Friday, September 20, 2013

While the children were in school...

I wanted to find a picture to go along with this quote, but then I realized, the words paint the picture well enough. Happy Weekend friends.

While the children were in school, the town seemed abnormally quiet. The quiet, by mid afternoon  would sometimes seem almost entranced.

And so I loved especially the time of day when school let out. What the will of the neighborhood had managed to pen up all day in something like order would all of a sudden burst loose and stream out both ways along the road. A rout of children would pour from the schoolhouse down into the quiet town--a cataract of motions and sounds:  voices calling, shouting, singing, laughing, teasing, arguing; boys running, dancing about, hitting each other, sometimes fighting in earnest; girls switching their dresstails and hair in mock disdain and condemnation of the behavior of the boys. And often you would hear a boy's voice chanting above the rest:  "School's out! School's out! Teacher wore my britchies out!" Or something on the order of "Hey, booger-nose!"

-Taken from Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Favorite App

If you have a smart phone and you enjoy a Starbucks every now and then, you really should have the Starbucks app on your phone. It is one of my favorites and here are a few reasons why:

Oh, but before I go there, to maximize the potential of your Starbucks app usage, you need to join Starbucks Rewards and register a Starbucks gift card. (and even better, if you do this by September 22 they will give you a free drink!!)

So back to why I love the app:

1.) I can pay for my drink with my phone. My gift card - now turned gold card - is loaded onto the app. I can reload the balance with a few button pushes (this gets dangerous) and pay for my drink with ease.

2.) Every time I buy a drink, a gold star shows up in my cup. As a gold card member (you have to earn your way to this status), I get a free drink for every 12 I purchase, plus one on my birthday (this applies to green card members too).

3.) The stars move around when I shake my phone. It's the small things people. 

4.) Every little bit, my Starbucks app offers me a code for a free song download or a free app. Just today, I scored a song from Jack Johnson's newest album. In the past I have downloaded songs from The Lumineers, Ben Harper, and the Civil Wars to name a few. I also got the Sky Guide app for free which is really cool (another favorite). 

5.) If I need to find the nearest Starbucks the app shows me the closest one.

Of all the apps I have loaded on my phone, this is my favorite. You can't beat free drinks, songs and apps. The Starbucks app is a GOOD thing.

Your turn, What is one of your favorite apps?

Monday, September 16, 2013


Over the weekend we celebrated Zak's birthday. His fifth birthday, but his first one with us. He has been talking about his birthday cake for months so to say he was a little excited would be an understatement. 

We also celebrated the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival with cupcakes instead of moon cakes. We hung lanterns in our trees and enjoyed a beautiful September evening with family. The moon festival has an element of thanksgiving in it, I have heard it called the Chinese equivalent of our American Thanksgiving holiday. 

It is one of my favorite Chinese traditions that we have attempted to make our own. I think you would agree ANY reminder to give thanks is a good thing. And while the Chinese technically thank the moon, we chose to thank the Creator of the moon instead. 

He has given us a lot to be thankful for which was abundantly clear as we celebrated a little boy and the amazing gift of family.

We thank you, O God! We give thanks because you are near.
    People everywhere tell of your wonderful deeds.

Psalm 75:1

Friday, September 13, 2013

Riding the Short Bus to School

Her preschool bus was a “short” bus, but that was different because every preschooler rode it. When the short bus came to get her on her first day of Kindergarten, it was another story. She was disappointed because she thought she was going to ride the “big” bus with her siblings. Her disappointment, in turn, triggered worry in me. 

We live in a culture that is way more focused on the outward stuff than the inward. I am a product of my culture. I make snap judgments of people based on their looks. Sometimes I want to become friends with someone (or not) based solely on how high I perceive their coolness factor to be. Thankfully Jesus, who is not at all like this, is teaching me to be more like him, but looking past the outward does not always come naturally. So the worries come when I think of my daughter and her very outward special need interacting with kids who are also a product of our culture.

When I look at Suhn, I see her special needs. They are hard to ignore. I am constantly reminded of them when I put on her braces; see her walking or trip over her walker. I see them, but I have no problem looking past them. She is not a SPECIAL NEEDS child; she is a CHILD with special needs. 

When her ride on the short bus first came up, I didn’t question it. My brain doesn’t work like that. I accepted the fact that she needed help on and off the bus, and that it would be more difficult for a traditional bus to cater to that need. But, when she had her first ride on the short bus, my brain started working. I questioned the decision and the potential stigma it might create.

I still question it, but the reality is it’s not about the bus. Not really. There have been times in the past when a child has made a comment about Suhn that could be hurtful. Thankfully, Suhn has been largely unaware of these types of comments, but I know the day is coming when that kind of talk or attitude will be heard and will hurt. The older she gets the more aware she will become and the more aware her peers will become. I think the start of Kindergarten and her mode of transportation made that day feel closer.

It also brought up questions. When kids see her on the playground at recess will they ignore her because she can’t keep up? She doesn’t have a lot of choice where she sits at lunch, will others seek her out or leave her alone?

We try to be proactive when the questions come. We talk to Suhn about her gift of friendliness and how she can use it. We talk about how if new-to-her kids sit by her at lunch, it is an opportunity to make a new friend and encourage her to look for kids at recess who might need a friend to play with.

Most days, it is easy to keep the worries at bay. Especially when my excited giggly girl gets off the bus telling me all about her day from the moment she lays eyes on me.

But like all moms know, those fears are still there even if they lay dormant for awhile. I don’t want her to get hurt. Especially over something like how she gets around. It’s such a little difference. 

So when the worry creeps in, I am trying to use it as a trigger to pray. To pray for kids who can look past the outward. To pray she will develop strong friendships with those who do. To pray she will use her gift of friendliness to glorify her Creator (she already does!) And to pray that if the hurt does happen, it will not tear her down but will instead build character and strength in both of us.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pre-Cut Slices

About a month ago I began rummaging through Money Saving Mom's website. Not so much for the money-saving ideas THIS time, but for freezer recipes. I was motivated and ended up making and freezing breakfast burritos, waffles and banana bread. I also made up a batch of homemade baking mix (to replace the Bisquick I normally buy).

(I know that all sounds very Betty Crockerish and maybe even a little Proverbs 31ish. Don't let that one paragraph fool you. My motivation to do more is already waning - after one batch of each- a month ago- and while I would like to say I will soldier on...   we'll see. Although the finished products have come in handy, and it really doesn't take that much time... .)

Anyway, through that perusing, baking and freezing process I stumbled upon a fun little tip. One that most of you will probably think something along the lines of "really, that's your tip, so obvious."  But hey, this is my blog so I'm going to share it anyway.

The tip was this, after you make a batch of banana bread, cut it into slices and THEN freeze it. That way, when you need to, you can pull out a pre-cut frozen slice, stick it in a school lunch, and your kiddos can have a little bit of home-baked goodness for lunch. OR, you can pull out a pre-cut frozen slice, stick it in the microwave for a few seconds and YOU can have a little bit of home-baked goodness.

Revolutionary, I KNOW!

Or maybe not, but either way, it works for me. :)

And since we are on the topic of school lunches, do you have any tips/ideas? If so, PLEASE share!!

Monday, September 09, 2013


If you read my blog you know I love books. You also know I periodically write book reviews for books I've read.

At the risk of sounding abrupt (it all fits together in a minute)...

Have you heard about goodreads?

Goodreads is a social networking site for readers, book lovers, etc. It is a place where you can share the books you are reading and what you think about them. You can join book clubs and discuss books with other readers. You can follow what your friends are reading. You can get recommendations for future books to read.

It is a fun site. (at least I think so)

I periodically write book reviews on my blog. I am more consistent (and typically more concise) at writing reviews on goodreads. Brace yourself for a little self-promotion, if you enjoy my book reviews, friend me on goodreads. I typically read a variety of books ranging from kids lit (one of my favorite genres) to self-helpish type books to novels to classics. Whatever piques my interest and keeps it.

There you have it. Goodreads. Come on over and join the fun.

But, while you are here, why not leave a comment answering one of my favorite questions:

What are you reading and do you like it?

Friday, September 06, 2013

How Far Can Riches Take You?

"How Far Can Riches Take You?," the e-mail asked along with a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio as The Great Jay Gatsby.

If you have read the book, I think you would agree it gives an honest answer to that question. Even a Biblical answer. The Bible tells us that the "love of money is the root of evil." In the story of Gatsby, it certainly made people miserable, although its hard to tell if they ever realized the root cause. Daisy couldn't seem to escape from its grasp.

I think that question is one of the (many) reasons I love Fitzgerald's Gatsby. Let's face it, the lure of money is a temptation for most of us living in America's abundance. Even a glimpse of lavish wealth can make us discontent. Or at the very least curious, feeding our fascination with Hollywood and the rich and famous. A fascination that is a waste of time.

Gatsby exhibits lavish wealth of the highest order. He incites the curiosity. He has almost everything he could ever want. In the end, even extravagant riches couldn't get him what he wanted and so much appears to be wasted.

I wish I was immune to the fascination with riches. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I live with an attitude of thanksgiving for what I have. Sometimes I live in the moment taking in the lavish blessings of the life God has given me. Those are the times when peace and contentment have an easier time sticking.

But other times, I find myself wanting more. Prestige, wealth; it all looks so alluring. Its a mirage that promises it will take you far, only to lead you further and further away from the things that really mean something. In the end, the pursuit of riches for where they can take you is a waste of time and even worse, a waste of life.
"She's got an indiscreet voice," I remarked. "It's full of--"
I hesitated.
"Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.
That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money--that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it...High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl...
-Taken from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Chicago Style Pizza - Homemade

I am not a gourmet cook. I like simple recipes that are relatively quick to pull together. Once I find a recipe I like, it will find its way to our meal plan with regularity. This is one of those recipes. 

It is one of my favorites for homemade pizza. Kory and I both love it. Our kids not so much, but lets face it one pizza won't cut it with our family so that is an easy work around. The other plus is that there are always leftovers for us to enjoy later!

I found this particular recipe in my Taste of Heaven cookbook. Go here to find out how you can purchase one; the purchase benefits Lifesong for Orphans, a win-win.

Here is the recipe:

1 loaf (1 lb.) frozen bread dough, thawed (I use Rhodes whole wheat and thaw it in my 9x13 pan)
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
2 c. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced (as a non-mushroom lover I omit these)
1 sm. onion, chopped
2 t. olive oil
28 oz can diced tomatoes, drain well
3/4 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. fennel seed, crushed (I omit this too simply because I never got around to buying it)
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated

Press dough into the bottom and up the sides of a greased 13x9-inch pan. In a large skillet, cook sausage until no longer pink. Drain. Sprinkle over dough, then top with Mozzarella cheese. In a skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in oil until oil is tender. Stir in tomatoes, oregano, salt, fennel and garlic powder. Spoon over Mozzarella cheese; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 for 25 to 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Do you have a favorite homemade pizza recipe? Please share!

Monday, September 02, 2013

An Afternoon at the Big House

Last summer I had the opportunity to check an item off my bucket list, an experience I won't soon forget. This summer tickets for an item on Kory's bucket list fell into our laps at the last minute. 

So Saturday morning Kory, Simon and I found ourselves on a road trip to The Big House in Ann Arbor Michigan, home of the Michigan Wolverines.

Kory has been a Michigan football fan for as long as I have known him. It used to baffle and annoy me. As a loyal Illinois fan, Michigan was the enemy. But marriage has a way of changing a person. I went from rooting against Michigan, to being a neutral observer and somewhere in the past year or so the beginnings of Michigan fandom started to take root. 

Kory on the other hand is passionate about his Wolverines. So when he was given three tickets to opening day at the Big House, we had to go. We planned to arrive for the game an hour before it started, but crazy traffic in Gary, IN, a torrential downpour on the Michigan border and long lines at Burger King had us running into that legendary stadium just as the ball was kicking off.

I have been to my fair share of stadiums over the years. Baseball, tennis, basketball and football. I think most sports aficionados would agree there is something special about walking out into a stadium for the first time. Leaving the darkness of the stadium's underbelly, through the tunnel, spit out to take in the vista of brilliant colors of field and fans laid out before you.  

I remember the first time I went to Wrigley Field, or the first time I took in Soldier Field. Awesome experiences, but none of them came close to walking into the Big House for the first time. 

The green of the field surrounded by the masses dressed in Michigan maize and blue. The energy and atmosphere. The heat and camaraderie of over 100,000 passionate fans (and Michigan fans are among the most). It was a moment worthy of any bucket list and while it wasn't officially on mine, it should have been.

It was a great day. The weather settled right at 80 degree with a cool breeze. Michigan couldn't stop scoring and at the end of the game we were able to go down by the field to watch the players head into the locker room. 

And then it was time to head home. Over twelve hours of driving for 3 hours of experience. Bucket list items are worth a little crazy. This one was. In fact it is a trip we are hoping to repeat. 

Kory's not the only Michigan football fan in our family anymore and we have five other kids we hope someday will get to spend an afternoon at the Big House.