princess soul-fia turns five

soul turn five soul turn five soul turn five soul turn five soul turn five soul turn five soul turn five soul turn five soul turn five Soul had the traditional birthday breakfast in bed. Her request? Pumpkin waffles. We all came in singing to her, and she had the sweetest smile. You could tell she was eagerly anticipating this moment of hers. Ben made her an Olaf from mushrooms (he forgot Olaf’s hair) and she was delighted to have her own stack of waffles topped with cream and syrup. She was also crowned by her sisters as Princess Soul-fia for the day (Sophia the First is one of her favorties)! True was the clever one to think of “Soul-fia.”

The girls made her many handmade presents. We were so impressed with all the stick puppets True made her, and the paper dolls from Brave. Seriously, these big sisters of hers are full of so much creativity. Since her request was to be a princess for her birthday, we gave her two princessy outfits (this and this one from fab kids), and allowed her to have multiple outfit changes just for her special day. She loves to change multiple times a day regularly, but that isn’t allowed, and I often make her change back to her original outfit. On this special day though, she was free to switch out her dresses as she pleased. I don’t care much for the frou frou type dresses, but she loves it, so frou frou it is!

soul turn five soul turn five soul turn five They had swim and dance that day, so Ben played chauffeur, while I got things ready for her birthday lunch and party in the evening. She requested to have langostino sopes for lunch, so that’s what I made. Well, when it came time to sit down all together for lunch, she had two bites, and then asked to be excused! I was like, “WHAT?!” I think her excitement over the day, just made her lose her appetite. Oh well, at least the rest of us enjoyed it!

I have another post to share about the little princess party we threw for her in the evening, but you can get a peek at it here. On her birthday, she told me, “Mommy, I feel like a real princess!” That made my heart happy.



our mini thanksgiving feast

mini thanksiving feast 2014 mini thanksiving feast 2014 mini thanksiving feast 2014 mini thanksiving feast 2014 mini thanksiving feast 2014 mini thanksiving feast 2014 mini thanksiving feast 2014 mini thanksiving feast 2014 mini thanksiving feast 2014 This was our first mini Thanksgiving feast with just the six of us. Hopefully, we can start a new tradition of doing a mini feast on Thanksgiving Eve because Thanksgiving Day is spent with Ben’s family for lunch, and mine for dinner. While I cooked and prepped, the girls got the table ready with place cards and notes. Their thank you notes were so sweet. To decorate, they just gathered whatever fall-ish decor I had around the house and put it all over the table.

I’m not brave enough to attempt a whole turkey, so I used this turkey breast crockpot recipe, this stuffing, and we did the Brussels sprouts recipe that’s in my book. Of course, we also had mashed potatoes and gravy, and pies! It was all your traditional things made as healthy as possible, so that means whole wheat stuffing, lean sausage, no butter in potatoes, and lightened up pies. There were a couple rounds of toasts, as the girls loved drinking sparkling lemonade (they rarely get juice), while Ben and I sipped on a Santa Margherita Prosecco. It was nice to be able to take some time to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving with the six of us.

Somewhere along the evening, the girls were so excited and crazy (in a good way) and they started their own mosh pit. I don’t even remember where that came from, but all of a sudden, the four of them were jumping and bouncing around in a corner together laughing and yelling. Ben and I were just laughing at how silly they were, and as much as they drive me nuts, I know I have lots to be thankful for.



things around here

home home home home Things are prepped for our Thanksgiving dinner and all the cooking gets done today. We will have turkey, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, and pecan pie! Tomorrow we visit with family and celebrate the special day, but tonight we will have our own little feast at home. It will be the first time we do our own mini Thanksgiving with just the six of us.

The girls have been working on their thank you cards for friends and family (and other projects they come up with), and it’s been more laid back around here since they don’t have school this week. Today’s agenda will be to get ready for our dinner tonight and I will let the kids take charge of the decorations. I think that will keep them occupied long enough while I’m busy in the kitchen.

If you’re still in need of some recipes for Thanksgiving, I’m going to be doing this turkey (in a crockpot) and this stuffing. I made it for our fall potluck last year, and we all loved it, so it’s on the menu for our feast tonight. Do you have any go-to turkey and stuffing recipes to share? It gives me a year to think about it for next year!



the zookeeper’s wild day

halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 HALLOWEEN halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 halloween story 2014 Written by True Bratcher
Illustration of Dr. Mechanical Blah Kah Kink by True Bratcher

Our Glow loves animals. Her last two birthdays were spent at the zoo, so True built this story around her. We saw the zookeeper costume at the San Diego Zoo, and we knew this was totally her, so we bought it. Then, True created the story around Glow being the zookeeper. The girls still were able to each pick their own costume too, and while True didn’t want to be an animal exactly, she worked the story to be able to be her new favorite hero, White Tiger. We had some masks, but had to order a few extra. It was a lot less sewing for me this year (I’m so thankful!), but we were still able to put our own spin on it, and we have another family Halloween story for the books.

Have a look back at some of our past Halloween stories…
2013: The Mystery of Pinkie Pielilocks and the Three Bears
2012: The Adventures of Spider-Girl & She-ra
2011: Barbershop Quartet
2010: The Three Little Piggies
2009: Hannah and Gretel
2008: The Untold Story of Oz
2007: Little Red Riding Hood

Happy Halloween friends!

on me: zebra shirt, old navy. zebra mask, amazon. on true: white top and leggings, old navy, and decorated with grey duct tape. mask, michael’s craft store. on brave: black shirt and leggings, old navy, and decorated with orange duct tape. foam tiger mask. tail, made by sisters. on soul: leopard dress (out of stock, but this is similar) and leopard shoes, old navy. foam leopard mask, amazon. tail, made by sisters. on glow: zookeeper costume and monkey from San Diego Zoo (similar here). high-tops, c/o old navy. on ben: panda mask, amazon. giants shirt, vintage.



how we deal with halloween candy in our home

halloween goodies Happy October! It’s Ben here. Ruby asks me to write about how we approach eating healthfully in our family, so here’s how we address Halloween candy with our kids.

You might think with being a dietitian, candy and anything “lo-nu” (what True started calling low nutrition foods a few years back) would be forbidden. Before I speak about that, I wanted to visit what may seem like petty semantics. We’ve learned not to refer to foods as good or bad, but rather, identify them based on their nutrient density. We’ll instead classify them as a high nutrition (hi-nu) food or low nutrition (lo-nu) food. All foods can be consumed within the context of balance and moderation. Furthermore, there’s no need to associate guilt/shame with a food traditionally labeled as “bad.” We strive to teach them how to make healthful choices, and how to recognize what is high nutrition versus low nutrition in our home.

So how do we address the lo-nu Halloween candy? We intentionally allow the kids eat all they want. Yup, you read that correctly. It’s a part of the approach we’ve adopted from dietitian and psychotherapist Ellyn Satter. We’re still learning how to best integrate what seems to be a very liberal strategy when it comes to “forbidden foods” like these after Halloween is over, so we go at our own pace as we continue to experiment with these principles. One of the goals is that kids won’t over-indulge/binge when parents aren’t around. The six of us are learning together; that’s parenting though.

When it comes to how we answer the “Trick or Treat!” request at the door, there was a study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior that helped form our decision in what we give out. Researchers offered kids aged 3-14 the option of candy vs. a Halloween toy. Half of them chose the toys… an interesting perspective on how many kids define “treat” on Halloween. Since there’s already enough candy being circulated around that night, we’ve opted for inexpensive toys. And for individuals challenged with weight or other conditions in which mindful candy-eating principles are welcome, this is a nice strategy for removing candy in the home that could be mindlessly consumed!

Have a safe and mindful Halloween!



spanish lessons at home

spanish lessons spanish lessons spanish lessons It’s always been our desire for the girls to be bilingual. When the girls were babies Ben would speak a bit of Spanish to them, but as they have gotten older (and since I don’t speak it), English has just been easier. True and Brave have been taking Spanish classes one day a week for a few years now, but since it’s just one day a week, it’s more vocabulary than actual conversational Spanish.

We’ve looked at the possibility of sending them to a dual-immersion school, and had we found a good one, we might have opted for that over homeschooling. Unfortunately, the one near us has a class ratio of 30:1 and we didn’t like that. You would have to start from kinder on, so we thought about possibly putting Soul in. We also tossed around the idea of hiring a tutor to get True and Brave up to par, so they can take a test to get in, but in the end, the program didn’t seem right for us.

Then one day, the girls were FaceTiming with Ben’s mom and I think she was saying something in Spanish to them, and that’s when a light bulb went off. I whispered to Ben that maybe his mom could teach them Spanish and he instantly thought that was a brilliant idea too! Ben’s mom used to teach high school Spanish, so she was the perfect person for this. I don’t know why we never thought of it before! We mentioned to her our idea, and what she thought, and she was totally on board. That night I started researching Spanish curriculum and sent her a few sample pages of one I liked. Later that week, we got everything ordered for the girls, and ordered the same books and sent them to her in Texas.

spanish lessons spanish lessons spanish lessons We originally planned their lessons via FaceTime to happen twice a week, about 15-30 minutes a lesson, but the girls love it so much that they end up going for about two hours! Sometimes, three! And lately, they’ve been able to get three or four FaceTime sessions in with her. We also do Latin in our homeschooling, so they are able to make connections to between the two languages, and there are so many similar words too.

Ben’s mom has her own white board at her home, and she uses that when she’s teaching them online. She gives them homework (like labeling things around the house), and I review with them during the week for extra reinforcement. Not only is that good for them, but good for me too because it’s been recalling all the Spanish I learned in high school. There are also some similarities between Spanish and Tagalog (language from the Philippines), so I’m able to pick up some. I’ve been trying to practice saying small phrases throughout the day, and Ben’s been better at trying to use Spanish too. I understand Tagalog completely, but since I haven’t used it in a long time, I butcher the language when it comes out of my mouth. Ben used to be much more fluent in Spanish (he studied in Guadalajara for a several months in college), but since he doesn’t use it often, it isn’t as natural to him. We are all working on it though!

The girls seem to really be thriving in this online class of theirs. Plus, we think it’s really special that they are able to spend time with their Grandmama like this. They are creating such wonderful memories together! She even got a fish for a class pet, so they had to come up with names for it. The verdict is Diamante Lily Bratcher.  HA!

We use Spanish for Children Primer A (it’s a student and teacher book in one), the DVD & Chant Set that accompany it, and this answer key for checking their answers. They do their lesson on their iPad, and this is the iPad cover we use. We’ve found that our Spanish program goes really nicely with Song School Latin, which is our Latin curriculum. I love when I hear them using Latin and Spanish phrases throughout the day. Knowing more than one language is important to us, and since the girls are a quarter Mexican, it’s extra special because it’s part of their heritage. I wish they understood Tagalog, but maybe one day, with their knowledge of Latin and Spanish, they will be able to pick up other languages quicker.




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