Thursday, October 4, 2012

With a little grace

I went into work this morning at 7:15 and left at 9 at night.  I am sitting on the couch without one ounce of energy.  It was a rough day - students needing more from me than reading, writing, and arithmetic.  I have a young lady in my room who is fresh out of college, and I look at her every day and wonder what in her schooling prepared her for the real world.  Professors can talk about theory.  Professional development can offer up even more strategies.  
But no one can really answer why children are struggling.  Academics are not always the challenge. It certainly wasn't today.  People can often excuse behavior with a label.  The longer I teach, the more aware I become that children, regardless of intelligence or socioeconomic status, have no idea how to treat one another.  They can be so quick to point out the faults of others, but can offer up a multitude of excuses for their own behavior. I am standing in the hallway feeling sickened by their double standards and ask if anyone knows what grace is.  None of them did.  Grace, I tell them, is giving one another a break even when they don't think their classmate deserves one.  I turned to one boy and I asked, "Do I give you a consequence every time you blurt out?"  He sadly shook his head no.  I turned to another one and asked "Do I refuse to repeat the directions for a fourth time because you didn't listen to the first three times?" He shook his head no.  "That's what grace is.  Choosing to give someone a break even when they are on your last nerve.  Show each other some grace, please." 
I foolishly thought when I was that young girl fresh from college that I would change the world.  I know now that the world was too lofty a goal.  I'm just trying to change one child at a time with a little grace. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Two Months worth of Hits and Misses

Going back to work may cramp my blog time, but thankfully doesn't interfere with us trying out new recipes.    

Hands down, best grilling recipe ever!!!!  It's now my favorite! 

Grilled Bruschetta Chicken

I am constantly searching for yummy crockpot recipes.  Sadly, this one was very bland.  If you are one of those people who can improvise on a recipe than this one would be a great starting point.  It needs a little umph.

Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken and Rice

You can say what you want about his quarterback form or his beliefs, but this family knows pizza!  We've had this both months.  It makes the perfect Friday night meal!

Tim Tebow's Family Pizza
Tebow Family Pizza Pie Recipe

It always makes me nervous when pinners claim "Best recipe on Pinterest".  But this one lived up to the hype.  We added this to our Mexican night rotation. Ole!

White Chicken Enchiladas

I had a cold when we tried this one, but Parker, Macy, and Tony gave this one two thumbs up.  It took a lot of bowls, but it was relatively easy to assemble.

Stuffed Shells
Stuffed Shells Recipe

Another slow cooker bust!  Very dry hashbrowns and ham...Definitely a miss!

We had this when my family was in town, and all 9 people gave this peach version of dump cake rave reviews.  Don't skimp on the calories and skip the ice cream.  Vanilla ice cream is a must.

Peach Crunch Cake

My virtual BFF, Ree Drummond, scored another hit with this one.  Tony especially liked that it makes a huge 9x13 so there was plenty of leftovers.

Chicken Spaghetti

Put Buffalo Chicken in the title and we are all over it!  Even the kids love the Buffalo kick.  This recipe would be perfect for a crisp fall night or a blustery, cold winter night.  You will warm right up!

Loaded Buffalo Chicken Casserole

This recipe was a big disappointment.  First, the description on Pinterest didn't match the link.  It was so gross that we pitched the whole thing...

Cheesy Chicken Lasagna
chicken lasagna 6 450

A third crock pot bust!  The alfredo sauce was green and I couldn't get past it.  The kids thought it was OK, but I don't think they will be requesting it any time soon.

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

Happy Menu Planning!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Honestly Speaking

I love listening to people's stories and I am constantly asking questions about how these stories came to be.  Sometimes these stories are happy tales of love and devotion and sometimes these stories are full of heartache and shame.  Lately, the stories have had a common theme - honesty or lack there of.  

I know that all of us - me included - want to present the very best picture of ourselves to the world.  Good hair days, matching accessories, and if we're really lucky, wearing our skinny jeans.  We want to be viewed as having it all together.  This is the picture that we rush to publish on Facebook.

For all of us, the truth is not that pretty.  The truth is husbands cheat.  The truth is other wives question if that can happen to my good friend who is beautiful, kind, and caring, can that happen to me? 

The truth is we can't handle telling the truth.  We'll talk to our girlfriends before we'll talk to our husbands.  We'll talk about our girlfriends to other girlfriends before we ever speak the truth to our girlfriends. Ironically, speaking and hearing the truth hurts.  

But we have to speak it.  Otherwise, our stories will be full of betrayal.  If you can speak it to your girlfriend, then speak it to your husband.  Husbands, speak the truth.  We're big girls.  It may hurt to hear it but we can take it.  I used to believe that the blame for marriages falling apart could always be spread around.  Not anymore.  The blame lies with the one who quits speaking the truth.  

So say what you have to say.  Stand behind it.  Own it.  Should you choose to remain silent, then that burden belongs to you and only you. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wrong turns

Two Saturdays ago, Tony got a phone call from one of his best buddies.  He had 2 tickets to the Rams-Chiefs preseason game and wondered if Tony could go.  I mentioned needing a babysitter and all of a sudden Parker is going and I am staying home.  Despite the hit my ego took, the expression on Parker's face was priceless.  Needless to say, I had two very excited boys hurriedly making plans.  
The game was in a few hours so of course the thought went to changing clothes.  Chiefs attire all the way!  The boys plans quickly hit a snag when we all realized Parker's Chiefs shirts were for winter and probably too small.  We immediately started brainstorming of where in St. Louis could we find Chiefs gear.  We called Old Navy - they were sold out.  I checked online and Dick's Sporting Goods showed quite a few.  We headed over there to discover they only carry local teams in the store.  A few weeks ago, my mom and I had been shopping at TJ Maxx and Marshalls and I remembered seeing Chiefs shirts there.  We hopped back in the car and tried Marshalls.  No luck.  Tony was driving and since he usually avoids, I mean misses out on those stores, he took a wrong turn out of the parking lot.  Not to worry, we knew we could get back on the highway with a little zig-zagging.  Driving through an industrial park, I see a woman in a winter coat with 2 pieces of luggage.  Since Tony was on a mission, he was driving fairly fast.  I thought it might be the lady my mom and I had given a ride to a couple of months ago.  I told Tony that I thought it was her and she probably needed a ride to the hotel.  She was between Marshalls and standing in an empty lot.  I stated the time and asked could we still get done what we needed to get done and help her.  Without waiting for an answer, I said Parker has a red shirt he can always wear instead.  Tony turned around and drove back to the lady.  I hopped out of the car realizing up close that it was the same lady for sure.  
"Can we give you a ride?"
"I don't have anywhere to go."
"Aren't you the lady who lives in the hotel down the road?"
"I don't have any money."
I fell back in the seat to repeat what she said.  Tony asks me what I want to do.  I reply that we can't just leave her there.  We'll just have to pay for her hotel.  Even if it means we eat ramen noodles all week is what I was really thinking.  I get back out and tell her that we'll pay for her hotel.  I crowd into the back when it hits me in the face that Parker and Macy have been watching all this unfold.  She gets in and apologizes for sweating so badly.  She tells Tony that she has 9 layers of clothes on.  Then she turns to me and asks if I want to call the hotel first to find out how much the room will cost.  No, I tell her.  We'll take care of it.  I can tell she doesn't remember me.  Then she asks us if we would drive her through Burger King and she shows us $10 in multiple layers of ziploc bags.  Tony answers "Of course.  But we're buying your dinner."  "Can I have breakfast too?" "Sure!"  Listening to her order brings tears to Parker's eyes.  Even he can see how hungry she is.  We then drive back to the hotel and Parker jumps out of the car to help Tony with her bags.  Macy is still there so I stay outside with her.  Parker runs back out to let me know that Daddy has her checked in.  Without really weighing the consequences, I write down our names and our cell numbers telling Parker to run this into Daddy and he'll know what to do with it.  Tony give it to Ms. P and tells her to call us if she needs us.  "Are you sure?" she asks him.  Tony replies, "Yes, because God loves you."  Back in the car, Parker has a million questions about how she doesn't have a home or where is her family.  Questions we didn't have the answers for. 
The next morning at church, I am constantly checking my phone for Ms. P to call and asking "Lord, what will we do then?"  I'm fearful because I don't know what we can do to help her.  I know the saying give a man a fish...I know she needs a long-term solution.  Then I look around at my church family and I know if I ask for help, it will be given.  We're not alone in wanting to help Ms. P.  Parker worries too and offers his plan.  We can clean out the basement and make her a room to live with us.  I am grateful for his tender heart and think why not?  Children can break down a problem and simplify the solution.  Adults are the ones who make it complicated.  I don't know what my answer will be when she calls.  I'm just praying that God will answer for me and put the words in my mouth. That's the best I can hope for. 
All day long I kept thinking about how if Tony hadn't made that wrong turn, we would have never seen her.  I couldn't help but wonder how many wrong turns Ms. P may have made in her life.  Is she like the prodigal son? Too ashamed to call home? Has she made choices that her family felt forced to confront and say don't call us anymore?  
Then I looked back at our married life and all the turns it has taken. Turns we made with the best of intentions that turned out to be wrong ones.  And I'm thankful.  I'm thankful that we have a God who does love us and can take all of our wrong turns and make them right ones. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I'm officially a working mom again.  Today is my second contracted day.  I woke up this morning at 1:45, and my first thought was my school to do list.  It rumbled through my mind like a never-ending freight train.  By 3:00, I gave in and got up and got busy.  I went back to bed at 4:45. Now drinking my coffee at 6:30, I am marveling at how quickly my job consumes me.  I hate to say it's a job when it means so much more to me than that.  Nevertheless, it is still a job.  
And I had to stop and ask myself, will Parker and Macy know that being their mother consumed me?  Will Tony know being his wife consumed me?  Will my parents know being their daughter consumed me?  Will the dear ones in my life know being their friend consumed me?   Will people know that my faith consumed me?  I can be so focused on my work that I miss out on my life.  On this work day, I am reminding myself to put just as much effort into my life as I do my career.  Easier written the done, but I am going to try.

Monday, August 6, 2012


My classroom keys jangled as I balanced Target and Dollar Tree bags down the hallway to Room 30.  I stood outside my locked classroom door and peered in.  Do I really want to go in?, I thought.  Opening that door meant that I was no longer a stay at home mom, but a working mom.  Guilt is on the other side of that door.  Guilt for devoting time to my students instead of my own children.  Guilt for organizing my classroom  instead of doing laundry.  Fear was there too.  What if this year brings a child I cannot reach?  How many parents will I manage to irritate?  Part of me wanted to drop my bags and run the other way.  Another part of me knows that despite the guilt, my job blesses my family and in many ways, it blesses me.  
As I walked through the door, I am reminded that we all walk through doors totally unaware of what lies ahead.  We walk through doors where we have to grasp whatever courage we can find and say a prayer to be able to walk out whole and healthy.  The hospital's door.  The counselor's door.  The unemployment office's door.  Yet, we do not walk through doors alone.  The One who knows what lies on the other side walks beside us. In front of us. Behind us.  This week, I am trying to "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD, your God goes with you, he will never leave or forsake you."  Dueteronomy 31:6  Whatever doors you are walking through this week, I hope and pray you are able to do the same.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

July's Hits and Misses

July was unusual for us in that we only had one recipe that wasn't a keeper!

Two Timin' Pasta Bake claimed to be a ringer for the Four Cheese Bake Ziti at Olive Garden.  The claims were correct!  Even better though was the recipe called for jars of spaghetti sauce.  It doesn't get any easier.  This will definitely be filed under the category of fast weeknight meals.

Our family loves breakfast for dinner because our normal breakfasts require no prep.  :)  We tried Make Your Own Mini Frittatas.  The kids loved these and again, my favorite kind of recipe - easy!

Mini Frittatas

I try to plan one meat free meal a week.  Needless to say, not the kids or Tony's favorite night but they humor me.  To disguise all the beans in the wrap, we substituted refried beans for the pinto beans for these Spicy Bean and Rice Burritos.  Even Parker who doesn't like beans declared these keepers!

Now for the miss...Cheeseburger Pasta was like a made from scratch Hamburger Helper.  I don't mean to be a food snob, but I've only had it once in college when my roommate couldn't believe I had gone through my whole life without having Hamburger Helper.  Once was enough for me.

This new recipe brought me the most joy!  If you love appetizers, especially dips, then don't wait another minute!  Make Loaded Baked Potato Dip.  Now.  It takes a lot less time than baking a potato.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chicken sandwich? Latte? Anyone? I'm having both.

It's all over FB.  Countless articles in newspapers and online editorials over Chick-Fil-A.  I've read some really good ones and some disturbing ones - in my opinion.  And that is all it really is...An opinion.  Our country has lost the art of practicing polite disagreement.  We'll say anything with an expletive added to it for emphasis as if it makes our point more valid.  We'll call names rather than exchange ideas.  We judge one another and declare the other a hater if they think differently than we do.  Free speech only applies if you agree with me. 
In my opinion, Chick-Fil-A should be welcomed in Boston just as much as Starbucks is.  If you don't like how their owners legally spend their profit, then show your disagreement as a consumer.  Using the government or legislation as retaliation for a citizen legally supporting his beliefs doesn't make us the land of the free. It makes us the Semi-United Censure of America.  We, the people, can do better than that.  In my opinion.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Motivational Mondays: Plans?

"Why must you find something in every situation to worry about?" said Tony.  If only if he had taken a picture!  Words cannot begin to describe the look of shock on my face.  Never having a snappy comeback when I really need one, a few minutes later, I told him that he was confusing worry with planning.  

I love to plan as many of you know.  But I often have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.  Despite the fact that I know life does not go according to plan - no matter how many I make.  Looking back on all the situations in our married life that did not go according to plan, I am grateful that God's plan always have trumped mine.  Even when times were painful or bitter or desperate, the ending has always been a blessing.  

Yet, I still plan.  All the variations of my plans and lists are a security blanket for the unknown - my emergency preparations kit.  I'm trying to practice Tony's philosophy.  Embrace the joy and trust that everything will work out.  Even as I'm writing I feel the "but" wanting to come out. "Everything will work out"  But only because I have a plan for that. Truly, only one plan is needed...
"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 hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, July 16, 2012

Motivational Monday: Mental Reminders

After spending time on our family vacation and hearing a great sermon yesterday, I am reminded once again of how important it is to nurture our families.  With the return to school quickly approaching, I am giving myself mental reminders...Don't lose sight of this....This is what matters...Remember to listen...Of course, all this is easier said then done. 
Our church has been using this scripture as a focus these last few weeks: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates." Dueteronomy 6:5-9  My Jewish friends know this scripture well since they recite this scripture every morning and evening.  I think I may have to start too because it is way too easy to let my conversations be about homework, books, or math facts.  
When my overflowing school bag condemns me, when the laundry won't clean itself, and the living room floor looks like a land mine, help me to focus on those things eternal.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ready? OK!!!

I secretly have always wanted to be a cheerleader.  Seeing though that I still confuse my left from my right and cannot clap in rhythm, the pleated skirt was never to be mine.  

But maybe I can be your cheerleader.  Maybe my words can be poms-poms keeping the beat to encourage you to face whatever it is - be sorrow or joy.  I'm cheering for you!  So here's to our first Motivational Monday!!!

So many of my friends are struggling with huge challenges.  Their struggle isn't defined by pity parties or cries for attention.  Their struggles are being fought with courage and grace and in the quiet.  So I am writing this for them...and you.  I'm also writing this for me.  "To remind me lest I forget."

YOU matter!  

Just you - without the job title, number of children, or friends list. 

YOU alone matter. 

Your sorrow. 
Your happiness.
Your hurt.  
Your triumphs. 
Your failures.  

YOU are NOT going unnoticed. 

YOU are NOT alone. 

YOU are loved.  

"Yet I am always with you. You hold me by my right hand." Psalm 73:23

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hits and Misses

The summer has been full of hits and a few misses...

HIT: Cub Scout Day Camp
Having organized a few events myself, I was so impressed with all work that went into creating day camp.  It was like field day on steroids!

Parker and Macy attended two this year.  The first one had 600 kids!  Macy attended the preschool version all by herself and did great!  Since this wasn't at our church, I had to overcome the guilt of leaving them behind.  By the time, I got to the first store, I was feeling better! :)  The second one was at our church and had 60 kids.  Macy participated with the big kids at ours, and I could tell her comfort level was through the roof.  She had no problem leaving her group to give Tony or I a hug or tell us a secret.  Parker voted our church VBS the best!  He loved being with his friends, how the crafts and snacks matched the Bible lesson, and playing tag at games. Thanks to all my friends who took pictures and shared!

MISS: Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad
We loved the ingredients, but the dressing was smoky-tasting and so thick (even after trying to thin it out).  We'll switch out the dressing for good ole Hidden Valley Spicy Ranch.
chipotle chicken taco salad :: only 249 calories for 2.5 cups!  It's soooo good!!!

HIT: Strawberry and Cream Pie
On these hot summer days, this cold and easy pie was devoured by the whole family!

HIT: Ranch Chicken Roll-Ups
Yummy!  We've made it with and without the ranch packet.  The kids loved it both ways, but I liked it better without.

HIT: Old Spaghetti Factory Mizithra and Browned Butter Spaghetti
Oh. My. Goodness.  It tastes just like the restaurant!  Plus, now I know the mark-up and will never pay for this again! ;)

MISS: Chicken Tortilla Bake
No real favor.  Just chicken, cheese, and tortillas.  Even with tweaking it with hot sauce, we won't make this again.  

HIT: Balsamic Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin
Our tip:  Buy your pork tenderloin at Sam's.  It's huge so you can cut it in half and freeze it for a later date.  You'll want to have it again!

MISS: Korean Beef Kabobs
We would rename it Soy Beef Kabobs.

HIT: Fourth of July Parade
Despite the heat, Macy and I cheered the loudest for these boys!

Just when we got back to the air conditioning, Tony got a call to be back at the Main Stage at 4:30 with as many scouts that could come.  Drenched in sweat, the boys accepted a check for $300 and a plaque for third place!  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


This past Friday, Parker had a baseball game.  Look who drove over from Kansas City just to watch their favorite ball player!
Great Grandmaw Bobbie, Pa, Grandmaw,and Grandad!

Parker had no idea that they were coming.  The grandparents were already in the stands before we got there.  When Parker ran out on the field, shouts of "Gooooooo Parker!" filled the air!

Parker ran over to say hello when they came off the field.  Pa was excited to see that he and Parker shared the same number. Pa played varsity basketball in high school. Go 22!!!!

Parker's big smile is from his team's first win!  He was so excited that everyone got to see it!  Parker later admitted that he had been a little suspicious because we were doing all things we do when company comes - running the vacuum cleaner, changing sheets, and making them pick up all their toys.  When he asked if Grandmaw and Grandad were coming, I answered "Is there a holiday this weekend?".  Since he knew they were coming Father's Day weekend, he figured we were just going cleaning crazy. He loved that he went from suspicious to unsuspicious to surprised! 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Happy Smarties Day!

As a teacher, I've never been called into a meeting to discuss why some of my students are reading above grade level or why some of my students have straight A's.  I have been to countless meetings to discuss why certain students are reading below grade level or not passing a subject.  When a student uses his or her manners or shows respect, I'm quick to compliment them.  Honestly, it's a surprise and not the norm.  This year more than ever, I find myself assessing my own children the same way - paying more attention to their weaknesses rather than their strengths.  Just as a teacher is expected to change weaknesses into strengths so is a parent.  
So knowing all that, here's my confession:  I may have gone a little overboard focusing on what Parker needed to work on rather than what he was doing right at school.  Out of his entire report card, there was only 2 areas that were marked "Satisfactory".  Everything else was excellence.  But those 2 areas became my focus and a source of frequent conversation.  When Parker received his fourth quarter report card, all he cared about knowing was did he change the satisfactories to excellences.  They hadn't.  His disappointment was evident.  Parker didn't even ask what his teacher's comments were.  He knew that we had wanted him to do better, and he hadn't.  Usually, he calls my mom right away to share his report card news.  He didn't even ask to call.  The sounds of alarm were ringing in my head.  I've gone too far in talking about what he could be doing better rather than celebrating the many things he was doing right...And I know! I know!  I hear you saying "Hello, Jennifer! Satisfactory is fine.  Get a grip!"  
To change his and our focus, Happy Smarties day was invented and celebrated today.

Last night, Tony and I made Smartie scrolls and labeled them on the outside 1 through 5.  We couldn't wait to celebrate with the kids!

Parker opened the first one, and off we went to First Watch.
We found out that Parker thought the best thing about second grade was being with his teacher and his friends.  His favorite subject was still math, but he thought he learned the most in Science.  Macy joined in with she had learned her ABCs, could count to 18 by herself, and could now use the potty. Great accomplishments all the way around!  After a yummy brunch, Parker opened the next scroll.

Captain Underpants...Hmm...This is where I say, boys love body function humor, and as long as they're reading...
 This was our first trip to The Painted Pot.  Macy chose a flower and Parker chose an angry bird.  Look at Scout friends, you can earn a badge there!

Parker was trash talking through the whole course while Macy was inventing a new version - putt and throw.  After a drink break at QT, Parker opened his last Smarties scroll.

We love Legos!  Throughout the whole day, Parker and Macy were wishing everyone "Happy Smarties Day!"  Parker now thinks this is his favorite holiday.      We told him that we hope to get to celebrate all his hard work and learning next year too.  Learning does have its rewards for both the student and the mommy.