Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wanting the Best for Them

Our son in 2008
When my son was three days old, I remember lying awake in bed crying because I was worried and scared. Even terrified. My husband had asked what's wrong and of course the crying became worse as I said, "what if I do something wrong, what if I mess up?" Yes, I was a little hysterical and I had some of the baby blues but I was still scared that I'd not be able to do enough. My husband quickly realized that nothing he could say would entirely make me feel better at that moment so he made my laugh by making a joke. He said he wasn't worried about the now, he was worried about the future, when our son would be a teenager and doing all the things that we did or our friends did. Our poor parents. He was able to lighten my worry but I realized that I would spend the rest of my life trying to do the best I can. 

Summer 2013
Yes there are days that I feel like I'm failing miserably, I'm yelling too much or even I'm sick of hearing myself say "no, stop it." But my son knows he is loved unconditionally and my daughter will too. I tell them often, I show them, and I think hugs are crucial. It's such a simple thing to do, hug your kids. I encourage you right now, to stop whatever you are doing and hug your child. Trust me, they'll love it, they may think you're crazy but they'll still love it, and you will too. A simple motion that packs so much emotion.

We provide for our kids, we give them whatever we are able, but most of all kids want to be loved! They need to know they are loved. Our family is a tougher family, we expect a lot of each other so I try to remember to be patient and remember he's only five years old. But some days tempers flare and kids don't listen all the time, but mine always knows I love him and want the best for him.

Baby Girl 2013
Am I still going to lose my patience, I can almost guarantee it; however, each day is a new day and I will do the best I can for each one of them. Yes, I will still worry, it's part of being a parent. God has blessed my husband and me with two wonderful kids and I want to raise them the best way I know how. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Completed Insanity

Two weeks ago, I finished the Insanity Program and it took every bit of everything I had to complete it. That last week was a killer, I think because being done seemed so close but yet so far away when you popped in the dvd and saw the time it would take to do the workouts you know are tough. But...and here's the big but...I wanted to say that I completed it, I wanted to prove to myself that I could and would do it.

I didn't lose any weight because I just ate worse than normal, which is too say, what you put into your body seriously matters. I do plan to do the program again and I think the next time, I will try to eat right. Or at least better.

So for the past two weeks, I've taken it easy by walking on the treadmill, doing 20 minutes of Pilates, or doing absolutely nothing. I say my body needed a rest but I just wanted to rest. Today, I thought I'd try one of the easier first month exercises and see how well I could do. Let me just tell you, I got a pretty big reality check, it wasn't how well I was doing, it was get your butt moving because you aren't keeping all! Now I didn't think I'd be killing it but I also wasn't prepared for how winded I would be, how exhausted I would be, and how much I would struggle. It wasn't easy!

I haven't decided when I'll try to do the program again but I know it'll be tough no matter what.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

End of Summer Fun

Summer is soon ending and we are trying to enjoy every last drop of it, but we also look forward to autumn, my favorite season. The fall season means cooler weather but still that pretty sunshine with a gentle breeze, the leaves changing colors of bright red and burnt orange, and football, especially college football.

My husband absolutely loves college football, possibly more than NFL and because we've been together for so long, I guess he rubbed off on me. We've started kind of a tradition and each year go to a game, last year we attended a Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Virginia Tech game and Pittsburgh won. The best part when I bought the tickets I hadn't noticed that I purchased tickets in the Virginia Tech section - so glad we won. I even lost my voice from cheering/screaming.

Anyway, this year we received tickets for our birthdays and will go in a couple weekends but last weekend tickets were priced extremely low and on a whim we thought we'd go and take our son. Originally I had planned on taking the baby (3 and 1/2 months) but decided that might not be such a great plan because of the noise. So that meant first real time that momma has been away from her little baby girl. But our son gets dad and mom's undivided attention, aside from the game.

We only stayed for the first half but it was worth it to take him to the stadium, see the game, and to get lunch. I think the pizza may have been his favorite part. He knows that he won't be able to go to the next game so he decided to build a television to watch the next game and try to see us.

Painting the television he helped build.

***And as a side note - the little baby girl did extremely well with my mom, although she was furious with me for leaving her. She made pouting faces at me and cried when I picked her up for about an hour after we returned. Momma didn't do as well as she did. :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Un-Stuffed Peppers

What do you do with all those extra banana peppers from your garden? You can make un-stuffed peppers, which actually is so easy and tastes great. Because of the simplicity it's great for a weeknight dinner.

Un-Stuffed Peppers

10 banana peppers, chopped (seeds removed)
1 lb ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (24oz)
1 cup of brown rice, cooked
1 cup of shredded colby jack cheese
pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Brown ground beef, drain fat and return to pan. Add garlic and peppers to pan. Season generously with pepper. Then add in spaghetti sauce. Mix and add in rice along with 3/4 cup of cheese.

Grease a 13x9 baking dish.

Pour mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and place in oven for 20-25 minutes.

*Serve with garlic bread.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Little Garden, Lots of Work

I've posted before about our little garden and how well it was doing, which I am still thankful for but it has been quite a bit of work. I'm a little in awe of people who have large gardens, or even medium sized ones.

Now, I know we didn't have fields of corn but I made about 20 dozen ears of corn. Whether we ate it (probably 5 dozen), froze it, or put it into dinner recipes my husband husked and I made it. So I do consider that part of our gardening.

Freezing green beans too many times to count, canning banana peppers which I did again today, and canning chili sauce twice, well I was sick of our great little garden last week. I know during late fall and winter I will love taking something out of our freezer or off our shelves instead of buying at the grocery store but I had no idea the time it takes. I don't mind the work, but it takes a ton of time...especially freezing corn.

I need to give a great big round of applause to people who have medium or large gardens. I can't even imagine how much time and effort they put into it, I know it's a lot and I just think it's great. Congrats to you!

Basic Garden Vegetable Beef Soup

Anytime we start to get autumn-like weather, even if it's only for a day, my husband begins to ask for homemade vegetable soup. I always try to make a lot so I can freeze it and don't have to make it more than three times a year. It's really easy to make but it takes some time. With our green beans from the garden and fresh corn, I figured it was the perfect time to make soup, even though the weather isn't exactly cool enough to eat soup.
Diced potatoes cooking.

Basic Garden Vegetable Beef Soup

2 1/2 lbs sirloin roast, shredded (reserve 1 1/2 cups of beef stock)
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes (or use tomatoes from your garden)
2 cups red potatoes, diced and cooked (reserve 1 1/2 cups of water from potatoes)

2 cups fresh green beans
2 cups fresh corn (cut from cob)
Adding in fresh corn. 
1/2 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 cup peas

Place sirloin roast with 2 cups water in a crock pot (in the morning). Cook on low for about 6 hrs. or until you can easily shred with a fork. (I cut away all of the fat I can and season with salt and a generous amount of pepper before placing in crock pot.)

In large soup pot add crushed tomatoes and green beans. If you use fresh beans out of the garden they will need to cook just a little longer so I add first and cook for about 7 minutes. Add potatoes, corn, carrots, and peas. Stir and then add the beef stock and starch water to your desired consistency. Add in shredded sirloin and simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

5 Easy Steps for Freezing Corn

Everyone in our family loves to have corn on the cob for dinner, actually I could eat it most nights for dinner, but they don't like to have it that often. My husband's grandparents have several fields of sweet corn and normally I go to their home and spend the day with them freezing corn for the fall and winter. This year, with two little ones, I thought it might be better to stay home and try to freeze several dozen. Might just be a little too much chaos for the great-grandparents and I can also do it on my own time and not feel bad if I have to stop because someone needs nursed. They gave us about eight dozen ears of corn and while my husband husked it, I came inside to get my stations set up and my large pots of water boiling. Everyone seems to have a slightly different method but mine is copied straight from my grandma. (She is such a wonderful person and she's been doing this for years, so of course she would know what's best.)

The first thing you need to do is husk all of your corn, within a day or two of picking or buying from a trusted vendor, so it's definitely fresh. I have never purchased corn on the cob from a large grocery store so I can't speak to how fresh this can be.

1. Boiling Station
Boil one or two extra large pots of water. Once the water is boiling, carefully place as many ears as you can into the pot. Boil each batch for about 6-8 minutes, when you start to smell the corn or when the corn becomes a brighter shade of yellow, remove each ear with kitchen tongs.

2. Cooling Station
Lay corn on a wooden cutting board or in a pan without stacking the ears so each one can cool just a little before you need to hold and cut - your hands will thank you.

3. Cutting Station
I suggest using a glass casserole dish and a very sharp knife to cut off the kernels. Place a corn ear in the center of the dish, holding upright with your left hand. Take the knife in your right and cut downward into the pan, cutting as much corn off the cob as you are able. Be careful not to cut into the cob and if this is your first time cutting corn, you'll become much better with each one.

4. Loose Corn Station
After cutting several ears and your dish is full, transfer loose kernels into a large bowl. You'll need to do this many times but it will make your job much easier than stopping after several ears to place corn into freezer bags and then returning to cutting kernels. It's also less messier to do it the way I have suggested.

5. Bagging Station
Once you have all of your corn cut and placed into large bowls use a measuring cup to put corn in freezer bags. Use your own judgement in distributing but for 2 adults and a 5-year old, I place 2 1/2 to 3 cups in each bag.

Now all you need to do is clear out room in your freezer for the bags. When you decide to use a bag in the fall or winter, (or in my case - about a week) pull out of your freezer and heat. It's so nice to have corn like this instead of canned corn.

Do you have your own special method or do you add butter or sugar? Please share your methods or steps by commenting on this post. Thanks!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Public School vs. Private School Controversy

Last week I was reading an article that was posted to Slate written by a woman that chose to call people that send their children to private school "bad people." I first came to this article through a blog post that gave a high level summary of the Slate article by Allison Benedict, and it was this post and the comments that followed that really made me wonder which side I feel is more legitimate. Not are you a bad person if you send your child to private school but is her reasoning sound and where do I stand. 

The comments on the paraphrased blog post leaned to how beneficial the private schools are and slammed back at the bad people remark. Several comments included that the parents chose to work in order to send their kids to private school because they received a better education; they weren't rich but worked in order to give their kids any advantage they could. Isn't that what we all want, for our kids to have advantages we didn't and we want the best for them?! Of course, so if you want to send your child to a private school because of a better education, because of religious values, or because of your own specific reasons then why does that make you or me a bad person?! Well it doesn' least not it my book.

Benedict's article makes the statement that a parent that sends their child to a private school over a public school is "...ruinging-one-of-our-nation's-most-essential-instiutions-in-order-to-get-what's-best-for-your-kid bad." She also goes on to say that she believes if you can afford private school (even if you need to scrimp and save) then your child will be perfectly fine at a crappy public school. Mainly because that child will have support at home. Benedict also makes her argument that if everyone invested in their public school with their resources of time and finances that those public schools would no longer be so crappy and it would turn the system around over generations to come. 

I understand her argument, but I was interested to see her background other than what the article provided, she went to a public school that wasn't exactly superior and she turned out fine despite not being challenged in most of her classes but getting through high school and college without too many hiccups. In my own search I discovered that she and her husband both work and quit contributing to their 401K to send their child to a private preschool. (When I did my original search I was only curious to see if she actually had a child or children.) Now could that be wrong, it's possible because I don't know her personally but I found this information out through a basic web search. In my mind to be openly slamming parents that choose to send their kids to private school and turn around and send your child to a private preschool...well you've lost my respect because you didn't admit that up front in your article. 

I went to a public school that was very small, not very well funded, and was probably considered the worst school in the area. However, I went to college and did very well academically, I wasn't prepared at all, but I wanted to do well. I needed to prove it to myself that no matter what I could do it, and I did. Now, my husband went to a private Catholic school for his elementary education and then into public junior and senior high. He would tell you that the private school education was superior and when he went to the public school he was ahead by about three years. 

Right now, our son goes to a private, Catholic preschool that has an exceptional program. (He also went through the preschool program last year but we chose to repeat because he would have been one of the youngest in his class.)  The school begins with their preschool programs and provides education through the 8th grade. From the experiences we had last year, parents I've met, and standards I've seen from the school, I can say it is absolutely exceptional. 

The public school district we live in seems to be good as well. I've not seen or heard that it ranks as high as the private school but I haven't heard bad things at all. I can't comment as much about this school because I just don't know enough. We receive the newsletters, see articles in the paper, and can view their school ranking online but without my child being enrolled, I don't feel I can do the school justice. 

So when next year comes, I'm not sure what we'll do, but either way, I don't feel we are good or bad people based on the school we chose.