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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What's cooking? Wednesday - Simply wonderful oatmeal chocolate chip cookies!

Super yummy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies!
My husband teaches computer science and when it's the day of finals, he brings cookies for his students.  Today is that lucky day!  I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and they are probably the best I've ever made. (I'm so modest!)  I tweaked an old recipe given to us by a family friend and...well, try it for yourself and decide.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 c. Canola oil
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 T. milk
1 3/4 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 1/2 c. rolled oats (divided into 1 c. and 1 1/2 c.)
2 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In blender, grind up 1 cup of the oats.  Set aside.
Beat until creamy - Canola oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs and milk.
Add - flour, baking soda, salt.
Fold in - ground up oats, rolled oats and chocolate chips.

Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 6-8 minutes.

The cookies I made today were large (heaping tablespoon each) so they took 8 minutes to bake.  Smaller cookies will take less time.  Do not overbake.
The cookies should be crisp around the edges and chewy inside.  Heavenly!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - Empowerment

Family Rogue's Gallery
Empowerment - the ability to make changes in ones own life...from the word, power.  That's my definition  :)  And that's what I'm working on...learning the skills necessary to make changes and not have to depend on someone else to make them for me.

I've wanted my husband to make a wall for me where I can display family pictures.  I've had the location and materials ready for over a month but my husband is so busy that he hasn't found the time.  Tired of waiting, I took matters into my own hands.  I became empowered.  :)

I cut the sheetrock, hung it and painted it and installed the shelves, using the level to make sure everything was straight and using the power drill to put everything together.  And I did it all by myself!  I'm quite happy with the results.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Old TV reruns

Oh my goodness!  I'm embarrassed to say I tuned into an old rerun of The Brady Bunch today and it was soooo dumb!   It wasn't just the 70's clothes or hairstyles or the slang (groovy, man!) but the plot was enough to make me groan and roll my eyes.  Oldest son Greg got grounded but found a loophole in the punishment.  Wise Dad let him think he'd gotten away with it but of course, Greg learned the error of his ways, apologized to Mom and Dad and the show ended with the moral of the story summarized by wise Dad with supportive Mom nodding and looking on.  The end.

Oh brother!  It's no wonder people make fun of that old 70's show!  In real life, problems don't get solved in 1/2 hour.  Consequences are often painful.  Parents and children (especially teenagers) are not always reasonable and rational. And,  who has a housekeeper!!!???

If your family isn't like the Brady Bunch, don't feel bad.  Feel glad!  I"d rather live in an imperfect world with an imperfect family in our imperfect home any day!  It makes life much more interesting and challenging!

Although a housekeeper might be nice...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

You don't have to know everything

As they grow, you grow
One of the most comforting things about becoming a mother is that you don't have to know everything at once.  Unless you adopt or marry into an established family, you start out with a little bundle who's needs aren't complicated.  He doesn't know you're an amateur at this parenting thing so you can grow into your new role without fear of comparison.  It doesn't take long before you are comfortable with feeding, bathing, changing, soothing, and understanding your baby's uniqueness.
And before you know it, you're teaching him how to walk, feed himself, toilet train and other more "advanced" skills.  And so it your child grows, you grow too, all the way to adulthood.  You'll make mistakes along the way but you'll learn from them and find methods that work for you and your children.

So, don't project your worries into the future.  When the future becomes the present, you will be ready for the challenge...even the teenage years.  :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Peer Pressure - It's not just for kids

We worry endlessly that our children will be negatively influenced by their peers.  Will they stand true to their principles?  Will they be able to say "no"?  Can they stand alone if necessary?  All these thoughts and more go through our heads as our children venture out into the world.

But what about us?  If all the moms are trying a new diet, do you want to try it too?  When one of your friends gets a new car, do you think it's time for your old junker to be replaced too?  What about after school activities for the kids?  Everyone is signing up for XYZ lessons.  Your kids aren't going to be left out!  And it goes on and, beauty, health, parenting, vacations, gifts, entertainment...are we being influenced by what everyone else does?

The same things we want for our children are the same things we ought to be emulating ourselves.  It's ok to not run with the crowd.  It's ok to stand firm.  It's ok to be the only one on the block who doesn't have a ---.   Don't let someone else influence the decisions you make for you and your family.

You will be setting a good example for your children and making decisions that are right for YOUR family and not someone else's.  Be strong.  Be true.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Beware

Is it really a bargain?
How can you resist?  You get a coupon in the mail for 30% off your entire total at a particular store.  So, if you go to their Clearance racks where things are marked down 50, 60, 70 and even 80%, they're practically giving merchandise away.  You have visions of stocking up on great bargains for the whole family.  At least, that's what I thought.

I took my coupon with me and headed to the store.  All around me were signs marked 40% off this and 50% that.  I wandered around to the Clearance racks and picked up a plain black pair of little girls leggings marked 80% off.  The sale price was $11.00.  The original sticker price was $52.00!!!!  Can you believe it?  For a pair of leggings?  And everything was the same way...very high retail price reduced to what should have been the original retail price.  It should be no surprise that I left the store without buying anything.

Before you scoop up those armfuls of clothes and head to the cashier, look closely and think.  Is this really a bargain?

Want to cause a fight?

Want to cause a fight with your husband or child?  Just insert the word "always" or "never" in a sentence.  Those are probably two of the most toxic words in our vocabulary.  "You always leave your clothes on the floor!" "You never take out the trash."  How's a person supposed to respond to that kind of assault?  "You're right.  I've never picked up my clothes in my entire life.  How observant of you."  I don't think so.  He has his honor to defend.  And so the fight begins.  And the funny thing is that what started out as a fight concerning a pile of clothes escalates into a full blown dumping session about all your faults and weaknesses.  To think it all started with the word always.

It really is possible to get your point across without using either of those words.  Just being direct and stating your problem or concern will keep the discussion in the present where it belongs rather than in the past.  And try to avoid using sarcasm, exaggeration, and whining because those derail any productive conversation you might have.  Stick to the facts, Ma'am.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Include them

There's an old saying that goes "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself".  That might be true but sometimes doing something yourself prevents someone else from learning how to do it.

I'm thinking specifically about all the activities we as moms plan and execute for our children...the perfect birthday party, the perfect Family Home Evening, the perfect dinner, the perfectly decorated bedroom.  We can do amazing things and have amazing results and we want the best for our kids but are we denying them the opportunity to be involved in the planning because things might not look as "pretty" if they do it? 

You might be surprised what they are capable of if given the chance.  Working with your children and letting them have a say in matters that pertain to them might yield different results than you envisioned but maybe even better.  They can be quite creative and imaginative.

So, let them decorate for their birthday party.  Let them occasionally be in charge of weekly Family Home Evening.  Give them an assignment for making the dessert.  Let them tell you their about their dream bedroom and help them make it a reality.

We don't have to be in control over everything.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Letting my mind wander...

I know I shouldn't let my mind wander while I'm at church but sometimes I do.  Today was one of those days.  Sitting next to me was a 9 year old boy, his 3 year old brother and his family (family friends).  The 9 year old was engrossed with his notebook and pen, drawing elaborate scenes and the 3 year old was playing with the straw of a Capri Sun juice packet.  Kids can be so creative with so little.  Give them a few simple materials and their imaginations take off.

Take the Capri Sun straw.  In a matter of minutes, it evolved from a straw to blow air at a brother to a microphone, a telephone, a gun, and a sword. 

And a paper and pen?  Think what can be done with that!  You can play a game of tic-tac-toe or dots or hangman or whatever, you can write notes to a friend, you can draw pictures, write stories and illustrate them, you can fold the paper into airplanes and other shapes, you can make a treasure map.

I know this all seems so obvious but so many of the things that bring children pleasure are simple.  It's really entertaining to see just what they come up with.

Maybe I should have been listening to the talks at church.  :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

A mom's review of Glee

In 2009, I watched a pilot for a new show called Glee and while I was a little uncomfortable with a few of the storylines, I enjoyed the music, the characters and the quirkiness of it all.  I watched Glee regularly for two seasons and was increasingly uncomfortable with the direction the show was going.  I still liked the music but that wasn't enough for me to keep watching.

Fast forward to February 2013 and I heard in a promotion that the next episode was going to be Will and Emma finally getting married.  Liking them from previous seasons, I decided to tune in and see what was happening with Glee.  Wow!  I went from uncomfortable to disbelief that a TV show targeted for the teen audience could be so blatantly sexual.  Let's see...the former high school sweethearts slept together even though she is also sleeping with another guy;  the former Christian cheerleader slept with her former fellow cheerleader (because she always wanted to know what it felt like to sleep with another girl);  the two wheelchair high school students slept together,  another high school couple were planning on sleeping together but backed out (good for them!), the two former homosexual lovers "reconnected" in their hotel room...and those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head.  Oh, and the show ended with the girl who is sleeping with two guys finding out she's pregnant...I think.

Really?!  What kind of role models are we promoting for our preteens and teenagers?  The characters in the show are attractive and talented.  The music is appealing.  I can see kids watching the show getting the idea that all this stuff is ok, even acceptable.  It's no wonder teenagers are confused.  They are at a vulnerable stage in life and they want to fit in and be accepted. 

I'm disappointed in Glee.  The show started out with the easy-to-relate-to premise of a bunch of mis-fit kids finding a common love of music bringing them together and building friendships.  Now it's just a soap opera for young people. 

I looked up the show's ratings this morning and noticed that after the second season, the show is experiencing a steady downturn in viewers.  Maybe the executives of the show will get the message that there are people who disapprove of the overt sexuality of the show.  I hope so.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate dipped strawberries

Chocolate dipped strawberries - perfect for Valentine's Day!
Today I didn't feel like making cookies, cakes or candies for Valentine's Day.  Maybe that had something to do with the fact that I had a dentist's appointment today to repair a broken filling.  Anyway, I thought I'd go for something that at least looks somewhat healthy...something like chocolate dipped strawberries.  What a super easy and fast treat!

Writing with chocolate is fun!  Think of the possibilities!

I had some extra melted chocolate so I poured it into a baggie and cut off a tiny part of the corner and had fun drawing hearts and writing words with the chocolate.   I think I'll play with that some more!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


This morning I turned on my computer and a little box appeared saying that HP recommended I install some upgrades to the system.  I clicked on the OK button and was told that the process would take "several minutes".  Well, after 40 minutes, my computer went into Sleep mode and shortly after, the BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH appeared.  All sorts of horrible scenarios flashed through my mind.  Did I just install a virus or worm?  Did I just give all my financial information to a  brilliant hacker in some foreign country?  Is my identity stolen and I'm no longer me?  Is my computer DEAD?  What about all my pictures?!?

Fortunately, I have a super awesome son-in-law who lives only a few miles away.  I immediately called him and asked if I could bring my computer over because I thought I'd destroyed it.  (He is so patient with me)  Within a few minutes, he knew exactly what happened and what to do to fix it.  I am forever in his debt  :)

BUT, this story reminded me that I haven't copied my 6,000+ pictures to an external hard drive or copied them onto a CD or done ANYTHING to preserve them in a long time.  I would feel terrible if I lost those pictures forever...weddings, new babies, graduations, trips, and goofy girl shots.

Don't do what I almost did...back up those precious memories ASAP!

Notice I used lots of CAPS today?  It was a very dramatic experience  :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - Sometimes it's not possible

Some days the only thing you can do is get through the day.  When you wake up and it's one of those days, it's ok to forgo your usual routine and just focus on the things that are important...your family.  While having a clean and tidy home is the ideal, don't stress if your home isn't picture perfect every day.  If friends drop by unannounced, they won't care.  They don't stop by to check out the condition of your home and if they do, you might want to find different friends!  Friends understand.  They might even help  :)

Life is all about surprises.  You'll be happier if you learn not to stress when one (or more) of those surprises whacks you in the head  :)  Do your best.  That's all you can do.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Classic toys

Yesterday I watched as my 25 year old daughter had a nostalgic reunion with her American Girl doll, Kirstin.  She carefully lifted every dress, outfit and nightgown out of the suitcase and told her husband about the matching clothes she had, gently opened the perfect case of the perfect miniature violin, and pulled out all the tiny shoes, roller skates and other accessories.

She told me that she and her husband were discussing toys for their future children and how they want to provide toys that inspire the imagination.  That is why she wanted him to see her Kirstin doll.  He was suitably admiring.  :)

So many toys require little batteries and make annoying noises and flash annoying lights.  Or they are designed to work only one way.  There isn't much for the child to do and definitely not much to leave to his or her imagination.  It is no wonder kids get bored with their roomful of toys.

And then there's the classic toys - plain wooden blocks, Legos, puzzles, puppets, life-like dolls, Tonka trucks and little cars, playhouses, doll houses and furniture, make believe and dress up clothes and accessories, balls,  and art supplies (like playdoh, paints, crayons).  These are toys that have stood the test of time and provide countless hours of enjoyable play.

What were your favorite toys as a child?  Why?  I'd love it if you'd post your answer and share your favorites!  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Shared beliefs

I was sitting in church this morning and as I looked around at the congregation, I realized that I probably wouldn't know any of these people if it wasn't for our shared religious beliefs.  Some of my favorite people in the whole world are those I attend church with.  My children's best friends were also members of our church and all of them married young men and women who shared the same beliefs. 

Belonging to a church (aside from the spiritual benefits) is an excellent way to connect with people who believe as you do.  The other mothers you meet are probably going through the same challenges you are going through and because your values and standards are similar, it's easy to relate to them and empathize with their difficulties.  I can't think of another institution or group that provides such an almost instant connection. 

Meeting and being friends with people of varied backgrounds, ages, cultures and values is important for us and our children to learn tolerance and an understanding of different lifestyles.   But being actively involved in church provides us with a built in support group of like-minded women and children who will help strengthen our resolve to be better women and mothers. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

A shopping experience

As I walked into the department store, the first thing I heard were the screams.  No, no one was getting assaulted or kidnapped or robbed.  They were the screams of a little boy who was not happy with his mother.  He looked like he was about four and he was kicking and fighting while his mother was dragging him to the shopping cart.  She didn't look too happy either.  (That was an understatement!)   Looking a little closer (while trying not to appear obvious), I noticed that the little darling had two other about six and another about eight.  They were having the time of their lives, running, hiding under clothes racks, punching each other and pushing the clothes racks down the aisles.  All the time the mom was alternating between searching the clothes racks and yelling at her kids.

I am not going to judge this mother.  She was obviously having a hard time and I felt sorry for her.  But I couldn't help wondering why she was bringing her boys with her.  Did she have to go clothes shopping at 5 pm?  Maybe she did.  Were they always this way?  I hope not.  Was there no other time she could go shopping without all three of them?  Who knows.

Most kids hate going shopping, especially to a boring (to them) department store.  Most kids are cranky and hungry around 5 pm.  To take three rambunctious young boys shopping is a disaster waiting to happen.  I know that sometimes it can't be avoided but if it's just for recreational shopping, I think finding a better time might result in a happier experience.  I'd also try to work one-on-one with the oldest one to teach him how to help rather than encourage his younger brothers.  Even if you're the mom, three against one is poor odds.

I wish this mom and all those going through similar circumstances the best of success.  No one ever said parenting was easy.  But it doesn't have to be hell either.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - My kid needs braces!

Even with braces, I think she's adorable  :)
It might seem incongruous to write a post about something expensive on Thrifty Thursday but stay with me.  Being frugal and saving money isn't about ignoring things that are important, but using your limited resources wisely.

It might be obvious that your child needs braces or it might not be so obvious.  But one thing is's a pretty normal part of being a preteen and/or teenager.  And it's not just about crooked teeth.  It's about being able to floss and brush her teeth so as to cut down on present and future tooth decay and other dental problems.  It's about being able to chew and swallow properly.  It's about her self esteem, confidence and relationships with her peers.

More and more, dentists are recommending starting orthodontic treatment at a young age but if you can't manage to start your child early, she won't be alone if  she starts when she's a teenager.  Most of my children started treatment when they were 10 to 12 but my youngest didn't start until she was nearly 15, because of financial issues at the time.  Still, by the time she graduated from high school, she had completed treatment and had a beautiful, healthy smile.

The big day finally arrived for the braces to come off!
If you think (or your dentist thinks) that braces are in your child's future, explore your options.  Often, insurance covers fifty percent of treatment.  Even without insurance orthodontists almost always offer a payment plan that works with your ability to pay or there might be a dental school nearby that has discount prices in their clinic.  It never hurts to ask. 

Totally worth it!
I never considered orthodontia to be a frivolous or unnecessary expense or luxury.  To me it is an investment in my children's future.  After all, they couldn't help it that they inherited my husband's and my lousy genes.  :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What do you call your mother-in-law?

When you got married, you became part of your husband's family and he yours.  And right away you are faced with one of the most awkward decisions of your new life together...what do you call your new mother and father-in-law.

It doesn't seem like it should be such a big deal but for some reason, it is.  If your new in-laws have a definite preference, it may still be awkward but at least you know what to call them.  The problem arises when they are so sweet and say, "Whatever you want to call us is fine with us dear."  And you wonder, "Is this a trap?  Is this a test?  Is there a right or wrong answer?"  Most likely they are as kind and agreeable as they appear to be and are fine with whatever you call them (within reason, of course!).  But when you are young and new to the family, you want to make a good impression.

My own mother-in-law was one of the genuinely nice ones who said she didn't care what I called her.  Even so, I struggled.  Calling her Mom just didn't seem right.  I was close to my own mom and hadn't developed a relationship with my husband's mother yet so it almost felt disloyal to call someone else mother.  Calling her by her first name seemed too familiar.  After all, she was the matriarch of her home and mother of my husband.  A nickname seemed to...stupid... so I took the chicken's way out.  I didn't address her directly by name for a long, long, time.  I am ashamed now that I didn't just call her by her name.

I am now in the mother-in-law's shoes.  I have four sons-in-law and three daughters-in-law. My husband told each one, "Just call me Dan." and that was that.  I did what my own mother-in-law did and told them that I didn't care what they called me.  And it's true, I really don't have a preference.  My sons-in-law all call me Mom and have been comfortable from the start calling me that.  My daughters-in-law seem a little more conflicted.  One calls me Laura and the other two call me Mom.  I'm fine with either name.  I feel bad for them because I know it's hard to come up with a name for the mother-in-law.  After all, it might be a test!  :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - Encourage independence

Imagine living in a world of giants and being their housekeeper.   The furniture is too tall, the tools are too big and awkward, the drawers too heavy to open.  Everything is designed to fit your basic giant.  I am describing the conditions your preschoolers and young children live with every day.  Not that they are your housekeepers!  But you do expect them to do certain age-appropriate chores and keep their rooms clean and belongings picked up.

If you look at the world from their view, you might find things you can do to make their lives easier.  By doing so, you are helping them to be less dependent on you.  Take the simple step-stool.  My husband made a sturdy step-stool for our oldest when she was about three and all of a sudden, she could wash her own hands by herself, go to the bathroom without a kiddy potty, and of course, get into things she shouldn't.  :)  All my children used that step-stool (which we named Mr. Step-Stool), and I still use it to reach high places. 

What other things can you do to foster independence for your little ones?

What about making their bed?  Could you lower the bed frame or even put the mattress on the floor?  Have you considered exchanging regular blankets and bedspreads for duvets (or comforters) and covers?  They eliminate the need for a top sheet and make bed-making super easy.  Covers can either be bought or made and can instantly change the look of the room for very little money.

How about their clothes storage?  Is the clothing rod hung too high?  Lowering it is easy and allows your children to hang up their own clothes.  Or even more simple...install a row of low hooks along a wall or in the closet and your child can just hang most clothes on hooks. 

Are dresser drawers too high or too heavy?  Try using plastic storage containers for holding clothes.  The containers can either go under the bed or stored on low shelves.

Toys should have their own place (preferably not a toy chest) and be easy to toss toys into.  Again, plastic storage containers are perfect for sorting and storing toys.  Label them well and encourage keeping like items together, although just getting them off the floor might be good enough!

Whatever you can do to make your children's life easier is totally worth it.  They might still drag their feet when told to do something, but at least you have made it possible for them to do it easily.  Try looking at the world from their vantage point and I think you'll find things you can do to that will make living in a giant's world less frustrating.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Changing roles

Oh, how they grow!
I was thinking today how our role as mother changes as our kids grow and change.  When our kids are little, we love them and take care of all their needs, make and enforce the rules and are the main authority figure in their lives.  We protect them and keep them safe from harm.  As they get older, gradually our role changes as they learn to take care of a growing number of their own needs, internalize the rules and interact with other authority figures.  We start to realize that we cannot protect them from everything as they venture out into the world but we trust that our teachings while they were little will be remembered and they will be smart.  They still need us but in different ways.  They need us to be consistent and fair.  They need us to give them advice (although they might not admit it!).  They need to know that we will always be there for them and that we will always love them unconditionally.

I can't think of a more fulfilling career than that of mother.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


When I first saw this poster, it immediately struck a chord with me.  Life is all about strife.  There is no getting around it.  I know when you first get married, you think that you'll live happily ever after with your handsome prince and ride off into the sunset.  Yes, it's still possible to live happily ever after with your handsome prince and ride off into the sunset but your car might break down on the way or any of a million different things might happen.  If you realize that having problems, stress and strife is normal, it won't destroy your concept of marriage.  Marriage is full of challenges but together with your husband, you can accomplish great things.

Thank you for the poster :)  It's framed and hung on my bedroom wall.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Lilly's treasures

Lilly (age 3) spent the afternoon with me today and she insisted on bringing her pink pumpkin bucket filled with her treasures.  It was really cute to see what she kept as her treasures, including a necklace, a pair of sparkly shoes, a flashlight, hairbows, a yellow crayon, a hat, a paintbrush and this cute couple...Darth Vader Lego and Sleeping Beauty Lego (minus her skirt).  :)  So Lilly!
What a cute couple they make!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Bad habits/Good habits

This is a GOOD habit!  :)
Why is it that bad habits are so hard to break and good habits are so hard to keep?  I was thinking of that this morning as I was exercising at the gym...for the first time in months.  I know exercising and physical activity are good for me, yet I find ways to put them off and make excuses.  I think I came up with a possible answer though.

My husband teaches at a local university and his schedule changes every eight weeks.  Some of his  classes are on campus and some are online.  Because of his weird schedule (or lack therof) he's often home during the day.  Now, I do best with a routine and at least a little structure in my day and when he is home, I get totally thrown off.  Not because of anything he does or doesn't do but just because he's there and I want to be available if he needs me for something.

So, last night I told him that I was going to the gym this morning at 9:30 am and he was welcome to join me but I was going.  What a shock!  We were both in the car by 9:30 am and we both got some good exercise in and it felt good.

What I learned (ok, I already knew these things but they were reinforced this morning)...Structure and routine are our friends.  Our bodies naturally function by an internal clock and we can use that to our advantage.  We have control over the choices we make.  We don't have to make excuses.   We can break bad habits by changing our thought patterns, making a plan and sticking to it...even if it's just for today.