Heart Work with the help of Mario Brothers

The other day I made Ree Drummond’s amazing cinnamon rolls. The recipe makes about 32+ rolls. (I also made Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies, my own chocolate oatmeal cookies, and some mint chocolate chip and cookie dough ice cream.) I think it’s safe to say my pregnancy sweet tooth has been turned on and turned up! There are plenty of sweets for everyone, so if you’re hungry, you should stop by. Please. (I just heard Randy yell from the kitchen, “There are baked goods everywhere!” and it wasn’t in an excited-kid-in-a-candy-shop-kind-of-way, it was a I-have-no-where-to-put-down-my-coffee-cup-kind-of-way.)

Those cinnamon rolls, though. They are so delicious and just a tad labor-intensive. But a lot of the work that goes into them is also dependent on the yeast, and whether or not its done its job. There are many references to yeast in the New Testament, and how it only takes a little yeast to work through a whole batch of dough–it can be good yeast and make the bread rise well, or it can be bad yeast and spoil the batch. When I made the cinnamon rolls this time around, I was afraid I burned the yeast and killed it. It wasn’t able to do its job the way it normally does, and the rolls didn’t rise as well as usual. They still tasted delicious because they’re covered with cinnamon, sugar, butter, and delicious maple icing. But I knew the truth. They weren’t as good as they should’ve been.

I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts and books lately about raising kids. being a mom, homeschooling, etc. As a homeschool mom, it can be easy to feel a lot of pressure to raise “perfect” kids. Or at least “perfectly educated and well-mannered” ones. We are home with them, so we have all the time in the world to turn them into wonderful little specimens, right? 😉 But what I’m realizing/learning/accepting as Randy and I work through a parents’ Bible study together is that the work I do to turn out God-fearing children is futile if God’s not already in it. Just like I can work the dough all I want to turn out delicious rolls, but if the yeast isn’t good, the rolls will fall flat.

Our church recently had a parenting conference where one of the speakers outlined God’s work and our work in parenting (what is actually within our power and what is not). You can read about his list of things that are part of the parent’s work when it comes to raising God-fearing children here.  (And please do, it’s a great read!) When we dwell on the fact that so much of our kids’ lives are not within our power to control, it can feel freeing, and also scary! It can also be tempting to throw our hands in the air in a moment of frustration and say, “Forget it! I have no control, anyway! Do what you want.” But this is not what God wants. In fact, we are commanded to teach our kids the things of God and to evangelize to them, even though we’re not guaranteed the results we want.

I like that accepting God’s power, love, and grace in the life of my family takes some of the pressure off of me. But it doesn’t remove my responsibility, and I’ve been thinking lately about how to be more intentional about teaching Godly characteristics to my children. At the beginning of the year, we did a unit on the Fruit of the Spirit. (All of my lessons are outlined in my blog and you can see them by clicking on the link.) But just like reading and math require continued practice, so do learning and exhibiting Godly characteristics. It can be easy during the school year to get so focused on academics that it’s hard to squeeze in character-training. That’s one reason I think the summer break is an excellent time to practice these characteristics and others such as manners and social skills. For us, this is where We Choose Virtues comes in. I purchased this simple, 12-week program a while ago but haven’t found the time to start implementing it until now. We only have 2 weeks of school left, so I wanted to start now before I get too relaxed in summer. For 12 weeks, we will focus on one characteristic each week. My job is to read the parent cue card (which also has a Proverb linked to each virtue) and implement 1-2 of the fun ideas for introducing the characteristic to my children. Then I also have to notice and give them praise when I catch them exhibiting that characteristic during the week. They can’t call my attention to their good behavior, I have to notice it. We decided to tie a reward system to this program, also. My kids love playing Mario Brothers on the wii each weekend, but they can lose time playing because of bad behavior. So I thought, if they can lose time for acting poorly, shouldn’t they be able to gain some time by acting the way we’re teaching them? Of course, I want them to understand the value in having these characteristics in a lifelong, eternal sort of way, but at their age, there’s nothing wrong with some immediate gratification. 😉

So here’s our Mario Brothers time chart set up:

The 2 posters are from We Choose Virtues. I made the Mario chart myself and stuck velcro pieces on it so we can swap out what characteristic we’re working on and so that Mario can move forwards and backwards. What I like about this system is that there is redemption. If we’re working on self-control and one of our children loses control over something on Monday, Mario will move back 10 minutes. But he can still move forward again when Randy or I catch that child remain self-controlled in a difficult circumstance later that day or week.

So we begin this new adventure Monday! I’m excited for it. Remembering to keep my children and their hearts in my prayers is such an important piece and I’ll admit that sometimes I fall short there, so that’s my own goal right now. When I don’t pray for my children, it’s like forgetting to add the yeast to a dough I’m making. And at least if things get frustrating at times, we have plenty of cinnamon rolls, brownies, and ice cream to soothe our souls (and satisfy our sweet teeth)! Seriously, come over for a treat. Anytime. You’ll be doing us the favor! 😉

Plastic Easter eggs are taking over our house…

Ideally, I would like to get better at sharing our special occasion homeschool activities BEFORE the actual holiday so the ideas can be used by others who are interested. Haha! Right now I pretty much use my pregnancy nausea as an excuse for everything (because it truly can be paralyzing at times) so that’s my excuse for not getting to our Easter egg centers earlier. On Friday, we somehow managed to do our centers, go to a playground, go out for lunch, take a hike on the local rail trail, and make it to our church’s Good Friday service. No wonder we all came home and crashed and I was tired for the rest of the weekend! But I wanted to share with you our new centers, particularly the ones that used plastic Easter eggs you might have laying around your house right now…

For Abby, I set up centers using all plastic eggs (which is a great way to use up those leftover ones from Easter). These were ideas I came up with back when I was teaching first grade. There are so many cute ideas all over pinterest, etc, that can be adapted for whatever you need. I was so excited to break out my old eggs and worksheets that I once used in my classroom and to start using them with my own child.

Here are some ideas:

COMPOUND WORDS This was particularly fun for Abby, and the whole way home from our Easter celebration, she kept trying to come up with other compound words. This led to a discussion on the difference between syllables, sounds, and actual words (that make up other words). She did a good job coming up with some on her own, though, like “sidewalk.” She’s a thinker!

RHYMING WORDS I knew this would be an easy one for her, and she loves rhyming, so she saved it for her last center since she always saves the ones she’s looking forward to doing the most for last. haha!

WORD FAMILIES It was really fun for me to see Abby read through these words with such ease. This is a great way to help reinforce onset and rime practice. I wrote the rime on the longer part of the egg (ex. “ock”) and then a bunch of different onsets on the short part of the egg (“l”, “r”, “bl”, “cl”, etc) and she would rotate the egg to say and then write the different words. Since we had limited time on Friday, I only had her write one word for each word family, but when she has more time through the week to go back to it, she can write more.

Another couple examples that I have but we didn’t do yet are SYNONYMS & ANTONYMS, and then a sight word game where the sight words are written on a slip of paper inside an egg and the student “finds” it, and writes a sentence using that word. Our curriculum also did a brief mini-lesson on homophones this past week and if I had more time, I would’ve reinforced that with a homophone egg center, too! The options are endless!

For Noah, he had some fun, creative centers including a letter egg hunt, and you can see more about his centers and the centers we did last week on my updated center page.

Oh, and I have to share with you our Saturday night “Sabbath” celebration. We just finished up going through the 7 days of creation in Abby’s Bible reader and we culminated it with our very own Sabbath dinner celebration. We did ours Saturday night instead of Friday. I made a nice big dinner (which I don’t do often these days, since I’m not feeling well, but was able to make an exception) of roasted chicken and sides, and set a nice table. We had the 2 candles, and a loaf of homemade challah bread, which I must say, came out great for a first-timer! Then we had a relaxing evening of watching Disney’s “Moana” and were ready for Sunday’s day of worship and family time!

Centers, Spring Baskets, and Beauty & the Beast

They say hindsight is 20/20, but when it comes to babies, I’m not so sure that’s true. It sure seems like once one stage is over, we tend to forget all the “bad” that went with it. We look at their cute little faces and instantly forget (or block out) the sleepless nights, sore boobs, etc etc etc. Sometimes we forget how horrible one night was by the next morning! We can easily minimize or forget the pain of labor and discomfort of pregnancy for the sake of having “one more.” Okay, maybe that’s not you, but it’s me. My husband and I always said we wanted four kids and it’s like, no matter how miserable my pregnancies are (and they’ve all been miserable) I’ve never let go of that “four kids” plan. So here I am, sitting on the couch feeling incredibly nauseous, tired, and overall miserable because I’m 13 weeks pregnant with number 4. “Fourth and final” I say! I say this to explain my near 2-month-hiatus from writing. I started feeling nauseous by week 6 and I just haven’t had it in me to think about anything other than daily survival. Ugh. When I was going through with my third pregnancy, I seriously questioned whether or not we would make it to number 4. But here we are! So much for that hindsight thing, I definitely forgot how purely awful pregnancy nausea is for me. But, I will make it through and the outcome will be worth it; this, I know. 😉

Anyway, I reworked our school schedule so we could take 2 weeks off and “regroup.” Abby had been asking for a break, I definitely needed one, and I wanted to start spring cleaning which is hard to do while also homeschooling (and nauseous). So I decided while on break, I could catch the blog world up on life a little bit. Let’s start with school. During school each week we’ve been incorporating “centers” every Friday which the kids can carry into the next week. If you’re not a teacher or don’t know what centers are–I pick three activities for Abby and Noah each that they can do independently. The activities usually have to do with what they’re learning currently in school and are fun. I give them anywhere from 6-8 minutes to do each activity and set the timer. They move through each center and then they can pick their favorite to do for longer at the end. Fridays are our “exploration” days so we don’t have our normal school routine. Abby and Noah can do their centers and I can help if they don’t understand something. Then we have time to do other exploration activities or fun field trips. The next week, while I’m working one-on-one with one child, the other may choose a center or two to work on independently. It’s really worked well so far! If you’re looking for a way to occupy a younger sibling during homeschool, try some of these ideas! I’m a huge fan of The Mailbox, which is where I get a lot of activities and ideas. Check out their website for activity books and cut-outs! For a full view and description of all our centers so far this year, check out my NEW center page! Here’s just a little photo preview:

Last week was the first week of spring (couldn’t tell from where I’m sitting!) so we did “spring baskets” at our house. I don’t have anything against Easter baskets in general, but we don’t really have time for them on Easter and I want to spend the limited time we do have focusing on Christ, church, and family. So the spring baskets are a fun way to celebrate the season of spring and makes an otherwise normal day seem fun! So what do I put in spring baskets? I fill ours with a little bit of candy, a small toy, maybe a chocolate bunny, a piece of jewelry for the girls and a keychain or something similar for Noah, and I usually like to incorporate something about the meaning of Resurrection Day. This year I bought a book for all of us and new Christian music CD for us to listen to when we’re cruising around town in our minivan. 😉 I also painted Abby a bag for her books a couple months ago so I stuck that in her basket as well.

Oh, and last week we saw Beauty & the Beast! It was phenomenal! Abby’s 5 and she loved it. The wolf scenes are a little intense, but she did great! I’ve seen some questionable opinions about the movie but I’ve also read some really good reviews! I can’t say anything more or better than what’s said here: ttp://ohamanda.com/2017/03/08/beauty-and-the-beast-movie-review-discussion-guide/ plus there’s a discussion guide! Check it out if you can!

So that’s all for me, I’ve gotta get to bed. Hopefully it won’t be another 2 months before I write more. Then again, my track record indicates long periods of nausea so I’m not too optimistic about it ending anytime soon. :/ Much love to you all!

The Last Supper

So how has everyone’s 2017 started off?  (Happy New Year, by the way!)

The year has been off to a rocky start for me (us), but that means it can only improve from here, right?  I think so. 😉  But the purpose of this post isn’t to talk about the bad stuff.  There’s some good and fun things going on, too!  So here they are, in no particular order, my random positive thoughts/things of January 2017:

  1. I think I’ve discovered a new and helpful way to homeschool Abby and Noah and to give them each individual attention.  We now do “centers” and they each have a choice of 3 they can do independently when I work with the other one.  They’ll get new centers every Friday and get the morning to practice all of them.  Then the next week, if I’m working with Abby, Noah goes to do whichever center he wants, and vice versa. So far it’s worked wonderfully and they love them!  It will be a lot of work in the beginning, for me to plan and prepare it all, but I think it’ll be worth it!  Homeschool moms, what are some things you do to help your kids young kids work independently?  I love new ideas!
  2. I can’t decide if I’m pro online clothing shopping or not.  I got a bunch of gift cards for Christmas and was going to go shopping one Saturday, but a mini-blizzard came through.  I’ve really been needing some new winter clothes to wear.  After having 3 kids, it got to the point where I actually like my maternity clothes better than my regular clothes, which hardly ever seem to fit right anymore anyway!  So I ordered a bunch of clothes online recently and when they came, I wasn’t as happy with them as I thought I’d be.  I mean, I’m still pleased, but some items just weren’t how I pictured them in person.  But I’m not ready to give up on online clothing shopping totally.  I mean, you just can’t beat the convenience factor!  How many people out there buy clothes online???
  3. I had a much needed trip to Michael’s today and now am feeling super crafty.  I’ve had my sewing machine sitting in our living room for about a week now because I desperately need to fix 2 pairs of pants and a shirt.  But when I finally sat down to do it, I was out of thread.  (Of course! Can you tell I use it often?!  haha!)  I also needed more yarn for a blanket I want to start, and while I was there, I decided to make a winter wreath for the kitchen door.  So now my living room is even more cluttered with craft items.  Think I can get it cleared out by February?  That’ll be the goal.
  4. Tomorrow I restart the Whole30.  Ever done it/heard of it?  No grains, no dairy, no sugar… yep.  I tried it once before but I didn’t get through the 30 days–ahem, there were extenuating circumstances.  The process intrigues me.  And as a mom, particularly a homeschool mom, I am constantly thinking about my example to my children throughout the day.  I don’t want my energy always lagging and I even though I’m okay with them knowing how much I love coffee and chocolate, I also want them to know that it’s important to take care of your body.  I don’t like the word diet, and that’s not the example I want to set.  This is more about learning how my body reacts to different foods and filling with only whole foods for 30 days.  Wish me luck!  As my “last supper” before it starts, tonight I made stuffed chicken, butternut squash risotto, and balsamic broccoli.  I know what you’re thinking, my last meal should’ve been pizza.  The thought crossed my mind… while I was already cooking.  haha!  Oh well.  It’s probably been a week since I’ve had pizza, so at the end of this, a pizza will be even more gratifying. 😉

img_1144Making stuffed chicken is pretty easy, very versatile, and really elevates a basic chicken dish!  You can either use split chicken breasts (skin on) and stuff your chicken between the skin and flesh, or you can pound out a skinless breast and place your “stuffing” on top, then roll the chicken up, secure with toothpicks, and then grill/bake, whichever you choose.  If you opt for this technique, you can also get a little “wild” and bread the chicken for extra flavor and crunch!  I’ve done it a few times, but tonight I didn’t have time.

img_1150I pounded out my chicken, seasoned it with salt and pepper, then layered spinach, basil, roasted red peppers, and goat cheese on top.  Then I rolled the chicken up, re-seasoned the outside with salt and pepper, then seared it in a hot cast iron skillet and finished it off in a 400* oven for about 15 minutes.  Delicious!!!

I love making this broccoli, too, because my children ask for seconds and thirds!  I simply boil the broccoli in salted water, being careful not to overcook it.  I whisk together minced garlic, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil.  Then the added the cooked, drained broccoli to this mixture, season with pepper and fresh lemon juice. So yummy.

Of course, I couldn’t skip dessert on my last night before the Whole30, so I made Ree Drummond’s “Knock You Naked Brownies.”  Yes.  So much yes.  So much love.  These are amazing.  I’m excited for this round of Whole30 because thanks to my awesome sister-in-law, I’m equipped some with hearty recipes and extra tools to get me through.  I’ll keep you posted. 😉  Goodnight, all, and cheers to a better year! XOXO

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Can you even handle it?  I can’t.  I’m going to go eat one now. 😉

When You Feel Like a Failure…

It’s. Been. A. Week.  Anyone else?  Seriously.  The things that happened at the beginning of the week, like the snow and shoveling my driveway on Monday, or the MomHeart Group I went to on Tuesday evening seem like they were weeks ago.

Noah was sick last weekend and I ended up bringing him to the doctor on Tuesday. Bacterial infection. Amoxicillin. If you have (or had) small children, you know the drill.  He’s much better now, but the girls are sick.  And I have a horrible cough.  The week has had some ups and downs, a lot of downs.  But probably the biggest downer of all, is this feeling of failure in every department of my life that I’ve let linger all week.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  I know a lot of other moms go through this.  So I’m opening up about my own feelings of weakness.

I guess it started on Monday.  The snow plus Noah being sick meant a sick/snow day to start the week.  I feel like I see occasional Facebook posts of other moms with their sick kids having a snuggly movie day under a blanket with some tea or hot cocoa.  It looks so lovely and serene!  (And of course, it’s only a picture, and we all know a 2-second photo that gets posted on Facebook is not necessarily the reality of an entire day, but it seems like it, sometimes, doesn’t it?)  So I was hoping to have such a day with my kids.  But I can only sit down and snuggle with my sick children after I’ve…

  • disinfected the entire house
  • changed bed sheets
  • started laundry
  • cleaned the kitchen and bathroom
  • cleaned out all the humidifiers because oh my goodness did you see the GMA special on how much bacteria can grow in humidifiers if they aren’t properly cleaned regularly?!  Yuck!
  • bleached the window sills to get rid of any black mildew or mold… or is that just dirty dust that’s worked its way into the corners of the windows from every other time I clean the windows and sills?  Doesn’t matter, bleach it!
  • and on this day in particular, shoveled the driveway

So by the time I was actually able to sit down and try to get some snuggle time in, Abby, who wasn’t sick at the time, couldn’t sit still and watch another movie if you paid her, and Noah was falling asleep.  So the day came and went without that perfect Kodak moment.  Initiate feeling of failure.  (And to clarify, it’s not just about getting the cute pic on Facebook.  It’s about not getting that time, that moment.  Don’t sick kids need mommy snuggles???  Am I a bad mother because I spent the day cleaning the house instead of hugging my kids???  Not that I don’t hug them all the time anyways, but, these were my thoughts.) Here’s what my house typically looks like with sick children…

My kids have been sick with colds recently so this new wave of sickness felt familiar.  Which led to a whole new set of questions leading to my feeling of failure…

  • why are my kids “always” (yes, huge exaggeration but this is how it felt) sick?!
  • I haven’t refilled their vitamins in a while, is that the reason?
  • Am I not feeding them enough fruits and vegetables?
  • Are they not getting enough vitamin C?
  • Is my house not clean enough?
  • Am I not instilling enough “clean” habits?
  • Am I FAILING as a mom because I can’t keep my kids healthy???  What are other people thinking in secret about what our house must be like if my kids are sick all the time…

We took December off from school so we could relax and embrace the reason for the season.  I also hoped to play lots of educational games and do some supplement work to our curriculum.  And here it was, week 2 of our 4-week hiatus, and we were stuck being sick.  And not all at once.  So when Noah was sick, I was busy cleaning and looking after him (and the baby) and then when he got better, Abby got sick, then Emmalyn.  And now I have a terrible cough/cold!  So there’s always been a reason we couldn’t get something done.  How is it possible that I’m “behind” in my “break schedule?”  That has to be some kind of oxymoron.  So among this week of weirdness and sickness, these were some of the failing thoughts that I let grab a hold of me…

  • Why can’t I keep my kids healthy?  I’m a bad mom.
  • We’re not having the “educational fun” and “embracing the season” like I envisioned for December.  I’m a bad homeschool mom.
  • Even though we’re not officially doing school this month, I still can’t find the time to balance the checkbook or budget and have caused my husband stress over this.  I’m a bad wife.
  • Even though we’re not officially doing school this month, I’m not putting in as much time as I’d like at work to get done what I want.  I’m bad at time management.
  • I found a recipe for a immune booster smoothie that I decided to serve my family each morning to help ward off future sickness, but it was not well-received.  (Too pulpy.) And I only served it a few mornings.  I’m a bad mom.
  • I didn’t get my Christmas shopping done when I wanted to.  I thought I would be “ahead of the game” and I’m not.  I’m bad at getting things done.
  • I can’t manage to get up early enough to do my quiet time AND exercise like I’d like to.  I’m bad at taking care of myself.

These are the thoughts that swirled around my head and heart all week, nearly crippling me.  I know that they’re not true.  Sure, I can improve on all these things because I’m not perfect, but I’m also not bad at all of them, or a failure.  I know this.  But when you’re weak (like, because you’re tackling sickness during the holiday season and feeling stressed) the Enemy creeps in.  And I let him.  I let him allow me to focus on my shortcomings and to feel like a failure.  And in doing so, it took my focus off of Christ. And when Christ is not at the center of my universe, it sort of spins out of control, you know?  His grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made strong in my weakness.  This truth was forgotten this past week.  I hope to never let it be forgotten again.

I will say, that as melancholy as this post has been, I’m doing much better at the start of this week. (At least mentally; physically, I kinda feel like crap still.)  And at the end of last week, I had a nice text-pet-talk with my good friend (and mom hero), Amanda.  I know we can all be in this same boat at times, ladies.  Let me encourage you that you’re not alone if you’ve felt these things, and please take hold of 2 Corinthians 12:9 and claim it for yourself!  You’re not a failure, you’re a child of God and have the glorious privilege of resting in Him.

XOXO

Looking for an immune-boosting smoothie recipe?  I think I got this one down, as this morning, the kids said it was the “best smoothie ever!”  This smoothie is jam-packed with vitamin C and can be a good “pick-me-up” if you start to experience the “winter blues.”  I don’t really measure, so bear with me.  For my 3 kids I used…

  • handful of whole strawberries (stems included)*img_1022
  • 1 banana**
  • handful of chopped pineapple
  • 1/2 – 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 TB almond butter**
  • 1-2 TB wheat germ**

Blend until smooth.  Serve cold! 🙂

*Strawberry stems are edible and very healthy, containing extra vitamin C and minerals, which is why I leave them on for a smoothie.  Faster prep since I don’t have to cut up the strawberries, and the kids don’t even notice!

**Not included in the original “vitamin C” smoothies I was looking into, but they made the smoothie taste better for the my kids and the wheat germ helps to fill them up a bit more.

I serve this smoothie WITH FOOD for their breakfast.  Growing kids need a good breakfast! Randy and I could just have the smoothie as our meal and be fine! (Although, I pack him a different “protein” smoothie for lunch, so if I want to serve him this for breakfast, I usually make some other food as well.  Don’t want him to feel like he’s on a liquid diet. haha!)  For Randy and I, I add frozen, chopped kale; but my kids pick up on that right away so I leave it out of theirs.  Originally, I tried putting shredded carrots in the smoothies, too, but that’s what made it too pulpy since (although the carrots were already shredded) they didn’t break down enough.  I like the benefits carrots have to offer and I want to get vegetables in the smoothie, too, so I might try carrot juice in the future.  

 

Sausage Avocado Subs

Monday I had my kids with me at work.  That was fun.  The rest of the day was spent picking up the house, putting away the groceries, and washing dishes and then we went out for dinner for Abby’s birthday.

Tuesday was a homeschool day.  I made deconstructed breakfast sandwiches in the morning, and then Randy had to leave for work right away.  We did school in a semi-messy kitchen while I tried to do dishes and put Emmalyn down for her nap.  She’s cutting about 2-3 teeth, so the nights have been sleepless and though she’s pretty happy during the day, my patience is thinner than usual.  I didn’t get a chance to eat lunch on Tuesday because I was busy making it for the kids, feeding the baby, cleaning the breakfast/lunch dishes, and putting away the school materials.  That’s how the days seem to go lately.  I’m lucky if I get a bite in anywhere during the day.  Then, after the kids got a quick nap while I made dinner-to-go, it was time for gymnastics.  Abby had to pack her soccer bag.  I brought all three kids to gymnastics and Noah and Emmalyn played while Abby had her class.  Then Randy came and picked her up for soccer practice and took their dinners with them.  Noah had his class while I watched and entertained Emmalyn.  Then the three of us went home and ate our dinner that I made ahead of time.  Abby and Randy came home and Abby took a shower.  Then it was bath time for the younger two while Randy had to go upstairs to our second floor apartment and finish installing the bathroom fixtures.  When he was done, he had to leave for work (his part-time job) and I finished putting the kids to bed.  Then I ordered a new fridge for upstairs, washed more dishes, and worked on homeschool prep and church stuff.  That’s how my week started and how they pretty much go these days.  Are you tired yet?  Me too!

So, “Hi” to you!  Hope your week has gone well!  (Mine hasn’t been all bad–I did have a wonderful Bible study with 2 other moms on Wednesday night and small playgroup Thursday morning.  We made an apple pie today and we’ve been plugging away at school and our Fruit of the Spirit unit which makes me feel good, so there’s that.)  But onto the business of this post…

When we decided to put Abby in soccer this year, we knew we would have to switch gymnastic days from Saturday mornings to another day. Tuesday is the only day they can both take their classes relatively close together.  It means a long afternoon for me, but I’m hoping I can switch them back to Saturday mornings simultaneously when soccer is over.  So I just figured we’d be having a lot of slow-cooker meals on Tuesday nights when we got home from gymnastics.  I was wrong.  I soon found out that Abby’s soccer practice would also be on Tuesday nights, so that meant we’d mostly have to eat dinner on the go.  Hello, sandwiches.  And challenge accepted.  I didn’t want to just make turkey and cheese sandwiches every week, so I’m looking at this as an opportunity to expand my sandwich/sub horizon.  Here’s what I made this week.  Randy texted me from soccer practice and told me the only thing he didn’t like about it was that it was too small. 🙂 Win!

Sausage and Avocado Sub (Okay, so I got the idea from a Real Simple magazine–my long, lost love.  Here’s what I did with it.)

What you’ll need:img_0532

  • Italian sausage (I prefer hot/spicy)
  • avocado
  • feta cheese
  • red cabbage
  • cilantro cream (1 cup plain Greek yogurt, mixed with juice from about 1/2 lime, and chopped cilantro mixed in.  Season with salt and pepper.)
  • sub rolls

I sliced my Italian sausage in half lengthwise and cooked them thoroughly.  Meanwhile, I sliced the sub rolls, and spread the cilantro cream on both sides. (So, I didn’t have any limes.  I used half a lemon instead.  It still tasted great!)

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This is me dipping some sausage into my cilantro cream to make sure the flavors actually went well together–they did!  All good…

I sliced up the avocado and cabbage.  When the sausage is done cooking, pile the sausage, cheese, avocado, and cabbage on the prepared sub rolls.  This sandwich is piled high!  But it is so yummy!  Enjoy it while the sausage is still warm, or at least, don’t refrigerate it–it’s much better at room temperature.

5 Things to remember when scrolling through Facebook…

img_0307So we had Abby’s 5th birthday party last weekend and it was a huge success.  And although I posted pictures and did the whole Facebook/instagram thing with the cake and party pics, I almost didn’t and here’s why.  For me (and maybe it’s just the social media circles I’m a part of) I always feel like kid birthday parties are such a source of tension between parents, or specifically moms.  If you don’t throw big birthday parties for your kids, or make the cake yourself, it can be easy to feel like a failure (which is not my opinion, but I can see how social media helps people feel that way).  So then to compensate, people say things like, “It’s pointless to give your kids a big party or a homemade cake because they won’t remember it anyway” or “I’m sick of all these moms posting their cakes or parties on facebook like they think they’re better than us or something” or “What a waste of money to do all that just for a kid’s birthday” or “You know your kid doesn’t love you more just because of a party, right?”  Yep, I’ve seen or heard all these comments–not on my own photos, but in groups, on articles, in general reference to birthday parties for kids, and even in personal conversations (though not with friends–my friends rock!).

But these comments make me wonder about all the people posting photos of their weight-loss success, or creative projects, room makeovers, job promotions, etc.  Are they hearing the same kind of comments?  Like everyone assumes that if you post some exciting news or a personal success story, it’s because you think you’re better than the rest?  Or are things surrounding our kids subject to more criticism because we’re all more sensitve about our parenting?  Hasn’t facebook naturally become the platform for us to post our excitement, our hobbies, and our creative ideas?  I feel like I read this statement all the time in “mommy” articles online but, “Can’t we just stop all the ‘mom-shaming’?!”  Sure, I can understand and even feel how consistently seeing just the highlights of people’s lives can bring out jealous feelings.  None of us likes to feel like someone else is “doing life” better than us, or that we’re missing out on some experience, or like we’re not good enough; and social media certainly helps bring these thoughts to the forefront.  But of course that shouldn’t excuse the shaming or putting down of another person’s successes or own real-life-highlights.

I’ve always been a creative person.  I have creative parents, I married a creative man, and I can even see the creative thinking coming through in my children.  I minored in art in college and was even privileged to take art classes abroad.  But now, I no longer have time to paint or sketch leisurely.  At this point in time, my cakes are my canvases.  My parties are my “assignments” and I love trying to make them as fun and beautiful as possible.  I don’t think that the way I do parties is the “right” way, and it certainly doesn’t matter whether or not you like to make your own cakes!  And I love celebrating with others in their successes, or being able to tell people that they did a great job at something that they post on facebook.

I find it helpful to remind myself of a few things when scrolling my facebook feed: 1) Nobody’s life is perfect. 2) We all have unique gifts and talents and good things going in our lives, and it’s all different. 3) Most likely, the person posting wasn’t thinking of me when they posted a pic or status and so therefore: they aren’t trying to offend me or make me feel inadequate.  4) Complimenting others and giving praise freely FEELS REALLY GOOD. 🙂  5) I find my self-worth in Christ alone.  It doesn’t come from “likes” or comments or anything that social media can provide.

It’s not always easy, but when I can remember those 5 things, I have a much happier facebook-scroll experience, and it helps me ignore the negative comments I see or hear.  This is how I do parties and it’s fun for me!  And I’m grateful that my kids have friends whose parents still take them to our parties even if I might go a little overboard. 😉  To see the pictures and descriptions of Abby’s recent birthday party (and other parties), check them out in the FUN section of my website.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Cake Building

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I made 3 large layers of cake (from scratch).  Here are 2 out of 3.  Then, it’s in the freezer they go!
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I cut the layers in half to start building so it would be six layers high.  In between each layer was a thin layer of buttercream frosting, and then the strawberry-almond filling I made the night before.
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Once I had my 6 layers, I carved the roof off the top with a serrated knife.  With the scraps I had from that, I formed the front, or the “barbican.”  (The rest of the scraps were later combined with leftover frosting and put in the freezer for cake pops!)
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I was too far “in the zone” when frosting (and chasing around my kids) to take pictures of the all the stages, so voila… here’s the outcome!  The towers are made of ice cream cones and rice krispies.
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Didn’t feel like I had room to write out “happy birthday”, haha!
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A peak inside…