Archives for August 2013

Our cucumber kid (plus a grocery update for August)

Our little Ranger is going to be a big brother any day now– we’re so excited! When Erika asks him where the baby is, he alternately pats Erika’s tummy and his own tummy– could be he’s not quite grasping the concept. ūüôā¬† But it will be really neat to see him with the new baby. His cousin Ascher is adjusting quite nicely to his little sister.¬† He calls her ‘Ona’ (short for Wilona) and is good at gently patting her head.

Here’s what Ranger did when we handed him a cucumber from our garden.¬† Do we have another cucumber lover?

Looks tasty!


Ack!  My tongue!

Maybe not.


Cucumber variety: Armenian (despite the expression on his face, it’s almost never bitter)

And if you’re wondering about our August grocery spending, we ended up at $635. Not as fabulous as I’d hoped– I gave in to a few more impulse purchases at the grocery store than I really needed to. Coconut coffee flavoring– come to mama! And watermelon, lots of watermelon.¬† We won’t be eating it in December. I also spotted a few meat sales that I really needed to grab while they were there– $1.88/lb ground beef is HARD to find these days! But considering that money fed 8 people for a month, and included several Sunday dinners for a crowd of 14 or more, that’s not bad. I’m going to try to stay in the $600 range for September too. I’ll keep you posted.

How did your August go?

Eggplant Tomato Bake

Tomato Eggplant Bake

I’m so happy to finally have lots of eggplant in my garden! ¬†When I saw this recipe at¬†Smitten Kitchen¬†I knew I wanted to do a variation on it. ¬†Hers called for orzo pasta and cubed mozzarella, but in interest of making this gluten free, I used cooked rice. ¬†And since I didn’t have fresh mozzarelle to cube, I used what I had– ¬†blue cheese — then sprinkled it with a Monterey Jack/mozzarella cheese mix on top. ¬†I served it for lunch today. ¬†My kids gave it mixed reviews; some don’t like eggplant and others are afraid of blue cheese, the silly children. ¬†But to my adult taste it was absolutely fabulous. ¬†Just thinking of it is making me want to run to the fridge for an afternoon snack. ¬†Except I didn’t run today; ¬†nevermind. ¬† Anyway, here’s my adaptation of the recipe. ¬†Hope you love it as much as I did.

Eggplant Tomato Bake (GF)

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

50 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Eggplant Tomato Bake (GF)


  • 2 medium eggplant (mine totaled about 2 lbs) cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I used Carapelli)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced (I didn't have any onion, so I skipped this)
  • 1 medium sweet bell pepper, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or water)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese (or 4 oz diced mozzarella)
  • A few sprinkles of dry Parmesan (from the green can)
  • 1 cup grated white cheese (I used a mix of Monterey jack and mozzarella)
  • 4 medium tomatoes, cubed (I left the peel on)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cut eggplant into cubes, leaving the skin on. Sprinkle your eggplant generously with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. While it drains, get your rice cooking (you need 3 c. after cooking) and chop the rest of your vegetables.
  2. After 30 minutes, rinse eggplant well and pat it dry on paper towels. Preheat oven to 425√ā¬įF. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil. When oil is shimmering, add the eggplant.
  3. Fry 6-8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally, until it is softening and getting some browned bits. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer to paper towels to drain.
  4. Add carrots to remaining oil and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion, peppers and garlic. Cook together for 3-5 more minutes on medium heat.
  5. Add eggplant back into skillet. Add 1 cup of chicken broth to skillet along with the hot rice. Stir together and remove skillet from heat.
  6. Off the heat, add lime juice, cubed tomatoes and a generous sprinkle of salt and fresh-ground black pepper.
  7. Spread half the veggie/rice mixture in an oiled 9x12 casserole dish. Sprinkle the casserole with all the blue cheese (or cubed mozzarella, if that's what you're using).
  8. Spread the remaining rice/veggie mixture on top. Top with a sprinkle of Parmesan, and all the grated white cheese. Bake in 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and beginning to get some browned bits. Serve and enjoy!

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Princesses, Heroes & Stride Rite


The other day I read this article on HuffPo Parents¬† about a line of shoes at Stride Rite. ¬†Some folks are up in arms about the way Stride Rite is making sparkly pink ‘princess’ shoes for girls and Star Wars ‘power’ shoes for boys. ¬†¬†As a momma to 10 kids, I can tell you a thing or two about kiddos in that preschool/early elementary age group. ¬†Poll a cross section of little girls, and a huge number of them would show great interest in sparkly pretty shoes. ¬†Ditto for little boys and anything that sounds powerful and strong.

Delighting in her new twirly skirt

I believe those traits are inborn — a girl’s longing to be beautiful and a boy’s desire to be strong and capable. Sure, that’s a stereotype; ¬†there are always exceptions. ¬†Of course girls can be strong and capable, and boys can be caring nurturers.



But none of that is about the color of the vinyl on a person’s feet. There are smart, capable, powerful women all over the world who wear heels to work, and run marathons on weekends. ¬†And there are wonderful kind, gentle men who rock their little ones to sleep, who also enjoy being transported by the power and¬†excitement of a good superhero movie.

Folks, it’s not about shoes. ¬†It’s about parents seeing what’s in their kids, noticing their interests and their likes, their strengths and their weaknesses, and helping them reach their God-given potential. And it’s about us being the kind of people we hope our children will become, so that they have examples to follow in their lives.

¬†Helping our children become capable caring well-rounded adults is the job of the parents. ¬†If you and your child don’t like the color selections at any given shoe store, by all means shop elsewhere. ¬†But don’t for a minute think that raising well-balanced kids is up to some poor beleaguered sales team at Stride Rite who happened to notice that little girls like princess shoes.



The cookbook winner is commenter #11, Robin.  Send me your address and I will get a copy of Family Feasts headed your way!


What it’s like when your parents adopt


Hugging our oldest goodbye the day after her wedding

I get frequent emails from parents preparing to add children to their family via adoption, wondering how best to smooth the transition for children already in their family.  We adopted our first child when our bio kids were 10,8, 6 and almost 4, so in our family, adoption is just as normal a way to grow a family as giving birth.

Initially the most challenging thing for our kids was having mom (and sometimes dad) gone for a week or more traveling to get the new child.  We did our best to smooth those days by planning fun things for the kids to do while we were gone, and preparing notes and treats for the kids to receive from us each day while we were gone. (You can find links to our adoption stories here.)

With baby/toddler adoptions, the challenges on homecoming felt similar to giving birth: ¬†kids had to get used to mom’s time being tied up with the new baby. ¬†One advantage of having new siblings arrive past the newborn stage, however, was that the new kiddos were almost immediately able to play and interact with our existing kids. ¬†Babies are always interested in other children, and for us at least, bonding between siblings seemed to happen pretty quickly.

With the adoption of our older daughters, siblings also helped smooth the early days. The new girls interacted more easily with siblings than with us for quite awhile. ¬†In fact, to a degree bonding happened more quickly between the siblings than it did between parents and kids. ¬†These days, watching my kids’ obvious connection to each other is a huge encouragement to me, especially on days when one teen or another is not so happy with mom or dad. ¬†They truly are family to each other, and that fact brings me great joy.

However, everything wasn’t always easy for us, or for other families adopting older kids. ¬†Often in the early months and years there is markedly less harmony for awhile. ¬†Parents feel more stressed, and that stress often rubs off on the existing kids. ¬†¬†I wrote more¬†here about some of the other challenges our family faced.¬†For us, it was helpful to find snippets of one-on-one time with each of the kids. ¬†For awhile we let our older teens stay up just a bit later than their barely-younger new siblings. ¬†So much time during the day was taken up with the new kids (school, language learning, attitude issues, and working on relationship-building) ¬†and with the daily needs of the tiny ones ¬†(we also had 2 preschoolers) that the oldest less-needy ones really needed that hour at the end of the day with mom and dad to themselves.

I’m sure we didn’t do everything perfectly. ¬†But we did our best to meet our diverse clan’s needs. ¬† Our kids learned to serve others, to pitch in when life gets busy, and to set aside their own needs for family members. ¬†Hard sometimes, yes. ¬†But in the long run, I’m confident that the God who led us to each of our children is also able to grow each of them amid the ups and downs of life.

But all of the above is all from a mom’s point of view. ¬†Right now I would really love to hear from adoptees and siblings who’ve gone through the adoption transition themselves. ¬†

  • What did your parents do well? ¬†
  • What helped smooth the transition for you? ¬†
  • What was hardest part of the transition? ¬†
  • What did you enjoy most about your growing and changing family?
  • What do you wish could have been handled better?

If you are comfortable answering here, please comment below (anonymously if you wish). ¬†Or if you’d rather, drop me an email. (mary.owlhaven at If you’re a parent and want to ask your kids and share their answers, that would be great too. Please feel free to share this post with other adoptees and their siblings. I think that all adoptive parents have a longing to love their children well, and could learn a lot by listening to how the experience feels from the child’s point of view.


The winner of the book More Than I Can Handle is commenter #16, Kim Hamilton.

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Book Giveaway: More Than I Can Handle

I’ve got a book giveaway for you today!¬† Last spring when I went to the Created for Care conference, I had the fun of visiting with Eileen Mestas, a fellow adoptive momma of many.¬† She wrote a book called ‘More Than “I” Can Handle¬† and gave me a copy of it to read.¬† I read it ALL the way home from Atlanta, and was amazed at her story. It is a truly awesome story of God’s providence.

When I got home, my 17yo daughter picked it up, read it, and loved it too. Ditto for another daughter.  We serve a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  He is such an amazing provider, and this book clearly demonstrates that truth. If you would like to adopt, but are wondering where the money might come from, this is the book for you to read.

To enter the drawing to win a copy of this book, simply comment below and tell me a time when God provided something you needed, whether it be finances, or a friend when you were lonely, or guidance and encouragement from His word at just the right time.¬† Here’s how He provided for all of our adoptions.¬† What has God done for you?

Weird Dinner

Dinner tonight

You have to be brave to eat at our house some nights. This evening we had falafel (Middle Eastern pancakes made with garbanzo beans), firfir (Ethiopian injera fried with onions, berbere and tomatoes) and oee kimchi  (Korean cucumber salad with a vinegar/oil/red pepper dressing.)  Since we made the firfir spicy, we kept the cukes  mild, as a cooling balance.  And since our tomatoes are coming on, we also served tomato wedges.  It was an eclectic combination that turned out to be very yummy.  And since it relied on garden produce and was meat-free, it was also very affordable.

Do you have odd dinners at your house sometimes?

Homeschool Planning This Year

simple handwriting page

Since we did school well into June this year, we’re not beginning our school year until mid-September. ¬†But as usual, something about August gets me thinking about our plans for the year. ¬†This year I’ll be teaching 6 kids– one senior, three sophomores, a 6th grader and a third grader.

Here’s what school looks like for our kids this year:


~Teaching Textbooks Geometry for all the teens, with at least some of them moving into Algebra 2 later in the year.

~TT Math 7 for my 6th grader

~TT Math 3  for my 3rd grader, as well as lots of practice on multiplication

After being a die-hard Saxon mom for years, I am now a complete and total convert to Teaching Textbooks. ¬†This math is¬†taught¬†via computer lectures, graded by¬†the computer AND can be used by multiple kids at the same time, with each child having a separate grade book! ¬†That makes it a huge friend to a mom of many. ¬†Best of all, the friendly lecture-guy doesn’t mind repeating the same explanation 3 times to 4 different kids, whereas a mom can get a bit frayed around the edges after the second or third go-round. Brilliant, wonderful stuff. ¬†The kids will be doing at least one lesson a day of math each.

Note: ¬†if you buy Teaching Textbooks used, make sure you are buying the editions that actually include computer grading. ¬†First editions of TT algebra and geometry still have to be graded by a person. ¬†That’s certainly not the end of the world for some folks, but for the big bucks this program costs– $180 per level– I want computer grading.


Last year our teens finished Apologia Biology. ¬†This year we’re moving on to Apologia’s¬†Exploring Creation With Chemistry. ¬†Experiments mostly require simple household items, which makes it comepletely doable, while also doing a good job describing chemistry in an understandable way. ¬†We will cover one lesson every two weeks, and will be meeting with a friend each week to do experiments and tests. ¬†This should keep us on track to get the book done by the end of the school year. ¬†Our elementary age girls will watch the older kids do experiments, but I’m not planning any science specifically for them this year. ¬†(They need more focus on language arts this year.)


Spanish will be covered by everyone 6th grade and up using Fluenz Spanish. Kids will do a lesson a day.


This year I am doing a combined American History for all 6 of the kids. The books we’ll read are¬†Exploring American History¬† and¬†In God We Trust: Stories of Faith in American History. ¬†Both books are written at a fairly easy reading level, and tell stories of important characters in American history.¬† I’m planning on having the kids do some notebooking ¬†as we read about various characters, which hopefully will help kids stay engaged as we read. ¬†We’ll also work on a timeline, adding various events to the timeline as we read. ¬†We’ll probably do history two days a week.


This year everyone’s writing assignments are going to be related to American history. ¬†I plan to assign essays on different characters ¬†and events in different eras, working gradually through all of American history. ¬†For example, September writing assignments will be about early explorers in America. October will cover early settlers, and so on through the months. ¬†The teens will be writing essays in the range of 3-5 pages, each one about a different person or event, and the younger girls will write a few paragraphs. ¬†I’m also planning to have the kids read their essays to dad at dinner one night at the end of the month. ¬†(Speech class, right?)

One resource that I am considering using this year is  Copy and paste a writing sample into Grammarly, and it automatically does a  grammar check, as well as looking for errors in spelling and punctuation.  It even spots plagiarism.  For a mom like me, or anyone who is  helping multiple teens analyze their writing, this could really be a good help.  This would also be a fabulous help for college students needing to do one last check on their work before sending it off to the professor.


Our two youngest girls will be working through Sequential Spelling¬†to help them get a better understanding of some basic spelling rules. ¬†They’ll also do a page or two of cursive writing each day. ¬†The above picture shows one easy way to practice handwriting once kids learn to form each letter.


I have a teen booklist ¬†that the big kids are working through gradually, checking books off the list as they complete them. ¬†And I’m always on the lookout to expand our library with worthwhile additions.¬†Most of our kids are solid readers by now, and will do most of their reading on their own.¬†I ask everyone to read an hour a day.¬†But anyone who needs more practice will be reading at least part of their above assignments to me. ¬†My 8 year old will read to me every day.


Looking at the long list above, I will probably only be able to cover geography lightly– perhaps one day a week. ¬†I want to have kids do some notebooking about this topic as well. ¬†Because we’re covering American History this year, I’ll probably focus on American geography as well, so the subjects will hang together. ¬†Just for fun, I may offer some kind of a cash bonus to kids who are able to learn the capitols of all the states. ¬†Here are some links I found:


For art, we have a homeschool art/craft coop once a month with friends. I’m also excited to try out a cartooning project¬†from See The Light¬† that I just heard about. ¬†I’m working on pulling together a related giveaway for you one day soon, so stay tuned!



Along with all the other topics, we will be reading the Bible every morning at the breakfast table. ¬†Last year we read Psalms and Proverbs. ¬†Right now at bedtime John is working through the Old Testament with them. ¬†So I thought at breakfast we could go through the New Testament, a couple chapters a day. ¬†We usually go around the table reading a few verses each. ¬†Then when the chapters are read, we each choose a favorite verse and tell why we chose it. ¬†We’re also going to memorize Psalm 19: 7-14.


I still have to put together a daily schedule, mapping out the time of day that each subject will happen. Here’s one we did a previous year.¬†With 6 kids, ¬†3 computers, and multiple subjects being done on computers, it takes a bit of engineering to get everyone the computer time they need! ¬†I’ll show you that plan when I get it pulled together.



I am an affiliate, which means if you click through and buy any of the items I’ve recommended, I receive a small commission. This doesn’t add a penny to your cost, but it does play a part in supporting all the free content here at Owlhaven. ¬†Thanks for your support!¬†


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Mighty God, You are my rock and shield
A fortress that fights all fear, safe from the enemy
Salvation bringing victory, Perfect in all your ways,
worthy of unending praise, Alleluiah

My $300 is gone

A pix from last year's garden  (apples are not ready yet this year!

Just a quick update on the food challenge for the month. ¬†After two weeks of cash spending, I have literally a buck in my wallet, along with a tiny jingle of change. Confession: ¬†my accounting was less than stellar. ¬† I used some grocery cash for school supplies and other randomness, just ¬†because I was too lazy to separate things. ¬†To balance it out, a couple times when I was buying mostly non-grocery items, I used the debit card and also tossed a few groceries on the conveyor. ¬†I THINK the casualness in both directions pretty much evened out. Probably. ¬†But, yeah, there’s a reason I never became an accountant.

It is exactly that type of casualness that puts me over budget some months, so I’ve resolved to turn over a new leaf for the remainder of the month. ¬† And since our garden has leaped suddenly into harvest mode– green beans, cabbage, tomatoes, zucchini, cukes, peppers and soon plums— I’m going to aim to spend no more than $200 for the rest of the month. ¬†We’ll see how it goes. ¬†At the moment there’s a great price on ground beef at Albertsons– $1.88/lb– ¬†so probably 1/4 of that $200 needs to go for ground beef. ¬†But I’ve got lots of other food in my pantry and freezer, so I think with a little care I should be able to make it through the month.

On the menu:


Are you trying to cut down your grocery spending this month? ¬†How’s it going? ¬†What do you like to cook when you’re really focused on penny-pinching?


Staying regulated when your kid isn’t

oceans of emotionI’ve written before about the Daniel Seigel book The Whole-Brain Child¬†and how it¬†has been such a help to me in understanding stress and the brain. ¬†Mature folks with healthy connections between the various parts of their brains can regulate their emotions in times of distress and eventually return to the land of wise and thoughtful decision-making. This skill is something that grows as a child matures. But lots of people, including many, many adopted kids, have not developed the brain connections that allow them to self-regulate, even in the face of small stressors. The more traumatic a child‚Äôs early life has been, the more likely he is to descend easily into disregulation.

The bad news for parents is that a disregulated child can often drag down even a well-meaning and reasonably healthy parent. Robyn Gobbel calls this occurrence a trauma tornado. For the sake of our kids, we need to be aware of when we’re getting sucked in. It’s almost impossible to make wise parenting decisions when we’re just as upset as our kids. But the better we understand what’s happening in our own heads, the more regulated we can stay ourselves, and the more we will be able to help our kids learn healthy responses in times of stress.

The other day one of my young teens was upset because I’d asked her not to read an interesting-looking book from the library after her adult sister skimmed it and found it to be risque. When it came time to gather books to return to the library, my teen began venting her irritation over my choice in a resentful tone of voice. ‚ÄúWhere‚Äôd you put that book you said I can‚Äôt read? Now I have to return it, and I didn’t even get to read it, and it looked like the most interesting one I picked. ¬†It’s no fair you said no just because Amanda didn‚Äôt like one little thing‚Ķ.‚ÄĚ

I was immediately irritated. Without even thinking, I was in her face, meeting her whine with angry sternness. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a good reason Amanda said that book was not OK. You‚Äôre just going to have to trust that I have your best interests in mind.‚ÄĚ

One look at her face told me that my anger had made the problem worse, not better. No big surprise; I should know better by now.¬†Arg. ¬†I took a deep breath and started again, honestly contrite. ‚ÄúWait a second,‚ÄĚ I said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm sorry I yelled at you just then. That wasn’t what I meant to do.” I paused and took another breath, willing myself to speak gently. “Here‚Äôs the deal with the book: when Amanda looked at it the other day, she found sex scenes in the book.‚ÄĚ

All anger dropped off my daughter‚Äôs face. She flushed with embarrassment. ‚ÄúOh.‚ÄĚ

I went on gently, ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs the reason I said no. I‚Äôm really not trying to ruin your fun. I just think there‚Äôs better stuff for you to read. OK?‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúOK,‚ÄĚ she sighed, except now her expression was soft, like she actually saw the sense in my decision. And we were able to move on, both of us calmer.

Thinking back, I realize my instant flare of anger was not really about her complaining. It was more about my own sadness, sadness that I’ve been her momma 6 years and it feels like she still doesn’t truly believe I want good for her. ¬†That hurts. But the anger I used to express that hurt wasn’t helping either of us navigate that moment. ¬†By taking a breath, settling my own self, apologizing, and then explaining the decision gently, I was able to lead her into better regulation of her own emotions.

Of course, to be able to do that, I had to first recognize that my own emotions were galloping toward stupidity, and then deliberately choose a wiser path for myself. That‚Äôs so, so hard. It is so easy to justify anger based on my child‚Äôs outbursts. But my anger only adds fuel to my child’s unhappiness. ¬†To best help my child heal and learn trust, I‚Äôve got to face my own junk, and (by the grace of God!) learn to control the emotions in my own head. Only then can I help my child regulate her own emotions.

I thought I bought that book to better understand my kids. Turns out it’s taught me a lot about myself.

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