Saturday, May 30, 2009

One Lovely Blog

Earlier this week I was surprised and flattered to receive the "One Lovely Blog Award" from Alisha at Homemaking Honeys. Thanks for the recognition!

Here are the rules for the award:
1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link.
2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
3) Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Now it's my turn to award some other lovely blogs. My first thought was to award my favorite daily reads list (which you can see on my right side bar), but then I decided to branch out a little bit. So here is my list of awardees:

1) Serving Pink Lemonade
2) Nannygoat
3) Piano Teacher's Retreat
4) MeckMom
5) Being Frugal Is Fabulous
6) The Bookworm's Booklist
7) ...and Spiritually Speaking

Go check them out when you have a minute!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

About Menu Planning

I first tackled the idea of menu planning over four years ago when I became a stay-at-home mom. My initial plan was ambitious--plan a months worth of dinner meals at a time. Unfortunately, I came to dread the beginning of every month because it seemed like I spent all of my free time in that first week thinking about what to have for dinner. I would pull out all of my cookbooks and seek inspiration for something delicious and healthy to make every night. Planning a month at a time was a bit daunting for me.

When I was expecting my second child I changed things up a bit. I planned out a 3-week menu and repeated it again and again. It got me through the pregnancy and new-baby months when the last thing I wanted to think about is what's for dinner, but we eventually tired of the same menu.

After nine months on my latest menu plan system, I think I've got something good. It works for me, so I thought I would share it with you. I'm currently on the Plan One Week of Menu's at a Time plan. Here are the basics:
  • Monday is my menu planning day.
  • First step is to take a look at my local grocery store ads and see if there are any good sale items that I'll want to include in my menu.
  • Next I consult my *menu record for ideas: what haven't we had to eat for a few weeks?
  • I like to try 2-3 new recipes a month, so next I flip through my favorite cookbooks and check any recipes online that I've recently bookmarked.
  • My family is small-only 3 meal portions to plan for (my two girls make up one portion together) which means that we usually end up with leftovers--I love leftovers!
  • I plan meals for Tuesday through Tuesday, but I know that one of those meals will usually get dropped in favor of a "Leftover Medley" night. The dropped meal usually ends up early in the week of next weeks menu.
  • Once I have my menu planned out, I take a look through my cupboards and fridge and make my grocery shopping list for the next day.
  • I plan dinner menu's only. For lunches and breakfasts I just keep a good supply of the basics on hand: sandwich fixings, cheese quessedillas, noodles and beans, oatmeal, cereal, pancake/waffle/muffin ingredients, etc.
  • I usually plan the main dish only, and plan to have on hand enough vegetables as side dishes to get us through the week (salad, steamed broccoli or carrots, zucchini, etc).
  • Now I'm ready for my weekly grocery store shopping trip on Tuesday.
*Something that has been really helpful to me has been keeping a menu record. Last August I started keeping track of what we ate for dinner. This has given me a good pool of ideas to draw from and helps me rotate through our favorites appropriately. Are you curious what we had for dinner on August 22, 2008? White chicken chili in the crock pot.

Menu planning this way is something that is manageable for me. It eliminates a lot of the dinnertime stress and saves us money. But... how does menu-planning work for you? I would love hear your tips.

So after all that, here is my menu for this week:

Monday--Leftover pizza, salad
Tuesday--Tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, zucchini
Wednesday--Macaroni and cheese (the homemade kind-not from a box!)
Thursday--Hula stir-fry with rice
Friday--Corndog casserole
Saturday--Chicken pasta salad
Sunday--Oven fritatta (thanks for the idea, Eliza)
Monday--Lasagna in the crockpot

If you are interested in learning more about menu planning there are loads of ideas online:

Simple Mom posted a Basic Guide to Menu Planning, including the benefits and her menu plan system.

Mandi at Organizing Your Way has a great series about Menu Planning. I loved this tongue-in-cheek Top Ten Reasons You Shouldn't Plan a Weekly Menu.

Want to see what's on everyone else's menu this week? Check out the weekly Menu Plan Monday carnival at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Something Divine

"Women for the most part see their greatest fulfillment, their greatest happiness in home and family. God planted within women something divine that expresses itself in quiet strength, in refinement, in peace, in goodness, in virtue, in truth, in love. And all of these remarkable qualities find their truest and most satisfying expression in motherhood.

"Said Thomas Wolfe: "There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful women in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves." Or, to which I might add, cuddling a baby, or leading a child in prayer, or counseling a strong young son or daughter, or comforting a tired companion.

God bless you, mothers. When all the victories and defeats of men's efforts are tallied, when the dust of life's battles begins to settle, when all for which we labor so hard in this world of conquest fades before our eyes, you will be there, you must be there, as the strength for a new generation, the ever-improving onward movement of the race."

Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 387.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Over on my reading list: Our Favorites for Children's Book Week

In honor of Children's Book Week (I know it was actually last week, but better late then never, right?) I thought I would share a few of my most favorite books to read with my children. Check out this post over on my reading list.

Monday, May 18, 2009

No role more essential than motherhood

"While women live in homes under many different circumstances—married, single, widowed, or divorced, some with children and some without—all are beloved of God, and He has a plan for His righteous daughters to receive the highest blessings of eternity.

This afternoon I want to focus my remarks primarily on mothers, particularly on young mothers.

As a young father, I learned the demanding role of motherhood. I served as a counselor and then as bishop for a period of 10 years. During that time we were blessed with six of our seven children. Barbara was often worn-out by the time I got home Sunday evening. She tried to explain what it was like to sit on the back row in sacrament meeting with our young family. Then the day came that I was released. After sitting on the stand for 10 years, I was now sitting with my family on the back row.

The ward’s singing mothers’ chorus was providing the music, and I found myself sitting alone with our six children. I have never been so busy in my whole life. I had the hand puppets going on both hands, and that wasn’t working too well. The Cheerios got away from me, and that was embarrassing. The coloring books didn’t seem to entertain as well as they should.

As I struggled with the children through the meeting, I looked up at Barbara, and she was watching me and smiling. I learned for myself to more fully appreciate what all of you dear mothers do so well and so faithfully!

A generation later, as a grandfather, I have watched the sacrifices my daughters have made in rearing their children. And now, still another generation later, I am watching with awe the pressures on my granddaughters as they guide their children in this busy and demanding world.

After observing and empathizing with three generations of mothers and thinking of my own dear mother, I surely know that there is no role in life more essential and more eternal than that of motherhood.

There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part-or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else."

M. Russell Ballard, “Daughters of God,” Ensign, May 2008, 108–10

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Resources for Parents

Sadly, neither one of my children came to our home equipped with a user manual. So I quite often find myself searching for answers to my parenting questions in a variety of places.

The number one place to look is the scriptures. I've posted some of my favorites before here and here and here.

As I'm sure you've already noticed, I gain great strength and insight from reading the words of our latter-day leaders on the topics of mothering and children and families.

Another great resource is Strengthening the Family: Resource Guide for Parents.
It's a course developed by LDS Family Services to "help you understand the principles of effective parenting, improve your parenting skills, rear happy and successful children, and foster harmonious and loving relationships in the home." Sounds like something I can definitely use! The great thing is that you don't actually have to leave your home to take the course. The course manual is available to download here.

The course covers nine topics, all with a foundation focused on gospel principles.

* Parenting Principles and Practices
* Understanding Child Development
* Communicating with Love
* Nurturing Children
* Fostering Confidence
* Overcoming Anger
* Resolving Conflict
* Teaching Responsible Behavior
* Applying Consequences

I highly recommend taking a look!

The most recent parenting book I've read is Have a New Kid by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman.

While I don't agree with everything in this book, it does offer some very practical suggestions for parents. The biggest take-home message I got from the book was to develop a positive relationship with your child, be consistent, and allow for natural consequences. The key the author emphasized repeatedly is to:

1. Say it once
2. Turn your back
3. Walk away

If you would like to learn more from this book, check out my notes over on my reading list.

Just today, Marie over at Make and Takes posted a simple tip for communicating with your young children. When you ask a question, don't expect them to answer right away. Sometimes their maturing brains just need a little more processing time to formulate an answer. Her rule of thumb is to give a child 5 seconds to respond after you ask them a question.

What resources have you found helpful as a parent?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Responsibilities, Virtue and Happiness

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a multi-stake women's conference meeting. The speakers were Sister Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society President, Sister Mary N. Cook, First Counselor in the Young Woman General Presidency, and Elder John S. Anderson of the Seventy. What a blessing to hear them speak near my home in Florida! The talks were uplifting (of course!) and I thought I would share the highlights from my notes.

Sister Beck
The purpose of Relief Society and our responsibility as women is to:
1) Increase in faith and personal righteousness
2) Strengthen families and home
3) Seek out those who are in need

"A mother is the most influential and powerful force in the life of a child."

Create happy memories and happy times. Enjoy it! This life is meant to be the experience in preparation for the dream of eternal life.

Sister Cook
Virtue is a pattern of thought and behavior of high moral standards. It includes chastity and purity.

Proverbs 31:10 "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."

How do we become virtuous? Accept the challenge that has been given to all of the youth:
1) Read the Book of Mormon 5 minutes every day
2) Pray night and morning every day
3) Smile every day

Elder Anderson

We need to be more happy. Elder Perry always says "Be of good cheer. In the end--we win!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

To Mothers

Sometime past my mother-in-law sent me this great card for Mother's Day. I loved it and held on to it to remind myself that being a mother requires an extraordinary set of skills.

I also loved this latest sweet Mormon Message.

To my own mother, thank you for being my mom! I love you!

To the many mothers I know, thank you for magnifying your role as a mother. You are truly magnificent and I learn so much from you.

"Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels." (First Presidency Statement in Conference Report, Oct 1942, 761.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Book, a Song, and a Craft

A book, a song, and a craft. That is my recipe for a great "school-time" session with my children. The Ant Bug loves to do arts and crafts but it can be difficult to come up with something to do everyday.


Thankfully, No Time for Flashcards has been a life saver and it has now made the list of my daily must-read blogs. Allie is an experienced childhood educator and she posts daily activities for young children that promote play, discovery, and learning. Most of her projects are relatively simple and can be tailored to meet the interests and abilities of many children. She always includes a few book suggestions that correspond with the project, and she quite often includes a song (with a video clip so you can learn the tune). The two new favorites we've added to our musical repertoire are A Slippery Fish and Fried Ham.

Alligator A

One thing I really appreciate about the site is that the majority of her projects require only the basic art supplies I am likely to have in my cupboard (construction paper, paint, glue, scissors, markers, crayons, pipe cleaners, etc). Check out her recommended master list of craft supplies here.

Spotty Spider

Every few weeks the Ant Bug and I go through the site and make a list of the projects that we would like to do. Then I put the recommended books on hold at the library. Whenever the urge to do a craft project strikes our fancy, the Ant Bug just chooses one of the current library books on our shelf and we pull out our craft supplies.

Rabbit R

Great projects that don't require a lot of planning. Perfect for busy mamas!

Peacock (really, it's a peacock, not a turkey). It goes with Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear?

So the next time you and your little one's are in need of some arts and crafts, be sure to check out No Time for Flashcards.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Molding of Immortal Souls

"The place to cure most of the ills of society is in the homes of the people. Building our homes as fortresses of righteousness for protection from the world takes constant labor and diligence. Membership in the Church is no guarantee of a strong, happy family. Often parents feel overwhelmed. Many must accomplish the whole job single-handedly while bearing all of the emotional pain of divorce. The Lord has provided a plan that will help us to be successful in meeting every challenge that may confront us.

"In the plan of salvation, all families are precious instruments in the Lord’s hands to help direct His children toward a celestial destination. The righteous molding of an immortal soul is the highest work we can do, and the home is the place to do it. To accomplish this eternal work, we should make our homes gospel centered. When peace and harmony abound, the Holy Spirit will ever be present. The storms of the evil one can be stopped at the very entrance of our homes.

"Let us be sure the spiritual foundation of each home is the rock of our Redeemer, as Helaman taught his sons: “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Hel. 5:12.)

Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Spiritually Strong Homes and Families,” Ensign, May 1993, 68

Friday, May 1, 2009

Spring Cleaning--Join the Party

Spring is definitely in the air. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming, Easter has come and gone. I've been feeling the urge to do some deep cleaning and organizing in my home. What better way to do it than to join the party?


Once of my favorite blogs, Simple Mom, is hosting a spring cleaning party for the next weeks. Tsh will be working through each room of the house, sharing tips and offering encouragement. Check out her guidelines here. If you want to join in the fun you can post before and after pictures on your own blog, as a way to measure your progress and share your success.

Mandi's blog, Organizing Your Way, is one of my new favorite blogs to read. She's participating in the party, sharing her best tips for organizing in the best way to fit you.

When I first read about this party I thought "Great idea! I would love to spend two weeks getting my house in shape from top to bottom. Down with clutter!"

But then I remembered a few things:
One-I have two little girls.
Two-I have a husband.
Three-I have piano students to prepare for.
Four-I have a Primary calling.
Five-Book Club to host, Dishes, Laundry, Visiting Teaching, Blogging....and more

As much as I would like to just focus on cleaning my house, real life must go on. So I'll be participating in a modified form. In fact--I already started!

Last week I sat down and took a look at my house. I made a list of each room and all of the jobs that need to be done in that room. Where possible I tried to break the jobs into something that could be done in 15-20 minutes. That's about the right amount of time for what I can reasonably accomplish each day.

This is what my list looks for my kitchen.
-outside and underneath fridge
-outside and underneath oven
-back wall cupboards
-front high cupboards
-low cupboards

And the kitchen is done! Hurray!

I started with the kitchen because that was the easiest for me. It only took me 6 days. My system might take me awhile, but it's manageable and not overwhelming to me. I'll keep moving through my house, and applying the tips I like from Tsh and Mandi. Maybe I'll even a post a picture or two of my progress.

Of course, my children will be at my side as much as possible!

Anybody else want to join the party?

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