Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blessed Rest

He said to do it. He even blessed it. Back before the Fall and before the Law, He told us to do it. His doing it Himself convinced me that it was something I should be doing. Yet I struggle with observing the Sabbath.  There is a battle storming between my flesh and spirit…

Rationally I am convinced that I need to rest on the Sabbath. I am fully aware of the physiologic benefits of cycling through periods of exertion and rest. It makes us more efficient, and we are healthier when alternating our working and resting. I truly believe God planned this for our best good. For my best good.

Then why the struggle?

In the midst of the day’s work, I vacillate between sincerely desiring to ‘work heartily as unto the Lord’ and having my body piercingly scream for rest.  I need stillness.  In the midst of the pressures and stress of daily living my spirit quietly whimpers for a reprieve. I need peace. In the flurry of activity a fleeting, over-the-shoulder glance at my Bible does not suffice. I need intimacy.

When the preparation day arrives, I am not ready. I do not want to stop striving toward my own purposes. Although His yoke is easy and His burden is light my To-Do list is never finished and my labor never completed. In my flesh there is no desire to leave off my agenda and prepare for that to which I know He is calling me. He whispers while my list shrieks.  On the Sabbath, my list mocks me, taunting me with the alleged ‘wasted time’.

I have to remind myself (a thousand times a day if needed) that this is a day blessed and sanctified by Him for me.  My Jesus is Lord of this day, and whatever it takes to enter into this small taste of that forever-rest is worth doing. There is no righteousness attached to this day-my Lord took care of my righteousness once and for all at the Cross.

But the blessings are infinite…Stillness. Peace. Intimacy. Rest. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cincinatti Five-Way Chili

In honor of it being:

a) finally cold outside

b) Kitchen Day at our house (per the Large Family Logistics Plan)

c) a dish my family has been asking for,

I am posting my recipe for Cincinati Five-Way Chili. My Mother-In-Law came home from a work trip with this recipe about 12 years ago. While in Cincinati, she and friends found that the city was famous for this dish. Cincyusa.com estimates that there are 140 chili restaurants in the city, and around 70 of them are owned by the same extended Greek family. This is not the Texas version of chili con carne...this recipe was created by Athanas Kiradjieff, a Macedonian, and tastes Greek. It is served like this:

One Way: chili in a bowl with oyster crackers on the side.

Two Way: chili on a bed of spaghetti.

Three Way: chili on spaghetti with grated cheddar cheese on top.

Four Way: onions underneath cheese on top of  chili over spaghetti.

Five Way: spaghetti, chili, onions, kidney beans and grated cheese.

Cincinnati Chili


1 Quart water

1 pound ground beef (double ground or run through blender quickly)

2 medium onions grated in blender

4 garlic cloves

2 Tablespoons white vinegar

16 oz. tomato sauce

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes*

2 teaspoons Worcestershire

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 ½ teaspoons salt (omit if using cheap chili powder)

4 Tablespoons chili powder*

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ ounce Unsweetened Chocolate

In a Bouquet Garni:

1 large Bay leaf

5 whole allspice

5 whole cloves


Cook over medium to low heat until consistency is like spaghetti sauce. *You may want to go easy on the chili powder and red pepper flakes until you (especially the children) have tried it first. I can't remember how many serving this is, but I multiply it by ten making six meals for us, if that helps.

You can pick and choose which toppings to add, but most prefer not to have it just plain chili in a bowl, as it is very spicy (not hot, just rich). Some folks like to serve sour cream with it as well.

I'm anxious to see how you like it! Happy Autumn!

Monday, October 23, 2006


I can positively say that Daylight Savings Time was not God's idea.  The same goes for alarm clocks. As a matter of fact, no, I do not have a chapter and verse reference on that, but I have deduced it based on basic human physiology.  There is something very beautiful about waking up with the sun (or your friendly neighborhood rooster), and no alarm clock.  Our internal clocks are naturally set to work that way. It is only our artificial lighting and super-full schedules that have gotten it out-of-whack. Studies have shown that folks who live this way are healthier, anyway.

Assuming you went to bed at a decent hour, it is the most refreshing feeling to slooowwwwly wake up to the sun streaming in your bedroom window. When I wake up this way, I always feel happy about beginning the day. Unless of course, I wake up this way, and I am running late. Even stay-at-home folks have an agenda, and some manner of schedule, you know.

Here's the rub: there is something downright wrong about being told (by the clock) that you are "late" through no fault of your own, with no extenuating circumstance like illness or a newborn to cause it. It is frustrating to have my schedule so violated without my consent. Suddenly, I am going to bed at the same time I always have, and waking up at the same time, but I am arbitrarily and automatically behind schedule. I wake up feeling like a sluggard for a few weeks every spring because of this brilliant idea called Daylight Savings Time.

It just isn't right, I tell you.

Nor is it right to wake up for a few weeks each autumn feeling extra righteous through no effort on my part. (I'm an equal opportunity complainer.) We are self-employed, so it doesn't greatly affect our work life, just life at home. I am positive that the genius who came up with this plan was not the parent of a toddler or infant. Either that or they were trying to play a cruel joke on their grown children with toddlers and infants. I mean, how exactly does one explain to a toddler or infant that they are supposed to sleep an hour later in the fall? "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity" Ecclesiastes 1:2.

I don't think folks should gripe about the government if they don't vote, nor fuss about the mess if they don't pitch in. Therefore I am prepared to act on my criticism. I will boycott Daylight Savings Time. I'm just not going to play. That'll show 'em.

Now, if I could just get the rest of the folks at church to join in...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Look, She’s Doing It!

A rumpled brow, a furitive glance behind each shoulder...then 'the question'. With obvious trepidation in their voice and fully expecting the worst, they ask, "What do (gulp) the children think of her?"

If these folks could be a fly on the wall in my home...

"Hurry up you guys! Everybody come quick-she's doing it!"

From every corner of the house, seven of us scurry to the scene, dropping everything in an effort to witness Babydoll's smile. As we jockey for position, striving to be directly in her field of vision, we hope that this priceless-but-fleeting grin will reappear.

In our family, there is an eight-way tie for who is most qualified to be president of her fan club, eight contenders for the Who-Can-Make-Her-Smile award. The prize is the smile itself.

It is not unusual for the entire family to stand encircled around this Blessing enthralled with her every breath, as the rest of life slips into suspended animation. It can wait...We have taught our children that if this is not our response to such an event, that there is something very wrong.

What do the children think of her?

Our children have been taught to think God's thoughts after Him. "Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward" Psalm 127:3. This means every child. Not just the first child born to wealthy Americans with established careers. The blessing extends to the seventh child...or the fifteenth. The circumstances do not fulfill or negate the blessing.  "The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it" Proverbs 10:22. A child is a blessing simply because He has declared it so. My children understand this better than the average adult. 

And that understanding deepens with every smile...

"Y'all come quick...she's doing it!"


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tincture Time!

I promised a post on making herbal tinctures, and here it is!

Everybody's doing it. The more folks learn about natural health, and taking seriously the stewardship of their health, the more folks are learning about herbal medicine. Making your own herbal medicine is combining health stewardship and financial stewardship. Even Martha (who surely doesn't view stewardship from a biblical worldview) is doing it. (As much as Mr. Visionary 'respects' Martha Stewart, if he sees this, I'll have to break out my ginger tincture to help settle his stomach. "You put a link to who???")

Most of the time, when I need herbal medicine for my family, I choose alcohol tinctures for several reasons. First, they make the chemical constituents of the herbs easier for our bodies to assimilate. (Just like you wouldn't eat nails if you wanted to increase your iron levels. It just doesn't work.) It is the same with herbs. Not all the good stuff in the herbs can be extracted through digestion. Second, alcohol is the strongest solvent that can extract a major portion of the plant constituents without harming its properties. Also, they are easy to make (read that: not labor intensive), keep forever (about five years when stored properly), and they don't take up tons of space (compare a cough syrup bottle for the tincture to a bag of cotton candy for the bulk dry herb).

You can make tinctures with a different menstruum (the liquid medium) such as vinegar or glycerine, but the alcohol medium makes the tincture stronger. Also, Mr. Visionary wouldn't get near anything made with vinegar and the glycerine method is much more involved.

How you make them is actually very simple. Powder the herb, add alcohol, and let it sit a while. Then take the alcohol back out, and it is a tincture. The timing and measurements are the only parts that are slightly more complicated.

I buy my herbs in bulk in the largest form possible (i.e. sticks or pieces of root herbs, whole leaves or flowers of herbs, etc.), then powder them myself in the blender. This is because the chemical constituents last longer in a whole form rather than a powdered form.  If you do not have strong blender, then it is perfctly fine to buy your herbs already powdered, just make sure they are fresh.

Here is how we recently made an Elderberry tinture and then turned it into syrup (you'll flip when you see how easy it is):

Gather Supplies

Step One: Gather supplies. We use 100 proof alcohol (v*dka is said to have very little taste) because it has the exact 50/50 ratio of water to alcohol that you need for your menstruum. (Some of the plant constituents need water to extract and some need alcohol, and the ratio matters.) The proportions of herb, alcohol and water we use will make a standardized extract that will have a specific amount of that herb's healing ingredients. This makes following dosage guidelines more accurate, and you know that when you make the same tincture the next time, it will have the same strength.

Blend Herb & Menstruum

Step Two: Measure ingredients. For soft herbs like Elderberries (they are a little harder than raisins) you will need to blend the herb and v*dka at the same time without powdering the herb first. (You will need 1/4 pound of dried herb for 16 ounces of alcohol to make a standardized tincture.) Here are some very good directions for making a tincture with instructions for figuring out your measurements.


Step Three: Blend Well. Blend the herb and alcohol until thoroughly combined. It will be thick and the berries should be as completely dissolved as your blender can get them. (Just a side note: this can also be done with a simple mortar and pestle...you don't have to have a spectacular blender, it just saves time.)

Powder Herbs

When you use hard dried herbs (like this echinacea) it works best to powder the herb in the blender before you add the alcohol (at least that is what we've found).

Store In Dark

Step Four: Macerate (or soak). Now, pour the mixture into a jar with tight-fitting lid and stick it in a cabinet or pantry (somewhere in the dark). Even though it has to sit for two weeks (at least) you will want it some place easily accessible (and easy to remember) because it needs to be shaken every day. Shake it every day to get it well mixed (the herb will settle to the bottom of the jar). While it needs at least two weeks, the longer it sits, the better it will be. Some (especially Asian herbalists) believe it is better to leave them to macerate for 6 weeks or longer. However, I have read that after six months, the alcohol will no longer extract constituents from the herb.

Ready To Strain Squeeze

Step Five: Strain the liquid (two weeks later). You need something to help you strain all that smushed-up herb back out of the mixture. We use a metal mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth (wet the cheesecloth first). Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth lined strainer, and let as much liquid as you can strain through on its own. Do small amounts at a time. Then, gather up the cheesecloth and gently squeeze the remaining liquid out of the herb mixure. Be careful not to squeeze too hard or you will burst the cheesecloth and have to start all over. However, get as much liquid as you can squeezed out, as this is the richest part of your tincture, and you don't want to waste any.

Step Six: Bottle and store your tincture. Now your tincture is complete, and you can bottle it for future use. It will keep best if stored in dark jars (blue or amber).  Make sure you label your jars!

Now, for how to make the syrup:

I learned that I can mix equal parts of an herbal tincture with either honey or maple syrup to make a simple syrup. I chose not to use honey in case I ever needed to give some to the baby.  So, I mixed equal parts of my elderberry tincture and real maple syrup. When using this syrup, I double the standard dosage. Typically, during an illness, I keep the sick person far away from any sugar. Shonda Parker (author of Mommy Diagnostics) taught me that any sugar (even healthy natural sugars like juice, sucanat or honey, etc.) decreases immune function for up to four hours after ingestion. But since we use Elderberry syrup primarily for prevention, and since the dosage is so small (for children: 30 drops or ~1 teaspoon per day) I determined that it was a small price to pay for the ease of getting herbs into my children. You see, this stuff tastes like candy-it is delicious! My children call it blueberry juice'.

Making Syrup 

'Blueberry juice' recipe: equal parts elderberry tincture and maple syrup. Store in the refrigerator.

There are tons of sites online that give more information about making herbal medicine, and I have learned some there. Some sites I use when researching herbs are:

this one for learning about the usage of certain herbs,

this one for learning how to make different forms of herbal products,

 and this one for buying herbs and essential oils in bulk.

Several books that have taught me a lot are:

Mommy Diagnostics by Shonda Parker

Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Harrod Buhner

The Complete Woman's Herbal by Anne McIntyre.


Have fun making your own medicine. (Although I hope you won't be needing it!)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Round One

Just in time for my Elderberry syrup to be ready, the first episode of sickness has hit our family. For the average family, sickness is no sprint, but for a larger-than-average sized family, it can be a true marathon. The typical duration of an illness is compounded by the passing of germs from person-to-person-to-person... The more people, the longer it takes to work it's way through the family. This creates doubts in the mind of the Mommy who wonders if she will ever see the outside world again. At least this is the usual way it goes.

This time however, it appears that we will come out of this round the victor. This illness seems to only be lasting a few days, and, wonder of wonders, it will have gone through the entire family in one week. That would have been unheard of in the past for our family. God is good.

The timing is great, too, as I am getting a refresher course in treating illness right as I promised to post about it. Cool, huh? I'll be preparing that post soon.

Now I'm off to get everyone another dose of Echinacea-Elderberry Syrup and put on another Moody video. Gotta love homeschooling: where else could they get science credit on their sickbeds?

Sick Kids

Six sick siblings sleeping, sniffling and studying science. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

No More Pick ‘n Flick

The rules have changed. And no child in my family is the least bit disappointed. Under normal circumstances, the words, "OK kids, we have a new rule..." are met with groans and downcast faces. This new rule however, has been met with nothing short of elation.

In our family, Rule #146 has always been,

"No picking your nose in a public place (such as the family room or kitchen table)"

followed closely by Rule #147 which states,

"If you must pick, you must flick (i.e. no eating nasal products)".

In light of recent scientific discoveries, and our family's conviction that healthy living is a form of good stewardship, our rules have changed. It appears that a scientist in Austria, Dr. Fredrich Bischinger, a lung specialist, has determined that folks who pick their nose and eat the dry remains are strengthening their immune systems. He said, "The nose is a filter in which a great deal of bacteria is collected, and when this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine."

Based on this evidence, we can add to the list of practices which immunize our children every day. We know that breastfeeding, letting our children roll in the dirt, and now, nasal snacks are all included in the category of healthy living.

Out with the old, in with the new. The new Rule #146 reads,

"If you must pick, you must lick (BUT NOT AROUND MOM-under penalty of death)".

The new Rule #147 reads,

"Never pick and lick when cleaning out the chicken coop."

Even healthy living has its limits.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Cookies for Santa

There are times when I am unsure if I am dreaming. Did I hear it or did I imagine it? In the early morning hours before I awake, I am half listening for it, half savoring the last few minutes of slumber before it comes. It always comes. Without respect for the day, the season, the temperature...it comes. At exactly point eight millimeters from my ear, at precisely 90 decibels, (a full hour before I desire to be awake),  Little Napoleon startles me awake  every morning by whispering, "Mom, can I have a snack?"

While this forced discipline of waking early is technically helpful, ( I do need to get up), let the record show that it is not my preferred method of waking. A more propitious ceremony for my tastes involves waking with the sun gently shining on my face, snuggling with Mr. Visionary, and slooowwwwly slipping into coherency. In silence. Although this is (*sigh*) not the life of a Momma, and the rest of the family has to be fully awake before even thinking about food, this little tike is ravenous the second his eyes open.

Enter cookies for Santa-my "great" idea. While our family does not participate in any of the sweet stories, storybook legends blasphemous teachings about Santa Claus, we have drafted, tongue-in-cheek, this euphemism about the plate of cookies. Each night before bed, I will set out a plate of non-perishable snacks (crackers, fruit, raisins, etc.) and a drink on the kitchen table. My plan involves Little Napoleon waking in starvation mode, and going directly to the kitchen to savor this snack, this "first breakfast" before the real breakfast is served. This would conceivably give me time to get ready for the day, meet with the Lord, and have a clue what will be for breakfast. Besides, I cook better when fully dressed.

There have been a few glitches in the plan, that have been easily remedied. First, I occaisionally often forget to leave the snack on the table. One morning of being jolted out of a dream cures my memory issues temporarily. This forgetfulness has built-in consequences. The second detail to accomodate is that Little Napoleon has acquired a trusty sidekick in the person of Doodle. So I leave a snack for two. Problems solved.

The last dilemma to settle is that when I do remember to leave the snack, at exactly point eight millimeters from my ear, at precisely 90 decibels, Little Napoleon startles me awake every morning by whispering, "Mom, is it OK to eat my snack?"

Even with no sleep, I'd rather wake to this little voice than an alarm clock any day.