Summer Harvest and Shots from Sunriver

Our garden is nearly non-existent this year. In fact, I planted three cherry tomato plants and called it good. But Salem has wild blackberries everywhere and we have a huge patch in our yard. We also make a point to hit the excellent farmers’ market every week this time of year and we look for opportunities to pick our own fruit.

One of the things I love about the way we eat is the variety and seasonality that naturally follows.

Here are some of the things I ate today:

- local zucchini

- local crookneck squash

- local eggplant

- red bell pepper

- local poblano pepper

- local fresh oregano

- local jalapeno pepper

- local tomatoes

- local corn on the cob (well, off the cob and pan-roasted, actually)

- Scott-picked local peaches

- Scott-picked local plums

- Scott-picked backyard blackberries

I’ve got a local cantaloupe and a watermelon on the counter, a fridge stuffed with local chard, local leeks, and an enormous head of local red leaf lettuce.

Thanks to the farmers’ market (with the exception of the poblano peppers) that local label means I got a better price than at a grocery store and the food is fresher. Yum.

Just 7 years ago I was a vegetable-hating fairly picky eater. Sometimes I have to pause and appreciate how far I’ve come. Change is possible! :)

In case anyone is curious, lunch was leftover ratatouille, except ours was not nearly as pretty as those pictures. My three year old and I just threw the veggies into the pan in layers like a lasagna. As usual, we made a boatload because I don’t like to cook every night! Dinner was this yummy pasta salad, but we doubled the herbs and halved the oil.

From Sunriver

Photo by Chris MacAskill
I loved this shot of my daughter and her grandpa, the ultimate healthy eater. My dad does plants. In fact, he might tie with the horse for leafy green consumption. Thank goodness because he has a strong family history of heart disease and his diet is keeping his arteries squeaky clean! We want him around a long time…

…even if he does try to break my stroller while delighting ten kids in one fell swoop. Count ‘em!
Photo by Meghan MacAskill

Photos by Chris MacAskill
Unlike my dad, we are happy aiming for 90% whole plant foods with our diet. We definitely indulge in a sprinkled cupcake now and then. :)

Photo by Meghan MacAskill

While in Sunriver for a SmugMug retreat, my dad and I hiked to the top of Mt. Bachelor. He usually swoops me off my feet like this for photos but right before this photo was taken, he also tossed me into the air. It totally caught me off guard!

Sometimes when I look around at what normal people are eating, I have to remind myself that my goal is to be abnormal.

My dad is 60 and thanks to a great diet and consistent, vigorous exercise, he’s in fantastic shape and totally smoked me up that mountain. That’s what I’m aiming for.

Posted in Healthy Eating, Life as we know it, Trips | Leave a comment

Three simple ways to have healthier teeth with a healthy diet

A healthy diet loaded with whole plant foods will prevent or reverse diabetes and heart disease. It prevents obesity and dramatically reduces your risk of many different kinds of cancers. (More on how we eat and why.)

However, it can actually harm your teeth.

It’s tempting to think that because you’re eating far fewer “sweets” and no soda, your teeth are protected from cavities. But there are several potential pitfalls even in a healthy diet.

Why I pay attention to our teeth

Dental health can impact your whole body, and it certainly impacts your wallet. Spending hundreds of dollars and hours of time sitting in a dentist chair is miserable, even if you like your dentist. I try to be diligent about brushing and flossing (we love our waterpik!) and I also keep my eyes open for anything else that may help.

Perhaps because we follow an alternative method of educating our children (homeschool!) and eat an alternative diet (plant strong!), we’re exposed to lots of alternative theories on dental health. I’ve read everything from eschewing root canals to drinking bone broth and avoiding fluoride. As far as I can tell, there’s very little data to support those practices (unlike the practice of eating an “alternative”, plant-based diet, for which there is an abundance of scientifically-sound data).

What you’ll see here is much more straight-forward. It’s backed by common sense and data, where possible.

Three simple ways to have healthier teeth with a healthy diet

1) Rinse, don’t brush, after eating acidic foods – particularly citrus fruit.

For more info on this, check out this short video over on, my favorite place for good science about diet. All the sources are cited below the video.


Photo Credit: cobalt123 via Compfight cc

2) Watch out for dried fruit.

Be aware of when you eat it. We eat raisins and dates or dried apples often for breakfast, and we generally brush our teeth in the morning ~30 minutes* after the meal, instead of before the meal.

We don’t snack on dried fruit between meals. Although dried fruits shouldn’t have added sugar, they are sticky and naturally sweet so they are bad news if you leave them on your them.

*I don’t look at a clock or anything, I just consciously put teeth brushing after our memory work and hair stuff, so it naturally falls a while after breakfast.

Photo Credit: (Mariam) via Compfight cc

3) After dinner, clean the kitchen and clean your teeth!

After dinner is my most common time to enjoy a treat. If I let that sugar sit on my teeth for hours afterwards until I’m ready for bed, or worse… engage in mindless munching until bedtime, it doesn’t help my health or my teeth. The reminder to “Clean the kitchen and clean your teeth!” that I picked up from one of Dr. Fuhrman’s books has helped me a lot.

As I explain to my kids, even if you take great care of your teeth… they still fall out sometimes. ;)

Posted in Healthy Eating, Life as we know it | 1 Comment

Things We Do (these days)

In my last post, I wrote about things we did in May. But I think as I look back on this season of life, I’ll treasure fewer of the special things we did during a certain month and more of what we do in regular life.

Here are some snippets I want to remember.

We Have Late Nights

My kids get the chance to earn a Late Night. It’s 15 or 20 minutes (depending on how many checkmarks they’ve earned) and they make the rules. It starts after their siblings go to bed and they can choose one or both parents to spend that time with and up to two activities to do.

On this night, Caitlyn picked running in the sprinklers with Daddy.

Scott was excited.

(I have dozens of great photos of this, but I am pretty sparing about the pictures I’ll post publicly of my kids when they are less than fully clothed. )

Mackenzie often chooses listening to me or Scott read aloud while she eats a big bowl of homemade banana ice cream (our favorite healthy treat… mmm).

We look adorable in our sleep

I can’t resist the cuteness of my kids sleeping.

We eat like kings (sometimes)

Scott still loves to cook. When he does, it usually takes a very long time and looks and tastes amazing. This is a kohlrabi salad that he and I ate around 11pm one night.

(For those keeping score at home, we don’t eat cheese very regularly but those are aged parmesan shaved triangles on top, along with sliced kohlrabi, apple, toasted hazelnuts and fresh mint.)

We dress up

At any given moment, there’s a good bet that at least one of our kids is wearing fancy shoes, a tutu, or a hat. Caitlyn, in particular, emerges from her closet wearing the most amazing combinations.

Dressing up like Daniel is a favorite pastime, since all three kids can wear his clothes:

One evening, the girls were having a hard time finding motivation to pick up the house and I commented that they needed a hero to help them.

They got one! Scott strode in to save the day wearing a cape and mask. He has a talent for voices and stayed completely in character, and when the room was clean he excused himself to go rescue someone from a burning building. Scott came back sans mask and cape several minutes later and claimed no knowledge of any hero. The girls ate it right up and I’m not sure I’ve ever loved my husband more. :)

We love our snuggly blankets

Daniel enjoys rubbing his cheek on his blanket. I melted the day he found it hanging out to dry and kept visiting it. :)

We especially like our snuggly blankets when we’re sad. Side note: Little kids get sad a lot. I had no idea before I became a mother.

We I occasionally take pictures of myself so my kids know I was there for their childhood

We lose teeth

Well, one of us does. The rest of us celebrate enthusiastically, lest the kids catch on to the fact that I’m secretly creeped out by the whole concept of losing teeth.

We play in the yard

We climb trees…

… and sometimes we get stuck.

We ride bikes. (We usually wear helmets, though! Not sure what happened here.)

See? Helmet. :)

Posted in Life as we know it | 1 Comment

Things We Did (in May)

Marathon in a Month

Mackenzie completed another Marathon in a Month (which she has done twice before).

New friends in Oregon added to the fun and even brought silly string to make the Final Mile more of a party. (Note: Silly string is not actually a party to clean off a rubber track.)

Caitlyn (3 1/2) was not quite ready to join this year, but she gamely lined up at the start line and accepted a popsicle at the end. :)

After realizing in her third season that she is not a big fan of soccer and having to stick it out until the last game anyway, it was really great for Mackenzie to focus on something she loves: running!

(Caitlyn’s medal was for finishing her reading lessons that same day!)

1/2 Marathon for Me

I signed up for my first long race since I became a mother! Since being pregnant with Mackenzie, I have never been able to run more than a mile at a time without pain, but I was determined to figure out what was wrong and get back to running. After over 7 years, I missed it.

So I committed to a race and with some trepidation and a trusty foam roller to help my IT band, I ran 2 miles on my first training run… and thought I might die. I was in good shape but not running shape and definitely not running on hills shape. Fast forward two months and many more hills, and I completed the Newport 1/2 Marathon in just under 2 hours, meeting my pie-in-the-sky time goal, and feeling like a million bucks because I was able to run without pain!

Caitlyn’s Joy School Graduation

I love Joy School but this may be the only official semester Caitlyn does. It was a bit tricky to work in with a consistent homeschool schedule so I think we may just adapt the lessons and hit the highlights in the future.

She loved it and graduation included singing adorable songs and wearing adorable caps. However, she wasn’t digging pictures that day and so most looked like this:

or this:

or at best this:

Though I laughed out loud when I saw this gem:

I’m pretty sure he was swatting her with the cap and there was certainly no kissing going on in that picture… but it sure looks like I’m wrong.

Caitlyn finishes her reading lessons!

This will need its own post at some point, but I wrote previously that my (first) three year old could read. Mackenzie is now 6 1/2 and I honestly didn’t intend to start her little sister on reading lessons quite yet… but sometimes I don’t follow my own plans. Caitlyn (3 1/2) finished lesson 100 in May and is becoming a great little reader.

This is one of the highlights of motherhood so far, seeing the world unfold to my children as they take off on reading.

Naturally, we danced to celebrate.

May was quite a month around here!

Posted in Homeschooling, Life as we know it | 1 Comment

Lily, Our First, But Not Our Last, Pet Snail

Free, low-maintenance, a great listener, patient, always willing to be held, low mess… could it be? Yes, we had the perfect pet.

Meet Lily.

Growing up, my mom paid me a nickel a piece to kill snails in our yard. But last November, my daughter and her cousin found a baby snail in the yard and I surprised myself by suggesting we keep “her”. She was so tiny and cute, I couldn’t resist. My then-five-year-old eagerly snatched the container I rescued from the recycling and raced back outside to craft her a suitable habitat.

Spot the snail!

We checked in with her every day or so to see where she was hanging out. We sprayed things down a bit with a water bottle every week or two, change up the rocks or grass/moss/leafy greens as we thought about it, and we enjoyed her companionship.

Until about April, she lived happily (by all appearances) in our home in her spinach container and aside from turning a little blue from grazing on the label on the top of the container, she appeared unharmed by our efforts to care for her. From the label incident, we concluded that since she snailed her way back into the container, she must like it there!

It was pet success as far as I was concerned.

And then, one day about five months after we adopted her, inexplicably Lily had ~14 babies. I googled it and admittedly, I only skimmed, but it makes no sense to me. Snails are hermaphrodites but it should still take two to tango.

The babies were cute though, and didn’t seem to require any extra maintenance…

But then there were more babies.

I decided it was getting a bit crowded in that bin and it was time to let the snails go, so we bid them a fond farewell (along with the three worms who had somehow found their way into the bin as well.)

We counted 21 and Mackenzie might have even shed a tear before she commented that the snails “really seem to like each other” and I hastily cut the goodbyes short.

Lily, the Long-Necked and her unexpected posterity

Posted in I am a mother | 1 Comment

Creating a Fabulous Homeschooling Schedule for Multiple Ages

As we neared the end of our second year homeschooling with a 6 1/2 year old, a 3 1/2 year old, and a 1 1/2 year old, I had some scheduling and routine challenges:

  • First and foremost, my two younger kids can be very mischievous and sometimes destructive if they are roaming the house without my supervision.
  • My 6 1/2 year old was not reliable about completing her schoolwork without my supervision.
  • If I had an activity planned for the younger kids, even something as simple as reading picture books to them or having them help me hang up the laundry outside, my oldest child would instantly want to be doing that instead of her schoolwork. She enjoyed her work if I was with her, but could flip on a dime and come up with very creative ways to get distracted if I wasn’t giving her one-on-one attention.
  • I had a hard time being with my homeschooler and supervising my younger kids at the same time, and that didn’t take into account the fact that I wanted and needed to do other things, such as cooking, cleaning, reading, changing diapers, disciplining, and exercising.

As my daughter transitioned into her 1st grade year, I wanted to step up the amount of formal education she received. However, I was feeling conflicted. I loved the fact that learning happened throughout the day and that our schedule could be flexible. We had so many magical moments where the line between education and play blurred and we were learning and laughing as a family. I didn’t want to give that up!

However, on the recommendation from many seasoned homeschoolers, I bought the book “Managers of Their Homes” by Steve and Teri Maxwell and waded into the waters of strict schedules. The book is unabashedly Christian and geared towards larger, homeschooling families, but the principles could be well applied to any family with currently unstructured time at home with kids (summer vacation, young children). If you have goals and things you’d like to accomplish during the day with young children under foot or you’re juggling the needs of multiple children and you are frustrated that the most important things are consistently left undone, the principles in the book might lead you to an elegant solution.

Thinking it out

The first epiphany I had when reading the book was that I needed to decide what I wanted to spend my time on.

There are 24 hours in a day. How many of those did I realistically need/want to spend sleeping? Cooking dinner? Reading with and to my kids? Exercising? I started making a list and dreamed big dreams. I thought of all the “wouldn’t it be nice if I could do this” things and put them on the list. I also took a closer look at how long everyday things were realistically taking me to accomplish, such as eating and clearing up breakfast. I tried to adjust the list accordingly. I found that many things needed to be tabled for “another season” in life. But I was pleasantly surprised to find I could make space in my day for several worthy “extra” things.

A few things on my list that have really improved my quality of life:
- 30 minutes “memory keeping” – this includes blogging, journaling, processing photos, etc. This is something that is a big priority for me but in the past was often left undone until the task was overwhelming.
– 30 minutes preparation for following day – this includes wrapping up the current day by checking math, tracking summer reading program stuff, capturing on paper all the things swirling in my brain, etc. It’s also my time checking my calendar for the following day, making The Dinner Decision, laying out school things, etc.

The second epiphany was that I needed to decide what I wanted my kids to spend their time on. If I didn’t want my preschooler to just roam around wreaking havoc, then I should probably think about what she could do with her time instead. :) She definitely has free time in her list, but in the next step, I made sure to schedule it during times when I’m available to supervise.

After reading the Maxwells’ book, I realized one glaring error in the homeschooling schedule I created at the beginning of the year was that I really didn’t account for my younger children. They then quickly became “distractions” from the schedule, which was frustrating for everyone.

There are dozens of examples in the books for kids of different ages, but here is my 3 year old’s current list. Keep in mind that this is not in order (because the order will need to mesh with the rest of the family) and keep in mind that this is totally personal so your own children’s lists may look very different:
– 1/4 hour wake up chores (bathroom, pray, get dressed, clean room, scripture story with her sister)
– 1/2 hour nighttime prep (jammies, family scripture & prayer, story, etc.)
– 1/2 hour breakfast
– 1/2 hour lunch
– 1 hour dinner
– 1/2 hour snacks
– 1/4 hour scripture memory work
– 1/2 hour Table Time (x2)
– 1/2 hour reading with mom
– 1/2 hour reading with big sister
– 1 hour afternoon project with sister (science, art, etc.)
– 1/2 hour room alone time
– 1 hour outside play
– 1 hour inside play with siblings
– 1/2 hour Mama helper (laundry, dusting etc.)
– 1/2 hour cleanup/dance party before Daddy comes home
– 11 1/2 hours nighttime sleep
– 1 1/2 hour nap

Of course there are times when we go have an adventure or have other plans so we don’t have a full 24 hours to do the above. However, having an idea of “what comes next” and having a flow to our day has helped tremendously with the peace of our home. The process of coming up with the lists also made me more conscious and deliberate in terms of what I want my kids doing.

Creating a schedule

Once I had lists for me and each of my children, I moved the chunks of time around until they lined up in a workable way. I started with the things we did together like meals and morning memory work, and filled in from there. Here are some examples of things that I made a priority:

- 30 minutes for me and my 3 1/2 year old to work on reading together. She’s done with her reading lessons and I want to make sure she gets daily practice trading off reading picture books with me. (My oldest and youngest children play together during this time in one of the bedrooms. They love this!)

- 30 minutes of time for my oldest to play the piano (and be taught by me) without interruption from littler fingers. (So, this is scheduled at the same time as individual play time for each of my younger children in their rooms. They listen to audiobooks or music and play with one set of toys and clean them up at the end. I also use this time to clean up breakfast mess when I’m not actively teaching.)

- 30 minutes of memory work for my oldest daughter, which spans several different subjects. My 3 1/2 year old sometimes, but not always, likes to join in. She also absorbs a lot of this just by being in close proximity. (So, both younger kids have “Table Time” which entails playing/learning at the kitchen table. I facilitate and sneak in some kitchen prep if I can.)

Hopefully that makes sense! I was surprised to find that this method is still flexible, because we can jump into and out of schedule as needed, provided most of our school days follow the same basic routine. And, as our needs change, we can shuffle things around a bit and swap in different activities without starting from scratch.

A Well-Oiled Machine

Ok, my house won’t ever look like a well-oiled machine with young children (and my imperfect self) in it! But after a few weeks of teaching my children what was expected and ironing out some issues, I was blown away by how much more smoothly my days were running. It wasn’t just that I was accomplishing more, it was that I was accomplishing more of what mattered to me.

My girls get outside every non-rainy day for an hour in the afternoon to ride bikes and play together. My girls have a special time when the older reads the younger picture books (and I blog!). I get some dinner prep done in the early afternoon so I’m less stressed and cranky when Scott gets home.

I still only have 24 hours in day but the schedule helps me to consciously choose how I spend them.

Change is Hard

Here are some other changes which were necessary to get us to smoother sailing. Every single one is still a work-in-progress. But we’re improving:

- I need to wake my kids up at a certain time each day. Yes, one of the perks of homeschooling is not having to catch a bus, but I’ve learned our family does better if I wake everyone up at the same time and adjust nap and bedtimes accordingly so each individual still gets the right amount of sleep for himself or herself. Currently this is 7:30 for the girls.

- I need to hold myself accountable for getting enough sleep so I can have a good start in the morning. I struggle with burning the midnight oil and waking up exhausted the next day. Our days are miles better when I’m up and at it before the kids.

- My 6 1/2 year old really needs to trust the schedule. When I am consistent and she knows outdoor play, picture books, etc. are all coming at their appointed times, she settles into schoolwork with far less distraction and grumbling.

- My two younger kids need to learn to be ok on their own for 30 minutes of playtime. They both love it now and my 3 1/2 year old, especially, begs for more Room Time with her great audio books.

- We are learning to get one toy set out at a time and put it away before we move on to the next activity. This is sort of built into the schedule and I love it! We definitely still need to pick up the house before dinner, but it stays clean all morning which makes focusing on learning much easier.

- I need to get my act together the night and week before. It was painful to realize I was “winging” it with school and it was causing major bumps in our day. In the past, I thought it was not a big deal to just shuffle things together for math right beforehand, but when I started keeping an eye on the clock, I realized that my shuffling was throwing a wrench in the gears and often led to distractions for my daughter and for me.

- I need to limit mealtime. My kids can sit at the table for over an hour for each meal, eating their food. My friends have marveled at this many times, because apparently most young kids hardly sit still for meals. I’ve started moving the show along after 30 minutes and I’ve found my children are capable of eating a meal in a more reasonable amount of time if they know the food will be disappearing. So we do 30 minutes for breakfast and lunch now, and up to 60 minutes for dinner because we often do special stuff at dinner time.

Whew! If you made it through that post I’m guessing you either have a scheduling problem yourself or you think I’m crazy and couldn’t bring yourself to look away. :)

Questions? Tips for scheduling or thriving without a schedule?

Posted in Deliberate Mothering, Homeschooling, Life as we know it | 4 Comments

Family Traditions: Special Pillowcases

We are big on family traditions and systems around here. I love the sense of unity they give our family and the anticipation of upcoming traditions adds extra excitement to what could be ordinary days.

Here’s one simple one we love:

Special Pillowcases

I’m not a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination, but I followed this simple method of making pillowcases.

Here’s what we have so far:

A birthday pillowcase for the girls of the family to use during their birthday week:

Christmas pillowcases. Six to choose from on December 1st, and we use them through Christmas Day.

And a coveted super star pillowcase, given at unexpected times for extraordinary effort or accomplishment. (This also doubles as the boy birthday pillowcase, currently.)

Obviously I don’t iron my pillowcases. In fact, I don’t even own an iron right now. Ha!

What I love about this tradition

It takes up very little storage space. It requires an initial investment of time and money but it’s a fun project and easy to find fabrics on sale after holidays. I can’t sew straight and I even cut one of the pillowcases the wrong direction and had to re-piece it together, but once a pillow is inside it really doesn’t matter!

After the initial investment, the tradition is very low maintenance and very high yield. The kids go bananas over their pillowcases and always make sure Scott and I don’t miss out either. :)

I just scooped up some fabrics for 4th of July pillowcases and at some point I’d like to do a true boy birthday pillowcase and some for Valentine’s Day.

Posted in Deliberate Mothering, Life as we know it, Parenting & Household Hacks | 4 Comments