Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Those Burnt Out Light Bulbs...

Years ago, when Dr. Oz was just beginning his rise to fame, I saw him on Oprah. I will now insert the line that everyone I know says right after they say, "I saw it on Oprah": I DO NOT REGULARLY WATCH OPRAH, NOR DID I THEN (MUCH), BUT AS I WAS FLIPPING THROUGH THE CHANNELS I PAUSED AND yada yada yada....

Just as I tuned in, Dr. Oz began talking about stress and its affect on the length of one's life. He explained that there were different types of stress and that some types of stress are actually good for us and help us to be productive members of society. The good stress "helps us meet deadlines and run away from lions." It is the good stress in our lives that helps us hustle to meet deadlines and get pumped up to accomplish the necessary stuff of life.

The good doctor continued saying that "what we usually think of as stress--the daily hassles like deadlines and getting the kids out the door--do not age our brain." That was a bit surprising to me as getting the kids out the door and loaded into the car certainly feels as if it is aging my brain and all of my other parts as well!

It turns out that the dangerous stress in our lives doesn't come from the self-imposed stressors like overwhelming piles of laundry or figuring out what to serve for dinner as the clock ticks 4pm. Those sort of events aren't harmful to us because they are solvable. No matter how stressful the "What's for dinner?" question is at 4 o'clock, odds are that the question will have been answered by 7 o'clock and therefore, the stress is alleviated.

The dangerous stressors in our lives turn out to be THE MAJORS like moving, financial crisis, or a death in the family. The other illness-inducing stressors in all of our lives are the minor things, the things Dr. Oz refers to as the NUTS or Nagging Unfinished Tasks. "...the nagging stress of sitting on a wobbly toilet seat and never fixing it will age you, if it is one of those things that just gnaws at you every time you use it."

My Man and I have come to refer to these NUTS as "Life Shorteners." Every now and then one or the other of us will enter a room and announce, "I've just conquered a Life Shortener!" We have discovered the energy giving feeling of a nagging job accomplished and we understand how those tiny gnat-like irritations in our days sap our good mood, our sunny outlook, and our much needed energy.

My best conquering-of-a-Life-Shortener happened two months ago when I was finally able to return a book that we had borrowed over two years ago from a fellow homeschooling family. That small paperback book rode around in the back of our van forever, constantly reminding me of my failure to be organized, of my failure to be a responsible borrower, of my failure to actually read the book, and my failure to teach the material there in to my students. 

When I finally drove to their home (a mere three minutes from mine) and returned that little green book, I was so excited and hyper that the receiving party must've thought I was half nuts. The family from whom that book was borrowed had, of course by that time, forgotten all about it.

We've also discovered that knocking those Life Shorteners off our list is addictive. In need of an energy boost today, I decided to conquer:

  • notifying the school system that The Wright Academy would once more be in business with an additional student in attendance, a job that has been staring me in the face for over 4 weeks,
  • sending an email that was three weeks overdue,
  • scheduling the state inspection for our car that must be completed in a few days which I've known was going to be needing attention for a few weeks now,
  • arranging for a medical appointment that must be taken care of before August,
  • filling out paperwork that is due tomorrow,
  • AND changing three light bulbs that have been burnt out since early May!

"The reward of a thing done well is having done it." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Book Note:
Quotes in this blog post come from YOU: The Owner's Manual: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger by Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. and Michael F. Roizen, M.D.
YOU: The Owner's Manual: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

(I scored a 2 out of 8, it paid off changing those burnt out light bulbs!!)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not Your Sister's Clif Bars

My sister and I attended a homeschooling conference together this year. It was the first such conference either of us had ever attended. There was much to learn and not just about homeschooling in all of its various and sundry forms. One of the best things I learned didn't come from the conference itself, it came from my sister's kitchen pantry...
Clif Bars are awesome. Sudeana's family purchases and consumes Clif Bars in high quantity, and it's no wonder. You can throw them in your purse, or your children's car seats, or your husband's briefcase, and voila--you've got an instant, protein-packed, yummy, wholesome breakfast-on-the-go. We threw a few of these little gems into our conference bags and ate one on the way to our first sessions and we were good to go until lunch. 

The only problem with Clif Bars is that I'd probably sink our grocery budget purchasing enough to conveniently feed our family of six or just me as I became quite addicted to the apricot flavored ones. 
You can imagine my excitement when I came across an alternative to Clif Bars that I could make myself for a fraction of the cost.

The recipe I found was for a type of oatmeal bar which looked wonderful, however, with the healthful Clif Bars as my focus, I tweaked the original quite a bit. Here's what you need:

Cherry Oatmeal Breakfast Bars**
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup white sugar (decrease if you wish)
1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
2 to 3 tablespoons wheat germ
4 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon OR vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups dry oats
1 1/2 cups dried fruit (raisins, craisins, dried cherries, etc.)

The directions for this recipe are very simple. First, add the first five ingredients: 
You may be asking: "Why in the world does this need wheat germ?" The answer is, it doesn't. If you don't have it on hand, just leave it out. I've added it because of the health benefits wheat germ brings to the table, so to speak.  Did you know that wheat germ is a good source of B-vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, and Omega 3 fatty acids among many others? Wheat germ is also a great provider of vitamin E which is good for the skin and has anti-aging properties (who doesn't need that?). On its own, it has a sweet nutty taste, but in most recipes the taste is undetectable, allowing me to pump up the nutrition value of food without any adjustment to taste. It's easy to snag at the grocery store too. My jar looks like this:

After the first group of ingredients is mixed, add the next six ingredients:

A note about the flours: You can increase the whole wheat flour amount to 3/4 cup and decrease the amount of white flour to 3/4 cup. If you don't have whole wheat flour, you can simply use the white (all purpose) flour for the total 1 1/2 cup amount.

After all ingredients are mixed well, press the very thick batter into a 9 x 13 pan with the back of a wooden spoon or your hand.
(Wet your hand to keep batter from sticking to it.)

Finally, bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Allow oatmeal bars to cool completely before cutting into portion sized squares. I cut ours into 12 squares which has proven a perfect size for our hungry breakfast eaters.

These oatmeal bars freeze well.  Wrap individually and place in a gallon freezer bag and place in freezer. Remove from freezer the night before to defrost. If you forget and are in a rush, defrost in the microwave for 30-40 seconds on the defrost setting.

**This recipe is ultra versatile. I made another batch using chocolate and peanut butter which the kids liked even more than the dried cherry version (though the adults here overwhelmingly preferred the cherry).

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars:
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup white sugar (decrease if you wish)
1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
2 to 3 tablespoons wheat germ
4 eggs
1/4 cup peanut butter

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups dry oats
12 oz. package chocolate chips

Combine first group of ingredients. Add second group of ingredients. Press into sprayed 13 x 9 pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Cool, cut into squares and enjoy.

Monday, June 20, 2011

He wears many hats...

What do you do while waiting for your father to finish looking around a bookstore?

Easy. You entertain your camera-toting mother...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Man of Few Words

"Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you."

"Do as I say, not as I do."

"Sit up straight."

"I will always, always find out."

"I'll be right there."

"You are a young lady, act like one."

"Let's see what we can figure out."

"It'll get worse."**

"Easy on the clutch."

"You only have to do your best."


"Life is not fair."

"Good-bye babe."

"Your mother and I will take care of your college expenses."

"It is ok to wipe your tears on my shirt, but not anyone else's."

"I'm proud of you."

"I think you can do better than this."

"You will not talk back to your mother."

"You did a good job."

"I love you."

It was with this small arsenal of phrases that my Dad {with a wee bit of help from my Mom} raised three girls. Actually, it was with these choice phrases and his own bathroom, which he built as my sisters and I approached junior high, that my Dad raised three girls.

He is yet a man of few words.

He is yet a man of abundant love.

You did a great job Dad!
Happy Father's Day
Your Best and Your Brightest
Your Oldest and Your First

**This phrase was and is frequently shared with my Man regarding any subject dealing with being married or, I think,with having an abundance of daughters.  My Man, thinking this great wisdom indeed, shares it with many other married men as sage wisdom from his father-in-law.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I'm Gonna Put A Rock on Your Head...

My Dad used to tell me when I was little, "I'm gonna have to put a rock on your head soon."

"Why are you gonna do that?" I'd ask.

"To keep you from growing up any bigger."

"Ohhhh," I'd say, grinning with pride at the growing up I must have been doing that caused my Dad to make such a statement.

Dad and I would continue to have this conversation many times over my growing up years until eventually my growing up stopped at a modest five feet, four inches.  Always after I wondered, why, if my Mom and Dad were working so hard to "raise me" and my sisters, did my Dad wish to hinder progress by putting a rock on my head?

I'm still five feet, four inches tall, but I'm no longer wondering about that old conversation with my Dad...

October 17, 2010

January 18, 2011

February 27, 2011

April 4, 2011

April 24, 2011

Last week...

To review...

June 2010

June 2011

Does anyone know where I can find a big ROCK?

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Sense of Accomplishment

Way back when my Man and I bought our first home, we spent a lot of time outside in the yard working in the shrubbery beds and planting trees and planting gardens. Well, ONCE I planted a garden, but it took over the yard and it had fire ants and mosquitos and I planted 14 times the amount of things that I should have for the space, some of which included among other things pumpkins and watermelons.

I was not a success at gardening. Someday I hope to make another attempt, but this still soft voice that sounds strangely like my husband's, keeps whispering in my ear, "Remember the pumpkins..." and so, my hopes of a future of gardening are all I have to this point. Unfortunately, a HOPE sandwich isn't nearly as satisfying as a juicy, homegrown tomato sandwich.

The kids and I discovered something last week that was possibly even more satisfying and definitely longer lasting than a juicy tomato sandwich. It was something much like what propelled my Man and I to toil long and hard in the steamy North Carolina summers to keep our little starter home looking neat and tidy inside and out...a sense of accomplishment.

For the last few seasons our spring home-tending practices turned into baseball practices which led into swimming lessons which ended just before it was time to pack for vacation which happened to be close to the beginning of vacation bible school which, before we realized it lead right back into the new school year thus leaving our spring home-tending practices woefully untended.  

This summer has been declared the summer of home improvement by circumstances well beyond our control so we've decided to jump into the spirit of the whole thing with both feet...each...which adds up to a lot of feet around here.  A lot of feet is a good thing when there is much work to be accomplished and so are a lot of hands, both of which we have in abundance! 

Our front shrubbery bed has long been in a condition we can gently refer to as au naturale which translates loosely from the French as "we've been ignoring it and hoping some lawn and garden elves would show up and do the work." 

Since the elves hadn't shown up after our repeated attempts at not doing their jobs for them, I decided to assemble my own crew of lawn and garden elves and tackle the job.

You will, of course, remember the supervisor from our bathroom remodel of last winter.  She still takes her job very seriously.

Somewhere along the way, we discovered shrubbery in our shrubbery bed! 
You'll have things like that happen when you are working with a crack lawn and garden crew like this one!

It was at about this point in our task that we began to feel a wave of emotion sweep through the crew...

...it was a sense of accomplishment. See it all over those dirty faces?

In just a bit more than three hours, our au naturale jungle...

...became a trophy of hard work for four children whose feet travel these stones time and again each summer day as they play outside. I suspect that when they pass by this bit of ground, they experience a little jolt of memory and think, "Wow! Look what I helped to accomplish."

We learned well the old saying, "First a thing is impossible, then it's difficult, then it's done." I hope we learned it well, and I hope that the fresh sense of accomplishment is a bit addictive because...
...au naturale THE SEQUAL awaits us this week!

Surely it will be no match for this crew!

"Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all." ~Sam Ewig

Book Resource:

Created for Work: Practical Insights for Young Men
Created for Work: Practical Insights for Young Men: It's an easy read full of stories from author Bob Schultz's life and experience doing construction work. The lessons taught are practical, and easy enough for this mom to remember and refer to throughout the day both for the benefit of her children and especially for herself! 

From the back cover: "In Created for Work Bob Schultz applies his engaging homespun wisdom, with stories from real life, to teach young men (and boys) what it means to be good workers....Created for Work inspires young men and offers the tools and encouragement they need to embrace God's ways and always give an honest day's work."

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