Monday, January 26, 2009

ATTENTION! Migrating my Blog

In an effort to streamline things a bit, I have migrated my blog over to my actual website, to make life easier. It is still a work in progress in that I am changing some layouts around on the rest of the site, but you can see all of the archives, and read all of my blog posts there from here on out, so enjoy!

Joyful Momma Home Page

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Salad a Day...or more...

One of the things I am doing to lose weight is to eat a nice big salad for lunch every day, and we have long had a salad as an appetizer before dinner each night too.

Here's what I do: I buy seven (7!) Romaine Hearts three packs from the grocery store every time I go (unless weather is nice, and there is lettuce in my garden...even better!). I can eat a half a romaine heart for lunch, as it fills my bowl! I also purchase a bag of individually frozen boneless/skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders (NOT breaded!). I buy whichever is on sale, but SAM's club seems to have the best deals on this.

Most of the time, my daily salad is a half a romaine heart, one small, grilled chicken breast (grilled on a cast iron griddle--grill side--in the oven), 2T of shredded cheese, 1 shredded carrot, and whatever other veggies I have on hand, including fresh herbs, onions, and so forth. I top this not with salad dressing (I can't seem to find one I both like and that is low in sodium, fat, sugar, etc.), but with a Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (in this case, roasted red pepper flavored, which I found on clearance at the grocers), and a few dashes of balsamic vinegar. I also lightly salt and pepper my salad.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

How Motherhood Can Change Us

I was pondering recently the many ways in which becoming a mother has changed me for the better. In fact, it is my belief that parenthood will change anyone for the better if they are willing to learn, grow, and let the experience change them. Sadly there are some (many?) selfish people out in the world who stay just as selfish as parents, but it doesn't have to be so.

It's a little surreal to think of what all the Lord has done, usually in spite of my own foolishness, in some key areas:

My Walk with the Lord

Nothing has kept me on my knees and driven me into the Word quite like the intense responsibility to disciple five young souls for Him. I started out as a mom without much experience or know-how, and at the time, we were not in a church that taught on these issues. Instead, I had to cry out to the Lord quite a bit, and spend time searching the Scriptures. Proverbs, once considered irrelevant and boring to me, was now teeming with counsel that spoke to my heart. Nothing got me studying the Bible quite like my need to know how to raise my children for God, especially early on.

My Marriage

Marriage teachers all say that the 2nd most important relationship we all should have, apart from the Lord, is with our spouse. I didn't get that 411 growing up somehow. However, as I sought the Lord in how to be a better mom, He helped me to also be a better wife. Marriage and motherhood both will teach us volumes about selfless living, unless we completely turn off the volume on our spiritual ears. Learning how to put others ahead of myself through the day to day life with my children, I was also able to put my husband's needs ahead of my own. During hard times, the children were like a glue that helped us to stay together, and overcome those hurdles that would have destroyed our precious marriage.

My Homemaking Skills

I was such a slob in college, that I had a room all to myself, because no one wanted to room with me by my last year, and so I willingly paid $100 to have a room to myself.

You have to picture it like a commercial:
"Private dorm room, $100 per semester;
not having to deal with a roommate's nagging about the mess on your side of the room, Priceless".

Having a baby on the floor putting things in her mouth motivated me in ways nagging never could to be more thorough. Somehow, as the children came and grew, multitasking became more and more easy for me. I was able to clean house, watch children, cook dinner, and keep a house orderly most days. It still won't pass inspection by my mom, I'm sure, but if we are comparing it to what it looked like when we first got married, it's a miracle.

My Tongue

I grew up in a somewhat critical/sarcastic/snarky environment. A sharp, rude and snarky put down was always readily sitting atop the tip of my tongue, waiting to be released. If someone's feelings were hurt, I would let loose on the family motto, "It's not my fault if you can't take a joke!" Hanging out and working in the theatre and art department at college, I also tended to have most of my sentences flavored with words not fit to print. Naughty speech is something of an addiction or a bad habit, so ingrained in you, that it is hard to just stop. When you're used to talking like that, it's more natural than not talking like that.

The Lord started sanctifying my tongue when I got saved, but it wasn't until my daughter repeated something that had slipped off of mommy's tongue but once, that I became even more cautious of what came out of my mouth.

Philippians 4:8 became my model not just for thoughts, but for speech. If I didn't want my child repeating things that were not pure, true, holy, honest, of good report, etc., then I needed to be extra diligent not to use them in front of her. The family legacy of crude and rude language, and of gossip, had to stop with me, and not passed to the next generation.

My Character

A wise man once said that Integrity is who you are when you think no one is watching. Once, with a two year old in the shopping cart with me, someone gave me back my $20 in addition to the other change. As money was tight, there was a moment that I almost pocketed it, but then I looked into some sweet blue eyes, and wondered what she'd learn. It's in little areas like this, where our character shines through, and we see who we really are. I could teach my daughter Bible verse after Bible verse but I would undo it all by modeling a lack of integrity and character before her. There'd have been an additional cost too: the cashier later got saved after coming to church after I gave her a tract a week earlier.

Children are like little mirrors into who we are. We sometimes don't see or notice our own character flaws, perhaps living in denial over it, or deceiving ourselves into thinking were a lot better than we really are. There's just something about seeing my bad habits looking back at me in the form of my child that convicts me like few things can.

Furthering my Education

Motherhood is also a great opportunity to further your own education, not through college classes or extension courses, but learning alongside of your children as they go through their own education. This isn't limited to homeschooling families Maybe through helping your child with algebra homework this time, you may even start to get it!

Looking at the World with Fresh Eyes

There's something to be said about looking at the world and experiencing things through the eyes of a child. My children have said some of the most outrageous and unintentionally funny things over the years, and some of the most profound, deep and insightful things as well as we walk this journey together.

Some people were critical of the fact that my husband and I were expecting a child so soon after we first got married. We didn't exactly start off with good odds: we both came from unsaved and dysfunctional families, we both were fairly new Christians saved out of rebellious lifestyles, we didn't have good jobs or good resources, and we were both pretty green in nearly every area of life. We had that blissful ignorance that afflicts most new Christians, and most 23 year olds, and so we had a double whammy being 20-something baby believers. Of course, we had no idea what a change God would bring into our lives through having a baby.

There's been some times when others have suggested that if we had waited a little while longer about having children, then it would have saved us a lot of grief and problems, mostly problems relating to money, and relating to us both being wholly unprepared for both parenthood and marriage. There's been times when we've even mused about that ourselves...And then, we snap out of it, realizing all of the ways the Lord has used parenthood and marriage to sanctify us further for His glory.

When we embrace motherhood, and yield to what the Lord is trying to do in our lives, the possibilities are limitless.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

When You Fall Off Your Diet

Losing weight, as I said last week, is a long term prospect when you are more than 20 or so pounds overweight, and you also need to rethink some common dieting paradigms when you are trying to take off (And keep off) a serious chunk of weight. Last week's weight loss post seemed to resonate with quite a few people...they were even tweeting about it on twitter, and I had more than one person email me to tell me that they are climbing their stairs more. That brought up a related topic from a question from a reader of last week's post:

Do you ever fall off your diet? What do you do about it? How do you restart when you've failed?

That's a good question, and really it is related to what I was saying last week. This whole idea of being on a diet, in terms of being really restrictive with what we are eating, and behaving in such a way as we are trying to take this off as fast as is possible (and if you are more than 40 over, it is not possible in a healthy way). I think that "dieting" mentality sets us up for failure, because what do you do when you fail on your diet? Do you...
  • Repent quickly and eat an apple? (probably not)
  • Take extra diet pills? (please don't. it's a bad idea for many reasons)
  • Go to McDonalds and scarf down a suped up hamburger with enough calories in it to feed a family of 4 for 3 days?
  • Buy a box of Twinkies and eat them all in the parking lot?
  • Eat a batch of cookie dough?
  • Inhale a bag of chips without coming up for air until only crumbs are left
  • Stop off at 7-11 for a 44 ounce slurpee (which has a day's worth of calories, by the way)<---this would also be me, if we had a 7-11 nearby
  • Make up one of those Lipton Noodles and Sauce side dishes and eat the whole thing?(<--this would be me)

The point is, most of us wouldn't run straight to healthy food. We would feel bad about our failure and then think, "Well, I already blew it", and so we run to whatever it was we were feeling deprived of. This is actually worse for you than not dieting in the first place.

A better solution is to not think in terms of dieting at all, or being in an overly restrictive diet, as I pointed out to you last week. By having a healthier lifestyle, one that is manageable, with smaller, healthier choices may not make you go from 300 pounds down to 110 before summer like the fad diets promise, but it will last longer and be more do-able.

Oh no, you ate a piece of chocolate! Oh well, but it doesn't mean you have to eat the whole package! Enjoy that one piece of chocolate. Nothing tastes good when you binge on it, right? You didn't exercise today! Don't try to do double tomorrow (if you could do twice what you do right now, you'd be doing it already). Just press forward....slow and steady wins the race.

The Bible says it this way: "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again..."(Proverbs 24:16) The key to dieting success (and success in any other area of life) is not in not failing, but in getting back up again when we fall.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is Country Life the Magic Forumla for Family Success?

This is almost a part two of another post regarding teaching your children to work, which you may also be interested in reading.

I think one of those more popular fallacies around many homeschooling circles is the idea that the best way to teach your children to work hard is to move out to the country and own a farm. I've known several friends who think that the cure for lazy kids is to live on the land. I was re-reading a few of my favorite books on family life recently, and I realized that most of them imply (indirectly) that country life is a sort of necessity for family success. I would never want to give that impression here, though I love the country life.

My standard answer to any of my city dwelling friends, when they tell me of their intentions to make a country move, or who are pining away at a daydream of country living, is to gently remind them of a simple truth:

If your children aren't willingly working beside you now, they surely aren't going to be up at the crack of dawn feeding the chickens and pigs.(I recommend that you tape that one to the well worn cover of your copy of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living"!)

Each family has it's own dynamic, and has to go with what works for them in areas that are not directly addressed in the Bible. Though the Bible seems mostly addressed to an agrarian society, the Bible addresses city-dwelling in a positive light as well when it says,

"And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth....[my note: then comes a list of blessings...]...Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.
(Deuteronomy 28:1, 3)

You can be just as blessed in the city as in the country. The key is serving the Lord, not where you are living.

Obviously, I live in the country, just outside of a moderate sized town, on a wee bit less than an acre of land, with a big garden. I used to have chickens until my house was rezoned. I like the quiet of country life. I like the lack of traffic, and I generally like my surroundings. There are many things I love about living here, and there are some I don't like (especially with the gas prices!), just as there are many things I like about living in the city, and many I don't like. There are things that save you money in the country (hint: raising animals is not necessarily a money saver--they have to eat, you know) and things that save you money living in the city.

I would ask any of you longing for that house in the country to not wait for that to teach your children about work and to enjoy nature. Ask yourself this: What is your reality? Whatever that reality is, do it with the kids. Whatever your daily tasks include, in your mind (or on paper), break jobs and activities down into bite sized baby steps, think about how to include your children in your everyday life.

The magic formula is NOT, I repeat NOT about living in the country, having a farm, or participating in 18th/19th century chores. Whether you live in the country or the city, do whatever it is you do every day WITH your kids. Living in the country, I can tell you there are just as many (if not more) lazy kids with too much time on their hands up here in the country as down in the suburbs (mailbox baseball, cow-tipping, and paint-balling barns are popular past times in the country). The key isn't just what kind of chores you are doing, but rather working with your kids, and doing your work with a cheerful heart, and training our children in CHEERFUL diligence from a young age.

This working with your children can mean things like this:
  • Cooking Breakfast (or other meals) with your children
  • Picking up together
  • Sorting socks while telling Round Robin stories
  • Hanging laundry on nice days and praising God together for dryers on not so nice days.
  • Shoveling snow for your driveway and your neighbor's driveways
  • Sewing together. When you have a button to sew on a shirt, make it a learning event. Everyone practice.
  • You can even get high tech with this thought. I like the 21st century. I am a contradiction sometimes, I know...I like gardening, I like sewing, and I like technical why not pass that on to my kids, too?
  • My oldest daughter took most of the photographs on this blog, including the Magnolia at the top. Teach them to use a digital camera--there's no film to waste
  • I may be using the film making skills of two of my kids soon which they enjoy doing
  • When you are fixing something around the house, have a child help you. Someday they too may have drippy pipes or toilets that keep running.

You get the picture. With the Lord, your family can be blessed in the city, or blessed in the country.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I was thinking about today, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and thinking about what it means to us in the 21st century. Tomorrow, history is going to happen as the first African-American president gets inaugurated to office, and people are making a big deal of it.

I am not sure if Dr. King would be pleased with the attention the President-elect's skin color is getting. The whole point of Dr. King's speech was not celebrating people of color because of their skin color, but celebrating the accomplishments of all, regardless of the color of their skin, based on the content of their character, to use his words. I think he may be disappointed that society is still so focused in on skin color over character.

As you watch, and listen to Dr. King's speech today, with your children (posted below in it's entirety) think on, and discuss what he was saying. Are we closer to or further from that dream of Dr. King's today?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

7 Ways to Celebrate Life Everyday

Maybe you realized it, or maybe you didn't, but today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, and Wednesday will be the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. I was thinking about this a few years ago, when the thought hit me as to one way in which it did affect me growing up.

When I started school, they had built some extra, newer elementary schools in our district to handle all of the children we had. The school was built the year I was born in the last 1960s. By the time I was entering 5th grade, my elementary school had to be shut down due to lack of students. The entering Kindergarten class simply wasn't born in the same numbers as previous years in 1973, or 1974, or most years after that. It could be from other circumstances beyond Roe v. Wade, of course, or added to Roe v. Wade, but the fact is that by 1980, our elementary school closed it's doors due to a sharp decline in enrollment.

I also know that, if I were conceived a few years later than I was, I'd probably not be writing this. I'd have been a prime candidtate for an abortion--I wasn't planned, and my birth mother wasn't married. Maybe she would have chosen life, or maybe not.

As with diet and exercise, sometimes I think we try to think only in terms of the big stuff when it comes to combating the sometimes negative attitudes we see in others about the sanctity of human life, and the laws that legalize the devaluing of life. We think big, like changing laws. However, we are most pro-life when we are pro-life in the little, day to day things...Likewise, we can say we are pro life but act very differently in the everyday (maybe without realizing it), sending conflicting messages to a watching world looking for answers to life's questions.

I was pondering the different ways in which I can show, in my everyday life, that each life I come across has value. I will admit that some of these are convicting to my heart (especially that first one!). However, we really show who we are, not in what we do on special occasions, or on Sunday in church, but in how we live out the nitty gritty of life.

I am sure there are more, but these are the top seven pro life things I want to do, every day, this year, to live out my belief that every life has value, and everyone is made in the image of their Creator God, from conception until the time they set foot into eternity.

Top Seven Everyday Pro Life Things you can do to celebrate life everyday:

1. Treat EVERYONE with respect and dignity as people made in the image of God, from the grandma who is driving 30 MPH in a 55 MPH zone while you're running late for an appointment, to the baby or toddler making a fuss at the store.

2. Teach a child something new, something which celebrates the joy of being alive in little ways, whether it is how to bake a yummy loaf of bread, to how to blow dandelion fuzzies everywhere, or make angels in the snow. Stop and smell the proverbial roses every day with a child.

3. Pray for the single mothers you know, who have a tough job ahead of them, many not by their choice, and many who were courageous enough to choose life in a difficult situation.

4. Ask the Lord to show you one thing you can do to be a blessing to someone who is weary of life and needs encouragement, and act on it. You don't have to do something huge or grande to make someone around you smile. A card, a phone call, a plate of cookies, or a basket of apples off your tree...or anything else the Lord shows you to do.

5. Thank God for the life He has brought into your family, your children, your spouse, your extended family, and YOU.

6. Make sure to tell each of your children how much you love them, each and every day, preferably with a hug that lasts until they let go.

7. Tell those you meet of the hope that is in you: Jesus, the One who is the Resurrection and the Life. Ask God to give you opportunities to share of the eternal life you have through our Lord, and spread the word, whether in conversation, emails, a blog, or sharing a tract if you're feeling shy. Sow good seed wherever you go.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Redneck Goulash

"Redneck Goulash" is actually the name which my Hungarian friend Barb gave my signature Hungarian-style goulash with Venison meat. :-) Somehow my children picked up on that, and thus we call any sort of Hungarian goulash with venison "Redneck Goulash".

I took two or three Venison strip steaks, and cut them into small cubes of about an inch each. Using kitchen shears works better for this.

I also finely chopped 2 onions, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, and 3 cloves of garlic.

Heat 1 T of oil in a stock pot or Dutch oven. Throw in 2T of caraway seeds, as well as a pinch of cumin seeds and coriander seeds (if you only have ground cumin and coriander, add it later with the stock). Add the vegetables (except the garlic) and lightly brown. Stir in the garlic and add the meat until browned. Be careful the garlic does not burn.

Add 2-4 quarts of water or stock. If you are adding water, add 1-2 T of onion soup mix for flavor. Add 1 can of tomato paste, 2-3T of paprika, and salt to taste.

You can also add 3-5 diced potatoes to the stew as well.

Simmer with the lid on until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Optional dumplings:
As one trying to lose some weight here, I was going to forgo the dumplings but this revelation was met with protest from husband and children. Because of this I didn't have time to make some potato dumplings (knoedel), but instead made some simple baking mix dumplings:

2 cups of baking mix with 2/3 cup of milk. Don't over work the dough or it will be stiff. You want to just wet the mix. Drop by the spoonful into the simmering stew, and put the lid on it for 20 minutes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Using Podcasts in your Learning Adventure

A few days ago, I blogged about my whiteboard in my dining room, which we use for all manner of educational review and learning, though right now it's mostly foreign language. This lead to a question about learning foreign languages. In that post about learning foreign languages, I mentioned using podcasts, especially via iTunes, and briefly shared that they can be burned onto CDs, put on iPods or other MP3 players, etc.

After that post, I had a few emails, and some local (In Real Life) readers who asked me to come over and show them how to use iTunes because they weren't completely sure about it. Well, after that I realized that if one person is confused, then there are probably a few more confused out there (and since I had more than one person say they were confused, there was probably a heap of confused people).

I started to create a blog post on how to use Podcasts with iTunes. I soon realized that this is a visual thing, and so I created a video to help you see it better. I pray this video helps you to better visualize the process.

Free Weekly Pray for the President Guide

I know most of my readers are likely disappointed in just who is being inaugurated next Tuesday (he wasn't my first choice either). However, I want to offer a free printable resource to all of you to help remind you and your children to pray for President Obama as he leads our country these next four years. This prayer guide is based on something we have done, as a family, for past presidents as well, and which I decided to put into writing to share.

The job of the president comes with an enviable title but a serious and often thankless responsibility. No matter what our new president (or any of our former presidents and future presidents) does, someone is going to get their feathers ruffled, and completely bent out of shape. This man, whether we agree with him or not, needs prayer far more than he needs criticism, and praying for him is far more pleasing to our God anyway. In fact it is commanded:

"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
(1 Timothy 2:1-2)

The Apostle Paul points out that this is in our best interest, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all goodness and honesty". This is what I have been teaching my children, and I hope I am encouraging you to share it with yours!

Our president is going to have many people, from across our country and around the world, seeking his favor for their pet views and projects (some, no doubt, good things), and he is going to have teams of advisers, as well as legislators and judges looking for backing and favors. This man needs discernment and godly wisdom, which we need to pray for him to have.

This morning, I shared with my children that we could attend protests, we could write emails to congressmen, and we could sign petitions about many things that need to be spoken out against (it is our duty as citizens of a representative government to let our voices be heard), however nothing brings about change quite like taking our grievances to the One in whose hand the President's heart can be bent (Proverbs 21:1). Our first duty, as Christian citizens, is to diligently pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

You will find a Weekly Prayer Guide for our president attached here. I encourage you to pass it around, share it on your blog (with a link back!), print it out, give it to others, etc. Please! :-) Distribute away!

In this Weekly Prayer Guide for the President, you will find some printable cards (formatted for business card stock) that you can print out for each of your children, and which you can use each day of the week to remind you to pray for the president. For each day, there are some prayer guidelines for our President, based on the Word of God, and my own prayer time for our other presidents we've had. I figure having them on business card stock helps them to be carried around easily.

I put them in a small, clear, magnetic picture frame on my fridge, changing them out each day. My kids all have laminated copies, with a hole punched in the corner, so that we can put a ring through them to bind them together. Now that my older ones are getting older, they keep this list as a bookmark in their Bibles. I've included the bookmark format too. Use whatever works for you and your family!

Since getting a PDA, I have my phone programmed to remind me to pray for the president at a certain time each day, and what to pray for each day of the week. That also works well.

In addition to these Printable Prayer Cards for our President, there is a brief devotional as you introduce this to your children, which you can use to help them understand the principle behind the different prayer guidelines I've listed. I feel sometimes it helps to see the big picture, and why we are praying what we are praying.

Again, PLEASE, feel free to pass this prayer guide around and share on your blogs, with your friends, and so forth.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Does Exercise Make a Difference?

Do you find it amusing to read all of these crazy studies they do, coming up with contradictory information at times? I sure do! I find it both sad and funny at the same time to watch everyone react and jump on this bandwagon or that one.

Here's a new study I was just reading about in yahoo news. Newsflash! Exercise doesn't make a difference in weight loss. Yippee for you if you don't like going to the gym, right?

With a headline declaring tidings such as these, I just had to read it.

I'm again no statistician, but they were studying rural women living in Nigeria, and urban women from the greater Chicago area, stating that both groups got equal amounts of exercise each week. No, really? Are you telling me that a woman living in RURAL Nigeria, possibly walking for miles for supplies, lugging water from wells, and so forth gets the same amount of physical activity as your typical McDonald's Munching urban Chicago resident who rides the L to work? Come on, people, apples to oranges.

Exercise, I have found from personal experience, makes all the difference in the world, but only if you are also eating right, obviously. You can't eat double cheeseburgers and expect that a few minutes at the gym is going to fix your waistline. :-) I hope that part is obvious.

I try to move myself a few times a day, for a grand total of nearly an hour a day each day in concentrated bursts, and if time is not a factor, I also try to do things the "hard way" whenever possible...running up and down the stairs with laundry, hanging out my laundry to dry, parking in the furthest parking space at the store, and so forth. I also usually do some light weight training but have put that on hiatus until I find out more about my shoulder surgery that I may be needing in a few weeks to months.

Don't let this study be your excuse to revert to sofa-spud-dom as long as you eat well. Admit it, you feel better when you move anyway, don't you?

Want to lose weight? Eat sensibly and move your body as much as you can in a day. Lose weight with me this year! By the end of the year, my goal is to have the word "obesity" stricken from my medical records, how about you? Let's do it!

New Article at Focus on the Family's

I am happy to have a new article up at Focus on the Family's Singles Webzine "Boundless". You can read it by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Slow and Steady Wins the Race: Six Principles for Weigh Loss

I have been over 100 pounds overweight. Right now, I would like to lose 75 lbs. As I said last week, my goal is to lose 52 pounds this year (my ideal is 1 pound per week on average). The stupid charts say I should weigh 135 (yeah, the 6th grade, maybe). I want to weigh between 150-160, as that is what I weighed when I got married, and frankly I looked pretty good then! I'm tall, and large framed, and so I'm never going to be in petite clothes.

In the past, I've always struggled with 10-20 pounds throughout most of my teen and adult years. My mom is very short, very skinny, and very petite, and has never struggled with her weight. She had a lot of trouble understanding my struggle. She can eat 2x the amount I can eat and never gain weight, which is very frustrating! She saved me her wedding dress....a size 2...What leg was I supposed to put that on?

When you have more than just 20 or so pounds to reach, there are a few principles that I have found helpful in not being discouraged in this endeavor.

1. Think marathon not sprint

You have to take all of those ladies magazine dieting tips, and wash them your mind. Those "get fit by summer" type of articles simply do not work for the obese. Your metabolism is likely messed up for whatever reason, possibly even functioning poorly because of your obesity, and so these "lose the pounds by such and such a date" diets just are going to make you discouraged.

2. Think lifestyle not diet

To be sure, I hate the word diet because it brings to mind eating grapefruit and drinking apple cider vinegar while popping dexatrim for a week before prom to fit into your too-small dress.

Scratch the idea of "dieting" off of your mind.

If your whole thought is, "I can't wait to lose this weight so that i can start eating ____ again" then guess what is going to be back (with a vengeance) as soon as you go off your "diet"? This is even worse for you than not losing the weight in the first place.

Think lifestyle changes. Smaller portions. Healthier choices, reading the labels, enjoying an OCCASIONAL indulgence, moving your bod more often than you do now, not skipping breakfast or living for days on coffee alone. Small changes work better for long term weight loss.

3. Think eating balanced not overly restrictive

Don't obsess over specific kinds of diets (lo-carb, lo fat, low this, low that)
I suppose this goes with point two, but also dives into some of the long term diets that people advertise. I find it just as absurd for people to freak out over eating a slice of whole wheat bread or brown rice (eeek! carbs!) while putting bacon or hot dogs into their body on a regular basis, as I do those who are afraid of meat but eating fat free, sugar-and-sodium laden salad dressing on their salads.

We need to eat a balanced diet, as healthy as we can, eating a diet that can be sustained over the long term. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, eat whole grains, eat lean meats. Restrict (or better yet, eliminate) fast food, junk food, desserts, and sugary drinks.

4. Think regular meals instead of starvation

My personal opinion, based on my own experiences and on the experiences of friends I know well, is that most people who are just this side of obese (40-70 lbs overweight) usually have a habit of skipping meals and not eating regularly. Everything I have read (and experienced in my journey of weight loss) indicates that this is the worst thing we can do for our metabolism.

The assumption that in order to be obese, you have to be constantly stuffing your face with food, is not necessarily so.

I think a lot of people assume this, if they have never been overweight. As I said, I've always had a struggle within 20 pounds. I could take if off if I worked at it, cut out the ice cream, and that sort of thing. However, when I saw obese people, I thought, "what is wrong with them? Just diet!" or "How do you let yourself go that way?" Even in the church, many times people assume you are a glutton if you are overweight or obese. And yet, have you ever observed the skinny person feeding frenzy at most church functions? The skinny girls have WAY more on their plate than us fat girls. (One of the many unfairnesses in this fallen world.)

If you have to, set a timer to remind you to eat at regular intervals. Start your day with a strong breakfast, and eat a moderate amount at regular intervals. This tells your body that you are not in a famine, and there is no reason to store extra fat in case the crops fail again.

5. Think Moving More through the day instead of Exercise

If you are seriously overweight, then going to the gym is not going to fix you the way it helps a slightly overweight person who wants to get in shape.

Let me put it another way: if you are sucking wind when you climb the stairs (such that you avoid it as much as possible), you need to climb the stairs a few times a day, not join a gym. Save your money. You won't last a minute on the stairmaster if you can't climb your own stairs.

I think some of this is logical, but we don't always think rationally. The paradigm of "lose weight this year" usually includes the "join a gym" step.

When we are obese (again, based on experiences of mine and obese friends), we slowly stop doing things that are hard to do. The more overweight, the harder it is to climb the stairs, the more we avoid the stairs, the more we gain weight, and so it goes.

We need to think about more practical means of getting exercise into our day. Simple things like parking as far out at the grocery store as possible. At my grocery store, I can get in a quarter mile just walking to and from my car. In nice weather, hang out your laundry. Do it once a week. Run up and down your stairs a few times a day. Go outside and shoot some hoops with your son. Turn on some music and dance with your kids, even if it's the hokey pokey. The point is, just move.

Share your Struggle with Someone

The best part of things like Weight Watchers and Tops is the accountability factor. Weighing yourself in front of others keeps you motivated if nothing else. That's why, once a month, I am going to do a weigh in on the blog. I decided to give myself a month before I start that. :-)

This principle works on a smaller scale too. Find a friend who also wants to lose weight, or who has done it before. Someone who understands. Keep each other accountable.

Happy weight loss!

Learning, and Teaching, Languages

Yesterday's blog talked about my use of a giant whiteboard for reviewing and learning facts related to current school lessons, and I pointed out that right now most of the board deals with the four different foreign languages my five children are learning (not 4 each, but each learning a different language, and 2 learning the same one).

TEXAUS MOMMA left this comment:
I'd love to know what programs you use for foreign languages! I'd love to learn spanish (for my children too) and have thought about Rosetta, but it is so expensive! But I want to be fluent. Maybe other languages one day too....

First a joke:
Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages?

A: Bilingual

Q: What do you call someone who speaks one language?

A: American

And here is my lengthy answer:

There are a few things that we use for each language, but before I talk about that, I want to talk about learning foreign languages in general, and how to best learn a language generally speaking. I say this as one who speaks German fluently, and who has a good working knowledge of French (studied 6 years), Latin (4 years), New Testament Greek (2 years), and who tends to pick up on any language I listen to over several continuous days. I also "speak" several computer languages. I have always loved languages and travel, and I have learned some good practices over the years for learning languages, and helping your children learn languages.

These different areas (Conversational, Vocabulary, Grammar, and Applying what you've Learned) are all supposed to be taught by Rosetta Stone programs. My husband saved and surpised us with Rosetta Stone German about 5 years ago, and I have been disappointed. I am not sure if the newer versions are better, but as someone who has successfully learned languages in the past, I have a hard time imagining why this is so successful. My kids thought it was boring. The speaking part of it (where it tests your pronunciation) was a joke --my son, who had a speech impediment, was the only one who it said pronounced things correctly. A visiting friend from Germany also "failed". It doesn't start off with useful words and phrases but inane sound bites like, "Under the plane" (very useful, huh?). We never got past the first few lessons so I can't tell you if it improves as you progress. It would only pass along my son because he could pronounce things "correctly".

The idea behind Rosetta is very teach these four areas, and to test you on it. Maybe the new homeschool version is better at this than the version we have. I like that you can set up different students. I liked the repetition (very important), but it just was a bit of a chore to get through, and you walked away, after a few lessons, still not able to say "Hi. How are you? " or anything useful. "The Boy is under the Plane" only comes up so many times in normal conversation ;).

1. Conversational Language comes first on the list. This is learning to communicate in that language. "Hi. How are you?" "I am fine, thank you." "Where is the bathroom?" and other important phrases for travelers. In this brilliant modern day in which we live, we have many options open to learning this sort of conversational language:
  • Podcasts are usually FREE (my favorite price and yours), and as far as Spanish goes, you have hundreds, if not thousands to choose from. These are essentially on demand, downloadable radio shows. Some are audio only and a few are in video. You can find podcasts by searching "Learn Spanish Podcasts" in a web browser, or by downloading iTunes, and opening up the iTunes Store, and searching "Learn Spanish Podcasts". iTunes does have it's own file format, so you can only listen on the computer, download to an iPod, or convert to a CD within iTunes (make a playlist, and then hit "Burn CD" in the lower right corner). You may also use a converter like to turn it into MP3's to load to a normal mp3 player or phone. That's what I do.

  • Books for Travelers are also useful for learning these phrases. My favorite series is the "Learn ____in 10 Minutes a day" though the title is misleading. As one who has learned languages, it will take more dedication than just 10 minutes of your time to really LEARN a language! Still, this series will give you some basics. I have found those at libraries.

  • Computer Games usually are vocabulary oriented but you can sometimes find some different conversational-type programs out there. We have found French and Italian at Office Depot, on their "2 for $9.99" rack. There is quite bit of vocabulary in them, but also some basic conversational helps.

Most of these conversational things are generally not made for children in most of the languages, but I did notice there is quite a bit for both Spanish and Chinese. By learning how to say some basic phrases in a language, you can start to develop a feel for it. I recommend, as early as possible, learn to say "How do you say ____?" and "What does ____ mean?" in the language of your choice. It's very helpful.

2. Vocabulary building is another important step in learning a language. The best way to learn vocabulary is to learn words that mean something to you, which you use every day. Many of these books on the market are geared toward business travellers who are arriving in Shanghai and need to get a taxi and other things that mean nothing to a 10 year old. We need MEANINGFUL vocabulary, because if you use it, you won't lose it.
  • Removeable Stickers like what you use for a garage sale. How do you say refrigerator in Spanish? Write it down, and stick it on your refrigerator, and say it three times each time you open the door. How do you say salt and pepper? Stickers on your shakers. This works. Those "10 Minutes a Day" books come with removeable stickers in them -- one of their better features, making up for the "how to hail a taxi in Shanghai" in other parts of the book.

  • A good English-Whatever dictionary for looking up words, not for memorizing starting in "A". Check the Amazon Marketplace that the end of most college semesters, when the college freshmen are unloading their unwanted books after taking their mandatory year of foreign language. When learning vocabulary, by the way, learn the GENDER of a noun, and the PLURAL FORM too. This is found in most dictionaries. Most European languages (except English) assign Gender to nouns, and the genders don't always make sense (Girl in German, for example, is an "it"). I have found it easier to learn this with the word, even if my program doesn't teach it. For a child, if this is confusing, just skip it for now.

  • A Children's Illustrated Dictionary in the target language is a great buy. You can also find these at the Amazon Marketplace used. I paid a penny for ours in Chinese. This dictionary has pictures of familiar items (dog, cat, sister, brother, chair, table, fork, etc.) with how to say it in the target language. I KNOW They have at least 10 different ones like this in Spanish. There is a whole shelf at Barnes and Noble in the kids' section!

  • A Preschool Computer Program in the target language. You want something that isn't "how to learn Spanish" but one that is in Spanish for Spanish-speaking kids (or whatever language). For Spanish, you will likely find this easily, for other languages, you'll need to dig deeper. I have a German Preschool game that is designed to help German-speaking children learn their colors, numbers, shapes, clothing items, and so forth, and it is completely in German, including the instructions. This helped Isobel learn far more than anything else, because the instructions, while in German, were logical, and it helped her get used to what they were saying.

  • Books in the Target Language are useful after you have a good start on learning a language. Reading a familiar book (like "The Giving Tree" in another language helps you learn vocabulary and get a feel for syntax. Audio books (sometimes found online for free or cheap) are also very useful in this regard. This is good for building your vocabulary after you know the sorts of words you use everyday like names of food, how to say "door" and things like that.

Building vocabulary takes time, and is an ever growing process, as it is in your mother tongue. I am still learning new words! :-)

3. Grammar is not anyone's favorite, I'm sure. However, as we grow in our understanding of a language, we realize it is not just knowing the right words but knowing how to use them. Chinese doesn't have much, if any grammar (the characters and the four tones make up for this blessing), but nearly every other language has important grammatical things to learn, like how to conjugate a verb, what word endings to put on what words and when, word order in a sentence, and so forth.
  • Verb Conjgations are best learned when you learn the verb itself. Most verbs in most languages are "regular" verbs meaning they follow a standard pattern. Some verbs are "irregular" and need to be memorized. When you learn a verb, if it is irregular, you should also learn the conjugation. There is a book called "501 Spanish Verbs" (available in nearly every language imaginable which will help you. Again, this is one that college students are usually hocking on Amazon Marketplace in late May each year.
  • A Grammar Textbook for your target language is also good to find. I like the ind that have exercises in them, for you to practice and then to review. I find these helpful, especially for a young person, only after a good foundation in the language has been laid. It's bor-ing, and I think it would discourage you just starting out. Wait til you know some Spanish.

4. Use what you have learned in order to keep it. I took 6 years of French, and it is all in there somewhere (it does come back after a while) but I can't easily or fluently talk to anyone in French. I only had 2 years of German, but having lived in Austria and Germany for a total of about 3 years, I do speak that fluently. I used it in real-life situations. I still read the online news in German, and I download German sermons from church websites in Germany to keep my mind fresh. If you don't use what you have learned, it will fall out while you're sleeping hee hee.

  • READing in your Language will help you continue to develop vocabulary and to keep your mind fresh. In this internet age, this is easier to do than back in the day when we were in school. Most major world newspapers, and some not so major, are on the internet. There are websites in every language imaginable. you can even access the Bible in foreign languages at Bible Gateway.
  • LISTENing in your language will help you to continue to develop your listening skills. This is easily done through podcasts, online sermons, music albums in your language (check iTunes!), and other mostly free sources

  • TALKING in your language is also important. Living, apparently in Texas, I would imagine you have a mountain of Spanish speaking folks right at your doorstep. I'm sure you may find a few of them who also want to learn English. What a tradeoff! Maybe a momma like you at the park, with her children, all speaking Spanish...if you know a little bit of Spanish, maybe a friendship might ensue, one that benefits you both. My daughter loves to speak Chinese with the waitresses at the local Chinese buffet whenever we go (we don't eat out this opportunity is seldom taken advantage of...), but I suppose the same could be done at a local Mexican restaurant. I have found that the majority of people (except residents of Paris apparently -- no offense to Parisian readers, if there are any out there) are flattered when you try to speak their language, and they are usually accommodating, and willing to help. Additionally, you and your family can have a "Spanish Only Day" where the whole family speaks Spanish as much as possible, and where they have to ask in Spanish how to say something if they don't know the word.

  • WRITING in the Language will help you develop your handle on a language, using it in practical ways. Traditionally this means pen pals. Missionary kids living in lands that speak the language you are learning may also be a good potential pen pal, able to communicate both in the foreign language and English, and also happy to get mail from another child back home. you can also practice numbers, as we do by writing "Today is Wednesday, January 14th, 2009" for each day of the will know your days, months years, and numbers to 31 very well in a few months.

Programs we Use for Learning Languages

Ruth is in 10th grade and learning French. She is using Bob Jones French 1 right now, as well as a French Podcast ("The French PodClass", which also has printable lessons), a French CD-Rom game from Office Depot (simply called "FRENCH"), and reading in her French Bible. I also like "The Easy French", and they have a program called "The Easy Spanish" too.

Judah is in 8th Grade and Esther is in 5th Grade, and they both were interested in learning Italian. We have not found as much information for learning Italian, other than ItalianPod Podcast, and a CD Rom called "Speak Italian". We recently downloaded some free program from, which also has paid programs too.

Anastasia is in 6th Grade and has been studying Chinese for three years at her insistence. I was hesitant about this as I don't speak Chinese, and i have heard it is hard. The hardest part is certainly the pronunciation and the four tones of each vowel. The Characters are surprisingly easy and logical, once you have learned some basic radicals. We have found a HEAP of Chinese books for kids, including one published by DK. She is starting in a college-level textbook called "Integrated Chinese" which we found on Amazon Marketplace. She also has several books for learning basic Characters (radicals) and a Chinese in 10 Minutes A Day book (though this doesn't cover characters at all, only pinyin.). We have also found some sweet ladies at the Chinese restaurant and a few missionaries who are kind enough to help her progress.

Isobel is in 4th grade and wants to speak German. She is the only one who continues to plod through Rosetta Stone, but also reads the host of German children's books i have, listen to German Audiobooks, and the whole family used to enjoy the video podcast "My German Class with Herrn Nelson", which will make you laugh and learn at the same time, but sadly no longer available unless you are a part of the Colorado school system. :( I also have a reproduceable worksheet book in German (called "Elementary German Worksheets").

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reviewing, and Learning, the Facts

I feel hands-on learning is always best, but there are some things where review and even memorization are necessary. Multiplication facts for one, and foreign language vocabulary for another.

The best thing we did to facilitate this(starting about 8 years ago) was put a giant white board in the dining room, and on it we write down bites from each of our subjects...sort of like a study guide when you are studying for a test. If there is something I want them to remember for this chapter in History, it goes on our white board, and so on...the board has expanded since I now also have a high schooler and junior high student, as well as five children learning 4 different foreign languages.

We use the information on our whiteboard for review, discussion, quizzing, and learning whenever we are in our dining area. We talk about what we are learning, and we review often. We also use empty spots on the white board to help teach math principles and in some cases, it's also a doodle pad. The board's contents changes from week to week. Sometimes it is loaded with information, and sometimes it isn't so full.

Currently on our board we are focusing in on foreign language. This is more because of the ages of my children. They are beyond rote learning in most other subjects, and are all in separate science and history books now that my youngest is nearly 10. With five children learning four different languages (German, French, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese---yes, Mandarin Chinese...I still marvel at that one), our board is consumed with foreign language tid bits.

Another section of the whiteboard has a calendar. I created the calendar using electrical tape and dry erase markers. On it, we write out our engagements for the month. Just below it, we have a line that says "Today is Tuesday, January 13th, 2009", which one child writes out each day. I usually have the child who is working on spelling the days of the week and the months do this task (though now, they are all beyond this)! We also have put this exact line in German, French, Italian, and Chinese on the board, to help those learning the language to get this down as well. Learning numbers, days of the week, and months is important.

We even have a Chinese-language calendar on the board to help my daughter learn the days of the week, months, and numbers as she learns her Chinese. A calendar is a must for learning English days, months, and numbers first of all (in early elementary), and then later learning these same things in a foreign language. You can buy a ready-made hanging whiteboard calendar, or you can buy a sheet of melamine board at Home Depot (about $18 for a 4'x8' sheet of it!!!) to make your own.

In the past, it's included items such as sight words (irregular words),the alphabet, math facts, current phonics digraphs and diphthongs, history, parts of a flower, poetry, music notes, music chords, diagrams of the constellations in the night sky, and so on.

Our board is actually a 4x8 foot of melamine board with 1x1's around it in a frame, and dry erase markers hanging up neatly on the wall in a flower pot.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Stewards of the Same 24 Hours

If there is one area where I have been known to obsess about, it's the area of time management. I struggle to have right priorities and to manage my days in a God-pleasing way. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. I wish I was this organized when I was a new mom, but you live and learn.

We are all stewards of the same 24 hours per day. If we are blessed to be at home full time with our children, we need to make the most of that time too.

When I had a houseful of young ones, I think my greatest challenge was that babies and toddlers don't always comply with my schedule and my plans. Part of me muses that maybe this could be God's plan in there, teaching us to slow down and enjoy life's little pleasures through the eyes of a child.

Still work has to get done. Little fairies don't do your housework or mine, though wouldn't it be nice?

Here's my top 4 list of basic time management for moms of young ones:

1. If you look at your life and work as having "all day" to do it, your work will take you all day.

This may seem silly, but I make it a point to not let housework take me past noon. On school days, it is done between 1pm and 4pm (with children helping), and that goes for business related work too (like writing). Actually I write my blogs once a week, and schedule them to go out in increments unless I am particularly inspired in any given day. I don't want to spend all day long working at housework or at writing, but enjoying my family. This only happens when I have clear work boundaries.

2. Life Happens to the best of plans, so you need to be reasonably flexible

Schedules have to be structured enough to give you a regular routine but flexible enough that you can delight in your children (and husband and visitors) when things pop up unexpectedly.

There's two miles of ditch here for every mile of highway on the road to a more organized life...either being so inflexible that we see our children and families as interruptions to what we are doing, or being so excessively flexible that our entire day is spent reacting to what life is throwing at us, instead of deliberately guiding our day, and making things happen.

3. Schedule in some Fun
All of those amazing learning moments, and special times and memory making events don't always happen by accident.

I love that scene in the movie "The Incredibles" where Mr. Incredible is depressed about the turn his life has taken, and a little neighbor child is in the driveway, and he asks the boy, "What are you waiting for?" The boy answers, "I dunno. Something amazing." Mr. Incredible answers, "Me too, kid, me too." I think we sometimes wait around for cool things to happen, or we keep saying, In a few days, as soon as I get this done, when I am finished with __, then we will do ___. You know what I mean? Sometimes you have to just make it happen. Sometimes you have to read through your local community calendar online or in the newspaper, and decide to take the kids to an exhibit, or to go to a fair, or to go to a program at the Library. You have to write it into your planner--in pen!

Sometimes you have to say, "On Thursday, we are going to go to the park." "Tomorrow we are going to do that craft activity at exactly 2 pm." Don't let the fun stuff happen "whenever you find the time", or all of that important, boring stuff that has to be done may always get in the way until your kids are 18. We had a cabin when I was growing up, right up the road from a lake, but many weekends were spent with just one more thing to do and then we'll go to the lake, and thus, many weekends we didn't see the lake at all...and here I am, turning 40 this year, and I still remember that!

Again, two miles of ditch for every mile of highway...don't just schedule the fun stuff and forget the not so fun. Keep it balanced.

4. You will find there's a lot more time in your life if you shut off the Tube.

I have a love-hate relationship with the television. I would rather not have one, not because I don't like it, but because I do. When I sit down to watch something I have a hard time pulling myself away, and thus I'd rather not start at all. It doesn't matter if a certain someone in your family watches the television from the time he gets home from work each night, until bedtime...that doesn't mean you have to have it on all day long too. Children can learn their ABC's without Bert and Ernie on all the time.

We are all stewards of the same 24 hours. I don't get more than you, and you don't get more than me. The substance of each of our lives are those minutes and moments that add together into hours, days, weeks, months, years. This year, my oldest daughter is turning 16. Our time actively parenting here is starting to come to an end, and she is entering into adulthood, and yet it seems like only yesterday we were trying to figure out how to get her to not scream her head off all night long, and how to get her to use the potty. Now she is out having driving lessons with daddy in the church parking lot, and borrowing my size 11 shoes.

Time really does fly. Make the most of yours, because we can never get it back once it's gone.

out of the mouths of babes...

Talking about this stupid law (CPSIA: the consumer product safety "improvement" act of 2008, also known as "Bankruptcy Day") requiring expensive testing on all children's products, including clothing, "just in case" there is lead or phthalates in them and "just in case" someone's child decides to chew on a library book that contains lead or phthalates.

As we were talking about this, including what the dangers of lead are, and the problems with requiring testing, looking at both sides of the issue, one of my daughters made this amusing observation:

Sounds like maybe some congressmen were sucking on their kids' lead-painted toys when they wrote this one up!

Dear Husband says they get their wit from me. I am still trying to figure out if he meant that as a compliment.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Polenta and Stew on my Table

I love a crazy variety of food. I tend to especially like dishes inspired in the Mediterranean regions, the Middle East, and Mexico. This dish is a combination of a tex-mex style stew with an Italian favorite: Polenta.

Two reasons for this meal tonight: (1)I accidentally bought coarse corn meal, and I needed to use it up! and (2)While watching the Iron Chef the other night my husband was insisting that, despite being married to me for nearly 17 years, he didn't know what polenta was (I am sure I've made it before but apparently it wasn't very memorable!).

We'll start with the Polenta, which is basically cooked, and shaped corn meal.

You can use ANY corn meal for this though coarse works great for it.

Start by mixing 2 cups of corn meal into 2 cups of cold water, and get rid of the lumps. In this case, since I was going Tex-Mex with the stew, I added some spices. You don't have to. I threw in some frozen cilantro, onion powder, chili powder, and hot pepper flakes.

Bring 4 cups of water or broth to a boil (in this case, I used water, though I like it with broth). Pour in your soaked corn meal (With water), and bring it up to a slow boil, then turn it down for a simmer, stirring frequently. Add 1-2 T of olive oil. When it starts to pull from the sides of the pot a little bit, it's done.

Now, we need somewhere to pour our polenta to let it form. This will take on whatever shape you put it in. In this case, I'm using bread pans, because I want to slice it into bars. I lightly oiled the pans (I am using the silicone pans as it seems to come out easier in this...if using metal, line it with waxed paper or something similar, just to get it out easier.

Cover and chill for an hour, or just let it cool for a few hours in the pan. It's tone when it is firm enough to handle and slice.

Slice as desired (you can even use cookie cutters), and lightly brown/fry them on a lightly greased non stick pan ( can also eat them as is). Also good on one of those indoor griddle things if you are so blessed :-)

The stew was just some stewing beef, onions, peppers, hominy, red beans, black beans and diced tomatoes, along with some chili seasonings (cumin, chili powder, hot pepper, some hot sauce) and I let it simmer for awhile. I served it with some green onions and the polenta.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Beginning with Breakfasts, Part Three: Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs are so simple to make, even an older child can do it!

Start with a non-stick pan sprayed with cooking spray (or lightly greased in some other way). Whisk 2-3 eggs in a mug, with a touch of milk, salt, and other seasonings you want (I like parsley). Heat up your pan and pour on the eggs.

Using a wooden/bamboo spatula, or some other tool safe for use on non-stick surfaces, stir your eggs around continuously until they are set.


Again, as with yesterday's omelet recipe, you may want to heat your plate up in a warm oven for a few minutes on a cold morning. Cold eggs, and eggs that go cold fast on a cold plate, are not so great. :-) A warmed plate makes your eggs taste better for longer.

Our cook today is Isobel, age 9, who is helping me as I woke up, again, with a very sore shoulder...still waiting to see the surgeon.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Beginning with Breakfasts, Part Two: Omelets

My favorite breakfast (eaten normally at 2 am after being awake working on my computer, if I must confess! One new year's resolution is to eat breakfast daily) is an omelet. I've actually gotten pretty good at making these just the way I like them,and my two oldest children also do an awesome job at omelet making.

Start of course with the right tools.

The French have something called a crepe pan, and that is what 3 of my cookbooks say to use (do you have a crepe pan? no? Me neither!). Instead, I have an affordably priced (under $10 from Walmart) Lodge Cast Iron Tortilla skillet like this one here:

It also is ideal for baking pizza dough, but I am getting ahead of myself. I use the cast iron tortilla skillet because it makes my omelet just the way I like it...the right size, and that slightly browned finish on the outside. Cast iron also absorbs heat nicely, so I feel it cooks the omelets more evenly and they don't stick with that pan (as much).

Chop up any veggies you will be adding to your omelet ahead of time. I use about 1/8th of my favorite vegetable (besides romaine lettuce): a red bell pepper. I also use about 1/4 of a medium onion, a scant bit of garlic (1 clove or so), and today I had 1 slice of turkey breast, which I cut small.

Next, take your eggs (in this case, I am using 3 eggs, but I am splitting this omelet in half with my daughter :-)). Mix them well in a cup with a fork or a whisk. Add a small dash of salt and pepper. Sometimes I'll add parsley too. Also add about 1T of milk. Because of concerns about cholesterol, I used 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites. I have found that making an omelet of just egg whites is a little more difficult as it falls apart easier and also lacks that pretty golden color :-)

Heat a lightly oiled, well seasoned skilled (I used a cooking spray) over medium heat. Add the eggs to the skillet and swirl them around by tilting the skillet this way and that to get the eggs to coat the pan.

Your eggs should start to set up pretty fast, and evenly. Carefully lift the edges, as needed, to let the runny eggs flow down to the skillet surface.

When the egg is softly set (not runny but not dry either), add your fillings in a line following the handle of the pan. I find this makes it easier to flip the egg onto the plate. If you are using cheese, put that down first.

Turn off the heat. Lift half of the omelet, and flip it over 1/3 of the way, parallel with the pan handle/fillings.

Grab a plate (tip: warm your plate in the oven for a few minutes. Cold eggs, or eggs that get cold too fast, are not so appetizing), and carefully fold your omelet onto the plate by holding your pan, folded side up, and sliding it off of the pan, onto the plate, and allowing the folded side to flop over the rest of the omelet, and onto the plate. If you hold the pan right, it will probably land like this by default.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Good News about that Crazy Law

A few days ago, I posted about a law that goes into effect on Feb 10th, 2009, requiring testing on all products to be sold for children ages 12 and under. There was concern that, as written, the law didn't make exceptions for thrift stores.

Well the Consumer Products Safety Commission recently released some guidelines for resellers and thrift stores about this law. You can read their guidelines here.

Beginning with Breakfasts, Part One

When it comes to hard to follow weight loss advice, which is the hardest for me to follow? Is it avoiding soda pop, or not eating chocolate? Na. It's the imperative to eat breakfast. The truth? I do not wake up hungry, and I almost never have an appetite before noon or later.

I've been like this for most of my life, but most especially in the last 16 years. Maybe it is a throwback to all of that morning sickness and toilet hugging that I did while pregnant. I feel sick at the thought of breakfast.

However, one of my so-called "new years resolutions" is to eat a healthy breakfast every morning. I'm shooting for eating a protein packed breakfast most mornings so that I can really up my metabolism.

It's not easy!

Basically I have discovered that if you force yourself to eat breakfast every day for a week or two, eventually you will wake up sort of wanting breakfast. Maybe after a month of this, I'll be hungry for real. :-)

So, for the next few days, I'll be showing you some simple-ish breakfasts to make, with recipes.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

That Annual Dieting Resolution...

Did you make a "resolution" to lose weight this year? ~smiles~

I did. Maybe it wasn't so much a resolution as it was a goal to finish what I started a while ago, to lose these extra pounds and get into better shape. Part if it is my impending 40th birthday (in October), and part of it is a new-found excitement stirred by my husband's dieting and weight loss (I'm so proud of him! He lost 42 pounds!!).

I have been trying to take off this extra weight for some time now. I will lose some then gain it back when illness or injury strikes. Most of my weight is in my middle. I have actually quite skinny legs compared to the rest of me, resulting in a good many sprained ankles. Someone asked me via email why it seems like I have posted on the blog about sprained ankles more than most people should get...the reason is that my shapely ankles and calves are not able to support the rest of me healthily! (grin). Unlike many obese people (and even some skinny folk) I am even able to wear zip up boots that go to my knee or higher. Most of my overweight friends marvel at that.

This past November, I fell on my front steps, grabbed the handrail, and twisted my arm all the way behind my back. It really did hurt as badly as it sounds! (ouch!). I finally went to the doctor a few days later, and he took one look at my x-rays and said, "Wow, you must have a high tolerance for pain." (this is not something you want to hear when someone is looking at your x-rays!). An MRI later, we discovered the rotator cuff is not torn, but the bones and joints and all that are in bad shape, so I am meeting with a surgeon at the end of this month to see what that prognosis is. I'm hoping I won't need surgery, but the doctor is pretty sure I will.

All that to say, panic struck my heart in regards to my diet. Maybe that sounds silly, but I was worried what all of this will mean for my weight loss progress. I loathe losing 40 lbs over the course of a year, only to gain it back when I Am struck with pneumonia, bronchitis, a sprained ankle, or something else that keeps me from working out. I want to stay on track this time. I want to do it.

So, at the start of December, shortly having something injected in my shoulder to help with the pain (something which says "May cause weight gain" ---ah, super! just what I need!), I started to be even more strict with my dieting, and exercising in a way that didn't involve my shoulder. I also started researching anything about upping your metabolism online. I've lost 12 pounds through the holidays, which to me is a miracle. \o/

I finally had my new prescription filled only to read the package insert, "May cause unexplained weight gain." (banging head against the wall. this is how someone who doesn't eat McDonalds and loves salad becomes 75 lbs overweight!!!). So I haven't taken anything above extra strength Ibuprofen for the pain and swelling...and most days, with the help of hot rice socks, hot showers, and laying on several soft pillows, I haven't felt like I needed anything.

My goal is to lose about a pound a week on average, for a weight loss of 52 lbs by the end of the year. I think if I can meet that goal, I will at least no longer be "obese" by clinical standards, and I will be well on my way to losing even more next year, and hitting my target weight.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Cardinal out our window

My daughter snapped this shot of a cardinal early this morning out of our kitchen window. He comes back every year it seems, and tends to hang out in this forsythia bush every January and February.

Scholarly video on Obesity and Metabolism

I found this video on You Tube (thanks Kathy for the link). This is very long, and about as exciting as health class ;) but full of great, scholarly information regarding obesity.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Tonight's Sky: January 2009

The Hubblesite has their multimedia presentation, "Tonight's Sky", up on their website, which will give you some great tools for learning about astronomy with your family. I always enjoy their "Tonight's Sky" features!

Do you like a Thrift Shop Deal? Read on!

As a momma writing for mommas, I think there is something I wanted to make you all aware of, as it will be affecting all of us soon.

Most of you know, one of the best ways to save money while raising a family is thrift stores and garage sales. The Lord has used many Thrift stores to provide for us affordable and great looking clothing for my kiddos over the years. Let's face it, youngin's grow way too fast to pay full price for all of their clothing, right?

Well, the ever-unhelpful government is about to help the troubled economy by changing all of that. As of February 10, 2009, your local thrift stores, retail stores, etc. will have to test each and every item for sale for children under 12 for lead and other chemicals. You can read more about it here. Another good article is found here.

This is, in some ways, a good thing because there have been childhood deaths relating to kids biting off pieces of their clothing (charms, etc.) containing lead, or the recent lead-paint on children's toys thing. I'm all about detoxing and cutting back on the chemicals we expose everyone too (especially the young ones). It's always a good idea to not let your kid put anything in their some kids like to explore with their mouths more than others. One of my daughters, while under the care of my mother in law one day, ate a whole tube of desitin diaper rash cream! Yuck! That was one strange trip to the ER...

On the other hand, it is a nightmare for thrift stores, small businesses, the handmade toy crafters, and most cottage industries. Most of those wooden toys that you buy from a craft fair are not being painted with lead and dipped in chemicals. When a mom works out of her home sewing cute, modest clothing and selling it online at, she is likewise not dipping it in scary chemicals or adding lead to it like the manufacturers of items in third world sweatshops sometimes do.

You think children's items are expensive now? Just wait until all of these manufacturers have to pay to have each item tested in a lab before it hits the shelves.

The problem with the law, as I understand it, and as many small business persons are worried about, is that this law is too broad. What has a great intent (protecting children from dangerous materials in everyday items) is going to hurt families and businesses and be yet another nail in the economic coffin.

Concerns I have:
1. *ALL* children's items at *ALL* thrift stores will have to go into a landfill as of Feb 10th if it is not tested. Too bad, so sad if that is the only place you can afford to get your kids' clothes, and so sorry if Goodwill can't afford the testing. Maybe those of us risky enough to buy from a thrift store should be allowed to buy as long as we sign a waiver??!?! "I promise not to let my child consume any part of these clothing items, and will not hold Goodwill responsible for any negative consequences if my child does digest any part of the clothing we have purchased today!"
2. What if the manufacturer is purchasing materials from a place that tested the materials?
3. What about those items that are still in inventory that were purchased long before this law? Will small business people have to fill up a LANDFILL with their items if they can't afford to test them?
4. Are businesses going to get a tax deduction on the cost of testing? Are we going to just let more businesses go under and bleed jobs?
5. How are people going to be able to adequately clothe their children when the cost of testing equals or exceeds the cost of manufacturing the clothing? We're supposed to pay double for children's items?
6. Where are the environmentalists on this? Obviously concerned about the chemicals but is there any outrage about how much landfill space this law is going to fill up?
No more reuse and recycle in the children's industry!
7. Is this going to include garage sales? Curriculum sales?

On the outset, it may seem good....yeah, test the children's products, make it safe for the kids, etc. I'm not saying some regulation is probably needed. However what is a concern is that this was pushed through fast, without really differentiating between your large sweatshop in China where they cut corners and use lead paint and things like that, and the kindly Amish toymaker up the road from me who makes wooden toys for kids. The factory where they manufacture clothing, and the local consignment store where clothing is RECYCLED instead of discarded.

Just thought I'd make my readers aware of this upcoming, yet unreported law.