May 30, 2016

Happy? Memorial Day

Happy?  Memorial Day

This one touches pretty close to home.  

I am a proud Army wife of 23 years.  
Even though my husband retired from active service last year and 
we have settled into civilian life, 
many know that he is a veteran.  
I don't know how many times I have heard him 
humbly respond to a Memorial Day greeting of 

"Thank you for your service." 
with an
"I'm still here.  
Memorial Day is for remembering those who paid the ultimate price, 
those who died in combat, those who did not come home."  

Maybe he is sensitive.  
I know he is thinking of all the men and women, 
some acquaintances, some buddies, some his soldiers, 
who died in combat.
Memorial Day is the day we remember them.

So later today, 
when you see a veteran at the Memorial Day parades and activities, 
pause a moment and reflect before you say
"Happy Memorial Day."  
Certainly greet him and thank him for his service,  
AND acknowledge that you are remembering all those who did not come home. 
But it is not a "happy" day.


May 27, 2016

Friday Feasting: Stuffed Cabbage (Golabki)

Mom's Recipe Card

As a wedding gift, my Mom wrote out some of my favorite dishes, growing up. And this was one of them. She made this frequently as it was tasty, filling and inexpensive. Even after I became vegetarian this was one meal I could not resist! When money was tight, Mom would add more rice and less meat. This is not a meal my husband grew up with, so I’ve revised some of the seasonings more to his liking.

Stuffed Cabbage (Golabki) 

Boil cabbage.
Cut away the core.
Cut away the tough stem from each leaf.
Chop remaining cabbage and add to dutch oven.
Combine rice and meat for the stuffing.
Stuff cabbage leaves and fold.
Stack the cabbage rolls in the pot.
Add sauce over the top.

Stuffed Cabbage (Golabki) 


1 whole head cabbage, about 4 pounds
1 large onion, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried chopped onion)
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound and ½ pound ground turkey, hamburger or pork (or combine)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
2 eggs
1 tbsp parsley
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1-2 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp oregano
1tsp basil


1.  Fill pot with water and bring to boil. Carefully add cabbage, cover and cook 3-5 minutes, or until softened enough to pull off individual leaves. Cut away core to make removal of leaves easier. Remove leaves as they separate from head.
2.  When leaves are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to cut away the thick center stem from each leaf, without cutting all the way through. You’ll need roughly 18-20 leaves. 

3.  Chop the remaining cabbage and place it in the bottom of a casserole dish or Dutch oven. Add sliced carrots. 

4.  Saute the chopped onion in oil in a large frying pan until tender, and let it cool.

5.  Mix cooled onions (or dried) with turkey, rice, eggs, parsley, salt and black pepper until well combined.
6.  Cup cabbage leaf and place about ¼- ½ cup of meat on each, depending on leaf size. Fold over core end, roll once, then fold in sides and roll again.
7.  Place the cabbage rolls, seam side down, on top of the chopped cabbage in the casserole dish or stockpot/dutch oven. Pour tomato sauce over rolls, season with parsley, oregano and basil, add water (start with one can) cover and cook on medium heat for 1.5 hours, or until done. Check liquid level throughout and add more water, if needed.
8.  Serve with sauce and sour cream, if desired.
9.  Cabbage rolls freeze well. I like to make up a double batch and freeze into mini-meals for meals on the run.

May 25, 2016

Satan, the author of fear

Satan is the author of fear.
It is so simple a line. So rife with substance and implications.

I feel fear often, but I wouldn't call myself a worrier.   When I reflect on why God has blessed me with a healthy dose of confidence (definitely over-healthy at times - just ask my siblings, friends, husband, parents, etc.), I honestly have to stop at the "blessing" part.  I have never faced significant tragedy in my life.  My parents love me and are still together and will be together till death.  I have a husband who is faithful, children who are happy and relatively healthy.  I live in a house with acreage and the most beautiful backyard you’ve ever seen!  He has blessed me so profusely, I feel like an ungrateful WRETCH just thinking about being fearful.

Could this confidence in “Be Not Afraid!” be learned somehow?  Have I just developed a habit over the years of looking at the good side of things and being the eternal optimist (which can be just as annoying as the whining pessimist, I’ve been told.)?  I can remember in high school writing a research paper on the physical benefits of being an optimist, so maybe I have always been this way.  In all my optimism, I imagine someone could learn how to think more positively with “just a little practice!”  I know that is not realistic, though.  I also know that life experiences that are not as positive as mine have been, can shape and mold a person in ways that are seemingly too difficult to overcome.

But even with all this “flowers and sunshine” in my pocket, in my human frailty, I, too, succumb to fear.
 “Will everyone – ok, the majority – like what I cooked for dinner?”
“Will I be able to survive the summer pregnant, in my 40’s, with 7 other children who want to go swimming and camping?”
“Will I endure labor and delivery again?”
“Will our baby be as healthy as the others?”
“What am I going to do for school next year when I’m huge and tired in September and then a newborn in October?”
“It would be smart to put some meals in the freezer…who has time for THAT??”

SO…even if I can’t TEACH you how to be unfearful, I can reassure you that when these feelings of despair creep into my head, heart and life, I have refused – REFUSED – to allow them to make me scared.  Not even Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as president scares me because He has won!!  The idea of either of them sitting in the Oval Office makes a chill run down my spine, no doubt, but what will come, will come.

Also, just the fact that I know…Know…KNOW that Satan WANTS me to be afraid, brings out that girl who wags her finger in the air and says “Oh, no you DON’T!!”

I give thanks for the saints out there I know who are praying for me.  God bless my angel.  I turn to Mother Mary for strength to endure, and I know…Know…KNOW my Jesus has taken care of it all.

Peace be with you all.

May 23, 2016

Monday Meme: 940 Saturdays

There are only 940 Saturdays between your child’s birth and when they leave for college.  What a sobering thought!

I have spent a good amount of time lately assessing and analyzing our family life. I also spend time in prayer, asking for much needed help to do the best I can with my limited time with my children. Much of my prayer time is consumed with the following questions:

Is my family life the way I would like?
Are we being kind to one another?
Are we spending our time fruitfully?  What is working? What needs to be tossed?
Am I too distracted by technology? Are my children too distracted by technology?
Do I have balance with outside events and inside events, knowing that I need to spend time on my own pursuits and so do my children, but home comes first?
Thinking of each child and myself individually, what virtues or habits do we need to develop? What interests or strengths should be encouraged?

I have the privilege to parent children from 21 years down to 23 months right now.  Looking at my oldest son holding my youngest really brings home the fact that these years are fleeting. Before I know it, my youngest will be 6 feet tall, possibly holding one of his nieces or nephews in his arms. By taking time to take an honest look at our life and the way we spend our time, I hope to make the most of the time we have together and to help my children become the young adults God wants them to be.

May 20, 2016

Friday Feasting: Spaghetti in the Instant Pot

"I admit it, I have jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon.  I am just in the learning curve, figuring out how to used my pot, but I thought I’d share what I did for spaghetti.  This recipe turned out super yummy AND everything in one pot means fewer dishes to wash.  Bonus!!!"  

Instant Pot Spaghetti

2 lbs Italian sausage
2 jars sauce (I like Newman’s Own Sockarooni.)
16 oz package spaghetti noodles
½ C onion, chopped
½ C green peppers, chopped
About 1-½ jars water

Brown the Italian sausage on the sauté setting.  Drain.  Return the sausage in the bottom of the pot.  Layer the dry, broken spaghetti noodles, the veggies, then the two jars sauce on top.  Pour the water down the sides.  Set the Instant Pot on high pressure (be sure to close the vent) for half the cooking time on the noodle directions.

May 18, 2016

Bucket List

Surely, you're familiar with the idea of a “bucket list” - a list one makes of
activities, adventures, or encounters they want to do before leaving this earth. Maybe
traveling to exotic places, meeting a famous person, or learning to speak a foreign
language. I can't say my bucket list is all that impressive or extensive, but one thing
that's been on it for a while is to run a race. Well, by golly I get to scratch something off
my bucket list now! I completed the Presence Health 5K on April 29.

Writing about my 5K is not a means of patting myself on the back, although I'm
super proud that I set a goal and achieved it, but more a means of encouraging you to
try something new. It's so easy to just keep doing what we always do. We find
ourselves in a comfortable routine so why change it, right? Here's the thing, though, as
one of my favorite television actors says, “If you always do what you've always
done. You'll always get what you always got.” That statement is so true, especially
in my own life.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with routine except when it keeps us from
becoming the best version of ourselves. I find myself getting stuck in ruts because I
just get used to x, y or z and can't see that a change would be for the better. This
applies to so many areas of my life and probably yours, too. From what we wear, to
what we eat, to exercise, to budgeting, etc. Sometimes a change can not only spice
things up, like our marriages, but on a more individual level, really help us to grow in
virtue and holiness.

My husband and I gifted each other the registration fee for running the 5K as a
13th wedding anniversary present. We decided it was time for a change – a change in
our health and how we set an example for our children. We didn't know at the time that
God had an entirely different plan for us and the race, but in the end we still met our
goal of making a change for the better. Due to unforeseen circumstances I ended up
running the actual race by myself, but every step I took was for my family. They
supported my training and they were at the finish line cheering and waving signs as
though I had just won a million dollars!

Setting a goal, finding something new and different to get me out of the rut,
proved to be an amazing change all around. Besides the obvious benefit of losing
weight and feeling better, I've learned to push myself when things are difficult. I've also
learned that it isn't always about the finish line but what we've done to get there! The
most fitting Scripture verse for the whole experience came to me via my race shirt, “I
can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.

Did I mention that I hated running before starting our training for the 5K? Well,
it's true, but now I look forward to my workouts. To be honest, the quiet is such sweet
relief before the craziness of the day. So let my 5K race inspire you to try something
new, to think outside the box, to go on an adventure! Try that new thing you've always
wanted to learn to do. If you haven't written one yet, start a bucket list. It's actually kind
of fun. Next on mine is to learn to play the banjo!

May 16, 2016

Monday Meme: The End-of-Year Burnout

Well, here we are again, at the end of a school year. Or at least we're supposed to be. We hear our "real" teacher friends talk about how crazy the kids are at school and how great it will be to spend some down time with their kids.  The posts on Facebook are hilarious - train wreck memes, the video with the guy bumping and falling his way down a slide, funny hairy dogs (see above).

I feel their pain. I'm ready to be done, too.

BUT...I wonder...would I feel this way if there wasn't an end to the public school year? What if they went all year round and no one really got used to that feeling of "Whew, it's finally over!"  One of my reasons for homeschooling is that my children would understand that life is about ALWAYS being educated, not taking your brain out for a break all summer.

Last summer was the first time since we've started homeschooling eight years ago that we took the summer off. I'm not going to lie to you. It was niiiice (say that with a good Southern drawl).  We live in Georgia, so the weather was ripe for swimming, hanging out with friends, and just enjoying life. I wasn't nursing, I wasn't pregnant, and we needed a break.

This year we are not going to have such luxuries. It will be a toned down version of school, but my people are going to have to finish up essential subjects. My oldest is trying out public high school in the fall, and I don't know who's freaking out more, him or me (ok, it's me).  We have to get that pre-algebra book done!!  Then, we're welcoming Baby #8 mid-October, so we'll just get started up enough in August to maybe ride a wave of school routine through till Thanksgiving.

I've been through October babies wasn't pretty for the school year.

Anyhow, back on topic.

I can not afford to indulge in "Woe is me, I'm tired of this school year."  Between babies and Life, I must keep this Education Ship always chugging along.  It's freeing in many ways. I'm a slave to no one's calendar.  God has graced me with a husband/principal who has a personality that makes this sanguine girl understand she has to stay on task as much as she can. We have done pretty well, I think.

As much as I want to feel "burnt out", I honestly don't. I want my kids to learn- All. The. Time.

May 13, 2016

Friday Feasting: Rip's Big Bowl

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day and really the most important for having a good mental day. We recently made some drastic changes to our diet for a myriad of reasons including heart health. The following recipe is a super yummy recipe we discovered right away that has made a big difference in avoid morning sugar crashes and hungry tummies. Plus, we've discovered the beauty of using oats just as they are and boy is it delicious and filling. The recipe comes from “The Engine 2 Diet” by Rip Esselstyn.

Rip's Big Bowl 

¼ cup Old-fashioned oats
¼ cup Grape-Nuts of Ezekiel brand equivalent
¼ cup Bite-size shredded wheat
¼ cup Uncle Sam Cereal
1 TBSP. Ground flax-seed meal
2 TBSP. Raisins Small handful of walnuts
1 banana, sliced
1 kiwi, sliced
1 grapefruit
¾ cup of whole milk OR almond milk OR coconut milk

Method: Toss all ingredients except the grapefruit and milk into a bowl. After cutting the grapefruit in half, use a small, sharp knife to remove the segments. Add the segments to the top of the bowl and squeeze in the juice. Top with milk.

**Just a couple of housekeeping notes. What you put in the big bowl is really flexible. If you're not setting out to achieve heart healthy or other dietary results then go crazy. When we first started making these we still had all sorts of opened boxes of mediocre cereal that we just tossed in. We love to use Kashi cereal, various granolas (Aldi has some yummy ones), blueberries, raspberries, and a bit of pure maple syrup.

May 11, 2016

Book Review: The Chestertons and the Golden Key

A friend of mine recently wrote a book about GK and Frances Chesterton that is designed for young readers - entitled The Chestertons and the Golden Key. I met Nancy Carpentier Brown through a local homeschooling group and have been fortunate enough to be the beneficiary of her homeschool advice and to see the development of her career as an author and an expert in G.K. and Frances Chesterton’s lives and work. I am also pleased to be able to attend as many meetings as possible of our local chapter of the G.K. Chesterton Society where we meet to enjoy each other’s company, have a drink, and discuss a selection from Chesterton’s writings.

So, who exactly were Frances and G.K. Chesterton, and why would I want to introduce them to my children through this book? Great question – Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was a prolific author whose prophetic writings clearly depict the downfalls of modern society and a lack of common sense which seems to have blossomed as of late.  His book The Everlasting Man led to the conversion of a young atheist, C.S. Lewis.  Yes, that C.S. Lewis.  He was also a great author of detective stories, the most famous of which is The Blue Cross. As Dale Ahlquist, the founder of the American Chesterton Society points out, Chesterton cannot be described in a few paragraphs, so I encourage you to find out more. Frances was his wife, his inspiration and partner, and a poet in her own right.  Nancy Brown has also written her biography which can be found here.

Nancy Brown’s latest book, The Chesterons and the Golden Key, is an engaging read for the beginning chapter book level reader. It also makes a great read-aloud.  The vocabulary is challenging enough to incite some learning, but not so obscure as to frustrate young readers. The chapters are short, with lovely illustrations interspersed throughout.  As a read aloud for bedtime, it should last for a week, with the kids begging for “just one more chapter,” so they can solve the mystery of the golden key.

A family story, and based on a real relationship the Chestertons had with the Nicholls family, we find a young single parent family headed by a grieving widow who live in the seaside town of Lyme Regis.  They have 6 girls and a boy, including Clare, an aspiring author who idolizes Chesterton and invites both GK and Frances to tea with the family, where they form a friendship which lasts a lifetime.  Filled with happy anecdotes of a joyful childhood, we follow the Nicholls through preparations for a play, a roller skating accident, disagreements and reconciliation, and of course, a mystery involving a missing golden key.

This story was charming and delightful, and I’m not ashamed to admit that, upon finding out it was based on a real relationship, I was moved to tears at the thought of the love that the Chestertons showed to the children of the Nicholls family.  The interactions in this story give our children a good model for relationships and self sacrifice. I strongly recommend this story without reservation for readers from grade 3-5 and as a read aloud for the entire family.

May 9, 2016

Monday Meme: Mama Mary

Thanks Ma!

We are all on this journey of motherhood.  We share the joys, pains, tributes, and trials of our children as they grow up.  We celebrate, cry, laugh, and pray as they progress towards adulthood.  Although our road of motherhood has similarities, sometimes we need more.  Maybe we need a role model or someone to confide in.  Who would understand our plights and milestones better than our spiritual mother, Mama Mary?

Who would know better?  Ponder this: At 12, Jesus was lost for three days.  Oops!  How did Mary handle it?  It’s not like she could hide that fact from our dear Father in Heaven. Well, she obviously persisted.  Look what Jesus eventually did.

Jesus performed miracles.   He preached with authority, and he walked and dined with sinners.  Her son was insulted and scourged without provocation.  The devil tempted him, and angels encouraged him.  He bore a cross that carried the weight of the world.  He died.  Ultimately, he rose and ascended.  Mary watched all of these unfold.  How did she manage?

I don’t have an answer. I can only guess… love.  A Mama’s LOVE!  It just keeps giving.

She is the perfect example of motherhood. Thanks, Ma!

May 6, 2016

Friday Feasting: Nuggets of Grace

Everyone likes chicken nuggets.  The kids love them, the mommies and daddies love them for their ease of getting dinner on the table, and ketchup IS a vegetable, right??  But no one really wants to think too hard about what goes into those big bags of frozen chicken nuggets, do they?  The convenience weighs too heavy.  It ends up weighing pretty heavy on the pocketbook, too, especially for those of us with a ton of kiddos!

I have recently discovered Zaycon Fresh, where I can order 40 pounds of fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts at a time.  I just have to bring it home and process it the way I want.  One of my recent “likes” in the processing is making homemade chicken nuggets.

I got my recipe from (of course), and I must say they aren’t as difficult as you would think.  My shortcuts/money-savers are: #1) grinding up all the bread ends I save from our countless sandwich lunches in my food processor for the breading. #2) using my kitchen shears to cut the chicken breasts up into nugget-sized pieces. #3) making one batch for dinner and another batch to freeze.  #4) using what spices/seasonings my peeps like and I have on-hand instead of what’s called for in the recipe. (It took me a LONG time to break out of that, but it’s SOOOOO very freeing!!)

So, here’s the link for the nuggets!

I hope your kids like them as much as mine do!!

May 4, 2016

Being Sorry Means Changing Your Behavior

I admit it.  I say these words to my children all.the.time.  “Being Sorry Means Changing Your Behavior!”

My intent is to help them understand that an “I’m sorry.” is not just lip service, but a promise to change the offending behavior.

This may fall in the area of too much information, but I hope my words make a spark for you, like the one I experienced this past Holy Week.

I have gained a few pounds in the last year or so, despite my best efforts to eat healthy.  I think age and hormones (and probably genetics) are just not on my side.  I found myself searching the internet for yet another magic pill or eating plan or diet that could stop this upward motion on the scale.  Nothing seemed to be “It.”

Then, I confessed the sin of gluttony (yet again) to my priest in the Sacrament of Confession.  And, when I said the words, “I am sorry for these and all my sins,”  lightbulbs (no, more like fireworks) started going off.  “I AM SORRY for these and all my sins?”  SORRY?  If I am truly SORRY, where is my change in behavior?  

I do not need any magic pills or special diet plan...I need to change my behavior, inside and out.  So, this Easter season is my beginning.  I AM sorry.  I will change my eating habits. I AM sorry.  I will move around more. I AM sorry.  I will not be defeatist or perfectionist in my thoughts, but positive and forgiving.

I am working toward a goal of a particular number on the scale by next Easter, with a caviat that my size and shape matter more than the number.  It is way too soon to know if my being sorry will translate to weight loss, but I am very hopeful.

Join me in being “sorry?”

May 2, 2016

Monday Meme: Boys Will Be Boys

Lots of people say that expression as an excuse to pardon bad habits or fights.  While boys are definitely wired differently than girls, nothing can excuse bad behavior.  Being a mom of five boys, I don’t tolerate any excuse.  However, that does not mean that boys should behave like girls.  Boys need to be active and run.

Home schooling my sons was one of the best decisions my husband and I ever made.  Our boys learned best by walking, running, and playing.  I was surprised by how well they learned.  Eagerly too.  Yes, I had to explain to visiting relatives that my boys could run, even in the house.  My mom did not like them running and tried to get them to stop and sit, especially if she was helping in the learning environment.

No.  My boys NEED to stand. Let them move!

My boys are teens and young men now.  Only two remain at home.  My house has seen multiple dents and holes in walls from sword fights.  Some blood has stained the carpet from wrestling.  Light fixtures have had to be replaced because they were broken by rough-housing.  My youngest son will now plaster and paint the new holes, so I don’t have to say anything.

No, I don’t encourage the lively action in my house.  In fact, they do know that they are supposed to take the duels outside.  However, I’d rather see my boys spontaneously wrestle and break something and fix it than to be scared of ruining the furniture.  They have learned great lessons.  They know consequences and responsibilities.  They have also learned to use tools to build and make items.  Furniture is replaceable.

Yes, my house is a battle field, but my boys know that they can defend themselves.  They also have built camaraderie as brothers.  They can stand up for themselves--against each other or against the outside world.  That is really necessary in today's life.  Having a back bone is rare.  So it's all good.

So mom may wish to not see them run in the house, but one of these days I also know I am going to yearn to see them run when the house is all perfectly clean and quiet.