Saturday, February 28, 2009

Self Pity or Transformation

Dear Ladies,

Eric told me this week that in the next two months he will only be home for a total of two weeks. He needs to make a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, to check on equipment and parts. It takes a lot of prep for him to make the trip; he has to get updates on his shots, have all his equipment checked, get papers from a doctor and a dentist saying he is in good health, and process paperwork. Plus, he usually has to reassure me he will be fine, but any trip that requires a gas mask, a bullet proof vest, an updated will and gives you danger pay can't be too safe. But nevertheless the trip needs to be made.

When we first moved to Virginia Eric had to take a lot of classes. The classes were two to three weeks long, but he was home for the weekends. One Sunday in church I was very unhappy that he was leaving me again, when God gave me a reality check. I don't remember why people were sharing, but a young mom sitting in front of me went to the front of the congregation. Thorough tears she shared how just a few months before her husband who had cancer had passed away, but God had blessed her with a baby boy to remind her of her husband. My outlook on my situation changed quickly. Who was I to complain? My husband was not even leaving the state and I would see him again in a week. I needed to adjust my thinking.

Most of the times the problems we have in the course of a day are minor. The young mom's testimony quickly reminded me that I really had nothing to complain about. However, most of the time we don't get a direct message like that telling us to quit having a pity party. Sometimes we need a good cry, but we can also get into a rut of complaining. We can even sometimes compete with our friends over whose life is harder. God has good things in store for us every day. We just have to choose to enjoy them. Because God know the tendencies of His children, He encourages us in Scripture to refocus.

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8 (New King James Version)

So, dear ladies, don't let the little things of life bog you down. Decide what is most important and focus on that. We have the ability to train our minds, so if your mind is not filled with good,wholesome and pure thoughts, stop and begin filling your mind with the words of God. Read scripture or repeat verses you have memorized, turn on christian radio, or spend some time in prayer. Your self pity and hopelessness will be transformed.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2
Yours in Christ,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

College of Hard Knocks-Lesson #2

Here is another lessons I learned the hard way. However this time my mistake hurt my child.

Lesson #2- never let your toddler stand up in the back of the grocery cart. Even if it is a deep cart, they can still get hurt. As you can guess, this happened to me. I didn't think much of letting one of the boys stand in the back of the cart. I was right there, so I guess I figured it was ok, plus the stores didn't have those fancy multiple seat carts and it was a trick to keep track of three boys, the oldest being only four. I had let a boy stand in the cart without any problems in the past, but this day that changed. The youngest boy fell out of the back of the shopping cart and hit his head on the concrete floor of Walmart. Other then some tears he was fine and with a bit of comforting, from the mom whose fault it was, he quit crying. So that is how lesson #2 was learned.

Have a great Wednesday Ladies,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

College of Hard Knocks-Lesson #1

Dear Ladies,

My Dad use to say he went to the college of hard knocks. As a kid it took me awhile to understand what he meant; I thought there really was a college called "Hard Knocks".

It is always a good idea to learn from the wisdom of those who have gone before us. We still will learn a lot of lessons the hard way, but we can avoid some of life's difficulties by listening to those who are older. I like to observe friends has they go through phrases of parenting, so I have an idea of what it will be like and what might work or not work when I'm in that phrase.

I thought I would share some lessons I've learned during my years at the "College of Hard Knocks." Lessons are not necessarily in order of importance. Be on the look out for future emails entitled "College of Hard Knocks" lesson #___.

#1-Wear sunscreen on your face in the summer. This summer I had dark areas on my face that made me look like I had not blended my foundation right. I don't like sunscreen and have not been faithful to use it and was not faithful to use my face moisturizer with sunscreen, so I damaged my skin and now that I'm older it is showing. So whip out the sunscreen ladies and preserve your beautiful complexions while you can.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cranberry Orange Scones

These scones are moist and sweet. Sweeter than some folks might like, especially with the orange-sugar topping, but they're just to my taste. And of course, the flavored butter takes them to the next level, taste-wise. If you're looking for the perfect scone recipe for your afternoon tea party, try this one.

Cranberry Orange Scones
3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp grated orange peel
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter
1 cup dried orange-flavored cranberries (if you can't find the flavored kind, regular will do)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup orange juice - high pulp
3 tsp orange cream yogurt

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Mix in orange peel.

Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces, and mix into the flour using your fingers. Rub and mix and mash (with your fingertips) until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add the dried cranberries.

Combine the wet ingredients in a small bowl - orange juice, buttermilk, and yogurt. (Note: the orange cream yogurt was a new item at my grocery store. If you can't find something like it, mix a few drops orange extract into plain yogurt.) Slowly add the liquid to the flour/butter, mixing with a fork until you get moist clumpy dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead about 4-6 times, just enough to bind the dough together, then roll/shape it for cutting.

Instead of the usual "round", I formed the dough into a large log, about an inch and a half thick. I cut a slice about every 3 inches. Then I cut these pieces diagonally to form the triangular scone shape. It was way easier to cut that way, IMO.

Lay the cut scones, about 2 inches apart, on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 400°.

As you can see, mine were a little close together on the sheet. And they weren't all the same size. I'm not a very precise cook. Both these factors made them cook a little unevenly. I had to remove the littler ones at about 12 minutes, and left the bigger ones in for a bit longer. If you're a sloppy cook like me, just test with a toothpick to make sure the centers are cooked. The tops should be golden brown, and the toothpick should come out dry.

Glaze / Topping
While the scones are cooking, mix together 1/2 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar and 1-2 tbsp orange juice. Drizzle this lightly over the tops of the scones as they cool, when they're fresh out of the oven.

Flavored Butter
This is what puts the Max in the Yummy. Mix together 1/2 cup softened butter and 3 tbsp orange marmalade.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Spoiling Just One

Dear Ladies,

I'm sitting at the Ford dealership waiting on my van. We're here for schedule maintenance. I have brought along my youngest boy, Caleb to keep me company.

Years ago my husband and I read and article that contained a simple piece of parenting advice. The article said to always take a child with you when you are heading out to shop, run an errand or other small excursions. Since then, we have tried to put this principle into practice. This doesn't mean I never shop alone. I do. Sometimes I need to go alone, sometimes I want to go alone and sometimes no one wants to go with me.

When we first started do this, my husband was making bi-weekly trips to the dump. No one wanted to go with him, so he began using bribery. Just a side note, bribery has it's place in parenting, and can work very well helping you teach or train a child. Eric began taking the child he forced to go with him to the gas station to pick out a bandy bar. Since our children rarely got whole candy bars this was a real treat for them and before long everyone wanted to go to the dump with dad.

Sometimes moms need the time to go shopping alone and if it is one of those times, then by all means go alone. However if you have had your alone time, then take a child along. For me this allows me the chance to have some alone time with each child. Taking just one child out with you is totally different then taking the whole gang. With just one you have the chance to really focus on them and gives you a chance to talk about subjects they might not have brought up if another child was along.

Eric and I love to spoil our children, so another benefit of taking just one child is, it gives us the chance to spoil him or her. If I have all four children along it can cost me a pretty penny to buy each one of them an ice cream cone at Brusters or even a Coke. If I have only one child I can more easily afford to buy them a treat or two. The children know this and at times they have come along just because they know the chances are good that they will get a treat. A few my children have gone through stages when they just enjoyed being alone with one of us and would tag along. One even told me once on an outing he liked being alone with me.

Weather the child goes with you because you forced him, bribed him, or simply because they wanted to, the time alone with you child will strengthen your bond and create memories. So the next time you're heading out the door to run an errand, whisper a bribed in the ear of one of your kids and enjoy the bless of having a child along.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Re-Arrange the House

Dear Ladies,

We have the making of a band in our house. The two youngest are learning how to play chores on the piano, so they will be able to play worship music. The older two are taking guitar lessons. Occassionally I have seen an older one trying to play along while a younger one plays the piano.

We bought our piano about 3 years ago. It is actually an electric keyboard, but it looks and plays like a small piano. Having taken piano for years I began teaching all of the kids the basics of playing. This year we decided to try lessons for the younger one and the older boys wanted to take guitar lessons.

I never imagin that my kids would be so musical. We bought the piano just to see if anyone had a God given talent for playing. It doesn't appear that we have any budding Mozarts, but we have discovered the joy of music and the enjoyment of playing an instrustments.

Here's a parenting secret for you: Children will use things that they see.

If you want you children to use something or play with a certain item, or work on a project you have to leave it out where they can see it.
For example-our piano and a guitar are in the family room and sometimes someone will set down and just start playing. If we were to put the instruments in different room where they wouldn't seen all the time, they wouldn't get used as much. I have a friend who took this principal to heart and had a drum set in her formal living room for years.

You may have to change your furniture around a little, set up a small table or designate a spot for a project, but having the items/instruments available will motivate your children to use them. Your home wouldn't look like the glossy cover of a decorating magazine, but you will be offering your children opportunities to learn.

Legos, books and drawing pads and pencils are also great items to have available for your children to use. Put these types of things where they can get them by themselves.

Have fun re-arranging your home, then sit back and see what the kids do.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hunting for Chocolate

"You can deprive the body, but the soul needs chocolate."

I didn't really need an excuse to eat chocolate, but this quote almost makes you feel like it is good for you to eat chocolate. We enjoy buying different brands of dark chocolate that we find and taste test them. My children have become chocolate snobs. They prefer the more expensive chocolate, though in a pinch the cheaper chocolate is fine. Being chocolate tasters has given us a family mission. We enjoy picking up chocolate that is different and sampling it. We have found chocolate from different countries, chocolate with various percentages of cacao and chocolates with added fruit or flavors(the oldest boys liked the chocolate with chili pepper).

Our hunt for different varieties of chocolate is like a family mission. It adds an element of fun to our shopping trips. We enjoy the search. We usually only a buy one candy bar to sample, so our mission is fairly inexpensive. Sometimes we will buy multiple bars, each a little different and compare taste. Our mission is a fun way to make memories as a family and any unique activity a family does together makes you and your children feel your family is special and helps create a bond.

A family mission does not have to be chocolate bars, it doesn't even have to be food, it could be anything that you hunt for.

A few ideas might be:
different varieties of apples,
collecting magnets from various places,
collecting smashed pennies(pennies that are smashed a imprinted with the name of a place. We do this also, this is a good vacation collectible)
different kinds of bottled water(Does all water taste the same?)

postcards of places you've visited

varieties of tea
try different varies of ice cream, ice cream places or novelty ice cream at gas stations.

Does your family have anything special they hunt for? If so would you share them with us. I will post all of them on the blog and sent them in a future letter.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Chocolate doesn't have

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Parenting Book Recommendation

Our new church building is almost ready for us. If everything stays on schedule we should be having our first services in April. It has been a long process. Our family has been attending Horizons for 8 years, back then we didn't have a band, we had one pastor and only one service. The church has come a long way in 8 years and with a building of our own we will have so many more opportunities. It will be exciting to finally walk through the doors. Tomorrow I'm going to meet the children's pastor at the building to discuss what furnishings we need to purchase.
This letter I wanted to briefly share with you a series of books that I found helpful as a young mom. The books are titled Your(fill in age)Year Old and are written by Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. IIg. The first book is entitled Your One Year Old:The fun loving, fussy 12 to 24 month old. I'm not sure at what age the series ends. As my oldest was closing in on another birthday or soon after his birthday I would pick up the book from the library. I never truly read one of the books from cover to cover, but would skim through them. The part I was most interested in was the descriptions of typical behavior for that age. For instance when my son was three and started being afraid of everything, I knew from my reading that this is very normal behavior for a three year old; as unique as each child is there are still behaviors that for the most part are typical for all children that age. Knowing little bits of information about child behavior was very helpful to me. I would tell my husband "The book said this would happen." I wasn't as bewilder by my first child's behaviors.
The books in paperback cost under $10 on Amazon, The library system in Stafford/Fredericksburg also has them, I believe they are on the parenting shelf in the children's section.
The Mom Like You website is coming. We want to have a large quantity of information for young moms on the site before we starting inviting people to visit. If you have a few minutes I would love to hear from you. We are looking for easy recipes, recommended reading of any interest to young moms, websites or ideas of things you would like us to include on the website.
Blessings to All,
PS. If you have a topic in future letters you would me to cover, please let me know.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wills and Life Insurance

Dear Ladies

One thing no one enjoys thinking about is the sudden death of a love one. However it is something we needed to think and prepare for. If you have not written a will or gotten a life insurance policy, don't wait.

The most important reason to write a will is to provide guardians for your children. A verbal agreement with friends will probably not stand up in court and your children could become wards of the state or end up with a relative that isn't your first choice.

A large life insurance while your children are still young and living at home is very important. the policy will give you the income you need to remain a stay at home mom. In our case we took out a policy that would give me enough to live on until our youngest was in college. At a minimum you would will probably need over a million dollar policy to be able to continue to live as you are accustom. We also took our a policy for me, because we feel strongly about homeschooling our children we wanted Eric to be able to stay home and continue homeschooling.

This isn't any one's favorite topic to talk about, but it is a very real part of life. The hardest part is deciding who you would want to be your children's guardian, but don't let that keep you from writing a will. You can always change that part of your will at a later date.

Until next time, may the Lord bless you with all the wisdom, love and patience you need to mother your children.

Blessings to all of you,
ps. We are working on a website entitled "a mom like you" We are in need of links, recipes and any thing of interest to young moms. If you have any suggestions we would love to hear from you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Quiche Recipe

I haven't made quiche for my family in a long time, but when I have made it everyone enjoys it. If you use frozen pie crusts, it will only take you a few minutes to put the filling together. It is also easy to make several different types to satisfy everyone. Since most children like eggs and cheese there should be very little complaining. You can be creative with what you add to the egg mixture. A few ideas to try are broccoli, mushroom, bacon,sausage, ham, spinach, green peppers,tomatoes and of course cheese.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening
2to 3 tablespoons cold water
8 slices bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled (1/2 cup)
1 cup shredded cheese (4 oz)
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
4 large eggs
2 cups milk, whipping cream or half-n-half
1/4teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Directions for making pie crust:
1.In medium bowl, mix flour and salt. Cut in shortening, using pastry blender or fork, until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans side of bowl (1 to 2 teaspoons more water can be added if necessary).

2.Gather pastry into a ball.
Heat oven to 425°F.
With floured rolling pin, roll pastry into round 2 inches larger than your pie plate. Fold pastry gently and gently place in quiche dish. Unfold and press firmly against bottom and side. Trim overhanging edge of pastry.
Bake crust for 10 minutes. If crust bubbles, gently push bubbles down with back of spoon.
Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
Sprinkle bacon, cheese and onion( or your similar ingredients of your choice) in pie crust. In medium bowl, beat eggs slightly; add milk, salt and pepper. Pour into quiche dish. (Before pouring filling into crust, put the crust on a cookie sheets. The cookie sheets makes it easier to transfer the quiche to the oven and catches any over flow.
Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Time Saver: Use frozen crust or a ready-to-go refrigerated pie crust.
Prep Time: 25 min
Makes: 6 servings

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Just Say No!!!

Dear Ladies,

The kids and I have a busy week ahead of us. Caleb (son #3) is getting braces put on the upper teeth, we are all taking a field trip to the FBI Academy, and Johanna, Caleb and I are taking a field trip to a Equine Rescue Farm. Johanna is working on a horses' unit study this year, so when I saw this field trip offered, I signed up for it. We don't do many group field trips, so this is an unusual week for us. We also have Bible study, robotics and a college class for the oldest, our regular school work and chores, a MOPS meeting for me, drama class for Johanna and guitar lessons for the two oldest boys. I'm sure some of you probably have a schedule that is even fuller, while some of you may enjoy a quieter week.

I'm also sure that most of you have experienced feelings of being overwhelmed at some point. When your long list of things to do, just gets longer. There have been times that I have felt on the verge of tears, because I had so much to accomplish.

We adopted our daughter at the age of 2. Our boys were four, six and eight at the time, I was homeschooling, we had moved into a house that needed lots of work, I was the director of our children's church program and taught Sunday school. I was overwhelmed. Added to all this the transition for our daughter was difficult, she only wanted me or my oldest son, she cried a lot and was angry plus the church wanted the children to perform a Christmas musical and I was the director. I was REALLY overwhelmed. During all this I went to a homeschool support group meeting. I shared with some of the ladies all I was doing. One member of the group was an older mom and she offered me some simple advise. She said "Melissa, you need to learn how to say NO."

Is learning to say "NO" something you need to do? There are many wonderful actitives to fill our time and we have to choose carefully. Opportunities abound for our children, everything from soccer to cooking lessons. These are all great activities and there is a time when it is good to let your children take part. We can, at times, feel pressured to have all of our kids doing some activity all of the time. Before signing your kids up for a class or sport consider how many hours per week will you need to invest, how will the added stress effect your family and how will the time involved effect the children not participating in the activity. If it is a personal project or activity be sure to ask your husband's opinion, talk to a close friend and consider your current schedule(can it handle another event). Be sure to spend some time asking God to direct your steps.

Lastly say No and don't feel guilty. In the weeks ahead you probably will be glad you didn't take on yet another activity or project. Only by saying no to some activities will you have the opportunity to spend quality time as a family, have the time for your children to just be kids and play, and maybe even have the time to read a good book.

Have a wonderful week.


PS. I'm looking for e-letter topics, do you have any ideas?

Mothering Through the Sand Dunes of Life

"…and they will do well from the treasures hidden in the sand on the shore."
Deuteronomy 33:19

Out in the middle of no where, among the Rocky Mountains are acres of sand. Great Sand Dunes National Park is a fascinating place to visit; it is like being at the ocean except the ocean is missing. Leading up to beautiful soft yellow mountains of sand is a vast, expanse of smooth, flat, sandy ground. Some of the flat ground leading up to the dunes is easy to walk through as the sand is compressed; other places the sand is soft making walking more difficult. The National Park Service is unable to create a map of trails, because the sand dunes are constantly shifting.
During our visit to the park, the thought occurred to me that the adventure of motherhood is like exploring sand dunes. Some days mothering is easy, like walking on firm sand. Other days are tough, no major obstacles, just harder and physically exhausting, like walking through soft sand. While other days are like climbing a mountain of sand. Difficult!
We've all had difficult days. You wake up two hours late; the baby slept through her 6am feeding. Even though you enjoyed the extra sleep, you've missed that small window of time you had to take a shower. The day doesn't get better. The toddler and the baby both wake up cranky, with stuffy noses and sore throats. After an hour wait the doctor tells you they have a virus and it will just will need to run its course. Back at home you remember there isn't anything for lunch, because today was supposed to be grocery shopping day. After feeding the kids cereal you begin the process of getting everyone down for a nap. With nap time under way, you quickly clean up the breakfast dishes, begin a load of laundry, take out the trash and pick up the Duplos the toddler scattered all over the living room and kitchen. Feeling exhausted you decide to lay down for a 10 minute power nap; as you head touches the pillow, crying is heard from the bedroom. You feel like you have been climbing a mountain of sand,never gaining more them a few steps forward before sliding back to where you started, and your day is only half over.
In Deuteronomy 33:19 Moses pronounces a blessing over the tribe of Zebulun. He declares that they will feast on "treasures hidden in the sand." Our children are treasures, but on very difficult days we need to remember to bend down and dig. Digging in the sand isn't hard and often we don't have to dig deep before we find an unexpected treasure or uncover a blessing. Maybe you had a few extra minutes of cuddling time with your preschooler, maybe your toddler said something that brought a smile to your face, or maybe
Visitors to Great Sand Dunes National Park are encouraged to enjoy, explore, and learn during their visit. We need to do the same as mothers; we need to enjoy the mundane days for their quietness, learn from the difficult days, and explore on the sunny days. We need to discover anew the treasures of our children. Motherhood is a fascinating journey, one in which we can grow and change like the shifting sand of the national park

Copyright 2008 Melissa Steckmann.

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