Search This Blog


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Love Notes for Kids

We had a really amazing and busy summer.

And now it's almost over.

The older I get (or the older my KIDS get, if I'm telling the truth), the more I relish the slower pace even while preparing for crazy trips. I love having the kids at home and staying up late and sleeping in late.  I love having crazy busy schedules full of unusual things and days we stay in jammies all day. Summer is good.

During one of our trips this summer our youngest stayed with grandparents.  When my bigs were little I always made them some type of memory present when we left them.  One year it was a personalized handmade laminated ABC book complete with rhyming and pictures.  In most ways being an older mom of a preschooler is better (I wrote about it here), but that obsessive younger mom did great projects that I have simplified to the point of "projects that barely exist."  

So, here's an idea that was simple and really meaningful for our 4 year old this summer. I thought of it while buying last minute travel items.  I bought four small gift enclosure cards (the little ones you find next to the wrapping paper at Wal-mart) and one sweet little book.  At home I chose 3 books we already have that are special to our family; ones that had been favorites of my two older children.  I wrote notes in each of the cards sharing why the books were special.  Then I taped the notes to each book and wrapped the books individually in wrapping paper and put them in a cheap little Dora bag.  

While we were gone, my mom spread the four little "presents" out over the week and read the cards and books with her.....isn't that sweet?


She keeps this little bag with the books and notes together weeks after vacation.

We LOVE this much, for real.

I still can't make it all the way through this is so sweet!

Can you see where she added her name to the top of this little note? 

Sweet new book, just for Anna.

I also sent a water color painting set with Grandmother's house.
Don't be mad, at least I left the kazoo at home!

Here's a list of the books I used:

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
  • Kate Gleeson's Wonderful You by Caroline Kennemuth
  • Jesus Loves Me All the Time by E. Elaine Watson
  • I Love You More by Laura Duksta

I'd love to hear suggestions of your favorite books to use in a little project like this....

Friday, July 27, 2012

Kool-Aid Play dough

I made a mistake today....
I said, "Yes" when my daughter asked me if she could play with play dough, forgetting that I had thrown away every single tiny little bit I could find after the last time she played with it. [Feel free to insert mean mom thoughts here, although my socks would assert that play dough is really the mean one].

Since it's just the two of us today and she was very nearly bouncing off the walls I remembered this fun project and grabbed my camera.

When my 15 year old was little I found this Valentine idea in Family Fun magazine.  We made these cute little play dough hearts using this Kool-Aid recipe.  I also made this with my littlest one and blogged about it here, if you want to see the adorable pictures. 

I love this play dough because we don't have to get our hands in food coloring (mostly), but also because it adds color and fragrance in one easy step....heehee.  Fruit Punch is brightest, but any flavor works.  Just be sure to get UNSWEETENED Kool-Aid mix.  Sugar is not our friend in this recipe.

Here she is at 5, still loving the Play Dough!

Here are the main ingredients all ready to go.

Here is my little sweetheart measuring, she got all dressed up in her brand new school clothes even though it's 110 outside. Did I mention she was excited about making play dough?

Measure out the flour....

Measure out the salt.....

Add the rest of the ingredients, stir and whisk in some water.....

Bring the whole mess to a boil.....

Keep stirring.....seriously, don't walk away from this stuff.

Don't get freaked out by lumps, this stuff is reverse gravy and it will all work out in the end....

Almost done....

See how it is a little bit darker on the bottom? That means it is almost ready.....

Once it has firmed up to a "moldable play dough consistency" dump it out and knead it to soften....

Then let those kiddos have fun with some super smelling super cheap [still super messy, but worth it] play dough!

This 4 cup container is the perfect size for storage.....

Kool-Aid Play Dough
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 package unsweetened Kool-Aid (fruit punch makes the brightest color)
4 teaspoons cream of tartar
4 teaspoons cooking oil
2 cups water
Mix flour, salt, Kool-Aid mix, and cream of tartar in a medium sized saucepan and stir to combine.  Add oil and water and mix well with a whisk.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until mixture darkens just a little bit and thickens to the consistency of play dough.  Turn out onto parchment paper or counter to cool and knead to soften.  Store in an airtight container.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Red Beans n' Rice Okie Style

I've been to New Orleans twice in my entire life....and these are my favorite places there (not coincidentally they are both food places).
Beignets and Cafe au Lait!

Pralines I love them.

I also discovered Mother's Restaurant there....where I ate the bestest Red Beans and Rice ever.  So when I realized that I was down to my last Sally's praline (out of 12) it made me crave a yummy cajun bowl of Red Beans and Rice (which makes no sense except to me). BUT I don't know how to make that particular deliciousness. I looked up some recipes that all looked too hard (Alton Brown has a 5 Star recipe that includes making your own pickled pork - there is just no reality in which I will be making pickled pork), then I just made one up. I needed a quick 1 hour version to kill a craving.  Is that too much to ask?

Here is a huge disclaimer. 
(I learned by reading recipe comments that Cajuns are particular about how you make their beloved Red Beans and Rice).
This is an EASY, shortcutty, Oklahoma cook way to make Red Beans and Rice.
 I'm not trying to do it right, I just needed something to go with my praline folks.

This is the only authentically Cajun ingredient.......this stuff was a gift from some very special folks who brought it to me from Louisiana. It's goooouuuud. And it's certified Cajun according to the label on the package.  Tim Hawkins would like this stuff.  Heehee.

Of course since I had no intention of blogging about this I didn't take any pictures (except this one of the little leftovers in the fridge). But it turned out so good and was so easy I wanted to share.

 Here's what I did:
I cut up and cooked 1/2 package of Center Cut Bacon.  Then I added half of a large onion and half of a green pepper, both chopped up SUPER fine. As they cooked and the veggies began to soften I added about 1 teaspoon of minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of Slap Ya Mama seasoning along with some pepper.  Then I poured about 2 cups of chicken broth over the whole thing, added 1 bay leaf, and added two cans of red beans (drained and rinsed). I mashed up some of the beans with a potato masher to thicken the sauce a bit. I put the lid on and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so while I cooked the rice. Depending on how long you let it simmer you might need to add some more broth or water. I served it with turkey smoked sausage cut up and browned in a separate skillet. 

It might not be official - but it was Yummy!

Easy Red Beans and Rice
1/2 pound (or less) bacon
1/2 large onion, diced small
1/2 green pepper, diced small
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
2 cans red beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups (or more) chicken broth
Cooked rice

Cut up and brown bacon in a large skillet.  Add onion and green pepper and cook until they begin to soften in the bacon grease. Add garlic, cajun seasoning, pepper and bay leaf.  Cook for a couple of minutes to brown garlic.  Add chicken broth and beans mashing some of the beans into the liquid.  Simmer to blend flavors until hot and a little bit thickened (15-20 minutes).  Serve over hot cooked rice.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dumbstruck at Falls Creek

I love Falls Creek.

I've loved it since the summer I finished 7th grade and was finally allowed to go to church camp there. Those were the days of no shorts, no AC, loooooOOOOng services, theme songs, gum tree walks to the Devil's bathtub {now that I'm grown I have no idea how gobs of students didn't die every day on the old route to the Devil's Bathtub}, Bible Study pavilions, and amazing wonderful weeks. I have lots of memories from being a camper to being a young sponsor, to being an older sponsor, to being a Camp Pastor's Wife this year. My husband was asked to preach for Youth Falls Creek so I've been full of all kinds of sentimental recollections.  This year, we rode around in a golf cart {which also means I can never go back, because Falls Creek without a golf cart after you've had one must be super depressing} and told our kids stories about all the places we'd stayed and all the things that have happened here and there. 

This Icee Hut hasn't changed even still smells the same.
Have I mentioned that I love Falls Creek?
When I was growing up our youth pastor made Falls Creek amazing. If the songs were long and cheesy he would make up new words for them.  To this day, "Lead On O King Eternal" is ruined for me {Lead On O Kinky Turtle, oops sorry now it's ruined for you on quickly before it sticks in your brain}. He went with us to play and hike in the afternoons and taught us Truth during our cabin times leading us in worship and in the Word refusing to let us fall into adolescent emotionalism that was not beneficial.  He challenged us and had fun with us. It's amazing to be able to correct and instruct teenagers while still making room for them to find attachment to you. 

This place is where I first thought God might be leading me to some type of ministry.  I remember walking the aisle and finding myself in a counseling room with a bunch of students....I was paired up with an adult and an older youth. As the adult asked us questions trying to determine why we were there I didn't know how to answer.  The girl across from me said, "I don't know, I just know that I want to give God more...all of me."  When I was growing up there were three decisions you could make at the end of a Falls Creek sermon and she and I didn't really fit into these categories.  I was squirming with discomfort until she answered and my whole little teenaged spirit agreed with an inside out YES!  When I left that room by myself one of the older girls in our youth group was waiting for me.  We walked together toward the cabin right behind the tabernacle.  In the old days there were metal stairs that went behind this cabin toward the creek and our cabin.  She sat with me there and listened and encouraged and prayed for me. 

This picture is that very special spot today.

Figuring out what ministry would look like for me was not an instant understanding.  I felt like I could either be a missionary or a minister's I went with missionary {Yes, enter chuckle now}.   It took lots of years and lots of failures and lots of seeking and a huge humbling process for God to bring me to exactly how and where He wanted me to serve.  Even after I married a pastor there was lots of refining and humbling. 

There still is - daily; but here is some of what I've learned.

  • Ministry is about service - God first and people next.
  • Service has to start with little things; attitudes and actions before it can be anything dreamy and fact it may never be dreamy and big.
  • I can't change people.
  • I can't really change myself. God's job, folks.
  • I need God, but more than that I love God.
  • He really loves me, in fact He loved me first.
  • Learning this {bullet points above} emotionally and intellectually is what changes me and puts me in the proper position to share Him with people.
  • Ministry is also about Truth-telling, but not personal agenda-serving. Hate that agenda-pushing stuff in myself.
  • Truth-telling works best surrounded by People-loving.
  • Nothing kills Spirit-filled ministry as quickly as entitlement. Stop it.
  • Entitlement is super stinky and super selfish and is often the first crack in a ministry that falls to immorality.
  • I need to serve from passion, BUT....
  • I most need to God and to people so that He is my passion first and then I can rightly serve my people. {I started to say "peeps" there because the no AC comment at the beginning of this post is making me feel old, but I just can't pull it off.}

As I was sitting in a service at Falls Creek last week listening to my husband preach to the thousands of students there I was dumbstruck.  By dumbstruck I mean completely struck dumb....rendered reasonless and speechless...."shake your head in wonder and knock on your forehead to try and make one iota of sense out of the situation" kind of dumbstruck.  Nothing about this life God has given me makes a bit of sense.  It is completely different than I planned and imagined.  It isn't easy and is not about me, but looking back it is so beautiful and so tenderly inclusive of me that looking forward brings a smile to my face.  I spent most of that precious sermon distracted by my bored preschooler who didn't recognize the sentimental soundtrack playing in my head. No one around me noticed that I was deeply connected to what was happening from the stage. I saw students taking notes and reacting to the amazing teaching they were hearing.  I saw a sponsor (not from our church for the record) nodding off and wanted to shake her for not listening better. I remembered walking down the aisle in almost the same exact place 25 years ago, and was so humbled. If He had given me my way I would've messed it up completely though my intentions were pure.  I have never been more aware of that truth than that dumbstruck moment.  In His faithfulness He has given me family and ministry and marriage that connects every moment to the Kingdom.  

As I submit, He uses me to serve and it matters. I am both humbled because I don't deserve this life He's given and grateful that He uses me still.  Maybe you are discouraged in a ministry that seems to be fruitless.  Maybe you are newly seeking what a lifetime of ministry will look like.  Take heart.  Cling to Jesus. Serve right where you are.....He is faithful.