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, September 29, 2008

I just read Meredith's article, "Cheerful Frugality Faces Financial Meltdown". I started leaving a comment about her great article, then realized that I was writing enough for a long blog post!

I was grateful the time our church gave to one of our elders, also a financial investor, to educate our congregation on Sunday. He explained some of the 'whys' of the economic streses, but also took time to remind us that God is bigger. Everything in life will shift and change, but our hope should be grounded in God's love and God's promises, which never fail. I believe that it's our job, in uncertain and scary times, to gently point people to the quiet hope in our hearts.

But I also think it's time for us to encourage people in tangible ways.
  • Teach your friends, neighbors and family members to live frugally. Gather a group of women to teach about budgets, pinching pennies at the grocery store, cooking inexpensive meals, living simply... My friend Shannon lead a great discussion on "saving on groceries" at my church a few years ago - I learned sooooo much listening to other frugal women.
  • Store a little bit of extra food in your pantry - just in case. I just bought extra rice, beans, and canned goods to have on hand in case of emergency. I didn't buy tons, but I wanted to have food for my family and my neighbors in case we can't get to a store. We want to be prepared to help serve others in my neighborhood if they need help in a crisis.
  • Keep a little bit of extra cash in your house. We're a credit card family (we pay it off every month and spend carefully, i promise!), so we rarely keep much cash on hand. But with the uncertainty of the market, we've decided to keep some cash hidden for emergencies.
  • Give generously. Keep tithing, even though it's harder. God uses that money to help so many people through churches and other ministries. It's also a great reminder for us to THANK God for his provisions and TRUST him to continue to provide.
  • Pray for our country's leaders, for humanitarian organizations, for families to manage their finances wisely, and for people to trust in God when they are afraid.
Also, has some great materials on putting together an emergency kit for your home, outlining a family plan for natural or human disasters. We haven't done everything on the list, but I think it's a really good basic outline for families to follow.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cooking Between Carpools - Brushetta Chicken

When we're craving Italian, but we don't have a lot of time, I like to default to this Brushetta Chicken Bake recipe that I found from Amy the Aldi Queen. If you cook the chicken ahead of time, you can assemble the dish in a few minutes, then pop it in the oven for 30 minutes to cook. That's just enough time for homework, so it's perfect for us!

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Back to School - Games Style #3

Here's another excerpt from our book, Great Group Games: 175 Boredom Busting Zero Prep Team Builders for all Ages.

Hidden Hands

Time: 15 – 25 minutes

Supplies: one comic strip panel (make a copy of the strip for each group of 3-4 participants), one envelope for each group


This activity is good to give participants practice in communicating with other team members and in making group decisions. You will need a comic strip (duplicated so each work group has a copy), and one envelope for each subgroup. To prepare, photocopy enough copies of the comic strip to provide one for each work group. Cut each strip into separate panels and place the panels in an envelope.

Instruct the participants to form work groups of three to four members each. Distribute one envelope containing a set of comic strip panels to each team.

Direct the members of each team to open the envelope, place the panels of the comic strip face down without examining them, and shuffle them around the table. While the panels are on the table face down, hidden from view, members of each team take turns drawing a panel (without showing it to others), going around until all panels have been chosen. Team members are allowed to describe their own panels as fully as possible, but they are not allowed to look at the panels of the other participants or to show their panels to others.
When the team members have agreed on which panel is first in the cartoon (based on the participants' descriptions of the panels), they place it face down on the table. After they have placed all the panels face down in the order they have determined, they then turn them over to see if they have sequenced the comic in the proper order.

Going Deeper:

§ What communication process was used to describe the panels?
§ What are the strengths and challenges of your communication style?
§ How did the team decide what panels went where?
§ Did you readily share your opinions, were you hesitant to share, or were you perhaps a bit too wordy in your sharing?
§ How might this activity challenge your group to more effectively work together in the future?

Assets: social competencies, commitment to learning, boundaries and expectations

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Game Day Snacks - Peppermint Brownies

Jenn at Frugal Upstate is collecting Game Day Snack ideas. Here are my recipes for her carnival, but check the link to see lots more ideas from her faithful readers.

Peppermint Brownie Surprise
Mix regular brownie mix according to instructions. (Aldi brownies are cheap and work well).
Layer half of the mix in the baking dish, then chopped up peppermint patties (or Symphony chocolate bars), then the remaining half of the mix. Bake as directed.

Mom's Frosted Peppermint Brownies
Bake brownies from a regular mix.
Mix frosting ingredients
2T margarine
1 c sifted powdered sugar
1T milk
¾ t peppermint extract
Refrigerate frosting until set, then frost the cooled brownies.
Mix glaze: 1 square chocolate and 1 T margarine.
Dribble glaze over frosted brownies.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Praising God in the Busyness

Sorry for the slower posting this month. I have been slammed at work, so I haven't had very much extra time for fun hobbies like blogging. I've been constantly reminding myself to THANK God for the rushing waterfull of work, instead of complaining that I'm tired. I am so grateful for the really cool work God has provided us this month:
I love my work. I get to spend 15-20 (usually!) hours/week using my skills and talents to empower schools, churches and community organizations across the country to nurture young people that love one another, lead boldly with their unique gifts, and seek to serve in the community. And I get to do it out of my home office, so I spend most of my days hugging children, playing outside, painting colorful pictures, and baking cookies together.

God is so good!

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We love salmon. I tried a new recipe tonight (tweaked from allrecipes), and we really liked it. It was very very easy, so it's going to stay in our frequent recipe file.

Baked Salmon
1/8 cup melted butter
3 tablespoons spicy mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (I didn't have time to chop them finely tonight)
3 teaspoons dried parsley
4 (4 ounce) fillets salmon
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, stir together the liquid ingredients - butter, mustard, honey and salt/pepper. In another small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients - bread crumbs, pecans, and parsley.
Brush each salmon fillet lightly with honey mustard mixture, and sprinkle the tops of the fillets with the bread crumb mixture.
Bake 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees, or until it flakes easily with a fork.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Discovering Your Children's Gifts

I found a new book for parents to read, "Discovering Your Children's Gifts" by Don and Katie Fortune. I first discovered the Fortunes with their adult version of the book about 15 years ago. I'm fascinated by the way God has gifted us to be so uniquely different, and I'm excited about having this new tool for parenting.

Here's how the authors describe the book on their website:

Discover Your Children's Gifts: A parent's handbook to recognize and develop your children's God-given gifts

Biblical handbook to help you discover . . .
How gifting formulates a child's personality
How to encourage development of your child's gifts
New insights for effective communication
How to enhance your child's education
Ways to work well with teens
Insights for those who work with children

Did you know that your children's behavior patterns and personality traits are influenced by their motivational gifts? Maybe you're troubled because you son seems to be almost too "picky" about choosing friends. This is often the mark of a perceiver. Do your daughter's teachers claim she is a "daydreamer"? Most likely she is a compassion person.

In Discover Your Children's Gifts, Don and Katie Fortune help you recognize and develop your children's gifts. Based on Proverbs 22:6 and Romans 12:6-8, this fun, eye-opening workbook gives clear direction for identifying your children's personality gifts and helping them reach their God-given potential.

The book offers 4 different test levels - for preschoolers up to teenagers. I wasn't really impressed with the test for preschoolers, but I loved the primary test that I took for my 6-year old. I feel better equipped to encourage him in his growth & development.

Happy reading and pondering!

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I just discovered a new feature on Southwest Airlines. If your travel dates are flexible, you should explore alternate fares using their Southwest Shortcut. It gives you a calendar with the lowest fares available on various days.

That's a lot faster than researching the old way - changing dates one at a time to hunt for lower fares.


Feels Like Fall!

I've wanted to put up my fall decorations for about 2 weeks, but I made myself wait 'til the middle of September. So this morning we opened all the windows (the high is supposed to be 74 today), and pulled down the decorations from the storage area.

I pulled items on the box, and sent the kids around the house to decorate. We put little plastic pumpkins on the stairs, pumpkin window clings on the French doors, and hung pumpkin towels. I changed our seasonal wall plate to say "Happy Fall" with a fall ribbon. Next is hanging up favorite children's art from past falls.

We're starting to make plans for a neighborhood pumpkin carving and chili party, based on a tradition that my sister has had in her neighborhood for several years.

I love fall!

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cooking Between Carpools - Italian Beef

4lb roast
2c water
2T Italian seasoning
1t each salt, dried oregano, dried basil, garlic powder, dried parsley and pepper
1 bay leaf
French rolls or tortillas

Cut roast in half; place in a 5qt slow cooker.
Combine the water and seasonings; pour over roast.
Cook on low for 8 hours or until meat is very tender.
Discard bay leaf and shred beef with a fork. Return to slow cooker to soak up more juices.
Serve on French rolls or serve with cheddar cheese in tortillas.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

I love Pazookie!

Pazookie is a big cookie in a pizza pan. It's one of my favorite desserts to make, adapted by my husband from Oreganos restaurants in Arizona.

You bake Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough in a pizza pan at 450 until the outside of the cookie is golden brown & a tiny bit crispy. The inside will still be gooey, but warm. Put a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the cookie dough, grab a couple of spoons, and dig in with friends!

You can also make single servings of pazookie by using mini loaf pans or small oven-safe dishes.


The Magic of Children's Art

From Gia Giasullo, a graphic designer and mom:

In my house, drawing has always been a form of our family’s ‘home entertainment.’ Alongside
markers, pencils and watercolors, there is an ONGOING pile of drawings on our kid’s
art table. Periodically we sort through them, putting aside favorites to send to grandparents
or stick on the fridge. And some . . . gulp . . . head for the trash bin.

One day, a particular drawing in the pile caught my eye. When I asked my daughter
why she seemed to have stopped the drawing mid-way, she answered, “The pony tail is TOO
BIG.” “Mmmm”, I thought, “this is exactly what makes this drawing so wonderful.” My
curious attachment to this image grew.

Out of further curiosity, I began to set aside all of my kids’ rejected drawings. Some were
scribbled over or torn in half, and some were simply abandoned mid-way. What I saw was
that for whatever reason WHY, or in some cases HOW these images were rejected, they
were abstract, humorous, weird and beautiful. And I began to wonder, “Is this phenomena
happening on other kid’s art tables around the world? . .” .

I am a graphic designer (and a mom), preparing a collection of children's rejected drawings to be published in book format. The drawings I am seeking are the ones that 'didn't make it'. The drawings thatwere abandoned, scribbled or scratched over, torn and/ or crumpled with frustration.

Please contact me at if you are interested,and I will provide you with additional information about myself,this project, and how your child's drawings may be included.


You can see more of Gia's work at her website,


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Great Grocery Shopping Tips

Amy at the Motherload has done it again - she's posted a collection of her best articles about saving money on grocery shopping. See the full article here.

Some of my favorites:
4. Try making your own coffee syrups and coffee creamers to help save on your coffee expenses.
7. Start keeping a price book to cash in on the best deals (you can download a free one here).
19. Make your own mixes instead of buying them.
34. Buy and prepare whole chickens instead of buying chicken breasts as a meal or shred this meat for your casseroles.

Amy has TONS of great articles on managing the home - take a night to play around on her website!

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Cooking Between Carpools - Mandarin Salad

Mandarin and Spinach Salad

Combine spinach, sliced red onions, mandarin oranges and almonds. Pour raspberry walnut vinaigrette over the top and toss. If you need protein with the salad, grilled chicken (grilled the night before) would be a great addition!


Friday, September 05, 2008

Kelly's Thoughts on Great Group Games

Kelly Curtis from Pass the Torch just made my day! She just read our Great Group Games book, and look what she had to say!! You can also enter her free giveaway for your own copy of the book!

By the way, if you don't already know about Kelly's blog, she has great things to say about nurturing young people, including her own new book, Empowering Youth. Take a look at her great stuff!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Baby shower games

I'm helping to plan baby shower games for my sister-in-law's shower. Here are some games I found at babyshower101, but I'd love to hear if you have other favorites!


How Many Baby Items Can You Name: (Materials- pad of paper and pen for each woman). Have each woman write down as many baby products as they can name (bottle, blanket, pacifier, etc) within 5 minutes. Sure it is easy at the beginning, but towards the last few minutes, the women will start racking their brains for more :) Give a prize to the woman who gets the most baby products named!

Guess The Gerber's: (Materials - Gerber's infant food, pads of paper and pens). Take the labels off of the baby food jars and have the women at the baby shower guess the food (carrots, peas, sweet potato). Most fun to play up to 10 jars of different kinds of foods. If there is a tie, blindfold the women and have them taste one of the jars and guess the right flavor to win their prize.

Guess the baby item: (Materials- any baby products and blindfold). A bag of baby items are placed in front of the mother-to-be for her to take one item out at a time blindfolded and tell her baby shower guests what item she has in her hands. This is really fun baby shower game when you choose some crazy baby toys or products.

Finish the Baby Rhyme: (Materials- baby rhyme game or a book containing the rhymes). Have the host read out loud a part of the rhyme to be finished by the other women. Let's see how many Baby Shower Guests can finish the following Rhymes we have all grown up with:

1) Mary had a little lamb, it's _____________ was white as snow.

2) Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any _____________?

3) Mary, Mary, quite _____________, how does your garden grow?

4) Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub, and how do you think ____________ _____________ ____________?

5) Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, _________________ ________________!

6) Little Jack Horner, sat in a corner, eating his ______________ pie;

7) Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet, eating her ________________ and _______________.

8) Peter Piper picked a peck of ____________ _____________.

9) One, two, buckle my shoe, three four, _____________ at the door.

10) Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater, had a wife but couldn't ____________ her.

11) Old Mother Hubbard, went to the _______________.

12) There was an old woman, who lived in a _______________.

13) Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no ___________.

14) Hey diddle, diddle, the ____________ and the fiddle.

15) Rock-a-bye baby, on the __________________.

Guess the baby pictures: Ask for everyone's pictures prior to the baby shower. Have all the pictures in a collage and make lines for people to fill in who they think the babies are out of the girls at the baby shower. If most women don't know each other, just have the pictures of the mother, mother-in-law, sisters, and mommy-to-be. See how many people guess right. You can make copies of the baby picture collage to see how many can guess right!

Baby Scrambler: Another fun baby shower game is to choose around 25 baby related items and scramble the spelling. For instance, pacifier can be changed to reiifpca. Have the women unscramble the words. The one who gets the most right in 5 min receives a baby shower prize.

Baby Song List: (Materials - pad of paper and pen for each woman). Have each woman write down in 5 minutes all the songs that have baby in their titles (i.e., baby love, santa baby, one for my baby). You can make it harder by stating that you have to name who also wrote the songs! A baby shower favorite!

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Your Mommy Moment for the Day

My DH just shared a great sermon with me from John Piper. If you can sneak away for 5 minutes to read it, I think it will bless your day.

This is part of Piper's series on being a 'relational church', where they seek God's "wisdom for our personal priorities and our families and our citizenship in ways that are God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, gospel-fashioned, people-helping. "

For mom's who are tirelessly serving others, it's a great reminder for the SOURCE of our strength!


I invite you to turn with me to Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:4 ... My prayer is that you will join me in making this your prayer: “Lord, work so deeply in my heart that I am freed from the bondage of self-centeredness and given the disposition to look not only to my own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Looking Out for Others’ Interests

Look at verse 4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” The word interests is a filler. In the original, it’s open-ended. All that is specified is “your own (something)” or “the other’s (something).” So it could be, “Let each of you look not only to your own financial affairs, or your own property, or your own family, or your own health, or your own reputation, or your own education, or your own success, or your own happiness—don’t just think about that, don’t just have desires about that, don’t just strategize about that, don’t just work toward that; but look to the financial affairs and property and family and health, and reputation, and education, and success, and happiness of others.”

In other words, verse 4 is a way of saying the words of Jesus, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39). That is, make the good of others the focus of your interest and strategy and work. Find your joy in making others joyful. If you are watching television and your child says, Would you play with me? don’t just think about how tired you are. By an act of gospel-fashioned, Christ-exalting will, put the child’s interests before the pleasures of your relaxation.

Counting Others as More Significant

One of the keys to this radical way of living is in the second half of verse 3: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Or as the old King James says, “Let each esteem others better than themselves.” The point was not what others are. The point is what you count others to be.

The focus is: Will you count them as worthy of your help and encouragement? Not are they worthy? But will you count them as worthy? Will I take thought not just for my interests but for someone elses? Will I encourage him or her and take the time to help and build him or her up?

Humility and Its Source—The Cross

And where does that other-oriented commitment come from? Verse 3 says, “In humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It comes from humility. Literally: “lowliness.” This is the great opposite of a sense of entitlement. Humility is the opposite of “You owe me.” Paul said, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (Romans 1:14). In other words, they didn’t owe him. He owed them.

Why? Why do Christians walk through life feeling a humble sense that we owe service to people, rather than them owing us?

The answer is that Christ loved us and died for us and forgave us and accepted us and justified us and gave us eternal life and made us heirs of the world when he owed us nothing. He treated us as worthy of his service, when we were not worthy of his service. He took thought not only for his own interests but for ours. He counted us as greater than himself: “Who is the greater,” he said, “one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

That is where our humility comes from. We feel overwhelmed by God’s grace: bygone grace in the cross and moment-by-moment arriving grace promised for our everlasting future. Christians are stunned into lowliness. Freely you have been served, freely serve.

So the crucial relational mark of the culture of our church should be Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This is the “mind” or the “mindset” that we should have in life together. This is the relational atmosphere where God will grant wisdom for the perplexing work of living in this world.

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Cooking Between Carpools - Summer Lasagna

My friend Susan likes to make Summer Lasagna. If you're cooking between carpools, you could slice and layer the veges ahead of time, then pop it into the oven as soon as you get home. You could probably even lightly steam the zucchini and squash ahead of time to reduce the oven cooking time by 10 minutes.

Layer zucchini, squash, tomato and mozzarella cheese in a baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes
**I bet fresh basil would be great with this too!


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Cooking Between Carpools - Red Beans & Rice

Here's an easy prepare-ahead meal from my southern friend Noel. It's a yummy version of Red Beans & Rice without lots of prep time.

2-3 cans red beans, drained
1-1.5 cups salsa
healthy choice sausage, cut into slices
steamed brown rice

Mix together in a skillet, heat, and serve.


Cooking Between Carpools!

Do you have any ideas for this mommy friend?

OK - so we have a bit of a crazy schedule now as daughter #1 has ballet Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and every other Saturday, daughter #2 has soccer on Tuesdays and Saturdays and daughter #3 has ballet on Mondays and Thursdays and soccer on Thursdays and Saturdays. (I color coded my planner to keep it all straight.)

Here's my question: do you have any secrets for a working mommy to make for dinner on crazy nights such as these?

I recently bought a crockpot (on sale, of course), so that's a plan for when weather is cooler - soups, casseroles, etc. Tonight, I made pasta salad between school and leaving for practices, so we were able to eat as soon as we got home.

For me, variety is essential in cooking - I get bored so easily. So I would love any other ideas for meals that make it work when soccer and/or ballet run to 6:30 and everyone's not home until 7:00.

Any thoughts, my friend?