Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Day My Kids Ate Spinach

It was a miracle. I may have even shed a little tear.  Yesterday my boys consumed an entire cup of spinach each (and didn't even know it).

It's called the Green Monster Spinach Smoothie, and I found it on Pinterest.


It was the one time I've actually had all of the ingredients already on-hand for a recipe - woo hoo!

The boys drank their whole cup without stopping for a breath; they LOVED it.  I did too.

They asked why it was green; I just told them it had lots of fruits and veggies.  They mainly tasted the banana and peanut butter; there was no hint of spinach on the taste buds after drinking this smoothie.  Put it in a sippy cup, put it in a coffee mug - hide it however you want - they will love it.

You can find the recipe here - this is going to be our new breakfast smoothie!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Looking Back

I was watching him, as mothers do -  my 7 year old, full of energy and excitement, playing basketball. It is his latest sport of choice, and he is good at it.  He was having fun, throwing jabs at me and Jaden (who were playing with him), and sinking 3-pointers like nothing.  Well, we do have a short basketball hoop. But anyway...

That night he stayed up late, reading ferociously for the Read-a-Thon at school. He wants to win, so he's been reading morning, noon and night.  There have been nights when I walk into his room and he is reading in total darkness with no light on. He's fast and he's good at it.

And yet only 3 years ago, we were so worried. So, so worried. You can read all about that here, but basically, Micah had many challenges since his birth. They weren't severe challenges to most people, but they were enough to make us worry a lot, cry, and worry some more.

From being told he might be autistic or have Aspergers - one well-meaning person even said we should have him tested for AIDS because he got sick so much - we just didn't know what was going on. His speech delays, his surgery for tubes in his ears, his rough start in Kindergarten; it was all very overwhelming.  I feared it might never get better.

But it did.

He is healthy, he is strong, he is right on target - actually, ahead in some areas of math and reading in his second grade class; I'm sure most people would never guess the challenges we had faced just a short time ago.

I remember being worried about a bruise on his forehead that wouldn't go away, about his teeth when he fell off of our front porch, about his face being split when he fell into a bench and ended up in the ER.  So many worries, so many tears.

And yet he is fine. He is growing, he is healthy, he is strong.

Today I am thanking the Lord for progress. When you're in the thick of it, it can seem so overwhelming, and progress can feel so incredibly slow.

I talk to other moms who are in the thick of it with their kids. They are worried that their child is falling behind academically or socially, or is not "right on target." They stress and buy things and get second opinions and worry; and I know, because I have been there.

There likely will be more occasions in our kids' lives to worry and fret over progress, over learning issues, over grades, over bruises and broken bones.  But today you might just need to hear "don't worry, it will be okay." Because it will.

When you're baby has jaundice, is not breastfeeding well, spikes a high fever, has acid reflux...

When your toddler is not walking according to schedule, gets sick a lot, is not talking like the other kids...

When your preschooler bites another child, throws a tantrum in public, or you are told she is not ready for Kindergarten...

All of it can be very stressful. We worry about their future, and we don't want them to struggle. But struggle is good, because it will make them stronger.

Take it from me, I have a very strong boy.

From someone who has crossed over through the newborn, baby, toddler, preschool era into a new phase, believe me when I say that so many of the things we worry about will never come to pass. Our only hope is to put our faith and trust in God during those times that feel scary.  Love them the best you can, and one day you'll be able to look back too and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Until then, breathe in... It will all be okay.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

No-Mess Sugar Cookies!!

Since my last post was called "When a Killer is Close By," I thought I would even things out a little bit on this bipolar blog by posting an AWESOME tip I just discovered, especially for all you Pinterest fanatics!

I don't know if I have ever shared this publicly, but I loathe making sugar cookies (and baking in general). Okay, it's not that bad, but I do tend to avoid it at all costs.  Unless I'm baking for my friends, then I love it. ;)

Most of the desserts I make are "no bake" like this Reese's Peanut Butter Pie (Ah-MAZING!), Microwave Caramels (totally addicting), Peanut Butter Bars, Scotcharoos, etc...  What can I say? I love peanut butter and chocolate.

But back to the sugar cookies.

I have pretty much never had a fun experience baking sugar cookies, even before kids.  After kids, it went even more downhill. Give kids a ton of dough with flour flying everywhere, fights over cookie cutters....this was supposed to be FUN?  What was I doing wrong?  It always ended in a huge mess that spanned over 3 rooms in our house.  So much for that idyllic dream pre-motherhood of baking Christmas cookies with my kids. This past Christmas, we got two HUGE cookie pans, slapped that dough right inside, and they each had ONE giant cookie to decorate.  It was bliss.

But back to the sugar cookies.

My boys wanted to make Valentine's Day cookies, and I was desperate - DESPERATE - for it to work this time.  So, on a whim, I tried something new, and it worked!! My entire sugar cookie making experience has just changed for the better, and I don't hate it anymore!

The secret? When rolling your cookie dough, use Parchment paper, NOT FLOUR.

You heard me right, my friends.  No more sweeping up flour that emanates up into your nostrils and all over your hair, and sticks to every surface and becomes like glue (after said cookie-making experience).  This time - TOTALLY CLEAN.

Let's start with the recipe.  My go-to awesome sugar cookie recipe comes from, and has never failed me yet.  How can you go wrong with over 5,000 5-star ratings?

Here is the key: The recipe says to refrigerate dough for at least one hour or overnight.  DO IT.

When your dough is hard as a rock, lay down your parchment paper.  Put a big wad of dough on it, and another piece of parchment paper on top.

Smash it down with your hands a bit to get it going.

Then start rolling with your roller (on top of the parchment paper)- or have your kids do it, to make it your desired thickness.

Carefully peel the parchment paper off the top (leaving the piece on the bottom), and cookie-cutter away.

This part is best if you do it:  take each cookie piece and remove it, and put it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  I did not have one cookie break or fall apart as I was doing this, because the dough was still semi-hard.

We baked them, they came out beautifully, and then we decorated them. The decorating was a little bit of a mess (although manageable and cute), but I'm just dealing with the cookie making part here.

And there you have it, folks, just say no to flour!  No more mess!

This is what our baking area looked like after:

And the cookies - not the best picture ever, but you get the idea:

I hope you find this helpful (some of you awesome bakers probably already knew this trick), and for the rest of you - go make some cookies! :)

Oh, and if you want the best buttercream frosting recipe, go here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

When a Killer is Close By

No doubt you have seen the news regarding Christopher Dorner, the man accused of murdering three people in Southern California, who is still on the loose.  He has quite a manifesto of people he is after, including a long list of Los Angeles police officers.

Living in a suburb of Los Angeles, we are in a very safe neighborhood that has a very low crime rate.  However, yesterday at 5am we were awoken by the sound of many helicopters hovering over our house.  Immediately we knew something had happened and turned on the news. We were shocked to hear that, within 3 streets of our house, there had been two shootings related to the search for this man. The streets where both shootings happened were on either side of our sons' school.

As it turned out, one of the high-profile police officers targeted by Chris Dorner lives 3 streets away from us.  That house was being monitored overnight, and police officers saw a truck, without headlights, driving slowly down that street approaching the house.  There are no clear reports about exactly what happened yet, but police officers ended up firing 50 rounds into that suspicious truck - only it wasn't Chris Dorner - it was 2 older Hispanic ladies delivering newspapers. (See news article here)

Two streets away, another police car was speeding towards the scene, got in an accident with another truck that looked similar to the description of Chris Dorner's truck, and started firing shots there too. Nobody was hurt in that incident (and the two women who were struck are okay).

When we heard that Chris Dorner had not, in fact, actually been in our area; and after confirming through various news reports, we sent our children to school at 9am.  Police presence was heavy, the media was everywhere, and parents gave each other sympathetic nods.  The kids were all talking about it, with stories ranging from "a killer is on the loose," to "the police are just protecting everyone."  The teachers handled the whole situation with grace and understanding.

As I drove my children up to the school, emotion overwhelmed me, and for a quick moment I had a glimpse of what other parents who have experienced school tragedies might feel like - the feeling of uncertainty, of fear, of confusion.  You want to make things normal for your child, to deflect any fear so that they will feel safe and secure, and you want to hold it together for them.  And although I only got a small glimpse of what they were feeling, I know that I never want to feel it again.

The sight of policemen patroling your kids school with guns in their belts, with police cars stationed on every corner - it should make you feel safer, but it doesn't, really. It makes you realize that we live in a cold and harsh world.

As I read many articles about Chris Dorner, many of them mentioned that in his manifesto it says that his pain and sense of injustice began as a child.  At age 6 years old, when he was a first-grade student at a Christian school, he was called a racial slur.  He punched and kicked the other kid, and then was sent to the principal's office and swatted.  While both children were punished, Chris did not understand why he was being punished for standing up for himself.  That led to a series of events in his life which continually trigged that event which happened when he was 6 years old. 

As a parent of 5 and 7 year old boys, my heart broke when I read that part of his story.  I do not condone anything he is doing - at all - but his pain makes sense to me.  How do you process something like that when you are 6 years old? The bullying? The name calling?  And then how do you process the fact that you got in trouble for what you thought was right? 

I cannot do much about the Dorner situation from my home. But his story made it all the more clearer to me how critically important it is to teach my children the right way to handle bullying at this age - and more importantly, how not to bully someone else.  When my 7 year old came home recently and jokingly made his eyes look slanted, making fun of another kid in his class, we immediately sat down with him and explained why that was wrong, and why he would never, ever do that again.  He had seen another kid do it, and didn't know that it was being mean. He just thought it was funny.  We had to teach him that behavior was wrong.  When we hear one of our boys making fun of someone else for "liking Dora the Explorer even though he's a boy," we have to teach them that they will not make fun of anyone else, no matter what.  They don't always know why what they are saying is wrong; it is our job to teach them.

It can be easy to overlook those things, laugh along with the child, or pretend that it didn't happen. But it is our job as mothers, to not only protect our own children, but to also protect the children who may not have a voice.  We need to protect those kids whose parents are not protecting them. We need to step up and intervene whenever we see any child suffering at the hands of another.

I don't know if this situation could have been averted, if what happened to Chris Dorner would have been dealt with the right way when he was 6 years old.  But 6 year old hearts are very tender, as are all young hearts.  And my heart hurts for the 6 year old Chris Dorner.  But as for the 33 year old Chris Dorner, let's pray that he is found quickly, so that no more innocent lives are taken.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Letter to All Mothers

Sometimes, at the end of the day, all of our mistakes pile upon our heads. They leave us feeling guilty and alone, like a failure.  All of us have days like that - some of us have weeks and months like that.  It is in those moments, in the quietness of the house, that we can become our worst enemies.  We so desperately long for someone to come alongside us and see us, to hear us, to know us.

We know that He is there, that He sees, that He knows, but we don't feel it.  And sometimes we just need to feel Him there.

So tonight, if you need a friend, this is what I would say to you:

To the mom who is feeling alone tonight...
   You are not alone. You can do this.  We are here.  We are all in this together.

To the mom who is exhausted and just trying to find 5 minutes to herself...
    You are amazing.  Just breathe. Know that you are loved.

To the mom who is worried about her child...
     God knows. He sees. He has not left you alone. He will guide you.

To the mom who feels guilty...
     Tomorrow is a new day. Give yourself grace.  There are no perfect mothers.

To the mom who wants to give up....
     This is hard. You feel like a failure, but you're not.  His grace is sufficient.

To the mom who feels unseen....
     We see you- the community of mothers.  Your hard work may go unnoticed by tiny hands, but it      does not go unnoticed by the hands who created you.

To the mom who is angry...
     Your feelings matter. This test will not last forever. You are loved.

What is something you wish someone would say to you?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Creating a Loving Environment

This is February, the month focused on love and Valentine's Day, on heart-shaped pancakes and notes in lunch boxes, on conversation hearts and lollipops.

Yet when our children come home from their Valentine's Day parties, do they come home to houses full of love?  Or houses full of fear, of strife, of anger, of busyness?

When our children are first born, we pour so much of our energy into helping them feel warm and safe and secure.  Yet as they get older and we feel overwhelmed, we can unknowingly create environments that no longer feel loving and welcoming.

This month I am asking myself the question: "How can I create a more loving environment in my home?"

I believe it starts with me.

Am I patient?  Am I loving?  Am I kind?  Not just with my kids, but with my husband? Not just with my husband, but with my neighbor?  Not just my neighbor, but with that person on the freeway?  They are watching and learning from me - and they will only know love to the measure that I model it for them.

Am I creating a loving environment when I'm on the phone?  When I'm on the computer and they're pulling me away for the 213th time?

Am I creating a loving environment with my words, or is my tone filled with frustration that my child is bothering me again?

We can decorate, we can make special breakfasts, we can put cute notes in their lunch. We can make cupcakes for their parties and help them with their Valentines Day cards. We can tuck them in at night, and kiss them on the forehead - but at the end of the day, have we loved them well?  

I am reminded of I Corinthians 13: "If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."

It is not easy to love well, to love selflessly - and I have no hope of being that mother apart from Christ. But I can start today to intentionally work towards ridding my home of negative words and actions and replacing them with patience and love.

If you are struggling in these areas today, I'd like to recommend a devotional to you that I have found to be very encouraging.  In it, the author specifically uses the example of a mother trying to overcome anger and frustration with her children, and guides the reader through a 21 day journey of changing the way we think and act. It is one of the best devotionals I have read thus far, and right now it is FREE for your Kindle! Check it out by clicking on the graphic below:

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