Our family of 5

Our family of 5

Monday, February 28, 2011

Recipe Mondays: Chicken Tortilla Soup and Peanut Butter Clusters

I haven't been the best cook this past week, so I don't have any scrumptious pictures to share with you for today. Hopefully next week, I will get back on track. :):). Some days it is hard to be motivated to cook nice meals when my husband isn't necessarily going to be home to share them with us :):). He does enjoy leftovers during tax season, so I need to keep cooking even if he isn't here.

I decided to pull out an old favorite recipe of mine for those lazy crockpot days. Have you heard of the recipe book, "Fix-it and Forget-it"?  I love this cookbook and I am going to share one of my favorites........Chicken Tortilla Soup. I am sure there are hundreds of these kind of recipes out there, but I think this is easy and tastes delicious.

Here it is (from page 47):

Chicken Tortilla Soup

4 chicken breast halves
2 15 ounce cans black beans, undrained
2 15 ounce cans Mexican stewed tomatoes, or Rotel tomatoes
1 cup salsa (mild, medium, or hot whichever you prefer)
4 ounce can chopped green chilies
14 1/2 ounce can tomato sauce
tortilla chips
2 cups grated cheese

1. Combine all ingredients except chips and cheese in large slow cooker.

2. Cover. Cook on low 8 hours.

3. Just before serving, remove chicken breasts and slice into bite-sized pieces. Stir into soup.

4. To serve, put a handful of chips into each individual soup bowl. Ladle soup over chips. Top with cheese.


Next, I will share a little sweet treat recipe with you all.........peanut butter clusters.  I have to confess I didn't make these either, but I did eat them on Saturday night after church, while hanging out with our church family. I am a peanut butter-aholic, so I was immediately captured by this recipe. My friend, Jonelle, made these on Saturday night (along with some puppy chow). We also had three other amazing desserts as well.   I asked Jonelle for the recipe and she e-mailed it to me right away.  It is so simple, so I have to share it:):).

 Peanut Butter Clusters

1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup peanut butter
4 cups corn flakes

1. Bring corn syrup and sugar to a boil in a medium sauce pan. 
2. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, then corn flakes.
3. Drop teaspoon size amounts (somewhat quickly) onto wax paper to cool.

Stay tuned next week for Baked Chicken Parmesean.  Feel free to submit any recipe ideas to me......I love to try new things!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Family Fun Fridays: Grandparent Visits and Ballet

My Momma!!  She is so beautiful
       Last weekend was an encouraging and refreshing weekend in our family life.  This time of year is a bit more hectic in our family life because my husband works many extra hours as part of his job (doing taxes).  The other part of his job involves helping people with financial planning and investing, so he stays very busy!  We have been doing this for quite a few years now, and we are all growing more accustomed to his schedule.  Our sweet parents both took time out of their busy schedules to come visit us last weekend, and it was so helpful.  Saturday morning, my mom showed up bright and early at 8 AM.  I hadn't told the kids about it, so when she walked in, they were ecstatic!!  After some good "Grandma Jo loving" that day, their other grandparents (my in-laws), came on Sunday.  They took the kids swimming at their hotel pool and then let my husband and I slip out for a date.  It was such a blessing for us to have extra help this past weekend and get refreshed before the week started.  Our week has gone so smoothly, and I feel like it was in part due to the refreshment and help we received last weekend!!!  Thank you to our parents!! :)

Then, on Wednesday this week, K-lady had a ballet "parent watch" night.  Normally I bring her to practice each week and sit in a small waiting room, where I cannot see her at all.  We get to "watch" their practice three times a year, so I am always so excited for this week.  I wanted to share some pictures of her......she is growing up so fast and has gotten so tall lately.  W-man and Little A also really enjoyed watching her practice, and they all got to run around the ballet room afterwards and try out their own moves. 

Stretching out.......love how her hair turned out too! :)

First position at the bar

Working on some positions at the bar. K-lady is in the middle.

K-lady pretending to be asleep.

Her own creative routine with the scarf.  This is always my favorite part of the "parent watch night"

K-lady doing a "curtsy" after her performance.

The three amigos :)  Little A and W-man had a lot of fun watching the dancers. 

K-lady and her ballet instructor
I am thankful it is Friday!! Anyone else feel that way too?   Have a blessed weekend and I will look forward to sharing with you next week.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Adoption Talk Thursdays: Hair and Happenings

I am excited to share a couple of new tips that I have found to be helpful for the styling and care of Little A's hair. I genuinely love to learn about her hair and have had fun taking care of it. The best product I have found this week came from a suggestion that I read on: Happy Girl Hair.  I ordered this leave in conditioner right away from Amazon and started using it one week ago. Here is the link: Nature's Baby Organics Conditioner and Detangler   I got the vanilla tangerine scent and it is so yummy!! K-lady thought that I was baking muffins when I was putting some in Little A's hair one day this week :):). This all natural product is seriously amazing. I feel like Little A's hair has been softer and had more defined little ringlets this week. So beautiful!!! I had to share about this because I will definitely be purchasing more when we run out.

There was another article that I read this week discussing the idea of detangling or finger styling each day (especially when just wearing the hair out and not in a style). "Curls Will Be Curls-Saying No to Daily Detangling"  I really liked this article, because for many days I have been trying to pic or lightly comb out her hair each morning when I moisturize it. I realized, after reading this, that I may be actually causing more damage. This week I have just tried to use my fingers to style and gently spread out the curls, and it is working nicely. I accessorize with different clips and headbands each day, but I really like how it is looking.

I am also excited that I get to attend an "Adoption Loving Mamas" coffee/hang out/get together this weekend here locally. It is open to all foster, adoptive, or mamas with a heart for adoption. If you are reading this and would like more info on time and location, please let me know. I am looking forward to the encouragement and fellowship and even sharing of ideas. My heart remains open to the possibility of adoption someday again, but I am leaving that in the Lord's hands. For now, I am thankful to be able to encourage other families who are beginning this process or in the middle of it. I am also excited to meet other people with adopted children, because I think that could be important for Little A as she grows older.

Here is a picture of our Little A the first weekend she was born.   Her birthmom is such an amazing person that we have such respect for.  We were privileged to watch Little A come into this world and bond with her immediately in the hospital.   I wanted to post this picture as a reminder to myself of this precious gift of life!!  I am excited to see how God is going to work in her life. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesdays in the Word: Honeycomb Words

Proverbs 16:24  "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

This week I have been studying the topic of communication, through Kay Arthur's marriage study called "A Marriage Without Regrets"  This verse, found in Proverbs,  has given our family such joy and encouragement this week.  I wrote it on a large index card and put it on our dining room table, and we are helping each other to memorize it this week. I have seriously noticed a "healing effect" in our family life this past couple of days, just by being more aware of the words we speak.

I keep picturing a honeycomb full and overflowing with sweet honey and it has helped me to be more aware of the words I speak to my children and to my husband.  I have noticed the kids being more aware of how they speak to one another. In general, there has been a feeling of "sweetness" towards one another in our family.  It is refreshing and uplifting.  Our words can either be used to damage, or to build up another person.  I have always known this, but after studying the topic of communcation this week, I was challenged NOT to be reckless with my words.  The words that come from our mouths all go hand in hand with what is in our hearts.  I posted yesterday about walking in the Spirit, and I feel like that topic carries into today.  I can't speak careful words and words that build someone else up, without the help of the Holy Spirit.  I need to ABIDE in Christ, to be able to bear this kind of fruit. (John 15:4-5). There is a lady I went to college with and she has actually been blogging about the topic of abiding this past month.  You should check out her blog for more on that subject:  Kristi Stephens   My mouth overflows from what is in my heart.  I desire to be overflowing with sweet and pleasant words that heal and not destroy. 

I don't know about you, but communication in a marriage is hard work.  Adding multiple kids to the  picture, along with added life pressures can make it sometimes seem that no communication at all would almost be a better option.  Obviously ceasing to communicate wouldn't solve anything, so how do we communicate openly, honestly, and with love?  Kay Arthur challenged us to ask God to show us how we "come across" to other people....especially our mate, or our childen, or even other intimate relationships that might show how you communicate.  She said that communcation is a delicate art.  I agree with that statement wholeheartedly, and after studying many verses and spending time in prayer, I realized I am in need of some art lessons :) I am eagerly anticipating our small group discussion for this week so that we can share our ideas and what the Lord is teaching us in this area.   

I really want to share EVERYTHING that I read and learned this week, but I would probably lose some readers or risk putting some of you to sleep.   If you have ever thought about getting this study, I would highly recommend it, even if just for this week of "communication" alone. I feel like anyone: single, married, widowed, divorced, etc. could benefit from a thorough study on the topic of communication.

I especially wanted to share this one little verse from Proverbs that I have noticed has had a transformative effect on our family this week.  I hope it can bring some encouragement to your homes and to your lives.  What are some of your ideas on how to communicate in your homes?  What verses do you teach your children to encourage them in this area?   What is in your heart?  What are your words revealing about what is in your heart? 

I was talking to K-lady this morning about pleasant words and she decided that she wanted to draw a picture of our family communcating together. I will leave you with this :) :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

School Adventure Tuesdays: Mid-Semester break & desires

Although this week began with colder weather, copious amounts of rain, and gray skies, it has also come with a mini break from our school routine. We are having a mid-semester break alongside our Classical Conversations homeschool group. When I originally saw the schedule, I didn't really think I would want the break. I figured that I would rather get done earlier, especially when it starts warming up outside.

However, I am in a slump with school this week, so I am very thankful for a small and timely break. I honestly feel that the break is helping me to slow down, re-focus, re-energize, and simply enjoy my kids. I feel like when I slow down and don't have to stick to a certain agenda or a task checklist for the day, that I can be more creative and sometimes more patient with the kids. We didn't work through any particular "curriculum" yesterday, but we seemed to read a lot more together and have more time to discuss the things we read. For example, K-lady saw a short chapter book about Abraham Lincoln, from the library bag sitting in our living room. She became very interested and decided to sit down and read the book. We read parts of it together and she read some on her own, but she really enjoyed retelling the story to me and highlighting her favorite things about his life. On her own, she connected some of the events in the book with some of the events we have memorized in our history timeline. It was a blessing to see her making the connections and truly having an enjoyment for learning. We also spent some time having family worship last night: singing songs and Bible reading/acting. We try to do this somewhat regularly, but it felt like we had more time and freedom to be creative and not rush to get to bed. I desire to experience this freedom, creativity, and slower pace on a daily basis. I just haven't learned how to do that yet. I feel so much inward pressure sometimes to achieve certain goals with schooling at home or to not "fall behind", but I can also suck the joy out of learning by being so task driven. I am thankful for this week because I feel like it is giving me a chance to see how much my kids enjoy learning without the pressure of a strict schedule and time constraints. I desire to find the balance between schedules/time constraints and the freedom that comes by doing school at home. I know that we need to be diligent with our work, yet I desire joy and love to be present in all that we do.

I am thankful that I don't need to work harder or feel like I have to figure it all out on my own. When I slow down and rely on the Holy Spirit, He is transforming me. I know why I struggle from what Paul writes in Galatians; that the desires of my flesh are fighting a battle with the Spirit. In addition, I know that my flesh has been crucified with it's passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). How do I win the battle? How do I teach and train my children with freedom? Paul answers this in Galatians 5 by repeating these phrases, "Walk by the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, live by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit.". There is no law for the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We have been studying the book of Galatians together in our church, Covenant Creek Community Church and I have been thankful for the teaching and instruction we have received these past three months. Our teaching elder from this past weekend was preaching on this text that I have been discussing,  from Galatians 5.  He pointed out that the word "works" (as in the works of our flesh)is plural, because it is done by us, but the word, "fruit" is singular because it is done by God. That displays freedom to me!! Another way to think of the fruit of the Spirit is to compare it to a bunch of grapes.....there are many attributes(love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc) but they all come from ONE stem or vine. I have been challenged and encouraged this week to look at my desires because we all have desires.  We have the basic desires of needing air to breathe and needing sleep when we are exhausted.  As our teaching elder pointed out, our whole day is made up of desires.  What are my desires? Am I keeping in step with the Spirit or are my desires reflecting the old nature? 

I am happy for a chance to refocus my thoughts and desires this week.  I am learning to live moment by moment. I wanted to encourage anyone reading this post through simple truths the Lord is revealing to me. What are your desires

Remember......."It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.". Gal. 5:1.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Recipe Mondays: Pillow Cookies and Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Oh my.......I think I have to quit baking soon......I have seen just a little bit too much sugar flying around my kitchen lately. My friend, Jonelle, shared these Pillow Cookies with me, and I decided I just had to bake them and share them with you. I think I also need to start running more and baking less:):)  

I got the recipe from this website:


And here is what they look like from my kitchen:

W-man's hand next to these ginormous cookies

The dough with a cooked brownie in the center.  After the brownie is placed in the center, the next step is to mold the dough all the way around and over top of the brownie.

They got much bigger than I expected.....as you can see I had too many on one cookie tray.  Some of the cookies turned out like squares, rather than circles.

Lovely scrumptious brownie center

My father in law tasting his first ever pillow cookie

Thankfully I was able to share some of these cookies with my in-laws, who came for a visit and also let my husband and I escape for a little date. I am also going to share the cookies today with some friends who are coming for a playdate. Then....if there are any others left......they need to go far away from me :):)  Any takers?

My second recipe to share with you today is my first attempt at making spinach lasagna rolls. I found this while looking for a regular lasagna recipe and I thought I would give it a try. They taste very yummy, but I found the sauce a bit too chunky for my liking. I think next time, I would try to make a smoother sauce. I give this recipe a 3 out of 5 stars. You should try it and let me know what you think!! It is a great meal to divide in half and share with someone else or freeze for another time. Here are is the recipe, followed by some pictures:

Spinach Lasagna Rolls (from Better Homes and Gardens)

1  10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, cooked and well drained
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 beaten egg
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 dried lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
Nonstick cooking spray
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green sweet pepper, chopped
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1  14-1/2 oz can tomatoes, cut up
1  8-oz can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons snipped fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


1. Coat a 2 quart rectangular baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside

2. For filling, in medium bowl stir together the spinach, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, and nutmeg.  Spread about 1/3 cup of the filling on each noodle.  Roll up, jell-roll style, beginning at a short end.  Place rolls, seam side down, in prepared dish.

3.  Cover with foil.  Bake rolls in a 375 degree oven about 30 min. or until heated through.

4. Meanwhile, for the sauce, coat an unheated 2 quart saucepan with nonstick cooking spray.  Preheat over medium heat.  Add onion, sweet pepper, mushrooms, and garlic.  Cook until vegetables are tender.  Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomoate sauce, basil, sugar, and ground black pepper.  Bring to boiling, reduce heat.  Simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes or until desired consistency.  Serve sauce over lasagna rolls.  Makes 8 main dish servings.

5. Make ahead tip: Assemble the lasagna rolls and prepare the sauce as above.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  To serve, bake the rolls in a 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes and reheat the sauce.

Spreading the spinach filling on the lasagna noodles before rolling them up.

Finished product (before baking)

Have a great week, everyone!  

Friday, February 18, 2011

Family Fun Fridays: Cinderdog and my beautiful baby sister

Isn't she lovely?  Due in 4 weeks......with her first baby.........a GIRL!!
     We have had some fun family times this week, even with Kurtis working some extended hours for tax season.  The kids never cease to come up with creative ways to fill their time and we have also been enjoying some of the unseasonably warmer weather this week.
     My sister, Becky, and her husband , Levi, came to visit on Valentine's Day.....well I guess evening :).  It was really fun to see her so close to her due date and we are really excited to meet her little baby girl.  She looks amazing!!  The kids had some fun playing with Uncle Levi and we enjoyed a dinner of homeade spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and bread, followed by the killer brownies (featured in last Monday's post).  Whenever we get togther with our family members, it always makes me wish we lived closer to each other.   I wish my other sister, Adria, could've been with us too.   My sisters are the best!!
Our Valentine's Day meal together....homeade spaghetti and meatballs, salad, bread, beans, and killer brownies.

      Kurtis has been working more hours lately due to it being tax season :)  The kids miss him a lot, but it is very fun to see their responses when he gets home from work.  He sat down for a minute in the toy room and was immediately tackled by all three of them.   I am so thankful for the relationship they have together and I love to see their faces light up when they spend time with him.  He does an amazing job of balancing all of his responsibilities and still spending time with the children and for that, I am grateful. 

The kids are so happy to have Daddy home from work.  They literally all ran to him and piled on him at the same time...I love it!!
           Below is a picture of some of the creative things the kids have been doing lately.  K-lady and W-man love to play dress up, but they took it a little too far this time.   They decided to dress up their dog, Mollie as Cinderella.  We decided to call her "Cinderdog."  She was less than happy with us that day. 

Cinderdog......A.K.A. Mollie.

She is pretty mad in this picture.

K lady and Mommy unwrapping caramels together for the killer brownies.
      Kate and I have really enjoyed baking together lately, although sometimes I think she would rather just have me sit down a play a board game with her.  :)  I have tried to do both things, because I love to bake, but I know my kids just want me to spend quality time with them too.  We have had some fun learning to play Monopoly and Sequence together.  In this picture, we were unwrapping 60 caramels to go into the killer brownie recipe.  I am thankful for the joy that Kate brings to our family.  She has such a good attitude about things and she helps me stay positive too. (except for when she is eating black bean tacos)..hahaha :)
     This posting has been filled with somewhat random events, but it is just a sampling of our family life from this past week.  I will look forward to being able to share a good story soon......there is always something funny or crazy happening in our home. :)  Have a great weekend,everyone!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Adoption Talk Thursdays: Our littlest Valentine

Little A all dressed up for our school Valentine party on Tuesday with our CC group.....tried to do some little "twists" in her hair with a poof on top.........she is beautiful!!

Giving me a half smile, but not too thrilled that I am trying to take her picture.

Mommy......please quit taking my picture. 

Final pic of our littlest Valentine.  She is such a gift!! We love her so much!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesdays in the Word: Delightful hands and heart

     As I stated yesterday, I have been studying Proverbs 31 this week, regarding the topic of "The Model Woman," from a Kay Arthur inductive study on, A Marriage Without Regrets. I am hoping that my transparency and honesty through what I am learning is going to encourage other women who may have similiar struggles as me. I never want to come across as "preachy" or a "know it all.". I feel that the Lord wants me to share what I am studying and what He is revealing to me. I am not pretending that I have it all together. I really don't. It is only by God's grace that He has made me into His beloved child......only by His love that I have a future hope......only by His mercy that I am being transformed.

     Speaking of having it all together, I really had a hard time studying Proverbs 31. The woman described is beyond amazing and my initial response was to feel like a total failure. If this passage is reflecting the model woman, than I am certainly not in that category.  However, I serve a God who is full of hope, not condemnation, so I know that I need to keep moving forward in His grace.  He doesn't want me to stand helpless or feeling like a failure, or even worse becoming idle and complacent about God's Word.  So why did God give us this passage and what can we learn from it?
      I was challenged by some of the attitudes and characteristics of this woman.  While the tasks that she does are very important too, I feel like her attitudes are what I would like to discuss today.  Here is a general list of some of the attitudes of the woman that I observed while reading Proverbs 31.

* delightful when working with her hands (vs. 13)
* strong (vs. 17)
* Not afraid (vs. 21)
* clothed with dignity and strength (vs. 25)
* smiles at the future (vs. 25)
* wise (vs. 26)
* teaching of kindness (vs. 26) ---also refer to yesterday's post :)
* not idle (vs. 27)
* fears the Lord (vs. 30)

      I liked this list, because I found it helpful to go through each characteristic and examine my own life.  I would really like to do a more in depth study on this whole passage, but I am going to stay a bit more narrowly focused for today.  I really loved some of the actions of this woman from Proverbs 31 as well (ex. extending her hands to the needy and poor, etc.), but I think that will have to be another post some time :) 
     In applying this to my life, I found that I am not always delightful when it comes to the work that I do.  Some days, I just want to be doing something different, or feel like I have a rewarding career where I am making lots of money.  Sometimes I think the grass is greener on the other side. I wonder what it would look like to be delighted with the everyday tasks like washing dishes, endless loads of laundry, cooking meals, cleaning them up, changing diapers.  What kind of example would that be to my children if they saw me full of joy and delight about the work God has given me?  What if they experienced my joy in the mundane everyday things?  What would it be like for my husband to come home and find me a delightful person to be around........not someone who is being controlling, nagging, or complaining?  What would it be like for my family to observe delight when we are working together to serve others?   For me, I genenerally struggle with my attitude more in the wintertime.... I have to admit.  I am tired of feeling inactive. I miss the sunshine and the warm breeze and even mowing the grass.  I get tired of feeling cooped up in our house with no way to burn off energy.  After reading this passage, though, I am wanting Jesus to show me what it would look like to be delighted with this work He has given me, even if it is in the middle of winter.  I want to lay aside my excuses and selfishness and am praying for a delightful heart and delightful hands.

     Yesterday's post was written about the characteristic of teaching with kindness.  I will not expound on that anymore today, but I am seeing that this characteristic goes hand in hand with having a delightful attitude.  I really like a comment that a friend Nikki left on my post from yesterday.  She reminded me of a quote we both heard at a conference last year...."Children are souls to be nurtured, not products to be measured."  I have been thinking about this a lot today and I feel like having that mindset will help me to teach with kindness and delight; not out of fear that I am not keeping up with the world's standards or trying to impress someone.  It encourages me to stand accountable to the Lord alone, and nurture my children in a way that pleases Him. 

      Finally, another characteristic that challenged me personally was about the "fear of the Lord" (vs. 30).  This characteristic seems to be of highest importance.  I wonder if any other characteristic that was mentioned in Proverbs 31 would be possible, unless the woman was living in total respect and dependence on the Lord.   What am I sometimes fearing more than I fear the Lord?  Am I worried about other's opinions of me?   Am I seeking to please man or to please God? 

      I have been personally challenged by some of these attitudes that I don't always display in my life. I want to make sure it is clear that I don't believe that having these characterisctics are required for salavation.  I know that Jesus saved me by His own works, not anything I have done.  I don't ever want to add to the gospel.  I know that Paul wrote in Galatians, that "I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me."  I don't want to make anyone feel like they have to earn their relationship with God by works.  That is not the gospel.  Now that the gospel has been revealed to me, I want to obey God out of my love for Him. 
     I hope that maybe some of you can relate to what I have shared and that maybe you feel challenged, strengthened, or encouraged in your life's journey. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

School Adventure Tuesdays: Sticks & Smiles

          I have so much to learn when it comes to teaching my kids.  It seems that there are so many different approaches to teaching, and a multitude of topics to be covered.  I am learning how to make choices in these areas and where to put our time, energies, and focus.  I am also learning basic things, including how to teach my kids to write their letters and how to put letters together to make words.  I can tell the learning is never going to end.  In fact, just when I start getting a little confident in what I am doing, God usually humbles me in various ways. 
      One humbling experience for me happened at our local public library.  I decided to take the kids to preschool story time one day after lunch for W-man.  I used to be so faithful about taking K lady, but it has gotten trickier with more kids and a fuller schedule.  I think I got overly proud of myself for taking W-man to story time and was about to be equally impressed with how I had taught him to write his own name.  As the story time teacher was making W-man a nametag, and she asked him how to spell his name.  I could feel myself smiling as he said, "W...................I................um.... um.....a stick and a stick."  The teacher looked at me in a puzzled way and said she wasn't sure what he said.  I told her that he was trying to say, "L and L", but described them as sticks.   I instantly felt slightly embarrased that I had never really worked with him to the point that he knew that the "sticks" were L's.  I know he is young and it is not a big a deal, but I was still a little embarrassed.  I think I learned that I need to make sure I am teaching him correctly from the beginning.  It was kind of cute, though, and I got some good laughs out of it the rest of the day.  I think that it was partly a pride issue for me.  I knew the teacher was aware that we homeschooled because she had just had a conversation with Kate about school.  I wanted to prove to her that my kids were just as smart and "able" as kids who attend school outside of their homes.  I think the Lord keeps teaching me that I don't need to prove anything or get caught up in the outside appearance of things.   I need to just daily ask myself, "What is my heart like in all of this, why am I teaching my kids, and am I finding favor with the Lord?"   
      Another lesson in humility came this week.  I have been studying Proverbs 31, and have been struck with some of the attitudes of this woman.  I know that the passage mentions many tasks, which are worthy to be studied and applied, but I have really been honing in on her attitudes.  The attitude that really impacted was about kindness, specifically kind teaching. In verse 26 of Proverbs 31, it says, "She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."  I started thinking through our daily school routines and then yesterday morning I tried to evaluate if I was teaching with an attitude of kindness.  As we were halfway through a somewhat frustrating math lesson, I realized that I was not being very kind with my teaching.  In fact, I was being rather pushy, demanding, and unsmiling.  I decided to stop math for the moment and I looked at my daughter in her tears and realized that my attitude was, in part, causing her some frustration and sadness.  I don't like to admit this here on the blog, but if I can help someone else, then I want to be transparent.  I apologized to her and admitted that Mommy wasn't being very kind.  I gave her a little break (and myself a little time to pray) and then we got back at school.  Even though I didn't feel like it yesterday, I tried to put a smile on my face.  What a difference even a smile makes!!  It isn't that hard, but sometimes in our own homes, we can forget what even our own face looks like.  As I was smiling at her, encouraging her and teaching her with kindness, she blossomed right before my eyes.  She was enthusiastic, particpating, and eager to learn.  She was receptive to my instruction.   I really need the Lord to help me in this area.  I desire to be full of His kindness as I teach my children.  I know this is possible through His Spirit.
          Oftentimes, I feel like I am the one doing the learning at home, rather than my children.This week, I have learned that I need to smile often, teach with grace and kindness, and not be ashamed of my 3 year old referring to the letter L, as a stick.  What lessons have you learned at home lately?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Recipe Mondays: Black Bean Tacos and Dorothy Lane Market-style Killer Brownies

I love recipe Mondays. I also love getting back to writing a blog post. I took a couple of days off over the weekend, which was nice, but I also realized how much I enjoy being able to share with others, get connected with new people, and learn new things.  To kick off my recipe Monday post, here is the first recipe for black bean tacos and mexican yogurt dip:


You also need to have a cute firefighter with you when making these, as pictured below:

Last week, I made black bean tacos for the first time. We have had other variations with meat in them, but I wanted to try something new because they seemed healthy and cost efficient. Considering I enjoy baking and eating sweets, I figured that I need to cook very healthy as often as I can. The black beans tacos were a huge success in my opinion, but I am not sure if the rest of my household would agree. The Mexican yogurt dip turned out to be pretty spicy, and I even held back on the chipotle pepper seasoning a little bit. I love spice, but the kids haven't completely taken a liking to strong spices yet. Here is a picture of Kate's reaction.

I feel a little guilty that I posted this, but her reaction was classic, so I had to capture it. She tries to have a good attitude with food, but some things she just can't handle.  :)

I believe my husband would have loved the tacos also, but he had actually had Chipotle for lunch that day and I didn't know. I felt bad once the meal was all done. He was so sweet though, and he never complained, all while eating every single bite with a smile on his face. :)

I was delighted to enjoy a leftover taco for lunch the next day and I thought it was fresh and just as delicious the second day. I loved the crisp taste and the twist of the Mexican yogurt dip. I am usually a fan of sour cream, but this seems like it would be a much healthier option. I will definitely make these tacos again, but maybe only for my husband and I.(and I will check with him what he is eating for lunch first).

My next exciting recipe to share is a rendition of Dorothy Lane Market's Killer Brownies. I believe the real recipe from Dorothy Lane Market is a secret, but someone came up with this very close version and posted it on the Internet. I wanted to surprise my husband for Valentine's, because these are his favorite dessert from DLM. A friend, Nikki, graciously shared the recipe with me last week, so I can't even take credit for finding it. She shared some very helpful tips, which I will also share with you. First of all, this recipe recommends using a German Chocolate Icing, but that is really hard to imagine on these brownies.  It just seems like it would make them way too heavy and rich.  Nikki's suggestion was to use a light dusting of confectioner's sugar and I also did the same thing.  Another tip was that she doubled the whole recipe and put it in a 9 X 13 pan.  Her best tip was that for the top layer, she laid it out on wax paper and smoothed it out before putting it on top of the caramel/chocolate chip layer.  That was a very helpful tip, because as I made it, I realized how tough it would have been to spread that top layer.   Here is the recipe:


And here is a picture of how these brownies turned out. 

I am excited to serve them after dinner tonight, not only to my hard working husband, but to my little sister and her husband!!  They are coming for a visit today and I am very excited.  They are going to have their first baby sometime next month, so it will be great to see them.  Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Family Fun Fridays: First dentist visit

     You can see by this picture that W-man was not thrilled when we were leaving our home early yesterday morning to go for his first dentist visit. For some reason, he seems to be fearful of the unknown these days....with the dentist being near the top of his list. I had no idea how this was going to go, but the day arrived and off we went!!
     I ended up taking all three kids with me. For some reason, I thought that it would be good for Little A to watch the other two kids get their teeth cleaned, as practice for the future. I was terribly wrong. Somehow I managed to forget that Little A has been to the doctor one too many times this past month for ear infections, a chicken pox vaccine reaction, etc. She HATES the doctor's office now, so she took one look at the dental exam room with the bright lights, the scrubs, and the chair, and she started bawling. I felt so bad for her and at the same time I wasn't exactly sure how they were going to clean my teeth. I felt so ridiculous for thinking I could handle all three kids by myself at the dentist. Just as I was about to reschedule my appointment, this awesome receptionist took Little A and held her and played with her while I got my teeth cleaned. Meanwhile, another hygienist got started on the kids and before I knew it, we were ready to leave and everyone was happy. W-man did an awesome job, much to my surprise considering the way our day got started. He loved the experience and has already been asking when we get to go back. WHAT? How did that happen?
     Here are a few pictures of Will's first dentist appointment. He even told the hygienist, "thank you", each time she rinsed out his mouth. I was in shock, but very thankful that everything turned out okay. All three of the kids got to take home toys from the office and they each got their own new toothbrush. Clean and sparkly smiles made for a nice drive back home. :):).

"I'm a big boy, Momma"

He is looking a little skeptical in this picture.  They also had to keep reminding him to open his mouth.

     Thanks for reading one of our "Family Fun Friday" adventures. I will conclude with a quote from, The Tooth Book, by Dr. Seuss....."...Never bite your dentist when he works inside your head. Your dentist is your teeth's best friend, bite carrot sticks instead.".
       I am off to enjoy this Friday with my children.  Happy Friday and happy weekend to you all!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Adoption Talk Thursdays: My curly girls

     Happy Thursday to everyone!!! I am looking forward to sharing some basic ideas with you about adoption and hair care on Thursdays. I hope to even start meeting some people who would allow me to share their adoption story in order to inspire you and possibly help you take a step of faith and start the adoption or fostering process.
     First of all, I love the above photo of my curly girls taken this morning. I love it that they both have curly hair and that they even look like blood related sisters. As crazy as that may sound, I feel like they favor each other in some ways. I have even had a couple of people comment on pictures that they resemble each other. Even if you don't agree with me, or think I am losing my mind, we can all agree that adoption is an amazing thing and that they are fully sisters, whether they share the same genes or not. It is an awesome picture of how God has adopted us as his sons and daughters and given us full rights to His kingdom and to Himself. He doesn't care where I am from, what I have done, or what I look like.  Out of His great love, He has made me His child. Adoption gives us that physical picture on earth. The Lord has blessed us with a daughter whom we can love, nurture, teach, and it doesn't matter if she came from my womb or not. She is our precious child in every way and she has full rights to being a member of our family. I am glad that I can tell Little A someday that I was adopted too.
     The hair care is a big priority for me with Little A. I don't think it is necessarily because I care what people think of me, but I feel like it is going to be very important to her someday. I have so much to learn, so as you read this, don't consider me the expert by any means. In fact, I am very open to suggestions or ideas, especially if you have similar hair to Little A's. I am in anticipation of the day when her hair grows longer and I can create or copy some fun styles, but for right now, we are just focusing on hydration and taking care of the short hair that she does have.
     My two curly girls both usually start the day of hair styling with their own spray bottle. K-lady's is a red bottle with plain water, and Little A's is a blue bottle with a natural conditioner mixed with water. It smells nice and seems to help re-hydrate her hair each morning. I only wash Little A's hair once per week with shampoo (I like to use Herbal Essences shampoo, especially the one for hydration, followed by the Island Naturals conditioner pictured above. I actually love how her hair feels the day before I wash it....has so much softness, moisture, and natural oil in it. I like to style her hair while it is still damp and I usually put an olive oil type of product in her hair to keep it soft. (it is pictured above in the green container). I use a wide tooth pic and comb very gently starting at the end and working my way up. I am mainly using small barrettes, flowers, clips, and soft head bands, and occasionally will do little puffs with the rubber bands. I found the rubber banded style was pulling too tightly on her hair line, so I am avoiding these kinds of styles until she grows more hair. I can't wait to try more styles as her hair grows. Sometimes at bedtime, I put a little bit of the coconut oil (pictured above) in her hair. She also sleeps on a satin pillowcase because she won't keep any kind of cap on her head at night....this is to prevent matting, tangling and hair breakage.
     Many of my ideas were taken from various blogs on ethnic haircare, but two of my favorite are: Happy Girl Hair: Natural Hair Care for Kids http://www.happygirlhair.com/.............and Beads, Braids, and Beyond. http://www.beadsbraidsbeyond.blogspot.com/  
     I have a lot to learn, but this has been very fun!!  I hope that I can possibly help someone else with some ideas or at least provide links to the blogs that are completely devoted to natural ethnic hair care.  Send me your ideas or suggestions to improve what we are doing! 
The Curly girls (all three of us) :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesdays in the Word: The role of man

      This week, I am studying the role of a man, from Kay Arthur's precept In and Out study, " A Marriage Without Regrets". I think it is going to be difficult for me to actually write this blog post today because I am obviously not a man. However, I am married to a man, and am "one flesh" with that man, so I have some biblical reponsibilities to support him in the great role and responsibility that he has. I am going to discuss my perspective on the role of a man woman, and more specifically how I can support him in his role.
     I have been studying several stories from the Old Testament this week, specifically the account of "The Fall in The Garden" from Genesis 3 and also Abraham and Sarah's relationship throughout several places in Genesis. I had never thought of the parallel between the two events before: Eve telling Adam to eat the apple and Sarah telling Abraham to sleep with Hagar, her servant. In both instances, the wife was giving advice to her husband (in a somewhat controlling way) and the husband followed the wife's advice instead of submitting first to the Lord. There is also an example that seems to contradict the other examples from Genesis 21:8-13, where the Lord actually tells Abraham to follow Sarah's advice.   I think the point is not that men shouldn't follow the advice and or words of their wives........but their first priority is to be in line with the will and ways of God.  
      The roles of men and women have been revealed to me in greater depth through this week's study. The husband has a huge responsibility placed on him of first and foremost submitting to the Lord in all things, as well as the other roles of providing for his family, nurturing, caring, and providing unconditional love to his wife. The believing husband's relationship to his wife is designed to reflect Christ's relationship with the church. We haven't even discussed the role of man as a father yet, but that will add another important layer of responsibility to the man.
      With all this in mind, what does it mean for me? I think the answer lies in something I wrote in my blog last week. Submission was the topic I covered last week and I gave a list of what that looks like from a biblical perspective. In order to fully support my husband in the huge role that God has given him, I need to keep on submitting with a quiet and gentle spirit (which believe it or not, does not come naturally to me), an attitude of respect, and not trying to control things. I need to continually seek to serve my husband and find favor with the Lord in this way. This can't be done on my own though.....only though the power of the Holy Spirit in my inner being (Eph. 3:16)
     It's not about my feelings or happiness and bliss in our marriage. I do believe when we are living in a marriage the way God designed for it to work, we will experience blessings and happy times. But I also feel like this is going to take work and a constant submitting of myself and my selfishness to my Father in heaven as well as to my husband. I am looking forward to digging in deeper in the coming weeks and finding out some specific applications and things that the Lord can change in my heart and in my life. 
     I am so thankful beyond words for the gospel, which is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom 1:16).  I am thankful that God loves me and did the work of salvation for me......not anything I could've done on my own.  I am thankful that in him we have, "redemption throuh his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with he riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." (Eph 1:7-8)  I am saved by grace, but out of love for God, I desire to have a marriage that models Him and finds His favor.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

School Adventure Tuesdays: School in our pajamas?

        "Do you get to do school in your pajamas?"  "I could never have the patience for doing school with my kids."  "I don't have a teaching degree" "I have been waiting for 5 years to get a break...how do you do it?" "My child and I are too much alike..........that would never work." These are just a sampling of some of the phrases I have heard in the last couple of years as we started figuring out what it would look like to do school in our home.  I can't say I haven't ever asked or said one of those phrases to myself, but I can say the Lord is supplying our family with the tools, patience, and stamina to do school at home.  I never imagined that I would be excited to go to homeschool conventions, or do to science experiments and math work with my 5 year old, but it is happening so I think I will share about it with others :)  I hope I can encourage someone who is on the fence of school decisions, just like I was a couple of years ago.  The following pictures were posted to encourage anyone that they can do homeschooling if that is what they choose for their family.  I personally think there are many good options for schooling, but this is just what we have chosen.
         A big lesson I have already learned is that I CAN'T DO THIS ON MY OWN.  I have to completely fix my eyes on Jesus each and every day through prayer, dependence on the Lord, and being in His Word on a regular basis.  Everytime I try to do "school"  in my own strength, I always fail and end up causing everyone in the family to feel miserable and frustrated.  When I allow God to show me His agenda for our family, instead of creating my own, we get much more enjoyment out of learning and growing together.  I am a task oriented type of person, so this is a struggle at times.  The Lord is patiently teaching me how to balance our school days and teach our children through the power of His Spirit within me. 
         There are many other lessons I am learning as we walk this journey, but for now I will share the pictures of our humble schoolroom.   We just use our dining room which is right off of the kitchen for the majority of our school time.  We also love to cuddle up together on the couch for our reading times  and history lessons together.  Sometimes when it is nice outside, we can even sit on our back porch.  Studying Science outdoors is wonderful too, but not as of lately. :)

The main school storage area....a repurposed dining room hutch:) An endless and accessible supply of markers, colored pencils, crayons, paper scissors, stickers, glue, etc. has been very helpful.

A sampling of our "timeline cards" from history. Makeshift string for now, but hope to make it better in the future:)
Bumblebee Kate. :)  We were working on some grammar, which can be a little boring at times.  We tried to get a little creative as we were disussing verbs yesterday.  We talked about animals and action words that accompany them.

Kate's narration of "Strangers and Saints in Plymouth" from The Story of the World., by Susan Wise Bauer.  I read her this story and then she  wrote this narration after she drew the picture.  She LOVES learning about history, and so do I. :)  Generally her copywork for handwriting is neater than this, but I was trying to just allow her to get her words out with writing for this paper.  She is really starting to enjoy writing, but I could use some ideas on how teach creative writing.

Some of our favorite books we use on a regular basis.
            I have so much to learn and we are really just beginning this journey.  I am thankful for the opportunity to train my kids at home and be involved with them while they are young.  There are days when I just want a break, or to talk to some adults, or to go join the gym and have time to work out all by myself, etc..................but I remind myself that I can't get back these days with my young children.  I look at my kids' faces and know that I have a responsibility to train them up in the Lord.  With all humbleness, I believe this is possible through a multitude of schooling options, so I am not writing this article to say that school at home is the only way.  I just know this is a clear calling for our family right now.   If homeschooling is something you want to do, or are considering, then it is possible.   I can tell you that it will be hard and there will be some suffering involved, but God will give you what you need........this I know.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Recipe Mondays: Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies & Tortellini Soup

Happy Monday, everyone!

I love to cook and bake, so I am very excited to share some of my favorite recipes with you. I am not a gourmet chef by any means, but I really do enjoy being in the kitchen. I also enjoy having my kids involved with cooking as much as they want to be.

First off, I am going to share a recipe for Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I saw this on a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago and got the recipe off of a blog called:  http://www.beckybakes.net/    Here is the recipe from her website.


You will love Becky's beautiful pictures. I will include my pictures as well, and I guarantee that some of you are going to want to make these right away this week. They seem like they would be over the top on sugar, but they are very delicious. I first made these a couple of weeks ago for a church function, but I never got to try one....so I had to make them again for my family yesterday for the Super Bowl. I got to eat one last night, and they fantastic......slightly crunchy on outer layer, followed by a soft and chewy cookie dough with Oreo goodness in the middle (I used double stuff Oreos too). I liked them best warm out of the oven with a cup of coffee, but they are just as delicious later on in the day! Now I am starting to wonder what other kinds of stuffed cookies one could make..............

Here is a picture of the cookies I am sending far away from my house. I will freeze them and use them as part of a meal I am taking to someone later in the week. When I bake, I try to give part of it away, because my kitchen seems to make goodies disappear quickly (and I am usually the cause for the disappearance).

Next recipe I would like to share is a recipe for tortellini soup.  I have no idea where this recipe came from and it is not something I created myself.  I got it from a facebook message with a friend.  She says she was grocery shopping and called up her sister in law on the phone, who quickly rattled off the recipe from her head.   I like this recipe for dinner because it is really easy and hearty.  It tastes delicious too.  Here is the recipe:

3 cans beef broth
2 cans petite diced tomatoes
3/4 cup salsa
1 tsp basil
1 chopped onion
1/2 tsp garlic
1 pkg frozen cheese tortellini

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes.  EASY!!  Makes great leftovers too. 

Happy cooking to all of you!! Let me know if you try any of these recipes and what you think. If you have any recipe ideas you would like to contribute, I would love to hear them!! Check back next week for a recipe of black bean tacos and Mexican yogurt dip.