Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The No More Excuses Diet: A Review

Uh huh.  Another diet book.  Weight loss is a huge industry in the United States.  According to the Boston Medical Center, approximately 45 million Americans diet each year and spend $33 billion on weight-loss products.  So why should you spend your money on yet another diet book?

Here's the deal.  We all know how to lose weight.  To lose weight, you need to eat reasonable amounts of real food, and move more.  That's it.  You do that, and you will lose weight and be healthier.  The trouble most of us have is in finding and keeping our motivation long enough to see results.

Maria Kang has had a life-long struggle with unhealthy habits, and is the woman behind  Having overcome her struggles, now she's sharing her wisdom in The No More Excuses Diet, published in March.

Ms. Kang says it takes 3 days of concerted effort to bust through an excuse, 3 weeks to form new habits, and 3 months to make a lasting change in your life, so she suggests setting healthy goals in 3 week increments.

What I liked about The No More Excuses Diet is that the author admits right up front that weight loss is not a one size fits all proposition.  Ms. Kang says that what worked for her might not work for you.  She gives sample meal plans and some example workouts, but says you should do what works for you.  She emphasizes setting goals and then constantly reevaluating what's working and not working.  This is not a rigid set of rules to follow, but a method to bust through the excuses that are holding you back from reaching your goals and dreams.

I also liked that Ms. Kang acknowleges there will be setbacks, and encourages her readers to accept the mistake or failure and then learn from that mistake moving forward, rather than dwelling on it and allowing on little mistake to derail your entire journey.  It's not about perfection--it's about constantly moving forward, a little better today than yesterday.

I found this book to be incredibly inspiring, and while it's about getting healthy, the no excuses concept can work in any area of your life.

Here's what the book jacket has to say about Ms. Kang's motivation:
The No More Excuses Diet is not about making you feel guilty for how you look, or ashamed of the choices you've made; it is about getting you to a place where you feel in control of your life, love your body, and prioritize your health.
I think, in this book, Ms. Kang has accomplished her mission.

I received this book for free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

The Second Step

I have heard, many, many, many times, that the first step in recovery from addiction is to admit that you have a problem.  In other words, you need to be honest with yourself.

But I don't know that I've ever heard what the 2nd step is.  Why is that?  Why do we never hear about the second step?

Is it because the first step is too hard?  We never get to the second step because we never actually make it past the first?  Is it because we don't care?  Is it because we don't want to go there?  I don't know, but I thought it was time to correct this glaring oversight, because we can admit that we have a problem until we're blue in the face, but we still have a problem.  The first step is just that, the first step.  In order to move forward, we have to take more than one step.

The Alcoholics Anonymous second step, which many other addiction recovery groups have adopted, is this: 
We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

In other words, the second step is hope.  We must have hope that we can be delivered from the prison of our addiction.

I love this graphic (click for free printable), that shows the 12 steps of recovery, boiled down to its essence.

The Story For Kids: A Review

I recently received a copy of The Story For Kids: Discover the Bible From Beginning to End.  This book has actual Bible text taken from the New International Reader's Version (NIrV), and arranged in chronological order, with transitions that were written to help link parts of the Bible together so it's easier to understand.  The NIrV is an easy to understand translation of the Bible, and The Story for Kids is appropriate for children aged 8-12, as well as older kids and adults who have a hard time following the narrative of the Bible and understanding its meaning.

I'm really liking this book.  It is easy to understand, and covers all of the major stories and themes of the Bible, while engaging the reader and holding the reader's interest.  The Story for Kids reads like a novel.

There are 31 chapters, beginning with "The Beginning of Life as We Know It," and concluding with "Revelation."  The longest chapter is 12 pages, and the shortest is 3, but most of the chapters are in the 7-9 page range.  At the end of each chapter are a few discussion questions.

I've been reading The Story for Kids out loud for our family's after supper devotions.  The discussion questions have been helpful for starting conversations with my children, and drawing connections between our lives and the text, and we are often finding ourselves lingering a bit longer after our meal to talk, something that did not happen with the previous devotional book we'd been using.  I like that the transitions are written in italics, so I can easily tell what is actual text from the Bible, and what is additional material.

I wish that the chapters were much shorter, more like Bible chapters, so that we could read one chapter after supper each day, instead of trying to find a good stopping point each day and taking a week or so to finish each chapter.  The Story for Kids is not intended to be a devotional book, though, so I really can't complain.

Bottom line: This is an easy to read resource that will get kids (and adults) interested and engaged in the overarching story of the Bible.

I received this book for free from the publisher through Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Recipes to Share

I love trying new recipes.  You must know this about me, if you've been reading for any length of time, especially since I started my weekly menu posts.  I mean, we have tried and true favorites that show up time and again, but there is usually at least one new recipe each week.  Sometimes, I try a new recipe every day in a week.

I've been thinking, the last few days, about why I like trying new recipes so much.  Is it because I get bored easily?  Is it because I enjoy change, but only "safe" change, over which I have control?  Is it because I'm worried that there's something better out there?  That I'm missing out on something incredible?  Is it because I want to expose my kids to a variety of healthy foods?  Maybe all of the above.

In the past week, I've tried a few new recipes that I have absolutely loved, so I wanted to share them with you.

First up, Pizza-Stuffed Pasta Shells from Pillsbury.  What I liked about this recipe was that it was a stuffed pasta that didn't include cheese in the filling.  I love stuffed pasta, and my very favorite, which I haven't had in, oh...10 years or manicotti, stuffed with ground beef and mozarella, parmasan, and cottage cheeses.  Y'all know how my family feels about cheese.  Two of those weirdos claim to not like it.

Anyway, these shells are stuffed with a mixture of ground beef, chopped pepperoni, and pizza sauce, with the cheese on top.  Perfect.  I loved it, and 3/4 of the boys liked it, too.  AKD told me he likes this better than pizza casserole, and I think I probably do, too.

To cut down on the prep time a bit, use medium or small shells instead of the jumbo shells, and just mix everything together instead of stuffing.  To make this a bit healthier, use whole wheat pasta, ground turkey, turkey pepperoni, and homemade pizza sauce (my recipe below).

Next, I tried Herbed Chicken with Wild Rice from Taste of Home.  I love chicken.  I love wild rice.  I love herbs.  Put 'em together and cook 'em in the slow cooker, and I'm there.  I loved the mixture of flavors and this dish's hearty, stick-to-the-ribs consistency.  So good, and the leftovers were great, too.

To make this dish a little less preservative-y, make your own rice mixture, perhaps using the copycat recipe here for inspiration.  I would put the long grain (or brown) and wild rice in the bottom of the cooker, then stir the spices in to the soup mixture.  You could also make your own cream of chicken soup using this recipe.

Finally, yesterday I tried this Healthy Avocado Chicken Salad, and it tasted amazing.  Ah. Maze. Zing.   Seriously, where has this deliciousness been all my life?  I am in love.  I used chicken that I had previously cooked in the slow cooker, shredded, and frozen in 2 cup portions, and I mashed the avocado instead of dicing it.  Next time, and there will be a next time, I'm planning to use all Greek yogurt instead of half mayo, half yogurt.  I don't think it'll affect the taste all that much, but it will significantly cut down on the fat content.

That's it for now.  Let me know if you try any of these!

Scarlet's Homemade Pizza Sauce

  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 t. oregano
  • 1 t. basil
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. marjoram
  • 1/4 t. black pepper
  • 1 t. granulated sugar
  • 1-2 shakes of crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl.
  2. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, to allow the seasonings to mingle--the longer it sits, the better it tastes.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Menu plan for the week of April 20

KIND bars are on sale at Target this week.  They cost $4.99 for a package of 4.  KIND bars do taste all kinds of amazing, but that's a little steep for my budget (you can get a pack of 5 KIND Healthy Grains bars for $2.99--but those have more than nuts, fruits, and honey in them.  Grains are, in general, less expensive than nuts and fruits).  So yup, I'm making my own this week.  I'm making other stuff this week, too.  Here's what's on the menu this week:

--Pot luck supper
--Slow cooked taco meatloaf (from this book), corn, salad
--Coconut lime chicken, rice, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Taco pasta bake, salad, green beans
--French bread pizza/ chicken-crust pizza, salad
--Slow cooker Hawaiian chicken, rice, carrots, peppers
--Baked bone-in chicken breasts, baked potatoes, mixed veggies

Next Monday:
--Hot dogs, brats, buns, raw veggies (snap peas, carrots, peppers, celery), caramel apple salad

--Best ever chocolate oatmeal no bake bars
--Mock KIND bars
--Ezekiel bread
--Healthy avocado chicken salad

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Individual serving no-bake quiche

Y'all know that I eat oatmeal for breakfast pretty much every day.  What y'all might not know is that I used to not like oatmeal.  It started as an experiment to see if I could replicate the flavor of my son's favorite variety of instant oatmeal.  I developed my recipe through rigorous scientific testing over a period of weeks, and by the time I was done, I had developed a taste for oatmeal.  It's easy, fast, tastes good, and is good for me--it's the perfect breakfast.

Lately, though, I've been having eggs for breakfast.  That started when I was caring for a friend's chickens for a couple of weeks.  I was having eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I still couldn't keep up with production.

Eggs have more protein than oatmeal, and they way I prepare them, less fat, too.  So I'm alternating.  If I feel like a high-quality carb breakfast, it's oatmeal.  If I feel like a high-quality protein breakfast, it's eggs.

I wanted to add even more high-quality protein to my eggs, so I started eating them with cottage cheese.  It was delicious.  Then, one fateful day, I decided to mix plain Greek yogurt into my eggs, before scrambling them, with my usual mushrooms, onions, and peppers.  It tasted just like quiche!  So creamy and delicous!  And quiche is ... so much better ... than scrambled eggs.

Here's how I make my own individual serving of no-bake "quiche."

Indivdual Serving No-Bake "Quiche"

2 eggs or 1 whole egg + 2 egg whites
1/4 c. plain no-fat Greek yogurt
mix-ins, about 1/2 cup--my standards are mushrooms, bell peppers, and green onions, but I've added other veggies, like broccoli, zucchini, spinach, and tomatoes, and meats, like crumbled bacon or bulk turkey breakfast sausage.  You could also add a bit of cheese if you like.

  • Scramble the eggs.  Add Greek yogurt and whisk until well combined.
  • In a small pan, saute any veggies you'd like to be softer.  I saute my mushrooms and bell peppers, but not the green onions.
  • Mix veggies, meats, and cheese into the egg mixture.
  • In a non-stick pan, cook egg mixture as you would scrambled eggs until no longer runny.  Alternately, pour egg mixture into a greased mug.  Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until set.
I enjoy mine with a piece of whole grain toast.

Nutrition information courtesy of

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


I got a text message this morning from AKD, informing me that he had forgotten something, and asking if I could bring it to him at school.

How would you respond?

I don't remember this being a thing when I was in high school.  Asking a parent to bring a forgotten something to school required a trip to the office to make a phone call.  Most students I knew avoided the office at all costs, and furthermore, didn't want to bother, so we either remembered it, whatever it was, or we did without.  I don't recall ever calling my parents to bring a forgotten something to school.  If they remember differently, they can chime in.

These days, though, everybody, and their brother, has a cell phone.  Well, except for AKD, that is.  I'm pretty sure he's the only one in his entire school who doesn't.  My words--not his.  He's also one of only 3 high schoolers who still have to ride the bus (unless he wants to ride his bike, which we have told him he is welcome to do), but that's another post.

And because everybody has a cell phone, they can call or text a parent to bring a forgotten item to school.  Most of the moms I know will drop everything, at a moment's notice, to do so.  I have a little harder time doing that.

It's not that I mind, necessarily.  I am a stay at home mom specifically so that I can be available for my kids if they need me.  I wouldn't think twice to come running in an emergency situation, or even in some non-emergency situations.

It's not that I had other things planned for today (which I did).  It's not that I couldn't get to the school.  It's not that it costs about $2 and half an hour of my time to drop off something at the high school.

It's that I want him to be responsible for his own stuff, and to accept the consequences for his mistakes.  I feel like this is an important lesson for all kids, but it's especially crucial for young teens.  AKD has 3 more years of school and then he will be an adult: an adult who can vote, join the army, live on his own, get married, sign a legal contract.

Today, it was paper clips for a school project (what?  They don't have any paper clips over there that he can use?  The school's budget must be worse-off than I thought).  But in a few years, it could be forgetting to pay the electric bill or digging into debt.

I need my boys to know that mommy is not always going to be around to clean their bathroom, pick up their dirty clothes, and bail them out of trouble.  Mommy is not always going to be able to swoop in to the rescue.

Today, I decided to swoop.  Because I can.  And because I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times AKD has forgotten something he needed for school.  It's not a habit, and I don't expect it to become one.  I did, however, inform him that he would need to compensate me for my time by performing an extra chore.  Can't decide if I want him to mop or fold laundry.  Maybe I'll let him decide.

I don't even know if he got the darn paper clips, because I haven't heard from him since that first text this morning (he's texting on an old iPod, and it's spotty at best).  The class he needed them for started 35 minutes ago, so I hope so.

How do you respond when your kids forget something?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to wake up to a clean kitchen

I'd like to be able to tell you that I'm blogging today via our newly installed fiber optic internet connection, but I can't.  Because I'm not.  The guy's here, so that's at least something, but I'm telling you, there have got to be more hoops.

For months, we have been waiting for this day, hoping and pining.  It's a little like the if onlys.  If only we had more income.  If only we had a bigger house (and a maid to clean the bigger house).  If only we had a newer vehicle.  If only Hubby didn't travel so much.  If only there was more time in a day.  If only I wasn't so darn tired all the time.  If only we had family nearby.  If only we had high speed unlimited internet.  Then, we would be happy.

The truth is, if we're not happy before any of those things, we won't be happy after.  With each passing day, week, month, our hopes for the internet have grown, until it's taken on almost mythic status.  The internet will save us!  If only.

I am afraid, my friends, that the internet won't be the be-all end-all that some of us around here are expecting it to be.  Sure, we'll be able to download music, games, and programs at home instead of waiting until the next trip to the library.  Sure, we'll be able to facetime with Daddy when he's out of town.  Sure we'll be able to watch YouTube videos at home.  But.  Always but.  Those things won't make us happy.

Speaking of but, that's not really what I wanted to talk about today.  I got an email this morning from Carisa of 1+1+1=1 inviting me to take part in a FREE 4-part mini-ecourse titled 4 Simple Steps to Stress-Free Homemaking.

I want to believe.  I really do.  Stress-Free homemaking?  Yes, please.  Sign me up.

(You can sign up, too.  Just click this link.  Did I mention it's free?  So why not?)

Here's what Carisa said about the course:

In this eCourse, you will learn:

▪ how to never get behind on laundry again, 
▪ how to wake up each day to a sparkling clean kitchen
▪ how to avoid the 5 ‘o’clock scramble with a super simple meal planning method, and 
▪ how to set yourself up for success with a quick nighttime routine

OK, here's the deal.  I signed up for the course, because it's free, and because I want to know what they're going to say.  But I already know how to never get behind on laundry.  I know how to wake up each day to a clean kitchen.  I know how to plan meals, and I know how to set myself up for success with a quick nighttime routine.

Here, I'll let you in on my homemaking secrets.  To never get behind on laundry, keep up with it.  To avoid the 5 o'clock scramble, plan ahead.  To set yourself up for success with a quick nighttime routine, follow your nighttime routine and set up the stuff you need for the following day.

Here's the big one.  The one you've been waiting for all your life.  The one that made you find this post and click on it.

How to wake up to a sparkling clean kitchen every day (in two easy steps):
Step 1: Clean the kitchen before you go to bed.  Every day.
Step 2: Wake up before everyone else so they don't have time to mess it up.

I know.  It's revolutionary, isn't it?  And it really works.  Try it.

Yup, I know it all.  I could make an eCourse.  What I don't know, however, is how to stay motivated in doing these things consistently, every day.  Because no matter how many times I do laundry, clean the kitchen, plan meals, or get ready for tomorrow today, I'm going to have to do it again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  Forever.  And that, my friends, is what I'm hoping will be the magic ingredient in this eCourse.  Because if only my house was consistently clean, then...

The first session's on laundry, by the way.  I haven't watched the video, because, hello, no watching videos at home--it takes too much data--but I have seen the worksheet.  And the secret to stress-free laundry is ... well, sign up and see :)


Disclaimer: that is a referral link up there.  If a certain number of you sign up for this eCourse (available for free through April 23) through that link, I will get a discount on some other thing.  If even more of you sign up, I'll get something for free.  If a humungous number of you sign up through that link, I'll get something even more fabulous for free.  But I really don't care.  So sign up if you want, or don't if you don't want.  Could be fun.  Could even change your life.  Or not.  Did I mention that it's free?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Menu plan for the week of April 13

Tomorrow, we will be getting fiber optic internet.  At least that's what they tell us.  We find it a little hard to believe that Tuesday is actually the day.  I honestly won't believe it until I see it.

It's been a long process.  We've been waiting for a long time, since Mr. Obama took office.  Because, you know, he promised that he would get us high speed internet.  Yes, us specifically.  More recently, we've been waiting for almost a year, since the cable people told us they were coming to our area.  The cable's been in the ground from the road to our house since August.  August, people.  When that happened, we thought we were a week away.  We were wrong.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting on my bed, reading something, when I heard what sounded like a person on our roof.  Has that ever happened to you?  All of a sudden there's a random stranger on your roof?  Yeah.  Freaked me out, even though he wasn't really on the roof.

Last week, I was hopping into the shower, when I saw a man walk past the bathroom window.  Honestly, it would have been nice to get a little warning.  Like ring the doorbell, maybe?  Of course, since I was about to jump in the shower, I wouldn't have answered, but at least I would have known there was someone besides the squirrels and deer and me on the property.  Unless the deer have figured out how to ring the doorbell?

So yeah.  Supposedly, the hook-up to the inside of the house will happen on Tuesday.  And then there will probably be more hoops to jump through because after all this waiting, it can't really be that easy.  The wait can't really be over, without more pomp and circumstance.

For months, we have been saying, "when we get internet..."  It can't just be ... over.

I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, we will eat.  Here's what's on the menu this week.


--Beef stroganoff, grean beans, corn, pear sauce
--Chicken bundles, salad, carrots
--Nachos, guacamole
--Pizza stuffed pasta shells, salad, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Herbed chicken with wild rice, green beans
--Peppered steak with portobello mushrooms, grilled broccoli or asparagus, garlic toast
--Baked bone-in chicken breasts, baked potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots

Supper next Monday:

--Cub Scout dinner, for which I will make Italian bowtie pasta bake, chicken taco casserole, chocolate chip cookies, or cupcakes.


--Got any suggestions for me?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Dirty Floor Blessing

I may have mentioned a time or two that I really, really, (really) dislike sweeping.  Mostly because sweeping is a never-ending chore.  I feel like I'm never able to actually get everything when I sweep.  I do my best, but there's always some little something left behind, even, it seems, if I vacuum up my pile.  And then you know what happens.  The children.

Our floor is always dirty.  Even if I just swept.  Even if I just mopped.  Still dirty.

It bothers me.  I want to be able to sweep and mop and then look around and say, "there.  That's done."  And have it stay done, at least for a little while.  I want to be able to take pride in a job well done.

It is so discouraging to me that so much of my work is so easily undone.  I wonder, often, why I even bother.  Why do I even bother to clean the bathroom, make my bed, sweep the floor, wash the windows?  Oh wait, I don't wash the windows.  But I do think about washing the windows, and I do intend to wash the windows at some point in the unspecified future.  I even wrote it down once, so, you know, there's that.

It's hard to muster up enthusiasm for performing repetitive tasks without lasting effect.  So it was with a less than cheerful attitude that I set out to uncrunchify our floors this afternoon.  I wouldn't say I was grumpy or resentful, more like resigned to the inevitable and discouraged.  I don't think the cold gray sky was helping any, either.

My dirty floor is discouraging, but it is also a blessing.  That's what I kept telling myself as I was sweeping this afternoon, making wagers with myself about how long it'll be before I'm needing to sweep again (let's see--the first wave of kidlets will be home in about 20 minutes, so I predict ... about 21 minutes until new crumbs grace the floor).  It is so hard to see a dirty floor as a blessing, but here goes.

I am blessed to have a floor.  I am blessed to have a place to live that is warm and secure.
I am blessed to have food to nourish myself and my family.  In fact, we are extravagantly blessed with so much food that some of us are unconcerned about letting crumbs of all sizes fall to the floor.
I am blessed to live where I do, surrounded by trees and dirt.
I am blessed to have children who are active and love to be outside and also love to track in dirt and pine needles.

I have a choice.  I can choose to consider my challenges as a burden or a blessing.  Today, truthfully, they are both.  I'm working on it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Menu plan for the week of April 6

Good morning, everyone!  It's April now.  I know how you all depend on me to tell you these things, 'cause it's not like you can look at a calendar or anything and know that.  So it's a good thing I'm here and getting this post up.  I'm all about service, to you, my readers, over here.

We're got a bit of excitement coming up this week.  First, there's the little matter of a national championship to settle (go Wisconsin).  We're making red popcorn in honor of the Badgers.  Sorry, Duke fans--I don't have any blue candy melts.  Also?  My almost-12-year-old would go just short of apoplectic if I showed up tonight with anything suggesting I might be ok with Duke winning.

Never heard of colored popcorn?  It's so easy.  Just pop some popcorn (I do mine like this--so easy), then melt candy melts in the color of your choice and pour the molten candy on top of the popcorn.  Toss to coat, spread on wax paper to cool, and sprinkle with decors if desired.  You can also mix in other fun stuff like rice or corn cereal squares (Chex, people!), pretzels, or m&ms, either before or after pouring the molten candy melts...whatever you have on hand and feel like mixing in.

Speaking of our almost 12-year-old, we'll be celebrating a birthday this week!  The birthday boy will be camping with his Scout buddies, so the cake will be appropriately camp-y.

Did I tell y'all I ordered ground beef from Zaycon Foods?  Yeah.  So I need to find space in my cute little freezer, which my favorite brother in law affectionately refers to as a "starter" freezer, for 40 pounds of 93/7 ground beef by May 9.  That's why I'm using several of our freezer meals this week (it has nothing at all to do with the fact that I really, really don't feel like cooking.  Nothing).

Here's what's on the menu this week:

--Beef stroganoff, green beans, pear sauce
--Chicken bundles (from the freezer), salad, carrots
--Pizza casserole (from the freezer), broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Chicken casserole with mashed potato topping, applesauce
--Baked ziti (from the freezer), salad, green beans
--Camp meal
--Ring bologna, scalloped potatoes, corn, applesauce (Hubby's in charge of this one)

Next week supper:
--Spaghetti or zucchini noodles with meat sauce (from the freezer), garlic toast, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots

--Red popcorn
--Senate bean soup
--Greek yogurt
--Birthday cake

What's on your menu this week?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Reading Rewards

Bubby is in 1st grade.  Bubby, and his classmates, are expected to read or be read to at home for at least 15 minutes a day.  His teacher has helpfully provided us with a calendar on which to keep track of his reading minutes.  And every month, if he turns in his calendar, regardless of whether or not he's met his goal, he is offered a reward.

Now in defense of the 1st grade teaching team, between the two of them, they have 6 children, 83% of whom are girls.  They're used to girls.  They are more intimately familiar with girls.  They are teachers, however, and teach both boys and girls in approximately equal numbers.  And, as working mothers, at least during the school year, they do spend more time with their students than with their children.  One would think (I would think), that they would know how to offer suitable rewards for both boys and girls.

But no!  The reading reward for March, which is set to take place on April 7?  Dress up day.  And not even dress up day as in dress up in a costume, or dress up in mom or dad's clothes.  Dress up day as in, wear nice clothes, like those one might wear to church, or a graduation, or a job interview, or something.

No even kidding.  Dress.  Up.  Day.  And ... wait for it ... a tea party.

I don't want you to think I'm sexist, because I know that there are boys who like to dress up and there are boys who like to have tea parties, but I have never personally met any of them.  And, as the mother of 3 boys, I have met a lot of boys.

For my particular boy, this reward is more akin to torture.  In fact, when I told him what the reading reward was for this month, he told me he wasn't going to turn his calendar in.  And I have to say, as much as he does not want to wear good clothes to school, I doubly don't want him to!  The kid is rough on clothes, and sending him to a place where he's going to be playing with other boys, outside, where there is asphalt, trees, rocks, and all manner of other sharp things, for at least part of the day, does not bode well for the knees of his nice church pants.

Not exactly the reward his teacher's going for--definitely not a strong motivation to read.  I told her as much.  In those words: "this reward is more like torture for Bubby."  And then I went on to query, "when is the you-get-to-play-active-games-all-day reward?"  She laughed.  Or did the digital equivalent of a laugh, since we were communicating via email.  I'm not quite sure why most, if not all, of these supposed rewards have been so blatantly girl oriented.  Probably because they're easier, and less disruptive, to execute.


I'm not sure what will happen with Bubby's reading calendar this month, if it will make its way to the teacher's desk or if it is destined to be delegated into a crumpled mess in the bottom of Bubby's backpack.  I do suspect, however, that when I inform him that the tea party includes cupcakes, made by cupcake baker extraordinaire J, and yours truly, that might sway Bubby's opinion on the matter.

I'll keep you posted.

Your turn: do you know any boys who enjoy tea parties?  What would you offer as a reading reward?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Menu plan for the week of March 30

It's quite likely we will be a single car household this week, and since Hubby's job is about a 25 minute drive from our home, it's unlikely I will have a vehicle at my disposal.  For this reason, I've planned meals this week for which we have all the ingredients at home.  Except for the guacamole.  And the ham.  Hopefully I'll be able to wrangle a ride to the store before the end of the week arrives.  Or Hubby will have to venture into uncharted territory--the wilderness known as the grocery store--without me.  I don't know which of us would be more dismayed by this turn of events...

Here's what's on the menu this week:

--Meatballs, mashed potatoes, corn, salad
--Grilled bone-in chicken breasts, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Fend for yourself/breakfast for dinner
--Grilled boneless pork chops, roasted fingerling potatoes, grilled broccoli
--Nachos, guacamole, taco toppings
--Chicken tacos, guacamole, tortillas, taco toppings
--Ham, cheesy scalloped potatoes, pineapple rings, corn, Brussels sprouts or asparagus, applesauce

Next week supper:
--Beef stroganoff, green beans

What's on your menu this week?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I can't sleep.  I hate that.  I know, I know, I should turn off my screen because it's tricking my brain into thinking it's still awake time.  But sheesh, people.  There's only so much lying in bed wishing one was sleeping that a person can do.

I have a friend on my mind.  Her family has been struck with blow after blow lately, one thing after another.  It's almost--almost--funny.  But so not funny.  Funny in the way that if you don't laugh you'll cry, and possibly never stop.

There are so many hurting people in the world.  All of us?  Yes, I think I can say with confidence that every single one of us hurts.  None of us navigates this earthly life unscathed.  Every one of us has struggles, and some of them seem bigger than others, but I don't know if I can even say that.  Our own struggles, whatever they may be, are important and huge and all-encompassing to us, regardless of the perceived level of difficulty on a relative scale.  Knowing that my problems are trivial compared to someone else's does not make mine any easier to bear.  It really doesn't.  It just makes me feel guilty for allowing it to drag me down, for wallowing in my own mess.

How messed up is that?  Seriously.  Guilt.  Ugh.

My girls and I were talking the other day about how men and women typically listen differently.  Wait, you might be wondering about my girls, because, you know, I don't have any girls.  No (biological) sisters, no daughters.  My girls are my sisters by choice, a group of women bonded together by a love for God and a desire to get to know Jesus better.  Love them.

I know there are exceptions, but typically when women listen, they offer sympathy.  A listening ear, and a comforting embrace.  Typically when men listen, they offer solutions.  Which is great, terrific, wonderful, but not necessarily what women are looking for in the interaction.  We don't want you to solve our problems, we want to be heard.  We want to be known.  We desire a connection with you that goes beyond you swooping to the rescue, although most of us do love being rescued as well.

I must be a little atypical because as I sat listening to my girls, who are dealing with ordinary and extraordinary problems, I just wanted to make it all go away.  I wanted to fix it.  All of it.  My brain was searching for answers, practical solutions.

You know, what they really need is hope.  What we all need is hope.  In the darkest places, when we are hopeless, when we just can't see a way out, what we need most is someone to come alongside and hope for us.

I so desperately want that in my life.  Someone to hope for me.  And I want to be that person for those who is hurting--a beacon of hope, a believer in redemption.  Join me?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Mother & Child Project: A Review

The Mother & Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope is a collection of essays written by 42 celebrities, politicians, medical professionals, and ministry leaders, in support of women's health around the world.  

Almost 300,000 women die each year in developing countries because of complications due to pregnancy.  Without a mother, many of their children die as well.  Eighty percent of these deaths are preventable with resources that are available right now in the developed world.  Compiled by Hope Through Healing Hands, an organization whose mission is to promote an improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace, in this book influential leaders such as Hillary Clinton, Michael W. Smith, Tony Campolo, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley raise their voices together to provide a personal and fact-based glimpse at the plight of women and children living in poverty.  The purpose of the book is to issue a call to action regarding the health and well-being of women and children around the world.

The book is divided into four sections: Maternal and Child Health: How Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy Saves Lives; Strong Mothers: The Key to Healthy Families, Communities, and Nations; Other Concerns: Male Involvement, Child Marriage, Slavery, and Orphan Care; and Why Maternal Health Matters to People of Faith.

The contributors offered a good mix of stories of women and children around the world, success stories, and facts and statistics.  I found the first section to be a little repetitive.  Every essay (as the title of the sections suggests) mentioned how healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies saves lives.  I suppose since healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies is the most important factor in women's health, the compilers felt the repetition was necessary.  Indeed, the first section had the desired effect of drilling into my brain the necessity of providing tools that women can use to plan their childbearing.  

The rest of the book provided enough variety to hold my interest, and included other health care issues and addressed other ways in which women and children are marginalized.  I found the book as a whole inspiring, especially the success stories shared about women who had improved their health and circumstances due to education and access to medical care.

As a call to action, this would be an excellent book to read with a group.  There is a discussion guide available, and the appendix lists ways to get involved and organizations to support.

Near the end of the book, pastor and author Scott Sauls says:
The notion that every person is equal is one to which any reasonable person will give mental assent.  But when we come to understand that Jesus has taken our shame from us, and the because of this we have nothing left to hide, nothing left to fear, and nothing left to prove, we become owners of, and not mere assenters to, the notion that every person in equal.  Our energies shift from being preoccupied with self to being preoccupied with God and the flourishing of our neighbor.
I don't know how one could read this book and not feel called to take action in support of women and children around the world.

Bottom line: This inspiring compilation does just what it sets out to do--it calls people to practical action regarding the health and well-being of women and children living in poverty.

I received this book for free from the publisher through Book Look Bloggers for my review.  All opinions are my own.

Family Four Pack

Well, Butch the bus driver was wrong.  The snow did not all melt by that afternoon, and now we've added another half inch or so.  I just love spring, don't you?


About a year ago, a friend of mine bought a Living Social voucher for the local symphony.  I know this because of how Living Social works.  You buy the discounted deal, then if you can get 3 more people to buy the same deal, you get it for free.  So my friend bought the deal, and, in an effort to save even more money, posted a link.  I had been contemplating buying the same deal, so I took note.

My friend, like me, has 3 kids and a husband.  That means there are 5 people in their immediate family.  Since the deal was for 4 tickets, I teasingly asked her who was going to have to stay home.  She joked that her youngest, who I think was 4 at the time, was going to be on her own that day.

It is unfortunate, for me, for our family, that deals like these are almost always set up for 2 or 4 people.  And it's not just the daily deal sites--vacations, cruises, attractions--the deals are almost always set up for 2 or 4 people.  Every now and then, I'll see a package deal for 6, but 2 or 4 seems to be the most common number.  I don't think I realized that before we were a family of 5.

In the past week, I've entered 2 giveaways for family 4-packs of tickets to fun things.  I think I have a pretty good chance of winning, since I have won 100% of the family 4-pack giveaways I've entered in the past 6 months.  It's true.  Before Christmas, I won 4 passes to a local trampoline park, and just last month I won 4 passes to an Ice Castle (there were fire dancers--very impressive).

But as I was completing my entries, and contemplating how likely it is that I will win again, I couldn't help but think about the practical question of how I would use my prizes.  Would one of us stay home?  Would we buy another ticket?  Or would more than one of us stay home and the lucky attenders bring a guest?  The second option might not be viable for these since both of the giveaways are for tickets to sporting events, and the seats are presumably already assigned.

It's not a big hairy deal, really.  I mean, it's one of the costs associated with being an odd family (I mean) having an odd number of people in our family, and given the choice, I prefer to remain a family of 5.  It would be nice, however, just once, for the package-deal makers of the world to acknowledge the fact that some folks have odd numbers of people that they want to do stuff with.  Can't they set up a first-two-at-this-price-each-additional-at-an-also-discounted-price deal?  How hard could it be?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Menu plan for the week of March 23

Did you think I forgot this week?  Or that some terrible fate had befallen me so I was not able to get the menu post up?  Or maybe you didn't notice that this post is late?  Oh well.  Whatever.  It's here now.  Didn't forget, nothing terrible happened.  I just wasn't feeling the menu plan this week.  Do you ever have weeks like that?  Or perhaps the better question is, do you ever not have weeks like that?  *Sigh*

It snowed a little last night.  Nothing like the predicted 3-6 inches, but maybe an inch of crusty, wet snow.  My policy when it snows during the night is to bring a shovel out to the bus stop and to spend the wait time shoveling.  Bubby has enthusiastically joined in with me.

Sometimes we get half the driveway done before the bus makes its appearance.

So that's what I did this morning, even though I had to use the dreaded ergonomic shovel because my favorites have already been packed away for the season (why that one was left out, I do not know.  Definitely would not have been my choice).

The bus driver saw me with my shovel, and decided to inform me, because obviously, if I was bothering to shovel, there is no way I could have known, that it was all going to melt by this afternoon.  Thanks, Butch.

To his eye, my shoveling was an exercise in futility.  Why waste time doing something that will take care of itself in time?  And why can't my laundry do that?  Oh wait, it does, albeit slowly.  Why am I folding and putting away laundry again?  Hmmm.  Must think this through.

Anyway, what Butch failed to realize is that I love shoveling.  And it's never a waste of time to do something you love, something that fills you up and gives you a smidgen of joy.

Laundry, on the other hand, I do not love.

On to the menu:

--Wild rice casserole, green beans, applesauce
--Chicken taco casserole (I'm thinking I'll make this in individual ramekins this time--because I can.  And because there are people here who don't like cheese), cauliflower/broccoli/carrots, peaches
--Tacos, tortillas, taco fixings
--Crispy southwest chicken wraps, salad, carrots
--Leftovers and/or fend for yourself
--Grilled bone-in chicken breasts, smashed potatoes (or something with fingerling potatoes--any suggestions?), mixed veggies, pear sauce

Supper next week:
--Meatballs, mashed potatoes, corn, salad, applesauce

--Chocolate syrup ('cause I didn't make it last week)
--Some kind of bread for a potluck lunch

Your turn: What's on your menu this week?  And what should I do with my fingerling potatoes?
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