Saturday, May 25, 2013

Summer road trip (RV/trailer, grain free, dairy free)

Last spring we acquired a travel trailer, and over the past year I've enjoyed settling into it a bit and figuring out a different way of traveling with my large family.  While pulling a little home behind us has its own set of difficulties I love that we do not have to pack and unpack for hotel rooms along the way. With food intolerances having our own kitchen is a huge help as well.

This spring we spent three weeks on the road going from the South West to the Mid-West.  With 9 in our family I had to plan well to get all of our clothes and stuff neatly stowed away.

*Clothes for 8 of us are in this closet.  Hubby has his own small closet.

*Each of these two drawers holds PJ's, socks, and underwear for 4 people.

Needing even more careful planning is the food.  Of course I'm wanting to help my family eat healthy and keep our budget low, but two of us also need to stay as wheat and dairy free as possible.  With limited space I needed to be creative and plan reasonable items and ingredients to be purchased along the way.  I also needed to be thoughtful of the fact that we are on vacation, treats and special meals should be planned so we are more likely to resist temptation on the road.  I also needed to keep in mind that we would be needing to pack lunches for meals on the go when we were at museums and such.

*Non-perishables stowed away under the dinette bench seat for later in the trip.  Mixes are made up as well for pancakes and anything else I think we may need to bake up along the way.

*My kids consider PB&J sandwiches treats.  Some begged for Kraft EasyMac, if ever I was to allow it, now was the time (a box of dye free Mac&Cheese was purchased so that our dye free kid could enjoy along with others when aunties made up the "real" stuff).  Crackers and cookies are simple easy treats that will keep the kids from asking for worse junk.

*Keeping plenty of water bottles and 100% juice for the kids will keep us hydrated and keep the kids from asking for other "juices" and sodas along the way.  The Hansen's sodas will keep hubby and I from being tempted by other sodas at gas stations.

*Our snack drawer;  applesauce/berry pouches and freeze dried fruit will make fairly healthy treats on the road when we run low of fresh fruits and veggies.  These will also be easy for me to grab for snacks to put in my purse/diaper bag to keep the little ones from melt downs when we are out and about.

*Careful thought was given to what we would be putting in the fridge.  Salads in a jar make a great lunch for hubby and me (maybe not as space efficient as other things, but the health factor outweighs that this time) home made salad dressings are all set for making more salads along the way.  Pre-cooked meats and sausages will make meals fast and easy when we stop.  Hard boiled eggs make for a fast, easy, healthy breakfast along with some fruit.

*Pre-cooked hamburger can be added to the crock pot in the morning without the bother of cooking it up and dirtying dishes.  Grain free muffins, breads, and cookies make the trip easier for those of us with dietary restrictions.  The pancakes-on-a-stick are another one of those treats that the kids begged for, they will make a fast breakfast one morning, then they will be gone and we will not have them again. ;)

Nut balls
aka grain free cookie dough
1 cup nut butter (I used 1 cup macadamia nuts and 1/4 cup coconut oil)
1/2 cup nut flour (I used almond)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt (unless your nuts or nut butter are salted, then you may want to skip this)
1/8 cup (or more) mini-chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand)
*The kind of nut butter and nut flour you use will effect the flavor of your nut balls.  I find the macadamia nuts give a mild flavor that more closely resembles the flavor of a sugar/chocolate-chip cookie dough.  I found almond butter to almost give a PB taste, but if you want PB cookie dough just go ahead and use PB.

Mix all ingredients in a blender (I use my vita mix).  Transfer to a bowl and mix in chocolate chips.  Form into balls and chill in freezer until hard.  I store mine in the refrigerator or freezer and pull them out as I need them.  These will last well on trips as long as they are kept chilled/frozen.

Diapers and wipes enough to last the trip as well as a few toys for the kids are stowed up above the girl's bed (they don't really need much in the way of toys on trips, but a few do come in handy).  When going on a road trip this is also a handy place to stow treasures picked up along the way.

I'm always asked about sleeping arrangements first when someone asks about our trailer.  Our basic theory on the trailer is that this is a major improvement over tent camping.  If we were tent camping we would all be sleeping in one small space.  What we have here is a major improvement on that. ;) If a road trip; it is an improvement on getting two hotel rooms or cramming into one if allowed.

*The three girls all sleep on the queen size bed that is a slide.  They all end up squishing together so if we have another girl there is still room for her to eventually join them. ;)
*The couch provides a bed for one boy. (but it seems the toddler wouldn't mind joining him)
*The "baby" sleeps in an extra small pack-n-play that just fits in the trailer.
*The u-shaped dinette converts to a bed that is maybe full sized (it is an odd size).  Two boys sleep on it.  I think there would be room for a toddler.  There is also floor space available that we are not yet using.
*The toy-hauler portion of the trailer also houses a fold down queen sized bed.  This area can be curtained off from the rest of the trailer giving mom and dad our own room with some privacy.

There are so many configurations for trailers and RVs, I think the key is flexibility and creativity when packing a large family into one  of these.

We are fairly new to using a travel trailer.  I'd love hear the tricks and strategies others use for packing and doing meals for a large family in a small space.  So far I think we're about 50/50 as far as using it for road trips or actual camping trips.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Time to think about school planning!

Summer is just barely started, but if you are a homeschooler you are already thinking about the next school year.  I thought I'd share what I'm doing to prepare for school planning in case it helps someone else through this process, but also for future reference for myself because I'm likely to forget.

1.  My husband and I recently went out on a planning date.  Our family seems to do best using a unit study format, this was a time for us to discuss what those would be.  I had some ideas, and we have some that we repeat every year.  I wanted to know what my husband wanted our family to be learning. Together we ran through not only our ideas for what we thought we should be studying, but what we knew would be going on in our family in this coming year (a new baby and a move).  We put together a basic outline for the coming school year.

2.  I'm giving some time to prayer and thought about each child, and what they are needing in the coming year.  I'll have 5 school age kids this year, I need to assess where each one of them is, their strengths and weaknesses (both educationally and spiritually).  I'll also have three little ones that will need direction in their days (a preschooler, toddler, and a newborn in October).  Little ones should not be free to run wild, they need some direction in their days, they also need plenty of love and attention.

3.  Start training.  Have you ever put together a wonderful school plan/schedule only to have it fall apart the first day/week?  I have.  Sometimes we over plan; or just forget about the many interruptions that happen in a day.  Other times the kids are having a hard time adjusting to the new structure or concepts, they just are not ready for 1/2 hour of the planned activity, they would do better starting with 10 minutes and working their way up to that 30 minutes.  Maybe they had too much freedom through the summer and are resisting the reinstated structure?  Think about those activities you may be planning for the little ones such as circle time, room time, blanket time, craft/table time and use this summer time to teach them what will be expected during these times.  Keep some structure to your days through the summer, don't just let them run wild as you focus on school planning and summer projects. This can help those first days run and bit more smoothly.

*We're working on room time for these two.  I made a recording for them to listen to (the first was 7.5 minutes) and give them a basket of toys.  They are so excited about room time every day and ready to move up to 15 minutes.  They will work up to 30-40 minutes for this school year.  While they are happy playing together in a bedroom listening to a recording of mommy talking to them; teaching manners, going over memory verses and singing songs, I'll be using that time to teach reading and math lessons to my younger two students.  My kindergartener has also asked to do room time, I'll most likely have the baby join her in a bouncy seat so they can have some time together.

4. Recruit helpers!  I'll be busy putting together school plans, binders, and activities, but I don't need to do it all on my own.  My kids love helping with these sorts of things, and it helps them get excited about the coming school year too.  Think about what areas you can involve the kids in this process.

5. Plan for fun too, don't just let the summer waste away with the kids roaming around with too much free time.  Plan some fun activities.  We have a family pass to the Children's museum in town that I plan to use a few times.  With the combination of the heat and my pregnant belly a friend's invitation to come swimming at her place regularly sounded great.  On many afternoons when it often feels so hot (110+ degrees) we just don't want to do a thing I'll be letting the kids set up our projector in the living room so we can watch a couple of special DVD's I'm planning on purchasing as a special summer treat.  The big kids all have projects they are looking forward to having more time for.  I've got some special plans for the little ones as well, but that will be its own post.

6. Don't forget to clean out the books and curriculum that just is not working for your family or you don't need anymore.  Many groups have used curriculum/book sales this time of year (or you could use e-bay).  By selling these things you may be able to help finance the needs for the coming year.

Ok, thats my plan for getting the ball rolling on school planning this year.  It may help to know that I plan for the whole year.  This is just my brainstorming and outlining phase.  Next month I'll actually start putting things together.  My kids will have binders with a assignments, worksheets, activities etc. for the whole year; they are divided by month.  I'll have a circle time binder with topics, memory verses, as well as notes for our read-alouds, library books to request and supplies needed.

How do you plan for getting the next school year together?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Surviving Morning sickness (hyperemesis)

Well, I made it through my 8th round of "morning" sickness.  Who ever thought to call it "morning" sickness?  Every time it has been 24 hrs, and often it has been worse in the afternoons or evenings.  Morning sickness in general is rough, you are exhausted and nauseated constantly; then throw in a few kids and it gets really rough.  Some of us get to spend the entire time throwing up (or working really hard not too).

I've struggled with hyperemesis with with most of my pregnancies (I didn't with one, but I miscarried that baby).  To say it is rough would be an understatement, but each of these sweet babies are so worth it, I'm happy to (in a small way) offer my body as a living sacrifice.  These are some of the things I've found have helped over the years....

1. Whole foods (no, not the store); eating foods that are NOT processed,  and ARE full of the nutrients my body needs really do help.  Keeping a good diet before getting pregnant has seemed to help.  For me a diet high in meat, eggs, and vegetables really keeps me going; on the other hand too many sugars (including whole grains and fruits) seem to take my blood sugar levels on a ride that makes me sick.

*This has been one of my favorite meals.  Onions and spinach cooked up in olive oil and an egg or two fried over it.  Season with salt.  Serve with avocado over the top.  A friend of mine suggested it as it helped her through morning sickness as well.  I found that this seemed to be just the right combination of protein, fats, and vitamins to settle my stomach and help me feel satisfied.

2. Stay hydrated!  This sounds easier than it is.  I've found that drinking from a straw works better than from a cup.  We have four sources of water in our house (tap, filtered refrigerator water, water cooler,and a berkey) I couldn't stand any of them.  Other drinks would work for a while (like a couple of days), but eventually would make me sick.  The ONLY thing I could drink consistently was the water from Sonic.  Yep, twice a day we (mostly my husband) would go order a RT44 WATER.  Hey, you do what you gotta do.

3.  Don't worry about the house, and homeschooling.  Just do what you can, it'll all be there when you get better.  Do try to enjoy the kids.  Use this time to snuggle with the little ones.  This is also a time when kids will step up and help out more.  I've seen this every time, the kids are eager to serve and are excited about the new baby.  *This is also the time to take the easy route.  I prefer to serve my kids homemade meals made with whole grains and such.  While my big kids helped out quite a bit and did manage quite a few healthy meals, this is also the time for letting them have French toast sticks or cereal for breakfast, PB&J or Mac&Cheese regularly for lunch, and Pizza for dinner often.  This is a short season, you will all recover soon enough!  

4. Drugs!  Truly, I don't know how I'd make it through without drugs.  While I'm the type that tries not to even take Tylenol (pregnant or not).  Zofran is my best friend during this time.  It keeps me from needing IV's or a stay in the hospital.  It allows me to be somewhat functional and present instead of constantly running to the bathroom, lossing excessive amounts of weight, and getting so worn down that I need further medical intervention. (Without drugs I do get to a point that I can't even keep water down ans lose weight.)  *laughter is good medecine too.  Being sick can lead you to be in some fairly pathetic situations that can be quite disheartning if you don't approach them with a bit of humor.  One thing I've found is that toddlers contribute quite a bit of humor as they watch mommy go through something they don't understand.  I've had toddlers chase me as I run to the bathroom and stand behind me making the same noises I'm making OR clapping and cheering me on.  Yea, laugh so you don't cry. ;)

5.  Training the kids; this should be a part of your regular parenting, and if it has been, now is a time you will see the results.  If you have not been, you will also see the results. ;)  If you know ahead of time that morning sickness could be an issue, I'd encourage you to look for areas that your kids need help in obediance or could step in and help more. *Be realistic in your expectations.  If you have all littles it may be that the most you can hope for is that they pick up their toys and grab diapers (or other commonly needed easily accesible items).  Maybe they could make their own PB&J?  As they get older they can help more.  My oldest is 12, I also had a 10 and 9 year old for this go 'round; this is the first time our home has been maintained and meals resembled our regular diet.

6. Natural remedies do not work well when you are in the thick of this kind of morning sickness, but it can ease some of the symptoms early on or at the end.  I've found Lemon and Peppermint to be very helpful both in the form of tea and essential oils.  Ginger has been said to be helpful too, but I usually can't stand the smell or taste or ginger.  In one pregnancy I did find that ginger root tablets helped, but I had to swallow them down with something with a strong flavor to cover up the ginger.

7. The biggest one of all?  The body of Christ!  This go round was not any better physically (in fact it seemed to be a bit worse, or the meds didn't work as well), but in many ways it seemed much easier.  I know I had many praying for me, and I'm so thankful for their prayers.  We were also blessed to have an amazing community that stepped in in big and small ways to help us through this.  Meals were brought over regularly.  Others invited us over to get us out, but in a comfortable setting close to home. A young woman came into our home a couple times a week and helped with anything that needed to be done.  Some ran errands for us.  A friend took one of my more active boys to her home a couple of times a week (this child is a sweet heart, but is high energy AND needs constant supervision.  He was thrilled to get to go help this friend with yard work and I could rest knowing this child was in good hands).  The flexibility of many was appreciated as we worked around my "good" times.  In no way least; my husband and kids truly served our family in big ways.  They showed the love of Christ and servant's hearts as they cared for our home.

*None of this is intended as medical advice.  I'm just a mom sharing what has helped me get through this over the last 13 years.  If you are struggling to keep foods/liquids down while pregnant you really should speak to your doctor or mid-wife about it.

I'm linking to My Joy Filled life- pregnancy journal link-up