Friday, October 14, 2011

From Waiting to Reading (in the Car)

Right now our family has one child in school. Life is still pretty simple and I'm not spending too much time in the car rushing from drop-off point(s) to pick-up point(s). I have friends with more children or older children than I have and they are spending tons (I means tons) of time in the car. Most of the car time is riding, but some is sitting and waiting. With time to spare, but not enough time to run an extra errand, they find themselves waiting in the car, just waiting, until it's time to head in to their next destination. Considering this dilemma this week, I decided that I need to start keeping a small stack of books in the car. While this waiting doesn't happen to us often (yet!), it does occasionally, and it'd be nice to be prepared. With an extra ten minutes - or even two - we can pull out a book and enjoy a good read instead of sitting with the engine running, staring at the clock or out the window. Trade your waiting frustrations for a book and enjoy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

What Did You Expect??

If you are married, you need to read What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp. If you think your marriage is going on swimmingly, you need to read it. If you are consumed with children and schedules and you think you are too busy to read during this period in your life, you need to read this book! Tripp draws from years of counseling experience and careful study of God's Word. He describes encounters with counselees about various marital experiences. He asks heart probing questions that require you to consider the garden of your marriage and gently and deliberately pluck out the weeds, which you may or may not be aware are entangling the fruit in your relationship.

As moms, we have multiple lives (and relationships) entrusted to us that we need to tend and nurture throughout the day. It's hard work! As we can often get caught up in our relationships with our little ones, Tripp reminds us that understanding, effort and work are essential to fostering a healthy and biblical marriage.

Here's an excerpt regarding the importance and function of prayer for your marriage:

True, heartfelt prayer ends as it begins - with recognition of God's kingship and His glory. Prayer reminds you that life is not about you. Prayer reminds you that the center of your universe is a place reserved for God and God alone. Prayer reminds you that real peace, satisfaction, and contentment come when you live for a greater glory than your own. Prayer reminds you that the hope of marriage is not found in a husband and wife conspiring to build their own kingdom but in submitting together to the wisdom and rule of a better King. Prayer calls you away from the kingdom of self, which is so destructive to everything a marriage is intended to be, and welcomes you to the kingdom of God, where a God of love rules in love. (p. 265)

Read it! Read it! Read it! You will not be disappointed and I assure you that your marriage will be strengthened because of it!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Three Ladies and a Closet

My mom came to visit a couple of weeks ago. When mom visits, things happen. Things that should have "happened" weeks, months or years ago, but nevertheless they get done and more weights than I can count are lifted from my shoulders! One weight in particular was gloriously dealt with and I've been giddy about it ever since - my closet! My closet was not a disaster. Things were not spilling out of it, but there were definitely more clothes in there than I could ever wear and some items that saw their best days during my high school years. They clearly needed to go, but I needed help. What is our problem with clothes (I use "our" here to make me feel better. This is an universal issue, right?)? We hold on to things for YEARS that we don't wear season after season somehow convincing ourselves that we just might need them someday. Well, my reinforcement (mom) came in, guns blazing, and spoke some sense to me when I tried on something, hesitant to get rid of it for sentimental reasons, or for no good reason at all (i.e. it's been in my closet for so long that I can't imagine my closet without it). Here are some of the tips that she shared:

*Only have what you actually WILL wear in your closet. Get rid of things that you don't wear and keep a separate bin of things that you might wear if an occasion should arise in the near future.

*Take stock of what you have. You can only wear so much black. If you find you have an abundance of one color/type of clothing, pick your favorites and give the others away.

*Take note of what colors, styles, shapes, etc. look good on you and stick to those. Shopping will be a lot easier if you can bypass all of the beautiful boat-neck tops in the store if boat-necks just don't suit you.

*If one comes in, one goes out. You've probably heard this rule before. I'm not going to be a stickler about this if there's really nothing that I'd like/need to toss out, but I do think it is a good general rule.

*Take pictures. This sounds really cheesy, and frankly it probably is, but if you try on an outfit that you really like, take a picture so you'll remember it. You could also write it down, but one click of the camera might be more time efficient.

*My favorite rule: if you're having a hard time letting some sentimental piece of clothing go (because you remember the fun you had wearing it on that date 8 years ago...), remember that if you're not wearing it, someone else could be! It's so helpful when making the decision to know that another person could actually wear (not just stare at it on the hanger) it and really enjoy it. What's old to you will be new to them!

Okay, so what's with the title of the post? While I only had my mom with me for my closet showdown, I went back to my hometown the following week and we did the same thing with my mom's closet and my sister-in-law's closet. Three seemed to be the perfect number for the task and here's why. First, we all have similar taste, which kept things simple and easy. Second, we know each other. We know which stage of life the others are in and what is and is not practical for our needs in the immediate future. Finally (and finally to the main point), when someone was trying something on, we had a conversation about why she should or should not keep the piece/outfit. We were honest, but in a gentle (most of the time) way. Discussing these things together eliminated the possibility of throwing something out without considering all the ways it could be used. For example, a top may look worn, but under a sweater or scarf it could look great. Or a top may look blah, but worn with the right accessories, it could be vastly improved. On the other hand, if both are telling you that a dress has got to go, you'll feel more confident sending it on to Goodwill.

This post may be a waste of time for those of you who are more naturally oriented to the world of fashion, accessories, or putting an outfit together. But, at the ripe old age of 31, this is new territory for me and the necessary help transformed my closet from a walk down memory lane to a pleasant, practical and manageable display of things I'll actually wear!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

S'More Please!

My son's preschool teacher made these for our class when the kids performed all of the songs they've learned this year. The treat was such a hit that the request for the recipe was overwhelming and we found the following printed out in our kid's cubbies the next day! Enjoy!

S'More Cups

7 whole graham crackers (about 1 cup crushed)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
12 large marshmallows
6 T. butter (melted)
4 Hershey bars (divided)

*Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Finely crush graham crackers. Combine graham crackers, melted butter and powdered sugar. Place a teaspoon of the mixture into mini muffin pan. Press the mixture down into the pan. Bake 4-5 minutes.
*Meanwhile, break apart two of the candy bars into rectangles.
*Remove pan from oven; place one rectangle of chocolate into each cup.
*Cut marshmallows in half with kitchen shears run under cold water to prevent from sticking. Place one half (cut side down) into each cup. Return to oven 1-2 minutes.
*Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Cool 15 minutes, carefully remove from tin, return to rack to cool completely.
*Break apart remaining candy bars, place into microwave bowl. Microwave on high until melted and smooth (20 seconds at a time) or melt in double boiler. Dip top of marshmallow in melted chocolate.
*Turn top-side up and let stand 1 hour or until set.

Makes 24 cups.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thank You for the Reminder, RLS

I came across a quote today that was the encouragement I needed to hear at the end of a very, very long mommy day. Simple, concise and oh so true. I'll be printing it out and taping it to some wall in my house (or maybe multiple)!

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Ultimate Cookbook

Life with two kids is busy. Life with two kids keeps getting more and more busy every day. I'm constantly looking for ways to cut corners in order to simplify our lives, but this is not always easy in the kitchen because I LOVE to cook. I've decided recently that I just can't spend hours upon hours (exaggeration, but you get the point) flipping through various cookbooks and recipes each week when I sit down to write out our menu. I'm determined to consolidate and I've found my go-to! The Ultimate Southern Living and the All New Ultimate Southern Living cookbooks are the most sure-fire recipes that combine mostly simple and relatively few ingredients, healthy options and dynamite dishes! I have yet to make a Southern Living dish that I haven't been pleased with and I have made MANY that I've just loved. And you can get the All-New version used on right now for a little over $7, including shipping (see link at the bottom of this post)!

Some more thoughts on simplifying your meal planning:
1. If you really like a variety from week to week, pick one cookbook per week to cook from. You'll get a variety, but you won't be overwhelmed by the options!

2. Make notes in your cookbook! You may already do this, or you may be the type that just can't bring herself to mark in a beautiful book. My advice to you - mark away anyway! Start a star system labeling your favorite dishes. Write down what you need to add for extra flavor, which family member really likes it, or whether it's best for a busy weeknight or a casual Friday night meal. The star system (or dog-ear system) will help you locate your favorites easily!

3. If you have your own recipe folder, go through it and remove recipes that didn't go over well with your family - they're just distracting you from the good recipes that are in there.

4. If you get really excited about trying new recipes, pick a couple of nights a week to try them and keep the rest of the week simple.

Happy planning!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Worth the Work

I met with an amazing woman today. She has been married to her husband for 52 years and claims that the last 15 have been the most wonderful. She teared up when she spoke of her relationship with her spouse and had a glow in her eye and a smile across her face that becomes a newlywed. I want to pass along some of the advice she offered to a friend of mine and me.

*Ask him what he wants. Ask your husband which household things are most important to him - a clean home in the evening, a hot meal on the table, a little decompression time before letting the kids loose on him - and use this as a guide to set your priorities.

*The best thing she and her husband did for her children was to love one another.

*Know your husband. Know what he needs and doesn't need. Know how best to serve him and love him by taking time to learn these things. For example, if he struggles with stress and anxiety under certain circumstances, figure out what you can do to help alleviate some of his concerns.

*Reserve a couple of hours every week to have time alone with your husband.This woman and her husband have had Saturday morning dates since their eldest was 8-years-old. It was certain time together that they could look forward to and enjoy each week.

*Work at it. The last 15 - of 52 - years have been the most wonderful for them because they worked so hard early on - ironing the wrinkles out as they went. She said that patiently working through all of their differences, misunderstandings, and issues in the first part of their marriage has made this latter part "easy." They know each other so well and have been through so much that this season is one of calm, peace and immense enjoyment.

*Have a sense of humor. She said there were times in their marriage when they could have let pride take the reins, but they chose to see the humor in the situation instead. Not only do they love each other, but they have fun together, too.

These encouragements are not intended to be read as a "6 steps to achieving a perfect marriage" guide. The ultimate reason that they are so blissfully united after 52 years is due to the Lord's grace and their continual dependence upon Christ and the Holy Spirit to lead them each step of the way. They have been through tough times, very tough times, but they endure because they recognize that their spouse should not and can not be their standard of perfection. He/she will never ultimately fulfill or satisfy them. Only the Lord can.

Marriage is not a mere social innovation, a piece of paper, or an outdated tradition. It is a gift of God from the beginning of creation. It is intended to reflect on earth Christ's love for His bride, the church, and the church's love for Christ. Constantly reminding ourselves of this truth should encourage and inspire spouses to love selflessly and completely.
If you know a couple who is older and still seem to be madly in love after years and years together, take time to meet with them and soak up all the advice they're willing to share.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday's Menu

Here are a couple of recipes that I've come across lately and they are both healthy and really tasty! Bon appetit!

Despite the name, this first recipe is so good! I will be making it frequently for my boys as the days get warmer and they need a little snack to cool them off. It's a also an ingenious way to sneak LOTS of spinach into their diet!

Green Slime Smoothie

This one is light, super easy and a nice change of pace if your menus usually revolve around chicken and beef!

Linguine with Shrimp Scampi

from the Barefoot Contessa

Vegetable oil (just a little to keep pasta from sticking)
Kosher salt
3/4 pound De Cecco Capellini pasta
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 pound large shrimp (about 16 shrimp), peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)
1/2 lemon, zest grated (if big lemons, use ½ a lemon…if small lemons, maybe whole lemon)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx. 2 large lemons)
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

plenty of fresh-grated parmesan cheese

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.

Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch), heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, parmesan and toss well, and serve.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rest Up for the Sabbath

I've been having an issue during our church services as of late. I can not seem to stay alert during an entire service and I am 100% convinced that the problem rests entirely on me and not on external factors.

Because this is one of the most important parts of my week, I'm determined to resolve the issue pronto. I've decided that a major problem is how I spend my Saturdays. As I anticipate the coming Sunday as a "day of rest," I try to get as much as I can done on Saturday so that I won't have work to do on the Lord's Day (e.g. laundry, house cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.). Let me just pause here to say this doesn't mean that I leave messes on the floor until Monday or refuse to go to the store if I notice that we're out of milk. It does mean that my family and I set Sunday apart as a day to participate in corporate worship and refrain from doing the "work" that we endeavor in all week long.

So back to Saturday...I shop, clean, anticipate needs that might arise on Sunday and spend time with family (which, with two little boys and an active husband, means physical activity). While these things may seem like legitimate undertakings, it wipes me out completely! By the time Sunday worship rolls around, my body responds to the long overdue sitting position (with relative quiet) by switching into a relaxation mode that just about knocks me flat in the pew!

Not only do I want to get the most out of worship as I possibly can, but I don't want to distract the pastor with my fatigued head bobbing as he preaches. My husband is a preacher and I am well aware that they see what's going on in the congregation from the other side of the pulpit!

Something needs to be done and here's my plan to make future Saturdays less hectic and exhausting, so that the Sabbath can be more restful and worshipful.

*I used to grocery shop on Saturdays, and now I'll try to go during the week.

*I often left house cleaning for Saturday and now I'm going to see that I get that done gradually from Monday to Friday.

*We're going to try our best to avoid Saturday night outings that will result in getting home late.

*I'm going to make sure I'm in bed at a decent hour on Saturday night.

You may not struggle with this same issue, but if you do, I hope this is helpful! And if you have any more ideas, please let me know! :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Your Local Library

I was never one to really utilize my local library, until now. Now it is one of my favorite stops in our small little town outside of Philadelphia. I've become increasingly impressed by all that our library offers and the following might just convince you to check yours out too!

*They will buy a book that you've requested if they don't have it anywhere in their system. The other day I went in looking for a particular Christian book on marriage. I knew it was a long shot because the book is relatively new, but we're trying to save money and I thought it was worth a try. They did not have the book, but they promptly offered to buy it on Amazon and will let me know when it arrives. This may not be the case for every library, but I imagine that if ours is doing it, then others are too!

*They offer classes on practical subjects - for free! I signed up for a class on starting your own vegetable garden. Sadly, I was not able to make it because our week got overbooked and something had to go, but I'll be on the lookout for more classes in the future.

*Take a look at the bulletin boards around the library's entrance. These can be filled with all sorts of information about events going on at the library and in your community.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Resurrection Eggs

My son brought a sheet home from preschool with this craft idea a few days ago. It is a sweet and simple activity that can assist in teaching your child about Christ's death and Resurrection. On Easter morning you can open the empty egg and celebrate the fact that HE IS RISEN!

1 egg carton
12 plastic eggs
Paper for Bible verses
Items for each egg

Number the eggs from 1 to 12 on one end of each egg. Place the Bible verse (written on small pieces of paper) and the symbol on each egg. Count back 12 days from Easter morning. Egg #12 should be opened on Easter.

Egg #1 piece of bread Luke 22:19
Egg #2 nickel Matt. 26:14-16
Egg #3 string John 18:12
Egg #4 purple cloth Mark 15:16-18
Egg #5 thorn John 19:2
Egg #6 toothpick cross John 19:17-18
Egg #7 nail Acts 2:23
Egg #8 piece of sponge John 19:28-29
Egg #9 toothpick John 19:33-34
Egg #10 gauze cloth John 19:40
Egg #11 stone Matthew 27:60
Egg #12 empty Luke 24:5-6

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cut It!

My dear friend, Callie, recently shared a craft idea with me that I thought was simple and brilliant - the kind of "craft" I can actually manage! She gives her precious (and I mean precious!) daughter old magazines and let's her cut out shapes or other objects. She can then paste them onto paper. She also suggested that your child can make a card with her cuttings, perhaps concentrating on images that remind your dear of the recipient - a nice alternative to the typical crayon or marker scribbled ones. :) Happy cutting!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Terrible Twos Mystery Solved!

I had an insight today. I think I know the cause (or perhaps just one contributor) of the "terrible twos!" My hypothesis is that two-year-olds can be "terrible" because of how we treat them as 18-month-olds. What do I mean? When children are 18-months they are at the epitome of cuteness, according to my estimation, anyway. Because they are so stinkin' cute, and because of the relatively minimal visible effects of their acts of disobedience (what's a few Cheerios on the floor?), we let them get away with disobedience and don't do enough to stifle the weeds of sin that are ever-growing and ever-expanding. They throw food and we laugh. They hit us and, with a big smile on our faces, we say, "nooo...(heehee)..nooo."

Because we love them so much (only in part because they're so cute) we need to be careful how we react to their behavior at this age. Of course we shouldn't discipline them like an older child who committed the same, but they need to know that their disobedience is wrong. It is an offense to our holy God and is not honoring to their parents. Otherwise, how can we expect them to understand that what was funny to mommy and daddy six months ago now lands them in a solemn time-out?

So how should we discipline our 18-month-olds in a way they can understand and builds for the future?

*Give them a little pop or squeeze on the hand when they disobey.

*Do not smile. They will certainly notice that the ones who look at them googly-eyed all day long have changed their demeanor. This will have an impact.

*Get down on their level, look them in eye and with a firm voice explain what they did wrong and what they should have done. Include a very brief explanation of why you do not want them to do foolish things (because you love them and want them to honor their God and their parents). Finish by reassuring them of your love for them.

*Remove them from the situation to avoid the temptation to do it again.

These are all things that you've heard before and all are bits of advice that have been passed down to me in one way or another over the past few years. Our little dears, as precious as they are, are little sinners. It is their very nature to sin and we can count on that nature manifesting itself in all kinds of ugly ways. As their parents, we are called to teach them the Lord's commandments, especially in light of Jesus' work of salvation, and pray that the Holy Spirit will change their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. We can revel in their cuteness, now and always, but there is no substitute for a parent's joy over a son who is wise (Prov 23:22-25)!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Can't Come up with a Menu for the Week?

If you dread the task of coming up with a menu every week, then you might consider utilizing a wonderful resource that you have in home - your husband! Most husbands are content to let the wife plan the meals and make the preparations. They are happy enough with whatever edible option ends up on their plate. They may appreciate an opportunity to put in their say for a change. You both win - you get a break from planning and he gets to eliminate the element of surprise for a week!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Savor These Days

What I am about to say is only a reminder of something that I'm sure you've been told repeatedly. But if you're anything like me, you won't mind the reminder.

I was with a mom today who mentioned that her youngest of three skipped playing with much of the baby or young toddler stuff because he was always more interested in what his older siblings were doing. This meant jumping straight to StarWars - forget Winnie the Pooh! My heart sank a little when I heard this. If, Lord willing, we have another child, he or she will likely forego - or at least speed past - some of the sweetest characters of early childhood. Of course this won't necessarily be the case, but it won't be the same as it was with the first, and it won't be the same as it was with just two. It will be better, because we'll be including another precious gift from the Lord into our home, but it won't be the same. While my heart did sink at the idea of change (it always does a little), it was a timely reminder to savor these moments. There won't be others exactly like them.

I've been thinking about the idea of savoring these days with little ones a lot lately, and trying to act on it, hence my sudden lack of consistent posts on this blog. However imperfectly, I'm trying to soak up this time with my joyful 3-year-old and my edible 1-year-old (adjectives acceptable by mommy's license). :) The sporadic posts will likely continue in the future, but now you'll know why!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Easter Tree

Here's an idea that my sister-in-law passed on from a blog she follows. This Easter Tree activity is a precious way to expose your children to many Bible stories in anticipation of the celebration of our glorious Savior's Resurrection!

Follow the link below:

*You'll have to double up for a few days to catch up, but it's not too late to start!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kid's Art

Most of us have been confined to our homes for the winter season, leaving us with plenty of time to stare at each and every corner, and the walls between, for those spots that need a little pick-me-up. One such spot in our house is the wall adjacent to our sink in the bathroom. It's a small space, but it occurred to me that with just a little doing, and help from the kids, we could liven it up to turn a blah area into something personal and fun!

If you're experiencing similar bathroom wall dilemmas, try one of these water-themed ideas:

1. Take pictures of your little ones in the tub (appropriate shots, of course), frame them and stick them up on the wall.

2. Hang framed pictures of your kiddos in bathing suits, with goggles strapped on and towels in hand.

3. You could also use pictures from a recent trip to the beach, or any other water involved adventure.

For other rooms (and certainly the bathroom, too):

1. Dress your kids in old clothes, sit them down with paper and paints and let them go to town! Be selective with the choice of colors that you offer so that the ultimate result - if not a jumbled mess of brown - will coordinate with the room. Simple water colors can work well for this. Also, cut the paper to fit the size that works best for the space - either one large masterpiece or three small ones could look great!

2. If you'd like to make it a collaborative effort, draw an outline of a flower, airplane, or any object of your choosing in a dark color and let your child "fill it in" with paint.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Pistachio Chicken and Pudding Cups


We tried this new recipe last night. It was super easy and delicious!

*chicken breasts pounded thin
*1 cup chopped pistachios
*1/2 cup bread crumbs
*2 T. dijon mustard
*2 T. olive oil
*2 T. honey
*salt and pepper to taste

Combine nuts and bread crumbs and spread on a plate. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl. Dip chicken in bowl and cover with honey mixture. Then dredge in nut mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.


You can custom make this dessert to suit anyone's tastes! Feel free to substitute ice cream for the pudding (just assemble and then freeze until ready to serve).

*12 mini (3-inch rounds or so) Graham Cracker prepared pie crust shells (or feel free to make your own)
*1 large package of pudding, made according to directions
*toppings of your choice

Fill half of Graham cracker cup with pudding. Add toppings (sliced strawberries, chopped Heath bar, etc.). Fill to the top of the cup with more pudding. Sprinkle toppings on top or place one slice or chunk of the topping to hint at what's inside! Chill and serve.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Keeping Up With the News Outside of Your Mommy World

Days filled with catering to the needs of young children can keep us so busy that it's hard to stay current on news regarding those in our immediate vicinity, much less those in far away places across the U.S. and around the world. I've been struck again recently, however, with how important it is for us to be aware of local, national and global news. It's important to keep up for several reasons. For one, the Bible calls us to pray for our leaders, nation and world. We'll best be equipped to do this when we are made aware of the specific needs out there. On a more personal level, we need to realize that what's happening out there, will most certainly - in some way, shape or form - affect what is going on in our own homes as well as those of our children and future grandchildren.

If you're interested in reacquainting yourself with the news of the day, or are in the hunt for different news sources, here are a couple of our family's favorites.

1. NBC Nightly News - there are several nightly news broadcasts available, but we like Brian Williams and in 30 minutes (less with DVR), we're caught up on the day's big events.

2. The Briefing - this 10-15 minute "briefing" is well-known pastor, author and theologian Albert Mohler's review of some of the day's headlines from a Christian perspective. While you will not be getting a recap of every top story of the day, he will provide great insight and thought-provoking questions for Christians (and hopefully others) to ponder pertaining those he addresses. You can access this on-line at

3. WORLD magazine - a Christian magazine with news articles on various happenings around the world. You can get many of the articles on-line at

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Kissing Hand

If you have a child who does not like for you to be out of his/her sight for any amount of time, and they're old enough to comprehend what you're reading, then I highly recommend The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. This is a precious children's story about Chester Raccoon's hesitation to leave the comfort of his home and his mother's constant presence for the first day of school. To assuage his fears, Mrs. Raccoon gives Chester a kiss on the palm of his hand that he can "carry" with him throughout the day. Whenever he needs a reminder of his mother's love, he can put his hand up to his cheek and recall her words, "Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you."

This book is also a great gift for grandparents or other relatives and friends who live far away from your little ones, but want to remind them that, near or far, they're always loved!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's Just a Material Thing

I just finished glueing a ceramic bowl back together. It doesn't look perfect - not even close - but I'm convinced that if I put it high enough on a shelf, no one will notice the cracks that run through it like a family tree. Since I mention this on a mommy blog, you've probably guessed that the broken bowl is the result of an incident involving one of my children. If so, you've guessed correctly.

I know it's just a material thing, but that bowl happened to be one of my favorite material things. Fortunately, as I heard it drop to the floor, I instantly remembered a saying that a friend shared with me a couple of years ago: "Don't let your children think that material things are more important than they are." Well, of course they're not, so does this statement have anything more to offer? I think so, primarily because of how how we sometimes respond when accidents occur. If something breaks and we respond with a shriek and look of horror, a young person might be led to think that the "thing" is of greater value and more important to you than they themselves are.

Of course children need to be taught to be careful and to respect things as good stewards of all that the Lord has given us, but we can teach a child a whole lot by how we react when things break. For one, we can remind them (and ourselves) to value spiritual things over material possessions. We should be storing our treasures up in heaven, after all, where moth and rust (and kids) do not destroy. So the next time something special breaks, or gets lost, ripped, or colored, remind yourself that you can build up your children at that very moment. You can teach them that some things are unbreakable and irreplaceable--like their status as our children. You can glue into their hearts things like responsibility, stewardship, and teamwork (clean-up, clean-up). Finally, you can demonstrate to them that our priorities should reflect those of the Lord, namely Christ and the salvation that we have in and through Him!


Have you discovered the joy of zest-ing? If not, I highly recommend this simple addition to an assortment of dishes for a burst of flavor that will transform a routine meal into something special! Use lemon zest (on fish or in pancake batter - see below), orange (in Asian dishes) or lime (great with Mexican).

Lemony Blueberry Pancakes

Add a little bit of lemon extract and lemon zest to your pancake batter and you might decide that you can't go back to regular blueberry pancakes again!

Regular pancake mix
lemon zest (to taste)
lemon extract (1/2 t. or to taste)

Add zest and extract to the batter. Stir well. Cook pancakes as directed, adding blueberries after batter has been poured on the skillet.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dry Hands?

While most people suffer from dry and cold air damage to their skin this time of year, mommy's hands take an extra beating. The beating comes not only from outdoor elements, but from constant hand washing. In an effort to clean up, wash off and rid our hands of germs before they do any damage, we moms spend a lot of time with our sinks and Purell bottles. If your hands are starting to resemble the surface of a raisin, and/or one that's been through a shredder (sorry to be so graphic, but this is a close description of what my hands look like right now!), then try the following treatment. It's easy, effective and works while you sleep!

Lather your hands generously with moisturizer before going to bed. Put on cotton gloves and wear overnight. Wake up to soft, smooth skin!

*This method works for dry feet as well! It may feel a little strange sleeping in gloves and socks, but the result is worth it!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Love Your Valentine

Well, Valentine's Day is just two days away and, depending on who you are, you either love it or you consider it to be terribly overrated and can't wait for February 15th to arrive. I happen to love it. Besides the glorious excuse for a date night, it can be a wonderful opportunity to assess the health of your marriage and reflect on how you can love one another better. Of course you should be doing this continually throughout the year, but why not take advantage of a day set aside for this purpose!

Here are a couple of ideas for making this Valentine's Day extra sweet:

1. Start your date early. Instead of waiting until the kids are in bed to go out, get a sitter to come early. Enjoy a dinner out from 5-7 or 6-8. Then come home to a quiet house and delight in a dessert and movie together. Your evening will be extended and you'll only be paying a babysitter for half of your date!

2. Skip the gifts. My husband and I crave time with each other more than a material token of our affection (this is just a personal preference). So we decided (earlier this evening actually) to skip the gift-giving component of the occasion and spend a little more on our date. This meant opting for a restaurant with a more romantic ambience than the Pizza Box down the street.

3. Intangible Props. If you decide to skip the gifts, but don't want to forsake the fun and thoughtfulness that goes into gift-giving, come up with "mental props" that will remind you both of a precious moment in the past. Share them over dinner and enjoy reliving the memories!

4. Be spontaneous. As young parents, it's likely that your chances for spontaneity are few and far between. So take advantage of this occasion to do just that! Grab a quick bite to eat and head to an Art Museum, the Aquarium, or a coffee shop in some part of town that is typically too far and out of the way to venture to with small children.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's Just a Material Thing

I just finished glueing a ceramic bowl back together. It doesn't look perfect - not even close - but I'm convinced that if I put it high enough on a shelf, no one will notice the cracks that run through it like a family tree. Since I mention this on a mommy blog, you've probably guessed that the broken bowl is the result of an incident involving one of my children. If so, you've guessed correctly.

I know it's just a material thing, but that bowl happened to be one of my favorite material things. Fortunately, as I heard it drop to the floor, I instantly remembered a saying that a friend shared with me a couple of years ago: "Don't let your children think that material things are more important than they are." Well, of course they're not, so does this statement have anything more to offer? I think so, primarily because of how how we sometimes respond when accidents occur. If something breaks and we respond with a shriek and look of horror, a young person might be led to think that the "thing" is of greater value and more important to you than they themselves are.

Of course children need to be taught to be careful and to respect things as good stewards of all that the Lord has given us, but we can teach a child a whole lot by how we react when things break. For one, we can remind them (and ourselves) to value spiritual things over material possessions. We should be storing our treasures up in heaven, after all, where moth and rust (and kids) do not destroy. So the next time something special breaks, or gets lost, ripped, or colored, remind yourself that you can build up your children at that very moment. You can teach them that some things are unbreakable and irreplaceable--like their status as our children. You can glue into their hearts things like responsibility, stewardship, and teamwork (clean-up, clean-up). Finally, you can demonstrate to them that our priorities should reflect those of the Lord, namely Christ and the salvation that we have in and through Him!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Household Tips

Here are some more tips from What Didn't I Think of That:


"Want to extend the lifetime of your mop and broom? Tie a knot at the end of each mop string for longer wear. Dip a new broom in hot, salt water to toughen the bristles."

"Recycle those expensive paper towels. After using them to dry your hands, store them in a clean milk carton under the sink. They're dandy for wiping up spills or scrubbing remaining grease from the skillet."

"Stains on clothing are no problem with these tips...
*Ball point pen ink is removed easily by spraying with hair spray then wash as usual.

*Blood stains wash out readily after a good soaking in cold water. For a more stubborn blood stain, add a cup of vinegar to the water.

*Iron rust departs when the garments are boiled in a solution of four teaspoons of cream of tartar to one pint of water...or rub with diluted peroxide or lemon juice."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Try and See...

Do you have a picky eater? Or do you have a good eater who won't touch certain foods (i.e. like veggies)? Don't give up! I have been amazed that my boys will eat certain foods only in certain forms. Carrots, for instance, are apparently only edible when cooked in chicken broth in the oven (or straight off a snowman, as my eldest demonstrated today). Other vegetables are devoured, but only when smothered in hummus. Cucumbers will not be touched when diced, but they will be if they're sliced thinly in the round. You can provide various dips, or try it roasted, sauteed, boiled, steamed, seasoned, raw, or pureed. Give them a try and you may be pleasantly surprised that what was once despised is now enjoyed (or at least tolerated)! :)

Best of luck!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Stepping Heavenward

Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss is undoubtedly one of my favorite books. I'm reading it now for the fifth or sixth time and I plan on reading it once every year (maybe twice). If you are a wife and mother who long to love the Lord more, this book provides precious encouragement on your journey heavenward. Written in the form of a journal, Katy comes to faith in Jesus and, through battles with her own sin and various life circumstances, is molded into a vessel who seeks to honor God above all things.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

"I have heard Mother say that we might love an earthly object as much as we pleased if we only love God better" (p. 175).

"Yes, I suppose I am as happy in my dear precious husband and children as a wife and mother can be in a fallen world, which must not be a real heaven lest we should love the land we journey through so well as to want to pitch our tents in it forever and cease to look and long for the home whither we are bound" (p. 278).

If the name Elizabeth Prentiss sounds familiar, it's likely because of the well-known hymn she wrote, More Love to Thee, O Christ. I've included the lyrics because they are as clear a window into the writer's heart as they are into that of the book's protagonist.

More love to thee, O Christ, more love to thee!
Hear thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to thee;
more love to thee, more love to thee!

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
now thee alone I seek, give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to thee;
more love to thee, more love to thee!

Let sorrow do its work, come grief and pain;
sweet are thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
when they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to thee;
more love to thee, more love to thee!

Then shall me latest breath whisper thy praise;
this be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
this still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to thee;
more love to thee, more love to thee!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cabin Fever? Part 3

"Spring Clean" now, play later!

Whoever came up with the idea of "spring cleaning" clearly did not live in the north. On these bone chilling winter days I often dream of spring and all the fun we'll have outdoors when the inches upon inches of snow melts and we can finally see our grass again. Why would I save my cleaning and organizing for then when I could be taking care of it now?

In an effort to beat cabin fever, satisfy your need for activity and get your house clean at the same time!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cabin Fever? Part 2

Exercise Indoors

If you've experienced cabin fever with a toddler or young child, you know that the greatest factor to contend with is lack of exercise (i.e. inability to empty their energy tanks for the day). If the tanks stay full throughout the day, things can get ugly, and they can get ugly fast.

Try these exercises/games and enjoy the process of wearing them out!

*Lead them in exercises. You can do jumping jacks, somersaults (yes, furniture will need to be moved), make a bridge with your body and let them craw under you, run in place, etc. Let them run, skip or walk around until you blow a whistle, then give them a command and let them practice following instructions (Simon Says can work, too). Get creative and get involved. Chances are you'll be craving the movement, too!

*Act out books/songs. There are several books and songs out there that are conducive to this activity. Here are just a few:
*Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
*From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
*The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears - act these out

*Hide and Seek. This game came keep just about any age entertained. Even if they can't grasp the concept of staying hidden or waiting while you hide, you'll get to run around and it's bound to produce lots of laughter from you and your little guys!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Cabin Fever? Part 1

Too rainy? Too hot (where do you live?)? Too cold? Too snowed in? Whatever the reason for your confinement with small children, you're desperate for some reprieve and so I thought it might be helpful to equip you with means of temporary escape (or activity).

So here goes...


*Stick an apron on your little guy or gal, make chef's hats out of white construction paper and bake (or make) anything! Kids love to participate in grown-up activities and they love to get their hands dirty (just make sure they're not dirty before you begin your cooking endeavor). They can stir, break eggs (warning: probably 50% in the bowl, 50% on the floor), pour, press, roll, whatever!

*It's not too early to make Valentine cookies (and not to late to make gingerbread cookies in my book). If you're stuck inside because of the snow - we are - then you could make snowmen and/or snowball cookies.

*Purchase some safe skewers - without sharp tips - and let them practice piercing cubed fruits, vegetables, cheeses, etc. to make kid-friendly kabobs.

*You can even let them help with a meal. Take your time showing them how to measure with cups and spoons and which spices to add for flavor. Let them do "taste tests" to determine if something else is needed.

*If their attention span is really impressive, you could watch a recorded episode from the Food Network together and then try to imitate the dish afterward.

Happy cooking and bon appetit!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sleeping Bag for Your Toddler

On my first son's second birthday, my mom and dad gave him a sleeping bag. I have to confess that at the time I thought it was an odd gift. Sure it would be great when he starts to have sleep-overs, but wasn't that three or so years away? I was proven wrong about the age appropriateness of it and I see now that it can be both practical, fun and well worth the investment!

Here's why:

1. A portable bed. You can bring your child's "bed" with you wherever you go. We take it to the grandparent's house, on vacation, or anywhere. Set it on top of a rug or blow-up mattress for extra cushioning. This is especially nice once your toddler grows out of the pack 'n play.

2. Extra warmth on cold nights. If your child's room gets drafty on cold winter nights, it can be more fun for them to crawl into a sleeping bag than to cuddle up with extra blankets.

3. Making the bed in a hurry. If you've ever been caught at bedtime with your child's sheets still damp in the dryer, just stick the sleeping bag on top of the bed and you're all set!

4. Camping out. If your child wants to camp-out (or pretend to), then you've got the most essential piece of equipment!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Household Tips

When I moved into my first apartment, my mom gave me a little booklet entitled Why Didn't I Think of That. It is a "collection of consumer hints" compiled by Peggy Rolfer and I love referencing it for quick tips on how to maintain a house. I'll post about these periodically because I find them to be so helpful!

"Dingy, moldy shower curtains will look like new after an occasional soaking in 1/2 cup liquid bleach and 1/4 cup detergent. Soak curtains for 20 minutes in either washing machine or bathtub. Rinse, then drip dry."

"Sponges stay fresh when soaked regularly in cold salt water."

"Silver will gleam after a rubbing with damp baking soda on a soft cloth."

"Toss lemon rinds into the garbage disposal for a fresh, clean scent."

"Stubborn candle wax may be removed from linens or carpeting by pressing a warm iron over a paper towel directly on the spot...continue until wax melts and is absorbed."

Monday, January 24, 2011

What's in the Pantry?

You may always be extremely resourceful with what you have in the back of the fridge and pantry, and if you are, this post is not for you. This post is for those of us who don't think we have time to survey what we already have and plunge ahead with the menu plans and grocery lists as if we have nothing at home to work with. So before planning (and spending), try simplifying your menu using the following ideas:

1. Dump Salad: If you have accumulated lots of random leftovers throughout the week, try combining it, or "dumping it," all in a salad. There are usually scraps of a Rotisserie chicken, half cans of yellow corn or black beans, hummus, pieces of tomato, cheese, and cooked veggies from previous meals - create an easy dinner and clean out your fridge all at the same time!

2. Sandwich Night (which could be bread/tortilla/pita/etc.): Continuing with the same idea as above, gather meat, cheese and an assortment of toppings to assemble dinner in minutes!

3. Soup: And again, heat up a combination of chicken or beef broth and water on the stove and add just about anything to it. You can always use rice or pasta to bulk it up a bit.

4. Breakfast for Dinner: Take a look in your fridge right now and chances are good that you have all you'll need for a hearty breakfast-dinner! Scramble some eggs, make French toast or pancakes, cook sausage, ham or even a hot dog. Add whatever fruit you have on hand and there you go - it's the breakfast you always crave in the morning but never have time to make!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Prayer Groups

During these precious years with little ones, time flies! There are things that we'll inevitably have to let slide and it is important to prioritize. Fellowship with other women should be high on our lists!

While there are numerous ways to do this, I want to propose one that is both fun and greatly edifying - prayer groups. Depending on your stages and schedules you might choose to meet monthly, bi-monthly or even weekly. Set a time that works best for all involved and without kids gather to share and receive prayer requests. Try to stick to the allotted time slot - which means you'll need to arrive on time and end punctually - so that women who already have a tough time fitting it into their schedules won't be disinclined to come. In my experience, the bond that forms within so intimate a group is invaluable and you will all grow together as you marvel at how the Lord works in your lives and answers prayers according to His good, gracious and sovereign will!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Soak the Sponge

We've all heard that young children can be likened to a sponge, absorbing just about anything and everything that comes their way - to some extent, anyway. How can we best take advantage of this characteristic in our absorbent little ones?

1. Answer it. As your dear is learning the world around him, he will likely ask you lots of questions. When he does, be intentional and thorough with your answers. Certainly use language that he can understand, but don't worry too much about overwhelming him. I'm convinced that far more can go in than comes out in the early years. If you're challenged with questions for which you don't have an answer, look it up. You'll be demonstrating habits that will help him down the road and you might be amazed by how much you'll learn, too!

2. Expand the reading. How many of us can recite Brown Bear, Brown Bear or Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? in our sleep? If you find yourself reading the same books over and over to your child, know that this is a wonderful exercise developmentally. It might become monotonous to you, and if so, try spicing things up by asking them questions about different things on the page. For example, "How many ears does the bunny have?," "What color is this? Is it red or blue?," or "Does the bird look happy or sad?" As they get older you can take it a step further by discussing the rhyming words or testing their memory to see if they know what happens next in the story.

3. Turn mundane routines into learning opportunities. Take the opportunity during routine endeavors to learn about letters, numbers, shapes and colors. We sing the ABC song while we're washing our hands (if you have a tiny one, you can sing while changing a diaper). At the end we sing, "Now I can wash this soap off me" (the grammatically correct among you might want to say myself instead of me) instead of "Next time won't you sing with me?" You can also create a stack of socks while you fold laundry and count the number of individual socks or count by 2s once the pairs are matched. When walking or driving, point out shapes on road signs and describe things by color (e.g. "Look at that blue truck"). They may not catch on right away, but with repetition, they eventually will!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Homemade Granola

I just found this recipe on a friend's blog and I thought I'd pass it along (thanks, BG!):

Tracy’s Homemade Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 T ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup grade A dark amber syrup
2 T butter
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 325
2) Mix together the first 5 ingredients
3) In a small bowl, stir together the syrup and melted butter.
4) Pour the syrup mixture over the dry ingredients, coating the dry ingredients well.
5) Spread this mixture onto baking sheets (either greased or lined with parchment paper)
6) Bake at 325 for 30-45 minutes until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
7) Add the craisins, dates, and chocolate chips or whatever dried fruit combination you prefer.

Try this recipe on top of Greek yogurt with a splash of honey - delicious and healthy, too!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Reading Through the Bible in a Year

Have you ever read the Bible from start to finish? Or have you gone through a reading plan that takes you through the Bible in the span of a year or two? I haven't, but I'm halfway there! What started out as an effort to read from Genesis through Revelation in a year will likely take closer to a year and a half, but I am really enjoying it and highly recommend that you try it too! There are numerous "plans" out there (see some options below*) and I've been amazed by how doable it is, so don't be discouraged if the prospect seems daunting!

Here are some reasons why I commend the practice to you:

1. You get to see the beautiful picture of the covenant of grace unfold from the beginning (and even before) creation.

2. It puts into practice the belief that all Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (1 Tim 3:16)

3. Being exposed to the whole counsel of God (i.e. every aspect of His revelation to us) guards you from only reading your favorite sections.

4. You will notice connections throughout the Bible that demonstrate its divine authorship.

5. As you familiarize yourself with all of Scripture over time, Bible references you encounter in sermons, studies, etc. will have greater meaning in context.

*Every Day in the Word. One reading from the OT, NT, Psalms, and Proverbs each day. You will read through the OT, NT and Proverbs once and the Psalms twice in a year.

*One-Year Tract Bible Reading Plan. Two readings from the OT, one from the NT and Psalms each day. You'll read through the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice in a year.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Mommy Vest Update!

A dear friend just notified me that the Lands' End Regular Down Vest is on sale for $14.75! And there's a code out now to secure free shipping on your order (code: SHIPPINGISFREE pin: 5859). The catch is that there are only a few colors left, including some beautiful and versatile options like Dark Cobalt Blue, Dusk Black, Navy and Ivory. I'm not sure how long this will last, so if the "ultimate mommy vest" idea has been lingering in the back of your mind since my first post, now is the time to jump on it! Happy shopping (and saving!)!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Post-Christmas Toy Management

Christmas was just twelve days ago and, if you children have been inundated with more new toys than you can count, your home may look more like a toy store that's been hit by a tornado than one that's organized and manageable. Don't let the excess of gifts lead to post-Christmas blues! If you want to reclaim order and sanity, here are a couple of tips that might help...

1. Out with the old, in with the new! There are many different approaches to this, so you'll need to pick the one that works for you.

The dramatic approach: I swept through our toy room with large garbage bags just hours after we returned home from our holiday travels and put almost all of the kids' old toys in them, leaving only a few of their favorites behind. I stuck the bags in the attic so that we can pull the old toys out periodically. For now we can focus on the new ones without being distracted and overwhelmed.

The less dramatic approach: For every new toy that you bring in, store one away or start a bag to be sent to Goodwill or another charity organization. Or you could consider donating some to your church's nursery.

The least dramatic approach: Keep all of the toys out for now, but be on the lookout for ones that have lost their appeal now that new toys are around. Gradually clear out as you see fit!

**Note that each of the options involves parting with some toys. Every birthday and holiday will bring more stuff with it and the longer you wait to declutter (which is not considered a word by Merriam-Webster, can you believe it??), the more difficult the task will be when you finally get around to it!

2. Bins, bins, bins! I do not like to spend money unnecessarily, but I've learned over the last few years that money well spent (i.e. on something that will help keep the home in order) is totally worth it! Try to find storage containers on sale or even on clearance and purchase what you need.* Having a "home" for the toys will be of great help come clean-up time and will reduce the appearance, and reality, of clutter.

3. Hand 'em down. Children go through stages and they grow out of certain toys. While the sentimental mom (I include myself here) has a hard time with this, it's a wonderful gift to pass toys down to others who might need/like them. You might want to wait until February or March to pass these down though so as not to overwhelm another mother who is probably in the midst of dealing with her own post-Christmas clutter issues!

*Get creative when thinking about storage space and choose containers accordingly. Consider odd spaces like under beds, under tall dressers, behind chairs, under sofas, in the garage, on the floor or top shelf of closets, etc.. You might even find an unused drawer in a desk or dresser that could be used to collect toys.