Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sun-Dried Tomato Rigatoni with Sausage Meatballs

We had this dish for supper last night.

I seriously would consider this one a guaranteed winner.

This recipe (which I have modified a bit, but originally came from the Kraft Magazine) has become one of my very favorites--it is unbelievably simple (and quick) to make, and everyone in my household gulps it down as if they haven't eaten in days, which thrills me to death.

In the interest of you 'menu-planning' mommas out there--and for Julie, who wants so badly to try, I just know it--I thought I would share!

Sun-Dried Tomato Rigatoni with Sausage Meatballs

  • 1 pkg. sweet turkey sausage (link-style; these actually look like bratwurst and come five in a package. They'll be in the turkey section of the meat department)
  • 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup Kraft Sun-Dried Tomato salad dressing
  • 1 box Rigatoni
  • salt for pasta water
  • onion powder and garlic powder, to taste
  • pasta water, reserved

Begin by bringing a pot of water to a boil.

Heat another large skillet over medium heat.

Take two of the links out of their casing and make them into tiny meatballs. {I like to make mine very small, like about the diameter of a dime or less. They cook quicker; I find that the boys do better chewing them; and there are more to go around in every bite of pasta! You might want to use more meat, though, depending on your family's liking.}

Brown your sausage meatballs on medium heat in your large skillet. You will be adding the rigatoni into this pan later, so make sure you have enough room for all of it in your pan.

When sausage is browned, add the can of tomato paste and your dressing, and combine it all. I like my sauce to be a bit on the thinner side, so I use the full 1/2 cup. Don't go too crazy thinning out your sauce with the dressing, though--that is what the reserved pasta water is for later on!

Season with garlic powder and onion powder to taste. I rarely measure anything, but I think I use about 1/2 teaspoon each.

Turn heat to low, and cover your meat/sauce mixture. Use foil if your large pan doesn't have a lid; it works just as well!

Add a good amount of salt to flavor your now boiling pasta water, then give it a stir. Next, add your entire box of rigatoni.

{Go ahead. Make the whole box. I can almost guarantee that this will be so well liked that the leftovers--if there are any--will be quickly eaten up!}

Cook the rigatoni to al dente, about 10 minutes. Do NOT overcook the pasta!

Turn off boiling water, but do not drain pasta. Using a slotted spoon, add your rigatoni to your sauce/meat mixture. Don't sweat it if some of the water is getting in the sauce, 'cause you need some of it in there anyway!

Once all the pasta is added to the sauce, check your consistency. There isn't going to be a lot of sauce leftover--this isn't a recipe like that. Basically, you should have just enough sauce to completely cover all the rigatoni. If the mixture seems too pasty or thick, simply add more pasta water until it gets to be the consistency you prefer.

Serve with garlic bread and a salad....yummy!!!

Oh, yeah. If you do try it, be sure to let me know how you/your family liked it!

Monday, March 30, 2009

One of the funniest things I saw at Hearts at Home....

Can anyone relate?
(click the picture if you can't see it really well....)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

And, I hope to never see it again.....

When you are driving home from visiting your wonderful family
in the northern part of the state
(i.e. Chicago)
and you are on the interstate, about 10 miles from home
--almost there, almost there--
the last thing you want to look up and see on your
Distance-To-Empty gage is this:

It was un-be-lie-vable.
We were gripping, let me tell you.

I prayed.
Colin prayed.
I prayed again.
God answered.

Thank you, Jesus!!

We made it to a gas station
(after driving on ZERO miles to empty
for approximately two miles)
in the nick of time.

And, don't think we didn't know we were cutting it close--our silly little DTE gage went from

13 miles

to eight miles

to five miles

to zero miles

in about two miles distance. EEK!

We'll make sure not to rely on that little gage so heavily in the future....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Who's who

Remember when you were a little kid, and you always liked to pretend you were someone else?

My cousin Haley and I used to do that all the time while we were watching cartoons--particularly, I recall, with Scooby Doo. We always, always fought over who was who.

"I'm Daphne." I'd say.

"No, I'm Daphne" she'd say.

"No, you're Velma."

"No, you're Velma."

.....whispered, five seconds later.....

"No, you're Velma. I'm Daphne."

Tonight, Colin and Cameron were having the same go-around, and it totally brought me back to those days when Haley and I used to have those tiffs. Except, the boys were fighting over Kung Fu Panda rather than Scooby Doo.

Poor Cameron. Colin wouldn't let him be anybody.

Cameron: "I'm Tigress."

Colin: "You can't be Tigress. She's a girl Cameron. Mommy's Tigress."

Cameron: "Ok. I'm Shifu."

Colin: "No, Daddy's Shifu."

Cameron: "Then I'm Monkey."

Colin: "No, you can't be Monkey. I'm Monkey."

And, before he could even say it.....

Colin: "And, Ethan's Mantis. You can't be Mantis."

Cameron just looked at me, like...."Boy. This is stupid."

Viper was all that was left. And Viper is also a girl.

But it didn't matter. Colin already had determined what needed to happen here, based on some *ahem* genetic similarities between Cameron and one other such character.

"Just be Po, Cameron. You have to be Po......he's the only one with a big belly."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Sweet friends,

If you are not already doing so, please pray for baby Stellan.

Prayers for Stellan

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The *Can-Do* Mom

One of the workshops that I went to at the Hearts at Home conference was called Can-Do Mom.

It was all about: Perfectionism.

Perfectionist? Me? Oh, nononononono.


Quiz: Are you a perfectionist? Answer Yes, Sometimes, or No.

  1. Do I spend time evaluating myself?
  2. Do I think in terms of ALL or nothing?
  3. Do I think I should have my act together by now?
  4. Do I wonder why other people don't have their acts together by now?
  5. Do I have expectations that are unrealistic considering my surroundings?
  6. Is good rarely good enough?
  7. Am I compelled to straighten out misunderstandings?
  8. Will I NOT begin something if I think there is a possibility that I will not do it well?
  9. Do I feel that, most of the time, God is disappointed with me?

If you answered yes to more than three of those questions, you have perfectionist tendencies.


Perfectionist? Me?

Well....maybe so.

{Ummmm--I'm not even going to tell you how many I answered either sometimes or yes to....but that whole 'unrealistic expectations considering my surroundings' one hit me hard. Like, expecting my house to not only be clean but, dare I say, shiny when I have three boys under five roaming around like herds of elephants through it everyday? Hmmmph.}

Truth be told, I know I am a perfectionist.

Duh. That's why I took the class. *snicker*

While it wasn't my favorite workshop, I did glean some good nuggets of information that I wanted to share with any other closet perfectionists who may be reading.

***When we live life obsessed with perfection, we often accomplish less.***

Boy, ain't that the truth?

Let me just use myself as the negative example here: Usually, I am not "happy" in the morning until my kitchen has returned to my definition of a "normal state" after breakfast. However, if I truly examined what I was trying to accomplish in the kitchen, "my definition of a normal state" would more appropriately be called "this kitchen needs to be spotless/perfect again before I can move on and do something else."

Of course, we all know that normally, a clean and shiny kitchen is accomplished about 12 minutes before lunch is about to roll around. And, when lunch rolls around, what happens? Things just get messy all over again.

Argh. It makes me crazy.

But it doesn't have to, and that is the point that I am trying to make.

Imagine what I could have accomplished if I weren't living in the perfectionist world, but rather the realistic one. How much time was devoted to doing something that was just going to get ruined again in no time?

I mean, I can clean up a general mess in the kitchen in about 15 minutes. But making it shiny....well, that takes slightly more effort. *grin*

What I am not trying to do here is excuse myself or anyone else from cleaning or any other chores (sorry ladies); but rather to change my mindset about why I am doing what I am doing and the way I go about accomplishing it.

I don't need to have a shiny kitchen--but a clean one is obviously a necessity. What I need to do is to clean up and get my work done so that I can move on to other, more important things. Like, for example, playing with/reading to/teaching my boys.

After all, we all know the saying that, when we get to heaven, it isn't going to matter how clean our kitchens were or if you could have eaten off of our floors--what will matter is if we made a difference in the heart of a child.

The kitchen is just one example, but I can think of many others in my own life. The important thing in this cleaning area is focusing on the bones of what truly needs to be done, and doing it well, rather than focusing on always achieving perfection, so that, in turn, our focus can be shifted to what really matters.

It's accomplishing the have-to's so we can get to the want-to's.

***We often say yes to too much. Taking on too much will only overwhelm and frustrate us; however, we do it anyway because we don't want anyone to think "She can't handle it...."***

The season of toddlers is an overwhelming season of life--especially if you have more than one roaming your house. This is a time of life when we most likely will need to sit back or sit out of activities. We, as wives and mothers, need to make sure our focus is on making ourselves available for our husband (who generally gets neglected at the end of a day filled with screeching children with numerous demands), our children (quality time, not just time spent fulfilling a need), and most importantly, our relationship with Christ.

Those three things are usually the quickest to end up at the bottom of the proverbial pile when we are taking on too many responsibilities or activities--even good activities, such as church-related or volunteer work.

***Do less, but be more effective. Find a plan that works for you, and follow it.***

Now, our speaker gave the plan she has designed for herself, but the most important thing is to make a plan that works for you and your family. We all have different jobs, needs, kinds and numbers of children, financial situations. Your plan has to work for your family, and that's it. A few of the things she mentioned that I liked and thought would be good to implement in our family:

1. Family doesn't get the "time leftovers". Family time should come first in your scheduling, rather than just being fitted in between the cracks of everything else. This might include anything from family game nights to family devotions.

2. Make one great, home-made meal each week. The rest should still be yummy, but easy and quick! I really liked this one, because I have always tried to make it a point to make special (and not-always-so-easy) meals for my family each weeknight.

Now, granted, we do have our chicken nugget/mac-n-cheese nights every once in a while, but generally, I cook something different every night of the week. I plan a three to four week menu that includes a different dinner for every night, and then I do a big grocery shopping trip and get everything I need all at once.

You heard me right--I grocery shop, on average, once a month.

It is a huge undertaking, but it benefits our family greatly in that I am not at the store (and that translates into less impulse buying!) once or twice or more times each week. It saves money, it saves time, and at any given time during that three/four week period, I know that I can go to my fridge/pantry and have everything I need to make several different meals. We always get a great variety that way.

{Now, before I get questions about this, let me just say that I do have an extra fridge and an extra deep freezer; I also do have to make a couple of quick stops at my local grocery for milk and/or fresh fruits and veggies, since they don't stay good for that long.}

My new plan is to actually keep my same grocery shopping strategy--'cause I love it and it works for us!--but incorporate simpler foods into my menu each week. So, for the week, I hope to plan: one family favorite; one crock-pot meal; one 'home style' meal that takes a bit more effort than normal; and the rest will be easy, quick things that I can have from the fridge to the table in under 30 minutes! I'm loving it already, by the way...

3. Laundry: everyone helps. Even the smallest children can be taught to put clothes in a hamper, and bigger ones can help by taking dirties to the laundry room or sorting whites from darks. Just like with anything else, when everyone pitches in a little bit, the job gets done much more efficiently.

The bottom line is that perfectionists like order and control, and life is just not like that. Life is messy. {Life with a husband and three boys five and under is very messy, by the way.} My wants are not what needs to be at the center of my decision making, but rather what Jesus would want for me and my family!

No one person can always do all the jobs it takes to be a 'great mom'. There will be areas where we are great, but there will be many areas where we are much weaker.

And that is where it all falls back to Jesus: Paul says, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.'" (II Cor. 12:9)

Isn't it wonderful to know that God can use us through our weaknesses?

Yeah....I thought so, too.

{p.s. I'd love to hear any feedback you other perfectionists might have!}

Monday, March 23, 2009

The zoo is more fun the older the boys get

While in Chicago this past weekend, our large extended family all ventured out together to the Brookfield Zoo.

It is a wonderful, very large zoo, and we had a great time with Lynette, Roger, Aimee, and the kiddos!

I love this guy. :-)

The boys peering at the ducks

Joined by Daddy...I love all their matching brown jackets!
Ethan was fascinated!
Cameron, however: "Yeah, yeah. Big deal. I've seen ducks before."

Cameron did like the sloth bear though!

Ethan watching the leopard or "Tai Lung" sleep (as Cameron called him)
They all loved the sea lions.
When I told them the name of these animals, Cameron was quick
to point out that "Those aren't lions, Mommy!"
We went underground to watch for a while...they loved that!

Left to right: Col, E, Cam

Then I was thrilled to take them into the dirty, germ-infested lovely little petting zoo.
The boys rolled up their sleeves and got to work brushing the goats.
"Hey there....what's goin' on? Come here often?"
Ethan showing some early signs of being a close-talker

The boys, under Daddy's instruction, decided to brush the goats
against the grain to give them all mohawks.

E loves animals, and was getting pretty friendly with one particular goat

Why, no, no...,that is not my son tormenting a poor, defenseless goat
by pulling on his ears. He certainly is not laughing while doing it, either.
Why do you ask?

The last shot of the day. We have taken a picture every year with this lion,
but, by this point in the day, the boys had pretty much had it.
Daddy went first, and got this shot:
Mommy went next, and got this one:

Nice, boys. Real nice. Well, my mind's eye got a good picture, even if my camera didn't.
At least I can always count on Colin to give me a great smile!

Great day, great memories. I am looking forward to more zoo trips!

Reesie Peecie is three

Happy Birthday, little princess!
We love you so much....and we can't believe you're already three. Hope your party was great, and your special day today is even more wonderful!
Uncle Shane and Auntie Dev
Colin, Cameron, and Ethan

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Look! In the air! It's a bird! It's a .....

This morning after breakfast, Colin and Cameron were looking out of our sliding glass door.

All of a sudden, Cameron spotted something.

"Look Colin!" he shrieked. "It's a spaceship! Ka-chow!!"

(That's his word when he's really excited, by the way.)

Poor Colin just dashed his excitement right into nothing when he said,

"Oh Cameron....it's not a spaceship. It's probably just an airplane. We don't get too many spaceships 'round here."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Slower than normal AND a funny

You are going to have to just hang in there with me for a few days.


Please? Please would you hang in there with me for a few days? Yes, that's better. (I most certainly forgot my manners for a moment there, did I not?)

I have so, so much that I want to share from the Hearts at Home conference, but:

  • my laptop is still on the fritz
  • my desktop is more ancient and slower than ever
  • it is supposed to be in the 70's here the next several days, and that will mean much time spent outside and not inside near this antiquated ol' computer
  • I am still processing everything that I learned and trying to figure out how I want to go about posting it all
  • *and trying to figure out when I will have the time*
  • I have a million and two things I still need to catch up on from being gone

So, please, would you hang in there with me? I promise to be back shortly.


Until then, I shall leave you with a "funny" from my sweet-and-not-at-all-gross firstborn son:

Colin, coming into my office (after he had been put to bed for the night):

"Mom.....I need your help. I have a giant, giant boogie in my nose."

(Now, might I say, that this is actually a big step for him. We are currently working on not getting boogies out with your finger *shudder*, but instead using a Kleenex; so the fact that he got out of bed to ask for my help rather than extricating the boogie on his own is a definite step in the right direction. Ah, the things that make us proud as mothers....)

Me: "Oh, boy. Well, do you need me to go get a Kleenex and help you blow your nose?"

Colin: "Well....actually, this one is so big, I think we might need to go and get the Tweezers."

*And, if you're wondering....the Kleenex managed just fine.*

Saturday, March 14, 2009





Here on




The conference was amazing....so, so much more to come!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hearts at Home

Tomorrow, I am headed off to a conference!

I'm very excited. I've been to lots and lots of conferences before, but they have all been work related--PartyLite work, that is.

I say, "but they have all been work related" as if this conference is not work related; but, truly, for me, it is. It is intrinsically related to my most favorite 'job' of all--being a wife and a mommy.

The mission of Hearts at Home is to encourage, educate, and equip women in the profession of motherhood. What could be better than 48 hours of girl time, learning how to be a better wife and mother?

In my book, not much.

Well....maybe sitting in an Italian Ristorante gorging myself with eating authentic Tuscan cuisine with my Hubby sans children while on an exclusive 2-month cruise of the Mediterranean....

"This is the night.....it's a beautiful night....and they call it Bella Notte....."

Name that movie. $250 in Merritt Money.

{Hello? Would someone get this woman back on track please? Sheesh. How easily I am distracted....}

In the *ahem* real world, not much could be better than increasing my knowledge of these two subjects that I am so passionate about.

So, tomorrow morning (at 5:15 a.m., no less--ACK already on the lack of sleep!!) I am headed off with six of my good friends. The Man of the House will be caring for the Little Men of the House, and I will miss them all dearly.

{I wonder if they will miss me? I wonder--with the loads and loads of fun that will be had--if they will even know I am gone? *giggle*}

I can't wait to come back and hopefully share some of the things I learned with many of you other mommies.

Talk to you in a few days--have a MAH-velous weekend!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Colin has recently become fascinated with the Bible character Samson. (If you don't happen to know the story of Samson, you can click that link for a very quick synopsis of his life.)

He asked me to tell him the story one day....and he just sat in utter disbelief as I described Samson and the incredible strength that God had given to him. As soon as I finished telling him the story, he asked:

"Mommy, can you tell it again?"

So, I told it again.

"Mommy, can you tell it again? Please? Puh-lease?!

So, I told it one more time.

Colin just thinks Samson is the coolest.


Today, in the car on the way home (and completely out of nowhere), Colin said to me:

"Mom, someday, when Grandma Jane dies....she will get to see her daddy up in heaven!"

I was a bit taken aback at that statement. We do talk about dying and heaven freely around here, so it didn't really surprise me that he had asked about either of those things; it did surprise me, however, that he had put two and two together to realize that when Grandma MJ went to heaven, she would see her daddy there. We hadn't really ever discussed that aspect of heaven before.

But I took that opportunity right then and there to begin that discussion.

"Colin, do you know who else we will see there?"

"Who?" he asked me.

"Well....we'll see Jesus there."

"Yep. I know that." Apparently he has it down pat that both God and Jesus live in heaven. So, I moved on.

"Do you know who else we'll see? Moses!"

"Moses!!" he said.

"Yep. And, Noah, and...."

And, before I could finish naming off a few more familiar Bible characters, Colin said:

"Oh, Mommy. Do you know who I want to see in heaven? I want to see Samson! I'm going to take off my shirt and show him all of my huge muscles!!"

*I'm still dying over this one....*

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ever get lost in the music?

So do my kids.

We love music around here, and the boys have just recently discovered Daddy's Ipod. They love to sit and put the earbuds in their ears and listen for long, loooooonnnnnggg periods of time.

It really is pretty funny--to see a three-year-old with an Ipod in his hand.

The other day, I happened to walk into the kitchen and find Colin sitting on the counter listening to music.

And, he wasn't just listening...he was lost in the song. He had no comprehension of what else was going on around him. *giggle*

It was pretty funny--he didn't even know I was there. I ran down the hall, got the camera, and came back to find him still singing....so rather than snapping a couple of pictures, I hit the record button.

Here's a little taste....oh, and 100 dollars in Merritt Money (which are completely useless anywhere on the planet) if you can guess the song Colin is singing. You can't always make out the words--Colin obviously doesn't know many of them--but when he gets to the chorus they are pretty clear!

{Oh, yeah--and please don't mind Cameron's climbing on the counter pantless mid video....}


Sunday, March 8, 2009

I've discovered....

....that when you go from

blogging on a desktop

to blogging on a laptop

(you know--

blogging from

anywhere in your house

at any time of the day or night

and very speedy-like),

and then your laptop

for some reason one day just

won't turn on

at all,

it is very, very hard

to go back to blogging as often

while being confined

to your office

on your




That is all.

(Hopefully there will be more soon...)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Latest project

I've casually mentioned a couple of times on Facebook that we've been "working" on a new project around here.

My cousin Haley decided that, for her daughter Kaylee's 10th birthday, she was going to give her a new, big-girl bedroom. That meant a complete makeover--new paint, new bedding, new furniture, new lighting, newly reorganized closet (and we know what Shane can do with a closet)--you know, the works!

So, Haley asked Shane to build Kaylee a new bed. It wasn't just any old bed--it was a loft bed, complete with roll out desk and two bookshelves! Then, she asked him to install new lighting, build an entertainment unit for Kaylee's TV and fish tank, and redo her closet!


I'm tired just thinking back on it....*giggle*

Anyway, Shane got to work, and I was even able to pitch in in a few, no-need-for-a-master-carpenter-type ways.

{Yeah.....I painted. So what? Painting takes some skill.....oh, whatever.}

Anyway, the room turned out great. Haley and Kaylee were both more than thrilled, and that was what was most important! Here are a few pictures of the final result!!

Desk in
(you can see the two bookshelves underneath as well)

Desk out! (Oh, yeah...and Shane built that ladder, too!)

Top of the bunk with new bedding
(It is a bit difficult to see--since the bed and the wall that the bed
is on are both the same color--but the bed actually goes up the wall.
You can see where it ends--right underneath all her picture frames.)

Top of the bunk, side view, with desk pulled out

Cute little entertainment unit!

And the finished product, complete with a beautiful new light!

This ensemble just screams "Pottery Barn", doesn't it?

{I want one....}

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Desperately seeking activity

You know it has been a long winter--filled with lots and lots of made-up games--when your son asks you:

"Can I put on my costume and be a dragon for a little while?"

And you say, "Yes"....

And then he asks if he can eat like a real dragon....

....you know, with a bowl that a dragon licks water out of, and 'dragon food'
(a.k.a. pretzels)? And, can he "eat it off the floor like a real dragon would?"

And you say, "Sure...."

And then you spend the next 10 minutes laughing at him as you snap pictures.

I hope Spring comes soon, 'cause I am seriously running out of things to do around here.....