Saturday, March 26, 2011

Natural Cold Help

Thursday night, Charlotte had a wee cold going to bed, so we turned on her cool-mist vaporizer. Feeling the need for just a bit more, I added to the top tray of the vaporizer (against my better judgement) the "Medicated Vaporizing Steam Liquid" that Joe had picked up when he bought the vaporizer last year. Just a bit. To help her congestion. The back states it is safe for children, and although I usually prefer to go a more natural route, I was honestly too tired to go back downstairs and rummage through my cabinets for my oils and balms. Lazy I was, and I paid for it in the middle of the night when she woke with the most awful sounding breathing/coughing I have ever heard come from my babes. I grabbed my stethescope and listened to her lungs which sounded equally awful. A scary moment, as thoughts of respiratory distress rushed through my brain. I thought hard about bringing her to the ER. Now I will tell you that I am quite conservative when it comes to ER visits. In my 11 years and 5 children worth of mothering, I have maybe made that trip with them three times. Once was when my first was about 3 and I suspected appendicitis (it was not), another when Garrett broke his ankle, and the other a couple years ago when I thought perhaps my now 3 year old had swallowed a marble (she did not). Aside from her breathing, Charlotte was smiling, alert, and active and so I decided to try the "sitting in a steamy bathroom" trick. Now I know cool humidity is recommended now-a-days, but the house already felt so cold, it being the middle of the night and all, so we tried steam. We sat and played in the bathroom for a good half hour with the doors closed and the shower turned as hot as it would go. It worked wonderfully and before nursing her, praying for her, and putting her back to bed I applied some of our Breathe Better Balm to her chest and behind her ears. And I did not turn her vaporizer back on until I had removed what was left of that medication from the top tray. I can't say for sure that it was the medication that caused her breathing troubles, but I can't help but feel that it was.

Now let me add, so that I don't come across as an extremist, that I do believe that there is a time and place for medical intervention. I am a nurse. I think medical professionals are great. But, as a nurse I see the ER flooded non-stop with people, many of whom have forgotten how to help themselves and their children. 

That morning, though her breathing sounded better, she still had a nasty cold and so I was thankful I had made a large batch of my echinacea/chamomile/nettle tea. To make, you simply throw a handful of each of these botanicals into a quart mason jar and pour hot water to fill the rest. Set aside to "steep" for several hours, strain, and add about a half gallon of water. Store in the fridge. Feed the spent herbs to the chickens :)

I simply gave her this tea, warmed, with a bit of raw honey (I felt safe to do this as she will be a year old next week- it is not advised to give honey to babies under a year) and some milk. She drank it right up. About 3- 6oz bottles worth, throughout the day and her condition improved significantly as the day wore on. I also massaged the Breathe Better Balm,which contains eucalyptus, rosemary, lemon, mint and beeswax, into her chest a few more times as well. She smelled so pleasant :) I woke yesterday with a scratchy throat, runny nose, and congested head as well, and drank the tea myself several times. Today, I am 100% better. You can get dried herbs here: or from several other online sites, or any natural food store in your area. Or, you can try your hand at growing your own- as I plan to do this Spring. I'm just loving learning more and more about the healing properties of herbs. It is true, God gave us these for a reason.

Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
Psalms 104:14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth.
Be well,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Soup and Snow Castles

We cooked up a chicken in the crockpot a couple days ago. Usually, I make broth from the remains and freeze it to be turned into homemade chicken soup or stew. Well, after doing this about once a week over the winter, this family has grown tired of homemade chicken soup and stew! In trying to figure out what to do with all the broth from Monday's chicken, I remembered that we use a lot of condensed soups for casseroles and such. Perfect! I will find a recipe for homemade cream of chicken soup to cook with! Have you ever read the ingredients list in those soups? Downright scary. So it did me well to find this recipe: and whip up a bunch of my own. Not to mention, it was a great way to help use up all the goats milk we are fortunate to have a surplus of right now.
I quadrupled the recipe and wound up with about 8 cans bags of soup. It is an easy and relatively quick recipe. Took me only about an hour. Take away babies at my feet, helping the 6 year old with math, and emptying out my spice cupboard (3 times!!) looking for that darn bottle of paprika, and I probably could have it done in half that time. It was tasty, though next time I will add a bit more spice and a little less flour. It thickened up real quick and I had to take the stick blender to it. Used it for Mom's chicken broccoli divan casserole tonight. Yum. I will file this recipe away and will undoubtedly be pulling it out at least a few times a year.

In other news, Winter is here. Well it seems it never left. Never mind that it is Spring. It is most definitely NOT Spring. I was quite enamored by this unexpected snowstorm as I walked out to milk this morning. Everything was glistening white, magical. I thanked God for the beauty of His creation. However, later today I learned that temps will be in the 30's for the next 7 days and that has me a little perturbed. Suddenly the snow is not quite so pretty. Because it will be around for at least a few more days, and we have reached the end of March. Sigh. So human of me. I am ready for green.

Ava, who embraces every new opportunity with glee, who has been counting down the days until Spring sinced mid February (because to a 6 year old, it just magically becomes warm and green again on the first day of Spring)and who- just 2 days ago, was making mud pies in shorts and a tank top (when it was 60 degrees), wasted no time getting out there and making snow castles... I love that girl.
And no, she does not have really huge hands. She just happens to grab the gloves that are closest :)

Until next time,

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Conflict Resolution

Life in a larger-than-normal family can be hard. The work, is constant; the disputes, often frequent; the noise level, well- as one visitor put it "I don't think I've ever been at a meal this loud!" Yikes; and I hardly ever get to drink my coffee before it turns cold.

Connor and Joe had an argument at the dinner table tonight. A loud, harsh, "say things you don't mean" kind of argument. My heart sunk. My appetite fled. Dinner was spoiled.  I was torn between the man I love and the boy I bore. My flesh and blood, and my highschool sweetheart.. Connor- my independent and sometimes misunderstood wildchild, and Joe- my hardworking, God-fearing, tired (tonight) husband. I hate moments like that. I'm thankful they don't happen too often around here, but tonight they did. I felt the need as a faithful wife to remain silent, and pray God would work in both their hearts to heal the damage from the words that had been said.
 The Bible lay on the table waiting to be picked up by Joe for family devotions. It wasn't going to happen tonight. So I picked it up and started reading. I'm not sure anyone genuinely listened to what was being said.
After I was done, everyone left the table and went their separate ways. Bitter. Silent. I looked around at the large mess that cooking dinner for a large family tends to make. I sighed, and did the dishes with a hard heart. After the kitchen was cleaned up, I scooped up little Charlotte and took her upstairs to put her to bed. As I sat down in the rocking chair to nurse her, I looked out her window which overlooks the backyard. There, was Joe. Playing wiffleball with his children. Laughing- all of them.
 Thank you Lord, for the spirit of forgiveness and renewed love for one another. And thank you for my loud, large, lovely family.

I think I'll go bake some brownies for my baseball team.

Life in a large family can be hard. But, Oh. The. JOY.

Happy First Day of Spring :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

But what will we do?

The children have made the decision not to play sports this spring and Joe and I have made the decision to honor their choice. This will be the first spring in 6 years without baseball and all that goes with. Though I find myself a bit nervous at the prospect of SO much downtime for these "active" children, I don't think it will really be a problem. Connor says he plans to spend a lot of time in the woods. He'll be learning to trap this spring.

I've noticed my children craving freedom, choices, un-structure, lately. It shouldn't surprise me, for I'm the same way.
I'm looking forward to seeing the fruit all this freedom may bring. And if we're wrong and everyone ends up bored and miserable, well, there's always next year. We've been home so much the past several months, and if my children have learned anything this winter, it's been to get along with each other and find useful and creative things to do when there is simply nothing else. After this long winter, spring and summer should be a breeze.

I know I won't be bored. For this is the order I just placed:

Amish Paste Tomato
Big Beef Hybrid Tomato
Cupid Hybrid Tomato
Kentucky Wonder Wax Pole Bean
Cylindra Beet
Blue Curled Vated Kale
Packman Hybrid Broccoli
Sweetness 3 Hybrid Carrot
Graffiti Hybrid Cauliflower
Tango Hybrid Celery
Extra Sweet Sweet Corn
Homemade Pickles Cucumber
Jungs Kaleidoscope Mix
Red Zeppelin Hybrid Onion
Yellow Sweet Spanish Hybrid Onion
Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea
Katrina Garden Pea
Bell Boy Hybrid Pepper
Dills Atlantic Giant Pumpkin
Phantom Pumpkin
Mammoth Island Salsify
Tyee Spinach
Commander Bush Squash
Rumbo Squash
Sunshine Winter Squash
Moon and Stars Watermelon
Jerusalem Artichoke Tubers
Neon Calendula

It will be nice to have extra time in the evenings to work with the children in the garden rather than driving them to practice and games 5 nights a week.

Hip hip for freedom and slow time together.

Now I need to figure out where to plant these goodies. This mama needs more garden beds, for sure.

Happy Spring to you (soon!)


Thursday, March 10, 2011


The two littlest are sleeping sweetly and so I look forward to updating this blog a bit.
Tomorrow I will kiss my firstborn goodbye and put him on a southbound plane to Texas. He'll be spending a week with his cousin, and will have all sorts of boyish adventures, I'm sure.  
Exciting for him and bittersweet for us. I expect the house will certainly be a bit quieter and, dare I say, more peaceful without his pre-teen antics, but he will be missed! I've never been away from him that long. It will be interesting to see how Garrett, (his only brother and inseparable pal) will deal with this short term loss. Tonight I let him pick the menu for his farewell dinner. He chose french toast, with angel food cake for dessert. In other words, we'll be having two desserts for dinner :) I think I'll serve the french toast with homemade strawberry topping rather than syrup to decrease the amount of sugar we'll be consuming. I love this recipe :

Sugar Free Berry Fruit Sauce:
12 oz can white grape raspberry juice concentrate
1 can water
4 Tbsp cornstarch
16- oz pkg. frozen berries- any kind you wish

Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup of water
Heat juice and remaining water in saucepan until boiling
Add cornstarch mixture and stir over medium high heat until thickened
Add frozen fruit, stir and remove from heat

The angel food cake will be store-bought because I simply do not have enough eggs for both french toast and angel food cake. We were consistently getting about 5-6 eggs from our 7 chickens for a while, but they've slacked off again and we're down to 1-2 a day. That hardly supports my baking habit. Good thing we've got these now:
Is there anything better than a baby chick in a chubby hand?

6 new pullets (3 buffs and 3 rir's) and one rooster. Because I believe every flock needs a rooster.
He will be a handsome barred rock and Ava has named him Julian.

Can you find Julian?

Nothing spells SPRING in the Sliwa house like a boxful of brooding chicks. Joe has plans for a larger coop for them and the elder chickens, along with the Cornish rocks and turkey poults we'll be getting in May. I look forward to admiring his carpentry skills once again, though I have really liked having the (grown)chickens in with the goats. They seem to have such a symbiotic relationship. The goats poop, the chickens follow behind and turn it under. I've really enjoyed watching these two species coexist.
Other things going on include LOTS of soap making, salve making, label designing, not to mention money spending, to get our little business off the ground! It must be true when they say you must spend money to make money...  we should be ready to start selling in about a week.

We're into March here. In like a lion, they say. I'm quite sick of snow. Apparently, the kids are not:

Who would get tired of jumping from roofs?

Today- rainy, windy, overcast. But in the desperate need for the out of doors we all bundled up and headed out for a hike. When we came home, dripping wet and cold- but invigorated, we enjoyed a cozy lunch of bread, warm from the oven, with honey. We love our hikes through the woods to the creek, and this morning was no exception. But I really can't wait to make the trek in flip flops, through fragrant green grass, with the sight of sundress-ed little girls and shirtless little boys running on ahead in the sunshine. Without the mess of 5 soaking wet snow pants, 10 muddy boots, and hats, mismatched gloves etc etc...
But for now...

we will seize the day.


Thursday, March 3, 2011


Playing with Brenna this morning. A sweet sight, if you don't count me deep breathing and counting to 10 in my head as I think of all that needs done as I take time out to play with her.

Oh, the mudroom is a muddy mess and needs mopped, both the bathrooms need cleaned and the laundry is piling up. There are emails to respond to, phone calls to make, appointments to schedule, a blog that doesn't write itself, seeds to order, a garden to plan, brochures to design, soap to package, salves to create, bread to be baked, and the poor baby is still in her pajamas at 10:30 am.

If someone were to randomly stop by at this moment, I would be embarassed by the sight of my house. I need to get over it. There are 5 little children doing a whole lot of living here today and every day. Sometimes I just can't keep up with it. Sometimes I need to accept that I won't be able to keep up with it.

Confession: On days like today when there is so much that needs done, I leave much of the homeschooling to the children. I require just reading, writing, and math. They may choose the form in which those 3 are completed. And other than a little one on one with Ava, they are able to do this on their own. In fact, most days it works out splendidly. Today, they began the day (after chores) playing baseball out in the snow and then spent an hour designing and competing in their own Olympic competitions. They then sat down with Ava to help her count coins and then had (yet another) competition to see who could read the fastest. Connor just made everyone a lunch of peanut butter toast and chocolote milk. There is talk of cookie baking this afternoon. They are well aware that they will not be able to have screen time until their formal math, reading and writing is complete, but for now they are happy to be living and learning with freedom. And I am happy to get a chance to write this blog. Check.

Oh, and design the label for our soaps. Check.