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


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 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
*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 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 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 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


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 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


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.


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 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!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Getting Ready.....Again

Today I've spent most of the day getting our home ready for another open house tomorrow. I found myself putting off many of my daily housecleaning duties this week because I knew I had to do it again anyway on Saturday so it would be "fresh." So, Todd took Grace to the playground and on a couple of errands while I scoured the bathrooms, floors, and carpets. I'll give the kitchen a thorough cleaning after I cook dinner tonight.

Tomorrow we are leaving straight from church to go to Texas A&M for a band concert. Todd's former percussion student is also the daughter of my sweet friend Joy. We've been wanting to go hear her perform for years, and we are finally doing it tomorrow. We're leaving straight from church, driving to A&M, attending the concert, eating dinner with friends of our friends, and driving home.

It remains to be seen how Grace will do riding six hours in a vehicle and sitting quietly through a band concert. We are bringing the miraculous invention that is called a portable DVD player with us in the car. Hopefully she'll sleep some, too.

The open house is from 2-4 and we are praying for some visitors this time!

Living Simply Saturdays

I read a powerful post this week on the subject of living simply. The author spoke of seemingly harmless indulgences (in her case, coffee) that temporarily fill our desires while ignoring our deepest needs.

Even seemingly simple things can become substitutes for trusting in God alone to take care of us. This article was very convicting for me. How many times over the years have I done/bought/eaten something that I didn't need just because I had a bad day or "deserved" it after something stressful happened? Instead of praying and casting my burdens upon the One who has given me so much, I relied on worldly pleasures to calm my anxieties.

Another area where I need to trust God more is in the area of finances. I have always worried about money. Now that I stay at home with our daughter and don't work outside the home, I find myself worrying even more. Instead of worrying, what I need to do is be thankful for what God has given me including: a husband who works hard to provide for our family, opportunities for me to earn extra money by working at home (Ebay, sewing, babysitting), and the desire to be a good steward with our money.

I'm still working on the last one. I pray for a heart that is willing (and eager!)to do without many luxuries that other people deem necessary. I don't need a new car or designer clothes or a vacation every year. Grace doesn't need the latest toy or Gap Kids fashion. And I don't need to obsess about the amount of money we have (or don't have) in retirement accounts or savings accounts. God has always provided our needs, sometimes despite unwise purchases. For this I am learning to be more and more thankful. I feel a responsibility to be a good steward of our money by budgeting wisely, thoughtfully spending money, tithing faithfully, and being willing to do without things I don't need. All while trusting in a wise God who is preparing a place for me in heaven.

I'm not saying it is wrong or sinful to buy luxury items or build wealth. I am talking about matters of the heart. Are we being good stewards of our money and trusting in God alone for our ultimate joy and happiness? This is tough, and I'm sure that I will always struggle with this to some degree in my lifetime. What a comfort it is to know that the tastiest Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha or the prettiest Coldwater Creek jacket or the healthiest savings account doesn't begin to compare with the glory of my future home in heaven.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Library Trip

Today we went to the public library for story time and craft time. It's been a while since we went during the children's hour, so Grace was very excited. After listening to a couple of stories about cupcakes, the kids got to decorate pretend cupcakes with sequined sprinkles.

This will give you a little insight into Grace's personality. (I'm not sure where she gets this trait...certainly not me or Todd. I think Mimi might be the culprint.) Anyway, while the other kids were excitedly throwing sprinkles on their cupcakes, Grace was more concerned about the mess that was being created than the result of her artwork. It REALLY bothered her that sprinkles were falling on the floor. She kept trying to clean up and pick up every single, solitary, microscopic sprinkle in her workspace AND the other kid's workspaces. I finally put my foot down when she exclaimed to the little boy on her left, "Watch out! You're making a mess!"

The librarian kept telling her it was OK to make a mess because she would clean up after we left. When it was time for us to go, she didn't want to leave until her table was clean because, "We HAVE to clean up, Mama!"

At this point, I'm not sure whether to laugh at this personality quirk or be worried. I can only hope we're not dealing with a future Mrs. Monk!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fun Day

Today Grace and I spent some time with my sweet friend Joy. We ran a couple of errands together then ate lunch at McDonald's. Joy and I got to fellowship while Grace played on the playground.

Surprisingly, the playground area was empty except for another little girl about Grace's age. They got along really well and had fun playing together the whole time. When it came time for us to leave, the mom of Grace's new friend came over and gave me a coupon for a free apple dippers to show appreciation for how sweetly the girls played together.

It seems like just yesterday that Grace was small....she used to try so hard to climb up high on the playground like the big kids. I used to think she would never make it to the top! Now, she's all over the place, making friends, and having a blast.

I enjoy Grace more and more the older she gets. I loved the baby stages, too, but it is really special to see her growing and maturing. I love being able to talk WITH her, not just TO her. Her little personality is developing, her vocabulary is building, and she never ceases to crack me up! I see myself in her in so many ways, and she's got a healthy dose of Todd thrown in as well! What a miracle.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Year Memories

I was invited to do this by Making Home and Counting Sprinkles.

I invite everyone who reads this to do it too. Either leave it as a comment or link to your blog!

The Elections of My Life

1976: Jimmy Carter
I REMEMBER: Nothing. I was too young.
I WAS: An infant and preschooler in North Carolina, Alabama, and Florida
DURING THAT FOUR YEARS: I stayed home with my mom and welcomed my two younger brothers into the world.

1980: Ronald Reagan
I REMEMBER: Making fun of a kid in my kindergarten class named Ronald. We would tease him at recess and call him "Ronald Reagan!" (sad, I know)
I WAS: Age 5-8 living in Texas
DURING THAT FOUR YEARS: I attended kindergarten (twice), skipped 1st grade, was bussed to an inner-city school for 2nd grade (racial integration), and moved back to my neighborhood school for 3rd grade.

1984: Ronald Reagan
I REMEMBER: My parents being horrified to find our next door neighbor posting Walter Mondale signs too close to our home so it would APPEAR that we were Mondale supporters.
I WAS: Age 9-12 living in Texas
DURING THAT FOUR YEARS: I became a Christian and was baptized by my father.

1988: George H.W. Bush
I REMEMBER: Not being too excited about Quayle as a running mate, but I don't remember why.
I WAS: Age 13-16 living in Texas
DURING THAT FOUR YEARS: I pursued piano and clarinet. I took lots of AP classes and prepared for college. I worked at a Christian bookstore.

1992: Bill Clinton
I REMEMBER: Being so frustrated that I couldn't vote when all my classmates were voting. (I was a year younger than everyone in my class).
I WAS: Age 17-20 living in Alabama
DURING THAT FOUR YEARS: I went to college in Alabama, dated my future husband, and filled my life with lots of college activities.

1996: Bill Clinton
I REMEMBER: Being thrilled to vote for the first time. When Clinton won, I thought the moral compass of our nation had sank to rock-bottom.
I WAS: Age 21-24 living in Alabama and Texas
DURING THAT FOUR YEARS: I graduated from college, got married, moved back to Texas, and worked as a band director in the same school district where I had graduated from high school.

2000: George W. Bush
I REMEMBER: Hanging Chads and being SO EXCITED that Bush won! I felt like the country was experiencing a new beginning.
I WAS: Age 25-28 living in Texas
DURING THAT FOUR YEARS: I went back to graduate school and earned my counselor certification. I quit band directing and became an elementary school counselor. Todd and I desperately prayed for a child. We bought our first home.

2004: George W. Bush
I REMEMBER: Being amazed that some people thought Kerry was believable.
I WAS: Age 29-32 living in Texas
DURING THAT FOUR YEARS: We welcomed our daughter into the world. I quit work to become a stay-at-home mom.

2008: Barack Obama
I REMEMBER: Being extremely disappointed when Huckabee lost the nomination....being energized when Sarah Palin was named as running mate....realizing that John McCain was fighting an uphill battle.
I AM: Age 33 living in Texas
DURING THE NEXT FOUR YEARS: Grace will start school after another year at home with me. We have not decided yet whether I will homeschool or send her to public school. Hopefully we will sell our current home and move closer to Todd's new job. We will continue to pray for wisdom for our national leaders and safety for our soldiers and citizens.

Now That Obama Has Won.......

Here's the good news and the bad news:

BAD NEWS: America decided that The Maverick wasn't ready for the White House.
GOOD NEWS: Michelle Obama is finally proud of something her country has done.

GOOD NEWS: America has elected it's first black President.
BAD NEWS: Anyone that criticizes the President will be considered a racist.

GOOD NEWS: My brother Jon could come home early from Iraq.
BAD NEWS: THE JOB might not get done.

BAD NEWS: Obama's socialist tax plan will re-distribute the wealth across America.
GOOD NEWS: We might get some of it.

BAD NEWS: It will be more difficult for parents to make alternative education choices for their children (homeschool, charter school, etc.).
GOOD NEWS: Todd and I will always be able to find a job.

BAD NEWS: Abortions will become easier to obtain and more wide-spread.
GOOD NEWS: ?????????

BAD NEWS: Sarah Palin goes home to Alaska.
GOOD NEWS: Maybe now Oprah will invite Sarah on her show.

GOOD NEWS: No more political commercials and campaign phone calls.
BAD NEWS: The election is over and we can't change it.

In all seriousness, the Bible commands us to honor those who have been set in authority before us. Now that Obama is President, I will fervently pray that God will help him to make wise decisions for our country. I pray that he will surround himself with smart and experienced advisors who want the best for our country. I pray that the practice of abortion will not gain a stronger foothold in our land. And, I pray that our enemies will not rise against us, emboldened by a perceived weakness in our future military response.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Consistency is Key

Well, I've learned another lesson the hard way. For the past few days, I've been rather inconsistent in staying on top of Grace's behavior. I've felt sorry for her during her illness, and I've just overlooked several things that should have been dealt with.

Today I paid for it. Her behavior has been awful, just awful. I think I set a new personal record for the number of spankings I gave in one day. Now that she's feeling better, she has all this energy and is ready to go, go go! This newfound energy combined with Mama's lack of discipline over the past few days has resulted in her testing the limits over, and over, and over again.

You know, it's really hard to discipline a child who is sick or in pain...we tend to make excuses and justify negative behaviors. While I think it's wise to be more patient and take into account how our kids feel, we just shouldn't let obvious "no-nos" slip by. It sends a mixed message and communicates to our kids that they aren't expected to obey in all situations.

Like I said, I learned this lesson the hard way, and I can only pray that tomorrow is a better day. Many times today I had to check my heart and say a short prayer to calm myself before I responded or administered discipline. When Todd got home, I made a Diet Coke run just to get out of the house for a few minutes before I put her to bed. Interestingly enough, she was happier and more affectionate than usual when we said goodnight. Ironically, I was happier than usual to say goodnight as well!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Doctor Visit

Today I took Grace to her pediatrician to try to figure out why she has been sick over the weekend. I really have not been able to tell if she has a sinus infection or a urinary tract infection. Unfortunately, she turned out to have a urinary tract infection.

Many of my readers know that Grace has had many urinary tract infections in her short life. She's even been in the emergency room and hospital a few times for high fevers and dehydration associated with UTIs. Thankfully, she has a great urologist who suggested a new procedure called Deflux. When Grace was two years old, this urologist surgically placed Deflux inside her ureters. Since then, she has been infection-free. Until now.

Because Deflux is a sugar-based molecule that is able to be absorbed by the body, there is a chance that it can "disappear" inside the body within a few months or years of surgical placement. We're hoping that is not the case, because we would not enjoy going through the whole procedure again. Even though the procedure is quite simple and pain-free, we don't relish the idea of general anaesthesia again.

But, hopefully I'm getting ahead of myself and this is just a small UTI that will not happen again. At least that's what we're praying. She's already feeling better, and for that we are thankful.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Grace is doing better. She still has a lowgrade fever, so I kept her home from church today. Hopefully it's just a bug that will pass soon. It seems like when she gets sick it's always on the weekend! I've heard other mothers say this as well. I wonder why?

Halloween night was interesting. I was surprised to find that over half of the trick-or-treaters that came to my door were middle school/high school age. At one point, I opened the door to a group of about eight boys that HAD to be basketball players...they were all WAY taller than me and they were wearing scary horror-film-type costumes. Call me paranoid, but it made me uncomfortable. Grace turned around and ran back into the den. I decided then and there that I would not give out any more candy that night. So, I generously distributed the rest of my candy into their pillowcases (seriously!) and wished them a good night. I turned off all the lights both outside and inside the house, then snuggled down on the couch with Grace to watch a movie. We listened to people ring the doorbell and bang on the front door until 10:00. Do people not know that NO LIGHTS = NO CANDY?

Is it just my neighborhood or did those of you who distributed candy find a bunch of older kids, too?