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Monday, October 24, 2011

A Sugarless Birthday Bash?! Say it ain't so!

So, my sweet, tender, quiet Miss G decided being 2 wasn't all that exciting, and she wanted to turn 3. Well, she doesn't technically turn 3 until Friday, but we celebrated this weekend with family. It was an absolutely beautiful day. I love it when the Lord blesses us with perfect weather. Last year, for Miss G's party, it rained like nothing else, and we were all stuck inside. And as fun as making S'mores in the wood stove was, it didn't allow the kids to get all their craziness energy out. 

I was trying to fall asleep a few weeks ago thinking of what type of games to do for her party, when the idea of "Shoot the Tail on the Donkey" came to mind. That was quickly settled. Shooting a BB gun at a birthday party? Heck yes! 

It was a blast. Everyone participated, from my 98-year-old grandpa down to 3-year-old Miss G. 

J-Man ended up taking the prize on that contest. 

Each of the kids made their own boat to race down the "Lazy River" (a.k.a. the irrigation canal that runs through our property): 

And even though we did stray some from our no-grain, no-dairy, no-sugar lifestyle, we didn't throw it all out the window:

Better-for-you-than-some-other-things Popcorn Balls (from Everyday Paleo)

No-grain carrot cake with delicious cream cheese frosting (from Primal Palate).

It was a wonderful, fun day. And these were two of my favorite parts:

Seeing my grandpa enjoying himself!

And this adorable face!!!

Happy birthday, sweet girl. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shanti's Top Ten Reasons to Adopt

I was thinking this morning that Superman and I have truly been blessed by our children. I can't imagine if we had skirted God's call and avoided adoption in the first place. I mean, it would have been easy. We could have skipped the paperwork, home visits, birth parent visits, court dates, endless paperwork (oh, did I already mention that?) and general pain-in-the-rear-ness that comes with adopting. But it wasn't even a question for us. We knew that was what we were supposed to do; so we did it. Even though I had intense hesitation about adding a fifth child to our brood, the Lord softened my heart and allowed me to experience the joy of having such a beautiful, wonderful girl in our lives. But you know what? That softened heart didn't just happen. I told the Lord that He would have to change my heart because I sure as heck didn't think I was ready to be a mom of five. And I left it at that. I figured if He wanted me to take another kid in, He was going to have to make a miracle happen. And miracle-maker is His middle name. Well, maybe not, but you get the point. 

Can you imagine this picture with one of these kids missing? Me neither. Oh, and that bronzed tall man isn't too shabby, either. 

So, here are my top 10 reasons to adopt: 

10. Stretch marks? No worries! You get to skip that part!
  9. Morning sickness, being uncomfortable and having to use a body pillow to sleep is for the birds!
  8. Seeing a living example of how we are "adopted" into God's family is priceless.
  7. Knowing you are making an actual, real difference in the life of a child is one of the most amazing feelings.
  6. Realizing you can love someone who isn't "from you" just as much as your birth children.
  5. There's always more room in your heart to love than you think.
  4. Passing on your traditions and beliefs to children who may otherwise have never experienced a Christmas   
      morning or Thanksgiving or birthday celebration is incredibly rewarding.
  3. Knowing you are changing the world...even if it's just a small part of it.
  2. You will be stretched and pushed beyond your comfort zone and forced to grow, even if you don't think 
      you want to. 
  1. Joshua, Michael, Naomi, Grace and {insert name here}. 

There are thousands and thousands of kids around the U.S. and the world waiting for a family to love them. Are you being called? 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My New Favorite App

So, I try to plan my meals each week. Sometimes that doesn't happen, and it gets to be 3:00 and I think, "Shoot! What am I going to make for dinner?" Because of our no-grain, no-dairy, no-sugar diet, everything has to be prepared from {pretty much} scratch. There's no quick box of crackers for a snack or whipping up a pot of pasta. There's always a lot of dicing, cutting, slicing, cooking involved in every meal. And so, if I haven't planned, I can get a little stressed trying to figure out what I can put together quickly. 

Enter my wonderful, helpful iPhone. Now, I'm not a techie. But there are times when I love having an iPhone. I always keep my grocery list on there so it's on hand. My calendar is on there so I can access my plans when needed. I can quickly map directions or Google something or catch up on last week's message if I missed church. And the other day I thought, "It sure would be nice if I could find an App where I could have my meals planned for the week, linked to my grocery list so it automatically adds the needed items to my list." And guess what? Someone else was as brilliant as I am (ha!) and already created it for me! After searching through a couple different ones, I settled on this one, called the "MealBoard" App. It's so perfectly amazing, and exactly what I was looking for. 


I enter the name of my recipe, and can add all the ingredients (or not) and pick which ones I actually need on my grocery list. I am still playing around with it, but right now my meals are planned for the next week, and my grocery list is done and ready to be checked off. Have I mentioned before that I love to check things off? It makes me feel accomplished. 

Here's a link if you want to check it out yourself! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall Traditions

I love fall. The morning crispness, changing leaves, the soft warm sun or grey-covered sky. The smell of dampness in the air. Cinnamon, baking, scented candles. Cute boots and soft scarves. The anticipation of trick-or-treating and the warmth of Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the bend. Days and nights smothered in traditions, loaded with children's laughter and giggles and wide-eyed wonderment. 

It's a season before the cold of winter, before the leaves fall and dampness turns into wetness. It makes me want to snuggle up, read a book, watch a movie, play a game. Last night we played hide-and-seek in the dark while the clouds covered the early-evening sun for us. As I write, chili bubbles in the crock pot and warm brownies sit on the stove, cooling and waiting for little mouths to gobble them down.

For us, fall means a visit to the pumpkin patch, fresh apples from Apple Hill, watching the turkeys return to our property, shorter days, baking treats, Miss G's birthday (she's turning 3!!), carving pumpkins, roasting pumpkin seeds (see my amazingly delicious, accidentally-discovered recipe below), and just more of a relaxed, slow pace.

So last week, I made a pumpkin pie from scratch. I put all the gunk from the pumpkin into a bowl of water and added a bunch of salt. I figured I would get to separating the gunk from the seeds later that evening. Well, that night, the bowl full of orange gooey-ness stared back at me, and I didn't want to touch it. So, there it sat...for two days. Finally, a brilliant idea came to mind: what else would a 7-year-old boy like to do, but put his hands in a sticky mess and separate seeds from stringy pumpkin? So J-Man and M-Dog did the dirty work for me. After they got them all nice and clean for me, I made the best batch of pumpkin seeds I've ever had: 

Shanti's Accidentally-Delicious Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds from 1 pumpkin
1/4 cup salt
Few tablespoons olive oil
Garlic salt to taste

Dig gunk out of pumpkin. Place into bowl of cold water and stir in 1/4 cup salt. Let sit for 2 days. 
After 2 days, have a child separate out the seeds and get rid of the gunk. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Rinse seeds in colander and toss in bowl with olive oil and garlic salt. Lay out on parchment paper-covered cookie sheet and roast in oven for 15-20 minutes. Take out and enjoy! They WILL go fast! 

So, what are some of your favorite fall traditions?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Life As We Know It

Got an e-mail today from my mom letting us know my grandma is not doing well and was being taken to the hospital. Now, my grandma is 93 years old, but has not been living for years. She has moments of muddled clarity when she smiles and remembers who I am. When other people's grandparents have passed away, I have often felt empathy for the surviving family, but would think, "well, he was 90 years old"...or "85 years old"...or "95 years old," and my empathy was limited. It sounds cold, but I figured at least they were able to live a long life. I guess it's because I had never lost anyone "older" who was close to me. My ignorance fed my lack of understanding. Until now. Of course, my grandma hasn't passed away yet, but it is the inevitable fate of each of us to move on from this life at some point. I know that her time is not far in the future, I just don't know the exact hour or day. 

And my heart is filled with mourning. I suppose it's not the sadness of missing the relationship, but of the memories that are tied to her. The realization that it does, indeed, all come to an end, and that her passing is just the beginning of a long chain of events that happens in everyone's lives. Grandparents dying, parents dying, friends dying, loved ones dying. It is the realization that the chapter of my life that contained her will be closed, nothing but memories of the past.

It's sad. And my heart aches for my dear grandpa, 98 years old and still sharp as a tack. A kind, gentle man who has been nothing but supportive and loving to me and my siblings our whole lives. As he faces the imminent death of his dear wife of more than 70 years, I can't imagine the sorrow he feels.

But amid the sadness, I sense the hope that lies within me. The hope of a new tomorrow, the hope of what is to come after our short life here on earth. My saddened heart leaps for joy at the thought of being in the presence of my Heavenly Father one day, surrounded by perfection and basking in the worship of our Savior. I am not afraid of dying. I know that my life here is but a passing breath and that before I know it, I will be in that Heavenly place, singing joyfully with my grandma and my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have passed before me. 

And so, that is how I feel today. Mournful, joyful, thoughtful...thankful. Thankful for the life I've had and the life I'll have. Thankful that I have been blessed with grandparents who have always cared about my well-being and have invested in my life. Thankful that my children have grandparents who adore them and would do anything for them. Thankful that I have the hope of eternal life and hopeful that my children will each make a personal decision to have a relationship with the Savior so that they, too, will one day join me in Heaven, where we will sing, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!"

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'm Not in Hiding Gorging on Sweets...

It's been almost a month since my full confession. I haven't been hiding. Somehow, these past few weeks went by without me noticing. Or, I guess I noticed, but I couldn't believe that it was really almost June, and therefore it couldn't be. I've been off sugar for about a month. It hasn't been that bad. Yeah, I want need some chocolate. I pass by the local ice cream joint and my mouth salivates. I see commercials for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and I want to jump through the screen and live in that chocolatey, peanut-buttery world for a bit. But, it hasn't been that bad. I guess it depends on your definition of bad

I've been doing lots of baking. Peanut butter cookies, gingerbread cookies, shortbread, pineapple upside-down cake...all made with almond flour and honey as a sweetener. I'd like to say I haven't eaten any of the stuff I've baked, but I'd be lying. And since I'm in "full honesty" mode, I wouldn't want to do that, now would I? I don't know if it's physically possible for me to bake something I know is yummy and not eat some. I suppose I could make things taste nasty, and then sit and laugh as I forced my kids to eat it, knowing I was conquering my addiction, but I truly do find joy in baking for Superman and the kids. And, it's something they look forward to. It's the highest compliment to me when my kids say, "Mommy, that's sooooooo yummy! Can I have more?!" To which I reply, "HECK NO! That's MINE!" I jest, I jest. 

We've wrapped up school for the year, and although my incredible in-laws are going to continue to do math and reading with the kids over the summer, I'm taking the summer off. Initially, I felt that if they were working with the kids, I should probably be doing something too, but I eventually convinced myself that I need a break. I'll be a better teacher in the fall if I have a break from being "teacher." 

The weather has been downright strange these last few weeks. I'm longing for warm weather, but I'm sure in a few weeks I'll be complaining about the 100-degree heat. 

I've continued my ongoing list of 1,000 to be thankful for. Here's what I've written down over the last few weeks: 

102. Laying in the sun on a warm day
103. Watching my sister on t.v.! (She was on the show Yard Crashers!)
104. Skipping school on a day I just want to relax and enjoy the kids
105. Kids sleeping in
106. A stocked fridge
107. Kids making good choices
108. A husband who makes his family a priority (mine!)
109. The smell of alfalfa
110. Going to the fair
111. Wildflowers growing
112. Strawberry season
113. Morning walks with the kids
114. Homemade marshmallows!
115. Date nights with Superman
116. Reading my Bible in a quiet house
117. Cuddling baby animals
118. Hiking with the family
119. Hearing the kids recite memory verses
120. Dinner with friends
121. Seeing J-Man play his guitar on stage
122. Eating cold, fresh, ripe strawberries
123. Realizing how much I love running when I can't do it because of an injury
124. Finishing school!
125. Knowing that Superman has 88 days off of work soon!
126. Having grandparents who are still alive
127. People watching
128. Living in the country
129. Watching "Secret Millionaire."
130. Picking up our weekly fruits and veggies at a farm down the street
131. Purging
132. Seeing clean homeschooling cupboards after purging
133. Knowing there is still sun behind all the clouds
134. Living in a place that has local fruits and veggies year-round
135. Being spontaneous
136. Feeling close to the Lord
137. Seeing our kids be generous with each other
138. Finding a sports doctor who can help my Achilles tendon
139. Hearing birds chirping early in the morning
140. Seeing a hummingbird up close
141. Painted toes
142. Homemade waffles on a Sunday morning

I was participating in the 100 push-up challenge (for the second time), and for the second time, I hit the wall at 60 push-ups. I'm serious, I could NOT do another push-up. I stayed on that day for weeks, trying to gain more, but I couldn't. That's when I decided 60 is good. Sixty is just fine. Sixty is plenty. So, that's that. Tom, my friend, how are your push-ups coming along? 

I injured my Achilles tendon after running my fastest mile almost 3 weeks ago. I'm going to a sports therapist, and he has already helped me immensely, but I still have a few more weeks to go until I can run again. Thank goodness I just pulled it, and didn't tear it. I'll be patient, but in the meantime, I'm going stir crazy for some running. All in good time, I suppose. 

Now I'm trying to figure out how to continue my no-sugar commitment over this summer when birthdays and hot summer nights and memories with the kids all beckon me. Can someone please invent some type of virtual reality where I can binge on sugar and have the same satiety while not actually ingesting anything??

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