Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writing is Therapy

You might remember my recent post "A Longing to Influence," where I wrote about my dozens of passions for numerous causes, and not really knowing where to start.  Through writing that article, because writing is therapy for me, I discovered that I need to just start with what is right in front of me - the people who are already in my circle of influence.  For the past two weeks I have been praying daily, "God, help me to narrow my passions. Show me what I am supposed to focus on."

Only one word came to mind every time I prayed that prayer:  write.

I have never really considered myself a writer, although other people have mentioned that I am.  "You're a writer!" they say, yet I just laugh it off.  I'm not published, I have no real evidence that I'm a writer, other than this little blog that I update a few times a week. Because for me, writing is therapy.  When I sit down to write, the words come fast, and I often hit "publish" without even proof-reading it.  At the end, I feel all tingly, like I just exerted a large amount of energy and then I need a nap. I love it.

I wrote about my passion for words here.  I started a worksheet for myself of all the articles I want to write.  In about 5 minutes I came up with 20 ideas and started writing - in the last 24 hours I have written 4 of those articles and submitted them to 2 different magazines.  I honestly don't know if anything will ever happen, but it's okay, because for me, writing is therapy.

This morning I hopped online to to look at some domain names. I don't know why; it just peaked my curiosity.  I ended up buying my own name as a domain and paid my $5.99 for the year.  Within 5 minutes, I found out that I had won two review copies of Sarah Mae's "How to Market and Sell Your ebook."  Coincidence?  I'm not sure yet.  What I do know is that I am devouring her book and cannot wait to write up my review and possibly do a giveaway of her book.

So, with that, I am going to start writing.  I do have a book in process that I hope to turn into an ebook someday soon.  We will see.  For now, I'm greatly enjoying reading about the process and writing, because writing is therapy!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Healthy Breakfast for Kids

Last year I went on The Belly Fat Cure and learned a ton of helpful information about sugar addiction, and how much sugar we are feeding ourselves on a regular basis.  As I read the book, I was struck at how I have tried to keep my kids from too much sugar, yet was unknowingly setting them up to be addicted to sugar as adults (like I am).  For instance, our typical morning breakfast looked something like:

1 cup of milk or juice
1 small bowl of cereal
1/2 banana
pancakes with a tiny amt. of syrup
scrambled eggs

Doesn't look too bad, right? Breakfast has always been the biggest meal in our house, and we thought this type of breakfast looked healthy. But upon learning how many sugar grams were in each item, this is what I found:

1 cup of milk or juice - (milk: 14 g of sugar/ juice: 28 g of sugar)
1 small bowl of cereal (14 g of sugar)
1/2 banana (7 g of sugar / 14 in a whole one)
pancakes with a tiny amt. of syrup (30 g of sugar)
scrambled eggs (0 g of sugar)
Total = 65-80 grams of sugar!

The Belly Fat Cure seeks to reduce our sugar consumption and recommends only 15 grams of sugar for an entire day.  Jorge Cruise also teaches that our body processes sugar the same way, no matter the source (natural sugar, milk sugar, or processed sugar).  All of it raises our insulin levels and makes us crave more. also has a chart that lists what the American Heart Association recommends should be our maximum sugar intake.  For a 1200 calorie diet, they recommend no more than 21 grams a day.  Our children are likely consuming 1200 calories a day or less, yet we are feeding them upwards of 100-200 grams of sugar a day from snacks like gummies, trail mix, fruit juice, ice cream, soda, etc.  Even seemingly healthy snacks are loaded with sugar, like yogurt, raisins, and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

This has led me to hunt for lower sugar cereals, since my kids love cereal and we eat it every day.  At Costco recently I found this Fiber Plus Cereal from Kelloggs that tastes just like Cinnamon Cheerios, at only 7 grams of sugar per serving vs. 10 grams for Honey Nut Cheerios.  The standard "kids" cereal ranges anywhere from 9-15 grams of sugar per serving, and many kids have more than one serving.

My food choices for my kids have radically changed since learning all of this information.  I now look at the sugar content of everything I put into their mouths.  They are allowed to have juice or treats at birthday parties, of course, but on a regular basis I no longer keep any sugary items in the house.  I don't look down on others who feed their kids those things, because I used to be one of them.  In fact, I think many moms would choose differently if they just had more information.  

Here are some more healthy, low sugar snacks I have found:

Old Choice
New Choice
Yoplait Trix Yogurt for Kids – 14 g.
Simply Go-gurt, cut in half – 5 g.
Raisins, 1 small box – 25 g.
Apple Crisps (from Costco) – 6 g.
Capri Sun  (wild cherry) – 28 g.
Honest Kids Berry Good Lemonade – 10 g.
Trail Mix (varies)- 10-30 g.
Trader Joe’s Trek Mix – 7 g.
Nutrigrain Bar – 12 g.
Homemade Nutrigrain Bar (see recipe here)
Chocolate Chip Granola Bar – 13 g.
Nature Valley Granola Thins- 6 g.

WebMD has an excellent article on "Foods Surprisingly High in Sugar" that everyone should read.
Among them: pudding cups with 20 grams of sugar, diced pears in light syrup with 17 grams of sugar, instant oatmeal, 14 grams of sugar, etc...  

I believe if we make a few changes, we'll not only start seeing healthier kids, but kids with less mood swings from sugar consumption.  How many meltdowns could have been avoided if we had just not fed them 60 grams of sugar for breakfast?  Their little bodies just can't handle that.  Even if we don't see any big behavior changes, it is likely just that our kids have gotten used to the high sugar content, and they might already be addicted to sugar.  These are just a few things I have found that I hope will be helpful to you, too.  

What other low-sugar snacks do you recommend?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Micah Turns 6

This week we celebrated our oldest son Micah who turned 6 on Friday.  I am so proud of him, thriving in his first year of Kindergarten.  From last year to this year he made BIG strides.  For instance, he....

-finally stopped using the potty seat (you know, the ones you put on the big potty?) I'm sure he would just love me sharing that info. with you.
-he grew from a size 5 to size 6, becoming even taller and leaner.
-he started and finished kindergarten, doing better than we had even hoped for.
-he learned to read!  We're still working on it, of course, but we're surprised every day by how much he can already read.
-he went on his first field trip on a real bus!
-he started eating more vegetables. Phew!
-he has become more social and friendly, overcoming his shyness (most of the time).
-he has overcome most of his temper tantrums that we dealt with during years 3-5 (with the help of these books, I might add).

We are so proud of the little boy he is becoming.  He is a great big brother, playing with Jaden and teaching him everything he knows.  Here are a few of his favorite things:

-Show:  Believe it or not, he is really into Wonder Pets on Netflix right now.  We have no idea why, since it's aimed for ages 2 and under, but he and Jaden request this show every single day! :)
-Food:  Spaghetti and Meatballs, hold the sauce
-Vegetable:  Tomatoes.  I can pack small tomatoes in his lunch and he will eat them like candy!
-Toy: Star Wars Legos. Totally obsessed.
-Hobby: Playing on the computer (which we limit to Sat. and Sundays only now). He also loves camping and being outdoors.
-Sport: Baseball
-Friend: His friend Frankie lives down the street and they just love each other!
-Color: Red
-Shoes:  Sketchers, because "they make me run fast."

Micah has a few "quirks" which drive us crazy but make us smile: He thrives on routine and does not really want to do anything new.  We have to gently break him in to any new activity or place we are going to.  He does NOT want to go to the movie theater, under any circumstance, and prefers to wait until it's on Netflix.  (Cars 2? Not this boy, who told me, "Let's just wait till it's on Netflix, mom.") He told us it's too loud, and we think it has something to do with the fact he still has a tube in one ear.  He also has never wanted sauce on anything until last week, when he informed us he wanted ketchup and mustard on his hamburger "in a happy face" and ate it all up.  Ooookay!

If you know about personality types, Micah is a classic Melancholy-Choleric.  He is a perfectionist and gets frustrated easily when things just are not right.  This will be interesting as we head into 1st grade.  Micah has a knack for building and designing things. We are absolutely amazed at what he creates with Legos. He plays with them for hours and builds complete cities.  This boy could definitely be an engineer one day.

He is a very deep thinker and asks questions about every song we listen to.  "Dad, why does it say 'you broke my heart'?"  He asked me about every line of "Rock A Bye, Baby":  "Why are they in a tree top? Why did the bow break?  Why did the baby fall?"

Micah is still a bit shy in new situations but warms up pretty fast and loves to make new friends.  He thinks he knows everything and continually quotes "Beau" - a kid from his kindergarten class.  All day long I hear things like, "Beau said!" or "You don't know, mom. Beau told me."  Micah wants to be in charge of everything and everyone.  He wants to WIN every game.  He likes to boss Jaden around. I overheard him say during a basketball game between the two of them, "My court, my rules!" Um, seriously?!  He said it was another thing Beau said.  Micah is influenced by other kids and what they think a lot, which concerns me a bit.  I pray for him daily that God would give him wisdom and help him make right choices.

We thank God for our Micah, and that we've made it through a few rough years of health issues and behavior issues.  We love what he brings to our family and we love watching him grow.

Age 1
Age 2

Age 3

Age 4

Age 5
(Almost) 6


Friday, June 24, 2011


There are a few days where I just can't handle being around myself.   Like when:

-my legs are hairy
-my clothes are too tight
-I need my highlights done
-I find a new varicose vein
-new hairs pop up on my neck
-I'm all sweaty

And I feel just gross.

Then I go into the living room, slip off my tennis shoes, and a cute 4 year old comes up and screams, "Mommy! I like your socks!"

and the world is alright again.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When the Power Goes Out...

I’ve always had this weird fascination with thunder storms and power outages.  I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that I’ve grown up in California and rarely experienced either.  If we are on trips to the Midwest or the East Coast, I get a little giddy when I hear of tornado warnings or experience heavy rain.  “Bring it!” I say.  Yet I know that I’d be a scared little girl if I was ever in the presence of real danger.

Tonight our power went out for an hour, right around 7:30 when it was dusk.  I had enough time to run around and grab flashlights and candles, and even brought a few camping lanterns out for good measure.  The electric company didn’t know the cause so they had no idea how long it would be out.

Within 5 minutes, I felt shaky.  Not because I was scared, mind you, but because I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I sat on the couch, frustrated. “Uh, what I am supposed to do now?!” I was a pitiful sight. No Facebook, no phone, no internet… I moved to the office and sat at my desk, looking out the window.  The sun was falling, and everything became silent.  I think that’s the most significant difference one feels when the power goes out – complete silence. I watched as the neighbors came out to chat.  Dogs were let off their leashes to play.  Birds fluttered by.  Some kids started up a game of basketball.  It was a beautiful sight to see.

I realized how much I miss in the hustle and bustle of daily life - the noises I didn’t even notice were there, the hurriedness that is under the surface of everything I do, the need to be “busy” for no good reason.  For a moment, time stopped, and it was good.

1 hour later, I’m still enjoying the silence…and a little disappointed I didn’t get to use those lanterns after all ;)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Easy Summer Meals

Planning meals. Ick. I get in periods where I am religious about it, and then periods where I want nothing to do with it, and I just forage around each night and find stuff for us to eat.  But here is what I have found:

When I don't meal plan, we eat out.  That costs money, which affects our budget.  Our budget problems affect our moods, making us angry that we don't have more money to afford all of these "eating out" nights.  Eating out affects our waistlines and our health, which in the end costs us even more money.

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE eating out.  It's probably my favorite thing ever.  I look for any excuse to eat out, giving me less work to do at home.  But I am continually seeing this cycle of eating out affecting our budget, affecting our moods, affecting our waistline, etc....

SO.  I planned meals for this month.  This month it's all about easy.  Here are 2 weeks worth of easy meals that I hope will help you too:

Monday: Costco Rotisserie Chicken, brown rice and veggies
Tuesday: Hamburgers, french fries, corn
Wednesday: Homemade pizza (or buy frozen if you don't want to make it - for ours I'm using a premade crust)
Thursday: Spaghetti and meatballs (I buy these in bulk at  Costco)
Friday: Tacos
Saturday: Fish
Sunday: eat out or leftovers
Monday: Taco Salad (pre-cook ground beef with taco sauce)
Tuesday: BBQ  Chicken (put in crockpot in the morning with BBQ sauce)
Wed: Mini Cheeseburgers (you can buy these at Trader Joe's)
Thursday: Enchiladas (pre-cook chicken in crockpot)

These are pretty much our basic meals that we eat every month, but I condensed them all into a 2 week period.  You could actually repeat this twice and have meals for an entire month.  On all of the days you don't see side dishes, I always serve a vegetable and a carb (like hot bread, brown rice, pasta).  Our meals are basically: a protein, a veggie, and a carb.  For something extra sometimes I'll also serve a side of fruit, especially watermelon during the summer.

That's it!  See, that wasn't too hard!  :)  I don't cook from scratch a lot, as you can see - I am no Pioneer Woman.  I save that for the nights we have company :)  Enjoy your easy summer meal nights!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Longing to Influence

Technology can be a beautiful thing.  It can also be a very discouraging thing.  It is beautiful because it allows us to keep in touch with people and even get to know people that we'd have no way of staying in contact with otherwise.  It is discouraging for hundreds of reasons, but one being that when you are a stay-at-home mom, you see what everyone else is doing and you feel like...a nobody.

I follow various women leaders online.  Leaders who are doing amazing things.  Many of them are raising families at the same time they are spreading the love of Christ with the world.  Women like:

-Christine Caine- leader of Equip and Empower Ministries
-Lysa TerKheurst- author and speaker
-Jo Saxton- director of 3D ministries, speaker and author
-Beth Moore- teacher extraordinnaire
-Kay Warren- raising awareness about adoption and the HIV/AIDS crisis through her ministry.
-Lori Wilhite- leading a ministry to women leaders and pastor's wives called "Leading and Loving It"

Almost daily, through technology, I am hearing about these amazing ministries and women behind them.  They are changing lives through their home offices, through their blogs, through their speaking engagements....and I think, "How I long to do that! How I long to be used by God to change lives!"  Indeed, I would love someday to write a book, and be called upon to speak to the masses, not for my own glory, but because lives need changing, people need encouraging, and young women need older women to look up to.

Yet when I think of all the needs out there, I get overwhelmed.  I have such a heart for:

-training and developing leaders
-raising up women in ministry
-encouraging young ladies
-the orphans
-sex trafficking
-babies and children who are abused
-kids in the foster care system
-moms who need encouragement

I'm also reminded that right now, in my own backyard, is a need for a mother's group, specifically to ages 5+ (MOMS Next, perhaps).  Right now, in my own backyard, is a need for a network of women in ministry.  Right now, in my own backyard, are kids who need foster homes.  Yet I feel overwhelmed by what's going on in my own house - my low patience for my own two children (ages 4 and 6) who require my time and energy right now.  I get lost in a fog of all of the needs out there, and sink deeper into my couch wondering if I'll ever really be able to do anything to help.  I lose motivation fast when I look at the pile of laundry on my left and the mess of toys on my right.  I wonder if I'll ever be able to start anything, when I can't even finish a sentence without being interrupted.  (Even as I sit here typing, the boys are playing with toys on my desk giving me little room to move my arms) :)

Writing, speaking, traveling, starting things up....all areas my heart beats for, yet I feel the needs at home so strongly.  I struggle with comparing myself to these great women who are able to balance it all and do what they love.  For some reason I haven't been called to do that...yet.

Maybe you are like me, frustrated at times, trying to stay faithful to what's been given you, and praying for direction.  I have to remember that "the need is not always the call."  I also need to examine my own motives - why do I want to do these things?  For personal recognition?  To help people out of my own selfish needs or insecurities?  Because if that is in my heart at all, then I hope the doors will close for me.

For now, I pour my heart into the young girl who was in my home last week - who is a single mother struggling to keep her head above water.  I pour my heart into another young girl who is seeking for a mentor.  I pour my heart into the people I run into at the grocery market, and my neighbors, and the moms of the kids in my son's class.  I pour my heart into my own kids, and especially into my husband, so that he can minister more effectively.

I have to believe that these seasons serve a great purpose; that God is doing heart-surgery to refine things in us that would otherwise fester.  And I have to be okay with the fact that this is all I might end up doing, and that's okay.  God didn't call most of us to be well-known, or write books, or travel the world and speak.  In fact, most of the time He calls us to lay down our greatest desires so they won't become greater than our desire for Him. So for now, I wait.  I am reminded that God doesn't call us to be like other people; He calls us to be faithful to Him.

What does your heart beat for?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Has Begun

Oy. What am I going to do for the next 3 months?!  Besides...

-not pack any school lunches
-not lay out clothes the night before
-not have to leave my house like clockwork 2x a day

Now I have a new problem: two boys who will need some entertaining.  Sure, they play a lot by themselves. But if I go into summer without a plan, big problems are going to happen; problems like bickering and fighting and throwing toys and crying.

Today I came across this great article on Make and Takes called "Summer Camp for Kids", where they will give us some great ideas for summer fun.  They also have a great blog post called "Summer Tub O' Fun" that I plan on doing this week.

Here are a few things we plan on doing so far:

-Play dates.  At least once a week.

-Summer school.  I signed the boys up for summer school 2x a week for one month.  It is not really "school", but more of a structured playtime at Jaden's preschool.  At least I have 8 mornings taken care of (out of 84 - yikes).

- VBS.  Don't you love churches that have VBS?!  I do! I do!  

- One trip to the visit my parents, one trip to Morro Bay, and one possible (short) camping trip.  I can't wait!

But...for the days in between, that is where I need some creativity.  I will be working on that in the next few days, and will for sure visit Home Stories A to Z for some inspiration on this topic! :)  What are your daily plans for the summer?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

All About Boys: The "Nice" Edition

A few weeks ago I was joking with a new friend (who also has 2 kids 2 years apart), that in those first 5 years of having young kids, we basically were shut up in our houses wondering "what the heck were we thinking?!" in having kids so close together.  We never really realized how much work it would actually be.  But now that the kids are older (4 and 6), we are finding that this is such a fun age for them to play together when they actually get along.  Micah and Jaden have both referred to each other recently as "my best friend" when talking about each other, and we are finally in an easier stage of life.

We do have to strike a balance, however, between time together and time apart.  Since they share a room, they really have no privacy, and patience can wear thin on a bad day.  This summer will give them plenty of time to be together, but I know as well that I need to plan times each day for them to play alone or with their own friends.  This (hopefully) will ensure that they continue to get along and play well together.

Last night I found them on their beds reading quietly together...

Then this morning they were relaxing on the couch watching a cartoon...

They recently found my "bra keeper" that is used to wash bras in the washing machine.  I walked into the living room and found them bowling with it; it was hilarious.  (Note their "lane" made up of shoes) :)

And they've been playing nicely together with their toys, forming an alliance between the superheroes and Zhu Zhu pets:

But did I mention that summer hasn't started here yet?  4 more days of school this week, and then Friday begins summer vacation. Stay tuned for next week's edition of "All About Boys: The 'Naughty' Edition" :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Okay, God, But....

Have you ever had this conversation with God:

"God, I will do what you have called me to do, BUT...."
"God, I will go wherever you want me to go, BUT...."
"God, I will share your love with whoever you want me to, BUT....."
"God, I will forgive whoever I should forgive, BUT...."

I remember being in college, packed in the cafeteria at 9pm on a Wednesday night, wall to wall with sweaty students singing their hearts out to God, hands lifted high, not fearing anything that life would bring outside of those 4 walls, crying out to God that we would serve Him, follow Him, and do whatever He would want us to do with our lives.  We longed for His power, and we said we'd be obedient.

Then life happened.  We graduated.  We couldn't figure out what we were supposed to do with our lives next.  We got married.  We had babies.  We got jobs.  Day to day life happened.  Life felt boring at times.  Our dreams, our callings, our passions became fading memories. We wondered if they were ever really real at all.

Then bad things started happening - affairs, divorces, kids got sick, family members died, friendships were forgotten, jobs were lost, finances were tight.  And we lost our innocence.

Somewhere our prayers changed.  They became more about "me" and less about "Him."   They became more about our agendas and less about His.  They became more about our wants than about our blessings. They became more desperate and worried, and less hopeful and trusting.

And that's when the "Buts" started:  The "But God, don't make me do this."  "But God, don't make me go there."  "But God, don't make me forgive that person."  Our trust was broken.  Our trust was not broken by God, but by ourselves.  We put our trust in ourselves, let ourselves down, and then blamed God for it.

The past two days I have been convicted of these things.  May I take the "but" out of my prayers, out of my thoughts, out of my life.  It is only then that I will be free.  It is only then that we will be free.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The In-Between

Amy Grant used to have this song called "The Now & Not Yet."  That song has come out of a decade long sleep in my head (actually it was about 2 decades ago) and has been playing in my mind for the past two weeks  The chorus goes something like this:

But I'm caught in between
The now and the not yet;
Sometimes it seems like
Forever and ever,
That I've been reaching to be
All that I am,
But I'm only a few steps nearer,
Yet I'm nearer....

This describes my life lately.  Wait, it always describes my life.  Don't you always feel as though you are constantly caught "in-between" something happening?

It is on these days that we long for change.  Our dreams are on pause.  Life feels that it is moving fast in some ways, yet so slow in other ways.  This phase feels long.  We sometimes cease to feel the presence of God.  Yet He is there.

This past Sunday I had the privilege of speaking at my church. I spoke on "Detours" in our lives and how we can respond through those detours.  The passage I shared was from Numbers 14: 20-24, where Caleb was described by God as having a "different spirit and following [God] wholeheartedly." (If you'd like to hear the message, go to this website and scroll until you find the "Detour Ahead" message).  After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness with over 2 million people, only 2 men were allowed to enter the Promised Land: Joshua and Caleb.  Only these 2 men, out of 2 million people, had the right perspective and attitude about their detour.  As I prepared for that message, I felt like I was preparing it specifically for me.  I have not had the attitude of Caleb.  Instead, I've had the attitude of the Israelites: whining, complaining, questioning, and being impatient.  But Caleb had a different spirit, and I want that.

The reality is, not only do we have detours in life, but this entire life IS a detour.  We are on our way to spend an eternity in heaven, and this is not our home.  This entire life IS the in-between.  So we should not lose heart when we feel another detour has happened, or another dream is on hold, or we have to wait another day for our hope to be realized.  We should not lose heart when we feel that we are constantly living in the in-between.  This should only make our hearts yearn for heaven even more.

May we be able to have the spirit of Caleb, who followed the Lord wholeheartedly, whether we are on a detour, or in the "in-between".