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!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Managing a Sick Baby :(
**Don't read while eating!**

My husband went to wake up our 17m daughter this morning, and found her quietly staring at her vomit. (Sorry to be graphic!) We were completely caught off guard, because she went to bed happy and we haven't knowingly been around any sick people. So today's mommysecret is about dealing with yuckiness such as this. Here's the system we follow:
  1. Take clothes off sick child and carry to bathtub.
  2. Older sibling watches baby in the bath, while mommy cleans.
  3. Use an old rag to pick up any chunks (again, sorry for being graphic!) and wipe off as much yuck as possible. Put the rag and trash into a plastic bag and take it outside to the trashcan.
  4. Go back to the bed and fold over the soiled laundry, trying to keep any stains from touching clean fabric.
  5. Walk straight to the washing machine, put oxiclean on the stains, and wash the laundry in warm water with my strongest detergent.
  6. Spray crib mattress, crib rails and all around the crib with lysol or another disinfectant.
  7. Wash child head to toe, and redress in an easy-to-get-on/off outfit.
  8. Disinfect the rest of the house with lysol when the kids go to bed.
  9. Do double-duty on hand-washing throughout the day.
  10. Give the child juice or watered down gatorade for rehydration. When the child is ready to try eating, start with crackers and bananas.
  11. PRAY for this to be an isolated incident!

It's tedious and gross, but thorough. If you have any tips on these unfortunate circumstances (especially during flu season!), I'd love to hear them!

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We have snow!!

Not a lot of snow, compared to friends up north, but we have lots of swirly white flakes falling down! We don't have a lot of accumulation, so we didn't play a lot. My sister said in passing, "I wish we would get enough snow to make snow cream." We made it together growing up, so it's a fond memory. When we got off the phone, I looked outside, and we still had enough snow on the ground to make a small batch.

I didn't have evaporated milk to make my usual recipe, but I found a new one to try. Here is Mylessa's recipe from It wasy yummy yummy!!

1 gallon snow
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups milk

When it starts to snow, place a large, clean bowl outside to collect the flakes. When full, stir in sugar and vanilla to taste, then stir in just enough milk for the desired consistency. Serve at once.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Shopping Secret for Moms

Don't buy two packages of cookies for your child's classroom snack day early - even if they're on sale! I bought them 10 days ago - super yummy nutter butter bites. I didn't touch them 'til Friday, when I thought, "I'll just have one or two". Now I've eaten one entire package. Oh, shame on me! I love cookies too much.

The funny thing is that I've been avoiding the delicacy of the Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies. They're special and therefore need to be saved. Moral of the story for this shopper - don't buy cookies - especially not if I have to keep them in the house for more than 36 hours!

Tornado Benefit Concerts

Middle Tennessee was hit hard by tornadoes a couple of weeks ago. This weekend two churches will host benefit concerts to collect money and food for the victims. Can you imagine being a mom without a home? Be grateful for your home today, and ask God for ways you might help people in your community that need a little extra help.

Strong Tower Bible Church will host a benefit songwriter's night fortornado victims in Williamson, Macon, Trousdale and Sumner counties THIS SUNDAY at 6:00pm (see flyer attached). Host for the evening will beVince Gill. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Concert will take place inLiberty Hall at the Factory in Franklin.Admission to the event is a food box of donated non-perishable items ora gift card. Cash donations for the tornado victims will be receivedduring the concert.

Fellowship Bible Church (1210 Franklin Road, Brentwood, TN 37027) willalso host a benefit concert THIS SUNDAY, March 2, at 7:00pm to benefitrecent tornado victims. Confirmed artists include: Brandon Heath, JasonIngram, Christy Nockels & Bebo Norman.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Freezer Meal - Chicken Enchilada Casserole
This is my MIL's wonderful southwestern casserole. Everyone loves it! It's more time intensive than my usual cooking, so I usually double the recipe and put one in the freezer. Enjoy!

4-5 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
8oz sour cream
onion powder to taste
garlic powder to taste
12 corn tortillas
1 lg can diced green chilies
1 lg brick cheddar cheese, grated
1 medium onion, diced

Combine all soups, sour cream, onion and spices.
Soften tortillas in hot oil; drain.
Fill with shredded chicken, chilies, onion, cheese and 1T of sour cream mixture.
Top with leftover mixture and cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until casserole is bubbling in the middle.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Nurturing Boys: Parenting Class
Led by David Thomas

I strongly recommend being a part of this class or reading David's practical & light-hearted parenting/marriage books. He is incredibly wise and compassionate, a father and a counselor. You will be stronger for knowing him in person or through his resources. Here's his promo on the Nurturing Boys Parenting classes in middle Tennessee:

Webster defines nurturing as the act of “training, upbringing, educating... to further the development of.” As people who care for boys, how do we train, educate and further them while they are in the midst of developmental challenges, relational struggle and a culture of conflict. The class is designed for parents, educators, coaches, mentors and anyone who wants to better understand a boy.

I. The Biology of Boys: Who They Are
II. The Heart of Boys: What They Need
III. The Mind of Boys: How They Learn
IV. The Mystery of Boys: What They Want

February 25, March 3 and 10, 2008 at West End Community Church
9:30 – 11:30am

April 2, 9, 16, 2008 at Fellowship Bible Church
6:30-8:30 pm

October 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 and November 5, 2008
6:30-7:30 pm at Covenant Presbyterian Church

Cost: $75.00 for individual/$125.00 for couple for three-week class
Please call the Daystar office to register at 298-5353.

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Living Simply

I just finished a wonderful library book called Living Simply by Joanne Heim. It was a delightful easy read, full of practical ideas for living a simple life. It was challenging, encouraging and inspiring all together. I thought I would share some of my notes with you:

How do we come to choose what it is that we spend our days doing? Would we choose it again if we could?” Did we choose it today, or has it simply carried us along somehow? 46

Living simply involves intention and purpose. It requires focus. It looks beyond the task at hand to the purpose behind it. Knowing the purpose can make all the difference. Packing lunches can be another chore to get done in the rush before school, or it can be a task undertaken to provide nourishment and energy for my children so they can learn all there is to learn that day. Cleaning my house can be an item on my to-do list, or it can be done for the purpose of making my home a place my family enjoys. Living simply involves changing our thinking, looking at our lives from a different perspective. It means stopping to ask myself why I am doing something and making choices that reflect my purpose. 45

Saying ‘no’ to some of the excess means being able to say ‘yes’ to others – and having the energy to pursue those things that have more and lasting value. 28

Satisfy me each morning with your love and establish the work of my hands today, Lord God. Order my day, arrange the tasks to be accomplished, prepare me for the conversations I’ll have. Help me sing for joy as I clean my home, read to my children, spend time with a friend. Number my day aright and help me pursue and grab hold of wisdom. 44

I can’t comprehend how one goes about making a sculpture like this. Michelangelo once said, I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” It sounds so simple: You just hold the chisel like this, give it a little tap like so, and voila! An angel. … In some ways, understanding the ‘how’ of simplicity is a lot like freeing the angel from the marble. Our lives are like chunks of marble: often unwieldy and weighted down by all the stuff we’ve acquired, commitments we’ve made, and complexities forced upon us that come from living in a world that never stops. But the quality of life we search for is in there somewhere, and so we start with the obvious things – getting rid of sharp edges, corners, and conspicuous flaws. We begin to consciously choose less, and in doing so we pare away more of the excess. We learn to say no and begin focusing on those things that bring joy, not stress. As we examine our lives, we focus on what is most important; soon, we begin to see the shape of it in our minds…and we set free the beautiful angel trapped inside. 30-31

I'll share more of Joanne's thoughts tomorrow - until then, you can visit her blog. It's also very encouraging.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fun Mail

I just found a great little package for my kids to create for my mother-in-law. She is the quintessential grandma, and she loves little trinkets from the kids. So this weekend we'll make a message in a bottle for her. We can fill it with pictures, confetti, and happy notes - and make the postal workers smile when we drop it by the post office!

This easy idea comes from Cocoa at Chocolate on My Cranium. I love her blog name!! Perhaps because I probably love chocolate just as much as she does. Or perhaps because the creativity of her blogname somehow inspires me. Or maybe the phrase just makes me smile.

Anyhoo, hooray for another fun gift idea for Gramma!

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Kids in Service
Kids love crafts. Have you ever thought about using those crafts in ministry? Next time you pull out crayons and markers, you could help your kids serve others.

Make bookmarks for families receiving food boxes from the food pantry
Tie ribbons with scripture around teddy bears for clients at counseling ministry
Make "welcome baby" signs for new parents at Hope Clinic for Women
Decorate Scripture cards for an after-school tutoring site
Create "get well cards" for a low-income health clinic
Color a picture for a missionary
Make paper stained glass decorations for a senior center
Put together craft kits for children's hospital

What's your favorite nonprofit ministry or local outreach? How might your kids make a difference there without even leaving your home?

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Yummy Treats

Don't these scones look divine? They're from a new blog I found called Down to Earth. I LOVE scones, because they're yummy enough for kiddos, but fancy enough to serve for special occassions. They add just a little bit of celebration into daily life, and I love to celebrate!

Four women contribute to this blog, but this recipe was submitted by Rhonda Jean, a homemaker from Australia who describes her mission as: "My aim is awareness, to be generous, kind, to reskill, discover all I can, learn how to recognise happiness and truly live my life." I love that! She also talks a lot about simplicity, and HOW to start living a simple life.

Happy Sabbath day to you

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Entertaining toddlers in the cold weather months!!

We all have days when mom & the kids are completely stir-crazy from the cold weather. Here is a list of ideas to tape inside your games closet, reminding you of creative activities to pull out of your 'hat' when you need some spontaneous fun.

Draw on a mirror with dry-erase markers
Play "Red Light, Green Light"
Make a pinecone bird feeder
Create a matchbox highway with masking tape and paper towel tunnels
Decorate a playhouse or car out of a big box
Make a "Mummy Mommy" with toilet paper
Make a domino chain
Make a reading hide-away
Make a shoebox train for stuffed animals
Make a tin cup telephone and talk to each other in it
Make a puzzle with felt and velcro
Create an obstacle course
Let your child kiss a mirror with lipstick
Play basketball with paper wads or socks
Frost cookies
Play dress up in Mommy or Daddy's clothes
Record each other on a tape recorder
Go fishing with a yardstick and yarn
Make forts with blankets and pillows
Act out a story from a book
Make binoculars to go "Stuffed Animal Watching"
Play hide and seek together
Make puppets for a puppet show
Do the Hokey Pokey
Play the matching game or learn numbers with a deck of cards
Dance to music

For more ideas for cold-weather fun, visit Scribbit's Winter Bazaar!

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

I love the Valentine's photo my friend Shannon took - and I love the caption too!

Keeping Clean with Cool Kids (KCCK)

I mentioned a new website, CoolMomsCare, a few weeks ago. I've been enjoying getting their articles through bloglines - they post 1-2 one-minute ideas each day. Today's blog lead me to one of their articles on family cleaning. They describe their Kids "Kleaning" Kit and some creative ways to safely involve kids in cleaning the house. It also includes a link to their favorite homemade cleaning products.

Happy Cleaning to you on this Valentine's Day!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Potty Training Jokes

For Better or For Worse has a great comic strip about potty training today. Thanks to my DH for sharing it with me.

We're having ups and downs with potty training our 3yr old son. He was doing great, but this week he's been hesitant to poop and he sometimes gets too excited to stop and go potty. It has been a very good exercise for mommy in patience and mercy!

So this week's game plan - a star chart where we'll have a popcorn party if we have stars (for going potty, flushing and washing hands) all day. For the poopy fears, we'll be using Fletchers root beer laxative ($6ish at most drugstores, but only $1.50ish at Freds!).

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Playing Games with Kids - for Competitive Parents

My friend Michelle just gave me a great tip for playing games with school age kids. She and her son are really competitive, so they both play their best when they play games. In most situations, an adult's mind would clobber the 'strategy' of a child's mind, right? So as soon as Michelle gets her strategy in place on a game, she and her son trade places, giving her son the advantage. Then both get to end the game on a competitive note, with Michelle trying to play catch up to win.

So if they are playing Connect Four, when Michelle has mapped out 2-3 ways to win the game, she trades playing pieces with her son. Her son has a fresh perspective on ways he might win, and Michelle stays challenged by trying to make a winning finish with her son's former tokens.

I know, it's not all about winning. But some of us are so competitive in nature (no one in my family!!!), that we need a way to level the playing field.

Happy playing!

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Slimfast for Breakfast on the Run

I'm not advocating Slimfast shakes as a daily diet drink, but they are great for keeping on-hand for breakfast on the way out the door. I know, it's not ideal, and I never plan to eat breakfast in the car. But sometimes it takes every minute I have to change the last minute poopy diaper, discipline a toddler, or find shoes for everyone. On those crazy mornings, I like to know that I won't starve throughout the morning - I just need to grab a slimfast shake out of the frig. Paired with a piece of fruit, it's actually a healthy breakfast.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Discipline at School

My 6yr old son got in trouble at school yesterday. He lost his temper and squished a girl's finger with a cup on the work table. I was horrified that he hurt another child and embarrassed about his behavior. Thankfully his teacher called me from school, so I had a few hours to think about an effective discipline tool.

After talking through the situation and determining a better course of action for future interactions, I told my son that he needed to write an apology letter to the girl and the teacher (long tedious work for a kindergartner, but he's capable of it). His other consequence was no TV or computer for the whole day (a definite favorite of his).

But I struggled to know what was appropriate. At home discipline is easier, because it's immediate. But disciplining 5 hours after the incident is much more complicated. If anyone has ideas, I'd love to hear them!

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Six Words

One big secret to our marriage rests in six little words - "What are your goals for tonight?"

I know that sounds silly, but taking time to ask and answer that question each night has hugely impacted our marriage. We put the kids to bed at 7:30, then we have 3 hours before lights out. It's easy to make assumptions about what the other person would like to do for the evening. Work? Clean? Bills? TV? Ironing? Bath?

Before we started following the 6 words rule, we had quite a few little tiffs and hurt feelings over the evening plans. We didn't mean to be inconsiderate - we just assumed we knew what the other person wanted and needed for the evening.

Now we don't always agree on the evening's priorities, but at least we talk through things before misunderstandings start to take place.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Chocolate = HUGE Mommy Secret!

I probably love chocolate way too much. Okay I do love chocolate way too much. I stumbled upon a new kind of Hershey's Kiss that actually satisfies my chocolate tooth with only a kiss or two.

It's called the Filled with Chocolate Truffle. It was on the sale rack at Target, or I never would have picked it up. But I'm so glad I did! A few kisses kept me from digging through the kid's candy jar, and that's good news! So if you find them on sale, or if you want a little splurge, you should try them!

I also just discovered that they Hershey has a page of craft ideas related to Hershey kisses. They have some cute & simple ideas, such as the checker game pictured below.

They also have a page devoted to recipes with kisses. I bet my sweetheart would love the Reese's Peanut Butter & Hershey Kisses Pie. Valentine's Day might offer the perfect opportunity to make it!

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Triple Duty Holiday Trick

I wish I'd read Amy's post about repurposing goods on the after-Christmas clearance rack a month ago. She has some very clever ideas for turning Christmas goodies into Valentine's and St. Patrick's Day fun.

I love holiday cheer - especially in the middle of the cold season. Although it was anything but cold in middle Tennessee today - we had a 70 degree day. It was gorgeous, so we took advantage of the weather to go on a long walk and play baseball.

Weather for tomorrow night? Below freezing! Crazy temperatures!

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Make Your Mark
Little ways you can make a BIG difference

Live simply.
Use your professional skills to help your neighbors, church members, or community.
Shop and eat locally.
Give money to causes that are important to you.
Take time to help others (move, bake, carpool).
Plant a tree.
Recycle and buy recycled products.
Prioritize and be willing to say no.
Find a mentor and be a mentor.
Live life to the fullest.
Use your personality to bless other people and organizations.
Don’t gossip.
Do your best.
Seek forgiveness and forgive.
Use less energy.
Use water wisely.
Give thanks.
Use your hobbies to make a positive difference.
Cleanse your mind, body and spirit.
Stay physically active – and push yourself to be strong.
Drink water. Drink milk. And have an occasional glass of wine.
Write a personal and family mission statement.
Care for your nuclear and extended family.
Don’t keep up with the Jones’.
Be financially savvy.
Vote. And challenge others to be active citizens.
Speak up when you have a passionate opinion.
Know the news
Laugh – a lot!
Use your faith as an inspiration to LOVE others, not judge or ostracize them.
Love boldly.Make your mark where you believe a mark needs to be made.

What are YOUR favorite ways to make a difference?
Who do you know that IS making a difference?

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Ravioli Casserole

My friend Misty first introduced me to Ravioli Casserole, when she brought me a dish after my daughter was born. (Have I mentioned what a HUGE blessing it is when people share meals with new moms???) My family loved it, and I've since created my own version of the yummy dish. If your family likes Italian food, I bet this will be a hit for your family too! My DH gave me a huge compliment last night, deeming it restaurant quality food. I love it when he says that!

It's also an easy meal to double - one for now & one for the freezer for later! So we prepared one last night for Jennifer's family, who's 4-year old son is undergoing chemotherapy. It's so hard to support one struggling through something like cancer, but cooking is a practical way to help. Best of all, preparing a meal reminds us to pray for our loved ones as they struggle.

The Recipe:

1 pound ground beef
1 (25 ounce) package frozen cheese ravioli, cooked and drained
1.5 (14 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2/3 cup diced green peppers
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain grease, then add the peppers, mushrooms and seasonings – sauté for a 4-5 minutes. Then stir in the spaghetti sauce and tomatoes.

Make a layer of sauce, ravioli, cheese (both kinds). Repeat layer, ending with sauce on top. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top before serving.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Snacks with an Educational Twist

We had fun with our snacks this week. I gave the kids 5 different types of snacks to count and shape into a pattern on top of shiny aluminum foil plates.

They counted 2 miniature marshmallows, 3 mini vanilla wafers, then filled out the circles with strawberry shredded wheat, craisins and peanuts. My 6yr old counted up the high #s, but my 3yr old just practiced the patterns. They got a healthy snack and had fun learning.

Oh, and I had time to drink a cup of coffee while supervising!

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Dinner Tonight - Gumbo

I discovered the recipe for Boudreaux's Zydeco Stomp Gumbo a few years ago on allrecipes. I served it at a party (with the attendees including the best mommy chef I know) and it was a huge hit.

It requires more prep work than I usually do for meals (remember, I'm a 5-ingredient kind of gal), so I only make it for special occasions. Tonight's occasion - my husband has been begging for gumbo for a few weeks. Perhaps the craving has come from me talking about my upcoming workshop in New Orleans. Who knows...

So when you have a craving for good Louisiana food, you should try this recipe. With 214 reviewers giving it a 4.5 star rating, how can you go wrong?


Homemade Bubble Bath

When I'm tired, stressed or sick, there are few remedies better than a good 'ole hot bath. There is something so restorative about the warmth, the scents, the bubbles, and the quiet space. I love them!

I never knew it was so easy to make bubble bath. And I love the way Laura has packaged it to make such a great gift for little friends. I bet my grown up friends would like it just as much!

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