Carry On, Warrior. Dads are awesome, too.

Before kids, my husband and I would often grocery shop together.  So, when we had our first child, naturally, we tried making it a family thing.  Shopping with a baby wasn’t bad (we’re blessed with good babies) but eventually that baby turned into a toddler who wanted to touch everything, pull jars off of shelves, etc.  I thought to myself “Why did I think this would be fun to do all together?  Certainly there are more fun things to do to enjoy time all together as a family.  Like go to the playground.  Or skipping rocks.”  (Ok maybe this was a gratuitous attempt to insert a cute picture from vacation)

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Skipping rocks with kids. Better than grocery shopping with them, for sure.

And from that day forward, I have attempted to shop by myself WHENEVER POSSIBLE.

Tonight was one of those nights.  I was rockin’ it.  I went to four stores and got gas within less than an hour.  BOOM!

But it was in that third store, that it happened.  I was inspired.  Sometimes I am inspired by a mom who has 3 kids under control in the store (I only was daring enough to have two kids) and is managing to clip coupons and chat calmly with her kids (a skill I have NOT mastered).  She is woman, hear her ROAR. Once I saw a mom who was walking around the store nursing her baby while picking out healthy food for her family.  I stopped her and told her that if you can do THAT you can do ANYTHING.  I think she thought I was a bit nuts.

And, you know what, there are lots of amazing mom blogs out there commending the mom who is in the trenches with small children and working hard.  One of my favorites tells these moms to “Carry On, Warrior” and talks of a kid peeing in a corner.

But what I saw tonight was not a warrior mom.  It was a warrior dad.  A dad whose efforts, like most dads, are more often than not overlooked.

The visor looked a lot like this one.

Picture him, wandering the aisles of Trader Joe’s.  He had on a golf shirt, khakis and a visor hat.  I noticed him first as his daughter, maybe 12, was talking about what I gather was cheerleading camp.  She talked fast and incessantly to him, much like my little girls are known to do, about how her hands hurt.  Maybe from clapping.  Maybe from all the back handsprings.  She really didn’t know, but her hands hurt every time she clapped.  Watch dad, see how it hurts.  If you have a little girl in your life, you probably know what I am talking about.

He wandered somewhat aimlessly picking out products.  Unlike the 15 minutes I spend walking quickly up and down the aisles picking out my tried and true items, he was still in the first aisle when I left the store. My last glimpse of him was with his son, maybe 10 years old who looked like he spent the day at the pool.  He happened to be barefoot. Which I’m pretty sure is against health code regulations.

And sometimes in our society, I think we like to make dads out to be doofuses who don’t know what they are doing.  My initial reaction was to laugh.  But as I hurried to the next store where I needed to pick up things for the latest Home Improvement Project, I started off confident but after about a dozen texts to my husband (I counted), realized that this was not my world.  Just like Trader Joe’s and maybe listening to cheerleading camp details and, ahem, finding shoes for your son might not be this sweet dad’s deal.

I imagined this dad’s story.  Maybe he encouraged his wife to go out of town with her girlfriends while he did his job AND hers.  Gaining a new appreciation after 5 hours alone with the kids, no doubt.  Maybe they’re a couple struggling to make ends meet and she picked up an evening job – leaving him to pick the kids up from camp and do the shopping.  Maybe he is recently divorced, still heartbroken and tonight is HIS night and he has to figure out what is for dinner (better hurry, it was almost 8 pm).  In a couple of weeks, he’ll be trying to figure out how to squeeze homework into the routine too.  Maybe he’s done the shopping for years, but just looks less confident than the average female shopper.  I don’t know his story, but there are lots of men out there like him.  Pulling their weight.  Being team players.  Being awesome.

I was on the phone with a friend once while I was trying to find a dish that my husband had WASHED and PUT AWAY in the wrong place and the friend commented negatively about how annoying that was.  I said to her “Maybe you did not hear me right.  My husband did the dishes.”  We live in a wonderful time, ladies, when men do dishes.

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I once did almost every dish in our house. This was before we had a dishwasher.

I came home from this shopping trip somewhat proud of myself (did I mention I went to 4 stores in under an hour) but mostly hopped up about how awesome men are these days.

What I came home to was two happy little girls who’d had fun all day with their daddy.  Albeit, my 9 year old was constantly checking to see if the jell-o had jell-o’d in the refrigerator. (Daddy tired, but it appears the jell-o is gong to remain more liquid-ish than we’d hoped).  And my dining room table looked more like a war zone than a table (which is perplexing since the dishes I found in the living room indicate that dinner – plain noodles – was consumed in the living room).  And my daughter’s hair had the biggest rat’s nest in it I have ever seen.  Thankfully, they did not go out in public looking this way.  This time.

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This picture truly does not do this large knot in her hair justice.

So, I want to say to all the men out there who have braved the grocery store with their kids, or done dishes, or cooked dinner.  Carry On, Warrior.  You Kept Those Kids Alive.  You supported your wife.  You made it through the day.  You are the unsung heroes that do half the housework and go unrecognized.

We are sorry for taking you for granted.  We humbly bow down and apologize for all the times we accused you of not doing enough.  You are wonderful for filling in the gaps.  You are employees, husbands, fathers, sons.  You have many irons in the fire.  You’re doing an awesome job.

Carry on, warrior.  

And maybe keep an extra pair of shoes in the car for your son.  Just in case.

And if your daughter’s hands still hurt from clapping tomorrow, offer her an ice pack.

Dairy Free Chicken Nuggets and Old Fashioned Noodles (in less than 45 min)

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I’ve talked before about my desire to throwback to the way things were done 100 years ago, particularly with food.  I do this extra work (when I have the time and enregy) for the health and mood of myself and my family.   There is a Pinterest recipe that I have been looking at for a while for Chic-fil-a nuggets knock-off that intrigued, but also intimidated, me.  But tonight I had energy and my four year old had a sink full of bubbly water and some floaty toys to occupy her so I decided to give it a whirl.  The original recipe came from AddAPinch.com but I altered it quite a bit.

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The verdict:

  • Even my four year old who eats about four foods ate them.
  • My 8 year old went on and on about how she is not sure which she likes more, this meal or CiCi’s Macaroni and Cheese Pizza (which BELIEVE ME is a HUGE compliment).
  • They truly were EASY to make.  They were so easy that I also decided to make my favorite tried and true recipes (homemade old fashioned noodles, directions below).  And, I finished ALL of this within 45 minutes.   I even had time to throw together an organic spinach salad and steamed broccoli.  I am feeling like superwoman today.  I’ll let it carry me through as we might just be eating PB&J tomorrow.
  • It tasted a lot like Chic-fil-a except I usually eat the fried nuggets there and I altered the spices a bit.  But overall pretty similar and yummy.

How I made them:

Mix together flour, spices and salt.  I try to avoid refined flours and spelt is my favorite alternative flour because it is light.  And I added flax seed for good measure.  I read a long time ago that it is good for me and since have forgotten why.  Google it.  You have a computer, right?

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To make a dairy free wash, I mixed together Almond Milk and a bit of Agave Nectar.  Honey or Sugar in the Raw might do as well.

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Then, I made a bit of an assembly line of chicken. First, the milk mixture, then the flour mixture, then into the baking dish.  I eventually got sick of doing them one at a time, so I dumped them all in there and it worked fine.

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Then, I drizzled them with some dairy free butter stuff.  And put them in the oven, turning half way through.

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Then, I got busy making my favorite homemade noodles.  I love this recipe because it is so easy and so yummy.  I have doubled the original recipe and, even then, there are not leftovers.  Which is really disappointing.

First, you put the flour in the bowl.  Usually I add some flax seed, but today I forgot.  (Give me a break, alright?)  Then, you add 2 eggs.  I used an extra because mine came from a local farmer and were small ( local eggs = bonus points)

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Then, you use half the egg shell to add “some” milk.  My mom would have said “Until it is the right texture.”  I always wondered “How do I know it’s the right texture?”  I guess you figure it out over time.  But because I don’t want you to ruin this recipe and never try it again, I’ll tell you.  When you stir it, it should form a ball.

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Then, you generously flour your counter (don’t be stingy – it’ll make your job a LOT harder).  I’m lazy so I usually use the back of a cookie sheet or a cutting board.  I think it’s easier to wash off later.  Lay the dough ball on it and roll it around a couple of times to get it floured.  Then roll it out.  (We just moved and the rolling pin is MIA.  I used my hands and I survived.  And they were kinda tastier.  Not my hands, silly, the noodles were tasty).  Then, cut it into strips with a pizza cutter.  Or squares.  Whatever floats your boat.  Next, insert into boiling water and cook for 25 minutes.  I usually taste test at 15 (because I can’t wait) and they’re FINE!

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Chic-fil-a Nuggets:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1/8 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon Agave Nectar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon buter
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Spray baking dish
  3. Mix flour, spices and salt
  4. Mix milk and Agave Nectar
  5. Cut chicken into 1 to 2 inch pieces
  6. Dip chicken pieces in milk mixture, then flour mixture, then put in baking pan
  7. Bake for 25 minutes, turning half way through

Old Fashioned Noodles:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 2 eggs
  • About 4 half egg shells of milk
  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil.
  2. Put Flour in a bowl.
  3. Add the eggs.
  4. Add milk slowly using one half of an egg shell for measuring.  Start with two and add more until the dough can be mixed to form a dough ball.
  5. Generously flour a kitchen counter.
  6. Roll the dough out on your counter until it is about 1/4 inch thick.
  7. Cut the dough using a pizza cutter.
  8. Drop the noodles by hand into the boiling water.  Stir about half way through the batch so they do not stick.
  9. Boil for 15-20 minutes.  Taste test to ensure doneness.
  10. Strain and enjoy!

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as my family and I do.  And have some fun experimenting with them!

The Throwback Mom

If you have followed me for a while, you know that I am exploring employee satisfaction in my role of stay at home mom, using a Gallup survey used at my old employer.  I explained more about this survey in my post “What is employee engagement anyway?  (And as a mom, why should you care?)  The first question has to do with understanding your expectations, which I explored in “I am not Supermom and that is okay“.  In this upcoming series, I explore what may have been the expectations of a mother 100 years ago.

Lady Comer 4A couple of months ago, my family was looking for a house and we looked at this beautiful old house with a small graveyard in the backyard. I was immediately drawn to a large gravestone that stood high among the rest.

She stands majestically over you.  Her right arm is raised in the air, in a gesture which almost evokes victory.  In her left hand is an open book, most likely the Bible.

As I stood next to the statue, I realized that she stood on a huge platform – the platform alone was 2 or 3 feet taller than me.  This means that no matter how tall you are, you are forced to look up to her.  All in all, her statue must be at least 12-14 feet tall.  The next tallest grave in this small graveyard is, at best, 4 feet tall.

Most of the other graves in the graveyard are made solely from a slab of rock sticking up from the ground.  The more ornate ones, always for women, are a slab with some flowery carvings in them. Regardless of our view of women’s roles back then, women were respected and loved. But of all the women’s graves in this small graveyard, there was no expense spared in this angelic figure.  Considering she died in 1883 when they had fewer tools to create something like this, I assume her family was either wealthy or they held her in high esteem.  Or both.

I kept wondering what was so special about this woman to deserve such a statue to be remembered for years to come. I wandered over to the grave to read this inscription:

She was a devoted wife,

a loving mother and

gave her friends every evidence

that she was prepared

for the change.

Louticia ComerWas she famous?  No.  Was she a hero of some kind?  No.  It is true that my small, one stoplight town is named Comer – also her last name.  But I do not think that is what makes her remarkable.  What she did was be devoted to her husband, loving to her kids and a wonderful friend.  And everyone believed she was prepared for “the change.”  I’ve attempted to find an explanation for this phrase and come up with nothing – though I do know it was used on other obituaries and tombstones of the time.   I assume “the change” means that she had proven to her friends that she was “worthy” of going to heaven. I think it would be an honor to be remembered this way.

I guess you could say I’m a “throwback mom.”  I’m not one of these people who bemoans how bad the world is nowadays, but I think the way we live today is having an impact on not just our physical health, but on our psyche also.  Over the last few years, I’ve developed more and more of a desire to “throwback” to those old days and live as much as possible in an old fashioned way.   So, I have asked myself what would be the job expectations of a mom of 100 years ago.

(I want to add the disclaimer that I don’t do anything that will stress me out.  AND I have NOT given up my washing machine, air conditioner, dishwasher or car.  In fact, it is in your best interest not to ask this of me.)

The first principle I think we can learn from moms 100 years ago is to provide healthy meals for our family:

2013-05-28 12.55.45All of my life, I have had a dairy allergy and lactose intolerance, but as of late, it is so bad that I cannot even eat something with a tiny amount of milk in it.  This means I have to find the ingredients of each and every thing I eat.  At one fast food chain, I had them print out the ingredients to a grilled chicken sandwich. If I made a grilled chicken sandwich at home, it would consist of a chicken breast, some spices,  flour, salt, yeast, sugar, water and perhaps oil. The list at this restaurant is probably 6 to 8 inches long (pictured here next to a dollar bill to provide scale).  When I googled the ingredients, I learned that some are toxic in large amounts.  I am not sure why I’d want to put poison into my body – or the precious bodies of my children – even in small amounts.  And I am not picking on any one fast food chain – they all do it.  In fact, this restaurant is one that I feel serves “real” food.  Also, these chemicals are hidden all over our grocery stores aisles.

A more recent impact on my life was when, a couple of years ago, I noticed in my own health a trend that I hear from other women.  Around my “cycle,” I got really sad and I had no idea why.  I went to the doctor and asked what “natural” things I could do about it.  Honestly, I thought he’d give me some herbal magic pill that would make me feel better.

What he gave me instead was a rather long lecture about exercise and eating right.  He said to avoid processed foods, refined sugars and flours and hormone fed meats and to eat organic fruits and veggies. On a limited budget, I’ve done what I am able.  And I don’t sweat it when I’m feeling like LazyMom for a day and run through the drive thru for over processed nuggets and fries.  I just try to do it a lot less than I used to.  In part because of a Facebook post I’ve seen about how they make chicken nuggets (verified here by Snopes)  Yuck.  The bottom line is that I feel a lot better and I am hoping my daughters grow up to eat well and avoid the emotional roller coaster I needed to endure for a while.  I’ve become so in tune with my body that I can tell when I have over eaten sugar or forgotten to take my vitamins.

A few recent experiences have reminded me that we CAN live like this today.  About 5 years ago, my husband, my parents and I took a trip to Hungary, where my dad’s family had come from.  We entered the small town my grandfather grew up in and immediately attracted attention because we were driving a car rather than walking or biking like everyone else we saw that day.  Even the “ice cream truck” was on a bike.

Needless to say, we found some of my relatives.  One of the families invited us into their courtyard for refreshments.  In their little yard were growing grapes which seemed to be used to make the juice and wine they served us.  There were other vegetables and fruit growing nearby. I could hear their chickens in the backyard.  After our visit, I remember driving out of the town and seeing families with one or two cows in their back yard.  This is a society that has not been influenced by the TV dinner the way ours has.

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I also recently met a woman who barters with her neighbor for milk. She grows vegetables and her neighbor has a cow for milk.  Each does this so they can feed healthy food to their families.  But they trade their extra and both families win.

Lady Comer 7I think back to the old grave I saw.  I wonder how this woman fed her family.  I know there were no microwaves.  She even cooked without electricity.  Much of the food she cooked was probably grown on her own land or bartered for with her neighbors.  They didn’t call it organic, but I doubt it was sprayed with chemicals or fed antibiotics.  It was just how they did things those days because it’s all they had.  And I think they were lucky.

Lord, help me to be  “a devoted wife, a loving mother and give my friends every evidence that I am prepared for the change.”  And help me to love my family through healthy foods.

A Tribute to Rebecca Mangus: A Challenge to Be More Like Her

About two weeks ago today, my dear friend Becky (Rebecca) Mangus died. For most of my adult life, she was one of my best friends.  She was an inspiration.  One of those friends who spurs you to be better than you currently are. And one of those people who was always doing the same thing herself.  2013-02-15 10.09.14

I met Becky my freshman year of college.  I remember meeting her and I remember being good friends by the time we graduated.  She was my sorority sister, classmate, sounding board and most of all friend.

I will never forget Becky.  I will never forget being silly with her during college.   She was a teacher and I’ll never forget how she talked about the kids in her class – how it was evident how much she loved them and wanted each of them to succeed.  I will, most of all, never forget how her faith grew and was evident to so many during her four years of battle with cancer.

2013-02-15 09.50.20My earliest memory of her is when she worked with one of the sorority sisters in my dorm to plan a skit we would use during rush week.  I remember their conversations being light hearted with lots of giggling.  The skit was funny and made people laugh. (See picture of me dressed like a panther in that skit.  My big line was “Roar” and it got a huge laugh every time).

I was fortunate that Becky was one of those people that I kept in touch with after college.  In a lot of ways, we grew closer during that time. I vividly remember some of the phone conversations that I had with her.  When we were both single, I remember talking about guys we’d met.  I remember her talking about her desire to get married someday and have children.  I prayed for her a long time that she would meet the right person.  I am glad for her that she was not willing to settle for just any guy.  I know it must have been hard for her when she watched her friends get married and have children.  She was selfless during those times even though it must not have been easy.

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After college, I also have vivid memories of Becky talking about her job as a teacher.  I know that she loved what she did and that 179610_4207685802590_1255972644_nshe put everything she had into it.  She sometimes talked about the fact that some of the kids she taught had so little. These kids certainly learned a lot, but most importantly Becky showed them love and gave them hope.  Like for most teachers, the early years were a struggle for her and there was often uncertainty at her school.  But she always believed it would be okay.

No matter what happened to her, she remained energetic, friendly, loving and caring.

But none of this is compared to after Becky found out she had cancer. One of the most remarkable things to me is that Becky did not STOP because of cancer.  Teaching is physically and emotionally draining. But Becky struggled with cancer for four years and did not quit teaching until the end.  I’ll be honest:  I told her a long time ago to quit.  To take care of herself.  But that was not her nature. She could not quit giving of herself – or being active.  It had to be like torture for her this past year when she decided to take a leave of absence.

321830_2221809363628_1197631598_oBut even though she was sick enough to make that decision, Becky did not give up.  I was not there, but from what I hear from her sister and others, she did not give up hope.  She always believed she would be healed.  She struggled for four years with cancer, but she did not plan her funeral.  I guess I’m a planner and a control freak.  I think I would have always believed, but probably would have planned my funeral “just in case.” But not Becky, she was a fighter.

I also hear that the night she was dying, she did not want to give up.  And not because she wanted to go on that vacation she always wanted or to buy a new car. From what I hear, she kept saying she wanted to stay here so that she could take care of her parents.  Even in her last hours, her concern was not for herself, but for those she loved.  Finally, her dad said not to worry about it, that it was okay.  I guess that is when she had peace and drifted off.

I heard a sermon today about being Christ to others.  The pastor talked about how Paul was literally in chains for Christ.  He was in jail and in those days would have been literally chained in his prison cell.  But did Paul moan and wail and complain about his bad luck?  No, he rejoiced and allowed himself to be used even in this hopeless situation.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 

155088_479963708707217_811216765_n (1)This is one of the most often quoted passages of scripture.  But, honestly, I think it is difficult for us in modern day America to understand what those times must have been like.  Paul was literally imprisoned for believing in Christ.  But I think if there is a modern day example of this scripture lived out, struggling with cancer for four years has got to be close.  And Becky truly lived out this passage.  She continued to rejoice and believe.  And she asked for prayer and believed in God’s provision.  She had courage and through her Christ was exalted.  I don’t think any of us will ever know the extent of how much God has been exalted through her situation. I know from what I saw on Facebook that there were lots of people wiling to give her money for her medical bills, organize fundraisers, organize school wide days to wear pink in her honor. And I can’t imagine how many churches were praying for.  I personally had her on two different church prayer lists. In her eulogy, her pastor said that hundreds of people prayed for her, but I’d be willing to guess that it was thousands.

And I hope that each and every one of those finds some comfort in Becky’s beliefs.  She trusted and believed in God.  I am so sad that she is gone, but I am also comforted by the fact that her suffering is over.  That she is in heaven experiencing eternal life and worshipping God.  I have never faced the fear of my own death the way Becky did for the last four years.  So, I can’t understand Paul’s words “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  But Becky did.  She is gone from here, but she is in a better place.

843803_4966914644029_1157748609_oSo, I’m trying not to be sad.  Because I understand that God has a purpose.  That she is in a better place.  That being in heaven and worshipping God for all of eternity is better than being here and being in pain and wondering every day if something is going to go wrong.  Better than wishing she could exercise, but being told she is not strong enough.  Better than deciding to take a leave of absence this year, when she’d fought through cancer for 3 and a half years and managed to still love the kids in her classrooms with all of her heart.

I am comforted by the words of my four year old.  On the day Becky died, I told my daughter who wanted to play legos with me, that I was sad that day.  She asked why and I told her that my friend had died.  And she told me non-chalantly, shruggling her cute shoulders, that it was okay. Because Becky was in heaven now and she got to live with Jesus.  And that he would be her friend.  And then she went back to playing and expected me to do the same.

And even though it is hard, I think she is right.  I think what Becky would want is for us to go back to our lives.  But she’d want us to go back to living them the way she lived.

She’d want us to live them selflessly.  She’d want us to find someone who has less than we do and love them.

She’d want us to fight during our struggles the way she fought cancer – with a fervor.  With faith.

Mom’s Job Expectations, Part I: I am NOT SuperMom and that is okay.

In my post What is Employee Engagement Anyway, I introduced the topic of employee engagement and its link to motherhood.

IMG_8551Ever since the day I quit my job and became a stay at home mom, I have had this little joke about it being my “job.”   In the second week, my daughter asked me when I was going to work and I told her that I quit my job to cook and be the chauffer for two very important children.  Her eyes got big and you could see the wheels turning, trying to figure out who those girls were.  Honestly, I think she thought I was driving the President’s kids around.  Then I told her it was her.  Another time, I was reading cook books and told my husband that I was doing research for my job.  Again, big eyes, wheels turning.  He was trying to figure out what my job was.  Oh, they can be so gullible.

Anyway, all kidding aside, it is my job now. And it might be the hardest job I’ve ever had.  And I want to enjoy it.  Even more, I want to be good at it.  And Gallup’s question #1 regarding my satisfaction is “I know what is expected of me at work.”  So, understanding the expectations of my new role should help me succeed at it, right?

But what on earth does it mean to be good at “being mommy.”  In every job I ever had, there was a written job description.  It would describe the skills and education needed for the job.  It would talk about essential duties and it would go so far as to tell me how much lifting I needed to do or what percent of my job would be travel.

The challenge is that in a “real” job, there are outcomes. I know I’ve done a good job if I sell a certain dollar amount or get a report in on time.  With kids, the outcome is slow.  I invest my time every day and I won’t truly see what the outcome is until my kids turn 18, or 25, or (God help me) 40.  And at the same time, I know that a lot is out of my control.  I could do everything right and my kids could still mess up.  Like I did sometimes.Slide1

I did a lot of soul searching and considered what it REALLY means to be a mom.  What are the expectations of me?  Honestly, in a lot of ways, they are set by me.  You could argue that my husband has a say, and he certainly does.  But when it comes down to it, my husband is supportive and, within reason, will support me any path that I take.

The way I see it, there is a continuum you can fall into.  Somewhere between Supermom and Lay On the Couch All Day Mom (okay, couldn’t think of a better term, but if I do I’ll coin it).

2013-01-23 13.26.01For all you supermoms out there, in terms of expectations you set goals that are too high for yourself.  I think a lot of us these days lean towards setting expectations too high.  I realized a LONG time ago that I will try to cram into my day 3X more than is humanly possible.  But that does not mean that I have learned my lesson and don’t still try.  I enjoy cooking healthy meals for my family – and sometimes that is a lot of work.  And too often I let that get in the way of spending time with my kids.  For example, this week, I spend almost the ENTIRE week planning a tea party for my 8 year old and her school friends.  Part of the problem is I set a menu that was too aggressive which included homemade doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and garlic bread.  (The other part of the problem is my almost 4 year old likes to “help.”)  I took a picture of the moment I realized I had bit off more than I could chew (And I don’t just mean the samples of the homemade goodies).

That brings me to the somewhere in the middle of the continuum:  Work When You Can, Rest When You Need It.  I worked myself so hard getting ready for this party that by Friday, I was exhausted.  My younger daughter didn’t have school so we sat on the couch all morning and watched movies.  She seemed tired too so I justified it, but honestly it was me who needed the break.  And that is okay.

But then there is the far extreme:  Lay On the Couch All Day Mom.  So, I became a stay at home mom in July and a month later my oldest went back to school.  Every day, I took her to school then came home and put on a movie for my 3 year old and went back to sleep.  After a couple of weeks, I asked myself what I was doing.  I decided that this was not why I was home and that I needed to get out of bed and play with my daughter, unpack a box and cook something for dinner.

Slide1My goal is to stay away from both ends of the continuum.  I don’t want to be such an overachiever that I work so hard at the “tasks” that I forget about the relationships.  And I also don’t want to be so focused on myself and my needs that I lay around all day while letting my kids take care of themselves.

2013-02-05 22.54.38I lean more in the direction of being (okay, trying to be) SuperMom and, frankly, sometimes I get exhausted. There are times when I make a list of the 2 or 3 things I need to get done that day, promise myself I won’t do anything else and then force myself to read in the afternoon.  Okay, and if that first example wasn’t bad enough, will you promise not to laugh at this one?  Pinky swear?  Sometimes once I get into “that cleaning mood,” I can’t stop.  So, sometimes when I know I need the rest, I will set the timer for myself (for 20 or 30 minutes) and only “let” myself clean for that long.  Crazy, right?

Anyway, if we as moms kind of set our own expectations, we need to keep ourselves in check.  We need to know ourselves and our weaknesses and “guard against” them a bit.  I also feel like we, as individuals, need to have a standard to hold ourselves to.  I don’t mean I need to pick another mom and try to be like her.  Because that could drive me crazy.  We’re all different and part of “being good at this mom thing” is figuring out our own style and getting comfortable in it.

I have done a lot of thinking about the mom that I want to be these last few years and I will share those topics with you in my next post:  Mom’s Job Expectations, Part II:  The Throwback Mom.  Then (because I think this topic is so important), I’ll explore some more in Mom’s Job Expectations, Part III:  The Original SuperMoms.

So, stay tuned.

Yankee Plans Kids Tea Party for Southerners WITHOUT Sweet Tea

I mentioned in another post that I planned a tea party for my daughter and her friends.  I enjoy entertaining and two of my “spiritual gifts” are being welcoming and connecting people to one another.  I wanted to get to know some of my daughters new school friends and parents and showing up at every school event and stalking them hasn’t worked so …I thought “Let’s have a get together.”  And because I’m lazy, I decided to recycle an idea I’d used before.

A Tea Party.

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Kids have fun with this idea.  You tell them to dress up, there will be finger sandwiches and yummy desserts and they come out of the wood work.  My first kids tea party a couple of years ago was a huge success.  But as I’d relocated from North to South, I had hesitations about whether the expectations might be different.  And every “Yankee” I mentioned my idea to asked me if I was gonna make sweet tea.  And I agonized.  Do I make it?  Is this what they think I mean by a tea party?  On the other hand, what if I screw it up? (I know it doesn’t sound like it’s too hard to make good sweet tea, but I am not sure if you really understand how seriously southerners take their tea – or how good it is down here).  I didn’t make it.  I served hot tea and Kool Aid.  Everyone took both.  And only drank the Kool Aid.  Maybe I should have made sweet tea.

But then again these were 8 year olds.  When it was all said and done, I cooked great food (I’m not bragging, wait for the punch line) but none of them seemed to care.  They just enjoyed getting together and playing.  Honestly, for the first hour and a half (of a 2.5 hour party), I was worried no one was going to even eat the food.  That’s how much fun they were having playing.  And that was the point.  So, I must remember to tone it down a bit the next time I plan a party.  Because what’s important to me is getting people together.  And because my husband threatened me that if I I got this stressed before another party, he was going to ask me not to do it anymore.

2013-01-26 01.14.26Anyway, I used one of my favorite recipes that day.  My Make Ahead Freezer Pizza Dough is one of my favorites because I can make up a bunch and freeze it for when I need an easy dinner.  And it is versatile:  I’ve used it for pizza, cheesy bread, garlic bread, etc.  And it’s not that hard.  For the tea party, I even dusted off my old Pampered Chef Scalloped Bread Tube (which I am not sure I ever used to make bread in) to make the garlic bread into pretty tea party shapes.

So, at last the recipe.

 

Make Ahead Freezer Pizza Dough

4 T Yeast

4 cups warm water (If it is too hot, it will kill the yeast and you’ll end up with a heavy lump.  I run my wrist under the water and if I can stand it without it being too hot, it is perfect)

4 teaspoons sugar (I am trying to reduce refined grains so I use sugar in the raw)

4 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup oil (I only use olive oil in my cooking)

10 whopping cups of flour (I usually do about half white and then mix in other flours like spelt, a gluten free bag from the store, or oat – which is sometimes ground in my handy Ninja blender)

The first thing you need to do is get out your biggest bowl.  The one I use is HUGE.  It needs to fit 10 cups of flour.  It might be a good exercise, if you’re not sure, to just put the flour in to be sure you have a bowl big enough.  If not, you could probably split the recipe in half.

Dissolve the yeast in water.  This is a fun step.  You get to watch the yeast “grow” by fizzing around in the bowl.  This would be a neat science lesson for kids on “reproduction.”  If you remember anything about it from school.  I remember only enough to be dangerous.

Add the rest of the ingredients.  And stir.  (Did you notice my big bowl?  This was, believe it or not, my birthday present to myself last year.  I wanted one for such a long time.  I call it my Mombo Bowl.  Because then while I’m making my dough I sing a funny song I only know two words to.  The other is Italiano.)

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Knead for about five minutes or until it forms a smooth dough.  If you’re new to this, I recommend looking at the clock.  If you were thinking of going to the gym and lifting weights, you might not need to.  This will work your muscles. Oh, and your fingers will be a sticky mess.  I should have told you to take off your rings. You won’t forget that again, huh?

I use this time to think about and pray for my family.

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Divide the dough into fourths.  (I use my pizza wheel, which takes a bit of effort to get through the big blob, but is the easiest way I can think of).

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If freezing, cover each with plastic wrap and then freeze in plastic freezer bags and freeze.  When ready to use, let thaw for 4-6 hours, press onto greased pizza pan and “assemble” pizza.  Either way, bake for 12-15 onto 450 until pizza is golden brown.

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I froze a portion of mine (above) and used the rest for garlic bread for the party.  Here’s the wee “scallops.”  With my daughter’s help, many of them looked more like clouds than flowers.  But again, not one 8 year old seemed to notice.  :)

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Speaking of clouds, at one point, my almost four year old told me that we should lay down on the floor and look at the clouds in the sky.  Every control freak bone in my body resisted because I had doughy hands and wanted to get this done.  But some other part of me convinced me to do it.  We saw all kinds of shapes in the sky.

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Variations:

Garlic bread – add some garlic salt or garlic powder to dough on pizza sheet.  Slice with a pizza cutter into stick and bake.

Cheesy bread – add garlic salt and garlic powder to dough on pizza sheet.  Add mozzarella cheese.  Slice and bake.

Cool Challenge for Wives

I break from my regularly scheduled thoughts to share with you a cool challenge that I came across.  I will probably dedicate another blog to marriage, but let me just say that marriage is one of my passions.  I am so thankful for my supportive, loving husband who is my best friend.  I am pleased to say that we just hit 13 years of happy marriage, but it has not been easy for us.  Especially in the beginning as we learned to work together and give and take.

I know that no marriage is perfect, but I constantly strive to be a good wife and to support my husband.  I heard a saying early in marriage that you should each think of the other’s needs and try to make them happy.  In other words, I think about my husband and his needs and he thinks about mine.  I have followed this blog called Women Living Well for the last couple of years and she says that marriage is not 50/50, it is 100/100.  Each person gives 100%.  I think that is a great picture of what marriage should be.

So, as Valentine’s Day approaches, the author of the blog is doing a challenge.  Each week, there will be additional challenges building up to Valentine’s Day.  Each week, we will be challenged to show love to our husbands in a new and different way.  Week 1 will be praising your husband.

I also know that some of my friends struggle in their marriages.  I know this challenge might not be easy for all of you.  But I encourage you to give it a try and see if it takes your marriage from Bad to Good, Good to Great, or Great to Even Greater.  Even if you don’t think your husband is giving 100%, I challenge you to take this next month and give him 100% and see if it makes a difference.  This is not a turf war.  Don’t keep track of what you have done and expect anything in return. Don’t think about the years and years of when you’ve tried and seen no difference.  Just think about today one day at a time.  And I pray that one day soon you will see a big difference.

Enjoy.  And post comments here or on her site to let us know how it goes.  May God do exceedingly abundantly more than you can ask or imagine in this challenge.

Kim

(Here’s the link just in case:  http://womenlivingwell.org/2013/01/be-my-valentine-marriage-challenge/)