Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween...Sans Trick or Treating!

I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but Halloween is my kids’ favorite holiday.  I personally prefer Christmas, but for some reason, be it the dress up, candy, and running around in the dark, they look forward to this day all year.   There’s one problem with this:  trick or treating is cancelled (and rescheduled) this year.  They endured all this counting down and waiting just to wait some more.
It’s not the end of the world, I know, but I wanted to do something to make today special.  After all, it’s not “Halloween” that we celebrate, but a day that is a little extra special, with fun things to do and yummy treats.

So, here is how we celebrated Halloween this year without the trick or treating!

Our soundtrack of choice today was the Pandora station “Halloween Party.”  It was pretty terrific, minus a few selections we fast forwarded…Monster Mash, Flying Purple People Eater, and Thriller seemed to keep us moving all morning!

This morning, the boys woke up to pumpkin banana pancakes and chocolate milk, which is a treat!  As good as breakfast was, we rushed through it because the boys spied an interesting addition to our doorway:


Yup!  That’s masking tape!  We played a super fun gum that I dubbed “Feed the Spider.” If you look really hard, I stuck two plastic spiders to the tape.  We took turns tossing pom pom balls (usually used for crafting) at the web.  They received 1 point for every stick, and a bonus of 5 points if they knocked the spider off the web.  Our game consisted of 5 rounds, with a winner declared at the end.  This was a VERY popular game…we played for over an hour!

While I rocked the baby to sleep for her morning nap, I pulled out the Scooby Doo hidden picture book I snagged at Target for $1.  All three little heads huddled around the book searching for the bad guys.


After Little Miss was sleeping soundly in her crib, it was tattoo time.  I found a box of over 100 Halloween tattoos for $1 at 5 Below…what a wonderful find!  After searching for just the right body décor,  we spent the next ½ hour applying them to legs, tummies, and arms.



Onward to the kitchen!  We did a super cute (and super quick!) craft:  ghost feet!  We painted the bottom of our feet white and pressed them on black construction paper.  They had no idea how these footprints were going to “turn into” ghosts. Once we added the dots for eyes and an open mouth, it all became clear!


After cleaning off our feet, the boys resumed playing Feed the Spider while I made some lunch…sadly, it wasn’t themed : (  However, we did have Halloween jello jigglers as a special post-lunch treat!

Everyone’s resting now.  But in just a few short minutes, my house will be bustling again.  I have my home made pizza dough rising for dinner, mini caramel apple pies assembled for dessert, and my popcorn popper ready for some fresh kettle corn.

This evening’s agenda:  build a fort, watch some Halloween specials, and munch on kettle corn.

 Who needs trick or treating?  We had a miniature bash over here!!  Happy Halloween!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Toddler (and Kid!) Tuesday: Rainbow Rice!

If you live anywhere east of Ohio, you are water logged.  Please remember to pray for those who have been devastated by this weather! 

For those of us who were blessed enough to escape with minor damage/inconvenience, we are probably home bound for the next few days. 

Here’s a great activity for kids ages 2-5 (probably beyond too!)

Rainbow Rice!

If you already have white rice, rubbing alcohol, and food coloring in the house, you are good to go.  If not, take a trip to the store when the weather breaks, because this one will keep your little one busy!

Fill a ziplock bag with rice, about 1 Tbs. of rubbing alcohol and a few drops of food coloring.  Mix around until all the color is distributed, then dump on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper to dry.  The drying process will probably take about an hour or two. (If you mix the night before, you'll be guaranteed rainbow rice ready time by the morning!)  Once dried, it’s ready for play!  To make this “rainbow” rice, you’ll want to use several different bags and make several colors.   If you want to skip the “rainbow” part all together, then just use regular rice.  Same amount of fun, just not as aesthetically pleasing : )


Once your rainbow rice is done, dump it into a large container (I used an old baby bathtub!) and throw in some measuring cups, scoops, cars…whatever you’d use in a sandbox. 

Rice will escape the container, and that’s o.k. because we all have brooms! 

Hope your little ones enjoy the rainbow rice as much as we do!  If you have great indoor activities, message me and we can compile a list for all those moms out there ready to hunker down for the upcoming winter!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Waiting for the Clouds to Break

Life is cyclical.  It is a process.  It is seasonal.  Sometimes the winds blow, we lose heart, and run for cover.  Sometimes we bask in life’s beauty.  Sometimes we wait for the skies to break, for promises long awaited to come, for questions to be answered.  And despite how cyclical, almost predictable, our major life events are, every day has a surprise, a twist, a turn.

We’re running on very little sleep over here.  Why?  Teeth.  Two-year-old molars and infant incisors have interrupted the quiet of our home during the only hours of the night when our home is actually able to experience quiet.  Our backs are aching from carrying our little ones who just don’t want to be put down.  It almost seems never ending. 

Last night, however, we remembered that this season will end.  And it will end far too soon.  Last night, our oldest son (only 5!) actually lost his first tooth.  It was quite the family celebration!  We put it in a special place for the tooth fairy (which they insist is me for some reason!) and took lots of pictures.  After the excitement, the house settled down for the night.  I finished tidying the kitchen, took a book to my bed and then…baby cries.  One tooth out, another tooth in.  This is just how life is right now.  And if it weren’t teeth, it would be something else.  We live in Cleveland, where it could be 80 degrees and sunny one day, and snowing the next.  So it is with the parenting seasons in our house…80 degrees, then the storm blows in.

It is not just parenting that keeps us on our toes.  Finances, jobs, friends, health…it seems that we have a season of favor, followed by a desert season.  I am reminded of a popular refrain that says “He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say blessed be your name.”  Just today, we were reminded that there are no guarantees about how our day to day lives will be ordered.  This morning, as my husband was traveling to work, he was in a car accident.  He is perfectly fine, as is the other driver.  To say that is a relief would be an understatement.  Just as I let the relief and blessing set in that he was safe, reality set in.  His van wasn’t as safe as he was.  My husband travels constantly and needs to take a load of tools with him wherever he goes.  In other words…no van = no work.   We’re not sure if the van will be totaled.  We’re not sure where we will come up with the deductible.  Our one income budget with 4 little ones is tight, but God has always provided.  As long as we are diligently obeying, He is diligently making a way.

This morning, as I bundled up my children to brave the storm and get my dear, teething baby girl a series of shots, we got the call to pick up my husband.  Years ago, I would have had knots in my stomach.  I would had been frazzled by the time constraints, the stress of 4 coats, 4 hats, and 8 little shoes.  I would have driven with financial worries in the back of my mind, panicking and wondering how I, in my own strength, could fix this.  This afternoon, as we are holding our drooling children, making phone calls, and racking our brains for a solution, we had some good laughs.  We are healthy, happy, and know that our God is, well…God.

God had this day planned.  He allows speed bumps to happen.  And that is all this is: a speed bump.  I would be over dramatic to pretend that some chaos with our kids and a financial hurdle amounts to a crisis.  But the truth is, we have choices to make with speed bumps and with road blocks.  We could choose to complain, to throw in the towel, to point fingers, to panic.  Or, we could choose to trust, to dig deeper, to unite together, and to figure out how to overcome yet another bump in the road.  All of life is cyclical.  It’s a process.

Isaiah 55: 8-11 says:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

           As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
            and do not return to it
            without watering the earth
            and making it bud and flourish,
            so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

 His word, His promises, and His way will be accomplished.  But in His time. Often I hear the first and last part of this passage.  My thoughts and my ways are not yours. And my word will not return void.  But the best part is right in the middle.  It clearly tells us how our needs and desires will be met by our perfect Maker.  It’s a process for us to realize how He’s working, just as it is a process to cultivate food from our garden.

First, the rain and snow must fall.  Then it must water the ground, saturating it.  Next, buds will form, and then those will flourish.  Next, seeds will appear, and those seeds will be harvested to make the food.  Phew!  That takes some time.  What a comfort to know that in the seasons that don’t make sense, when it is easy to feel anxious, we’re somewhere in this beautiful growing process.  We’re either waiting for the rain to come, or we’re being saturated, or we’re budding and flourishing, or we’re yielding seeds, or we’re being harvested, or ground so that we could produce food.  And then it all starts again.

Life is cyclical.  It is a process.  But through the process, through the winds, rains, and freezes, there is a hope and a glory at the end.  It may not be what we had expected, but it will be what He has purposed.  He is our author and perfector.  So, get an umbrella out and watch for the clouds to break or bask in life’s beauty, but have that umbrella ready for the rain and snow to fall down again.



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mercies of Motherhood

Most of what I write about these days (here and elsewhere) is about being a mom and raising a family.  I love my life.  It is full of wonderful moments.  Realistically, though, for every wonderful moment, I have lived through about 100 not-so-wonderful moments.   It’s in those not-so-wonderful moments that I sometimes fantasize about what I’d be doing had I not had kids.  My fantasy always ends with me being very thankful to be exactly where I’m at.


If you have never day dreamed about life outside of kids, do it for a minute.  At first it sounds wonderful…you sleep through the night, don’t wipe sticky things off the table 4 times a day, and your bathroom stays clean for more than an hour.  You can go out to eat with your hubby, take a walk without a tantrum, and don’t have to repeat yourself like a broken record.  O.k., get past that and keep thinking.


My kids have taught me so much.  I don’t think I, personally, could have learned the lessons I have without each and every one of their unique personalities and influences in my life.  God knows what it will take to get us to where we’re alive in Him, and He’s constantly chiseling away all that hinders His work.  My kids are little chisels.


I would not be as patient as I am if I did not have to deal with baby colic, toddler tantrums, preschooler impatience, and grade school frustration. 


I would not be as loving as I am had I not had little cheeks to kiss and hands to hold.  I would not understand how precious life is if I never felt it form inside of me and watched it grow right before my eyes. 


I would never be so grateful for life had I never fallen in love, over and over again, with such small bodies with such big hearts.  I would have never been so joyful had I never made a baby laugh, tickled a toddler, played hide and seek with a preschooler, or listened to my oldest pray in his room when he thought no one was listening.


I would never be so kind without the ability to see the world through new, fresh, little eyes, the way we were intended to see it.  I would never be so gentle had I not seen the effect of harsh words and hasty actions on little hearts.


I would never be so faithful to what I believe had I not needed to cling to it like I have in these years.  I would never had so much self-control had I not been employed as a full time role model for four sets of eyes and ears. 


I would not be me.


While my personality is the same, my character is different.  For that, I am thankful to the master artist who is at work, and to all those beautiful tools he is using to bring me into who I am meant to be.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The BEST Roasted Chicken Recipe: Thank You Michael Symon!

I love recipes that don’t take a lot of hands on time and are yummy.  I also love recipes that make leftovers to resuse in a different, creative way.  So, when I discovered how to make a perfectly roasted, delicious chicken, with little hands on time, that I can stretch throughout a few meals, I got really excited.
I have 6 mouths to feed (yes 6 now, as baby girl has discovered home cooking!)  I’ve been on the hunt for clever ways to stretch our ingredients to cover major components of a couple meals.  As many people know, a whole chicken is a great value!  For a few bucks, I have enough meat to last 2-3 meals (depending on my family’s hunger radar), and I have the materials to make a ton of homemade chicken stock to freeze for soups, stews, and chili for weeks to come.
I have tried many roasted chicken recipes.  Some of them were good, but not “wow!”  Well, thanks to Mr. Michael Symon, I have found the recipe!  Here it goes!

Michael Symon's Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Sage

  • 1 3 to 4 lb chicken
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 onion (peeled)
  • 3 sweet potatoes (cubed)
  • Drizzle olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 celery root (peeled and cubed)
  • 1 small bunch fresh sage

A day before cooking, rinse the chicken inside and out under cold water and pat dry. Salt it liberally, cover, and refrigerate. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator an hour before cooking it. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.

Combine butter and sage, rub under the skin. Put the onion in the cavity of the chicken.

      Toss the celery roots, potatoes, cumin, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Put the chicken in an ovenproof saute pan or in a roasting pan, breast side up on top of sweet potatoes and celery root. Slide it into the oven, and roast it until the thigh reaches 160˚F or until the cavity juices run clear, about 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes. Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and serve with the vegetables.

(the first time I made it, my husband insisted we take a picture! His love language is food too!)
You can use the leftover chicken to make chicken noodle soup, tostados, white chicken chili, enchiladas…the possibilities are endless!
If you’ve never made chicken stock before, you must try it!  It’s so easy (but a little gross if you’re squeamish).  Just save the carcass, bones, and any extra scraps from the roast chicken and add it to a large stock pot.  Slice some carrots, onions, and celery and season it with salt and pepper (and anything else you'd like).  Fill the pot to the top with water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 4-6 hours.  Strain the liquid into a container, and voila!  You can pour the stock into ice cube trays and once frozen store in a Ziploc in the freezer for whenever you need stock. 
1 Roasted Chicken = Dinner tonight, leftovers for tomorrow, and stock for the next 2 weeks (at least!)

Do you have double/triple duty recipes to share?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Toddler Tuesday: Indoor Water Fun

I'm a little behind in my tasks this week!  Thank goodness for my go to list on this rainy day to keep the non-schooling kids busy!  Yesterday was such a beautiful fall day, but today it's rainy.  If you looked outside my front door this morning, you'd see two little noses pressed against the glass, hoping that a nice day would return again! 

My little guy wants to go outside and play in the rain...and if it were just a drizzle, I might relent.  However, I'm pretty sure the force of the rain may just wash him down the street!  So, some indoor water fun is in order. 


1.  Indoor Car Wash:  Gather together all your toy cars, throw a towel on the floor, put some soapy water in a bowl, and give them washcloths!  The boys love this, and the best part is that my floor gets a little clean up too!
2.  Set up a hands-on aquarium in the sink!  Fill the sink with water and dump in plastic fish, sharks, seahorses...whatever you have!  It's so simple, but it keeps my little guy occupied until he's uber pruny!
3.  Chalkboard ABC's.  I got this idea from someone on pinterest.  Write out the ABC's (or 1,2,3's, or your child's name) on a chalkboard.  Give him a small cup of water and a paint brush and let him "paint" over the letters/numbers to erase them.  My guys love doing this again and buys some time and is educational! 
4.  Shaving Cream Bath.  Bath time is always more fun when getting clean is not the focus!  On a rainy day, sometimes I'll just let them play in the tub.  Our new favorite is to let them go in with a ton of shaving cream (dollar stores are wonderful for my supplies!) and wash it off.  Once they have it all off, I cream them again! This could be educational if you decided to have them write letters/numbers/names in the shaving cream.  My boys prefer just to fling it at each other and make a giant mess!
5.  Milk painting...o.k, this one isn't with water, but it's with liquid!  Grab a bowl, pour some milk in it. Drop a few drops of food coloring and let them swirl it with a paintbrush.  This is great for teaching primary and secondary colors!
These are some of our favorite rainy day, indoor water (liquid!) activities!  What are some of yours?

Monday, October 22, 2012


I’m waiting for something.  I’ve been waiting for it for over 2 years.  My husband and I have been praying, seeking God, and waiting.  Every once in awhile, there’s progress, but we remain waiting.  I don’t like to wait.

You might be thinking…hmm, 2 years?  Why bring this up today?  It’s on the forefront of my brain today.  I’m battling doubt.  I’m battling self-pity.  I’m being really honest here.  I’m not sitting down and allowing these defeating thoughts take hold of me, though.  I’m battling.

It feels like this is the status of my life: waiting and battling the doubt.  Each season of life carries with it a hope not yet attained.  I do not know a soul who has not had to wait for something at each age and stage of life.  We’re all waiting on something: school to end, a job to land, a marriage, a baby, school to start, finances to breakthrough, a vacation, a friend, a special day, an answered prayer.  If we’re living, we’re waiting.  And though I have been in this waiting stage many times before, as I’m sure you have, it never seems to get any easier.

I watch my kids when they are told to wait and be patient.  It doesn’t seem to matter if they’re waiting for their cup to be filled or for a special day to come, when their impatience sets in, their reaction is generally the same.  First, the whining comes.  Next, it seems as though their bodies cannot stay still…they wriggle and even throw their arms around (while also whining).  Finally, an all out rebellion ensues.  There is screaming, stomping, slamming, throwing.  Thank God this doesn’t happen every day.  As a mom, I’d be exhausted and frustrated!  But the reality is that we are born with impatience, and it seems that it takes most of us a lifetime to acquire the fruit of patience. 

I am so much like my children.  I can sit still and quiet for awhile.  However, it’s when I think that I’ve waiting long enough that I start to whine.  God, don’t you remember what you promised?  Just so you are aware, I’m still here and I’m still waiting!  When the whining doesn’t work, I can’t sit still.  Fine, I’ll just take matters into my own hands.  You obviously need my help.  When that doesn’t work, as it never does, then I seem to explode.  I give up!  I’m done waiting!  Why have you forgotten me?

Impatience + Time = Doubt.

Maybe you are not as dramatic as I am…I admit, I tend to feel rather deeply.  But I think everyone has been at this place in some way, shape, or form.  The mutation from impatience from doubt can take days, months, years, but we are left throwing our hands in the air and settling down with a choice:  Do I or do I not believe that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He’ll do?

Today my answer is yes. 

I find comfort in knowing that I am not alone.  David, a man after God’s own heart, felt this way too.  If you read through his psalms, he cried out over and over just as we do.  Why have you forsaken me God?  Can you still see me?  Have you abandoned your promises to me?  And through all the wrestling with the Lord, through all the questioning, the crying out, David gives arrives at a simple solution: rest in Him and rediscover your hope.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.  Psalm 62:15

We cannot hope without resting in God.  The moment we become dislodged from His rest, we have lost hope and start writhing around in our own strength.

I’ve mentioned before that my family is memorizing operational definitions of character qualities so that we can learn what is expected of us and model that behavior.  The definition of meekness struck me recently when I was perusing the chart: 

Meekness: yielding my personal rights and expectations to God.

Wait, didn’t Jesus say “Blessed are the meek, for they will receive the kingdom of God?”  Could it be that if I yield my personal rights and my expectations, then I will receive something even greater than what I expect?  Could it be that our sovereign God knows, better than me, what would ultimately be for my good?  Do I trust that?  Do I teach that to my children when they are having a difficult time trusting?

Like so many other things, I know these concepts in my head, but they are still on the way of seeping into my heart so that my first response in waiting is not a whiny why? I find myself telling my kids “be patient.” As if that is something that is easy to do.  If I’m just starting to figure this out in my 30’s, how can I expect my 2 year old to naturally catch on?  God has lovingly laid out in His Word the benefits of waiting.  He intentionally instructs us on this very subject.  He says  that His ways are higher than ours.  He says that we will receive strength when we wait.  He says that we will actually be able to soar like eagles!  It’s a reverse concept from that which our culture would feed us.  Get results now.  Why wait? Life is short, get all you can now.  These are two-year old/preschooler concepts that we as mature adults still subscribe too!  I am committed to being still in the waiting so that I can instruct my children the way that God gently instructs me. 

So, what do we do practically when these battle days arise without warning?  We go back to basic training.  We speak, out loud if we need to, what we know is true.
I know that God is good.  I know that He made me, and loves me more than anyone else in the world.  Then, I must believe that He has my heart and my life among his priorities.  He will complete the good work He started in me.  He will work all things together for my good, because I love Him.  He has not forgotten me.  I just have to wait.  In my waiting, I will say:

You, oh Lord are my portion.  I will put my hope in you. (Lamentations 3:24-26).  Though I cannot see past my own desires right now, I will look to the Lord and wait for Him, because He will hear me! (Micah 7:7)  I will not sit back in despair or confusion, but I will set my face like a flint, knowing that my God will help me and not let me be put to shame. (Isaiah 50:7) I will hope, despite time, circumstance, or what I can see.  I will hope in Him and his promises.  In this hope, I will not be disappointed, but instead will be filled with His love. (Romans 5:5).  Be at rest, oh my soul, and know that someone greater than what we can see is in control.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Our Prayer Tree

Am I the only one who has ever been bored with prayer?  I love it and dread it all at the same time.  It’s so hard to keep my mind focused sometimes, and I want to say enough but not too much.  I want to be respectful and yet relational…there are just so many things to keep in mind.  The truth is, God is mighty and powerful-beyond what we can imagine!  But He is our father, and He just wants to talk and hear our heart. 

I see this conflict brewing in my oldest son.  He loves to pray.  He prays for everything.  But recently, he’s just been going through the motions.  Ugh!  I hate that!  I want to be genuine and to teach my kids to do the same.  I don’t want to do something just to do it!  I want us all to be intentional. 

It figures…this is the month I have personally devoted to praying for specific things for my kids’ lives.  Maybe that’s why I’m starting to notice that at their very young ages, prayer is becoming dutiful, not worshipful.  Pause.  Heart check.  Back up.  Model instead of teach…how’s my prayer life?  Do they even see it?

Sometimes, my biggest inspirations come from wandering around a craft store.  By that, I don’t exactly mean craft inspirations.  I find that being amidst creative materials, raw in their form, help me go back to basic materials and find a beautiful solution to a life problem.  I knew I needed something tangible for my hands-on little men to really grasp what prayer is and hopefully put some excitement in it.  Then, I stumbled upon a 4 1/2 foot foam tree.  That’s it!  This was exactly what we needed!  Thus, our prayer tree was born!

Just outside the boys’ bedrooms was an empty wall.  We assembled the tree and placed it on the wall.  Then we made a ton of foam leaves.  I sat down with a stack of leaves, a sharpie, and a cup of coffee and I spent an afternoon asking the boys what we should be praying for.  Wow, did we have a great discussion about prayer!  This was a lesson in and of itself.  They had no idea that they can ask for big and small things.  We talked about how God loves to hear whatever is on our hearts-anything at all!  We all agreed that we love talking to each other and telling each other everything: funny things, sad things, confusing things.  Well, how much more, then, does our heavenly Father love to hear our hearts? 

We took a whole afternoon discussing our leaves.  We talked about who we could pray for, who was sick and who was lonely.  We talked about upcoming events, like the presidential election, that we can be praying for.  They got out our stack of Voice of the Martyrs magazines and we started writing down international needs and outcries.  We got silly and added things like snow in winter, going to Disney World, and lots of candy on Halloween.  If it’s important to them, it’s important to God. 

(This was our first set of leaves...we added many more as the days went on!) 

Here’s the greatest part:  when a prayer is answered, we are planning to take down the leaf and put up an apple instead.  When we pray, we bear fruit.  We were able to put up our first apple this week, and it was like Christmas morning over here!  We were faithful and we saw God at work.  They are hungry for more apples now.

It was such a simple idea, and yet it has changed our attitude about prayer.  The boys love lying on their floor, staring at the tree as we talk to God about all our loved ones and people around the world who need a blessing. 

Prayer can become stale if we let it.  Like anything else, it can feel like a ritual.  When it starts to feel this way, it starts to lose its authenticity and its effectiveness.  Soon, we’re operating in our own strength instead of leaning on the source of our strength.  I’d much rather pause, reposition our hearts, and enjoy time with our daddy who loves to hear us laugh and cry.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Where I Go Now to Edit Pictures!

Technology scares me!  I married a techie, and as such, I have long since said goodbye to trying to figure out new buttons, applications, and all things technical.  I didn't realize how much can change in 10 years!  And when he tries to explain it to me, it's like that voice from Charlie Brown...I just can't seem to focus!

Today, I'm proud of myself!  I gave this blog a bit of a makeover, creating a banner collage for the top, and figured out how to make some recipe printable pages...sort of. 

Here's my shout out to one of my new loves:!  You don't even need a tutorial to figure out how to make a collage.  Choose to edit a single photo or make a collage.  It will prompt you to upload, and then have fun!  This site has so many wonderful features, and it's free!  You simply save your changes to your computer, and it's a new can share, upload, or print.  There's amazing effects, and you can make just about any picture look a few short minutes, I created these beautiful memories (I like the "after" shot much better on the first one!):

That's my two-sense today for all of you who may be technologically challenged, like me...although I doubt that anyone has as much catching up to do as me!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Busy Day's Recipes...our effort to be healthy on the go!

I’m in the middle of some major recipe organization.  Currently, my recipe binder has gotten out of control and looks like this:

Why has it gotten so bad?  Because I love to cook and I recipe hoard.  I admit it.  I love to play in the kitchen and feed hungry bellies with some yummy food.  In addition to being a recipe hoarder, I have another confession.  I have food A.D.D.  Yes, we have our “go to” meals, but I like variety…and every page in this binder has been lovingly made for my men over here at least once. 

I’ve been extremely interested and commited to whole food cooking for a few months now, and have learned a lot along the way.  However, the reality is that I have 4 children age 5 and under and a lot of additional responsibility.  While I’d love to report that we’re 100% processed-food free, we’re not : (  It’s a goal, but we’re about 80% there.  We feel SO much better by the way.  The benefits far outweigh the effort!   

My personal conundrum becomes time constraint.  What do we eat when we're flying out of the house to dr. appointments, a play date, a meeting, soccer practice...the list goes on.  What do we cook for dinner when we have a teething baby on our hip and a toddler tantruming at our feet?  I used to pick up the phone and order pizza : )  But with a little planning ahead, I have pulled together some ideas that save us from over-indulging in that great Italian-American safety net!

How can we eat healthy while on the go?  Well, we’re learning, and we’d love your comments, suggestions, and recipes! 

Here’s what we ate today…a particularly crazy, busy day over here:

Hey!  Pancake lovers!  Do you ever crave a good pancake, but cannot stand there and flip flapjaks for more than a few minutes?  Ever since baby #4 came, I’ve had a hard time making pancakes for my brood and not burning them because I’m attending so some minor crisis!  Ta-da!  Muffin Pancakes!

           Muffin Pancakes:

Mix your pancake mix together as usual (home made or box).  Grab and mix in some yummy add ins such as pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice, mashed bananas, chocolate chips, bacon, chopped fruit, etc.  Here’s the best part!  Pour your batter into greased muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees F for 12-14 minutes!  Voila!  You will have pancake muffins hot and ready with no standing and flipping involved.  Drizzle with syrup and enjoy!


I usually pair this with a smoothie, filled with lots of fruit, greek yogurt, a frozen banana, and some honey.


            Hummus Wraps:

Take some whole grain wraps (whole grains, check!), slather it with some hummus (protein, check!), chop up some veggies-we like peppers (veggies, check!), roll up and serve with some sliced fruit (check!)

Afternoon Snack:
I’ve mentioned it before, but if you haven’t yet tried kale chips, you must!  My boys love them so much, we literally go through multiple bunches of kale every week!  It’s a super food, so we are daydreaming about the superhero powers we’re acquiring while happily snacking away!  Best part:  I make a whole load of these and keep them for happy snacking on busy days.
Kale Chips:

Wash and dry kale.  Rip off the leaves from the stems, and rip the leaves into bit size pieces.  Place the kale on a baking sheet (put some aluminum foil on that puppy for easy clean up!), drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with season salt and bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes.  Check them at 8…every oven is different and you don’t want them burned, just crunchy!

Brown Rice Pasta with Sautéed Tomatoes, Spinach, Mushrooms, and Garlic

You can find brown rice pasta almost anywhere now.  I get mine at Trader Joe’s and it’s the same price as regular.  If you don’t like the taste of whole wheat pasta (which we’re not crazy about), try this as a healthy alternative.

While your pasta is boiling, heat some olive oil in a saucepan, through in a clove or two of garlic, 1 whole chopped tomato, a carton of baby bella mushrooms (or whatever is on sale!), and a few handfuls of spinach.  After the mushrooms have gained some color, season the pan with some salt and pepper. Keep on the heat until your pasta is done, drain the pasta and toss together.  I still like to steam some broccoli on the side to boost our veggie intake.

Ah…a day of recipes in the life of the Stacks.  I love menus like this-they take minimal time in the kitchen, and I know we’re doing our best on really busy days to keep the whole grains, veggies, fruit and protein coming!


I would love to hear from you what you feed your family on a busy day!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ode to Masking Tape

I hereby declare today Toddler Tuesday!

You don’t have to be a home school mom like me to have multiple moments during your day when you are frantically trying to figure out what to do with your toddler or preschooler!  Let’s see who can relate.  Those of you who have a child between the ages of 1 and 4 in your home, please answer the following questions:

1.      Do you ever need to take a shower?
2.      Do you ever use a telephone device to make an important phone call?
3.      Does your family eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
4.      Has your little one ever inadvertently created a volcanic mess in the matter of seconds that needs immediate clean up detail?
5.      Do you ever need to communicate two sentences at one time to your spouse?
6.      Do you ever need a few minutes to lovingly discipline an older child?
7.      Do you ever find yourself needing a few minutes to teach another child a new concept or help them with an old one?
8.      Have you ever had an ordinary infant diaper change turn into an explosion, necessitating an emergency bath?
9.      Have you ever needed to sort laundry without having a short, little helper unsorting it even faster?
10.   Do you ever need 5 minutes of uninterrupted time to organize something in the little one’s room, but can’t do it while they’re asleep because, well…they’re asleep?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then you may be interested in some new ways to keep your little one engaged in some independent play time!

I literally keep an ongoing list of ideas to entertain my children, from crawlers to school aged.  As you know, you have to keep things fresh and exciting to keep these little ones’ attention!  My master list contains some amazing ideas that I’ve jotted down over the years, full of lessons to be learned and things to be explored.  Many of those activities require some prep time (which is worth it).  However, sometimes you have an unexpected visitor, phone call, or are just running out of time and low on brain cells.  For those moments, friends, grab a roll of masking tape!  I now keep several around the house.  I’ve listed my 5, 5 minute or less masking tape activities to buy you at least 5 minutes!  You can get rolls of cheap masking tape at the dollar store by the way…no need to buy that expensive $2.00 stuff ; )      
Ode to Masking Tape!

1.  Create a Road to Zoom Cars

            Prep Time:  5 minutes

            Materials:  Masking Tape and toy cars

Go crazy!  Connect the tape and make it twisty.  Take it up the walls.  Make it go under the table!  Once your tape road is down, zoom a car or two to show them what to do…it won’t take long to catch on ; )  You can also make a wide road for big trucks by taping parallel lines of tape. Bonus:  they LOVE to clean up the tape when play time is over!  All my boys played with the road, even making road blocks, bridges, etc. 


2.  Masking Tape Table

            Prep Time: < 5 minutes

            Materials:  Masking Tape

Take strips of masking tape and lay it down in no particular pattern all over a table.  It will take them about 5 minutes to remove the tape and will probably spend longer playing with it afterwards.

 3.  Save the Toys!  Masking Tape Ball

            Prep Time: <5 minutes

            Materials:  Masking Tape and small toys (we use army men or action figures)

Make a giant, messy tape ball, occasionally “trapping” a toy while continuing the tape ball.  (Don’t make it too tight, or frustration may ensue) Hand over the tape ball and have your little one save the toys!

4.  Fill a Shape

            Prep time:  <5 minutes

            Materials:  Masking Tape and blocks or legos

Use the tape to outline shapes on the floor.  Have your little one fill the shape with blocks.  This occupies little ones and helps older ones learn spatial concepts.  I made this a preschool activity for my 4 year old and simultaneously made it a busy/learning activity for my 2 year old…love the double duty activities!


5.  Name Tape

            Prep Time:  <5 minutes

            Materials:  Masking Tape, a blank wall, and a flashlight

Write your child’s name on the wall with masking tape.  Get a flashlight and show them how to trace the tape with the light.  Undoubtedly, this will not only be a lesson in name recognition, but will turn into many more minutes of flashlight play!


That’s it folks!  Like I said, there are many wonderful ideas, but for busy moms, I think the best ideas are the ones that don’t require the craft store, take less then 5 minutes to set up, and can entertain little ones independently and engage their creativity!

Holding Unswervingly to Our Promises

Some brief housekeeping before the meat and potatoes:
It turns out that people actually read this blog!  This is comforting, not because I wish to be internet popular (which you can tell by the complete lack of glitz and glamour on this page!), but because it means we are all banding together to press on towards being fabulous women, wives, and mothers…reading whatever we can get our hands on!

For the last 2 weeks, I’ve been emailing out recipes, jotting toddler activities down to pass out on the soccer field, and sharing what our schedule looks like and what we do to school our children.  Finally, a genius friend of mine said, “Um, maybe you should write all of this in your blog!”  Duh! 

So, this is my plan:  I want to be a bit more productive in blog-world.  Every week, I am going to dedicate a post to new recipes, school/craft ideas, toddler/baby activities, and my biggest love, reflecting on life so that we can learn and grow.  Stand by for further details as they develop! 

Now, for my Monday reflection time ; )

Have you ever had something that you always wanted to do, even been equipped or formally trained to do, but have never fully walked into that something?  Have you ever had a dream that you haven’t seen come to fruition, but not for lack of your own effort?  If so…read on.

Last week I celebrated my 31st birthday.  It really was an incredible week.  I took a long walk by myself to reflect and just talk with God-mainly thanking Him for the life He gave me.  The rest of the day was spent with my family.  Two days later, my dad and step-mom took me and the boys out to a pumpkin farm, where we had a blast!  I felt like a kid again!  Then, that night, I gathered together with a group of ladies from various phases of life to celebrate and say thank you for being a part of my story.

If you are reading this and you are a mom, then you can completely understand the following statement.  As a mother, you give up a set of dreams and press pause on some promises of God for a season in order to pursue a much higher calling of raising little ones for this next generation.  To me, being a mother is an honor, privilege, and a noble task.  After all, my boys are princes and my little girl is a princess who will live in the kingdom of God.  I want them to function that way, having everything they were intended to have in this life, and affecting everyone that they come into contact with.  I want them to dream big and pursue all that God puts on their hearts.  Yet, there is this inner conflict:  what about all the things God laid on my heart that has nothing to do with my children?
*Dads, too give up on many things in this season of parenthood, no doubt!  I have not forgotten about you!  I just know that as women, we often press pause on our pathways more often...yet, we all are in a very similar place of waiting!*

I asked all the women who came to celebrate last weekend to pray and share something from the Lord to encourage me:  this was by far my favorite birthday because I truly felt inundated with beautiful truths straight from His heart.  The beautiful part was looking around the table and seeing friends who are new and wonderfully treasured, old and still active in my life, and relationships that have been dormant for  years, yet such valuable parts of my life story.  It was one of these old friends who hit the nail on the head.  She spoke the simple word “promise” to me and reminded me that God’s promises in my life have no deadline.  It’s o.k. when He puts them on the back burner, and she encouraged me to run hard after the things He placed in front of me.  She also shared my most favorite verse with me:  Hebrews 10:23 says “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

As I chewed on this a little, I was reminded of David.  He was a very young man tending to sheep when he was anointed as King.  If that were me, I probably would either refusing going back out to the pasture the day after my anointing, or I’d have a really bad attitude about it.  Don’t they know I’m their next king??  David waited years for the promises of God to come to fruition in his life.  He had many twists and turns in his story.  He could have walked away from his promises by simply believing that God is not faithful and forging his own way.  Yet, David was a man after God’s heart…not a perfect man, but a loving, faithful follower.  I can’t imagine the joy in his heart the day he was coronated!

As I walked the day of my birthday, reflecting on all the good, I was so deeply reminded of His faithfulness.  As I spent the day playing with my four little gifts who have brought me more joy than I could imagine, I was reminded of His faithfulness.  As my husband came home with a bouquet of flowers, a hug, a kiss, and kind words (as he usually does!), I was reminded of His faithfulness.  While I watched my children running through a corn maze with their dear grandparents by their sides, smiles plastered on everyone’s faces, I was reminded of His faithfulness.  And as I sat at a table surrounded by amazing women, some who have know me since I was a little girl, all encouraging me and continuing to speak life into my heart, I was reminded of His faithfulness. 

I am ineffective in this season of life and calling when I spend energy, mentally, emotionally or physically, grieving promises that are not yet lost.  The truth is this:  we who are seeking the Lord are able to say “I’m ready” at any given point when He says “Go!”  So, we are not wasting our talents, skills, or education.  We are not “settling” for something other than what He has promised.  We are walking in it now, continuing to be equipped, trained, and chiseled so that when the next season unfolds, we are found faithful and able to obey.

In that, I encourage you to hold unswervingly to the hope we have always had and continue to have.  Hold on to the promises of God in your life…they were real, they are real, and He has not changed His mind.  He promised things to you and He is faithful.