Archives for February 2011

Books I still love

As a book-lover and a mom of many, over the years I’ve spent a lot of time reading books to my kids.  I’ve gotten tired of lots of stories.  (My least favorite? Books adapted from Disney movies– yikes, they make me crazy.)  But here are some books that I’ve literally been reading for a decade or more and still love to see, even though in many cases I just about have them memorized.

I’ve linked to each book on amazon.  Many are listed for mere pennies– folks obviously don’t know what fun these books are!  If you have an account on or a good local used bookstore, check there too.


1. A Week of Raccoons by Gloria Whelan — charming drawings and repetition, fun ending

2.The Napping House by Audrey Wood, Don Wood –cozy and lyrical

3. Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester, Lynn M. Munsinger –Tacky is one funny guy.

4. You Are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano Love — sure to squeeze mom’s heart

5. Mrs. Toggle’s Zipper by Robin Pulver, R. W. Alley –adorable folks, charming problem-solving

6. The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau — amazingly detailed drawings and a big message

7. Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel — an early reader that will have everyone chuckling

8. But No Elephants by Jerry Smath — this one has you rooting for the elephant

9. Dinner at the Panda Palace by Stephanie Calmenson — exuberantly poetic

10. Hedgehog for Breakfast by Ann Turner,Lisa McCue — a tale of hilarious misunderstandings

I hope you have fun checking out a few of these books.  And I’d love to hear which story books have delighted you and your children over the years!


Josh Wilson CD winner

The winner of the Saturday CD giveaway, according to is commenter #25–Jamey from Zehlahlum. Jamey, send me your address and I will get the CD headed your direction. Next Saturday I’ll be giving away the Matthew West CD, so stay tuned!


Sometimes I,
I just want to close my eyes
And act like everyone’s alright
When I know they’re not.
This world needs God
But it’s easier to stand and watch.
I could pray a prayer and just move on
Like nothing’s wrong.

But I refuse.

Quick cooking tip

This afternoon we took the kids out to play laser tag, a first for me– it was great fun!  We got home hungry around 6 PM and I was eager to get a meal on the table quickly.  Hubby requested something with beef, so I decided to make Ethiopian Sloppy Joes.  It’s not necessarily a quick recipe, but I fed the kids bananas, gave them jobs peeling and cutting, and put my cooking effort on turbo.

The slowest part of this recipe is letting the potatoes simmer.  As the potatoes got cubed, I stuck them into a bowl in the microwave, a couple potatoes at a time, for 2-3 minutes.  That way the potatoes were already starting to cook when they hit the skillet, which shaved at least 10 minutes off the simmering time.

I use the microwave fairly often to speed cooking, most often to partially cook firm veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots that I intend to cook further on the stovetop or in the oven.  The microwave also works well to thaw frozen stir-fry veggies.  Ice crystals really cool the wok when you’re doing stir-fry.  Cooking will proceed much more efficiently if you micro-thaw the veggies, drain extra liquid, and then add veggies to the wok.

I will also sometimes microwave milk to preheat it when making a milk-based chowder.  Once you’ve added milk to a soup, you’re going to need to watch the soup like a hawk to prevent burning, so I like to add the milk as late in the cooking time as possible.  And unlike stoves, microwaves turn off after a specified time, which means my milk gets warmed but not scorched if my attention wanders.  I love my microwave!

How about you? What do you do to get meals on the table quicker?


School has gone exceedingly well today. Thus there is no explanation as to why I am doing my best impression of cooked spaghetti in the corner of the couch at the moment. And scheming a trip to the grocery store ALONE of all things.

Did you know that such desires cause me great guilt? If I took a child or two, we could doubtless have an actual conversation or two. (Cue butterflies,  smiles, laughter, warm fuzzy feelings.)  And I do love my children, really I do. Nevertheless I selfishly want to go alone.

I am sure any number of people would support such a notion.  Moms need to decompress after all.  Come back refreshed, better for it.  Except I signed up for this gig and with the numbers of people who need me I am not at all sure I can justify skipping off alone for the second time this week.  Bah.  I may go anyway, guilt or not.

I actually think I am going thru driver’s ed withdrawal.  The hour of 6 AM was miserable, but something about have an hour to myself every morning was utterly lovely, and I am missing it.  Only problem is, I’m not in love with the idea of getting up early for no other reason than alone time….

My little girls have been on a Little People kick lately.  They currently have Fischer Price people and houses spread all over the living room, and have been happily playing pretend for the last hour.  Good thing I didn’t give away those sets last month in my bedroom declutter frenzy.  It is sweet to heard them playing together.

I am cooking beans today– beans and rice for dinner, with tortillas, sour cream, and cheese.  Haven’t figured out lunch yet, but am leaning towards homemade mac and cheese.  That is a nice 20 minute project.  Update:  the beans just burned to the bottom of the pot– I saved most of them by quickly tossing any not sticking to the bottom into a fresh pot, adding water, and turning the heat way down.  It remains to be seen if a smoky flavor will linger, or if they escaped unscathed.

This morning while listening to my 6 year old reading me Bob books, I spent half an hour on a cool website that gives conservative movie recommendations and filling up my Netflix Queue.  I immediately forgot the name of the website I’d found so helpful, but thankfully I had the good sense to like it on Facebook and just now went to look it up.  It is called  Here’s a screenshot of our Netflix Queue at the moment.

Not sure if all of the movies on this list will be watched by everyone– a few may be prescreened before they get to everyone.  But it is fun to have some new movies that look like they might be acceptable for general viewing.

I am off to scramble together some lunch, and  work on my grocery list.  Hope your Thursday is good!


Heard of Raisels?

The kids were delighted the other day when we got a box containing 4 different flavors of a new snack to try.  They’re called Raisels, and basically they are golden raisins that have been flavored to taste like sour candy. Flavors include sour apple, lemon, sour orange and sour peach.  They contain no artificial sweetening, and one 1.25 ounce box contains 100% of the US RDA of Vitamin C.

We don’t buy much that is individual serving-sized at our house, so that was the first thing that pleased the kids about this treat.  They also enjoyed the various flavors, which kind of reminded me of sour gummy worms.  I didn’t especially love them–I’m not a fan of sour treats.  And I have a bit of mental resistance to the idea that raisins need anything done to them to get kids to eat them.  But I could see how a mom struggling to get fruit into her kids might find these a good option when packing a school lunch, or when providing snacks for the soccer team. Who knows?  I may even buy them sometime as treats in the car on vacation.  It would definitely please my kids!

The concert that didn’t get away

I heard about the Story of Your Life concert in January and immediately knew I wanted to go. I’ve enjoyed Matthew West for quite awhile, and my teens and I have been impressed with every song that we’ve heard from the up-and-coming Josh Wilson.  It’d be a great concert, and at $5 a ticket was actually affordable, even for my family.

I wrote the date of the concert on my calendar and decided to get tickets for the whole family.  Except when I went to buy tickets they were already sold out. Boy, was I disappointed. Still, I left the concert on my calendar…and in my mind.  I figured there was no chance to go now, but I still wanted to.

Yesterday morning a facebook friend posted that she was giving away two tickets to the concert.  Ummm…really?   I commented as fast as my fingers could type, then messaged her privately, sure I’d hear that she’d already given them away.

She emailed me a few minutes later.  They were mine.  Wow.   Maybe I really was meant to go after all.

Except now I had another dilemma:  what to do with two tickets in a family as big as mine.  Two kids happened to be in the room when I found out I got the tickets.   One said he didn’t really want to go, and the other immediately asked to come along.  A kid who’d been struggling greatly with attitude that last few days, and who I had just been wondering how to encourage.  I made a gut decision, and decided to bring that kid.

I was bummed knowing that other kids would be disappointed, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this had somehow been ordained for a reason.  If God had wanted us all to go, there would’ve still been tickets left when I went to buy them.  Concerts held in churches don’t tend to sell out that fast in Nampa.  Maybe that child and I were the ones who were meant to go to that concert all along.

We went.  It was wonderful.  Josh Wilson and his guitar and his message and his humor, and the song he wrote for his wife (Always Only You) were a delight.   And Matthew West exceeded all my expectations with a powerful message centered on stories of broken lives stitched lovingly back together by God. I especially love this song.

The evening was a true blessing, a time of renewal and encouragement both for my child and for me.  If The Story of Your Life is headed to your area, I hope you can get tickets and hear the message yourself!  And stay tuned here. While I was in line buying CD’s of both artists for my family, I got an extra of each CD to give away here on my blog.  I’ll be giving away the first of those CD’s on Saturday!

CD Winner

The winner of the Saturday CD giveaway is #46 –Kristina. Her favorite hymn is Amazing Grace. Kristina, send me your snail mail address and I will get the CD headed your way!


I uncover it as I pick up the coffee can to put it away, and my mouth gapes. It’s scrawled exuberant in pencil at the back edge of the kitchen counter: “Jesus loves you!”

Graffiti has not been something we’ve had problems with, but even the Jesus-themed variety shocks me and has me imagining a future where covert graffiti is unearthed all over the house.  I gather the six youngest kids from their lessons to stand before the scrawl.

They all look dumbfounded, innocent.  All deny. 

One of the most frustrating parts of parenting many is the difficulty of finding a culprit.  Sometimes I just want to know WHO did whatever-it-is.  Not to punish, just to know.

I tell them they can stand there til the truth comes out.  “There’s no punishment.  I just want the truth. No problem if it takes all day, ” I say, cheery on the surface but stern inside as I walk away. I’m on shaky ground– who knows if I’ll get a confession.  But I’ve got my gumption up and I WILL, bygolly, know who has chosen to scrawl on my countertop like a train-tagger with a spray can.

Hopefully standing staring at each other as minutes tick by will cause the guilty party to confess.

John is just as irritated.  But he’s brain-storming.  He offers the kids a face-saving option: “Did anyone do it and forget?” No. He asks if we’ve had company.  No.

Then he heads upstairs and returns with our 16 year old son.  The one who I didn’t think to include in the inquisition because of course a 16 year old would never write on the counter.

But the 16 year old is looking sheepish.  “You?” I say in shock, laughing, my frustration draining away.  The younger kids’ faces are all relief, and dad tells big brother to apologize to the falsely accused younger ones.  As he goes to scrub the counter suddenly everyone in the room is laughing and accepting his apology and heading back to finish their school.

And mom is once again reminded how this parenting gig keeps ya on your toes, serving as a daily reminder that you don’t know as much as you think you do.  And how you’re always better off remembering to laugh.