Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chicken Vegetable Noodle Soup

Blog, schmog. I wish I had more time for my computer. I have such funny stories to share and I am behind on reading my favorite sites. Of course, the internet will be here when my children are grown, so I will try to stay focused on the right things. :-)

I love this soup. It is so simple and easy, as well as yummy and nutritious. It's also light enough for spring and summer weather! I found the original recipe on, but I've adapted it to add more vegetables and whole wheat noodles. I decided to try the soup because I have trouble getting Hope and Elizabeth to eat vegetables. I thought if Elizabeth helped me make Dora's recipe, she would be eager to try it.

Her response: I want to help make it, but I'm not going to eat it. Okay?

Meal times present something of a battle these days. Regardless, the soup is really good!

Chicken Vegetable Noodle Soup

1 cup small noodles ( I like whole wheat macaroni. It’s easier for the little ones to eat.)
1 tsp olive oil
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1-2 small onions
2 ribs celery
Frozen green beans (as much as you like… I used about half of a 16 oz bag.)
1 box low-sodium chicken broth (more broth or water, if desired)
1-2 tsp Mrs. Dash seasoning (or ½ - 1 tsp thyme…or your favorite seasoning)
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken (use leftover!)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a stock pot. Add the carrots, onion, and celery. Stir occasionally, cooking until just tender. Add the broth, green beans, and seasoning. Bring to a boil and simmer for ten minutes. While the soup simmers, cook the pasta.

Add the noodles and chicken and return to a boil. Adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls and serve. Yummy!

As with most soups, amounts can be adjusted to suit individual tastes. The seasoning can also be adjusted. I recently bought Mrs. Dash for another recipe and thought it might be good in this. It was tasty and different.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009


This quiche makes a quick and easy Sunday brunch. I often prepare the mixture before church, then refrigerate. I put it in the oven when we get home, and it's done by the time clothes are changed and put away, and the table is set.

The recipe I started with called for egg substitute, but I use the real thing. Eggs are so tasty, versatile, and nutritious, with only about 75 calories each. (I know there are special medical circumstances that call for using the substitutes, which work fine in this dish.)

The recipe:

(Our last name) Quiche

1 onion
5 slices Canadian Bacon

Sauté together in a bit of water until onions are soft and brown.

Add 1 (small) bag of frozen broccoli to skillet with 2 TBSP water. Cover and cook 4-5 minutes.

Uncover. Add 4 tbsp all purpose flour. Stir. (You can skip the flour if you wish. I sometimes forget it, and the quiche still has a nice texture.)

Pour into a sprayed 9 x 13 pan. Combine 8 eggs and 1 ½ cups of skim milk. (More eggs and less milk, if desired.) Add ½ cup parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.. Pour egg mixture over broccoli mixture.

(Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, if necessary.)

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

Serve with fresh fruit and vegetables (carrots, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, grapes, pears... ).

Yield: 8 servings. About 5 points per serving.


Have a fabulous day!


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mamma Mia

A few months ago, I got an email from my friend Karen, with whom I used to teach. She was ordering tickets to see the musical Mamma Mia, and she wanted to know if I would like to join her and some other gals for a ladies' day out. Theater tickets do not normally fit into our feed-seven-people-on-one-small-income budget, but my husband said, "I want you to go. You deserve it."

It makes picking up his socks and underwear so much easier when he says things like that. And when he brings me flowers, which he does regularly. And when he does all the other sweet things he does for me.

Yesterday was the big day. I cannot tell you how much I was looking forward to this outing. We had lunch at a nice restaurant, then walked across the street to the Lexington Opera House, which is very fancy-schmancy, especially in the eyes of this small-town girl. It's simply lovely, and this was only my second visit. The first time, I took the kids to a children's production.

Despite the fact that we ordered tickets months ago, our seats were on the back row, which is WAY up high. The view was still spectacular, though. It was so nice.

I knew Mamma Mia was a big Broadway hit and that there was a movie, but I was not familiar with the plot line. I knew it used songs from ABBA, but had no idea how they fit into the show. I was not prepared to have so much fun!

The plot centers around a young girl about to marry who wants her dad to walk her down the aisle. The problem is that she doesn't know who he is. She finds a diary, finds the three gentlemen who could be the one, and invites them all to the wedding. Thus the fun begins.

The music was fabulous. I am not necessarily an ABBA fan, but it was hard not to enjoy these songs. The costumes. Oh my goodness, they were incredible. Lots of flash, lots of color, lots of 1970s. There was humor, too, and some PG scenes. I wouldn't take my children to the show, but it was good fun nevertheless. There were lots of scenes with young guys sans their shirts, and not a lot of skin from the ladies (short skirts and tank tops, but nothing sleezy), which struck me as odd. (Not that I think there should be scantily clad women running around on stage. It just seemed a bit out of place to see the fellas coming in half naked.) Then it occurred to me that the audience would be filled with mostly women. That was eye candy, or what Mark calls beefcake! Funny. I'm so slow to catch on. It didn't make my toes tingle, but I'm an odd ball.

The best part of the show actually came after the actors took their bows at the end. Before the applause was over, they went back into a long medley of songs from the performance. It was so fun and energetic. I think everyone left the theater humming their favorite tune and dancing a bit. We definitely got our money's worth. If you get the chance, go see the show. I think I'll look for the movie now. I hear Meryl Streep gives a wonderful performace.

(DISCLAIMER: I found this video on youtube. I did not take video of the performance I saw. I listened and obeyed when the director said no recording devices were permitted. The set on this video is what the set looked like yesterday, but the costumes I saw were a bit flashier.)

Blessings (and songs...),

Friday, February 27, 2009

Slow Cooker Hearty Beef Chili (and Fun Pictures of My Clan)

Some day, I will start taking pictures of food to post along with my recipes, but until then, I'll just keep posting pictures of my children. They're cuter than the dishes I prepare, anyway.

We took a field trip to the Newport Aquarium with our homeschool group today. We had so much fun, despite the fact that Elizabeth has been under the weather all week and was not feeling her best. She insisted she wanted to go. She fell asleep before we got to the penguins, which are her favorites, but she enjoyed the time she was awake. I took my crew and one of Hannah's friends. There were twelve families in all on the trip. We didn't have the first problem (unless you count the time I took a wrong turn and had to do a u-turn on the interstate). The kids -- and the adults -- were well behaved and fun! Thank God for a safe trip, and for the opportunity to do exciting things like this with my little ones.

I'll share more stories later.

Now, the recipe. This is another from Kraftfoods. I emailed to ask if I could reprint their recipes on my high-traffic (he, he) blog. I got a very nice response telling me I could do so as long as I copied the recipe exactly as it appears and included a nice little quote. Then I accidentally deleted the email without copying the quote. Talented, I am. The gist of it, though, was as follows. This recipe courtesy of Visit to sign up for their newsletter and family magazine, Kraft Food and Family.

I made this in the crockpot yesterday. I love chili, but I've never made it with salsa. This was super easy and super tasty. Nutritious, too. Try it on a busy day. If you live near me and are expecting snow this weekend, it would be great to warm up with after playing out in the snow, or after church, or after watching the UK game, if you can sit down and watch a basketball game without falling asleep. I remember that I used to enjoy that a great deal, but I don't seem to find the time these days. I digress. I was talking about food. Make this. It's yummy! Go here to print the recipe. (I don't know if it is totally lame to copy and paste recipes from another site onto my blog, but I didn't come up with the recipe on my own and can't take credit for it. It's still so good, though, and I want to share.)

What You Need
1-1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1 can (15 oz.) dark red kidney beans, drained, rinsed
1 can (15 oz.) light red kidney beans, drained, rinsed
1-1/2 cups TACO BELL® HOME ORIGINALS® Thick 'N Chunky Mild Salsa
1 can (16 oz.) no-salt added tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 onion, chopped
1 cup frozen corn, thawed, drained
1 cup KRAFT Mexican Style Finely Shredded Four Cheese
Make It

BROWN meat; drain. Add to slow cooker with remaining ingredients except cheese; stir. Cover with lid.

COOK on LOW for 5 to 6 hours (or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours).

STIR just before serving. Serve topped with the cheese.
TACO BELL® and HOME ORIGINALS® are trademarks owned and licensed by Taco Bell Corp.
Kraft Kitchens Tips
Serving Suggestion
Serve with a simple side of RITZ Crackers.
Serving Suggestion
For added color and flavor, top individual bowls of chili with BREAKSTONE'S or KNUDSEN Sour Cream, OSCAR MAYER Real Bacon Bits and/or coarsely crushed PREMIUM Saltine Crackers.

Enjoy! I'm preparing for another long night with my 2 year old, who is so over the sleeping thing. I'm open to suggestions if anyone knows the secret to getting her to go to bed at night and stay there until morning.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie, and A Funny Kid

I just wanted to share this funny picture of Hope. She bounced into the dining room like this at bedtime last night. I don't know what else to say. She's a funny child.

I also want to encourage you to try a new recipe.

A few weeks ago, Mark asked me to make chicken pot pie. Shortly after that, I received an email from Kraft Foods with a pot pie recipe. Hmmm. Maybe Big Brother really is watching, but hey, if he sends yummy recipes, could he be all that bad?

Actually, I already had a good pot pie recipe, but it called for using phyllo dough, which I have not mastered. I sometimes make it without the crust and we call it Chicken Pot ____. This recipe is much better. Much, much better.

The recipe calls for Neufchatel cheese, which is like fat-free cream cheese. I tried it once before in a dip recipe and it was bad, so I was very skeptical. Trust me, it works here. (You could use the real stuff, too, I would imagine.) I like some ff foods, but my husband and children won't go near them. They loved this. It also calls for Light Zesty Italian Dressing, which my grocery store was out of, so I used FF Caesar Italian. It worked. It really is delicious.

You can print the recipe here. Sign up here to receive weekly emails from Kraft with recipes and fun ideas. They also have a free magazine you can register to receive. We've found several favorites in it, including an ice cream cake made with ice cream sandwiches and cookies that my children often request for birthday cakes. (For what it's worth, I have no connection to Kraft Foods. I'm just sharing what I think is good information.)

Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie

What You Need

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup KRAFT Light Zesty Italian Dressing
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, cubed
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 refrigerated pie crust (1/2 of 15-oz. pkg.)

HEAT oven to 375°F. Cook chicken in dressing in large skillet on medium heat 2 min. Add Neufchatel cheese; cook and stir until melted. Add flour; mix well. Add broth and vegetables; simmer 5 min.

POUR mixture into deep dish 10-inch pie plate. Arrange pie crust over filling; flute edges. Cut 4 slits in crust to allow steam to escape.

BAKE 30 min. or until crust is golden brown.

Really, it's that simple. Please make this. (If you have a big family, make two. My crew downed all but one serving, which Mark quickly claimed for lunch the next day -- and he does not often ask for leftovers.)

Have a fabulous day!


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rainforest Trail Mix

We love trail mix at our house, and there are seemingly endless combinations you can use to make it. Here is another one you can try. I found it on the Nick Jr. website:. This is a really fun way to get children helping in the kitchen, even the little ones.

Diego's version:
3 cups mixed nuts
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup dried bananas
3/4 cup coconut
1 cup dried pineapple

Pour ingredients into a large bowl. Stir until evenly mixed. Enjoy!

My slightly different version:
1 container mixed nuts
1 really generous cup chocolate chips
1 bag tropical dried fruit
1 bag dried apricots (My children like these. I cut each apricot into fourths.)
1/2 can sweetened coconut flakes

Take Hope's hand out of chocolate chips. Take Elizabeth's hand out of chocolate chips. Repeat. Take Hope to table to color because she is not helping. Replace chocolate chips eaten by happy children. Help Elizabeth pour all ingredients into bowl. Help Elizabeth stir. Tell Elizabeth to stop picking out chocolate chips.

Store in airtight container.

If there is any left, we will have this with lunch tomorrow at our co-op. Yummy!


PS -- Check out this blog. I just read about it on a news site.

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's a Llama

Elizabeth loves animals. We have so many stuffed animals, plastic animals, animals of various shapes and sizes in our house. She plays with them all day. She carts them from room to room, she pretends with them, she rescues them. She really enjoys them. Hope likes them, too, but she doesn’t insist on being surrounded by her menagerie at night like Elizabeth does.

She knows about animals, too. She has learned from Diego and the Wonder Pets (seriously!). Robert also teaches her a lot. When we go to the library, he always checks out a book or two on her level to read to her. (Is that the sweetest thing? I did not teach him to do that.) We have lots of books and magazines about animals, so she has lots of resources. (In educator speak, that is called having a print-rich environment. The Kentucky Department of Education would approve.)

Last week, I was reading a condensed version of the Lion King to her. When we got to the page with Timon and Pumbaa (yes, I looked up how to spell those names), I told her Pumbaa was a warthog, but I didn’t know what Timon was.

“That’s a meerkat, Mommy.”

“How do you know that? Did Robert teach you?”

“Uhm, no. It just looks like a meerkat.”

Forget fifth graders. I’m not smarter than a four-year-old.

So anyway, I’m saying all this to get to a point. Mark had the day off today, so I took the opportunity to leave the older children at home with him, doing chores and school work, to have some time out with my little girls. I rarely get out with just Elizabeth and Hope. I remember why now. Elizabeth is a delight to travel with. Hope still needs some practice. But I so wanted to enjoy a little Mommy time with them.

Our first stop was the bookstore. I told the girls they could each get one book. We found the clearance table and each chose a nice book. I had one thing to look for, and then we could go. Then they saw the animals. Did I mention that my girls like animals. The books were dropped and they began to plead. I honestly did not mind giving in because, believe it or not, these are not children who go into a store and cry for everything they see. They often ask for books (or critters, of course).

We began to look through the choices. Hope was pulling Backyardigans and Wonder Pets off the shelf faster than I could pick them up, when I saw a Boots the Monkey doll. (For those who do not know, Boots is the best friend of Dora the Explorer. For those who do not know, Dora the Explorer is a fabulous cartoon for preschoolers, at least in this mom's opinion.) Elizabeth has been asking her grandparents for a Boots doll for two years. They have searched high and low. They’ve bid on eBay. They’ve Googled. There are gazillions of Dora dolls, but apparently her best friend Boots is not as popular. I was so excited.

“Elizabeth! Look! They have Boots!”

“Yes, and they have llamas!”

Llamas? I am certain that I did not know what a llama was when I was four, but hey, I couldn’t recognize a meerkat last week, so that’s not saying much.

“But don’t you want a Boots doll? You’ve been looking for one for so long.”

“No. I just want a llama.”

I should have picked up Boots, too, but by this point Hope was getting frustrated at me for not letting her have ALL the animals, and she began to wail. I just wanted to get out of Dodge. Hope doesn’t cry. She wails. I don’t know what else to call it. Maybe howling is a fair description. So howling, wailing, whatever. It was loud. In the quiet bookstore. I did what any loving mom would do. I stuck a paci in her mouth. (Please don’t tell me she is too old for a pacifier. I don’t care. When the paci is not there she reaches for her thumb or finger. I’d rather deal with the paci. We have other issues to work on right now. The paci will go when it goes.)

It didn’t work. She can wail around the pacifier. I have some talented children. I found a chair in the back and sat down with her, holding her tightly until she calmed down. Elizabeth picked out an animal for Hope and we headed to the checkout. But we had to pass the animal shelf again, and thus the wailing began again. All I could do was scoop her squirmy body up and scoot along to the front of the store. Elizabeth, who makes up for this good stuff at other times, walked quietly beside me, cradling her precious llama. I paid for our selections, with a crying (but no longer fighting) child in my arms and we left.

How special this was turning out to be.

We made another stop at Walmart, where Hope was able to remain calm enough not to alert the security folks. I even decided we would have some lunch together at Subway. Elizabeth wanted pizza, which she didn’t touch. Hope fought to stay awake. And I just sat back and smiled at my little beauties. They are so sweet. Even when it’s 3:00 a.m. and they want to color or eat raisins. Even when they have meltdowns at the most inopportune times. They are still incredible, all five of my children are. I am thankful.

My husband and my parents wanted Elizabeth to have the Boots doll. She’s wanted one for so long, and really doesn’t ask for big things. In fact, she doesn’t ask for much at all. So when Mark went out for a haircut this afternoon, he picked it up for her. (So sweet.) Once she saw it, she decided she would be willing to keep it. She’s tucked in bed now, surrounded by her squeaky mouse, her dolphin, her puppy, her llama, and Boots. A dozen or more animals are at the foot of the bed.

These days will pass too quickly, so I want to enjoy and remember them all. I don’t know what I’ll do when she starts asking for real animals. Mark my word – we are not having a squeaky mouse or a monkey in this house, and I don’t think we have room for a llama.



Saturday, February 14, 2009


I don't understand.

I don't understand why fathers and mothers are taken from children who need them. I don't understand why children must suffer and are taken from parents who love them. I don't understand.

Today, I attended the funeral of SB (no names since I don't have permission to share this story). He was the 46-year-old father of four and husband to a beautiful wife who loved and adored him. It was heart-breaking.

On Monday, members of our homeschool organization received an email saying one of our members, SB, had died unexpectedly. He was riding his bicycle to work, as I assume he did often, when he collapsed in the middle of the street. I think he had a heart attack, but I am not certain.

S and his wife K have four children ranging in age from 5-17. They are a homeschool family. S worked as an accountant for the city. They were active in the church. Their two older children compete on a swim team. They are good people and he was a good dad.

I don't understand why God took him. I know that God does not owe me an explanation. I know that we are not promised tomorrow. I know everything God does is good. But how can it be good to take fathers from children, husbands from wives?

I know we are supposed to be thankful for the years God gave S to his family and friends. I know we are to praise God for his sovereignty. The pastor today reminded us that S belonged to him (God) and not to us. I understand that.

But it still seems too much to bear. When K and the children walked in before the service today, I could not hold back my tears. My heart breaks for them. I believe K is strong and wise, and I believe she will be okay. I believe the children will work through this grief and continue to grow and prosper, making their mother proud and honoring their father's memory.

But it seems so wrong. Five-year-olds shouldn't have to attend their father's funeral. Seventeen-year-olds need their dads. Thirteen year old girls need dads. Eight-year-old boys, full of energy and intelligence, need to grow up with their dads. K needs and loves S. It's too sad.

I admit that I have faced very little personal tragedy in my life. I've dealt with divorce of parents and ALL the baggage that goes with it; I've dealt with personal and family trials, but nothing like this. However, before we met, Mark lost two children in a car accident. I cannot fathom the pain and sadness. He moved on because he had to. He had three other children to raise on his own. He could not fall apart. He treasures the memory of his oldest children. We speak of them often and keep pictures on the wall. He has recovered as much as possible. But I know it still hurts.

K will do what she has to do. But it breaks my heart that she has lost her partner. When two become one, what happens when one is taken away, especially suddenly, unexpectedly, and way too early? How does a body heal? How does a heart heal?

I don't understand.

I don't understand why Osama Bin Laden gets to live while really good people are taken. Why do men and women who murder their children, who neglect or abuse helpless little ones, get to continue eating and breathing while fathers who love their children, who provide for them, who lead them spiritually, who are good, are taken? How can that be good?

How can it be good that Mark lost his little ones? Why does God do that?

I love my Lord. I know my every breath comes from him. I know I am worthy of nothing but death and hell. I know that in biblical terms, none of us is good. I am not challenging God. I am just expressing my feelings with all honesty. I don't understand, and I am sad.

I admit that I am also scared. I am scared of what would happen to us if Mark were taken from us. It seems we just got started building our lives. (Four and a half years is such a short time.) I am scared of how we would make it financially, not to mention the incredible hurt and loss. I am scared of how I could continue to homeschool, which is so important to us. How would I raise the children and make important decisions? I am scared.

Oh, how it scares me to think of God taking me from my family. They need me. I know that. The older ones have already lost so much, and Elizabeth and Hope need their mother. Mark needs me.

Life is hard and uncertain. Oh, may I remember how short it can be, and learn to focus on the important things. May I be a better wife and mother. May I be a better friend, and better servant, a better Christian. May our family find a way to minister to K and her children.

I still don't understand. It still hurts. I cannot fathom what the coming days and months will be like for this family. How I pray that God will wrap his arms around them and comfort them as only he can. How I pray that God will provide financially such that their lives can continue in something of a normal fashion. I pray they can continue to homeschool, that the children can go to college, that they can continue to swim and do all the things they love. I pray that K finds joy and comfort, that her heart heals.

I also humbly pray that God will forgive my foolishness and help me to trust in him with all my heart and lean not into my own understanding. May I acknowledge him in all my ways, and may he direct my paths. May my children grow to do so as well.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Four Year Old

My sweet Elizabeth turned four years old today. What a joy she is to my life. She was also an important part of bringing our family together. I've told this story before, but I want to share it here.

Everything in my world changed the day I married Mark. I became a wife, a mom, and a Texan all in the same moment. I do not recommend taking on all three challenges at once. Seriously. Do not let love blind you. Take it slowly.

Dallas is a big, hot place. Living there is a lot different than living in a small mountain town. You must get on the interstate to go to the grocery store. You must drive 180 mph when you are on the interstate. The interstate is always under construction. The people who are in charge of roads and stuff are forever building huge, multi-layered clover leaf things (pardon my technical language) to make room for the traffic, which means there is only one tiny lane available on which to drive 180 mph with thousands of other drivers, drivers who do not allow for safe stopping distance and who don't care that you are new and are still adjusting to life in the big city. This is only the beginning. If you have to make major life changes, at least stay close to home to do it. But let me move past that part.

Imagine all the other changes and adjustments. I became Mom to three energetic, smart children who were not used to having a mom around to care for them. I came into a house that had been run by a bachelor trying to work full time and feed, clothe, and homeschool those three energetic children. Ladies, your home is not dirty or messy. Trust me. I didn't know how to drive anywhere at first, and I certainly didn't know any neighbors. Our church was on the other side of the city, an hour away (how do I always manage to do that?). (Another side note, in the Texas heat, I was the only ding-dong on my street who opened my blinds during the day. I hated the heat, but I needed light!) It was all crazy and I often felt very alone.

The adjustments were not easy for the children, either. It had been just them and their dad for some time. They were a team. They had survived the divorce together. They got through losing their older brother and sister in a car wreck. They were a tight-knit team. They loved having a new mom to love them. They loved that I was now the cook (with all due respect to Mark and his oatmeal with apple juice and other delectable dishes). But I was different. My rules were different. My way of cleaning, of homeschooling, of organizing, of doing EVERYTHING was different than they were used to. I was an extra set of eyes to see what they were getting in to! Did Dad really think they were going to obey this new lady? Right.

It often seemed like I was the outsider invading this peaceful circle. The way they did things might not have been perfect, but it worked for them and they didn't want me coming in and changing things.

As if learning to be a family was not enough, I got pregnant. If I didn't know better, I would insist it happened when Mark and I exchanged rings during the wedding. It was really that fast. (We love to tease our friend Kim, who gently warned us, "Oh, it takes a while for couples' bodies to get in sync. Be prepared that it will likely take you a while to conceive.") A Texas summer, three children, a new husband (!), and morning sickness, which I am certain was named by a man who obviously knew nothing about pregnancy, or else he would have known that the sickness does not only occur in the morning. Oh, and I was more homesick than I could ever imagine. It was not pretty those first few months.

Then Elizabeth came. She was beautiful and perfect and full of joy. Her siblings loved her right away, and she connected with them. I honestly think she was the bond that God used to bring us all together. We were a family. The us and them feelings did not go away over night, but there was something about having Elizabeth that took away any divisions. Even now, Elizabeth lights up when she sees her siblings and they love when she bounces into the room.

Before Elizabeth was born , Mark was offered a job in Kentucky. The company agreed to let him wait until after the baby came to start work. I cannot express how happy I was to be going home (with due respect to Texans...). After an unplanned, early C-section delivery, I came home from the hospital with the task of finishing our packing and getting us ready for the move. Mark and Hannah got a nasty bug which knocked them out and sent them to bed for several days, and Elizabeth was jaundiced and had to spend several days and nights in a portable tanning bed contraption to help her heal. It was up to the boys, who were 8 and 9 at the time, and me to pack, care for the baby, care for the sick, take care of the dog, and survive. (Did I mention that I was recovering from a C-section?) Again, it was crazy.

But we did it. God blessed our feeble efforts. We worked together. We grew closer. And, praise God, we made it home. (I insisted that I would have strapped Elizabeth to my chest and walked the entire 1000 miles.) Life is still crazy in our home. It's just a different kind of crazy. We love it, most days.

Elizabeth is certainly an important part who we are. Happy Birthday, my precious darling. Thank you for loving me, for teaching me about joy, for loving your Daddy and your siblings. Thank you for the light you bring to your grandparents' eyes, which melts my heart. Thank you for crawling in my bed in the middle of the night and whispering, "Mommy, can I sleep in your bed?" Thank you for snuggling up next to me and putting those tiny, precious hands on my face. I love you more than I ever dreamed possible. May God bless you and draw you close to himself, may he give you the joy of salvation and may you have many, many, many more joyful birthdays.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ice and Snow and Cold, Oh My

Oh, it has been an interesting week here in central Kentucky. The fun started on Tuesday last week (I think) with freezing rain that coated every surface and left a thick layer of ice. Wide spread power outages followed. I was awakened Tuesday night to a flash of light (still don't know what it was) and the sound of my garage door opening a bit. That happened two more times, then everything went quiet. It scared my socks off. Well, I wasn't wearing socks because I was in bed, but it really, really frightened me. I thought our fuse box (right term?) had caught on fire, so I woke Mark and sent him downstairs to check everything. Once he assured me that there was no fire, just broken power lines, I added an extra blanket to everyone's bed, opened my blinds so I could watch the dark, and tried to go back to sleep.

Hope decided it was more fun to play in the dark than to sleep (at 1:00 in the morning!), so I did not sleep. I added layers to her pajamas and watched the neighborhood while she played with Little Ponies in the dark. I have interesting children. Throughout the night, I saw frequent flashes of light as power lines around the area snapped from the weight of the ice. It was scary and fascinating at the same time. Hope did eventually go back to sleep, and so did I, but we were both up again before dawn.

We knew the storm was coming, and we tried to prepare. I asked Mark to stop at the grocery store on his way home from work on Monday to get a few supplies. I wanted to make sure we had plenty to eat if we got snowed in. He got home really late with his shirt tail hanging out and his hair all mussed. He looked rough.

"What's wrong? What happened?" I asked.

"I'm not the only person who stopped on the way home for essentials. Everyone has been listening to Bill Meck." He paused to take a deep breath. "I tried to get milk, but two ladies fought me for the last gallon. I thought I had it, but then an eight year old rammed me with a cart, so I gave up." He held up a mashed loaf of bread. "I did get bread though. Tell me we needed bread. I snatched it off the shelf as a snarky blonde woman was reaching for it. She said some nasty words and grumbled something about taking food from a pregnant lady, but I just kept going."

He was pretty pathetic. But I digress. We had plenty to eat, but we did not have an alternative source of heat. Mark got out early on Wednesday morning to look for a generator or heater, but you don't wait until the storm arrives to look for such supplies. There were none left in the region. Since we did not know how long it would last, we took the children to a motel. Our power was back on that night, but there are still people in the area without power. The ice storm was followed by a short snow storm that dumped about two or three inches of snow on top of the ice. Icing on a cake? Frosting on a popsicle? Crazy.

By the way, in the midst of feeding children and packing for the motel, my dad called from eastern Kentucky and reminded me that I have a brand new kerosene heater in his storage building. I used to live in a little house in the country. When I bought my home, I purchased a kerosene heater because little storms often kick the power off. When I married Mark and moved to Texas, I didn't think we would need the heater, so I asked Dad to hold on to it or pass it along to someone who could use it. When we moved back to Kentucky, I forgot about the heater. Hmph. It's in my garage now. Kerosene is smelly, but at least it will keep us warm if we are without heat again.

Saturday and Sunday brought warmer temperatures and lots of thawing, but there is still a thick layer of ice on my driveway and in my backyard. It's snowing again today, so I have two more inches of snow on top of the nice slick ice. At least the trees and other plants are okay now. It's amazing to see all the tree branches along the streets here. So many broke from the weight of the ice. I don't remember ever seeing trees and bushes completed coated in ice and bent over touching the ground. It has all been quite an experience.

I could say so much more, but it's probably only interesting to me. In all seriousness, the storm was a mere inconvenience for my family. There are others who truly suffered. Twenty-four people lost their lives in Kentucky. As many died from carbon monoxide poisoning as did from hypothermia. So tragic. Please continue to pray for those still without power or who have lost loved ones.

My crazy, er, darling sons are about to go out to sled on our frozen pond (backyard). If I don't spend the afternoon at the ER, I'll take pictures and post again.

Thanks to those of you who have asked where I've been. I love blogging, but it takes time and I really am trying to keep my home and school in order. The blog has to take a lower number on the priority list. I will try to be more consistent, though. I do love writing.


Monday, January 19, 2009

My First Award!

I have not been playing in blog-land much lately, but I have been working hard to keep my home and our school in order. Neither is perfect, but I am happy with how things are going. I'm struggling with the weight thing, but each day I get out of bed determined to try again. More on that later, though. Before my gang climbs out of bed and sees this lovely layer of snow waiting for them to play in, I want to talk about my first award. I'm a little embarrassed to say that it has taken me almost two weeks to acknowledge the award, but I know that both of the homeschooling moms who shared it with me understand and would encourage me to continue focusing on family first. That's part of what is so wonderful about them.

My thanks to Tiffany and Michelle for passing along this award:

There are some rules that go with it. You need to link to the person who gave it to you. Then, name seven recipients of your own. Since I am still somewhat new to blogging, I'm not sure I know seven other bloggers well enough, so I am going to share with:

Bonnie, who is funny and lovely (and whose name I really love); she is most definitely the boss;

Suburban Correspondent, who is smart and sensible; she makes me laugh and will make you laugh, too; and

Mary, who is busy and sweet, and whose girls are so beautiful!

I know there are many more lovely blogs out there, and I will want to give this award many times over as I discover them...and I will probably do just that.

Have a wonderful day. I have some yummy recipes to share when time allows and I hope to have pictures of all of us playing in the snow later today, too. It's less than an inch, but we've been so eager to see the fluffy white stuff that we will take this gift with joy and mittens.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

School Room

I love homeschooling, and I feel like I get better at it each year. (Let’s not think about those first couple of years. Just know that all the older children read and add well, and that is what matters.) We have never had a separate school room, so the children usually work in the living and dining rooms. As Hope and Elizabeth are getting older and more mobile and vociferous, though, managing all five children during the day is becoming more difficult. The little ones are becoming a distraction for the school children. Can you imagine being 11 years old and trying to find prepositional phrases while your 4 year old sister is begging you to play silly putty with her? (Can you imagine being 39 and trying to type a blog entry while your 2 year old is squirming in your lap, trying to push the keys and taste your coffee???)

I digress.

As last semester progressed, I realized something needed to be done. We either had to find another place for school work or lock Hope and Elizabeth in the bedroom and let them watch Nick, Jr. from 8:00 to 3:00 every day. Mark wasn’t so keen on the eight hours of television thing, even though I explained that all the Nick Jr. shows during that time are educational and the girls would be learning a lot about counting, reading, and speaking Spanish. He still wouldn’t go for it, though, so we had to have a plan B.

I couldn’t let the older children do school work in their bedrooms because there are too many distractions. I am certain that most other twelve year old boys would ignore the Lego containers and the Nerf guns and give their full attention to grammar rules and the Battle of Waterloo, but not my guys. They are weak. There would be no work completed. The little ones would not give Hannah any peace, either. They seem to think since all the Barbie dolls and puzzles are in the girls' bedroom, they should have access when they wish. Go figure.

Plan C. I have a tiny bedroom in the basement that I use to, uhm, store things. (Translation: All things I do not have time or space or energy to deal with go there.) We decided to turn at least part of that room into a school room. I worked during Christmas break to clear out enough room for a table and a desk. There is also a daybed in there so they can curl up and read when they wish. The room is not finished yet. I still have some cleaning/organizing to do, and I promised I would hang things on the wall and make it inviting, but I am pleased with how nicely it is turning out.

Being the brilliant mom I am, and knowing how my children behave when I am not looking, I took our baby monitor to the school room so I could hear what is going on when I am not there. I wanted to make sure they were not telling knock-knock jokes or arguing over who gets computer time first instead of doing school work. The funny thing is that the children seem to think the baby monitor is their personal intercom/CB radio system.

When Robert goes downstairs, he leans over and speaks into the monitor. “Breaker, breaker. This is Ramblin’ Robert. I have arrived safely at my destination, Mom. I’ll be starting my math right away.”

I hear all sorts of interesting reports.

“ Breaker 1-9. This is Bruiser and Cruiser. We’re coming up the steps, fully loaded. Clear the lanes, please.”

“I need a spelling test in aisle seven. Cancel that. Hannah is going to administer the test. I’ll bring it to the service desk for grading when I’m finished... Yes, I will check over it first.”

“We need a manager in the math department right away, please. Abel is having trouble with his algebra. We’ve got scraps of paper and eraser bits…and a few tufts of his hair all over the floor. You’ll want to bring a broom…and, uhm, three of those candy canes left over from Christmas.”

I try to fuss at them, but it really makes me laugh. Hey, it could be much worse. At least they aren’t trying to cover the monitor with a sweatshirt so I can’t hear when they are playing the gameboy or listening to the Taylor Swift cd which they snuck downstairs under the aforementioned sweatshirt. At least I know they are working when I’m not looking. Well, okay, they probably aren’t working the whole time, but assignments are being completed, and so far, the room has not been destroyed.

Oh, I must go. I’m being paged. I think someone is trying to buy a ticket for recess.

I’ll catch you on the flip side, good buddies. Over and out.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Headache Go Away-er

Last night, I got a headache that came on suddenly and sent me to bed. (I'm much better now.) Soon after I went to my room, Elizabeth came pouncing in and climbed onto the bed with me. She was holding something made from her mega-blocks.

She said, "Mommy, I made you something. It's a headache go away-er. It will make your headache go away." (She also calls it a headache get ridder of.)

Isn't that so sweet? She has such a tender, caring heart. Except when Hope comes near a toy Elizabeth is playing with...but we are working on that.

Elizabeth loves to help clean or pretend to clean with the (toy) supplies she got for Christmas, and I try to get her involved as much as possible. She loves to help Robert clean the bathroom, and she gets so excited when it's "big-cleaning" day. (Oh, may she keep that love for many years to come. May Hope develop the same affinity for housework!)

She folded a big stack of towels the other day and I told her what a great job she did. Her response was, "Robert and Abel taught me how to fold. They teach me lots of good things."

So sweet.

When Mark and I were sitting on the couch watching TV a few days ago, she marched up with some small metal buckets left from Easter baskets, and said, "This one is for mopping. This one has toilet cleaner. And this one is for my toilet wand."

Images of how clean my house will be when she is a teenager flashed through my mind. I looked at my husband, blinked back the tears of joy, and simply said, "I love her."

She is definitely full of character and heart.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

White Bean Chili (Crockpot)

Yes, we've been eating a lot of soup and chili lately, but they are so easy that I can't resist. I also love using my crockpot because there is less mess and it is less expensive to operate than the oven. Here is another meal that I hope you will make for your family. This makes a huge amount, so you may want to make less or plan to freeze several portions for later. In fact, I had planned to freeze half, but a wrinkle came along and I just served it two nights in a row. (There were no complaints!) I added a green salad and a pan of cornbread.

This is a wonderful dish, and it gives you a chance to eat some of those legumes you probably do not eat very often, like butter beans, black-eyed peas, and garbanzo beans (which I love). The original recipe is from Fix It and Forget It, but I always put my own spin on things. As with many of my dishes, remember that no amounts are specific and ingredients can be adapted to your family’s tastes. You may also want to increase the amount of the spices. Beans are really good for us, but they can be bland.

Make this. It is so good!

White Bean Chili
Makes 10-12 generous servings

1-2 lb ground beef and/or turkey, browned and drained (Use as much as you wish. I had about 1.5 lbs of beef in the freezer, so that's what I used.)
3 bell peppers, chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced (If you use garlic often, invest in the pre-minced stuff in the produce section.)
28-30 ounces chicken or vegetable broth
1 can each of butter beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), navy or great northern beans. (Remember, if you cook from dry, 1 can is about 2 cups.)
(I had kidney beans in the freezer, so I threw in some of those, too.)
4 ounce can chopped green chilies
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours.


(Side note: We've been so busy since school started back that I have not had time to play here in blog-world like I enjoy doing. I do have some stories to share and some things to add to my site. They will come when they come... I hope all is well in your world. If you visit, please leave a comment and let me know how you are doing. I love hearing from you and I appreciate the sweet ladies who often have something to say.

And now, it's almost time to go shopping. I love getting out early on Saturday so I have the store almost to myself and I can enjoy some peace and quiet. I may even treat myself to one of those fabulous warm pretzels from Sam's when I'm finished! Have a fabulous weekend! )

Friday, January 9, 2009

Breakfast Burritos

I saw an ad with a recipe for making breakfast burritos with egg beaters. I wanted to try it, but I wanted to use real eggs. Then I decided I wanted to add more vegetables. And I didn't want to buy fresh basil. So I really created my own recipe. Not a single bite was left on the table. (Of course, I doubled this recipe since I feed seven hungry people in the morning!) Let me know if you try this, and if you like it!

Breakfast Burritos
4 servings…all amounts approximate

4 eggs
1 cup frozen hash browns
½ onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1 handful fresh spinach, chopped
4 whole wheat tortillas
Your favorite shredded cheese
Fresh basil to sprinkle on top, if desired
Salsa, if desired

Spray skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add hash browns and onion. Cook about 9 minutes or until potatoes are brown. Add tomato and spinach to skillet. Combine eggs and pepper, then add to the skillet. Stir to combine, then cook until desired doneness.

Spoon egg mixture onto center of tortilla. Top with salsa, cheese, basil, (whatever topping you like…). Fold in opposite sides of each tortilla and roll up burrito-style.



Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I just learned that one of my former students died serving his country as a Marine in Kuwait on Saturday.

You can read the story here.

My heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bake

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bake

Please make this for your family. It is filled with good-for-you stuff and it is so tasty. We scraped the pan on this one. There was not a single bite left. So good.

(The original recipe for this dish came from Cook Once, Eat for a Week, but I made enough changes that I am comfortable calling this recipe my own.)

Amounts need not be exact.

1 (16 oz) bag frozen carrots, or a pound of fresh carrots, sliced.
3 medium sweet potatoes, baked**
1 egg
2 Tbsp sour cream (regular, low-fat, or fat-free will work)
¾ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp pepper
Your favorite shredded cheese

Steam the carrots until they are soft enough to mash, probably 8-10 minutes. (Steaming keeps more of the nutrients than boiling.) Scoop the flesh out of the sweet potatoes. Mash the potatoes and carrots together. (I mashed by hand. They can be lumpy.) Add the egg, sour cream, onion powder, and pepper, and blend. Pour into a 9 x 13 pan, coated with cooking spray. Top with shredded cheese. (You can also stir in the cheese, if you wish. Since I added ff cheddar to one corner for me and fiesta blend for everyone else, I kept it on top.)

At this point, you can cover and refrigerate to cook later in the day, or freeze for later. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

*I was not sure how this would work since we are used to sweet potato casseroles having brown sugar. It’s really tasty, though. This would work as a main dish on vegetable night or as a side dish. I served it with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, and spinach. I also made tuna patties (see post below).

**About baking the sweet potatoes. My friend Deb taught me years ago that you can bake potatoes in the crockpot. Just wash really well and poke a few holes in them. You do not need to wrap them or add water to the crockpot. Bake on low for 6 hours, or until the potatoes are nice and soft. We had baked sweet potatoes for dinner last week, so I made some extra and froze the flesh to use for this dish.



Tuna Patties

Tuna Patties

I intended to make salmon patties with dinner last night, but I could not read all of the “use by” date on the can, and Abel was convinced it said 2008. We threw the salmon out and I pondered what I was going to serve with dinner. I decided to try salmon patties made with tuna.

The recipe:

(Amounts are estimates.)

2 small cans tuna
2-3 Tbsp wheat germ
¼ cup cornmeal
¼ cup flour
1 onion, finely chopped
1 egg

Stir it all together. Form 8 small patties and place on a small cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. (I probably would have baked at 375, but they were in the oven with something else that needed 350.)

I am surprised at how good these were. I have always loved salmon patties and this was a close substitute. Yum!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chili with Squash and Beans Recipe

How are you doing with your weight loss efforts? What about other goals you set for the new year? Are you staying on track? My eating was not stellar last week, but I did lose a pound. Naturally, I want to lose five pounds a week, but that is not going to happen. We all know that losing slowly is the most effective way. A pound may not sound like much, but that is four sticks of butter -- and I am glad to have it gone from my waist! This week, I intend to pay more attention to serving sizes and try to reach for the vegetables rather than meat or bread when I need a second serving. I also plan to move more. With homeschooling, working with the children, and playing, er, working at the computer, I am on my bottom A LOT.

We tried a few new recipes last week. The split pea soup will not make it to our table again -- yuck. However, the chili with squash and beans...oh, you must try it. It's so simple, easy, and good for you, not to mention really, really yummy! We will definitely make this again, especially this summer when the squash and zucchini are taking over the garden. Let me know if you try it and what you think!

The original recipe for this dish came from Cook Once, Eat for a Week (2003 edition), but as always, I tweaked it a bit to suit our tastes. The recipe calls for almost 60 ounces of diced tomatoes with green chilies. It has a bit of a kick that my daughter did not like, so I will probably sub half of that with plain diced tomatoes the next time.

Chili with Squash and Beans
(from Cook Once, Eat for a Week, 2003 edition)

¾ lb. ground beef or turkey
1 medium diced onion
1-2 cloves minced garlic
¾ tsp Mrs. Dash seasoning
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes with green chili (for less kick, sub plain diced tomatoes, as much or as little as you wish)
1 pkg chili seasoning, or chili powder to taste
2 (14.5 oz) cans (nonfat) beef broth
1-2 cans black beans (or 2-4 cups if you cook from dry)
2 medium zucchinis, diced
2 medium yellow squash, diced (peels on zucchini and squash)
2 diced green (or any color) bell peppers
1-2 stalks diced celery
1-2 diced carrots

Brown the ground beef with the onion and peppers. Drain any fat. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Yields 8-12 servings. This dish will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or can be frozen and reheated in the microwave. It's also great the next day!


PS -- Tiffany at Eat at Home nominated me for a blog award. I am really excited, but I've been so busy I have not had time to play around and learn how to post it on my site. I will work on it and pass the award along very soon, though!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Goals for 2009

I am not crazy about New Year’s Resolutions. The phrase seems to come with the implication that resolutions are lofty, unreachable desires that will soon be abandoned. I do, however, think it is good to set goals and strive to reach them, regardless of what day of the year it is. At this time last year, I wrote out a list of goals for 2008. I posted the list in my bathroom, where I would see it every day. I reached some my goals this year and did not reach others. Some are in progress and I will continue to work on them this year and in years to come. Now it is time to look at 2009.

We have been talking about goals for our family this week. Mark and I have picked up the phrase culture of excellence, and we would like to work that concept into the fabric of our family. Scripture teaches us to do our best at everything, to do each task as if we are doing it for the Lord. (Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ) We would like to instill that practice in the children, as well as embrace it ourselves, so that whether we are cooking meals, cleaning the bathroom, doing schoolwork, reading to little ones, or folding laundry, we give the task at hand our very best. We hope to really work at creating a culture of excellence in our home this coming year.

Mark was also impressed when he learned recently about the list of priorities BYU’s football coach gives his players. He encourages them to focus on faith, family, academics, friends, and then football. (By the way, BYU had a 10-3 season this year.) We like the list, so Mark changed football to fun, and encouraged each of us to set one goal for each category.

So, without further ado, here are some of my goals for 2009. ( These are in addition to my goal of reaching a healthy weight.)

Faith: Be more consistent in my daily devotions. Read my Bible and have quiet time for prayer and reflection at least five days each week. (This was also a goal last year. I did okay, but I want to be more consistent, even when life is busy.)

Family: I want to cultivate my marriage. My bond with Mark is the key to our family’s strength. I want to have a monthly date night, even if that means the children eat pizza a watch a movie in the basement while we have dinner in the dining room together. January’s date is already circled on the calendar!

Academics: Finish my medical transcription course and begin looking for a few hours of at-home work each week.

Friends: Get to know the moms in our homeschool group a little better. There are some beautiful, wise, FUN, ladies in the group, but I am often so busy keeping up with the children that I do not have time to socialize with the adults. I want to spend more time getting to know Beth, Mary, Laura, Gladie, Jane, Tiffany, and the other women.

Fun: I have two for this one. First, I want to spend more time playing with my children. I want to toss the football with them, play volleyball in the backyard, take them to the park and fly kites, and get in the floor with the little ones more. For myself, I want to learn some new activity. Perhaps I’ll find a video and learn a new dance. Hey, I could learn to belly-dance and do my own Subway commercial!

What about you? Do you have goals for 2009? Whatever your plans, I hope your 2009 is filled with joy, happiness, good health, and wise decisions.

Happy New Year!