Sunday, August 31, 2008


Todd and Dad took Grace to church this morning while Mom stayed home with me. I was able to take a shower and sit up for a while. Lunch was delicious....roast beef, brown rice, green beans with almonds, fruit salad, and Blue Bell ice cream for dessert. Whoa.

Grace just went down for a nap, so I climbed into my bed to take a short nap, too. I was in a lot of pain last night, so I didn't sleep very well. My night included lots of infomercials and watching the clock to see when I could take another pain pill. I know everything I ever wanted to know about the Rug Doctor and the Magic Bullet!

I am thankful that the worst seems to be behind me and I am feeling better as the day goes on. This has been a little harder than I expected, but hopefully it will all be worth it in the end. I appreciate everyone who is thinking and praying for me!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Home Again

Well, I'm already at home again after my surgery. What a whirlwind! I hardly remember anything that happened to me, and apparently that's a good thing. Todd told me some things I said and did while recovering from the anesthesia, so I would say that my lapse in memory is really a blessing.

In this day and age, they certainly know how to get you out of the hospital fast. I had barely swallowed my breakfast this morning when the nurse showed up with a wheelchair. Less than 48 hours after major abdominal surgery, I was on my way home!

It sure was nice to get home, though, and see my sweet little girl. We've had a hard time keeping her away from my incision. She wants to climb in my lap and snuggle, but I'm not quite ready for that yet.

My sweet friend Joy is bringing dinner tonight, so we are just going to relax and enjoy being together today. All of us have been napping off and on. The best part about today?? COLLEGE FOOTBALL!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Surgery Day

Well, today is my surgery day. After a restless night, I finally just got up and read most of last night. I read some Psalms and Proverbs, prayed for a while, then started my new thriller, The Bourne Identity. I loved the movies, so I thought I would give the books a try, and so far I have not been disappointed. It's amazing how much more interesting detail there is in a book than a movie!

Grace is in a happy mood today because Mimi and Granddaddy are here to dote on her! As soon as she woke up this morning she jumped out of bed and asked, "Where's Mimi? Where's Granddaddy? I want to play with them!" When Grace is happy, it's almost impossible for anyone around her to be unhappy. What a blessing she is.

I'll be out of touch for a few days, but I hope to come home and be online again by Monday. I can't make any promises about the state of mind I'll be in considering the amount of drugs I'll be taking and the hormone fluctuations. If nothing else, the next few posts might be entertaining! I appreciate all of you who have been keeping me in your prayers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Last Supper

I have to stop eating and drinking at midnight tonight in preparation for my surgery tomorrow. So, I decided to make the best of it. My parents came into town today, and mom and I cooked a delicious meal of salad, spaghetti w/ meat sauce, and garlic bread. This is my absolute favorite meal. I think I could eat it every day and not get tired of it.....actually, I don't ever get tired of any Italian food. When I was pregnant with Grace, I craved tomato sauce. I can remember cooking noodles and adding marinara sauce late at night, and it was so satisfying!

Anyway, my procedure is at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon, and the hardest part is not drinking before then. (No, I'm not talking about alcohol.) I can't even have a sip of water after midnight tonight.

I can already feel my mouth getting cottony in anticipation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I wasn't planning on writing about this subject because I generally don't like to talk about personal issues, but this is such a big part of my life right now that I think it warrants a post.

I am having a hysterectomy this week. We have come to this decision after much research, consultation, and prayer. This decision was not made lightly, because we are very disappointed about closing the door on future biological children. What gives us comfort is to know that God is in control of even this, and He has blessed us so much by giving us the joy of having our daughter Grace. Perhaps down the road He will enable us to give a home to another child that we can adopt.

I'm not really nervous about the procedure because I have a wonderful doctor that I completely trust. Thankfully, my parents will be here to help us care for Grace during my time of recovery. There are so many family members and friends praying for us right now that we truly do feel a peace about the whole situation.

So why did I start crying when I registered at the hospital this morning? I think the finality of it all became very real when I signed the permission form for surgery. I feel like I am mourning a loss....though not's the loss of the possibility of bearing another child. The nurse was very kind and told me it was normal to be emotional about this surgery, especially at my age.

Despite my sadness, I am looking forward to the improvement in health that this will bring. The bible teaches that all things work together for our good, and I am trusting in this promise. And, I am thankful for the wonderful support system of family, friends, and church members that have been such an encouragement to me.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Quote of the Day

"A working taxpayer voting for Obama is like a chicken voting for The Colonel."
~Ian Weber, friend on Facebook

Concept of Time

It is very humorous to observe a child's concept of time. I've learned through experience to not tell Grace about something new or exciting until the time is near at hand. Preschoolers just don't understand "next month" or "next week" or sometimes even "tomorrow."

I've known for a while now that my parents are coming to visit us this week, but I have held off on telling Grace. While I was getting the guest room ready this morning, I explained to Grace that they would be here on Wednesday, in two days. She immediately began running through the house calling, "Mimi, are you here yet? Granddaddy, where are you?" After naptime this afternoon, she jumped out of bed and ran to the guest room to see if they were here. I've had to answer countless questions of "Where's Mimi? Where's Granddaddy?" I finally told her that she could not ask me again!

Maybe I should have just let it be a surprise!

Sunday, August 24, 2008


My good friend Mrs. Sprinkles posted a link to a website that explained how to make a toddler dress from a man's shirt. Click here to see the instructions. This afternoon after church, while Grace was taking a nap, I took one of Todd's old dress shirts and started sewing. Since Grace was asleep, I didn't get good measurements, and I ended up making the dress too small. So, I had to improvise and I came up with a slightly different result.

The cool thing is I didn't have to buy anything to make this dress. I already had ribbons and trim to match Todd's shirt!

To Spit or Not To Spit

I realized something the other day when I took Grace to the dentist. I have never taught her to spit! When the dental assistant brushed her teeth and told Grace to spit out the toothpaste, she just looked at her and swallowed. I mumbled something like, "We haven't worked on spitting yet...."

Grace has been perfectly happy to swallow her Barbie toothpaste, and the label says it is safe to swallow. So, I haven't even thought about practicing spitting. Well, now I have something new to work on.

The past couple of nights I've demonstrated spitting and tried to get her to do no avail. You would think that a 3-yr-old would relish the idea of spitting on purpose, but not Grace.

I guess the Barbie toothpaste is just too tasty.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I forgot to mention this in my last post, but Grace is back to her normal self today. No fever, and definitely no lethargy! She has enough energy today to more than make up for yesterday. I guess it was just a little 24 hour bug.

Also, I need to brag on my husband for a minute. His brakes started going out on his SUV recently. We were quoted over $300 just to replace the back brakes at our local dealership. With the help of a friend who enjoys working on cars, Todd replaced his brakes (both front AND back) for a grand total of just under $40. He was very proud of himself and enjoyed sitting around in his grease-stained clothes and face/hands/arms/legs before reluctantly taking a shower.

I'll have to admit he looked pretty cute.

Home Improvement

The other day while Todd was taking a shower in our master bathroom, a piece of large tile fell off the shower wall and crashed to the floor. Upon inspection, we realized that behind the tile was an empty space with rotting insulation. While neither one of us is a handyman, we at least knew that something was definitely missing. Shouldn't shower tile be applied to some type of water-resistant board?

During Todd's lunch break today (between a morning parade and an evening band march-a-thon) we had a family outing to Lowe's Home Improvement Store. The fix-it guy (or in this case woman) chuckled when we told her the story, then informed us that we had been duped by shoddy contractors when our house was built in 2001. She said that since the early 60's, all shower tiles have been applied to water-proof boards. Anything less is unacceptable. How did this pass inspection????


So......we have to remove all tiles and the shower door/glass. Unless we want to pay for new tile, we have to carefully clean and sand the old grout off our tiles to make a smooth surface. We have to purchase and cut to fit waterproof boarding. Then we have to re-tile, re-grout, and re-install the shower door/glass.

You know, we don't mind the normal home improvement projects that come with home ownership. But, it is very annoying to pour time and money into a problem that is a direct result of lazy and greedy contractors.

Moral of this story: When shopping for home builders, cheaper is not always better. We went for a less expensive builder that had a pretty good reputation in our area. Oh well, there is a reason they were cheaper.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lazy Day

Grace didn't sleep well last night, and she has been lathargic today. Due to a slight fever, I believe that she has caught a little bug. I knew something was wrong when I offered to take her to the park this morning and she didn't even want to get off the couch! So, we've just had a quiet and lazy day.....books, movies, and chicken soup for lunch. She is now napping and I'm taking a break from copying recipes from the latest issue of Southern Living.

Although I am concerned that Grace is sick, I'll admit that I enjoy slow days like today. It is fun to cozy up with her under a blanket on the couch and discuss all the troubles that Cinderella is having now that the evil stepmother has stolen the magic wand (Cinderella III: A Twist in Time).

I'm not ashamed to take advantage of her willingness to sit in my lap longer than 30 seconds!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rough Day

Well, today went downhill after the dentist appointment. Grace tried to test the limits and boundries all day. It seemed like every little thing I have ever told her "no" about she decided to try again just to see what would happen. Her list of offenses included: throwing food on the ground at mealtime, fussing constantly about every little thing that didn't go her way, stealing toys from her friends during our playdate, not obeying when I asked her to do something, and the biggie: unbuckling her seatbelt and getting out of her carseat while we were driving. (This warranted an immediate pull-over and spanking).

I felt like a broken record all day long. I would correct her verbally and if she didn't obey, I disciplined her. Our discipline procedure includes reviewing the commandment she broke, spanking, asking forgiveness of the person she hurt/disobeyed, praying, and hugging. Then we do our best to start over on a clean slate.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised when our children disobey. After all, human nature is sinful, and it is "natural" for children to do what they want, when they want. Usually this is done without thought of consequences. Todd and I feel that it is our job as parents is to teach Grace the ways of the Lord and discipline her when she disobeys. This should be done not out of anger towards our child, but out of a deep love that longs for her to see the mercy and grace of our Lord through us when we discipline her. We feel that our discipline should be immediate, concise, loving, and forgiving. We are constantly praying that God will help us to do this without anger and emotions getting in the way.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and completely contradict my training as a professional counselor. We choose not to use the "time out" system when we discipline Grace. I have used the time-out system countless times as a teacher and a counselor in the school system, and this is what I have found:

1. Putting a child in time-out creates another opportunity for the child to misbehave while in time-out, complicating the original issue that put them in time-out. (i.e. refusing to go to the designated time-out area, screaming, yelling, cursing, physically damaging self or property).
2. The child's anger often increases during the time-out period. Contrary to what you tell them, they do not "think about what they have done." Usually, they think about how mad they are to be caught and how they are going to get away with it next time.
3. It takes too long. By the time you factor in the power struggle and the extra misbehaviors that crop up during time-out, the whole process wastes time that could have been spent in non-discipline-related activities.
4. It is taught that in a time-out period, there should be no communication between the adult and child. However, immediately after a misbehavior is the most critical time for the adult to communicate and teach the child in love. I am reminded of the Psalm of David which says, "Cast me not away from Thy presence. Keep not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and renew a right spirit within me."

I am thankful that tough days like today don't happen very often. I am thankful that, overall, we see the fruits of our discipline and teaching in Grace. I pray that God will grant me patience and a spirit that is slow to anger (contrary to my nature!) when I am dealing with her misbehavior.

Dentist Appointment

Grace had a dentist appointment today. She was very excited this morning because she remembered how fun it was the last time she had an appointment. Much to my relief, she was very cooperative with the dentist and assistant while they took x-rays, cleaned, and counted her teeth. She had no cavities and no plaque! However, the dentist told us to start saving now for braces because of her severe overbite. (Interestingly, the dentist told me it was a genetic overbite, not aggravated by her occasional thumb-sucking). The only behavioral problem we encountered was when it was time to go.....she said, "No, mama. I want to stay here!" She protested when I made her get out of the dentist chair, but was consoled when she got to pick out a prize.

Interesting sidenote: When offered a choice in new toothbrush, she picked "Tigger and Pooh" instead of "Disney Princess." When offered a choice in toothpaste, she picked "Cars" instead of "Ariel." When playing with the toys, she played with Thomas the Train instead of the baby dolls. When given various options for the type of balloon she wanted (including a flower, cat, princess crown, etc.), she specifically asked for a "snake" balloon.

My little princess.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Recently, I met an old friend that I used to work with when I was a teacher. I knew that his wife had recently had a baby, and I asked how things were going. He told me everything was great and proudly showed me the latest baby pictures. I asked, "So, is she going back to work soon?" He replied, "Of course! She's not one to sit around all day on her a@*!" He went on to ask me what I was doing now, and he was a bit embarrassed when I told him I was a stay-at-home mom.

I am so thankful to be a full-time mom. I am thankful that I have a husband who supports my desire to be home with my daughter. After working full time and taking my daughter to a babysitter every day, I now treasure every moment I have with her. I love that I am the one teaching her, playing with her, and molding her character. In two short years, she will start kindergarten. Until then, I want to cherish my time as a homemaker and mother.

I can honestly say that there are some things I miss about being a school counselor. I miss knowing that I was making a difference in the lives of struggling children. I miss my friends at work. I miss the mental challenges of my job. I even miss the crisis that would make each day unique and exciting.

What I don't miss about the time I was employed is having a disorganized household, spending more money on "conveniences", eating take-out, stressing about the circumstances of children in my school, being tired all the time, and letting my babysitter spend more quality time with Grace than myself.

There are women out there who have done it all and done it well, but I'm just not one of those women. I love that I can now spend our money more wisely. I can spend more time in reading and personal devotions. I can prepare each meal with healthy ingredients. I can focus more on my husband and his needs. I can do fun things with Grace without being exhausted. Basically, I can put my faith and family first.

The day will probably come when I go back to work, but until then, the satisfaction I get by focusing on my roles as wife and mother are much more valuable to me than an extra paycheck.

Rainy Days

Lately, the weather here in Texas has been very uncharacteristic of August. It has rained every day for the past week, and forecasters predict rain for the next nine days! While I certainly don't mind the wet weather and the lower temperatures that it brings, Grace has been rather bored. We haven't been able to swim, play ball outside, climb/slide on her outdoor playset, play with the sidewalk chalk, or ride her tricycle.

I've had to get more creative lately with indoor projects like cooking, painting, and crafts. Today I decided to switch things up a little bit in the house. Grace has three main play areas: family room, play room, and her bedroom. Her toys are divided up to have a permanent home in one of these three areas. This afternoon, I moved toys upstairs that I've only allowed her to play with downstairs and vice versa.

It was so funny to watch Grace play with her toys in a new was like she had never seen them before! In the family room she was excitedly saying, "Look mama! It's a dollhouse! It's a REAL dollhouse!" (Like she hasn't played with it every day in her bedroom). This went on and on about each toy I relocated.

Why haven't I learned this trick before????

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Before you read this.....yes, I do realize that I am very blessed to have a little girl that loves to sleep. Part of this I attribute to her nature, part I attribute to my use of the strategies in the books "Babywise" and "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child."

Usually, Grace's bedtime is around 8:00 p.m. Tonight, at 6:45 p.m., she came up to me and said, "Goodnight, Mama. I'm going to bed now." I decided to play along to see if she was serious. She kissed me goodnight and climbed the stairs. From downstairs, I heard the water turn on to brush her teeth. I heard the toilet flush. I heard the pitter-patter of footsteps into her room. I heard her say goodnight to her dolls. It got quiet. I waited a few minutes, then tiptoed up the stairs. After inspection, I saw that she had indeed brushed her teeth (and left extra toothpaste around the sink area), gone potty, taken off her shorts, gotten into bed, turned over and gone to sleep! I gently tucked her in and closed the curtains and tiptoed back downstairs.

Wow, a whole extra hour to myself!

Monday, August 18, 2008


Today I reconnected with an old high school friend that I have not seen since our graduation over 16 years ago. It's funny how friendships survive the test of time when two people share similar values. Even though we haven't seen each other in so long, we easily fell into conversations about personal and spiritual matters. I believe that God brought us together today to be an encouragement to each other.

My best friend is my husband, Todd, and I am thankful that he encourages me to maintain and make new friendships with other women. While nothing can compare to the level of sharing and emotional intimacy within a marriage, I feel that it is important for to women to have female companionship as well. Let's face it, most men just don't enjoy talking about recipes, potty training, female health issues, decorating, or fashion! I know it's a cliche, but sometimes it is nice to talk with someone who truly "understands."

I am also thankful that God has given me friendships with "more mature" women who can be a mentor to me about my roles as wife and mother. (Love you, Joy T.!) There is something to be said for talking and praying with a woman who can give wisdom and perspective to my challenges.

I want to encourage you to pick up the phone and call a friend this week. Invite her over for lunch, or meet for a playdate with your kids. Like my friend was for me today, perhaps you will be an instrument of encouragement to your friend when she needs it the most.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Meals for the Week of 8/18

I overplanned slightly last week, so you will see some items repeated this week. We had so many leftovers that I had to cook less than I thought!

Monday - Taco Soup w/ Fixins

Tuesday - Leftovers

Wednesday - Red Beans & Brown Rice w/ Turkey Sausage

Thursday - Parmesan Chicken w/ Roasted Veggies

Friday - Empanadas, Rice & Beans

Saturday - Leftovers

Sunday - Dinner w/ friends

Accidents Do Happen

Fair warning: Those of you with weak stomachs, please skip this post.

Grace has been doing very well on potty training. We are done with the diapers and pull-ups and we are in panties 100% of the time. She has even gotten to the point where she can go to the bathroom all by herself: potty, wipe, flush, and wash hands without my assistance. I didn't realize how much time I was spending with her in the bathroom until she started doing it all herself!

Anyway, tonight was a minor setback. She didn't quite make it to the potty in time, and she had an accident on the floor in front of the toilet. I was in another room and noticed that she was taking a while. I called, "Grace are you OK?" She answered, "Mama, I cleaned up the mess!" Uh-oh. I rushed to the bathroom and found her on her hands and knees, "cleaning up" her pee off the floor with toilet paper. She was still fully clothed. "See mama?? It's OK...I cleaned it up!" How could I possibly get upset? I picked her up and set her in the tub to take off her soaked clothing and get cleaned up. When I took off her Tinkerbell panties, she said, "I'm so sorry Tinkerbell. Please forgive me for pee-peeing on you!" Before I could stop her, she grabbed her urine-soaked panties and gave Tinkerbell a big, wet kiss.

Let's just say we brushed our teeth for an extra long time tonight.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympic Gymnastics

We thoroughly enjoyed watching the Olympic gymnastics this year. Grace loved it, too. In case you are wondering, no, I didn't let her stay up until midnight.....we used our trusty DVR. (What an invention!). Her favorite was the floor exercise. She would squeal and shout "Whoa!" everytime they flipped in the air. is my ANYONE going to say anything about the obviously under-age Chinese female gymnasts? I mean, really, one of the girls still had her baby teeth! There is NO WAY they were all 16 years old. The New York Times recently ran a story that reveals China's most famous gymnast, He Kexin, is only 14 according to Chinese news media and other sources. Click here to read the entire story. But, of course, all of their Chinese passports list them as 16.

Is the Olympic Committee hesitant to conduct a thorough investigation for fear of offending the host country? If so, I am disappointed in the integrity of Olympic personnel.

If these Chinese gymnasts truly are 16, then I applaud their outstanding abilities and admit that they deserve the team gold. If the Chinese government has doctored the passports to deceive the Olympic Committee about their true ages, then I hope that the Lord will convict their hearts to admit the truth.

Congratulations to Nastia Luikin and Shawn Johnson for representing USA so well in the individual finals! What an exciting competition! Nastia's beauty and grace was exquisite, and Shawn's raw athleticm was incredible!

Friday, August 15, 2008

McDonald's Playground

Tonight after supper Todd and I took Grace to McDonalds to eat ice cream and visit the playground. Since the last time we visited, I noticed that several new signs were posted on the walls. About every 3 ft. all over the walls and at the front counter were signs in bright neon that said, "All children must wear socks on the playground" and "Parents must stay with children at all times in the playground."

When we entered the playground area, there were about 15-20 kids playing. After Grace's usual 10-15 minutes of timidness, she started climbing and playing with the other kids. I noticed there were a group of 3-4 boys that were pretty wild, pushing and shoving, using language that I would rather not repeat. I also noticed that they were barefooted. Later, I noticed that their parents were sitting on the other side of the restaurant, buried in their laptop computers, out of sight of the playground.

In my opinion, it is no coincidence that the boys whose parents did not respect the rules were the boys who were displaying inappropriate behaviors. Even though rules may seem "silly" or "inconvenient", parents send a very clear message when they choose to obey (or not obey) societal rules. When parents choose not to obey rules, they are sending the message to their children that it is OK to not obey rules and do whatever you want to do. I saw it time and time again when I worked in the schools. Over the years of having parent conferences about children who were misbehaving, the school secretary would often interrupt the meeting to ask the parent to move their vehicle. They had parked in the fire lane or handicapped parking!

All this to say, kids notice everything we do. Whether or not we respect societal rules sends a subliminal message to our kids about how to respect authority.


My favorite part of the day is our playtime/schooltime which comes after naptime in the afternoon. Yesterday we were playing with Grace's new teaset. She set her little table with the plates/cups/utensils for four people (me, Grace, Mimi, and Granddaddy). She pretended to cook and serve us a menu containing: juice, coffee, hot dogs, spaghetti, carrots, and ice cream. In her pretend play, she told Granddaddy to, "Be careful...don't spill your coffee....use your napkin!" She wouldn't serve Mimi the ice cream until Mimi ate ALL her carrots!

It is so sweet and precious to engage in pretend play with Grace. It makes me realize how much she watches and pays attention to everything I say and do. Children's minds are like sponges, soaking up everything, both good and bad. What a responsibility it is for us as parents to carefully monitor what they see and hear!

Frozen Concentrate vs. Bottled Juice

The other day I suddenly had a memory of making orange juice in my mom's kitchen when I was growing up. I remember getting the concentrate out of the freezer and setting it in the kitchen sink to thaw, then mixing it with water in our Tupperware pitcher. It made me start thinking about comparing the prices of frozen concentrate vs. ready-made juice. I usually buy the Wal-Mart Good Value apple juice for $2.50 (one gallon size). It is 100% apple juice from concentrate with no added sweeteners.

I wandered to the freezer section to check out the frozen concentrates and I found Good Value apple juice concentrate for $0.86 to make 1/2 gallon. It is also 100% juice with no added sweeteners.

We go through a lot of juice in our household, so I can save $0.78 per gallon by mixing it with water myself. That's about $1.56 per week/$6.24 per month/$74.88 per year in savings. Frozen orange juice concentrates offer even more savings compared to the fresh-squeezed variety in the dairy section. The Good Value frozen o.j. is $1.26 to make 1/2 gallon. Using o.j. concentrate will save me $1.71 per week/$6.84 per month/$82.08 per year. The frozen o.j. doesn't taste quite as good, but I usually pay $2.97 per 1/2 gallon, so the savings are worth it.

Hey, every bit helps.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hibachi Restaurant

Todd's mom recently came to visit us from Tennessee. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed the time we spent together. One day for lunch we decided to go to a hibachi restaurant. We all ordered steak and chicken with vegetables and fried rice. However, for Grace I ordered steamed rice because she is highly allergic to eggs. I explained this to the waitress when we ordered.

Eventually the waitress brought Grace a bowl of steamed rice and said something to the hibachi chef about eggs and the little girl. (I assumed she told the chef that Grace could not have eggs). Grace had a blast eating the rice with chopsticks for the first time! There was a father/daughter duo sitting with us at our hibachi table and they really got a kick out of watching her scoop up the rice and lick every morsel off the chopsticks before she dived in for another bite.

After a while the hibachi chef started the show....Grace was thoroughly entertained watching him flip eggs and build flaming onion towers. As he was cooking our fried rice, I noticed that he scrambled an egg separately. Before I could stop him, he scooped up and dumped the entire egg on top of Grace's half-eaten bowl of steamed rice. I took her bowl away and told him that she could not have eggs....which is why we had ordered steamed rice in the first place. I asked for a new bowl of steamed rice for Grace. (I later found out the waitress had asked the chef to put eggs on her rice.)

Up to this point it was bad enough, but what happened next was absolutely insane. The chef took Grace's half-eaten bowl of rice with eggs (complete with germy chopstick saliva) and dumped it on the hibachi grill with our fried rice! He then proceeded to mix it all together while proclaiming with great enthusiasm, "Today your lucky day!!!! More rice for everyone!!!!" Next he divided his rice creation evenly among five bowls (Todd, me, Ann, and father/daughter duo) and proudly placed them on our plates.

Words cannot describe the looks of horror on the faces of the father/daughter as they were served the rice. We were in such a state of shock that nobody said anything to the chef. After I gathered my thoughts, I murmured something to the other guests like, "I'm so sorry...let me say something to the chef." Todd threw in, "She doesn't have any diseases that we know of." They were so kind and insisted that we not say anything. They bravely ate the rice and chuckled to themselves.

Our chef was so proud of himself, smiling and bowing. We all just decided to not make an issue of it.

The fact that he did this with our food in front of us makes me shudder to think what goes on behind the closed kitchen doors.

P.S. The very next morning, Good Morning America did a segment on the dangers of "double dipping" when you are eating with other people. Apparently, millions of germs and bacteria are transfered with every double dip. So, the next time you eat dips or salsa, request a separate bowl for everyone!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Toys R Us Trip

Today Grace and I went to Toys R Us to use a gift card that Grace received last Christmas. (I totally forgot about it until I cleaned out my wallet this afternoon). We had a good time walking around the store and looking at everything. She decided on a tea set and a miniature car seat for her baby doll.

While we were standing in line, there was a little boy in front of us with his mother. The little boy was picking up candy and begging his mom to buy it for him. She totally ignored him at first, then kept on telling him to put the candy back on the shelf. This eventually resulted in a meltdown with limbs flailing and piercing screaming. Grace watched this whole scene with her eyes wide and her mouth literally hanging open. Just when the little boy started to quiet down a little, Grace dramatically pointed her finger and said in a voice loud enough for everyone at the front of the store to hear, "Mama! He didn't obey his mama! He needs a spanking RIGHT NOW!" The mom pretended not to hear while everyone else around us chuckled. I felt sorry for her because she was frazzled and had no idea how to handle her son other than jerking him around and acting annoyed.

When we got to the car, Grace and I had a "talk" about what she said. I told her that she cannot say when someone needs a spanking because that is a mommy and daddy's job to decide. She needs to just think about if SHE is obeying mommy and daddy. I really don't want her to grow up to be a tattletale like I was at her age (sorry Josh!).

Everyone who is a parent has had to deal with behaviors in our own children like the little boy at the store. All children are born with a sinful nature, concerned only about satisfying the desires of the heart. Todd and I feel that it is our job as parents to discipline Grace and instruct her in the ways of the Lord. One of the best books that I have read on this subject is "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Dr. Tedd Tripp. Another good book is "Withhold Not Correction" by Bruce Ray.

Grace certainly is not always obedient by any stretch of the imagination. However, I hope that our discipline and instruction is setting the foundation for Grace to one day accept Christ as her Lord and Savior. This is our biggest prayer for her.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Albertsons vs. Wal-Mart

When I was working full time outside of the home, I used to be a woman of convenience. When I went grocery shopping, I rarely had a list, much less a meal plan for the week. I would go to the closest grocery store (Albertsons) and grab what I thought I needed for the week. I didn't usually go to Wal-Mart because it was farther away and took MUCH longer to get in and out. (You'd think as much money as they make they could hire more people to work the registers).

Now that I am a full-time homemaker, the monthly budget is more important than convenience. I now have the time to clip coupons, plan meals, write shopping lists, and find the best bargains. This inevitably means I end up at Wal-Mart and the Dollar Store. Even with Albertsons and Krogers offering double and triple coupons, 95% of the time the item is cheaper at a discount store. The only time I go to a traditional grocery store is if there is a special discount that I just can't pass up that is worth the gas to get to the store. Yes, I know that grocery stores are cleaner, less crowded, and more pleasant to shop, but in order to keep me at home we need to cut corners wherever we can. It's sad that many grocery stores and smaller stores are going out of business because they can't compete with Wal-Mart, but I need to do what is best for our budget.

The other day I had to buy a few things to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies for a BBQ that we attended. I simply didn't have the time to go to Wal-Mart, so I sucked it up and went to Albertsons. It was almost painful putting generic items in my cart that cost 2 or 3 times more than they would at Wal-Mart. And, I couldn't bear to buy the "chocolate flavored morsels" that were 99 cents (and mostly wax), so I took a deep breath and bought the next cheapest Hershey's chips that were $3.99 for just 12 oz. I couldn't bring myself to pay $5.99 for 12 oz. of Ghiardelli chips that I normally buy from Sam's for a fraction of the cost.

All this to say: If you are out for the best bargain, Wal-Mart with coupons is your best bet. If convenience and a pleasurable shopping experience are your desires, head to your local grocer. Maybe one day Wal-Mart (or a grocery store!) will figure out how to give us the best of both worlds.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Caffeine Addiction

For the past 10 years, my husband has been addicted to Mountain Dew. We're talking 2-4 liters per day. Recently, his doctor encouraged him to cut back on his caffeine/sugar consumption. I am so proud of him, because he has dramatically cut back to only 1 liter per week! This accomplishment is not to be taken lightly. For you coffee drinkers out there, imagine eliminating your coffee consumption! Because caffeine is a drug, he went through the initial withdrawal symptoms (headache, tired, grumpy, etc.), but now he says he feels much better than he did while drinking so much Mountain Dew. He hopes to completely eliminate his Dew consumption in the near future! He is considering starting a support group called "I'm Done With The Dew!" (IDWTD).

So now we are (almost) a caffeine-free family. To replace "The Dew" in our household, Todd requested that I start making Kool-Aid. We went to the grocery store and he (and Grace) chose the flavors. I was pleasantly surprised to see how cheap it is to make your own Kool-Aid. In my Walmart, the little generic packets are 9 cents each to make 2 quarts. All flavors are caffeine-free. You must add your own sweetener, and I choose to use a combination of Splenda/sugar.

Hey, I know it's not as good as drinking water, but it's a lot better than a Mountain Dew habit!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Meals for the Week of 8/11

One of my favorite things to do is plan meals and cook during the week. I learned to cook in my mother's kitchen, and we still love to cook meals together when we are visiting each other. Most of my favorite recipes have been passed down from my mom, but I also love to try recipes from Southern Living, Cooks Country, and the Food Network. I usually plan my meals on Sunday afternoon while looking through the Sunday coupons. Grace and I go grocery shopping on Monday mornings for the week. Here is my meal plan for next week:

Monday - Multigrain Pasta with Meat Sauce, Whole Wheat Garlic Bread

Tuesday - Leftovers

Wednesday - French Toast, Eggs, Bacon

Thursday - Chicken and Vegetable Stirfry with Brown Rice

Friday - Italian Sloppy Joes, Baked Fries

Saturday - Chicken with Fire Roasted Salsa, Mashed Potatoes, Salad

Sunday - Taco Soup w/ Fixins

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Opening Ceremonies

Todd was SO excited while watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies last night. Apparently, there were 2800 Chinese drummers playing in unison. Todd is a percussionist and gets really worked up about things like this. He paused and rewatched it several times on TV last night, then he got on UTube today to see it again. I'll admit that it was pretty cool.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Cost of Freedom

My little brother Jon left this week for his 8-month assignment in Iraq. This has really brought home to me the sacrifice that so many of our men and women make every single day to protect our freedom. My brother leaves behind his young wife and daughters. He will not experience his newborn's first Christmas or 1st birthday. He will miss so many of the special milestones of both of his girls. He will miss the companionship and support of his wife. As a physician, he will potentially witness first-hand the horrors of war and violence.

Oh, may we not take for granted the sacrifices that our military are making each and every day. May we continually lift them and their families up in prayer. May we pray for our military leaders and commanders, that they will have wisdom and vigilance in their duties. May we pray for our soldiers and other personnel that they will be comforted and protected while away from their loved ones. May we pray that our enemies' plans will not come to fruition. May we pray for peace among the nations. And, may we thank the Lord for nations like the USA that make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedom of people around the world.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Keeping Things Fun

I used to get annoyed when I would find loose change and other objects in my husband's pants when I did laundry. Now, Grace and I have turned it into a game! She loves to find coins and deposit them into her "kitty bank." When we find an object that is not money, she feels it and tries to guess what it is. When I reveal the object to her (pen, drum key, paper, etc.), she finds it irresistibly hilarious!

Bring on the change, Daddy.......

Imaginary Friend

My daughter Grace has started talking to an imaginary friend named "Donald." I can only assume she learned this name from our friend Donald Duck. She spoke with him all the way home from church last night, and she often pretends to talk to him on the phone. This morning when she asked for juice, she asked that I give "Donald" some juice as well. I pretended to pour another cup and hand it to her "friend."

While some people would be concerned about this, I recognize it as being developmentally appropriate for her age. The only time I would worry is if her "friend" started interfering in her social interactions. In my training as a counselor, I learned that children without siblings often create fantasy friends for companionship. This could be part of the issue for Grace. I make a conscious effort to give her as many social interactions as possible through weekly play dates, church nursery, and outings in public play areas.

In the meantime, though, I will welcome "Donald" as part of the family.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Diaper Free Zone!

Grace has been doing so well lately on her potty training. While I still have put her in a pull-up during naptime/nighttime, it is dry 95% of the time. Monday she told me, "Mama, I want to wear my panties to bed!" So, we tried it. She was dry all of Monday and Tuesday naps/nights! Unfortunately, she had an accident this morning right before I got her out of bed.

We keep a child-proof device on her bedroom door that prevents her from opening the door at night. We use it because there is a long, steep staircase two feet from her bedroom door that leads to a hardwood floor at the bottom. I have had many nightmares of her tumbling down the stairs and hitting her head on the hard floor. So, since this device is on her door, she cannot go freely to the bathroom or anywhere else during designated sleeping times.

I still keep a monitor on so that I can hear her if she calls that she needs to go to the bathroom. Usually I make it in time, but this morning I didn't. Oh, well, she tried. I think that she was more upset than I was about the accident!

All this to more diapers for us! This will be a relief to our monthly budget, and we are so pleased that our potty training days are (mostly) behind us!

Treat for Todd

I usually don't make dessert for just our family, but my husband specifically requested pudding a while back. I remembered his request today when I saw a recipe for homemade pudding. I have never made homemade pudding....when I have needed pudding in the past, I have gone for the trusty box variety. Because my hubby has been working so hard at band camp, I made him a treat. It was absolutely delicious! Here's the recipe:

1 c. pretzels, lightly crushed
3 T butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar, plus 2 T
1/2 c. cocoa powder
2 T cornstarch
2 c. milk (I used 2%)
1 egg
1/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a sheet tray lined with aluminum foil, gently toss pretzels with melted butter and 2 T sugar. Bake until sugar melts and crystalizes on pretzels, about 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, whisk together the cocoa, 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch. Form a well in the center and slowly whisk in milk over medium heat. This helps prevent the cornstarch from clumping. Bring mixture to a boil to thicken. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk a little of the milk mixture into the egg to temper. Add egg mixture to the pot of milk. Heat over low until mixture thickens to a pudding-like consistency, about 3 minutes. Mix in chips until melted and combined well. Pour pudding into ramekins or 2 qt. serving dish and chill at least 1 hour. To serve, top with pretzels.

This was an easy recipe and I had all the ingredients on hand. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!


I had an epiphony while I was cleaning the bathroom this morning. Why am I dusting on Tuesday AFTER I vacuum? This doesn't make sense. All those little dust particles fell on my freshly vacuumed carpet. Starting next week, I will dust on Monday and vacuum on Tuesday. As you can see, after 12 years of marriage and housekeeping, I am still on a learning curve!

Housework Schedule

Well, I am going to post on this subject with the hopes that it will help me stay accountable with my housework schedule. Too often, I have fallen into the trap of letting housework build up, then spending an unreasonable amount of time cleaning everything up, usually because company is coming over to the house. A couple of years ago, my mom (who is an incredible housekeeper), encouraged me to divide up the duties into small manageable tasks that I can easily accomplish each day. This would (potentially) leave a clean, presentable house at all times. Since I have become a stay-at-home mom, things have gotten better, but there is still much room for improvement.

Here is my new schedule:

Monday - vacuum carpets and rugs
Tuesday - dust
Wednesday - clean bathrooms
Thursday - clean hardwood floors, get trash ready for pick-up
Friday - mop kitchen and bathrooms
Saturday - enjoy a family day
Sunday - worship, rest, and plan meals for the week

In addition to these duties, every day I will make the beds, do at least one load of laundry, and make sure the kitchen is cleaned after every meal.

You have all heard my confession. Please feel free to ask me how things are going....I need to be accountable.

P.S. As I am writing this post, Grace is pretending to vacuum with her Fisher-Price vacuum. I hope and pray that she learns good skills to last her a lifetime. Well, I'm off to clean the bathrooms!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Texas Toast

My family lives in the D/FW metro area of Texas. Words cannot describe how hot is has been lately! Our poor grass is showing signs of heat exhaustion, but we can't bring ourselves to water with our sprinkler system more than twice a week! I've kept the thermostat on a constant 78 degrees, as well as keeping all the blinds and curtains drawn and the fans on. If the electricity bill wasn't an issue, we'd keep it on 68! I'm so glad I married someone as hot-blooded as me. We have never disagreed on the temperature....we're both always hot. We don't even turn on the heat in the winter, and Texas can get pretty cold! Thankfully, our daughter seems to have the same temperature preferences.

My husband is a band director and started band camp outside this past week. Temperatures reached almost 110 degrees with heat indexes above that! Thankfully, a tropical storm that hit the coast of Texas is moving our way with the promise of highs in "only" the 90's. We might even get a little rain!

What's in a Name?

My 3-yr-old daughter, Grace, has started to experiment with calling my husband and me by our first names. She shocked me this afternoon by casually walking up to me in the kitchen and saying, "Hey, Joanna, can I have more juice please?" I was speechless for a second, then calmly told her that she was to call me "Mama." She said, "But your name is Joanna!" How can I argue with that? We talked for a while about how God commands children to honor their parents and part of the way she shows respect is by calling us "Mama" and "Daddy".

The other day my husband accidently dropped a drink on the floor. Grace popped her hand on her hip and said, "Uugh, Todd!" That was a big lesson in humility to me. She copies everything we do and say!

For the time being, we are calling each other "Mama" and "Daddy" in her presence (and carefully monitoring our tone of voice!).

Dinner Time

Tonight I cooked my husband's favorite dinner......Taco Soup. For someone who didn't even taste hot sauce until he was in his mid-20's, he's come a long way! I love to cook spicy foods, and Tex-Mex is my specialty.

One of my favorite things about being a stay-at-home mom is the ability to fix delicious, nutritions, homemade meals every night. Meal planning and grocery shopping is something that I really look forward to, and I love that I have the time now to make dinnertime as special as possible. I love the feeling of welcoming my husband home with the smells of dinner and the promise of a good meal and quality time with the family. When I was working full time, dinner was often greasy fast food or hurredly prepared leftovers eaten in front of the TV. I just didn't have the time or energy to plan/prepare meals and set the table.

I've always known how important it is to eat dinner together with the family. I grew up in a home where we ate a delicious meal together every night, talking and sharing things about our day. It was a precious time of fellowship and some of the best memories I have of my childhood. Even in my training as a counselor, we learned that there are multiple benefits to a family eating together every night. Children learn to communicate and listen to each other, trust and closeness is built, and everyone learns the importance of quality family time. Statistically, children who come from this environment are less likely to abuse drugs, have pre-marital sex, and do poorly in school. Unfortunately, in today's world, parents and children are both so busy that it rarely leaves time for dinner together, much less quality time as a family. Our family is making the conscious effort to enjoy and savor our dinnertime each evening, building up precious memories of our time together.