Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hearty Cheeseburger Soup

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 cups chicken broth 
  • 4 cups diced yellow potatoes (russet potatoes will fall apart)
  • ¾ cup chopped celery (more for a heartier soup)
  • ¾ cup diced onion 
  • ¾ cup grated carrots (more for a heartier soup)
  • 1 tsp. basil flakes (1 Tbsp. fresh, chopped basil)
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes (1 Tbsp. fresh, chopped parsley)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (taste before salting because most broths usually have their fair amount of salt already in them)
  • 4 Tbsp. butter 
  • ¼ cup flour 
  • 1 ½ cups milk (preferably Vit. D or 2%, the fat helps creates a creamier soup)
  • 8 oz. Velveeta 
  •  ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 8 strips of bacon, crumbled
  1. Brown beef and onion; drain.
  2. Add been/onion mixture to stock pot and add broth, vegetables, basil, salt/pepper and parsley. Simmer until vegetables are tender.
  3. In another pan, melt butter, add flour and stir. Add milk and cubed cheese. Cook until thick.
  4. Mix vegetables and milk; add sour cream. Do not boil.
  5. Top with green onions and crumbled bacon.

Serves 8.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

a definition missing

Ryan wrote this for me the day after our first date on February 15, 2004.  We'd known each other for years already, but this was the beginning of a new journey for us both.  It was these little pieces of his heart that made me fall in love with him ...

and I always wondered why
they called it falling in love

but lately
you've been clearing that up for me
cause every time we touch
my heart simply

and on the way down
forgets to remember

(or does it remember to forget)

to keep on beating

and I always thought
that falling in love
would be
a moment
an experience
an event

but I'm realizing
that it happens
every time I see you
and every touch
and thought
and breathe

and silence

every picture
and fingertip
and every time our noses touch
just before the kiss

soft sighs and giggles
unexplainable smiles
and sore cheeks
and being shy

so I don't know
what it all means

(well maybe I do)

just that
I'm starting to understand
why it's called falling in love
in the first place

and I know I'm not there
but that doesn't really matter right now
cause right now

I pray
and I pray

and I'm just

and baby
the best part is

right there

with me

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011, 12 months in the making

This was a weird year.

Ryan and I lost a combined 70 pounds, and while he has done a proper job maintaining his weight-loss, I started regaining weight in November.  Of course, I have good cause; I am pregnant with our fifth child.  Now only 15-weeks along, I have put on 12 pounds already.  Thanksgiving and Christmas at home were not helpful, so I am already planning on practicing serious self-control in the coming months so that I can enjoy a healthy pregnancy.

In addition to giving our daily diets a good kick in the pants, I also started running in April and more seriously in July when I started training for my first and second half-marathons which were in September and October.  Unbeknownst to me, I was four weeks pregnant during the Kansas City race!

I have enjoyed making a new friend in my running partner, Heidi, as we have shared many hours together in both the heat and the snow.  We ran the Omaha half together, and then I was able to travel to Kansas City and spend the weekend with my sister, mother and sister-in-law.  Even though we could not train together, it meant a lot that I was able to run with my sister, who first inspired me to take the challenge in the first place back in July.

It seems like I was able to travel quiet a bit this year.  Ryan and I went to Denver, CO twice.  Once in April to celebrate our birthdays and again in October to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage conference.  Both visits were a lot of fun, and we got to attend an Avalanche hockey game each time which thrilled Ryan.  Of course, we traveled to Kansas several times to visit our parents and were so blessed to make one special trip in April to celebrate my parents' 25th wedding anniversary!
October 2011, Pepsi Center in Denver, CO

In addition to visiting the great state of Colorado, we took our annual trip to Kansas City where we stayed at Great Wolf Lodge.  It really has become our favorite place for family vacations because it is so perfect for the kids.  In addition to lots of swimming, we went to an indoor bounce house one morning, Crown Center Plaza and Deanna Rose Farmstead.  We had a great time, and have already decided to take our trip in September in 2012 because it was too busy in August, especially with so many small children!

While we did not add any children this year, only the second time that has happened since we had Aubrey in 2006, we did find out we would be adding one more next summer in late June.  This little addition was a complete surprise, but we are excited and everyone is hopeful that we are having another little boy.  I am currently 15-weeks pregnant, so we will probably try to find out the baby's gender next month if at all possible.  We also added three non-people members to the clan.  In March we adopted two female rats, Starlight and Gwizdo; and in August, we adopted a little Teddy Bear puppy, Koda.  All three are beloved friends, and Koda is a wonderful companion and handles the children wonderfully.

As for my little people, this year had its ups and downs.  Respectively, Grace turned two in April, Aubrey turned five in June, and Caleb turned four and Emma one in September.  Aubrey started kindergarten with me at home this year although it has quickly become apparent, she already knows everything (except for how to tell time) that a regular kid would learn in public school.  I am eager to add a few new things to our routine in the remaining half of our school year.  She is incredibly smart with an exceptional, if not slightly photographic, memory.  She has been reading through the BOB early reader series, and has made a lot of progress (and gained a lot of confidence) over the last two months.

Caleb has lost all sense of volume this year turning into an rowdy and loud little man.  I tried to include him in our school work, but he was still fairly restless and more of a distraction than anything.  His passion for building things has continued to grow, so I have had to resign to never having perfectly made beds because he frequently pulls his blankets off to make tents and kicks his mattress off to build forts.

Little Grace has found her voice this year and grown a lot both in height and personality.  She talks more than any of the other kids, and I would say she is our most social child.  We have been working on potty training for some time, but it has definitely been two steps forward, one step backward.  While she wears underwear at home, she still will only tell us when she needs to go potty when we are out in public.  Something about using someone else's toilet ... Grace is our most well-mannered child, too, always saying her pleases and thank yous, and apologizing if she gets underfoot or bumps you as she passes by.

Emma changed and grew a lot this year, growing from a little 3-month old to a walking 15-month old.  From four to eight months, we struggled with weight gain, but when we finally decided to quit breastfeeding, the formula helped her gain weight.  She is still very small for her age, only 19 pounds, but she is hitting all the other milestones right on time.  She babbles a lot with only a handful of understandable words including: Momma, Dadda, cup, drink, stop (of all words), no and dog.  She understands nearly everything we say, so it is only a matter of time before she is talking more.  She loves to drag things behind her or wear things around her neck like necklaces or socks or whatever!  For Christmas she got a few legitimate pull/push toys, so hopefully she will stop dragging everything else around.

Outside of our own home, our extended family continues to grow.  In January, we added a beautiful sister when Ryan's little brother got married and just this week, we added a new little niece whom Ryan's sister and brother-in-law just adopted from Ethiopia.

It has certainly been a full year, and I have not even gone into Ryan's work schedule and conferences.  It always seems unreal to see another year tick away, but this year seemed to flit by particularly fast.  I am positive the same will happen next year; adding a fifth child can only mean that!

We were sorry that Christmas cards were not mailed this year, but the expense is crazy considering that most everyone can read about it all on the computer :)  Looking forward to what the Lord has in store for us over the next 12 months, I promise not to let my blog go that long without another entry!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Much Will Be Required

It has been a while since I wrote here. Life has been hectic. Despite being immensely blessed, I have felt immensely overwhelmed instead. As I have struggled with my own circumstances and emotions, I have constantly been delving deeper into the bigger picture. If only mentally, I have been around the world this year, struggling with unanswered questions.

All of these thoughts have expanded onto a bigger scale as the realization that we live in sad times is not going to change. This time of year, I always become disheartened by the commercialism and excess I see everywhere. I have found some relief as I have seen more and more friends at least talking about celebrating Jesus' birth in a fashion actually worthy of our Savior.

Ryan and I have never gone crazy at Christmas, but that is not to say we have done the holiday justice either. I have been confronted with that reality this year as I see American citizens protesting Wall Street and our government going further into debt because it's trying to be everything to everyone.

We are an average family living on a single income in the Midwest. I have stayed home since our first child was born in June 2006, and we have never struggled to make ends meet because we have made a real effort to live within our means. In Winfield, it was easy enough to look around and see countless families struggling to feed or diaper their children. In a global perspective, it is almost unbearable to see how so many live.

I do not want to be the type of "christian" who does not look and act like Christ, but my entire life I have done a darn good job of it. My actions never synced up with my words or even my heart, and this year, right now, that is going to change. Christ will be exemplified in my actions and love for other people so that they may know His goodness and name. I will not look over a $40,000 budget and act like there is not enough money to give more than 10% to my church.

In Franis Chan's book Crazy Love, we are reminded of Jesus' words in Matthew 22:39 to "love our neighbor as yourself." Chan meditated on those words, and it made him wonder what that would look like.  His answer? Only keeping 50% of his church's budget the following year and making a commitment to give away the other 50%! His reasoning? If I love them as much as I love me, then why am I not giving to them as much as I am keeping for myself?

It left me thinking about my 10% which over the last decade has been habitual, not even close to sacrificial. I keep going back to Luke 12:48 where Jesus is quoted saying, "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." Um, that is me, and more than likely that is you too.

Join me in making the decision to serve others as much as myself.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our Menu for the Week

I cannot seem to get into the habit of planning meals consistently.  Life is too hectic, which would suggest that I need to incorporate this habit into my routine to help simplify it; however, by the end of the week, I'm exhausted and just want to go to bed, not plan shopping lists and dinner menus.  I am a torn woman!

Seriously, though, it helps to have a plan, but lately I just have not have the discipline I need to practice this worthwhile sacrifice.  One thing every mother of small children is lacking is time, and I am no exception.  I am constantly washing clothes, dishes, carpet and tables, not to mention little fingers and faces.  It is difficult to remind myself that this is a short season of my life and that being lazy will not make me feel better or more rested.

I always appreciate the encouragement of my peers who are sacrificing sleep to care for their family and home as well, just so you know!

  • Lunch: SpaghettiOs and cottage cheese
  • Dinner: Ryan will not be home for dinner tonight, so the kids and I are joining a friend (whose hubby is out-of-town with my husband) for dinner and fellowship.
  • Lunch: Lucky me, a dear friend is keeping the kids all morning and through lunch so I can do. whatever. I. want.  AWESOME. I have already got a one-hour massage scheduled at 11:30am.
  • Dinner: BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans and fresh veggies
  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Dinner: I have decided that from now on, Wednesday dinners need to be "one-pot meals" to decrease the amount of time and clean-up since Ryan is only home for about two hours each afternoon ... this week, I will be trying a recipe I found in the current issue of Runner's World: One-pot Penne with Turkey Meatballs
  • Lunch: PB&Js, carrot sticks
  • Dinner: Homemade pizza and grapes
    We have pizza every Thursday for our Family Movie Night, and we eat picnic style in our living room while we watch a movie together.
  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Dinner: Scrambled eggs and waffles
  • Lunch: Quesadillas and refried black beans
  • Dinner: I am running my first half-marathon Sunday morning at 7:00am, which is one of the reasons for all the lovely carb-rich meals.  Tonight is no different as we enjoy a yummy pasta dish: Scallops and apples, except I'll be using cubes of chicken because scallops are expensive!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If it's broken, fix it.

A friend of mine recently contacted me seeking advice to share with a woman she knew who was having trouble in paradise.  My friend is not married, so she was wanted the perspective of someone who'd traveled down the road of marriage.

Here was the problem: Wife and husband were blessed two years ago with a child.  Child seems to be stealing mom's precious evenings with dad, and mom is feeling worn down, cranky and distant from her husband.

Here was what God has so abundantly given me in my seven years of marriage:
Sometimes it's best just to have a sit-down with your pastor because if only one partner sees the problem, it could be dangerous for their marriage, creating tension and resentment.

Voddie Baucham addressed the issue at our homeschooling conference, it's like an infectious disease in our country and homes. Many women (for any number of reasons) replace their relationship with their husbands with other things be it home, children or homeschooling (as he was talking about at the conference). We grow weary of putting our husband first after "the day we've had." But nothing is more important to kids than two parents in an enriching, loving and growing marriage ... the rest can wait, really.

Either way, pride and selfishness certainly can not have a place in seeking help. I think we've done a pretty poor job properly preparing people for the hardship of marriage, we pretend it's all roses and champagne, but it's tough even when it's going well. It's work, non-stop work, and it's very evident when you choose to stop working at it because everything in your life will suffer.

It's important to come to a place where it's not seeking someone to take your side but simply someone to say, "This is broken, and it needs fixed." The best marriage enrichment session will start with the question, "Why did you fall in love with your spouse?" You always have to go back to that question.

If anyone ever tells you, "Marriage is easy," they are flat out lying to your face or have never been married.  It's no wonder God asked us to make covenants (not merely commitments) to our spouse.  Those vows we took weren't just words, folks, they were a serious peak into what would lay ahead.  Gary Thomas' book Sacred Marriage suggests that the entire intention behind marriage to is sanctify us and draw us closer to God by putting us in a one-on-one relationship that would strip us of self and always put the other person first ... sounds about right considering God compares marriage to His own Son (the Bridegroom) and the Church (the Bride of Christ)! 

It's not easy, even when it is, and if we grow lazy in our diligence to serving/loving/respecting our spouse then our {emotional} love will fade, and we will have to work twice as hard to make life work resting solely on our {mental} covenant to our spouse.  Sometimes that {mental} covenant will sustain us through a rough season, but do not fool yourself into thinking your {emotional} love doesn't need kindled and kept.  God was specific when He designed us and when He designed marriage; you need both.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Our Menu for the Week

After nearly a month off from menu planning, I thought I should get back to it ... my husband would probably beg me to get back to it after this week's leftover Easter ham-tastic dinner menus! 

  • Lunch: Popcorn (yes, you read that correctly) and pears
    I need to go grocery shopping after Ryan gets home from work :)
  • Dinner: Honey-soy marinated pork chops, corn and rice
  • Lunch: Grilled PB&Js and yogurt
  • Dinner: Bierocks and broccoli and cheese
  • Lunch: Grilled cheese, SpaghettiOs and cottage cheese
  • Dinner: Chicken tetrazinni, garden salad and garlic bread
  • Lunch: Apples and peanut butter and yogurt
  • Dinner: Homemade pizza and grapes
    We have pizza every Thursday for our Family Movie Night, and we eat picnic style in our living room while we watch a movie together.
  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Dinner: Omelets (or egg pizza as the kiddos call it), toast and fruit salad
  • Lunch: Cheese roll-ups, Ramen noodles and pretzels
  • Dinner: Celebrating Ken & Alexis Molay's marriage!