Sunday, December 29, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!
We have been so blessed this year and are enjoying being a family of five!! We had a wonderful Christmas with Tad's family, and all of his siblings were in town on Christmas day! I miss my family in Ohio and other places, but I look forward to seeing them this summer!!
Tad has had a change of jobs this past year and enjoys delivering mail for the United States Postal Service. He practically runs all day long delivering mail and has lost quite a bit of weight doing it! He has done several races this last year, including his first ultra-marathon in Arizona!! He finished 40 out of 50 miles, when he injured his IT band. I was so proud he made it so far!! He is also now the worship leader of our praise and worship team at church, and he is doing a great job!!
I have been busy homeschooling Madelynn, who is in second grade this year, and Judah, who has started preschool! I also teach Maddy's class once a week for a group called Classical Conversations, which is a Classical, Christan model of education and we learn a History Timeline, History sentence, World Geography, Latin, Science, English, and Math, as well as Fine Arts, Presentations, and Science Experiments. The kids love it! And it is such a good opportunity for them! I also enjoy working out, running, cooking (as always), and spending time with family!!
Madelynn is in second grade this year and is doing great in all her subjects. She has become quite the reader and also takes piano lessons (from me!) and swimming lessons at the YMCA. She has passed all of her swimming classes and is about to move on to Intro to Swim Team! We are so proud of her!! The wheels in her head are always turning and she is always asking questions, trying to figure things out, and trying to come up with solutions to problems. She is also a huge giver, and spends a lot of time making things for other people. I love those things about her! She is full of energy and spunk!!

Judah is doing preschool this year and is doing a great job. He is very smart! He just turned 4 on Christmas Eve! He does a preschool class once a week during Classical Conversations and is learning so much!! He loves art, wrestling with his dad and uncles, playing with his sisters, playing computer games, and cooking with Mommy. He is such a joy and is still my little cuddler. He also has been doing swimming lessons and has come to really enjoy them!!
Ruth will be 2 at the end of February and we love her so much!! She has been such a fun addition to our little family!! I can't believe how much she is doing at this age, but I think when they have older siblings, they learn to do more at an earlier age. She pretends with the kids, will lay down with a blanket when they are playing doctor, crawl when they are playing kitties, or call Madelynn "Mommy" when they are playing house!! It is so cute to watch them all play!! She has a similar personality to Maddy: loud, outspoken, very opinionated, and a ham!!

Well, we hope you enjoyed some of our funny family photos, and that you all had a great Christmas and will have a wonderful New Year!! We are so blessed to have our little family, and wonderful friends, and of course, salvation, blessings, and redemption through Jesus Christ our Lord. God Bless you all as we enter 2014!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

'Tis the Season (with a cookie recipe!)

The mailman came to help decorate our tree :)

Well, it's that time of year again. Time for all the hustle and bustle, getting a million little (and big) things done, and enjoying the holiday festivities that only come around this time of year. I love it, but I'm always ready for a break from the busyness of the holiday. I do enjoy all of our holiday traditions, and also doing new things each year to make it fun and different. Some of our yearly traditions include doing our advent calendar with candy for each day, making cookie plates to give to our neighbors and friends, decorating Christmas cookies with the kids, Christmas coloring books, decorating the tree as a family, watching Christmas movies, having Christmas pictures taken to go in our Christmas card, and having biscuits and gravy on Christmas day with Tad's family. There are lots
 of other things we do different each year that make it different and fun for us and the kids. It makes it so much more fun to have kids and to see their excitement over all the fun facets of the holiday season. We have chosen not to do Santa with the kids, but they know who he is and still enjoy watching movies about Santa and me teasing them about Santa bringing them gifts. We have just chosen not to tell them that Santa is real.

This year, we also have a cookie exchange at our church. While I have heard of these, I don't remember ever being a part of them so it will be fun. We actually have to make 6 dozen cookies for ours - 5 dozen to be shared with others (to take home) and one dozen to put out to enjoy at our women's Christmas party. And I am so proud of myself that I got all my cookies made almost a week in advance!! So I am going to give you the recipe for the cookies I made out of's new magazine!! I am so excited that they have a magazine since that is my favorite website to get recipes off of! So the recipe might seem a little confusing, because they take one of their top-rated recipes and then they test it in their own kitchen and make extra suggestions next to the original posted recipe. So I will post it that way, and then, after all that, I will give some of my own suggestions.

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup margarine, softened (from Allrecipes kitchen: Use butter, not margarine, for the best flavor)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup molasses

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt, and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream together margarine and 1 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, then stir in water and molasses. Gradually stir sifted ingredients into molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut-sized balls and roll them in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. (From Allrecipes kitchen: We got a yield of thirty 2 3/4 inch cookies.) Place cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten slightly.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

143 calories per cookie

So these cookies turned out pretty good, and taste pretty much like a gingerbread cookie, so if you like cookies with all those strong flavors, you will like these. I will say, the dough was really hard to work with, so what I found is that if you refrigerate the dough for at least 10 minutes or so, you can work with it and get it shaped into a ball and rolled in the sugar without it being all stuck to your hands and really messy. Once I figured that out (like on the last batch!!), it was much easier. It really was a great cookie to make for a cookie exchange too, because it was fairly easy and a tasty, popular option to give out. I think I will also make this one as one to put on our cookie plates for friends and neighbors. Or I might just do gingerbread men so the kids can decorate them. We'll see!
So, as I love this time of year, I also am stressed out with all there is to do. But after these next few days, of scheduled events every night, we are almost totally free, so that will be nice, and less stressful.
Maddy helping to decorate the tree at church!
Another highlight from this year is that we got a chance to perform at our annual homeschool group Christmas talent show. Usually, Maddy would display something she had made, but this year she wanted to play the piano (like one of the first songs she has learned!) and she did great! Also, our family sang "Jesus loves me" while I played the guitar and sang. It was so precious to this momma's heart! I have always wanted a singing family, so this is just the beginning!
I hope you all have such a wonderful year of making Christmas memories and starting or continuing beautiful traditions with your families. Here are some links to some previous Christmas posts I have done in past years, with an advent reading schedule if you are interested!!

Cookie Plates
Loving Christmas Break
Coconut Snowballs and Coffee Filter Snowflakes
Homemade Gifts: Christmas Sweets in a Jar
Time for Christmas (with Advent Readings)
Christmas Festivities

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Turkey Trot

On Thanksgiving day, Tad and I ran a 5k in our town called the Turkey Trot. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to plan to run a race on the day that I do tons of cooking, but I decided I really wanted to, and that it would be good to get a workout in on the day where I would stuff myself with food! The weather was forecasted to be very cold that morning, but I was still in. It was kind of weird, because the night before, I was in cooking mode, up late finishing my pecan pie and pumpkin cinnamon rolls. Then I was up early making crockpot stuffing and getting other things together. Then I had to switch gears and get in my race clothes and get ready to go.
I haven't been running very much, because Tad is gone so much and it is just easier to get my workout in at home during the day. So the Monday night before the race (the race was on Thursday), I went to the Y and ran a 5k on the treadmill, just to practice and run since I hadn't in awhile. I did a 5k in about 35 minutes, and I wasn't happy with that time. It's hard to gauge it on a treadmill, and how fast/slow to start running. I always get nervous and don't want to start too fast because I don't want to burn out and have to stop. I was happy to get through it without stopping though. So my goal for the 5k was just to finish without stopping (which is always my goal for a 5k; I have run them enough to know I can do this) and to run it in under 35 minutes. I think my first 5k that I remember I ran in 36 minutes, the next one was 34 minutes, and I don't remember my time for my next one.
It was freezing cold the morning of the race. We wore layers, and didn't want to shed them until right before the race. Tad's brother spent the night so that he could watch the kids for us; it was too cold to have them out. So it was a nice, fun time to get out together! I have always run better in the cold, so it felt good, but I was struggling mentally. Tad and I talk about how running is so mental, as well as physical. You really have to push yourself through, and talk to yourself while running, because your body tries to tell you it's tired, or to walk. Tad was having the same struggle, though we weren't running together. He is much faster!
I have realized that I have to evaluate if I feel like stopping because my legs are tired, because it's hard to breath (always a struggle when I workout or run, maybe exercise induced asthma?), or just because I am feeling lazy and want to walk. But even if I can pinpoint which one it is, I still have to push through it, and keep running.
When I hit the halfway mark, I looked at my watch and was at about 15:30, and thought "oh my gosh, if I keep this same pace I could finish in 30 minutes? What???" But it actually made me feel tired thinking about that, but I kept pushing through and trying to keep a good pace. It felt good to pass people, and to keep going even though I felt like walking. To keep talking to myself and get myself through, knowing that I was getting closer to the finish line. Tad finished in about 20 minutes, which is really good for him. He was hoping to get close to one of his first place times from a long time ago, which was 19:45 or something like that. He got really close, and finished 9th overall, out of over 200 people. So proud of him!
When Tad and I run the same race, he comes back to find me and to help me finish the race. He just kind of paces me at the end, when I'm tired, and to remind me how close the finish line is! I look forward to this towards the end of the race! I finished in 31:07, and I was completely floored to set a new personal best!! I know this isn't a super fast time, but for me, it was my fastest, and I was so pleased with it! Especially since I hadn't really trained for the race, per say, though I workout 6 times a week so maybe that helped with the stamina to keep up a faster pace. I was so happy with my time!! And glad I had decided to do the race on such a busy day!! So we finished, went home, and packed up all our Thanksgiving food and went over to Tad's parents house to finish cooking and to spend our Thanksgiving day. It was a good day, and that race pretty much made my day!! I am so glad we could do it together!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Freezer Cooking

Here is the link for this Ham and Potato soup!

I have not done much freezer cooking, but when I have, it is so productive. There was one day in particular that I planned about a dozen things to make and freeze, and it was so nice over the next couple of weeks to have things already prepared in the freezer that I could just pull out, thaw, and cook. Here is a list of the things (that I can remember!) from that day, and some other suggestions of things to make and freeze:

Italian Pasta Bake
Gluten Free cupcakes
Meat mixture for Meat-Stuffed Potatoes
Spaghetti Sauce
Easy Breakfast Casserole
Apple Bread (Or any kind of bread or batter, really!)
Yogurt Pops - There are more fancy ways to do it, but we just froze vanilla yogurt, or a mix of strawberry and vanilla yogurt for an easy, healthy snack in the summer for the kids (and the parents, too!)
Sloppy Joes
Apple Butter
Cookie Batter
Muffin Batter
Mexican Pizza

Here is the link for this breakfast casserole, which is different from the one mentioned above.

Another idea, is the idea of cook once, eat twice. Which basically means you cook a double portion of a meal, and freeze the other half, since you are already going to the trouble of making it, and prepping everything, you may as well make more and have another meal already made. And to avoid getting sick of stuff, just stick it in the freezer and eat it a few weeks later. No one will remember :)

On Tuesdays when I teach for Classical Conversations, and then we have swim lessons that night, and I am super exhausted and always have to grab a nap...those are days when I never have the energy to cook. So I always try to have something planned for those days, whether it be in the crockpot, or something that is already in the fridge, ready to be cooked. Because if I don't have something planned, then there is the tendency to go out for dinner, or I end up waiting until the last minute to figure out what to make, and then it is too stressful.

Here are some links to websites that have blog posts about freezer cooking, or whole sections of their blog dedicated to freezer cooking!

Heavenly Homemakers: I love this website right now! She provides tons of recipes and lots of her blog has posts about how to make things and freeze them, how to work ahead in the kitchen, how to plan ahead for breakfasts, meal planning, and healthy recipes. She also has a blog post about freezing muffin batter so that breakfasts can be easy and premade, but the cooked muffins don't dry out in the freezer. She also has cookbooks available for purchase! I frequent her blog often!
Pioneer Woman: Of course, my beloved Pioneer Woman. She had a whole episode on her show about freezer cooking, and how she uses all the stuff she packs into her freezers. Check out the link for her blog post!
Food Network: Check out this link for some options from the Food Network on different kinds of food to cook ahead, and freeze, including Christmas cookies!!
Allrecipes: They don't have much on this website, but a few recipes and videos for some freezer options.
Organized Home: Has a whole section dedicated to Freezer Cooking and how to cook once, and eat for a month!
Money Saving Mom: Has a lot on how to do freezer cooking as well as crockpot freezer recipes!! Now that I will have to check out!!
Once a Month Meals: Their whole website is dedicated to freezer cooking, they have gluten-free options, and you can pick which ingredients you want to use!! Including no-cooking prep days!!

Well, I hope these links and recipes give you some ideas and get you thinking of how you can make things easier and more practical in the kitchen! I love to cook, but I know not everyone does, and even though I do, I don't always feel like it. Or life is just busy for that season, and I don't have the time or energy to get in there every night to prepare a meal from scratch. So this method of freezer cooking lets me decide when I have free time, and then use it to make my life easier during the hectic times. And as always, leave other (kind!) suggestions or other links in the comments section! Happy cooking!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Some Simple Homemaking Tips (for Homeschooling Moms)

I have found that the stay-at-home mom with young children who also homeschools is a pretty rare find. Especially in my situation where I also teach Classical Conversations once a week. Our lives are pretty busy. I thought I had a lot to keep up with when I was a stay-at-home mom, but when we added homeschooling, I felt overwhelmed because I replaced my morning chore time with schooling. And then when I added weekly teaching to the mix, it became even crazier because then my evenings were often busy with prepping for that. And now that Judah is doing preschool...well, you get the idea. It is busy. And keeping up with housework isn't as easy as it used to be. People might think that since I am home all the time, I must have so much time to keep up with things around the house. But when your day is full with homeschooling 2 kids and the kids are home all day to keep making messes, it is hard to keep up.
Believe me, it is a huge blessing that I get to stay home with my kids. That I get to be the one to teach them to read, about historical events, do bible time with them and get into important, deep conversations about God that matter and often end up with me sharing what God is doing in my own life. And I love staying home. And I love all things domestic. Well, maybe not all things, but a lot of things!! And over the years, I have learned a few tips, though I would in no way consider myself an expert in the domestic department. Other blogs and moms and people with far more experience than myself have better systems and ideas, but I'm just sharing some things I have learned in my own journey, and things that I have found that work for me. Some things I have shared before, and some things you may have heard before, so just take what you can from my experiences!!
1. Make a weekly chore chart. If I can focus on 1 main chore for the day, with schooling and everything else I need to do, that is enough for me. Of course I have other responsibilities during the day, but I usually have just one main thing I need to get done for the day.
Mondays - Laundry/Prep CC for Tuesday
Tuesday - off/Teach CC
Wednesday- Laundry, Office Day (Finances, Account)
Thursday - Bathrooms, mirrors, mopping (if this gets done, it's a miracle!)
Friday - Laundry
Saturday- Clean out Car, Outside chores, Kitchen Day/Cooking Day, Lessons Plans for kids for following week
Sunday - Relax with Hubby/Family, Prep CC
2. Get up earlier than your kids. I have written about this a lot. And I am not always good at this. But I have found that when I get up early, I can get a lot accomplished before my kids wake up, and I know what is on the agenda for the day. If I can spend quiet time seeking the Lord, make my to-do list, look at/balance my checking account, check if I need to pay any bills, check the calendar and know what I am making for dinner that night, then I feel like I have started my day off right. I don't feel so overwhelmed when the kids wake up because I already know what my day looks like. I have found that when I get up when my kids get up, I am grumpy because they are demanding different breakfasts and I am flustered because I want to read and relax with my coffee and my quiet time, and I do not get much of that once they are awake.

3. Exercise in the morning: for homeschooling/exercising moms: I have found this new discovery lately. I would always do school in the morning and exercise during the kids nap time. But lately, Ruth started waking up about an hour into her naptime, and I was afraid that my workout was waking her up. So I started having Maddy "watch" the little ones and play while I worked out in the morning and then I would start school with Maddy after that, and finish up during nap time if necessary. Then, my nap time was free to do other things quietly, which wouldn't wake up Ruth (though she has just been taking short naps anyways) and it has become a true rest time for me. And my workout got done in the morning when I had more energy!! This has been a huge, amazing change for me!
4. Work quickly!! I read this on another blog once, and though it seems trivial, it makes a lot of difference if you apply it!! When you get a little block of time, or a lot, just do those mundane tasks quickly! Fold laundry quickly! Scrub dishes quickly! Wash mirrors quickly!! And save yourself some time!
5. Enjoy your daily mundane tasks. Let them be your "break." When you are alone scrubbing dishes at night, take a deep breath, and enjoy the time. Listen to music. Pray. Think of others you could bless. It doesn't have to be a "waste of time" and something that we must do over and over and keeps needing done. It can feel like that. But if we offer up even the smallest of tasks to the Lord, or enjoy them, then we can have joy in them and even worship at the same time!
6. Pick up every night. Now, the house doesn't have to be spotless every night, but I have found that I like to wake up to a clean house. If you wake up to piles of junk all over the floor and can barely walk around, it doesn't exactly start your day off right. So take those extra few minutes every night and pick up the toys, the dirty laundry, the clean laundry, and trash, and just get the main areas clear. It doesn't have to have that "people are coming over" look, but just a general picking up can make a huge difference.

7. Have different "clean up" times with the kids. For me, I like to have a clean up time before naps (cleaning up from the morning play), before Daddy gets home from work (so he isn't trudging through piles and is blessed when he gets home), and before bed. This is good for Mommy's sanity, is a good time to teach little ones about cleaning up after themselves (Mommy shouldn't have to clean up after their messes all the time, especially if they are old enough to clean up after themselves), and is good to do throughout the day so that it doesn't all pile up for a huge mess at the end of the day. Make it fun! Sing songs, make it a race with a reward at the end, or make a chore chart for the kids with a prize at the end of the week. Make it fun for them so they don't grow up resenting clean up time because it always involved Mom yelling and them getting punished. I have found they do much better and have much better attitudes when we make it fun in a fun atmosphere!!
8. Give your kids age-appropriate jobs to help around the house. This is a big perk with homeschooling. They learn what it looks like to take care of a home, how much work it really is, and how to help. They are home all the time, so they can help with many different aspects of what needs done around the house, and maybe appreciate how much Mom does!! Maddy is 7 and she unloads the dishwasher (and Judah has started to help by handing her things and she puts them away), makes her bed, picks up her room and other rooms (kid messes), feeds the dogs, folds washcloths, helps take care of Ruth, and then helps with other stuff when I ask her. Judah is almost 4 and he has started making his bed, can put silverware away, helps put his own stuff away, and is learning to help with baking. Have them help you, and teach them the value of hard work, and taking care of their own things and messes.
9. Do what you can ahead of time. Do freezer cooking when you can, try to make double batches of dinners often, make food ahead of time when entertaining, use your crockpot, do some cleaning at night when the kids aren't awake, get school prep done all before that week starts (make the lesson plan, make copies, write out handwriting, get everything in order), and think ahead 1-2 weeks at a time when you are making grocery/store lists so you don't have to go back to the store because you forgot about birthday parties, potluck, entertaining, or a cookie exchange.

10. Have relaxing time for you. I think this is so important for the homeschooling mom. We are home a lot. We are with our kids a lot. And we need breaks!! Take those opportunities to go to bible study, out to coffee with a friend, to a workout class, to take a bath, read a book at night, go to a coffee shop alone, go shopping at night alone (I have been going shopping after the kids go to bed so I can whip through those stores without kids interruptions), and plan date nights with your hubby!! Make it a priority for yourself to get up early and quietly seek the Lord. All these things are so important so we can keep our sanity and be the best mothers we can be for our children! We are not defined by our role as a mother. We are God's children. We are individuals. And this time of craziness with young children will not last forever. In our weakness, we need to rely on the strength that comes from the Lord, and remember we are not in this alone. We are not superwoman!! We cannot do it all, sign up for every group and lesson, go to every event, and still remain sane. Learn when to say no, and when your family needs a break!!
And just remember that during this season, your house will never be perfect. That is one reality that I probably still need to accept. And that is ok. If we are teaching our kids to clean up after themselves, and the responsibility that what they get out, they will put away, and we are involving them in the clean-up process, then one day, we won't have so much cleaning to do. We will have little helpers who have learned to clean up what they have gotten out (hopefully)! I hope some of these tips have been helpful, and please if you have any more, leave them in the comments section below!!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fajita Seasoning

Have you ever been trying to come up with what to make for dinner and you have some meat, and decide to make tacos? But you don't have any taco or fajita seasoning? Well, I have had that problem, and I also think that regular taco seasoning has some wheat in it, which Maddy can't have. So I found this amazing mix of spices for a fajita seasoning mix, and I have made it a couple of times, and it is excellent! I have used it for chicken and beef, and I think the beef I have used is called "carne asada" or something like that. It is at Aldi's and is already cut into slices, and the fajita seasoning is amazing on it! This mix also has corn starch in it, so it adds a thickness to the meat, and comes out absolutely delicious!! It makes about 4 servings (equivalent to 4 store-bought packages), so you can use some, and store it away for the next time you need it!

Fajita Seasoning
via Pinterest via Jonesin' For Taste

4 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. paprika
4 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. chicken bouillon, or 3 crushed chicken bouillon cubes
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cumin

Just put all of the ingredients into an airtight container and shake until mixed. About 2 1/2-3 tablespoons of this mixture is equivalent to 1 store-bought package, and the blogger said she uses about 3 heaping tablespoons per one pound of meat. I did the same, and it turned out wonderful!! And this is also gluten-free, so you don't have to worry about anything being in there that your gluten-intolerant friends and family can't have!! If you click on the above link for her blog, you can also get the recipe for taco seasoning as well. Enjoy!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving food (and Gluten-Free Options)!

If you have read my blog before, or know me, you know that I love to cook, and I absolutely love this time of year where baking and cooking abound, and Thanksgiving week is especially fun and delicious. I thought I would share what I'm making this year, and perhaps some links to things I have made in the past if you wanted to check those out. I did make the turkey about 3 times in the past, and have fond memories of it, but now that we live near my in-laws, my MIL cooks the turkey in her huge roaster so I don't have to do that part. I do kind of miss it, but I also love making lots of sides, so it's fun!! This year I am making:

I usually make the stuffing, and I usually try different recipes. This year I am excited to try a new recipe that is in the slow cooker, and thought that would be one I wouldn't have to fuss with closer to eating time. So here is the link for that from, my go-to for recipes!!
Corn Souffle
I have blogged about this recipe before. It is a super old recipe that is out of our old church cookbook from when I was little, and my grandma has made it for years and years, and is a fond childhood memory. It is so good, that I make 2 so that we have enough for everyone, plus leftovers for dinner! It is that good!!

Cranberry Sauce
I have also blogged about this cranberry sauce. I don't think there are too many who love cranberry sauce, besides my husband and I, at our Thanksgiving, but we love it, and this recipe is oh, so good. I usually only choose recipes from that have lots of reviews and really high ratings, and when I found this recipe the other day, it didn't have the most reviews or the highest ratings, but we love it, and I make it every year. So that's good enough for me. The spices in it are amazing.
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
This is a recipe I got from my dearest friend in Chicago, Emily, and I have made it several times. I actually don't like cinnamon rolls, but these pumpkin cinnamon rolls, with yeast and pudding mixtures, among other ingredients, are to-die-for!! I am excited to make them, and eat them!! I am making them for the morning, while we are cooking thanksgiving food!! Here is the link. And here also is the link to the recipe on my blog.

I have made this applesauce recipe for years because I just love the combination of cinnamon and cloves in it! My family loves it, and it is nice because it is one thing that can be made well before Thanksgiving. You could even make it a month before, and freeze it!! Also, it's on my blog.
Broccoli Cheese Casserole
While I have never made this casserole before, and this usually wouldn't appear on our Thanksgiving buffet table, I thought it sounded good and I know Maddy loves this kind of thing. I'm using GF creamy mushroom soup (see below) for this so she can have it.

Pecan Pie
Oh, the blessed pecan pie. I never even remember having one until I was an adult. And then realized I didn't know what I was missing. I have really only ever made Pioneer Woman's pecan pie, because it is easy and always turns out great!! I make her Perfect Pie Crusts ahead of time, freeze them, and then use them for my pies. They always turn out great, too!! Here is the link for the pie and the crusts.
Crustless Cranberry Pie
I am hoping that this pie will become a new, easy favorite. It looks delicious on and I'm not making it because it is crustless (it isn't GF), I'm making it because I love cranberries, it is easy, it had very high ratings on AR, and it looks like cake!!
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie
I am not even sure which recipe to be exact I will be using for my standard pumpkin pie. Probably something from AR that has high ratings, lol. The key is just to make a regular 'ole pumpkin pie that Maddy can enjoy, since she loves them!! And with the GF pie crust mix that I am getting from Braum's!!

Gluten-Free Thanksgiving
Since this will be Maddy's first Thanksgiving with her gluten intolerance, I have to be creative and still make it special for her and have her favorite Thanksgiving food! She doesn't like stuffing so I don't have to worry about that. She can already have the turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and applesauce. I am also making a broccoli-cheese casserole with gluten-free creamy mushroom soup that I found at a local grocery store! I will be bringing one of her GF rolls that I get from Walmart. For dessert, I am making her favorite, Pumpkin Pie, with some GF pie crusts that I found the mix for at Braum's, which is carrying a whole line of GF products now. I will also probably pick up some GF cinnamon rolls or donuts for her for that morning, since I am making Pumpkin cinnamon rolls for everyone else. And for the gravy, I am going to bring some corn flour to add to the gravy so she can have some thick, GF gravy. So she should be good with all of that food!

Well, I hope you all have a very Merry Thanksgiving, and are looking forward to all of the family-togetherness, food, and gratitude that goes along with it!!

 "in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18



Friday, November 8, 2013

Workout Regimen

Well, I thought I would share some of the workout routines that I do, just if anyone was curious as to what I do for my 6 day/week workouts. When I first started working out after I signed up for my weight loss accountability group, I was using the workout dvds that I already had, i.e., Tae Bo, P90X, Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred, and maybe some others. Naptime became my personal time that I loved! I was always a napper, and always felt like I needed a nap daily. But once I realized that naptime was really the best time for me to workout, I came to really enjoy my time to myself and doing something that was fun! I also would throw in the occasional Zumba workout at the Y or just going to the Y to run on the treadmill or do the elliptical. I also love running and would get out there more often to run 3-4 miles on the trail behind our house.
After about 2 months of our weight loss group (originally, it was suppose to be a 60 day program, but we all were enjoying it and benefitting from it so much, we decided to keep it going!), I was so excited to order a Challenge Pack through, which is the company that our Coach in our group works for. They have products such as Insanity, P90X, Combat, and TurboFire. My birthday was coming up, and for my birthday I wanted to get a Challenge Pack that included Shakeology (an amazing, super healthy chocolate shake with superfoods and vitamins) and a workout series called Combat. It is a Les Mills program who is also the creator of Body Pump if anyone is familiar with that. It was an amazing 60 Day program that really shaped and toned my body. It was pretty hardcore, but the results were worth it. I still love it; it is really fun and the variety kept me wanting to keep doing it, since it comes with 7 different workouts.
 A little bit after that was done, I ordered another Challenge Pack that is called TurboFire and that one hasn't been my favorite, just because it is more "dancy" and fast paced, and I'm used to more hardcore boxing and "manlier" type stuff. I know that sounds weird, because I'm not a tomboy in any way, shape, or form, but I just got used to the other types of workouts with P90X, Tae Bo, and Combat, so that's what I was used to. But it is still a very high intensity workout and leaves you dripping and having burned a lot of calories. And a lot of people really like it.
I have been longing to get out on the trail and run, but it is hard to squeeze that in with the hours that Tad works and now with it getting dark so early and being so busy!!!
As of now, I mix up my daily workouts with the dvds that I have. I will mix them up depending on what kind of workout I want for that day, focusing on cardio, arms, abs, super hard cardio, HIIT, or the days where I just don't have much time but want to get a good workout in. This week I was very sore from a hard workout, so I tried to do some cardio without much strength in it, to rest my muscles. I recently tried a new workout class at the Y called RIPPED which is awesome, and I have been trying to get back to that class. Lots of intervals, strength, endurance, high intensity cardio...right up my alley!! And my friend who teaches it does an awesome job!! So for anyone in Enid, go take RIPPED with Autumn!!
I have taken before and "after" pictures. I wouldn't consider right now my after, just my "mid-point" where I can see huge change in pictures, but I'm definitely not where I want to be. But I have been amazed with the results of the definition in my arms, legs, and even in my stomach (the flab in my stomach, ha ha). I can even see a difference in my face from last year! And I love putting away my "fat clothes" and digging through old clothes that I never thought I would wear again. Love that. So overall, I am quite happy to see the results that working so hard for months has created. But I am disappointed in myself that I haven't had the same kind of discipline with eating as I did at first, which is a huge reason that I lost the weight. Also, I have a friend (Lori, see below for a link) who dropped 60 pounds in 6 months without working out, so I truly believe that eating healthy is like 95% the key to losing weight. But I also love to workout, know it's super good for my body, and love the toning I have gotten from doing it. And maybe I would have lost more weight but the muscle I have gained has prevented me from losing the weight, but I am happy with the muscle! So I will leave you with some links for some different things I have mentioned here if you are interested in anything that has helped me on my weight loss journey! And feel free to comment below if you have used anything that has worked for you regarding weight loss/exercise/getting healthy!!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Recent Weight Loss

Tad and I after finishing a 4th of July 5k

I have struggled with my weight for years, but especially since having Madelynn 7 years ago. For years, I lived in a state of disappointment with myself for keeping that weight on, and I was quick to complain about how I felt about how I looked, but slow to do anything about it. How much time and energy I wasted just complaining about it when I could have just done something about it! But it is and always has been a battle of the mind. It is always harder to choose those healthy options and to sacrifice than to just reach for the bag of chips and go to town. But I needed something to change.
The huge (God-send) thing I needed to start my change was an online support group through Facebook. I reached out to a friend who had a Facebook page about being healthy and fit. She is a Beachbody consultant and I didn't have the money to get one of their programs but she decided to start a free accountability group as long as we committed to logging our food through My Fitness Pal, working out (15 minute minimum) 5 times a week, and we held each other accountable through our Facebook page and commented on at least one post for that day. Well, let me just tell you that that accountability was just what I needed! I was hesitant and scared that I had just committed to those things, but the results were so worth it. Since April, I have been working out 6 days a week, logging my food (not as regularly, but that is the goal), part of my accountability group, and to date have lost about 15 pounds. I still have about 15 pounds to go, and the process is slow because my eating hasn't always been the best, but it is progress. And it feels so good to accomplish that.
The feel after a workout. Carving out that time to do something good for your body. The amazing toning I am starting to see all over my body that is paying off visibly! Having to find new, smaller clothes that I haven't fit into for years, and putting away the big clothes. Something I didn't think would happen. The support of our group; and this group of ladies has become like family. They are believers in a big God and we encourage each other and it has become about way more than even our weight loss. We have become a group that can share anything that is going on in our lives and we can have instant prayer warriors at our fingertips! It is truly of God!

This past summer, I also had a chance to read "Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food" by Lysa Terkeurst. I had never heard of her before, but apparently she has written other great books and has a radio ministry. Her book was really good! I had never read a book about food before, especially one having to do with God. It really made me think, and I had the privilege of finishing it on our family vacation and passing it on to my aunt! I love passing on books that I have read and love to other people! Here are some quotes from the book:

"It is good for God's people to be put in a place of slight desperation. Only then can we be empty enough and open enough to discover the holiness we were made for."

"When we are stuffed...we don't recognize the deeper spiritual battle going on."

"Satan wants to keep us distracted by chasing one temporary filling after another. God wants us to step back and let the emptying process have its way until we start desiring a holier approach to life."

"The gap between our frail discipline and God's available strength is bridged with nothing but a simple choice on our part to pursue this holiness."

"Moment by moment we have the choice to live in our own strength and risk failure or to reach across the gap and grab hold of God's unwavering strength."

"When we're defeated and stuck in issues of the flesh, it's really hard to fully and passionately follow hard after God."

"I can make the choice to identify my shortcomings and, instead of using them against myself, hand them over to Jesus and let Him chisel my rough places. The grace-filled way Jesus chisels is so vastly different than the way I beat on myself. My beatings are full of exaggerated lies that defeat. His chiseling is full of truth that sets me free."

Sorry there were so many! They are just all so good, and I didn't want to leave any out!!

I am not saying that it isn't a battle. Or it isn't hard. I have to choose daily which path I will take - one of discipline or one of mindlessly eating without tracking calories or caring how much I eat. And if I was more disciplined, it would have been more than 15 pounds by now. But without my accountability group, I think I would have given up several times by now. But they keep me going. They remind me to keep going, that we can be disciplined. That it is worth the fight. That we can see results, and make better choices, and focus on Wellness instead of Dieting. It is a lifestyle choice that needs to continue, not a few months of agony to lose the weight and then go back to how I used to eat. And I love to eat! And bake! And pig out! And I still eat bad or binge or have bad moments, but I hope to have more good moments than bad, and to know when to stop.
So it is a constant battle. But having people behind you is a huge encouragement, and I am still in the fight!! Maybe in the future I will share a blog post about what kinds of workouts I do and how I got great results! Here's to a healthier holiday season!!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I just got back from a Women's Retreat our church had this past weekend. I am so fortunate that Tad really pushed me to go; not that I didn't want to go, but the thought of spending the money and finding someone to watch the kids is a little stressful. But he really thought I should go, and his sister came from out of town to watch the kids while Tad was at work. The Lord has been doing such amazing things in my life. Which is so comforting because it reminds me that He hasn't given up on me, despite all my faults. Things have been tough lately, I'm not gonna lie, but God has a way of reminding us of Himself, reminding us that it's not all about us, and directing us back to Him.
The retreat was such a time of refreshment, relaxation, a time to get away from the normal distractions of 3 little ones that always need my attention, and a house and a slew of other things that need my attention, and to just breath. And think. And pray. And to be with other like-minded Christian women to laugh with and talk about spiritual things with. It's not like retreat can happen all the time, but when the Lord blesses us with it, we can appreciate it all the more.
The theme of the retreat was "You are His Treasure" and the messages were powerful. The speaker was this amazing missionary who spends most of the year living in Sudan, where there is no electricity or running water. Her messages were vibrant with her passion for the Lord spilling over. I wanted to catch her passion! She talked about so many amazing things. She said that we are so resistant to change that we settle for less, and we are getting jipped. She said the more broken we are, the more eligible we are for service, and the more love can leak out. I was pretty broken on retreat, and I think that I needed to hear that so that I didn't go away thinking I was a failure, or ineligible. That is what Satan wants us to think. But when we feel like we are nothing, when we have nothing left to give, when we feel like we couldn't possibly do anything for Jesus, that's when we are in the perfect place for Him to use us because it needs to be Him working His amazing power in us. When we are prideful, and feel like "we got this" and that we have "arrived" in our spiritual walks, then we have all kinds of walls built up around us, and it is hard for God to use that. I have to keep remembering this. How often do we think that we have to just try harder, do better, memorize some more Scripture, get up a little earlier, attend one more church service, and then God will be more pleased with me? That's the way the world works, so that's how our mind assumes that God works. But God is bigger. He is bigger than our stuff, and our best efforts. And He is here to radically change our lives. Now!! Not just in heaven, not just for eternity, but He is offering us new life, that we would be a new creation, and I am begging you all to take hold of what He has for you! Even if you are already a believer, He has more for you! More of His power, more of His Spirit, more opportunities, and each day is a new day of grace, opportunities, forgiveness, growth, evangelism, and surrender. We must surrender our all to Him, so He can work with all of us. Don't hold anything back. And you will not be disappointed.
She also talked about our sword, the Word of God, and knowing it well. And how the stronger the Spirit gets, the weaker our flesh gets. And one big thing that stuck in my mind is that, "our life's hurts are temporal-they will pass away." Such perspective. What are we going through right now that is menial compared to the greatness of our God and the things that matter for eternity? And how many of those things are we letting into our hearts to sabotage the work of the Lord? Are we quenching the Spirit in our lives by roots of bitterness? She also said, "The more I realize that I am the Lord's treasure, the more He will become my treasure." It reminds me of 1 John 4:19 which says, "We love because he first loved us."
The speaker also said, "we don't have to be able, we just have to be willing." Are we really able to do anything without the Lord? "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." 2 Peter 1:3
"Each time we die to ourselves, a little bit of us dies and a little more of Jesus takes over." Humility. Such a tough thing for us prideful human beings who always want to be right, have the last word, not let anyone speak out against us. We can be ruthless. But what does God want us to do? What did Jesus model for us? To be servants. To be humble. To not return evil for evil, but to overcome evil with good. To love our enemies. To do good to those who hurt us. Easier said than done, but when we let go of ourselves, and let God work in and through us, we will start to see more of Him, and less of us.
So, really, I could go on and on, but those were just some of the highlights from retreat. And if you are a momma who just can't get away on a retreat, then see if you can go on a mini-retreat! One blogger goes on a prayer/planning retreat every week! On Sundays, she gets away for a couple of hours while her husband keeps the kids, and she gets her week planned out and spends time alone with God, getting refreshed and renewed. I think we need to be recharged and rest every once in awhile so we can be the best mommies we can be to our kids. We need that daily time with God, our daily bread, but we also need some extended time every now and then, however we can get it, to rest and reflect, and to really hear what God would have for us at that time. I hope all of you are encouraged and excited about what God has for your life. Don't get stagnant! Ask for God to fill you to overflowing with love, passion, surrender, willingness, and humility! Don't waste your life on anything less than Him!!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Berry Coconut Steel Cut Oats

image credit

I am a huge fan of steel cut oats. They are so much better (and healthier!) than regular oats. And so far, we have been giving Madelynn oats and such and they don't seem to bother her. A lot of gluten-free people stay away from oats altogether; they are not considered a gluten-free food, but hopefully they aren't doing any harm to Maddy's system since they don't seem to be making her sick! This recipe comes from a great website, that I've used before, called Super Healthy Kids, and they have so many great recipes for kids to have for snacks, meals, to help make in the kitchen, to sneak in fruits and veggies into their diets, and things that are good for the whole family to eat! So check them out!

Berry Coconut Steel Cut Oats

2 cups water
1 cup coconut milk
dash of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup frozen mixed berries

1. To make this, bring the first 4 ingredients to a boil in your saucepan.
2. Add the steel cut oats. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered.
3. Add the mixed berries, bring to a slight boil, and simmer for an additional 10 minutes, covered.

Super easy, right? It was yummy! If you need some added sweetness, you could add some raw sugar or other sweetener like honey, and we also added some coconut flakes to the top of ours! It makes about 4 servings, and you could make a double batch and have breakfast ready to warm up each morning! The possibilities really are endless with oatmeal! Just add whatever ingredients you like into your oatmeal! Peanut butter is amazing, let me just say! Here's to brisk, fall mornings and warm bowls of oatmeal!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's Been Awhile!!

My friends! It has been so long since I have put out a blog post! Our computer died, and so we spent the summer without a computer, but since we have gotten one, we have been so busy with school (and Judah is doing preschool at home this year!), Classical Conversations, swim lessons, church, and life with 3 kids! I'm sure some of you wondered if I fell off the planet or something! I have missed putting up my favorite recipes, blogging about homemaking, tips I have learned, life, and stuff that makes my life interesting! I have so many things to share as I get back to blogging. In April, I got into a weight loss group on Facebook and have lost about 15 pounds (give or take what day it is!) I would love to share about that! Also, I am in my second year of tutoring (teaching) Maddy's class at Classical Conversations. So I have the children that are mostly in 2nd grade. This year is going great!
Another cool thing is that God has been doing some awesome things in my heart, and I have finished a book that I want to share about that was really awesome! There were 2 things that I realized at the beginning of this school year that have really helped me in my everyday life. The first thing is that I realized I needed to get up earlier than my kids in the morning. I used to do this before I got pregnant with Ruth, inspired by the blog "Inspired to Action" where there is a whole "movement" to Maximize Your Mornings (link on the right hand side of the blog). When you are not in the habit of getting up early, it may seem like an impossible feat. But once you start, and you realize the amazing quiet before the kids get up, and that quiet time you can spend with God, you will get addicted to it! The other thing I realized, with my quiet times seeming boring and not drawing me closer to God, was that I really needed to spend quiet time with God. Not just time before my kids got up, but time where I wasn't doing anything else. Where I could just listen to worship music. Or just sit in the quiet. Or where I could "be still, and know that He is God." (Psalm 46:1) And then, randomnly, I picked a book off our bookshelf (I don't know where we got it, or how long we have had it), and decided to use it during my devotion time. It is an oldie, by A.W. Tozer, called "The Pursuit of God." And boy did God drop that in my lap at the right time. It was about the very thing I had been missing in my walk with God. That sweet fellowship and intimacy that comes from pursuing God and seeking that quiet time of drawing near to God that we all too often miss out on. And when we just read the Bible (check), pray (check), and do all our church duties (check, check), it can start to feel dull. And we can start to get resentful. And feel like we are wasting our time. But when we can turn off the distractions, and actually let God do the talking, when we can just listen, and be thankful, and draw near to Him, He will change our hearst. And it starts to feel different. And new. And amazing. And you will be fed. And as mommies of little children who need us for a million different things all day long, we need to be fed or we will burn out. And we can just feel overwhelmed with a million different to-do lists that seem like they have no purpose. Things that get undone 10 minutes after we do them. And the other reason I felt like it was so important to get up before the kids, was so I could also plan my day right after my time with God. Know what I want to accomplish for the day, check the account and be on top of the finances daily (something I was slacking on), know what we are having for dinner and how much prep time I will need, look at the calendar, and just be prepared for the day.

Before I got up early, I would wake up with kids who needed something, I would be groggy as my husband left for work with minimal breakfast, I had no idea what was for dinner, how much was in the account, or what I was doing that day. And that's when my life was feeling overwhelming and I felt like it was out of control. But with my new plan in place, I was getting fed by God first thing in the morning, having relaxing, quiet time with God to start off my day, and knew what my chores were for the day, and what the plan for the day would be. These 2 things have really helped me a lot during this crazy, hectic season of homeschooling 2 kids, preparing for CC each week, and a load of other responsibilities.

I hope everyone is well. I hope to hear from some of my regular readers from before, and hope to encourage some new moms as well who are in the thick of it, busy but satisfied staying home with little ones. Maybe we have homeschooling in common, our relationship with God, Classical Conversations, being a stay-at-home mom, or a love for cooking, but whatever it may be, I hope this blog will encourage you and give you some new ideas for how to make your life easier, more fun, or at least make your house smell yummy with some new recipes to try! Happy Fall!!

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Broken Arm, a New Job, and Field Trips

The kids outside Tanganyika Wildlife Park, Uncle Joel hijacked the picture!!

 It's been a busy, crazy, and exciting couple of weeks. I know I have been totally MIA from my blog lately. We are trying to get school done before our trip to Ohio in June, we finished CC for the year, we had 2 field trips last week alone, and have exciting news to share. Tad got a new job with the post office! He starts May 18 and we are so excited! It will be a pay increase, better benefits, and unfortunately, more hours. But God is providing for us, and we are so thankful!
In his splint before he got his hard cast

About to get his hard cast on!
The glow-in-the-dark cast is fun!!

About a week and a half ago our little Judah broke his arm, poor thing! We went to watch his Aunt Naomi and Aunt Charity (who are 10 and 12) do their gymnastics show. When we came home Judah was trying to do gymnastics moves and said "watch, Mom, this is what the gymnastics people do" and proceeded to do a cartwheel type of thing. All he did was run and do a little hop-hop thing that was close to the ground and he must have landed wrong and was instantly crying like he was in a lot of pain. After about 30-40 minutes of nonstop crying, we finally took him to the ER where they confirmed that he fractured his humerus bone right above the elbow. And because it is around 6 growth plates, they usually have to rush right in and do surgery, but he was so lucky (no, it was God!!) that his bones were in alignment when he went in for x-rays 5 days later. So no surgery! They just put a hard cast on it and will x-ray it weekly until he gets his cast off. He picked a glow-in-the-dark cast!!
He is figuring out how to do things even with his arm in a cast! Good thing he is right-handed!!
 We also went on 2 field trips, one to see a bunch of different insects. It was very hands on, and they could hold some, touch some, and just look at others. Not my favorite thing but the kids loved it! Of course Judah was walking around with a little glass jar filled with ticks (in a solution) and dropped it and broke it. Of course!!


Later that same week we went with our homeschool group to a Wildlife Park in Kansas called Tanganyika Wildlife Park that was very hands-on! The kids got to feed birds, giraffes, lemurs, goats, and alpacas!! They loved it! It was such a fun day!


Well I can't believe we finished up our first year of CC and it was such a blessing! It was very challenging at times, I'm not gonna lie, but it was also so rewarding! And the things that Maddy learned and experienced this year were totally worth the stress and time commitment!
We are trying to wrap up our school year since we have been out of town so much! The weather is getting so nice, so it's hard to have all this schoolwork! I have realized that Oklahoma's spring is like the summers I am used to up north. Green grass, beautiful temperatures, sunshine everyday. The summers here are the pits! Too hot to do anything but stay inside a lot of the time! So we are trying to get out and enjoy this weather! We went on a compass walk last night as part of our school. We attempted to look at clouds too, but there wasn't really a cloud in the sky!!

Happy Spring Everyone!! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Weeks 20-21

Well, I have gotten quite behind in my CC blog posts. We have been out of town so much in the last 2 months, so I have gotten all my prep and teaching done, but I haven't been on here to update the blog for each week! I like to add each week so my parents can see what we did for that week, other tutors can get fresh ideas from what I prepared (let's face it, we can all use some new ideas!!), so I can document this year so I can look back on it for next year, and for when Cycle 1 comes around again! So, even though most campuses have already covered these weeks, I will get these two weeks in, and finish up blogging for this CC year! Again, I'm sorry I haven't been up to date!

Week 20

Timeline: learned new hand motions and sang song
History Sentence: Hand motions (CC connected) and sang the song
Geography: Used dry erase maps to color in/circle the areas, passports with passport stamps
Latin: Used the mix and match game with the grid (love this!!)
Math: Circumference of a circle: Used the song to the tune of the Wheels on the Bus off of CC connected
Science: Printed off a Parts of the Atmosphere Mix and Match where they practiced labelling the parts and saw if they got them right (CC connected)
English: Played Duck, Duck Goose with the 3 Helping Verbs

Grammar Review:
The games I had planned were:
Burst: Tutor asks a question and the kids squat on the ground. If they know the answer they burst up and the first one gets to try to answer the question.
Tutor May I: We didn't play this one, but you can have the kids line up and ask to go a certain distance or whatever, and then they have to answer a question.

We also had some great Mexican coloring pages for them to do at the end!!

Week 21

Timeline: learned new hand motions and sang song
History Sentence: Hand motions (CC connected) and sang the song
Geography: Used dry erase maps to color in/circle the areas, passports with passport stamps
Latin: Used the mix and match grid game! Boys vs. Girls for fastest time!
Math: Associative Laws: printed out some puzzles for the kids to put together
Science: Major Circles of Latitude: Cut and glue worksheet (Kept them busy!)
English: Made up a sing-songy way to remember the definition of a linking verb, like I have for all the English definitions: A linking verb (pinkies locked together) makes an assertion (both hands firm down by sides) (pause) by joining (one fist to the side) two (other fist to the other side) words (two fists join together.) Trust me, these little things make a huge difference! They always remember the definitions!!

Grammar Review:
 Event Obstacle Course (I will be presenting this in Week 24. I was going to play this game, but we ran out of time since the Mineral Identification went so long, so I decided to play this awesome game as the last end-of-year review game.

They can also mix up the timeline cards and 2 teams (or more) can put them in order the fastest.

Every other week they get to pick out of the treasure box if they were obedient and they also have sticker books that I made with their names on it. They always get to pick a sticker during snack time and sometimes I hide something on the board and the first one to find it gets an extra sticker.

At the end, they are assigned clean-up chores and they all run around getting the room cleaned up!!

The Ultra-Marathon Adventure

Ruthie living it up and being fed breakfast in the big hotel chair!!
 Well, we had quite the adventurous trip to Arizona for Tad's first ultra marathon, which was a 50 mile trail race in the mountains! He was going to go by himself since he was running it with some good friends from college, but then we decided to make it into a family vacation! And it was a crazy one at that! In the last 2 months, we have been on 4 trips! They all happened kind of randomly, but each one was fun in its own way! So, the kids have really learned to be more flexible and sleep in different places. Which is a far cry from Maddy when she was little who could hardly sleep anywhere but her own crib!!
The kids having fun in their hotel bed!
 This trip in particular was a little hard for the kids, because we were in the car everyday, almost all day for about 5 days. I thought the day of the race we would watch Tad start, and then go back to the hotel or hang out in town. But our plans quickly changed when I realized we didn't have the official race map with checkpoints written out. We had friends who had the map and we could follow them to the next spots. We were 45 minutes away from the hotel and I didn't want to get lost and not be able to find Tad on the mountain when we returned! So the kids spent that day mostly in the car as we raced around trying to see Tad at different checkpoints!!
 We took 2 days to drive to Arizona, staying the first night in the infamous Roswell, New Mexico. Alien town!! It was pretty comical. Tad said he didn't want to tell Maddy anything about it because he wanted everyone to be able to sleep that night! But they got a kick out of the aliens that were around!!
 Fast forward to the race. We left the hotel about 4:30 am. The kids were not happy to be up that early, especially Ruth. I felt horrible! We ended up running a little late, and Tad had to book it to the starting line to get his things there by 5:30. The race started at 6 and the parking was about a quarter mile from the starting line, so I hoisted Ruth on my back into the hiking backpack and started down the trail in the dark. The beginning to an absolutely crazy day I will never forget! The crazy ultra-racers started with their headlamps since it was still dark!
 Mind you, this race was in the mountains! Not just an average marathon, or ultra marathon! Hiking! Elevation! Craziness!
 Our dear friends from college were there, Ian and Ruthie. Ian ran the race with Tad and Ruthie and Ian's brother hung out with us for a little bit. It was so good to see them!
 It was freezing in the morning, but it quickly warmed up to crazy warm temperatures for the day!!
 Tad at mile 7. Feelin' good!!
 Coming down the path to the first checkpoint where we could see them!
 Still feeling really good! So good to see them together!
 The narrow mountain drive to the next checkpoint where we could see them! Beautiful views! The next checkpoint is mile 25. We waited awhile there to see them! 
 And it started to get hot! We went from our winter apparel to rolling up our pants and taking off our coats, and I got sunburned really bad!!
 But the kids had fun playing in the dirt!! At least that! Had a little lunch on the side of the road!
 Finally, we went for a walk hoping to see Tad on the trail! Judah, at this point, and it was not a long walk, said "I just can't do this!" Poor guy!
 Ian had to drop out at mile 22 because of his knee and Ruthie and Eric had to go rescue him by car. Tad had to keep going by himself but he was still feeling good at this point! We saw him at the checkpoint, he ate and drank, and changed his shoes, and he was off! And this is where the story starts to get interesting.
We saw him 4 miles later at mile 29. Since Ian and Ruthie had other friends running the race, they drove ahead and watched them. So me and the 3 kids were on our own. I asked some workers at mile 29 how to get to the next checkpoint, since we had no map or directions. He gave me some sketchy directions and said it was mile 33. I said, "I don't think we are suppose to go to mile 33." He said, "I'm not gonna tell you you can't go." So, I thought to myself, "Tad would be really happy if he saw us at an extra checkpoint. We could encourage him. And I already have the directions."
So we started off. But once we made a turn and ended up on a super narrow mountain road, I started getting nervous. The roads ended up being pretty rough, and there was no way I could turn around. We finally got to mile 33, and waited for awhile to see Tad.

 One of the workers gave the kids a book to read. It was pretty warm. I was getting worried about Tad, as he was alone and it was almost time for the checkpoint to close. We hiked up the hill a little and waited for him. Finally, we saw him. He was close to the cutoff point for the checkpoint, so he needed to get through fast. He ate some and was on his way. We got directions to the next checkpoint, mile 40. 7 miles that way. That sounded easy enough. Oh my word. The 7 miles weren't marked well. And the mountain terrain was not meant for my Pacifica. It was treacherous. Judah and Ruth fell asleep. And I'm surprised they didn't get whiplash. I made a couple of wrong turns. I didn't think the car was gonna make it through these rough roads that had deep spots, high ridges, super narrow paths with a cliff on the other side. I was lost. I had no service on my phone. I was responsible for 3 small children by myself. And I was scared to death. I was shaking while driving. I couldn't just stop the car and get out. There was no one around. There were a few people at the checkpoint a few miles away. A motorbike passed me and did a double take. That was before I realized how dangerous the path was. The second motorbike I saw I tried to flag down, and he didn't stop. I was about in tears and I was telling Maddy she had to pray.
We finally made it back to the familiar checkpoint we had been at and just kept backtracking until we were off the mountain.
By this point I just wanted to go somewhere familiar and to find the people I knew. I tried to remember what the camp was called that we had started at that morning. I remembered, "Kentucky Camp" and started seeing signs for it. Phew! Time for the next adventure. There were flashing lights at the entrance. When I stopped, the policeman told me that there had been an accident (of course, right at the entrance to the camp) and that the camp was closed. No one could go in or out. I told him my husband was doing a race and that it was on that mountain. He said I could go hang out in the town up ahead. So we hung out at a gas station where I called my parents and tried to figure out what to do. I passed by the accident several times and they finally opened up the camp. There had been some motorcyle road rage and a truck had creamed someone on a motorcycle. We passed by the mangled motorcycle, the body wrapped up and a pool of blood, and the cop car. I just wanted to know Tad was okay.
We finally hiked down to the camp, we hadn't had dinner. The car was a disaster from things flying all over the place while we were driving through the treacherous mountain. This mommy was spent.
We got down to the camp, and by God's grace, they were serving dinner, frying up hamburgers individually on the back grill, and there were picnic tables to sit at. For free. And our friends were there. What a relief. They said that all the racers had passed mile 46 and it was getting dark. I got the kids their dinner as we all waited for the racers to finish. At one point, as we were waiting, Tad walked up behind us, not where the racers were finishing.
His knee had given out. He couldn't make it past mile 40. He tore his ACL and knew that he couldn't safely finish. He waited over an hour to get a ride back. He was okay. He was exhausted. He was worried about us. But we were all safe and sound and back together. And ready for our beds!! We drove back to the hotel and told stories of the day. And we were thankful that we were all safe!!!
 So, that was kind of the long version. But I am documenting that adventure so I can go back and read about it in the future!! I hope to never have such an "adventure" again!! I am so proud that Tad completed 40 miles! He was bummed that he couldn't finish, but it was 14 more miles than he had ever done! And he is a winner in my heart!!!!!