Saturday, December 11, 2010

I mentioned last time some things to try switching...
  • skim/lowfat milk TO whole milk or better yet...raw milk
  • margarine TO butter...preferably butter from pasture-fed cows
  • vegetable oils TO coconut oil or palm fruit oil
  • white flour TO freshly ground whole wheat flour
  • store bought eggs TO farm fresh eggs from chickens roaming freely
  • store bought broth TO homemade bone broth

But I forget to mention a couple other switches:

  • sugar TO natural sweeteners...such as honey (preferably raw), sucanat (natural cane juice sugar), or stevia
  • regular sodium salt TO real sea salt (so much better for you as it is filled with tons of minerals you need and is not refined sodium)
  • corn fed beef and chicken TO pasture fed beef and chicken. Animals were NOT made to eat corn...they were made to eat grass!

These are easy switches I think. You will LOVE the taste of these switches. Your family will not notice most of them especially if you ease them in slowly. You can throw most of this in when you are baking and cooking and they will have no idea but you will know the benefits!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I shared with you how my friends from the local chapter recommended we begin our food journey. So here is how I began mine...or ours (being that I am the main chef here at the Hutsell mansion...I take my family along for the ride!). Actually, I was relieved to see that the steps they recommended were things I was currently doing. Our journey began with the simple things...the things that would be delicious and easy to change....such as butter. I mean, butter is more expensive but who can deny it's delicious compared to margarine. I bought a butter keeper and this keeps the butter fresh and soft on the counter. I now try to buy pasture butter from Whole Foods. Pasture butter is produced from cows who roam free and eat grass...not corn. It produces a deep rich tasty yellow butter. I only use this butter for spreading on bread and things. In recipes, I use WalMart butter. I'd love to make my own butter!

Then I began moving up the percentage of fat that was in our milk. We normally drank 1% milk so I moved us up to 2% and then whole milk. The baby was already drinking whole milk so when the other milk was gone the boys would drink that anyway. Making this transition made it no big deal when we tried raw cow's milk for the first time. In fact, our boys LOVE raw milk. I can't afford to use it exclusively but we do own one share of a cow which gets us one gallon a week. You might think...what good is one gallon of raw milk in a family who drinks one gallon of milk A DAY? Well, I use the milk to make things like whey and cream cheese as well as I can use it to make my kefir more potent. What's left after I make the things that can only be made from raw milk (like whey) then we drink that and it's a special treat. I figure even a few glasses is better for us than nothing. I am sure health gurus would say we should drink no pasteurized/homogenized milk at all but this is baby stepping for us.

Then I began experimenting with coconut oil. I went and bought a small jar from Whole Foods and began using it in recipes where I'd normally use vegetable oil. My kids never detected it and I think it made the food taste better. I think it makes pancakes and waffles really yummy. I also use it in smoothies. Coconut oil is a little tricky because it is solid at room temp so you have to soften it under warm water to get it pourable. And if you use it in a smoothie you have to add it while the blender is running so that it doesn't harden. It's pricey and at times I'd switch to vegetable oil for things like brownies and such. But now that I am sold out on the evils of vegetable oil and the benefits of coconut oil, I have bought a big gallon bucket of coconut oil as well as some palm fruit oil to use for things like frying. Eating healthy is definitely one of those things where you have to spend money to save money. So you have to be ready to dive in before you can break down and spend 40$ on a gallon of oil. But it beats spending 10$ on a small jar! But I bought 3 jars before I felt ready to dive in! Palm oil is also good for you and cheaper but it doesn't have the same benefits as coconut oil.

Then, we are blessed to have friends who raise their own chickens so I get fresh organic eggs for $3 a dozen. Yep. That's expensive but also a deal for fresh eggs. Again, I started slowly. I bought one dozen of those and would use them only for eating straight eggs. In other words, in recipes I'd use my Walmart eggs. Now I buy more eggs from our friends and when I make smoothies with raw eggs I ONLY use fresh eggs. Fresh eggs from chickens who roam free and eat organic food and bugs produce healthier eggs. You can see the difference in the color of the yolks. They are deeper yellow.

As you can see, so far I am not introducing different foods I am just exchanging foods we already eat for healthier foods. So the next thing was a desire to make my own flour. Several of my friends have grinders and would give me flour and it was so delicious. I love to bake so it seemed natural that the only way I could improve the health of what I was baking was to have healthy flour. But how in the world was I going to afford a grinder or a mixer? I mean, I have a Kitchen Aid mixer but I have read that it quickly burns up its motor to knead freshly ground whole wheat flour in it. The dough is so heavy. My friend Leslie told me I could use her grinder but honestly, my plan was to grind my flour as I needed it and I knew it would be inconvenient to trot over there each time. Amazingly my sister bought me a Nutrimill and a Bosch mixer. So obviously my next step was making flour and bread! Now whenever I make pancakes or waffles or banana bread...I grind fresh flour. The thing about flour is that it is the most nutritious immediately after its ground. It actually becomes rancid within 24 -48 hours I believe. That is why the flour on store shelves...even the whole wheat flour is not as good for you as fresh ground. You can grind your own and freeze it and that is better than store bought. I have read that it is good to soak your grains to make them more digestible but I have yet to do that! I'll let you know!

Basically...there you have the beginning of my journey. I am doing more now but I will make that a different post! I know, you can hardly wait! I smell freshly baking bread...gotta go! M.

Monday, November 29, 2010

So I nearly forgot that several of you asked that I share what I learned at the local chapter meeting for the Weston Price Foundation. I honestly should educate those of you who don't know what WPF is but if I do that this blog will not get written. Perhaps I will take that up another time! The meeting was about baby steps. Baby steps toward good nutrition...which the WPF says begins with healthy fats and avoids sugar and processed foods. That is just the teeny tiny tip of the iceberg but like I said, I can't delve deeper or I won't get this written.

So, here are your baby steps to begin your journey:

1. Add fats into your diet! YES, FATS! Healthy fats like cod liver oil (which is high in vitamins A and D...vitamins we do not get enough of. You can take 1 SMALL tsp a day of cod liver oil and fulfill what you need. is nasty. Get over it. Fill a tiny shot sized glass (I use a condiment cup) with cold water. Pour your tsp on top and drink it as fast as you can. Yes, you will taste it but barely and then it is over for the day! If you are taking fish oil capsules, you are not getting as much good stuff as one tsp of cod liver oil. Get your cod liver oil from I am not sure it is the best price on their site...just be sure to use their brand because it is naturally fermented. Coconut oil should replace ALL vegetable oils in your pantry. Vegetable oils are terrible for you and coconut oil is NOT! Basically, vegetable oils are heated so high that they become rancid and do terrible things to your system. Yes, coconut oil has saturated fats but they are medium chain fats which have all sorts of benefits for you. You must buy unrefined, organic coconut oil which is not cheap. I started by trying it in small jars from Whole Foods. Once I tried it in recipes and realized it was delicious, I purchased from Their gallon is $39 which is the best price I have found. A gallon will last a LONG time! Coconut oil is solid at room temp so you can use it as shortening. OR put the jar in warm water and melt it to use like oil. I could go on but if you want to know Eat Fat Lose Fat. Avoid trans fats. Nuf said.

2. Make your own bone broth. So full of trace minerals and good stuff. Much better for you than store broth, so EASY to make and affordable! Basically, once you cook a whole chicken (or turkey) you need to remove the meat from the bones. You do not need to pick it clean. Just eat off of it what your family wants and then toss the bones into your crockpot. Cover with cold water and add 2 tbsp of vinegar to the water. The vinegar pulls the minerals from the bones. Cover and cook on low for as little as 8 or as many as 48 hours. When done, cool, strain and store in the freezer in usuable portions to make yummy soups and add to recipes! See...easy!

3. No white flour or sugar. Self explanatory I think.

4. Probiotics at every meal. Kimchi or saurkraut that you have fermented. Kefir or kombucha drank with the meal or before the meal. Fermented foods have enzymes that aid digestion. You will need to look these up on your time for me to explain. is an excellent site for information. She shows you how to make all this stuff step by step on videos! Awesome!

5. Make something homemade that you eat all the creamed soups. Instead of buying canned condensed soups which are yuck...make it homemade! Or peanut butter. Or baked goods and replace with freshly ground flour and natural sweeteners like sucanat or raw honey. Pop your own popcorn in coconut oil.

OK....that is a lot of info and not enough explanation but it's the best I can do for now! I promise...everything I have learned you can learn too! Blessings!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

So after yesterday's post I thought I should share some links with you that have helped me in a pinch! Some of my favorite sites for recipes are: This is my favorite site for all of it features. Ree, the pioneer woman is an excellent cook. She also has a cookbook but frankly, all of her recipes are on her site! I could list you off all my faves from her site but we'd be here all day and trust me...if you try her stuff you will like it. And she goes step by step with pictures which makes it (nearly:) foolproof! First place to start is with her cinnamon rolls. I tell you, as one who feared anything with yeast and is a cinch and they are awesome for Christmas morning. I half the recipe but if you make the whole thing you can freeze them!

www. This site is my new favorite. This is a whole foods cooking site. Laura, the heavenly homemaker is a mom who uses fats, whole grains, natural sugars, and fermented foods to make her recipes. She shares recipes on how to make your own healthy dressings, breads, yogurts, kefir, etc. She shares her own meal menu each week with links to all the recipes. This is also a new site to me. I found VERY helpful videos here for making lots of healthy things like kombucha, whey, cream cheese, kefir, gravy, etc. Obviously a health food site but so much to learn!

These are my favorite buying sites right now:

For coconut oil:
This is the cheapest place to find a gallon of UNREFINED coconut oil I have found.

For bulk buying of hard white wheat for grinding:
Azure standard is a bulk buying type of co-op. You have to have a drop site in your area. If there is a site near you then you can order from them. They have LOTS of stuff at a great price!

When I think of more to share I will add them!

I wanted to also say one more thing. I read a friend's blog about how she runs and enjoys the holidays at her home. She is a mom of 8 and she has TONS of experience on running her home as smoothly as possible. For her, she LOVES to play games. So for her, an enjoyable holiday is less about hospitality and cooking and more about having FUN! I don't so much love to play games and I love to cook and plan a lovely meal. We are all different. I want to be more like my friend and enjoy life and people more and not be so caught up in the details. But, I also know that I am knit together differently. Her kids will remember wonderful times of game playing and laughter and my kids will remember cozy times of special meals and a warm atmosphere (at least I hope :). Either both is actually hospitality. Both emit warmth and joy because she is doing what brings joy to her home and I do what brings joy to mine! Thankfully, we have grandparents and aunts and uncles who love games and add that element in while I am joyfully preparing a meal. And she has a grammy who loves to handle the meal! So I say all that to say, please don't read what I say and feel like you should try to fit who I am. I only share my stuff to help those who want to cultivate more cooking/baking skills or more hospitality into their company times! Ok...gotta run! Love to you all!

Friday, November 26, 2010

My friends think of me as a good cook...good baker. I see myself as a good learner...a so-so cook and a person who loves baking. Mostly, I see where I have come from as a cook/baker. And I think it is important to encourage other women...especially young wives/mothers to become the cook they want to be. And in addition to that become the hostess you want to be. Now, I know there are those of you who have no interest in becoming a better cook or's just not what you care about. So...this may not be for you. But, if you don't fall into that camp and you want to learn from my experience...I will share it with you...HAPPILY!

First, you have to be encouraged by where I came from. I grew up with a grandma who loved laundry and housekeeping but loathed cooking or baking of any kind. Sadly, I think she could have been good at both but by time I was around...she had firmly decided she was a terrible cook and therefore made no effort to be better. I mean, she had her standard things she made...meatloaf, chili, pork chops, and lots of frozen meals but mostly, she just loved eating out. I rarely remember her hosting company. Once a year she had her immediate family in for Christmas Eve dinner and even then she ordered a deli tray from Kroger and made boxed scalloped potaotes to go with it. In fact, the ONLY thing in that meal I remember her making from scratch was a pistachio pudding dessert. I remember being the one who loved hosting the party. I made place cards and set the table and helped clean house. I could barely contain my excitement at the tender age of probably 8 or 10. And I remember my Grammy being so happy to have my help. So I guess looking back I had no role model but I had innate desire to learn.

Fast forward to me being a newlywed. I knew how to make chicken breasts with BBQ sauce on them, stuffing from the box, and corn. We had that a lot if memory serves. But I tried a lot of recipes. Lots of failed recipes. Trouble was, given my background of little knowledge on how to cook and my present circumstances of having little money it was tough row to hoe making all this stuff we didn't like. But I didn't give up. My best avenue for finding good recipes was when I'd eat things I liked at other people's houses I ASKED FOR THE RECIPE. This is my single best piece of advice. Never be shy to ask for other people's help. If you eat something (or better yet, if your man eats something) that you like be sure to ask for a recipe or how to make it!

My second best piece of advice is something that was unheard of when I was a newlywed 17 years ago. Well, unheard of for me. You see, my second piece of advice is find a source (or several sources) online whom you trust for failproof recipes and go there often. When I was first married we didn't own a computer and the internet was still in its early years so blogs and websites were non existent or meager at best. It wasn't even until the last five years that I began really using the internet as a great resource for all kinds of recipes. Now I am a HUGE consumer of online cooking and baking tips and recipes.

So you see, I am a poser. A copycat. A fraud! :) Between asking other great cooks how they do it or looking online for answers...I hardly even create a recipe...tweak it, yes, but create it-not so much! But, perhaps that is a bigger deal than I realize. You DO need to know how to follow a recipe well. How to tweak it for your family. And how to look at a recipe and say this just won't work at all for my family. And I suppose there is an instinct to a good cook that tells her how long to bake something before it burns. Or how much spice is too much for her family. But then again, I think a lot of that instinct is learned. It is burning a few batches of cookies or rolls until you say, "OH...I need to reduce the time on that recipe!" It is making a batch of chili and having your family refuse it because of the chunks until you learn to chop everything finely so they don't see the chunks. It is a lot of failure and a lot of trying again. SO please do not label yourself a bad cook because you fail sometimes. A lot of us didn't grow up with moms who loved to cook. We had no role model. Or we chose not to learn when we had the chance! :)

As for being a better hostess, that is also learning while watching. I mean, how often do you walk into someone's home and feel warmth and welcome? Well, when you walk into that home...take notes. What is making you feel cozy? Is it candles? Is it a smell? Is it decorations or lighting or is it her warmth and charm? We have a friend who hosts parties and frankly, she is wealthier than I am so not ALL of what she is able to do am I able to replicate. But I took away a lot of ideas and made them my own. For instance, in her gorgeous home she lays out beverages in pretty pitchers and she buys the Coke in the vintage bottles and she slices fresh lemons for water. So to make that happen in my home I went to WalMart and purchased three cheap, but nice glass pitchers. No, they are not lovely crystal pitchers but they impart the same sense of hospitality. I fill one with water, one with tea, and one with lemonade. It looks a lot prettier and a lot more intentional than Rubbermaid pitchers on the counter or pointing people to the dispenser on your fridge. I also have an ice bucket and tongs. And I also employed some of those impractical items people gave me when K and I married. Things like a crystal sugar and creamer set on a little crystal tray. I now use the sugar bowl for little packets of sweetener and the tray for slices of lemons. A lemon is not expensive but it seems like you went the extra mile for your guests. I can't afford the Coke bottles but those aren't necessary to create the feeling that you prepared for your guests. Even last minute guests feel welcomed by simple touches. I light a lot little candles. I have tealights on the mantle and those are cheap. I have little glass holders and I keep candles ready to go in them so when guests are coming I can light them. Ialso have candles on my kitchen table and in sconces on my wall in the kitchen. When those are all lit the house feels cozy and warm. I stole that straight from a home where the hostess had lots of light from candles as well as little clear Christmas lights strung on her mantle and the room just glowed. I also love having a cake plate with a dome. A cake on a pedestal looks so pretty. I will even put it out just for my family. I will put muffins or quick breads sliced on it. Surprisingly, cake stands and pitchers and serving pieces can be found cheaply at WalMart or Garden Ridge. Just purchase them a little at a time. And even if none of those things are items you own or can afford to can still put out dishes and clean your home and serve a nice dessert. People just like to feel like you planned for them because they were important. Hospitality is a gift that can be cultivated. Sure, some people come by it more naturally but we can all have our own brand of hospitality!

I just wanted to encourage you that I started without a good role model. My Grams has been gone for 4 years now but before she died she would tell me how amazed and proud she was of my sister and me because we had cultivated these gifts all on our own. And if I can do it...anyone can! :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yes, Lord

There is a lot on my heart really. And it used to be when things were on my mind/heart that I would blog. But as you can see, I seldom blog anymore. I don't know why except that when I want to write out the words for you to see...they just won't come. Or perhaps they are too personal. And honestly, I am a very private person. Just ask my husband. He comes to my blog just to figure out what is brewing inside this head of mine. It isn't that I don't share with him...he just knows I am not saying all that is going on with me. I am churning it. I am struggling with it. I am unsure of it. And I don't particularly like being vulnerable. I mean, who does? Well, I take that back. We all know someone whom we met only briefly and we heard their life story instantly. Um...awkward...hello. But anyway, I digress. :) you want to know something very personal about me? The biggest thing always on my mind is surrender. Waving the white flag. Saying to God, I surrender. You can have me. ALL of me. In fact, at the True Woman Conference a couple weeks ago, they handed out white hankies with the words, "Yes, Lord!" embroidered on them. We were to wave these hankies in the air anytime we felt the Lord talking to us. It was rather powerful. "Yes can have my time. My money. My home. My marriage. My...children., Lord." Oh there it is. The last thing I want to give the Lord. You see, just because Keith and I have six kids does not, unfortunately, mean we have laid this fertility thing freely at His feet. You see, it wasn't until K and I were married and had two or three kids that we even entertained the idea of giving God control over our fertility. We had never even heard of such a thing. But, once we heard of it...we knew God wanted something from us. And in between there and six kids...we have given it to him...and taken it back....and given it to him and taken it back. You get the idea. It has been a wrestling match between our flesh and our spirits...or His spirit I should say. I mean, clearly all other Christians are not wrestling with this. They have their 2.5 children, seal the womb and call it finished. I am assuming (a dangerous thing to do) that they feel at peace with this. I mean, I do hear of women who woefully regret sealing their chances for more kids but I know equally as many women who don't. And I struggle with this.

"Lord, why can't I be at peace with 2.5 kids....or um...6 kids? Why do others 'get' to have closed wombs but You want me to surrender mine? I mean, come on Lord, I am not a great mom. I am not a great anything Lord. I screw this up constantly. I struggle with anger and impatience and discontent. I lack the discipline I need. I fail to respect my husband like I should. You really don't want someone like me to raise more children Lord." The answer comes back silent. I think it is as if the Lord is saying...."I have already spoken child. And I WILL NOT speak one more thing to you until you can obey Me on this one point." "REALLY LORD? Has Thou REALLY said?"

Does this sound familiar? I mean, if you are a reader of the Word at all you have seen people who from the dawn of time, literally, have questioned what the Lord CLEARLY told them. I always thought as a child that Gideon was a man of faith laying out that fleece. But he was faithless. He heard God. God was clear. But Gideon demanded a sign...two signs actually. And God, endless in forbearance, obliged. And Gideon obeyed. You see, I am no better than Gideon. I want a sign. I want more confirmation. And God sends His confirmation all the time. But I refuse to see. I am hoping for another sign. One that gives me what I want! One that allows me to have more ease. (Or so I tell myself.) But I promise, there is no ease in disobedience. Or in delayed obedience. But I must say, I am thankful for that forbearing God who waits.

So you see...just because I have six kids does not mean I am more spiritual or patient or saintly or something. My flesh is not different than yours. Having children may be a blessing but it is the HARDEST thing I have ever done. The weight of this job NEVER leaves my shoulders. I mostly feel like a failure at it. I desire for my kids to know and love the Lord so mightily and the weight of that is so heavy. I want to do all that I can do to show them Christ crucified and glorified. But I am flesh. Ugly, sinful flesh. It takes a mighty Savior to save this mighty sinner. And perhaps that is it. Perhaps God can get me no other way. He wants my surrender. All of me. I still don't understand why ALL of me is so literal when for others it seems so figurative...but then again, I am a very literal person. I couldn't possibly say what God requires of anyone else when it has been such a struggle for me. All I can say is this...whatever God better do it. Um...I better do it. Yes, Lord. (Even a feeble Yes, Lord will do!)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Perhaps if you don't have many children you will not relate to what I am about to say. Goodness knows if I hadn't had more than four I would have never known. It isn't about the number of my case it just took having the fifth child to discover it. What is it? The strong-willed child...the stubborn child...the pain in the neck child...whom you love...but whom pushes you every day until you feel you just may jump. My sweet little Gannon is FULL of life. I mean FULL! In fact, I am pretty sure he sucks some of my life out of me and into him simply upon taking his first breath of the 6am. Not every day...but most days I see his adorable smiling face sometime before 7am...which is wrong on so many levels but not the least of which is the fact that I am nowhere near ready to deal with him until say, oh...8am....or noon.

Here's the thing. I know God brought Gannon to me to refine me. And I hate it. Yep. I hate it. I mean, I love Gannon. I just don't appreciate the DAILY, CONSTANT pounding to my character that it takes to raise him. Most days I feel he definitely beats me to the finish line and soundly does his victory dance all over my face. How is that for a word picture? But that is how I feel...beat down. Starting my day with him so early and him taking a pitifully short nap now means by 8pm...I want nothing more than to crawl into bed and declare the day done. This isn't exactly healthy for my marriage. I mean, Keith would like to find more than a bedraggled shell of a woman when he gets home. Thankfully he extends grace upon grace for me there. And thankfully I am involved in two Bible studies right now that get me out of the house twice a week. (One of those was a four week study that is ending on Wednesday lest you think I double book myself on a regular occasion. Far from it. The other study is ongoing and I am so thankful for it. Because if I don't have a reason on the books to escape it doesn't happen. But I digress....)

I share this with you to say this...I am struggling. Struggling to have a deep thought. Struggling to have energy or discipline. Struggling to have anything to say to anyone...let alone the Lord. I mean, I feel tapped out. Nothing to offer. And I feel defeated. And that is not to say it is all this child's fault. Of course not. Throw in five other of whom is a one year old...need I say more?...and there are LOTS of reasons I have lost my marbles! I push forward. I get up each morning and exercise. I stay involved in studying the Bible. I am loving our church. My marriage is wonderful. But every day finds me empty. Perhaps that is good? Empty of myself? Room for the Lord to fill me up? Am I asking Him to fill me up? I guess I need to arise earlier than normal ( 5:30ish) to beg His mercies and grace for the day ahead. I have MANY more days ahead with this child...I don't think this is the terrible threes...I mean, he was a terrible one and a terrible two...I have a feeling the terrible fours are ahead. I don't mean to label him with doom it's just that given his personality and the way he interacts with his siblings...there ain't no sign of relief ahead. And I have to navigate the one year old and two year old waters that are here and ahead and believe me when I tell you...that alone can push me to the edge. SO more time spent on my face pleading for supernatural energy and grace is probably not too much to aim for. And in the mean time...there is life to be lived. And I'd like to stop wishing it away. I'd like to stop be discontented with the present. I'd like to finish each day spent...but not weary. And if any of that is going to happen...God is going to have to show up. And I am going to have to beg Him to. Not that He needs begging...just that my desperation is to that point. Parenting is so hard. It has been since we had our first son. Seriously. It was so hard with just one. And it is so hard now. And believe me...the reality that we could have had our "proverbial" 2.5 children and we'd be avoiding this conversation altogether is not lost on me. But lest you throw that thought my way and get shot the "I might kill you" look...let me say this...the answer to the problems we have in life is NOT wishing we'd done it differently. Because especially in this area...God had all the say. He wanted these boys. I obeyed. It really is that simple. You can mingle in all of your arguments for birth control and such elsewhere but for us...this was obedience. And with the obedience has come WORK. We are constantly shaped and molded and refined and the sludge keeps surfacing. God intended this. So it does me NO GOOD to say, "If only I had less kids, if only I didn't homeschool, if only we weren't missionary staff, if only _____." No matter what life looked'd be HARD. We can't be more like Jesus on the easy path. Narrow is the way which leads to life. I want life. So I get the hard stuff. Now Lord, could You just breathe back into my spirit more of Yours? Thanks...I needed that!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Somewhere along the line I seem to have abandoned this blog. Not mentally, but physically. Because you see, I think of this blog all the time and am even moved on occasion to write. But then I don't. Either I sit down to the keyboard and type and then promptly delete it entirely or the words just never even come out. I realized along the way that when I am upset, sad, tired, frustrated or angry...I blog. Writing is cathartic for always has been. And there is nothing wrong with that except that so seldom am I moved to write when life is good! And life is OFTEN (in fact, more often than NOT) good. Unquenchable, overflowing, out of bounds GOOD! I have written blogs about good things and happy days it's just that given my natural bent, those blog entries are probably fewer than the ones that express some thorn in my flesh. OR at least they WOULD be far less if I actually gave in and blogged every time I wanted to mention those thorns. Therein lies the reason I set blogging aside. For some of you, this is all you know of blog. For others, you know me better than that but aren't in my life on a daily basis to know that my frustrated days do not define my life. So I don't want to only blog about the bad days because I never want to dishonor the Lord or my family by making it seem as if I am an unhappy person. And I had to leave behind the joy of daily blogging about just ordinary days and such because life just doesn't allow me that kind of time in this season of life!

SO...until I felt moved to blog about a HAPPY thing, I chose not to blog! Believe me, these past few months have been more hard than happy but when God puts a happy ending on He usually does, it hardly matters what all those hard days were about! His faithfulness to me and to my family is nothing short of amazing. Awe inspiring even!

One reason that I like to write when I am struggling is because I know there is always a chance you, my reader, are struggling in that area too. I am a BIG believer in sharing our sufferings. They are so much less powerful when shared. The minute I open my mouth to a friend or a group of friends and share a struggle and someone in that group says, "me too..." I am somehow healed through that. Companionship in suffering. Knowing that Satan can no longer condemn me by saying, "you are a mess and no one else is as messed up as you." He is immediately silenced by the truth that my sin, my struggle is common. And sometimes common feels downright wonderful! But I tread a fine line when all I do is share my struggles or sufferings. Pretty soon....I look miserable and unhappy. I look a little too real, if that is possible. People are always making judgements. If I say I am tired (or if, heaven forbid, I LOOK tired) people pity me and say, "Her life is wearing her out poor thing." If I talk about how my husband and I are struggling or my kids make me nuts...before you know it people have surmised that my marriage is failing and I must have too many children because I cannot handle them. SO while I seek to be real...I must remember that REAL people are reading this and summing me up. And I want my sum total to be JOY! Paul says rejoice in any situation no matter the circumstances. I will therefore try to balance the sharing of struggles (because I still feel that matters) with the sharing of JOY! I do have both and if I am growing in the Lord...I will have them simultaneously!

Let's face it though...motherhood is HARD WORK! And trying to keep my physical body in check is a HARD thing. And being a wife is a HARD thing. And loving the Lord the way I want to love Him and know Him can be HARD work...well, hard in the sense that it requires time and discipline, like any other relationship I care to nurture. But the Lord sweetly sent me these words this week that He spoke to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30:11 (oh please go and read the whole is so good):

"For this commandment which I command to you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach."
And I was reminded by Oswald Chambers in "My Utmost for His Highest" (which I LOVE and highly recommend):
"If you make a god out of your best moments, you will find that God will fade out of your life, never to return until you are obedient in the work He has placed closest to you, and until you have learned not to be obsessed with those exceptional moments He has given you."(emphasis mine)
In other words, or in MY words I should say, if I focus on those times when I felt so near to God and so fresh with His calling and I neglect or worse, despise the work He has placed closest to me (my family), He will be gone from my life. Not as in salvation...but as in doing any new thing. Chambers is SO good to remind me that the "drudgery," as he calls it, of my life is the place where God is making me and molding me to be like Him. The mountain top is refreshment but it is NOT the gift of my life. My life is His gift. SO...that is where I am right now. Learning to complain less and embrace more. What I do is hard. But I can think of no other earthly thing at which I'd rather be working so hard. God bless you as you work hard too! ~M.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

If I had my child to raise all over again I'd build self-esteem first and a house later. I'd finger paint more and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I'd take my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes. I'd take more hikes and fly more kites. I'd stop playing serious and seriously play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I'd do more hugging and less tugging. Diane Loomans
This was posted on a friend's facebook status yesterday. And I have to admit, my first thought was, "Yeah, right." I find that quite often this advice from those who have passed through the young years of motherhood frustrates rather than encourages me. Here's why. Here in the midst of the trenches...the days and hours feel LONG despite being told a THOUSAND times by well meaning women that, "it flies by." I mean, I KNOW how quickly it is passing in reality. My baby is a teenager and I swear it feels like a blink. But back in the day when he was my only baby and I was walking the floor with him and crying because neither he nor I were getting any sleep, I did not need the, "Enjoy this, it flies by" speech. I needed the, "Can I come help you today?" speech. And when I read the poem above I find myself cynically saying I KNOW I should spend more time enjoying life but WHO will do the laundry, or school the kids, or clean the messes, or give baths, or run errands, or pay the I need to go on? I mean, I need to stop and smell the roses but the stench coming from the bathroom seems to pervade my senses instead!
I guess what I am saying falls into two categories. ONE: I DO need to heed this advice. I gave it some real thinking yesterday. Even though it chokes me to hear it now...I know that one day the house will be quiet and will stay clean. Some day I will go back to doing laundry once or twice a week. Some day there will be no handprints on the door and no toys scattered everywhere. And I WILL say, "I miss it, where did the days go?" Maybe that is what makes me the craziest. I know they are RIGHT! I will miss it. I will long to have little arms squeeze my neck. Or a little four year old who walks through the room on his way to somewhere else and says, "I love you mom" for no reason other than he does! I don't think I will miss the messes. I gotta be honest. I know the messes represent people and life...but I think I will miss the people...not the messes. And with so many children...I expect to have MANY messes from little grandchildren. SO after contemplating it at length yesterday I realized it would take a concerted effort for me to put down my work and enjoy life more. I would need to pass by a mess and a pile of laundry and say..."Not I am playing with my kids." You see, I am a worker. I enjoy a clean home. I NEED order. But, I need to enjoy my life. I need to laugh. I need to stay in my jammies all day. I need to run outside and play on the trampoline. I need to pack a picnic and take my kids out of here. Order is over rated and a tool satan uses to keep me miserable. SO, let me heed the advice.
But secondly, when I get this type of knowing advice from a seasoned mom what I really want to say is this...HELP ME! Don't tell me how I will miss it. Remember with me how hard it is. Remember with me how trying the days are. And though you may know more than me and maybe you are really doesn't minister much to me when I am in the trenches. I am hoping that when I have daughters in laws someday that I can say to them, "How can I help?" so that I can ease their days. Some day they WILL miss it but on that day...they just need a break.
But for today....with a house FULL of children and messes...I am going to PLAY! And LAUGH! And find my joy again! Because, some day...I will wish I did! And I do not like regret!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Some days you want to kick the cat...and today is one of them

Sometimes when you write a blog it is so terribly easy and tempting to make everything in your life seem so good, so wise, so godly. It happens quite innocently actually. You only feel like blogging when life is good. OR maybe you feel like blogging when life stinks royally but you refrain so as not to come off Which ain't all that bad of a thing...not wanting to be sinful and all. :) But then there are days where:

  • the stomach flu has visited your family for the second time in three weeks. And the second time it hit twice as hard and dirtied twice as many sheets.
  • and when said stomach flu came through the second time and your carelessly placed bottle of Clorox Clean-up...yeah, the stuff with the real bleach in it- gets picked up by your two year old. And that two year old takes it and sprays the entire bathroom vanity and mirror and his clothes with it in the process. And then takes it in his bedroom and sprays his dresser with it....which happens to have a drawer cracked open and he ruins at least 4 articles of clothing. And to add insult to injury....your seven year old WATCHED it all unfold.
  • your husband has been gone for five days and you barely slept at night thanks to the aforementioned stomach flu and the fact that you don't feel safe in your own home when he is gone.
  • homeschooling your children makes you crazy. Being responsible for yet one more aspect of their health and well being makes you want to curl up in the fetal position and cry.
  • you can hear all of your children sniffling, signaling a round of colds coming to the family.
  • you can barely afford to put gas in your van or buy the groceries you need after you pay the bills...let alone pay a sitter or go out on a date so that you can maintain some form of sanity and relationship with your husband.
  • the stomach flu made it so you can't go to your financial class so that you can have enough money to pay your bills AND buy groceries and gas.
  • you have been away with your husband overnight once in five years and that reality alone makes you want to run away.
  • you have lived in a place for five years and still are visiting churches. And now when you think of Sunday you get a giant knot in your stomach instead of that joy you used to have.
  • doing the same drudgery seems like it just might kill you.
  • you think, "this is NOT the life I signed up for."
  • you put your kids to bed and feel you F. You yelled, you pouted, you slammed acted...sinful.
  • you failed at your diet AGAIN.
  • and you wake up the next day...and there it all is...again.

SO, you see....some days...STINK. Some WEEKS stink. And I could end this blog with the up know, the one where spirituality shows up and reminds you how you will miss this someday (BLEH...I will NOT miss some of this) or how God is so good or how blessed you are to have such a great family. But, some want to kick the cat. And that's how today feels.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why I love and (still) recommend e-mealz....

Many of you know that I have highly recommended in the past. And some of you took my advice and tried it...and didn't like it. Now, I completely understand that e-mealz is NOT for everyone. But, in thrashing it about in my brain I began thinking..."Why doesn't it work for everyone?" Well, I have come to the conclusion that in order to enjoy e-mealz like I do, you may have to...gasp...lower your standards! Yep, there I said it. I have low standards! :) Well, at least when it comes to menu planning and complete strangers planning it for me. If someone is going to hand me a week worth of meals and yet they have never met me, then I can assume that not all seven meals are going to suit my family's taste. I mean, come on, even the menus I plan don't suit all of my family! You have to see e-mealz as a GUIDE. It offers you suggestions, ideas, a framework from which to launch a menu. You have to be able to look at the ingredients for a meal and say, this works for me, and this doesn't and here is how I can make it work. OR...if there is nothing about the meal that works...I don't make it! You get two weeks at once when you sign up so you get 14 meals to plan 7 from. For me, I am not necessarily looking for 7 meals in a week to plan. I figure at least one meal a week may be frozen pizza or nuggets from Wendy's. Or I might have a standard meal of my own I want to chili or soup night. SO, I typically hope to find 5 meals I like out of 7 (or 14 that first week.) Overall, you have to be able to tweak it to suit your family (like omitting mixed veggies from a casserole, or changing peas to carrots, or putting in whole wheat pasta for regular...). And you have to accept that not every meal will work. AND...if a menu is disappointing for more than two weeks...change plans. I found I like the WalMart regular menu and the Weight Watchers Wal Mart plan. Though e-mealz says you can only change once in a three month period, I have actually changed twice before without trouble.

It is also necessary to assess your goals. For me, I felt that for $5 a month, it was WELL worth the investment to come away with some new meal ideas. I mean, again, low standards served me well here. You figure in three months you will get about 90 meals. I merely hoped to come away with 15-20 recipes from that that I would make again. To me, those are good odds. And indeed, that has been pretty much right on. I love having a plan each night, even if I don't ever want to make that meal again. Dinner for that night was served. Move on. Try the next thing. Eventually something comes up a HUGE success and I highlight that one to have again...and again. According to Dave Ramsey (financial guru) e-mealz is a good budgeting idea. It plans meals for you meaning you can grocery shop once for all you will need without running back and forth to the store. And here is another reason some may not like is based on economical meal planning. If you are a gourmet cook who uses organic menus you may not like e-mealz. They plan most meals based on time and money considerations. The average mother of a family uses soup and pasta and hamburger a lot. It is economical. Expect to find that in e-mealz. There is a good variety every week...but it is not gourmet! Sorry.

So, having said are a few of my favorite recipes from e-mealz. I don't feel it is enough to hurt their business but rather hopefully enough to pique your interest and if nothing else, give you some dinner ideas that have been a hit here!

Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloin (6 servings at 4 points each)

Combine 1T minced garlic, 2T brown sugar, and 2tsp Montreal steak seasoning (you can find this in spice section). Cut 1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin into 1" slices and dredge in mixture. Heat 1 1/2T light margarine in a large skillet over MEDIUM heat. Add pork, cook 5-6 minutes each side or until 160 degrees inside. Remove pork and add 1/3 cup red cooking wine(marsala or sherry works well) and 1 1/2T light margarine to skillet. Simmer one minute and pour over pork slices. DELISH!

Apples and Onion Chicken Bake (6 servings at 6 points each) try is awesome.

Saute 3 medium thinly sliced apples (I used granny smith) and 2 large yellow onions, also thinly sliced in 2T light margarine 10 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a 9x13 sprayed baking dish. Combine 1/4t salt, 1/8t pepper, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs, and 1t dried thyme. Pound thin 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast. Then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture. Lay the chicken on top of the apples and onion. I sprinkle any remaining topping over the chicken. Drizzle 2T melted light margarine over chicken. Bake uncovered at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is done.

Chicken Parmesan (6 servings at 5 points each)

Combine 3/4 cup italian breadcrumbs and 1/2tsp salt in a shallow bowl. Dip 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts that you have pounded thin into 3 beaten egg whites (or I used egg beaters) and then into breadcrumb mixture. Heat 2tsp olive oil in a SPRAYED skillet and add chicken. Cook until browned but it doesn't have to be cooked all the way through...just most of the way. It will finish cooking in the oven and you don't want to dry it out. Place chicken in baking dish and cover with 14 ounce can of tomato sauce (or I used diced fire roasted tomatoes that I pureed). Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1 1/2T parmesan cheese. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. (Since we didn't saute chicken all the way until cooked, cut open a breast and make sure it is white all the way through. Mine was plenty done in 25 minutes.) I put this atop 2 oz cooked whole grain angel hair pasta with a little garlic powder and light margarine. DELISH!

Almond Crusted Tilapia (6 servings @ 6 points each)

Process 1/4 cup almonds in a processor until finely chopped. Combine with 1/3 cup flour and 1/2tsp salt. Dredge 6 tilapia filets into flour mixture. Heat 2T olive oil and 3Tlight margarine in large skillet on MEDIUM heat. Cook filets for 4 minutes on each side. Remove filets from skillet. Add 1/2 cup sliced almonds to skillet and toast for one minute and sprinkle over fish. (I would have added a little garlic powder to this or minced garlic I think though it was good without it.) I served this with long grain rice.

Pumpkin Walnut Pancakes (6 servings at 7 points each)

Combine 2 cups all purpose flour, 3T brown sugar, 1T baking powder, 1/2tsp salt. (I also added pumpkin pie spice...maybe 1-2 tsp to give it more flavor). Combine 1 3/4 cups skim milk, 3 eggs beaten, 3/4 cup canned pumpkin , and 2T oil. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together. Make pancakes (I assume you know how!). Sprinkle with 6t chopped walnuts if you desire...we did NOT desire! Serve with sugar-free or light syrup.

Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Pancakes (6 servings at 4 points each)

Prepare 6 servings of Aunt Jemima Original Pancake mix (I used a recipe from my cookbook, used whole wheat flour and omitted the white sugar.) Stir in 1tsp cinnamon and 4T brown sugar. Prepare pancakes!

Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin (6 servings at 4 points each)

Combine 1tsp pepper, 1T olive oil, 1tsp onion powder, 2T worcestershire sauce and 1T minced garlic and rub over 2lb pork tenderloin. Place in sprayed baking dish and COVER. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until 160 degrees inside. HELLO EASY!

Beef Pie ( not a WW menu meal)

In a skillet, brown 1 lb. ground beef and 1/4 cup chopped onions. Drain. Add 1 can mixed veggies , drained(I omitted this) and one can diced potatoes, drained and 8 oz Velveeta, cut into chunks. Mix well and pour into 2qt baking dish. In a skillet melt 2T butter. Add 2T flour and 1/2tsp salt. Stir with a whisk until blended, cook until bubbly. Gradually add 1 cup water and stir constantly. Cook until thickened. Pour over meat mixture. Press a can of crescent rolls together (or buy the new sheet thingys) and cover meat mixture with rolls. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

SO there you have 8 meals! That should get you started and convince you that e-mealz does have something to offer. I mean, if all I got were these 8 meals (and there are more) then I'd be thrilled to have paid the $15 for it! my soap box now. Seriously, hope you try and like the recipes! Love, M.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Beware...LONG post ahead...pull up a chair.

So I have pretty much determined that there is no good in me. No wisdom. Nothing to offer in and of myself. That God decides to use me is amazing to me. Sadly, as a younger woman I wouldn't have thought that. I would have thought, "I have A LOT to offer" (well, at least something to offer.) Maybe I would have thought I could offer advice on child rearing, homeschooling, house keeping or being a wife. I mean, come on, I am good at those things, right? Well, I am okay at those things...most of the time, right? But as I have gotten older...I see the wisdom in keeping my mouth shut. :) Because just when I open my mouth to be "wise" not long after...I stumble and stick my foot right in it! Then, I clam up and resolve I shall NEVER offer advice or wisdom again. In fact, I shall never offer anything of myself EVER again with the fearful thought that I might hurt someone or offend with my words. Abstinence seems safest right? So God got me alone on this point...still is in fact. I don't have anything to offer...but He does have something to offer...through me. And sometimes I am sinful if I am quiet and withdrawn. Frankly though, I'd rather err on the side of being quiet. I want God to make me a meek and gentle small order I might add.

SO...when a friend asked me to offer her some mentoring...I felt humbled, blessed, honored, a little sick to my stomach...but you get the point. I don't know a lot but so far I have been married nearly 17 years, have been a mom for 13 and have six sons to prove it! I know a little something...but mostly I know God has been with me through it and has stripped me bare at times of any "good" I might have possessed. Nothing has made me uglier than being a mom...and no, I don't mean physically, though my jiggly belly begs to differ. :) Anyway, after she and I talked yesterday I got to thinking and re-thinking things she and I discussed. And at first when she asked me things I swear all I could say was, "Yeah, I felt that way..sometimes still do." I even told her at one point that I'd have to answer her question when MY mentor got back to ME because I STILL don't know the answer! You see, I have not arrived. I am still a box of puzzle (or puzzled) pieces waiting to fall into place. But upon rethinking some things I thought, "You know, I DO have some ideas for that problem..." So, this blog entry is borne from that. I figured if she found something helpful..someone else might too.
DISCIPLINE: Oh how I dread that word. It stands for everything I should be and everything I should be training my kids to be. But a lot of times, it gets all mixed up with how I love them and how I want to extend them grace and a second chance. See, no one can ever tell you back when you are that judgemental non-owner of a child how LOVE screws up all the neat little control issues you have. "I'll NEVER let my child act like that in public." Well, they don't know that you as a parent see that child's heart and you know how they have been sick, or needing a nap, or how you know they aren't being disobedient but rather they are being two...or however old they are. Or maybe they ARE being disobedient but rather than spank the tar out of them right'll address it privately. "I'd NEVER let my child dress like that." Well, little do they know how you spared yourself a battle because your little darling wanted to wear his cowboy boots and shorts and fire hat to the mall. Who cares, he is dressed and happy, right? Or maybe he learned to dress himself and you're just so derned proud you don't even care his shirt is on backwards and his black pants don't match his blue shirt. There is just so much more to discipline than spanking or timeouts. And unfortunately, tired moms fail to deliver consistent discipline when they ought to. But, I'd bet that every mom gets confronted with the consequences of this and shores up her resolve and gets back at it eventually. I do believe there is the nugget of consistent but extend grace when you can. See their heart. See the fatigue, the frustration, the help they need when they are acting out. Address that first. DISTRACT them whenever possible. If you know that leaving a fun play date is hard....give several warnings the time is approaching to leave. Plan an a treat that will be given in the car. And if all else fails, drag that poor little screaming child out of there to the restroom or the car and assert some physical pain in the appropriate place. But...I am all for distracting or averting the trouble to begin with. I know that strict disciplinarians would disagree but...I am not one of those. Sorry. I SO want to be one of those a lot of days...but doesn't appear to be happening. Nonetheless, I have pretty obedient boys if I say so myself. Yes, they throw fits and yell NO. But overall, they obey. I am good with that. And I have the benefit of having older boys who are showing me that the lessons Keith and I are teaching are getting through. Praise God for measurable results along the way.

HOUSEKEEPING: People think I am a neat freak or a perfectionist when they see my house. Nope I am not. I won't let you label me that. Yes, my house is clean most any time. My brain just functions that way. I cannot operate well in a mess. My brain thinks efficiently. I have learned that not everyone else's does. When I was a server at a retirement home in high school I was a GREAT server (humility, I know). I wrote up tickets neatly and I was able to serve people very quickly and orderly. I see that same quality in me now. An example? As I walk towards the stairs to go upstairs, I scan the area for anything that needs to go up. I might have a basket of laundry in my hands and as I go I throw Legos and toys into it that go upstairs. Or visa versa...when I am upstairs I throw down shoes and laundry and toys that belong down there. I organize my areas. My laundry room has shelves for the shoes. Therefore, the shoes go on the shelf! We have hooks for bags and jackets. I have a school cabinet with a lock on it. This keeps my little boys out of my supplies. When I do laundry (which is every day) I fold it on my bed and my boys come get their pile and put it away. Grant can fold laundry, especially towels but I am not ready to hand him the chore of laundry entirely...probably never will. I will train him to do his own but the day I hand my sons mine or Keith's clothes to wash..I will probably be bed ridden. The boys unload the dishwasher (including the two year old who loves to empty the silverware), they take out the trash (including the two year old who loves to dump trash and drag bags outside), they clean their own rooms, they clean other people's rooms (like dusting and vacuuming Keith's and my room), they vacuum, dust, do windows, clean the cars, help their dad with projects, and they can spot clean the bathrooms. Which is also a helpful tip. Buy Clorox or Lysol wipes. Have them above the commode or in a cabinet. In between deep cleanings (once a week usually for me) the boys or I wipe the counter first and then the commode and around it ( I have boys you know...they pee a little off center sometimes!) This keeps the bathrooms looking and smelling clean for a lot longer than without it. It is a great help when people drop by to send a kid in to quickly wipe up. My boys do yard work and other things as needed. Right now Grant is steam cleaning the floors and Garrett is vacuuming. But, here is the thing about me...I have older kids. When my boys were little I did most of it myself. And here is another thing...I STILL do a lot of it myself. I do not always have my boys do it. I ENJOY housekeeping. I am quick and efficient and usually don't mind it. But, when I ask- my boys jump to. They don't argue or complain....usually. They know their jobs and they do them. My big boys keep a clean bedroom. I will pick up laundry...I don't mind that mostly. Sometimes I ask them to do it. They should do it...I just don't always make them. The little boys' room is a big disaster of toys most of the time. I like it that way...that means they are being playful and imaginative. If the Legos are spread about and Hot Wheels are lined up and dart guns are everywhere...they have been enjoying each other. I will post a pic of what it looks like most of the time. And then the next pic shows what it looks like clean. Here is the thing: my boys can clean their own messes because I have Rubbermaid containers labeled with what goes in there. I have three-drawer carts labeled and I have shelves organized in a way they can follow. While I may not make them always put it all away, I know that when I finally want it clean, they can do it well. And occasionally, I DO IT! Yep, while they play I clean it up. This helps me know if the containers are still properly organized. Sometimes they get lazy and put Legos in with Hot Wheels or whatever and I can sort them back out. If I do that periodically then it stays organized. The old adage, "A place for everything and everything in its place" is the truth! If there is no place for will never get put away. SO, to sum that up...I'd say that my boys are good workers but I don't always make them do it all. I see the home as my job. They are learning to work and this is their home too so they should help. But I do not ask my boys to do my work. If I had daughters I'd train them to work with me more. They need to be skilled that way....sorry, I am old fashioned in my roles. Daughters should fix dinner and do laundry and keep house as much as they are able. Sons should mow lawns and make repairs with dad and take out the trash, etc. I make my boy do domestic things because they should know how and because I need their help...but you won't find me sitting on my chair while they do my work. I want them to see me modeling what a wife and mother does. I want to do it well to the glory of God and to the glory of Keith.

Well, that is enough. That is MORE than enough. Sorry. It just came spilling out. Maybe more will come to mind to share later. I am not sharing this because you all need this. I am sharing this in case you need it. Take what applies and pitch the rest! Love to you! M.

(I think I will make the pictures a separate post because it frustrates me to figure this all out.)