Friday, February 27, 2009

Food and Kids

Have you been to the USDA's new site for parents?

Check out the preschoolers site for ages 2 to 5 and their kids site for ages 6 to 11, for great information about food and kids.

I am always keeping an eye out for good resources on food. My sweet little boy has had eating issues since day one. We even spent a year working with the feeding team at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (with great success - we really loved their nutritionist and psychologist).

So back to the USDA's site ... I liked their individualized food plan. It is not very complex, but it gave me a better idea of how much and what my son should be consuming on an average day, based on his age, gender and activity level.

They also have meal and snack ideas for four different calorie levels (I found out my son's calorie level on the individualized food plan). In these plans, they give more specifics on how to break down my son's food intake over the course of the day.

Their site contains some simple advice about picky eaters, growth charts, and plenty of information about FOOD. It is a fun little site worth checking out.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Desert Spirituality

The Way of the Heart – Part 1

photo courtesy R. Pelisson -

I am currently reading (and contemplating) The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen. He was a Dutch Catholic priest who left a lifetime of teaching at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard to live in a community with the mentally handicapped. His writing is so simple and straightforward, but so profound.

The Way of the Heart is a study of the fifth-century Egyptian Desert Fathers and Mothers and how their teachings can be applied today. It is written primarily for people in ministry, but many of the truths can (and should) be applied to my life as well.

The Desert Fathers were living in a difficult time in church history. The persecution of the church had come to an end and there was no longer a literal test of laying down your life for the Lord. The world was still the dark fallen place it had always been, but it no longer set itself as the enemy of the church. Escape to the desert was their way of non conformity to the world.

We, too, must find a response to Paul's challenge to "not model yourselves on the behavior of the world around you, but let your behavior change, modeled by your new mind." (Romans 12:2) What does this look like in our daily lives?

This book centers around the words flee (raising questions of solitude), be silent, and pray. These summarize the spirituality of the desert, the ways we prevent conformity to the world, the ways to live a life in the Spirit.

Come back soon to learn more about the theology of the Desert Fathers. As I read, I will be sharing Nouwen's wisdom and maybe a few of my own thoughts as well.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Art Display

When Joshua started creating his masterpieces, I made this great system for displaying the art in our hallway (inspired by our previous downstairs neighbors). However, this poor area has been neglected lately.

I keep adding things, but never taking down the old. It became overly crowded and would no longer "show off" his creations properly. It just looked and felt messy. There were also a few places where the clothes pins had been torn off by an overly excited kid.

Yesterday, I finally tackled the art work....

Here is the display half-way through the project (I forgot to take a before picture). I had already sorted several layers of art by this point.

And here is the after shot!

I filed a few of my favorites from the old artwork (the turkey from thanksgiving that was made using his own hand print, the foot print he made with finger paints, etc.) and recycled the rest (I had to assume that there will be plenty more masterpieces in the future).

I also replaced the missing clothes pins, so now there is maximum display space again. And I spread out his current creations to properly enjoy them before they are replaced by new ones.

For more of this week's tackles, check out Tackle It Tuesday hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom. Yes, once again I am posting this a day late, but at least the work was done on Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wake Up Call!

Create in Me a Clean Heart - Week 7

"Do not love sleep, or you will become poor. Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with food."
Proverbs 20:13

Ouch! Not that I'm concerned about becoming poor, but this verse is quite clear on the downside of loving sleep a little too much.

I like sleep and do not function well without it. I am not a morning person. I do not get up cheerfully in the morning and stay in bed until I HAVE to get up.

But when I sleep until the last possible moment, I start the day feeling I'm already "behind" and I spend my entire day playing "catch-up." Needless to say, this week's devotion hit me hard.

God is challenging me to GET UP in the morning; to approach each day as a day that He has made; to be glad and rejoice in it.

Lord, please give me the strength to wake up each day and rejoice. I pray that I will not give in to laziness or procrastination. I need your strength to overcome my weaknesses. I pray that I will seek you first each morning and pursue your presence throughout my day. Amen

Monday, February 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

You may notice that several of the same meals are on the menu again this week.

My family was hit with a weird stomach virus this week. No one has been very hungry, and only a few foods were tolerable. Needless to say, we did not eat any of our planned meals. Everyone seems to be recovering, so we will try again this week.

So here is my menu for the week:
  • Monday -- Taco Bar
  • Tuesday -- Ham and Lentils, green salad.
  • Wednesday -- Pad Thai, potstickers, veggies.
  • Thursday -- Pasta and Red Sauce, garlic bread, green salad
  • Friday -- Potato Bar
  • Saturday -- Stir Fry Veggies, rice.
  • Sunday -- Meatloaf (from the freezer), salad.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hats & Scarves

Since the tackling all my paper problems last month, I have been neglecting my "problem areas." I was overwhelmed by the size of my projects and couldn't get up the motivation to start something I knew there wasn't time to finish.

Our entry closet is the next big problem area that I need to tackle. I would love to just pull everything out, sort it all (PURGE) and put it all back in an organized fashion. But in reality, I would get it all pulled out and barely start the sorting when something (children) would need my immediate and extended attention. The end of the day would come, my hubby would come home and I (along with a kid or two) would be surrounded by piles of stuff from the closet and ready to cry.

What I really need to do is think smaller, break the projects down into manageable pieces. So, today I had a few minutes (about 20) to spend on a project before my daughter woke up from her nap. What project could I complete in just a few minutes? I decided to tackle the winter wear that has been piling up in the top of our closet. It has been a source of frustration for months now, never being able to find that matching glove, or grabbing three hats out before finding one that still fits the kids.

Here is how I was storing the hats, gloves and scarves before --
in a big box on the top of the closet.

And here is my solution to this disaster.
I used a shoe sorter that is designed to hang on the back of the door.

Now everyone can find their winter accessories quickly. The kids can even reach their own, making them feel important and helping us get out the door little bit faster!

For more great "tackles", check out Tackle It Tuesday hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom. (yes, I know it is Wednesday... but better late than never, right?)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentine's Day Gift Exchange

For Valentine's Day this year, Jennifer at The Story of Us hosted a bloggers, gift exchange. Because we have a new post man delivering to our house (who keeps questioning my address), I received my package a little late ... but it was a wonderful surprise to receive it today, ON MY BIRTHDAY!

Thank you, "Stark" from Abilene, TX for this beautiful kitchen set and yummy chocolates! My kitchen has a festive new look!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Last week's menu planning did not go well at all. There were several nights where I was too sick to cook. My wonderful hubby was willing to make dinner, but not the crazy dishes I had planned. He pulled something together from the random food around here.

I also tried a few new recipes that didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. But the Kale and Tofu stew was very good. My hubby enjoyed it too, and still doesn't know there was tofu in it.

So here is my menu for the week:
  • Monday -- Pav Bhaji (traditional Indian fare), veggies.
  • Tuesday -- Ham and Lentils, green salad.
  • Wednesday -- Taco Bar
  • Thursday -- We are going out for dinner to celebrate my birthday!
  • Friday -- Potato Bar
  • Saturday -- Stir Fry Veggies, rice.
  • Sunday -- Meatloaf (from the freezer), salad.
I have yet to start posting recipes, if you see something you would like to try, let me know.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Get Out, Doubt"

Create in Me a Clean Heart - Week 6

"... Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
Matthew 16:23

In the devotion for the week, this verse was a reminder to not allow the doubts and negative thoughts to be a stumbling block to us, but to put them "behind" us.

I admit that I did not always remember to put my doubt behind me this week, and there were times that I should have done just that. But as I review this verse again today, I am encouraged to put the failures and doubts of the week behind me, and move forward in hope and peace.

Lord, release me from my thoughts of fear and doubt; replace them with your love and hope. Help me to always been mindful of You and to draw my strength and joy from you. Amen.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Friendly Blogging

Several years ago, my hubby set up a personal blog for us to keep in tough with our family and friends. That was my introduction to blogging, but I didn't explore this strange world until this past summer.

Several of my friends moved away and I started following their blogs. Suddenly, I was thrown into a new, virtual community of people from all over the country (and the world?), all sharing their ideas, passions and lives.

After starting this little site of random thoughts, I have been slowly learning online etiquette and realized that I have not been a very friendly or courteous blogger. I was turned on to the idea by Blue Castle. She posted a link to this article on Common Courtesy.

In this new year, I am working to become a more friendly blogger, commenting on the blogs that I visit, and responding to my visitors who take the time to leave a note on my blog.

Happy Blogging!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Going Paperless

A few days ago, I posted some of our Green Goals for 2009. In our effort to go paperless, I am working on a new system for dealing with all our digital documentation. Here are a few ideas that have helped me.


Download bank statements, bills, credit card statements, etc. and keep them on your computer. At the end of the year (or after you finish your taxes), burn the files onto a data CD and store them with your paper files. If you are limited on digital storage space, just keep a few months at time.

Don't be too concerned if you lose something, or didn't save it locally. Most places have access to past files on their web sites. If they don't have what you need, you can always call them requesting a paper copy be sent to you (I had to do this last year for an old cell phone statement). Some places also have year-end statements that can replace all the monthly files.

(How long to keep files)

You can burn files onto different CD's based on how long they need to be kept (so eventually you can destroy the old CD's). For example, digital copies of taxes should to be kept forever (I keep these on my computer even after I burn a CD, for easy access). But most bank statements and bills only need to be kept for one to three years.

For more information about how long to keep things, check out the IRS document Record Keeping for the Individual.

(Making your own digital files)

Whenever you complete financial transactions online, they often have a confirmation page they suggest you print for your records. There are two ways to do this without creating more paper.
  1. Copy and paste the info into an email and send it to yourself.
  2. Create a PDF containing the information.
If it is something that you need short-term (until it shows up on your credit card statement, or until a product arrives, etc) the email method is great - you can delete it when you no longer need it. If it is something you need long-term, create a PDF and file with everything else important.

MAC's create PDF's easily, but on a PC you need specific software. I use PDF995 to create all my PDF's. They have a free version that does a great job. It works like a printer -- you just select PDF995 as your printer and it will pop up a window asking where to save the file (then you have to look at their ad for 30 seconds - the price of "free").

What strategies do you use to organize your digital files? Please share your questions and ideas!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Last week's menu planning went fairly well. I spent less money on food and had an easier time getting dinner on the table. I did end up switching out a few meals because of unforeseen time constraints.

So here is my menu for the week:
  • Monday -- Thai Red Curry, rice, veggies.
  • Tuesday -- Tuna Melts, veggies or green salad.
  • Wednesday -- Chicken and White Bean Chili (crock pot), green salad. We didn't have a chance to try this last week.
  • Thursday -- Nachos, green salad.
  • Friday -- Pav Bhaji (traditional Indian fare), veggies.
  • Saturday -- Taco Bar
  • Sunday -- Kale & Tofu Stew (crock pot). This is a new recipe; I am experimenting with more tofu in my cooking
Happy Monday!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Lord's Discipline

Create in Me a Clean Heart - Week 5
Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger, nor chasten me in your hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak ... My soul also is greatly troubled ...
Psalm 6:1-3
This week's Clean Heart devotion is about the discipline we receive from God. I use to be afraid of the idea of receiving discipline from the Lord, especially with the legalistic view that I could never keep the "law."

But becoming a parent has brought new light to my perspective on discipline. "As a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you." (Deut 8:5)

Why do I discipline my children? Because I am mad at them? The rules, and discipline for breaking them, are to keep my children safe, and to teach them character and self-control. Yes, it is to TEACH them, not to control them.

In light of how I love my children and have no desire to hurt them, but rather desire to raise them in the "training and instruction from the Lord." (Eph 6:4)

Lord, I thank you for your mercy toward me. I welcome your discipline in my life, that I may learn the lessons you desire to teach me. Thank you for transforming me into the image of your Son! AMEN

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Green Goals for 2009

I thought I'd share a few of my Green Goals for this year. They are mostly simple things that our family can change relatively easily, in addition to maintaining our recycling habits and reusable shopping bags.

  1. Paper Products - We are working to completely eliminate our use of paper napkins and paper towels. We also buy recycled toilet paper (we like Trader Joe's brand). We also just switched all our bank statements and bills to paperless delivery.

  2. Cleaning Products - Going natural with my cleaning products. All-natural products can be a little more expensive, though; to save money, I really like this book Clean House, Clean Planet. It contains instructions for homemade cleaning products that save money and are easy on the environment.

  3. Borrow or Buy Used - Our family rediscovered the library this year and I started using I try to buy gently used clothing and toys for the kids. It is great that our community has a clothing exchange twice a year.

  4. Lowering Waste - I recently encountered this blog Zero Waste. Check out their article on What Is Zero Waste? I don't think I am ready to go this far, but it did get me thinking about how much I throw away. Here are some simple things I am working on: no individually packaged snacks, buy bulk, reuse clean produce bags, lower the number of sandwich bags we use. Basically, I am trying to be more aware when shopping - less disposable, more reusable.
What are you doing to be more "Green" in 2009? What has worked for you and your family?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Let Your Child Soar

Parents (the magazine) recently published a list of their all-time favorite parenting nuggets of advice from their panel of experts. They had 50 items on their list.

I was inspired, for a new year's parenting goal, to work on five of them this year. Here they are, listed in no particular order.

  1. Let Your Child Soar - encourage your toddler's mission to gain independence. Don't do for them what they can (and should be learning to) do for themselves. This is very difficult for me; most of the time it is faster and easier to do it myself.

  2. Schedule Daily Special Time - spend ten or 15 minutes a day alone with your child, no interruptions. I have found alone-time with each child challenging with two kids.

  3. Don't Try to Fix Everything - give your kids a chance to find their own solutions. Now that my kids are old enough to get in each other way, it is difficult to find the balance between letting them resolve their issues, or stepping in. I don't want my son to always be frustrated with his younger sister, but she is here to stay so he needs to learn how to deal with her.

  4. Ask Three You Questions - practice the art of conversation with your children by asking them three "you" questions each day. My son has always struggled with his speech. This is a good way to encourage him to step outside his comfort zone.

  5. Savor the Moments - enjoy it now; this phase will be over far too fast.

Call on Him

Create in Me a Clean Heart - Week 4
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
Psalm 116:1-2
This week's devotion was about calling to God for help. Throughout this week, I could see him working on my heart. One morning I was startled awake by my three-year-old who decided to get up earlier than usual, and wake up his sister. They were already fighting with each other, and I hadn't made it out of bed yet.

As I struggled with anger and frustration, I heard a small voice reminding me to call out for help. God gave me peace and strength as I committed my ill-started day to him!

My prayer this week has been that I would always be aware of my desperate need for God throughout my daily life. And that I would be humble and call out for help.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I have decided to participate in Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday carnival. She easily gets over 400 participants each week. I am joining for motivation in meal planning. There are some weeks where I do fairly well, but most weeks I'm back to my old habits and stressful last-minute dinners.

So here is my menu for the week:
  • Monday -- Turkey Lentil Soup (crock pot), green salad. This is a new recipe; we'll see how it turns out.
  • Tuesday -- Tuna Melts, veggies or green salad.
  • Wednesday -- Thai Chicken (crock pot), rice, veggies. This is my first time trying this recipe, but it sounds so yummy.
  • Thursday -- Chinese Chicken and Cabbage. This is one of our favorites.
  • Friday -- Salmon and Asparagus
  • Saturday -- Taco Bar
  • Sunday -- Chicken and White Bean Chili (crock pot), green salad. I am adapting two different recipes to better fit my family's tastes.
I want to start posting some of my favorite recipes. If you see something you would like to try, let me know and I'll post the recipe asap.

Happy Monday!