Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Endlessly Thankful for I am Eternally Blessed

I find it hard to begin counting my blessings for they are so numerous.  I cannot even begin to understand why God decided to give me the life I am privileged to live.  I did not choose to be born in the most prosperous country in the world, one in which the nation's most poor still have more than 70% of the world's population.  I did not choose to be raised in a relatively normal family environment (whatever that means) by parents who are still married after 41 years.  I did not choose to grow up in a safe community with low crime and few incidents of stranger danger.  I did not choose any of that.

I had no way to control the fact that my future husband would be my high school sweetheart, saving me the pain of numerous broken relationships.  I had no control over my two uncomplicated pregnancies that resulted in the birth of two perfectly normal, healthy daughters.  I have no way to protect them from major unexpected accidents or terrible debilitating diseases and yet, so far they are thriving and developing into loving, happy, kind and respectful young ladies (for the most part:-).

My gratitude is deep, and yet hardly enough.  I lift my thanks and praise to the Lord God, who has done so much more than just give me, what some might call, "easy living."  I have been blessed eternally by my Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave his life so I may have mine.  Just as I did nothing to deserve being born into favorable circumstances, I have done nothing to deserve His healing grace.  He offered it freely, knowing I could never be perfect, knowing I could never earn it.  He rescued me from the great lie that if I would just be "good enough,"  I could sneak into his good graces.  I am so thankful that I was shown that I could never measure up to the standard required, the life of complete and utter perfection that has only ever been lived by one man, Jesus Christ.

How freeing it is to know that He does not require my perfection, only my repentance!  Only acceptance of His grace, which He desires to give to every one of us. This truth is the ultimate gift, the greatest I have ever received and the only thing that can never be taken from me.  Lord, my gratitude could not be greater, and yet it can never be enough.  I am so thankful for all that you are and all I that am able to be through your grace.  It is my prayer that all who read this will know that same peace.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving and remember what we are celebrating:-)

For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  
Ephesians 2:8-9

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday Morning Do's and Don'ts

Do leave yourself plenty of time to get ready for church.
Don't practically fall asleep standing in the shower...you may get out and realize you only have ten minutes to get out the door.

Do dress your daughters in pretty dresses.  Everyone will oooh and ahhh.
Don't try and dress them five minutes before you need to leave because one will inevitably hate what you have chosen and insist on a wardrobe change.

Do make sure their hair is combed and their teeth are brushed.
Don't forget to remind them to use the bathroom before you leave because the little one will tell you seven minutes into your 35 minute backroad drive that they need to go potty.

Do keep a towel, disinfectant wipes and an emergency change of clothes in your car.
Don't hesitate to think twice about hitting the drive-thru after church, even if it is after lunchtime, because you never know if this is the day that your child will get sick and you will get to witness projectile vomit happening in the backseat of your SUV or minivan.

Wish I had read this list at about 8:00 this morning...I might have had a better day.  Hopefully I can help save another mother with this prophetic wisdom!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lord, Today We Remember.

Lord, today we remember the towers that once stood tall.
Today we remember the souls that were lost on those airplanes, who saw lifetimes rush before their eyes as they plummeted towards their end.
Today we remember the heroes who ran into the unknown, those who made it out and those who didn't.
Today we remember how our nation gathered together as one.
Today we remember how the flag was lowered to half-mast, but then was joined by thousands of others as Americans united beneath them.
Today we remember what our nation can be when we put aside our differences for what really matters.
Today we remember to pray for our leaders, to hug our children, to thank our soldiers, to volunteer our time, to kiss our loved ones, to give to a cause, to enjoy your creation as we offer up our praises.

Lord, today we remember that life is fleeting.  Life is fragile.  Life is a gift.
May we remember to live it will.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Nothing Like A Good Grease Fire To Motivate One To Clean The Oven!

Today I put some chicken nuggets in the oven for the girls' lunch.  I was sitting in the living room and after about five minutes, I noticed it smelled like smoke.  I went to the kitchen to investigate and I saw that smoke was pouring out of the oven vent.  What in the world?!!!

I opened the oven door just in time to witness the foil I had lining the bottom of the oven burst into flame! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!  FIRE!  Cue that moment of panic when your heart jumps up in the back of your throat.  I go to the sink and start soaking towels to throw into the oven as the hubby grabs a pair of tongs to remove the flaming foil.  As he takes the foil to the sink, I toss the towels into the inferno because fortunately I remembered in my panic that you smother a grease fire:-)

Crisis averted.  Fire out, hands shaking, saying a little prayer of thanks.  What would have happened if I hadn't been there right when the fire started?  What if I had waited another minute before investigating?  I think someone was watching over my kitchen today.

I look at TheMostAwesomeHusbandInTheWorld and he says to me, "Oh yeah.  I forgot that when I reheated those ribs the other night they kind of made a mess."  Hmmmm.  I was wondering why pie filling (which is what I remember recently boiling over) would have caught fire...now things are making more sense.  

Well, I suppose the oven was due for a thorough scrubbing.  Just hasn't planned on putting it on today's to-do list.  Thanks for providing the extra motivation, Dear:-)  Love you to the moon and back!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

When God Answers

Every once in a while I become acutely aware of the human condition.  In other words, our time on this earth is finite and not one of us is getting out of here alive in the end.  The human race has a 100% mortality rate.  I realize some may accuse me of being morbid for such a line of thought, but nonetheless, it is one I cannot seem to indefinitely avoid.

Most of the time I am able to combat any feelings of fear or worry with my faith and belief that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior and I know where I will be spending eternity when my Heavenly Father calls me home.  However, recently I couldn't shake the thought, "What if there isn't anything else?  What if this is all there is?"  For days I felt unsettled and disturbed.

Worry over things you cannot change will make you sick.  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:27)  I had a tight feeling in my chest that I could not shake.  My mind was continually going back to the "what if's."  I would look at my husband or my children and feel sadness instead of joy.  I would wonder, "When my life as I know it comes to an end, is there anything more?  Will I be with the people I love so dearly ever again?"  I was having an internal argument with myself.  I have been standing firm in my faith for many years, but I felt like my mind was under attack.  I was filled with a sense of uncertainty that I cannot recall feeling ever before in my adult life.  Never did I truly doubt my spiritual convictions, but the uneasiness continued to simmer just below the surface.

For days I prayed.  I called upon God to give me the peace that I usually take for granted.  I begged him to allow me to feel the presence of His Holy Spirit.  I cried out for Him to ease the distress that was gripping my heart.  I lay awake, tired but unable to retire the churning turmoil in my own mind.  I finally opened my Bible and began flipping pages.  I would read random Psalms, searching for one that would be a salve to my soul.  I found myself unsuccessful.  I was not finding the right verses.

I prayed, "God, please!  I need you to give me what my heart needs to get through this uncertainty.  I know Jesus really lived.  I know He really died. I know He died for me.  Please give me a Psalm that will speak the truth to me right now."  I opened my Bible one more time.

Psalm 39:4-13
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
    and the number of my days;
    let me know how fleeting my life is.
 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
    even those who seem secure.
 “Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
    in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
    without knowing whose it will finally be.
 “But now, Lord, what do I look for?
    My hope is in you.
 Save me from all my transgressions;
    do not make me the scorn of fools.
 I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
    for you are the one who has done this.
 Remove your scourge from me;
    I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
 When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin,
    you consume their wealth like a moth
    surely everyone is but a breath.
 “Hear my prayer, Lord,
    listen to my cry for help;
    do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner,
    a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
 Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
  before I depart and am no more. 
I read this and felt peace.  To see how King David faced down his own mortality and human limitation, it calmed my spirit.  It seems he was feeling some of the same things I had been experiencing.  These verses aren't exactly light and fluffy.  They aren't happy-go-lucky, all hearts and roses.  This passage has some sting in it, but it brought relief to my heart.  I once again saw that God's Scriptures are living, breathing, relevant truths that speak right into my life.  It has the power to uplift me, to convict me, to reassure me, to teach me, to pour life into my tired soul.  I am convinced that when I pray for guidance, He will never fail to provide it through His glorious Word.  

I could not tell you why this was the Scripture I needed in that moment.  I don't know exactly why it gave me such peace.  I do know that I am now sleeping soundly and my mind is at ease.  A few days after I found resolution in my heart,  I learned there had been a death in my family.  I am saddened to say goodbye to a kind man who was blessed with 99 years of life.  Had I not already resolved the turmoil I had been going through, I don't know how this news would have hit me.  As it is, I know I am only saying, "Goodbye for now," not "Goodbye forever."  Praise be to God for providing peace and understanding, especially in times of grief.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Day of the Domestic Diva

Today was one of those days where my ambition went into hyperdrive and I transformed into the Domestic Goddess. I was so amazing, I couldn't hardly believe myself.  It was a day of cleaning, cooking, baking, play dates and swimming lessons.  Would you believe me if I told you I made my own cheese from the milk of our very own goats?  Well, believe it!  Today I was everything I always wish I could be...except I wasn't.

Why is it that even on the really good days when it seems like everything is going right, things can so quickly go wrong?  Why is it a three-year-old has the power to derail my sense of accomplishment with one three minute tantrum?

I was up nearly two hours before the kids this morning and I did not let the grass grow under my feet today.  Before the kids were up I had cleaned the bathroom and the living room, done a load of laundry and folded three more loads and started vacuuming the floor. They came downstairs and I gave them breakfast before mopping the floors, taking out the trash, doing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen and the dining room.  When all was done inside, I headed outside to clean the kiddie pool because the girls had a play date at noon.  Are you tired yet?  I sure was!

To much to do!  Must keep going!  After nearly five hours of housework, it was time to feed the girls lunch and get them into their swimming suits and slathered up with sunscreen.  Not a moment too soon!  Their friends came down the drive just as they were suited up.  I got to spend an hour visiting with a couple friends as the kids played in the pool.  Soon it was naptime for the little tykes and our guests had to leave.

My girls were still enjoying the pool and who am I to end a good thing early?  I headed into the house and decided now would be a good time to make some goat cheese.  It only takes 20 or 30 minutes to prep, so why not?  I could have it done and hanging in the cheesecloth by the time my little one needs to come in for a nap.

Nap.  It should have been a four-letter word today.  I had to go out and deliver the hateful news at 1:40 and you would have thought I had told her I was going to string get up by her toenails.  A very uncharacteristic, full out, screaming fit.  That child landed herself in timeout faster than she could repeat, "I DON'T WANT A NAP!"  I have a feeling that reasoning with an over-tired three-year-old is somewhat akin to trying to reason with a delusional mental patient.  They are talking nonsense.  They are completely out of sorts.  They are convinced that they are right and will make you believe it too, even if what they are saying is coming out as complete jibberish to anyone listening to them.  Anyway, nothing a three minute timeout can't fix, right?

Eventually calm is restored and it is off to bed.  (But not before the truck book in which every little flap musty be opened and every picture identified)  I have about an hour and a half before swimming lessons, so how about I start some ciabatta bread to spread the goat cheese on?  Ok.  I grab all the ingredients and get them working in the bread machine.  Not only have I gotten all this done, but now I have an hour to channel surf while I put together my cousin's wedding gift and get it all packed for shipping:-)

Soon the bread machine dings and I get the dough out on the pan so it can rest and rise while I'm at the pool with the girls.  Now it is time to wake the beast.  Do you ever have one of those moments where you want to ask, "Who are you and what have you done with my child?"  That was the case when I tried to convince my daughter to put her swimming suit back on.  "I can't do it!  No!  Let me do it myself!  I don't know how to do it!  I don't want your help!"  I finally told her that if she didn't suit up herself, I would do it for her.  This resulted in her throwing the bathing suit across the room and a lot of screaming.  Ok.  Timeout number two.

I get her sister and all of our junk strapped and packed into the car and go back into the house.  I then struggle with a kicking, screaming, fighting child and finally get her into a swimming suit.  (I imagine this must be what it is like to dress an angry cat)  I quickly rush her out to the car and get her strapped into her carseat before she had a chance to strip it back off.  I climb in and turn down the driveway, only to now see that sometime within the last hour a giant dead tree limb has fallen down and is blocking the end of the driveway.  Just what I need.

After all I just went through to get out the door we might not make it out of the driveway?!!!  Someone has a twisted sense of humor.  I turn and tell my girls I don't think we can go and tears of disappointment immediately start welling up in the eyes of my five-year-old.  "Fine!  Don't cry!"  I think we can make it with a little off-roading.  We squeeze between the branch and the ditch and we are off.

Just another day in the life of this average woman trying her best to be Supermom.  We can start of with the best of intentions, but life will always happen.  We cannot control all the actions of our children, our husbands, our dog, the weather, or even the trees and shrubbery.  We can do all the right things to set ourselves up for success and glory only to have everything turned on its head.  I look back on the day and I am honestly impressed with what I got accomplished, but I am more greatly aware of how things seldom go as planned.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

What Was I Thinking?!!!

Have you ever gotten an idea to do something that sounded awesome in the beginning, but the closer you draw to the point of no return, you wonder if you've lost your mind?  You spend months preparing yourself mentally and physically until you fool yourself into thinking you're prepared...until the day arrives.  Now you may think I am talking about childbirth, but I'm not.  Somehow this spring I managed to talk my husband into thinking that doing a half marathon with me would be a good idea.  I know.  My powers of persuasion astound even myself!

We ran a 10k last summer and survived, how much harder would a half marathon be? Do the math.  It's twice as far.  It could be A LOT harder!  And this is not an ordinary road race.  Oh no!  We sign up for an extreme trail run.  This translates into a lot of steep uphill climbing on rocky, sometimes treacherous, terrain.  I lost count of the number of times I tripped and stumbled over a rock or a tree root,  but I do know that I only fully wiped out twice!

Oh, it was all fun in the beginning...if you think running is fun, which I only do about a quarter of the time.  The first couple weeks of training, the furthest I ran was only about four miles. In the beginning that was plenty.  Very quickly, the distances got longer and I began to question whether or not this was something I really should be doing.  I'm not sure if my body was designed for this.  But did I listen to that little voice telling me this was not a good idea?  Noooooooooo! (Imagine I said that in the sing-songy, I-told-you-so way)  The deadline for the early-bird pricing was approaching and I went ahead and signed us up.  We were now financially committed.

I gutted out the rest of the training schedule.  I made it through. So...I can do this, right?  Yeah, you keep telling yourself that.  The last long run was 10 miles (3.1 miles short of the full race distance).  I had to cut it a little short when I looked up ahead and I saw a skunk between me and my turn-around point.  Nuh uh!  Screw that!  I high-tailed it back and I finished it with a very limited amount of soreness.  Ok, not quite 10 miles completed.  On race day the pumping adrenaline will push me through the last few miles, right?  Right?!!!

So the night before the race, I print out the waivers we must sign and turn in before the race.  Here is just a little excerpt of what I was insane enough to sign:
I realize that the course for the Dances With Dirt (DWD) race presents a number of potential dangers to me and I hereby assume the risk arising from all of them. I realize that I will be running on a variety of surfaces, some of them far less than perfect, including but not limited to roads, unimproved trails, mud, swamps, cliffs, lumpy fields covered with waist high grass and river crossings. The roads are open to motor vehicle traffic that has the right of way. I know that broken bones, reactions to poison ivy and other plants, insect bites and bruising are common occurrences in this extreme event and that I will be far into the wilderness away from medical support. I realize that the danger of injury and even death exists as well and I hereby assume all the risks that may be present on the (DWD) course.

Oh. My. Word.  This may have been a bad idea.  But we paid money!  We have to do it!  So of course we wake up at 5:00 a.m. and head out to Devil's Lake (ironic?) for the race.  We get our numbers and join the herd.  The gun goes off at 7:00 and we are off.  The first half mile wasn't bad.  The next 1 1/2 miles were death.  It was all strait uphill.  Steep and rocky.  We pretty much walked at least a mile of that stretch.  I thought, "If the whole thing is like this, there is no way!  I cannot do another 11 miles like this!"  Fortunately, at mile three it got better.  There was a lot of uphill battling, but there was plenty of downhill action as well where I could let momentum do half the work for me.

We wound up climbing all the way to the top of the bluffs, where we even passed by some rock climbers!  The view over the top of the bluff down to the lake was breath-taking.  I wished I was able to spend more time looking, but I had to watch where I was going because of the rocky trail.  At times I felt like I was running through a tire obstacle course as I dodged the rocks and the tree roots.  I was constantly tripping and stubbing my toes and, like  I said, I really did manage to wipe out twice.  We kept on going.  With about three miles left my husband felt his hip starting to strain so we had to pull it back somewhat.  He couldn't run uphill anymore because the shortened stride really caused a lot of pain.  Fortunately, the race ended by going back down the hill that had been such hell in the beginning.  It was a great way for me to finish out the race! (My husband maybe not so much)

Once we were down at the bottom of the horrible hill, we had to walk for a while as my poor hubby was in a lot of hurt.  I could have run ahead for a better time, but since I talked him into this insanity, that would have been a pretty jerkish thing for me to do.  When we could see the end, we jogged it in and we finished in 2 hours 58 minutes.  That works out to an average of about 13.5 minutes per mile.  Not a stellar time, but when you figure in the amount of walking we had to do for either safety, because it was simply impossible to run, or pain, it wasn't too bad.  I am happy we finished in under three hours.

Today I am really feeling the pain, but I also feel accomplished.  I can check that one off the bucket list.  I think I may have run two half marathons yesterday...my first and my last!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What, Wait! July?!!!

Does anyone else ever find themselves cruising along and all of a sudden, life hits hyperdrive?  I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized we are about to close out the second week of July.  What?!!!  Hold up!  The second week of JULY?  That means the summer is practically half over!  It seems like pre-school just ended and it finally just got warm!

We have been so busy lately that it feels like life has just been happening to me rather than me living out my life.  Fourth of July trips, swimming lessons, gardening and lawn mowing, dealing with a flooded basement, church service projects and all of the little summer things that have eaten up my time.   I look back on it an see that most of it has been fun, but at the same time, I have not really been savoring the moments.

My children are growing up so fast and it seems that each day goes by quicker than the last.  One moment I look at my older daughter and she is little and cute and still has that look of baby about her and the next minute I turn around and she is tall, leggy, independent and looks every bit the kindergartener she is about to become.  It thrills me and scares me all at once.  I am so proud of who my children are becoming, yet there is that piece of me that doesn't want to let go of my babies.

On the other hand, I am sure I am not the only housewife who fantasizes of all the things she will be able to accomplish during the day once the children are in school.  The idea of regular trips to the grocery store without any helpers I must say does make me feel a little bit giddy:-)  Being able to get to the gym before supper on a regular basis would be amazing!  Cleaning my house without turning around the next minute to see all of my efforts trashed would give me a great deal of satisfaction.

Then I wonder, will it be lonely?  Will I be bored by the end of back-to-school week?  Will I run out of projects to keep myself  busy?  Ha!  (Pause a moment for some mental hysteria.)  I am looking forward to doing some of the things it seems like I have been putting off for the past five years.  I am looking forward to baking cookies for snack time at school and chaperoning the field trips.  I look forward to really digging in to some of the home improvement projects around the house that I can't effectively work on with constant interruptions.  But still...

The summer is flying by.  I see the school year looming over the horizon.  I am trying to squeeze in all of the fun things I was thinking about back around Memorial Day.  Still looking forward to a trip to the amusement park.  Perhaps a trip to the zoo.  We need to finish up swimming lessons and take part in activities at the local library.  We have a little weekend vacation coming up next month.  And still, it will all go too fast.  I need to remember to take a moment, take a breath, and allow myself to enjoy the moment.  Laugh.  Goof around.  Take pictures.  Squeeze a little hand, they won't be little for long.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When Mommy Flips Her Lid

This morning was not my finest mommy hour.  I'm trying to get everyone dressed and out the door, for church no less, and it happened.  I lost it.  My temper, my cool, my sanity, whatever you want to call it.  Do you have mornings like that?  Days when you are trying so hard to get everyone ready and not be late, again, for wherever you're heading and five minutes before you should leave, the house flies into chaos?  Today was one of those days and unfortunately, today I did not handle it well.

I actually woke up with plenty of time to make it to the first church service today, which is usually my goal when I can make it happen.  My three-year-old was up at the same time and I got her sat down to breakfast.  I went in the living room and caught the weather on the news and got in my Scripture reading for the day.  An excellent start to the day in my book.  Too bad it didn't last long.

I went upstairs to take a shower and get dressed.  I soon look at the clock and see we have 25 minutes until go-time.  I go to the girls' room to rouse the sleepyhead.  I get her settled with her breakfast and head back upstairs to dry my hair and get clothes for the kids.  This is where the breakdown begins.  I find some outfits and as I'm trying to get the last item off the hanger, the whole clothing rod crashes to the ground.  I don't have time for this!  I leave it and figure I'll fix it when we get home.

Time to dress the rugrats.  I'm already on edge after the closet debacle and I am in no mood when my three-year-old is uncooperative.  Ten minutes before it's time to leave is not the time to play cat-and-mouse!  I can feel I am simmering below the surface as I finally manage to get clothes on and hair combed.  Time for some deep breathing.  I quickly run upstairs and do a super-quick makeup job and rush back downstairs.

Just as I'm about to tell them to put on their shoes, I see the mess.  The half-empty juice jug, the full-to-the-brim cup, the puddle on the table and the spillover on the floor.  It is time to leave and I just lose it.  How many times have I told that girl that she is not to pour any drinks by herself?  How many times have I already cleaned up a mess like this in the last week?  Why does this happen right when it's time to leave?  I realize I am yelling at my poor little three-year-old as I am hauling her, without much gentleness, to the timeout chair.  I am still yelling as I am cleaning up the mess.  Come on now, deep breaths! I calm down and I go release my girl from timeout.

I find a pair of shoes for each child and tell them to put them on as I take a load of stuff to the car.  I come back in the house and tell them it's time to go.  My five-year-old runs in all ready to go and I see her sister is snuggled in a blanket on the couch,  shoes still on the floor.  Final straw.  The top blows.  My lid is flipped.  "Why can't you listen?  I asked you to put your shoes on!  It's time to go!  We're going to be late!  Why don't you listen to Mommy and obey?"  I can feel my hands shaking, I am so angry.  And over what?  Some clothes on the floor?  Some spilled juice?  My daughter's selective hearing?  I put the sandals on her feet and tell them them both to head outside.

I go upstairs and grab my shoes and hurry downstairs to make a PB sandwich for me to eat on the drive.  The whole time I am praying.  "Lord, why am I doing this?  This is not the mother I want to be!  I don't want to be the mom that always yells and screams.  Please help me!  Give me patience in this moment because right now I have none.  Give me peace in my heart and soul because I feel like I am choking on my anger and anxiety."

God always comes through.  He meets me right where I am.  His peace and assurance can wash over me like a river if I will call upon Him.  I prayed the words of Paul and admitted that I am doing exactly what I know I shouldn't do and I can't seem to make myself do what I know I ought to be doing.  As I was yelling at my poor child, I could hear the voice in my head telling me to be quiet, but I couldn't seem to make myself stop.  I needed the Holy Spirit to give me strength in that moment.  I am grateful He did.

I was able to walk outside calmly.  As I buckled the girls into the car, I asked them for forgiveness.  "Even when you misbehave,  Mommy should not yell like that.  I was angry but I didn't need to scream at you.  I'm sorry, will you forgive me?"  I look into those beautiful eyes and I am grateful that little children are so quick to forgive.

I know it will not be the last time I must ask my children for forgiveness.  I fail.  I mess up.  I fall short.  I lose my temper.  I am constantly trying to do better, but I know I will never reach perfection this side of heaven.  I can only rest in the grace and mercy of my Heavenly Father and know that I can be better today than I was yesterday if I make an honest effort and lean on the one who can give me strength.  I want to be a better mother, wife, friend, woman of God.  I know I can be better when I walk in the ways of Christ who strengthens me.  Not perfect, but better.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Rainy Day Eats

It is summer in Wisconsin and today we are enjoying a steady stream of rain and thunderstorms.  Feeling bored, I'm surfing the net and come across a Groupon for Pretzelmaker.  You know, the place in the mall food court that sells the big soft pretzels?  I love soft pretzels and this made me hungry.

Unfortunately, it's raining and the nearest mall is a thirty minute drive from my house.  I do not want a pretzel a thirty minute rainy drive's worth.  (If you do want to go buy yourself a pretzel, here is the link for the Groupon: http://touch.groupon.com/deals/pretzelmaker-madison, supplies are limited)  I do however have a great recipe for pretzels!  I got this recipe from my sister-in-law, who got it from a blog, that posted it from another blog, which credits Alton Brown.  Anyway, you know it's tried and true:-)

These are the most awesome pretzels!  They are not super complicated to make, it just takes a little time...like on a rainy afternoon.  I will give you the link to one of the blogs with the recipe and all the awesome pictures to tantalize your appetite: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2013/01/07/soft-pretzels/.  I swear, if you do these right, they are just as good, if not better, than the ones you would buy at the mall!

Now, in my book, there is nothing better than a side of cheese sauce to go with your fresh, hot pretzel.  Go ahead and open a jar of some cheese-like substance and melt it down for your dipping pleasure of you want something quick and easy.  Been there, done that.  If you want to go the extra mile (and today I will, 'cause hey, it's raining!), here is how I make a homemade cheese sauce:

-Melt about 2 T butter in a sauce pan over medium heat
-Add about 2 T flour and stir until you have a wet sand consistency
-Pour in about 1 cup of milk and whisk until smooth
-Add 1-1 1/2 cups of your favorite cheese, a little parmesan gives a nice salty flavor
-Continue to cook until it reaches your desired thickness (if you let it go too long you may add some more milk to thin it out to your desired consistency)
-Salt and pepper to taste

This recipe makes a good amount but feel free to play with the measurements and make as much or as little as you wish.  I rarely am very precise when I make this and it always turns out nice.

I hope you enjoy!  Let me know if you try it and how it turns out:-)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Daddy is the Ultimate Superhero

I have been so blessed by the men God has placed in my life.  I grew up with a father who loved me very much and he was not afraid to tell me so.  He also made a point of telling me he was proud of me.  I cannot even begin to count the ways that has impacted my life.  I firmly believe that a woman learns how she should expect to be loved by her husband from the way she is loved by her father and by the way she observes her father love her mother.

The longer I am married to TheMostAwesomeHusbandInTheWorld, the more I realize how much he reminds me of my dad...but not in some weird, creepy way!  Many of the things I admire about my dad I find are also are the same qualities I love most about my husband.  They are both hard-working, have a great and sometimes warped sense of humor, and they have both been great daddies to little girls.

It melts my heart in ways he will never understand to see my husband love on our daughters.  They light up when he comes home at the end of the day.  "Daddy's home!"  Daddy is the hero.  Daddy is the protector.  Daddy is the one they turn to when they need to be validated.

Am I beautiful?  Am I smart?  Am I worthy?  Am I cherished?  If they know that Daddy's answer is always, "Yes!", then they won't be fifteen and looking for a boy who will tell them, "Yes."  They won't need to turn to drugs or alcohol in college to numb the pain when they feel like the only answer they have ever heard is, "No."  They don't go through life feeling empty, unloved and unwanted.

I don't have any scientific, psychological studies to back up my conclusions.  I am just a woman who knows what a loving father meant to her growing up.  I am a woman who has been a friend to other women who were not as fortunate and had a long road to walk to find some healing.  If you are on that journey, my prayers are with you and I want you to know that you have a Heavenly Father who is aching to tell you, "You're lovely, worthy, beautiful and cherished by me!"  Let His own words wash over you:

Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.
-Song of Songs 2:14

I have loved you with an everlasting love.
-Jeremiah 31:3

The King is enthralled by your beauty.
-Psalm 45:11

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.
-Zephaniah 3:17

If you were not lucky enough to have been blessed with a loving, earthly father please know that your Heavenly Father is eager to help heal the wounds.  If you have been blessed, as I have, with a true daddy who let you know you were cherished and lovely, please remember to say, "thank you," this Father's Day.  You were given a beautiful gift beyond price and measure.

I love you, Dad.  Always have, always will.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Every Homemaker Deserves a Raise!!!

If you are a fellow homemaker (aka: wife, mother, cook, maid, tutor, chauffeur, nurse, referee, therapist, playmate, disciplinarian, gardener, etc.) you deserve not only a huge "Thank you!" and a standing ovation, but an ENORMOUS RAISE!  Unfortunately, we are employed in the ultimate volunteer position.  We are often under-valued and not given the credit we are due.  Is anyone else ever a little frustrated when you are asked, "So, when insert child's name is in school are you going to get a job?"  As if what we do isn't the equivalent of two full-time jobs!  We work hard and more than earn our keep, thank you very much!

Do you ever have a period of time when you find yourself out of commission due to illness, injury or you have the audacity to go out of town and you look around and wonder who set off the bomb?  I have been down for the count the last couple of days due to a sore back and I have been at work for HOURS today trying to get my house back in order.  I think I am on my fifth load of laundry, the dishwasher needs to be unloaded again, I have scrubbed every kitchen surface, put away unsold garage sale items and I still feel like I am in a war zone!  The floors need to be vacuumed and mopped, the furniture needs to be dusted, the children need to be bathed, the lawn needs to be mowed, bathrooms need to be cleaned and supper needs to be cooked.

Does anyone else wonder how your family could possibly survive, let alone function smoothly, without you?  Now, I am fortunately married to TheMostAwesomeHusbandInTheWorld who will often lend me a helping hand.  My hubby typically works long 10 hour days and while he can keep himself and the kids alive and fed, he is no homemaker.  I have come to accept the fact that he has tunnel vision and he honestly does not see the pot with the baked on gravy that has been sitting next to the sink for the past three days.  Getting out the broom to take care of the cobwebs in the corners is never going to be on his radar.

This is my domain.  It is my job to make our home the quiet, comfortable place for my children and husband to find their peace.  This is the vocation I have chosen and I feel I am called to.  I love that I am able to make my husband's day easier and happier because he doesn't have to come home to chaos and drama.  I am proud to be a homemaker, and I love that term!  I am the one who makes this house our home.

So to all the other homemakers out there (and you working moms can be one too, and most of you probably are), YOU ROCK!!!  And to my mother, my ultimate roll model and mentor, a very special thank you for all you ever did and all you still do to support me in all of my efforts.  You are one of the biggest reasons I am who I am today.  I love you, Mom!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Man, I Wish I Liked Coffee!

Do you ever wake up in the morning and suspect that there truly is a Sandman?  Some disturbed, mean little guy with a shovel, packing your eyelids with sand so that when your alarm goes off at 5:00 in the morning (today it took me nine minutes to hear it), you practically have to peel your lids off your eyeballs?  That was my morning.

This week has been super busy and my early morning was just the topper on the heavily-frosted cake.  My body already felt like it had been hit by a Mack truck and now my eyes just itch and ache.  I got up and looked in the mirror and, WHOA!  Fright Night!  It has been a while since my eyes looked THAT bloodshot.  If I could capture this moment, it would make a great Halloween costume because it has great potential to frighten young children.

Today I had to be at church early so I could practice with the worship band.  So not only do I need to get myself up, but I suppose since I have to be up in front of the whole church, there should be some attempt made to be cute and presentable.  I got myself showered and dressed and TheMostAwesomeHusbandInTheWorld, who had to work today, helped get the kiddos up and dressed so we could be out the door by 6:20.  

About halfway through the 35 minute drive, I felt myself slipping into the zone.  Not the super-pumped and focused zone, but the zoned out zone.  As I was starting to feel the need to slap myself awake, I couldn't help but think, "Mornings like this are why I need to start drinking coffee, even if it does taste nasty and sit in my gut like battery acid!"  Thank you, Lord for getting us to church and back home again safely without the use of a caffeine IV drip!

This mama is desperately in need of a nap...I wonder if I can get the kids to take one.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Woman Who Was Swallowed By Stuff

Do you ever think about how much time and energy we expend to maintain our stuff?  We buy our stuff, wash our stuff, move our stuff, dust our stuff, pack our stuff, put away our stuff, sell, give, and throw away our stuff.  Sometimes I feel like the stuff runs my life!

I have lost count of the number of hours I have spent the last couple of weeks preparing for a garage sale.  I have been digging through those nooks and crannies where seldom-used stuff likes to hide.  A person could barely move through my office because that is where all the stuff took up residence until it could move out to the lawn.

My husband and I finally unpacked boxes that have been untouched since we moved into this house...2 1/2 years ago.  We had three piles: garbage, sell, and HOLY CRAP!  I'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR THIS FOR THREE YEARS!  I think only two items made it into the latter pile.  The rest went to the dump or into the garage sale.  We ended up with a whole room worth of stuff we don't want or have any use for any longer.

How much time, money and energy have I wasted on all this junk?!!!  There were boxes worth of stuff that we took the time to pack at our old house and move into the new house and we never even unpacked it!  As I look over the pile of stuff that has consumed so much of my time the last couple of weeks, I realize I am just going to be so glad to be rid of it!  I am beyond caring if I make much money at my garage sale.  I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  It is so cleansing to be rid of the clutter!

I realize that I need to purge the junk from my life more often.  We can be swallowed up by the things we fill our lives with, if we allow it.  We live in a world where more is still never enough.  Jesus warned us against such things in Luke 12:15: Then he said to them, "Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions."

I am so grateful that my family has been blessed with all we could ever need as well as some nice possessions.  As I have worked hard the last several days, I have realized that my things may be possessing me instead of the other way around.  It is time to take back some of my time, energy, and square-footage.  Stuff will rule me no longer!!!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What Doesn't Kill Them Will Make Them Stronger...Right?

Just a quick one tonight.  I must admit I am having one of those days that I will be happy if we all can just make it to bedtime.  My girls are eating pizza for supper tonight...just like they have every other night so far this week.  My three-year-old just drank from the cup my older daughter was using to rinse her paint brush in, thinking it was juice.  You cannot see the floor in my office because it has become the holding area for our upcoming garage sale.  My house was clean a few days ago, but after spending the last couple of days digging out all the stuff I hope to get rid of this weekend, my house looks like a tornado went through it.  I hope my kids don't run into the tower of clothes in the dining room because it would totally bury them should it fall over.

Silently saying a prayer.  I'm really hoping we can make it through the week without suffering any casualties.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Perfect Pink Princess Cupcakes...EPIC FAIL!!!

"I am going to make some super-cute cupcakes for the girls' birthday party!" --Famous last words

Ok, so Saturday we had a joint birthday party for our daughters and I decided it would be fun (not to mention a bit of a time-filler) for the party guests to each decorate their own cupcakes.  I was going to have a totally Pinterest-able moment and have these adorable little cupcakes with pink centers for each little princess to enjoy.  It was a completely awesome, supermom-like accomplishment...unfortunately it was all happening in my brain.

In actuality, I didn't get around to baking until after 10:00 the night before the party.  "It's only cupcakes, I'll be in bed before 11:00."  Yeah, right.  So I find my box of white cake mix (no scratch baking after 9:00 p.m.) and I get to work.  I have this great plan that I am going to make them a little more extra-special by making the center of the cupcake pink by adding some food coloring to a small portion of the batter and adding a dollop of pink to the middle.  I am so freaking brilliant!

The next stroke of genius comes as I decide to make one cupcake blue and the lucky girl to choose the blue cupcake wins a prize.

No problem.  Now I just need to bake them and off to bed.  Cupcakes: 350° for 16-18 minutes.  Oven preheated, set the timer for 16 minutes and into the oven.  Time ticks away and about 30 seconds before the timer goes off, "Hmmmm, what's that smell?"  That would be scorched cupcakes.

Fan. Tastic.  These cupcakes are cupcrap.  It is now 11:00 and I must start over.  I am so super lucky that I had another box of mix in my cupboard or I would have been up a creek without the proverbial paddle.  Second time into the oven I turned the temp down to 325° and set the timer for 12 minutes. (BTW, I took the pictures during take two so I could more effectively share this wonderful story with you)

While I am waiting, I decided to cut open one of the batch #1 cupcakes to see how my wonderful idea about adding the colored center worked out...

Hmmmmm.  Well, at least you can tell there is some pink inside.  In my brain there was going to be a beautiful, round pink middle.  Why is it things in my brain have such a hard time translating into reality?

While I am waiting for batch #2, I think I eat the equivalent of about four cupcakes by digging out the un-scorched middles from batch #1.  Well, I had to do something to keep me awake while they baked!  Timer finally goes off and I take batch #2 out of the oven. 

Even with the adjusted temperature and time, the second batch is just this side of burned.  There were a few that had gone over, but it is now going on towards midnight.  I check out batch #1 and I am able to pick out a couple that aren't really that bad.  I swap them out and decide that perhaps if I pull the paper off the cupcakes while they are still warm, maybe some of the extra-brown-but-not-quite-burned outer crust will come off.  I suppose it helped somewhat.  Alright.  Mommy needs to go to bed now.

The next morning I assess the damage.  I agree with last night's assessment of "it's not really that bad!"  Nothing a good helping of pink frosting can't fix. :-)  I settle the cupcakes into fresh white cupcake cups and glob on some frosting.  I stack them around a couple of cake plates and voila! 

With the work finally done, my three year old walks in and says, "Mommy, why are the cupcakes burned?"  No joke.  "They aren't burned, honey.  They're just brown."  If I can convince myself, why not the kiddos?

Well, I guess I did okay.  Even after all of my blunders, the girls all piled about two inches of sprinkles onto their cupcakes and enjoyed them.  No one complained that they had an extra-crispy flavor to them.  The girl who had some blue in her cupcake could actually tell and she got her prize.  

Sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to create the perfect moment for our children.  We scour the how-to websites and map out our way to that perfection.  Unfortunately, the map does not show us the detours.  Fortunately, our children are very forgiving.  Thirty years from now, they won't care that the cupcakes were a little over-done.  They will remember that Mommy was there.  Mommy tried.  Mommy loved us.  That is the legacy I hope I am creating.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Oh Bite Me, Pinterest!

Do you ever see other moms' pins on Pinterest, observe their Facebook lives or read other mommy bloggers and start to think that unless you are homeschooling six children who never watch TV because you keep them continuously engaged with homemade educational crafting projects while hand-sewing their clothes and growing the equivalent of 50 acres of organic produce in egg cartons on your windowsill, that you are in some way less of a mom?  Are you allowing others to guilt-trip you by way of social media?  Guilty!!! (Arm frantically waving)  I admit that I am constantly comparing myself to other people's virtual lives, and every time I fall short.

Do you know why?  Because it's not real!!!  We are not jealous of the women who put it all out there and admit that they are just happy to have survived the day when their toddler refused to change out of their pajamas or eat anything other than marshmallows and potato chips.  We instead marvel at the women who tell us all about their abilities to live environmentally friendly, organic, gluten-free, vegan, from-scratch lifestyles on less than 38¢ a day with perfect cooperation from their children and spouse.

Well, I could go ahead and tell you about how I already have handmade my daughters' next Halloween costumes using nothing but dryer lint and gum wrappers, but I hope you would realize that is ridiculous.  Let me clarify, I love that a new recipe or a fun craft project can always be at my fingertips thanks to the internet.  What I am battling against is the idea that "EVERY OTHER MOM IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN ME, JUST LOOK AT FACEBOOK!"  Why do I continue to compare myself to virtual moms?  Sometimes I need to unplug and spend more time engaging with my children instead of spending the last hour before bedtime searching Pinterest for the best bedtime wind-down activity.

One of my goals with this blog is to be real so you won't feel alone in YOUR realness (is that a word?).  Sometimes I am proud of what I am able to accomplish in a day and I hope you will celebrate with me.  Other times I want to throw my computer out the window because I cannot bear to look at the clearance-bin birthday invitations I just bought at Wal-Mart after seeing "Blog Mom's" personalized, hand-made, pop-up, delivered-by-a-unicorn birthday invites.  You'll get to see those moments, too.

If you're ready for one, stay tuned.  Yesterday we had our girls' princess birthday party...tomorrow I'll tell you about their birthday cupcakes.  Don't worry, there's pictures:)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Lemons to Lemonade

Ever have one of those "Oh, Crap!" moments turn into an "Oh, sweet!" moment?  Happened to me today.  I spent the morning running around checking off my long list of errands.  Dropped forms off at the school, stopped at the bank, went to Target, hit the grocery store...did I mention I had BOTH of the kids with me?  I must have lost my mind.

The carrot I was dangling in front of them to ensure good behavior was the fact that the last stop was the party store where they would get to pick out decorations for their joint birthday party.  I only had to threaten to take the little one home before the party store about three times, not bad.  It even worked each time!  Believe me when I tell you it wasn't an empty threat.  Mama is not afraid to make good!

We finally get everything else done and head to the party store...and it is now a Tuesday Morning.  Oh.  Crap.  No banners, no cups, no plates, no goody bags, no balloons, nothing.  What to do?  We're standing in the parking lot and beads of sweat start to form as my girls start asking, "Mommy, is this the party store?"

I frantically look around at the other options offered at this particular strip mall and I spot my salvation, a Dollar Tree.  Sweet!  They must have party crap there, right?  Oh yes, they certainly do!  They have a wide selection of princess junk that delighted both the kiddos.  Thank you, God!  I cannot imagine the revolt I would have had on my hands had there been no alternative.  Extra bonus, I only spent about half of what I had budgeted.  Dollar Tree may be my new party destination.  I highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

Last night my older daughter had her end-of-the-year preschool program.  It was super adorable and cute!  There was singing, instruments, and choreographed dance moves.  My favorite part was when one little boy used a pink scarf, which was a prop for one of the songs, as a superhero cape and ran back and forth across the stage. It was a delight to my heart to see this group of four- and five-year-olds find so much joy in performing for their families.  As we sat down for our little ice cream social afterwards, I felt a little catch in the back of my throat when I realized my daughter only had one more day of preschool left.

I had one of those "when did my baby get so big?!" moments.  It was followed by a sobering thought.  When do I need to stop treating her as my little girl and begin to groom her into the young lady I want her to become?  In my heart, she will always be my little girl with skinned knees and pigtails.  I want to hold that image in my mind forever.  I want to cherish these moments when Mommy is both guardian angel and best friend.  I want to hold her close and keep the world at bay.  At what point do I need to begin the release?

We have all seen children who are the product of parents who don't want to let go, who have hamstrung their children by arresting their development.  We see five-year-old children walking around in 22-year-old bodies.  The last thing I want to do is handicap my children because it made me feel better to hold them too close.

Two of the greatest gifts God has given me has been my two beautiful girls.  They make me smile every day.  I know that they are mine for only a short while.  I pray that I will teach them what they need to know, when they need to know it.  I hope they go out and face the world as strong young women, not scared little girls.  We are looking down the barrel at full-day kindergarten and I know some of the preparation needs to begin now.  Lord, please give me the wisdom to guide my little girls.  Please help me mold then into young ladies who are ready to go out in the world and find Your will for them in it.  Help me do this as I continue to see them with a mother's eyes.  My precious little girls.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Laundry Day is Any Day That Ends in Y

Laundry is a never-ending chore at my house.  I have a chair in my living room that I only see about once every six weeks because it is where I dump the clean clothes that need to be folded.  By the time I get to the bottom of the stack, I have another load coming out of the dryer or off the clothesline that immediately buries the chair I was finally able to successfully unearth.  It is a vicious cycle that is never-ending.

I think there is a conspiracy in my household.  There is no way four people can generate this much dirty laundry on a regular basis.  My husband and my children are conspiring against me to keep me bogged down under a mountain of laundry...the reason is as of yet undetermined but I am convinced it is sinister and malicious.

They must put on layers of clean clothes and run through the pasture, stopping to roll in the mud and skid through the grass.  I've got it!  They have hired body doubles for the sole purpose of generating more and more laundry!  The depth and reach of this wicked plot is so much greater than I could have guessed!  What do they have to gain?  How do I begin to fight back?

I will not allow this mountain of laundry to conquer me like the Blob that consumed the town in that terrible old movie.  It will not swallow me!  I will fight back!  As it threatens to pour onto the floor, I will fold like there is no tomorrow!  I will vanquish it with hangers and an iron!  I will not allow it to beat me, although I fear it has already claimed my living room chair.  Such a shame.  I really liked that chair.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Half Price Day at the Thrift Store

I am a homemaker, a home economist if you will.  My husband works very hard, easily 60+ hours a week, and more when he is really busy.  I stay home with our two daughters and run our household.  My husband and I make our financial decisions together, but we made a quick discovery at the beginning of our marriage.  After a bit of a comedy of errors, hmmm...shall we just say that we decided that I would make the better bookkeeper?

I am what you may call a nerd, and proud of it!  I run my household on a budget every month and I do a pretty good job of sticking to it.  Groceries, clothes, pet food, restaurants; everything has a designated amount at the beginning of the month and I do the nerdy cash-in-the-envelope bit.  I get enjoyment out of stretching our dollars so we are able to accomplish our bigger goals.

Anyway, all that to tell you the following story:

This month I performed a major closet purge.  I only meant to put away my laundry, and I don't know what came over me!  I started tossing clothes out of my closet and out the door into the hallway.  I was merciless!  Everything I didn't wear last year went flying.  With that finished, I made my way into the boxes in the spare bedroom.  I dug out what I called my "wishful thinking" clothes (aka all the clothes I was still clinging to from before my first pregnancy) and out it went!  "YOU WILL NOT MAKE ME FEEL GUILTY FOR NOT BEING A SIZE 6 ANY LONGER!!!!" I silently declared. Ok, now what?  Alright, we aren't planning on any more children so my maternity clothes made their way into the pile.

I have FINALLY de-cluttered.  I should have done this two or three years ago!   I feel free and refreshed...until I peek out the door and see the mountain that I created in the hallway.  And there it sat for the next week.  Oops.  I believe I mentioned to you before that I am not perfect, and that includes housekeeping.  Fortunately I have the blessing of selective tunnel vision and I am able to ignore stuff like that for at least a short period of time.  This time it only took me a week. Now everything is organized and priced for our June garage sale.

Unfortunately, I am now painfully aware of what is lacking in my wardrobe.  If you remember my aforementioned nerdiness, perhaps you can understand why I was a little bummed when I realized that I had not put any extra pad in my clothing allotment this month. We were closing in on Memorial Day weekend.  We live 40 minutes from an awesome outlet mall that always has great Memorial Day weekend sales.  Crap. Twenty bucks in my clothing budget.  I resign myself to the fact that this is just not going to happen this month.

Then I get the email of awesomeness!  Half price day on clothing, shoes and accessories at my favorite thrift store!  Yes I am on the thrift store's email list but I swear, I am not crazy cheap.  I do not shop at the scratch-and-dent, mystery meat section of the grocery store.  I am happy to use a coupon but I do not have a 50-year supply of beenie weenies and 3,000 flea collars for a cat I don't have stashed in my basement.  I am, although, very excited about half price day at the thrift store.  I have no problem with my family wearing "experienced" clothing.  Probably 95% of my girls' clothes are second-hand.  If they aren't old enough to care, why should I?  We took the girls and loaded ourselves into our SUV for a shopping trip.  I spent an hour and a half (sorry hubby and kiddos) digging through name brands.  Banana Republic, American Eagle, Lands' End, Gap,  Anne Taylor Loft, Eddie Bauer, Abercrombie and Fitch and, oh yes! Old Navy, you were there, too! Most of the stores I would have hit up at the outlet mall.  I found myself some cute tops, some slacks and a pair of capri pants.  The older daughter needed a new light-weight jacket and they each got a new swimming suit. The girls got to take out their little purses and buy themselves a "new" toy and a book.  My husband found some work jeans and a new beer mug.  We even found a replacement for our broken floor lamp.

Grand total...$38.51 (Nerd Alert!  I know it's over the previously mentioned $20 but I used a little cash from the babysitter envelope since we did not have a chance for a date night this month).  Half price day at the thrift store is now one of my favorite days:)

Do you have any recent money-saving victories or any great tips?  If you do, please share by commenting below:)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What a Difference a Teacher Can Make

Today I saw a status on Facebook from my ninth grade Language Arts teacher.  She is retiring this week after many years of teaching.  She was one of those unique teachers who will be remembered by all of her students (and fondly by most of them).  She was a teacher who would reach out to troubled students and bring out the best in them.  She was a teacher who would help shy students find their voice.  She was a teacher who encouraged students to be their true self for she is one of those people who is not afraid to show her own true colors.  She was one of the people who helped me come out of what had been an utterly hellish junior high experience and begin to build myself back up, to start becoming a person who could once again believe in my own self-worth.  I'm sure she is completely unaware she even did that for me.

I had her again as my Creative Writing teacher my junior year.  She was the first person who made me believe that perhaps I had a bit of talent for writing.  Believe me when I tell you that was in the back of my mind when I decided to start a blog last week.  She made me believe that I had the ability to tell stories and connect to an audience through my writing (I suppose you can disagree if you wish:).

As I read her farewell status, I couldn't help but think of other teachers who have had a strong impact on my life.  Some may have known at the time that they were important to me, others perhaps not.  Some are still teaching but many have, or are about to retire.  Those teachers have influenced so many students, and at such a critical time in their lives. There are few occupations that offer the chance to leave a long-lasting legacy the way teaching does.

I had many teachers, from preschool all the way through college.  Most were good, a few were bad, but I will be eternally grateful for that small handful who were truly extraordinary and and made a positive impact on my life. Those people were a blessing not only to me, but to my family because they helped shape me into the woman I am today.  I am a better person because of them.

I pray my children will be blessed to have caring, compassionate teachers placed in their lives at the times when they most need it.  I hope God will put teachers in their path who will be able to reach out to them in a meaningful way, especially at the times my kids don't want to reach out to me.  To all of you who are teachers, thank you for what you do.  Your influence is so much broader and wider than you could ever guess.  A great teacher can make all the difference in a child's life and thank you doesn't seem like near enough.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The House is Always Cleaner on the Other Side (of the road)

Anyone else have neighbors like mine?  Our across-the-road (and we live in the country so it is a road, not a street) neighbors are empty-nesters.  They are very kind, sweet and helpful.  Their house is ALWAYS clean!

Now, I realize that they are heading towards retirement age and toddlers and young children have not lived in that house for many, many years.  Intellectually I know this is not a fair comparison.  I spend a whole day cleaning and when I wake up the next morning, little gremlins have come out of the woodwork to destroy my previous day's efforts.  She cleans her house and there is no one coming behind her to undo it all.

Hold on now!  Come on!  How is it ALWAYS clean?!!!  She works a full-time job.  It isn't like she spends all her days scrubbing surfaces with a toothbrush.  Doesn't she ever have a really busy week when the unread mail piles up on the kitchen table, the laundry overflows the hamper and the dishes get stacked in the sink?  (I know about the laundry because I always use the back door which opens into the laundry room)  I AM home everyday, albeit I am running around after the tornado I have claimed as my children, but if she can do it why can't I?

Ok, now I know you are asking how I know it is always clean.  Easy.  Random drop-ins.  We rarely call ahead.  We will both just walk across the road and knock on the door.  When I am on the receiving end of the drop-in, 9 times out of 10, I feel a little embarrassed at the state of things.  I KNOW she must be judging me and wondering what the heck I spend my days doing. (Ok, probably not really, she is too sweet, but I can't help but think it)  When it is reversed and I perform the drop-in, perfection!  I head back home in awe of her domestic prowess.  Not just in awe, but perhaps even a little jealous.

Until the evening everything changed.  I walked across the road to perform one of my drop-ins.  I walked up to the door and I could hear country music blasting from inside the house. This was odd.  My neighbors are not the type you would expect to shake the window panes with Miranda Lambert.  I knocked at least three times and rang the bell, but no one answered.  Now, I feel comfortable enough with my neighbors to come by unannounced, but not enough to actually walk into their house uninvited.  I had given up and was walking down the porch steps when the door opened behind me and I turned to see a woman I didn't recognize.  She said, "Sorry!  I couldn't hear you over the music!"  I asked her if my neighbors were home.  She said, "No, I don't know where they are.  I'm their cleaning lady."  Mental head slap.

I learned an important lesson that evening.  A lot of energy is wasted in comparison and, odds are, perhaps things aren't exactly as they seem.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Preparing for the Future

"We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future." -FDR

"At least"?!!!  I hardly think making sure our children are prepared to meet the world warrants an "at least"!  Don't get me wrong, this is an amazing quote and the sentiment is oh so true, but come on!  Preparing our children to face the world on their own is a monumental task!  I look at my two girls ages three and (almost) five and everyday I wonder what the world will look like when they become adults.  So much about the world today scares me and I constantly wonder, what must I teach them?  From what must I shield them?  How do I empower them to have a voice to stand against the things they know are wrong?  What must I be doing to ensure that when they reach adulthood, they have a functioning moral compass so they are able to DETERMINE right from wrong?

I pray, and probably not as much as I should.  I know that it is not within my power to protect my girls from all that is bad, and dare I say evil, in our world.  I pray that God will help me pass on wisdom to my daughters.  I pray He will stand in the gap when I fall short, which I am sure happens more than I am even aware.  I hope that when I wave to them as they step out into the world, I am able to smile because I know I did my job.  I want to be confident that they are able to take on the world, and not worry that they will be swallowed up by it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wow, my first blog!  I got a wild hair tonight and decided I must not be the only mother out there who is constantly comparing herself to other moms, both real and fictional, and feeling like she constantly falls short (or at least I hope I'm not alone!).  I recall memories of my mother's seemingly always spotless house and home-cooked meals and wonder if a gene skipped a generation (or perhaps more likely my brain is cruelly forgetting the times the house looked like an atom bomb went off and we sat in our pajamas eating PB&J for the third time that day).

I am not perfect.  There it is!  I admit it!  I sometimes let the dishes build up in the sink for three days, secretly hoping my husband will take the hint before I finally start loading the dishwasher.  I let my daughters run around the house in swimming suits and Halloween costumes in the middle of February because I long ago decided that was not a battle worth fighting.  I will let my kids watch TV all day when I'm feeling sick (and ok, other days as well) and just pray their brains won't rot before junior high.  I probably feed them fast food at least once a week and let my picky eater survive on a diet of peanut butter sandwiches, chicken nuggets, pizza, cereal and fruit.  I wish I spent more time playing with my kids, praying over my kids, and modeling for them what it means to live as a Christian woman in today's world.

On the other hand, I truly love my life.  I have a wonderful husband who is my partner and my rock.  He understands what my contribution is to the family and the household and he has never once come home and asked me "what do you do all day?"  I have two beautiful daughters that I love more deeply than words can express.  I am blessed and I would not change my life for anything.

I am human, though.  I make mistakes.  I lose my temper.  I constantly compare myself to other women, other moms and wonder why I don't measure up to them.  As Paul said in Romans 7:15 (and no, I didn't know the chapter and verse offhand, I had to look up the reference), "I don't really understand myself.  For I want to do what is right, but I don't do it.  Instead, I do what I hate." (NLT)  I hate to admit how often this verse speaks to what I am doing and feeling.  Every day is a new day and, with God's help, I hope each day can be better than the last.

Do you want to get real with me?  I will share with you my struggles and my triumphs, my joys and my fears, and maybe a really great chocolate cake recipe.  I hope this blog will help you know you are not alone if, like me, you are an average mom trying her best to be  Supermom.