Thursday, December 1, 2011

Back... and With a Vengeance!

So, here i am, finally getting around to putting some words down on this blog after a several-month absence. And now, i find myself in a stage of change. Again. {smile}

Not all changes are bad, and of course, some changes aren't good, but most changes represent challenges and a bit of uncertainty. The challenges vary substantially and the uncertainty can be daunting. However, we usually see enough benefit after working through the change to make said change worthwhile.

That brings me to my point: we are adopting a mostly vegetarian/vegan way of life as a family. It is something that has lingered on the horizon of my life for a few years now, but i have not had the drive to fully embrace it. Until now.

The last bit of research i read about dairy, and animal protein in general, shook my doubts off like water from a just-bathed dog. I can no longer deny that this is the way to keep health in my family's future. Our generation is increasingly sick, and we are looking down the line at an even sicker generation after us. That would be my children. Yeah... um... no, thanks.

So for the overall well-being of my family, we are restricting animal foods in our daily diets. And thus far, it hasn't been as difficult as i would have thought! But if any time is the time to go vegan, it is now! We are blessed to be embarking on this journey at a time when it is a very well-accepted lifestyle choice.

Recommendations for you if you are interested:
Documentaries like (to name a few)...
Forks Over Knives
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
The Gerson Miracle
Food, Inc.

And the book that started my awareness of this subject so many years ago (4 now?): Skinny Bitch.

Hard to believe i was ever that naive, but the truth is, i thought the world worked the way it looked like it did. It never occured to me that people in the medical field, governmental office, and the education system could all be misleading me. Now, i'm not saying they all are... but i am an informed consumer now. And i strongly advocate being one - make your own decisions based upon your own research and knowledge.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

High/Low Life

Living the High Life, whatever that is. An expression that implies good fortune, plenty, success. That begs the question: is less than plenty, success, and good fortune, living the Low Life? A "Low Life" is another expression, this one meaning someone who is less-than-desirable, and to some, less than human somehow.

So if i'm not living the High Life, am i a Low Lifer? A Low Life?

Loving God the way i do, i meander a lot on a journey that seems paved with good intentions but poor judgment, best of plans but disastrous execution, and great expectations but depressing results. And the more i compare my life to others, the more dissatisfied i get.

Okay, that makes sense. So, stop comparing, right? Simple enough! Yet... not easy.

Through the 'high' times in life, we can back-burner prayer, even God. But in the 'low' times, we cling to Him like plastic wrap clings to its roll. We just cannot get through the hard things without Him. So why do we try to get through the good times that way?

We. Are. Fickle.
Plain and simple.

I need to compare my life to Christ's. And no one else's.

In the midst of what is likely the hardest thing i have ever had to deal with, i wonder: "will i remember God's presence and my passionate vigil with Him when things level out?" Oh, Father, i hope so! Help me remember that if You can love me enough to carry me through the Tough Stuff of Life, i can love You enough to cling to You when i'm on Easy Street, too!

May God remind you today that He is there, waiting patiently for a smidge of your time, whether you are dealing with Tough Stuff or Living the High Life. His love is unchanging, which is more than we can say for our circumstances.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cupcake Mania

Today, the kids and i tackled our out-of-character, chilly, drizzly September day with a bit of nonsense. We decided, after i spent 20 minutes on YouTube, that cupcakes were in order! After all, we should practice before the birthdays come, right?

We took photos of the whole process, too, because the kids think it would be neat to make videos for YouTube that pay money! Hahaha. Ah, well, it was fun at least!

Here's a taste of what we did.
(After i get the slide show uploaded to YouTube, maybe i'll post the link here....)

From "Ho-hum"...
 ...to "Oh, Yum!"

Chrysanthemum Cupcakes! They were tasty, too!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jackpot!

Today, on a random run-through at my local Target store, i found some fantastic fixes for some trouble areas in our home. I could not believe the teacher supplies they had in the Dollar Spot! I bought an organizer for schedules, some little crayon scheduling cards, some flashcards about various subjects, and some cute reward stickers for when the kiddos apply themselves and deserve a little pat on the back.

Here's our schedule (the kids will turn their crayon around as they complete a task):

 

Then i wandered past the planners and such, and i found some fabulous organizational tools called "Organize Her." I got a magnetic mail sorter, a magnetic calendar/schedule for a week, a magnetic file sorter, a magnetic flip chart that holds 3 different papers in a flip-up style, and an important numbers magnetic sheet. All of these magnetic items match, by the way, so i look organized just at a glance! Of course, a clear-off of the front of the frig was in order, but after getting all that set up, i feel like i could actually use this system and NOT clutter up my kitchen!

Here's my organized Paper Sorting/Mailing/Bill Organizing Station:


So, this year is about getting a handle on my home and my day. My children will all be schooling for the first time this year, and i need to feel more capable of handling all their individual educational needs better. God has been so gentle with me up to this point, but i think i am ready to step out in obedience and discipline. Armed with the knowledge of what we're dealing with and where we're headed, i feel confident this year is going to be a wonderful year!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Life of Joseph - A Review!

"Walk with Joseph as he goes from a prince in Canaan to slavery in Egypt and then to the courts of Pharaoh. Your students will enjoy this engaging Bible study!

Follow Joseph as he travels from the tents of Jacob to the house of Potiphar and eventually becomes second in command to Pharaoh. Watch to see how Joseph reacts to slavery and false accusations. See how God uses difficult circumstances in Joseph’s life to prepare him to save thousands of people, including those who mistreated him. Joseph’s story is one of betrayal, forgiveness, and restoration. Take a look at this fascinating Bible story today!

Multi-Level Book: Designed for ages 7 and up
~ Grapevine Studies
 
I recently received a copy of the Joseph Multi-Level Bible Study by Grapevine Studies to use and review in anticipation of its launch on August 1st. As always, I just love using their units! With the recent knowledge of my oldest two children's learning barriers, the units from Grapevine Studies mean even more - because it is something they can do.

The first thing I noticed about the Joseph study was that it is set up like a time line. That is a fabulous discovery for me because I recently became aware that my children do not understand what a time line is (even though we have done them in the past in our schooling).

The next thing I discovered while working through the study with my children was that it was quite thorough! This was no fluff story of Joseph; this was a Biblical account of how his life happened. And beautifully woven into the study about Joseph were review questions intended to help children process what they had learned, both about Joseph and about God's character. That sort of lesson is priceless to me. We have so much to learn about God if we are going to learn to trust Him in times of trouble - as Joseph undoubtedly knew.

As always, the Grapevine Studies units require very little in the way of supplies: a Bible, a dry erase board and dry erase markers of varying colors (they suggest 8), a copy each of the teacher book and the student book (multiple student books if you are working with multiple children like I am), and some colored pencils. The Multi-Level lessons are easy for children of many ages to complete (my 4-year-old gave it a shot, though she was less able to reproduce recognizable drawings than she was to retell the story), and there is usually something mixed in that even I didn't know. (Bonus!)

As this lesson will take us several weeks to complete, I will say that we are not finished with the unit as I write this review. However, it pleases me that we have a few more weeks to learn about Joseph as a family because my children seem to enjoy this study immensely. As I was perusing the ending sections this evening, my son was standing behind me, captivated by the simple stick-figure drawings, asking questions like "who is that?" and "what are they doing?" He is fairly anti-school, so that is a really good sign!


*Disclaimer: I was given a copy of the Joseph Bible Study at no cost to me by Grapevine Studies for the purposes of this review. A positive review was not necessary, just deserving.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summertime Silliness!

By about this time of the summer, the kids are a bit heat-weary, and everyone is less enthused about the outside stuff than they were in May. Coincidentally, this is also the time of the summer that Target begins to mark their summer fun stuff down. You know what that means: time for a trip to Target!

We recently stocked up on bubbles, sidewalk chalk, water blasters, and soaker balls in an attempt to drag out the summer fun for at least another week or so. With 100-degree days fading into one another with little respite, we've learned to make the most of the water fun we can engage in in our front yard. (Three kids and sunblock do not a happy mommy make, so we stay close to home.)

Slamming each other with splashy balls of water, running amok around the yard in an all out Water War, and sticking our butts over the sprinkler are all ways we enjoy a good cooling off in the afternoon.When evening arrives, the sidewalk chalk, balls, and bicycles come out... and an occasional Popsicle doesn't hurt either!

Happy Summer Silliness, y'all!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Faithful Father

Not a single person on earth is faultless. Not one is without error, sin, faults; whatever you want to call 'em, we've all got 'em! So, here i sit in my comfortable life, messing up with the best of 'em, and my Heavenly Father remains faithful.

I screw up. Sometimes terribly. Yet He forgives.
I make mistakes. Sometimes huge ones. Yet He forgives.
And even better than that forgiveness, at least to someone like me, is His teachings. He never lets me escape the opportunity for a lesson. I yearn for and appreciate those lessons sometimes!! Other times... not so much. But, He is faithful to provide just exactly what i need, even when i don't know what that is.

How anyone can live a life without knowing Him is beyond me. He is the very Air i breathe, the One to whom i can turn when i am struggling, the Nourishment to my soul, the Rest in times of trouble.

There is nothing this world can put me through that i cannot endure with the help of the One who created me. He is faithful. He is the best Father a girl could have.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Value of Good Health

I'm really struggling with something lately: How do i put a price tag on my child's health and well-being?

Let's say, for just a moment, that i found out my child had cancer (God forbid!). Let's then assume, for the sake of this conversation, that my insurance doesn't cover the treatment. Further, the treatment is just over $5,000 and will take weekly therapy for 8-12 months. What would i do? Quite obviously, i would treat my child to get rid of the cancer!

Now, imagine the health concern is merely that her eyes don't function properly. I don't mean she needs glasses; i mean, she has eyes that do not operate physically the way they are supposed to and it interferes with her brain's ability to understand what she is seeing. Basically, she sees everything as if her eyes operate independently of one another, and her brain thinks she is seeing double (and that is really only one of the problems).

That may not seem life-threatening, and certainly, she'll not die of this condition. But imagine for a moment that you see every set of words as if there are two of them and they slightly overlap. Now go read for an hour a day. Do 30 minutes of math every day. Write interesting and grammatically correct essays every week. Right. That's what i thought. Not just a nuisance, but a real handicap in school.

However, we truly cannot afford the treatment. Besides which, our son needs the same treatment, so multiply that figure by two. And just like when we treat cancer, there is no guarantee. It is a great likelihood that they will walk away "cured" of their vision development problems forever! But it is also possible they cannot be fixed completely. Helped, but not necessarily "cured."

So my struggle is that i feel like i am putting a price tag on my children's future. It is all well and good to say "we couldn't afford to send him to karate" or "we never had the money for her to pursue dance" when we reach graduation day. But, folks, how do i look at my children each day for the rest of my life and accept that i did not help them SEE.

God, only You can help me with this dilemma. Only You know my heart AND my situation. Please direct my path and focus my heart on You.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Follow the Leader

I've generally been a follower. I don't care to lead, and i don't want the responsibility of being in charge, so i have been mostly content to be a sheep most of my life. Baa!

Then i became a mama.
Most women have a hidden 'switch' (for lack of a better word) that is activated at the birth of our first child. We blossom into selfless, nurturing, dedicated leaders. The little bundle depends on us, and we generally rise to the occasion beautifully. Oh, sure, we have our fair share of speed bumps, but, being women, we fuss and carry on, learning to do better next time.

Which brings me back to my point: we become leaders. If the doctor won't take us seriously, we'll do our own darn research. If the teacher won't understand our child, we'll find our own blasted answers. If the child needs guidance that is far from accepted by mainstream America, we'll become Pioneers in our own right.

We lead because we are wise enough to know when we have to.

And if there is one thing i have learned in recent years, it is that i have to follow God in order to be a good leader to my children. If i listen to that still, small voice He put inside this mama's heart, i find the most amazing truths about my kids. It is only when i allow myself to get distracted by the world - or by my flawed expectations - that i stumble in frustration upon the bumps in the road.

Time again to follow the leader. I needed that reminder tonight.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Getting what i wanted... kind of

So, a year ago, i saw some red flags in my son, obsessively pursued the nauseatingly abundant resources on the subjects of childhood disorders, disabilities, and syndromes, and have exhausted myself and others with my relentless determination to NAME the THING that is WRONG with MY CHILD. Are you hearing me?? I wanted that darned thing CALLED OUT. Out in the open. Titled. Exposed. After all, i reasoned, i can't fight something if i don't know what i'm up against. Right?

Well, finally, after months of researching, labeling, contemplating, re-labeling, and trying things from various angles, i got that coveted appointment with the pediatric neurologist. I marched in there, armed with all the things that were amiss in my child, determined that i be taken seriously. And i was. He was inquisitive, patient, and painstakingly thorough. My son walked, ran, trotted, bent, twisted, and counted for the good doctor. He closed his eyes and operated his arms and hands. He tolerated the doctor's touches and prods. He answered the questions honestly and openly.

At the end of the evaluation (a full 45 minutes, folks!), the doctor says my son has low serotonin levels causing mild OCD. Come again? OCD? That was NOT one of the things i 'diagnosed' my child with over these past 11 months! Well, apparently, God will give you what you asked for... just not exactly how you think you'll get it. I thought i'd get a diagnosis that would send us to therapy. I didn't. I thought the answer would 'make it all make sense' right away. It didn't. I thought naming the problem would be the Ah-Ha! moment i wanted it to be. It wasn't.

But in my further research (yes, the doctor indicated there was little to be done beyond medication, so i am reading, reading, reading!{Read: obsessing}), i have learned that this diagnosis does make sense. It is the answer i am looking for. And it is supplying that Ah-Ha! moment i was looking for. I can tell you this much: OCD in children is very different than what you (or i) always thought. And now that i know, i am doing things a bit differently. And my son is already showing signs of thriving!! Yay! Go, God!!

I wanted an answer.
I wanted some direction.
I wanted some tools.
They aren't proving to be that easy, but i am getting there - with the help of God, the Creator of my precious child, we will persevere. And we will have a success story on the other side of this mountain!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Can We Talk?

Remember Joan Rivers saying, "Can we talk?" in that smoker's, accented voice? I think about that sometimes when i wonder if my kids know they can talk to me about anything. As a kid, i remember knowing when i screwed up, but never really getting positive feedback. Sadly, i seem to have adopted that parenting style myself.

I struggle with a critical nature, and that must make it tough for my kids to share their innermost struggles or feelings. I have been focusing on it more, and trying to retrain myself. My 11-year-old and i are fighting our way through this right now: i'm trying to learn patience, watch my tone, and encourage her as much as i criticize; and she's trying to find her way (as well as tolerate me). :)

Recently, my son and i have been dialoging quite a bit about his behavioral concerns. I have tried bringing up my concerns and asking him questions whenever we have time alone. Tonight, i found how much progress we have made when the other kids were sleeping and Daddy was out and he opened up the communication lines about his behavior: how it makes him feel, during and after, and why he thinks that is, as well as some ideas he has for what his problems might be. For an eight-year-old, he had some mature insights.

It was a beautiful thing, though, to hear his heart, to know he thinks about these things and wants to share them with me, and especially that he was confident that he could come to me to ask for my help. It also cemented why it is so important to have quality alone time, even for just a few minutes, with each child every day. It is far too easy to let the day get away from us and not make that effort, but nothing worth having is ever easy, right? And the beaten-down path is never really the one we want. 

So, i'm going to struggle up the less-traveled path, machete in hand, making my way through the obstacles, and building relationships with my children above all else. Outta be quite the adventure! :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finding the Balance

It would be so easy to set up a 'school' at home and follow a schedule so that all educational pursuits would be completed before we play... except it isn't.

It would be so simple to have a room in which everything 'home school' lived and all our home schooling took place in that room and it would be organized and schooling-friendly... except it didn't work.

It would be totally marvelous to have all my children reading everyday and learning so much from books that they develop into lifelong learners and passionate readers... except they don't learn best that way.

Like most things in life, when i peer over the fence into someone else's life, i find myself longing for pieces that work for them to work so wonderfully for me. But it isn't that simple.

When i keep a perfect school schedule, my house is a wreck, the laundry piles up, and dinner is a combination of convenience and junk.

When i keep a tidy house, the schooling gets behind and the kids get ignored.

So, when i strive for balance, it looks a little more like this: a bit of school, followed by a bit of housework and play, followed by some routine time together and meals, followed by a bit of school and time with friends, then a home-cooked meal with the family and time outside before reading and bedtime.

Is it the perfect way? No, of course not. There is lots that can be tweaked. But is it the way that is working RIGHT NOW to give us some balance? Yup. And right now? Balance is more important than academics OR organization!

Find YOUR Just-Right-For-Right-Now Balance.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Saving and Serving! Woohoo!

Yesterday after church, my son (who is not what you'd call 'enthusiastic' about church) informed me that he needed to bring in some shoes to donate to the kids in Japan. He said he wanted to bring the most shoes so he could win the movie tickets the church is raffling off for the kids who participate in the shoe drive. 

I immediately thought of my favorite Super Shoe Savings tip: Rack Room Shoes' CLEARANCE aisle!! They typically have shoes back there for $3-$5 a pair, and i knew i could "RACK" up (pun intended). PLUS, i had a coupon for 20% OFF a $60 purchase, so i decided i needed to get $60 worth of shoes before we even went. 

Tonight, i ran through there with the eldest after meeting Daddy for dinner, and we set out to "RACK" up! OH!! THE FUN!! We had the cashier AND the manager caught up in our enthusiasm by the time we got to $60! (by the way, the Clearance Aisle items are good for the BOGO 50% Sale, peeps!!)

Altogether, we purchased 20 pairs of shoes, never paid more than $4 for a pair (and only one was that high) and got one pair for $0.80 - we got clearance shoes + BOGO 50% OFF + 20% off each pair and we spent $50 WITH TAX.

I couldn't wait to share my sale-stackin' coupon-clippin' shoe-shoppin' EXTRAVAGANZA with my readers. THAT, folks, is Saving WHILE Serving. GOD is GOOD.

[Thank You, Jesus, for the opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful experience. You could have done this without me, but to share it with me and let me share it with my daughter is a priceless experience, and not likely one we'll forget. Praise and Glory to God!]

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

God-Given Gifts

It's easy for some to know what their God-given gifts are. My husband has a computer for a brain, so he is fantastic with computers. {grin}

For me, i have struggled. Over the years i have been told my gifts are in working with children. Ehh... not so much lately. I have also been told i should open a restaurant. Umm... i'm too lazy/picky/chicken/pick one. Then, there's the writing. I've been told i should write children's books. Yeah, well, they're only as good as the illustrator, and that's not my thing, so.... I used to write the newsletter for my small church and they loved it, but it has since closed its doors, so that's that.

Well, so i have this blog. I love to write. (You didn't know that, did you?) I have a lot of opinions. (Kept that a secret, didn't i?) And, i'm starved for an intellectual outlet as a stay-at-home mother of three.

If you put all that together, you MIGHT get one of my God-given gifts: writing... about/for/to benefit children. Maybe. I dunno. BUT - i did it. I wrote a "Letter to the Editor" (i know, i feel like a retired lady with too much time on her hands - no offense!!), and i attempted to shine a little light on Sensory Processing Disorder. After submitting it, i didn't think about it again.

Then it was published. I know it was because i got an email. Then another. Then another. Then another. So i found the letter online, and i decided to share it far and wide. It doesn't answer a bunch of questions about SPD, but it gives a glimpse for people who just don't know that people around them are dealing with this.

If you feel like it, hop on over and have a read. Otherwise, i'll try to entertain you better next time you stop in. :)
http://www.tennessean.com/article/20110328/WILLIAMSON07/303280016/Childhood-disorder-greatly-misunderstood

Many blessings for all of you on the journey.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Aha!: That Magical Moment

I have days when i wonder what i'm doing homeschooling.  Okay, i can't lie, i have weeks like this.  They are scattered about hither and yon, they scurry into hiding places when i try to meet them head-on, they jump out and take me by surprise when i'm not paying attention, but mostly, they make me feel like a failure.

Who do i think i am, teaching these kids?

What makes me think i can accomplish such a lofty goal when i have dozens of unfinished projects laying about?

Why would i add to my already-heaping plate such a tremendous task (times 3!)?

Well, today i got the reminder, the answer to all those questions and more.

My eldest had 'a morning' (she's 11 - use your imagination).
My son required constant reminders (he's 8, so he still loves to play).
My youngest was in 'a mood' (she's 4 and a bit emotional, so...).
We had an extra child today, and she was apparently feeding on our moods (yay: sharing!).

After a lengthy (and exhausting) pep talk with the eldest, lovingly but firmly reminding her of her responsibilities to herself, her education, her family, and God, i poured my energy into the younger kids and left her in the Lord's hands.

That means we got lunch made, we worked on phonics and math (teacher-directed math with 3 kids is no small feat, let me tell you!), and we tidied the living room (i even dusted!).  The eldest arrived downstairs for her i-feel-better-now-Mommy embrace, and we moved on.

So when did i get my answer, you ask??
When my daughter went to God with a clear understanding of her problems and came back focused and content.

When my son learned to round to the tens place and said, "but when there's one that's halfway between the two numbers, like '5' - then what?" before i could even tell him the rule. (yay: critical thinking!)

When my youngest counted the bumps on the math blocks in order to answer me when i asked 'which one is the number 4?'

As if all that wasn't enough, my eldest needed help with her math after lunch, so she came to me with her problem and when i explained it, she said, "that's all? I thought it was a lot more complicated than that!"

Oh, how i love That Magical Moment of Aha!
I guess that's why i teach my own kids - i'm good at giving them Aha! moments and i love to witness them.  God sure knows how to counter my concerns.  What a beautiful day it's turning out to be!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Would You Like Cream With That?

Generally, yes. Until recently, that is.

You see, all my adult life, i have suffered from sensitive skin, so not only was shaving cream necessary to a good shave (yes, THAT kind of cream), but specifically the kind for sensitive skin to ease my pain.

Apparently, i have a skin condition that causes aggravation of the hair follicles, and shaving makes this worse.  So, i have vacillated between intermittent shaving and complete boycott of the practice.  Generally, the boycott takes place in the winter, so no need to be alarmed.

Well, on our recent vacation, i forgot to pack my razor.  It was still winter, so no biggie.  Oh, except for the fact that i was traveling to FLORIDA.  Yeah, um, gonna need that razor after all!  Off to the store i went... where there was a ridiculously pitiful selection (i discovered after i returned that Publix doesn't stock razors in the health and beauty aisle, but keep in mind that i didn't know this during that visit) which included bare-bones, bottom-of-the-line straight razors, cheapies in Woman-On-The-Go packs, and the BOMB: the Gillette Venus Spa Breeze razor for women.  (You know about my disturbed hair follicles, so you can guess which one i chose. Yep, the Cadillac of razors sailed into my basket despite the wince-inducing price tag!)

Upon taking that baby for a test-drive, i learned a marvelous (surprise!) factoid: no shaving cream required! (i know, i know, i should really have read the packaging.)  Alrighty, then, that makes the $10 price tag a bit more justifiable (hey, i told you it was the Caddy)!!  Bonus!

Upon returning home, i figured it would stay in the traveling bag for future trips (never forgetting a razor again!).  However, i kept thinking about how unsafe it would be to leave it in the bag that stays at the bottom of my linen closet... so, i put it on the sink and there it has lived

Until today.

I needed a quick shave to dress for the lovely sunshine-y weather we are currently enjoying (enter: Intermittent Phase), and i spied the 'Breeze - old friend!  And i have to say, it is so much easier and faster to shave with a razor that provides its own cream - no more doing the Shower Shave Dance!  You know the one?? Where you lather up one leg then carefully avoid the steady stream of water coming off the shower head so you can shave every spot before the shaving cream washes away - all while hanging practically upside down with one leg hiked in the air and staying close enough to the spray to rinse the razor in between swipes and keeping your rear and back in the water so you don't freeze? Yep, The Shower Shave Dance! :^)

Well, with the Gillette Venus Spa Breeze, dance no more!! Just SHAVE, doggone it!  Be fast! Be free! Be smooth! Without the cream. (Sorry, Skintastic!)

* i received no compensation for this post. This post is my own opinion (though possibly the exact opinion of others) and i purchased my Venus razor with my husband's hard-earned money. :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tasty Tuesday

Some of my blogging friends are doing a series called "Tasty Tuesday" in which we share recipes with our readers.  Since i LOVE to cook, it seemed like something i should take time to do... but which recipe?? Hmmm.

Okay, here's a simple one for those of you who have dairy troubles like we do, and it involves YOUR family favorites!

Chicken Pot Pie
Ingredients:
Canned or cooked chunked chicken
Chicken broth of choice
Cornstarch
Canned and drained or frozen and thawed mixed veggies
Biscuit dough or recipe of choice
(quantities are left out because this is so easy to adjust to your family's size)

So, taking all your favorites (mine are canned chicken from Costco, Organic Better Than Bouillon Chicken Flavor, canned veggies, and homemade biscuits from America's Test Kitchen Cookbook), you assemble this simple meal in a cast-iron skillet (or deep 12-inch skillet with lid) and dinner is served in under an hour (half an hour if you're really efficient in the kitchen)!

Mix or pour chicken broth into warm skillet.  Whisk in cornstarch (this makes the "cream of" chicken base) and allow to thicken (not like gravy, but almost like a thick stew).  Add chunked chicken, veggies, and salt/pepper to taste (with the Better Than Bouillon, i don't add salt).  Allow mixture to come to a simmer and drop biscuit dough or formed biscuits onto bubbly liquid.  Cover and allow to simmer on low for 20-30 minutes or until biscuits are cooked through.  Serve and enjoy!

I like this meal because it uses pantry staples and no perishables so i can always whip it together for dinner at the last minute (that's actually how i came up with it!).  Plus, when hubby walks in the door, the kitchen smells good and he would never know that i didn't have a plan for dinner until 4:45 that evening! Shh! ;)

Go check out the other Tasty Tuesday entries by clicking HERE.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What is Forgiveness?

In teaching my children about World War II, i have discovered a newfound passion for the topic.  I recall sitting in fifth grade civics class, watching videos of the atrocities of the Holocaust: the concentration camps, the gas chambers, the starvation and wasting away, the devastating separation of families.  Now, as a suburban mother in a middle-income American home, i am deeply moved by all that i did not even understand back then (and i understood more than some of my peers did).

This week, i have been watching the documentary, Forgiving Dr. Mengele, which is about a surviving twin of horrific scientific experimentation at Auschwitz.  In the documentary, there is quite a rage about her decision to forgive the Germans, the Nazis, and the doctor who was the perpetrator of the heinous crimes committed against her and her sister.  The outcry reminds me that a great many people, religious and non-religious alike, seem to have a misconception (or at least no full comprehension) of the meaning of true forgiveness.

Forgiveness is something God requests of us. And He knows what He is about when He asks it: without true forgiveness, we become bitter, angry, hateful, but also suffocated by our innermost injuries.  Our souls cannot handle unforgiveness... it is not God's way.  But many people don't realize that the body cannot handle it either.  Stress kills brain cells, destroys organs, causes ulcers, and raises blood pressure, among other things.

I had an experience a few years ago in which God asked me to call my stepmom and apologize for being a snot as a child and young adult, and He asked that i request forgiveness.  Now, if you know anything about my childhood, you would likely respond as others did: "why should YOU ask THEM for forgiveness when they were the adults and you were the child??!"  The simple answer is: because God told me i needed to repent - He lovingly showed me the errors of my own ways and encouraged me to follow His way.  When i followed God, He opened a door to a real and lasting relationship with my parents for the first time in my life.  My stepmother also asked forgiveness in that telephone call, and she is now a precious part of my life.  There is more to the story, but suffice it to say, real forgiveness has taken root, and it wasn't through my own strength that it happened; God led the way... i simply obeyed.

In addition, forgiveness is not something we do because anyone deserves it.  Do you deserve to be forgiven when you lie?  When you cheat?  When you lose your temper?  When you curse?  There isn't always a deserving heart on the other end of forgiveness, but i thank God that He doesn't wait for me to deserve His grace and forgiveness.  We forgive because God forgives.  Not based on any appropriate battery of tests a person completes to show his/her remorse.

Some members of my family are also confused about this topic: some think that forgiveness can't take place unless requested by the perpetrator, or that the victim has to contact the perpetrator to inform him/her of the forgiveness taking place, or even that forgiveness is akin to "moving on" and "letting bygones be bygones."  Unfortunately, as a survivor of sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, and abandonment, i have a painful history that i don't care to repeat - but i can forgive without putting myself in similar situations, without letting myself be 'taken in' by an abuser again, and i can protect myself without wanting any harm to come of the abuser.

That's the final piece i find people don't understand fully: what does it mean to no longer want harm to come to the perpetrator?  Well, in our basic human nature, we are geared to want the 'eye for an eye' method of justice.  However, if each of us was to exact his/her own revenge, a few things would happen: we would never see the situation clearly enough to exact the perfect punishment, we would be limited in our methods of punishment for the offense(s), and mostly, we would damage our own souls with the harm we inflict on others.

If you think you can harm someone (even mentally, with your thoughts of revenge) without repercussions, you are ignoring your conscience (not to mention the Holy Spirit, if you're a Christian) and denying your own pain.  I can't think about the times i have lost my temper with my children without pain and remorse, much less inflicting harsh words or actions on someone on purpose.

Overall, forgiveness is a complex issue that God will be glad to help us understand.  But understand it we must; only our own selves are harmed by our inability or unwillingness to forgive.  I hope you'll heal in this way, if not today, then soon.  There is freedom on the other side, but forgiveness is the bridge.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Got Garden??

Yesterday, the kids got the hair-brained idea to dig up the old (read "ignored"), overgrown garden and plant flowers in it. The last week of sunshine and nice temps has really motivated them to start up the gardening again, and i had a tough time saying "no" - so, i didn't. :^) 

So, 2 hours later, we had tired backs, weak muscles, a giant trash bag full of weeds, and a beautiful little garden where once a nightmare had been.  This morning, i had to go out back and look at it just to appreciate all our hard work again.  Now, maybe we'll be able to control ourselves until we can plant the veggies!

$6 for organic garden soil (we only needed a little on top) + $7 in fresh pansies of many colors + elbow grease and determination = perfect!

(you may not know what it looked like before this shot, but i do... and what an improvement!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Self-Centered by Default?

So, the kids and i have discovered this fabulous game called The Scrambled States of America. We LOVE playing (okay, The Littlest Princess is left out, but we try to include her some) and the kids are actually learning a bit about the U.S. States in the process!

Just the other day, my son's workbook wanted him to use a map of the United States (included in the workbook) to write down each State's capital city. Okay, fine... except he couldn't find Hawaii where he thought it should be and Alaska was nowhere near where he had begun learning it should be.

Then, in trying to locate a Southwestern State, he says, "oh, New Mexico is by the Pacific Ocean!"
Huh?
I walk over and look at his book, explaining, "no, son, New Mexico is right above Mexico..." only to notice that THERE WAS NO MEXICO ON HIS MAP. (or Canada, for that matter)

Well, no wonder other countries think the United States is so self-absorbed: we teach our children that we are on our own giant island and all alone over here! Good grief, my poor second-grader was confused that what he thought he was learning was actually NOT the whole story.

Yes, son, there are other countries out there, and they have people living in them much like we do... and we do not occupy our own continent here in the U.S. of A. - hence, the "of A" part. Sheesh!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weary of Winter

Last summer, we began a tedious journey through a difficult season in our lives: family trials coupled with unprecedented numbers of illnesses in our home have just about driven me batty.  So, after a frayed rotator cuff in my right arm (why i don't blog as often anymore), the discovery of a couple of possible learning disabilities in my kiddos (not covered by our insurance, naturally, so we're on our own), two stomach viruses (TWO!!), possible RSV that led to pneumonia (myself and the Littlest Princess), bronchitis (hubby), and an ear infection (the Man-Child)... i was deeply touched to be sent the "Stylish Blogger Award" by a friend from my reviewing days on The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Homeschool Crew!  Wow! I needed that reminder that there is life out there and i used to be a part of it!!

Thank you, Heather!! :^) Check out her awesome site at http://faithfamilyandfun.com/
I don't know how she does it, but there is always something new and inspiring going on over there!

The rules for this award:
~ Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
~ Share 7 things about yourself
~ Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers (not gonna happen here, unfortunately)
~ Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award

Okay, 7 things about myself...
... i recently discovered that i am an idealist, which means it is hard to tackle normal things like parenting and homeschooling because i can see a bigger, brighter concept and i try to aim at it - only to get disappointed when i achieve something not-quite-so-stellar. {sigh}
... i am a servant most of the time, but i get crotchety on occasion and forget - that's never good when i am coming back down the other side of Me-Me-Me Mountain (oh, the guilt!!). :^)
... i always wanted a half-dozen kids - up until i had one and realized that i can't possibly stretch myself that thin (remember the idealist, folks!). Now, i try to remember to enjoy the three i have!
... i successfully managed my own home garden for the first time last year and am looking forward to doing more this year. (yup, surprised a few people who had watched my earlier attempts, i can tell you that!)
... i really like to read, a passion that began when i was in 7th grade (i devoured most of what my school library had in the mystery section by the time i left for high school). I now use PaperBack Swap to procure my books at a more reasonable price (though parting with good books has been a challenge i have finally begun to overcome!).
... i love to sew and a dream home for me would have space for me to store all my sewing materials as well as space for me to leave projects laying about while i am working on them.
... i have a nephew in Heaven with Jesus and i can't wait to see him again (will he still be 4months old in Heaven, i wonder, or will we see the young man he would have become??).

And the "Stylish Blogger Award" goes to (i'm breaking the rules because i don't currently follow 15 blogs and some of the ones i do follow got this award already):
~ Tonya Lee over at Homeschool or Bust - she amazes me with her homeschooling, and i know we only see a glimmer of it on her blog.
~ Caitlin at Welcome to Normal - what an inspiration she is! I get caught up in her blog and have to limit my visits so i can get other stuff done.
~ Loving Learning at Home - there is so much going on over there, i seriously think she has a clone!
~ Just discovered Encouragement Along the Way (again), and i am loving her wisdom and honesty!
~ Debbie over at Debbie's Homeschool Corner amazes me again and again. She is a remarkable woman and Homeschool Mama!!

Okay, sorry, folks, that's all i've got; I need to get off the computer!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy New Year!

Well, it's a new year, it's a new day, it's a new YOU! Or is it??

I take issue with New Year's Resolutions in general because i feel that if it's worth resolving to do it, it's worth starting NOW, not on some arbitrary square on the calendar .  However, i understand... mostly.

After the holiday festivities involving too many meals with too many calories and too little exercising because of too little sun, it can sure seem like that magical day on the calendar brings with it a new resolve: to do something differently.

For me, i am trying to get a grasp of my children's hang-ups so i can find the sweet spot that will lead to less conflict.  I am also trying to get healthier, both by increasing my daily activity levels and by watching my junk food consumption (neither of which comes easily, i might add).  I also want to declutter the house enough to make it less of a chore to keep clean - no, not tidy; we're not that family. But clean would be nice.

What have you resolved to do??