Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"I Had to Separate Your Children"





They are not words I looked forward to hearing. I expected a child of mine to be older before a teacher broke the news to me:

"We had to separate your child from her peer."

I figured, eventually, maybe one of them would get in a fight. Or be bullied. Perhaps a child of mine might be too chatty or pass notes. Maybe he or she would giggle too much with a good buddy. Or they'd conspire to throw spitballs. Who knew? But it wouldn't have surprised me to learn that someday, eventually, my child would have to separated from another.

I didn't expect it to happen when she was five.

But, alas, at parent teacher conferences, we were given the news. Our little C had to be separated from her good buddy Jay.

The speech therapist is actually the one who had to do it.

Why, you might ask? Were they naughty? Were they disruptive? Did they, *gasp*, cheat?

No.

They had to separate them because...

"Jay is too nurturing to C. They've been together a long time and he just can't help but try to take care of and protect her. But she CAN do these things on her own and I want to see her have those opportunities."

Yep, our little girl can't sit by her friend because he looks out for her too much. It's really kind of precious, isn't it? You may recall that, back around her birthday, I described C. this way:

" The best way I can describe her is that she's the kind of girl that people instinctively want to look out for, to take care of..."

It is completely true. Tiny-featured, high-voiced, delicate-boned C... wherever we go, people are happy to help her.

As an infant and toddler, she wanted nothing to do with this help. Feisty and independent, she wanted to take on any and all challenges all on her own. Now? She doesn't really seem to mind taking a helping hand and, well, being doted upon.

It all makes me wonder how she'll feel when she's older. When my little girl reaches her full size (currently predicted at 5'1" and 102 lb), will she fight to stand on her own two feet or be grateful for all those willing to cherish and protect her? Will she find a happy medium?

I watch my little girl who dreams of being a princess (Correction: She actually insists she already IS a princess.) and I wonder what her future holds...

I hope there are always those who want to protect her. I hope she is always so treasured and enjoyed. Most of all, I hope she is happy and loved.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lent '11: Letting Go of Judgment, Challenge 4

This past week's challenge was so eye opening for me... obviously, I know that I can be judgmental. That's the whole point of this Lent challenge. But when I really asked myself why I was getting my back up about others' choices, it was apparent that very few of those situations were really issues of faith or morality. I have a feeling I'm not alone in that.

Did you participate last week? Even if you didn't, I'd love to have you participate along with me at any time. As I always say, there are absolutely no rules or requirements for this Lenten journey.


Can you believe it's already time for our Week 4 Challenge? Here it is:

Initiate a conversation with a friend/neighbor/relative/fellow parishioner about a past choice you made that you now have reason to doubt. (Alternatively, you could write a post about it!) Share the learning experience.

Maybe you used to shun butter and now you see it as part of a healthy diet. Maybe you used disposable diapers with your first child and now you're a master of the cloth. ;) Perhaps you weren't a Christian and now you are. Big or small, explore the process of learning and changing. I, for one, am fairly amazed when I compare the "me" of ten years ago with the woman who stands before you today. I am a constant work in progress. I think there is value in sharing those parts of our story with others.

Will you give it a shot? Are these challenges too hard? I hope not! I hope they just take a little of your time and give you the opportunity to rethink how we view our peers and neighbors.

Please come back to see me next Wednesday so we can talk about it and get a new challenge, okay?

Button design by the spectacular Sidnie

Lent '11: Letting Go of Judgment, Challenge 3 RESULTS



Can I be honest with you all? One of the hardest things about this challenge has been realizing just how OFTEN judgmental thoughts run through my head. Ouch. It's humbling to realize what a big character flaw this is for me.

BUT... the beauty of this challenge is that it gives me a chance to constantly improve. By keeping my desire to be more open and understanding in the forefront, I'm able to often quickly dispel those initial judgmental thoughts and ideas. So here's what's going on right now...

Week 3's challenge was this:

Challenge 3: When you feel that initial knee-jerk judgment pop up after hearing/seeing/reading something that goes against YOUR grain, ask yourself: "Is this a matter of faith or morals?" If it's not, try to allow it to roll off your back.

Here's how my week went down:

Example 1:

Stood behind a lady at the check out of the grocery store. Cashier asked if she had any coupons. She remarked, "Ah, no. I choose to buy healthy food for my family and coupons are all for the junk."

My reaction: "This lady is nuts. How dare she??? I bought fresh meat, milk, vegetables, Greek yogurt and, yes, Cheerios and saved 82%. She's just ignorant or lazy."

Yikes. Not nice, I know. Defensive much? But it's true. Sigh. I grow so weary of people implying that coupon queens just buy junk. Still, that's no excuse for my judgment of HER. So, I re-framed my thoughts as I stood there.

New perspective: "We all have different priorities. I make choices that enable me to stay home with my children, but require me to save my pennies. Taking some time to clip coupons and match them up works for me. Her time might need to be spent differently and it may not be worth it to her to print and cut coupons. If our respective families' needs are being met, we are both doing just fine."

Honestly? So freeing! I don't NEED to defend what I'm doing to her!

(The bonus feature? When I saw she was buying Silk Almond Milk, I offered her an extra 75 cent off coupon I had, which doubled to $1.50 and saved her a bit. It was a non-nasty way to help illustrate how coupons can be used on "non junky" food. ;))

Example 2:

We have a new priest. Two consecutive weeks, he said, "Oh my God!" while standing before the congregation, and not as a part of worship.

My reaction: "This is not cool. This is disrespectful and inappropriate. I find this action offensive and I'm struggling to respect this man."

I stand by my reaction. To me, this IS a matter of faith and morals. I do not use that phrase and I do not allow it from my children. While I fully expect that they will hear it out in the world, I do not believe their priest should be one of the people they hear it from. Yes, he is only human, but I don't think it is too much to ask to not use our Lord's name as an interjection. I continue to struggle with this situation and I don't think it's an issue of my being too judgmental.


So there you go. A comparison of reactions I had this week. Rest assured, I experienced many more than two! But you don't need to read a novel from me. :)

Did you participate this week? I'd love to read about what happened! Link up below or tell me about it in the comments:



Peppermint Crunch Brownies


Chocolate + Mint = A Match Made in Heaven

I LOVE all things chocolate mint. So, so good. The truth, however, is that I sometimes go overboard with this combo at Christmastime and then I need a brief hiatus. It was time, though, to get back in the chocolate mint saddle!

These brownies end up with a crunchy, lacy peppermint topping that's thin enough to easily bite, but present enough to add real punch! Here's how I made these tasty beauties:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick butter)
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream (or half & half, or milk,...)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 12 starlight mints, crushed (This is a great kid job. They can unwrap them, dump them in a zip bag, and beat with a wooden spoon. Just make sure you check the seal!)

Directions:

Melt butter and cream together. Stir in sugar. Add egg, stirring quickly to ensure the egg does not "cook". Add baking powder, salt, and extract. Mix in cocoa powder, then add flour gradually. Pour in 8" square or 9" round pan. Top with crushed peppermints. Bake at 350 for 18 - 20 minutes. Cut with thin, sharp bladed knife for best results.

Linked to:
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Monday, March 28, 2011

Preparing For a Major Milestone





We spent our first wedding anniversary at a Baltimore Ravens game...

On our second anniversary, we watched cops chase a car thief through
our backyard (that's a story for another day)...

Sooo... our tenth anniversary is happening this year.

Guess what we're planning on doing? Anyone?

Find out and enter to win a gift pack worth $100 HERE!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Menu Plan: 3/27-Hurry Up, Spring!



Hello... Spring? Would you come back, please?? That one day you gave us two weeks ago simply wasn't enough for me! Well, in the meantime...

Here's what's hittin' our table:

Sunday:

B-Cereal, Applesauce, Milk
L-Scrambled Eggs, Tater Tots, Fruit
D-Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa's

Monday:

B-Maple Raisin Oatmeal, Milk
L-P, B, & J, Apple Slices, Water
D-Vegetable Lo Mein

Tuesday:

B-Mixed Berry Muffins, Oranges, Milk
L-Parmesan Noodles w/ Carrots, Juice
D-Tater Tot Casserole

Wednesday:

B-Mixed Berry Muffins, Yogurt, Juice
L-PB Raisin Smiley Toasts, Apples, Water
D-Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas, Corn

Thursday:

B-PB Toast, Oranges, Milk
L-Egg & Cheese Burritos, Berries, Water
D-Chicken Noodle Soup w/ extra carrots, Cinnamon Rolls

Friday:

B-Smoothies, Toast
L-Cheesy Beans & Rice, Water
Saturday:

B-Yogurt Muffins, Sausage Links, Fruit
L-Ramen Noodles w/ Cheese, Fruit
D-Carnitas Soft Tacos

*All pizzas on our menu plans from now until Easter will be MEATLESS in keeping with our Catholic tradition.

I was SO proud of myself for having NEXT month's four weeks of menu plans all made up, oh, almost three weeks ago. BUT... the danger of that? I've scored some fantastic deals on "other things" over the past couple weeks and I'll be doing some tweaking. But that's okay! That's all part of the process.

How about you? Do you adjust your menu plan based in part on the deals you find?

This post is linked to Menu Plan Menu.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Progress for the Unborn


Fridays are so wonderful, are they not?

Not only is the weekend knocking at our door, it's also the day Amy hosts Finer Things Friday. I LOVE a post (and all those linked up!) that celebrates the simple joys of life.

This week? Well, my kids are still cute, my recipes still yummy, and Spring still very welcome. ;) But...

The finest thing I can think of to celebrate today?


What does this mean? Well, here are just a few things:

  • In a number of states, lawmakers are considering bills that would ban elective abortions after 20 or 21 weeks of pregnancy.
  • In Ohio, there's been a hearing on an even tougher measure that would outlaw abortions after the first medically detectable heartbeat - as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
  • In Texas, a bill passed by the House would require that pregnant women have an opportunity to view a sonogram image, hear the fetal heartbeat and listen to a doctor describe the fetus.
  • In more than 20 states, bills have been introduced to restrict insurance coverage of abortion.
  • In Virginia... lawmakers last month passed a bill requiring abortion clinics to be regulated on the same basis as hospitals. Abortion-rights group said this could entail higher costs and force several clinics to close.

For me, and many other pro lifers, this is, of course, nowhere near enough.

But it IS progress.

And THAT, my friends, is a finer thing, indeed.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Misleading Labels: Corn Syrup in Disguise

Um, I hope you can read backwards. ;) Long, long story, but the only camera I can use right now is the one built into my laptop... and it results in a mirror image. I'll help clarify things, though...

Here's the thing. I've told you all before that I'm unwilling to get completely bent out of shape over the whole HFCS thing. This remains true. And, to be fair, I expected to find sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup in "Sweetened Lime Juice."

But, I don't know, I think this is misleading:

(That says "Contains 100% Juice", in case it's hard to make out.)

The full ingredients follow:

(Darn near impossible to read, I know. Here you go: Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Concentrated Lime Juice, Sodium Metabisulfite, Blue 1)

Listen. I totally realize that it is MY job as a consumer to read labels. And I understand that perhaps "Contains 100% Juice" isn't really a lie, since there IS juice in there.

But I still say it's misleading to print "Contains 100% Juice" in the largest font, right at the top. I'm guessing there is a fair number of people out there who might assume this bottle contains just, well, lime juice.

What do you think? Irresponsible labeling? Buyer beware? Let's chat about it in the comments.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Peril of Having a Cute Baby


"Oh, aren't YOU just the cutest thing in the world???"

"I just want to take that little one home with me!"

"Aw, just look at that adorable little girl!"

"She is the most precious thing..."


They hear it all the time. The one everyone's talking about? Yeah, she doesn't much notice, though she usually offers a sweet, big-eyed smile. Her siblings? They hear every word. And, so, yesterday, at CVS...

"Oh, I think you're the cutest little angel I've ever seen!" from a young lady working there.

Her significantly older co-worker amended, "Oh, I see cute times three right there!"

The first lady stammered, "Oh, well, of course, yes, all three are so cute!"

My oldest, my son, spoke up:

"G. is a cutie pie!"

Both salesladies assured him that they're all darling.

He continued, "But G's so cute! She's the cutest! Everyone says so." And with that, he walked off, innocent smile still in place.

Ouch.

That's what they hear. All. The. Time.

G. IS cute. She looked like the Gerber baby when she was younger and still has ridiculously long-lashed, giant blue eyes. She's a charismatic little flirt and charms men and women, young and old.

BUT...

My two older children aren't chopped liver. And, while I KNOW that babies and precocious toddlers can be appealing little magnets, we can't forget their older (and more aware, I might add) sibs.

I'm working hard to make sure they know how wonderful (and adorable and lovable and clever and...) they are. And I promise, should I ever meet you in real life, to never leave your older children out.

Lent '11: Letting Go of Judgment, Challenge 3

I continue to be excited to be taking on this challenge for Lent. I truly believe that, for me, there is so much more value in this journey than there would be in, say, giving up cheese (the thought of which, I admit, nearly sends me into convulsions of withdrawal...)

Did you participate last week? Even if you didn't, I'd love to have you participate along with me at any time. There are absolutely no rules or requirements for this Lenten journey.


Are you ready for our Week 3 Challenge?

On my original "I Vaccinate, Cuddle, and Drink Diet Coke... and So?" post, I received this fantastic comment from Amy:

My husband (and a dear friend) will quell 'near arguments' about such things by saying, "This isn't a matter of faith and/or morals".

It has been running through my mind ever since.


Here's our challenge this week...

When you feel that initial knee-jerk judgment pop up after hearing/seeing/reading something that goes against YOUR grain, ask yourself: "Is this a matter of faith or morals?" If it's not, try to allow it to roll off your back.


And then come back to see me next Wednesday so we can talk about it and get a new challenge, okay? (I'm going to try to note down at least a couple of examples of this in my life over the next week... feel free to share only one example or as many as you can come up with!)

Button design by the spectacular Sidnie

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lent '11: Letting Go of Judgment, Challenge 2 RESULTS



I was thrilled to read the results from Week 1 of those of you taking on this challenge for Lent. I am so inspired to hear the progress we are making, side-by-side, as we truly listen to our sisters in Christ and try to open our minds and hearts without judgment. (It can be hard, can it not?)

Week 2's challenge was this:

Challenge 2: Free-write for five minutes. Defend a different choice or view. (For example, I could write about being against vaccinations or circumcision.) Let yourself see the "other side" just for a few moments.

Here's my attempt:

Mealtimes aren't meant to be battlegrounds. It is more important to me that my children eat SOMETHING and that we have happy conversation than it is to insist they eat all the things I do. I mean, really, how much does it really matter if my 6yo eats cabbage or salmon? It's not worth sweating the small stuff. I think setting firm guidelines for eating can lead to bad relationships with food. I don't want it to be a power struggle, so I'd rather just make the Eggos and chicken nuggets I know he'll eat. Lots of kids are picky eaters and they turn out just fine. If the pediatrician is worried, we can always do a vitamin supplement. I'm not...

And that was five minutes. You know I'm honest since I stopped mid-sentence.

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know I don't really think that way. In fact, I wrote a whole series on "Raising Good Eaters." I stepped on some toes, as you can see in the comments. That's okay, though.

Anyway, I did realize, as I wrote this out, that I didn't feel "stupid" making these arguments. I get it... I do. It's not how I'm going to do things- and I remain unconvinced that it's the healthiest way to go- but we all make choices. I let my kids eat Taco Bell last Saturday night (a promised reward after completing several weeks on a star chart) and I know I have readers who probably want to vomit just reading that. It's alright.

My apologies if you thought I was going to go the tough route and write a pro-choice piece this week. I just cannot do that. For me, it's an issue of faith and morality. More on that in a later week.

Enough about me!

Did you participate this week? I'd love to read what you wrote! Link up below or tell me about it in the comments:




Pain in the Neck


Please help me. That's what I look like right now.

I don't know WHAT I did while I was sleeping last night, but I woke up with a terrible pain in the right side of my neck. I'm known around here for having a pretty high pain tolerance, but this is really messing up my day!

It's a good thing my one year old is fiercely independent, because I can't carry her very well right now. I can't turn my head to the right, either... Seriously, I planned my route running errands this morning so I didn't have to rely on looking right. That's BAD! And not particularly safe, for that matter.

Advice???

Here's what I've tried:

Not looking right. Not raising my right arm more than necessary.

Other ideas? Ice? Heat? Medicines? Magic spells?

I'm so rarely injured (well, except for my klutzy bruises), I have no clue what to try.

I'm desperate for your help! Thanks!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Muffins




It is not often that Twitter fails me, but it happened on Sunday. No one had an Oatmeal Raisin muffin recipe for me. Boo hoo! No worries... just another opportunity to get to work creating. And create I did.

This muffin is not too sweet and not too "grainy". The yogurt helps do great things to the oats and the spices pair well with the raisins. Nothing too funky, flavor-wise, here, so this should be a crowd pleaser...



Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons coconut oil (or butter), melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup raisins

Combine oats and plain yogurt in a bowl and allow to sit for a half hour or so. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir in brown sugar, coconut oil (or butter), and eggs. Fold in yogurt/oat mixture. Fold in raisins. Batter should be quite thick, but if it's too difficult to work with, feel free to stir in up to two tablespoons of milk. Spoon into greased muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes.

Yield: 12 standard muffins or 9 "big" muffins. (I like to fill my tins very full and let them rise high. But that might just be me. ;))


Linked to:
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Menu Plan: 3/20-The 1yo Ate All My Broccoli


I told you all I'd let you know what I was planning, fasting-wise, so here you go: I am fasting every Wednesday up until dinnertime. I AM allowing myself water, black coffee, and a vitamin. So far I've found it to be very powerful and prayerful. I have also found that, while Wednesdays aren't terribly tough for me, I wake up starving (and grateful for breakfast!) on Thursdays.

Yesterday's brunch made my whole house smell fantastic... a little bright spot during a somewhat challenging weekend. Here's what's hittin' our table:

Sunday:

B-Cereal, Yogurt, Juice
L-PW's Cinnamon Baked French Toast
D-Hot & Sour Peanut Noodles w/ Shrimp & Broccoli (Truth? The 1yo got almost all the broccoli... which was perfectly fine with the 5yo, but a bummer for me!)

Monday:

B-Strawberry Vanilla Oatmeal, Milk
L-P, B, & J, Cheese & Crackers, Juice
D-Creamy Marsala Noodles, Green Beans

Tuesday:

B-Oatmeal Raisin Muffins, Applesauce, Milk
L-Tomato Soup w/ Noodles, Grapes, Water
D-Spanish Rice w/ Corn & Chicken

Wednesday:

B-Oatmeal Raisin Muffins, Cheese, Juice
L-Egg Salad on Toast, Creamsicle Smoothie
D-Pizza Paninis, Broccoli


Thursday:

B-C/S Toast, Apples, Milk
L-Mac & Cheese w/ Broccoli, Juice
D-Hot Dog Chili, Corn Muffins

Friday:

B-Smoothies, Fruit
L-Cheesy Beans & Rice, Water
D-Salsa Cheddar Pizza*

Saturday:

B-Cinnamon Rolls, Hard Boiled Eggs
L-Grilled Cheese, Fruit
D-Spaghetti, Cheese Bread, Green Beans

*All pizzas on our menu plans from now until Easter will be MEATLESS in keeping with our Catholic tradition.

While I absolutely adore trying new, fancy things and exploring new flavors, I'm also loving our simple, basic Lenten plan for meals this year. I may make this an annual tradition...

How about you? What are you serving up this week?

This post is linked to Menu Plan Menu.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ten Minutes

I had accomplished so very much that morning... baked fresh bread, brownies, and more. Sorted, boxed, and labeled six sizes worth of girls' clothes. Vacuumed. Two loads of laundry. Clipped and organized coupons. My, my, wasn't I an impressive one.

It had to be done, see. I knew I had errands to run that afternoon, after nap and school.

Hurry, hurry, rush, rush. Go play now, kids. Yes, I'll help with the princess dress. Yes, that is a corner piece for puzzle. Yes, I'll fix your headband. Now, run along now, Mommy's working.


I had half an hour before I had to pull lunch together. Half an hour where I could get all that laundry folded and put up. Half an hour where I could mop the kitchen floor that sorely needed it. Thirty minutes to pour one more cup of coffee and then scrub the pot.

I gave them each ten minutes.

Ten minutes of uninterrupted Mommy time. Ten minutes to do whatever each wanted with me. Their choices. My time.

And, oh, how much focus they put into their decisions. They pondered. They weighed and, finally, selected...

I read Elmo's 12 Days of Christmas... many, many times.

I helped bring a giant coloring page to life...

I sorted edge pieces so we could put the Transformers together.

The laundry, my dirty floor, and the stained coffee pot? They're all still there. They're not going anywhere. But there will come a day when my ten minutes might not be viewed as such a treasure...

Best half hour I could have spent.

Linked to Finer Things Friday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kristin's Vintage Garden Review


Can I tell you something I just LOVE??

Handmade accessories.

Something else I love?

Women starting their own businesses and sharing their gifts and talents with the rest of us!

So when Kristin was looking for bloggers to review a Bloom from her new shop, Kristin's Vintage Garden, I was more than happy to volunteer!

Such cute things! I love the natural fabrics and textures she uses for these Blooms:

Soft fabrics and neutral colors make these Blooms very versatile.

It was an ugly, rainy day when I tried mine out for you all, so I didn't get the pretty, sunlit shots I was hoping for. Still...
Kinda cute, right? This is how you'll find me many a day... hair not done, jeans, a tank, and an old sweater coat.

I pinned it right directly in my hair here. Bear in mind, I didn't "do" anything with my hair so this could, certainly, be MUCH cuter!

I felt a touch silly wearing my one year old's headband here, but I do really like the way the Bloom looks perched there!

And here's how I might wear it were I headed off to church or someplace where I try not to wear an old sweater coat. I love how this adds interest to a simple finger knitted scarf!

These Blooms are so fantastically affordable at just $5 each! Even sweeter? Kristin has kindly offered a discount code to any of my readers! To save an additional 25%, just use coupon code "JESSIELEIGH" at checkout on her site. How fun!

Are you ready to add a little Spring to your wardrobe?


Linked to Things I Love Thursday.

Lent '11: Letting Go of Judgment, Challenge 2


It is so wonderful and freeing to be taking on this challenge for Lent. I am absolutely stunned how much impact this is having in my everyday life. I find myself feeling so much more open-minded and, quite simply, at peace. What a beautiful consequence!

Did you come along for the journey last week? Even if you didn't, I'd love to have you participate along with me at any time. There are absolutely no rules or requirements for this Lenten journey.

Last week's challenge involved hearing someone out who has a different opinion from you.

This week's challenge can be done all on your own. It should take you five minutes. Ready?

Challenge 2: Free-write for five minutes. Defend a different choice or view. (For example, I could write about being against vaccinations or circumcision.) Let yourself see the "other side" just for a few moments.

The idea here is to explore a different thinking process. The goal, again, is NOT to have your mind changed or even challenged. Allowing ourselves to fully immerse our thoughts in the "other side of the debate" is good for us! It encourages intelligent, critical thinking skills and forces us to set emotions aside for the moment.

Here are just a few topics to give you a jumping off point. You are more than welcome to use one, but please do not feel limited to this short list:

  • To vaccinate or not to vaccinate
  • To circumcise or not
  • Breast or bottle?
  • Pro-life or pro-choice?
  • Co-sleep? No?
  • Cry-it-out? No?
  • Homeschool? Private school? Public school?
  • Drive a big SUV? A hybrid?
  • ...it could go on and on!

Feel free to leave more suggestions in the comments, if you are so inclined.

Give it a try. And come back here next Wednesday so we can talk about it and get a new challenge, okay?

Button design by the spectacular Sidnie

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lent '11: Letting Go of Judgment, Challenge 1 RESULTS



I think there are a few of you joining me in taking on this challenge for Lent. This delights me!

Last week's challenge was this:

Challenge 1: Ask a woman with differing or opposing views how she made her choice. This is not an opportunity to debate. For this challenge, you are just listening.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I realize I used the words "woman", "she", and "her" in that challenge, which might make it seem odd that I asked a man. But I did. Here's why: I figured if I'm asking you to come along on this journey with me, I owe it to you all to not cop out with some easy question. I asked a hard one. One where I knew it would be hard for me to keep my mouth shut and just listen. But I did.

Here goes:


"Can you tell me a little bit about why you're pro-choice?"

(If you know anything at all about me, you know I'm vehemently and unapologetically pro-life. Still, I like this man. He's smart. And he's married to a good friend of mine. I heard him out.)

"I'm pro-choice because there's no perfect answer, but I believe in giving women the right to decide what's best. I mean... it's not like I want to think about babies dying, JL, or that I don't think they matter. But I know there are times... Well, here. My sister. She got pregnant young. You know my dad's a church leader. My parents would never have forgiven her. She pondered killing herself but, because she was able to end the pregnancy, she found the strength to go on and she never had to face our parents judgment and hate. It's hard. They're so conservative. Well, you are too, I guess. But she was trapped. And so, when I think of the fact that without that option, I would have lost my sister, yeah, I'm glad it's legal."

There you go. Now, you know, of course, that I could refute a lot of that with my own views.

That wasn't the point.

It was amazing to me how much people will share when you're just listening. When there's no debate. When you put judgment on hold. And, really, when you view it as an opportunity to learn and show compassion, it's not that hard to stay silent. Did anything he said change my views on abortion? Not one bit. But it was eye-opening to learn how his life experience had shaped his views.

The most powerful thing to me?

His sister was, essentially, driven to have an abortion because of how deeply she feared her parents' judgment.

Now there's a lesson to take away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Did you participate this past week? How did it go?

If you blogged about it, please link up below so I know to visit you. If you prefer, tell us about your experience in the comments.






Blueberry Pie Oatmeal

I am the unofficial queen of coming up with creative ways to serve up plain ol' oatmeal. My son declares each of my creations his new "favorite ever!", so it's easy to stay motivated. This oatmeal has wonderful flavor and interesting texture, thanks to the graham cracker crumbs on top. There IS added sugar, since I'm replicating blueberry pie here, but it's still less than you'd find in a "flavored packet" you might buy. And the blueberries are real. I made this with frozen berries, since that's what I had, and they affect the color of the oatmeal. Fresh would have less impact on that, if you're bothered by the purplish tinge...

For each serving, use...
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup water
  • a few drops vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup blueberries, heaping
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon graham cracker crumbs

Add all ingredients but cracker crumbs (reserve a few blueberries for garnish) to a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until oatmeal is cooked. Spoon into serving dish and top with graham cracker crumbs and a few blueberries. Enjoy your "blueberry pie" for breakfast!

Linked to:
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kids and Guns


"I'm at C's house," one little boy pretends to talk on a walky-talky to another, "should I shoot C. or her house?"

"Shoot!" comes the reply.


"C. or the house?" he asks again, then fires an imaginary rifle.


C. is my daughter. She is five and still so small she needs to sit in a car seat, even on the school bus. She doesn't hear. I don't think.

I know they're just pretending. I do not fear for my daughter's, or my home's, safety.

STILL.

I don't think I'm hyper-sensitive about these things. I don't worry about water guns or that Wii game where they shoot the cans. I even confess that it makes me giggle that our one year old is an amazing shot with the Nerf gun.

But I will not permit my children to pretend to shoot and kill each other. And it made me upset to hear this little boy suggest such a thing.

I admit it- I told the bus driver and got him in trouble.

What are your thoughts? Where do you stand on letting kids play with guns or pretend to shoot? Am I too uptight? Too permissive? Where do you fall on the spectrum?

image source

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Menu Plan: 3/13 - Pondering More Fasting


Ash Wednesday was a wonderful time of prayerful reflection for me this past week. Because I was nursing last year and pregnant the year before, it had admittedly been a long since I fasted. It was a powerful thing for me and I'm pondering doing a "mini fast" every Wednesday throughout Lent (and, of course, fasting on Good Friday.) I'll let you know what I commit to!

For this week, I'm realizing that there's not a whole lot of meat going on. And I'm totally content with that. Here's what's hittin' our table:

Sunday:

B-Cereal, Applesauce, Milk
L-Pancakes, Sausage Links, Apple Slices
D-Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa's

Monday:

B-Peanut Butter Oatmeal topped with peanuts, Milk
L-Egg Sandwiches, Apples w/ Cheese, Juice
D-Poor Man's Chicken Parm Sandwiches w/ Green Peppers

Tuesday:

B-Banana Bread, Applesauce, Milk
L-Buttered Noodles, Oranges, String Cheese, Water
D-Beans & Franks, Corn

Wednesday:

B-Banana Bread, Yogurt, Juice
L-Hot Dogs on Bread, Apples, Milk
D-Penne w/ Garlic, Tomatoes, & Goat Cheese


Thursday:

B-PB Toast, Apples, Milk
L-Cheesy Taco Fries
D-Vegetable Soup w/ added mixed vegetables, Cheese Quesadilla

Friday:

B-Smoothies, Toast
L-Cheesy Beans & Rice, Water
D-Tomato & Green Pepper Pizza*

Saturday:

B-Ham, Egg, & Cheese Bagel Sandwiches
L-Ramen Noodles, Fruit
D-Hot & Sour Peanut Noodles w/ Broccoli & Shrimp

*All pizzas on our menu plans from now until Easter will be MEATLESS in keeping with our Catholic tradition.

How about you? What are you serving up this week?

This post is linked to Menu Plan Menu.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Humbled Again


There's nothing I can say.

The flooding our town has faced in the past week had us as the lead story on the eleven o'clock local news each night.

I've whined about it myself here and there. I've wrung my hands worrying about all the driving around my husband does for his job.

It is nothing- NOTHING- when we see what has happened to our brothers and sisters across the sea.

And so, rather than share my super awesome tip for entertaining littles in the cranky evening hours (probably next week, folks), I'll just leave it at that.

I've, once again, been humbled.

And I am praying.

The image above is my town. As I said... nothing.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What My Minivan Says About Me


I drive a minivan. I do. And that's handy, because I like sitting "up high" and it's easy to fit the kids and any necessary gear.

In a recent conversation with a neighbor, I was made aware of all the "image issues" with driving a minivan. I apparently live in a bubble, because I had no idea I was making such a bad impression through my vehicle choice! (It should be noted that she was sharing why she disliked driving hers, not specifically calling me out.)

I've thought about it. Mulled it around. Here's what I've determined. Here's what my minivan says about ME:

  • I have a family. It's the whole reason we got it, as is the case for many. Before I had three kids, I didn't see much need for it.
  • I'm frugal. We get better gas mileage in our minivan than we would in a large SUV. That's a good thing.
  • I'm safety conscious. Yep, one of our number one factors in considering our last vehicle purchase was its safety rating.
  • We're an active family, but we "off road" on foot, not wheels. I'm glad to have a vehicle that can easily hold our hiking gear, but we've no need for something that can bounce through the mud.
  • I accessorize on my person, not my car. My minivan doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles. Truth be told, I was kind of irked it came with a DVD player; we've traveled extensively and used it once. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with liking fancy features on your mode of transport... but, if you look at mine, you'll see it's not a priority.

So there you go. That's what I'm thinking people see when they watch me drive by in my minivan. Well, that and a friendly lady who will wave with her free hand since it's never busy texting. ;)

And I'm okay with that.

How about you? What do you figure your vehicle says about you?

This post is linked to Things I Love Thursday because I LOVE my minivan and I love what it says about me!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Prayer For the Unborn


I am fasting today.  It is Ash Wednesday, and I believe it's an important
sacrifice. I'm also spending much of my day in prayer for the unborn.

Whether you choose to fast or not, would you please join me in praying
for the innocent? In praying that, one day, we all may recognize the
sanctity of life?





Almighty God, our Father,
you who have given us life
and intended us to have it forever,
grant us your blessings.

Enlighten our minds to an awareness
and to a renewed conviction
that all human life is sacred
because it is created
in your image and likeness.
Help us to teach by word
and the example of our lives
that life occupies the first place,
that human life is precious
because it is the gift of God
whose love is infinite.
Give us the strength to defend human life
against every influence
or action that threatens or weakens it,
as well as the strength
to make every life more human
in all its aspects.

Give us the grace...

When the sacredness of life
before birth is attacked,
to stand up and proclaim
that no one ever has the authority
to destroy unborn life.

When a child is described as a burden
or is looked upon only as a means
to satisfy an emotional need,
to stand up
and insist that every child is a unique
and unrepeatable gift of God,
a gift of God
with a right to a loving
and united family...


Almighty Father,
give us courage to proclaim the supreme dignity
of all human life and to demand
that society itself give its protection.
We ask this in your name,
through the redemptive act
of your Son and in the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

(prayer source)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lent '11: Letting Go of Judgment, Challenge 1



I am so delighted to be taking on this challenge for Lent. I am even more thrilled to have some of you coming along on the journey with me. My hope is that our minds and hearts might be opened a bit and, in turn, that we may be freed from some of our judgmental thoughts.

Are you ready? I promised you challenges that would not take a lot of time and that would fit with any mindset. So here we go. Our very first step on the path...

Challenge 1: Ask a woman with differing or opposing views how she made her choice. This is not an opportunity to debate. For this challenge, you are just listening.

The idea here is to hear someone out. The goal is NOT to have your mind changed or even challenged. You are certainly not expected to believe everything she says is truth or right for your family. However, allowing someone to share the "why" of her decision may help open your heart to the idea that she, too, has her reasons.

You can ask someone in real life. You can call someone on the phone. You can pick her brain on Twitter. You can send out an email. Their answer can be as long or as short as works for you both.

It can be any issue, from "Why do refuse to eat soy?" to "How did you decide to sleep train?" to "When did you decide to only wear skirts?" to "What inspired you to boycott Amazon?", etc.

Give it a try. And come back here next Wednesday so we can talk about it and get a new challenge, okay?

Button design by the spectacular Sidnie

Oh, Black Coffee, How I Love Thee...


... let me count the ways.

  1. It is quick. Seriously. You pour it in a mug and roll. That's it, people.
  2. It is easy. There is no magic formula here. No "two teaspoons of raw sugar and a splash of heavy cream" or whatever. Again... pour it in a mug. Roll.
  3. It is hot. If you're in the habit of steaming your milk, it won't make your coffee cool. But that stuff from the fridge? Yeah... add that and it's not hot enough for me.
  4. It tastes like... coffee! Not whipped cream. Not cinnamon and nuts. Beautiful, blessed coffee.
  5. I don't have to crowd around the "milk and sugar" table if I want a cup after church. This saves me valuable time as I'm herding three small children. (Note: I often skip the coffee since, as I mentioned, I am herding three small children. This makes me sad.)
  6. People never mind getting my coffee. See #1 and #2. They know they're not going to mess it up. I'm an easy customer.
  7. I never worry that people won't have my preferred add-ons. If they have coffee, I'm happy.
  8. It surprises people. Seriously. You'd be amazed how many people are shocked when I say, "Just black, please." I think I look fluffier than that. ;)
  9. It impresses guys. Okay, so I could not care less about this one, but it was totally the truth in college. What can I say... maybe the guys around me were easily impressed.
  10. It's how my whole family drinks it. From my grandma to my parents to my siblings, we all take it the same way. And that's kind of fun.
But enough about me! How do YOU take your coffee?

Linked to Top Ten Tuesday

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lent '11: Letting Go of Judgment, An Intoduction



Letting go of judgment doesn't mean no longer having an opinion. It also doesn't necessarily mean you have to change your mind about any of your views and convictions. It isn't being spineless.

Letting go of judgment is a commitment to open your heart and mind and to consider the best in people. Embrace differences. Acknowledge that there may be more than one "right" way to do things or prioritize. Letting go of judgment can be hard.

But would you like to try to make some progress with me? Would you join me throughout this Lenten season and take on some challenges? They are not time consuming and each can be made to fit your own views and lifestyle.

Would you?

For many people, Lent is a time to "give something up"... sweets, red meat, TV, etc. There's not a thing wrong with that tradition. The idea of making a sacrifice that will keep your mind on Christ's ultimate sacrifice for us is a good one. But, this year, I decided that I believe God would rather see me give up some negative thoughts about my brothers and sisters than chocolate...

Giving up a judgmental attitude has the potential to create far more good than merely laying off the brownies.

Two weeks ago, I opened my heart to you all and shared both where I stand and how I feel. Your response was amazing and I was so encouraged to work hard to grow.

Won't you join me?

Every Wednesday, starting on March 9th (Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent), I will be issuing a challenge. If you decide to participate (and, oh, it would make my heart sing to not do this alone!), I'll post a link up the next week. If you have posted about your experience, please share your link there. Or, if you prefer, tell us about it in the comments.

Just think how beautiful it will be to put LOVE before JUDGMENT.

I am so very grateful to have you all to share this with. Thank you.

Button design by the spectacular Sidnie

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Menu Plan: 3/6 - Lent: Simple Menus, More Time for God


Menu plans for the next few weeks will be pretty simple. We are beginning Lent and, for me, this is a time for some sacrifice and prayerful focus. Less money spent means more available to give. Less time in the kitchen and stores means more time for prayer and reflection. For this season, this works for me...

Here's what's hittin' our table:

Sunday:

B-Cereal, Yogurt, Juice
L-Breakfast Burritos, Grapes, Juice
D-Ravioli, Broccoli

Monday:

B-Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
L-P,B,&J, Oranges, Pretzels, Water
Tuesday:

B-Chocolate Buttermilk Muffins, Cheese, Juice
L-Katie's Homemade Hamburger Helper, Corn, Milk
D-Lemon Pepper Chicken, Carrots

Wednesday: (Ash Wednesday- I will be fasting.)

L-Jelly & Cheese Sandwiches, Peach Jello, Water
D-Garlicky Clams Linguine

Thursday:

B-Jelly Toast, Cheese, Juice
Friday:

B-Smoothies, Fruit
L-Cheesy Beans & Rice, Water
D-Mushroom & Onion Pizza w/ Goat Cheese*

Saturday:

B-Scrambled Eggs w/ Cheese, Toast
L-Grilled Cheese, Fruit
D-Poor Man's Chicken Parm Sandwiches w/ Peppers

*All pizzas on our menu plans from now until Easter will be MEATLESS in keeping with our Catholic tradition.

How about you? Will you be doing anything differently during Lent?

This post is linked to Menu Plan Menu.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Key Lime Shortbread Muffins


It is SO true...

Necessity is the mother of invention.
I flat refused to pay $3.99 for a bag of white sugar at the store today. I'm out of brown sugar too, for the record. And low on honey. No worries– there's no shortage of sweetness in the Parenting Miracles household. ;)

Anyhow, all I had was powdered sugar. And, quite frankly, not a ton of it. But I had muffins listed on my menu plan for tomorrow morning and, what can I say, I'm stubborn. That's good news for all of you:

Key Lime Shortbread Muffins
  • 1/2 cup butter (I'm guessing coconut oil would be amazing in these.)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • juice of one key lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup all–purpose flour
Topping:
  • zest of one key lime
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all–purpose flour (The flour is important here; without it, you'll create frosting.)
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in medium bowl. In separate bowl, cream butter and powdered sugar. Add egg and lime juice and mix just until combined. Alternate add mixed dry ingredients and yogurt. Batter will be fairly stiff. For topping, mix ingredients together with fork or fingers until crumbly. Spoon batter into greased mini muffin tins. (This yielded 23 for me... I just couldn't eke out that last one.) Add a small amount of topping to each. Bake for approx. 18 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.


These are buttery, delicate, and not too sweet. The lime is discernible, but not overpowering.

Aren't you glad I didn't buy sugar?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Bus Buddy


I see your big brown eyes gazing fixed out the dingy window. I wave to you, smiling brightly, encouraging my one year old to wave her dimpled hand too.

I know you see me, though you don't smile or wave back. I know you do. I see it in the way your stare follows me even as the big yellow bus pulls away.

I also know I'm the first one who's waved to you today.

I want you to know how badly I want to gather you into my home, welcome you to my table, and bake you dairy-free cookies. I want to watch you play, or not, and wonder what thoughts are pouring through your busy mind.

I want you to know how very special you are and how very loved. If I could whisper in your ear, I would reassure you that you're perfect. You're exactly as you should be. You grow more amazing each day, sweet little boy.

It's easy for me, see, because I am just the woman outside the window. I am not the one who endures the day in and day out struggles. If you yell inappropriate things at the lunch table, I can shrug it off. If you refuse to say one single word at a birthday party, it causes me no grief or embarrassment. If you aren't "typical", well, I think that's just swell.

I want to hug your mama, too, though I know the act would put her off. She loves you so much. She's so tired. She wants amazing things for you and, sometimes, I think we focus so much on the amazing THINGS we want that we miss the amazing moments. Like the one day you showed me a picture you drew...

You ARE amazing, precious child, and I look forward to waving to you next Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Keeping My Diamond Sparkly


Here's one maintenance routine I'm actually really good about:

I get my engagement ring checked every six months. (How sad is it that my record for dental maintenance isn't nearly as good? *ahem*)

I have good incentive to do so; my husband purchased the coverage so that if anything happens- even the diamond falling out- they will fix it, no charge, as long as I've had my "checks". Fair enough.

I love how sparkly my diamond always looks after those check-ups too! I like to try to keep it bright and shiny in between times too. This isn't always easy given the fact that I pretty much take it off, um, NEVER.

My secret weapon?



An old, clean mascara wand. With a little mild soap, it's perfect for getting in all those little cracks and crevices! Just a few minutes here and there and my ring looks (almost) as sparkly as it did up there in that pic... on the day it first graced my finger.

Linked to WFMW