Friday, April 29, 2011

"The Note"

Megan is my middle child and, until recently,  she has been a typically joyous and happy child.  She does, however, wear her heart on her sleeve and gets her feelings hurt pretty easily (usually by her older sister!).  During the past couple weeks, though, Megan has developed quite a rebellious and disgruntled attitude.  This "bad attitude" gets kicked off in full force most days during the car ride home from school.  I pick up my two oldest girls in the carpool line at the elementary school.  My three year old is usually watching a movie or playing a game on my phone.  Almost immediately, Megan starts complaining about how stupid/annoying/babyish/scary/you-name-the-adjective the movie is.  This, of course, upsets the little one and the chain reaction begins to unfold.

Today, I had had enough of this new found "bad attitude."  When Megan started her typical rant about the movie Emily was watching, I gave her a couple of warnings.  Then, I informed her that when we got home she was to go straight to her room as punishment for her disrespectful, belligerent attitude.  (O.K - I didn't say it quite that way, but I think she got my point!)  As we got home, Megan announced that for the rest of the day, she would be doing the opposite of what everyone else said to do.  Therefore, she was not getting out of the car because that was what everyone else was doing.  Eventually she did get out of the car and come into the house where the other two girls had settled with a snack in front of the T.V.  I reminded her that she was to go to her room.  She crossed her arms and flippantly replied that she would leave that room, but she was NOT going to her room.  Well, let's just skip ahead 10 minutes when, needless to say, she WAS in her room, crying.

Next, I heard her from inside her room saying loudly behind her tears, "Please see the note, please see the note."  As I walked down the hall, I found The Note:
Translation - "I did not mean it! I'm sorry!"

She had pushed it out from under her door and left it for me to find.  I was faced with a choice - ignore the note and forge ahead with my prescribed punishment or have compassion for this obviously regretful child.  Want to know what I did???  Well, I ignored it.  I'm still not sure if that makes me a strong, resilient mother who doesn't cave in to her children OR the most cold-hearted mom ever , but that's what I did.  (You can leave me a comment with your opinion below.)

After leaving her in her room for quite a while, I did tell her that I appreciated her note, but that it did not reverse her behavior from earlier in the afternoon.  After a little more lecturing, we hugged and made up (until the next time anyway).  I guess it's all just part of being the mom.  We try so hard to teach our kids to do the right thing; to behave the right way - but sometimes we are unsure ourselves what is the "right way" to behave and respond.  We just have to go with our gut and hope we don't scar the kids too badly!  I'm pretty sure Megan will not suffer any long term emotional damage from the choice I made today, and maybe - just maybe - she will think twice about her attitude the next time I pick her up from school! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Emily Speed

Emily is 3 1/2.  She's the baby.  She is super smart and super witty.  However, she is NOT super speedy.  Emily moves at her own pace.  I find myself constantly telling her things like "Come on" or "Hurry up" or "Let's go, Em!"  She, on the other hand, is rarely in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything.
Last evening, for example, I took a walk with my girls.  They rode their bikes and I intended to walk briskly in hopes of burning off a few extra calories.  Emily had a different plan, though.  She casually pedaled her bike, stopping every 5-10 feet to watch a bird fly by or to go pick a flower.

This morning, as I write this, Emily is perfectly content just sitting and watching her favorite movie, Tangled.  She is singing along, giggling, and taking in every detail.  On the other hand, as I sit watching the movie with her, I am writing, thinking about the laundry that is waiting, the dishes that are piled in the sink, the emails I need to send, and the schedule for the afternoon.

The truth is, I find "Emily Speed" to be quite annoying - maddening, in fact.    However, it is not because of the inconvenience it causes me (well, maybe a little).  It is actually because I am jealous.  I am jealous of Emily's childhood innocence and carefree pace.  You see, Emily is not concerned with what is happening tomorrow or even later today.  She has nothing more important to think about than what is happening right now, at this very moment.  If she wants to stop and smell the roses (literally) she does!

I am trying very hard to stop rushing so much and follow Emily's example more often.  I know I can't be completely relaxed and carefree like her, but I can't help but think how much more enjoyable life would be if we could all travel through at "Emily Speed" - not rushing or hurrying, but completely caught up in enjoying the here and now; not afraid to stop and smell the roses whenever we want!

See - Not a care in the world! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Easter!

It's Maundy Thursday and with a crazy busy Easter weekend, I decided to go ahead and post this entry.  Here are a couple of Easter explanations courtesy of my two youngest daughters.  I hope they make you smile and that you have a very happy Easter!!

Megan's explanation of the Easter Bunny  

We were all riding in the car one afternoon (because you know that is where LOTS of meaningful family conversations happen) when one of the girls asked why we have eggs and a bunny at Easter.  I explained that the eggs are a symbol of new life just like the new flowers that bloom in Spring and just like Jesus coming back to life after his death.  After giving it some thought, I told them that I really was not sure how the bunny figured into things.  Megan spoke up and gave her suggestion - "Probably, Jesus had a pet bunny rabbit!"  Who knew it was that simple?!?!

Easter as summarized by Emily

Emily (3), recently took a very brief interest in the Veggie Tales movies.  (If you are not familiar with these, they are basically cartoon vegetables that walk & talk.  All their movies are religiously themed.)  After watching the Veggie Tales Easter story, Emily was a little confused, so I retold the story to her as follows:
"The people didn't like Jesus, so they nailed him to this big cross and he died.  They buried him in a cave. A couple days later, some women came to bring flowers (like we do to Great Grandma, etc.), but Jesus was gone.  God had brought him back to life.  Now he will always be alive in Heaven with God."

Emily repeated the summary to me in her own words like this:
"The people didn't understand Jesus so they put him on a cross and he died.  They buried him in a cave, but then God did magic and un-died Him.  Now he will always be un-died and he lives with God in Heaven.  That's why we do Easter!"

Happy Easter!!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Deliciousness!! (Comfort Meatballs from Ree Drummond)

Have you ever heard of Ree Drummond (aka "The Pioneer Woman")??  She is becoming quite famous and it all started because of her blog.  One of the most popular parts of her blog is her recipes.  She has actually cooked with Paula Deen and will soon have her own show on Food Network.  She also has a best-selling cookbook and I just happen to have a copy (Thanks, Mom!).  Her cookbook is where I found this recipe.  Simply put, you must try it - these meatballs are "to die for!"

In her cookbook, she refers to these as "Comfort Meatballs."  On her blog, they can be found under "BBQ Meatballs."  You can call them whatever you like - I call them delicious!!!  I consider them easy to make, but they do require some prep work & time.  However, they are completely worth it!!  So here's the recipe:

Ree Drummond's BBQ Comfort Meatballs

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
3/4 cup quick oats
1 cup milk
3 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp salt
black pepper

4 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup flour

1 cup ketchup
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp distilled white vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4-6 tbsp minced onion
Dash of Tabasco

In a bowl, combine ground beef & oats.  Add milk, onion, salt, and; pepper.  Stir to combine.  Roll mixture into 1 tablespoon size balls and place them on a large cookie sheet.   Refrigerate them for 30-45 minutes.  (I got 36 meatballs.)

**UPDATE: I have started using frozen meatballs for this recipe. Makes it much quicker and it is still one of my family's favorites!!!! 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and heat canola oil in a large skillet.  Dredge meatballs in flour and brown them in batches in the oil.  As you brown them, place them in a 13x9 baking dish.  Stir together the ingredients for the sauce and pour over the meatballs.  Bake for about 30-45 minutes, until bubbly.

I served them with mashed potatoes and green beans.

Maybe if I came up with more recipes like this, I would become famous, too!!  Oh well - for now I will just add this recipe to my "must make frequently" file and be famous in my own mind every time I cook these meatballs of deliciousness!!!

(In order to make sure I don't break any blog laws of plagiarism, let me reiterate again - this recipe is NOT my recipe.  It was created by and found in the cookbook of Ree Drummond - The Pioneer Woman.)


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lessons I Want to Teach my Daughters

I recently finished reading a book written by Alexandra Stoddard called "Things I Want My Daughters To Know."    I originally picked up the book because, having three daughters, I feel a huge responsibility to teach them everything they need to know to become successful women since I am their primary female role model.  I will take any advice or help I can get!  In the book, Stoddard lists about 55 "life lessons" she hopes to have imparted to her two daughters.  Some of the pearls I agreed with; some I did not.  However, it got my "wheels turning" as I thought about all the lessons I want to teach my own daughters.  So - you guessed it - I came up with a list.  (Not to worry - there are nowhere near 55 items on my list.)  Here are the top 20 things I hope my daughters will learn from me as they grow and mature into beautiful women, professionals, wives, and mothers.

1)  Appreciate your history.  Unlike the good ol' portrayal of the stork with a baby in a sack, you were not just randomly dropped on this earth.  You came from somewhere; you came from someone.  Be proud of that and cherish it. Professional acquaintances come and go.  Friends come and go.  Family is constant.  That doesn't mean there won't be disagreements or differences, but family is family - you are tied to them forever.  Appreciate them.  Love them.  Stay connected to them.  Always.  When everyone else disappears, they will still be there.

2)  Be a Lady.  This one is about how you present yourself to others.  (And it is not just a Southern thing - at least it shouldn't be!)  You never know who is taking notice of you.  Therefore, always present yourself in a way that is appropriate.  There is no need to wear super tight and/or very revealing clothes or a lot of artificial make-up.  Don't take part in gossip or ridiculing others.  You shouldn't compromise who you are in an effort to "fit in."  Don't do something you know is wrong just because "everyone else does it."  All of this sends the message that you do not respect yourself.  If you do not respect yourself, neither will anyone else!

3)  Be Confident in Yourself.  This is one with which I struggle to be a good role model.  I worry about my weight, my clothes, my housekeeping and my cooking skills.  I often lose sight of what it says in Psalm 139:13-16 - ". . You knit me together in my mother's womb. . . I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . "  As the old saying goes, "God don't make no junk!!"  I was made by God; you were made by God.  Therefore, we are perfect.  Your curly hair, your freckles, your crazy energy, your wittiness, your laugh - everything about you is wonderful and perfect.  Never doubt the beauty God has created in you!

4)  Do What Makes You Happy.  If you want to play sports, play sports.  If you want to play music, play music.  If you want to be a doctor, study hard and be a doctor.  If you want to be a teacher, give it your all and be a great teacher.  Do what makes YOU happy - not what all your friends are doing; not what will earn you the biggest salary.  Friends and money are worthless if you are miserable.  Do what makes YOU happy; what brings you joy.  You will receive rewards much greater than money or fame.

5)  Be Financially Responsible.  Money is never constant.  Sometimes you will have more; sometimes you will have less.  Often, it takes a long time to recover from mistakes you make with your money.  As they say, money is a necessary evil - you must have some of it to survive in this world.  While money does not buy happiness, mismanagement of your finances can lead to stress and strife.  Learn to create a budget and stick to it - regardless of how much money you have (or don't have).  Learn the difference between what you want and what you need.  You will save yourself lots of turmoil and worry if you learn how to be responsible with your finances.

6)  Keep Order in Your Life.  As you probably know, I am a little fanatic when it comes to organization.  There is a reason for that.  I have learned that keeping order in my life makes things easier in the long run.  It is easier to run out the door in a hurry if you know where to find your shoes and your purse.  It is easier to pack for an unexpected trip if most of your laundry is clean.  It is easier to entertain unexpected guests if you have a clean house and a stocked pantry.  It is easier to get children to bed if you follow a predictable schedule.  Keeping order to begin with will keep you from stressing and scrambling later.

7)  Laugh.  This is something your father has taught me a lot about.  When you laugh, you can't help but feel good.  Some of my best memories of your childhoods, so far, are of times when we laughed together or times when you made me laugh until I cried.  Laughter will help you get through the tough times, too.  Bill Cosby said, "You can turn painful situations around through laughter.  If you can find humor in anything then you can survive it."  Keep laughter in your life - it is good for your soul!

8)  Don't Forget to Take Care of Yourself.  As women, we are often expected to take care of others.  That is impossible if you don't first take care of yourself.  Once in a while, buy yourself something new even if you don't really need it; get a manicure; take a nap.  Never feel guilty for taking a moment to "recharge your own batteries." 

9)  Follow Through.  Finish what you start and keep your commitments.  What's the point of reading a book if you skip the last chapter??  Finish the book.  Finish the project.  You may discover it's an activity that you do not want to do again, but finish anyway.  When you tell people you will do something, you must follow through and keep your commitment - someone is counting on you; don't let them down.  If you do, they will learn that you cannot be trusted.  Only under extreme or emergency circumstances is it ever acceptable to break your promises.

10)  Do Not Wish Your Life Away.  While you are a child, enjoy the lack of responsibilities; enjoy the carefree nature of things.  Don't spend it wishing to grow up faster.  When you are young and single, travel; enjoy spending time with friends; enjoy being independent and free.  There is no need to spend your time fretting about when you will meet "Mr. Right" or when your life will become bigger and better.  It will happen - be patient.  Take time to enjoy being a wife - just a wife.  Your time as a mother will come.  When you are a mother, enjoy your children.  Don't wish for them to grow up faster - it will happen soon enough.  Each stage of your life is a unique gift.  Be wise enough to recognize the beauty of each stage and enjoy it while you can - it will not last.

11)   Be Strong.  Be brave.  As much as I would like to, I cannot shelter you from bad things in life.  You will experience failure.  You will experience loss and sorrow.  You will experience disappointment.  When you do, it is o.k. to cry.  It is necessary to grieve.  However, you cannot let the bad times define you.  Be strong and be brave.  Face the obstacles head-on.  Learn from the tough times and find a way to move forward.  When you come out on the other side, you will be proud of yourself and you will appreciate the beauty of the good times even more.

12)  Know your limitations.  Superman is a mythical character.  No man (or woman) can do everything.  You have God-given talents.  You also have God-given limitations.  This is why one of my favorite prayers is the Serenity Prayer.  It says "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."  If you are not artistically inclined, you can change that by learning new skills, but do not expect to paint a masterpiece right out of the gates.  If you are only 5'3", do not expect to be the star center on the girl's basketball team.  You cannot change your height.   You should most definitely expect greatness from yourself and set high goals, but sometimes you must be realistic and adjust your goals to fit your skills, talents, and physical abilities.  Everyone has a certain amount of time and energy as well.  Do not commit to so many things that you end up running out of time or energy before you are able to complete the tasks.  Also remember that there is no shame in asking for help.  It is not a sign of weakness.  On the contrary, it shows that you are self-aware and realistic.

13)  Learn to Cook.  It doesn't have to be gourmet and it is not necessary to do it every day, but being able to prepare a meal for yourself, your guests, your family, or a friend experiencing hard times will give you a sense of accomplishment and pride.  By preparing meals yourself, you can be more healthy and more frugal.  You can experiment with tastes and textures.  You can adjust recipes to your own personal liking (or the liking of those you are serving).  Food is everywhere in our lives.  Learn to enjoy the creative opportunities it offers.

14)  Proofread!  There are few things I can think of more frustrating that turning in a paper, sending an email, or posting a blog only to realize later that you made very basic mistakes.  It is also quite annoying to receive a letter or an email and see that the person who sent it didn't take the time or put forth the effort to write it properly.  It shows laziness and apathy.  Proofreading is simple and doesn't take much time, so do it.  Then, do it again.  The more important the document you are writing, the more times you should proofread it or have someone else proofread it.

15)  Learn Proper Grammar.  Learn when to use I or me; when to use he/she vs. him/her; the difference between there, their, and they're; the difference between your and you're; the difference between it's and its.  Don't end sentences with a preposition (i.e. Where is he at? = nails on chalkboard).  Don't start sentences with conjunctions like but or and (these words are meant to join things, not begin things).  The rules of grammar are not terribly complicated and will eventually become natural if you practice them regularly.   Using proper grammar (and spelling) is an indication that you have paid attention to details.  It shows that you are intelligent and educated.  (If you are ever unsure ask Memaw!!)

16)  Present Solutions, Not Just Problems.  There is nothing wrong with speaking up when there are problems that need to be addressed whether it is in your job, in your home, or in your relationships.  However, do not just complain and whine.  State what you see as a problem and then present a solution.  Your solution may not be utilized in the end, but being able to present one shows that you have carefully considered the situation.  It proves to others that you are not just complaining, but that you are trying to help solve the problem.  Your "complaints" will get more attention and respect if you can be helpful in reaching a resolution.

17)  Surround yourself with good people.  You cannot choose your family, but if they bring you joy and peace, embrace them.  Turn to them in times of need or anxiety - big or small - and they will give you the insight and comfort that you need.  You can choose your friends, so choose wisely.  Surround yourself with positive, supportive, intelligent, morally ethical people with whom you share a mutual respect.  Choose friends who see your beauty (inside and out) and who make you a better, happier person by bringing you joy, laughter, insight, and peace.  (Remember, too, that your eventual husband should be your absolute best friend.  If he is not a good friend he will not be a good husband.  He should bring you joy and peace as well as romance and love!)

18)  Stand up for your beliefs.  If you are liberal, be liberal.  If you are conservative, be conservative.  Once you have chosen a stance, stick with it.  Don't be wishy washy and change your opinion to please someone else or to avoid confrontation.  That shows others that your are weak and easily influenced.  No matter which side you take on any issue, be educated and be able to intelligently defend your position.  Don't be afraid to speak out - in an intelligent, ethical manner - to defend your cause.  If you are educated about the topic and can express your thoughts clearly, people will respect your opinion even if they disagree.

19) Use Common Sense.  As the old saying goes, "common sense is not that common."  It is a simple rule, but one that many people fail to follow.  If something seems like a bad idea, you probably shouldn't do it.  Common sense.  If certain people or activities make you unhappy, stay away from them.  Common sense.  When trying to solve a problem, don't make it more difficult than it needs to be.  Common sense.  You are all wonderfully smart, intelligent girls, but intelligence cannot be substituted for common sense!

20) Have Faith.  Faith in God.  Faith in yourself.  Faith in people.  Faith in humankind.  Bad things happen.  During your life, you will experience sadness and anger and fear and loneliness.  If I could protect you from it all, I would do so without hesitation.  But, I can't.  When you face adversity, remember that there is always good in people and there is so much good in the world.  Find it.  Hold onto it.  Have faith that, eventually, the good will always overcome.

As I read back over these, it is painfully evident that I am not perfect.  Although I try, I don't do all these things all the time.  However, I think I do them more often than not.  Some of these pearls I have learned the hard way.  Some I am thankful to have learned from my parents.  Some I have learned form others or just from experience.  I know there are things you will eventually add to your own list of "Life's Rules," but I hope this gives you a good start and a solid foundation.  Above all else, remember that you are loved more than you will ever know - by me, by your Daddy, by your family, and by God.  I pray that love will give you the strength and courage to be the best person you can be - always.  

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cooking with my Girls

This is a cake I recently made with my girls to celebrate my mom's birthday.  I am posting it not because it is a beautiful cake; not because it was scrumptious (although it was!); not to toot my own horn in any way. I am posting it because it represents something that is important to me - cooking with my girls.

Cooking is a family tradition that I hope to maintain.  You see, I come from a long line of great cooks.  My mom is a great cook.  It seems she takes food with her everywhere she goes and - trust me - nobody complains!!  She can make a pound cake or a lemon pie with her eyes closed, I bet.  Her mom was a great cook, too, though I never had the pleasure of tasting her food because she passed away before I was born.  My dad's mom was a great cook, also - her Thanksgiving dressing and her cream puffs are legendary!  My mother in law is also a fantastic cook.  I learned soon after entering the Witherspoon family that nobody makes potato salad or lasagna quite like hers.  Speaking of family -  boy, oh, boy - you should see the spreads of food at family gatherings.  There's always enough to feed an army and most of it is all homemade.  Maybe it is partially a southern thing, but, hey, my family is southern through and through!

 I loved to cook with my mom when I was younger and most of what I know about cooking I learned from her.  Now that I have daughters,  I love to cook with them and, most of the time, they like to cook with me, too.  It is one way we get some of that stuff called "quality time."  There is so much they can learn from cooking, too.  Things like math concepts, science concepts, and following directions can all be gleaned from following a recipe.  (Yes, that's the former preschool teacher in me resurfacing a little bit.)  It also gives such a sense of accomplishment - to follow the process from start to finish; see the beautiful finished product; and see the joy it gives others when you share it.

At least one of my girls is certainly taking the cooking tradition to heart.  My middle daughter, Megan, loves to cook with me and watch cooking shows.  She even says she might be a chef when she grows up.  Who knows - maybe someday she will be on T.V. cooking a fabulous birthday cake for me!!

P.S.  Here's a link to the recipe for the cake that's pictured ~

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chinese Chicken (Crock Pot)

Simply put, you MUST try this recipe.  It is easy and wonderful.  My husband likes it.  My kids like it (except the vegetarian one!).  I like it.  It is great and will definitely become a staple in the Witherspoon Family Dinner menu!

Chinese Chicken
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp water
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp. ground ginger

Place the chicken in the crock pot.  Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.  Cook on low 6-8 hours or high for about 4 hours.

That's it!!!  It is done and it is delicious!!!  (The original recipe says to shred the chicken.  I find this unnecessary because mine always just fall apart.)

I serve this with some pre-packaged Asian noodles.  I'm sure it would be healthier to make my own, but this is quicker and works just as well.  My hubby likes the spicy ones.  The chicken is sweet and goes well with a sweeter flavor.  Fried rice would work, too.

I also add some steamed broccoli or a green salad.

Seriously - make it.  You won't regret it!!! :)

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