Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I've not been one to suffer from Cabin Fever.

Typically, I rather enjoy the cozy, hot chocolate, cuddle under a blanket season that is winter.
In fact, I would say I embrace all the seasons, finding joy in the variety each brings.

I'm blessed to live in the heart of the Midwest, where spring is beautiful, summer is enjoyable, autumn is bright and winter is white.

And this winter has been very white.
Our first snowfall came a week before Christmas and today, January 29th, it remains on the ground.
As most of the country, we've suffered through:
record lows this winter,
harsh winds,
and a nearly maddening amount of school cancellations.

And for the first time in my life I have a most severe case of Cabin Fever.

Online my tweets and updates have been snarky, during this Polar Vortex Plunge. Being stuck inside with four, grumpy, Xbox un-sharing, endlessly hungry, won't get dressed kids have set my teeth on edge.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Losing Battle

There is something wrong with my kids. I'm not kidding! They have some sort of mental block when it comes to getting dressed everyday.

In our home we operate under a ‘use it up, wear it out, make do or do without’ theology (thank you The NonConsumer). And if, or when, the kids need something new, we first check the attic where we store used, but gently worn, clothes. With five kids and generous friends and neighbors I have procured quite the stash. You see, we're big on hand me downs around here, or more accurately, I'm big on hand me downs. I know my teenagers hate it, but since they want to live in our nice, warm house instead of a cardboard box it is the way we currently roll.

In fact, never ever do we head out for a day of shopping. If they need something, and if it's not in the attic, then I'll look for a deal and bring home what they need. That includes thrift store shopping. And thanks to rapper Macklemore, “Poppin tags” (aka shopping at second hand stores) is not as embarrassing as it used to be.

That's why when Christmas rolled around and the kids got new clothes, stuff they wanted and, yes needed, they were pretty thrilled.

But now we're four weeks away from the holidays and I got two problems. Either A. my kids will only wear what I bought them and nothing else, or B. they absolutely refuse to wear what I purchased. Refuse.  As in, still got the tags and sitting in the dresser drawer abandoned.

Really? It's all or nothing around here?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Inquisitive Minds Wanna Know (or a day in the life)

The following post is BY FAR one of my most commented on posts in the history of To Write a Better Story! It first appeared January 7, 2012. In honor of Throwback Thursday, please enjoy at my the expense of my sanity ....

I just spent 12 hours away from my home on a glorious Saturday so my 12 year old son could participate in his team's basketball tournament. It was 30 miles away. His team had 4 games. We left at 8 a.m. for a 9 a.m. game.
He then played at 1 p.m.
5 p.m.
7 p.m.

It was a tenth of a spot short of torture (see this blog Pigskin Proverb) but I did it.
I did it wearing a Titans t-shirt (really, you need to read Pigskin Proverb)

I packed the van with more treats and beverages than the concession stand could believe.
If I was gonna pay $10 to sit on rock hard bleachers you can be darn sure I'm not paying you for a Snickers bar I can buy myself at half the price.

I'm frugal like that.

Anyway, just for kicks I thought it would be a hoot to keep track of all the questions my adorable, curious, inquisitive 7 year old twins bombarded me with in the course of said day.

my Twitter feed from the tournament

Did I mention I had to drag them to the tournament? (I mean you didn't think all those snacks I was carrying around was for me did you???? C'mon!)

Anyway, God as my witness this is the completed list of questions they asked me from 8 a.m. until we arrived at home at 8:30 p.m.

How did I keep track? I had my Blackberry out all day. I typed in every question they asked. I think it's what kept my sanity.
Not. Kidding.

So enjoy ....

Monday, January 20, 2014

Menu Monday

Hello friends,

I don't know what your week looks like -
actually, I don't know what my week looks like.

With a day off for Martin Luther King it's a long weekend (again) at our house (yeah more time with the kids!)

I'm just trying to make it one day. at. a. time.

I have some new recipes to try this week.
I hope you enjoy them!

Easy Chicken Stir Fry Rice
Mini Taco Bowls & Macho Nachos
Frisco Melt's & French Fries
Taco Bell Copycat Crunch Wrap Supreme
Pasta (with a new white sauce), Spinach Salad & Garlic Bread
Baked Potato Soup
M&M Cookies
Also we are totally digging Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip Banana Tortilla Roll ups
Makes a great after school snack!

I'm linking up with orgjunkie. She had the best Menu Plan Monday link up ever! With hundreds of links. Check it out!

Find all my tried & true, Tribe approved recipes on my Pinterest Board

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Expect the Best!

(This article appears in the Daily Review Atlas as a part of my Practical Parenting series.)

No one knows my kids as well as I do. I know what they look like, smell like and sound like. I know their sleeping and eating patterns. I know the funk that is their breath in the morning and I can tell which of my five children are coming down the stairs by the rhythmic pitter-patter of their feet.

I also know what sock styles they prefer, whether they'll wear blue jeans or sweat pants if given an option, and that vanilla is the flavor of choice when it comes to ice cream.

Doesn’t that make parenting sound grand? If it were only that sweet.

That same intimate knowledge also means I can tell when they are lying by omission, sneaking around and what triggers a temper tantrum. I know they hide food wrappers under their bed and will fake washing their hands while letting the faucet run. They fib about homework and smile angelically when I ask them to turn off their bed light but switch it back on when they think I've gone to bed.

This knowing of my kids gives me a great power. Power than I can use for good or bad. When wielded properly I can harness this information to make my job easier. Alternatively, I can also take what I know about my kids, particularly their weaknesses, and limit their possibilities. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Menu Monday

Welcome to Menu Monday on To Write a Better Story.

As I looked over my schedule this week I saw lots of activities; lots of games.
It could be insane.
I can't change that.
I get this life.
It's a good, robust experience and to that end I want it to be as great as I can make it. That's why I plan.
It's why I love to cook & nourish my family. I love to gather them round our table and care for them.

So in order for that to happen well, I took some time this weekend to prep for what's ahead.

  • I stocked up at the grocery store.
  • Planned a menu.
  • Prepped in the kitchen.

The rest - how it all plays out - well, there's nothing I can do about that. I do my part and trust that the rest will be as it's meant to be.
Here's what's for dinner at our house this week!

On Sunday I made Monday's dinner, fried up all my ground beef & sausage for Tuesday & Friday and prepped hamburger patties for Saturday.

Monday - Belgium Waffles for Breakfast (I mix up all my dry ingredients ahead of time so that it's easy to make it early in the morning)
Enchilada Pie for dinner (a dear friend made this, her mother's recipe for us years and years ago. It has staying in my recipe box ever since. I made it on Sunday so all I had to do was bake it on a busy night)
Recipe: 1 pound ground beef cooked & drained, mixed with 1 can cream of mushroom soup & cream of chicken. Layer tortillas of choice in a greased 9x13 pan. Top with meat mixture. Top with tortilla shells. Top with enchilada sauce of your choice (we go mild) and smoother with shredded cheese. Bake  at 350 for 30 minutes. Serve with lettuce, tomato & in our home; Ranch dressing.

Tuesday - Baked Spaghetti & Garlic Bread

Wednesday - Italian Shredded Chicken Sandwiches (which I make all the time and love having leftovers for recipes coming next week!) & Baked Potatoes

Thursday - Crockpot Roast, Potatoes, Carrots & Blueberry Muffins

Friday - a new pizza recipe I snagged from Pinterest Pull A Part Pizza

Saturday - Frisco Melt Sandwiches

I also had a huge blessing this week - a ham & turkey! You betcha I'm researching some fun recipes for both! Thanks NR!

I enjoy linking up with OrgJunkie and her Menu Plan Monday! If you like menu's, need recipes - whatever go there! It's a HUGE link UP!

Find all my tried & true, Tribe approved recipes on my Pinterest Board

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Monopoly-er Falls to the Monopoly-ee

At our house, if given a choice, each of our five children would stay in their pajamas all day in front of a screen.

But as is tradition in our home, we clear our heritage dining room table off (read about our table through my husband's eyes when he guest blogged for me this spring!) and make/bribe/threaten/cajole them into playing family games complete with phrases like: "AND YOU WILL HAVE FUN!"

Counterproductive, I know.

Nonetheless, during our recent Christmas break, Dad let the twins play their first, totally unassisted, game of Monopoly.

That is - they were on their own. No more cutting the little girls some slack and NO easy trades.
Nope, if they wanted to play, it was about time they put their big girl pants on and joined the every-man-for-himself-do-or-die gamers attitude my loved ones tend to carry.

Welcome to the family.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Menu Monday (Snowed In Edition)

I had a wonderful 2 week menu planned that encompassed Christmas Dinner & Treats, New Years Eve  & Day Celebrations as well as some stick-to-your-bones dinner recipes. In my head, it would be two glorious weeks of not rushing, time out from our busy schedule, winter haven.

In reality - if I have to clean that kitchen one more time ..... !!

And just when I thought I'd go crazy in this house (did you read about my 13th Day of Christmas?) we get a whopper of a snowstorm and school is still closed.

I've been wearing pajama pants so long I don't even know if my 'real clothes' fit me anymore!

For this installment of Menu Monday here's some of my favorite food from the over Christmas break!
Maybe you'll enjoy trying a new recipe, being reminded of a family favorite and gather your tribe around the table for some good ol togetherness!

Oatmeal Scotchies all the other recipes use white & brown sugar, this version (I think is the original) is the best. Even my kids who snub oatmeal cookies will eat these!

Spinach Artichoke Dip my girlfriend brought this Pioneer Woman recipe to New Years Eve party & I loved, loved it! It is also proof why you shouldn't necessarily snub a recipe because of the ingredients. I always overlook anything with feta cheese. But this my friends, is worth every calorie! Yum!

Meatball Subs I almost always keep a bag of meatballs in my freezer, so I opted out of the homemade version but the idea was still a total hit with the kids. Thanks again, Pioneer Woman!

Ham Breakfast Burritos these are always a hit with the family. Sometimes I double the recipe & make 2 pans because they also rewarm well.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ice Cream Snow

We had so much fun making this treat!

4 cups Clean Snow
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup of milk
& my girls added hot coco mix to make chocolate flavor

Mix well & enjoy quickly!

Find all my tried & true, Tribe approved recipes on my Pinterest Board

Saturday, January 4, 2014

On the 13th Day of Christmas Break

On the thirteenth of Christmas break I began to go stir crazy.

At the onset of this extended holiday I had great, romantic expectations for long, lazy pajama filled days.  I mean when my whole family was given two solid weeks off of work and school how could I not make time for a whole lot of well-deserved laziness?

Today, as I pen this, we are almost two weeks in and while I am proud to say I maintained a steady wardrobe of rotating pajama pants I have to confess I'm getting restless. 

Sure we had Christmas and family, presents, fun and food. You bet we did movie marathons, slept in and played a plethora of apps and video games. 

But people, I'm not sure when the last time my kids showered. And I'm not bragging here, it just dawned on me and I'm mortified. 

Initially, lazy days sounded heavenly. Now I fear our brains are turning to mush. No one wants to read. No one wants to brush their hair. Everyone walks around in a state of perpetual lethargy. In fact, I'm pretty sure if the zombie apocalypse includes pajamas and bed heads, be forewarned - it has begun.

Oh dear teachers, I'm sorry. I fear when my kids return to your classrooms they will need special attention to catch up to where your instruction left off in 2013. 

In fact, it has been so long since I've seen their backpacks perhaps I should start looking now in order to collect everything they'll need for that first day back. 

The upside to our grotesque laziness is our shift in eating habits. When my family sleeps in till ten o'clock (or later, much later for the teenagers) we are only awake to eat two meals a day; brunch and dinner. Unless you count popcorn. We have been eating mass quantities every night in front of the television. 

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