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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas in Heaven; When we yearn for loved ones

Believers, if you are missing a loved one at Christmas, consider this; Mary pondered what the shepherds told her concerning the Savior.

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:16-19

The world would have us swept up in the commercialism and "merry" of Christmas. But Mary modeled something deeper; quiet reflection about the true meaning. As your heart yearns for your loved one at Christmas time, may you also give yourself the blessing of simple, quiet reflection, the blessing of peace. A blessed Christmas to all.



Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What a chore!

As we are a homeschooling family, our house gets an average of 13,500 hours more wear and tear on it over a "school years" lifetime than the home of a non-homeschooling family. Trust me, when I tell you that can show quickly, I mean it.

All families must address the challenge of how to approach chores with their children. In our home, the ability to assign, check, and reassign daily chores is crucial if we want a standing house over time (said with a bit of drama to match the haggered defeat I feel when failed chore time gets the best of me.) So, what to do? It's the question we all ask occasionally.

We started a new chore system this year. It's one that has made its way around the internet and thankfully landed in my home. I believe it may have its roots in Managers of Their Chores by Teri Maxwell. I believe the Duggars use a form of it as well (if it works for their home, I'm thinking it's got to be good). And I was introduced to it by Courtney at Women Living well blog. Here's my take on it.

The children have a chore "pack" which they can wear like a necklace after school to complete their round of chores ("on your person" is a great tool for reducing, "I forgot," syndrome). I used a simple clear plastic I.D holder and simply hole punched it for tie-on strings. Then,...
  • I used patterned stock paper to make a fitted card that reads, "DONE" on the patterned (front) side and has the child's name written on the plain white (back) side.
  • I then cut multiple blank fitted cards on which I could write a single chore. Our list includes: unload dishwasher, transfer wet clothes to dryer and start, change cat litter, feed guinea pig, sweep out guinea pig's case, wipe bathroom sinks and mirrors, collect bathroom garbage, clean out van and put away non-garbage items found, sweep kitchen floor, vaccum upstairs, vaccum downstairs, put away all toys in playroom, dust furniture, wipe down railings, wipe down light switches and door knobs (assigned daily during times of illness), straighten bookshelf and book pile, straighten shoe rack. There is also a "morning chore" card that each child must complete, which includes brushing teeth and hair, make bed, get dressed, bring laundry baskets/dirty clothes down to laundry room.
  • Assigned chore cards are slid into the plastic sleeve front.
    As each chore is completed, the child takes that card and slides it behind the "DONE" side, to the back of the card, which has their name written on it.) This way, when all chores are completed, the child sees "DONE" and may bring his chore pack to me so I can verify that all work was completed.
  • Each day, I assign 2-3 cards (in addition to the morning chore card) to each child.
  • For Brandon, who is not yet reading, I sketched images of chores which he is able to complete on the back of a written chore card. That way, he can look at the picture and know what to do (ie. a shoe for the shoerack chore, a feather duster for the dusting chore)
  • Each day, I rotate cards, adding the chores that were not sent out the day before to complete, and rotating which chores each child receives.
  • For each day that chores are completed correctly, without complaint, and in a timely manner (which means right after schoolwork is completed), a dime is earned. Earn all 7 dimes for the week and chore reward is rounded up to $1. Complain, delay, or do chore hastily (and thus incorrectly) and that day's dime and the weekly $1 round-up is lost. Our goal is NOT to pay our children for chores, as they also receive a consequence if we determine their attitude toward serving one another is sinful (consequences might be something like no Wii for the weekend, or serving by doing extra chores).
  • Those who succeed in earning all four dollars in a given month will earn a bonus dollar for the month. They are setting goals for using their chore money toward a particular purchase and are using part of it to learn about ministry as well.

This system is working very well so far in our family (we're about 6 weeks into it.) A quick word on laundry too while I'm on the topic of chores. If you struggle to keep up with laundry like I used to (oh, the mountains of laundry that doubled as a "play hill" for my toddler many years back), then you might give these successfully applied tips a try as well.

I purchased small baskets from Dollar General (and other such stores) that could double as mini laundry baskets. It may take a bit of effort to find just the right ones (most are either too small or too big for this purpose), but it's worth the effort of finding them. They should be large enough to hold a full-sized basketball. I prefer the soft, pliable ones so a child can gather both hand grasps in a single hand for going up and down the stairs, but have also used hard plastic baskets as well.

Each day, my children are responsible for bringing these baskets down to the laundry room with any dirty clothes removed from the night before. They must also take these baskets up as they head off to bed each night, often full with clothes they must put away. If I am particularly busy in the laundry room on any given day, they must also put way clean clothes mid-day and return the basket to the laundry room until they again retrieve it at the end of the day.

I began this chore with each of my children at 3 years old (keeping the basket's weight light enough for my 3year old to carry so he/she could practice the chore with older siblings). I do not fuss over how neatly (or not, uh hem) the clothing is placed in the drawers for younger children. I consider wrinkles a minor inconvenience for me not having to trek up and down the stairs with umpteen loads of laundry each day myself. But older children (from about 8 years old and up) are expected to neatly put their clothes away. So, there you have it. And for the record, I am a daily laundry washer. I try to do at least one load every day for our family of 6. With the children helping me so much, it's not bad at all.

I would love to hear how chores "work" in your home.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Delicious comfort food!


It's been getting quite chilly (if not downright cold!) here in central Indiana the past week or so. I'm not one for cold weather. In fact, the only thing I enjoy about it is the built-in requisite slow down; one is basically forced to pause for a season.

So yesterday, I found myself thinking, "Comfort," as I planned dinner. And what came to mind was a good tuna casserole (good being the key word).

Creamy, comfy, YUMMY tuna casserole.

The recipe I use really is both simple and good, if I do say so myself.
I happen to get all 12 thumbs up here (two per body count).
Just sayin'.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
*************************
16 oz elbow macaroni, cooked and drained.
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped.
2 cans tuna in water, drained.
1 cup mayonaise.
1 Tbsp. lemon juice (I use concentrate)
At least 6 green onions (I choose to lightly sautee mine first)
8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
2 sticks celery, chopped (optional; I usually leave this out)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Mix all ingredients in large bowl and pour into greased casserole dish.
Bake in preheated oven at 350º for 15-20 minutes, just until heated through.
serves 8.

Enjoy!

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bringing home the gold.

My Olivia had her first swim meet today. She has been training on the developmental team for a year and finally moved up with "the big dogs" so it was an exciting day for her. Though she likely didn't place, she established her entry times, learned the ropes of knowing when her heat was up, and so on. All in all, a fun day.


I competed in gymnastics when I was her age and it was such a fun time in my childhood. The coach would pick us up in the YMCA van and off we'd go, sometimes a half hour away, sometimes 2 hours away. We'd be gone all day and our parents never knew how we did until we returned home late in the evening (I only placed on 2 events my entire first year, so you can imagine how encouraged I was after the first meet of my second year, when I came home to report that I had placed in every single event and had placed 2nd all-around as well.)

How things have changed. In my day, it was a personal commitment, but not so much a financial commitment. Sure, there was a YMCA junior membership to purchase, and the expense of practice suits (team suits and warm ups were provided).
The coach drove, and we stopped for fast food on the way home. There were very few expenses involved.

Today?

Parents have to volunteer 4 times/year (per family). We had to sign up to bring food items. $5 per person to attend the meet. $5 for a program (A program? We never had programs before). A fully stocked snack bar was open for business (including Subway sandwiches for sale). Really? Because back in the day, I had to hit the candy machine for M&Ms, banging on the glass when the Archimedian screw failed to plop out my chosen treats. But today, apparently it's "all out". They were even selling meet tee shirts for $10. We did have shirts made for our regional meets back in the day, but regular season meets? No way. The whole experience, from a worldly perspective, felt a bit over the top to me.

But not from the perspective of watching my sweet girl compete. She has worked so hard to have her own lane. And she was so very proud of her efforts. A few of the kids came off their events crying because they were unhappy with their times or because they finished last in the heat. And who knows, maybe those days are yet to come for my kids too. But for today, it was simply a wonderful moment in my daughter's childhood; a moment where she gave her all and smiled ear to ear over her efforts. In that regard, I'm happy to say we brought home the gold.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

MOMMY GUILT



Mommy guilt!
Been there, done that?
I thought so.
Me too.

So I was thinking about it yesterday as dh and I worked on our third batch of cinnamon apple butter together.
(Yes, we make bodaciously marvelous apple butter together; gals, this is what happens when you convince them the stove is a "grill".)

There our four kids were, watching The Wilderness Family on DVD, while we spent about 2½ hours busying ourselves in the kitchen.
[Begin lament]
I should be with them.
They need me.
Why am I sitting here stirring apple butter?
This is lame.

[end lament]

Wait,...just why am I sitting here making apple butter? The obvious answer was that my family likes cinnamon apple butter and I was making it to please them.
So why do us moms have to complicate the issue?
I mean, hubby wasn't having "daddy guilt" (at least not that I could see; has that been invented yet?) And the kids did seem perfectly fine without me.

So I got to thinking. It wasn't so much that I was busy making apple butter that gave me a small dose of mommy guilt. It's just that I was busy.

Busyness.
Time sucked away from the precious moments of our days.
Time is limited and must be stewarded wisely.

So, I slathered a little apple butter on a bite of english muffin (to help me think, of course) and thought some more.

Mommy guilt when I'm washing and folding the bed linens. Sure, we do need clean bed linens, but if one (or all) of my children is feeling particularly mommy-needy that week, why can't I delay that chore and invest in my children instead?
When they are gone, will they recall those clean sheets?
Or the time spent (or not spent) with me?
Which one do I want them to recall with fondness?

Mommy guilt when they want me to go outside to play with them, but I decline because it's "too hot" (seriously, do we ever outgrow that whine?) and I'm feeling right comfy in the air conditioned house.

But,...

Would I melt?

Actually, yes I would.
I have naturally curly hair and it totally frizzles to the max after too much heat and humidity (seriously, I do).
But just because I'll come back inside looking like an English sheepdog doesn't mean I should take my dose of mommy guilt lying down on the sofa.
Time is what they want and it's mine to give.

Or not (gulp!)

Cautious note to self: I cannot buy it back when the fleeting moments of childhood are gone.

As I recently read (and agreed with) elsewhere on the net, I'm certain when my children are grown and gone, I will yearn for these days I'm in midst of now.
I will wish I could do it all over again.
I just don't want to wish I had done it differently.

Throw mommy guilt out the window at some point this week, won't you?
When your child comes and asks you to get stuck in the Molasses Swamp for 47 turns (again), indulge him.
No matter how well intentioned your busyness may be regarding the serving your family, your children will be well served indeed by your willingness to simply be with them.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven..."

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Evidence of (His) Love


"Open your eyes
And look upon the handiwork of God
Open your soul
And feel the breath of glory all around
For everywhere there's evidence of love."
~First Call


Our homeschool week (our family week, for that matter) goes from Tuesday to Saturday, as hubby has Sunday/Monday off from work. Today, therefore, was our first day "back at it" after our vacation. I begin school promptly at 8am each day. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I must break away at 9am to drive my youngest to preschool (5 minutes away) while my oldest assists her younger siblings with their spelling lesson.

As I drove my youngest to preschool today, I couldn't help but drink in the absolute lovliness of yet another blessed Indian summer day here in central Indiana. The sun is shining, the temperatures are mildly warm (going up to 80º today), and a gentle breeze is blowing. Truly, everywhere I looked, my eyes were rewarded with the handiwork of God.

Sunshine.

Blue skies.

And color. Glorious, wonderous, rich hues of autumn.

Golden yellows.
Fire reds.
And my own personal favorite, blazing orange.
All this color against the remnant background of the greens of summer.

As I pulled into my parking space at the school, my eye caught sight of a gentle swaying movement in front of me. I looked up and was rewarded with the most soothing sight; a tree yielding to the moment of transition from one of life's seasons to the next; yielding ever so gracefully as, gem by golden gem, it surrendered one falling leaf after another, ever so slowly. I was mesmorized for the moment, my senses truly engulfed by the gift. And it was that, a gift, straight from the hand of God.

I would encourage you, as you take in these last days of fabulous fall color too, to not miss the gift within the gift within the gift. First, we are given God's color palate to behold, painted by His most creative hand on all the trees of fall. But the gift doesn't end there. Do not miss the beauty of leaves fallen, a delicate blanket of color resting on the ground below, or floating gently on the surface of a pond or river nearby. And finally, be sure to hear the message of fall; that yielding to the seasons of our lives can be done with grace and beauty; that to everything under heaven, there is a season and a purpose. God is in the details.

Are you embracing the blessings of the particular season you find yourself in at this moment? Is it possible you are missing some of its unique beauty by clinging to a season now past? Like a lone withered leaf clinging to a bare tree of winter, so can we be when we fail to yield to a new season of life with grace. I'm not trained as a preacher so I assure you, no preaching intended. I would be the first to admit to "lone leaf" status at times, and therefore this is an encouragement borne of experience.

As First Call so perfectly stated, "Open your eyes and look upon the handiwork of God....for everywhere there's evidence of love."

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Planes, Ships, and Automobiles


Yes, I took this photo as we sailed out of Freeport. It's amazing.

Please note: If you dare to read this post, grab a cup of coffee and something to keep your blood sugar up. It's loooong (mainly because I need to document the trip for our family.) Next, I hesitate to post details of our vacation, as I realize many families do not have the means to take a trip like this one. If you know me personally, then you know that one thing I am NOT is a "material girl" (whatever, Madonna). I'm not impressed by "stuff" and I don't covet it. I am a girl who loves nature, wide open spaces, and minimal "stuff". The only reason we are able to take advantage of traveling as we do is because we are blessed through my husband's airline job with the privilege of doing so. I recognize that this is a blessing straight from the hand of my God and Father and for that, I am nothing but grateful.
Just wanted to make that clear before I begin.

************************

Just got back from our family vacation. My husband and I have taken many cruises over there years, but never with our children,....until this past week. They have been counting down the days since late July, eager to take in this new-to-them experience. In a nutshell, we all had a most blessed and wonderful time away. But let's step out of the nutshell for a moment, because outside the nutshell, our trip was, well, an "adventure" within an adventure.

Our children posing with one of the cabin steward's many towel creations we would discover in our stateroom on the ship.

We began with standby challenges. Our family always flies standby, as my husband works for a major airline and we are able to board flights when there are available ("open") seats. When we cruise, we always fly the day before our ship's departure, to guarentee that we don't encounter any standby problems. With our ship sailing on Monday, we had planned to fly Sunday.

"Honey, Sunday's flights are full. We're now traveling on Saturday night."

Okay then, we were now leaving TWO days early. There was a non-stop flight on Saturday evening at 6:30pm with 15 open seats (we need plenty of those with a family of six). Dh and I sparred a bit about what time we should head to the airport. He wanted to go early (3:15pm), while I didn't want to sit in the airport that long, rallying for 4:30pm. He won when he suggested we eat dinner there so I wouldn't have to cook.
Deal!
Good thing too because right after we finished our airport dining, we learned that the aircraft we were waiting for had to return to Miami after take-off and thus our outbound flight was now indefinitely delayed. Joy! We hustled to the gate to see what our plan B options were, only to realize we had to make a split second decision. Stay and wait for the now delayed non-stop flight or hop on the Dallas flight that was leaving in several minutes and hope our connection in Dallas ran smoothly. We chose that option and a dear co-worker of dh's quickly rerouted our bags so they would arrive in Miami that night as well. We arrived in Miami at 11:00pm and had to wait until about 11:45pm for our bags. Travel disaster averted.

Next, dh went to check in at our hotel, only to learn they couldn't find one of our reservations (we booked two, adding an additional night when we realized we had to leave another day earlier due to the full flights menioned above). The desk clerk could not locate our reservation, even though dh had a confirmation number, so he just booked us. Whatever. Just get us to bed, thank you for your help.
Our "littles" in one of the hot tubs on board.
The next morning, we walked to a McDonald's for breakfast, then inquired about the bus schedule to Bayside Mall. We had told the kids what fun it is to hang out there before cruising. It's very artsy and gives one a little taste of local Miami culture.
"Ooooooh, good luck with that. Today is Sunday and the bus schedule is seriously reduced. You can wait for it to come along, but it might be 90 minutes before you see it."

Swell!

Dh hailed a cab. $25 later, we were at Bayside and had a great time. The kids got to see Carnival Cruiseline set sail, and to imagine their departure from port the next day. We walked a few blocks down from Bayside and sat in adirondack chairs in the sand along the bay. And what did we see?

Porpoises!

Oh yes we did too. We saw about 5 or 6 of them feeding on schools of fish that were frantically leaping out of the water, trying to get away. And the feeding show continued for a good 10 minutes. They came as close as perhaps 50 yards away. What a treat to spot them while resting in such a beautiful spot. We also saw some type of shark at Bayside (again, tipped off by schools of fish leaping out of hte water to get away). We hailed another taxi back to our hotel after "negotiating" a single cab ("Sir, we only took one cab here. Yes, we know we have six people. Four are children." Oy vey!) And the cab driver's daughter is presently enjoying her sparkly bling evening bag, courtesy of my 8 year old, who accidentally left hers in the cab when we got back to the hotel. :(

We let the kids swim in the hotel pool before tucking them in for a night's rest prior to the big day (they were exhausted from our trip to Miami by way of Dallas).
We usually make our boys wear shirts into the water so they won't sunburn, but this time we let them go in without them. Brandon, our 4 year old, was beside himself with joy. "Oh, this is soooo es-siting swimming without my shirt on." You just have to love that boy's take on what is worthy of being dubbed "exciting", lol.

Monday morning finally arrived and we boarded our bus for the port of Miami. A short 15 minute drive and we were there. Four enormous ships were in port; 2 Carnival, 1 Royal Carribbean, and ours, the Norwegian Sky. It was last in line to leave port, so the kids would get to see three ships sail before their own gave the long departure blasts and headed out to sea. We always head to port early so we were checked in and on board by about noon. We knew to keep our bathing suits with us in a carry on, as the kids would want to swim and the porters take your luggage from you and deliver it to your stateroom later in the day. We all enjoyed a lunch in one of the formal dining rooms together, where the children loved being able to order appetizers, an entree, and a dessert without regard to price. It made me smile when they asked the very same question a dear friend asked me when they took their first cruise with us a few years ago; "You just get up and leave when you're done eating?" Yes, you do.

The kids then swam the rest of the afternoon until it was time to set sail. There are millionaire homes along the channel at the port of Miami so it's fun to look at them as you leave. I'm so not a materialistic person, not at all impressed by "stuff", but it's still fun to catch a glimpse of such pricey real estate as the ship leaves port.

Our oldest son playing on Junkanoo Beach in Nassau
Our first port was Freeport in the Bahamas and oh, let me tell you, it's a tropical,...er,..it's,...there are palms and sunshine and,.....okay, so there's nothing to do there. Nope, nada. We walked around at the portside shops and passed on our chance to take a taxi 11 miles into town to shop some more. It was fine though. The kids wanted to spend some time in the ship's Kids Club, which gave dh and I time to walk 2 miles on the ship's jogging deck. Ah, mighty nice.

The view from a porthole on the ship's walking deck, in Freeport.
The next day was sure to be our favorite; introducing the kids to one of our favorite spots in the Caribbean, Norwegian's private island, Great Stirrup Cay. I was hoping it wasn't too torn up as it is currently under rennovation and I wanted the kids to see it for the tropical paradise we have come to love. A day of snorkeling and swimming, dancing on the white sand beaches, enjoying an island barbecue, reading in a hammock while an island breeze dares to turn your page, hiking to the "airport" and lighthouse. Oh, what fun they were in for.

Were.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I am most sorry to have to make this announcement but do to current water conditions, we have been unable to safely bring the tenders shipside to take you over to the island. Multiple attempts have been made and at this time, it is my decision that we must cancel our scheduled day at Great Stirrup Cay." And we were literally heading out our cabin door to board the tenders when we heard this announcement. Sad, sad, sad! (Tenders, btw, are smaller boats that transport passengers from a cruise ship to dry land when the ship does not physically dock in a port). We were most disappointed but quickly decided not to let it ruin our vacation and got on with swimming, an afternoon craft class, a magic tricks class, a story read to our children in the library by moi, and an afternoon gameshow where guests played the ship's version of A Minute to Win It. We also watched Voyage of the Dawn Treader together as a family.

Our "littles" watching the Dawn Treader."
The next day was spent in Nassau. We walked to Fort Fincastle and the Queen's Staircase, then went back to the ship for lunch before walking to Junkanoo Beach so the kids could make up for not having the chance to swim in the Caribbean waters. What a great time they had, diving down and bringing up shells and coral remnants.
Ironically, the hotel directly across the street was one of three that we stayed in on our honeymoon (we went to Kennebunkeport, ME, the Bahamas, and Tampa, FL). We chose the hotel through an airline travel guide, pre-internet era, only to discover it was a dive. We were so uncomfortable being there that we promptly left Nassau the next morning for Tampa to finish out our honeymoon.



Sailing out of Nassau was a bit unnerving, as we were experiencing very high winds (higher than the conditions that caused our captain to cancel the private island the day before). As we left the harbor, we experienced quite a bit of rocking. Not comforting, seeing as we weren't even in open water yet and could see breaking WAVES (not caps) on the ocean. As we entered the open waters, the ship listed toward the starboard side and basically just stayed that way for a good 90 minutes. I did not enjoy that, as we've never experienced it quite like that while sailing. But I had to keep my concerns to myself since I didn't want to frighten our children. Eventually, the ship uprighted again and we didn't have much to contend with after that. A good final evening was had by all. We went to dinner, took in a show, viewed the many pictures taken of us by the ship's photographer throughout the cruise, danced by the pool, and finally settled into in our staterooms after I packed our bags for home.

Home.

Home is very far away when you travel standby, especially if you're leaving out of a busy city like Miami. Especially if you need 6 seats. Especially if flights are full. And they were. Usually, it's the "get out of Miami" part that is challenging for us. Not this time. We boarded a 10:30am flight to Dallas, no problem. But ALL the flights from Dallas to Indy were full for the day. Our options were A) spend the night in Dallas and fly out in the morning (and hope there are no weather or cancellation issues) or B) fly to Cincinnati and rent a car for the 1 hour 40 minute drive home. We chose B, arriving in Cincy about 10:15pm, then drove to the Indianapolis Airport, arriving after midnight to claim our van and our bags. Only, our bags were locked up in baggage service and hubby didn't have his work keys with him. Oh well, we'd drive back and pick them up the next day.

AND contend with the over-charge for our hotel stay.

Hey Mon, is this the cutest little Jamaican dude ever or what?!
At 1:00am, our children were finally tucked into their own beds at home after beginning their day on the ship with a 6:30am wake-up call. They're troopers, every last one of them. They know how to roll with the punches of stand-by travel and how to deal with long lay-overs when we can't get on a flight. They had a wonderful time and for my part, I loved seeing the experience through their eyes. They're already "planning" their next cruise. Brandon has put in his request for "Royal Caribbean." Did I mention he's 4? How the heck is that boy learning the lingo already? :D
Pictures to come!

End note: If you've never sailed before, don't let my description of the ship's rocking scare you out of going one day. The fact is, I have periods of vertigo that have plagued me for many years. ALL rocking bothers me but even I don't get sea-sick on board, not even in rough seas. I just don't like it. Today's vessels have wonderful stabilizers in them that reduce rocking tremendously. In fact, if you feel it at all, it's more of a comforting sensation that makes you sleep like a baby. ;) If vertigo was not a constant challenge for me, I doubt I'd give it much of a thought at all. Cruising rocks! (no pun intended)

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

False Starts


Oh my word, there are cobwebs on the blog. I apologize if you got one strung up in your hair just now. Thank you, if you've stopped by, for taking the time to visit.

We've had a bit of a false start to our schooling this year. If you don't already know, we've homeschooled for 7 years so far. My husband and I had decided that this would be the year we gave virtual homeschooling a shot. It's actually public school online. There were a few draws for us, things we had hoped would be to our children's benefit. What we discovered rather quickly, however, is the allure did not line up with the reality of implementing virtual learning for 3 students on 3 different grade levels. It was a good program, really (but for the absence of a Christian world view, which we highly value). Just not a good fit.

We withdrew our children and immediately ordered our long time favorite curricula: My Father's World, Math-U-See, Apologia Science, Daily Grams and Easy Grammar, Writing Strands, Spelling Power, and God and the History of Art. Ah, it feels good to be "home" in our homeschool again. This past week was our first full week (ending today; we homeschool Tuesday through Saturday) and we all enjoyed a return to the natural fit and flow of our days together. I'm so thankful that God redirected us.
How comforting to find Him, the Creator, mentioned in science. How wonderful to encourage my children to write to President Obama, to let him know that we are praying for his safety and the integrity of his leadership.

As for me, I'm in the last few weeks of a Beth Moore Study with some of the ladies from my church. I am so encouraged by Beth's teaching and have appreciated her biblical insight into my inheritance in Jesus. I will also be starting a study of 1 John with some dear online friends this fall, led by Courtney and Angela at Good Morning Girls. I read my bible first thing in the morning (6:45am to be exact), then use the S.O.A.P. written method of studying it (scripture writing, observation, application, prayer). Oh, how it encourages me when I start my days in the quiet moments of early morning, immersed in God's word.

Finally, we will be taking a family cruise soon and we're all looking forward to it. It will be the first time for our children and I can't wait to share so many of the experiences we've had with them. Let's just hope hurricane season is long gone. It's been pretty active out there and I'm sad for the folks whose lives have been directly impacted. I wanted to tell you a funny story about Hubby and his charlie horse at Goodwill last night, but that will have to wait for another post. It's dinner time and I hear Bob Evans calling. ;)

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Grocery budget overhaul


About 3 months ago, I purposed to improve our family's grocery budget by learning how to coupon. I spent a solid month pouring over websites and videos while simultaneously applying the principles. Immediately, I was able to take our average weekly grocery expenses from $107 down to around $75.
I was thrilled.
And hooked!

Currently, our stockpile of pantry items has grown to the point that we are able to spend about $55/week. I will tell you there is much more to it than clip-and-go. But with a proper understanding of sale cycles, coupon terms, store policies, and meal planning, there is also significant money to be saved.

Tonight's trip to Kroger was mainly a stockpile trip as we do not have need for a full week's shopping trip this week. Here is a breakdown of what we purchased and what we paid...

  • (3)Silk Almond Milk @$2.49 - (3)$1 coupons = $1.49 ea ($4.47 ttl)

  • (1)Almond Breeze @$2.50 - $1 coupon = $1.50

  • (4)Classico Alfredo Sauce @ $1.79 - (2) $1/2 coupons = $1.29 ea ($5.16 ttl)

  • (1)Hostess Twinkies @$2.50 - 50¢ coupon, doubled = $1.50 ttl

  • (4)Crayola 24pk Crayons @ 25¢ ea = $1.00 ttl

  • (1)Carefree Pantyliners @$1.09 - 50¢ coupon, doubled = 9¢ ttl

  • (1)Kroger cheese 16 oz @$2.99 =$2.99 ttl

  • (1)Danimals Yogurt tubes @$1.88 - $1 coupon = 88¢ ttl

  • (2)Ronzoni Garden Delight fettucini @$1.00 ea - (2) $1.00 coupons = FREE

  • (2)Aunt Jemima frozen pancakes @$1.49 ea - (2)$1.00 coupons = 49¢ ea (98¢ ttl)

  • (3)Kellogg's Apple Jacks cereal @$1.99ea - $1/3 coupon = $1.66 ea ($4.97 ttl)

  • produce, red cherries $2.48/lb, almost 1lb@$2.36 - $1 coupon = $1.36 ttl

  • (4)Single size Peanut M&M @50¢ each - (2)75¢/2 coupons = 50¢ ttl

  • Colgate Whitening 6.4oz @99¢ - 50¢ coupon, doubled = FREE

  • (2)Oikos Greek Organic Yogurt 5.3oz @$1.25 ea - 50¢/2 coupon, doubled = $1.50 ttl

--------------
Total with taxes: $27.19, 67% saved.

Yes, some items were free.
Yes, $1.36 for nearly a pound of fresh cherries is an amazingly good price.
Yes, $1.49 for a half gallon of almond milk is also an amazingly good price.
The frozen pancakes, with all natural ingredients at just 49¢/box, are for my hubby when he wants a quick hot breakfast at 3:30am, the time he's up for work each day (and the time I'm oh-so-NOT-up to cook it for him).
Yes, I realize Twinkies and M&Ms can be contested as "food" items. ;) Kid treats!

And best of all, the Kellogg's cereals are part of a promotion I've been chasing for some time now. When I buy 4 participating cereals, I earn a $5 gas card from Kellogg's. I've earned three so far, and plan to earn a total of 7 before I max out of that particular promotion.

So, if you need to shave some money in the family budget, be encouraged. It definitely can be done if you're committed to learning and working at it.

She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
Proverbs 31:18


Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why?


Suffering is by far one of the greatest challenges made to the Christian faith.

"Why?
Why would a loving God allow so much suffering in the world?"

I have been reading Lee Strobel's The Case For Faith for a long time now. It's not one of those books you pick up and read, page after page, chapter after chapter, "The end." No, this one requires a stillness before God, a time of deep reflection on small chunks of very meaty food for thought. And tonight, in light of what has happened in my extended family, I was prompted to revisit parts of the book which I have already read, specifically the parts on suffering.

My cousin is a wife and mother of three who lives in Florida. Growing up, she and her family always lived within just a few streets of our home. And with the exception of my Mom's brother and his wife, this cousin and her family were the only extended family living nearby.

My cousin's health has been a struggle for her for years, the past two years being extremely challenging to the point of deciding on hospice care recently. She is young at only age 40. And she is beautiful. She is a wife. And she is a wonderful mother. Her children are amazing young people. The oldest just completed her first year in college and the middle child just graduated highschool.

And her baby,...her baby was just fourteen.
He very unexpectedly passed away two days ago.
At fourteen (I can't seem to wrap my mind around that).
And now so many people who loved him and his family are left wondering why.

In Strobel's book, he cites Peter Kreeft (author, Making Sense Out of Suffering) giving the example of a bear caught in a trap and a hunter who compassionately desires to free him. The hunter tries to win the bear's confidence but cannot, so he has to tranquilize him in order to do so. The bear receives this as an attack, not realizing that the additional pain was meant to save him, that it was in fact an act of compassion. The hunter even has to push the bear further into the trap to release the spring mechanism, causing him even further pain. If the bear is conscious at this point, he believes the hunter desires to make him suffer, which is the wrong conclusion.

When human beings are exposed to great suffering, we often have no greater ability to understand God than the bear had to understand the motivation of the hunter, states Kreeft. Pondering this, I conclude that believers must unpretentiously believe. And while I have perhaps made the simplest conclusion, it also requires perhaps the greatest resolve in times of great trial.

Strobel also credits British pastor John R.W. Scott with these words;
"I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross...in the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?...He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of His."

As my heart breaks for my cousin and her family tonight, as I feel deeply concerned for each one of them and what their already tired hearts and minds can handle, I am purposing to believe for them. And I am asking every brother and sister in Christ that I know, to stand in the gap for them in prayer and to join me in the belief that our God is good and sovereign, that He deeply cares about the enormous suffering which my cousin and her family are enduring now, that He loves them and has entered into their pain with them, that He reigns victorious over the grave.

Join me in prayer, won't you?
The Faulkner and Watson families need us to believe with them and for them.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Open my eyes, Lord


Yesterday was one of those days.

One of those days when, in His gracious provision, my Heavenly Father removed the veil that sometimes blurs my ability to fully see the blessing of a moment in time. I think you might know what I'm talking about. Anyone who has ever sat down to flip through the pages of a treasured family photo album surely must know.

It goes something like this.
You revisit the past and the sweet memories fill your mind and flood your heart.
First steps.
First foods.
Carefree days of summer.
Little ones with little feet.
Fireworks and fireflies.
Loved ones in your midst and loved ones in your heart.
Flooded. Your heart fills absolutely flooded with nostalgia.

Why is it that we feel so intensely in retrospect?
Why does it seem much more challenging to grasp the beauty and signficance of a moment when in real time?
Wouldn't it be sweeter if we could fully experience the wonder of a moment, I mean fully experience it as it is unfolding?

I don't really know why that is.
Perhaps it's like an antique clock.
There's something so beautiful about the softness of its curved lines contrasted with the enduring hardwood form.
And as it captures the minutes and hours and subsequently counts them away, you are not so riveted about the reminder that "time marches on" so much as you are comforted by the lull of the soothing rhythm.
Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.

Perhaps "real time" moments are like that, lulling us with a rhythm that, while soothing, perhaps blur our ability to truly feel the significance and wonder of that particular point in time.

Perhaps.

But I do know this.
My Heavenly Father holds time, all of it, securely in His grasp. And I've come to realize that every now and then He allows me the fullest glimpse of the beauty of a moment, if only for a moment.
No hazy veil.
No photo required to capture it.

And yesterday was one of those days.

As my children played with friends on the playground, I was given a rare chance to sit down on a park bench in glorious sunshine and low humidity. I enjoyed the pleasure of an empty schedule, a light breeze, youthful smiles and giggles. I got to witness other moms lovingly attending to their children. And I got to enjoy a few minutes of conversation with a sweet friend from church whom I don't often get to sit and chat with (she has seven children of her own).

And it occurred to me that I was there.
Fully present.
God was allowing me the gift and privilege of real time awareness.
One of those rare moments where I wouldn't need a photograph to "remember the good old days." I was in the good old days with every sense of my being, taking a wonderful moment in with deep breaths of gratitude.
And it was beautiful.
Fullfilling.
Peace.

An Australian Aboriginal proverb said it this way:
"We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love... and then we return home."

And God's living Word, alive and present in me, says it so perfectly like this:
"The LORD bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Welcome back, friends!


Brandon and all his "friends", as he calls them

Hiatus: a time for bloggers to claim that life was all busy to rejuvinate. I'm going to side-step the excuses and purpose to get back to writing for writing's sake. If you're here, thank you for reading and welcome back.

We're running around opening and closing doors at light speed these next few weeks, homeschool lessons and dance practice coming to an end, swim practice in high gear and Little League in full swing (no pun intended). We'll soon add horse camp and as many fun summer memories as we can pack in. I *love* this time of year. In fact, June is my favorite month of all.

Brandon, age 4, is such a delight to watch in baseball. I wish we could say we had something to do with his abilities and love of the game, but the fact is, we are the supporting role to his performance. When Brandon turned 2, we bought him a vinyl plush Mickey Mouse bat and ball. We figured cute gift, he'll toy around with it. We didn't anticipate that he would love that little set and ask his dad literally every single day to play ball with him.

And so it began. Brandon is now in his first year of Little League and, oh for sweet, that boy loves the game. He refers to himself as a "baseballer" and boy oh boy, a baseballer he is. God has given him timing, passion, and a great swing. He is proud of his efforts and we are proud of the little boy that he is, both on and off the field.

If you've ever been to a 4 year old baseball game, you know that it's 50% ball game and 50% comedy central. Oh, the things those boys do. Squat down in the middle of a game to fill a ball hat with rocks and dirt and put it back on their head. Race against and nearly tackle fellow team mates to get the ball. Lay down in the outfield. You get the picture. After this week's game, I can even add a few more to the list, like tagging a player out by launching the ball at him. Or fielding the ball and then following coach's instructions to "Throw it to first base!" by throwing it to second. Or my own personal favorite, falling asleep standing up at home plate (uh huh, did too.)

Whatever you're doing to transition at this time of year, I hope it finds you well in health and in heart. Would love you to "check in" and share what's on your early summer agenda.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

FLASH TRIP


The kids and I have been studying the American Revolution these past few weeks. Multiple historical figures were part of that study, including Thomas Jefferson, author of much of the Declaration of Independence. My husband and I have often talked about the benefits of his job, -the privilege that we, as a family, have in being able to board a flight any time we want (as long as seats are available). We've said that we would use that privilege to our advantage to show the kids some of the history they're studying "in real time." In reality, life usually gets in the way and we have only done it once, when they were studying Jamestown and Williamsburg and we flew there.

So last week on Thursday, I was sitting there telling my husband all the historical facts we had studied, that particularly interested me. I reminded him that he and I had visited Monticello, Jefferson's plantation home, back in 1992, and how vivid that made the history we were studying. His response?

"Why don't we take the kids to see it then?"

He meant that we should take a "flash trip", a brief, one-night trip to a place of our choosing, in this case Monticello, to enjoy a single focus and come home.
The excuses immediately rushed in to my mind. The hassle. The reservations. The kennel boarding. The fatigue of a quick trip. The......

"Okay. Before I talk us both out of this, okay. Let's just do it."

And so we did. We quickly booked a hotel and rental car, checked hours of operation and cost for touring Monticello, and packed a very light overnight bag for all. My husband got off work last Saturday at 1:30pm, came home and picked us up, and we headed right back to the airport for our afternoon flight. By 11pm that night, we were all tucked in to our beds at the Richmond, VA Wyndham for a night's rest and an elegant complimentary continental breakfast the next morning. Linen tablecloths and napkins, china, beverage service by the staff. Not your average continental breakfast. It was lovely.

We drove the near 1½ drive to Charlottesville, arriving at Monticello around 11am. We were able to join an immediate tour and spent the next four hours exploring the house and grounds of Thomas Jefferson. I was so thankful for the privilege of giving our children that "real time" experience.



We even had enough time left to visit the grounds of James Monroe's home as well, but we did not tour the inside. Still, it was nice to at least show the kids where another president had lived as well. After a full day of touring and exploring, we stopped for dinner at Cracker Barrel before heading to the airport for an evening flight back home. Stand-by travel being what it is, one of us almost had to stay behind in Chicago on the final leg home, as there weren't enough seats to accomodate our family of six. Thankfully, someone no-showed and we were able to take the last 6 seats just before departure. Good thing, because the blizzard of 2011 moved into Chicago the very next day.

One incident did make us laugh (and "cry") while at Monticello. We were touring the vast produce garden area on Mulberry row, and decided to make our way through to the other side of the garden to visit a small glass enclosed structure similar to a gazebo (not sure of its function, but perhaps it is used for civic events). Anyway, as we went to step inside of it, me following the children and husband following me, I cracked my head against an overhead structure. It was the thick wooden frame of an enormous window sash that can be lifted up to make an entrance into the structure. Because of the glass, it was not very noticeable and thus the major thump of my head. It hurt! Everyone fussed over me while I rubbed my head in disbelief, pain, and okay, embarrassment.

So what happended next? As we were stepping back out, I heard another THUD. This time, it was husband's biscuit that got whacked. Of course, kids being kids, the silence was interrupted with laughter mixed with, "Daddy are you okay? Hahahahaha. Are you hurt? Hee hee hee. Is it bleeding? Bahahahaha!" What else could we do? Within seconds, we joined them in laughter.

And to top it all off, we were standing on an upper deck sometime later, looking out over Mulberry row and the garden, when hubby suddenly urged, "Uh oh! Come here, quick!" I got there just in time to see the glass structure in the garden, and the well dressed man with coiffed hair, polished shoes (turned red from the wet Virginia mud) and a formal overcoat. It happened in less than a second, but ran like a slow-motion picture in my mind as I thought, "Ooooh nooooo, he's going to whack his biscuit toooooo."

BAMM!

"Owww!"


(silence, and then.....)
"BAHAHAHAHA! Our family ducked away from the deck, faces a bit smurked, feeling both bad for the guy and redeemed for ourselves, as we now knew we weren't the only ones who couldn't see the glass obstacle looming overhead. We didn't laugh loudly, but we couldn't contain it either. It just stuck us all as funny after both myself and my husband had done the very same thing.

I realize that everyone does not have the time or resources to do what we did, so please know that I realize this. Without the flying benefits that are SUCH a blessing through my husband's job, we might not be able to do this ourselves. But I encourage you to consider ways that you might create your own "flash trips", especially if you homeschool. Perhaps a visit to a local living history farm that covers your time period. A tour of a period home or the grave of a historical figure from that time. Even a trip to the library to read a historically significant picture book to your children in a quiet corner (and then icecream afterwards) can be a wonderful "fieldtrip" experience for all.



Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Good times around the table.


Sometimes it was fancy.
Mostly, I remember it being "good".
And to a little girl, that simply means I recall the experience as pleasant and secure; my whole family, -mom, dad, and us four kids, gathered around our metal early 70's table with its vinyl-covered chairs, for the family dinner.

Fish sticks.
Hot dogs.
Fried potatoes.
Chicken legs.
Homemade soups.
Cabbage and noodles.

The meals had to feed six mouths on a single income and I must say, my parents did it well.
Well and young (there were four of us kids by the time my mom was 23).

It was a different time back then.
A beautiful, wonderfully different time.
How I lament that my children cannot enjoy the same freedoms and care-free summer days that I was able to. If you've ever seen the show, "The Wonder Years," you will have received a somewhat realistic glimpse into my childhood. So much of what I loved about it is just not possible for my kids today, due in part to a world with less defined boundaries, greater criminal activity, and waaaay less children being made to play outdoors in fresh air and sunshine. Sigh.

But thankfully for my family and I, one thing has not changed.
The family dinner is still a time of gathering us together, a time which I hope my children will someday recall, much like I do, as pleasant and secure.
It's our time of connecting, debating, sharing, laughing and praying. And it's those last two, laughing and praying, that I would like to illuminate for just a moment.

Yesterday, as we all gathered around the family dinner for prayer, my youngest son (age 4) began.
"Dear Lord, thank you for this beautiful day and for our food that mommy made.
And thank you for my man purse."

(enter raised eyebrows from mom and dad before the smack of clasped hands over gaping mouths could be heard, as we both tried, and failed, to hold back the laughter that had begun to rise from within.)

But it wasn't over just yet...
Our older son, age 9, piled on.
"And dear Lord, thank you for my food too, and please don't let there be any staples in it."
That did it.

"BAAHAHAHAHA!" :D

The whole family broke out in a fit of laughter, right in the middle of prayer time. And I have to believe that God, too, was laughing. You see, it's true. We have been finding staples in the food this past week or so. To be more specific, *I* have been finding staples in my food.
Why?, you ask?
Well, let's just say that I've been known to come up with a half-baked idea on occasion. Apparently, this past week was just such an occasion, where it occurred to me that in the absence of a bag-sealing clamp, I could simply fold and staple freezer bags before placing frozen items back in the freezer. So, I stapled my frozen fruit bag and a corn bag as well.

Brilliant, yes? ;)

"NoooOOOo."

And right you are. It's a definite no. Because when I carefully re-opened those stapled bags (and I was careful, honest to goodness), apparently those little metal guys torpedoed into the food and hid out until I found them during my meals (hey, at least it was only me who paid the price for my poor choice).

And did the kids take notice?
Clearly, that would be an affirmative yes, as evidenced by my older son's staple prayer (to be known as just that, THE STAPLE PRAYER, from this day forward).

Can't you just hear him as he and his own family gather for the family dinner someday (and oh, how I pray that they too will have that wonderful privilege).
"Kids, did I ever tell you about the week where your grandmother kept discovering staples in her food? Yeah, she did. I don't recall the details exactly, but I could almost swear it had something to do with a man purse."
THE END!





Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Heart healthy Tuscan soup


Most of my friends and family know that I am vegetarian. By "hard core" terms, I'd actually be known as a flexetarian because I do, on very rare occasion, take a taste of meat. I also cook a Thanksgiving turkey and a New Year's ham, hence the term, flexetarian. But for all intents and purposes, I avoid eating meat.

So, what does this mean for my family, since I am the resident cook? Well, let me answer that by first sharing what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean we're limited to spaghetti, salads, and variations of potatoes (though we eat those too).

It does mean I make our own lunch "meat".

We also eat colorful, flavorful calico beans over brown rice, incredibly delicious soups like coconut spinach potato and garlic kale. We also eat grilled tofu "egg" salad sandwiches, enchilada casseroles, and sloppy "fauxs". I could go on and on, but fact is, we do not hurt for variety, we supplement with daily vitamins, and our blood pressure, cholesterol, and general health are great. The kids check out just fine on their development as well.

We went sled riding all afternoon yesterday, and something hot sounded "just right". Enter...Tuscan soup.
It's a recipe that I tweaked and changed from its former heart-insulting version. It's fairly quick to prepare (especially if you can cut veggies the evening or morning before), and is a very healthy alternative to other similar dishes. If you love sausage, but love your heart more, this one will help you to care for it without compromising too much on taste. I promise!

HEART HEALTHY TUSCAN SOUP
**************************
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 large onion, chopped
-1 whole head garlic, peeled and minced (I use the mini food processor for this)
-3 celery stalks, diced
-10 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
-1 large bunch kale, washed, stripped from center vein, torn into smaller pieces
(note: you can use the greens of your choice. Collard or mustard would work fine.)
-10 cups water
-5 cubes Edward & Sons vegan boullion cubes (trust me, they're the BEST! I prefer the garden veggie flavor, but any of them will do and there is a low sodium option)
-1 can fat-free evaporated milk
-1 box Boca breakfast links (found in the health food or "meatless" freezer section of your grocery store). Note the wonderfulness of zero trans-fat and 75% less fat than regular sausage. And they really taste good.

1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil. Saute onions and celery in oil for at least 5 minutes, allowing to soften, before adding garlic and continuing to saute about 2 minutes longer (note: always let chopped onion or garlic sit for 5 minutes before cooking. Why? Go HERE to learn more.)

2. Now add potatoes, water, and boullion. Bring to a boil, then add kale, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are fully cooked (approximately 15 minutes). If you prefer a firmer texture, you can wait to add the kale when potatoes are fully cooked.

3. While soup is simmering, heat Boca breakfast links according to info on package. I use the microwave for this. Next, cut each link into six bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

4. When potatoes fully cooked, stir in the can of evaporated milk and the breakfast link pieces. Test soup and and season to taste with salt and pepper (remember, we're going for heart healthy. There is plenty of flavor from the garlic and broth, so passing on the salt is perfectly fine.)
5. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with whole grain bread. Enjoy!
(this recipe makes enough for our family of 6 to have at least 2 bowls each.)

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Oh my goodness, I'm so grateful to Courtney over at Women Living Well for sharing this GEM of a video with me.
It is soooooo worth watching.
And the book is definitely on my list of "to be read."
Watch and be inspired!



Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Good (and then good for you)

It's called Oatmeal Cheesecake Banana Split.
Need I say more? Go HERE to get the recipe.
My family absolutely loved it. I used chopped pecans on top, and dh thinks it would have tasted great with blueberries as an alternative. I can see me making this some Sunday morning as our breakfast with a cup of coffee before church.

And now, let's talk about water for a moment.
Like to drink it?
Hate to drink it?
I'm not very tolerant of just plain water.
It actually kind of nauseates me sometimes. But (unless we live in a cave, which honestly, is appealing on occasion) we all know that we should be drinking lots of plain old water. So I decided to dig into the many benefits and this is a list I came across...

  • Lose weight: Drinking water helps you lose weight because it flushes down the by-products of fat breakdown. Drinking water reduces hunger, it’s an effective appetite suppressant so you’ll eat less. Plus, water has zero calories. Here are the further details on how to achieve fat loss by drinking water.

  • Natural Remedy for Headache: Helps to relieve headache and back pains due to dehydration. Although there are many other reasons contribute to headache, dehydration is the common one.

  • Look Younger with Healthier Skin: You’ll look younger when your skin is properly hydrated. Water helps to replenish skin tissues, moisturizes skin and increase skin elasticity.

  • Better Productivity at Work: Your brain is mostly made up of water, thus drinking water helps you think better, be more alert and more concentrate.

  • Better Exercise: Drinking water regulates your body temperature. You’ll feel more energetic when doing exercises and water helps to fuel your muscle.

  • Helps in Digestion and Constipation: Drinking water raises your metabolism because it helps in digestion. Fiber and water goes hand in hand so that you can have your daily bowel movement.

  • Less Cramps and Sprains: Proper hydration helps keep your joints and muscles lubricated, so you’ll less likely get cramps and sprains.

  • Less Likely to Get Sick: Drinking plenty of water helps fight against flu and other ailments like kidney stones and heart attack.

  • Reduce Fatigue: Water is used by the body to help flush out toxins and waste products from the body. If your body lacks of water, your heart, for instance, need to work harder to pump out the oxygenated blood to all cells, so are the rest of the vital organs, your organs will be exhausted and so are you.

  • Reduce the Risk of Cancer: Related to the digestive system, some studies show that drinking a healthy amount of water may reduce the risks of bladder cancer and colon cancer. Water dilutes the concentration of cancer-causing agents in the urine and shortens the time in which they are in contact with bladder lining.


So, what's a water avoider like myself supposed to do?
I recently came up with a solution that has me easily drinking lots of water now, has my husband taking some to work, and has my two boys asking for "the good water" all the time.

It's simple.

Just take a 64 ounce pitcher or container and fill it to 56 ounces with the water of your choice (sure, purified is better but I'm using the stuff straight from the tap for now). Next, add 8 ounces of unsweetened 100% cranberry juice. Watch your brands. Many grocery store brands say "unsweetened" and "100% juice", but when you read the label, they're not 100% CRANBERRY juice (they're a blend of cranberry, apple, etc.) The pure cranberry is good for aiding the body in removing toxins, and our family is finding the water to be MUCH more drinkable (thus we're drinking much more of it).

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas laughs

Before I get to my post, let me tell you something about myself, in case you don't already know this, so you don't reach the wrong conclusion as you read. Fact is, I have a goofy sense of humor and I often find laughable moments in the simplest of things. It's both a gift and a challenge (you knooow,...trying not to laugh when it's really not appropriate to, like when I was a kid and our dad was frustrated with something we kids did, and we tried with all our might, and failed, to keep our giggles under control during a moment of uncomfortable silence at the dinner table.) Got a better sense of my goofy sense of humor? Alrighty then, here we go...

Our Christmas was filled with some great laughs, from 9 year old Reece wanting to put out an empty coffee can in a panic "because you didn't put out enough stockings to be filled", to 4 year old Brandon laughing soooo hard for 10 minutes when he opened this on Christmas morning.



But perhaps the thing that made us laugh most of all was something that happened when we went out to eat with our extended family (back in OH) at a Chinese buffet. My husband, my sister and I were standing at a counter waiting for the khan to stir-fry our Mongolian food. He took our plates of raw items, placed them on the grill, then picked up a little bottle. It was shaped like an Asian old man with its pants down (not obscenely detailed, but pants down none-the-less). It was one of those situations where your mind rapidly begins to wander in a fog of confusion and questioning, as you try to figure out what exactly is happening. Kind of like this video, specifically about 1:30 into it;



Yes, I ended up that surprised. Because before my mind could grasp the meaning or purpose of the ridiculous bottle, the Chinese guy (smiling with the most ornery smile) turned to me.....and squeezed.

Oh.
Yes.
He.
Did.
Too.

If my husband and sister hadn't been standing there with me as my witnesses, I would never share this story (because really, who would believe it?)
Yes, that oh-so-ornery little man squirted me with the water he used to stir-fry vegetables with.

I looked down at my sweater, now covered in droplets of water from the "pants-less man" bottle, and shook my head in total disbelief.
I knew, I just knew that when I looked back at the khan, he would be highly sympathetic for having offended me.
Instead....

"BAHAHAHAHAHA!"

He was laughing. Laughing!

Hysterically.

And so was my sister.
And my husband (who tried miserably to contain it, but failed).

I stood there, shocked.
Totally silent for a moment, trying to take it in.
That man just took the liberty of squirting me with a bottle shaped like a little old Asian man without any pants on.
Sheesh, that's a lot to take in, ya know?
I believe I would have remained in my confused stupor, if not for the sounds of a cackling laugh coming from a silly little man behind the counter, a man that was laughing soooo hard that it was literally contagious.

Without realizing it (until I heard it with my own ears), I found myself joining the others in a fit of laughter.
Shocked, yes. A tiny bit perturbed, sure.
But laughing just the same.
I mean, I have to admit. If it had happened to anyone else (say, my sister or my husband, uh hem), I'm sure I would have found it immediately funny as well.

Fact is, life is waaaaay too short and too filled with unexpected moments not to laugh when the opportunity presents itself.
There will be plenty of difficult days, still, where I'll have all I can do to just tie my shoes.
So on this day, when the blessed season of my Savior's birth was in full force, when I was gathered with the people I love most in the world, my family, when my children were healthy, my husband was on vacation, and my mom and dad were alive and well, it was a moment to take in with all the silliness of hearty laughter, a day to receive as precious memories made.

But hear this.

If I ever go back to that restaurant, don't even think I won't come prepared.
Because, believe me when I say it, I most definitely WILL.


Ecclesiastes 3:4
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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