Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Strange Encounter

I was at Wal-Mart (shocker, I know!) a few days ago and had a strange encounter with a woman in the clothing department.  An attractive, middle-aged lady walked up to me and in a British accent asked if I could do her a favor.  I inquired as to what she needed and she wanted me to look inside the back of her pants, pull out her underwear, and tell her the size that was printed on the back tag.

I was in such a state of shock that I found myself doing what she asked, as if in a trance.  When I mumbled, "Size 7", she was so appreciative and exclaimed, "Thank you so much!  It is important to get the correct fit, you know!"  

Perhaps this is acceptable behavior in England....I don't know because I've never been there.  And true, it is important to get the correct fit on your underwear.  But, is it worth asking a total stranger to dig around in your pants to find your size?  I think not.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!


Dear Mom,

I am so excited to spend this birthday with you!  How wonderful it is to celebrate your full life and be thankful for the times we are together.  God has been gracious to keep you 60 years in His hand through both joys and sorrows.  

I love that you raised me in the knowledge of the Lord.  I love that you stayed at home with me and taught me.  I love that you sheltered and protected me from the world, but yet allowed me independence to experience new things.  

I love that you showed me how to be a good wife and mother.  I love that you taught me how to entertain and welcome people into my home.  I love that you taught me how to sew.  I love that you are still mentoring me in my own journey as a parent.  

I love going shopping with you!  I love the thrill of discovering a great bargain (hello Pier One $1.17 wooden salad bowl!) with you!  I love planning meals and cooking a feast for our loved ones with you.  

I love that you bravely survived breast cancer.  I love that you humbly care for and serve your family when they are ill or in need.  I love that you are an example of putting others first.

Thank you for all that you have shown me and given me over the years.  I hope that we have many, many more birthdays to come!

I love you mom!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Little Breather....

I'm going to take it slow for the next few days and enjoy the Christmas break with my family.  There are so many topics and stories floating around in my head, but I'm going to hold them captive until I have time to myself.  We are happily busy cooking, shopping, playing games, and just hanging out together.  Last night we enjoyed several games of Rummikub and some delicious homemade Chai Tea.  

We also made the final plans for Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.  For Christmas Eve we're planning a cajun jambalaya dish.  For Christmas Day, we're going with a mid-morning brunch theme this year instead of our traditional homemade pizza.  I think many of us were ready for a change.  So, it was fun to brainstorm a brunch menu and write out our grocery list.

This morning we made a double batch of Christmas Biscotti to give to mom's hairdresser for Christmas.  The beauty salon that she frequents is straight out of Steel Magnolias.  She graciously fit me in for a trim this afternoon, so I'm looking forward to both the haircut and the entertainment! 

I'm trying to keep my thoughts organized until I can post on more interesting topics in the future.  In the meantime, though, I'm taking advantage of family time!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Birthday Party!


Grace had a fabulous time at her birthday party today!  She was so excited to play with her friends and open presents!  This is a picture of her birthday cake that we decorated last night.  It wasn't perfect, but Grace loved it!  This morning when she woke up, I showed it to her and she just sat on a chair and stared at it in awe for several minutes.  Score!

I scheduled the party from 11-1 so we could eat lunch, play, then go home to naptime.  We ate hot dogs, chips, and fruit for lunch.  Then, we played Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey.  Hopefully I didn't traumatize too many children with the blindfold (a first for several).  Then, it was pinata time!  Todd hung it up from a crossbeam on the ceiling and we let the kids hit it with a baseball bat.  The girls were so cute....most of them barely tapped it.  Then the boys got up there and gave it a good beating.  Todd ended up having to break it open for them, then they all scrambled to pick up the candy and prizes.  

We sang "Happy Birthday", ate cake and ice cream, then opened presents.  At first Grace didn't realize that she got to keep the presents she opened.  She thought that since it was "from Will" that she had to give it back to Will, etc.  Towards the end she started to understand then was so excited to see Todd loading her presents in our car to go home.  She didn't want to go to naptime when we got home knowing her toys were waiting to be opened.  As I type, she is still not asleep after being in bed for over at hour.  I'll let her get up soon and explore her new things.

When the party was over, all the moms helped us get the fellowship hall cleaned up.  It was so sweet to look around and see my friends sweeping and wiping tables down.  How precious our friends are here at my parent's home!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart


Dear Grace,

Happy Birthday sweetheart!  Four years ago today your daddy and I were so happy to welcome you into this world.  How blessed we felt to have a child of our own after so many years!  I remember the amazing feeling of holding your tiny body in my arms and being utterly amazed that you were born.  What a miracle.  Having you in my arms was such an answer to prayer.

Every year is such a blessing.  I loved the first few months of total dependence on mommy to provide your needs.  I loved it when you slowly started exploring your environment and gaining some independence.  I loved hearing your first words.

I loved watching you learn to walk, and run, and jump.  I loved taking you to the zoo for the first time.  I loved hearing your vocabulary develop.  I loved watching you transition from toddler to preschooler.

For the past two years, I have loved being at home with you.  I love that I get to be the one to teach you and experience things with you.  I love cooking with you.  I love watching musicals with you.  I love reading books with you.  I love doing puzzles and playing games with you.

I love that our conversations are starting to become more meaningful as you get older.  I love your curiosity and reasoning.  I even love your misbehavior, because I get to teach you about the forgiveness that is found in our loving Saviour.  

How thankful I am to be celebrating your fourth birthday.  May we have many more together.

I love you Grace Elizabeth!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

We Made It!

Well, we arrived safely on our 9-hour trip to my parents home! A little later than we planned, but all in one piece. How thankful we are that God protected us from all the crazy drivers we encountered. The roads were packed and everyone was in a hurry.  Are blinkers going out of style?  It seems like people just don't use them anymore....

Grace was so excited to see Mimi and Granddaddy today. She ran around all evening, playing with all the toys and books. Of course, the highlight of the night was Grace exclaiming "Come get me!" and trying to outrun Granddaddy as he chased her around the house. She went to bed a happy girl. Her bedtime prayer was:

"Dear God. God bless Mommy and Daddy and Mimi and Granddaddy. Please help me to not say 'stupid' because that's a BAD word. In Jesus name, Amen."

I'm not quite sure what brought on that prayer....we haven't had to talk about that word in a long time. Funny what comes to their little minds.

Grace's birthday is tomorrow, and I spent the evening putting together some goody bags for her birthday party on Monday. It's hard to believe our baby is turning four. Time just flies, and we're treasuring every year!

Tomorrow afternoon I will decorate her birthday cake.  Mom already baked the layers, so I'll just need to assemble/ice/decorate.  We're going with a Minnie Mouse theme this year.  I've been stressing a little bit about decorating the cake, so Todd asked me this morning why I didn't just buy one at Wal-Mart?  I can't stand the thought of buying a bakery cake after I spent all summer (and about $300) taking Wilton cake decorating classes a couple of years ago.  I had visions of starting a cake decorating business.  I quickly found out that the amount of time/energy/stress that goes into making a special cake for someone isn't really worth the money.    So, I've just enjoyed making cakes for a few friends/family and haven't really advertised myself.  I'm feeling a little out of practice now, but we'll see what happens tomorrow!  If it's not too terrible, I'll post a picture....

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mad Dash

Grace is over her recent illness and our guests left to drive back to Tennessee this morning. I was looking forward to a relaxing day just cleaning house and getting things packed for our trip to my parent's house this weekend.

Late last night, the following conversation took place:

Todd: "So, will you be ready when I get home tomorrow?"

Me: "Ready for what?"

Todd: "Ready to leave."

Me: "Where?"

Todd: "To your parents house."

Me: "Um, I thought we were leaving sometime Saturday."

Todd: "I thought we would leave after I get home from work Friday and drive overnight."

Me: Thinking, "Oh, boy. So much for sleeping tonight."
Saying: "Sure, honey. Whatever you think is best."

Needless to say, I'll be madly dashing around today writing lists, washing clothes, packing, checking, and re-checking lists before we (hopefully) get out the door by 6:00.

Hey, mom and dad, we'll see you around 4:00 in the morning! Ho Ho Ho! We'll be as quiet as possible and try to not wake you up......

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How To Get Kids To Eat Anything


In honor of Works-For-Me Wednesday, I'm sharing about a trick to get kids to eat anything that you put on the table. It's actually more of a philosophy:

Let them get in the kitchen with you and help prepare the meals!

I've written before and testified about how this has helped Grace to eat more vegetables. Every night that we have a salad at dinner, I let Grace stand on a kitchen chair and share my cutting board. I give her a dull bread knife and let her "cut" her own lettuce, carrots, onions, broccoli, bell peppers, etc. At first, she just proudly told everyone how she made her own salad. Then, after a few times she started tasting her creation. Now, she eats it all. I let her "help" me cook the evening meal almost every night. As a result, she is excited about tasting what she helped prepare.

I usually don't make her taste everything on her plate. I have found that it is not worth the negative feeling that it creates in her towards the particular food that I am "making" her eat. If I introduce a new food, I put it on her plate and then hubby and I talk about how delicious it is. If she doesn't try it the first time, then she usually will the second or third time the food is introduced, especially if I have her help me prepare it.

This isn't a quick fix, but it works in the long run! As a result of effort and patience (and fun!) in the kitchen, Grace will usually eat whatever I choose to put on the table. And be proud of her contribution to the cooking!

Now if I can just make it seem fun to do the dishes.........

For more Works-For-Me Wednesday tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

A Lovely Morning at Grace In The Home.......

(This post is not for people with weak stomachs or gag reflexes).

Okay, don't say I didn't warn you.


Grace woke up this morning fussier than normal. She said her stomach hurt, so I pacified her by giving her a gummy vitamin to "feel better." Then it started. We're in the kitchen and I'm scrambling eggs for my mother-in-law. I heard the gagging and reacted just in time to put Grace over the trash can as she threw up. I got her cleaned up and it happened again. Round 2. I got her cleaned up again and gathered the trashbag to put it outside because we really don't like the smell of puke in the morning. Before I could put a fresh bag in the garbage can she started on Round 3. I managed to pick her up and place her over the garbage disposal. At this point, I started fighting my own gag reflex.

I glanced over at mom-in-law to find her quietly pushing away her plate of breakfast.

I decided to get Grace out of the kitchen, so I made a bed for her on the couch. Guess what? Round 4. I picked her up and carried her upstairs to get changed and cleaned up. Mom-in-law graciously cleaned and disinfected the couch. We came back downstairs and put Grace on a clean couch.

I got the kitchen cleaned up just in time for Round 5.

I'll bet my guests can't wait to see what I'm cooking up for lunch!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Safe Arrival


My husband's mom and aunt arrived early this morning. What was supposed to be a 14-hour drive from Tennessee turned into 17-hour jaunt that included an extensive tour of the D/FW metroplex. Due to a wintry mix, a truck overturned on I-20 and re-routed traffic off of the interstate. They ended up on I-35E, I-635, I-30, Hwy 360, I-35W, and back on I-20. Going over icy bridges and overpasses. At a crawl.

Needless to say, they are exhausted. After quick greetings and a hurried unloading of the car, we sent them off to bed for a few hours of shut-eye.

Now the challenge is to keep two pre-schoolers quiet so they can sleep!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Menu Plan Monday


This week, we have family coming to visit for several days. That makes menu planning much more fun! Also, this is the last menu plan I'll post for a couple of weeks because we're going home for the holidays. So, I get to eat my mom's fabulous cooking! I can't wait to get in the kitchen and cook with her. I pray that one day Grace will have the same special memories of cooking with me.

Monday - Leftovers

Tuesday - Sirloin Steaks, Mashed Potatoes, Lemon Broccoli

Wednesday - Spaghetti with Meatsauce, Garlic Sticks, Green Salad

Thursday - Restaurant

Friday - Leftovers or Pizza?

Saturday - Over the river and through the woods, to grandparent's house we go....

Sunday - Mom's cooking!


This week, I'm including one of our favorite veggie recipes. This is Todd's and Grace's favorite!

Pan-Roasted Lemon Broccoli

3 T water
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
2 T oil
2 broccoli heads, separate into stems (julienned) and florets
4 T butter
2 t. minced garlic
1 1/2 t. lemon juice

Heat oil. Add stems in even layer - 2 min. Add florets - 2 min. Add water, salt, and pepper - cover and steam 2 min. Uncover and cook 2 min. Remove from pan. Melt butter over medium heat and cook 1 1/2 min. Add garlic - 1 min. Add lemon juice and broccoli. Stir and serve.

Christmas Program


Todd and I had a wonderful time at our church's Christmas program this evening. Todd played percussion in the orchestra, and I sang in the choir. Our guest musician for the evening was Wintley Phipps, Baritone. Wow. If God had a voice, this would be it. Check out this video on You Tube. (The video is 8 minutes long, but you can fast-forward it to minute 5:20 to watch him sing "Amazing Grace" in Carnegie Hall).

We sang lots of traditional carols and three songs from the modern oratorio Savior. Wintley also sang several selections including "It Is Well", "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands", and "The Lord's Prayer." What a blessing it was to listen to his incredible musicianship. He has a way of singing that is focused on the words and the message of the lyrics. His musical arrangements were beautiful and very worshipful.

I love the opportunity to be part of the music ministry in our church. I love that our music minister doesn't shy away from difficult or challenging music. I love that the focus is not on our "performance", but on leading a worship experience in our congregation. I love that we often take time to discuss the theology behind the words that we are singing. I love the friendships I have formed in rehearsals. And, I love singing praises to God.

How wonderful to think that the beauty of the music tonight was but a small taste of the heavenly choirs that we will hear for eternity!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Creepy Encounter

Today I ran to the grocery store to grab a couple of things that I forgot to put on my Wal-Mart list earlier this week. As I was loading my bag in the back of my car, a man approached me from behind. He surprised me suddenly and asked for some money.

After my heart started beating again, my first response was "Leave me alone!" He kept bugging me and telling me that I had no Christmas spirit. Perhaps that is true in this case, and I didn't mean to be rude, but I don't really enjoy strange men coming up to me in parking lots.

This is the third time a man has approached me while I was loading my purchases in my car this month and asked for money. Once at Wal-Mart, once at Target, and once at Albertson's today.

Call me crazy, but I think it is totally inappropriate for a man to approach a lone woman in this way. Any man that was truly in need with good intentions would not do this. Thankfully God has protected me all three times and no harm has come to me or Grace, but it has made me become a little paranoid about parking lots.

Todd was pretty upset when I got home and told him that it had happened again. He said that from now on I should call the police on my cell phone. Even if the person is harmless, it is inappropriate and should be reported.

Has anyone else had encounters like this? How did you handle it?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Memories


A while back I asked my mom what she thought my favorite Christmas present was from my childhood. She immediately responded: stereo. Yep, that's right.

It was Christmas morning in 1987, and my brothers and I could hear the faint strains of music coming from the den. We were so excited to see what was under the tree, and I was curious about the music. I still remember the thrill I felt when I saw that beautiful double deck tape player/record player combo. Mom and Dad had set it all up and found a local FM radio station that was playing Christmas music. I was so excited that our family had a real stereo, and it took about ten minutes before I realized that it was MINE! It could go in my room! Wow, that was really special. Thanks, mom and dad.

I'd love to hear about a special Christmas present that you remember from your childhood. If there is anybody out there who has been reading my posts but doesn't usually comment, this is your opportunity! Leave a comment with your favorite present and why it was special. I look forward to reading sweet memories!

Favorite Things


Grace's favorite toy of the moment is a hot pink, large button calculator from the Dollar Tree Store. She carries it around with her everywhere and laughs hysterically when I enter crazy number combinations. It's really good practice to reinforce her numbers, and we can even work on simple addition and subtraction.

Many of our favorite toys come from local dollar stores. It's nice that at this age, she is just as entertained with a sheet of stickers as she would be with an expensive electronic toy. While we have a few electonic toys, she usually prefers to play with the cheap hands-on things like: Play-Dough, letter blocks, tea sets, dolls, and art supplies. If I really want to make her day, I blow up a balloon and watch her play with it for hours. Or, get out the bubble blower. That's always a hit!

Her favorite "expensive" toy is a Mickey Mouse cash register from The Disney Store. She loves to go shopping "at Wal-Mart" and scan all her items, pretend to add them up, then swipe the credit card. Todd has even taught her to speak into the microphone and say "Attention Wal-Mart shoppers! There is a sale today on ______!" It's the cutest thing.

I guess the point of this post is to say that at this age, imaginative and creative play is very important. They really don't need the latest and most expensive electronic gadget in order to have fun. (That's what teenagers want). So, I'll enjoy shopping for toys at the Dollar Store as long as I can!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A New Low

Today during lunch I noticed that Grace was putting the ketchup from her hot dog onto her kiwi/strawberry yogurt. And, in all seriousness, she was eating it and saying, "Ummmm....yummy." This "eat ketchup on everything" is really an interesting phase she is going through. I'm starting to think she would be satisfied if I gave her a bottle of ketchup for Christmas! Heinz, of course.

Santa....Is He Real In Your Family?



I thought I'd start out this post with a cute pic of my brother with Santa in Iraq. Love you, Jon!

I also want to take a moment to say that the opinions expressed in this post are just that, opinions. I mean no condemnation or bad will to other parents who choose to take a contradictory viewpoint. This is just the path that my husband and I have chosen to take for our family.

We treat Santa like any other fictional character. Notice I said fictional. We don't tell Grace that Santa is real. We don't write letters to Santa. We don't try to make her believe that if she is a good little girl, then St. Nick will bring her presents on Christmas Day. When we see Santa at the mall, we tell her that someone is dressed up and pretending to be Santa.

That said, we don't necessarily shun all things Santa, either. I have a couple of Santa ornaments on the tree that people have given me over the years. I have a hand-painted Santa sitting on my fireplace mantle. Grace has a Santa book that she likes to read over and over....I've even taken a few pictures with Santa through the years.

We have chosen to take this path for three main reasons:

1. We want Christmas to be focused on Jesus. When Grace thinks of Christmas, we want the nativity story to come first to her mind, not Santa Claus. We have lots of Christmas books that tell the story of Jesus's birth. We talk about why we celebrate Christmas.....to show joy for God's precious gift, the coming of our Savior! While we participate in many traditions of the season (Christmas tree, presents, decorations), we are constantly verbalizing the "reason for the season."

2. We don't want to lie to Grace. I know that many people don't consider the Santa fantasy a lie, but we can't help but feel uncomfortable with it. How will she feel when she finds out one day that mommy and daddy spent so much effort building up something that turned out to be untrue? It's an issue of trust. We want Grace to know that we are honest and truthful with her in all areas.

3. And this leads me to my third reason....Grace's perception of God. This might be a stretch for some people, but in the mind of a child I believe that this is valid. I have heard and read testimonies of many people who admitted that when they found out their parents had been lying to them about Santa Claus, they wondered if God was a lie, too? Is God real? We would rather err on the side of caution in this area as we have no desire to be a stumbling block on Grace's spiritual journey.

So, for these reasons we have decided to not let Santa play a major role in our holiday celebration. To Grace, Santa is just another fictional character like Mickey Mouse or Cinderella.

I realize that our stance on Santa might become more difficult as Grace gets older. I certainly do not want her to ruin another child's Santa fantasy. We want to respect the choices that other families make in this area. So, we will enforce that she is not allowed to argue with others about the "realness" of Santa and she is not to purposefully tell someone that believes in Santa that he is not real.

Above all, we want to keep our celebration of Christmas honorable to God. I love the Christmas season so much that I often find myself focusing too much on the decorations, parties, baking, and shopping. I want Grace to see that all of my preparations during this time of the year highlight the birth of Jesus. So, I am praying that God will guard my heart to keep things simple and focused.

I realize that the topic of Santa can quickly become a controversial topic, especially in the blogworld. Even if you hold a different viewpoint than me, I invite anyone who reads this post to respectfully comment on your family's approach to Santa during the holiday season. Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Works For Me: Christmas Organizer Notebook


In honor of Works-For-Me Wednesday, I will share about my Christmas Organizer Notebook.

I bought a small, simple, purse-sized notebook at the Dollar Store. Throughout the year, every time I find a great price on a present, I buy it and write it down in my notebook. Lately, I've been also writing down where I hide it in my house because, well, you know........Anyway, by the time November hits, I'm usually about 80% done with my Christmas shopping. And, I've spread the cost out over the year so it doesn't all hit at once!

I've done this for three years now, so I can look back in my notebook and see what I bought for Aunt Matilda back in 2006 (no duplicate gifts!). Recently, I started writing down birthday gifts as well.

For more Works-For-Me tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ketchup....The New Apple Juice


Today Grace and I ran some errands. Our last stop was Wal-Mart. We were on the food storage aisle and I was contemplating whether I wanted round or square Ziplock storage containers when I heard Grace say, "Oops." I whipped around and discovered that she had unscrewed the ketchup lid, pried off the freshness seal (that I can never get off), and proceeded to DRINK the bottle of ketchup. That's right. Drink.

She had ketchup all over her mouth, running down her chin, and on her dress. The check-out lady had a good laugh when I explained to her why I wanted to purchase a bottle of ketchup that was 1/3 gone.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Winner!

Congratulations to Janelle, the winner of my Avon giveaway! Janelle will be receiving a tube of Avon Anew Clinical Professional Stretch Mark Smoother!

I appreciate everyone who entered and left comments with ideas for a homemade Christmas gift!

I Knew It Was Too Quiet.....

This morning, I was upstairs in the laundry room while Grace and her friend Caleb were playing in her room. I was giving myself kuddos for folding a load while it was still warm out of the dryer (to eliminate ironing) when I realized it was too quiet. Then I heard hushed whispering. I used my super-sleuth detective mommy skills to sneak over to the bedroom door.

I caught Caleb with a bottle of lotion upside down, ready to squeeze on Grace's dresser. Grace was holding her thermometer (a big no-no). As I glanced around the room, I noticed lotion on almost every major surface, including Candy Land. I enjoyed that first moment of utter fear on their faces when their handiwork was discovered. You'll be proud to know that I stayed calm, but it was a challenge. We discussed that not only was it a sin to play with things that they knew were forbidden, but they did it deceitfully by being as quiet as possible. I gave them a roll of paper towels and told them to clean up the mess.

Caleb started wiping up the mess and exclaimed, "Oh my goodness! Christmas is ruined!" (I guess he thought he was permanently on the naughty list.) I assured him that I forgave him and it was over. To which he responded, "I forgive you, too, JoJo!"

Later, at lunch, Caleb asked for mustard to put on his orange slices. I decided to call his bluff and squeezed some mustard on his plate. To his credit, he thoroughly saturated every orange slice in mustard before gleefully popping them in his mouth. Not to be outdone, Grace asked for ketchup for her orange slices. She, too, gave each slice a healthy dip into the ketchup before eating. I'm not sure which was grosser, the mustard or the ketchup.......

Menu Plan Monday



Monday - Crockpot Chicken Casserole, Green Beans

Tuesday - Leftovers

Wednesday - Dinner at church

Thursday - Macaroni and Beef, Green Peas

Friday - Leftovers

Saturday - Texas Potroast, Mashed Potatoes, Green Salad

Sunday - French Dip Sammies (leftover from potroast)

This week, I'm including my favorite pot roast recipe. It couldn't possibly be any easier, and the flavor is better than slow roasting in the oven for hours. It makes the most delicious au jus sauce which I always use for dipping french dip sammies the next day!

Texas Pot Roast

3-4 lb. beef roast
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 small jar picante sauce (I like Pace Medium)
1 12 oz. can Coke (Diet does NOT work)

Place roast in crockpot. Sprinkle with onion soup mix. Cover with picante sauce and Coke. Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Concert

We enjoyed our evening out tonight at a local church to attend the Sing-A-Long Messiah performance. We decided at the last minute to keep Grace with us the entire program instead of utilizing the childcare. I brought along a bag of tricks (coloring book, crayons, lollipop, and book) to help make it through the evening.

Grace did pretty well overall. We sat up in the top row of the balcony to minimize disturbing others. She only made one noise loud enough to cause people to turn around and look at us, and we only left once to visit the restroom. That's success in my book. She really enjoyed the music and actually tried to sing along with us during the full chorus pieces. (She didn't quite understand why she couldn't sing during the solo pieces, too).

The orchestra was the best that I have heard in a while. Truly, the New York Philharmonic couldn't have done any better. I realize that there is not much on Earth that can compare with the glory of Heaven, but I can't help but think that God enjoyed the beautiful music tonight.

When we got in the car to go home after the concert, Grace started singing "Ha-yay-yu-yah!" (translation: Hallelujah!) It was precious to hear her sweet voice try to imitate the Hallelujah Chorus. We are definitely making this a family tradition every year during the holiday season!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Faculty Party


I didn't post yesterday because it was such a busy day! Actually, it seems like every day in December is incredibly busy. The month just seems to fly by every year with parties, rehearsals, concerts, and traveling. This year I made a conscious effort to reduce our commitments...I even said "no" to a couple of parties. I just don't like every evening being taken up with activities. I'd much rather stay home and enjoy our time together as a family.

I haven't posted about it lately, but Todd is really enjoying his new job. The main benefit is more time at home with us. We get to eat dinner together as a family most nights of the week, and this is something we were rarely able to do when he was a band director. He is much less stressed, and he seems to be enjoying his career now more than ever before. Naturally, being a principal is not without challenges, but the problems are easier to deal with due to the school's great faculty and supportive parents (for the most part). He really enjoys his administrative team, and is so thankful to work with people who truly have a love for education.

Back to my busy day yesterday....I spent the morning straightening up the house and doing a couple loads of laundry. I ran to Wal-Mart to pick up a couple of things that I needed for the evening's activities. We ate a quick lunch then I put Grace down for a nap. During her naptime, I sewed a roman shade for a dear friend who wanted a nice window treatment for her new guest bathroom remodel. Then, I put the finishing touches on a fresh batch of biscotti cookies that I made for a friend. Grace woke up, and I parked her in front of the TV (yes, I do this on occasion) while I hurriedly got ready for Todd's Faculty Christmas Party.

Todd got home from work early, then we packed up Grace and headed out to the babysitter's house. We recently made some new friends in our Sunday School class, and they graciously agreed to watch Grace during our party tonight. They have three sweet teenaged daughters, and last time Grace was around them, they had a grand time together.

Todd and I enjoyed our evening out together. It was nice to be on a real date! It was also great to meet all the people that he works with for the first time. I can finally put some faces to the people that he comes home talking about! They are really sweet folk, down-to-earth and easy to talk with. Everyone made me feel very welcome, and many people thanked me for sharing my husband with them.

When we picked up Grace, she was all smiles. She gleefully grabbed my leg and exclaimed, "Mama! I was sweet and I didn't cry AT ALL!" This is quite amazing considering it was after 10:00 p.m., and she usually goes to bed by 8:00. Our friends had gotten out their beautiful train kit and set it up to go all around their family room and Christmas tree. Grace was mesmerized and wanted to show it to us when we arrived to pick her up.

All in all, it was a great day, and we went home to bed tired, but happy. Unfortunately, Todd had to get up early this morning to attend a Christmas program orchestra rehearsal at our church. Grace and I are about to get ready and go hang the new roman shade in my friend's house. Then, I'm headed to Kohl's to spend a $10 gift certificate on something fabulous, I'm sure!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tantrums: What To Do?


Every parent of a preschooler has seen their child throw a tantrum. There's a lot of advice out there in the psychological community about how to avoid tantrums and how to deal with them when they happen. I was reading a very popular parenting website today and came across this following suggestion:

Frustration is also a big tantrum-trigger. If you know your preschooler is going to insist on visiting the pet store when you go to the mall, make sure you have time to do it, or think twice about the trip.

Okay, who's the parent here? Since when should we let our 3-yr-old dictate our shopping agenda? This kind of attitude is one reason why kids have tantrums in the first place. When we plan our activities around what we think our child will like, or what we think will make them stay happy, we are teaching them that the most important thing in the world is what THEY want. That's not parenting. That's furthering their self-centeredness and selfishness.

Our job as parents is not to constantly entertain and satisfy every desire of our children's hearts. Sometimes our kids have to just stand in line calmly at the post office. Or wait patiently while mom has a conversation with a friend. Or turn off the TV and spend quiet time with a book. Or wait 30 minutes for dinner time without whining for something to eat. It builds character. It builds a submissive spirit. It also builds an empathy towards other people's needs.

When our kids do throw tantrums because they don't get their way, it's important to deal with them calmly and quickly. I don't believe in ignoring. My experience both personally and professionally has shown me that in most cases when I choose to ignore tantrums, the child will magnify the negative behaviors until I can't help but do something. (And by that time, I'm a lot madder and the kid is a lot more upset).

The Bible verse that we discuss when Grace is fussing is Phillippians 2:14-15:

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God..."

When Grace first starts fussing or arguing, I will remind her of God's command to do everything without complaining. If she continues, we administer biblical discipline.

What we have found is that over time (and a lot of loving discipline), Grace is gaining more and more self-control. Especially as she matures, we find that often it just takes a reminder and she can turn around her behavior. Of course, there are days that I'm ready to pull my hair out because she chooses to be unusually fussy. But we get through them, and most of the time her behavior gets remarkably better over the next few days because we do our best to be consistent during the hard times.

Regardless of where we are or what we are doing, it's important to avoid giving into our kid's whining. They need to know that we are in charge and that throwing a fit will only result in discipline. It's a challenge because sometimes it's just easier to give them the lollipop they are begging for in the checkout lane! However, in the long run, we're setting ourselves up for many more battles if we constantly give in to their whims.

Just in Case You Need A Laugh.....

Check out the following link. I promise it is good for a laugh!

We got elfed!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nice Surprise

Today I ran an errand at my local craft store. Grace was really sweet and obedient, and she even conversed nicely with an older lady in the checkout lane. I normally don't "reward" her for good behavior, but she did so well that I took her to McDonald's to get a happy meal and climb on the playground.

While there we found a nice surprise. Our pastor's wife was there with her granddaughter spending some time on the playground. I got to enjoy a special time of fellowship with this sweet lady while Grace enjoyed playing with her friend from church. What a nice treat it was to share female adult conversation, especially with someone who has successfully raised two beautiful daughters.

There aren't many drawbacks to being a stay-at-home mom, but occasionally I get lonely for adult conversation. Today I was thankful for an encouraging word from someone that I really admire.

Christmas Biscotti and a Giveaway!



This giveaway is now closed
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In honor of Works-For-Me Wednesday, I am sharing a recipe for one of my favorite homemade gifts: Christmas Biscotti. These are always a hit during the holiday season, and they come out absolutely beautiful! Wrap a few in a clear holiday baking bag with a colorful ribbon for a delicious and thoughtful gift! Here's the recipe:

Christmas Biscotti

2 large eggs
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 c. shredded sweetened coconut
1 c. Christmas M&Ms (neatly chop each M&M into 1/4ths)
1 3/4 c. chopped peppermint bark

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Beat together the eggs, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla until creamy. Gently stir in flour, coconut and M&Ms. Transfer dough to a silpat or parchment covered baking sheet and shape into a rough log, about fourteen inches long (and about 2 1/2 inches wide and 3/4 inches thick). Smooth the top with a wet dough scraper. Bake the dough for about 25 minutes, until just turning golden. Remove from oven and let cool, up to 25 minutes.

Five minutes before slicing, mist lightly but thoroughly with a spray water bottle. (This makes slicing the biscotti easier.). Reduce oven temp to 325-degrees, wait another five minutes, then cut into 1/2-3/4-inch slices. Try to cut straight up and down, so they don't fall over during their second session. Set the biscotti upright on a covered baking sheet, and bake for about 25 minutes, until very golden. Remove, and place on a rack for cooling. These will crisp as they cool.

Dip half of each finished, cooled biscotti in the melted peppermint bark. Place on a rack over parchment or wax paper and allow chocolate to set before serving. These can be stored at room temp for about two weeks; for longer storage, wrap airtight, and freeze.

For more Works-For-Me tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

Now for the giveaway part! I am giving one of my readers an item from my online Avon store: the Avon Anew Clinical Professional Stretch Mark Smoother. This is the at-home answer to a dermatologist's laser - that over time, reduces the appearance of stretch marks by up to 50%!

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment with your idea for a great homemade or handcrafted Christmas present! If you are not a blogger, please leave a way for me to contact you via e-mail. A winner will be randomly chosen on Monday, Dec. 8th. I'll allow 48 hours for the winner to respond to my e-mail before choosing another winner.

Right now, I am offering Free Shipping on orders over $15! Just use the coupon code "REP815" at checkout. (Direct delivery only). Visit my Avon store for great gift ideas!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Maybe I'm Glad I Didn't Get the Flu Shot



I admit that I have never been one to research vaccines. I have always trusted Grace's pediatrician and just went along with the recommended shots. However, I have never given her the flu shot. She is allergic to eggs, and the viruses used in the flu shots are grown in eggs. There is a lot of contradictory data out there, but in general, people with egg allergies should carefully consider the risks and benefits before receiving the flu shot. (See the Centers for Disease Control for more info.)

However, today I learned that there is another danger in many flu shots. Mercury. There are some 2008-2009 flu shots that are manufactured without mercury, but many are not. See this site to get a list of mercury-free flu shots.

Handel's Messiah


One of my favorite things about the holiday season is getting to sing and listen to Handel's Messiah. Actually, I listen to it year-round, but I get to hear it even more during December. It's really strange that I never seem to get tired of it. I have sung it countless times in different church choirs and university choirs, and every year I go to at least two performances in the community, but it never gets old.

I even (gasp!) like Handel's Young Messiah (with the exception of a couple of songs I fast-forward because it is just too jazzy). If you aren't aware, The Young Messiah is a compliation of popular songs from the original Messiah, sung and orchestrated by contemporary Christian musicians. Yes, there's even a drumset. I'm not sure what Handel would think, but I can't help but enjoy it on occasion!

This Sunday evening, one of the local churches is hosting a Sing-A-Long performance of the Messiah. Guests are invited to bring their musical scores and sing along during the parts where the full choir sings. It is always an amazing time of worship through beautiful music.

If you have never heard a live performance of Handel's Messiah, I would encourage you to find a local church or choral group who is presenting the Messiah and make an effort to attend the concert with your family. I can't help but think that one day I will hear choirs of angels singing the Hallelujah chorus in heaven!

Monday, December 1, 2008

How Cool Is That?

Yesterday I wrote a post about a new company called BabyPlays. It is a brilliant idea for anyone looking for gift ideas for young children. Meredith Viera of The Today Show recently reported on this new online business.

Somehow Lori Pope, the CEO and founder of Babyplays, came across my post and wrote a sweet comment. How cool is that?

Teacher's Gifts


I read a recent post about gift ideas for the teachers in our children's life. The basic theme of the article was that teachers really don't need elaborate, expensive gifts or apple-themed "To Teach Is To Touch A Life Forever" gifts. The most memorable and special gifts are inexpensive homemade items and personal notes of appreciation.

As a teacher/counselor for 10 years, I can tell you that the running joke on my campus was a contest to see which teacher could collect the most coffee mugs? And, who could produce the most cliche apple-themed gifts? (I won one year for the coffee mugs). Honestly, the gifts that have meant the most over the years were hand-written notes from parents and students describing something specific for which they were appreciative. You know, teachers get a lot of criticism and complaints throughout the year. There are mean and unreasonable parents out there! It is really special to read a sweet note and realize that many people appreciate our commitment to teach and mentor children.

When I was growing up, my mom was the master at giving good teacher's gifts. She never spent a lot of money, but she spent a lot of time creating beautiful, handmade items to give. One of my former teachers told me 20 years later (!) that she still used the beautiful apron that my mom sewed for her when I was in 6th grade.

I will say that the most memorable gift I received as a counselor was not handmade or handwritten. One of my "frequent flyer" 6th grade girls brought me a collection of Bath & Body Works lotions and creams in different scents. She walked in my office, opened her backpack, and started lining the bottles up on my desk. She told me that she was so grateful for my help that semester and that she would never forget me. While I thought the gift was given in a slightly odd manner, I was truly appreciative and assured her that her gift was very thoughtful and I would look forward to using them. As soon as she walked out the door, I enjoyed opening the bottles and smelling the latest scents of the season. Unfortunately, a couple of days later, her father called to tell me that she had SHOPLIFTED the items from the mall. Even though I had already used some of the lotions, I offered to give them back. He wouldn't hear of it and said that he was making his daughter work to make restitution for the theft. I must say that a part of me was strangely honored to know that my student was willing to shoplift to give me a nice gift!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Menu Plan Monday


We have our first Christmas Party of the season this week, and that means I'll be starting my holiday baking. Since my kitchen will be busy this week, I'm sticking with fast, easy go-to meals for our suppers.

Monday - Spaghetti with Meatsauce, Green Salad

Tuesday - Leftovers

Wednesday - Dinner at church

Thursday - Grilled Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Friday - Todd's Faculty Christmas Dinner

Saturday - Leftovers

Sunday - Lunch with friends


This week I'm including my favorite Christmas treat recipe. Peanut Butter Balls have long been a tradition in our family. I package them prettily and give them as gifts every holiday season. My sweet friend Estelle refers to them as "Heaven Balls" and eagerly anticipates her box of treats every year.

Peanut Butter Balls

1 jar crunchy peanut butter
3 sticks butter (salted)
1 t. vanilla
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1 1/2 packages chocolate almond bark (Ghirardelli is best)

Melt peanut butter and butter together in a large bowl in the microwave. Add vanilla. Stir in sugar. Form balls and dip into melted chocolate. Let cool on waxed paper.

Yield: 100 balls

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Why Didn't I Think Of That?


Today I heard about a business called Babyplays that "rents" new toys to kids on a monthly basis. This is brilliant. You sign up and pay a monthly rental fee. It's like Netflix for toddlers. You select online the toys that you wish to be delivered to your door each month and at the end of the month, you simply box them back up and drop them off at a Fed Ex site.

All the toys are lead tested and exceed safety standards. Many are educational in nature.

This is a really cool idea if you are looking for a special, unique gift for a toddler in your life. It's not exactly cheap, but it's truly the gift that keeps on giving......

Seriously, one day I'm going to come up with an idea like this. Then, we're going to Disney World!

Beautiful Drive



Today we took the long way home from church and drove through one of the most beautiful residential areas of Fort Worth (around TCU). As many years as I have lived in Texas, I cannot recall a more beautiful display of fall foliage than this year. The yellows, oranges, and reds are so vibrant! We drove around and reminisced about the fall landscape back East in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

What a beautiful portrait of God's creation. Fall has always been my favorite time of year. We usually don't get as much color change around here due to the climate, but this year is an exception.

It makes me want to sip hot cocoa and curl up next to the fire with a good book.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Living Simply Saturdays


Today's theme for Living Simply Saturday is a question from the host, Keeper of the Home.

How do you keep birthday parties simple and easy to pull off, but still fun and memorable?

I am planning a birthday party for my daughter for the first time this year. I'm doing everything I can to make it simple, but once I started writing down lists and plans it got a little overwhelming. Grace is turing four in December. Up until this year, we have had quiet celebrations at home with close family members. I've picked up a decorated cake from Wal-Mart, and we've opened presents around the dinner table after a time of fellowship.

Thankfully it's not difficult to entertain four-year-olds. My plans include pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, several balloons to play with on the floor, and a pinata. I'm going to make the cake this year (which doesn't really simplify things, but it is cost-effective!). We'll give out treat bags with a few inexpensive baubles. We'll eat hot dogs and chips. The party is from 11-1, so there will still be time for a much-needed nap after all the excitement!

While not extravagant, I think the party will be fun. I'm sure Grace will have a good time! It will be fun just to have many of our friends and family in one place at the same time! Mom will be there to help me get ready and manage things, so that will help a great deal with my stress.

Do you have any ideas of ways to simply celebrate a birthday for a young child? I'd love for you to leave a comment with a your suggestions!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Stampede

The only injury I sustained from my Black Friday Wal-Mart experience was a small cut on my right finger from being banged by a cart.

This man wasn't so lucky.

The Wal-Mart Experience


I can't believe that I am actually alive to blog about my experience this morning. Wal-Mart's Black Friday sale began at 5 o'clock this morning. I set my alarm for 3:30 a.m., determined to get out the door by 4:00 a.m. I left a little late and pulled in the Wal-Mart parking lot by 4:30 a.m. There was hardly a space to be found. I managed to find a parking spot about 200 yards from the entrance and pulled in, amazed that so many people were already parked.

Before I even got out of my car, I saw people running through the parking lot. That's right...running. I picked up my pace a little and stepped through the front door. No shopping carts. I asked an employee, and she directed me to the other entrance where they had a few carts left. I picked up my pace a little faster, determined to get a cart so I didn't have to manually carry a 6.5 ft. Christmas tree around the store. Another employee directed me to a dark alcove where I heard the familiar sounds of shopping carts being banged around. A frantic woman whipped her cart out of the alcove and almost ran me down, but I jumped out of the way. I managed to find one in the darkness and began my quest down the aisles.

The particular Wal-Mart that I frequent is open 24 hours, but the sale didn't start until 5 a.m. So, there were mountains of merchandise stacked up in the aisles with tarps covering them. A Wal-Mart employee was stationed by each huge tarp. The tarps had signs on them that described the treasures that were hiding beneath. Soccer moms were camped out next to the tarps, eagerly anticipating the moment when the merchandise would be revealed.

I made my way to the Christmas decor area to stake my claim on the advertised Christmas tree that I wanted. To my surprise, I found that this item wasn't important enough to be covered by a tarp, so me and about 50 other women began to load the huge box in our carts. This changed my game plan. Since I didn't have to wait until 5 a.m. to put it in my cart, I got to move to the second most important item I wanted this morning: Disney pajamas for $4.

I managed to make my way around all the soccer moms camping out by the tarps to the kid's clothing area. Once there, I discovered that the Disney pajamas were in a special aisle at the front of the store covered by tarps. By this point, the time was nearing 5 a.m., so it was almost impossible to get up to the front of the store. I got stuck by the DVDs with no way out. (While there, I found a new Barbie movie for just $4). However, I could see the pajamas about 20 feet in front of me. About 100 women with carts were completely surrounding the pajama area. I watched helplessly with visions of all the size 4T's being snached up before I could get there.

Suddenly, I heard an announcer say the it was 5 o'clock! Christmas music started blaring. A sound that I would equate to the Red Sea parting reverberated through the building as dozens of huge tarps were ripped off. The only way I can describe the sight that I beheld is to call it a feeding frenzy....I immediately thought of stories I have heard of Pirahnas in the Amazon.

I watched in amazement for a couple of minutes, still unable to move from my spot by the DVDs. Suddenly, I saw my chance. I slowly crept towards the stockpile. When I managed to get close enough to grab a few, I noticed two men who were trapped right next to the display. One of them was laughing hysterically, and the other man looked like he was about to throw up. I could see the panic in his eyes, especially when he started muttering, "I can't get out...I can't get out....I can't get out." He started getting louder and louder, so I decided to try to help him. I used my cart (with the huge Christmas tree box sticking out) to block the flow of people so he could try to find a way. He managed to get out, and I gleefully took his spot by the merchandise.

I spent about an hour in the store, and was pleasantly surprised to see that checkout was fairly quick. Most of the lanes were open, and I only waited for about 10 minutes.

I'm not going to describe the great deals I bought because certain gift recipients are sure to read this post. However, the things I purchased were at amazing prices.

And, yes, it was worth it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Perfect Pie Crust


I consider myself pretty competent in the kitchen. This is a result of growing up in my mom's kitchen and watching the Food Network several hours a day. However, there is one thing that I have never been able to master. The pie crust.

This year, I was determined to make a homemade pie crust. I have tried various recipes over the years and they have just never turned out right. Too tough. Too crumbly. Too chewy. Too salty. The list goes on and on.

I got on foodnetwork.com and started looking around at recipes. I figured if anyone knew how to make a homemade pie crust it was Paula Deen. Sure enough, I found a recipe called Paula's Perfect Pie Crust. All the reader's reviews (except for one) raved that it was the best pie crust ever.

I put Grace down for a nap and went to work on my perfect pie crust. I followed the directions to a tee. After chilling my dough for 30 minutes, I sprinkled some flour on the counter and got out the rolling pin. Uh-oh. The dough was crumbling apart and not rolling neatly. So I added more water and kneaded. Uh-oh. It was too sticky. So I added more flour. (You can see where this is headed). After fooling around with it for about 20 minutes, I lost it. In a fit of frustration, I threw my ball of tough, crumbly dough in the trashcan.

I jumped in the car and drove to Albertsons and purchased a frozen pie crust. I've heard Mrs. Smith makes a pretty decent crust.

Preschooler Quote of the Day

I'm still getting over my recent illness, and yesterday I was suddenly caught by a coughing fit. Grace immediately rushed over and put her hand on my knee. With a sweet look of concern on her face she asked,

Grace: "Mama, are you OK?"

Me: "Yes, honey, I'm just coughing."

Grace: "Do you need some medicine from Wal-Mart?"

Me: [laughing] "No, sweetie, I just need a Kleenex, please."

Grace: [running excitedly to the front door] "OK! Let's go buy some Kleenex at Wal-Mart!"

I've trained her well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens.....

In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I am compiling a random list of things that I am thankful for this year.

I am extremely thankful for......

*the health and safekeeping of my immediate and extended family members.
*a husband who loves me and is still committed after 12 years of marriage.
*my husband's new job that he loves so much.
*God's provision of our needs and a whole lot of our "wants."
*every day that God gives me at home with our daughter, Grace.
*friends, new and old, that love me and are an encouragement to me.
*a church home where we learn and grow in fellowship with other believers.
*the freedoms we have to raise our family and worship without persecution.
*soldiers who are protecting our freedoms around the world (including my brother Jon in Iraq).


On a lighter note, I am also thankful for.....

*down comforters
*Taco Bueno bean burritos w/ lots of salsa
*Avon watermelon exfoliating foot scrub
*parents who didn't let me quit piano lessons in 5th grade
*my Rachael Ray cast iron dutch oven
*cooler weather
*crossword puzzles
*Bejeweled 2
*my Kitchen Aid mixer
*Orbit peppermint gum
*Community coffee
*a portable DVD player for long car trips
*Heinz 57 steak sauce
*a daughter that loves to watch and sing musicals as much as I do
*SEC football
*lower gas prices
*Diet Twist Up from Wal-Mart
*Sonic ice
*lazy Sunday afternoons
*spoonulas
*Burt's Beeswax lip balm
*towels warm out of the dryer
*Grace's naptime (translation: me time)
*Braum's milk
*outlet malls
*cell phones
*flip flops
*Nail Tek fingernail strengthener
*DVR (I think my mom is the only person on the planet who likes commercial breaks....so she can do housework!)
*Christmas baking
*Grace's laughter
*Handel's Messiah
*road trips
*Southern Living magazine
*Almond Joy
*rainy days
*clearance racks
*the Texas sky
*a crackling fireplace on a cold night
*the sweet words in Grace's bedtime prayers


How faithful God has been to provide so richly for me and my family. May we ever be mindful of His love and grace......

Monday, November 24, 2008

Black Friday Shopping


I have one shopping goal for Black Friday and that is to buy a Christmas tree at Wal-Mart. Last year, I had a fight with our Christmas tree and I won.....it ended up on the curb. Since we will (hopefully) sell our house and move this year, I don't want to invest in a huge, expensive tree that we will need to pack and move. I fleetingly thought of purchasing a REAL Christmas tree from a local farm, but visions of falling pine needles and the Griswold family Christmas tree squirrel banished my resolve.

I want our tree to look nice this year because we will be showing the house to potential buyers. And, Todd's mom and aunt are coming to visit us the week before Christmas!

I saw a 6 ft. simple unlighted tree at the Dollar Store for only $20. It wasn't great, but I thought I could put it up on boxes and string my own lights. Then, I saw the Black Friday ads for Wal-Mart. On Friday morning from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., you can purchase a 6 1/2 ft. pre-lighted tree for only $25! I am actually inspired to get up early and be there at 5 a.m. There are lots of other great deals at Wal-Mart if you are so inclined to brave the crazy crowds.

Over the last few years, I have found that the best deals for Christmas toys can be found at Big Lots. Since the majority of my Christmas shopping is for kids (Grace and five other nieces/nephews), this is usually my first stop. Grace's birthday is on Dec. 21st, so I can usually pick up a couple of birthday presents during Big Lot's great Christmas sale.

Here's hoping Wal-Mart has a good supply of $25 trees Friday morning!

Menu Plan Monday


Due to eating out at a restaurant with our special guest and grazing on a big pot of homemade Chicken Tortilla Soup over the weekend, I never cooked the Crockpot BBQ, so it will make a re-appearance on my menu plan this week.

We are spending Thanksgiving with our sweet friends Larry and Joy. (Thanks for inviting us! We can't wait!) Our extended families live in south Louisiana, Alabama, and northeast Tennessee, so it is difficult to always travel during our short holiday breaks. We sure will miss our family this week, but I am looking forward to a leisurely week spent at home with Todd and Grace.

Monday - Crockpot BBQ Sandwiches, Sweet Potato Fries, Green Salad

Tuesday - leftovers

Wednesday - Pancakes with fruit

Thurday - Thanksgiving Dinner with our friends Larry & Joy

Friday - leftovers?

Saturday - Henny Penny Soup, Fruit Salad

Sunday - leftovers


I am including a great recipe for Henny Penny Soup. There is a small cafe down the street called "Tastebuds" that is famous for Henny Penny Soup. One day when mom was visiting, we ate lunch there. We left determined to try to re-create the soup at home ourselves. I dare say that it turned out even better than the restaurant! (Thanks, mom!)

Henny Penny Soup

1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2-3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 c. frozen peas
1 pkg. egg noodles
3 c. cooked, shredded chicken
75 oz. chicken stock (2 boxes & 1 can)
1-2 t. chicken bouillon
1 lb. Velveeta cheese, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 t. poultry seasoning
1/4 t. dried thyme

Saute onion, celery, and carrots in olive oil. Add chicken, spices, bouillon, and stock. Bring to a boil. Add egg noodles and peas. When noodles are mostly tender, add cheese. Simmer.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Only In Fort Worth, Texas


A bull got loose in our neighborhood. Well, almost our neighborhood. Actually, it was right across the street in a big field. Anyway, three bored-looking police officers are stationed next to the bull to keep it from wandering through our neighborhood until the owner can put it back behind the fence.

We saw this spectacle as we drove home this afternoon. Our Open House was from 2-4, and during part of the time we took Grace to the playground. Todd played with her outside while I slept in the car. I'm still not 100%, but am feeling better thanks to a good night's sleep. Still no voice, but hopefully that will come back soon.

My sweet friend Joy brought over a big, delicious pot of chicken tortilla soup when she heard I was sick. Yummy! We've been eating on it most of the weekend. I'm so thankful to have a precious friend who helps me when I'm under the weather.

I Knew I Should Have Gotten the Flu Shot

Misery. Coughing. Sneezing. Sore throat. Stuffy head. Fever.

I have taken two sleeping pills and two Nyquil and I'm still sitting here typing.

I sincerely pray that I did not give this illness to our special guest. He might never come back.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Today's Plans and Other Ramblings

Our very special guest went home this morning, and we really enjoyed our time of fellowship together. Instead of cooking dinner last night, he insisted on taking us out to a restaurant. I must admit it was nice to be served and not have to wash dishes! We had a wonderful meal at a local steakhouse, then we wandered around Barnes & Noble while our guest searched for a Donald-from-Thomas-the-Train-souvenier for his son. His son also requested that he bring home some "Texas Chocolate." I suggested a variety with some ancho chili powder mixed in, but our guest bought pure chocolate and assured us that if it was bought in Texas it was "Texas Chocolate."

Today I'm babysitting my friend's children while she goes to have lunch at her son's school. Grace is so excited to go to this friend's house....it ranks up there with McDonald's!

Today I woke up with no voice. I've had a cold for a few days, and I feel much better, but the lingering effects have attacked my vocal cords. I'm supposed to sing in church with my vocal ensemble for the special music on Sunday, so we'll see what happens before then.

Our real estate agent called yesterday to request that we host another Open House this weekend. I must admit that my heart jumped to my throat when I saw her number on the caller ID because she has never called me before! I thought....THIS IS IT....SOMEBODY WANTS TO BUY OUR HOUSE.....but, alas, God is still teaching me patience.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shower Cleaner


I recently ran across a recipe for homemade shower cleaner. You know, the kind you spray around everywhere when you get out of the shower to keep things fresh? I love that stuff. Anyway, they can get pretty expensive, so I decided to try a homemade version.

Put the following in a spray bottle:

1 c. rubbing alcohol
3-4 c. water

Spray around the shower or bathtub right after you get out of the shower....there's no need to rinse!

This works just as well (or better) than the expensive versions in the store.

For more works-for-me tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Apology

I sincerely apologize to my readers who were forced to see the inappropriate ad that was displayed on my blog today. When I signed up for AdSense, I chose specific family-friendly ads to display on my blog. Apparently, an 18-yr-old girl in a bra saying she wants to meet older men is "family-friendly." Needless to say, I have removed the AdSense element from my blog. Funny this happened today, considering the subject matter of my previous post!

(Not So) Shocking Story

Note: This post is not for young readers.

I recently read an article about the prevalence of sexual activity among our nation's teens. According to an anonymous survey, the average age for a girl to lose her virginity is 15. Even more shocking, 14% of girls lose their virginity at school. Sexually transmitted diseases are on the increase, and kids are having sex more now than ever before.

Sadly, this new data does not surprise me. Most of the children I worked with in the schools were "troubled", and their troubles often included sexual issues. (And this was in an elementary school!). When I taught high school, we often made accommodations for girls who were pregnant or recovering from an abortion. Students were constantly getting "caught" in the bathrooms, on the bus, and in deserted classrooms.

Unfortunately, in today's world, these types of data are a natural result of our sex-crazed society. Our children are exposed to so much more in society, on TV, on the computer, and in the classroom than we were as kids. What an awesome responsibility it is as a parent to shelter our kids from as much inappropriate exposure as possible while educating them about what God designed for sex.

And that brings me to my next point: teaching our kids about sex. We should not remain silent on the subject of sex. The Bible does not remain silent, but is very clear about God's perfect design for sex within a marriage. What a precious gift God has given to married couples to express their love and commitment to each other! Believe me, if we remain silent, they will learn and take to heart the sexual philosophies espoused by their peers, music, movies, and TV.

A friend of mine has a daughter who was recently invited to lead a Disciple Now conference for teenagers in a local Baptist church. She couldn't believe how many of the youth were already sexually active....kids who had grown up in the church and were part of Christian families. How easy it is for young people to be drawn into the "normalcy" of sexual activity!

I want to also make the observation that sometimes despite the best intentions by parents and the church to teach children about God's design for sexual intimacy in marriage, young unmarried adults will become sexually active. This is not a failure on our part as a parent or teacher, it is a result of sin and the fall of mankind. We should not lose heart as parents, but remain faithful to love and teach our children about God's grace and forgiveness.

How thankful I am for a God who chose to give the gift of sex within a marriage. What an awesome responsibility it is for Todd and me to raise our daughter in today's world where there are so many mixed messages. Our prayer is that we will remain faithful to our calling and make wise parenting decisions as Grace grows older.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Menu Plan Monday


We have a very special *guest* coming to visit this week, and that makes menu planning a lot of fun! I have it from a good source that he enjoys Tex-Mex, and the added bonus is that Todd's favorite meal is Taco Soup.

Monday - leftovers

Tuesday - French Toast, Bacon, Fruit

*Wednesday - Taco Soup w/ Fixin's

*Thursday - BBQ Beef Sandwiches, Sweet Potato Fries, Salad

Friday - leftovers

Saturday - Homemade Pizza

Sunday - Lunch with friends


Today I'm including one of my favorite recipes from Southern Living. I just cannot express in words what a wonderful BBQ sauce this recipe makes!

BBQ Beef (Crockpot) Sandwiches

1 (3 to 4 pound) eye-of-round roast, cut in half vertically
2 tsp. salt, divided
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 (10 oz.) can condensed beef broth
1 cup ketchup
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup lemon juice
3 tbsp. steak sauce (Heinz 57 is best)
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. Worcestershire
12 Kaiser rolls or buns

Sprinkle 1 tsp. salt evenly over beef. Stir together remaining 1 tsp. salt, garlic, and next 7 ingredients. Pour half of mixture into a 5 ½ quart crock pot. Place beef in pot and pour remaining mixture over beef. Cover and cook on HIGH for 7 hours. Shred beef . Serve in rolls or buns.

Southern Living 2007

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fellowship

Today we had a good day of worship and fellowship. The sermon was particularly good and taught us about the Jewish Passover. There are so many parallels between the celebration of Passover and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Perfect Lamb.

After church, we had two families over to our house for lunch. I cooked Chicken Tortilla Soup and we enjoyed a good time of fellowship. One of the families has three teenage girls, and they kept Grace entertained the whole time. Actually, they even did the dishes for me! What a blessing it was to just relax and know that Grace was in good hands.

One of my goals is to invite people into our home more often. There are so many people that we see every week during Sunday School or church, but we really don't know them. Today was a good opportunity to get beyond the "Did you have a good week?" and "Great weather we're having!" conversations.

And, I even found future great babysitters for those rare occasions when Todd and I actually go on a date!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Living Simply Saturdays


Today's post on living simply is about worry. I shared in last week's post how I find myself worrying about financial matters. It seems that God threw another "test" at me this week. My former principal called me at home a few days ago and asked me to come back to work starting Monday! He lost his counselor and needed someone to start as soon as possible. It is a truly amazing situation....any school counselor's dream. It is a small K-4 campus of 287 students (only 16 classrooms!). The campus is rated "Exemplary" by the Texas Education Agency for high test scores. It is in a very nice, safe, stable neighborhood. What more could any school counselor ask for? And to boot, the principal is great to work with! And, oh yeah, the salary is about $10,000 more than I was making when I quit a couple of years ago.

Todd and I talked and prayed about it for a long time before I called and told him no. Although it seems like the perfect answer right now in many ways, it is not the best answer for Grace. Perhaps God was testing our commitment to keeping Grace at home with me. I'm sure there will be a time when I go back to work, but now is not the time. Since I've been home with Grace, we have seen such wonderful changes in her. Beyond the normal growth and development. I am able to teach her, play with her, discipline her, and answer all her (many!) questions from a Biblical perspective. If I went back to work, I'd have to put her back in a daycare, and I just can't stand the thought.

So, we faced the challenge head-on by saying no. Now the challenge is not to worry and trust that we made the right decision!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mother Goose


Today we went to see a special performance by Mother Goose at the library. (Think Paula Deen in a Little House On The Prarie dress). She is a very talented puppeteer and singer. I was quite impressed, especially after I found out she got paid $250 for her 45-minute performance. Surely there's something I could do to entertain kids for that kind of money!

Grace was mesmerized. She watched, laughed, and participated in all the games and activities. When it was time to go I had to literally drag her away from Mother Goose's feet.

Speaking of Mother Goose, I've got to mention one of our favorite books, The Christian Mother Goose Book. I grew up memorizing and reciting these great poems that put a Christian twist on the original rhymes. For example:

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
And doesn't know where to find them;
But Jesus knows and can bring them home,
Wagging their tails behind them.


Or,

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
Humpty Dumpty shouted, "Amen!
God can put me together again."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Perspective

I read a powerful post today about what life is like for a 30-something single Christian woman. I'll admit that it stunned me. I have single Christian friends, but none so close that they share their struggles and loneliness with me. Perhaps it is difficult for older singles to feel like a married person understands their challenges.

From the time I was a little girl, I dreamed of marrying and becoming a mom. The author of the blog post has always had similar dreams. In God's infinite mercy, He has chosen to give me both desires of my heart. Becoming a mom has been a longer, harder road with lots of potholes and speed bumps. However, I have never stopped to think what it must be like for a single woman who has always had the same hopes and dreams. Not only is their dream of children not realized, but they do not have a spouse to share the burden.

I always thought that infertility and miscarriage was the hardest burden for a woman to bear. Perhaps I am wrong. The author of this post doesn't want to be pitied, but she does want people to be aware of the struggles that are specific to singleness. Some are happy being single, and some (like the author) long for husbands and children of their own. She has encouraged me to reach out and pray for my single friends and the specific challenges they may face.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Money-Saving Tip


In honor of Works-For-Me-Wednesday, I'll share a brief money-saving tip related to household cleaners.

Cleaners (like Windex, 409, Mr. Clean, etc.) can get pretty expensive, even with sales and coupons. Lately, I have found myself adding water to the bottles to extend the life of my cleaners. I'll use about 1/3 of the bottle, then fill it to the top with water. I'll use another 1/2 or so, then fill it up again with water. In so doing, I can usually more than double the usage of each bottle. And, I have seen absolutely no difference in the cleaning power of regular vs. watered-down cleaners.

I'm also looking into homemade cleaners that are even more cost-effective. I'll let you know how they turn out.

For more works-for-me tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Normalization of Homosexuality


While Grace and I were at the library last week, I ran across a book that I had heard of but never seen. It is called "Heather Has Two Mommies." This book is the story of a little girl who is raised by lesbian parents, and it portrays the homosexual lifestyle in a positive light. I specifically remember one of my counseling professors at Texas Woman's University praising this book for being one of the first books written to educate children on the concept of appreciating the homosexual lifestyle.

If your child attends public school, more than likely your child will be exposed to something like this at some point in their education. When I was a school counselor, I was fortunate to work with socially conservative principals who did not expect me to address acceptance of homosexuality in my guidance curricula. Other counselors I knew were not so fortunate. Counseling education programs and the psychological community are intensely devoted to normalizing homosexuality, and the best place to start is in the minds of children.

As parents we should not shy away from the subject of homosexuality with our children. The Bible certainly does not shy away from the subject, and it is our responsibility to teach our children about God's design for marriage between a man and a woman. If we don't, it can be very confusing for our children when they are constantly seeing acceptance of homosexuality in the schools, on TV, in movies, and in the general public.

This does not mean that we teach our children to hate people who practice or accept homosexuality. On the contrary, we should teach our children that everyone is to be treated with respect. However, it is important for our children to understand that homosexuality is not what God intended when he created man and woman.

I was surprised to learn that Proposition 8 passed in California last week. It seems that even in one of the most liberal states in our nation, people are not ready to accept two mommies for Heather.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Red Beans and Rice


Red Beans and Rice with Sausage is one of our favorite family meals. I have come across many recipes for this traditional cajun dish over the years. I've taken my favorite elements from several recipes and made this my own. To make a healthier version that is still just as tasty, I use skinless turkey sausage and brown rice. We like our food extra hot and spicy, but you can tame down this dish by reducing or elimiating the jalapenos.

This is also a very budget-friendly meal. I added up the cost of ingredients when I bought my groceries this morning at Wal-Mart. This recipe makes approximately six servings at .83 per person!

Red Beans and Rice

1 lb. package skinless sausage, any flavor
2 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 T jalapenos, minced
1 can pinto beans
1 can red beans
1 can light red kidney beans
1 T ketchup
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t. Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 cups cooked rice

Saute sliced sausage with olive oil in large pot for 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add onion and saute 5 minutes. Add garlic and jalapenos; saute one minute. Add undrained beans (mash slightly with fork before adding), ketchup, and both sauces. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer 15-20 minutes or more. Serve over cooked rice with a side of cornbread.

Joanna Jones

Menu Plan Monday



Monday - Spaghetti w/ Meat Sauce, Garlic Rolls, Salad

Tuesday - Leftovers

Wednesday - Dinner at church

Thursday - Red Beans & Rice w/ Sausage, Cornbread

Friday - Leftovers

Saturday - Chicken Tortilla Soup w/ Fixins

Sunday - Leftovers



I usually only fully prepare three meals per week because I cook enough to last for at least two suppers. Leftovers are eaten the next day for dinner and throughout the week for lunch if there is enough! If I happen to come up short on a leftover night, I'll just usually cook breakfast for dinner (which Todd loves) and eat the leftovers during lunch.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Road Trip

We had a lot of fun today on our roadtrip. We left straight from church and actually made it to Texas A&M in less than three hours. We didn't even get out of the car! Grace was good, too. I was a little nervous because our DVD player didn't work in the car. But, Grace entertained herself by singing all the Disney princess songs and playing with her kids meal toy from Burger King.

The band concert was wonderful and it was really neat to see Todd's former student performing with such a mature group. Grace enjoyed the music and was pretty quiet during the concert (thanks to a few timely Skittles).

Afterwards, we went to some friends of our friends who welcomed us into their lovely home and fed us dinner even though they had never met us! Our hostess had a closet full of toys/puzzles and a children's library to keep Grace occupied while we visited. Their home was very spacious with a fabulous chef's kitchen. I was particularly impressed with the custom countertops that were built higher than normal to accomodate tall people like me. She let me cut the veggies to go in the chicken salad, and I couldn't believe what a difference the countertop height made....it was so comfortable! The dishwasher was also elevated off the ground to eliminate bending when loading/unloading.....brilliant.

The drive home wasn't as pleasant. Grace was exhausted from our long day and tired of being strapped in the car. Thankfully, the DVD player worked on the way home, and that helped a little. Overall, though, she did very well today.

I drink very few caffeinated beverages on a normal basis, but today I had SIX. I am literally shaking as I type. I had coffee during Sunday School, Diet Coke for lunch, a large Starbucks black coffee on the road (counts as 2), then a Diet Coke during dinner and another cup of coffee afterwards. Hopefully I'll sleep tonight.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot......there was a note from our realtor on our counter when we got home tonight. Two families came to the open house today. One family didn't like the floor plan. The other family really liked the house. Our realtor is going to follow up with them this week. Here's hoping!