Being a mom is the hardest thing I've ever done, but it has brought me so much joy! I want to encourage other moms on their journey, I'll share motherhood tricks, spotlight tips I've learned from friends, and I hope you will share your ideas. I will focus on secrets that help families stay balanced, healthy, frugal, creative, and closely knit. I will also share favorite fiction and nonfiction books that I have enjoyed. Many blessings to you on your mothering journey!

Monday, December 31, 2007

Freezer Meals - Super Simple Chili

Monica at The Homespun Heart has inspired me to share some of the recipes I like to double and freeze for later. Today I'm tripling this super-easy chili recipe to share with my family this week.

My mom was moved out of ICU this morning, and she's in a regular hospital room healing from surgery. This will be great comfort food for my Dad and siblings who have been caring so well for her.

Super Simple Chili
2 pounds ground beef
1 (8 ounce) jar salsa
4 tablespoons chili seasoning mix
1 (15 ounce) can light red kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can corn

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute ground beef until browned. Drain grease, if desired.
2. Add the other ingredients. Mix well, reduce heat to low and simmer for at least an hour.
3. Serve with cheese, fritos, sour cream or whatever toppings you enjoy.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Update on Mom

Mom is out of the heart surgery - it went well. The docs are working to stabilize her blood pressure and blood levels, but overall everything looks good. It's been a long day, but we are praising God for her health! Thank you for your prayers thusfar, and keep praying for her full recovery!

Baking Worries Away

It's been a tough two days for our extended family (heart surgery, foot surgery, miscarriage, breast cyst, flights across country, and plain old colds). So today, as I await news on mom's heart surgery, I'm baking my worries away.

Great Grandma Betty's Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened ahead of time
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Beat sugar into softened butter with a mixer. Add brown sugar, vanilla and eggs, beating the mixture after each ingredient is added.
  3. Gradually add in flour mixture, and beat thoroughly.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips, nuts and whatever.
  5. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheet.
  6. Bake at 375 for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Oops! My husband laughs at me, because I tend to get ditzy and forgetful when I'm stressed. I did it with the cookies - putting one stick of butter (1/2 cup) in the mix, instead of 1 cup (2 sticks). Oh well, I added some crisco to the remaining batter, so we'll see how they turn out. Oh well, it's the thought that counts, right? Ands baking is definitely cheaper than therapy!

Afterthought: the "lite" cookies are actually still good. They're not as buttery yummy, but they're still good for a chocolate fix. :)


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Travel Time

Secret for new moms, or moms new to traveling with kiddos. Expect it to take a week after traveling to get back into your home routines. With altered sleep schedules, menu flexibility, time changes, and special attention during vacation - not to mention exhausted parents - it just takes some time to get back to normal. I always do my best not to overplan during the week after traveling. And I'm so glad we have a slow week this week.

I'm sick, so doubly exhausted.
The house seems extra chaotic with new Christmas gifts.
The kids have TONS of energy - the loud boy kind!
My mom was just admitted to the hospital for a probable heart valve replacement.

So I'm doing my best to choose prayer over panic, knowing that God is sovereign over our health. Praying for my mom's health (and life!), and trusting that God will take care of us regardless of the outcome. And waiting to hear another report from the doctors.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thrift Store Finds

I love shopping at thrift stores, and I find really good deals for my 3 kiddos. Well, not as good as Meredith finds, but I'm proud of some of my shopping finds.

Yesterday I found a great little Christmas dress/gown for my daughter. It's too big for this year, but I wanted to take pictures anyway. Now if I could just figure out how to get my 15mo old to pose!

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

1 Corinthians 13 - Christmas Style

author unknown

If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid

bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls,

but do not show love to my family,

I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of

Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and

arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime,

but do not show love to my family,

I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the

nursing home, and give all that I have to charity,

but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and

crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and

sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ,

I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love doesn't envy another home that has

coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of your way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return,

but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes

all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails.

Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust.

But giving the gift of love will endure.

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Out Serve

I just read a great article from Family Christian Stores, called Out Serve. It's a great reminder of the way spouses ought to be serving one another - not an easy task in this selfish world full of selfish people (myself included)! It'll take you less than 5 minutes to read, and it's a great way to start your day!

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Yummy Holiday Treat

This picture is from Jenn's post at Frugal Upstate. She blogged about one of my favorite holiday treats...homemade eggnog lattes! Read how she makes them here. Poke around on her blog a little bit - Jenn has great ideas for thrifty living.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Star Light Star Bright

I've been saving the Star Light Star Bright post from By Sun and Candlelight. I love the stars her family made to decorate the windows! She gives really good directions for us to follow her decorative lead.

If you haven't read By Sun and Candlelight's blog, you should stop by her site. She posts lots of creative ideas for seasonal activities. It's a cozy, hot cocoa kind of site.

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Reading for Life Part 7 - Books that Promote Positive Values

1. December, by Eve Bunting.
Simon and his mother await Christmas in their little cardboard box home. Late at night, an old woman knocks and asks if she can come into the warmth of their home. After giving her a cookie and their coat, Simon falls asleep. When he awakes, he sees an angel.
• Have you ever shared with someone when you didn’t want to share?
• Why should we be kind to people in need? How can you be kind to someone in your life?

2. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton.
This charming story takes the reader through transportation history and demonstrates responsibility and integrity through a vivid story about hard work.
• What’s something that you have worked very hard to do?
• Do you always finish the work you say you’re going to finish?

3. The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, by Chris Van Allsburg.
A naughty dog takes Alan on a chase to a magician’s house, where the dog disappears. Alan is faced with the difficult task of telling the truth.
• Can you think of a time that it was really hard for you to tell the truth?
• Why is it so important to tell the truth?

4. Too Many Tamales, by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez.
As Maria helped her parents make tamales for a family celebration, she decided to play with her mother’s ring. Forgetting about the ring, she let it slip into one of the tamales. After she tried to eat her way out of trouble, she had an honest and humorous talk with her mother.
• Are there some things in your house that you need special permission to play with? Why is it important to obey rules that you don’t like?

5. Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister.
The Rainbow Fish learned via trial and error that being beautiful was not the best way to make friends. As he learned to share, he discovered a world of friends and a happier heart.
• How do you feel when people share with you? How do you feel when you share with others?

6. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems.
When Pigeon finds a hot dog, he can’t wait for lunch! That is, until a duck interrupts him. Watch as Pigeon struggles between hunger and sharing with his new . . . er . . . friend.
• Have you ever shared your lunch with someone? How did it feel?
• How can you share with someone today?

7. I Did It – I’m Sorry, by Caralyn and Mark Buehner.
These animal stories represent real life choices that children make every day. Within each story is a quiz to determine whether the choices help or hurt the animal’s friends.
• Which animal do you relate to the most?
• Have you had to make any hard choices this week?

8. The Summer my Father was Ten, by Pat Brisson.
A group of boys ruined Mr. Bellavista’s garden when they started playing baseball with tomatoes. It took a long time to rebuild a friendship with Mr. Bellavista, and learn the value of making amends.
• What did the boys do that was unkind and inconsiderate? What happened when the little boy offered to help Mr. Bellavista?
• How can you practice being kind?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Reading for Life Part 6 - Books that Promote Positive Identity

1. Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon.
Separated from her mother at a young age, Stellaluna, a bat, was raised by a bird. She grew up modeling after her bird siblings, and left the bat ways behind. Another bat found her, and challenged her odd habits. Stellaluna slowly discovered and learned to love her true self.
• What are the ways that you are different from other people?
• How are you learning to love yourself for who you are, instead of trying to be like everyone else?

2. The Mixed-Up Chameleon, by Eric Carle.
A mysterious little chameleon reminds readers to be proud of who they are. After wishing to be a polar bear, a flamingo, and a fish, the chameleon realizes he’s quite happy with his life as a chameleon.
• Do you ever wish you could be somebody else? Why are you glad to be you?

3. Angelina Ballerina, by Katharine Holabird.
Angelina had a dream to dance, and she pursued that dream until it came true.
• What do you want to be when you grow up? How can practice your dream now?

4. I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem, by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell.
This adorable poem of self-confidence reminds children to like themselves in success and failure. The pictures tell an equally humorous tale of silliness and laughter.
• What can you do that you’re really proud of? What is something you’d like to learn to do better?

5. Just Big Enough by Mercer Mayer.
Little Critter wants to be big so he can do all the things big kids do. He tries everything. It’s not until he talks with Grandpa that he realizes being himself is just big enough.
• What are the things you do well?
• Who points out to you how great you are? What do they say?

6. Moo, Who? by Margie Palatini.
Hilda Mae Heifer has lost her moo. She doesn’t know who she is anymore, but with the help of others, she gets her moo back.
• Have you ever tried to be someone you’re not?
• What do you like best about yourself?

7. I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont.
Silly and real at the same time, this book explores all the things that are good about each of us. Inside and out just because you’re you and I’m me.
• Which is your best feature? Toes? Hair? Smile? Can you list different things you like about yourself?

8. Elemenopee: The Day L, M, N, O, P Left the ABC’s by Pamela Hall.
L, M, N, O, P have had enough! They are run together in the song, the other letters tease them and they are through. They don’t feel like they belong in the ABC song so they decide to leave. See what happens when they’re not there anymore . . .
• Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong or felt left out? How can you help others feel special, like they belong?
• What can you see about them and praise for how they’re important? OR What can you do to make others feel special and important?

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Reading for Life Part 5 - Books that Promote Social Competencies

1. Miss Nelson is Missing!, by Harry Allard.
When the children in Room 207 continued to misbehave Miss Nelson suddenly disappeared. Replaced by an awful substitute teacher, Viola Swamp, the children discovered a new appreciation for their missing teacher. When Miss Nelson returned to school, she found a class of kind and respectful students.
• Is it hard to learn when people are using unkind words and actions? How can you improve your manners at home and school?

2. Mole Music, by David McPhail.
When Mole was watching television, he heard a man playing the most beautiful music on a violin. Deciding that he, too, wanted to learn how to play, he ordered a violin and practiced every night. He learned to make beautiful music.
• What kinds of music do you like best? Do you think you could learn to play an instrument like Mole did?
• Have you ever practiced anything as hard as Mole did?

3. Morris Goes to School by B. Wiseman.
Morris the mouse can’t read or count. With the help of the candy man, Morris goes to school and begins a whole new adventure in learning.
• Can you say you’re A-B-C’s? Count to ten?
• What have you learned in school?

4. Countdown to Kindergarten by Alison McGhee.
An almost kindergartener is in a frantic! School is about to start and she doesn’t know how to tie her shoes. Laugh and cry with her as she faces her fears and discovers school may not be all that bad.
• Have you ever felt worried like the girl in the book?
• Have you ever had trouble learning to do something? How did you finally learn? Who helped you?

5. What Teachers Can’t Do by Douglas Wood.
There are SO many things that teachers can’t do like ride scooters to school or be late. And they always seem to need help with things around the classroom . . . cleaning boards, spelling “c-a-t” and answering “2+2=4.” Teachers need students and do what they can to make them feel welcome and a part of school.
• Do you know someone who makes you feel special or needed? What do they need you to do?
• Do you think learning can be fun? How?

6. Hog Eye, by Susan Meddaugh.
A little pig got on the wrong school bus, and rode to the wrong side of town. When she tried to cut through the forest en route home, a wolf snatched her for his soup. Discovering his inability to read, the piggy tricked him with her own recipe, and escaped.
• What rules have your parent’s set for you to follow? Why is it important to follow their rules, even if you don’t like them?
• Why is it important to read? How can it help you?

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Meals for New Moms - and a great dish to add!
There is no better gift for a new mom than a meal for her family. I was always so blessed when a friend would bring a meal during those first few months of adjusting to a little one. One of my friends, Tricia, brought me this delightful carrot souffle when my 2nd child was born 3 years ago. I hate cooked carrots, so I didn't try it the first night. I took a tiny bite when I was cleaning up the dishes, and fell in love with the dish. These carrots are divine - great for a potluck supper, a holiday meal, or a meal for a new mom. And we're having them for dinner tonight. Thank you Tricia!!

Carrot soufflé
Serves 8

1 lb carrots peeled & sliced (I use canned carrots, drained)
salt to taste
½ c butter
½ c sugar
1t baking powder
3T flour
3 eggs
1t vanilla extract

Cook carrots in salt and water ‘til tender. Combine carrots with butter in food processor or blender ‘til smooth. Combine other ingredients with carrots. Put in baking dish. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Bracelets with a Story

Sorry about the silence this month. I'm working on the deadline for turning in my next book, and I've been completely overwhelmed with life. Oh, how crazy some life seasons can be!!

My friend Shannon showed me a beautiful beaded bracelet a few months ago. The bracelet was made by a 7 year old boy, Barrett, who is making bracelets in order to raise money to join his parents on their trip to Russia to adopt a baby brother. Barrett's aunt goes to my church, so I bought a bracelet this morning. They are only $10 (child size bracelets are $5), and I love telling the story about the bracelet. I love entrepreneurial stories, especially when they involve children and good deeds.

This is a picture from Barrett's family website. You can read more about his story and find ordering information there.

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