Sunday, August 12, 2012

Favorite Summer Must-Haves for Little Ones

 I realize we are well into August and Summer is technically nearly over, but I do live in Texas and summer temps definitely last well into the Autumn months. During this summer with my extremely active 2 year-old endurance champ, I have discovered a few products that have made this summer so much easier. Here are my top 3:

1) Keen Newport H2 Sandals-These have to be the most durable, comfortable, adventure-friendly sandals ever. Lily loves them because they are comfy and provide her with the best grip for climbing anything and everything in sight. I love them because they are somewhat odor-proof, easy on and off, waterproof, gunkproof and easily washable. They also match almost every play outfit we have. As far as being odor-proof, that is not completely accurate, but when washed they come out looking and smelling new. Lily wore these to the beach and into the water and they came out still looking brand new. These shoes were recommended to me by the good folks at Sandy's Shoes in Austin and last time I was in I heartily thanked them for the recommendation. 

2) CamelBak Kids 12 oz. Water Bottle- Every mom know how difficult and trying it can be to find that perfect water bottle/sippy cup. They all claim to be leak-proof, but most aren't. When you finally find that perfect leak-proof bottle, it is usually hard to clean and reassembling after washing requires the patience of Job and the brain of a rocket scientist. The CamelBak Kids cup really is leak-proof, is easy to reassemble, holds a lot of water (great for hot summers) and is virtually indestructible. Well over a year ago, Lily began taking my CamelBak water bottle from me and drinking all my water. She basically claimed it, and I wanted it back. On my next trip to Sprouts I came across a kiddie version of my cup. It has since withstood over 300 washes and has been throw in dirt, stepped on, thrown across rooms and has dropped long distances onto concrete and other hard surfaces. It lives on!!! 

 3) Bubbles, the Fisher-Price Bubble Mower, to be exact- An oldie, but a goodie, the bubbles that you blow through a wand are great anytime, but there is something really special about chasing bubbles on a summer evening. You can spend a dollar on a bubble with a wand or spend more on special wands and machines and bubble guns, but it is always fun. We really love the Fisher-Price Bubble Mower! It takes about 10'stepsmto really get it going and you do have to clean/maintain for optimum performance, but it is a really fun way to blow bubbles!

 Are there some great summer products you can't live without?


Friday, June 22, 2012

Pray: Toddler in Christ

I am not a morning person. Mornings do not come easy for me and never have. Before I had a child, I would shower, dress, fix my hair and apply makeup in about 30 minutes after snoozing for an hour, turning off the alarm clock and waking up to my back up alarm that was in reality, the only alarm that mattered. Although I am known as a gregarious person who will talk your ear completely off, I prefer not to speak to anyone before 8am. As you can imagine, a child rocked my world. I managed to set up a very nice routine; I would shower, then wake Lily up and let her watch a little Mickey Mouse and munch on a little breakfast while I finished getting ready. It was perfect. Then she began forming opinions, and not just any opinions. She began forming very strong opinions that left no doubt that she was mine.

At first it was easy stuff. She didn't want to take her medicine, so I used chocolate milk to persuade (or bribe, if you want to use that kind of language) her to swallow it. She wanted oatmeal instead of french toast sticks or a muffin instead of cereal, so I would give her what she wanted as long as it was nutritious. These requests were reasonable and they did not require much thought or negotiation on my part. I had this morning thing down to a science.

The beginning of the end came when she started having opinions about she would wear. How cute is it when your daughter gets into her dress up case and puts together adorably obnoxious ensembles of mismatched beads, hats and plastic shoes with a tutu thrown in for good measure? You tell her she looks beautiful and encourage her to continue using her imagination and creativity. I remember the first clothing fight well. Lily and I were going to the pet store to look at animals, then on to get a haircut. She came out of her room in beads, hair accessories and plastic shoes that caused her to shuffle around the house. I was good with all but the shoes, not because I wanted to stifle her creativity but because I did not look forward to carrying around a 30 pound toddler when the plastic shoes started to hurt her feet. I sent her to change and she protested a bit, but then came back with shoes that matched her outfit and she was wearing just enough dress up stuff to make it look like I had dressed her and was incapable of matching clothing.

That first clothing argument was a breeze. It was late in the afternoon, I had consumed plenty of caffeine and I had been awake for hours. The real challenge came that Monday when she brought me the outfit she was dying to wear. It was before 8 am, so I was not really in the mood to argue, but she had brought me a shirt that she had found in the dirty laundry. The shirt was so filthy that I am honestly surprised a roach colony had not taken over the hamper and feasted on the foods that were stuck on. Lily's morning personality is much like mine and we had what I will always remember as our first knock down drag out. Maybe I'll add that to the scrapbook. :)

I decided to outsmart my strong-willed 2 1/2 year old fashionista by hiding the filthy clothing, but she found them (probably tracked the atrocious scent) and did whatever she had to do to get them. That's when I decided to give her choices. I would hold up two mommy approved outfits and say, "Do you want to wear this or this?" It only took 2 days for Lily to beat me to the punch and confidently march into my room holding up two filthy, completely unacceptable outfits and say, "Okay, mama, THIS or THIS?" SHE was giving ME choices.

I laugh at the absurdity of my two year-old thinking she is capable of making better decisions about her life than Doug and I are. We provide her clothing and shelter and food. We protect her from danger. We meet her needs. Absurd right?

But seriously, how often do we, as God's children, think our way is wiser? I would like to think of myself as a mature Christian, more than a "babe" in Christ, but I often find myself exhibiting toddler-like spiritual behavior.

I know I am not alone, because the Bible is filled with examples of people like me, people who think they are wise apart from God's will. God instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh, but he refused and attempted to hide from the creator of the universe. When we do something that we know is contrary to God's will, aren't we in essence saying that our wisdom is greater than the the wisdom of our Creator?

He gives us food and clothing and shelter. He protects us and meets our needs. And we think we are capable than God of making wiser decisions about our lives. Absurd, right? Sometimes I am a lot like that strong-willed 2 year-old, wrestling with God. A toddler in Christ.

I find myself relating so much to the apostle Paul and I have to remind myself of the words God breathed through him: "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1:25 NASB)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Eat, Pray: heart-shaped sandwiches and love

Anytime my daughter carries a packed lunch, you can be sure of two things. It will contain a sandwich made with whole grain bread and said sandwich will be shaped like a heart...or a flower...or a fish. I can't stand the thought of sending her off with a square or circular sandwich or even a square slice of cheese. Sometimes I build an entire theme, like a fish shaped sandwich swimming in a blueberry sea. I've even done 2am searches on Pinterest for the coolest bento boxes for kids; while my Southern upbringing and Future Homemakers of America days fully prepared me for pound cakes and dumplings, those Mickey Mouse bentos look like they would require at least a year of culinary training. Since I have trouble finding time to paint my toenails, the year of culinary training is definitely out.

I know it is just lunch, but I come from a long line of people who express love through food. My own working mother would get up in the morning and pack me a lunch of turkey and mustard on saltine crackers. I didn't eat bread, and after finding a big hunk of a buttery cheese substance in my spaghetti I had sworn off the tray lunch in the cafeteria. I took my lunches for granted then; you tend to take a lot of things for granted when you are raises by Super Mom. Now I look back and can feel the love my own mother had for me and I think of it every time I am wasting bread edges and cutting out that sandwich with a cookie cutter.

It sounds sweet, right? Does my child really care? Probably not. So why do I care so much? Since I became a working mom, I have become obsessed with doing all I can to make every day special and to ensure that, while someone else is actually sitting next to her during lunch, there is some sign of "Mama" at the lunch table. It has become my coping mechanism. The daycare deposit pales in comparison to the start up costs I brought on myself. She needed a mat? I wanted to make sure she had a coordinating pillow, blanket and nap mat cover with her name embroidered somewhere on it. She had to have her name on her water bottle. Sure, a Sharpie makes sense, but instead I was drawn to these personalized bands that wrap around the bottle. I stressed about every last detail before her first day and I don't really think she cares. I do.

I don't have time for therapy, but after hours spent on the road for my job I have finally determined the reason for my obsession with heart-shaped sandwiches and personalized nap mat covers. It is the same reason I come home tired from work but drags self to the park or to blow bubbles in the back yard, the reason I want every second I am with Lily to be quality. It's the same reason I forget the quiet moments are important, too. I absolutely hate missing that time during the day and I grasping at ways to make the most of the time I do have. It's how I cope.

In the end, does it make me a better mom? No. Could I put away the heart cookie cutter tomorrow without Lily even taking notice? Probably. Will I do that? No way. I need it, and I hope one day she looks at that sandwich and realizes that I made it just for her, just the way she likes it, with sun butter, jelly and a mother's love. Like the turkey and mustard crackers.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Work: The Agony of Going Back to Work After Baby....

As a working mom, this column struck a chord with me...hope it touches other working moms as well!

From The Abilene Reporter News, April 1, 2012.

Sarah Kleiner Varble: Going back to work tough after having baby

Staff Reports

Sunday, April 1, 2012

This is it: the day I've been dreading for the past 12 weeks.

This is the day I place my baby girl, Alexandra, into the arms of complete strangers and trust that they'll take care of her while I go off to work. Trust that they'll feed her when she's hungry and comfort her when she cries.

That they'll wipe her runny nose and drool-soaked chin.

That they'll change her diaper when it needs to be changed and not a moment later.

These are the basics to sustaining new human life. But there's much more to nurturing, and that's what has me hung up.

Will these caregivers have time to coo back-and-forth with my chatty baby? Will they smile at my second-born and sing to her?

When she's done eating, will they let her rest her head on their shoulder for a few minutes and listen to her respire with contented puffs of air?

Will they look into her big blue eyes and tell her without reservation that if she works hard, she could one day design buildings as landscape-changing as Zaha Hadid's, shoot photos as iconic as Annie Leibovitz's or write news articles about presidents as impactful as Anne Kornblut's?

Will they tell her that she can do anything she wants because of the women who worked hard before her? That she should never take this gift for granted?

These are the things I would do if I kept her at home with me, but now, 12 weeks after bringing her into this world, I must go back to work.

Never in a million years did I think I'd even consider staying home to raise children. I'm not cut from that fabric.

I've always derived more pleasure from say, playing poker and drinking craft beer with the guys than watching yet another movie about [insert dreamy actor here] trying to win back the broken heart of a toothpick-sized actress.

I never had the desire to babysit when I was young. I never changed a diaper before July 2009 when our first child, Benjamin, was born. Before then, the sound of screaming children was abhorrent.

But the game changed when I became responsible for creating life and then, more importantly, providing the best life possible for our little ones.

I think all moms, whether they're inclined to go back to work or to stay home, agonize over the question: Is this what's best for my baby?

I'm sure that within a few weeks, the adrenaline from covering a close election will seep back into my typing fingers, and hopefully it won't be quite as painful when I walk away from the day care in the mornings empty-handed.

I know this because I've crossed this bridge before. My husband, Nathan, and I had to make the tough decision in 2009 after Benjamin was born whether we would hand his daily care over to someone else so I could go back to work.

When I dropped him off at day care for the first time, I held him in a rocking chair in the nursery for an hour, asking questions of the caretakers through a fountain of tears.

Finally the sweet older lady said in a soft West Texas drawl, "Honey, you might want to think about setting him down in one of those swings now."

So I did. And then I ran to the car and wept for another 15 minutes before I was able to drive away.

Day care has been good for Benjamin because he's learning so much in the classroom — not just his letters and numbers, but how to socialize and share. Every night, I ask him if he had a good time at school, and he eagerly tells me all about his friends.

Knowing this, you'd think it would be easier the second time around, but I'm not finding it to be so.

After watching Benjamin mature for the past two years, I know what delightful developments are in store for Alexandra, and I want to witness her mind and body growing.

The other night, I baked a chicken and it was nearly done cooking when Nathan brought Benjamin home. When they walked in the door, he sniffed the air and exclaimed, "Mmm! Smells yummy, Mommy!"

That made me want to stay home and cook dinner for him every night for the next 16 years. And I don't even like cooking.

Sarah Kleiner Varble has covered state and local government for the Reporter-News for nearly seven years.

  © 2012 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Love: Heart-Shaped Crayons

 It is 1 AM and I am still awake. Why? Oh, because I want my two year-old, who barely understands Valentine's Day, to have something really cool and handmade to give to her friends at church. Chances are that, while these are non-edible, the kids will eat them; no worries, I spent the extra 20 cents and picked up the non-toxic crayons for this DIY heart-shaped crayon project.

Here's a quick tutorial for heart-shaped crayons...

Unwrap lots of crayons. I used five crayons for each heart.

Preheat your oven to 275.
Break your crayons into 3-4 pieces and fill silicone heart-shaped baking cups.
Bake in the oven at 275 for 10-12 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. 
Once crayons have cooled completely, pop them out of the baking cups, admire your work and go to bed. 

And the summary....

Eat, Love: Homemade Baby Food

It all started with mommy guilt. When Lily got ready for solid foods I had just gone back to work part time. Somehow, in my working mom insanity I decided that my child would feel more loved if her baby food was made from fresh foods rather than mass produced and served in a jar. Believe me, nearly two years later I fully realize just how ridiculous that sounds. Honestly, I knew it sounded ridiculous at the time. Instead of saying, "I am making my daughter's baby food because I feel guilty for working" I would say, "I've been doing some reading and I have decided to make Lily's baby food so I can avoid all the preservatives, ensure the food she is eating is fresh and save money." 


In the end, making Lily's baby food did save money. One dollar buys a pound of green beans, which then becomes 16-1oz. servings of baby food. Two dollars worth of sweet potatoes made pounds of baby food! We also bypassed the preservatives and, at this point in her life she loves fresh fruits and veggies. Also, after reading labels I found that many of the baby foods at the store were not as nutritious as the high fiber, vitamin-rich foods I was making at home. The homemade food also made us more more comfortable with giving Lily the (nutritious) foods we were eating and helped her enjoy herbs and spices we would not find in the big name baby foods. Oh, and it worked wonders on the mommy guilt. 


The surprising part? It was not as time consuming as I had anticipated. I would cook 4-5 pounds of sweet potatoes in the crock pot while I was at work during the day, then puree them and have them in the freezer. The actual time I spent preparing the sweet potatoes amounted to about 15 minutes. Halved peaches and a pyrex dish with a little water perfectly prepared peaches for baby food prep. Purees freeze very well in ice trays, and each cube in the tray is about 1 oz. When the purees have frozen,  you can pop them out and store them in freezer bags labeled with each type of food. They thaw easily in the microwave and can be stored in the freezer for several months. 


There are lots of cool baby food gadgets on the market, but you can prepare homemade baby food with just a few items that can be found in most any household. Once the food is cooked in a way that is appropriate for that food, you only need a blender to puree the food, ice trays to freeze the food and freezer bags to store the food. If you are like me and preparing food for the people you love is equivalent to actually telling them you love them, then preparing homemade foods for your baby will be totally fulfilling. Feel free to post any questions in the comments section. Also, check out for great health guidelines, food recommendations by age, recipes and more!


Friday, February 3, 2012

Pray: Teaching our Children

Overwhelming. Huge responsibility. Must not fail. I remember the day Doug and I began discussing bringing a child into this world. We felt excitement, enthusiasm, anticipation and joy as we imagined what our child would be like. The awesome responsibility of parenting began weighing heavily on us from that very moment. How will we teach our child to let her light shine?

Every parent has grand and wonderful plans for their child. We all want the best for them and no matter how blessed our lives have been, we want even more for our children. I know for us, we want Lily to find things she is passionate about and to pursue them with everything she has. For the most part, we will not choose her passions. She may love music or sports or art. She may be an attorney or a teacher or a chef. Only time will tell. Some things, however, are so much more important than her choice to be a pitcher or a pianist or even president.  No matter what she chooses for her hobbies or her profession, we want her to be Godly. 

I often wonder how we are doing in instilling our spiritual and moral values in our child. My heart sings when I hear her singing "I Like to go to Church" or imitating her Bible class teacher as she lines up her cars and counts to see how many cars came to church. I am encouraged when she tells the checker at Target "tank you." Then I remember that she is 2, and that we have so much work to do to help shape the person she will become. 

I was recently reading an article on Dr. Sears' site about raising a moral child. More than once in the article, he referenced a window of opportunity in the first six years of a child's life. In this window of opportunity, children unquestionably accept the virtues displayed in the lives of their parents. We have six years to shape the hearts, minds and souls of our children and then our influence begins to wane. Six years. The awesome responsibility of parenting becomes heavier and heavier. 

The Bible (as usual) provides great insight. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 we read the following:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
"And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

We must immerse our families in the love of God. We must immerse our families in loving God. We must do whatever it takes. In order to have children who love God with all their hearts, souls and strength, we must invite God into every part of our lives. Nothing can be more important. 

It is perfectly acceptable to want your children to succeed in other aspects of their lives, but our kids have to see what comes first in our lives. Children listen to our words, but they learn from our actions. If we want their love for God to be number one, they must see God being number one in our lives. It is so much more than having them at church every time the doors are open. They must see us being kind, loving our enemies, helping those who need our help. 

We want their lights to shine; let them learn that from us. 


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Eat, Love: Organic Foods on a Budget

 My grocery bill is getting higher and higher. I owe it all to Netflix. I am a documentary junkie, and Netflix has a ton of them available on demand. One night I was looking for a good one to watch, and I came across Food, Inc. That's when my grocery bill began getting higher and higher. A look behind the scenes of America's food supply is sad, sobering and just really gross. I had smelled the feed lots of West Texas and the chicken houses of East Texas, but the glance of the inside I got from Food, Inc. had an impact on me. 

I can't blame it all on Netflix. When Lily came along I began analyzing every factor of our lives, and food was one of those. We decided to start using beef and milk without added hormones as a first step. Study after study shows the age of the onset of puberty dropping; studies are not absolutely conclusive, but more and more evidence supports the idea that we are shortening childhood with the added hormones in our beef and milk. These added hormones make our dairy cows produce more milk and they make our slaughter cows get really big, really fast, but do we really want these hormones going into our kids? Just a side note: most other meats and animal product, like pork, poultry, and eggs, are free of added hormones due to government regulation.

I managed to move on from meat to produce. I was pretty sure I wanted to cut out pesticides along with the hormones. However, I didn't want to cut out hormones, pesticides and electricity; after looking at the prices on many organic foods I realized the electricity might just have to go if we were going to pay our big fat organic grocery bill. That's when I came across the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen, the list of foods that contain the highest levels of pesticide residue. By purchasing organic on these twelve items, you can reduce your intake of pesticide residue by 80%. Here's the list:

The Dirty Dozen

1. Apples

2. Celery

3. Strawberries

4. Peaches

5. Spinach

6. Nectarines

7. Grapes 

8. Sweet bell peppers

9. Potatoes

10. Blueberries 

11. Lettuce

12. Kale/collard greens

EWG also has a list of foods with very low pesticide residue. These foods, called the Clean 15, are listed below and, in the opinion of your humble blogger and her bank account, are not worth paying those organic prices. 

Clean 15

1. Onions

2. Sweet Corn

3. Pineapples

4. Avocado

5. Asparagus

6. Sweet peas

7. Mangoes

8. Eggplant

9. Cantaloupe 

10. Kiwi

11. Cabbage

12. Watermelon

13. Sweet potatoes

14. Grapefruit

15. Mushrooms


Hope this helps! In the end, just do your homework and do the best you can by your family. Happy shopping!


For more information on foods and pesticides, check out


Friday, January 27, 2012

Eat, Love: Flatout Pizza

 If you are like me, you are often discouraged by the nutritional value of most quick and easy recipes. It seems like you pay a price with inexpensive and easy to prepare foods. Sometimes it feels like you have to sacrifice nutrition for convenience. As a busy mom who values healthy eating habits for her toddler, I find myself searching for meals that can be prepared in a short amount of time while also packing some nutritional punch. Oh, and they have to taste good. :)

A staple in our kitchen for healthy and convenient snacks and meals is the Flatout Wrap. The Flatout Wrap is a nutritious, low carb, high fiber, trans fat-free flatbread that can be used in so many ways. The obvious use is to wrap up anything that would normally go between two slices of bread, but there are so many other great uses. In our house, we love to use Flatouts to make pizza. Here are a couple of different ways to enjoy a pizza using Flatout wraps. Please note that there are many varieties of Flatouts, but we usually go for the Light Original. These contain 9 grams of fiber and only 90 calories per wrap.



Flatout Plain Jane Pizza

Flatout Wrap 

Olive oil

1/4 c. Pizza Sauce

1/2c. Reduced Fat Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Any pizza toppings you choose


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put Flatout Wrap on a cookie sheet, brush with olive oil and bake for 7 minutes. Remove from oven and spread sauce on wrap. Add cheese and other toppings, then bake at 350 until cheese is melted.  At our house, one pizza serves one person. 

Tex-Mex Flatout Thin Crust Pizza

1 Flatout Light Wrap
1 tsp olive oil cooking spray
1/4 lb extra lean ground beef
2 Tbs taco seasoning
2 Tbs water
2 Tbs salsa
1/4 cup shredded 2% Mexican blend cheese
Shredded lettuce
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
1 Tbs fat free sour cream

On stove, brown ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat; drain. Stir in taco seasoning and water; cook 2-3 minutes or until liquid absorbed. Cook lightly oiled Flatout in 350°F oven directly on grate for 7 minutes. On the Flatout, layer salsa, meat and cheese. Top with lettuce, a dollop of sour cream and tomatoes. Return to oven and cook 7 more minutes. Remove and cut into wedges. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Work, Pray: The Human Trapper Keeper

 I do not have a natural urge to have an organized life. I have had a tendency toward chaos and disorganizaton since I was a young child. I didn't line up blocks as a toddler. In school, the Trapper Keeper was my best friend because I could close it and trap the hundreds of loose pages in my notebook. My CDs (remeber those?) were never in the correct cases. On my computer, I have photos in my music folder and music in my documents folder. I have replaced no less than five drivers licenses because they ended up somewhere other than that little window pocket in my wallet. I am a complete mess. 

The funny thing is, I have always faked organizational skills very, very well. The Trapper Keeper was a metaphor for my life. When I was asked for an assignment from my terrifyingly messy notebook in school, I could always pull it out. When someone asked me to check something on my calendar, I could always find it. Problem is, it was not in the calendar. I am just really fast about searching my old emails for keywords or flipping through old receipts with notes jotted on the backs. Just because the photo I was looking for was in the music folder did not mean it was lost. Someone knew where it was. I knew where it was. There seemed to be some method of organization in my brain. 

I felt a certain pressure to be more organized. I spent money on this stuff. Remember PDAs? I forked over a pretty large chunk of change back in 2002 for a state of the art Windows based PDA. I think I entered two important reminders in the PDA. I also loaded up some games, Bible software and some mp3s on the handy little gadget. Then one night I forgot to plug it in. I found it, complete with dead battery, weeks later. Owning a PDA did not change my life. Losing a PDA did not change my life. I still made those two important appointments the same way I had made appointments in all the other years of my life; I just remembered. 

I spent a small fortune on file boxes, organizational cubes, daytimers and many other organizational tools. I am always so optimistic and excited about these new organizational tools. I start off with enthusiasm and within about three hours the enthusiasm wains. The file boxes end up being filled random papers, organizational cubes end up holding all the different types of junk I was originally trying to separate. The daytimers had no meaningful words written on them; instead the margins were filled with my doodling. I just relied on my memory. 

Occasionally the chaos would become overwhelming. I would go through my CDs and put them in their proper places. I would organize my messy notebook, often because it was being graded. I would rearrange the folders on my laptop. I would clean out my purse. I would write things in my calendar. I would go to the Container Store. Then it would all start again. 

I breezed through life on my memory, remembering appointments, assignments, meetings. Then one day the myth of mommy brain became a reality. I needed help. I needed organization. The way my brain worked seriously changed. I don't know anything about the science behind it, but I do know that in 9 quick months my daughter sucked half my brain power. I often say that she better be a smart kid since she took away so much of my intelligence. People laugh. It's as if they think I am joking. 

When Mommy brain set in, I knew there had to be a better way. I suddenly had what I perceived to be less brain with more stuff to put in it. I had to have important numbers handy, I needed to know when appointments occurred, I had to have the right foods for Lily to eat, I needed to have seasonally appropriate clothes ready for Lily to wear, I needed to know which meetings I had coming up for work so I could arrange my childcare and I had this little human being depending on me to make sure it was all right. I suddenly became a pretty organized person. Lily made me do it. 

There are still days I struggle with organization. Since I keep my calendar, address book and nearly everything else on a smartphone, one of those days came when Lily dumped my phone in the toilet. I still hae my Trapper Keeper moments, but most of the time everything is neatly filed away behind the correct divider.  I feel accomplished. I was able to change something about myself. I changed something that once seemed to be a part of my personality. It's funny how motherhood can do that to you.  


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Love: Favorite Toddler iPad Apps

 I really like my iPad, but my child is what I would call passionate about the iPad. Sometimes she wakes up in the morning and the first words from her mouth are "iPad" and "muffin."
At first I was a little hesitant to let her play with it. I wasn't even worried about the obvious "toddlers break things" issue; I worried about what it might do to her brain. I even googled "toddler iPad brain" to find out if I was going to mess up the child. Her chants only got louder. "Hipad! Hipad! Hipad!" I finally decided there must be some way this little gadget could be an educational tool. I downloaded a Sesame Street episode about good eating habits and within a couple of days she was begging for yogurt instead of ice cream.Best of all, this iPad was God's gift to parents on road trips or the commute to work. 
I started downloading apps that could teach Lily her ABCs, colors, shapes, Bible stories and anything else I thought could be beneficial to her. It is overwhelming how many apps are available. We have tried many, but there are a few that she goes back to again and again. Here are my Top 5 picks for toddlers:

1. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox- So at first I was not sure about this app. It looked fun, colorful and had some catchy music, but I was skeptical about the educational potential. Then I watched Lily play. When it asked her to touch the green fruit, she touched the green fruit. She counted the fruit. She did anything that little monkey asked, all in hopes of getting a little virtual sticker for her virtual sticker board. It's bright, it is colorful and it has enough variety in the activity types and levels that it will keep toddlers enteretained for a very long time. Cost: 99 cents

2. My Bible To Go - This is a great Bible learning app for kids! It has simplified Bible stories that are read to the child while they look at corresponding pictures. It can grow with your child, too! As your child learns to read, they can record their own readings of the stories. Cost: 99 cents

3. Dr. Seuss's ABCs - Really fun app for learning the ABCs for Lily, nice sentimental value for Mommy. Even with all the cool graphics out there, I will always have a place in my heart for the look of classic Dr. Seuss. It is basically a digital interactive version of an awesome book. Cost: $3.99

4. Toddler Counting- I love this counting app. It has fresh looking graphics and is really clean looking, which sets it apart from the hundreds of other counting apps. When your toddler taps the items on the page, it says the number AND shows the number. My child often skips "6," but not with this app. Cost: 99 cents for full app, FREE for lite version

5. ZooZoo Safari- Fun little app that my child loves. It has 26 animals, starting with letters A to Z. You can tap the animal for the sound it makes and to watch it in action. Tapping the name of the animal tells you the name while spelling it out. Cost: FREE

Eat: No, thank you.

 I wondered when it would happen. I looked forward to the first tooth, the first Christmas, the first word, but I have dreaded the first family shared vomiting illness for some time. Last week I was headed home on a Wednesday evening planning on having our regular hectic midweek evening. I was going to get home, have about 30 minutes to greet the hubby, give Lily a snack, get us dressed and get on the road to church. Then I would sing songs for 45 minutes with the adorable 2 year-old class and finally rest when we landed at a restaurant somewhere for our Wednesday night dinner out. As I drove along the highway mapping out the evening in my head, my phone rang. When I answered, I heard gagging and groans before my husband finally said, "Lily is vomiting." That simple statement was followed by more gagging and groans, none of which were Lily's. 


My poor husband. When I married him, I knew what I was signing up for. He made no secret of his aversion to blood, vomit and stench.  I remember the evening I sliced my finger while chopping some peppers and onions for shrimp creole. I asked him to run upstairs and grab a bandage, but when I looked behind me I realized he had seen a bit of the blood and was taking a seat before he fell backward on the tile. When we took our lamaze class, he was the guy who clenched his eyes shut during the mild, not at all graphic C-section video. The first trimester of pregnancy was harder on him that it was on me because honestly, hearing me vomit was harder on him than actually vomiting was on me. Now here he was, with a vomiting two year old, doing his best not to pass out or vomit on the child. 


When I arrived home, Doug looked sicker than Lily. He quickly volunteered to run to the store for Pedialyte and get anything else we might need. He needed the break, I could tell. When he made it home from the store, we began talking about what we needed to do about childcare the next day. I had a really important presentation the next day, and he said that he would stay home. What a guy! It was more than just him being willing to get behind at work so I didn't have to. He was signing up to spend the day with his greatest nightmare: a puking toddler. 


In the end, we all ended up with the virus. That's the reason I haven't blogged in a while.  I realized now that this virus thing taught me a few things. A toddler sitting in your lap will not warn you before puking. When your child goes to sleep at 7 instead of 10 she will wake up at 4:30 ready to play. Pedialyte does not taste as good as Gatorade. Women recover more quickly from bugs than men. A toddler will make a wreck of a house while her parents hug the toilet, leaving her unsupervised. Most importantly I learned, well, was reminded that I have a really sweet husband. :) I couldn't think of a better person to share a virus with. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Eat: King Ranch Chicken Casserole

For a busy mom, a casserole can be a great time saver. Casseroles are awesome because so many of them can be made ahead and frozen. Here is a recipe for one of my favorites, King Ranch Chicken. 


  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 can (10 3/4 oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can (10 3/4 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can (10 oz.) RO*TEL Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 12 corn or flour tortillas, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  In a large saucepan, cook pepper and 
onion in melted margarine until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add soups, 
RO*TEL and chicken, stirring until well blended.  In a 13 x 9 x 2-inch 
baking pan, alternately layer tortillas, soup mixture and cheese, repeating 
for three layers.  Bake 40 minutes or until hot and bubbling.  Serves 8.
(recipe from RO*TEL website,

As far as freezing, this casserole can be frozen before baking, then thawed in the refrigerator and baked according to the recipe directions. Place a sticky note with the date and contents of the casserole, plus baking instructions so you don't have to reference the recipe. 

Here is a tip from Good Housekeeping that will save space and keep baking dishes ready to use:
For perfectly shaped packages that stack easily, freeze foods in a casserole dish lined with heavy-duty foil (allow enough extra foil to cover the top). After the food freezes, remove the foil-wrapped food and use the dish for something else.

Love, Pray: MLK

 "I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live."  Martin Luther King, Jr. 
Today is the day we honor the memory, the work and the accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr. He had passion for his cause and changed the lives of so many. His passion and courage inspire so many. 

Everytime I read this particular quotation, I am reminded of the words of Jesus in John 15:101-7:

"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another."

Have you discovered the the something for which you would die? 

Love: Dr. Sears and his handy website

I spent the first thirty years of my life mostly free from worry. I had a stressful job, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that I worried. When I think of worry, I think of sleepless nights and stomach ulcers. I was way above any of that and prided myself on my ability to be cool, calm, collected and confident in even the most difficult situations. Occasionally I was a little stressed, but I'd just flip over to Matthew 6, read verses 26-34 and remember that God's providence was going to take care of the birds of the air, the flowers of field and my strong and capable self. 

Then one pretty spring morning I woke up with the urge to take a pregnancy test. It was positive, and I immediately found myself worrying. I was worried that I had a false positive due to protein in my urine after a meat feast the day before at a Brazilian steak house. I drank a gallon of water and an hour later tried again. It was still positive. I was so excited about being pregnant, but the worry had just begun. I didn't worry a bit about the finances of parenthood; I left that worry to the hubby, but I worried about everything else related to parenthood. I knew plenty of incompetent people who managed to keep their children alive and thriving, but the anxieties and insecurities hung around. 

I worried about what I was eating, so I went online and found 40 different conflicting lists about what not to eat while pregnant. I went nine months without a sandwich with deli meat and nearly killed myself (and everyone around me) when I quit the caffeine cold turkey. Unfortunately, enchiladas and Whataburger were not on the bad list, so I gained "baby" weight at a rapid pace. I researched medications and found myself nursing my springtime allergic reaction with nothing but a Neti Pot. Lucky for me there had been no reports of the Neti Pot brain eating amoeba at  that point in time. I gave up tennis because I had visions of a tennis ball flying into my abdomen and I stayed off my bicycle because I was pretty sure I would fall when I became the first person to ever forget how to ride a bike.  During the first trimester I found myself awake in the wee hours of the morning fretting about the seat belt in my car. Thanks to Google, I found diagrams for the correct way to wear a pregnant woman to wear a seat belt. 

The internet was my best friend and my worst enemy. Often it armed me with information that helped my fears subside. Other times I obsessed over the irrational advice freely dispensed on mommy forums and chat groups.  Before this pregnancy thing, I knew better than granting credibility to people who typed "2" instead of "to" and who disagreed with their pediatrician on every...single...point. Then came the epiphany. A midnight Google search for information on crib bumper pad safety brought me to the website that would soon become my best friend. 

If you have never checked out, you, too will probably fall in love with my fried, Dr. Sears,. I found the answers to pretty much every question I had on one single website. There is information on every stage of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, nutrition, sleep safety, vaccines, childhood name it! This single website has answered so many questions for me at every stage: as the mother of a child still residing in my body, as the mother of an infant and as a mother of a toddler. The acetaminophen and ibuprofen dosage charts one of the greatest lifesavers. After all, the "up to 24 lbs." dosage on the bottle can't be terribly accurate. 

One of the greatest discoveries on Dr. Sears' website: Attachment Parenting. I have a feeling there will be an entire blog entry on this parenting style, but when I stumbled onto Dr. Sears's site I also stumbled onto a parenting style that has worked beautifully for my family. It empowered me to parent in the way I felt was best, but he gave it a name and research to back it up. Attachment parenting has given us permission to nurture our child in a natural and instinctive manner. 

We are blessed to have a FABULOUS pediatrician that we see for our well checks and sick visits, but Dr. Sears has done a fabulous job serving as our 2am pediatrician. Here are some of my favorite links from

Check out the dosage guides for some commonly used medications!

If your child has sensitive skin, this chart can bring relief to the rash and give mom peace of mind. 

If you are a new parent or a parent to be and are trying to decide exactly what your parenting philosophy looks like, take a look at attachment parenting. It's not for everyone, but I am a fan. 


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rant: The Babi-kini


Note: While this blog generally consists of topics that begin with eat, pray, love and work, occasionally I will get riled up and just rant. This is one of those rants... :)

It's no secret that our society has been attempting to sexualize our daughters at younger and younger ages. Just looking at the programs aimed at tweens on The Disney Channel and comparing them to the ones on my Disney Channel in the 80s I can see that young girls are maturing more quickly than the girls of my generation. The Bratz dolls initially shocked me, but I'll admit I've grown accustomed to seeing them on the toy shelves. The little girls wearing sweats and shorts with words like "Juicy" across their little bottoms no longer cause my jaw to drop. The day my daughter tries walking out of the house in a pair of those will be the day I ship her off to the Amish country to live out her teen years. 

TLC has provided more extreme examples of this sexualization, with Toddlers and Tiaras commercials showing a 3 year-old girl dancing around portraying Julia Roberts' character from Pretty Woman.  I was able to dismiss this as an extreme example, far from mainstream American life. Soon I was no longer able to be as dismissive because the extreme examples began hitting closer to home and no longer seemed so extreme. A while back I was shopping for my daughter at one of those high-end department store last call centers. I was looking for some great deals on hip and fun clothes for my toddler when I came across a Juicy Couture tee with a suggestive message that does not bear repeating; I suddenly felt like it was time to begin fighting to protect my toddler's innocence. 

The big bomb came when I was browsing the Facebook page of one of my favorite children's boutiques. I loved perusing the unique outfits with huge flowers and ruffles and giant hairbows. Then I saw the Babi-kini. I did a double take. There it was, a baby in a string bikini starting, 


baby string bikini...yuck

It was like one of those really skimpy numbers from the SI Swimsuit Issue, but it was on a baby and it was available in infant sizes. I had plenty of thoughts about modesty running through my head. I have to admit, though, I was just as busy trying to figure out where you would put the diaper. It wasn't even practical. What if baby gets sunburned in all those places not covered by the string bikini? I worry enough about my child when she is wearing a one-piece bathing suit, a wide brimmed hat and SPF 60 sunscreen. Once my mind had processed the absuridity of the babi-kini, my thoughts once again drifted to this hyper-sexualized world in which my daughter will grow up. 

As a Christian mom, the skimpy clothes for girls sadden me because I want my daugther to be dressed modestly and in a way that is pleasing to God. I might be a little more conservative than the average mom as far as modest dress goes, but even for those who are not as conservative the babi-kini can be appalling. What are the consequences of sexualizing our toddlers? In 2007 the American Psychological Association's Task Force on the sexualization of girls found a number of cognitive and emotional effects of early sexualization. The researchers defined sexualization as a person's value coming from sexual appeal or behavior. Beyond morality, early sexualization is detrimental to the mental health of our daughters. Sexualization is directly linked to objectification, and when we objectify our girls we undermine their confidence and comfort in their own body, leading to negative emotions such as shame and anxiety. Sexualization is also linked to the three most commonly diagnosed mental health problems in women--depression, low self-esteem and eating disorders. 

I hope and pray I can teach my daughter that pretty is so much more valuable than sexy, and that pretty goes far beyond what is on the outside, As Christian mothers, we have to work diligently to combat the sexual messages our society sends our daughters from the time they come into this world. 

"Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God."                       I Peter 3:3-4

God's word tells us we will find our beauty on the inside. I don't think God disapproves of outward beauty or outward adornment. After all, Lydia was a seller of purple, one of the finest adornments, and she was recognized in Acts 16 as a "worshipper of God." In I Peter we are told that our adornment must not be merely external; our true beauty comes from our hearts and it is with our hearts that we will please God and it is with our hearts that we will make a difference in our world. 

Instead of working to help our daughters be "hot", let's set out each day to beautify the hidden person of the heart. It is with that heart that they will make a difference for the kingdom of God, and that precious spirit will help them find the joy that they deserve.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Eat: Crock Pot Roast

I love to be in the kitchen, but since becoming a mother I have found dinnertime to be the most challenging time of day. I want to spend as much time being mommy as possible, and after a long day at work I am desperate to make up the time I missed with Lily. On a less tender note, it is also very hard to crank out a gourmet meal when your child is finding ways to entertain herself, especially considering your child enjoys the taste and texture of dog food. It was time to dust off the crock pot and find other recipes that would give us lots of flavor. The clear favorite in our house is the crock pot roast.

The crock pot roast fits perfectly into the workday. You can put it on before leaving the house, then return 8-10 hours later to a tender roast. You can even throw in some potatoes and carrots so you don’t have to worry about sides. The best part is the prep requires very little effort; when I say little effort, I mean that I can get it all in the pot before I have even had my morning cup of coffee. I am barely able to walk to the shower without the coffee, so that should give you some perspective. Here’s a quick roast recipe:


2-3 lb. chuck roast
Season salt (optional)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 packet onion soup mix
Several cloves of garlic
Several bay leaves
Water to cover

Sprinkle roast with season salt (Tex Joy steak seasoning is my favorite) and brown on all sides in a skillet over medium heat. Place roast in crock pot and cover with mushroom soup and onion soup mix. Cover with water and throw in garlic and bay leaves. Put the lid on and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

You can add potatoes to the roast in the crock pot or whip up some rice when you arrive home. The best part about a roast? You can eat it for at least one more meal and maybe even two. We love roast sandwiches, with leftover roast and provolone cheese on a toasted croissant. The most popular leftover roast dish in my house has to be enchiladas. The secret ingredient? Hatch 5 Pepper Enchilada Sauce. Here’s the recipe that will transform your roast into a delicious and simple enchilada dinner.


Corn tortillas
Chopped roast
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Hatch 5 Pepper Enchilada Sauce

Dip corn tortillas in enchilada sauce, then place 2 tablespoons of chopped roast beef on each torilla along with 1 tablespoon of shredded monterey jack. Roll up each tortilla, place each on in a casserole dish and pour remaining enchilada sauce on the enchiladas. Sprinkle with a cup of shredded monterey jack and bake for 25 minutes at 350. We actually think the roast is better the second time around. Let me know what you think. :)

Work, Pray: The Working Woman of the Bible

Although I am in a two year sleep deficit and completely booked through the year 2027, I have decided to start a blog. I also plan to do my best to keep up with my blog and pray it can be a help to other working moms who have developed fever blisters and teeth grinding disorders as they work to balance the joys of family with the stress and guilt that come along with being a mom on the career track. However, there is a chance that another living soul will never look at this blog, and that’s okay, too. Anyway, back to this working mom thing…

Yes, I know it is 2012. I am aware that women have been working outside the home for decades and I should not feel any guilt about providing for my family. Believe me, I tell myself that every day. That doesn’t change the fact that I feel guilt as a mother, particularly as a Christian mother, about leaving my child for the day as I go off to work. I have the perfect setup. I leave my child with a grandparent or a close friend when I go off to work and I know she is nurtured and cared for while I am away. I do work from home whenever possible and take her along with me when I am able. Nevertheless, I still feel the guilt. Sometimes I am not sure it is only guilt; it’s also shame and, at risk of sounding dramatic, grief.

Before becoming a mother, I managed to be oblivious to the pressures mothers in the church face. Suddenly, the sermons admonishing mothers to be keepers of the home began stinging. Insinuations that families with two working parents were living beyond their means caused me to hang my head. Instead of being asked what I do for a living, I was asked if I stayed home with my child; the reply of no brought looks of disappointment and, even worse, pity. Facebook profiles of Christian friends listed their professions as SAHMs and I felt these twinges of envy that I had trouble overcoming. I wanted to scream to the world, “I want to be a SAHM, too, but my family NEEDS my paycheck!”

Now, I know the grief thing sounds pretty dramatic, but I think we all grieve dreams. I spent my adolescence and early adulthood dreaming of long days spent with my 2.5 children…well, 2 or 3 generally appeared in my dreams. I don’t make a practice of dreaming of half-children. Otherwise I would have already made a fortune writing horror novels. Anyway, I spent the first 18 months of my daughter Lily’s life grieving the loss of a dream. There are still times I find myself so sad to miss out on the little day to day things. When she was approaching a milestone, I would hope and pray she would have that particular first on my watch. I was blessed to ease back into the career world, following my maternity leave with part-time work until Lily was 18 months, but still I grieved.

One day I made a decision that I could cope with the grief, but the shame and guilt had to go. As a Christian, I have always found the Bible to be my source of strength. I have always looked to the virtuous wife of Proverbs 31:10-31. For so long I pictured this woman working away in the home, but the closer I read I find a woman who quite frequently works outside the home and it gives me hope, confidence and new energy!

She works with her hands, provides food for her household by bring it from afar, buys a field and plants a vineyard, makes and sells clothing and takes care of her family and those in need. It sounds like she spends some time working outside the home and somehow she is found virtuous and worthy of praise. I don’t think God intended for us to use Proverbs 31 to exalt mothers who work outside the home over those who don’t or vice versa. I believe we should look at this woman in the way of the obligations we have to our family and our community as Christian women.

Are our households provided for sufficiently? Are we teaching our children to be Godly? Can our husbands trust us? Is our family clothed and fed? Are we teaching our children to be kind and to honor God? If all these things are accomplished, then we are doing God’s will. Some may accomplish these things by working outside the home, and others will accomplish this by staying at home.

For me, working outside the home means my family has what we need and my husband and I are meeting our financial obligations. There are no reasons for guilt. There are no reasons for shame. Do I still grieve the loss of a dream? Sure, but that grief is erased daily as joy takes its place. God has blessed me with a loving husband, an adorable child and the comfort found in His word. For that, I am extremely thankful. :)