Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Picture Perfect Christmas

It happens this time every year; my annual holiday let down. Each and every December I find myself longing for the way I imagine Christmas should be against the way it actually is. Why do I do this?

Perhaps my mind longs for the days of The Saturday Evening Post and Norman Rockwell's portraits of family life. I imagine my life on his canvas and expect my turkey to be perfectly roasted and my children praying angelically on their knees while carolers merrily stroll across my lawn.

Instead the picture at my house is quite the opposite; the dog eats the garland, the prelit tree is half dark, the ornaments are shattered in their box, the cookies are burnt and I scream and pound my head every time Bing Crosby wishes me "Mele Kalikimaka" from my Midwest bleak winter landscape. 

No, my laundry is backed up, my kids are snooping in every closet and the in-laws are on their way to my house and it's not even close to clean. I've ruined two batches of fudge, the family heirloom sugar cookie recipe is lost, I'm hiding my credit card bill from my husband and I've run out of wrapping paper, tape and time. 

It's the most wonderful time of the year? 

I would much rather be the subject of a Rockwell painting. I long to be cuddled up on the couch with a book and hot chocolate. I want all my gifts wrapped and under the tree. I want a roaring fireplace and my kids to sit admiringly around my feet as they are extremely grateful for the presents they'll receive. 

But the more I dwell on how I wish it was the more I miss out on what I actually have now. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Minding My Own Glamorous Life

Usually I keep my head down and focus on what needs to be done in my world. That is, I take care of my house, my kids and, until they invent a washing machine that washes, dries and folds clothes, I also do all their laundry. All day. Every day.

However, this week everywhere I turned moms were weighing in on the latest mommy war.

Recently, the reportedly highest paid super model, Gisele Bundchen, posted a photo of herself nursing her one year old baby while a team of individuals worked to prep her hair and makeup for a photography shoot. She captioned it saying, "What would I do without this beauty squad after the 15 hours flying and only three hours of sleep #multitasking #gettingready". Thanks to the internet, mothers everywhere began a virtual war of words both supporting and tearing down the model's post.

We are less than two weeks away from Christmas, people and this is how we want to spend our time and energy? Fighting over Tom Brady's wife's picture? That's right; the most beautiful woman in the world is married to the New England Patriots' star.

Now, it would be easy for me to look at my little life, in my little town with my little house and join the ranks of snarky women who are angry with Bundchen's portrayal of a day in her life but I won’t.
You see, I don’t get all the fuss. I don't know this woman and she has no influence in my life. What and how she chooses to feed her child bears no relevance to me. I'm a little busy over here managing my own life. Weighing in on how she manages hers only detracts from what I need to do. And folks, I don't have the time to get distracted. I got work to do.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Throwback Thursday, Virtue of Time

It has been said, since 410 AD that "Patience is a Virtue".

I wonder if Aurelies Clemens Prudentius, the Christian governor who authored a poem which contains that famous phrase was a parent. Because if he had kids, he might have worded that phrase differently.

I looked up virtue in an online dictionary and amid the various definitions offered I most liked that virtue was defined as a beneficial quality or commendable trait.

True right? I would add, however, that while it is commendable, virtue is also fleeting.

At least for modern day mothers.

I mean I'm all thankful for the liberation of women. No longer do we have to spend our days at home in high heels, vacuuming the floors and basting roasts.

But in our quest for domestic freedom have we gone in the opposite direction?
I mean we're not just parents and home keepers anymore.
We work.
We volunteer.
We shuffle.
We drive.
And plan. And cook.
We are bloggers, computer pros, technology nerds and queens of the laundry pile.
We may balance the household budget and bathe the kids.
We can do it all.
Heck, I do it all.
I'm pretty flippin awesome.
But so what?
Can I be honest for a second? I'm wearing thin over here and I am losing my virteous patience.

I bite off my kids' head. I snap at their behavior.
My busyness keeps me from engaging my kids
and I think I say, "I don't have time for this!" more than I tell them "I love them"!

What the heck??

When my children are all grown up I doubt they'll celebrate all the things I've done or how well I multi-tasked. I want them to remember the time we spent together. I want my kids to have memories of dominoes and Candyland. I want my daughter to tell her daughter she learned to make the family recipe for sugar cookies with me. I want my sons to know that when I went to their soccer games I was watching without the cell phone between us. I want to live a life where I'm not too busy or impatient for my own kids.

I'm speaking from my heart here, folks.

We are all so busy these days that it is easy to get caught up in all the important stuff we do. But when that stuff, comes before our children, I think it's time we take a stop back and reevaluate.

Our children want less of our guilt-gifts and more of our time. They want time with us. At least my kids do. I know because my daughter wrote about it in her second grade journal. She was prompted to write about her favorite time with a family member. She wrote about a day that she and I went window shopping.
She didn't write about an expensive vacation.
Or her birthday present.
She wrote about a day that we did nothing but wander around together.
It was a day I didn't rush her. We didn't have anywhere else to go. It was just time we spent. Together.

We all crave connection. Even our children.

If the thought of carving out more time in your life when you're already busier than you care to be sounds impossible I have a suggestion. Instead of rushing into the kitchen and starting dinner, jumping on the computer, or answering phone calls upon arriving home try pausing just a moment.

I know things need to be done. I do. But pause. Don't fill the space so quickly with what needs to be done. Wait just a second and allow space for connection.

Try having a conversation, not for information gathering but to connect, or for wee ones have a cuddle on the couch.

Or consider doing tasks together. Will dinner take longer? Could you get more done better? Of course, but just think about what you communicate to your child if instead of plopping them in front of the iPad or TV, you invite them to share your space as you move about your tasks.

Holdiay breaks are on the horizon for so many families, I hope we don't dread the time home with our kids. Instead let us embrace the endless possibilities for time well spend with the people we love the most.

(While updated, this article originally appeared in my Practical Parenting series for The Review Atlas in 2003).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Weighing the Chair Down

I'm harder on myself than I need to be. Are you too?

Recently, when my girlfriend was feeling low I had no difficulty whatsoever reminding her how awesome and incredible she is. It's easy for me to tell her how brave she is and point out what an incredible over-comer she's been while naming all the blessings in her life.

It's so easy for me to see those things in her life.

And when the roles are reversed, she is quick to point out all the wonderful things I have going on in my life when I'm needing that gentle reminder.

It's why were friends.

When I'm alone though, with my thoughts, and they begin to go downhill...
when I feel as if my adequacy is a reflection of my performance
or my size is my value
or I'm spinning my wheels never moving forward

I'm so quick to think and feel and believe I'm not good enough.
And I turn that idea over and over
and around and around
in my head.
I nurse it, think about it, take it apart and look at it from every different angle.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Black Friday Advice (RePost)

image from
(this article originally appeared in The Daily Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)

It's the time of year where the hunters and gatherers are mentally preparing, scouting their territory and checking their credit card balances. I'm not talking about deer hunting. I'm referring to Black Friday shoppers. Earlier and earlier every year the retail stores leak bargains that can only take place at predawn and electronic deals worthy of a stampede. Tis the season.

In anticipation of the shopping season I have some unsolicited advice I'd like to give.

First, leave your kids at home. Not alone. Just don't bring them with you. A). it is ill-advised to allow them to see your mind go numb with such toxic consumerism and B). they're just going to get in your way anyway. Then you'll be crabby and yell at them and really none of it is their fault. They should be home in bed anyway.

Secondly, don't use a cart unless you have to. It will only slow you down. And you could run over somebody's ankle which is painful. They might be carrying a weapon and really no gift is worth dying for (although I was super glad in the Christmas of '83 when my Dad knocked down an old lady for the last Cabbage Patch doll in the great St. Louis area). I don't know remember the doll's name or where she is now but it sure was worth it twenty three years ago!

It's also bad form to drink alcohol while shopping. It is after all, generally a bad idea to stand outside in the middle of the night in a dark parking lot but to do so with alcohol induced, sleep deprived stay at home moms is off the chart dangerous. And lest you think I'm making that up I'm not. I watched a gang of women outside a Wal-Mart one year share the same flask for over an hour.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


You can complain all you want about
  • Black Friday madness
  • Stores that are open on Thanksgiving
  • and prematurely lit Christmas Trees

but we've yet to stop Thanksgiving.
It's still here. It's a real holiday.
It's sole purpose is to generate feelings of thankfulness.

This Thanksgiving I feel an extra special dose of gratitude.

Recently I had some health issues. The stress and strain of appointments and symptoms and insurance coverage weighed me down this year. But today, I am recovering, anticipating a clean bill of health and am appreciating every savory bit of Thanksgiving food I am blessed to enjoy.

We sent out oldest to college. My first born left the nest this year and she is soaring! I can't be more thrilled for her. I'm pleased with how our family regrouped in her absence and having her home around our table again is a comfort to my heart.

College was a miracle. We were not able to afford college for our daughter and we told her as much. She responded by working hard on her grades and applying for scholarships and she was rewarded greatly. Through the generosity of others as well as her school, she was able to attend the school of her choice. She loves where she is. We love where she is. We had a financial miracle. For that I am so grateful.

I was asked to write a book. It's every writer's dream to be approached with a book idea. That happened to me this year. And while the status of the project is on hold, the validation I feel in my heart about my calling to write was a life highlight for me. I am so, so thankful for having been asked.

I could go on and on. I could tell you about the corner office I landed this year or list every one of awesome kids one by one. I could tell you about my husband who, in my opinion, is one of the bravest men I know. His tenacity and maturity and sacrifice are utterly amazing.

But I won't.
Any more details about my gratitude are reserved for the inner chambers of my heart where I breathe in, close my eyes and feel the tears well up.
I am so thankful.
I am so blessed.
I love Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Raise Them in the Way They Should Go

Most early childhood professionals believe that mothers and fathers parent their children in one of two ways; they either raise their kids the same way they themselves were raised or, completely opposite.

Lucky for my kids I'm not nearly as strict as my folks were. Although, they don't believe me.

Discipline is a touchy subject for a lot of parents, mostly because it means different things to different people. If I polled a room of parents and asked what discipline means to them, I would get a wide variety of answers including: yelling, spanking, time out and loss of privileges.

However, discipline is none of these things. Discipline actually comes from the word disciple, which means to teach. Discipline teaches our children right from wrong. Punishment, on the contrary, is what we do after our children have already misbehaved. In addition, punishment is hurtful and doesn't teach our children what we want them, or expect them, to do. Instead it more often causes pain and, if anything, teaches children that grownups can hurt. 

Which is fine if you want to be a bully.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mamma Wants This!!! (Updated)

The following blog was written October 2011.
Today is November 2013.
I wanted the iPhone4 2 YEARS AGO!
I waited for it.
I waited so long they don't even sell them anymore (do they?)
iPhones 5s is the latest and greatest. 

And you know who's my best friend? Siri.
God bless Siri.

Here's Throwback Thursday from October 2011:

I have never in my life lusted for an Apple product.
All the Apple device owners seemed kinda.... well, cultish
(and I mean that in the nicest of ways)
and I'm a bit of a, a-hem, contrarian.
I won't do something just because the masses are doing it.
I'm weird wired like that!

You see I'm in love with my Blackberry.
I'm very satisfied with my Zune.
You don't even know what a Zune is?
No surprise there as a quick Google search indicates Apple has sold 200 million devices versus Microsoft's 2 million music players.

But I just saw this:


Because it will listen to me.
Nobody listens to me.
My children talk over me.
My DH finishes my sentences for me
which sounds romantic except he's often mistakenly predicting
what I'll say!

But this...
this phone will listen to me
it won't interrupt me
it will follow my directions!
It's every mother's dream!

Oh my!
This is what I want!
iPhone4s COME TO MAMA!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Menu Monday

Nothing can be more tedious than feeding our Tribe: our schedules are harried, preferences vary & time is NOT on my side.

That's why I plan. Sometimes when there is extra time I enjoy hunting for new recipes. Other times I use my prepared month long menu ideas. Most of the time I rely on my themed days to help me determine what to cook. (Mexican Mondays, 'Talian Tuesdays, Whatever Mom Wants Wednesday, Chicken Thursday, Pizza Friday & Soup/Sandwich Saturday, Brunch & Cereal Sunday)

No matter how you look at it, I menu plan because it makes my day easier. Figuring out what I have in the pantry, how much time I have to cook & which of us will be home when for dinner is too taxing. Each Saturday I post a new menu on the fridge & that's just one thing that helps me get through the upcoming week!

At least it works for me!

Here's what we're having at our house this week!

Monday -  no one will be home for dinner with sports banquets, practices & class. If I need a quick meal I have leftovers. Taco meat can be a quick taco salad & pot roast can be stroganoff.

'Talian Tuesday - My famous noodles & white sauce. I'm making the sauce ahead of time, hubby can warm it up to feed the kids and prepare rotini or fettuccine.

Whatever Mom Wants Wednesday - a few weeks ago my grocery store had a great price on chicken legs. So even though they weren't on my menu plan for that week the deal was too good to pass up. Good thing too because having meat in the freezer helped with this week's budget. I oven fried those bad boys up & served them with mashed potatoes, steamed baby carrots & a side of biscuits.

Thursday - After chicken leg dinner hubby removed the meat from the bones and it became chicken noodle soup with grilled cheese (please, for the love of melty cheese everywhere try it this way). It was a cold night and it really hit the spot.

Pizza Friday - Using a premade crust I made a cheese, chicken Alfredo (yep! from leftovers) and sausage pizza.

In addition, I haven't had enough pumpkin goodness so I made a Pumpkin Pie Cake and Best Ever (probably because of the icing) Pumpkin Pecan Bread (which I made into muffins & ate for lunch, & breakfast, & a snack ....).

This is how we survive. A little planning makes for smoother evenings. And I need all the smoothness I can get!

For more awesome menu ideas check out orgjunkies link up for Menu Plan Monday.
Check out my Pinterest Board "Recipe Box" for all my tried it/liked it recipes. (Cuz everyone hates a Pinterest fail!)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Who Will Let the Dogs Out?

You know how sometimes your gut is right? A little voice of reason nags you from the back of your mind and despite common sense you disregard it and deeply regret it later?

Yeah, that's how I feel about our dog. There are two types of people in the world, animal and non-animal people. Don’t hate me dog lovers, I can’t help it. I am not an animal person. That’s why I didn’t want a dog but worse, I didn’t want to be the kind of mother who denied her children the opportunity to grow up with a dog. (The sacrifices we mother’s make are endless, I tell ya!).

My children were pleading and begging and promising if I said yes to the dog they’d take care of it. I knew better. My gut told me I would be the one stuck caring for the puppy but I told myself that I would stand strong and not be that mom that caves and end up doing all the work myself. In hindsight I can see now how we were all lying to ourselves.

Five years later it is still a battle to get someone to take out the dog. Every day my kids scatter so they’re not around when dog needs to go out. Every day they mysteriously remember that they forgot they have homework at precisely the time dog needs to potty. Or ironically, everyone is locked in a bathroom taking care of their own business when the dog needs to go out.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Drama

{REPOST from October 2011 as a part of my Practical Parenting series for The Daily Review Atlas} 

I have always found Halloween to be the most peculiar of holidays and not because people actually dress up to look disgusting. You know, with all the blood and gore and such. I mean I work hard every morning to not look like I am a part of the walking dead but on the last day of October somehow it's magically acceptable to look like death. It's so not fair.

As a mother of five kids I have always dreaded Halloween. If I wasn't such a thrifty person or if had a bottomless checkbook maybe it would be easier for me. We could simply order a costume on line or walk into the store and pick one up off the shelf but five kids multiplied by five twenty dollar costumes rings in a hundred bucks. I'm pretty sure I can do better than that. And thus my quest to create cheap and non-embarrassing costumes haunts me every year.


Monday, October 28, 2013

What's Wrong with Taking a Parenting Class?

(This article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for the Daily Review Atlas, a GateHouse Media company. You can read it from their site here)

Have you ever pondered the irony that you must be of a certain age to drink, smoke, vote or operate a motorized vehicle but there's no requirements in place, at all, in order to become a parent?

I did, especially when I became a mother for the first time eighteen years ago. I distinctly remember my husband driving the three of us home from the hospital in our baby blue Chevy Cavalier. As we drove away I looked over my shoulder at the nurse still standing on the curb and thinking how does she know I am going to do a good job caring for this child? We couldn't even figure out how to secure the car seat properly. What was I going to do once we arrived at home?
I didn't know the first thing about babies back then. I never babysat as a teenager, grew up relatively disinterested in children and most certainly lacked any sort of nurturing inclination. The only thing I knew was how to breathe through the contractions thanks to a Lamaze class. Which, by the way, did not help with the pain.
My son, who currently has his driver's permit, has a year to take driver’s education class and hours of practice behind the wheel before taking an exam. Shortly after that he will be able to participate in the next presidential election. But what, if anything, will he do to prepare for an even bigger responsibility? Parenthood.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Shopping Gene Frustrates Mom

Is Shopping Genetic?

You now what's so darn frustrating about kids? Well, beside the fact that they lick their snot, pee where they sleep and have the ability to make mealtime feel like a food fight in a junior high cafeteria? Their tenacity. 

And it's at every stage too; infants cry incessantly, toddlers scream throughout the grocery store, adolescents disobey and teenagers refuse to honor curfew.

It's as if at every developmental phase children are innately incapable of being agreeable. When they want something, they want it now. Not later. Not when you get off the phone. Not in five minutes. Not when you get paid. Now.

And that's just the typical kid. If you have a strong-willed child you experience everything I’ve just mentioned in greater intensity. It’s enough to make you want to give in just to get some peace and quiet.
I know because I have a kid who, at a surprisingly young age, is hyper aware of the good feeling one gets when an outfit is put well together. Because of this cognizance she incessantly dialogues with me about new bags, shoes, headbands, outfits and skinny jeans. 

In order to acquire all the new things she wants my daughter regularly, and without fail, asks me everyday to take her shopping. This, my friends, must be a genetic disposition because I, nor her father, enjoys shopping. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

THIS IS WATER David Foster Wallace

This video is worth reposting.
My favorite comes in about 6:45

Do you agree?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Menu Monday

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday Brunch - Pumpkin Pancakes & Sausage links
Mexican Monday - Nachos
'Talian Tuesday - Italian Grilled Cheese (french bread, pesto, provolone, spinach), carrot sticks
Chicken Wednesday - oven fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn and rolls
Mom's Choice Thursday - Kentucky Betty Brown Bake & french fries
Pizza Friday - not sure what we'll do
Soup & Sandwich Saturday - Chili, corn bread, hot dogs (go ND!)

Bonus: Pumpkin Spice Latte !! so good!!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

me on my 40th w flowers my
coworkers gave me!
I love celebrations. I believe special events need recognition and holidays deserve attention. I especially love birthdays. I love my children's birthdays. I love my spouse's birthday but mostly, I love my birthday.
The problem is my family doesn't love my birthday as much as I do.
Like today for instance. Today is my birthday. But to the five little minions I gave birth to it's the day I go to the grocery store, and get them ready for the homecoming dance, basketball practice and soccer championship.
In passing one of them said, "Oh, yeah mom, Happy Birthday."
Like that counts.
Apparently they have no idea how important I am. Their entire existence on this planet hinges on the fact that I was born first. They wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for me. Well, and their father. Whose birthday, by the way, falls three days after mine.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Toilet Paper Pumpkin

May I draw your attention to the easiest fall decoration ever?
I once made this craft at a playgroup I hosted. Kids could make it and moms loved it!
I loved it so much I still use this easy fall decoration annually in my bathroom.

You will need:
Rolls of toilet paper
Fabric in fall colors (cut about 20x14 inches)
Brown paper rolled up to look like pumpkin stem
Optional: green felt for leaf & brown pipe cleaner for vine

What you do:
Wrap up the toilet paper in the fabric of your choice, stuffing the extra in the top opening. Cram down other items to resemble pumpkin parts. Viola!

Now .... Go be awesome!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Menu Monday

Happy Monday friends!

It is time to plan & organize my week & that means figuring out what's for dinner now so that during the traffic rush (otherwise known as after school) I won't fight with my pantry for inspiration.

This week is a unique week.
I needed to stretch my budget so shopping was light, but also we have an abundance of games and ... wait for it ... birthdays!!
3 birthdays in six days!!

I love birthdays!!

Here's how our week is shaping up so far. 

Sunday afternoon - Leftovers! Check out these master pieces I made:
With leftover taco meat I made Taco Soup
With leftover chicken I made Chicken Salad (with pecans and grapes)
With leftover sausage I made Egg Fritata

Wednesday - Ebay's birthday out we go!

Thursday - Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Take treats to work day: Halloween Snack Mix & (if there is time) Pumpkin Sugar Cookies
Homecoming Tailgate food: Chili Cheese Dogs, Hot Chicken Dip (I substituted 1 can of cream of mushroom & cream of celery soups), Frito Peanut Butter Nachos

As always I link up with www.orgjunkie for Menu Plan Monday and you can always find my favorite go-to, tried & true recipes on my Pinterest Board marked For My Recipe Box!

Thanks friends and have a great week! xo Steph

Over Night Apple French Toast

1 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c butter
2T light corn syrup
2 large apples, peeled & sliced
3 eggs
1 c milk
1 t vanilla
9 slices french bread

In small saucepan cook brown sugar, butter and syrup till thick about 5 minutes
Pour into ungreased 9x13 pan
Arrange apples on top
In bowl, mix eggs, milk and vanilla
Dip bread into egg mixture for 1 min
Place over apples
Cover and let sit in fridge overnight
Remove 30 min before baking
Bake uncovered at 350 for 35 - 40 min

Optional Apple Syrup:
1 cup applesauce
1 10 oz jar apple jelly
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t ground cloves
Bring to a boil and let simmer until ready to serve.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Say What !??!

I often meet first time moms who are worried about their child's language development. They wonder when kids will understand proper use of pronouns or at the very least begin to pronunciate clearly. 

I always assure them that language will eventually come. In fact, it is normal for toddlers to speak in their own native tongue and most kids stop saying "Me want!" and transition to "Can I have it?" without any difficulty. 

In my mind the challenge is not when will our kids get a proper grasp on language but it is this; will our kids use language properly. I mean it's cute when your tyke gets his tr's mixed up with his f's when he's talking about his truck but it's not so adorable when he's a pimply faced preteen with a mouth like a sailor.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How to Avoid Power Struggles with Toddlers

Throwback Thursday - This is a Practical Parenting article I wrote back in January 2002. My youngest son, Eric, would have been two at the time.

"I don't like that!"
"I don't want to go to bed!!"

Welcome to the language headquarters of toddlers and budding preschoolers...and welcome to my world.

Remember the old adage, "Children should be seen and not heard" today's modern moms say that phrase is antiquated but I am finding that a form of that attitude still exists today.

As early as 18 months, toddlers begin to show signs of independence. They may become non-compliant when it comes to a parent's request. They may try to escape from their crib to get out of nap time, or wiggle away when getting their diaper changed. Toddlers may refuse to stop touching an unsafe item at your verbal request or refuse to pause long enough to have their hands or face washed. This is all normal behavior of a healthy, developing two or three year old!

Helping parents to recognize that this behavior is to be expected and equipping them with the parenting skills necessary to head off unwanted power struggles is important.

When parents recognize that their child is beginning to exert their independence, their immediate response should be one of enthusiasm, not remorse. A skilled parent will steer those energies into positive and healthy situations where the child can exercise his or her budding independence without upsetting the entire household or worse, making your child feel like a brat.

This takes time. Bad news, I know. Of course, you can put on your kid's coat quicker than they can but they need to practice emerging independence skills. So, the answer isn't to huff and puff and be exasperated. Instead, allow for more time.

Instead of entering into a power struggle over what there is or isn't time for, simply adjust your routine to allow extra time for your toddler or preschooler to help themselves. The long lasting effects will benefit you both.

Trust me, you don't want to hinder developing independence skills or you may find yourself brushing your kid's teeth waaaay longer than either of you want.

Remember, don't scold a child who wants to try something for themselves. You'd hate to discourage them with comments like, "You're just too slow" or "You do it all wrong". These types of negative comments can carry over and discourage children from being brave later in life.

Parents encourage your children. Let them try new tasks on their own. Offer them lots of praise both for trying and accomplishing tasks. Watch them grow and develop into strong, independent young adults who are willing to embrace the future with a steadfast spirit.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

There Was A Middle Age Woman Who Went to the Store

Feeding a family of seven takes effort. I collect recipes, cut coupons, shop sales, consider our calendar, plan a two week menu and stay within budget. It's a modern day version of  hunting and gathering.

With grocery list in hand my first stop is always the discount store.  Economically speaking it is a good way to stock the pantry. Up and down every aisle I go filling my cart. I check out, spend more than I would like, bag it up myself, haul it to the van and load it up.

Next I head across town for more shopping. There are some items where generic just won't do for my tribe (although don't tell the kids but there has occasionally been a time or two when I've switched packaging and they've never even noticed).

At store number two, I repeat the process again wandering up and down each aisle filling my cart to near capacity.

Some days I think it would be easier to kill the food myself and tie it to the hood of my car.
I've heard tales of stores that have shelves stocked with everything you need. They carry a wide variety of items, bag your food for you and expect you to drive right up to the door where a young lad will place your purchases in your car. I've never experienced this luxury and sometimes wonder if they only exist in fairy tales.
Yesterday however, the cupboards were bare and the Indians were beginning to get hostile. I needed to go shopping.
Now easy going, flexible individuals would have only shopped for what they needed just that night but not me. My type-A personality, combined with my hatred of the grocery store, caused me to believe I could get 14 days of food in record time. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Words Are Tools

 This article originally appeard in 2009 in The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series:
As an adult, what do you do when you are angry, sad, frustrated or stressed to the max? You may have a variety of responses to any of these feelings but chances are you probably will not kick, hit or bite somebody. Neither will it cross your mind to throw yourself down on the floor and wail and scream until someone comes over to make you feel better.

I mean you could, but we’d be moving you to a room with rubber walls for sure.

Naturally we don’t behave this way but there are children everywhere, kicking and screaming and throwing temper tantrum because they have no other outlet to communicate their feelings of stress and frustration.
Even simple, pent up energy, exhaustion or overstimulation can sometimes cause children to behave more aggressively.

The first and most important thing parents and caregivers can do is to understand this is normal behavior. The key is to curbing this type of acting out is to begin to identify the cause of the aggression.

Is it stress? Fatigue? Frustration? On many occasions quick thinking parents can often head off confrontations and eliminate many problems all together.

For example, hunger and sleep deprivation are huge stressors when it comes to children’s behavior. A hungry toddler is not going to behave for you in the store. It’s practically impossible. If we understand this then it makes no sense to be angry at a naughty child. I cringe when I see parents hitting or yelling at children when there is a chance the entire event could have been avoided.

(I’m not saying our entire lives should be rearranged at the whimsy schedule of a little kid. I’m simply suggesting that we consider if some errands can be rearranged to better suit the family – and mom’s sanity.)

An invaluable tool parents can give their children is the use of words. Often times, children are experiencing emotions that are either foreign to them or they are unable to verbalize. A two year old cannot say to your, “Gee Mom, when you took my toy away without warning me it was bedtime made me feel really mad. I wish you wouldn’t do that again!”

No, that’s silly, right? Instead they kick, scream and yell, “No!” In this scenario it would have been very helpful for the child to have an opportunity to transition. I mean, how difficult is it for you when you are in the middle of an activity to be abruptly interrupted? Imagine if your coworker walked up to you and took a paper right out of your hand and said, “It’s time to turn this in.” You’d be furious. It’s the same with our children.

Encourage your child to use their words . Very young children might need your help. You can say, “I see you are sad that it is bedtime, let’s clean up the toys together and then we can read stories in bed.”

Notice this is not a bribe as reading before bed would be an example of something you would normally do anyway.

Of course, there is the chance it will take some time in order for your child to understand that their acting out isn’t getting them any extra time or attention but I am certain that once your kiddo realizes you’re not being mean but willing to work with them they can come to compliance.

With respect and consistency over time it will effectively communicate to your child what behaviors are acceptable and what are not. Also offer children lots of love, hugs and kisses when they are having difficulty with their feelings and emotions.

There is no way to avoid aggression in kids. We all feel aggressive at different times. The difference is we know not to act on it. Let’s begin to teach our kids what to do with these feelings as well.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Menu Monday

What does this working mom do for dinner?

  • She organizes menus ahead of time,
  • Shops with a strict budget in mind,
  • And does the best she can.

If you love the thought of bringing your family around the table and are up for the challenge of doing it despite hectic schedules ... enjoy! Cuz here's what's up this week on Menu Monday.

Brunch - Cresent Apple Roll Ups, Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Toast, scrambled eggs & sausage links

Mexican Monday - Homemade Alan's Special
(a fav Mexican restaurant serves this up and while mine is NOT as good it does the trick.. make your favorite rice, I use minute white rice and add a tablespoon of taco seasoning, with grilled chicken pieces smothered in queso cheese)

'Talian Tuesday - Italian Casserole

Whatever Mom Wants Wednesday - Roasted Chicken, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole & corn muffins

Chicken Thursday - Chicken Patty Sandwiches & French Fries

Pizza Friday - we digress from Pizza night for a crock pot meal we can tailgate with as we travel for high school football. Pioneer Woman Dr. Pepper Pork, chips and Sm'ores Bake

Soup & Sandwich Saturday - Buffalo Chicken Tender Sandwiches, potato skins, pumpkin bars

And if you love the idea of getting new recipes or menu planning be sure to check out the link up at

As always thanks for reading! Happy cooking!
p.s. big shout out to the friends who shared tomatoes with us! used it to make salsa!!

p.s.s. be sure to follow me on Pinterest - I keep all my recipes there too!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

My Referee Free Zone

I do a lot of things for my kids. I mean a lot. There aren't enough bullet points on every resume in the world to highlight all I do for my darlings. But I'm not looking for a pat on the back as I'm not the only one. Mothers everywhere know what it's like to carry the heavy burden of parenthood. 
Sometimes, we moms miraculously find pleasure in serving our family. Other days we have to dig deep just to make it through the day and even then we've been known to crack under pressure. But most of the time we set our personal feelings aside and do what needs to be done.
At least, that's why I do when I attend my son's sporting events. No one told me when I gave birth to my bouncy, baby boy fifteen years ago that I would have to lug lawn chairs all over western Illinois, wear school pride colors and eat cold hot dogs out of concession shacks. There's like, a gazillion other things I'd rather be doing but I do it because I'm a mom and I love him. 
In hindsight, perhaps I should have steered my little fella towards the arts or music. At least those venues have air conditioning and proper seating. 
But I digress.
I'm a cook, a taxi cab driver, a Laundromat and personal cheer leader but of all the things that I do for my kids there is one job I will not under any circumstance fulfill. I will not be a referee to their shenanigans. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Menu Monday

I'm Stephanie. I work.
I'm married to Aaron. He goes to school all day and coaches varsity soccer all night. Well, not allllll night.
Together we have 5 kids. The first moved out 3 weeks ago and the other 4? Well they soccer, and football, and practice, and need rides, and contact solution, and allergy medicine and new shoes already and ....


This Tribe of mine keeps me running. Like last week -we didn't eat at home but one night. So Menu Monday had to go out the window and instead we packed lunches and ate cereal.

It wasn't glamorous by any means but we made it work.

This week, while we are busy, we're not too busy to at least grab a bite to eat at home. That's exactly why having a menu works for me. Planning ahead means no matter who has practice, a game or, in my case -has to work at night, something healthy, quick and real will be available.
That's how I love my family.
I keep them nourished.
Here's what my Tribe is eating this week...


Brunch - (enjoyed having company for our family meal this week!) Easy Casserole, Biscuits and Gravy, Fresh Fruit Salad & Pumpkin Doughnuts
Mexican Monday - ground beef Burritos
Italian Tuesday - Lasagna
Whatever Wednesday- Crockpot Roast and veggies
Thursday Momma's Choice (Homemade, Oven Fried) Chicken Fingers & Fries
Soup & Sandwich Saturday - Texas Toast Turkey Melts


Bonus: I made this Chocolate Chip Cake & it was yummy!

orgjunkie likes Menu Monday's too! Check out her linkup here for waaaaay more recipe and menu ideas than one human being can ever use!

All my tried and true recipes are on my Pinterest Board Check it Out!

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