Monday, January 31, 2011

Menu Monday

We're getting ready to hunker down in my parts.  We've been super spoiled with beautiful spring like weather, and now we're preparing for ice and snow.  Only in Oklahoma can we change from 70's to teens within 5 days.  I do love it here though.  Change is always nice.

Since we're having some nasty weather expected to arrive tonight and continue through tomorrow, I thought we needed some major comfort foods.  Nice warm, soupy, casserole-y (yep, I just created that word) foods. 

Monday-Baked Ham, Stuffing, and Corn (carried over from last week's menu)
Tuesday-Tortilla Soup & Corn Saute
Wednesday-Monterey Chicken, Peas, Honey Bread (carried over from last week's menu)
Thursday-Sausage Spinach Pockets & Sweet Potato Fries
Friday-Chicken & Dumplings & Angel Biscuits
Saturday-Turkey Veggie Spaghetti, Cheesy Bread, Green Beans, Salad
Sunday-Family Dinner Out (after being couped up for several days, I'm pretty sure we'll be due for an outing!)

Friday, January 28, 2011

I'll Show You

Guess what?  Someone decided he wanted to write his own name yesterday.  Funny how I've come to terms with Little Man taking his precious time to write his name and then he just sits down to do it.  I'm sure my neighbors thought a tragedy was occurring in our home about 4pm Thursday.  I turned from the stove to see Little Man at the counter with his blue marker in hand, tongue out, and carefully writing the letters to his name.  Not only did he write his name once, he wrote it twice and put down his own age.  I squealed.  Squealed so loud he dropped his marker and said, "Moooommmmm!  You mess me up." 

And because I am one of THOSE moms, here's a pic of his first ever handwritten name...

I am so very proud of his determination.  I think I'll kiss the librarian next week for assigning him the 'Me Book'.  Then she'll probably inform me that we are to never attend again.  I don't respect personal space very well.

Now, about next week I've got a bit of a surprise for you in the form of a dessert.  If you're trying to lose weight then maybe you should stay away.  This recipe is a doozie from my BFF Jackie.  She likes to make me fat!

Happy Friday Everyone!!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is Your Kid Better?

Anything you can do, I can do better.  I can do anything better than you.
-Lyrics from Annie Get Your Gun 

Annie Oakley.  Now that's a great story of a woman who overcame obstacles in her life.  If I could go back in time and meet someone from the late 1800's, it would be Annie Oakley hands down.  An amazing woman who had an extraordinary talent.  Annie Oakley has little to do with this post, I just thought you'd like to know another little quirk about me.  After all, you already know I sleepwalk.  I can't really disclose too many other embarrassing things. 

Moving on...

I didn't use the above lyric today to prove that I am better than you.  I screw up all the time.  Just ask Steven.  He'll give you a lengthy run down.  Instead, I want to share that sometimes we send this message to our kids.  Maybe not so much as 'we' do things better than 'them', but 'other kids' do things better than 'our kids'.  We focus on what other people's kids are doing that are kids aren't.  

This is all brought up by our weekly trip to the library.  Little Man was selected to do his 'Me Book' for next week.  I was really excited for him because he was excited.  Unfortunately, I started looking around at the other kids in the room.  It's hard not to size kids up academically when you were trained to do so as a teacher.  I noticed there were quite a few kids in the room who were able to do something Little Man has yet to perform on a satisfactory level.  Little Man is bright.  He's got a vocabulary that is pretty abundant for four.  Mathematically he is strong. But, he struggles in one area.  Little Man does not want to write his name, and has yet to do so completely.  He gets too frustrated if the letters aren't made perfectly (I have no idea where he gets this from ;)).  I've tried to encourage him, but to no avail.  We're at a bit of a standstill on handwriting.

When we're working on our daily lesson at home, I always urge him to put his name on it so when his daddy gets home he can see who did all the work.  He gets the first letter on the paper, but after that it's downhill.    That letter just doesn't turn out well enough for him to move on to the others.  Instead of frustrating him any further, we move on to something else.  I know he will eventually get it, but will he get it before his "Me Book" is due?

Then it hit me.  It doesn't matter if I write his name or he writes his name on the book.  The whole purpose of the book is for it to be about him, and 'him' just doesn't write his name at the moment.  No biggie.  I shouldn't be so concerned with what other kids are doing.  I should be concerned with what my kid is doing.  Little Man accomplishes things daily that make me so proud of him.  Why would I want to spend so much time on what he can't do instead of building on what he can do? 

God created him differently than other kids.  God created your child differently too.  He gave them special gifts that are unique to them.  So what Little Man isn't writing his name at 4?  He's got a whole lot of other areas we can be working on.  Areas where he's been uniquely gifted.  So next week, he's going to rock his 'Me Book' at the library, and I'm going to rock it too.  He's going to have the coolest looking name on the front page, and I'm going to proud of him (and me too-I've got some pretty awesome handwriting)!

So today I want to know what your kid has done to make you proud this week.  I don't care if your child is 25 and learned how to do his own laundry for the first time.  I just want you to be proud of your kid, and for me to be proud of mine.  I'm going to forget what Johnny Jr.'s doing, and focus on what mine is doing!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beef & Tater Bake

Honesty is key. So let's be honest on this one...I had to 'borrow' the magazine pic, because my Beef & Tater Bake just doesn't look as cute and tasty.  This recipe and pic is courtesy of January/February 2010 issue of the Simple & Delicious magazine.  It's actually a submission from a man.  Typical.  Tater tots and beef.  A complete man meal.  A tasty man meal, but nonetheless a man meal.

So let's get to the down to the nitty-gritty so you can make this for your man...

Beef & Tater Beef Bake

4 cups frozen Tater Tots
1 lb ground beef
1 pkg frozen broccoli, thawed
1 can (10-3/4oz) condensed cream of broccoli soup, undiluted
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 can (2.8 oz) french-fried onions
1 cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1/3 cup milk
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp pepper
  • Place Tater Tots in an ungreased 13x9 baking dish.  Bake uncovered @ 400 degrees for 10 minutes ( I baked mine for 20 minutes because I wanted a crispy bottom layer).
  • Meanwhile, cook ground beef thoroughly (I use real minced garlic instead of garlic powder, so I toss that in at this point). Drain beef.
  • Stir in broccoli (I also throw in cauliflower to sneak in more veggies), soup, milk, tomato, 3/4 cups french fried onions, 1/2 cup cheese, and heat through.
  • Pour over Tots.
  • Cover and bake for 20 minutes longer. Uncover.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and french fried onions.  Bake 5-10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
There you have it!  The Beef & Tater Bake complete with Amanda Torres' commentary and suggestions.  Take 'em or leave 'em.  Either way it's a delicious dish.

Happy Cooking!!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A True Confession

{Little Man at age 3}

Steven and I dated for nearly six years before we tied the knot.  We met in high school, and despite attending separate colleges for six years, we stayed together through our college days.  Steven played college football at a small junior college for a year and a half until he received a full scholarship at a Division II school.  This really isn't apart of the confession, but it will give a little background information.

In the summertime, Steven and I spent as much time as possible together.  Once his football season started back up in August, he would be busy with playstation tournaments and dorm life workouts, practice, class, and studies.  We spent lots of nights talking until late and accidentally fall asleep on the couch at my house or his dad's house.    On one night in particular, we both sacked out at his dad's.  He woke me up and sent me on my way.  I drove myself home, walked into my house, made donuts, and then woke up.  Yep, you read that right.  I woke up again.  Technically, I woke up for the first time.  I have an issue with sleep talking and walking. 

When Steven 'woke' me up at his dad's house to tell me we had fallen asleep again and it was time to go home, I looked like I was awake.  My eyes were open, and even though I was saying weird things to him, I was talking.  He says now that he should of known.  My mom had told him sleep talking/walking stories before, but apparently I'm so convincing when it happens that you don't realize it.  I even deny that I'm sleeping. 

I think the scariest part of the whole thing was I drove myself home while I was sleeping.  I woke up in the middle of my kitchen making donuts in a deep fryer at midnight.  I had not a clue how I had gotten home, let alone why I was making donuts.  The last thing I remembered was sitting in Steven's living room talking to him about possible wedding dates.

This is just one of many crazy stories my mom could tell you about me.  At night I used to walk in her room, get inches from her face, and whisper scream, "Mom!!!!"  Then I would coerce her to come perform whatever task I desired for her to do until I would get back in bed.  I know my mom secretly wished for me to have a child just like me.

Sharing my deepest, darkest secret does has a purpose.  Now that Little Man is getting older, he's starting to do unusual things in his sleep.  Last night, I woke up to a little four year old standing inches from my face.  I don't know how long he'd been standing there.  He was completely silent, eyes wide open, and staring intently at my face.  Honestly, it scared the heebee jeebee's out of me. 

I walked Little Man back down the hall to his room and put him to bed.  He never said anything to me and didn't mention anything about it in the morning.  When I asked him if he remembered standing by my bed, he told me he was night-night all night long.  Hmmmm....another freakish sleepwalker in the house.  This can't be good!

Mom, as you're reading this try to contain your excitement for paybacks!!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Menu Monday

It's been a sad weekend at the Torres house.  We've had a loss.  A big loss.  You see, we're huge Bears fans and they had a humiliating loss yesterday.  I can't even talk about it.  Here's the menu...

Monday-Balsamic Lemon Chicken, Fried Potatoes, Green Beans
Tuesday-Dinner @ the Kueny's
Wednesday-Smoked Salmon, Zucchini Pancakes (thanks Joy), Honey Bread
Thursday-Monterrey Chicken, Peas, Salad
Friday-BBQ Chicken Quarters & Sweet Potato Fries
Saturday-Birthday Party (Happy Birthday Ethan!)
Sunday-Baked Ham, Stuffing, Rolls, Corn

I'm hoping to recover soon.  You are more than welcome to send your condolences.  Flowers and large sums of cash are accepted ;)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Homemade French Fries

I've had a lot of emails about how we make homemade french fries.  It's really not hard, and way better than picking up a pack of preservative filled frozen ones.  Plus, you get to add your own seasonings.

First we start by digging up our potatoes from our organic garden.  Gotcha!  We don't have an organic garden.  It would be nice, but I have yet to tackle that one.  Instead, we have a grocery store that sells a 5lb bag of potatoes.  We use those.  Grocery stores...such a great invention!

I wash and slice the potatoes into french fry size pieces.  I use 3-4 potatoes for my family.  After I slice them up, I drizzle a little olive oil over the top and sprinkle on the seasonings of choice.  In the pic below, we used a little Kosher salt and oregano.  (Alternative choices: seasoning salt, steak seasoning, garlic powder combined with onion powder...whatever we're in the mood for.)  Once you season, toss them around a bit so you can get a good coating...
{Notice the man hands are not mine.  The hubby is getting domesticated.}

After the coating, you'll throw them in a non-stick skillet for about 10-15.  You shouldn't need to spray the pan since the fries are coated in olive oil, but if you're pan has a history of 'stickage' please spray.  You'll keep them in the skillet until they are starting to soften up a bit and the outer part is getting a little golden brown.

Once the potatoes soften up and are a little golden brown, spread them out on a greased baking sheet.  Bake @ 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.  If you like your fries crispy, then crank on the broiler for a minute or two at the end.

I have not one picture of the finished product.  I went to teach my gymnastics class before these were finished.  I felt bad asking the newly domesticated husband to take a pic of his first batch (he had stage fright).  Maybe next time.  I don't want to scare him out of the kitchen.
Happy Cooking!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


One of our favorite sections of the library is the non-fiction area for young readers.  Little Man is captivated by the real pictures and real text on real topics.  He's a non-fiction junkie.  Don't get me wrong he loves fiction books as well, but we don't make it out of the library without an array of non-fiction selections.

Once I realized Little Man's love for science and inquiry, I decided I needed to make our library visits a little more efficient.  During the week, I pay attention to the different questions he asks and what's he's talking about.  Last week, he was really into frogs.  His Great Aunt Mary, an inner city Chicago elementary school teacher, brought him a book about Red Eyed Tree Frogs on her last visit.  Since then he looks for frogs, asks questions about frogs, and wants a frog (not gonna happen) so we checked out some age appropriate frog books. 

Basically, we read the books and spend a lot of time looking at the pictures.  They are amazing.  Here's a few things he picked up on this week from his books...
  • Frogs are not all the same. Some are big and some are small.
  • Frogs have babies that are not frogs, but tadpoles.
  • As tadpoles, they live in the water until they develop legs and can breathe air (or develop lungs-he didn't get the lungs thing)
  • Some frogs have poisonous skin that hunter's use to help kill what their hunting.
  • Bright colored frogs (poisonous dart frogs) are brightly colored as a warning sign to predators.
  • Mama frogs lay eggs. 
  • Male frogs have a vocal sac that fills up with air like a balloon.  They make the noise so they can find a girlfriend ;) 
Here's what I learned...
  • Poison Dart Frogs lay their eggs in a pool of water on a leaf in the Rain Forest.  After the tadpoles hatch,they wiggle onto the mama's back and the mom delivers them to a larger water source.
There you have it...a learning opportunity for everyone.  It's kind of funny watching our family read non-fiction books, because we have mental light bulbs going off all over the place.

This week we're headed back to the library to search for penguin books.  I have no idea where he came up with the idea for penguins, but as long as he's interested...

As for Chunky Monkey, we're going to get some Cheetah books because he refers to them as Cheetos.  I think we should get that cleared up fairly quickly.  He's quite the interesting little fellow.  He keeps his mom and dad on their toes that's for sure!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hot Ham Sandwiches

I realize the above picture looks like regular baked ham on a bun, but it's so much more.  I just can't even describe it, so instead I'll leave you with the recipe. 

Hot Ham Sandwiches

3 lbs thinly sliced deli ham (I used regular ham I shaved myself)
2 cups apple juice
2/3 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pickle relish
2 tsp prepared mustard
1 tsp paprika
12 Kaiser rolls, split (I used regular buns, toasted)
  • Place ham into a slow cooker
  • In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (except the rolls, duh!)
  • Cover and let cook on low for 4-5 hours 
  • Serve on Kaiser rolls with additional relish (we do it Plain Jane style)
What are you still on here for?  Go.  Get yo' crock pot and git cookin'.  Word.

Okay, that felt weird even for me.  So let's try this...

Happy Cooking!!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's a Choice

This blog post was intended to post Tuesday, January 18th, but since  my brain is half on today it got posted early...oops!!!

I've got a little story for you today of no one in particular.  A little story of Donny and Debby.  Donny loved Debby. Debby loved Donny.  Donny and Debby got married, and because they got married they lived the rest of their life in pure bliss.  The End

Good story, right?  Maybe a little unrealistic, but a good story.  It would be nice if all of our marriages simply ended in pure bliss, but marriages are work.  Hard work that is often overlooked because in the beginning you are soooo 'in love' with each other.  You couldn't really imagine a time when you wouldn't want to serve the person you married.  A time where they consumed your every thought.  You just couldn't get enough of them.  Then a couple of years pass you by, maybe even decades, and you become all too familiar with their annoying qualities.  You long for some alone time.  Let's get real.  All marriages have ups and downs, but it's how you handle the downs that impact your marriage the most.

Recently, my church began new series called "I Want a New Marriage".  Steven and I attended the first part of the series this past Saturday night.  We were so surprised to see how packed the church was that evening.  Church on the Move does some pretty awesome stuff, but this was unreal.  Then I started thinking about how many people I knew who either had a very difficult time in their marriage, or they are currently struggling to hold onto their marriage.  Then I wasn't so surprised.  So many people are just searching for answers on how to strengthen their marriages.

As I sat there listening to the message I remembered the best advice I ever received about marriage.  When Steven and I were attending our marriage counseling sessions we were feeling good.  We had just received our compatibility test back and out of all the areas, we only had one part that had a 'somewhat of a concern'.  All the others areas they tested us on landed in the 'Not a Concern' category.  Obviously, we would have a perfect marriage.  After all we nailed the test.  That has to count for something.  I thought we'd be done with the sessions after that, but we weren't.  Week after week, we came and discussed expectations, conflict/resolution skills, daily routines and how we would handle them, etc.  All areas that are super important to discuss before getting married.  However, the best piece of advice came at the tail end of the sessions.  The pastor told us that if we realized love is a choice and not a feeling, then we would be on the right track. 

At the time, I couldn't really comprehend the enormity of what he was trying to convey to us.  There would be a time where I wouldn't have this 'in love' feeling?  Incomprehensible!  However, it happened.  Don't get me wrong.  I love Steven on such a deeper level now, but I can stand to be away from him while he works.  When we were first married, I couldn't wait to get home from work so I could hear about his day and just be near him.  I still look forward to him coming home from work, but let's be honest...someone needs to help wrangle the kids to the dinner table while I'm cooking!  The point is, that mushy-gushy feeling soon got replaced with reality.  I'm thankful we've arrived at the point where we've had to choose to love each other.  It's made us stronger.

Even though I can't say Steven and I have ever questioned our commitment to each other, we've definitely had our share of 'discussions'.  We've become extremely familiar to each other's irritating qualities and ugly sides, but when it comes down to it I've made the decision that I will choose to love him in those moments.  I will choose to love him even if my heart isn't really feeling it during a disagreement.  If my brain makes the choice of what to do, my heart is going to follow.  Making this choice reminds me that if I'm choosing to love him, I won't say or do something that I'll regret after the storm passes.  It's how we handle the down times that makes our up times so much better.

If you live in the Tulsa, OK area, I really encourage you to attend the last couple of "I Want a New Marriage" messages.  Whether you're single, married, divorced, going through a divorce Pastor George gives us all such great tips on how to better our lives.  Here's a link to from a  clip about our first lesson...

I Want a New Marriage

Monday, January 17, 2011

Menu Monday

Good Morning!  I have an announcement to make.  Are you ready?  I'm tired.  The end.  That's the announcement.  My endless tiredness comes from a broken alarm clock.  The thing keeps going off at 6:15am.  It usually doesn't go off until 7:00am, but lately it has a mind of its own.  Who am I kidding?  This alarm clock has always had a mind of its own and it usually goes in cycles.  It's 'ring' time can be as early as 6:15am or as late as 8:30am, just depending on its mood.  I really should get a new one, but I'm kind of attached to this one.  It's sentimental, even though it's only a little over 2 years old.  I'll show you a pic of when it was nearly a year old.  Here's my alarm clock...

Thank goodness, she's learned how to sleep better than when she did at 9 months.  Back then she loved me so much she was up twice in the night and early in the morning despite my attempts to let her cry it out.  She's persistent and strong-willed.  I have no idea where she gets it.  Not a clue ;)

Since we've established that I am in fact tired, I will share the menu.  After all that's why you're here, isn't it?

Monday-Broiled Seasoned Chicken Breasts, Trees and Raisins, Cheesy Biscuits
Tuesday-Tator Beef Bake, Mashed Potatoes, Corn
Wednesday-Dry Rubbed Pork Chops, Lemon Cream Noodles, Peas
Thursday-Buttered Chicken (we didn't have this last week) served over rice, Steamed Veggies
Friday-Leftover Night (Steven's favorite...NOT!  Sorry, I had to tap into my 90's inner self)
Saturday-Date Night with the Frey's and Hunley's (I sure do love these people)
Sunday-Hot Ham Sandwiches*, Homemade Fries

*If you're looking for an easy crockpot meal, these sandwiches will hit the spot.  So, so, so yummy.  It's like a comfort food on a kaiser roll.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Grouping to $1

Yesterday I shared how to turn a jar of change into a learning activity for your little one.  Little Man is age 4 and did fairly well with it.  So we took this activity a step further.

Today you'll have your child sort the change into piles of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies.  It's completely okay if your child has difficulty with this.  Sorting can be difficult for young kids.  If they are experiencing frustration, just have your child pick out the pennies with you.

Once you have your change sorted, tell your child how much of each coin equals $1.  This wasn't something I expected Little Man to fully grasp, but I did want him to have various amounts to count.  We started with quarters because it's takes the least amount of equal $1.  We put all the quarters in groups of 4, then we counted how many groups of 4 we made.  After quarters, we did put the dimes in groups of 10, then counted how many groups we made.  Same thing with the nickels. 

Now the pennies were a bit more difficult.  Since it takes 100 pennies to make $1, we broke it down.  Little Man cannot currently count to 100, but he can count to 10 in a cinch.  So we did 10 groups of 10, and then counted out our 10 groups of 10. 

Yes, this is super difficult.  But the best part about this activity is you can do whatever part you'd like. Kids are interested in money.  At the very least, Little Man learned the differences between coins and practiced his counting skills in a real world math way.  I hope to do this with him frequently.  Maybe by the time he gets to elementary school, he will have memorized the value of each coin and what it takes to make a $1.  If he doesn't, I'll still love him and he'll be one awesome counter.

Yesterday we took all of our change (and the bucket of change his Papi gave Little Man) to our local bank.  My get rich quick change jar amounted to a little over $30.  Don't be jealous of my wealth.  I can't help it the hubby likes to leave change in his pockets.

Little Man's jar from Papi amounted to almost $20.  When we got home we went to stash it in his piggy pank, but he wanted to share some with Little Miss.  So I broke his $20 for two tens and he shared.  I really, really, really love his heart. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Math for the Little Guys

Today we're going somewhere we've never gone before.  We're going to the Math world.  For some it's a dark and scary place.  A place that reminds you of tears and frustration.  For others it's a world that just makes sense.  Well, today we're going to make lots of cents (pun intended...however lame it might be).

What you're going to need today is lots and lots and lots of change.

The first activity is simple.  Just begin sorting the change.  Little Man had a blast with this.  He is interested in all things money.  He always wants to hold the change from purchases in his pocket, and has a nice stash of cash in his piggy bank.  I'm thinking about askin' him for a loan.  I bet the little booger would charge interest.  Scratch that.  I may just start keeping my own change.  He gets enough from his Mimi and Great-Grandpa.  They always fill his pocket with dollar bills when we get to see them. 

Back to the activity.  Show your child the differences in each coin.  The biggest struggle for little kids is the difference the nickel and quarter.  Their size is somewhat deceiving to little eyes.  Have your child look closely at each one and investigate their similarities and differences. 

After you're finished comparing the coins, help your child start the sorting process.  Pennies here, nickels over there, dimes right here, and quarters over here...

Let your child sort the stash.  Resist the urge to immediately correct them when they make a mistake.  It's hard.  Especially for us perfectionist who like 'everything in it's place'.  Instead wait a little while and have a 'check it out' time.  This is a time to stop and review your work thus far.  This is a great skill for your child to learn.  Have your child look at every pile.  If they have a mistake draw their attention to that pile, but do NOT point it out for them.  Let them look.  You can ask questions like, "Do all the coins look the same in this pile?"  If they don't find their mistake, then draw their attention to it by asking, "Does this coin (a coin in the right group) look the same as this coin (a coin in the wrong group)?"  If they still do not recognize their mistake, your child will need a reteaching lesson in the differences of the coins.

'Check it out' time is a super important skill for your child to learn.  If you teach your child to take the time to check their work now, their future teachers will love you!  In elementary school, I would have students plow through their work, and they never once stopped to evaluate what they had completed.  Teaching this skill at a young age turns helps build good habits to ensure future success. 

The second activity I'll share tomorrow.  It involves Number Sense.  Exciting stuff people!

Now if you're wondering where all my change came from, I'll fill you in on my get rich quick scheme.  Steven and I have been married for almost 8 years.  Since we've been married, I've had a jar that hangs out in the laundry room.  Anytime I find loose change, I throw it in there.  We use that change for the coveted 1/2 off Sonic drinks in the summer, car wash money, etc.  We also keep it in there to collect.  Well, after nearly 8 years, I'm cashing it in and starting from scratch.  There you have it.  My get rich quick scheme.  That's if you count 8 years quick.  Anyone want to take a guess on how much my jar amounted to?  Well, I'll tell you...tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Homemade Mac N Cheese

Sometime last week, and I say 'sometime' because I'm too darn lazy to find the exact date, Lynne left a comment asking for a good homemade macaroni and cheese recipe.  Although I don't have a one true favorite, I usually go between two depending on my mood.  Neither one is my own creation, and I just bet you can guess where one of the recipe's comes from.  Here's some hints...She's the only 'celebrity' I would want to meet, and she's mentioned at least once a week on this blog.  Got a guess?  It's, it's, it's...I'll leave you in suspense.

Here's my two go-to recipes...

The Pioneer Woman's Mac and Cheese (my hints were pretty obvious)

There you have it!  My secret weapons.  I bet you're super duper surprised that I use recipes outside of my own and TPW.  I would like to make a point that if you cook outside of the realm of Ree Drummond's world, The Neelys offer up some pretty yummy low calorie meals.  Well maybe not low calorie, but it's definitely packed with some down home flavor.  Hmmm, I wonder if that's how they got the name of their show...Down Home With The Neelys???  I think I just had an epiphany.  Must take nap.  Too much thinking...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Potty Training In a Week

Remember this little thing...
{Little Miss, age 26 months}

And this big thing...

Well after two weeks of big girl panties, I think it's safe to say I have a potty-trained two year old.  It's one of my greatest accomplishments in life.  Aside from potty training this one...

 {Little Man, age 20 months}

And this one too...

{Steven Torres, age 385 months or 32 years, 1 month}

Maybe I didn't potty train him, but I certainly trained him to put the stinkin' lid down!  That's an accomplishment in itself.  The big question is what do I do with the rest of my year???  I mean, I've already accomplished my New Year's Resolution.  I set the bar pretty high, didn't I?

For those of you wondering how we did the whole 'potty training' thing, I'll include the details.  If you are not a parent of a child in diapers, just stop reading now.  There is no one in their right mind who should ever be interested in the bathroom habits of others unless you are teaching one to quit peein' and pooin' in their diaper.

Little Miss really didn't show any signs of readiness, other than telling me, "I poopy, Mama."  Of course, she'd tell me AFTER she'd done the deed.  Poop just grosses me out.  Like totally.

I have a friend, Natasha, who potty-trained both of her children by 18 months.  I went with her plan.  It goes a little something like this...HIT IT!  Sorry, I had to throw that in ;)

Day 1: 
As soon as your child wakes up, put them on the potty and get rid of that diaper.  Straight to undies/panties.  Set a timer for every 20 minutes and increase the amount of liquids your child drinks throughout the day.  When the timer goes off, go potty.  I had M&M's ready.  In fact Little Man was M&M manager.  If Little Miss went, he'd run and get one for her.  He'd also tell her what color it was.  Consequently, she learned the colors associated with M&M's and how to potty.  My heart is full! 

IF Little Miss did not go, I'd set the timer in 5 minute intervals until she went.  Do this for the entire day.  It's is exhausting.  It is a pain in the booty, BUT you will be glad you did it.

Day 2:
Day 2 is almost identical to Day 1 with the exception that you will increase the time between potties.  We did 30 minutes and it seemed to work well.

Day 3:
Little Miss didn't have any accidents on Day 1 or 2, so I stopped setting the timer.  Instead I would periodically ask if she needed to go.  She had a few accidents on this day, but she would come and tell me as soon as it happened.  Good sign!

Day 4-7:
Same as Day 3, but we asked less frequently if she needed to go.  By the end of the week, she was able to hold it for longer intervals and was telling us when she needed to go.  Success!!!

I won't say this works 100% of the time, but the people I know who have used this method have also been successful.  If you're looking to get rid of diapers, give this a try.  It may just be the trick!

Happy Potty Training!!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Menu Monday

I'm not quite sure if you know this, but I love The Pioneer Woman.  I really do.  She's witty and yummy.  And by yummy, I mean she makes yummy things.  So many yummies that 5 of the menu items come from either her creations or Tasty Kitchen (a website she created).  I heart you, Pioneer Woman.  I dream of staying in your lodge and watching you cook.  Caressing your ovens and running my extremely dry dishpan hands over your gorgeous countertops.  What?  Was that too much information?

Monday-Bacon Parmesan Pasta, Parmesan Breadsticks, Spinach Salad
Tuesday-Lemon Pepper Chicken Quarters & Spring Potato Toss
Wednesday-Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole & Honey Butter Bread
Thursday-Grilled Chicken with Lemon Basil Pasta, Italian Style Green Beans, and Garden Salad
Friday-Make Your Own Pizza Night
Saturday-Baked Chicken, Olive Garden Style Salad, Peas, Fruit Salad
Sunday-Buttered Chicken served with white rice, Perfect Potatoes au Gratin, and The Bread

Yep, it's kind of a carb-o-holic menu this week.  You would think I was preparing to run a marathon, but I'm not.  I'll be good if I even squeeze in 3 miles this week.  How in the world did I go from running 15 miles a week to 3, I don't know.  I have issues.  That's the only logical explanation.  Have a great week!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Your Circumstances Can Change

First off, I'm sorry I'm just now getting this post up.  The Mr. had some work to do last night and thus I got pushed aside.  Yes, I'm crying.  I think somebody needs to call the Whaaaambulance.  I'll get over it.

The three part blog series on Becoming a Stay at Home Mom is over.  I was a little nervous sharing exactly how we managed and the process I went through to get where I am today, but after all the feedback it was worth it.  The best part, God used what he did for us to bless even more people!  I can't even begin to tell you of all the emails, phone calls, and comments I have received.  Listening to your stories is amazing!  Please keep me in touch if you are believing God for something big in your life.  I would love to hear all about it!

Now, onto today's post.  I have no doubt if you've had your television on for any period of time this week you've heard about Ted Williams.  A homeless man living on the streets of Columbus, OH gets an opportunity to use his God given voice.  In a matter of a week, his appearance and circumstances have changed dramatically.  Just take a look at this...

The coolest part of this story is this man was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and now is two years sober.  This is such a perfect example of how your life can change in an instant.  Seize those opportunities to change.  Be ready at a moments notice for what may come your way, and don't be afraid.  Good things can come to you when you least expect it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Becoming a SAHM Part III

Becoming a SAHM Part I
Becoming a SAHM Part II

Summer came and went that year, but God wasn't finished showing Steven and I how he planned to replace my lost income.  Paying off both our cars, and keeping my nephew was going to help out tremendously, but we were still short.  However, we continued to stand on God's promises (Mark 11:23-25).  God had given us a peace that it was time for me to stay home with the kids.  We knew he wouldn't fail us, and He didn't. 

One evening at church, we were standing in the sanctuary during our praise and worship time.  God clearly spoke to me.  It was one of those, "Where in the world did that thought come from?" moments.  I heard in my own head, "Find out more about couponing."  I know some of you think I am absolutely crazy, which I kinda' am, but this is the honest to goodness truth.  I had heard about couponing from friends, but hadn't looked into it as something that I would do for our family.  Once I started reading, I couldn't quit.  How in the world had I missed out on this concept?  Within a few short months, I shaved our grocery bill in half. 

I tell you what, cutting any bill in half is great, but the grocery bill was a blessing.  Our monthly grocery bill was almost identical to our house payment.  Mind you, we lived in a teeny-tiny house, but STILL!  That much a month on groceries is RI-DI-CU-LOUS! 

Slowly, but surely, God was showing us how to replace my income, but He he had more in store for us.  Much more.  More than I would have ever thought to ask, but Steven did.  We were quickly outgrowing our teeny-tiny house.  It seemed unfathomable to me to even ask God for a new house after He had just provided a way for me to stay at home, but not Steven.  I am thankful to have such a wonderful husband who dreams of bigger things for our family.  Without him, I would not be typing this story out in my new beautiful home.  I won't go into details about our new house right now, but if you're interested you can read the story by clicking on the 'HOUSE' label on the right hand side of this blog.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our journey.  It's a really cool story to tell.  I remember when I was working I would ask other SAHM's how they did it.  Now that I look back, I can clearly see how 'they do it' is not the best way for 'us to do it'.  God has a specific plan for all of us.  How He answers my prayers is not the same way He will answer your prayers.  It took me awhile to learn that lesson.  If you are seeking a way to stay at home, my only advice is to ask God for help, stay faithful, and He will show you just how to do it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Becoming a SAHM Part II

If you haven't read Part I, go here.

One thing I've learned in my 30 years on this Earth is if life is getting full, ask for help.  My life was full.  Overflowing with busyness.  I knew it was time to make the decision to stay home.  I asked God for help.  Financially, this wasn't going to be done on our own.  Steven and I have always trusted that God is our source.  We also give ten percent of our gross income (our tithe) to the church we attend.  God's word clearly states, that you can't out give Him (Malachi 3:10-11).  It was time Steven and I trusted Him completely with our finances.  Standing on God's Word and faith, we made the decision that I would not renew my contract for the 09-10 school year.

Shortly after we made the decision for me to quit my job, my sister-in-law and Steven's twin brother, announced they were having a baby.  Since I was going to be staying home, they asked if I would be willing to keep their future son, Chunky Monkey.  This was a huge relief to us.  We knew that Steven's income alone would not completely support the lifestyle we lived.  The opportunity to keep my future nephew provided us with additional income.  Even though the amount would not cover the full cost of my lost income, it was a start.  God was showing us His faithfulness to our family.

We did have one way figured out to free up more income.  Something we had decided to do on our own.  Yes, we were trusting God to provide in ways we couldn't provide for ourselves, but we also planned. Most teachers only teach for 9 months of the year, yet receive a paycheck year round.  That way we don't go without any form of income during June, July, and part of August.  Although I had not renewed my contract, I would still continue to be paid until August of 2009 when my official contract ended.  Steven and I decided to take my summer paychecks (all 3 given out in June), and pay off both of our cars.

Things were going pretty well.  Steven and I were feeling confident that we would be okay financially, but I was starting to experience a little self-doubt.  Clearing out my classroom became a very difficult task.  I would find myself crying just because I took down bulletin board set.  When it came time to clear out my desk, I completely lost it.  For seven years a huge part of my identity was wrapped up in being a teacher.  I loved telling people my profession, and I was getting ready to lose that.  My heart wanted to be at home with my children, but my head was telling me I would no longer have a connection to an adult world.  I felt I would be looked down upon from those who did work outside the home.  The day I moved my personal teaching materials (about 15 boxes) out of my classroom, I cried again.  Even though I knew I was doing the right thing, closing that chapter in my life was difficult.

Looking back, I see how ridiculous I was being.  Change used to be very hard for me.  I'm a big planner, and it's hard to plan for the unknown.  However, I've learned to plan as best you can, but not to get in the way of God's plan.  You see, He had even more plans for us.  Big plans.  Plans that amaze me still to this day.  But, I'll share more on that tomorrow.  I wouldn't want to bore you too much!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Becoming a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) Part I

It's about time I share my story of how I became a SAHM.  I get asked a lot about it.  It usually comes in the form of, "How do you do it?" or, "You're husband must make a lot of money." 

Let me first say, I went to college for four years to be a teacher.  I loved being a teacher.  I was a pretty good teacher.  I planned on teaching until the day I decided to retire.  THEN I got pregnant, and had a beautiful baby boy.  That little boy turned my world upside down.  During my maternity leave I cried almost daily thinking about going back to work.  I crunched numbers and wracked my brain for ways to stay home.  In the twelve short weeks of maternity leave, I couldn't find a way. I went back to work.

I finished out the rest of the 06-07 school year, and taught the 07-08 school year as well.  I still had the desire to stay at home, but I loved teaching fourth grade.  I got pretty good at the working mom routine and I was extremely happy with our sitter for Little Man (we're still great friends).   Still, I had the yearning to be at home. Crunching numbers and looking at ways to trim our budget, I still couldn't find a way.  I decided to renew my contract yet again for the 08-09 school year.

About the same time I renewed my contract, Steven and I had a little surprised.  A now precious, sweet surprise, but a surprise nonetheless.  That little surprise turned out to be Little Miss.  I gave birth to her in October 2008, and enjoyed every minute of my 12 weeks maternity leave with my two kids.  However, maternity leave comes to an end. 

When I returned to work at the end of January, I was frazzled.  A working mom of 2 is no joke.  My day consisted of waking up, getting ready, getting the kids ready, grab my bags for the day, grab the kids' bag and lunches, drop the kids off at the sitter, teach 40+ kids, go pick up my kids, clean up bottles/lunches/breast pump, make dinner, clean up dinner, pack bags/lunches for the next day, give baths, put kid #1 and then kid #2 to bed, make teaching related phone calls, grade about 100 papers per night, and finally bed for me.  No room for playtime.  No room for family time.  No down time.  Just craziness.  A vicicous cycle of chasing my own tail. 

I finally came to the point where I had HAD enough.  It was time to ask for help.

To be continued...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Menu Monday

The holidays are over.  I have some mixed emotions about it.  On one hand, I love starting out a fresh new year with goals, but on the other hand I miss having vacation time with my little family.  Have I ever mentioned that I love them?

I'm not gonna lie.  The menu this week is kinda rough.  It was another one of those open the fridge, then open the pantry and see what you can throw together.  I've been on vacation.  When you're a stay at home mom vacation consists of not going to the grocery store.  It's just a fact. I've also been on vacation from washing clothes and cleaning house.  I think there's a few pairs of clean undies in the house.  I think.

Enough about my vacation.  Here's my menu...

Monday-Chicken Noodle Soup (nix the dough for dumplings/add egg noodles), Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
Tuesday-BBQ Chicken, Homemade Mac & Cheese, Potato Salad
Wednesday-Taco Soup with Corn Bread
Thursday-Baked Chicken, Roasted Peppers, Onions, & Zucchini, Crescents
Friday-Chicken Parmigiana, Roasted Garlic Dipping Sauce, Spinach Salad with Feta Cheese
Saturday-Date Night???
Sunday-Who's inviting me over?