Monday, February 29, 2016

Amazing Grace

The past two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster.  When people you interact with on an almost daily basis suffer a loss you feel it too.  It’s inevitable.

My daughter has a few friends she sees outside of school and gymnastics.  One of those friends has gone through the unimaginable.  Her parents and siblings have been in a nonstop cycle of shock, prayer and grief.  They lost their son, and my daughter’s friend lost her twin brother.

When I first heard what happened, I immediately went back to a week before, when I picked my daughter up from their house.  She had a sleepover, and when I arrived there was homemade French toast on the counter.  The kids were still in pajamas.  I admired their newly renovated bathroom.

I can still see myself in the house, the sun shining outside the windows.  There was happiness.  It was all around us.

This family is loving and fun, supportive and hardworking.  I adore them. This was a house I knew my daughter felt at home in, and she always came home with a smile.

The past two weeks have been consumed with praying for this family, loving them and doing whatever we can to alleviate any obstacles.  I have witnessed them grow in their faith, and it has been a testimony to thousands.  When tragedy struck their family, they immediately turned to God.  They embraced him with all their might, and even though His plan wasn’t what any of us would have chosen, at the end of the day we aren’t in charge. 

And somehow they accepted that.  Through tears and grief and wishes for better times, they accepted it.  No one would have blamed them for turning away from God.  It’s easy to do. 

But they didn’t, and I can say with certainty witnessing them struggle through this storm has been life changing. The little stuff does not matter.  I’ve seen what the big stuff is, and trust me, it’s okay to let the little stuff go.

Life has so many wonderful blessings, and we need to focus on them. Turn away from stressful and negative people and circumstances.  Hug your kids.  Tell them you love them.  Spend time as a family and turn those electronics off.

Since this tragedy struck we have had two family game nights and more family dinners.  We went to the park, rode bikes, played outside and kept eachother close.

Which is as it should be.

I’ve told my kids for a few years now that this isn’t heaven.  This is, unfortunately, where the bad stuff happens.  But if we hold tight to Jesus we will one day get to heaven, where everything is roses.  Satan can’t reach us there. 

The loss of a child hits every community hard.  I have never in my 36 years seen anyone handle it as gracefully as this family.  The love and support that surrounded them was insurmountable, and their faith was (and is) rock solid.

This family has demonstrated, without question, amazing grace. 

Please continue to pray for the Shipman family.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cups

Life has been throwing curve balls. I'll post soon. In the meantime, I'm posting one of my favorite things to eat. Chocolate. 

As with all wonderful things, I found this idea on 
Pinterest.  Since peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are one of my favorite lunches, and chocolate is one of my other favorite lunches, I knew these would make my taste buds sing.

And they do.

Even better, they are super easy to make.  Package these bad boys up in a candy box, add a bow, and these little delights are the perfect teacher gift.  Or bus driver gift.  Or dance teacher gift. Or hostess gift.

You get the idea.

2 (11.5oz) bags milk chocolate chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup grape or strawberry jelly
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon canola oil (or similar)
24 paper small cupcake liners 

Line two muffin/cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a large glass bowl, empty both bags of chocolate.  Set aside 1/2 cup chips, and place large glass bowl in microwave.  Heat on HIGH in 45 second intervals, stirring after each interval until chocolate is smooth.  Add in 1/2 cup chips and stir until smooth.  Add oil, stir.

Using two spoons, drop 1 tablespoon (approx) melted chocolate into each cupcake liner.  Tap tin and use spoons to make sure chocolate covers entire bottom.

Chill 10 minutes.

While chilling, take 1 cup peanut butter and mix in bowl with confectioner sugar.  Place in freezer to chill for several minutes.

Remove cupcake pans and peanut butter mixture.  Drop 1 teaspoon peanut butter into each cup.  Flatten slightly with back of spoon.  Drop 1 teaspoon jelly over top, and chill 5 minutes.

Remove pans, and cover each cup with melted chocolate.  Make certain chocolate covers entire top and down the sides.

Chill until set.

Mommyhood Footnote: Don't like PB&J?  Make these as Peanut Butter cups.  I made one tray PB&J, one tray PB.  Delish! 


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Easy Irish Soda Bread

I have a deep sincere love for Irish Soda Bread.

This love is real.

When I am in the presence of a loaf of soda bread I must cut and toast a slice.  And slather it with butter.

I then cut another sliver.  Just a small, little sliver.  Hardly even a piece.

And then I have to even out the loaf.  This piece doesn't even count because the edges were uneven.  I could never leave it looking messy.

Not my style. 

Before I know, the Irish Soda Bread is no more.  Between myself and my munchkins this bread lasts about 24 hours.

But it had a wonderful life and it was loved.

Thank Heavens St. Patrick's Day is only once a year.  My pants couldn't take any more than that.

1/2 c. white sugar
4 c. all purpose flour (plus a tbsp for dusting)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. raisins
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
1 c. sour cream

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9 inch cake pan.

In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and raisins.

In small bowl, lightly beat eggs and add buttermilk and sour cream.
Stir the liquid mixture into the dry mixture until flour is moistened.  Knead dough in bowl with additional 15-20 strokes.  Dough will be sticky.
Turn dough into pan and pat down.  Make a 4"x1" slice in middle and dust with flour.
Bake 55-65 minutes or until center is just done when toothpick is inserted.  I like to remove bread when center is a tad moist and minimal dough is on pick when center is pierced.

I don't do dry baked goods.  This includes my bread.

Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

While bread is still hot from oven cut yourself a slice and slather it with butter.  Eat it.
 Then even out the bread because you know you cut it sloppy.

Do your best to stop yourself there.

Have a fabulous Tuesday!

**Recipe adapted from**

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Earn It System

Over Christmas break I had a revelation. I’m not doing my kids any favors by paying for their electronics. Of course almost all kids now play on iPads, iPods, iPhones, Kindles and whatever else is out there.  My kids have the goods too and they use them regularly.

When a bad grade strikes, or behavior isn’t up to snuff, the electronic is the first thing to go. 

But when I had my revelation I thought about how my kids have their electronics all the time.  We have limits, but they never have to worry much about when they’ll have their electronic again. For the phones, I pay for them monthly.  Life doesn’t work like this. There is no one paying for my car, my house, my phone or anything.  Just being a nice person doesn’t pay my bills.

And I want my kids to know how life works.  If you want it, you work for it. If you don’t make enough, you don’t get it until you earn what you need to have it.

Which made me rethink my system.  I decided all electronics had to be earned through grades and chores. 

You earn days and when you don’t earn enough, you don’t get.  Period.  Or as my son would write, #thestruggleisreal.

I made a chart.  Every child starts the week at zero.  They can earn “days” with an “A” on a test or a quiz. They can earn partial days through helping with laundry and sweeping the floor.  There are many ways to earn the days necessary to have their electronic for a week.  Every week we are earning for the next week. So Sunday night I add up what they earned and they start over Monday morning.

My points system goes like this:

A on a test – electronic for 2 days (this is the gold standard)
A on a quiz or project – 1 day
All homework completed for 1 week – 1 day
Good behavior for the week – 1 day
Chores are all ¼ day, and 4 must be completed to earn a day

When the kids complete a chore, they fill out a sticky note and stick it to the chart. Sunday night, I check grades and go through the sticky notes.  I award days for homework and good behavior if it was earned.  If a child earns more than 7 days, they can “bank” the extra for a week they may not earn as much. Another good lesson for them - earn more than you need and you put it in the bank.

I then mark my chart. If they have to hand in their electronic for a day I let them pick what day to go without.

This system has worked marvelously. We had two children go without their electronics for a day already because they didn’t earn enough time for the week.  It was a lesson learned.  It hasn’t happened since.

There is no punishment.  There is no “you lose this for a day”…it’s all about what you earn.  If you earn it, you get it.

Obviously if you are well behaved, do your work and help there should be no trouble earning what is necessary.  This holds true in life as well.

I love to share what helps my house running smoothly, and this has been an eye opener for 2016.  After all, we aren’t raising kids.  We’re raising adults.  And when my little munchkins go into the world I want them to know how it works.

I am not one to keep up a system long that requires me to work harder (adding up all the chores...keeping track of days...) but it was worth it to start off the year.  I did this for a month, and I've seen my kids go from "ughhhh" when I need extra help to "yes mom..."  And that was exactly what I was looking for when I implemented my system. 

Happy Trails!