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Wacky Wednesdays: Good Meal Gone Bad!

As a full time working single parent, one consistent goal I have is to provide healthy home cooked meals to my son each day. It is so tempting to eat food from a drive-thru after a long day of work, and I’ll admit that I have given in to this temptation at times. Yet, as I’ve said before, Making Life Magnificent isn’t about perfection, but progress. We are all striving to do better and to be better, so this is one area I am striving in.

But as you know, it takes more than good intentions to achieve a goal like this. Cooking home cooked meals everyday when you also work outside the home everyday can be plain ole’ HARD! You have to think of something to cook, then do the prep work, then actually cook it! I work as a school teacher, so I’m on my feet all day. There are times when the thought of being on my feet more for cooking just isn’t a happy thought for me. So I….well, rush a little and try to cut corners. One day in particular, I had such a good idea for a quick and yummy meal: Broiled Lemon Pepper Chicken with Yellow Rice and Green Beans. Sounds easy and healthy doesn’t it! I came up with this one all on my own. (usually I steal ideas from all the great ones on my Pinterest Food Board!)

Anyway, as I was rushing cooking, I ran out of steam and decided to change it to Broiled BBQ Chicken instead of Lemon Pepper. I slathered the BBQ sauce on the baked chicken and put it under the broiler that was set on high. My plan was to get the outside of the chicken just a little crispy, so while it was “broiling,” I went into the living room with my son to watch a little Wild Kratts. (such a great cartoon!) That’s when I smelled it! No, it wasn’t the sweet aroma of BBQ sauce tickling my nose! I had no idea that sauce would burn rather than broil. Instead of my chicken coming out like this: (which is what I envisioned)

It came out looking more like this:

My burnt chicken

      I can hear you now….OMG, What did she do to that chicken?!? Go ahead and get your laugh on…I was certainly laughing at myself when I stood back and looked at my finished product. I laughed even more when I saw the look on my son’s face! But before you roll over laughing, just think back to your own Good Meal Gone Bad. We all have one if we’re honest with ourselves. Since I am still learning to balance work and motherhood (and it seems a hundred other things), I have more than one Good Meal Gone Bad, but it’s ok. I’m a work in progress 🙂

I’m glad you’ve gotten a good laugh out of this. I know there are other parents out there who are striving to put decent meals on the table each day, and going to a fast-food place all the time just isn’t ideal. Not only is it more costly, but it’s not as healthy. I could look at this chicken meal and feel the urge to just throw in the towel, especially since I have The Triple Threat very near my house (McDonald’s, Zaxby’s and Arby’s). Instead here are some things I now do to make this area of my life less of a struggle:

  1. I make a written meal plan every month
    I don’t use any fancy templates, just a notebook where I write some of our favorite meals (that I know I can cook!) and I match these recipes with the food inventory in my house to make sure I have what I need.
  2. I bulk cook on weekends, then freeze those meals for later
    This one change has made a huge difference in my life! Freezer meals are healthy & convenient! And there are TONS of ideas out there with step-by-step instructions. See here. freezer meals Just don’t forget to take them out ahead of time so they can thaw properly.
  3. I use my Crock-Pot!!
    If you don’t have one of these glorious inventions, please invest in one. It is a life-saver! Great meal ideas here. crock pot
  4. I plan which days will be restaurant days
    Ok, sometimes you do really need to take a break. If your budget allows it, choose at least one day a week to pick up something to eat or go to a restaurant. For my son and I, Fridays are pizza nights; I pick up a pizza instead of cooking to give me a night off. There are lots of restaurants that have kids eat free night. Check them out in your area using this site: www.mykidseatfree.com

      With planning and focus, this area of your life can truly be magnificent! My meals may be wacky at times, but not all the time. My Homemade Blueberry Pancakes were a hit this morning! Homemade Blueberry Pancakes So don’t quit. Keep cooking. Keep smiling.

“The Closet Is All Mine” & Other Things I’d Gladly Give Up As a Single Mother

   On my constant quest to improve and Make Life Magnificent, I often seek out advice on single parenting. I became a single mother when my husband passed away in 2009. My son Caleb was 5 months old at the time and I was terrified at the task of raising him alone. Since then, I’ve read countless books and articles, researched every scripture on parenting, talked to other parents…on and on because–in the simplest way that I can admit–I just want to be a good mother. Yet, motherhood is no easy task. Trying to achieve it alone can seem one hair away from being impossible. But don’t take my words as discouragement or pessimism. I have come to realize that there is true beauty in the struggle of it all.

              Today as I was reading, I found an article by Parents Magazine titled: Benefits to Being a Single Parent. Of course, I was instantly intrigued when I saw this because I couldn’t wait to read what these so-called benefits were. Among the author’s viewpoints on single parenting, there is one “benefit” sited that just jumped out at me: “The Closet Is All Mine.”

                  Ok…just give me a minute here…did I read that right? One “benefit” to raising a child alone is that you don’t have to share your closet with another adult! I do believe in being optimistic and seeing the silver lining in all things, but there are times when we just have to be real. Everyone is different, I get that too, and for me having the closet all to myself doesn’t even come close to being considered a good reason for single parenting. Did I already say that raising children is HARD!?

                  If someone came to me today and said that I could have my husband and the father of my child back in exchange for my closet, I would offer them the entire house with the closet!! Take it and all the other shallow and meaningless things that I’d gladly give up as a single mother. None of them would compare to having my son grow up with both his parents there to love, support and nurture him.

My son Caleb and his dad Eric

2 year old Caleb dressed up for Halloween

Fun With Son                As a Christian, I believe that God has a plan in all things. Even when we can’t understand what He may be trying to teach us or accomplish in our lives, faith requires us to trust God’s sovereignty. I am at a place now where I completely trust God’s plan in allowing me to be a young widow and single mother. So please don’t think I’m complaining about my lot in life. Please don’t think that I resent having to raise my son at all. And PLEASE don’t think I’m downing single parents. We are strong and resilient and able to do much more than we think. Single parenting is an art and science all wrapped into one. My hat goes off to all of you out there!

                It’s just really interesting to me how our perspective can completely color our view of something. Two people, two mothers looking at the same situation, yet we have such a different conclusion about all of it. She seems content about being a single mother because she gets to have her closet all to herself, among other things. I look at my son everyday and come to the conclusion that I’d give everything I own, closet and all, if his dad could be here to see how awesome and adorable this little boy is growing up to be.

   

             I was so taken aback by that listed “benefit” that I actually couldn’t read anymore. I truly can’t think of any benefits to single parenting, but I can think of some Positive Points in Single Parenting:

  • You are forced to do things you would never do (I had to learn to tie a tie because I want to teach my son)
  • You develop the skills of an expert multi-tasker (On any given day, it seems like I have to do about 50 things at once!)
  • You come to see that budgets are actually very sexy (Along with coupons and kids eat free restaurant nights)
  • You learn that perfection is so overrated (Some days you feel like you’re wearing a cape, some days you feel like such a failure, but you still get up the next day to do it all over again the best way you know how)

             When I look over my Positive Points, I think there are some married parents that would also say “Amen” to some of these, which makes me realize that, yes–single parents do have unique challenges–but overall parenting for everyone can be an uphill journey. I’m holding God’s hand as I travel up that hill. And I’m saving lots of space in my closet to share with the man God will provide to travel that journey with Caleb and me. 🙂

Interesting Related Writings:
Confessions of Young Widow: The Little Things I Miss About Being Married

               

Have Tattoos Really Become More Permanent Than Marriage?

This coming April will make 5 years that I’ve been single. (see My Story) 2 years after my husband passed away, I sincerely tried dating, and I learned enough through only 2 bad experiences to write an entire book on the subject. One thing I realized is that I DON’T want to have to think like a man in order to date one. No offense Steve Harvey, but that’s just too many rules to keep up with.

dating

         Dating today can be scary in my opinion. Dating as a Christian and a single parent can feel like you’re walking down Nightmare on Elm Street! Apparently I’m not the only one whose gone through this little horror experience. The numbers are crazy: there are 112 million single (unmarried) people over 18 in the U.S. and for every 88 single men, there are 100 single women. (unmarried.org) I could actually give more numbers that are really interesting, but I’m going to stop there and let that last one sink in. For every 100 single women, there are only 88 single men…soooo basically some single woman out there is going to have to face the reality that she may not get married ever or ever again.

Yet in the midst of the craziness of statistics and numbers and facts, I have hope.
relax in my heart

        Maybe it’s because my marriage was such a great one up until my husband passed away. Or maybe it’s because it was way too short of a marriage in the first place (we were only married 1 year and 6 months). Or maybe it has to do with the fact that I’ve had time to realize all the things I’d do differently as a wife if I have the chance to do it all over again.  Whatever the reason, I believe in and hope for another chance to be married. And on that note, I’m no longer ashamed to say that if you know a quality single Christian guy who likes kids…send him my way. Thank you 🙂

       I realize my story may be unique…I don’t know anyone else personally that became a widow at the age of 24. When most females were trying to figure out what to do with their lives, I was figuring out funeral arrangements for my spouse. That may sound really hard, but it was my reality. This reality has made a HUGE impact on how I now see relationships and marriage.  And yet, I’m still optimistic about my future. Things do change whenever I wander into the world wide web!

All around me there are blogs, books and podcasts about how Single Is the NEW Sexy! According to one blogger, if you’re young and aspiring to marriage, you’re a coward. She goes on to say that “…marriage is nothing but a security blanket for people who are too afraid to face the world alone.”

    Then she lists all the things you should do with your life other than think about marriage and one to-do was:

Get a tattoo…it’s more permanent than marriage anyway.

        Really? For someone whose marriage ended too painful, too soon, I want to scream reading this! Is there some shred of truth to this? Please tell me that’s not true of my generation? It may seem lame, weak, or whatever–but I deeply admire the image of family life. I believe in the hope of having a husband and more children. Am I old-fashioned for this?

       Now, I do agree that people should get out in the world and live! Travel, try a new food, volunteer, babysit, learn something new, build your passion, further your education, develop your hobbies or try a new hobby, etc. But am I the only one left who feels that you and your spouse can do all this together as well one day?

      Marriage doesn’t have to mean the end of life, but the chapter to a new beautiful beginning–if it’s with the right person.

      So I’ll keep improving and striving to Make Life Magnificent. But in my heart I hope to one day share this magnificent journey with someone special (other than my sweet little boy who loves animals, climbing and getting dirty!)Caleb at age 2

I’m ready for love again, but as I always say–I’d rather be with nobody than to be forever connected to the wrong somebody, so I’m willing to wait.

Maybe for fun, I’ll go get a tattoo! It’ll have to be one of those sticker tattoos though, because I don’t like needles!

Related Articles:
10 Behaviors That Keep You Single
UPDATE: New Related Article:  12 Things Women Need To Do Before They Marry

Wacky Wednesdays: Kids Really Do Say (and Do) The Funniest Things!

Everyone needs to laugh! Laughter is like medicine. Since we know that life can be a beautiful struggle, we should do ourselves a favor and laugh out loud!  I can tell you for sure that as a parent and teacher, some of the funniest things I’ve ever seen or heard were from KIDS! The thing that makes them so funny is their sincerity in what they say and do. For the most part, they are being as honest and as real as they know how to be.  Remember the show by Bill Cosby from the 90’s Kids Say the Darnest Things? I still remember some of those episodes…cracking up laughing at those cute little kids.

To lighten the load on this “hump day,” I thought I’d revive the spirit of KID COMEDY! I’ve collected (from my own crazy life and from others) funny things kids say and do!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When my son Caleb was 2 years old, decided he wanted to look like paw paw. So he pulled up his shirt to let his belly out and put on my dad’s shoes, but then he couldn’t stop watching the tv!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Caleb decided to show up for dinner one evening dressed as his favorite character from Super Why!

markers

We get upset when kids draw on walls or on their clothes. What would you do if your child made a work of art out of his siblings?!


ambercrombie kid

poop picture When asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 4 year-old Caleb said, “A daddy in the daytime and a ninja turtle at night.”

7 year old Kayla was outside with her mom when a ladybug landed nearby. With a puzzled look on her face, she turned and asked her mom, “What is the daddy ladybug called?”

As we were riding home from church one day, Caleb (whose now 5) says to me from the backseat, “Mommy I always wanted to pet a squirrel. That’s my real dream.”

A grandmother was in the store with her small grandson and he saw something that he really wanted. He began to plead with his grandmother to get it for him and she kept responding, “Well I don’t have the money right now.” Finally, the little boy–with a puzzled look on his face–said to his grandmother, “If you don’t have any money, why you in the store for?”

  I could go on and on all day with this! I’m sure you have funny stories and pictures to share as well. Keep laughing and keep Making Life Magnificent!

Related Articles:
15 Cringeworthy Things Little Kids Say in Public
Kids Say the Darndest Things (22 Pics)
Wacky Wednesday: My Weird Food Habit

Happy 2014 New Year, Fun with Flipagram!

I am usually not one to get caught up in trends, but I must admit–this Flipagram was fun to make!! It really helped me to see that my commitment to Making Life Magnificent started long ago. These pictures with captions also illustrate the beautiful struggles of my life as a single mother, a teacher and a young woman who is striving to live a better life.  If you were wondering, this whole “magnificent” thing is not a quest for perfection! I believe in growing, improving, evolving–that’s what this blog (and my personal story) is all about: becoming the best me I can be.

So take a look at my journey so far…and let me know about your journey as well! Happy New Years! 2014, here we come 🙂

photo (1)

 

How Can Struggling Be Beautiful?

    “For we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for them.” ~Romans 8:28 (NLT)

 

       This blog is about my attempt to Make Life Magnificent in every area despite the hardships life inevitably presents. That’s why my subtitle begins with The Beautiful Struggles of… Yet, when you think of the word “struggle,” the last thing that may come to mind is “beautiful,” or even magnificent! This leads to why I posted the Bible verse above: Romans 8:28.

        Throughout my life, I’ve heard this verse so many times in so many contexts. Whenever I’ve faced tough times, I actually felt resentful of this Bible verse. How can losing my job or my home be for my good? How can going through a divorce be for my good? Or how can the death of someone I love be for my good? I especially asked these questions when I became a young widow. The problem in my understanding was the definition I used for the word “good.”

We use good to describe all sorts of things:

  • Wow this food smells GOOD!
  • Your perfume smells really good.
  • Campbell’s Soup tastes Mmm! Mmm! Good!
  • That was a good movie
  • I’m doing good today. (When I hear this one I cringe because you should say I’m doing well…but that’s the English teacher in me! Sorry)

I could go on and on. We use good to describe all sorts of things and it almost always means something pleasant, pleasing, and satisfying. Perhaps when GOD talks about working everything (even the bad things) out for our good, He may have a different idea in mind. Not that His definition of good is synonymous with bad, but maybe He chooses to look at what’s good for us beyond physical, tangible things.

I can speak of my struggles with being single, raising a son, or working as a teacher in an urban school as being beautiful because I choose to believe that even in my hardships, GOD sees the bigger picture and is working on my behalf. I’m not implying that God is like a Santa Claus waiting to just give me whatever I want; however, he is like a Father that definitely wants the best for His children.

So I struggle with some things. In my struggles, I press forward. I’ll now be sharing those beautiful struggles with you. Please feel free to share yours as well.

You never know how your test can used as a testimony to bless someone else’s life.

Below I’ve included some quotes about struggling that are really uplifting to me. negatives

oprah quote

don't!life is a beautiful struggle

Toddler Tired of Toys Already?!?

bored

        As a mom and teacher, I am amazed at how quickly children, especially toddlers, grow bored with the toys and electronics we spent all that money on for Christmas! The credit card commercial where the little girl plays with the cardboard box instead of the item that came in it, hit the nail on the head! That just about sums up most toddlers’ behavior.

    Thankfully I was smarter this year; I purchased Christmas gifts for my son that would hopefully stretch his imagination: like a Superhero art set and Beyblades that he can spin until he spends out of energy! Yet, even with these, it’s still good to have lots of ideas ready for your little ones. (Otherwise it’ll be YOUR energy that spends all out!) Here are some ideas that’ll hopefully keep the family happy:

   shape sort
1- Reinforce Learning Shapes: 

   Jenae from ICanTeachMyChild.Com, came up with this idea and I was very impressed with how much fun my 5 year old son had while completing it.  With some basic masking tape and plenty of floor space, this “game” of finding shapes can keep your busy bundle of joy focused for quite some time without plopping him/her down in front of the t.v.

Fridge Letters

2-Reinforce Learning Letters:

  I got this idea from Jaimi at The Stay At Home Mom Survival Guide, where she lists tons of great activities for preschool age children. I ended up making two charts for my fridge, one where the alphabet was in order, and another more challenging one with the letters random. Just be warned that when your children complete the task, they will be yelling with joy and eager to show you all their hard work!

numbers parking

3-Reinforce Learning Numbers

    If you can’t tell by now, I am really into any activities that will be fun, engaging AND an opportunity for learning when it comes to children. (It’s the teacher in me!) I can’t stress enough to parents that those little brain engines are constantly firing away, so you are truly your children’s first teacher. Teach them well!
My son has tons of toy cars, so as soon as I saw this on Krissy’s B-Inspired MAMA blog, my heart was happy! Her instructions and pictures have larger cardboard boxes, which I didn’t have, but smaller boxes and even large construction paper work well also. I used cut up sticky notes to number my son’s toy cars and trucks.

 

   There will be times as a parent, definitely as a single parent, when you will need that 30 minute tv show or those video games to keep your “mini me” content while you get things done, but trust me, these ideas will keep your child busy enough so that the tv doesn’t have to be a constant go to. Between playing with these and warming back up to all those Christmas gifts, your son/daughter will have tons of fun around the house. If all else fails, pull out the art supplies 🙂

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For more parenting tips to Make Life Magnificent, check out my Pinterest Parenting Pointers Board

Feel free to share some of your magnificent parenting ideas below in the comment section!

PS-I usually do all the prep work for these kinds of activities while my son is sleeping or when he is engaged with something else. If you try to set everything up while they are standing next you and bored, it could become discouraging for both of you. So always try to plan ahead! Happy Parenting 🙂