Wednesday, January 1, 2014


How do you try to keep processed foods out of the hands of your little (and big) ones? Between time and money, it is a struggle to keep a balance between the good for you and the tastes good to you.

By time, I mean that you have to 1) search the grocery store for items that somewhat meet your specifications and diligently read all labels. I don't know how many times I have left the store feeling like I found a great deal on some "Healthy" item, only to get it home and realize it still has so many of the things I would like to cut down on. And really, who know what things are ok and what are not. Does Red Dye really make your kids crazy-we all know we don't need anything else getting them wired! (I realize this is a serious matter for many families, and it only complicates things when you know they really like a food but it has red dye, but is it the right kind of red dye, and does it even affect my kids anyway??). That leads to 2) the time you have to spend researching what is/isn't ok to be in your food. Some things sound kind of suspicious but are really fine, and the general rule of thumb is "don't eat anything you can't pronounce," but what if it is the very last ingredient in a long list of suppsedly good things?? 3) and, obviously, there is all the time I spend worrying about what is OK and what isn't...then giving up and taking them to McDonalds!

Which leads to the next struggle: Money!
REAL food costs more money! REAL meat, REAL milk, REAL fruits and veggies. No hormones, organic, no pesticides, all of this costs big bucks. And, honestly, my kids like hot dogs, mac and cheese, etc. and, honestly, so do I. So, decisions must be made. Do we pick and choose, take the good and the bad and hope we come out somewhere better? Do we choose some kind of a middle ground-is there even a middle ground-where everything we eat is a little better, but not quite where we want to be?

I choose to pick and choose. I grew up eating hot dogs,, along with healthy made-from-scratch foods, and sometimes, you just want your kids to eat something that you cook, right! So, here is a list of some of the good, and some of the bad:

Organic milk
Organic apples
quick oats and raisins instead of instant oatmeal "healthy" snacks-a little pricey, but good-may not pan out in the end
Greek Yogurt

Middle of the Road (MOTR)
Skippy Peanut Butter
whole wheat goldfish (kind of a stretch, but it counts in my world)
Real Deal tortilla chips and cheetos (with the $1 coupon they often have on them, they aren't too pricey)
Jennie-O Turkey Dogs
Ground Turkey to replace ground beef in almost every case

Processed snacks-cereal bars, little debbie-type treats, graham crackers, ritz crackers, pre-packaged snacks I can put in the pantry and the kids can get for themselves
Diet Dr. Pepper-for me only, I figure I am just preserving myself while I am still alive
Krave-I just love it, but eat it as snacks instead of breakfast
Frozen Waffles
Frozen Chicken Nuggets

What are some things you do to help your family eat well? What are some things you just don't want to give up on?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why high speed internet won't help an old computer system run better...

Sometimes, despite all of our efforts, some broken things simply cannot be fixed. A Band-Aid does NOT make everything better. Let's say you are still using a computer you got in high school (let's assume you have already had your 10 year reunion).

Let's say it is working pretty well for you as far as typing papers, but for some reason you can't quite figure out how to access that new-fangled thing called the internet.

Let's say you call someone and ask them what you need to do to make your computer get the internet. They will (if they are a computer-literate kind of person) probably tell you something about band-width, download speed, and finally conclude that you need to upgrade to high-speed internet.

Let's say you decide to give in an get this high-speed thing everyone is talking about. You call and have someone come out, convincing you that you need a wireless router, etc. etc. and you lay down a pretty penny for the best package.

Do you think your computer will access the internet? Probably not. You see, I can create a file in Microsoft publisher that takes up more data space that entire computers used in the 90's. No matter how fast your internet access is, you simply will not be able to load a single page onto your computer.

But what does this have to do with the price of tea in China, you ask?  Well, nothing.

But what it does demonstrate is how we often try to fix problems without really ever FIXING THE PROBLEM. This week, voters in Tyler are participating in early voting for a public school bond to remodel some existing elementary schools, the final few schools in the district that have not been upgraded or rebuilt, and to build a new middle school and technology center. At this point, taxes will not be affected because the school can simply use the funds they were using to repay their loans on the previous remodel/rebuilds to do the proposed remodel/rebuild/new builds.

There are those are concerned about the cost, and with this economy, it is a valid consideration. Yes, taxes will not go up now, but eventually, the debt will have to be repaid; however, it is my conviction that we will be paying a much greater price in the long-term future of our children if we do not do something now.

There are those who are concerned about low test scores, and this is also a valid argument. Tyler schools have experienced very low scores in the past few years, but I would argue that if you attended classes in a sub-par, over-crowded school with inadequate heat and air, if you had to brave torrential downpours, snow (ok, not a lot, but from time to time), and scorching heat simply to get from one class to another, all of this might make it a little harder to focus on your studies. If you had to TEACH in these conditions, you might have to spend more of your time making conditions bearable than preparing lessons for your students.

There are those who say that until test scores come up, they won't approve new schools or even remodels.

It is my opinion that if you give students and teachers a place to learn that they can be proud of, a place that is safe, a place they WANT to be rather than HAVE to be, test scores will go up. People are going to rise to the lowest possible expectation. If you tell students that they don't deserve more than a portable, they will respond in kind. If you tell students that they deserve a place with great technology, plenty of space to learn and play, and access to the best education we can offer, they will respond to this as well.

It is my opinion that if you create safe and comfortable schools, many of those who have removed their students because they don't feel the conditions are safe will allow their children to return to public schools, test scores will go up-without any extra effort from the teachers.

Many of you may ask: What's it to you? Your kids aren't even in school yet.

My husband and I have spent a good part of the last year considering where to send our oldest (who will start kindergarten in 2014) to elementary school. We investigated private schools, and while we were impressed with their results, we didn't feel comfortable with our options. We investigated moving to the suburbs, but we truly enjoy living in Tyler, we both work in Tyler, we attend church in Tyler, and most of our friends are here; to move would me a 30-45 min. commute each day.

After much prayer, consideration, and research, we decided to stay in Tyler and give the public school system a try. How will the current bond affect us?

1) We are building a home within a mile of the proposed middle school. Yes, we are very invested in the new bond! Without it, our children will attend a middle school that is half-way across town, was built when their grandmother attended-built in 1930! You can only imagine the conditions that the students are facing in this over-crowded school.

2) Our family will be tied to Tyler for the long-term. We are building our "forever house," meaning that this is the hose we hope to live in for a LONG TIME! We will be paying taxes (and mortgage) on it for a LONG TIME. We are invested in making Tyler a safe and functioning place. With current schooling conditions, I am concerned not so much about my children (I will do whatever I can to give them the best possible education); I am concerned primarily for the future of our city. If we don't spend money creating a great educational system in this city, it will only continue to slide further and further into poverty, with greater dropout rates, higher crime rates, and more people on food stamps, housing, and living off the government.

After spending the last 11.5 years in Tyler working with those in or close to the poverty line, I know that something must be done to change the tide. One school at a time, one child at a time, one teacher at a time.

I am so glad that God doesn't require us to clean up our act before we come to him; instead, when we invite him into our lives, he works from the inside out to improve our character, our attitude, and our wants and desires. We can't and won't do it on our own, but with the Most High God living in us, we can make the changes we desire in our lives. In the same way, with safe and comfortable schools to attend, children will take pride in themselves and their future and I believe we will see our tax dollars at work for something positive (rather than just fighting crime) and test scores increased.

So, while high speed internet access won't fix an out-of-date computer, buying a new computer will work wonders. You simply can't ask a broken and inefficient system to do more than it was designed to do; spending the money to fix the problem rather than simply put a Band-Aid on it will bring positive changes throughout the next generations.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Part Two: 10 Things to Teach My Son

6) "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with one another." Romans 12:18
Going back to the events of this week (the Boson Marathon bombing and subsequent shootout and manhunt), it is clear to me that, while peace is a great goal, there are times when it simply does not depend on you! Whether it is a bully who continually harasses you, a neighbor (or family member) who continually does things purposefully to irritate you,, or a man or group who wants to take away your freedom and/or your life, you can't sit back and do nothing. We have an obligation to stand for what is right; peacefully as long as it is possible. Yes, we need to "turn the other cheek" at times, but when even that doesn't work, we have a right and an obligation to stand against them. However, we better be darn sure we are right before we go attacking someone, verbally or physically, or we can know that The Lord is not going to honor it!

7) "There is a time for everything..." Ecclesiastes
Right now, my son LOVES to have fun-at the expense of his backside, I am afraid. He doesn't seem to understand that there is a time for laughing and laying, and there is a time for being serious. When he is getting in trouble for disobeying, it is NOT OK to laugh at his mom or dad! Then, there are other times when he should just be having fun and playing without a care in the world, but his perfectionist nature keeps him for being content. I know, you are saying, "its just a phase," but that is just a symptom of more serious things. I can see it in his discontent with less than perfection, his incredible desire to make peole happy/laugh, and his all or nothing mentality. It is my goal to teach him moderation in everything-even the simple things-so that when he is an adult, he can find a way to be joyful even when everything is falling apart around him humble when everyone is patting him on the back, and sensitive when someone needs a friend to listen.

8) "He must become greater, I must become less" John 3:30
In other words, It's not all about me! Life isn't always about what you want, where you want to go, what you want to eat, and how you want to live your life. We have to make sacrifices if we want to live a Christ-filled life, and we have to realize that our own wants and desires must take a backseat to God's plan for our lives. The great thing is, if we allow Christ to lead us, our lives will be so much better than we could ever have dreamed-but convincing ourselves of that is the hard part. Taking the first step, no in the direction that WE want to go, but where HE wants us to go, is the hardest part.

Part One: 10 Things I Want to Teach My Son

In light of some of the happenings of the last week, I have been contemplating some of the things that I want to teach my son. Over the years, it seems that so many things have changed-from the way we view ourselves, our relationship with others, our country, and our world. The digital age has brought us closer than ever to the rest of the world, while also bringing a world of problems to our backyard. I think in an effort to make our world ever more efficient, politically correct, and "smarter" we have lost touch with some of the basic aspects of our humanity.

In an effort to get back to basics, I have been thinking of some of the things that I would like to teach my son. Here are a few of the ideas I have come up with:

1) "A man will leave his father and mother..." Genesis 2:24
I don't know about you, but I have always thought it was the woman who left her family to begin a new family with her husband. So, whats the difference? Honestly, does a woman every stop being a "daddy's girl" or going to her parents when she needs advice? A woman is forever connected with her family, not that a man just ignores his family after marriage, but he becomes the head of his own house, and his family is entrusted in his care. The man has a huge responsibility in the family, and I have to be prepared to let my son go, when the time comes (hopefully in a long time, but then again, he has been asking when he is going to be allowed to get married-he is 4, by the way).

2) "Be strong and courageous, do not fear...I will be with you." Joshua 1:6
We live in a scary world. But we can't hide out in our homes and just try to ignore all the bad things that are going on around us. God commanded Joshua, the young leader of the Israelite nation to be strong and courageous. God gave the people of Israel promises of a great land, but it wouldn't come without a fight. Not much in this life comes without a fight. If we seek The Lord in what we do and we are confident that we are fulfilling His plan for our lives, we can be confident in our steps, even when we face giants!

3) "Choose this day whom you will serve...As for me and my house, we will serve The Lord..." Joshua 24:16
There are lots of worldviews going around in our world today. The Pilgrims may have come to America for religious freedom, but I wonder if they knew it would become quite so diverse! As a melting pot, America draws in people from all over the world, and we have to accept that. I don't have a problem with giving everyone the right to make their own choice about their beliefs, but I want to teach my son to stand firm in hs own beliefs. We can't control the actions or beliefs of others, but we can determine to follow God's commands in our own lives.

4) "I (God) desire mercy, not sacrifice." Hosea 6:6
Have you ever read Hosea? What a trip! If you ever thought you had God figured out, think again! It is human nature to want rules to follow (and break), a set of guidelines by which we can judge ourselves and prove ourselves worthy. We want to show that we did more good than bad, so we must be OK in God's sight. Even those of us who know that that isn't the way of The Lord find ourselves justifying ourselves, and often judging others based on the rules we think are the most important. God commanded the Israelites to offer sacrifices for their sins, but it wasn't their sacrifice that saved them, it was their faith in a God who shows mercy. When we look at others, and ourselves, how do we view them-by how they fit into our miniscule view of what God is, or with mercy, knowing that they, like us, come from a long line of sinners who need God's grace. We can't let our own preconceived notions of what pleases God prevent us from truly serving him.

5) "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." 2 Thes. 3:10
It's pretty simple-you work, you eat; you don't work, you don't eat. God put all of us here for a reason, and He expects us to do our part. Now, at times, things happen, and we may ned to rely on the generosity of others to get us through, but even in the midst of crisis, we must prayerfully consider if we are doing all that we can, or are we letting our crisis be our crutch. May I never get in the habit of doing for my son what he is perfectly capable of doing for himself.

What a challenge we have as parents. These little lives that we are nurturing will one day grow up, and they will be leading our country and our world. The lessons that we teach them today will impact future generations. It is both a responsibility and an honor. Let us never stop praying for our children or ourselves!

Monday, February 25, 2013


A few weeks ago, I asked my facebook friends for suggestions for going "clean...." meaning eating less artificial food, hormone-laden food, and generally just healthier food. I got a lot of great suggestions, but also realized that over the last year or two, we have actually made several changes that will hopefully better our overall health. I wanted to share a few of our changes with you; I am working on my challenger for cleaner living, hoping to make one change a month this year.

Here are a few things that we have changed in the last couple of years:
1) Replaced fruit snacks with raisins
2) Replaced white bread (and even wheat bread) with 100% whole grain wheat bread
3) I have learned to make my own laundry detergent (while not necessarily something we eat-YUCK-it is just another way to get rid of "fillers" and get back to basics-plus it is much cheaper-basically soap, borax, washing soda, and baking soda)
4) Replaced ground beef with ground turkey
5) Replacing those packets of instant oatmeal with quick oats and whatever toppings I can find (usually apples or raisins and cinnamon); Still microwaves in 1.5 min.
6)Replacing canned veggies with frozen veggies (there is basically no nutritional value in canned veggies after all the steaming)
7) Replacing white rice with brown rice
8) CROCK POT MEALS-not necessarily healthier on its own, but definitely makes creating "homemade" meals much easier
9) Did you know vinegar, Dawn, and salt can clean just about anything?

The one thing I just can't give up? Diet Dr. Pepper
The change for February? We didn't give candy in our Valentine's, just the plain ole' Valentine. OK, so maybe that was more laziness on my part, but every little bit helps!

Do you have any goals for cleaner living this year? Please share!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Early Work, Part 1

As I was cleaning out my closets this weekend in preparation for a garage sale and came across several stories I wrote in elementary and maybe middle school. I really fancied myself quite the author and had visions of writing chapter books for kids my age! For the next few days, I would like to share some of my stories with you. I have scanned this story (Click here to see the "original.") that I wrote in the 2nd grade. I remember this story distinctly because I lived in a little town named Garrison, TX (just outside of Nacogdoches) and I absolutely LOVED my 2nd grade teacher. I showed her my story and she even read it out loud to my class. I felt so important!

I have typed out the "manuscript" below. As a note, I had a cat named Garfield at the time. Also, I tried to type it exactly as it was written, hence the unusual spelling, as well as the unusual spacing of the "parts.".  I am sure they truly belonged somewhere else, but I didn't want to alter the original!

Let me know what you think! Perhaps I had been reading the following book:

The Space Cat

Part 1
Once long long ago, a cat named Garfild was going to go to the moon. “I don’t have a jet.” Do I have to go all over the world? He asked himself. He could not find a place where he could get a jet. He looked every were. But still he could not find a jet. One dday he was looking around and
Part 2
He saw a jet. He was so happy he jumped and jumped and jumped. He went to see if he could ride on the nest ride. The man said “The next trip is tomorrow. If you would like to go you can. Garfield asked “What time do I need to be here if I want to go. It starts at 2:30 and it colst 1.50.
Part 3
The next day when he went, they would not let
Part 4
 him in. the next time he went they let him in. When
Part 5
It went off Garfield got very scard. He jumped up high. But after that he got selded down. He flew for so long the thought he would never get out of that jet. When he got off
Part 6
The jet, he was so glad that he jumped and jumped. He danced for a hour. He wanted to stay for a week. But he couldn’t. Then he thought a day would be alright. But he couldn’t stay that long, becose if he did his oner (owner) would be sad. So he was going to go home in one minute. When one minute had passed, he went to get in his jet. But he could not find it.
Part 7
He looked down and he saw it floating down. He cryed for help. He cryed so loud someone herd him. So they sent a rockit up to get him. The man that got him said “You broke the worlds reckerd. You were the first thing to ever go to the moon in a jet. Congratulation!
The End

Monday, April 23, 2012

Laundry detergent

In a kick to save money and use pinterest ideas, here is my first attempt at making homemade laundry detergent. I have tried one load with it, including a very dirty swimming suit, and the results look promising.

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