Sunday, January 30, 2011

Meal Plan January 30th

I must admit that those who suggested I put a meal plan to "the blog" instead of just on paper were right!  It did make for a MUCH smoother week having everything in one place with click-able links.  I didn't have to do much scrambling around pulling my recipes from different places.  It even worked out BEAUTIFULLY when I ended up having to spend so much time in bed this week.  Kevin would pull up the blog and immediately know what I had planned and basically how to go about it.  This week, I'm giving it another go AND adding in the full day instead of just the evening meals.  We are expecting a MASSIVE snow storm that is probably going to leave us trapped at home, so I am putting a bit more effort into the cooking and baking to help make things a bit more fun and exciting.  Plus, we will most likely be unable to attend many of our normal activities so time should be on my side somewhat.  Hopefully that will translate into many more things off the list of "rainy day" organizing.......however, instead of rain it will be more than a foot of snow if predictions are correct.  YUCK!  I'm so DONE with the snow for this year, but since we can't change it-----we'll just make the best of it!

  • Breakfast at church
  • Lunch: white beans and ham in the crockpot; left-over biscuits and cornbread
  • Dinner:  Cowboy Spaghetti (didn't end up having this last week)
  • smore's brownies
  • Breakfast: Homemade Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits
  • Lunch: Alien Hot Dogs the boys FAVORITE  (slice hot dog in 3 pieces, stick several spaghetti noodles through it lengthwise and boil.....look like aliens or jelly fish when done.  We roll in Parmesan cheese.
  • Dinner: Crockpot Pork Chops with stuffing & apples This was one of my favorite meals that Shannon made at Camp One Way when I attended a scrapbook retreat.  Her similar recipe was in the C.O.W cookbook that I purchased. 


  • Breakfast: French Breakfast Puffs
  • Lunch:  leftover/sandwich if at home, but we hope to be out of the house by then and are planning on ice-skating with some of our homeschool church group friends and it will be a GREAT day to eat out!
  • Dinner:  Cheddar Potato & Ham Soup

Saturday is left open for whatever the mood hits.  I'm sure I'll also have my arm twisted (though not very far!) to make some other desserts and treats during the week as well, but I specifically plan on trying out the Apple Jacks cookies. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Progresso Lemon Panko Crumbs Review

Quite awhile back, I received a box of Progresso Lemon Panko bread crumbs and a Michael Chiarello signed cookbook.  About the time that it came is when life took such a drastic turn as we dealt with Dad's sudden illness and death.  At that point, I put blogging on the back burner except those postings that concerned our journey with him.  Now that we are in the process of getting life back on track as much as possible, I'm finally trying to wrap up lose ends and getting family life (meal planning, homeschooling, housework, and family time!) back in sync. 

First off:  the important, yet required disclosure *The information, Progresso Panko bread crumbs, and a Michael Chiarello's Bottega cookbook were sent to me by General Mills through MyBlogSpark. The opinions are authentic and 100% mine.*

As part of the myblogspark program, you are to try the product, post a review, and offer a give-a-way of the same product.  I didn't have the chance to offer the give-a-way on my blog with the whirlwind we were facing in the "typical" fashion of leave a comment and choosing a random winner.  I ,instead , randomly selected from my regular readers and submitted her information for the gift pack.  Erin F. was this winner and I know she received her package several weeks ago!  Congrats, EF!

Now, for MY review!  Last night I finally pulled out the box of Progresso Lemon Pepper Panko crumbs.  I made chicken tenders by dredging fresh chicken in flour, beaten eggs, and then the panko.  It was extremely easy!  As for the flavor, it was "different" than our typical chicken tenders....but I admit that "different" was great!  It got a thumbs up from ALMOST all of my picky family members.  Only Peyton was reluctant and that is NOTHING new.  Even he said it was "OK", so that is probably like me saying "great!"  The part I liked best was that the panko got crispier than normal bread crumbs and came closer to a "fried" chicken texture and let's face Southerners at heart LOVE our fried chicken!  Kevin took the leftovers to work for lunch and he said that they were good the 2nd time around.  That's a winner in my book!  I was pleased enough with Progresso's product that I will be purchasing more in the future.  However, I think I am excited to purchase the Italian version the most!   I think THAT will even get a thumbs up from Peyton!

So, thanks myblogspark for the chance to try something new....and especially for something that my family found to be a positive!  Hopefully next time around, I won't have to wait nearly two months to get my "official" review posted!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meal Plan January 24th

Here is the dinner plan for the week beginning Monday the 24th.  Trying to get back in planning mode again as we are trying to get back on a more normal schedule and "life" on track again.  So far this week, I've only planned our family dinners...but, hey, it's a start!  So many friends keep encouraging me to put our plan on my blog, mostly so I have it all in one place with my links----giving it a try! I used to have theme nights (pasta, soup, freezer, etc...) but that has somewhat derailed since we aren't "tied" to the gym anymore and we have much more flexibility in our schedules and we don't have to plan "family" nights as often. 

Monday:  Lemon Panko Chicken tenders & Fries (have yet to decide if I'll be using up some potatoes that need to be used soon or if I will cheat and pull out some fries from the freezer that were free after combining a sale and a coupon)  Using Progresso Lemon Panko crumbs that were provided by the company for me to to come later (thanks blogspark).  Spinach & baby green salad with whatever other produce is left in the fridge that is salvageable (in other words not mushy, gooshy, or gross!)

Tuesday: Cheesy Ranch Potatoes & Ham  I think I will probably tweak this while I'm cooking to make it a little less "ranch" flavored  and Honey Cornbread (mostly JUST because I've REALLY been wanting to try it out!)  Kevin bought a LARGE spiral cut ham on sale last night and ham will probably be sneaking in many of our meals in the next couple of weeks since we'll be nibbling on it for a few days and then freezing the rest.

Wednesday: Easy Layered Nacho Bake but I will most likely add some pre-cooked chicken from the freezer to stretch the meal so that we will have enough leftovers for Kevin to take to lunch.  Simple meal that will still get us out the door to church on time and keep us from having to resort to the pizza stand-by. 

Thursday:  Cowboy Spaghetti family friendly and the kids will like the goofy name;  will also make some bread in the bread machine but it's usually last minute decision as to the "flavor".  I just have to remember to start it as soon as we get home from Parent's Morning Out or it won't be finished in time.  I tend to "forget" to start the machine early enough.  Hmmm....wonder why I'm forgetful these days?

Friday:  Sloppy Joe Mashed Potato cups , green beans and mostly likely macaroni and cheese since by this time my kids will be begging for their favorite!

I don't normally plan the weekend meals because we like flexibility and doing things on the spur of the moment.  Kevin and I will also be enjoying a DATE NIGHT on Saturday night (Rascal Flatts concert!!!!!) so we will probably be ordering pizza for the kids.  Sunday usually involves something in the crockpot that we eat mid-afternoon/early evening. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Today is THAT Day

Today was THAT day.  The day everyone, including myself, knew would come.  THE day that the weight of the world crashes in and you find yourself literally unable to breathe.  THE day that you dreaded, but also looked forward to because you were tired of keeping it all together.  THE day that the hurt, loss, emptiness, anger, frustration, and overwhelming grief just overtakes and left you in a pile on the floor unable to move or breathe.  Yes, THAT day is today. 

Today was the day that I wanted to scream at God and beg him for mercy.  Today was the day my heart was begging Him to STOP this insanity.  We try to believe that God doesn't give us more than we can handle, but no matter how much we may believe it and FOCUS on that....there are days that we feel incapable of handling the things He is allowing us to go through.  Today is THAT day. 

I'm broken.  I'm uncertain how to move from THIS day.  Yes, it's all of the emotional turmoil from Dad's death.  Yes, it's the extreme brokenness I'm feeling for the woman that raised me and loved me as her own flesh and blood from the time I was just a tiny toddler and now she is physically alone.  Yes, it's the heartache I'm feeling for my youngest brother that was just on the edge of entering manhood and was starting to see the world in such a way that he NEEDED his Dad leading him and encouraging him.  Yes, it's the heartache for my older siblings that are fighting their own emotional battles with all of this.  Yes, it's for the hearts of my children that I'm broken.  

I'm out of focus and off-track.  We've finally journeyed back down the school path out of necessity.  We don't have time to just sit back and wait another few days, weeks, or a month.  However, we are struggling.  Though some things are thankfully coming easy and progress is happening by leaps and bounds, there are other things just staring us in the face and feels like mountains that we can't climb.  The SAME math lesson has been looking at us for days and it's not going anywhere.  I LOVE math and enjoy teaching it....especially now that we are in the complexities of algebra and not just "facts".  However, my brain is in such a fog that I can't seem to break it down into teachable steps and her heart and mind is still too heavy to focus and "accept" the knowledge. 

God has also given us some "assignments" so to speak that are stretching us and making us move out of our comfort zones.  However, right NOW is when we need our comfort zone.  WE need the "normal" and "safe".  Our timing is not matching up to HIS timing and it's pulling us while we are RAW. 

There isn't time to just STOP and grieve.  There isn't time to just focus on ONE thing and let the others fall apart.  I don't have that "luxury".  LIFE MUST go on.  My children still have needs (and those needs are even more evident as they take this journey themselves), there is still a home to keep running, a marriage to keep healthy, school for three kids on three different levels with VERY different needs, spiritual growth to still make sure is happening, and the list goes on indefinitely.  ALL I want to do is just scream STOP.  STOP and let me breathe.  STOP and let me feel what I need to feel at this moment. 

Today was THE day that I did crash.  As if dealing with Dad's illness and death weren't enough, we are still getting hit hard from other areas and we are breaking.  I am breaking.  Better yet, in honesty, I am BROKEN.

Now the journey begins.  The journey of taking the broken pieces and finding a way to put them back together.  Taking the image of the look on your four year old's face when he finds you in your hiding place having a breakdown and finding a way to restore his confidence that Mom is OK.  Finding a way to make sure that the increased stress level in the home doesn't break down the growing dynamics that you've been working so hard as a family to build.  Finding ways to connect as a couple when you can't even find time to breathe, much less have the real intimate conversation that your souls are needing. 

The journey also begins in finding solid ground again.  So many losses of different kinds JUST when you are growing in Christ MORE than ever is hard to handle.  Maintaining FULL faith and trust when everything around feels so unstable.......HARD.

The journey back to getting the pieces together is just that....a journey.  Some minutes I'm on the right trail and some minutes I think I need a park ranger to lead me back on the marked path.  Some minutes I'm driving along at the perfect speed and others I'm either getting honked at for driving slow in the fast lane or getting pulled over for speeding. 

For today, being THE day that I plan is to just keep breathing and truly looking at one minute at a time.  Doing my best to focus on one issue at a time.  Feeling what I need to feel.  Allowing myself to have those breakdowns.  Having the freedom to say THIS IS NOT fair.  Having the ability to say, THIS person is wrong in their actions.  THIS person has a problem and I am NOT it.  Freedom.  Freedom to feel what my heart is feeling.  Otherwise, the next stages can't happen.  In those next stages, the stages of where we find our solid ground again, where healing begins and strength is gained.....those are the stages where God's truth will begin to sink back in and find it's deep roots again.  TODAY is just not THAT day.  However, because of the depth of our faith and our love for God.....the stability WILL come again and the journey will have us heading in that direction.  TODAY, I'm just on a detour waiting to be rescued.  For someone that generally is the rescuer, being the one needing the rescue is an uncomfortable place to be.  Because it's uncomfortable, I know that I won't be in this place too long. 

For today, I'm embracing THIS day and letting my heart feel what it feels..........the good and the bad.  The rational and the irrational. The raw.  No need to sugarcoat or be strong for image sake.  Today is THE day that I am allowing myself to be here. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Normal Life? What's that?

Returning to normal life after the extreme roller coaster ride of Dad's illness and death has not been an easy task.  I'm not sure it is even possible.  That's OK.  Some days are fairly easy so to speak and then there are those that it still requires effort to breathe.  Anyone that has been through grief knows that it can hit you out of the blue and the sadness can knock you off your feet from the oddest triggers.  About the time I think I have a "grip" on how to handle all of this, I soon find out I never had the grip at all.  Again, that's OK. 

I think besides the loss itself, the hardest part of returning to a "new" normal is keeping a healthy emotional balance in the upheaval.  When I'm stressed out over an issue, I find myself having to stop and ask myself if the stress is coming from the new situation or because of being emotionally wrung out over the last months.  If I'm angry about something, which I admit is more often these days, I have to ask if it's a situation that TRULY has me agitated or is it the frustration of how drastic life turned suddenly.  I even think it through to the point of asking is the situation I'm angry about giving me an excuse to not focus on the avoidance tactic.  Many times the anger comes as a result of people and their lack of response or "concern" for us during all of this.  Some people are truly selfish and cold-hearted and I'll just leave it at that.  However, for every one of THOSE people.....God has blessed us tremendously by those that have blessed us beyond what I ever dreamed.  Those are the people that have let God use them in amazing ways and literally blown us away! 

In this storm, even from the first moment we heard the initial news, there has been a calm that only can be described as the Holy Spirit taking over.  Though I've been an emotional wreck at times (just ask my husband, kids, or those friends that have had to come in and rescue us!), there has still been an overwhelming strength and focus that can only have been God given.  Specific moments keep trickling back into my memory and I wonder how I was able to do that or who was that person, she surely wasn't me! 

For such a long time, Kevin and I knew that some of the battles we had faced and the unbelievable twisting and turning God had been giving us was for a purpose.  We know that some of that purpose was to prepare us for this storm.  Had this all happened three or four years ago, it would have destroyed me and I know my faith would not have been strong enough to pull me through.  No doubt. 

Looking ahead to the future, we are finding ourselves on very uncertain ground.  Though our marriage and our family are more stable and solid than they have ever been, we are restless.  We are pleading with God for Him to reveal our purpose and to put our feet on that path.  It has been years of earnestly seeking and we are getting restless in waiting.  Restless in waiting either means that He is about to give us another heart "transplant" and bend us and shape us more like Him again OR He is about to unleash His plan for us.  All I know is that we are ready for either one and waiting to see where He is leading us.  We don't want to sit still and we have an urgency like never before. 

Part of that urgency has lead us to make some tough decisions in regards to our family.  We feel He is asking us to step out of our comfort zone and move in a different direction in a certain area.  I'm not one for starting over.  I'm not one for stepping out of the box and my comfort zone.  "This" request of us is not one we are taking lightly.  Sometimes growing in Christ HURTS because we become too attached to things (people, "ways", emotions) and we still want to do things our way.  Sometimes He asks us to do things that make no sense to us, but the more we "run" from His request the more relentless He becomes in his pursuit.  Growth isn't always easy and sometimes stepping out in faith is the hardest thing.  

A few months ago, we finally followed through on God's request for dumping cable TV (which for us also meant "normal" TV as well).  I was MORE than addicted to countless shows and the conviction in watching most of them grew DAILY.  Shows that many Christians find no problems with, but for us God had asked us to "shut it off".  We wrestled with His request for WAY too long and once we finally became fully obedient, blessings began to pour out every direction.  We became reconnected to Him in deeper ways than we expected and our obedience has paid off in such tremendous ways. 

His latest request of us has left us wrestling with Him and struggling to find exactly what He is asking of us.  Though we know how He is leading us and the general direction He is asking us to go, we are still prayerfully seeking out the details and we are still praying for the courage to take those steps.  In the end, when we are fully on track with His plan, I know that we will look back and know that we did the right thing and I can only imagine where He will use us and how our lives will change.  Hopefully we won't wrestle with Him as long as we did with his last request, because we know now that we just wasted time and blessings.  I just want to make sure that we don't MISS His blessings by our lack of obedience or by being partially obedient (which you know I think is still DISOBEDIENCE). 

Is this "new" task just something that is coming out of the phases of grief?  Is it a focus that is keeping us from focusing on the grief.  NOT in the least.  We had already been wrestling with these issues before our world was turned upside down.  Perhaps, it has given us a sense of urgency because we fully understand how short time is....but THAT is a good thing. 

The word we chose for 2011 as our "mission" or as our description word was PURPOSE.  We are choosing to be purposeful in every aspect of our lives and that we do everything we can to remain on the path that allows God to use us in HIS PURPOSE.  Sometimes doing so may be a little or a LOT uncomfortable and uncertain for us because of our human hearts and eyes, but because our faith is in Christ who sees the ENTIRE full picture....we can trust the plan He has for us.