Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Gift of Giving Life

If there is one thing I hope people visiting my blog know about me it is this: Motherhood is a joy and a gift in my life, even through the ugly days.

I have known when it was time for each of my children to join our family. It is amazing to me how similar, yet different, each of their births have been. I have learned that though they come from the same gene pool they are each unique with talents and abilities God has bestowed upon them. Motherhood is hard. Knowing what to do, what to teach, how to teach, when to teach is hard. Through it all I have learned that first and foremost they are the Lord's. And because they are His He will help me.

The Gift of Giving Life is a new book which shares the experiences of many women as they journey through pregnancy and birth, relying on spiritual guidance to help them in their choices, whatever those choices may be. It is so wonderful to read these amazing stories that draw us together as women, as mothers. I have asked Sheridan, one of the book's authors, to write a guest post for today. I hope you make her feel welcome!

I am excited to be doing a guest post as part of the Virtual Book Tour for The Gift of Giving Life. My name is Sheridan Ripley. I am one of the co-authors of the book and a Hypnobabies Childbirth Educator and a Birth Doula, I also blog at Enjoy Birth.

Personal Inspiration for Each Family

In the March Ensign I read an interesting article called Follow the Prophet by Elder Randall K. Bennett. In it he explains how while listening to the prophets and apostles during General Conference both he and his wife were inspired to return their engagement ring so they could use that money to start their food supply. Neither wanted to offend the other by suggesting it, but both were so impressed at the need to they finally did only to find each had felt the same impression.
“But the prompting each of us had felt was too strong to ignore, and the more each of us thought about it, the more glaring that diamond ring became. When Shelley raised the subject a few days after Christmas, I was relieved that she had arrived at the same conclusion I had.”
What is your first reaction to reading this? Are you quick to judge this couple for following a spiritual prompting? Are you feeling judged because you didn’t get the same prompting? Do you feel the need to defend yourself for having an engagement ring? Or are you just supportive of their choice?
“Please don’t misunderstand me and please don’t sell your rings! … the Spirit had directed US to follow the prophet by selling our engagement ring, in our case the choice was between keeping the ring and following the prophet. This helped us establish two patterns in our home from the very beginning: following the prophet and following the personal, spiritual promptings we received.”
This couple had many different responses, from support to outrage. But they stood strong, knowing that they were doing what was best for them! They didn’t judge others and they rejected others judgment.
“…they told us we were crazy. Other women Shelley’s age couldn’t believe she’d been willing to do what she had done. Very few were encouraging or supportive. Shelley was strong and knew that she would be OK no matter what people thought; she had confidence in knowing that she was following the prophet.”
Personally when I read this article it was with interest and I found it easy to accept their decision. I didn’t judge it and I didn’t feel judged that I had kept my ring. It just reinforced that we can receive revelation to guide our families. It won’t be right for everyone, but it can be right for us.

Inspiration for Birth?

I have spent the past few years co-authoring a book about spirituality and birth called The Gift of Giving Life. Approaching birth from a spiritual perspective can help end the judgment regarding a woman’s birth choices.

Sadly in some arenas it is as if there is a birthing war going on.

Natural vs Medicated
Vaginal vs Cesarean
Home vs Hospital

Why are we so quick to judge others in the birthing choices they make? Isn’t birth just as worthy a topic to receive revelation on as food storage is?

Of course it is! The gift of giving life is one of the most precious responsibilities we have. We can expect to get spiritual guidance along the way.

I think part of the reason birth creates so much drama is that it is of such importance in God’s plan. Satan wants us to be confused about the topic and so creates this type of contention.

Robyn (a fellow co-author) said on a post recently on our blog: “Really it is Satan’s deceptive plan to undermine womanhood and motherhood in any form (see Revelations 12). He wants to take away its value in any way possible.”

War of any kind whether it is between countries or between birth choices is going to create conflict and fear and that will drive away the spirit. Which in turn undermines motherhood!

What is the simple solution to ending this war? In the Prophetic words of President Uchtdorf
“Stop It!
It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters”
Each family has the right to receive spiritual guidance on what type of birth is best for THEM.

For some moms an elective cesarean is the best choice. For some moms an unassisted birth is the best choice. For some moms scheduling an induction is the best choice. I really loved when Cocoa shared her birth story about Ganache where she had first hand experience of this herself.
Miracle #2: There was a tight knot in Ganache's umbilical cord that we did not know about. It could have proven potentially fatal for him had we decided not to be induced on Monday and waited for his due date of July 25th. This, especially, made me realize how very precious and miraculous it is that so many births go "right" when they very easily could go so "wrong." It also helped confirm that our decision to be induced on Monday was the right one, even though in the end he came on his own.
It isn’t for us to decide or judge a mom for her choices regarding her pregnancy and birth! It is for us to love and support.

Loving and Supporting All Moms

This is why in our book The Gift of Giving Life we support all moms and all birthing types. There are birth stories of elective cesareans, unassisted births, medicated and un-medicated births. But in all of the stories there is a thread of inspiration guiding these moms.

There is no one right answer for everyone. The only way for a mom to find the right answer is through information and inspiration. As Sisters in Christ let us be open to the spirituality of birth, however that “looks”. So we can support each other as we fulfill this invaluable role as mothers in the plan of salvation.

Visit The Gift of Giving Life site to sign up for our newsletter and to receive a free Meditation MP3 as well as tips to help increase spirituality in your pregnancy and birth.

The Gift of Giving Life

For Cocoa’s readers I have a coupon code for 10% off a copy of The Gift of Giving Life. Click here and after you add the book to your cart use this coupon code. GWFWXR3F The code is good until Father’s Day 2012. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Grocery Budget for a Family of 11

Food. It's necessary for survival. It's good for you. It's bad for you. What used to be good is now bad...what used to be bad is now good. Knowing what to feed your family can get confusing at times! And expensive.

Les commissions 1961

Rather than re-write how we go about grocery shopping I thought I'd post links to past articles I have written. The process hasn't changed except now we have 11 people in our family and our grocery budget has increased from $100/week to $125 - $150/week.

Posted in order of how they should be read:
How I Meal Plan
Planning a Menu
A Well Stocked Pantry

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Believe in Jesus Too {Giveaway}

Did you know there are over 1 million Primary children throughout the world in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? One of our favorite new bedtime reads is this beautiful book, I Believe in Jesus Too, written by Mark S. Nielsen and illustrated by Craig Stapley.

I believe in Jesus too 01

Just as the name implies, it shows through beautiful illustrations and simple text how different children throughout the world believe in Jesus, even if they are baptized in different places,

I Believe in Jesus Too 03

or read their scriptures and pray in different languages

I Believe in Jesus Too 05

each child is special and loved of God.

I Believe in Jesus Too 04

I'm giving you a chance to win your own copy of I Believe in Jesus Too, courtesy of Deseret Book! Enter using the rafflecopter. Click on the "Do it!" button to read the instructions for each entry.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Putting a Pinterest Pin on Your Blog Post

Jaime asked "How do you get a pin it button to pop up with the things already written for you? I would love to know how to attach them to my posts."

Step 1: Publish your blog post so you have its URL. Open your blog in a new tab or window. Open your blog post edit page in a different window.

Step 2: Go to the Pinterest / Goodies page and scroll down to the section "Pin It Button for Websites."

Step 3: Fill in all the required fields. Hover over the image for more detailed information about each field.

Step 4: Highlight and copy the code in the first blue box. {If you click in the field it automatically highlights the code for you.}

Step 5: In your blog posts edit page click on "Edit html."  Paste the code where you want the "pin it" button to appear, usually at the top of the post or under the photo it will pin. Hit the publish post button. You should see the pin it button on your blog post!

Another way I use the "Pin It Button For Websites" is to create pins for sites that don't have pictures. For instance, I want to pin one of my favorite articles Your Refined Heavenly Home by Elder Douglas L. Callister, to my "Worth Reading Again" board but there are no photos on that page to pin. I fill in the required fields - the url for the article, type in what I want the pin to say, and then I grab the url for a picture I really like that I think goes along with the article. I create the pin and add the code to a page I created in my private blog and publish it. If you don't have a private blog just create a page on your regular blog dedicated to your created pinterest pins and change the date in the post options so it doesn't show up on your blog's homepage {I change the date to be in 2007}. I am then able to click on the pin it button I created and pin the article with a photo to my pinterest board.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Vintagey Chocolatey Goodness!

Hmmmm.....noticed any changes around here? The blog has received a long overdue makeover thanks to my fabulous friend, Misty! Seriously, she is listed as a synonym for fabulous in my thesaurus.

For those reading in a feed reader or through an e-mail update here are a few changes that have occurred {you know, to entice you to come and see it for yourself!}.
  • A yummy new font in my header and on the sidebar graphics. It makes me want to lick a chocolate batter laden spoon!
  • New social media buttons made from chocolates.
  • The navigation bar at the top has been removed and links to those pages can now be found on my sidebar accompanied by some of the cutest vintage graphics ever
  • No more lime green background.
  • There's a hostess cupcake as my blog's favicon.
  • A new blog signature!
  • You can see my latest Pinterest pins on my sidebar.
There are a few more subtle changes that I am working on, mostly with the pages linked to on the sidebar. My tutorial page has finally been updated with photos and links to all the fun things I have posted over the years. I'll be updating my homeschool and cookbook pages too so hopefully it will be easier to find past posts.

Isn't the blog lovely? Muchas gracias, Misty!

Vole Patrol

I have been thinking about photographing water voles for a while. The main problem was where to start with numbers having suffered such a catastrophic decline. The key reasons for the decline, of this once common rodent, may be attributed to both habitat loss and fragmentation and the appearance of an 'alien' invader. The habitat requirements appear to be fairly straight forward being a slow flowing watercourse with a diverse abundance of aquatic and bank-side vegetation, banks that can be burrowed in to and minimal disturbance. However, the routine maintenance clearing of drainage channels to assist in the conveyance of flows and loss of river floodplains have all taken their toll on the vole. The other main factor has been the arrival and establishment of the American mink in the UK countryside through releases from fur farms. Some of these releases have been deliberately undertaken by anti-fur protesters concerned about animal rights. They obviously did not think about the rights of the native UK wildlife when they opened the cages to this highly efficient predators.

Fortunately there is a much greater awareness of water voles now which have been rightly afforded full protection status for both the animals and their habitat. A great deal of effort has gone into the encouraging the animals to return naturally through habitat management and assisted through re-introduction programmes together with the implementation of control measures on mink numbers.
Given the lack of local voles I decided to seek some help from a water vole expert, who kindly took me out to show me a couple of sites with a thriving population. She also helped me and hopefully my photography by providing a great deal of useful background information on their behaviour and how to look for signs of  their activity. Signs that previously I would not have seen such as small grazed patches of vegetation or plants stems cut with a characteristic 45 degree bite. So I would like to very much thank Kate for her invaluable help.
The site where I decided to concentrate my photography efforts is a short section of canal  where the usual concrete vole unfriendly banks have been replaced with a staked material. This allows the voles to chew hole in the material and access a buffer zone of abundant vegetation that separates the canal from the surrounding farmland.
From a photography perspective the site is slightly awkward as there are very few water level places for the voles to sit and only limited opening on the bank top where they have grazed down the vegetation on the opposite bank to which there is no access.
The photography of water voles is a waiting game and relying on them to appear at certain points where a clear view is possible. it appears to be characterised by brief flurries of activity between long periods of quiet. The start of the activity is often signalled by a rustling in the vegetation or a characteristic plop sound as one launches itself from the bank into the canal.
One bit of interesting behaviour I have already observed is how the voles fell small willows, like a mini beaver, to fall from the bank into the water so they can strip the stems free of leaves.
Of the various rodent species Water voles and Dormice are generally the species that have gain most popularity due to their threatened status but also they are visually very appealing animals. I also think that the cause of the water vole has no doubt been helped by fond memories of 'ratty' from the childhood stories of Wind in the Willows. They certainly have a charm went they are sat looking around and their popularity is also helped in that they often seem to be wearing a 'smile'. I have found that I much prefer to photograph the adults than the young which seem to have much more 'character'.
This is only the starting phase of this mini mission to photograph these delightful animals and I look forward to many more happy hours quietly sitting on the canal side watching the world go by and the place being lit up with the occasional appearance of a water vole.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Our Summer School Schedule

School's Out 1958

The weather is getting warmer. The days are longer. And school will soon be out. Or will it?

Not for us! We still have two more months of school. I can just hear you saying, "Your poor kids! Cut them some slack. Stop being a cruel, mean homeschooling mama!"

Would you still say that if you knew my kids had all of December and April off with a week off in the middle of October and February too? One of the pleasures of homeschooling is creating a schedule that works for our family. For us that means a type of year-round schooling of three months on {doing school}, one month off {no school}, with a week off in the middle of the three months on. The months we take off are usually April, August, and December. It just works for us.

However, our summer schedule still differs from the rest of the school year. We are busy farming so school is usually done in the afternoon {during the heat of the day}. The hay is raked in the early morning hours and the three oldest {it'll be the four oldest this year!} are gone to help. This is perfect as the littler ones and I go and work in the garden while the day is still somewhat cool.

Music 'round the Clock

Our school work load is also a bit lighter in the summertime. We take more field trips, go on more nature walks, and study a lot more science. We also make time to do the activities in our Cool Summer Days Calendar.  Our book learning is replaced with more hands on activities.

Do you do school during the summer? What does your schedule look like?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pregnancy and Weight Gain

My side of the closet is bigger than my husband's side. I have twice as many clothes as he does. Not because I am a fashionista, far from it! Instead my clothing is divided into regular, maternity, and in-between. One shelf for each {see, I told you I am not a crazy clothing lady!}. The "regular" size has definitely gotten closer in size to the in-between. Thankfully, they haven't merged . . . yet!

Why do I share about my clothes? Because it chronicles the journey I, and many women, make through pregnancy after pregnancy dealing with the roller coaster of weight gain and loss {maybe more gain than loss!}. A few weeks ago Tristan asked "How do you handle getting and staying healthy while having so many consecutive pregnancies?" I'm not sure I am a good example of this {especially the last few years} but I do try!

First, what I don't do is make a big deal out of the weight gain. I want my daughters {and my sons} to have a healthy view of a woman's body in all the stages it goes through including pregnancy. Weight is an inevitable part of pregnancy. What is hard is losing the extra weight especially when children come close together.

Here is a glance at my pregnancy and weight gain journey. I am 5'2" just so you know.
Fat Jiggling Machines: What Were They Thinking?
As you can see I started off tiny. I was pretty athletic but not overly so. After child #3 I never got below 120, mostly because I thought that was too thin. I did pretty good getting my weight back down to the 120s until those miscarriages. The year was 2008. It was a hard year because of many changes that happened. I've written about that before. I weighed 20 pounds more at the end of that year than I did at the beginning. I've had two more children since then and just haven't lost the extra weight. . . .yet. I am working on it. Right now I weigh 150 but have been slowly losing weight for the last two months {more on that later in the post}.

What have I done over the years to lose the pregnancy weight?

☀ Make time to exercise. We all know the benefits of exercising. It helps us feel better. We have more energy. It helps us combat certain health conditions and diseases. Even knowing we should exercise doesn't mean we actually do it. This is especially hard for moms of lots of little kids. It seems like you just get started and some little one needs your attention NOW. There a few ways I have tried over the years to resolve this.
Get up earlier in the morning. Child #2 was wonderful as a baby. I was able to get up in the morning and exercise for an hour while she lay contentedly awake in her crib. I am a morning person and prefer to exercise in the morning. This really isn't an option right now for me because I teach early morning seminary.
Break the exercise sessions up into smaller ones throughout the day. There were some years where I had to do 10-15 minute exercise sessions three times a day.
Have my children exercise with me. The younger ones love to imitate. When they see me walk out with my exercise clothes on they immediately go and get their little one pound weights and join me in front of the tv. Now my older girls exercise with me to encourage me and also to get in their 30 minutes of required exercise for their P.E. classes. It's a lot of fun to do it together....and I think the laughter that ensues from our conversations is just as healing and healthy!

☀ Find an exercise program that works for you. The one video I have used consistently throughout the years is The Firm Low Impact Aerobics. It is an oldie but goodie. I have tried some of the newer exercise videos that people get excited about. Honestly, they don't work my muscles as much as The Firm does. After making fun of me and the video for a week {it was made in the late 80s} my daughters decided to try it. Guess what their favorite video to do is now? :) I also go jogging and walking every other day for variety. My goal is to be able to run around a section of our land - 4 miles.

☀Eat healthy. When I had to meet with a dietician for my gestational diabetes I had to bring a list of everything I had eaten the previous week. She looked it over and said, "I think you are the first person I have met with where I don't see a thing wrong with the way you eat." We don't have pop or juice. We don't eat processed food {for the most part}. We eat whole grain foods, including homemade whole wheat bread. We have a variety of fruit and vegetables available for snacking and as side dishes. I only had to make a few small adjustments to my diet when dealing with the gestational diabetes. It was easier because I was already used to eating healthier than the average American.

☀Stop making excuses. This is for me right here, right now. After Ganache was born I wasn't thinking about exercising or losing weight for the first three months. I was worried about making sure he got fed and gained weight.

Then the excuses started. It was October and we were just beginning birthday season at our house. From the end of September through the end of January there is a birthday every two weeks. Then there was Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday season. I told myself it would be too hard to start exercising and losing weight with all those delicious holiday foods available to eat. I gained more weight over the holidays. January and February came. It was too cold to go outside and walk. The days were shorter, there wasn't time to fit in exercise. March came and I realized I really should do something. I started walking but only for about 30 minutes every other day. Finally the beginning of April came I realized I needed to stop with the excuses.

I weighed 160 pounds and was still wearing my 'in-between' clothes. Not good. It was no fun realizing I weighed as much or more than I did at the end of pregnancy with eight of my children. I started by eating smaller portion sizes. I lost eight pounds the first three weeks. I decided it was time to seriously start exercising. Up until this point I was just walking three times a week. I did The Firm video everyday for two weeks and guess what happened? I gained those eight pounds back! And yet, I wasn't too discouraged. I dropped a pants size and was starting to see the results. After adjusting my diet slightly {lowering carb intake a little bit} those eight pounds plus two more have come off. I am down another pant size and into my regular clothes again! My goal is to get back into the 120s by the end of summer. There are 14 weeks until the end of August so with a healthy weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week it is totally doable.

I'll keep on trying to follow my own suggestions and report back periodically during the summer to let you know how I am doing.

What have your experiences been with pregnancy and weight gain/loss? What do you do to stay healthy?

© 2007-2012 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wordfull Wednesday: Shoes

We are helping to clean the shoes
Do people still shine their shoes?

I know, I know. It's a silly topic for Wordfull Wednesday. I think I was in a crazy mood, or is it desperate? Now I'm stuck with it. Stuck like gum to the bottom of your shoe. 

My favorite shoes are an old brown pair I've had for 10 years at least. They are the work horse of my shoe collection. I wear them when I go grocery shopping {although not as much now that they are finally wearing out}, when I water the garden, and when I cook and clean my house.

Old Lady In a Shoe
Thank goodness this is NOT my house...though I do feel like the old woman sometimes...I don't know what to do!

These shoes have been worn to the hospital for the deliveries of five of my children. They have paced the floor while holding those children when sick or tired or while dancing with them in the kitchen.

These old brown shoes have driven many a mile - to Utah to visit family, to Reno for doctor appointments, to town for swim lessons or weekly church activities.

They aren't pretty or fashionable, just functional and comfortable. They take me through the day as I care for my family just like a good shoe should do.

Join us for Wordfull Wednesday! Write a blog post about your favorite pair of shoes. What adventures have you had in them? Come and link up!

Cocoa Signature with Candy 2 © 2007-2012 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bits and pieces

♦ We received our Sonlight order for next year! The smell of new books is wonderful. We will be studying American History {except for those in High school}. The younger set will be using Core D. The older ones will be using Core 100.

smell of new books

♦ We don't have enough room for all our books! I had to buy a new bookshelf and do a bunch of rearranging which included moving books up and down the stairs. I am almost done though {{breathing a sigh of relief}} It's exhausting hauling boxes of books around!

♦ Tomorrow is Wordfull Wednesday. It's a silly one. Write about your favorite pair of shoes. Where have they taken you? What adventures have you had in them? Write a blog post and link up tomorrow.

♦ Here are the winners of the Edwardian Aprons! Congrats to Amy A.F and Jennifer D.T. I've e-mailed you both so please check your spam folders if you don't see it in your inbox.

Edwardian apron winners

♦ My favorite song to listen to lately. Gratitude by Nichole Nordeman.

Cocoa Signature with Candy 2 © 2007-2012 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved

Monday, May 21, 2012

Solar Eclipse May 20, 2012

Sunday evening we were able to witness a good portion of the solar eclipse.
solar eclipse 05

We were a couple hours too far north to see a full "ring of fire" but still got a good view.
solar eclipse welding lens 01

We used welding helmets and lenses to look directly at the sun. The lenses make the sun green!
solar eclipse shadows 05

The shadows of the leaves were also crescent shaped.
solar eclipse 01

I was trying to get the setting right on my camera in this photo. I like the two reversed eclipses from the mirror shake on my camera. You can also see the eclipse right next to the bright green sun.

Were you able to see the eclipse?

Cocoa Signature with Candy 2 © 2007-2012 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Gifts from this week

laughing with the baby

Laughing with the baby

afternoon sunlight

Afternoon sunlight filtering through blinds on the kitchen table {with leftover decorations from Mother's Day!}

big umbrellas for hiding

Big umbrellas to hide behind

smell of cut grass

Smell of fresh cut grass

spilled granola

spilled granola



peek a boo






Cocoa Signature with Candy 2 © 2007-2012 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved