Tuesday, December 20

One way to honor your spouse for Christmas (or why there were mice in my fridge)

Sometimes my husband feels like he takes a back seat to my kids...and a lot of time he's right.  It's easy to do when you have little ones that require so much of your attention and assistance throughout the day.  Lately my kids have been very mommy-needy.  That coupled with all that we've gone through this year, has been leaving my husband feeling a little neglected lately.  With Christmas right around the corner (which is usually focused more on our kids) I wanted to do something special for him.

I read a blog, though now I can't remember which one, about doing a 12 days of Christmas for your spouse.  I thought that sounded like a great idea!  So I set off at the beginning of December to figure out how I could make this work on a VERY meager budget.  So far it has been a HUGE hit with my husband and it's been lots of fun for me!

I'll post after the holidays with the full 12 days, but wanted to share with you about what I did yesterday.  Yesterday was day 7 (Christmas Eve will be day 12 as we open gifts on Christmas Eve).  And here is what he got...

The card says, "7 mice (and no your wife didn't turn into a cat)".
He had no clue these cute little chocolate cherry mice were peering out from our refrigerator :)

It hasn't been the most elaborate thing I've ever done and most of the "gifts" have been token things (a toast with our wedding flutes and sparkling cider or a walk through the Rhema Christmas lights), but the thought behind it (according to the hubs) has been the cool part!  We have gotten to take this chance to look back on some of the things we've done with one another since we started dating almost 7 years ago and it's been nice to have that time to reconnect during this busy season :)

Monday, December 19

Pressing On

I feel like every time I get on here to write I think about how crazy our life is right now.  Throughout the day I think, "things will slow down after xyz is over" or "after I finish xyz we can relax"...only to realize that after xyz comes abc and we start a crazy season all over again.  I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that life is just that busy.  There are things we could stop doing that would slow us down a little, but we feel that the things we're doing right now are exactly the things God wants us doing.  That includes a pretty big change that will be taking place for our family within the next few weeks.

We're moving.

I don't have time or the energy to go into all the details leading up to this decision, not right now anyway.  I am working on a longer post about the journey God has had us on the last 6-9 months, but for now we just wanted to let everyone know what's going on with us.  And answer a few questions we've been getting lately :)

No, we don't know exactly where we are moving yet or the exact dates of our move.

We will be moving into a rental, but will still be in the Tulsa area.

Hopefully tomorrow we will know more concrete details as we are hoping the application process for the duplex we're looking at will be complete.  We are praying that God orchestrates this move for next week, but we know that we will be out of this house by the middle of January at the very latest.  We would certainly appreciate any prayers you can send up for us as we make this transition.  Also, our oldest has an appointment with the developmental pediatrician for more testing on January 4th and we'd love prayers for that also!  Hope to be back soon to share more about this journey!

Thursday, December 15

S'more Trail Mix...good enough for frazzled mommy's everywhere

Things around here have been CRAZY busy the last week or so.  I promise I'll update more on that soon, but I wanted to pop over and write a short post on how one frazzled mama was able to giver herself 15 minutes of quiet (to do dishes).

My youngest is 13 months old and has been teething almost non-stop for the last 2 months.  Normally he's a real trooper!  Today, however, circumstances got the best of him.  A morning running errands, an itchy rash on the back of his head, and a very late nap time all conspired against him today.  It all added up to one super clingy baby who refused to take a nap.  Did I mention that he has also hit that wonderful milestone where he wants to climb up and down and up and down on every.single.thing.in.sight?  Oy.  Unfortunately, I was in desperate need of getting some dishes done and working on a final assignment for school.  What is that quote?  "Necessity is the mother of invention?"  And thus was born...drum roll please...indoor s'more trail mix :)

Took out two bowls (one for each child), threw in a handful of honey nut cheerios, a few mini marshmallows, and some mini chocolate chips (though I would recommend regular size ones for this in the future).  Mixed it up and...voila!  My children were happily occupied for 20 minutes without a single peep!  Quite the feat considering our issues today.  The best was that I was able to quickly get some dishes done and get myself that much closer to "daddy home" time!

**Note** This is not the kind of thing I would normally feed my children nor would I make this a constant source of snacks.  The last two days have seen LOTS of car time and both of them have done amazingly well!  We all needed a treat and some quiet.

Tuesday, November 29

30 Days of thankfulness...Day 29

As this project draws to a close, my last two are two things that are thankfulness concepts God has been working in me for quite some time.  It's really been quite amazing the journey he is taking us on with these issues and I'm so excited to see where He will lead us in the future!

Day 29: I am so thankful that God has given our family a vision to reach out to those less fortunate.

Now...I realize that might sound cliche as many people make efforts to reach out to others during the holiday season.  What I'm thankful for is that God has given me a passion for this work.  It's difficult and draining to serve meals on Friday nights (you can read more about that here), it's uncomfortable to drive around downtown and trying to figure out who is homeless to talk to them, and it's not popular to give your Christmas money to someone else.  However, these are things that my husband and I have felt are very important for our family.

That means, that this year we will take what we would have spent on gifts and use that to bless others through organizations like Compassion International, Gospel for Asia, Samaritan's Purse, and OK Foster Wishes.  We will still get one gift for each child and we make gifts for one another.  We buy presents for our 2 nieces and do a children's gift exchange with parts of our families, but we aren't buying for adults this year.  I want to say right here that this doesn't mean that is what is right for your family or that you don't care about others if you don't do/feel led in this way.  This is just what works for us and what we feel called to do with our family...and it has been such a blessing to change what Christmas looks like for us!  [There is more to this story than I care to share on here, but if you are interested in the journey that got us here I'd be more than happy to talk to you about it!]

Tuesday, November 22

30 Days of Thankfulness...day 19-21

**Note: I couldn't bring myself to finish this post yesterday, but this has really been my "thankfulness" for the last few days.  Sorry for the tardiness of the post, but it doesn't negate the amazingness :)**

Today I am, as my friend Heidi said, "just thankful"!

Last Friday my husband and I drove downtown to participate in outreach to our city's homeless community.  We have gone several times (try to make it at least twice a month) and have begun to foster relationships with some of these people.  We go down and feed them, worship with them, pray with them, and hand out needed items (clothes, toiletries, underwear, socks, etc).  Every single time we drive home feeling like we don't deserve all that we have.

It is so easy to dismiss these people and assume they all made bad choices, are habitual drug users, are lazy, or a myriad of other stereotypes that just don't pan out when you actually hear there stories.  Yes, there are those that use drugs and those that have mental problems.  Some of them might be lazy and have made bad choices.  But they are people first and foremost.  They have hearts and feelings and emotions and needs and desires just like the rest of us.

Serving these men, women, and children (do you know how heartbreaking it is to serve babies and small children?) has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done!  To see the genuine gratitude in their faces over something as simple as potato soup and crackers.  Or to see the smile when you actually shake their hand...you can't help but be touched by these souls.

I've begun to see how close we all are (yes, even you) to being in the same position as these people.  How the simplest of circumstances can alter someone's life forever.  And it's an incredibly sobering experience.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to get to know these people and I'm thankful that God is changing my heart because of it!

Thursday, November 17

30 Days of Thankfulness...Day 17

Today I am so thankful for nap time :)

I woke up this morning feeling just awful.  Thanks to God's strength I made it to naptime and a surprise call from my father-in-law allowed me to extend nap time for myself beyond the time my son woke up!  It was definitely needed and I am so thankful that I was able to take a nap today...as petty as that might sound.

Wednesday, November 16

30 Days of Thankfulness...Day 16

Today I am thankful for rest.  Today was a very crazy day, but I got to enjoy it with my husband and this evening we got to take a chance to just rest.  No running around loading the dish washer (though it needed it), not doing laundry (though I have 3 loads waiting to be put away), and not madly working on homework (though I will need to make up for it tomorrow).  We needed this!  To be able to relax and spend time not worrying about anything else but having fun as a family and a couple :)

Tuesday, November 15

30 Days of Thankfulness...Day 15

Today I am thankful for all the encouraging words that have been poured into my life giving me the peace to realize that, during this crazy busy season of life, I can let myself take it easy a little.  

While I'm in school (and finishing end of the semester projects), working part time, and caring for our house full of boys (including one big boy who is also in school)...I can give myself a little breathing room in ways I wouldn't normally.  Buying disposable items more often will save me when all the dishes still aren't done, using paper towels more often than dish rags will save an extra load of laundry, and planning simple meals will save me from meal planning every two weeks.  I normally wouldn't allow myself some of these comforts (especially the disposable stuff) and I'm sure there will still be times when I feel guilty about it, but I'm going to remember that it's only a season and it is benefiting our family in other ways and allowing us more time to spend as a family :)

Saturday, November 12

30 Days of Thankfulness...Day 12

Today I returned from an overnight women's retreat with the amazing women of our church!  Today I am so thankful for the women who went and even more so for our awesome God who (through the doubt and fears) brought us all together and then dug even deeper to allow us all the strength to open up to one another.  God used each and every one of those women and their comments, prayers, stories, and singing to build me up!  Something I really needed :)

So today I'm thankful for these amazing women and our even more amazing Heavenly Father who orchestrates it all to His glory!

Friday, November 11

30 Days of Thankfulness...Day 11

Before I start I just want to say that this project has been awesome at making me more aware of the things I am thankful for everyday!  I'm not perfect (thankful for that!) and haven't posted everyday, but letting myself have some slack has been necessary for this hectic time in our life.

That being said...I couldn't let today go by without expressing my thankfulness for my father-in-law!

My father-in-law, Jim, has been like a dad to me since James and I started dating.  Always there to help me keep James in line (hehehe), be a good listener, and love on our kids whenever possible.  He also served our country in Vietnam.  Knowing that he served in THAT war makes me all the more thankful.  He served at a time when it was extremely unpopular, he served without thanks or recognition, and he served his country...in two tours!  He served so my husband wouldn't have to, so my kids could have the freedoms they have today, and he did it all without a big welcome party when he came home...in fact with a welcome that we should all be ashamed of!  He is selfless and will always be a hero to me.
Today I am thankful for all of our veterans who have served our country, for those aren't "veterans" but who gave their time to our armed forces, and for the freedoms I enjoy because they fought.  Thank you!

[Special thanks also to our friends Ginger, David, Josh, and my granpas for their services to our country!]

Tuesday, November 8

30 Days of Thankfulness...Day 8

Today it is raining.  Last night we had another earthquake and a tornado warning along with the crazy rain storm moving through.  I've had only a handful of nights over the last week and a half that I have gotten 3 or more hours of consecutive sleep.  I'm tired, cranky, and stressed.  Finding something to be thankful for today was seeming impossible!  Mounting to-do lists, upcoming deadlines, and a general feeling of uneasiness have left me depleted and on auto-pilot.

And then Carter hit me.  This was NOT a good thing, he went directly to time out, but then something amazing happened...Carter started to cry and my little 1 year old Henry started to cheer him up.  Henry crawled over to Carter, then back to the office, shut the door, opened it, and crawled back out to Carter.  He did this over and over, playing peek a boo with his brother and both of them laughing hysterically!  It brightened my heart on this gloomy day to see my boys playing together and to see the compassion starting to blossom in Henry.  I can't think of something that would have been more touching or endearing to my heart this morning than hearing my boys playing together and laughing!

Today I am thankful, oh so thankful, for my children being so close in age and fostering such a beautiful friendship!

Monday, November 7

30 Days of Thankfulness...Day 4-7

I'm a little behind on my Thankfulness Project :)  It's for a good reason, I promise!

Day 4:
I'm thankful for technology!  Sounds weird, but without the advancements in technology I wouldn't have been able to see my brand new baby niece minutes after she was born (especially since we live 4 hour away)!  The gift of life is so precious and amazing and it was such a blessing to see her sweet little face and know everyone was doing well.

Day 5:
Thankful for safe travels for our family!  We left late Friday night to drive up and see my sister and her new baby.  We left late Saturday night to come home.  So glad that the trip was safe for our family and we arrived home a little sleep deprived and weary, but in one piece!

Day 6:
Thankful for healthy babies!  We take for granted the thousands of women (maybe more) who lose babies every day or have babies with major medical problems.  I firmly believe that God is in control of all situations, but I'm still thankful when he blesses our family with happy and healthy children.  We haven't been immune from problems with our children's births or from long-term medical problems, but I'm so thankful that they were pretty healthy at birth and that we live in a place where there are doctors with adequate training and equipment to help the ones that are sick.

Day 7...finally!

I am so thankful for my past.  

That might sound strange.  No...I didn't have a great childhood or a perfect high school experience.  However, all the pain and difficulties I endured during my formative years were knit together by God to make me the person I am today!  I had some amazing friends in high school and college that were such a blessing to me and helped me in ways they may never know (thank you...Shannon, Christin, Kristina, Tiffany, Catherine, Diana, Ben, Luke, Lacey, and James).  I owe a huge debt to these people (and I'm sure a few others who's names I can't remember right now) and I pray that God will bless their lives the way He has blessed mine through their friendships!

Thursday, November 3

30 Days of Thankfulness...Day 3

I really needed the reminder to be thankful today, even when it isn't easy!

The last 5 nights have been rough in our house.  4 out of the 5 have included my boys waking up throughout the night for various reasons (no water, wrong blankie, too cold, diarrhea, etc.) and last night was no different in that capacity.  What *WAS* different is that we couldn't get our youngest to stay asleep.  If we rubbed his back he would drift back to sleep only to immediately start crying if we stopped.  Somewhere in the hour long tag game between my husband and I, I got the idea that my "hungry Henry hippo" might be just that...hungry.  It was 1 am...we were tired...I was willing to try almost anything to figure out what was wrong.  So I gave him a piece of Chex cereal (one of his favorite snacks).  And he ate it...and then wanted more.

So here we were, both my husband and I (our oldest son woke up when we got Henry out of his crib as they share a room), sitting on the couch feeding banana to our kids.  Carter ate a half a banana and a few pieces of cereal and headed back to bed.  Henry finished 1 1/2 bananas and a bit of cereal and we put him back down also.  Miracle of all miracles--they slept the rest of the night!

As funny as this story is, there were definitely points when I was not just a little irritated that I was up at 1 am feeding my kid banana.  Points when I craved my bed (which I haven't seen much over the last few nights) and peace and quiet.  But upon waking this morning (not in the best of moods I might add) God reminded me why it's all worth it.
Carter found this hat of mine upon waking this morning and has been wearing it off and on all day :)
So today, on day 3 of my project...I am thankful for God's grace and provision.  

I am absolutely not sufficient on my own to raise my children.  I am an imperfect human being at best, but by God's grace and provision I am equipped to do a much better job of raising up these little men.  

Wednesday, November 2

30 Days of Thankfulness...Day 2

Today I am so thankful that God has given me such an amazing job!  I work one day a week at a local college doing what I LOVE...cooking :)

My job has been so rewarding.  Getting to know the students, hearing some amazing and touching stories about how God has worked amazing miracles in peoples lives, and being able to utilize what I feel is my one true gifting.  It seemed like such a quick and fluke type of thing for me to even get this job and then for child care and transportation and everything to fall into place so perfectly!  I know that God has me right where he wants me right now and is using this opportunity to grow me.  For all of that I am so thankful!

Tuesday, November 1

30 Days of Thankfulness...Day 1

I can't believe it's already November!  Where has the year gone!  This time last year we were just getting used to our new family of 4 and now my sons are 1 and 2, amazing how fast they grow :).  Someone on the radio today said that this was the official start of the holiday season and so I thought I would join my good friend Leah and everyone else participating with Thanks {squared} and do 30 Days of Thankfulness!

So to kick it off, here is day 1...

I am so thankful for my beautiful family!  My wonderful husband who works so hard for us and my two beautiful boys!

My cute little pirate!

After a long night of trick-or-treating sometimes you just have to sit back and relax with your boots on :)

My happy little cow...had a great attitude all night!

 Do you want to join us in giving thanks during the month of November?  Put up one thing each day that you are thankful for.  I'm going to try and post pictures as well, but if I miss a day I'm not going to stress!  This is about being thankful...not perfect ;)

Tuesday, October 18


I've been having a rough time these last few months.  Our schedules have been crazy, yes, but that's not the cause this time.  It's not the extra activities, commitments, or lack of time.  It's food.  More specifically it is trying to justify and convince myself that the way we are eating is right for our family.  It's about seeing the need in the world, the millions who live without enough food, and the homeless in my own city who go hungry more nights than they are fed.  It's about wrestling with all of these things when I look at how much money we now spend on groceries.  Don't get me wrong, for the size family we have we spend very little on groceries compared to most (and even less when you consider our dietary restrictions--currently that means gluten and milk intollerance).

It's becoming very difficult for me to reason spending so much money on our specialty diets since we don't have specific diagnoses from doctor's (we do on the milk, not gluten--though our doctor has noticed an improvement). It's hard for me to justify eating things that cost 2-3 times more than "normal" food and it has me second guessing the improvements we have seen in our families health.  I will admit that, as a family, we cheat.  My son...definitely not cheating (too much of a difference).  However, my husband and I...well, we aren't the most devout to our new dietary restrictions.  Maybe it's the frustration in having to explain it to people who think they know better what is healthy for us.  Maybe it's the huge associations we have between food and good memories (or any memories in some cases).

For me, I felt a few months ago that I could no longer tax our families meager food budget by continuing to eat gluten free (and I REALLY missed bread).  So I began buying flour tortillas and bread for myself to make sandwiches quickly during the day.  I eat off diet at least 2 meals almost every day (usually not dinner because I make it gluten free and I only cook 1 dinner).  I know that it will make me sick...I will have more headaches than usual, be more tired, and sick to my stomach most of the day.  But I can deal, or so I tell myself.  "The symptoms aren't *that* bad for me," I say.  But when I really think about it and analyze how I felt before I started cheating and how I feel now I do see a difference.  And I wish that wasn't true.

I guess I'm really just frustrated with myself...and God.  Why does my body not work like "normal"?  Why would God make us go through something that strains our budget even more and makes us increasingly suspect of our tithe?  Why am I so tired all the time if I'm doing what you want me to do, God?

Sounds silly, doesn't it?  It does to me.  I know that God doesn't bring anything upon us that He won't also help us walk through.  Not by my own strength, but by His.  He brings us through these situations not to bring glory to who we are and how strong I am, but to show how good He is.  How strong He can be for us when we have no strength left.  Having faith in this is something I struggle with every.single.day.  Most days....I "win" and give in to the struggle, frustration, and cheating.  No one is perfect, but in our imperfection God shines.  So why do we choose over and over to deprive Him of this?  Why do I choose over and over to put my own comfort/desires ahead of God's?  Do I really think I can do such a better job at running my own life? If my past is any consideration I should have been assured of that a LONG time ago.

But knowing this, knowing the physical tole gluten and sugar take on my body, and knowing how much my attitude changes with these things in my system...I am still frustrated.  I still feel "better" eating sandwiches every day and saving money for those who really *need* the diet (my oldest son and husband).  Boy, it's amazing what I can talk myself into.  I wonder sometimes, like today, how long it will take me of being sick and frustrated, to truly lay these things down.  To really allow God to help me walk through this new life and be successfully because of His power and provision.

Thursday, August 25

I'm taking a break from posting about food to discuss something that has been weighing on me for the last few days.  I'd love your input and advice if you care to share :)

Is tithing ever considered irresponsible stewardship?

Let me explain.  In Luke 21 we read the story of the widow who gave her last two coins as a tithe to the temple.

" As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  'Truly I tell you,' he said, 'this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on"  Luke 21: 1-4

This verse, in my experience, is generally given as a message of how we should "give until it hurts" or how even the smallest gift, if given in the right spirit, it glorifying to God.  I've always like this story because I feel it gives a nice picture of sacrificial love...we love God so much (and appreciate Him so much) that we are willing to give all we have.  However, now that I feel like I'm closer to being in the widow's position...well, I don't know how to feel.  Do I tithe more and depend on God to provide for things like bills, food, etc?  Or is God already providing for these things through the money we receive from the job He brought to my husband?

My inclination is to say that we should tithe and then God will provide for us, but is that being unwise?  Is that ever possible?  Malachi 3 gives us a story where God says that if the people will return to tithing he will bless them beyond measure.  Does that mean the same is true of me?  Was this specific to this group of people only who had made a covenant with God to tithe and then left their end unfulfilled?

And then there is the question of how much we should tithe.  Is it 10%?  More?  Do we give all we can or only a certain amount?  Are we falling through on our commitment to give less than 10%?

I know that much of this is personal.  And as Americans and Christians we don't like to discuss money...especially what we are giving to the church.  But the story of the widow comes to mind again.  Everyone saw what she was giving (or at least that's the impression I always have)....are we supposed to be giving in a more public way?  Should we be encouraging others to give without knowing their specific circumstance?  Should we expect "blessings" from giving and, if so, by what yard stick to we measure blessing?

I've never bought into the "prosperity gospel" hype.  The thought that if I tithe the way I'm "supposed" to then God will bless me with things like BMW's, wealth, a nice house, college funds for my kids, etc.  Where is that in the Bible?  Like I said, I've never bought into this line of thinking.  In Malachi God's blessings are considered extra food.  And when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God provided manna to eat.  Does that mean I should live off rice and beans and give more money to my church?  Do I measure blessings based on how our society does (which seems eerily similar to many prosperity gospel types like Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, and Joyce Meyer)...or based on the Bible?  Jesus didn't guarantee housing, money, food, or possessions to his disciples.  Should I expect more just because I live now and here (21st century America) or should we still evaluate our standing based on what these men were promised?

I certainly don't expect answers on here, but hope that this will encourage us all to consider how we view tithing.  I know that God is still working in me and my husband regarding this issue.  It's something that I think we all need to re-examine from time to time to make sure we are still in line with what God is calling us to.  I also think we need to all be more intentional about thinking about these issues and talking about them...especially with our church family.  If we can't be open and honest with our church family...then who can we be honest with?

Tuesday, August 23

Milestones and Memories :)

Yesterday my little monkey turned 2!  It was amazing to think back on the last few years and what a whirlwind they have truly been.  To see how much Carter has changed from the tiny NICU baby to the big boy he is now and especially with all of the things he has started doing in the last few weeks.

In the last few weeks he has grown 2 shoe sizes, started climbing (on everything), discovered that he can swing on the shopping cart handles, and has discovered what seems like an ENTIRELY new vocabulary...it's amazing!  We've gone through our share of struggles over the last two years and it was odd to think back over them.  My mind kept returning to different issues throughout the day as we celebrated.  Also, I kept looking back over the journey I have been on in my relationship with God over the last few years.

God has brought me WAY out of what I felt my comfort zone was.  Being raised in an environment where divorce was something that was common, men were absentee in their kids lives, and *knowing* that I never wanted to stay home with kids.  From that God brought me to a wonderful husband who I trust completely, feeling now as if divorce shouldn't be an option except in the worst of situations, a wonderful husband who is an amazingly loving and present father to our children, and loving every minute of being able to spend every day with my beautiful boys!  It's so amazing.  And the work that God has been doing in me and my husband's hearts just in the last year has left us both feeling a bit raw yet renewed at the same time!  Our priorities and values have shifted somewhere over the last four years and we both now feel like we are truly giving ourselves to God to use as He sees fit.  I have to say that while so many people think Christianity is restrictive and full of rules, we have seen the opposite in our lives--truly feeling freedom!  It's funny to look back at the things that were important and now see them as trivial.  To be in a situation that you've been in before and have a completely different outlook and reaction.  God has been so faithful to my prayers for peace and in giving me the knowledge that we are headed in the right direction.

This peace has so seamlessly transferred into parenting that it shocks me sometimes.  When I go out with the boys I get a lot of stares and comments about how full my hands must be, but what I think (and rarely say) is how there is no way I could accomplish this on my own.  But through God's strength I can lead these little boys in the right path for them.  It may not look like what other people do or what other people think is important.  But I know that it is right and it gives me so much confidence as a mother!  Not to say that there aren't struggles or times (almost daily) when I doubt my decisions.  But when I offer those feelings up to God, He is always faithful to give me strength to know that I am doing His will and He is walking in it with me.

It's funny because watching my son on his birthday...the joy on his face when he opened his present (yes one).  It was like looking in a mirror at the joy I now feel with the gift that God has given me.  I am so thankful to be one of His children.  To know His love, kindness, faithfulness, and grace!  With all the changes Carter has made in the last two years, I'm reminded still of the changes I've made in the last two years (or rather the changes God has made in my heart) and I feel that same sense of joy.  I so look forward to seeing what changes will come in the next year in Carter.  I look forward to seeing how much he grows and, deep down, I also look forward to seeing how God will chose to shape and mold me in the coming year and how He will step up to help me through the coming changes :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MONKEY!  You are such a blessing in my life and I am so excited to see what you'll do in the coming months and years :)  I love you with all my heart and I hope you can always see that.

Thursday, August 4

Feelings vs. Duty

Our family is going through a transition...and it's come upon us more quickly than I had anticipated.  We are transitioning into a VERY busy time.  Not that our life is anywhere near placid, but now it's starting to look almost frantic.  My husband is applying for seminary for the spring, we are both taking classes this fall, I just got a part-time job one day a week, the Good News Club our church sponsors is beginning again, and our boys will be turning 2 and 1 in August and October (respectively).  Add to the heavy load the fact that our classes, my job, and the Good News Club all start the same week (coincidentally the week of Monkey's 2nd birthday) and you have a recipe for disaster!  Oh, and all this on top of our regular responsibilities to jobs/church groups.

It has become clear to me in the last few days that this isn't just going to happen...at least the transition won't be anything but horrible without a little planning and change of attitude for me.  I need to have a plan...a plan for how to accomplish my primary job as wife/mother/home manager without feeling too overwhelmed, plans for what we will eat on days I'm too tired to cook, and a plan on how to organize my days/weeks that will make this transition easier on my kids.

The other major change is something that needs to happen quickly, and I'm very lucky that God has already begun this work in my heart.  I need to change how I approach life.  Wow.  Writing it out makes is sound impossible, but I'm thankful that I don't have to tackle the task alone!

As a woman (yes, I am saying that men and women are different...please don't hate me) I have fallen into the easy task of allowing my feelings to dictate much of my day/life.  As a single lady, it didn't matter.  I could do whatever I wanted as long as I still was able to pay my bills.  As a married woman, there was a bit more accountability and responsibilities began increasing, but it wasn't a whole lot different.  Becoming a mother...well that changed things much more significantly.  I had a tiny person who depended on me for EVERYTHING..and that's a sobering reality.  I couldn't just sleep in because I felt like it...no, I needed to get up or the baby couldn't eat.  I couldn't just lay around all day eating ice cream or watching tv or forget to eat all day because there was a little one that I was a) needing to provide nourishment to via breastmilk and b) I needed to set an example for my kids.  SO my life started to shift from being lived based on my feelings to being lived based on a sense of duty and responsibility.

This point hit home the other day when James and I were watching Mark Gungor talking about the feminization of men in our society (check out this article for his input and this article for more evidence).  Now while this argument is aimed at men, I felt that this was important for me to remember also...not to such a high degree as a man (because, let's face it, many women are improved by being attentive to their feelings) but it's important for me to remember that I also have a responsibility.  If I sat around all day online and didn't pick up after the kids, clean up messes, or go to the store and James came home and got upset that I had been home all day and hadn't accomplished anything...well it would be a little ridiculous for me to cry to him that I didn't feel like it and he shouldn't get upset about that.  It would be like your boss getting upset that you didn't accomplish anything all day at work and then you getting upset with him for yelling at you.  Don't you think you maybe deserved a little frustration on the part of your boss/spouse?

So I need to be more honest with myself.  While I may not *feel* like cleaning after I get off work, or cooking ahead when I have free time.  Doing so will make my days and weeks run much more smoothly.  Being aware that I have a duty to these commitments is paramount!  I think that feeling like doing these things will come after a while, and all the better!  But until that magic time comes...I'm heading into a time where I will be responsible because I have a duty...to plan ahead because that's what's best for my family...whether I feel like it or not.

Monday, July 25

Menu Plan Monday

So many of my bloggy "friends"/acquaintances are doing pantry clean outs right now.  So I decided to join in last week and am continuing on this week.  This last weekend I went grocery shopping and spent 1/2 of my budget for 2 weeks worth of food!  I'm gonna have to save some of it, though.  I unfortunately missed our local meat sale and so I'll have to pony up a bit more for things like ground beef in the coming weeks/months.

Here's the plan for this week...

mini quiche
breakfast cookies
baked oatmeal
yogurt with fruit
peanut butter banana smoothies

quesadillas/roll-ups with lunchmeat and cheese; fruit
hot dogs; chips; fruit/veggie

hummus with veggie chips
fruit smoothies
granola bars (used only 1 T coconut oil and added in sunflower seeds)
healthier rice crispy treats
chex mix
protein bars
lara bars

baked potato with brocolli cheese sauce; salad
cheeseburgers (w/o buns); corn on the cob; cheesy peas
potato-corn chowder; salad
oatmeal pancakes; sausage patties; eggs
cheese taquitos; seasoned black beans; mexican rice
chicken and rice; salad
mexican beef and bean casserole (already prepared and in the freezer); salad/fruit

The last two nights I've been able to take some extra time and put a few meals up in the freezer for next week.  I was also able, last weekend, to get some of our snacks made and put in the fridge.  I made granola bars, rice crispy treats, and chex mix (though we will need more chex mix).  So nice to have a quick snack to grab that is diet friends, with little to no extra sugar, and I made sure they were all sources of complete proteins :)

Tuesday, July 19

Pantry Clean-out Tostadas

So we had tostadas for dinner last night.  Wow!  It was the simplest of ingredients, but turned out SUPER yummy!  We'll definitely be making these again :)

Beef and Bean Tostadas
12 corn tortillas
3 cans pinto beans, drained
1 can rotel
3 cloves garlic
1 t cumin
1 lb ground beef
1 pkg taco seasoning (3 T of homemade seasoning)
1/2 c water (optional)
3-4 oz velveeta, cubed

1. Lay out tortillas on cookie sheet.  Bake at 400 until browned (turning at least once while baking) - approx 10 min.
2. Place drained beans, rotel, garlic, and cumin in blender and blend until combined and thin (may need to do in batches and may need olive oil to thin out a bit).
3. Brown ground beef, drain.  Add taco seasoning and water.  Simmer for a few minutes then add velveeta until melted and incorporated.
4.  Assemble tostadas with tortilla, bean mixture, and topped with cheese/taco meat.

This turned out great!  We were in a hurry or I would have made rice to go alongside.  This would also make some killer nachos!

Recipe Options:
- Adding water will thin the meat/cheese mixture and stretch it a bit.
- You will probably have leftover bean dip...we had quite a bit leftover that we'll use to dip cheese taquitos in later this week.
- You could substitute regular cheese for the velveeta (it's just what I had and I'm trying not to go grocery shopping).  You may need to add a bit of milk if you use regular shredded cheese.

Got the idea from two blog posts recently...one is for how to make the tostadas and the other on how to make the bean dip.

Friday, July 15

Pantry Cooking Day 5

Is anyone surprised that the first thing I'm going to say is that I didn't make dinner last night?  My son just wanted fruit for dinner.  So he had fruit, part of a cheeseburger, and a larabar.  Some days are better than others, right?  So, of course, yesterday carries over to today :)

Breakfast: giant breakfast cookies
Snack: grapes
Lunch: cheeseburger pie (already done)
Snack: mixed fruit
Dinner: baked potato & salad/leftovers (for me and my son respectively)

One more night :)

Thursday, July 14

Cheeseburger Pie

This is a go-to recipe for our family, and to be honest it has been even before we were gluten free.  This was one of the first recipes that I "converted" to gluten free.  But do you wanna know a secret?  It was super easy since you can now buy a gluten free Bisquick mix!

GF Bisquick is pricey compared to it's gluten-filled counterpart, but for us it was worth a shot simply because I needed something that made me feel more normal when cooking in the kitchen.  One thing that has been nice is that we use it exclusively for this recipe so this one box has lasted us several months!  By the way...there are people online with recipes for making a GF version of Bisquick at home that is supposed to be closer to the regular version, so if you want to save some money you could look into those options.

GF Cheeseburger Pie
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, minced/grated
1/2 t Montreal steak seasoning*
1 c shredded cheese (we like sharp cheddar)
1/2 c GF Bisquick**
1 c milk
3 eggs

1. Cook beef with onion and drain off excess fat.
2. Stir in steak seasoning and spread in pie plate.
3. Sprinkle with cheese.
4. Beat Bisquick, milk, and eggs.  Pour over beef/cheese mixture.
5. Bake @ 400 for 25-30 minutes.

*You can also just use 1/2 t salt + 1/8 t pepper, but I prefer the depth provided by the steak seasoning (FYI...Aldi's carries the same seasoning under their own brand name).
**If you use a homemade GF Bisquick mix, only use 2 eggs.

Pantry Cooking Day 4

4 days down and my pantry doesn't seem to be looking much different.  I'm praying that next week I will have more enthusiasm to really be creative and clear some space since my husband will be home.  I have trouble being creative and even doing any real cooking when it's mostly just for me.  I am pushing through by asking my son (almost 2) to eat the exact same things (within reason) that I am eating.

Unfortunately, my frustration with cooking for 1 1/2 got the best of me yesterday.  Son had a Larabar for lunch with trail mix and I cooked us a very early dinner.  Therefore we only made it through the cheeseburgers I had planned for lunch yesterday (and I forgot the corn).  For dinner, after my kids were in bed, I had 2 cheese roll-ups and a salad...the salad makes it healthy, right?

Anyway, today did not start out as I had hoped (since it started with a collections call from a bill I received for the first time last month).  But we rebounded a little.  I was able to make breakfast cookies this morning and am prepared to have leftover burgers for lunch :).  So here's the rest of my plan for today...

Breakfast: giant breakfast cookies (recipe being tweaked a bit and I'll try to post it soon)
Lunch: cheeseburgers; chips; fruit
Snack: fruit w/Larabar; chex mix? (this didn't get mad yesterday but I'm going to try to make it right after lunch)
Dinner: cheeseburger pie; salad (recipe to be posted later tonight)

Wednesday, July 13

Chicken Taco Filling

I realized today that I have not yet posted this AWESOME recipe on my blog!  I've emailed to a few friends and somehow never got it up here...not sure how that happened but I'm fixing it now!

This recipe is great for company, especially if you are dealing with allergies/intolerances.  I recently made this for a friend who came to visit.  She is lactose intolerant and we are gluten free, so there were some issues (especially since milk is in almost every recipe in my repertoire).  This turned out wonderful!  One note, if you want this to be lactose free...make sure you buy a milk free chicken stock and make sure you use a milk free cheese (our friend buys Kraft Naturals brand as it claims to have 0g lactose and she's good with that).

Chicken Taco Filling
1 c chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning (or the equivalent of a homemade variety)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken (or just eyeball how much you'll need...I usually use about 3-4 large breasts)

1.  Pour broth and seasoning into slow cooker and stir to dissolve seasoning.
2.  Place chicken in broth.
3.  Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours (I always check at 4-5 since my slow cooker cooks rather quickly).
4.  Use forks to shred when done.  Leave in slow cooker and in juices until ready to serve (be sure to turn slow cooker off or to warm setting).

We LOVE this on tostada shells (homemade).  I take corn tortillas and fry them in a little oil until they start to brown, flip and fry on other side, and remove to paper towel.  These make the shells crispy, but still easy to fold over like a taco shell (and are much cheaper than buying taco shells).  We normally top these with cheese and avocado/salsa.  Yummy!

Side note:  You could prep this ahead of time by putting the broth and seasoning in a zip-top bag and then adding the chicken.  Freeze and then thaw the night before you're ready to fix it.  Probably won't save a lot of time, but you'd have a quick dinner pretty much ready to go!

Pantry Cooking Day 3

Yesterday I made a trip to the store for a few items (eggs, milk, garlic salt, sour cream, etc).  It wasn't all absolute essentials...but it will help me stay on track with what I'm making in the next few weeks.  So I didn't really feel like cooking much last night which worked out ok because I forgot to thaw any ground beef to make hamburgers for dinner...whoops!  Anyway, pulled out some ground beef last night as well as some frozen hotdogs (did you know Oscar Meyer is now making nitrite/nitrate free hotdogs?).

My goal today is to finish recording what I have in my freezers and pantry and hopefully post that list tomorrow. I also want to get some snacks/breakfasts made for the rest of the week.  On my list...chex mix, hummus, deep dish cookie pie, mini quiche, and breakfast cookies.  Wow...that looks more ambitious all written out like that, I guess we'll just have to see what happens!

Breakfast: eggs with toast and fruit
Lunch: hamburgers with corn
Snack: chex mix and fruit
Dinner: bean tostadas

***On a side note, if you are looking for a cute picture of an adorable baby's bottom...check out my post from yesterday about diaper rash on our family blog...How to Kick Start your Child's Modeling Career. ***

Tuesday, July 12

Pantry Cooking Day 2

Yesterday was my first day on my own since our first son was born, and it showed in the fact that I didn't want to get off the couch all day.  I came very close to allowing my missing my husband to be more important than caring for my two little blessings.  However, I did keep them fed, changed, and entertained all day.  I wish I could say the same for myself.  I realized late last night that I had only had a handful of trail mix since breakfast.  So today I'm out to make sure I eat lunch :)

The plan for Tuesday:
Breakfast - chocolate chip muffins
Lunch - gluten free chicken helper (using leftover chicken from last night's dinner)
Snack - arrowroot cookies with chocolate chip cheese ball (no, it isn't healthy but it's leftover from Sunday's Bible study and it's yummy)
Dinner - hamburgers, corn, cheesy peas

The chocolate chip muffins went over ok with Carter, though he didn't ask for more so that's usually a sign that he's not too into something.  I thought they tasted like wallpaper paste :(
Also changed dinner from oatmeal pancakes to hamburgers b/c I have some fresh corn that is going to go bad soon.

Monday, July 11

Eating from my Pantry - Day 1

I usually try to use Monday's to post my menu plan for the week.  Unfortunately this week is shaping up to be a bit different.  My husband will be out of town, my family is visiting for most of the week, and--out of neccessity--I am trying to clear out my pantry and freezer.  The pantry cleanout is so I can save money on groceries this week and next.  Also, I have some items that have been in there for quite some time and I need to use them up.  My plan is to try and post a few times over the next few weeks with what we are making as we get creative in using the contents of our pantry.  I'm also going to (if I get a chance) post an inventory of the food we have on hand in hopes that some of you may be able to help me find recipes to use them up :).

Tonight, I'm going to try something different.  I'm going to cook a few chicken breasts in the crockpot with some chicken stock and cranberry sauce.  Served over lettuce with my salad.  I'm hoping it turns out well :)

Wednesday, July 6

Visions of Babies Danced in my Head

I have wanted to post about this for a long time.  Finding the courage and strength and will power to sit down and do it...well that's been my hangup.  It's painful...frustrating...happy...amazing...awe-inspiring...and immeasurably emotional for me.  What I plan to tell you is the story of my journey to motherhood (both times).  What you will get is my version, what happened and what could have, in at least three installments.

I married the man of my dreams in 2007, May to be exact.  Six months later we were living in Oklahoma, dealing with the tragic death of my sister's boyfriend, and contemplating our future.  As my husband and I sat in our one-bedroom apartment talking we made the life-changing decision to start trying to have a baby.  Actually, the exact thing we decided was to "not try to not have" a baby...and that's what we did.  I quit taking birth control and we waited.  By April of 2008 I was frustrated and quite a bit poorer from the number of pregnancy tests I had purchased.  After reading an article my grandma sent in the mail about Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) I decided to talk to my doctor about it.  So in July I went, I talked, she tested and determined that I did, indeed, have PCOS.  I was put on a low dose of Metformin (a drug that counteracts the insulin resistance that can be characteristic of PCOS) and told to come back in 6 months to see if we should up the dosage.  She also warned me that we "might never be able to have kids".  So we waited some more and I mourned the loss of possible future children.  I tried to be happy with my life, but felt very empty when I thought that we might not have children.

We were busy, we had just bought a house and a dog, and I sort of lost track of things (or worked very hard to forget them). I started to think that this was just God's plan for us...maybe we were meant to adopt or foster...maybe we should focus more on doing things while we were childless like traveling.  The fall of 2008 I started researching more on PCOS and it's relation to diet.  I read Managing PCOS For Dummies and learned about a connection with eating a low Glycemic Index diet.  We started making some changes in our diet, but I didn't really see much of a change.

In December of 2008 my grandpa Claude passed away from a very long struggle with heart disease and my life went to pieces.  Two deaths in two years sent me reeling.  I was able to see my grandpa before he passed away, while he was still able to open his eyes and acknowledge that he knew I was there, and I spent the next week with my grandma trying to be as supportive as I could.

Shockingly, I started my period for the first time since April on the morning my grandpa passed.  It was bittersweet.  The thought that this could mean a possible pregnancy might be in the cards was exciting, but that knowledge mixed with the loss of my grandfather was very difficult to process.  The funeral came and went.  I went back to Oklahoma, returned to work, and tried to focus on preparing for going back to Missouri for Christmas a week later.

Somehow we muddled through packing, trip preparations, and traveling with our 80 lb dog.  We made it through Christmas, thanks in large part to my niece are her amazement over her gifts and having us in town.  My heart ached at the thought that being an aunt might be it.  But I was determined to enjoy myself.  We met up with some old friends on this trip and I discovered, much to my amazement, that a close friend also was struggling with fertility issues due to the same illness!  Suddenly I felt much more hopeful.  Knowing that I wasn't alone was very comforting and I walked away from dinner with an encouraged spirit and rekindled friendships.

When we got home I resigned myself to the fact that we weren't getting pregnant anytime soon.  So I figured we should plan on something else... a trip to Europe!  It would be a year or more in the future but we started talking about saving money, possibly going back on birth control (just in case) and saving vacation time at work.  We were recovering from some major financial issues and it all seemed to be coming together to be a great year.  Despite my enthusiasm about the trip I was still frustrated that I hadn't had a period again after the one around my grandpa's funeral.  I chalked it up to stress leading to that one and figured the meds just weren't working.  So I started making a list of things to discuss with my doctor at my upcoming appointment.

Then I got sick.  I couldn't eat anything but peanut butter and crackers for 3 days lest I wanted to feel nauseous all day.  I thought I had the flu and just muddled through.  After many jokes from my dear husband about being pregnant, and many shed tears over how I couldn't be.  I gave in.  One night while he was at work I decided to take another pregnancy test to prove to him it wasn't possible and to put an end, finally, to the jokes that were so hurtful to me (though I never let him know).  Imagine my surprise when that stick showed two pink lines!  Was this for real?!?!?  Were we actually...finally...pregnant?  I rushed to Target and bought two more tests.  As I sat in our bathroom looking at three VERY clear, positive tests I called him at work.  He thought I was joking and then realized this was no joke...we were going to be parents!

***Stay tuned for part 2...the birth of our first son!***

PCOS is sort of a catch all.  It describes a set of symptoms experienced by women, but the source of the problem is still unknown.  There are many theories on what causes this disease:  poor diet, celiac disease, diabetes, etc.  No one person has it figured out and if you talk to anyone they will probably have advice on how to treat it, someone they know who cured themselves, or tell you it's made up...I've experienced all of these things when talking to others.

According to WebMD, PCOS effects approx 1 in 15 women.  If you think you may have a problem with this disease, you can check out more information here and please talk to your health care provider.  My story is neither typical of a woman with PCOS, nor is it the only way to get pregnant.  One thing I do believe strongly in is starting out slow (with natural changes before starting medication, low dosages to begin with).  While women are usually frustrated after their diagnosis (probably b/c they were diagnosed after a long time trying already) they usually jump on a high dosage medical treatment plan.  This may or may not be the best way for you to regulate your hormones.  I didn't know much about natural ways to help my body combat this disease (check out this site for more info on nutritional changes) and started with medication.  I was, however, fortunate to have a doctor who wanted to go slow.  The dosage I was put on was EXTREMELY low...many women take upwards of 2,000-3,000 mg twice a day with no results.  I very much believe that you should try natural methods to begin with and then, if you decide on medication, to start out on a low dosage and allow it to work in your body before moving up...but of course discuss that with your doctor.

Thursday, June 30

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies

This is a favorite around our house!  It's quick and easy and requires very little prep work...so this is breakfast almost every Sunday.  You might be surprised to find out that this is most loved my our 1 year old...he can finish off 2 servings himself!

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies
1 c milk
1/4 c peanut butter
1 T cocoa powder
2 T honey
2 bananas (frozen and broken into pieces)

Add all ingredients to blender in order listed and blend until smooth.  It will be about the consistency of a Wendy's frosty.

Wednesday, June 29

Better late than never!

So my menu plan is officially two days late.  Not the worst I've done on here :)  Here it goes...

Monday - we had various leftovers

Tuesday - Beefy Enchilada Bake (it was yummy...but I think I'd just assume make enchiladas and it would take about the same time...and I'd use this enchilada sauce recipe if I'd had more time)

Wednesday - Potato Corn Chowder (becoming my favorite recipe!)

Thursday - Taco Casserole (might end up just being tacos)

Friday - Boston Chicken with mashed potatoes and cheesy peas

Saturday - Cheeseburger Soup (I substitute a GF flour blend/arrowroot powder for the flour)

Sunday - Three Cheese Chicken Enchiladas

- muffins (planning to use peaches or bluberries)
- breakfast cookies (substituting a GF flour blend that includes xanthan gum for the regular flour)
- smoothies (peanut butter banana smoothie recipe coming tomorrow)
- grits with cinnamon apples

- leftovers
- mexican casserole
- bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, fruit
- corn dog muffins (experiment)

Posted as part of Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie.com.

Monday, June 20

Back on Track

Last week was C-R-A-Z-Y!  VBS all week had me getting the kids up, fed, and out of the house by 8:15, returning home around 1:00, and then nap time.  I haven't consistently been out of the house like that since I was working (December 2009).  Yikes!  We had a great week at VBS, despite the crazy schedule and I have to admit that I miss my pre-k kids :).

Onward and upward!  Because of the crazy schedule last week we had a LOT of baked potatoes...3-4 nights if I remember correctly.  Not ideal, but it was fast, gluten free, and fairly healthy.  Now we're getting back the swing of things.  Need to get my house clean this week, caught up on laundry, and cooking dinner (and breakfast and lunch) again.  This week is a lot of recipes I'm familiar with and are relatively easy to prepare.  Here you go...

Mini Crust-less Quiche
Grits (with either cinnamon apples or cinnamon-sugar)
Peach Strudel Muffins (I'm using pureed peaches for the fruit)
Giant Breakfast Cookies
Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies (recipe coming tomorrow)

Tostadas with Bean Dip
Bean Dip
Taco Casserole
Cheeseburger Pie

Sun: Tilapia Corn Chowder (this was amazing!)
Mon: One Pot Spaghetti
Tues: Potato Corn Chowder
Wed: Baked Potatoes with Broccoli Cheese Sauce
Thurs: Chicken Taco Tostadas (recipe coming soon)
Fri: Tacos with Mexican Rice
Sat: Baked Chicken and Rice
Sun: Mexican Casserole

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com.  Please head over and check out all the other wonderful recipes and menus posted to get ideas for your own menu plan!

Tuesday, June 7

Baked Potato Soup (crockpot recipe)

I have really come to enjoy soup over the last year or so.  And since my husband works in an air conditioned office, he doesn't mind eating warm soup at night when he gets home :).  I have really come to enjoy soups that can be made using my slow cooker to help free up some time during the day when I know we will have a lot going on.  This is one of those great stand by recipes!

Baked Potato Soup
6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, chopped
42 oz (5.25 cups) chicken broth
1/4 c butter
2 1/2 t salt
1 t pepper
1 c milk
1 1/2 c cheddar cheese, shredded
3 T parsley (I usually use dried)
8 oz sour cream
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled

1. Combine potatoes, onion, broth, butter, salt, and pepper in slow cooker and cook on low 6 hours (or high approx 3).
2.  Mix/mash potatoes until coarsely chopped.  (This step is optional, I leave it out.  I find that the potatoes are usually falling apart at the end when I stir in the remaining ingredients and we prefer larger chunks of potato in our soup).
3.  Stir in milk, cheese, sour cream, and parsley.
4.  Top each bowl with crumbled bacon (we like quite a bit for flavor, but you could use less).

To make this more frugal:  omit sour cream, bacon, and reduce cheese by 1/2 cup.

I also sometimes add about 1T of sage as I like the flavor it lends to soup.

Monday, June 6

Menu Plan - Quick and Painless

We have a busy few weeks coming up.  This week is prep week for VBS, which means my friend Michelle and I will be cutting out a lot of cute little things for our VBS class to use next week.  And, obviously, next week is VBS.  I am super excited about working with our kiddos and getting to share with them about Jesus, but I'm not super excited about the daunting task of doing that AND keeping up with my daily household tasks like laundry, cleaning, and cooking.  So I'm planning some relatively easy meals for this week and next that will let me spend lots of time with my family and less time stressing to "catch up".

So here's the plan for this week...

Monday - baked potato soup (in the crockpot) *recipe to be posted tomorrow*

Tuesday - chicken taco tostadas with spanish rice

Wednesday - baked chicken and rice; salad

Thursday - taco casserole

Friday - biscuits and gravy

Saturday - tilapia corn chowder

Sunday - bean dip (making double to share with our Bible study group)

Wednesday, June 1

Stone Soup

Have you ever read the book Stone Soup?

Stone Soup

I loved this book as a kid and was pleased to discover that the author of Miserly Meals: Healthy, Tasty Recipes Under 75¢ per Serving* also has a daughter who enjoyed this book and created a recipe to go along with it! I don't add the stone and I've made a few other changes, but it's become one of my favorite dinners to make and one of my husbands favorites to eat!

Stone Soup
2 T butter
1/2 c diced onion
1/2 c diced celery
1 c sliced carrots
2 gloves minced/pressed garlic
1 t sage
1 t basil
10 c water
1/3 c chicken bouillon
3 med brown potatoes, peeled and diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 c cooked chicken/turkey (optional)

1.  Melt butter over med-high heat and sautee onion, celery and carrots.  When onion becomes almost translucent, add garlic, sage, and basil; sautee until garlic starts to brown.
2.  Add water, bouillon, salt/pepper and potatoes.  (Add chicken now also if you're using it)
3.  Bring to a boil, reduce to low and cook approx 30 minutes (until potatoes and carrots are tender).
4.  Remove from heat and serve.

I really love this recipe because it is really cheap in most seasons to find the veggies, you can substitute homemade chicken stock for the water and bouillon and use up some leftover shredded/chopped chicken/turkey.  Or you can leave the meat out for an even cheaper soup!

Sometimes we pair this with a half a sandwich or grilled cheese (when we were still eating bread)...made for a really nice supper!  This also reheats well for lunch the next day :)

*I really enjoyed this cookbook and make quite a few things from it on a fairly consistent basis.  It has recipes for things like hot fudge sauce, chocolate sauce, homemade chicken bouillon powder, etc.  I found it at our library and would definitely recommend it to someone looking for a cookbook to start making more things from scratch.

Thursday, May 26

Do you ever feel this way?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my struggle with healthy eating and how easily I become frustrated that I'm not doing more (you can read it here).  The last few weeks have been so amazing in how God has spoken to my heart and confirmed that I am, indeed, on the path He desires of me.  Here are a few posts from other bloggers abouts similar issues...not all of them are at the same place I am in our healthy eating journey, but I have found all of these posts to be helpful to me.  They all acknowledge that there are different levels of healthy and that not all people are in the same place.

Luke @ Losing Luke

Emily @ Wegener Family

Laura @ Heavenly Homemakers

Lynn @ Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

In another amazing way, my fears and doubts about the things I feed my family have been quelled.  God keeps introducing one certain verse (in very different ways) about how He is in control...and it has been so comforting!

For VBS this year (I work in the pre-k room) we are focused on James 1:5 as our verse.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. ~ James 1:5

This verse keeps popping up in odd ways.  The other day it was the verse of the day in my email and today I found it on another blog (here).  Though neither have been in reference to food choices, they have both confirmed to me that this is a concept God wants in my life right now and that is a really comforting thought!

Tuesday, May 3

Week 3 Gluten Free...no end in sight

So the original plan was to start adding gluten back to our diet after next week.  However, the progress we've seen with Carter definitely is leading us to keep him on a gluten free diet.  And since James and I have both lost weight (me 3 lbs and him 6 or so), we're inclined to continue also.  I may try to add in some things like sourdough, regular oatmeal (possible cross-contamination issues), and maybe a little bread here and there and see how we do...we'll go slow though so we can thoroughly assess our progress.

And here is the plan for week 3...

baked apple puff
mini crustless quiche (review to come of the new silicone muffin cups I got for this)
peanut butter baked oatmeal
GF breakfast cookies
GF oatmeal fruit muffins
coconut flour muffins

bean dip with chips and veggies

Mon - grain free waffles with bacon (these waffles were really good, though I didn't add the fruit...they tasted like french toast)
Tues - baked potato soup; grilled cheese
Wed - beefy enchilada bake
Thurs - chicken with baked potato; corn
Fri - spaghetti squash pie
Sat - cheeseburger pie; salad
Sun - chicken and dumplings (this will be my first attempt at converting a non-GF recipe...wish me luck)

Friday, April 29

Laying Open my Heart: One of Many Struggles

They say that "ignorance is bliss".  Now I don't know who "they" are, but I feel like I do understand that sentiment, especially when I learn something new that I want to pursue but there are a million roadblocks in my way.  In general this is how I feel about eating well.  I don't mean dieting or eating low-fat, but really nourishing my family with good foods that aren't processed or contaminated.  This issue may not apply to a lot of people because you either don't care, don't believe it, or don't have a problem implementing it.  But this weighs on my mind weekly if not daily.  I want to feed my family the best possible food I can.  I want my boys to be healthy and strong and smart.  Heck, I want to be healthy and strong and smart.  But sometimes my goals and plans don't line up with where I am in life right now.  I'm definitely not healthy or strong...I can agree with some that I'm kinda smart (but I'm no genius by any means).  Being a parent has really changed my feelings about nutrition. We know more now than we did when I was growing up and my kids generation will know even more...it's just the way we, as humans, are...we crave to know more, to dig deeper, and to understand.

For me, I really feel that eating a whole foods diet is healthy (I think few would compete with that statement).  I believe that eating organic is important in most aspects, that making your own things like bread is important (because of limiting chemicals and preservatives), and I think raw milk is great!  Unfortunately, I'm not a millionaire--I know you're shocked, but it's true.  I don't have unlimited funds available to buy meat straight from my local farmer or raw milk up the road...and even if I did, well do you know how expensive that can be?  And therein lies my dilemma...the one I struggle with.  Knowing what is most important RIGHT NOW, in the place God has me NOW, and knowing what it is that God has charged me with.  

That probably sounds weird, let me try to explain.  I feel passionately about feeding my family the best food possible, but what I don't feel passionately about is going broke doing it.  It would make me a poor steward of my families resources to ignore the balance in our bank account and spend all of our money on better food.  You might think I'm being extreme about how much it would cost or underestimating the importance of good food on our nutrition, but the honest lay-it-all-out-there-for-the-world-to-see truth is that our budget for food every month is slightly less than it would be on food stamps...I have a grand total of $320 to spend on food, toiletries, household products, dog food, and all 4 members of our family.  It's tough, it's a stretch, and that number actually includes a generous increase that I finagled when we decided Carter needed to eat gluten free (not a cheap option)--before two weeks ago our monthly budget was only $220. Its frustrating!

This amount of money can only be stretched so far.  We don't always do a good job of sticking to our budget, but we definitely feel it elsewhere if we don't.  And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God has called me--as a stay-at-home wife and mother--to do everything possible to keep us on track.  It is my responsibility to ensure that we have enough food in the house to feed us all as well as finding unique ways to make up for any shortfalls.  If I don't do this, then I am not only disappointing my family, but I know I am disappointing my Heavenly Father.  This is what he has called me to...it's not always fun, it's very often frustrating, and I don't know how I make it sometimes.  Coveting others grocery budgets is something I have to keep in check quite often.

I don't talk to many about how much I spend on groceries and I do my best to make sure that we still get to use a good portion of that for ministry opportunities (inviting people over to our house to share a meal, taking someone food when they're sick, eating out occasionally in fellowship with our church family, etc.).  Ministry is very important to us and I joke that my spiritual gift is cooking :).  God has demanded us to be open to these opportunities to fellowship with others--believers and unbelievers alike.  It is important to us and a calling from God.  So that brings another aspect of my struggle to light.

How do I justify spending my small budget on others?
God has asked me to.  Can I really say no?  I guess I could, I could say to myself and others that we just don't have the money or it's more important to feed my family, but then I would be saying to God that he doesn't provide for us adequately and that is absolutely un-biblical!  God tells us in the Bible that He always provides for our needs.  If I say that I can't do something because of my own folly or poor stewardship that is one thing, but to claim that I "can't" because I don't have enough?  That is claiming that God is not who He said He was.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

So that is where I stand, or usually kneel.  Dealing with my own frustrations and sinful thoughts, relying on God to reveal a better path for me.  I am so thankful for his grace and compassion.  I am also thankful for a wonderfully understanding and hard-working husband.  But this is my struggle...not the only one, but one that is prominent and I frequently have to return to God for strength in going on.  I can't let myself become mired down by what I *think* I should be doing, but to find strength that God can help me through it.

I hope that all who reading this will understand that it has been difficult to reveal this personal aspect of my life and will take that to heart before commenting.  I know that I am doing the Lord's work and I would be more than happy to have a more intimate conversation about this with you so feel free to email or (if you have my number) to call :)
I hope that in sharing these intimate struggles and thought, I can encourage other women--especially Christians--to step up and be willing to be more transparent with one another.  I don't think anyone has it ALL together and I certainly don't think we're meant to seem we do.  While it's important for us to seek joy and understanding in our situations, this doesn't always have be done in private or alone.  Please reach out to those around you and if someone comes to YOU with something weighing on their heart...please try and be Christ-like in your response.  God Bless!