Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Love - Hate Relationship with Scary Movies

Posted by Mandy at 12:45 PM 2 comments Links to this post
I have always enjoyed a good scary movie. Why? I have no idea. I spend most of the duration hidden behind a blanket, curled up beside Clayton hiding my face in his chest, or asking, "Oh my gosh..why did we rent this?!" It's like a bad accident that you don't want to look at but can't help but stare.

The latest "why did I do this to myself" movie we rented was last week, "A Haunting in Connecticut". I had watched the family talk about their experiences in that house on the "A Haunting" show that comes on TV... so I think that made the movie extra spooky.

It was a good one, but scared the living daylights out of me. It was just scary, creepy, and sinister... all of those "ack!" adjectives all rolled into one.

Once the movie is over is when the real horror begins for me. You know, when I have to wake up to find a pacifier for a 2 year old at 2am (yes.. my two year old still has a paci.. different post - different day) and on the walk back, through the dark hallway, I just KNOW that a scary dead boy is going to jump out from behind the bathroom door and grab me. I feel like I used to when I was a small child and I'd run and jump on my bed at night to avoid stepping beside "underneath the bed"... because I also knew then that a monster lived under there and would love nothing more than to grab my ankles before I could climb upon the mattress. (I actually did hide under my sister's bed once and grab her ankles and scare her like crazy... good times...)

This week I've had to force myself to sing some stupid Wiggles song or count backwards from 20 on the walk back to my bedroom to avoid letting my mind run wild. Who would've thought that, even as an adult, your imagination could get the better of you? Once mine starts wandering.. that's it. I'm awake! Every noise I hear is a sure sign of poltergeist and every pop or sigh of the house is definitely a ghost trying to make contact. You should've seen me nearly run away the other night when Ava (our dog) snuck into our room unnoticed and proceeded to shake her head a bit (as German Shepherds often do... ) and I just knew that something was in my room!

You would think that this experience, just like all the ones in days past, would prevent me from watching scary movies.. but I suppose I'm just a sucker for punishment. What is it about scary movies that keeps us crazy people coming back for more?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Healthy Lunch #2

Posted by Mandy at 1:07 PM 3 comments Links to this post
Just like the last lunch idea, this one is super fast, easy, and HEALTHY! If you're trying to watch your weight, struggle with conditions like diabetes, or just want easy and healthy ideas for feeding your family, here ya go! This is one of our favorite hot-day lunches. Wraps!

Our favorite healthy wrap includes:

-Flatout brand WHEAT flat bread
-Organic Romaine lettuce
-Organic celery
-Organic carrots
-Bell Pepper
-2% American Cheese
-Sliced Turkey
-Ranch Dressing (not pictured)

In our house, we have two kinds of wraps made with these ingredients. Madison's favorite: The Veggie Wrap.

I simply peel a carrot's skin off and then continue to peel the rest of the carrot onto a plate. Then I thinly slice a celery stick, chop some Bell Pepper, and break off a couple of lettuce leaves.

Pile it into an open piece of flat bread and drizzle on a bit of ranch dressing. (I use fat free for mine, regular for the kids'... remember, kids NEED FAT for brain development! HEALTHY FATS!) Roll it up, slice it for easier eating, and serve with your choice of healthy sides!

Here is Madison's plate. Today our sides were sliced strawberries (it is the perfect time to buy strawberries! They are fully ripened and on sale in most stores.) and blueberry yogurt for dipping the strawberries. This is an amazing source of all kinds of vitamins, minerals, protein (from the whole grains in the flat bread and the yogurt), and calcium!

For my own wraps, I like to throw some turkey breast into a nonstick skillet. (nothing added) I simply brown it up for a minute or two, melt 1/2 a piece of sliced cheese onto it, and throw it into the flat bread. Then I pile on lettuce and bell peppers for flavor. (I also like to cook onion strings with my turkey if I have it.. yum-o!) My sides of choice were sliced strawberries and celery and carrots with a side of fat free ranch dressing.

This was A LOT of food. The kids can typically only eat one half of a wrap (so it's a cheap and very healthy meal!) and if I eat a whole one, I'm full for hours! This meal is basically free of all empty calories. Your body can use nearly every single thing you ingest with a lunch like this! You will feel full, not bloated and yucky, after eating something like this.
Hope you give it a try and let me know how your kids (and husbands!) react! Healthy eating does not have to be expensive or a ton of work. You can do it!

Kids' Favorite Healthy Lunch

Posted by Mandy at 6:35 AM 1 comments Links to this post
When thinking of what healthy lunch options to post, I knew I had to do fast, easy, kid friendly ideas. This one is super simple, quick, and one of my kids' favorites! What kid doesn't love pasta?

To make any pasta dish healthy, simply substitute refined white pasta for whole wheat pasta. My favorite brand is Heartland. It is much softer, smoother in texture, and more like white pasta than any other wheat noodles I've tried. (and I've tried them all)

Simply boil the pasta in water - simple! (my kids love angel hair pasta best!)

While the pasta is boiling, I take organic baby carrots and slice them in half to make for even faster cooking. Though steaming is the healthiest cooking option for veggies, I admit to boiling my carrots. I've never been able to steam a carrot and make it come out right.

**I buy organic whenever possible.. especially veggies that I am not peeling. Hard to find many in this town, but the selection improves over time.

The other veggies (typically broccoli, sweet peas (or sugar snap peas), and any other vegetable I have in the freezer) I put into my Pampered Chef microwave steamer. This thing rocks! If you don't have a steamer, no problem! Put them into a microwavable glass bowl with a bit of water in the bottom (about 3 tablespoons), cover and microwave.

It all cooks in about 15 minutes. Super fast and super HEALTHY! I also cook boneless, skinless chicken breast in a skillet (just spray skillet with nonstick spray, season chicken, and cook. No oil, no butter) and add it to this dish. All of my chicken was frozen this day and I was too hungry to wait for it to thaw.

Even without the chicken, the whole wheat pasta is a great source of protein. (7g per serving.)

If you really want to get healthy, and get your kids healthy, a dish like this is a really fast and easy way to start! I simply put a bit of salt over the top of each dish of food before I pass it out. No butter, no oil, no nothin'. This is a great way to start shedding pounds, gaining energy, and gaining HEALTH.

**Got kids that hate veggies? Sprinkle them with a touch of sugar before cooking to bring out the natural sweetness. Gradually use less and less as they begin to eat them.
**Remember, it can take 10 times of introducing new foods to kids before they even taste them! Keep offering, keep trying!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Staying on the Fitness Track

Posted by Mandy at 2:07 PM 5 comments Links to this post
The past several weeks have been pretty tough on me when it comes to eating right and exercising. For me, the two go hand in hand, and without one, I struggle to do the other.

With a big part of my business being dog walking, I was walking several miles a day with clients' dogs when I suddenly found myself injured. I have had trouble off and on with a tendon in my left ankle flaring up when over worked, and boy.. did it flare up! For about one week I could barely walk at all, and after two weeks I was finally barely limping on it. Now, four weeks later I've rested a lot and am feeling much better.

Along with physically being off the exercise band-wagon, my healthy eating went right out the window, too. As I said, I struggle to do one without the other. After a solid month of not watching my food very closely and not exercising (other than lifting light hand-weights a few days a week) I found myself up about 3 pounds. Ugh... it's so easy to put on.. so hard to take off. Not only did I gain a few pounds, but I felt so tired, sluggish, and even moody! It's amazing how exercise can lift our spirits and how eating well can boost our energy. The opposite definitely proves true, as well!

So, here I am getting back on track. My ankle is healed and I started today with a great oldie but goodie workout - The FIRM. Oh how I love thee... I feel healthier already! I'm drinking a ton of water to help my body flush out all of the junk I've poured into it and am having to hold myself back a bit. I'm so eager to be back to my regular daily activities.. but I have to go slowly to avoid hurting myself again.

I'll post a few of my favorite healthy lunch plans and snacks soon - I was asked to do that by a few people several months ago and I miserably failed at doing so. This time, I'm on it!

Is anyone else finding themselves having to get motivated to stick with a healthy lifestyle?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

16 and Pregnant

Posted by Mandy at 12:23 PM 5 comments Links to this post
Some of you have probably seen this intriguing new show on MTV, 16 and Pregnant. The name tells it all. The show is all about teen couples (or at least the girls) that find themselves young and expecting and the trials they go through in deciding, "what's next?"

Today I finally got to watch an episode I had missed last week. It featured two really stand-up teens that decided adoption was the best choice for their baby girl. Watching them struggle with their decision and decide to go through with giving their newborn to their chosen couple at the end was a huge mixture of heart-wrenching pain and joy. Pain for obvious reasons. The biological mom and dad had immense grief after their daughter was born and they physically handed her to the adoptive parents. I cried with them; I cried for them. My heart broke into a million pieces putting myself into those shoes.

Joy came, as well. Joy for the adoptive parents. They had been trying for their own children for years with no success and now they were being given the most amazing gift they could ever receive. To see them snuggle that baby girl and look at her with such amazement... truly wonderful!

Joy also for another reason. Here were these two "young kids" dealing with a huge adult decision. They were both mature enough to see that they could not offer their daughter the life they so much wanted her to have. With unstable families on both sides, they knew they had little resources to draw from if they were to keep her. Though it so obviously broke them inside to let her go - it made my heart fill up to see them do such a selfless act in order to provide for their child in the best way they knew how.

The last reason I loved this episode is because I pray it brings HOPE. Hope to a young girl that finds herself pregnant and is weighing all of her options. Hope that seeing this couple nurture this baby while she was inside of her mother and then continue nurturing her by giving her to a loving home will help another teen mom choose life and adoption. Hope that the choice of adoption will more often be spoken of and considered by those unready to raise a child.

Teen pregnancy is such a platform issue for me being a teen mother once myself. Now that my own children are getting older and "easier" I am eager to begin volunteering at our new Hope Resource Crisis Pregnancy Center. I pray that God uses me up on this issue! I would love to bring hope to those with no hope, to be an example of how you can really make it work, and how it doesn't have to ruin your life. Just the opposite! I know my story will not be every teen mom's story, or possibility, but so many could do it if given the proper support. Without the help of our family and friends, I can't imagine how much harder it would have been having a baby so young. Just having someone to stop by and say,"Hey, you guys are doing a great job!" meant everything in those days. Having someone believe in us, trust us, and see past our ages to the fact that we loved our daughter more than anything! If God puts me in a position to do that for even ONE teen mom (or dad)... I would be forever grateful.

Monday, July 13, 2009

When I Grow Up...

Posted by Mandy at 7:58 AM 3 comments Links to this post

I love hearing the kids talk about what they want to be when they grow up. It's so fun to see their heads spinning with all of the possibilities just waiting for them! I love how their desired careers match up perfectly with their personalities.

Madison is so much like me! She loves animals and has a heart set on rescue. Her goal in life, as of this year, is to be a cat trainer. Yes... she is convinced that she and I can open our own dog and cat training "store" one day. I'll handle the dogs, she'll take over the cats. Sweet, right? She also wants to be a zoo keeper and work with the elephants. She has loved elephants since she was just a small toddler. Occasionally she'll mention that she might like to be a teacher, and a great teacher she would be!

Carter is my dreamer child. He has the wildest imagination and I love it! His career choices vary wildly from astronaut to chef. Of course, he also wants to be a State Trooper like his daddy. His go-with-the-flow personality make it tough for him to settle for any one option or even narrow it down to any one category. He definitely thinks it would be a blast to live in space, except for the "scary aliens."

Samuel is a bit too young to express his desires for the future... but I can't wait to hear what they are!

I can't help but be curious as to what parents think their kids will grow up to do. I know that my parents thought I'd be:

a) a teacher

b) a veterinarian

c) a writer

And, amazingly, I do some sort of variation of all three of these things! I am our church's children's coordinator (meaning I put together curriculum and lesson plans for 2nd grade and down, teach classes, and handle fun stuff, too!); I do dog rescue and deal a lot with animals with the dog training/boarding; and I do freelance writing! (not to mention blogging and such.. all for free for your viewing pleasure. Don't you feel lucky?!) Quite accurate, right?!

Looking at my kids today, this is what I can see for their futures:

Madison - I can really see her starting some cool cat trend. She LOVES cats like I love dogs. I can see her starting the first in town "cat boarding" facility and, who knows, maybe she'll master cat training, as well! I also see her being artsy, either with drawing or writing. She's quite gifted in this area and I hope that she can turn her true passion into something profitable as she grows.

Carter - Who knows! This boy is so silly and all over the place! His laid-back personality would make him a great people person. I can see him being just like his daddy.. though I pray, selfishly, that a career as a cop is not what his dreams are made of. This, however, would probably be right up his alley. He is the kind of kid that needs things to change up regularly. I think as an adult, he'll be the same. Routine is not what makes him thrive. His career, to make him happy, will likely need to be face-paced and different each day.

Samuel - Though he is only two, his personality is quite evident. Charming, convincing, and cool and collected. (unless Mommy says no to his candy requests.) My guess is he'll be a serious people person, as babies of the family typically are. He'll probably make one killer public relations director of a major company one day, or even make a fantastic lawyer. (for the prosecution.. mind you.) He's very aware of everything that's going on, and is typically able to show great self-control and do things above his age level. (thanks to big brother and sister.) We'll just have to wait and see how the years form this kid!

It is so fun to watch how the children change year after year, yet remain amazingly the same. Each of them have the same personality today that they had as an infant. Their ability to express it has just grown! Time will tell what the future holds for each of them.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What Are Daddy's Good For?

Posted by Mandy at 1:24 PM 1 comments Links to this post
Learning to Hit a Ball...

Building race tracks...

Rhino Riding...

Learning How to Hold a Fish by the Mouth...

...and How to Take a Fish Apart, Piece by Piece...

Daddy's are Good for all things Mommies are not.

at least this mommy...

God Bless Daddies!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Getting Out of Debt Part 2

Posted by Mandy at 7:24 AM 3 comments Links to this post
I posted this a little over a month ago, and boy that has been a tough month! I think I've entered the "I'm sick of this and I want to go shopping" phase of getting out of debt. Hmmph. This is hard.

This week, for example, Clayton has training in Little Rock so the kids and I decided to come up to see him. While he's in class all day, the kids and I are at my mom's... so close to Little Rock. So close to shopping, eating out, fun-fun-fun! Thankfully, Nana has a pretty fun house so we're busy here.. but I could really have a good time at Park Plaza right now...

Then, I remind myself of the land I want, the house I want, and all that jazz. Not gonna get it spending money on eating out and new clothes. (working on figuring out a method of shopping that somehow pays off debt...)

Clayton did take me out on the town last night with some good friends and we had a blast. I think it was what we both needed! It's kind of like when someone goes on an insane crash diet, eats way too little and never even has a taste of the junk food they really want, then they go nuts eating 3 times what they normally would have and gain back all of the weight they just lost. I figure as long as we just keep "tasting" spending money and avoid going nuts with it, we'll be able to keep this pace of paying off debt.

It's slow but steady. Every now and then I'll have an exceptionally good month with work and we'll be able to put more towards it, and boy that feels great! Typically, we just keep chopping away at it and hope that we'll get to our "we can look at houses now" goal sooner than later. Patience is a virtue that I tend to lack in this area. If there is anything that God can use to help us learn trust, patience, and contentment, it's paying off debt!!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Room Re-Do Part 2

Posted by Mandy at 4:01 PM 3 comments Links to this post
My bestest friend Lee Ann came over today to help me tackle painting Madison's room! Thank God for good friends because, with Clayton away all week, I could have never done this job on my own! (without killing all of my children and losing my mind, that is.)

So, here are some pictures! The blue painters tape is still up, but the brown paint we chose, to match the pink and brown bedding that's being shipped to us, is all finished! I LOVE it and madison does too! I still need to paint Madison's closet doors white (they're primed and ready at least) and decorations are yet to be found - but this huge job is done! Scroll down a few post to remember what it looked like just a few days ago, vs. today! More pictures to come once it is totally finished.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Happily Ever After

Posted by Mandy at 8:04 PM 2 comments Links to this post
In a few months Clayton and I will be celebrating our 9th anniversary - it's amazing how quickly the years have flown by. He has been my sweetheart since I was 14, and it's been quite an adventure!

Sometimes I think back to those fun and free dating years. When the long distance separating us meant that we anxiously awaited phone calls, emails, and letters in the mail. It broke my heart each Sunday night to kiss him goodbye, as we each drove to our separate destinations. Knowing it would be a whopping 5 days until I could see him again got more difficult as the dating years went by. By the time I was 16, I just did not feel like me unless I was with him. He had my heart.

Fast forward to today. 8.5 years of marriage, three kids, one fish, one cat, and numerous dogs later... life sure has a way of changing things!

Many years ago, I could never understand how a couple could let their children take over their lives. Live for their kids first, and their relationship second. Then, we had more children. Kids simply need a lot, especially the little kind. Me being me... no matter how difficult it was at times, I still loved (and love) almost every bit of it. From the crying infant stage all the way to the 8yr old stage I've reached today - there's yet to be an age that I haven't been completely joyful about. (could do without the 2 and 3 year old tantrums, though...) Being that I'm "one of those women" that truly thrives on the chaos of kids, it's no surprise that I'd simply have a house more full of them if I could. My hubby.. not so much.

Then you hit a crossroads. I want more "one day" and he's done. Wow.. what a tough spot to be in. Neither can help how they feel, neither wants to budge in those feelings. Who wins this battle?

I spent much time in grief over this issue.. my life's desire is to be a mom of MANY children. Since I was a young girl I dreamed of having 4, 5, 6 kids. Shockingly, that dream never went away, even once life's realities hit. (and even when I realized that having a baby does "that" to your body... ugh..) I admit I spent a bit of time feeling angry that I was being asked to give this up for the happiness of my spouse. "Aren't I entitled to my life's desires?!"

Then, I got my head and heart where it should be.. on my knees before my God. I begged, at first, "Please change Clayton!" for this is what God is sadly used to me screaming when I first begin to pray. Then, as the weeks passed, and the conversations were had, and the prayers were continued, I felt God telling me to just "let go." I stumbled upon some old pictures of us when we were dating. I remembered why it was I always wanted to spend my life with this man. Because I love him. I love him. I didn't long to have him as my life's partner because of what he could give to me (kids, money, houses, clothes, happiness...) I longed for him because.. I just did.

Knowing that my loving husband would agree to more children to keep me 'happy' pushed me more to do what was right for our marriage. What was right for him and therefore ultimately right for our family. I "let go." God has it, God has us, God has me and he knows my heart. I realized that a very selfish part of me would take him up on having more kids... but the rest of me realized that it could be life changing in a very horrible way. In a way that I might be putting a happy marriage on the line for a life's dream... and no dream is worth our marriage.

Now, the kids are growing older each day. They are becoming both harder and easier all at the same time. (I think my parents warned me that would happen..) The day in which we can leave them with the grandparents to take a week long trip to "wherever" is closer and closer. More time for us is right around the corner, and has already been started around a year ago. Our one night away trip right now will soon become two, then more. I can really get excited about "dating" my husband again! This is what he longs for. How amazing.. my husband simply wants more of me for him. I am a very lucky woman in so many ways. So very blessed, even though it took me many weeks to see it through my sadness. I am so blessed that God has given me peace and that we can continue to build our marriage more and more and provide our children with an amazing, stable, and loving home.

I hesitated to post something so very personal, but I know I am not alone in such a huge marital decision. Perhaps another woman or man will find something in this post that they can relate to. Perhaps someone needed a gentle reminder of why they married their spouse... for them. In life, we just have to decide to create our own happy endings and our own "happily ever afters..." With Christ's help.. we can find joy in our lives in any situation! He is so great and so good.. he can fill the voids that you can never fill on your own. The voids that you think your spouse, your friends, or your family, (your kids), should fill... and then you can be free to just love! What an amazing gift!

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