Friday, November 25, 2016

Amazing & Easy Gluten Free Pie Crust *Finally*

People have asked me many times for a good gluten free pie crust. Unfortunately, I'm not really an avid pie baker. But, when my mom challenged me to make my grandmother's chocolate pie for Thanksgiving, I got to work. I looked at a couple of recipes and meshed them to get as close to my grandma's pie crust as possible, and I'm THRILLED with the results. This dough uses inexpensive gluten free flours, is very easy to work with, not loose or sticky like normal gluten free doughs.

1 cup superfine rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp xanthan gum
3oz (approx. 1/2 cup - but I used and recommend a food scale)  vegetable shortening (I used Organic Spectrum)
1oz cold butter (two tbsp.)
1 large egg
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
4+ tbsp ice water

Mix dry ingredients and rub in shortening and butter with your fingers until evenly distributed. It'll look crumbly and stick together when you squeeze it in your hands.

In a separate bowl, mix together egg and apple cider vinegar. Add into dry mixture and start mixing together with your hands, adding water by tablespoon until you have a nice ball of dough (that is smooth and not too sticky). Knead for a minute or two.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for approximately and hour.

After dough is chilled, roll out evenly in between pieces of plastic wrap using a little gluten free flour if it sticks (mine doesn't). Remove top layer of plastic from your dough, pick up dough by lifting under the bottom layer of plastic wrap, and gently press into your greased pie plate. Remove second layer of plastic wrap. Cut excess dough off around the edges, pinch around the perimeter for a nice look, and use a fork to poke the bottom of the crust so it doesn't bubble in the oven.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.

If I'm adding a filling that needs cooked, I'll cook the crust half way, add the filling and finish cooking the pie in the oven. You could probably add your filling to the raw crust if your filling will take a little longer to bake. You can definitely roll this out into a lattice top crust if you're baking a fruit pie, but I would  brush with an egg wash and maybe use more butter instead of shortening if you're hoping for a golden brown look. I've had great success and forgiveness with this recipe!

Happy gluten free baking!

Original recipes were adapted from The Joy of Cooking and this recipe.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What's cooking' over here! "Mostly" Paleo Zucchini Bread. Gluten Free

It's our first week back to school and one thing, among many, stands out to me, and that's HOW MUCH I LIVE IN THE KITCHEN during the school year.

Maybe I'm a little too "crunchy" for many of you, but I struggle with how much junk food and sugar kids consume daily. I feel like I can never have little treats for them because they're getting so much junk that's out of my control. The summer is nice, because I get to be the one to give them the occasional treat.

While I've learned to let a lot of this go, because I have no choice, I'm loving that at school this year, parents send in snacks for their own individual kids instead of for the class. .

So while sometimes I'm just like the next mom and open a bag of pretzels, I really try to have healthy but delicious food around for my kids to enjoy, that also nourishes their body. Not perfection, but my best.

So I've made some new recipes lately that have been a success, and I want to share them with you!

"Mostly" Paleo Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Above is the link to the original recipe, but I made a lot of adaptations so here's my version of this delicious and nutritious bread (that could double as a cake).

    1 ¼ cups almond flour

    ¼ cup cocoa powder

    ¼ teaspoon salt

    ½ teaspoon baking soda

    2 large eggs

    2 tablespoons coconut oil

    ¼ cup honey

    1 tsp vanilla extract

    2 tbsp xylitol (or other sweetener of your choice/or omit)

    1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (plus extra for topping)

    1 cup zucchini, grated & extra water squeezed out well

    Elena uses a food processor for many of her recipes. Because they are paleo, some of the coarser flours benefit from being ground further by the blades. I like to pulse the dry ingredients with the zucchini to make it finer too...I don't love the larger strands of zucchini in my bread, but it's a preference. Pulse in your wet ingredients well, and then stir in your chocolate chips.

    I used a greased 9 inch round cake pan and baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, less than she suggests...and it comes out perfectly moist and not dried out like too many gluten free baked goods!

    I pulled it out and sprinkled a handful of mini chocolate chips on top and after a few minutes, used the back of a spoon to spread them around, making an easy glaze on top. It cooled on the counter for a couple hours before the girls ate it for their after-school snack.

    It was a hit! Minimal added sugar in the added chocolate chips. You can omit those to make this completely free of refined sugar. Super high in protein and heart healthy almond flour. Um, hello veggies in cake! Honey and coconut oil are also powerhouses for nutrients and antioxidants. 

    This is a recipe that your kids will eat, and you'll feel GOOD about them eating it! One of my kids even had it for breakfast this morning, thinking she was eating junk. We both win!

    Wednesday, August 3, 2016

    Warning: It's My Anniversary

    It's my 14th I'm gonna gush. You've been warned. I keep it tame as often as I can, but most of the time, I'm just terribly in love.

    I can say that right? I mean, I'm really in love with my husband.
    My high school graduation 2000.
    Is our marriage perfect? Of course not. In 17 years together, we've been through so much. Illness, surgeries, grief, worries and sadness. But, we've also been through even more beauty, joy, love, fun, and laughter. Through all of it, my choice has not wavered. I'm in love with my husband.

    1999 Niagara Falls
    He is the most selfless, loving man I have ever known.
    He is a fierce protector with a gentle spirit. 

    Mission Trip to Mexico City 2000

    I know Jesus better because of who Matt is.

    Babies. Just started dating 1999
    He always puts our needs above his own.

    He makes me laugh. A lot.

    I've given up trying to figure out how and why I get to do life with someone I adore so much, and have just accepted the gift.

    Eighteen years ago, as teenagers, Matt and I met at our youth group, the same one we still support today. I was 17 and he was 19 a year later when we started dating. I knew immediately that I was not only in love, but safe with an amazing man.

    Getting' hitched 2002
    Three years later at 20 and 22 years old, we were married. Both in college. Broke. Living on love and pizza rolls. Actually, for almost 4 years until we graduated college and Hannah was 5 months old, we lived on the second floor of a funeral home. The rent was cheap and the neighbors were quiet. Get it?

    Hannah 2005

    Five years after that, years full of ups and downs, trials and hopes, we found out our second miracle, Emma Grace was on her way and, although she was small, she was (and is) mighty.

    Emma 2010

    My heart is full of God's provision, and I am SO THANKFUL that He has blessed me with a husband to walk with. Lean on. Care for. Hold on to. 

    Reading & Drinking Coffee...We love.
    Biking, Basketball, Working out together...We also love.

    Our babies 2015...we REALLY LOVE!

    Today, we have traditional roles. Provider, amazing father, loving husband & stay at home wife and mama. It works well for us. I pray that we have and look forward to many many years more together watching our family grow and serving God with them.

    Orlando 2016

    No, life isn't perfect, but it is beautiful. I can't even dream up a man who would be a better husband, love, father and friend than Matt, and I thank God for him every single day.

    Hanging out on the North Shore 2016
    Happy 14th Anniversary to my Baby! I love you!

    Sunday, July 31, 2016

    Politics, Hate, People, And What My Conscience Is Telling Me.

    Lately, the media, news, and election has had me sick to my stomach, and it's just beginning.

    I feel many different emotions, but mainly just sadness at the lack of character we accept in the people we support.

    The arguing, when we really have no clue how to find real truth in the murkiness.

    The intense finger-pointing at everyone else before looking in the mirror.

    I almost want to avoid social media altogether. Bury my head in the sand. It seems as though everyone just wants to fight. Prove a point.

    Then, sometimes, I'll feel fear. What's going to happen to this world?




    With the election.

    With race.

    With religion.

    With gender.

    Finger-point, finger-point, finger-point.

    All that's wrong in the world is someone else's fault.

    So we put all of our eggs in the basket of a flawed political candidate.

    Is your head spinning? Mine is.

    Then I stop. And I realize, I am not called to put my hope in any human being. No flawed candidate or judicial system.


    "Don't put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there." Psalm 146:3 "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes." Psalm 118:9

    "Don't put your trust in mere humans. They are as frail as breath. What good are they?" Isaiah 2:22

    My hope is in a PERFECT One. All-powerful, Omni-present, the One who Saved. My. Soul. And my hope and trust is ONLY in Him.

    "God is not human that he should lie, not a human being that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" Numbers 23:19 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise." Hebrews 10:23

    Now that's SOMEONE I can get behind!

    "Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods." Psalm 40:4

    "Trust in the Lord and do what is right! Settle in the land and MAINTAIN YOUR INTEGRITY!" (Emphasis added) Psalm 37:3

    So, while I have strong beliefs on certain political issues (I'm not saying we shouldn't), I will not fight. I will not point fingers. I will not use negativity to try to convince others that I am right. I will maintain my integrity. I will constantly evaluate my motives and the errors in my own ways, because I know I am flawed too.

    I will love people.

    I will be kind.

    I will serve others in the name of Jesus.

    I will treat others how I want to be treated.

    I will commit to personal growth.

    I will do my best to better this world where I am planted.

    Dear friends, please, do not go one more day:

    "Be on your guard. Stand firm in faith. Be courageous. Be strong. AND DO EVERYTHING WITH LOVE." (emphasis added) 2 Corinthians 16:13-14

    Friday, June 24, 2016

    When you just need to get dinner on the table...

    It's been a rough go trying to find the balance of fun and rest, busy and relaxation, and killing each other or getting along (the kids I mean...mostly). To be completely honest, my patience has been tested with daily whining. Hannah has been at camp all week and when she gets home, she's exhausted. Emma, is ready for her big sister to play play play! This period of time, before Matt gets home from work when I just need to get dinner on the table without meltdowns, and I'm worn out, is hard. Today, I had such a simple idea. I filled up my sink with soapy water and some utensils and asked Emma if she wanted to make "dinner" with me. She grabbed some play food and was totally content for over an hour. It was glorious. Matt walked in the door a little early and I even shooed him out for the bike ride he was hoping to take before dinner; a surprise I'm sure he wasn't expecting..

    Was she in my way? Yes. Was she taking up a significant part of the VERY limited counter space I have? Double check. Did I lose the use of my sink? Uh huh. Was there water everywhere? Yep. Was it worth it...Oh yes.

    So, just an idea if you're looking for a way to get dinner on the table peacefully!

    Saturday, June 4, 2016

    Gluten & Dairy Free TWIX BARS!!!

    It's what you've been asking for...the GLUTEN FREE TWIX BAR RECIPE!!

    Here is the link to the recipe, but I made adaptations to make them dairy free as well.

    For the crust:
    I HIGHLY recommend Honeyville Almond Flour. Use what you have, but there's is a definite difference in taste and texture with this brand. Other brands are ok to use, but this one is my favorite.

    I didn't bake the crust long enough because my little ankle biters (well...and their mother too, I guess) were impatient. It was still DELISH, just not super crunchy like a real Twix bar, except for around the edges, which I made sure to consume immediately. So good.

    I also used plain sugar, because that's what I had.

    For the caramel
    OH MY GOSH! I've tried to make dairy free caramel a million times. Low and slow is the key here, with lots of stirring. I also used a combo of honey and agave with no problems. Tasted just like caramel.

    In place of butter, I used a combination of coconut oil, dairy free Smart Balance, and organic palm shortening (1/4 cup of each). I think any combination of those would work fine, or each on their own. I would NOT use the Smart Balance on it's own though. I don't think it would thicken, but I used it in the combination for the butter flavor. Spectrum Palm Shortening makes a butter flavored variety that would probably work.

    These were so good. They will be made in our house again!

    Yield: 32 Twix-sized bars at 173 calories each.

    I recommend storing these in the fridge. They can get soft if left out.

    Remember, these are high in protein and relatively low in refined sugar, so while, they're not necessarily "healthy," they have no preservatives and you know exactly what went into them. They CERTAINLY have more nutrients than the ones you pick up at the store!

    Friday, June 3, 2016

    How To Enjoy Your Kids This Summer Instead of Going Crazy

    Disclaimer: You will want to make fun of me.

    It's okay. But, at least hear me out.

    I LOVE having my kids home for the summer. I seriously get so excited. You are either in my camp or in the camp with moms who dread the thought of hearing, "I'm bored." every 10 minutes for 3 months.

    Either way, ALL of us grow weary at some point in the summer. It's hard to keep kids busy all day and feel like you're bonding with them, while simultaneously helping them enjoy things that are valuable and enriching. Time for yourself? What's THAT?? And then there's the issue of the house staying clean...never.

    I'm going to propose something that you'll probably love if you're Type A like me, and hate if you're not. Either way, I suggest trying this on a small scale, for a small amount of time, in a setup that suits your home and family, and see if it doesn't make your day more smooth and fulfilling.

    Here it is: A SCHEDULE.

    You say to me: "I'm SICK of schedules! I'm finally DONE with schedules and now you're telling me to create a new one???"

    Well, yes. A really cool, fluid schedule that incorporates time for you to have PERMISSION and FREEDOM to have FUN with your kids, time for them to clean up their own messes, and QUIET TIME for you to recharge! Yes!! You schedule time to relax...because, well...REST!

    Schedules don't have to be imprisoning. They are freeing! My kids are already loving ours. The schedule we made for our family is pretty much only for days we spend around the house. If we go to the zoo or have a playdate, or even run more than an errand or two, obviously it changes. There are time slots on ours, but only as a guideline, and they are totally flexible. It really ensures, that the necessities get done, and when the kids look at it, they see that most of the time is for having fun. A doable amount of time is allotted throughout the day for cleanup and chores.

    I also included some broad categories like "Creativity." My girls are 5 and 10 years old, so their creative outlets look different. They might color, write stories, play with play doh, make movies on iMovie, draw, craft, paint, build, play their instruments, whatever. Like I said, it's fluid.

    Maybe yours is written on the back of a napkin and only has the top 5 things you'd like to do every day. So be it. But when you sit down at the end of the day and reflect, you will feel accomplished and fulfilled. When summer is over, you won't feel like it was wasted. Even if you work outside the home, this still works!

    So, try a simple schedule. I promise, it will help you keep your sanity and actually ENJOY your days with your kids this summer!

    Tuesday, May 31, 2016

    Unglued - Book Recommendation

    I recently wrote a blog that included the statement, "I feel things..." I went on to reflect on the fact that I'm intensely emotional...which I consider a GOOD thing...with bad side effects. Do you ever feel out of control when you're upset? Kids push you over the edge? Someone makes you so angry you just quit talking to her? Maybe, you think someone is feeling badly toward you...or honestly, maybe someone just attacked you and you're a ball of nerves inside. Are you like me, and feel guilty the second you snap at your kids or spouse, when you know it's only because YOU are stressed and lacking rest? Honestly, I felt like this book was written for me. Every. Single. Page. It's so encouraging to have steps to take to free myself from some of the labels I put on myself...and to have clear ways to rid myself of negative thoughts and emotions that send me into a tailspin, internally and externally.

    Normally, I'm an electronic library girl (and that's how I read this book), but after reading it, I want to own it for future reference. Lisa TerKeurst is one of my favorite, authors/bloggers and you can find her at Proverbs 31 Ministries, or on her website. You can buy the book on Amazon here. (I don't use affiliate links, I just really love this book and think it will help SO MANY women who don't realize we all feel essentially the same way!)

    Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions reminds us that, no matter how we process emotions, we're aren't alone. But it doesn't end there, TerKeurst gives practical steps on how to respond well, even when you normally spew out negativity before you remember to reign it in. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I can already see myself handling things better.

    She talks about the four types of responders:

    Exploders who shame themselves
    Exploders who blame others 
    Stuffers who build barriers
    Stuffers who collect retaliation rocks

    You may see yourself in one of them, but once you read on, you realize, you can see yourself in all of them.

    Some of my favorite quotes from TerKeurst in the book:

    "I can face things out of my control without acting out of control."

    "My job is to be obedient to God in the midst of my own set of issues." 

    (See Scripture recommendations: Galatians 5:23, 1 Peter 5:8)

    "Feelings are indicators, not dictators."

    "I may not be gentle by nature, but I can be gentle by obedience." 

    (See Scripture recommendations King Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 20)

    "I'm not an unglued woman who is a slave to her circumstances, her hormones, or to other people's attitudes. Those things might affect me, but they don't rule me."

    "Lies flee in the presence of truth. But just as we have to flip on a light to erase the darkness, we have to activate truth to erase the lies. We have to capture our thoughts, hold them up to the truth, and make them line up with Scripture before we entertain those thoughts."

    "...anytime I start hearing lies speaking louder than truth, it's an indication my soul is starving for God's Word."

    (See Scripture recommendations 2 Timothy 2:21, Isaiah 35:8, Luke 21:13-15)

    I could go on all day, but then I'd just be rewriting the book. Go read it.

    Thursday, May 12, 2016

    Melissa's Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

    *Gluten Free* *Dairy Free* *Healthy sugar alternatives*

    Hannah shaking a batch of Chia Pudding!
    I've been trying to find a good recipe for Chia Pudding for about a year. They all seem to have too much liquid and not enough sweetness to satisfy my sweet tooth. I created my own recipe that I love! Just remember the word "pudding" is used loosely. The texture of chia seeds when soaked in liquid becomes slightly gel-like. They thicken whatever liquid they're put into and they are a virtual powerhouse of nutrients.

    And now, you can get bags of them anywhere. I buy mine at Aldi. I throw chia seeds into smoothies, homemade granola/bars...anything. No one notices and they nutrient benefits are awesome.

    Chia seeds are high in fiber and protein, Omega 3 fatty acids, calcium and antioxidants. As far as tossing them into recipes, it's a no-brainer. I haven't tried to thicken soups or stews with them...I would be wary of the texture it creates, but a lot of people do it. As far as baking with them, I do it all the time and no one notices.

    That said, I've tried recipes for Chia Pudding and I'm going to stick with the one I created that I'll share with you today.

    One 1/2 cup serving is 175 calories, 6 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, basically no refined sugar and it'll fix that sweet craving.

    Melissa's Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

    1/2 cup 30 calorie almond milk
    1.5 tbsp chia seeds
    1 tsp honey
    1/2 tsp trivia baking blend (you can use more honey or another sweetener to your liking but it will change the calorie numbers)
    1 tbsp cocoa powder
    dash cinnamon
    dash vanilla

    Feel free to add in fruit, nuts, yogurt etc.

    Mix all ingredients in a container and stir/cover and shake well. Place in the refrigerator for an hour or two so pudding has time to thicken...Enjoy.

    Friday, May 6, 2016

    When life feels uncertain...

    Lately it seems as though I have felt every emotion possible, with great intensity. Life has been a roller coaster for months, and sometimes I want to jump off for a few minutes to catch my breath. It's nothing really earth shattering, just a constant state of intensity. I am weary.

    I'm a "feeling" person. I'm driven by emotions, good or bad. Sometimes, during those days where I just don't feel much, I'm secretly waiting to embrace my normal self again because that's just how God made me. I feel things. 

    This week, the normal intensity of life has been turned up. It's been uncomfortable. During these times, I ask myself what God is trying to teach me. What lesson am I to learn? I was quickly given my answer. 

    I'm clearly being stretched. I like to be in control. As a person who has learned to manage anxiety quite well after spending much of my life suffering because of it, a need for control is most definitely my problem. I've fought this as far back as I can remember, this refusal to believe that I really do control nothing in life. 

    Tonight, I embrace the beauty of learning to accept uncertainty. My God is big. My whole life has been as uncertain to me as yours has been for you, but it is not uncertain to the One who made me. The One who made you. The One who created the Heavens and the Earth, the One who is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving and ever-present. The One who already has your tomorrow in His hand.

    My children do not need to know what tomorrow will hold because they trust that I will care for them. How much more does God love us? How much more capable is He to fulfill His promise to care for and protect us?


    Today I sat delighted as I watched my little Emma Grace sing Mother's Day songs and bless her mama with a beautiful beaded necklace those little fingers strung on their own. I watched my growing Hannah dress up like at 90-something Stan Lee and recite facts about his life with comical poise (Is that a thing?). Today I prepared simple Mother's Day gifts for the beautiful mothers in my life. And finally, tonight with such joy and excitement, I watched my girl, her cousin, and 70 other fifth and sixth graders fill an auditorium with the beautiful sound of their voices in harmony. I felt so much. Such joy. Feelings I love to feel.

    A reminder. 

    He gives them as often as you look for them.

    My God walks me though. My God carries me. My God has never failed me. And He covers pain, fear, uncertainty and weariness with His presence, His unspeakable joy, His love. He does this for you too.

    He is our Certainty.

    I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I do know WHO holds my tomorrow...and He has always come through.

    Uncertainty is inevitable, but His certainty is promised. So, you and I can take our next step with confidence and without fear. Immanuel, God, is with us.

    He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
    Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
    But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
    They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

    Isaiah 40:29-31

    And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. 
    Philippians 4:19

    “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 
    John 14:27

    So tonight you and I can go to sleep in peace [because] you alone, O Lord, keep me perfectly safe. Psalm 4:8

    Sleep well.

    Monday, April 18, 2016

    When you feel like you just can't get it right...

    I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.  Romans 7:21-25

    I want to be a perfect mom.

    No, really. Some days I'm content with progress. I'm content with progress until I make a mistake.

    The past couple of days, it's felt like I'm making mistake after mistake. I'll do so well and then screw something up. And then, all I can see is the negative.

    I'm a perfectionist and if there's one job I want to perfect, it's not screwing up my kids.

    I know in my heart that perfection is impossible.

    I know in my heart that I'm human.

    I know in my heart that I pour out so much of myself to serve my family every day.

    I know in my heart that most days, I'm doing just fine.

    I know in my heart that relying on the grace that God gives has helped me to grow in so many areas of my life.

    I know in my heart that I can't take all the blame or all the credit when it comes to raising my kids.

    But there are those little whispers in my ear that are so hard to quiet. They get louder the more I listen to them. The voice that says I'm not good enough. The voice that says I'm a failure. The voice that says I'm causing irreparable damage when I lose my cool. (Not that I ever had any cool to begin with.)

    Why do I write this today? I don't need encouragement. I don't need a pat on the back. I don't need anyone to tell me I'm a good mom. I know Truth. I know the lies that I let seep into my soul. I know that I make some pretty crappy parenting mistakes. I know that I'm pretty awesome at showing my kids love. I know that they know they are loved and blessed.

    I write this because I want to know I'm not alone. I write this because I want you to know that you're not alone. Whether it's parenting or any relationship that requires hard work, we all fall short, and thats okay.

    To be honest, these words are hard to publish. Even as I type them, I want to delete them all. However, we all have bad days. Most of us don't want to blast social media with them, but our not-so-shining moments are daily thorns for all of us. The thought of people seeing us as we really are is mortifying...So, here I am, imperfect, flawed, damaged...just like you. I will press on toward the goal and I hope you will join me.

    Let us do the next right thing together.

    But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

    The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23

    Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… Hebrews 12:1

    Tuesday, April 12, 2016

    10 Steps To Having "The Talk" With Your Kids

    You know, something has been on my mind lately.

    It's the subject everyone talks about, media bombards us with, and some hide in secret...and NO ONE wants to discuss with their kids. It's the birds and the bees!

    As a disclaimer, I'm probably more open about these things than the average person. I suppose helping to lead very in-depth discussions on love, sex, and dating with teenage girls for 15 years, defining terms, imparting God's view on the subject, and answering every single anonymous question one could dream up, will do that to a person.

    I believe many parents, however, are uncomfortable...totally uncomfortable with the subject. So, we say nothing...and by saying nothing, we allow the world's perverted and distorted view on the subject to become the teacher to our children.

    So what's the answer? I feel like I've had enough experience talking to hundreds of girls about the subject in addition to having my own daughters, to have something to say about it. Maybe you disagree with my ideas or maybe you have something to add. Maybe you just need someone to tell you that you can do this. You can. Seek God first and He will equip you to have the hard conversations.

    Ideally? Here's what I think.

    Say whaaaa? When kids are asking basic body questions or showing curiosity about their own body, or ours (always fun), we clam up. Shut them down. Don't do it!! Kid's don't need an encyclopedia definition, but they do need answers! Give them a clear basic answer and move on! You'll be so surprised at their response of acceptance. To them, it's the same as asking "What's for dinner tonight?" They're curious, and you're the one God has placed in their lives to give them answers. Answer them in age appropriate terms and MOVE ON! This is a CRUCIAL time where kids learn that they can literally ask you or come to you with ANYTHING; it is safe, and they will receive an answer from a parent who isn't totally freaked out.

    Which leads me to my next point....

    You're going to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed, especially when they're little and they point, or when they are older and ask personal questions. To put it bluntly, suck it up. They're your kids...and you are the one who needs to do this job. No one else signed up to raise your child. And really, do you want someone else tackling this stuff with your precious gifts? You're going to feel awkward...and you can tell them that, but I encourage you to shove that aside and tell your child how proud you are of them, and give them the information they need to make healthy decisions in the future. I've felt uncomfortable to but it gets easier, I promise, because you can, in my next point....

    When they first ask where babies come from, kids don't need a diagram with a play-by-play...A mommy and a daddy make a baby...along with some Divine intervention.

    "How?" A baby is made up of a part of mommy and a part of daddy that come together and then the baby grows in the mommy's tummy.

    "How does it get there?" A mommy and daddy spend time together in a very special way to make a baby.

    Now this is obviously a set of answers for small children. As they get older you BUILD on these answers. "Remember when I told you....?" Then you give them the next fact. It will get uncomfortable and you will have to use "terms." You can do it.

    After these conversations, evaluate how you handled them. (If you feel like you missed something, have another conversation.) Try to anticipate the next set of questions that come after the one you were just discussing, and think about how you want to answer it. This has helped SO MUCH in my readiness to respond to my kids when they come to us.

    They WILL hear things in the outside world and come to YOU for answers. It's so important to handle these things gently because they set up an environment where your kids aren't afraid to talk to you about uncomfortable subjects. The questions they ask will ALWAYS come before you think they're ready for answers...But the reality is, they come before you're ready to give them!

    I'm even guilty of this one. Even after encouraging parents for YEARS to send their kids to our talks on love, sex, and dating, I hesitated when it came to my own child. They know. Even your innocent, Barbie-playing 6th grade daughter, or your lego-building pre-teen son knows so much more than you think. And if they don't? They're going to start hearing things VERY soon from the world. I personally would rather have healthy values and TRUTH on the subject, set in place before the world attacks my daughters. I also make sure they know that, though this is how we do things, our job is to love others, not to attack those who don't do things exactly like us.

    They're going to ask you personal questions. Answer them honestly. You owe it to them. They're going to struggle in this area. Everyone does. Being honest with your kids is NOT going to encourage them to make the same mistakes you did. It will, however, help them to see the consequences and take a different path. It will help them to see that you're human and made mistakes too. Remember that when your kids screw up...even though it's difficult.

    If you can, start these conversations young and use teachable moments...something inappropriate on TV, a conversation overheard, or an incident talked about at school. Have the discussions around a natural tangible event. Forcing these conversations, especially with older kids, just doesn't go well. But, if you must, do it in the car where your kid doesn't have to look you in the face, and they can't escape. :) (Remember, in this scenario, you can't escape either!)

    As kids grow into the teen years, it might get harder. Your child needs to know you care about this stuff, and needs to know that you're on his or her side. If they shut you down as they grow older, write letters, have short conversations, and ABSOLUTELY make sure they have people in their lives that they trust and YOU trust to have conversations with. The student ministry at our church is amazing. I would be totally okay with my girls going to them with their personal questions if they were uncomfortable talking with me...but I'm going to plug my ears and shut my eyes and yell over and over again that they will ALWAYS talk to their mother about EVERYTHING. :) Maybe they will... Regardless, keep trying. Don't give up. Even if your only feedback is an eye-roll and a grunt, your kids hear you.

    Okay,  you have a 15, 16, 17 year old...and you didn't do it like this at all. It's never too late. Have one of those "car" conversations where you let them know that you made the mistake in not talking about this stuff sooner. Keep it short and sweet and make sure they know that you care, what you expect, that you value hearing their feelings, and you're not afraid to hear or talk to them about absolutely anything. And then you have to follow through, even if you want to throw up. (See *suck it up* advice above.)

    We NEED to know what our kids are looking at. We NEED to do our research on apps, social media, their phones, their computers, and anything else that takes their attention. We absolutely have a responsibility as a parent to let our kids know that NOTHING is private. We might check their phones at random. We will be their Twitter follower. We lovingly tell them that we do these things to make sure they are safe, because having access to these things is a PRIVILEGE,  and it's our responsibility as a parent to love our children with discipline and teaching. We try to make sure they know what specific issues we are passionate about when it comes to our involvement in their lives in this area, and what they can expect from us.

    ASK THEM: What's happening at friends houses? What are their friends into? When they start talking about a subject, nonchalantly say, "Tell me more about that," or "Wow, you must have felt...," And when they say something that totally scares you and you want to react, tone it down with a calm..."That's interesting..." Be approachable - even with you don't feel it on the inside. You'll be amazed at how your kids respond. Every once in a while, ask their opinion on something....That can be a great conversation starter as well.

    - In our house we have constant conversations starting from VERY young that your body is yours. You have a right NOT to be touched, and NO ONE besides mommy, daddy, or a doctor needs to be in your personal areas for check ups or bathing. If ANYONE tries to, even if you know them, you run away screaming...and you ALWAYS tell mommy and daddy everything even if, and especially if, someone tries to make you promise not to.

    -We have and will have a rule as our kids grow: You surrender your phones before bed.  Electronics/TVs/Phones/iPads should be used in open areas and they have restrictions depending on age.

    -Our kids have restrictions on their devices. They can't search or download apps, google, or watch YouTube without a parent present. Even with these restrictions, kids can be exposed to inappropriate material.

    -My kids are young. No social media until an appropriate, responsible age, and with a small texting circle, they need to ask before they text anyone.

    -No TVs in bedrooms.

    I don't claim to have the ultimate expertise on this subject or that my approach is the only way, but I have been involved in it deeply for about a decade and a half, and I believe that I have value to add to it. I see in my own preteen daughter, that this approach works. She's not afraid to talk about the hard stuff even though now, she KNOWS it's the hard stuff. I hope that continues and I have the same openness with my second daughter.

    I believe we need to take back this topic for the sake of our kids. We owe it to them in a world full of perversion, misinformation, downright disrespect of women, and predatory acts to take down boys AND girls, to give them the truth and knowledge! We owe it to them to show them that sex is BEAUTIFUL when done in a healthy way. It was created by God! It's so important to create an environment where it's okay to talk about ANYTHING, even if it makes you uncomfortable!

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject or approaches that have helped you with your kids.

    Conversation is essential. Encourage it. Welcome it. Foster it. Embrace it. Do it for your kids.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

    Easy Way To Memorize Scripture

    This video may not work on some phones. I'm working on fixing that!

    We always say grace before we eat dinner together as a family. I guess it became so routine for our family that it kind of started to feel less meaningful. My kids were reciting the standard "God is good...God is great...." prayer with their mouths full of food.

    So a couple years ago, I started choosing a Bible verse a month that we recite together as a family before we eat dinner. This is our third year doing this, and we've adapted and changed along the way...and maybe even skipped a month or two, but as of now, we have learned over 25 different Bible verses with little to no effort. I did this as much for myself as for them, and it's been awesome to be able to recall these verses when we need comfort or direction.

    Year 1 (2014) - We created a large picture drawing with the scripture, and the kids took turns holding it as we recited it. I saved them all on 12x12 paper. The kids enjoyed drawing and creating the new verse each month, but they fought over who got to hold it at dinner so we have made some adjustments. Pinterest has a lot of great artwork ideas.

    Year 2 (2015) - I used note cards. I made one for each child at the beginning of each month and it sat at their place setting at dinner. When the month was over, we would tape the verse to their bedroom doors. At the end of the year, I made a book for each child that sits on their dressers. 

    Year 3 (2016) - We are using the same format as year two, but memorizing larger chunks of Scripture by adding on a verse or two each month, and reviewing the previous month occasionally. Right now, we're doing     Philippians 4.

    I try to choose verses that encourage us as a family. They are mostly related to being kind, watching our words and actions, and remembering God's greatness and readily-available peace.

    It's not drudgery here and the benefits are so awesome. This might not work for every family, and it's just something we do that is simple, so I thought I'd share.

    Here are some of the examples of verses we've done. These are some we did in 2015:

    Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

    For God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

    Be on your guard. Stand firm in faith. Be courageous. Be strong. Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

    May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight O Lord my Rock and My Redeemer. Psalm 19:14.

    I am the Resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die. John 11:25-26

    Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps. Each word a gift. Ephesians 4:29

    Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. Matthew 7:12

    So do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.       Isaiah 41:10

    For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and future. Jeremiah 29:11

    For a child is born to us, a Son is given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

    I hope this is as encouraging to you as it is for our family. In a world where our minds are constantly filled with the negative, here's a chance to do the opposite. Let me know if you try it, or what works for your family!

    Thursday, February 25, 2016

    Broccoli Chicken Chowder Gluten and Dairy Free

    Broccoli Chicken Chowder

    This is a great and simple alternative to a creamy broccoli soup when you can't have gluten or dairy, or if you just want something a little lighter.

    You can easily make this soup with regular flour and milk if you don't have food allergies.

    I cut up some leftover stale bread, drizzled with olive oil, garlic powder and salt, and baked to make croutons to top the soup.

    I also added some shredded cheese (use non-dairy if need be) and diced avocado. So good!

    Wednesday, February 24, 2016

    Cheeseburger Pie & The Best Gluten Free Rolls!

    Today's recipe is something I put together that turned out SO GOOD, I couldn't stop eating it. It was supposed to start out as Skinny Girl's Cheeseburger Wraps...But I changed it to Not-So-Skinny Girl's Cheeseburger Pie. So good. I used individual ramekins, making it easier to prepare some with regular cheese and others with non-dairy cheese. You could make this recipe in a 9x13 pan. Make the cheeseburger filling and place the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Top with sliced cheese and drop biscuit/bread dough on top. Slightly spread dough with wet fingers before baking according to package directions or until the top starts to turn golden.

    The hamburger filling recipe can be found here. The only thing I changed is that I a little honey mustard in place of yellow mustard because my family doesn't like it.

    Gluten-free cooks - I use this bread recipe for everything now! It's SO GOOD, and the ingredients are inexpensive. Most of us who eat gluten free have these on hand (rice flour, tapioca and potato starch) or can find them easily. I also sub in canola oil (even though it says not to) and it still tastes delicious, and not heavy like other gluten free breads. If you halve this recipe you can just put the bread dough on the top of the dish instead of pressing into the bottom as well. I made the whole recipe and had enough dough leftover to make some plain rolls.

    If you are NOT cooking gluten free, simply follow the biscuit recipe on the back of your standard baking/pancake mix.

    Press a little of your bread dough into the bottom of your ramekinsthat have been sprayed with cooking spray, add hamburger filling, top with a slice of your favorite cheese and add a little more of the baking mix to the top, smoothing bread dough out with wet fingers to keep it from sticking. Bake according to the package temperature and just watch for the top to start to brown before removing.

    Monday, February 8, 2016

    Easy Valentine's Day School Party Ideas

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    This week, I'll be helping with parties for my 5th grader and my preschooler for Valentine's Day. The age gap between my girls, means very different party activities, but I'm up for the challenge.

    Here are some of the activities we'll be doing!

    I've found that the older kids REALLY enjoy playing Minute To Win It games. I've done one at each party, and they've all been fun! For this game, multiple students will see how many conversation hearts they can stack on tap of each other in one minute. Highest stack wins. If they want to keep playing, the winner of each group can play each other.

    You can find a million of these on Pinterest or Google, or make up your own. This is just a fun activity to get kids out of their seats. Find a Valentines Day version of the game appropriate for kids, like this one, and have kids pick a side.


    I found this activity here. I thought it was cute, simple, and edible! It's also free of most food allergens for those who need to worry.


    For a preschool activity, I'm hoping to split kids into smaller groups and play memory with candy kisses! There are stickers on the bottom. When the kids find a match, they get to keep the loot.

    Do you have any simple fun Valentine's Day activities that have worked for you?

    TIPS: Pre-pack crafts, games, and valentines in labeled, clear, zip top bags. One set of craft supplies in a bag per person works well. It makes things go so much smoother and more quickly when passing our supplies. Then, kids can store their finished craft in the bag.

    Always bring extra Valentines and craft/game supplies in case you have miscounted or something gets lost or damaged

    And, though not eco-friendly, cleanup involves tossing empty bags in the trash!

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