Veterans Day 

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” Gilbert K. Chesterton 

We have this quote on a painting that hangs in our home. It reminds me that these sacrifices we’ve made – that my husband has made – are ultimately for our family. 

Military service is not the romance and glamour that Hollywood has spent years portraying. Over the past nine years, we’ve spent a total of 62+ months apart. For those who are bad at math (🙋🏼), that’s more than five years. 

Winston has missed the birth of two children, three pregnancies, met one child at four months old, has spent less than a month with his only son, missed birthdays, holidays, anniversaries. First words, first steps, first days of school, softball games, dance recitals, school assemblies, and church plays all happen without him. 

Serving in the military is making daily sacrifices to do a job you had no real understanding of when you agreed to it. 

I’m honored to have so many veterans I respect in my life, but this guy will always be my #1. 

Thank you today and every day to all the Veterans! 🇺🇸 We appreciate your sacrifices. 


Soup and Sweaters 

This title doesn’t really fit because we live in central Florida, a land where fall &/or winter do not exist. 

It may never get cold enough to actually have soup and sweater weather; but gosh darn it we sure try. 

Delaney has been asking for taco soup, so I decided to give this stuffed pepper soup recipe a try and call it taco soup. The little girls didn’t like it, but Delaney and James both did. (I abstained because I’m low carb-ing life right now in an effort to slay my ball gown. Did I use “slay” correctly??) 

I actually prepped this and dumped everything but the beef broth into a gallon bag which I froze last week. Monday night I pulled it out to thaw in the sink; and yesterday I dumped it into a crock pot. 

I added a little less than 3 cups of broth and made up the difference with water because I was too lazy to open a new box of broth. It cooked on low for about 4 hours and was ready for dinner. 

We topped it with shredded cheese and sour cream. 

What’s in your slow cooker today? 

Mom Hacks

We all have them. The secrets that save us time &/or money and sometimes make us look like we have it all together. 

I had a lightbulb moment last week when I decided I was done wasting money on baby oatmeal. It’s an absolutely genius idea on baby food makers’ end because they charge upwards of $0.21 per ounce of this stuff & market it as baby food. It’s there, it’s convenient, and it’s got a small price tag; so we grab it. 

Meanwhile, just a few aisles over, the plain old regular oatmeal is sitting on the shelf for $0.10 or less per ounce. The difference is the marketing toward an older audience. 

Anyway, I decided to save my container with the easy pour spout but fill it with regular oatmeal. I ground it up into a fine powder, just like the baby stuff, and poured it into the baby food container. Literally the easiest way to save money, I think ever. 

A single serve blender made it easy, but a regular size blender or food processor would work just as well. 

What’s your favorite mom hack? 

Beef Tips

Tonight’s dinner was fast, insanely easy, and full of protein. It was great because I pulled my back at the gym and spent all day on the couch. If I hadn’t had dinner in the Crock Pot already, we’d have been eating pizza! 

Monday when I did my meal prep for the week, I froze this meal; so all I had to do was dump it into the crock pot. Here’s the recipe: 

Beef Tips with Gravy 

  • 2 lbs stew meat 
  • 2 packets brown gravy 
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 beef bullion cube
  • 1 cup water 
  1. Line your slow cooker with a disposable liner if you choose
  2. Place stew meat in bottom of slow cooker
  3. Combine remaining ingredients and dump on top. 
  4. Cook on low 4-6 hours.

If you’re freezing this meal, place there meat in a gallon size bag. Combine remaining ingredients and pour on top. Seal bag & mix the meat with gravy together. Thaw in the fridge overnight and you literally just dump the bag into the slow cooker. 

James has us counting macros these days, so to make life easier I labeled all our bags with the important information. 

We served this with brown rice for the girls and I, but mashed potatoes for James. We also finished up the last of the corn and James combined his all to make a “bowl”, similar to last night’s meal. 

Couldn’t have been easier. Tomorrow we’re taking a break from the rice and stepping out of our comfort zone with slow cooker chicken gyros! 

Ranch Pork Chops 

I have a love/hate relationship with pork chops. They’re typically a cheaper cut of meat, but they dry out and get tough every stinkin’ time I cook them. 

My friend Emily has been doing freezer meals lately and I decided to try her recipe for ranch pork chops. This recipe is on probably dozens of blogs all over the interwebs, so it’s definitely not original. But it’s good, and that’s what counts. 

The original recipe calls for:

  • 6 pork chops 
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup 
  • 1 packet dry Ranch dressing mix 

You put the chops in the bottom of the slow cooker, mix the soup with dressing mix and throw that on top then cook on low for 4-6 hours. These pork chops literally fell apart when I picked them up with a spoon. And the recipe couldn’t be easier – unless you use a slow cooker liner to avoid cleaning your Crock Pot *cough*cough*. 

I made this last week and the kids loved it so much that my 5-year-old asked to take leftovers for lunch! I made it again today with just one tweak, and I might like it even better. 

Last night I trimmed the pork chops to make this morning easier. I mixed together 

  • 2 cans cream of MUSHROOM soup 
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dip 

Not a huge difference, but it was so good! I also sautĂ©ed some mushrooms and added them to the crock pot. 

I had them all ready to go so all I had to do was dump this morning. I even plugged in the Crock Pot and lined it last night so I wouldn’t be rushing around.

We aren’t the type to worry about our food touching, so I decided to make these into a “bowl” style meal. I precooked brown rice and sautĂ©ed some frozen corn kernels until they were brown around the edges. If they’re frozen and you put them into a screaming hot pan, you don’t even need butter or oil to “fry” it! 

I went ahead and had it for lunch because I needed the carbs before the gym. It was delicious! It’s definitely going to be in the normal rotation. 

Meal Prep and Freezer Cooking in 7 Easy Hours 

You’ve seen them all over Pinterest… Those blogs everywhere claiming you can freezer prep 42 meals in 42 minutes or something equally amazing? 

I call bullsh**, ok? Either these women have tons of help, no kids, or they don’t count the actual prep work as part of their time. There’s a distinct possibility they’re just better at time management than yours truly, but I refuse to entertain that as a possibility at this moment. 

My official meal prep started some time around Friday. After laboring for days over ideas, menus and creating a shopping list, I was finally set to go. The plan was to go first thing this morning. 

Every once in awhile my brother gets a bug in his drawers (or is it ear?) and wants to spend time with us doing something fun. It usually takes him about 7 minutes to regret his decision, but he hasn’t learned yet… 

He woke me up around 9:00 – no, my kids didn’t sleep that late, but I threw them the remote and told them to find a Nutrigrain – and gave me a list of options. Exactly 117 minutes later we were all in the van and ready for our adventure. I know, I know, we’re so spontaneous! 

We spent some time at the splash pad in the next town, and the kids had an absolute blast!

After the splash pad, Uncle James treated us to lunch; and then the stroller had a mind of its own and we found ourselves at the ice cream shop. After ensuring the kids were sufficiently hopped up on sugar, we embarked on THE JOURNEY. 

Y’all. We took 4 kids grocery shopping to 3 different stores. By the time we finished, I was ready to curl up in fetal position and sob. 

We came home to unload the groceries and I immediately started meal prepping. This was somewhere around 4:00; so if you don’t count shopping time, this is the actual start time for my freezer meal prep. 

I successfully prepped 5 meals: 2 meals of beef tips with gravy, cashew chicken, pork tenderloin and chicken gyros. All these meals are going to be thawed and tossed in the slow cooker this week. 

All in four and a half hours. Stop blinking, you read that right. In that four and a half hours I also…

  • went back to Publix for forgotten ingredients 
  • made 3 grilled cheese sandwiches and 2 tuna melts for dinner 
  • realized the baby was missing, then discovered he’d climbed 20 steps and was attempting to use the footstool to get in the bathtub upstairs 
  • put the baby to bed
  • ate leftover pizza for my own dinner 

All while effectively trashing the kitchen. 

It took another hour and half to clean up, prep tomorrow’s dinner and make school lunches for tomorrow. What’s that phrase…”some days you’re the bird, some days you’re the statue?” Or something like that. 

Today I’m the bird. It doesn’t matter that I’m the bird at the speed of a turtle with the attention span of a gnat. 

Today I was the bird.
P.S. I’m intentionally not sharing the recipes or methods I used today because then I’d have nothing to write about the rest of the week. <<true story 

Sundays and Facebook

I think of Sundays like I think of Facebook. Everyone shows up in their best clothes with their hair and makeup done, smiles brightly and answers “great, how are you?” when asked how they are. I mean, that’s what’s expected, right? Once a week you pull yourself together and let everyone know what a great Christian you are because you’re not struggling with anything and your family is picture perfect. 

What are we missing out on by doing this? 

I had the opportunity to make a real connection with a mom at church today because after a few minutes of shallow conversation, we started getting real. We talked about some of the challenges of motherhood, especially the unique challenge moms in the 21st century face: the interwebs. 

Our moms didn’t have Pinterest or Facebook, which could be a good or bad thing. I think it can be a good thing, but so often it isn’t. 

There is already so much self-imposed mom guilt that moms have been feeling since…well, I’m guessing the beginning of time. The pressure to do better and “keep up with the Joneses”; only “the Joneses” really just boils down to “Mrs. Jones”. Now throw Facebook and Pinterest into the mix. Suddenly all you’re seeing is a news feed full of Pin-tastic birthday parties and date nights, gourmet home cooked meals from scratch, elaborate school lunches in bento boxes, and clean houses that were clearly decorated by Joanna Gaines. 

Enter mom guilt. My kids will never eat raw radishes and carrot shreds for lunch…am I a bad mom for not starting them on healthy foods sooner? I mean, they used to eat veggies as babies, what happened? Did I give in too much? Did I not discipline enough? I did buy those baby carrots, but I bribed them with peanut butter… And didn’t I read somewhere that baby carrots are soaked in bleach and harvested by starving kids in third world countries? Am I forcing these poor children into slavery by buying baby carrots? And what if the bleach causes cancer? 

Great, now I’m solely responsible for cancer and child slavery. 

Uhhhhh… whaaaaa?

Stay with me here. What would happen if we actually started being real with each other? What would we find if we let that curtain fall and we showed our real selves? 

I’ll tell you what happened today. 

We found out that while I was admiring her hair and wondering how she found time to do it, she’d actually had it in a messy bun and pulled it out last minute. She said mine looked perfect and I laughed and said it was only decent because I’d fixed it for a Skype date with the hubby last night. 

She marveled at my makeup & I confessed that I’d put it on last night and just rubbed away the mascara circles with some extra foundation this morning; and then we laughed because she said she does that frequently. 

We found out that our middle children are eerily alike and I shared how we made it through our troubled years at that age. 

We even talked about the guilt we feel over being late to church. We didn’t high five over the awesome fact that we managed to get our entire families ready and out the door to church at all, but beat ourselves up over being late and feeding them Dunkin Donuts in the car. 

Moms, what are we doing to ourselves?? Why are we so afraid to actually be…I don’t know, HUMAN?! 

I know you think that’s a rhetorical question, but it isn’t. I’m going to stay on my soapbox and give you the answer. 

We. Are. Afraid. 

We are afraid of being judged or thought of as not good enough if we open up. And you know what’s sad? It’s because it’s happened. 

That one time you admit that your marriage is struggling, someone questions your faith. 

You admit that your child is struggling, and someone tells you how to discipline better. 

You admit that you’re struggling with time management, and someone tells you how to prep freezer meals for a month. 

(disclaimer: I’m not telling you to walk around looking for ways people are judging you. It’s ok for a friend to disagree with you or offer advice and it doesn’t mean she’s judgemental) 

I’m telling you, mommas, we’re missing out. We’re missing out on the joy that we could have in building friendships. Motherhood is isolating and lonely, and it doesn’t have to be! The truth is that most of us are struggling with the same things. 

What if… Just what if… 

Momma A admits her marriage is struggling and Momma B puts her arms around A and says “Oh, sweet friend, I’ve been there. How can I pray for you?” I’m telling you from personal experience this makes a difference.

What if Momma A asks “how are you?” and Momma B says “It’s been a bad week & I don’t know what to do.” Suddenly, we’ve opened a whole new door to what could be a friendship. 

Here’s my idea/challenge for this week: share just one thing on Facebook that is “real”. I don’t mean complain about how your life sucks, but just be real. Share a picture of the $2 on the kitchen counter for school lunches because you overslept and couldn’t make lunches. Or the pile of dirty dishes in the sink because you made dinner and fed everyone, but ran out the door to dance class before cleaning up.

I promise your dirty sink will not break the Internet.