Teaching healthy eating habits to kids

Two of my kids have problems with hypoglycemia. One just happens to have a metabolism to die for. The other has been monitored since she was a baby because early childhood hypoglycemia can sometimes turn into diabetes. While I was homeschooling them, it was easy for me to provide healthy well-balanced meals. Then they went to school. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with school lunches (and breakfasts) but they are tremendously carb heavy. Unfortunately, carbs are like the kiss of death for hypoglycemics. They eat carbs, feel full, and then crash in a big way within the hour. It is not pretty. That’s one reason why I can’t understand the pancake breakfast offered free to our school kids the week of testing.  I feel like they should be offering a higher protein, lower carb breakfast if they expect the kids to do well during testing. Anyway, back to school lunches. I had 4 kids with different eating preferences packing lunches. I wanted to teach them about packing a healthy lunch but wasn’t sure where to start. (When I was growing up, my idea of a balanced lunch was one that included a salty snack and a sweet snack to accompany my lunch meat and white bread sandwich. In fact, I spent more time choosing a cool lunch box then picking healthy foods.) Thankfully, I was working with an awesome dietician who had shared a diabetic consistent carbohydrate diet (DCCD) cheat sheet with me. I modified the concept to create a chart to help guide my kids in choosing better-balanced breakfasts and lunches.


One from each column will do.  Just don’t forget the protein 🙂


Here’s an idea of some possible lunches and where they fit in.  For the empty spaces or other ideas, check out the Fill in the Blank Chart.  No need to fill in the empty spaces under the Fats column, we get enough of those in more places than we can imagine.


There are so many better options for the snacks but this was my first try and I wanted to include my children’s ideas so they would have some ownership for the project.  Hopefully, you’ll find these charts helpful! Have a blessed day!

Homemade Manicotti

3_FullSizeRenderHere’s my disclaimer.  I did not learn this from my Italian mom who learned it from her’s and so on.  I just am in love with Italian food. This is easy enough that my preteen daughters can do it and even the pickiest of eaters loves it.  I use my own sauce but store bought will do.  Its also a great place to hide shredded vegetables.

Homemade Manicotti

Noodles (Really, they’re like making crepes):

3 c. flour
2 c. milk
6 eggs
1 tsp. salt

FullSizeRender Whisk until smooth. Put 2 T. at a time on a hot greased skillet and spread into a 5 inch circle. Cook low to medium heat until set. Try not to brown. You technically shouldn’t turn them but sometimes they start to brown on the bottom but the top is not set so I quick flip them and then take them right out of the pan. Stack on waxed paper. I used to layer them between waxed paper but I realized that they stick more to the waxed paper than they do to each other.



2 lbs. ricotta cheese
½ c. grated romano, parmesan, or asiago (my personal favorite) or any blend of these
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp. dry parsley or 1 ½ T. of fresh parsley

1_FullSizeRenderYou also need 2 jars of spaghetti sauce and the equivalent of two 8X11 casserole dishes

Spread ½ of the spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the dishes. Fill noodles with approximately 1/8 cup of ricotta filling. (This is approximate because, if you’re like me, you’ll make noodles of varying sizes.) Lie them up in the bottom of the pan. (I turn them over so the weight of them holds the top shut.)

1_FullSizeRenderWhen you’ve filled all of the noodles, pour the other half of the spaghetti sauce over the top of the manicotti. I like to add a sprinkling of asiago on top but it’s not necessary. Cover and Bake at 350o for 20 minutes then uncover and bake 20 more minutes.

Usually there are no leftovers in our house but it does freeze well. Happy eating!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

2_FullSizeRender I’ve been trying to slowly switch to more natural products in my home. Since I’m a single mom with 4 eternally hungry preteens and teens and who just so happens to be in grad school, I’m not exactly rolling in the dough. So, while I would love to switch to all organic products, I have had to be selective in my endeavors. I started with cleaning and personal products. I have had a few victories in personal products but have really hit it out of the park in cleaning products. But my favorite, by far, is my laundry detergent recipe. I no longer buy laundry detergent, even when it’s a totally awesome sale (because great sale prices do not make the chemicals in the commercial detergent go away). Instead, I use this recipe:


Homemade Organic (at times) Laundry Detergent

16 cups Baking Soda (not quite one of the giant bags from Sam’s Club)
12 cups Washing Soda (2 boxes)
8 cups grated Castile Soap or a combo of Castile and Fels Naptha (4 bars total)

The original recipe calls for lavender essential oil but I skipped this due to our allergy problem.  I use my food processor with the grating blade to grate the soap.  The added bonus is that my food processor is sparkling clean after I wash it up.  4_FullSizeRender

Mix it up and store it in a sealed container. The powder can be a little irritating to breathe so go hog wild mixing it up. I usually mix it a bit then close the lid and give it a few shakes. Depending on how dirty your laundry is, use 1/8 to ¼ cup per load.

We live on a farm which means that directly following winter is Mud Season. During the muddy spring, I use 3 bars of Dr. Bronners and 1 bar of Fels Naptha.

I bought my ingredients bulk through Wal-Mart and Amazon or at Wegman’s. The final cost was $22.59 and it lasted us approximately 3 ½ months.

Many thanks to Evelyn at Delightful Creations for the original recipe. You can check out her blog here.

How I Came to Homeschool

I am an accidental homeschooler. I never knew about homeschooling or even knew someone who was homeschooled before I got started. My son was enrolled in our local (at that time) public school and my daughter was a toddler. Because of extended testing for a health problem, my son was going to miss too many days of school so the school was threatening to hold him back. The problem was that he was already bored and unhappy in his current grade.

His teacher at the time wouldn’t let him do the extra work the gifted support teacher had given him to do while his classmates finished their work. Instead, she just kept complaining about his distracting behavior. Then she actually said that she just had a “personality conflict” with him (a second grader)! It was unimaginable to think that he would have to repeat second grade with her the following year. I took the little baby step of telling the school district that I would do his schoolwork with him while we were staying at the hospital. (See, I still wasn’t calling it homeschooling or making a commitment.)

We survived the medical testing (all great news) and completed the schoolwork (tedious and unimaginative). But, along the way, I realized something wonderful: I loved teaching my son at home and he loved it too! It was so much easier to do work with him when he was fresh as opposed to dragging him, tired and distracted, through homework after a six hour school day. He could work at his own pace and my daughter who was a toddler couldn’t wait to be just like her big brother and do schoolwork too! I never sent him back and I never sent my daughter to school.

I don’t want you to get the idea that everything was all rainbows and lollipops. I made mistakes (like trying to teach using the public school method, going workbook crazy, and not teaching to my children’s learning styles), had tough times (homeschooling teenagers and toddlers through a divorce), and there were days when I just wanted a little peace and alone time but, for the most part, it was great! During that time, I was working evenings so I could be home with the kids during the day anyway.

Over the years, I was introduced to the wonderful world of curriculum and conferences, field trips and support groups, and oh so much paperwork! (Pennsylvania is the second most restrictive state to homeschool in.) We found our tempo and managed to continue to homeschool through a lot of ups and downs in our lives. I am happy to report that the first two victims of my homeschooling adventure survived with one graduating from college last year and the other set to graduate from college this year.

My youngest kids, however, have had a very different school experience due to life circumstances. With their difficult starts in life and different learning challenges, homeschooling them was hard. Just teaching them letters, numbers, and reading was drowning me. I was trying to work tons of hours on 2-3 days of the week to continue to homeschool and it was killing me. I was exhausted on my days off and my kids were not progressing enough according to my standards. Enter public school.

Four years ago, my 4 youngest started in public school. Within the first month, they had received more sex education (from 3rd and 4th graders) on the bus than I could ever have imagined. (To all parents who think that their children aren’t getting the meaning behind sexual songs, such as Whistle baby, they really do get it and they’re sharing it with everyone.) Our experience with the public elementary school was great but with the middle school…not so great. (Grouping children by age level may make it easier for teachers to teach large groups but it does nothing for their emotional growth and maturity.)

The worst thing to come out of our public schooling experience was the focus on all things sexual (mainly while unattended on the bus). The greatest thing…after trying for 5 years to get my son help, the school was able to get him diagnosed and get him appropriate help. Even as a nurse, I had been unable to do this on my own. At one point, I was told that my (at that time undiagnosed autistic) child was behaving the way he was because I gave too many directions to him. One doctor even told me (someone who had never medicated a child ever) that I couldn’t medicate behavior out of a child. All I had asked was if there was perhaps a medical reason he couldn’t control his behavior because I thought it was unkind to punish for behaviors out of his control. (There was a medical reason, but that’s another story.) Until a teacher saw it, the mental health professionals didn’t believe it had happened.

One of my biggest complaints when they were all attending school was that we didn’t have enough time with each other. During the week, they were at school, doing homework, at an activity, or preparing for school. Weekends were filled with church and activities. It was depressing and exhausting and not at all conducive to training up my children in the way they should go. Out of necessity, my youngest son continues to attend public school. But, this year, by the Grace of God, I have been able to homeschool my daughters again.

And so, we dance this familiar dance again. But this time, my daughters and I have been trying to find our own homeschooling tempo. It is a fun and sometimes exasperating time of learning together. Since my son’s needs and behaviors often take precedence over their needs at other times, this has also become a time of healing, bonding, and relaxing. While I do not know what the future will hold for us with regard to school, I’m just enjoying this gift of time with my girls and thanking God for the opportunity.

In light of the recent terrorist events, here’s my road to home defense…

More than a decade ago, I took a gun safety class. The retired police officer who taught it told us to not own a gun unless we were willing to shoot to kill in self-defense.

His first reasoning was that a criminal would not hesitate to use your own gun against you. He also reasoned that a nonfatal wound (such as in the kneecap) would just enrage a drug abuser looking to fund his or her next high. Between the rage and the perp’s ability to power through the pain, I would be at a great disadvantage standing there cloaked in my love and empathy for humanity.

You see, all the stars aligned in my life, as a nurse, a mother, and a Christian, to make me a card-carrying, flag-waving bleeding heart. I believe there is good in everyone and that every life matters. For this very reason, I did not purchase a gun at that time.

As a single mom, my children’s safety is entirely in my hands. As you may already have gleaned from my prior writing, I am alone but not alone in my life. Even when it comes to safety, I have my angels.

Although we live in a large rural county, we are blessed to be only a few miles from the local PA State Police Barracks. My brother-in-law, Tim, also has had my back more times than I can remember. Since he and his brother farm the property next to and across from my own, he’s in a unique position to keep tabs on us and our property and he’ll text me if something’s up.

But, in the recent past, I’ve had a few disturbing incidents. One morning as I was leaving for work, there was a dry spot next to my car in the driveway despite it having rained all night. Since I live in a rural area and my house is far from the beaten path, this was very disconcerting but I brushed it off because nothing was disturbed as far as I could tell. Another time I saw a car parked on our logging path but figured it was a hunter who had ignored the No Trespassing sign. I checked to make sure the sign was still up but by the time I got down to the logging path, the car was gone.

I talked to a friend whose husband is a local cop and he recommended that I get serious about security because of being alone and in a rural setting. He also recommended that I get a gun and a concealed carry permit. Because I had 4 young kids at home (one of whom is very curious and impulsive), I decided against purchasing a gun until I had done a lot of research on gun safety.

And then there was the final straw.

One night I dreamt of elephants surrounding my house and when I woke up, my doorknob (on a door that had just been installed 2 weeks prior) was mangled up and dangling off and there were dig marks in the door jamb. At first I thought that a bear had tried to get in but since the trash outside was undisturbed, I couldn’t deny the fact that someone had tried to get into my house.

In my house. With my kids in it.

Suddenly, the momma bear overwhelmed the bleeding heart in me. I realized I would do anything to protect my children. Thus began my foray into gun ownership. My first stop was Up in Arms Shooting Supplies. The awesome guys there tolerated my million questions and answered some I never even thought to ask. I bought a revolver, bullets and a gun safe.

I shook the entire way home. The first time I shot it, my brother-in-law Tim was nice enough to stay with me which was great because I was still shaking. Because of my interest in concealed carry, the guys at Up in Arms also recommended The Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry by Massad Ayoob. This book was life-changing. I read it from cover to cover and had to take notes. One day I hope to take his classes.  I did eventually apply and get approved for a concealed carry permit.

The management of the purchase took on a lot more importance in our household where several of my children have PTSD and anxiety. Most of my time and energy went into planning purchase and use and security of the gun and gun safe, so that it would be easily accessible in emergency but not so easily accessible to curious kids.

Because I still have a curious and impulsive son who struggles with perseverating behavior, I practice shooting and clean the gun while he’s not around. In fact, the purchase was such a nonevent to him that it hasn’t become a point of fixation. My daughters are split as to whether they are interested in shooting or not.

Instead of focusing on gun ownership as the be-all and the end-all of our home security plan, it became just one more component. I researched home security and assessed our weaknesses. Each of our doorknobs was replaced with one with a higher security rating. I installed a surveillance camera with plans for expanding this system. I still have improvements to make but the biggest hurdle has already been crossed…my own sense of false security.  In light of the increased frequency, randomness, and unpredictability of recent terrorist events, personal and home defense has moved to the top of to do list.

The revolver ended up being a great first gun, easy to use and easy to care for. And once I was able to relax, I realized how much I really enjoy target shooting. I’ve even planned my next gun purchase. I still pray that I’ll never have to take a life in defense of my family or myself but I know that I’ll handle my gun safely and confidently if I ever need to use it.

How do you feel about guns in your house? Please feel free to share. As you can see, opinions can vary even within one person’s lifetime so there will be no judgment here.