, and I thought I would put it out to all of you, to see what resources you are aware of. Though I'm aware of a few resources, I don't have any particular list of audio resources that I recommend.

Personally, I've listened to a couple from Revive our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Most of them are interviews with other women, and they are very Biblical and very encouraging. If you go here, you can search for previous shows on a variety of topics or by date.

Another resource is the GirlTalk blog. Though I couldn't find any specific category or place on their blog where you can locate things to listen to, by doing some searches for sermons, audio, etc. I came up with this link to some Audio Resources for Parents, and this one to a sermon by CJ Mahaney. These are just examples of the types of audio that they link to from time to time. I've always appreciated their suggestions.

Yet another place to find audio messages is the Sovereign Grace Ministries website, where you can sort through their audio resources, and many of them are free to download. Sovereign Grace is the body of churches that our local church belongs to, and though I'm obviously biased, I think that the teaching material that comes out is excellent and challenging.

Where do you find great podcasts and audio messages to challenge, encourage and inspire you in your walk with Christ, or your role as a mother, wife and homemaker?

No Guess Communication

I eagerly said yes when Donielle of Raising Peanuts suggested that she write about baby signing. Having used it with Abbie, and now using it with Caden (that's him on the left- he's signing "more" for a sip of smoothie), I know firsthand the benefits, and they are many! Enjoy this fantastic tutorial!

With babies and toddlers we seem to play a guessing game every day. They whine and cry while we try and figure out whether they need to eat, or drink, or need a diaper change. Or maybe they want teddy, a car, or to read a book. The first couple years of their life seemed to be an endless question mark. But it really doesn't have to be that way.

You can teach your child how to speak before they can actually speak themselves.

Children have a natural tendency to talk with their hands from the time they are infants. They reach and point to objects, they wave their hands about when they're happy or push things away when they get mad. Teaching your child to use signs instead of their screams just makes sense. And it's a lot easier than it sounds.

When my son was about 14 months old, it hit. He started screaming when he wanted something, constantly pulling at me. It was then that I pulled out a couple of my books on infant and toddler care and taught him the sign for please. And the yelling stopped. Just like that, he would quietly stand there and ask "please". I was hooked and wished I had started sooner.

Signing with babies and toddlers works so well because physically, they develop coordination with their hands before they even have the ability to talk and form words. Beginning at a young age is most beneficial, but starting out during the toddler stage, like I did, still helps immensely.

How to start

With no knowledge of ASL (American Sign Language) myself, it seemed very daunting to have to learn all of these signs to teach my young one. In reality though, you'll be learning right along with them so don't worry about having to learn it all before they do. Just pick one sign and use it until you feel comfortable with it and either your baby understands it, or if starting with a toddler, they use it themselves.

  • Use the sign. If your child is screaming for something he wants, sign the word (i.e.please)
  • Help him to sign it as well before handing over the object he wanted.
  • Each time he wants something, take the time to work through the sign until they pick it up themselves. Depending on the age of your child, it could take a day or a couple weeks before they get the hang of it.
  • Don't worry if they aren't signing it correctly to begin with. Keep using the correct sign yourself and they'll eventually pick up on it.
  • Keep using the signs they have learned and add in more, one at a time.
  • Also make sure you say the word aloud as you sign. It's a great way to relate an object or action to the actual word.

Great ones to start with include:

Baby sign1

(open palm and make a small circle over the chest)
(and yes, he does this one 'wrong', with both hands. He just really wants stuff!)

Baby sign3

(thumb and fingers pressed together, bring both hands to touch)

Baby sign2

(both hands out to the side and wave them away)

Now that we have a vocabulary of about 15 different need based signs, I no longer have to play the guessing game. At just two, he can't yet speak a lot of real words, but with sign language, he can always tell me what he needs.

There are many books on the subject of baby sign language, but we also love to watch the Baby Signing Time dvd's and the Signing Time t.v. show on our local PBS station. These shows really seem to captivate the attention of little ones as they showcase other kids and babies using sign language and have lots of fun songs. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not into letting babies and toddlers watch a ton of t.v., but I do allow learning shows like these a few times a week. We watch them together so he can see me sign along with it and we both learn new signs each time.

Signing takes patience and perseverance, but it is so worth it in the long run.

What about you? Do you teach your children sign language?

More information on the web:

Our very own signing video from a few months ago

Intellectual Benefits

Emotional Benefits

Video dictionary of signs for little ones (a great way to actually see how the sign is done)

Fox News Youtube video

Donielle is a self proclaimed "kinda crunchy" wife, homemaker, and mom to one sweet little boy who just turned two. Visit her at her wonderful blog, Raising Peanuts!

Sprouted tortillas


Go Canada Go?

Canada flag

I have two numbers for you today:

0 and 47

0 being the number of medals that Canada currently has in these summer Olympics as I write this post, and 47th being our ranking among the participating nations. Ouch!

I've heard that the reason we're doing so poorly is because so much money and effort are being poured into the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games (yay- my hometown!), and because of that, not a whole lot has gone into training athletes for these current summer games. Goodness- I sure hope so, because it's a mildly sad state of affairs!

In the meantime, guess I'll be cheering on my neighbors, the good ol' US of A, since they (and China) seem to be the only ones that CBC (a Canadian station, no less!) is interested in covering!

Nonetheless, it's been fun to watch so far. I am a mild summer olympics junkie, I confess. Gymnastics, swimming, diving, track and field- I love it all!

Do you prefer the summer or winter olympics, and which sports are your favorites to watch?

Nutritional Foundations- Making the best of the regular grocery store

Apples and oranges
In a perfect world, we might all have access to farmer's markets, small local meat shops, farm fresh milk and eggs, and whole foods co-ops with organic bulk grains, beans, etc.

Reality check- This isn't a perfect world, and when it comes to finding the right foods to buy for our families, we very often just have to make do with what's available and cultivate a thankful heart for what we do have, and not what we wish we had!

When we lived in Japan, I had my first taste of really trying to navigate the murky waters of a conventional grocery store (one that was completely foreign and in another language!), during my first year as a wife and homemaker. I really wanted to learn to buy and prepare healthy food, but it was definitely a challenge! Over the course of the year, I slowly found other places to purchase my food, as I researched and asked around like crazy. In the meantime, though, those regular stores were all that I had and I had to make the best of them!

How glad I was for that experience when we returned to Canada, and although I desperately wanted to start finding better sources for our food, I had no car to use during the daytime, little money for gas anyways, and was left with one major option: Hoof it (you know, the old fashioned way!) to the grocery store, with my little darling in her stroller, and learn to do the very best that I could with what I had!

Over the next two posts, I'm going to share with you a few of the things that I learned as I scouted out the stores (and learned every nook and cranny of them!), while also fastidiously studying nutrition and frugality whenever I could. Did I ever mention how grateful I am for that first year back home and my little $150 grocery budget?

Tip #1

This is my biggest tip and I absolutely cannot stress it enough.

Shop the perimeter of the store! Do not enter the inner aisles (at least, not until we talk through this whole thing just a little bit more…)

What's so great about the perimeter exactly (and so gravely dangerous about the aisles)?

Allow me to walk you through a very brief tour of your typical grocery store. You enter, and navigate your way past the lost leader items (very rarely healthy!), and then inhale deeply as you push your way through the tempting floral section. You arrive in the produce section- a very good place to start! Moving on from there, you make your way back to the deli, where you might find some lovely cheeses (skip past the sandwich meats, though) and fresh olives.

Beyond that is the fresh and frozen fish, another perfect place to pause and add to your cart. Next, you delve into the meat section. Though we know this meat isn't of the highest quality, it sure does beat the breaded and deep fried varieties in the freezer section! Beyond that, the bulk bins are calling to you, full of dried beans, lentils, seeds, and spices. The dairy section is fast approaching, and while this needs some careful thought and attention, it is not entirely void of possibility. Lastly, you round the corner to the bakery, where you might find a loaf of sourdough rye, to round out the items you have gathered in your cart.

Did you notice the absence of boxes and cans? Of cartoon characters and artificial colors? Of instant this and reduced-fat that?

Now, I know. Not everything I mentioned is the ideal. Perhaps your store doesn't carry many organics. Maybe yeast bread is all there is, and the options for whole grains are pretty slim pickings. The beef has never even seen the light of day, let alone had the opportunity to actually use it's muscles. Those would be things to start considering, as you research the options available in your area (and I will be addressing the how-to of that research in an upcoming post).

In the meantime, though, the best place to begin is with a truly whole foods, unprocessed diet. Next time, I will take a closer look at the different elements of the store (and even those pesky aisles!) to see how to make the very best choices out of what is available!

I'm curious- how many of you feel sort of "stuck" with a regular grocery store, either for all or most of your shopping? If so, what are your particular concerns or questions about what to buy? I'd love to take the time to answer some specific questions on deciding between the options available, or trying to adapt what's available to a healthier diet (at least, as much as I'm able to!).

Goodness gracious, are these ever yummy!

I had been wanting to make these incredible looking "power" bars for about two weeks, ever since Kimi first posted about them, and finally got around to it this Saturday morning.

Nut bar

(These ones are Kimi's, not mine)

What was I waiting for? These healthy little bars are so scrumptious, I can barely keep my naughty hands out of the freezer!

I used organic peanut butter instead of the almond butter (only because I didn't have any). Instead of the original recipe with melted chocolate on the top, I took Kimi's lead and made my own. I lightly heated some carob powder, with honey and a bit of butter, coconut oil and vanilla, plus some water to thin it. I have been keeping mine in the freezer, because we really like them cold and crunchy.

Mmm… I think I might need to eat another one while I go cook dinner!

Getting back on track

Cherries in bowl
For those who have read of my struggle with eating well these days, you may also remember that I mentioned doing a bit of a cleanse/sugar fast with my family when our students leave. Well, they're leaving next Monday, so it's time to start gearing up to do just that!

Why are we doing this?

For the past 6 weeks we've  had ESL homestay students with us. Though we enjoy having our students for the most part, these particular two sets of students we've taken have been the most challenging we've ever had, food-wise. They particularly have not liked Canadian food, and have made somewhat of a fuss about it.

Actually, to say they don't like Canadian food isn't entirely accurate. They don't like my bean soups or salmon skewer's or green salads, etc. They dislike all that I make that is good and nourishing, and the only Western food they want to eat is packaged, sugary and chemical-laden. With the first set of students, I tried to fight through it a bit, doing mostly my regular fare, just toned down a bit, and buying a few junkier things for their lunches to make them happy.

With this current set of younger girls, every dinner became a nightmare, and so I have resorted to having an unhappy amount of junk in my home, serving Korean or Asian styled foods more often (sometimes this is fine, other times it is not), and just overall compromising quite a bit. Yes, I suppose I could have put up more of a fight, encouraged them to try more Canadian food, etc. but I am weary from fighting about food all summer long and quite frankly, I just wanted everyone to eat and leave the issue alone.

Needless to say, my family has been consuming much food that I would not normally allow anywhere near us, including far too much sugar, and we have not been able to properly eat our usual diet full of vegetables and alternative grains and many varied nutrients. I feel that a strict diet will help to combat any rising Candida (as we've been feeding it through our unfortunate choices), and just to help repair and strengthen our bodies again (I've been feeling on the verge of sickness this last week, my daughter has complained of an owie tummy, etc.).

The Plan

We will do a 3 week special diet, due to the fact that we only have a 3 1/2 week window between our students and our trip to Arizona. Though we will be buying and cooking as much of our own food as possible on that trip, I know that we will naturally eat out a fair bit as well. Continuing on with the diet during that time won't be feasible or pleasant to attempt, so we will probably go back on this diet again briefly when we return.

Week 1

The Maker's Diet- Phase 1, but with one moderation. We will continue to use cow's dairy (rather than only goat's and sheep's dairy, as is recommended). I can't just turn off my cow share for a week, and my husband really dislikes anything else.

Basically, this week will include: free range poultry, grass fed meats, free range eggs (except for me), most fish (we don't eat shellfish ever), raw dairy products, most vegetables (minus potatoes and corn), lentils, almonds and seeds, simple and natural spices and seasonings (sea salt, apple cider vinegar, etc.), berries and citrus (minus oranges), and either water, herbal tea, or fermented beverages (kefir, kombucha, etc.).

Week 2

Maker's Diet- Phase 2. We're going through the diet twice as fast as you normally would. Week 2 allows us to add back in sweet potatoes, yams and corn, a few types of beans and nuts (all soaked), most fruits, some raw honey.

Week 3

Maker's Diet- Phase 3. Lastly, we will return to eating the rest of the beans and legumes, nut butters, dried fruit and the last of the very sweet tropical fruits, and whole grains (if properly soaked or sprouted). As well, we will continue to stay off of wheat for this extra week, as we are all sensitive to it, and will also try our hardest to avoid it even in Arizona.

Although my husband and I will be following this strictly, our children will not be. They will not be allowed to eat anything with sugar or preservatives, coloring, etc. (as unfortunately our daughter has been fed some of these things by our students). They will mostly go along with what we are eating, but will stay on properly prepared grains the entire time, as well as fruits.

As well, because I'm still nursing a few times a day, I cannot be too hard core about this. I will not be taking any supplements to help detox (though my husband will be). If I am getting too hungry or my milk is running low, I will have to beef up what I am eating (hee, hee, no pun intended), and possibly add back in a small amount of sprouted and soaked grains or some nuts, etc. Fortunately, though, it is completely possible to get all of the nutrients and calories I need on this diet, I just need to plan carefully for meals and snacks to do it.

For more info on doing the Maker's Diet, which we have done many times over the past few years, see this post I wrote back in the spring.

What do you do when you've been eating poorly for a season? Do you do something like this, or do you just jump right back into a more regular, healthy diet? Has anyone else used the Maker's Diet, and what did you think of it?

Free companion planting guide!

I just ran across a link to this free downloadable guide to companion planting (which is using different plants in your garden to support or benefit each other, or to repel particular pests, etc.), and thought some of you would find it useful!

It's a little late in the season to use it much, but it looks like it will be helpful next year. It talks a bit about the concept of companion planting in general, and then goes through plant-by-plant to teach you how to do it. I'm excited to read through it more thoroughly when I have a chance!

Hat tip to Money Saving Mom for the link!

Q&A- My thoughts on birth control

DSC01771Would you be willing to share your thoughts on birth control?

Thanks, Carrie

When this question arrived in my inbox, I was both excited and nervous.

Excited because I love to share with others our passion for having children, our belief that they are a blessing, and our desire to have as many as we can (Ryan loves to tell people that Caden is #2 of 12!). Nervous because this is a controversial issue, and I fear that I lack the wisdom and grace to carefully share of my opinion in the best manner.

I approach this topic with just a bit of fear and trembling, because my sincere desire is to speak what God has put on my heart regarding children, as well as the use of birth control, and yet to not speak judgment nor condemnation on anyone who holds a view or practice different from my own (by that, I don't mean to say that I think it's relativistic and that there is no truth in the matter- only that I am not the authority on the matter, and my place ought not to be one of judgment).

(above- My sweet Abigail, at 1 month old)

Now that that's out of the way, may I share a story with you?

So we'd been married a few months, and were just starting to become adjusted to life in Japan. We were there working as English conversation teachers, and were living frugally in an effort to pay off our (read: my) debt. The plan? To spend two years working, the first to pay off the bulk of the loan, and the second to finish it off and begin saving so my husband could go back to university to finish his degree.

Though I had begun our marriage briefly on the pill (it had been recommended by my doctor for my PCOS- that is an issue for a whole other post!), I had quickly gotten off of it as it really threw my hormones off and made me just a little less than sane, shall we say. We had also learned of some other side effects of the pill, which I will talk more about later. Anyways, I'd been off it for just a couple of months, and then something crazy happened.

We both began to feel this need to really delve into the Word and discover what the Bible said about children and birth control. Neither of us could quite explain why, but we both felt it strongly, and so we began to study and pray.

Although we never discovered anything that we felt answered our questions definitively (as in, a moral, Biblical objection to the use of birth control), what we did find was that throughout the Bible, children were viewed as blessings, gifts, treasures, assets, joys. Not once did we find a scenario where a child was unwanted or deemed a burden. Those who were barren and childless were devastated, and grieved a very great loss. Those who had many children were viewed as blessed indeed, and the blessing of the womb was often mentioned in conjunction with all of the other blessings of obedience (crops, livestock, land, prosperity). Jesus himself was full of evident love for children, and despite his disciples urgings, he entreated the children to come to him.

Accompanying this, we were reminded of the threads that run throughout the Scriptures of placing our ultimate trust and plans in our Lord's hands, and not ours. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" (Prov 16:9). We are told not to boast in our own plans (James 4:13-16). We also saw that it was the Lord who opened and closed the womb (Gen 20:18, 29:31, 1 Sam 1:5, Deut 7:13).

We felt this struggle in our hearts, to want to trust in our own plans, and not His. I remember thinking that I didn't want to give up birth control that very month, but maybe the next month would be okay, because I calculated that by then we could make enough money to pay off our debts by the time I stopped work. I distinctly remember sensing that the Lord was telling me that it wouldn't be trusting Him to wait another month- I had to trust Him and His provision for us right then, and not just when it felt easier.

I clearly remember the evening that we spent with another young, English couple in a nearby city during that time of seeking. We had a delightful time over dinner, enjoying their fellowship (a rare thing for us in Japan!), and their sweet 5 month old baby girl. We discussed with them the issue that was weighing on our hearts. They shared with us that they had been married several years before becoming pregnant, and even then it was an accident. But, they said, if they had only known what a joy and a blessing children were, they would have started having them right away.

As we drove home along the darkened road, we realized that God had confirmed it in both of our hearts. We could do nothing else. We gave up our plans, and opened our hearts to whatever God would have for us. How could we say no to such a blessing? How could we tell him that His timing in opening my womb was wrong? Who were we to say no to His gifts?

We anticipated that it would take us quite some time to conceive, as I have a hormonal disorder that affects my fertility. We were beyond surprised and so completely thrilled to find out we had conceived our daughter that very month, only 5 months into our marriage. I truly believe that her conception was nothing short of miraculous (considering my health issues), and that the timing was to test our faith and trust in the God who provides for all our needs.

There is so much more to say, but I think that this is enough for now. I will continue on with my thoughts shortly…

Although they may be different than my own, I welcome your thoughts. Please keep them polite and respectful, but feel free to express your own opinions (though I will delete comments if I find them inappropriate). Thank you!

Why the HPV vaccine is just a bad idea

Though I haven't talked about it a whole lot (yet), I'm not really a fan of vaccinations. Tonight I read something that I just felt I needed to pass on. Sometimes I try to be all nicey-nice and not just say what I really think, but here's what I was thinking tonight as I was reading this article:

The HPV vaccine (intended to prevent cervical cancer and aimed at teens and young women) is not only worthless, but it is extremely dangerous! Avoid it like the plague!

Phew… that felt good. I'm so glad I got it out. I've been thinking it for quite some time.

Although this article comes from a source that I'm not particularly thrilled with these days (oh, don't get me started on why… negativity, extremism, constantly trying to sell me his extremely expensive products, frou-frou emotional healing techniques that ignore our need for Christ… as I said, don't get me started), I felt it had enough worthwhile information to want to link to it. Please, spare yourself and avoid the comments below the article (if you start reading them, you'll see why).