Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's Raining, So....

It's a rainy day today, so I'm baking up a storm.  So far, I've made zucchini chocolate cake, oatmeal raisin cookies, & some more of that yummy home-made granola.  I plan to make some Molasses Wheat bread yet and possibly some peanut butter fudge.


This should make my family happy.  P.S. - I'm not sure what the deal is with the lantern battery.  My husband placed it there several days ago, & it hasn't gone away yet.  It probably won't unless I make it go away.

All this baking has another purpose too, aside from giving me something to do on a rainy day.  I'm trying to stock up on some homemade snacks so that my family have things to take to school & work and I'm not as tempted to buy the processed stuff at the store.  


The mess waiting for me when I'm done writing this post.  :(


Actually, I should clarify that I don't buy a ton of processed snacks (i.e. - cookies, cakes, etc.) because I know home-made tastes better anyway!  But, on occassion there's such a good deal (and I shop at a discount store already, so the deals are sometimes awesome!) that I can't pass it up.  In an effort to continue to be more conscious about what we eat...and to hopefully save some money at the grocery store, I need to get back into the swing of making my own.


The rain also makes me think about what my kiddos will do with themselves when they get home.  Would you like to see what has been keeping them occupied over the last couple weeks?



There used to be one hole in a corner of our backyard for digging.  After this particular day there were 3 holes.  And, my boys had started carrying buckets of water down to create mud pits.  By the time I realized what they were up to they were already covered in mud.  So, I figured I should at least document the moment with pictures.



By the way, he wasn't wearing boots here.  These are his school shoes completely encrusted in mud.




I wanted him to turn around so I could get a picture of how muddy his bottom was.  This was how he thought he should pose.





So, after that particular day (and that huge mess of clothes & shoes I had to clean), mud making is off limits.  But, they've still been digging in the dirt.  


No go today since it's raining.




On another note, rainy days make me think about reading.  And, I'm craving a good book.  I've been getting Christian fiction from the library lately.  But, can I be honest?  I am really frustrated with Christian fiction.  The writing just usually isn't as good.  Many times the characters are annoying and the storylines unappealing.  I hate to sound harsh.  It's just how I've been feeling.


So, can you help me out?  I need some book recommendations.  I'm open to both Christian and secular suggestions....as long as I'll come away from the story uplifted and encouraged in some way.


Hope you have a great day!  And, enjoy your weather, what ever it may be.

Monday, February 27, 2012

This & That

First, a funny story....


I went to the local Walmart recently to grab a couple items I can't get at the discount grocery I usually shop at.  My youngest, Joseph, has become quite unhappy about sitting in the cart while shopping.  But, in a large store like Walmart, I usually make him do it anyway.  Typically he'll fuss at first but then quiet down.


On this particular trip he kicked, fussed, and squirmed as I tried to put in him the seat.  I finally got him in & buckled the safety belt.  This is usually the point where he realizes his fussing is getting him no where & he gives up.  Not this time!  He flailed about, crying & fussing as we walked through the store.


I tried talking calmly & reassuringly to him..."You're fine Joseph.  We're going to do our shopping & then go home for lunch."  I tried distracting him.  "Here.  Would you like to hold this for mommy?"  Nothing was working.


A lady passed me early on and smiled at me.  Then, after about 10 minutes into the ruckus, I noticed the same lady walking over to us.  She smiled at me & then looked sternly (but not unkindly) at Joseph and said,


"I'm with the Noise Police.  And, you need to stop crying.  The other people don't want to hear you cry.  Your mommy doesn't want to hear you cry.  So you need to be mommy's helper & be quiet now."


Well!  Joseph looked at her stunned & the beauty of it was, he was quiet for the rest of the time!  Like I said, she wasn't unkind at all.  But, she ended up being quite helpful!.  I saw her again as we were heading to the checkout and I told her that her little talk with him worked, that he had settled down, & I thanked her.


Next, a couple thoughts on eating healthier...


We've been doing a few new things lately.  Since this past fall we've been drinking raw milk.  I've heard so much back and forth on the dangers vs. the benefits.  I decided to give it a try.  Here's my take on it....It's delicious.  We've had considerably fewer colds this season.  And, we've experienced no bad side effects.  So far, I'm pleased.


We also recently filled our freezer with some grass fed, hormone free, organic beef (some ground, roasts, steaks - about 1/4 side of beef).  And, I just researched & found some farms in the area that sell hormone free, organic chicken.  It's pricier for sure.  But, if we reduce the amount of meat we eat (a goal I'm working toward), then I feel like we can shell out a little extra for healthier meats.


And, a question for you other health concious folks.  Is there a health difference between unbleached & bleached flour?  I guess the most obvious difference is that unbleached flour wasn't bleached with chemicals.  I just don't know much else beyond that.  Any thoughts?


Finally, some recipes...


A group of us girlfriends have started getting together once a month for dinner.  And, rather than spend the money to go out to dinner we've been meeting at one friend's house & planning a themed meal where each of us brings a part of the meal.  This month we had a French food theme.  I made the appetizer and the dessert.  And, I was pleased with both, so I thought I'd share them here...


This is similar to how mine looked.  Except for the fancy design on top.
Brie en Croute
2 rounds puff pastry
wheel of Brie (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup fig jam
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds

Loosely place 1 round of pastry in a pie pan.  Place Brie on top.  Spread jam on cheese.  Sprinkle with almonds.  Place other round on top.  Roll edges to seal.  Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.

(Note:  I actually only used one sheet of pastry & an 8 ounce wheel of brie.  I topped it with apricot jam.  You could really choose any flavor jam you prefer.  And, I simply folded the pastry sheet up & over the  cheese & sealed it at the top )

Raspberry Brioche Pudding
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 ounces (about 6 cups) brioche or challa, cut into 1 in. cubes
3/4 cup raspberry jam
whipped cream or ice cream (optional)
fresh raspberries (optional)

Generously butter the bottom and sides of  a slow cooker.  In a large bowl, whisk together eggs & sugar until pale & foamy.  Beat in milk, cream, and vanilla.  Scatter bread cubes in slow cooker.  Pour milk mixture over break.  Dot the surface with jam.  Cover & cook on high for 3 hours or until center is set.  Serve warm with whipped cream & fresh raspberries.

(Note:  This was delicious & so easy to make!  When you first look at it in the slow cooker it doesn't necessarily look pretty.   But, I made home-made whipped cream to go with this.  I scooped the warm pudding into individual parfait glasses.  Then I topped it generously with the whipped cream & sprinkled it with berries.  THEN, it was pretty!  And, it was so good!  This got rave reviews!)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Refreshed

I need to give a quickie update.  I know my last post was something of a downer.  And, here's the thing....I can always tell when I'm building up to a meltdown.  I can always tell when I need a break.  But, I don't always know how to ask for it.  Thankfully my break came anyway this weekend.


First of all, friends invited us to come have lunch at their house after church on Sunday.  This was completely a spur of the moment invitation.  And, I'm so glad they opened their home to us in that way.  One of the things I really needed was some interpersonal interaction.  Face to face interaction.  As grateful as I am for the social outlet that Facebook & blogging provide, there's nothing quite like talking & laughing with friends in person.


Then, my parents arranged to pick up all four of our boys late Sunday afternoon.  Since the older two had off school on Monday, my mom thought this would be the perfect opportunity for the boys to have a sleepover & to spend a little time at Grandma & Grandpa's house.  


What a treat!  My parents stopped by to pick up the boys around 4:00.  Till everyone was loaded up and ready to go it was about 5:00.  And, while it's always a little hard to say good-bye to my boys, it also meant that John and I had the night to ourselves!


We went to our Financial Peace class at church.  Then, afterwards, since we didn't have to rush home, we stopped at Applebee's for a light & late dinner.  We got home to a quiet house and that felt so strange.  


Monday morning I slept in...until 8:30!!!  I can't remember the last time I did that!  Then I lingered over my coffee & breakfast while praying and reading my Bible.  Since no one was around, I could pray out loud and uncensored.  Praying out loud by myself is one of my favorite ways to pray.  Too often I get distracted & am unable to stay focused when I'm praying silently.  But, praying out loud feels like I'm having an actual conversation with God.  (Praying out loud in front of other people is a whole other story...I'm incredibly uncomfortable doing it).


I spent about an hour or so with God.  Then, after taking a shower, tidying up a bit, starting a load of laundry, and returning a few phone calls, it was close to lunch time.  And, I had plans to take my Grandma to lunch.  


After Grandma & I had lunch I took her with me over to my parent's to pick up the boys.  She wanted the opportunity to see them too.  Grandma recently moved into a nursing home and she gets so lonely there.  Visits with her great-grandchildren are precious to her.


When we arrived at my parent's house, my mom filled me in on all the details of their overnight adventure.  All four boys slept on the living room floor with mats & sleeping bags & Aunt Sharon (my youngest sister) to oversee them all.   Then, Monday morning my mom & Sharon took the boys to The Turkey Hill Experience.  (Turkey Hill is a local company that owns gas stations & minute markets and that makes some of the best ice cream and iced tea you've ever tasted.)


Apparently, everyone else had the same idea for a 'no school day' outing, because my mom said it was incredibly busy there.  They still braved it and somehow manage to corral four boys through unscathed.  They then took the boys to McDonald's for lunch.  My boys love anytime anyone is willing to take them for fast food!


So, the end result was - My boys got to have fun and spend time with Grandma & Grandpa & Aunt Sharon.  And, I got a break, some time alone with my husband, and some time to myself, and some time with God. 


I sure feel refreshed!  (Thanks Mom!  It was your idea and what a great idea it was!)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lazy Parenting & When You're At A Loss

Can I admit something to you?  I've become somewhat lazy in the parenting department lately.  


I've allowed my children more tv & computer time than they should have. 
I have intervened in fewer arguments & haven't doled out consequences where I should have. 
I haven't enforced chores as diligently as I should. 
I've allowed too much snacking & too much of it is junk. 
I do far too many things for my children that they should be doing for themselves (such as packing their lunch). 
I've been distracted & don't listen as closely to them as I should 
And, I've been rushing through bedtime prayers & have done far less reading of the Bible with them/ talking about God's love as I should.


I see these things happening and I've felt too exhausted & frustrated to do anything about it.  It hasn't happened all at once.  It's been a gradual movement in this direction.  The problem is it's a movement that I know will gain momentum if I don't address it now.  


Let's face it - it's sometimes easier to just let things slide.  And, I really do get tired of constantly being vigilant.


I could make excuses about how my husband has been really busy again & I feel like most of the parenting responsibilites are falling on me.  Or I could tell you how winter is tough over all & what we really need is for spring to come around again.  I could also mention that I really do need a break.   That I'm craving time alone, to get away.


And while all this is true, the fact is, the parenting still needs to be done.  And, lazy parenting just isn't cutting it.  My kids aren't happy.  I'm not happy.  And, I don't want to continue down the slippery slope of sloppy parenting.


But then there are other times when I'm just at a complete loss of how to deal with a parenting situation.  This morning was one of those times.  My oldest two had no school so they had to come along to my mom's meeting that I attend every other Friday.  There was child-care provided for the older children that day.


My one son is very shy & uncomfortable in new situations.  I know this about him.  So I wasn't surprised when he had already begun complaining early in the morning that he didn't want to go and he 'was NOT' going to his room.  I told him first thing in the morning that he had no other choice, that mommy had responsibilities (I help set up the brunch), and this is just what he had to do today.


After dragging his feet all morning and waiting until the last minute to get dressed and get his shoes on, we were finally out the door.  After dropping my personal items off in our meeting room, I then took the children to the child-care wing.  The little two, who come with me every time, were dropped off at their rooms with no problem.  Then, we found the room where the school-age children would be that day, and my social, outgoing schoolage son went in immediately with no problem.  The other son, the one uncomfortable with change & the unfamiliar, dug in his heels.  He refused to go in.


We were already running late because I had to take an alternate route to the church due to traffic issues.  The other mom who helps set up brunch was already working on the brunch table and I needed to get out to help her.  So, my hackles went up pretty quickly.  I had already discussed this with my son in the morning and I did not have time for his disobedience. 


The situation escalated.  I tried placing him in his room.  But, he's no longer a toddler who I can physically move to where he needs to be.  This is a schoolage boy-man who I was not going to engage in a wrestling match.  He ran out of the room.  He was defiant despite all my warnings about privileges he was losing by not obeying....even taking away our beloved Friday family fun night from him had no effect.  


I started to become desperate & I could feel tears stinging my eyes.  I didn't know what else to do.  I walked out toward the brunch area to let the other mom know I hadn't forgotten about helping, with my son tailing close behind.  I tried calling my husband, but because we were inside the church the reception kept going out in the middle of our conversation & his conversation with our son.  


I could not hide the fact that I was angry.  Furious really.  And, the tears kept threatening to come as I saw other moms I knew who were arriving for the meeting.  And, along with the anger came embarrassment.  Here I was, a long-time member of this mom's group, one of the oldest women there, a member of the steering team and I could not get my 8 year old son to obey me.  One of my friends suggested I let him come into the meeting with me.  But, I knew this was exactly what my son wanted to do & by allowing him to do something I'd already told him he couldn't would be backing down.


I wish I could say there was an 'aha' moment of clarity about how to handle the situation I was in.  But, there really wasn't.  As a matter of fact, as I type this almost 2 hours later I'm still upset.  We did get through on the phone to my husband again.  He talked to my son.  And, eventually he did go in his room.  


At lunch, my husband comes home to eat and I explained the events of the morning in detail to him.  He and I both talked to our son about the severity of outright defiance.  My son seemed to understand that his actions were wrong.  And, the consequence of losing family fun night stands.  He will go to his room this evening while the rest of us enjoy a family movie.  


And, I still feel horrible.  But, now there is guilt thrown in there too.  Was there something different I could have done?  If I hadn't gotten angry so quickly could I have reasoned with him?  


What can a parent do when a situation throws them for a loop and they are at a loss?  As a mom I'm constantly thinking on my feet.  And, sometimes, I don't have any ideas left.  


I don't know if I have a positive way to end this post.  I'm sorry about that.  I guess the one thing that I've been hanging on to lately is a verse from James.  


"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."  James 1:5


This verse may become a key parenting verse for me.  Because, boy, sometimes I lack wisdom.  I need to keep reminding myself over and over that I need to ask God for it and He will give it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My Weight Loss/ Healthy Eating Journey: What I've Been Doing

If you are a regular reader or if you know me personally then you also know that over the last year I've lost about 35 pounds.  I started 2011 at a very unhealthy 192 pounds (I'm about 5'6) and my current weight now in 2012 is right around 157 pounds.


I've had some people ask me how I've done it and I meant to write this in a post for quite awhile.  The last couple months my weight has plateaued (and threatened to creep back up) and I've slowly been slipping back into some unhealthy patterns, so I figured this was as good a time as any to write it all out.  And, hopefully, this will be the refresher that I need.


I have always struggled with my weight.  Always.  From a slightly chunky child to an anorexic pre-teen to a yo-yo dieter/binge eater as an adult, I could write the book on what NOT to do in setting proper eating habits.  In the past, I've tried seriously restricting & counting calories, low-fat diets, vegetarian diets, eating baby food diets (no kidding!).  You name it I probably tried it.


Around the time I got married, my weight had settled somewhere between 150-160.  I wasn't thrilled with this weight but it seemed relatively healthy for me & seemed to be where my body naturally wanted to be.  Then I started having children (4 within 6 years) and went through the cycle of gaining a LOT while pregnant, losing some & then starting over with another pregnancy.  


By the time my 4th child was born, I was at my all-time non-pregnant high and I lacked the motivation or the energy to do anything about it.  I became resolved to the 'fact' that after four children my body was never going to be the same....and apparently I was going to be heavy.


But, then in the year or so after my last son was born I started experiencing major mood swings.  I have also always struggled with depression so mood swings weren't entirely strange to me.  But, these were severe and they seemed to correspond with my monthly cycle.  There were about 5 days a month where I couldn't seem to keep myself from sobbing uncontrollably.


I was aware that hormones were probably playing a part in my mood swings.  I also have a personal preference not to use medication to assist me in this way.  (And, for other personal reasons I don't use birth control that introduces synthetic hormones into my body - so I knew this was all my own hormones out of wack).  I knew if I went to see a doctor they would probably recommend medication of some sort.  So, I just continued to suffer through it.


Then, I came across this article : Are Your Hormones Making You Miserable?  by Dr. Mark Hyman.  I even wrote about it in another post.  And, the article suggested natural, practical ways to adjust your eating habits to help get your hormones back in sync.  Everything he talked about in the article were healthy eating practices I already knew I should be doing.  But, somehow this article really struck a chord with me.  And, I was desperate.  


And, so without further ado....here are some of the changes I made in my eating habits to become a healthier and happier person....


1.  Make it a lifestyle change....not a diet:  This might seem like a no-brainer.  But, I really had to adjust my thinking.  I was so used to 'going on diets' that I always looked at any healthy changes I made as temporary.  I had to identify new ways of eating and I had to be able to live with them!  Along with that - no food is off limits.  If I want a piece of cake, I'll have a piece...a small piece.  And, it can't be every day (although I usually DO treat myself to a small piece of dark chocolate every day).  Moderation is key.
2.  Make the changes gradually:  Another big downfall for me in the past is that I'd become overwhelmed.  I couldn't jump from completely unhealthy to completely healthy in one day.  'Oh my gosh', I used to think as I read other blogs & articles.  ' I should be eating completely organic, hormone free, completely made from scratch, no sugar, etc..'   And, it seemed like too big a jump.  Instead identify a couple changes you want to start with & go from there.  Just start!
3.  End night-time snacking:  This one was huge for me and was one of the first changes I made.  I probably lost a good bit of my weight from this one alone.  My husband and I used to have a major snack at night after the kids went to bed - nachos, cheese & crackers, chips, etc.  I'm sure I used to consume the equivalent of another meal in that night-time noshing.
4.  Think of food as fuel:  Here's another major mindset I had to change.  I've always associated food with pleasure and comfort.  And, I'm sure an aspect of that will always remain.  Let's face it.  I love food!  But, I started trying to think in terms of what my body needed.  After lunch if I was still hungry, should I grab some crackers or chips from the cupboard?  Or should I grab some fruit or nuts instead?  
5.  Keep a food journal:  While I didn't want to commit to counting calories or food points (it didn't seem like a long-term lifestyle change for me), I did want to be more concious of what I was eating.  And, in being more concious I could become more intentional. So, I've been keeping a food journal.  I mark the date, my morning weight, and what I eat that day for all meals and snacks.  At the beginning I was very specific about marking down exactly what I ate.  For instance, here's an early entry...
8-9-11 (Tuesday) 182.6 
Breakfast:  3 slices turkey bacon, Chobani Greek honey yogurt, 1 peach, coffee
Lunch:  1/2 Jalapeno & cheddar tortilla wrapped with hummus, sauteed veggies (onion, pepper, mushroom, zucchini), & tomato.  Cherry Chocolate Baked Oatmeal, Seltzer water
P.M. Snack:  Carrots and Hummus
Dinner:  Baked Cod, Broccoli, Mac n Cheese, Peachy Salsa & Tortilla Chips, 1 pc. dark chocolate & 1/2 scoop frozen lemon yogurt

And, here's a more recent entry....
2-9-12 (Thursday) 157.4
Breakfast:  Coffee, Granola, Banana
Snack:  Grapes
Lunch: Spagetti & Meatballs, Cheesecake
Snack:  EmergenC, Sunflower Seeds
Dinner:  Chicken Ravioli, Peas

And, somedays I don't remember to write it all down.  But, this has been a good exercise for me.  Plus, when my weight fluctuates in a way I don't expect or like, I can also get a visual on why that happened.
6.  Eat fewer carbs/eat healthier carbs:  I really do like my noodles & breads.  But, I found I could eat less of them and actually feel fuller/ more energetic.  And, when I do eat them, I try to eat as whole-grain as much as I can.
7.  Eat a low carb, protein rich breakfast:  I usually would grab a bowl of cereal for breakfast...and sometimes I still will.  But, eating protein in the morning makes a huge difference in my energy levels & how long I stay full.  For breakfast I try to eat egg omelets with veggies, or Greek yogurt & fruit, or fruit and cheese.  Smoothies made with fruit, greek yogurt, & spinach were a summertime favorite.  I'll admit, I get tired of eggs.  But, getting some sort of protein in there is so helpful.
8.  Snack More:  You might be saying, "Wait a minute!  Wasn't #3 'no night-time snacking'?  Yes indeed.  But, I've found that to keep my energy & metabolism up during the day I actually have more success in my weight loss when I snack.  A small healthy morning & afternoon snack can be a useful weight loss tool.  Some snacks I enjoy:  fruit, raisins, nuts, apples & cheese, carrots & hummus.  I do try to steer clear of crackers...even whole-grain, mainly because I have very little self-control when it comes to crunchy, salty snacks.
9.  Eat more fruits & veggies:  Fruit was easy for me to sneak in extra servings because it's easy to grab & can stand on it's own.  Veggies were harder.  I don't usually like raw veggies unless they have some rich creamy dip on the side.  I did discover that I enjoyed them with hummus (got more protein in there too!).  Also, I started eating giant salads for lunches topped with veggies that were sauteed in a little olive oil.  Onions, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, etc. are all super tasty this way.  I also ate a lot of wraps that were mainly sauteed veggies with a little cheese thrown in too.
10.  Eat fewer processed foods:  This one was fairly easy for me.  As it is I do make most of our foods from scratch...or almost completely from scratch.  But, this opened my eyes to really watching labels when it comes to cereals, crackers, etc....stuff we pretty much accept that we have to buy already packaged.  It really is shocking when you start looking at what we so willingly put into our bodies....it's not really food.  And, this might seem counter-intuitive to health and weight loss, but I use real butter...not margarine.  Try to purchase thing in their purest, most whole form possible.  Sometimes it requires more prep on your part, but it's worth it.
11.  Exercise:  Confession.  Apart from the 2 months or so that I was running to prepare for a 5K, I haven't been exercising.  I meant to give myself a little break over the holidays, but haven't gotten back into the groove.  And, guess what?  My mood is starting to suffer again.  I can't begin to emphasize how GOOD I felt when I was doing some form of exercise.  So, this is for me as much as it is for you...Get moving!
12. Don't beat yourself up:  Another one of my huge downfalls used to be that as soon as I had a bad day or a bad week, I usually ended up giving up.  This is another tough mindset to break.  And, I'm struggling with this one right now.  I mentioned at the beginning that I needed this post as a refresher for me too.  I'm falling back into some bad habits and the numbers on the scale are starting to move back up.  But, as soon as I get mad at myself or frustrated at myself it starts this whole 'stinkin thinkin' track in my head "You're gonna get fat again.  You're pathetic.  You can't do this."  Get the picture?  Give yourself some leeway & some grace.  Then, just keep going and keep trying.

I think that pretty much covers it.  Practical stuff right?  Common sense stuff.  Trust me I know it's not easy.  But, it is absolutely do-able.  I still have a little farther to go.  I'd love to weigh right around 140 pounds.  But, more importantly I want to treat my body kindly & be a good steward of my health.





Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Musings - My Thoughts on Soul Mates & Passion

I have always been a hopeless romantic.  My early years were filled with dreams of finding THE man that I was destined to be with....the one my heart yearned for.  


I had this idea that someday he would enter my life and all it would take would be one glance filled with an explosion of longing, and knowing, and passion.  In that moment our hearts would be immediately drawn to each other.  And we would connect in a way that only he and I could.


If you asked me during the first 25+ years of my life if I believed in love at first sight and in having a soulmate, I would have emphatically answered yes.


I'll tell ya.   I was certain that there was a passionate, sensitive, artistic man who was longing for me as deeply as I longed for him. It was a lonely search.  And, it was a long search.  I never dated in high school & only a tiny bit in college.  I was a bit of a late bloomer.  It's not that I didn't want to date.  It was that noone asked.  I was awkward & shy & lacking confidence.


Then after college, I focused more on my appearance & built a psuedo-confidence.  And,  my 20's became a series of really bad choices & men that were bad for me or who didn't want to commit.  But even with my innocence shattered, I held on to this idealized, romanticized idea of love.  If anything, I held on to it even tighter.


When I met John, the man who would become my husband, my ideas about love were turned upside down.  He was nothing like the type of man I had imagined myself with.  Instead of passionate, sensitive, and artistic he was practical, not particularly tuned in to heavy thoughts & emotions, and more comfortable with tools in his hands than with a paintbrush, a pen, or a guitar.   


At the time I met him I had worked hard at trying to develop an image for myself as something of an artsy, alterna-chick (probably I figured I'd attract an artsy, alterna-boy).  My husband cared nothing about image & was completely comfortable with himself and didn't see a need to have a 'style'.


Music was incredibly important to me.  It stirred me, moved me.  Yet, when I asked John how he felt about music, stirring & moving were not adjectives he applied.


And, instead of an instant connection or that feeling of love at first sight, our initial dating process was somewhat awkward as we got to know each other.  While John had decided early on that I was the girl he wanted & he was going to pursue me, our relationship became a dance of me pushing him away & then pulling him back in again.


I was so conflicted.  I thought falling in love was supposed to be easy.  It was supposed to be something that just happened.  And, I was so confused.  Here was a man who was nothing I had imagined.  Yet, the values I was searching for - a man who loved God & family, a hard worker, one who would understand my conservative upbringing - John possessed these.


And, I slowly started to realize that these core values, his goodness & patience & honesty, and his love & acceptance toward me far outweighed any 'image' or idealized version of romance that I had created in my mind.   


And, ultimately, it was Grace that won me over.  When John met me, I was a mess.  But, he didn't see me as 'that' Karen.  He saw me for who he knew I really was and who I could be again.  He didn't count my many mistakes against me.  And, during my 'pushing away' moments I filled his ear with confessions that I was sure would shock him and drive him away.  But, they didn't.  He loved me still.


John's love mirrored God's own love toward me.  And, two things happened in my life at that point - I set out on a path of finding forgiveness & healing with God, and I found the earthly love that God had designed just for me.  


So, if you ask me today...
Do I believe in love at first sight?   No.  I do believe there can be intense attraction at first sight, but not love.
Do I believe in soul mates?  That's a tougher one.  I believe that God can knit two souls together, but that does not necessarily mean they are exactly alike, have the same interests, the same passions.  And, it certainly doesn't mean that they can just KNOW each other without communication & work & sometimes some pain in the process.


Each love story is different.  This was my path to discovering true love.  What was yours?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Ramblings

1.  I think Denise and I were having the same kind of day yesterday.  (Please note if you're new to Denise's blog...Denise is always positive and encouraging in her posts.  And, she loves and enjoys her boys tremendously and it shows!  She gave a rare peek today into some of the more frustrating moments.)


My day yesterday was one where I couldn't take one more moment of bickering, yelling, name calling, teasing, complaining.  I was done.  And, by the time my husband came home for dinner the stress was through the roof.  As a matter of fact, he had planned to work on our van last night after dinner, but he quickly realized it might be better for everyone if Daddy stayed home. 


After dinner I went into the computer room & shut the door so that Mommy could have 5 minutes alone.  Well, after about 10 minutes of various children and a husband walking in and out, it looked like everyone was finally settled watching 'Swamp People'.  And, my 5 minutes was going to begin. 


But, about 45 seconds into my 'alone' time I heard it.  Small feet walking into the kitchen.  Coughing.  Gagging.  Oh no!  Is that the sound of someone getting sick to their stomach?  Yup.  It sure was. Sigh.  Mommy was back on duty.


2.  Hey I have a question for you guys.  I love the new 'reply' option that we have in the comments section now with Blogger.  But, I'm wondering if you get a notification when I reply to your comments.  I know I get an email with my reply, but I'm curious if you do.


3.  We got a new filing cabinet to replace our cheapy, coming apart Staples filing cabinet.  We found a post on Craigslist for the heavy duty metal, 4 drawer filing cabinets for $20 a piece.  OR if someone took them ALL (it was a company changing over to electronic files & they had about 20 filing cabinets) you could have them for $10 a piece. 


My husband bought them all.


He figured he could sell them for $20 a piece & make a little profit.  I was dubious.  But, as it turns out, he was right.  Folks from his work snatched them up in the first couple days of him picking them up.....which is good because we wouldn't have had anywhere to store them!


So, the last several days I've been working on transferring files from our old cabinet to the new one, reorganizing & sifting through un-needed paperwork as I went.  Quite the job!  But, now that I'm finished I feel great!


4.  Today looks like it's gonna be a good day!  I hope you all have a fabulous Friday & a wonderful weekend!



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Deep Thought & then Something To Make Your Mouth Water

A Deep Thought....
 As different folks that I know have seen my pictures on Facebook & here on my blog about taking down the giant pine tree in front of our house, I received numerous comments like, "I can't say that I even realized that tree was there."  


Even my own mother made this comment!  And, in case you missed my blog post from yesterday & the pictures that went along with it, let me show you exactly how big this tree was.....


Do you see the gigantic tree that covers half of our house?  That's the one the folks just didn't quite remember being there.


And, here comes my deep thought.....Isn't that the way it is sometimes in our own lives.  We have this gigantic ____________(issue, problem, sin, etc. - you fill in the blank) that overshadows our life.  But, we become so accustomed to it.  It becomes so ingrained in us, that sometimes we forget that it's even there until someone else points it out to us.


And when we finally remove that _____________  (fill in the blank again) from our lives, we become amazed at how much more light can come in & how much more we can truly see around us.


Something to Make Your Mouth Water...
Actually, I have two 'somethings' to make your mouth water.


First, is a link to recipe for home-made granola.  I found this recipe over at Chicken Scratchings.  I had never made home-made granola before.  Somehow I had always assumed it was difficult to make.  But it's not at all!  And, it's really delicious!


So, please go check out Rebecca's recipe for Almond Peanut Butter Granola!  You won't be disappointed.
My first batch


The second tummy tempter I'm going to share is a dessert that my friend Lisa brought to a Mexican food themed birthday dinner.  These were so amazing that I made them for Super Bowl Sunday.


It's for a Mexican cheesecake or 'Sopapillas'.  The recipe is from All Recipes.com ( a site I just love!).  Go check it out there if you like.    But I'll share it here as well.....  It's super easy & very decadent!


picture from All Recipes.com

Sopapilla Cheesecake 

Ingredients

  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla extract
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup honey

Directions

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Prepare a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Beat the cream cheese with 1 cup of sugar and the vanilla extract in a bowl until smooth.
  3. Unroll the cans of crescent roll dough, and use a rolling pin to shape each piece into 9x13 inch rectangles. Press one piece into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Evenly spread the cream cheese mixture into the baking dish, then cover with the remaining piece of crescent dough. Stir together 3/4 cup of sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Dot the mixture over the top of the cheesecake.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the crescent dough has puffed and turned golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle with honey. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into 12 squares.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Great Tree is Brought Down

I love trees.  A lot.  It really pains me to see a tree cut down, especially one with age & beauty.  But, on Saturday my husband followed through with something we've been talking about for quite a while now.  He cut down the large pine in front of our house.



If this tree had been anywhere else on our property we would have kept it.  It was so beautifully shaped.  But, it was also too close to our house.  As you can see it practically covers half the house.  And, it was clogging our gutters and was tangled in the electric lines.  We knew it had to go.


Now, most people would hire someone to come and remove a tree this size from their property.    Not my husband.  He really believes he can do it all (and in most cases he can,  I must admit).    But, with a tree this size it was certainly no easy feat.






John & his friend Jeremy began by removing branches with the chainsaw that they could reach from the ground.  The process of de-branching & then topping the tree was the route they had to go since the tree was so large & so close to both our house & the road.  They couldn't fell the whole thing at once.  Then John began climbing into the tree, carrying the chainsaw with him, working his way upward & removing branches as he went.



 He did use a safety harness as he went higher.  But, I could not watch most of this process.  Do you see how close that chainsaw is to his leg???  One slip....  Let's just say, God was watching over him.   

 Those on the ground dragged the branches away while John continued to work on cutting them down.  John's friend Jeremy & my Father in law were both helping.  John also utilized some child labor.....





 If we had been really smart, we would have done this around Christmas-time & then set up a roadside stand selling greens.  Oh well.  Hindsight.



As branches were being brought down & John was getting closer to topping the tree, the men decided to remove part of our fence, so that when things fell, they didn't damage the fence.  

 Getting close now.  Do you see my husband up there?  He said the only time he really got nervous was when he was about as high as the chimney & he was starting to feel a bit light-headed.


Topping the tree.  My father-in-law stood in the road to watch for any oncoming traffic & gave John the go ahead when it was clear.





And there he is...quite proud of himself...with good reason!  What a man!




Soooo, we still have a 10 foot high de-branched trunk standing in our front yard.  John needs to complete the job, but he said now that most of it is gone he should be able to fell the remainder of the tree across our front yard. 


 He told me that he considered leaving the trunk there to tie the young maple tree to it.  The maple started growing a couple years ago & actually could be a nice tree.  But, it's growing slightly bent away from our house since the pine had been there.  However, I told my husband that in no circumstances are we leaving the trunk for any extended period of time!


So, we're still getting used the the pine not being there anymore.  One huge benefit is that we get more natural light now.  But, as I said it still looks pretty funny in our front yard right now.  We had to chuckle on Sunday morning as we were eating breakfast before church.  We could see our horse and buggy neighbors drive by & do a double-take when they went past our house.  One actually went so far as to slide open their buggy door & crane their neck out, mouth agape!
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