Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Works For Me: Don't Wake Mommy

This morning I was sipping my coffee and browsing blogs (AKA "procrastinating") when I realized it was Wednesday. (Wow, this week is really flying by!) Of course then I realized that in blogland it's "Works-for-me-Wednesday," the day when many of us share what makes our lives easier. I sat for a moment, looked at the chaos in my schoolroom (due to the aforementioned procrastination), thought through my kitchen routine, chore charts, etc. and came to the realization that I must have already posted every single thing that works for me. Of course, the disorder in my immediate vicinity reminds me that I've yet to find some things that work for me, so that wouldn't be post-worthy for today! "Hm. Oh well," I thought. "Nothing new to post."

Until just now, as I walked in my bedroom and saw something that has worked for me for years and I've yet to post about.

Sleeping bags.

My kids are 15-almost-16, 13, and 10- our 10 yo having just joined our family just under a year ago, adopted from Ethiopia. What I saw in my bedroom this morning were two sleeping bags in the floor where my two boys (13 and 10) had valiantly slept last night because their Dad is traveling on business this week and they wanted to sleep downstairs with Mom. As I folded up those sleeping bags and returned them to their positions under the foot and side of my bed, I thought about how many times those sleeping bags have been used since the older two were very young.

Years ago, I had two little ones who didn't like to stay in their rooms at night. Sometimes it was bad dreams, sometimes a noise outside woke them in the night, sometimes a thunderstorm was frightening... so they ended up where many little ones end up- in Mommy and Daddy's bed. At first I really didn't mind because I love the snuggles, but after about oh, say 90 seconds of that I was ready to go back to sleep. Finally, we got out the big fluffy camping sleeping bags and let them sleep on the floor of our room and we were all back to sleep faster- the kids felt secure and cozy being in our room and we had our bed back to ourselves. One morning all those years ago, instead of rolling the sleeping bags back up and storing them in the top of the closet again, I simply folded each one in half, one length-wise and stored under the side of the bed, and one width-wise and slid under the end of the bed.

Over the years, if anyone has needed to come crash in our room for whatever reason- a tummy ache, sleeplessness, fear, or just for security, they can simply come in with their pillow, slide out the sleeping bag, crash and not wake Mom. (Dad has the gift of being able to drift immediately back to sleep... not me.) Sometimes I have woken up in the pre-dawn hours when I love to get up, only to almost step on someone's head who I had no idea came in during the night. I love it! They found the security they needed and it didn't involve me waking up. Yesss! :)

I don't know what the books say. I'm sure there are plenty that suggest they should go right back to their own rooms. I'm sure there are loads of techniques to teach them how to do that and research to back up why that is optimal. I don't know, and since it's not "What the Experts Say Wednesday" I don't really care, LOL. This is what has worked for me. I do know I have a 16 year old who stays in her own room, never crashes on a sleeping bag in my room, and hasn't in years. She grew up sleeping many, many nights (sometimes weeks on end) on the floor in my room but when she was 12 she stayed for 6 weeks in China without her parents. I have three very independent kids who, now that they are older, readily fall asleep in their own rooms and stay there. I also know that in many parts of the world, entire families (even multiple generations) sleep in the same room due to tradition as well as space limitations. I also know that these years are fleeting. Soon they will be out of my house, and having those little feet pad into my room, slip a sleeping bag out from under the bed and sigh themselves back to sleep will be a distant memory. It's already a fading memory as it is! I also know that I function WAY better the next day when I've slept a-l-l night, and this system has helped me do just that. Additionally, I think this has let them know that they are always welcome in our room, that our door is always open to them no matter what, and I think that fosters security in other areas, bonding with our new son, and may even explain why my older two are so independent.

So sleeping bags and "don't wake Mommy" works for me!

For more ideas or to share your own, visit We Are That Family. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Menu and Simple Shortcuts

"...they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart."
Acts 2:46

Happy Monday! I know that many of you have kids who are starting school this week, so for those of you kicking off your school year I hope it's been an extra wonderful day. We start next week, so I'm busy finishing my planning for our homeschool year. I can't believe I've been doing it for 11 years. The time really flies by! Even though we often veer from the plan, it really helps to anchor everything with a plan, just like in the kitchen! I've been making those plans today while taking breaks to make a Coca Cola Cake and simmer some black beans, so I'm just now getting a chance for some afternoon coffee and some time to blog.

Last week I really enjoyed cooking from Fix It and Enjoy It Healthy Cookbook. We had the Summer Squash Salad and Sesame Broccoli as sides one night, and Tomato Barley soup (pictured below) another night. They were so good! I was surprised at how my family especially loved the two veggie dishes. We're not really very veggie. Go us!

During the weekend when we were reheating and enjoying the soup, I put a very SIMPLE panini sandwich with it. I've posted this recipe for Chicken Pesto Paninis on my menus over the past couple of years because it became an instant hit at our house. At first I made it just like the recipe suggested, using focaccia bread, diced chicken, bell pepper, etc. But as with all things in the kitchen I started looking for shortcuts and made it simpler and now it's one of my family's favorite quick meals! Last week I posted my shortcut recipe for the Easiest Bruschetta Ever, so with that in mind, I'm sharing my very simplified recipe for the Easiest Chicken Panini Ever. (I'm thinking I may follow with a series on The Easiest Ethiopian Recipes Ever, because I've really been simplifying some of my Ethiopian cooking and my family -especially my Ethiopian- really loves it!)


The Easiest Chicken Panini Ever

Bread (fancy focaccia or wheat cut on the bias if you have it, sliced sandwich bread if you don't)
Pesto sauce (I use jarred Classico Basil)
Shaved or sliced chicken
Any type of cheese you prefer (usually shredded cheddar here)
George Foreman grill or panini grill (I use the GF!)

Spread a bit of pesto on both slices of bread, top with chicken and cheese. Spray the grill with some olive oil spray and preheat. Put the sandwich together and grill for approximately 4 minutes. So simple and so yummy!


Here is our menu for the rest of the week:

Monday: Chicken Enchiladas, black beans, Mexican corn
Tuesday: Penne Rigate with Chicken, green beans, salad, garlic bread
Wednesday: Ethiopian night! Ye'Tibs Wet (spicy beef), Gommen (collard greens), injera bread
Thursday: YO YO- "You're On Your Own"
Friday: Out to eat

For more recipes and menu ideas, or to share yours visit Laura at She's also got some GREAT organization tips each week.

I hope you've had a marvelous Monday and have a yummy week!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Works-For-Me Wednesday: Guarding My Mind

Maybe you don't struggle with fear or worry like I do. Maybe you get to the end of each day, lay your head on your pillow and drift quickly to sleep without taking any of the worries of the day with you. I hope that's the case, I really do! But that's not how it is for me. As much as I try to pray, give it all to God and not worry, things creep into my mind especially as I'm laying in bed trying to go to sleep. Or even worse, when I wake up in the middle of the night.

Being a mom is hard. There is so much to grapple with, coordinate and think about! We are dealing with every aspect of our family's health and well-being, running a home, and as is the case for homeschooling moms like me, we are are also coordinating their educations. I rely on many well-chosen books that I am regularly reading to help me. God has been so faithful to guide me to some good authors and sound advice. But, the truth is, as great as it is to snuggle in with a good book before I go to sleep, I don't always need to read that advice right before bed. Because, if I do, then I'm wrestling with the "issue du jour" when what I need to be doing is... resting. So, I've begun saving my "informative reading" for the morning or daytime hours. I've got a few minutes here or there, while I'm waiting outside of lessons or (as is the case in the summers) by the pool. It's so much easier to take in and assimilate information regarding stressful situations raising teenagers or my own health concerns in the mornings after I've read my Bible, while the sunlight is streaming through the windows, the birds are chirping, I'm enjoying coffee or on a summer afternoon sipping iced tea by the pool or maybe for an afternoon break by a sunny window or on the porch. The information may be heavy but the environment is not. At night it is dark. Sometimes for me it can even seem oppressive. Things seem more final. More worrisome. That is the time to read Scriptures, uplifting books, stories of hope, (especially books like 31 Days of Praise) or any book that declares God's sovereignty and power. That is what I need in the forefront of my mind as I drift off to sleep, not a bunch of "what-ifs," either from fictional scenarios in books or TV shows, or even well-meaning child-rearing advice.

So, what "works for me" is being more deliberate about when I read certain information. Knowing when I can best read it without fear taking root. Knowing when I need to bathe my mind with hope and power, reminding myself of Who's in control.

To read more of what works for others, or to share something that works for you, visit Kristin at We Are That Family. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Menu Monday: Tuesday Edition and the Easiest Bruschetta Recipe Ever

I have blogged so infrequently in recent months. What is up?? Well, life. I know I say this all the time after I've gone through long periods without blogging, but sometimes you're too busy livin' the thing to blog about it. That's definitely been the case for us this spring and summer.

So, yes I know it's Tuesday, but I'm just going to have to blog like I Twitter and Facebook... when it pops into my mind and I can grab a few minutes. Which would be now.

I feel like I'm not ready for summer to be over, but VERY ready for a routine. Somehow the freedom of summer can get stressful for me as we flit from one activity to another. One way I have stayed "anchored" this summer is to continue with menu planning. Last summer I posted my reasons why it's even more beneficial to me to menu plan during the summer months. It truly has been a life saver for me as I feel so out of control some days! I regained some feeling of order during the early spring, once we had been home for a few months with our newly-adopted son. Once summer came I felt a bit disorganized once again, but my menu plan has helped greatly!

This week my husband has some outdoor projects he's working on after work, so we've been eating dinner later (as in, after the sun goes down.) I've tried to have an appetizer available when he comes in from the office at around 5:ish or so to tide everyone over until our 8:00-ish dinner. Tonight I remembered this Extremely Easy Bruschetta recipe I've used and my family loves. But I was in the midst of school planning and laundry folding and wanted to make it even easier. I'm the queen of shortcuts in the kitchen (and have found some wonderful ones in my Ethiopian cooking, which I hope to share in future weeks!) so if you are really into fresh ingredients this one may not be for you. But tonight it was either shortcut time or no appetizer at all. This one totally worked!


Easiest Bruschetta Ever

1 can diced chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup (or so) frozen chopped onions (<--- LOVE keeping these on hand!)
1/2 tsp jarred minced garlic (available in the produce section)
kosher salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
olive oil to taste

Dump the tomatoes into a strainer and rinse. While in the strainer put the onions in and run water over them to quick-thaw them. Once the water has drained out put them into a mixing bowl and add other ingredients and stir. Cover the mixing bowl and pop it into the fridge. This time I used the oven broiler to toast some Orowheat Whole Grain and Flax bread (See? Not even fancy French bread!). Once the bread was toasted I used the pizza cutter to cut each piece into fourths and then while it was hot I rubbed a bit of the jarred garlic over each piece. By that time the bruschetta was chilled (aided in part by the frozen-now-thawed onions) and voila! A quick, healthy and very fast appetizer!


This week I'm utilizing a cook book I got a few weeks ago and am just now getting a chance to really try. I have been a fan of Fix It and Forget It (affectionately called "Fifi" in my menu planning binder) for years now. This one is the Fix It and Enjoy It Healthy Cookbook. Tuesday's side dishes and both of Friday's recipes are from that this week. Now that it's Tuesday night, I can report that both the sesame broccoli and the summer squash salad were wonderful! My family loved both of those! And we're not particularly veggie people, so that's saying a lot!

So, here's our menu for the week:

Monday: Crock Pot Chicken Tacos, black beans, corn casserole
Tuesday: Grilled pork chops, sesame broccoli, summer squash salad
Wednesday: YO-YO (You're on you're own!)
Thursday: Ethiopian food night: Ye' Assa Wet (spicy fish stew- SO good!), Ye be seleh Dinich (boiled potatos with peppers) eaten with injera bread
Friday: Tomato & Barley Soup, Tossed Chicken Salad

For more menus and some GREAT organizing tips and inspiration, visit Laura at I hope you're having a wonderful week!!