Friday, March 30, 2012

Good Words on Joy, Plans, Help, & Hope

Share-worthy:

"Give us today the food we need" ~Matthew 6:11
This line of the Lord’s Prayer draws from an Old Testament metaphor of present-mindedness. When Israel was wandering in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land, God fed the people with manna. The catch to this daily nourishment was that they were not allowed to gather more than they needed for the day. If they did, the manna rotted and stank. Over and over again in the Bible we are reminded to live presently—to neither borrow worry from nor cast our joy into the future.
But in my mind, the future seems like the place of promise. [When] I have unfulfilled desires, the only place for me to put them is in the future. But the problem with the future is that it keeps moving away from me.
Joy is like manna. There is no place but today to experience it. Casting it into the future causes it to rot. Perhaps worse than that, in a crazy paradox, the joy of today is left unexperienced as well. But if I engage the present and let go of the future, I could embrace today’s joy and leave that much less to lie around and rot. ~Ellen at goTandem

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all. ~2 Thessalonians 3:16

Are you making any plans without God?
James 4:13-15: Look here, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit." How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog--it's here a little while, then it's gone. What you ought to say is, "If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that."
God wants to be part of your plans! ~goTandem

Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? ~Esther 4:14
Do you feel like you are part of Gods plan? How?

Freedom isn't simply about being free. It's like someone admiring the socket in their living room without actually plugging something into it and using the power that it provides. It's not there for itself. It's there to be used to make other things happen.
The Bible says that Jesus frees us so we can use it to get our focus off ourselves and do good. Paul writes to Titus about how God's grace brings salvation, and how this frees Christians to be distinct in doing good: Titus 2:11-15
Are you using your freedom to do good in this world? ~goTandem

God wants to do much more than defend me to my insulters [and enemies]. I think he wants to uproot the worry and insecurity that plague me and plant peace. ~Andrea at goTandem

Insecurity is the opposite of love.

"A brother is born to help in a time of need" she said. "Proverbs 17:17. You hear that? We were born for it; it is what we were made for, to see each other through. You have to accept that, because it keeps you humble."
I wanted to say that I'm just trying to be considerate by not leaning on people, but she's right. Accepting help is a necessary humbling, a good bond-strengthening, and an instruction in our utter individuality and our utter sameness. ~Silas at goTandem

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13
How is trust a key to joy and peace?
What areas in your life do you have a hard time trusting God with?

God is an amazing baker of Humble Pies. If you would like to try one, just say, "I would never ..." and that pie will be there in a jiffy. ~Jerry Parker

God can take "Plan B" and make it better than "Plan A" ever would have been. ~Joyce Meyer Ministries

God's plan is to reach the world through you. If that weren't the case, He would have taken you to heaven as soon as you were saved.

Something cool to think about: A candle loses nothing by giving its flame to another candle! We have to share ourselves to make a difference. Sharing our light makes a difference in our lives and in the ones with whom we share.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Silhouette: Subway Art Instructor Pants

I've been excited to make a pair of "instructor" pants using heat transfer material with my Silhouette for ages, and I finally did it TODAY! [I did *NOT* use the word Zumba® or Zumba® logos anywhere on the apparel.] My original idea was to just have the word "instructor" in large letters going down the side of one leg, (I may do that on another pair sometime, ;-)) but as I went through my 800 (yes! EIGHT HUNDRED!) fonts, I had a hard time picking *the* one. I started lining up the word "instructor" in all the fonts I loved and planned to choose b/t. About three lines in, I thought, "Why not use them ALL?" The Subway Art word collage print trend is HUGE right now, and I think it's super cute! I used metallic gold heat transfer material on a pair of black Danskin bootcut yoga pants:

[Designing (mirror image for heat transfers) on the Silhouette computer program before sending it to cut:]

[Peeling away to clear the negative space:]

[Ironing the heat transfer material:]

[Close-up of the final design!]

[Pants:]

[TA DA!!!]

Thanks(? :-P) to my children for their...um...phone camera work. :-D

And yes, I'd sell these. Email me, if interested!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

One to Five

In the last month, I've gone from teaching one Zumba class per week to FIVE!!! My second and third came on a month ago, and now this week, I added two more! [I agreed to take both Friday mornings (which I'll keep) and Friday evenings (which I said I'd do for March & April, after which I can reevaluate to see if it's too much strain on family time) at The Gym, since the former teacher left to open her own new studio. (So excited for her + good opportunity for me! :-))] It's funny to look back on the last year: not so long ago, I thought taking one Zumba class a week was something. :-P (NOT to be discouraging - it really WAS, starting out! And I lost 10 lbs the first six months I took once a week as a student!) But it is pretty awesome to see the endurance I'm building up now. :-) I've NEVER been an endurance person. EVER. :-D I sprint through life. ;-)

Taking over the former teacher's classes has been great. So often, you run into the "but she never did it like that" attitude, and I haven't gotten that ONCE (...yet. ;-)) I purposely taught several of her songs with her choreography to make the transition easier; but I changed the warm-up to my own, and I added five new songs to nip the comparison in the bud. My Friday morning class is mostly ladies over 60, (there are three of us youngins :-P) and those ladies are not big fans of change OR being pushed. I have a different teaching style than the last teacher - I do EVERY CLASS FULL OUT with my students, instead of demonstrating the moves and then monitoring - so the ladies were very nervous that I'd force them to bounce around like jumping beans, b/c that's how I looked when *I* took that class. I think they found a happy medium in me: I showed how to do everything high AND low impact, but b/c I did the class full out, they realized how lazy they looked when they barely raised their arms and didn't give it their all. They're not getting away with that, anymore! :-P ;-) One lady (whom I'd previously overheard question whether or not she'd keep coming as soon as the last teacher moved on) *did* still come, and she told me afterwards how good the class was, that "it was different, but you did a good job really working us out." :-D I don't mean for it to come across like I'm a drill sergeant; I'm completely NOT! I make sure everyone knows that I do NOT expect anyone to copy my steps perfectly, and I don't even care if they move opposite of me - just as long as they are moving, laughing about it, and having fun! I don't believe in exercise that isn't enjoyable. :-)

So, now the biggest thing on the Zumba horizon is the international CONVENTION.
The Zumba Instructor Convention, held annually in Orlando, is for ZIN (Zumba Instructor Network) Members ONLY. It's an amazing, highly-coveted event August 9-12 this year where you can take tons of Master Classes, network, and even get additional certifications. [I would *LOVE* to get licensed to teach Zumbatomic (Zumba for kids 4-12) and Zumba Toning (which the former Gym teacher had & I would love to be able to add back there.)] Registration for the convention is $400, which - if you know my cheapo self - makes me weak in the knees; but you can't deny what an amazing deal it is when licensing courses on their own are ~$200 each. With the convention, you also get: loads of materials, Thursday night's Party in Pink Zumbathon® Fitness-Concert™ charity event, Friday night's Live Music Concert (with someone famous - still a secret :-P), Saturday night's Theme Party, three extra Master Classes in addition to two Instructor Trainings (or eight Master Classes total), the 2012 Zumba Instructor Convention goodie bag (yay! :-)), and the 2012 Zumba Instructor Convention Flavors DVD (delivered with Mega Mix 32). I know I totally sound like a commercial for this, but I'm really just selling myself. ;-) [Plus, you have to be ZIN (a registered & licensed instructor) to go; not just an enthusiastic student. :-P It's not like I'd get a discount for bringing anyone with me. :-D] Personal bonus: I can't imagine we'll live w/in easier driving distance of Orlando ever again, so no airfare, and I even have a BFF with an apartment *in* Orlando whom I could hopefully stay with to avoid the $120 per night hotel that would have to be tacked on to the total. I think it would be so valuable and exciting (esp. b/c it'll pay for itself, if I get to add those new classes I'd be licensed to teach) ...but it's hard to shake my "worth it?" [re: $$$ & logistics] mentality. :-/

Closing with a couple silly me pics at one of my church Zumba classes, courtesy of my BFF here, Laura. I needed a few to put on my Zumba FB page when it switches to the timeline format:


Friday, March 23, 2012

In Your Face!

Or rather, in Will's face...

We WON our [close, nail-biter] baseball game last night!!! :-D ...And Will also got SLAMMED in the FACE top of the 4th inning out in right field with a hard hit that *just missed* his glove. :-O He took it like a champ - totally brave, no hysterics. (He's so much like me - often whiny & dramatic over the little stuff; strong as a brick wall when it's a bigger deal. :-P) I shot over to the concession stand for a bag of ice; all of his buddies wanted to check out his face. :-D He was up to bat 2nd in the bottom of the same inning, and he jumped right up - NO WAY was he giving up his chance to hit that ball! And he DID!!! His hit brought in a runner and helped us win. :-)

Will's response to how he felt about his face on the drive home: "Know what the BEST part of this is? The girls are going to be ALL AROUND me for like a WEEK!!!!!" My little ladies' man...

Shiner update: 12 hours post-impact at 6:50 AM this morning! :-P I had him fall asleep last night laying on a frozen gel cool pack. I was surprised it was his eyelid this morning that was purple; I would've guessed it would have been the cut and around the outside of his eye that was puffed up last night. Oh well - he was excited to get to show it off at school & didn't seem to be in any pain. :-)

Yes, it looks like gorgeous eyeshadow. :-P No, I'm never telling HIM that! :-D

Monday, March 19, 2012

Backyard and Baseball Bonanza

I am bursting with photos to share that we took of our Southern Dream Backyard on an impromptu walk out back after Will's baseball game Saturday! I keep waxing ecstatic over the wisteria & azaleas, the Spanish moss in our trees, and how it feels like living in a resort; I can't get enough...of our yard or my cutie team-spirited fam! :-D

This is four photos merged into one big panorama of our whole backyard from the other side of the bridge:



Photo credit: Annelise :-)

Photo credit: Will (He loves turning the camera diagonal to take pics, but they turn out well! :-D)

Dreamy wisteria:



Afternoon sun:

Spanish moss holds my heart...


The view from our back door:

I know we won't be here forever, (don't even ask, "Do you know how long you'll be there?" NO. No clue, so please don't ask - speculating when you're in a happy place only creates stress) but I want to enjoy every second! :-)

Since our yard shots are full of baseball spirit, I'll close with two more baseball bits.

Will at bat:

And this video of Will batting tonight and getting on base! *WARNING* Turn your sound WAAAAY DOWN before playing, lest your eardums be blown out by my screaming mama cheers...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Perfect *REAL* Life

Every day in the last week or so, I've found myself thinking, "Thank you SO MUCH, God, for this perfect life!!!" I can't help but be bowled over by everything I've wanted for my family, my personal level of comfort, and culture & community being met (and amplified by the exploding green leaves and flowers of spring!) I am in heaven here. And I don't mean there haven't been down moments, but the big picture is what counts: life here is beautiful!

So, this first point may sound exactly opposite of the joy I've been chanting: a week and a half ago, a friend of mine in Junior League had a double mastectomy. She's only 27 years old with two young girls and was diagnosed with breast cancer just a couple weeks before. The joy is the way people here have rallied to support her - you'd think she was a celebrity with all the "Supporting Brittany" wristbands & t-shirts, stores & restaurants donating a percentage of sales to her bills, etc. It fills my heart to be raising my children in a community like this - no awful, secret suffering behind closed doors; instead, open and active help and support - as much as possible! Brittany is a super stylish girly girl, and her hair is a big deal. (Of all people, I certainly can understand that!!!) She starts chemo April 10th, but wasn't going to get a real human hair wig, b/c it would cost $1,000. At our JL meeting, just from the people in this picture:
we raised it all. ALL. Being part of an organization like this and a community that truly cares is priceless... It's what I want our children to know as "normal".

As of this last Tuesday, the 13th, JB and I have been "an item" :-) for FOURTEEN YEARS. ♥ Every long-term relationship has peaks and valleys, but we are hiking up such a gorgeous mountain right now, and it feels FANTASTIC! Every single aspect of life just keeps getting better & better - his work schedule, all of our health & fitness, family time, etc. Life. Is. Good.

Last Thursday was a rollercoaster day. Up: I taught great Zumba friends, and I got three new songs almost ready to incorporate into my Zumba classes; the wisteria began blooming everywhere, which absolutely set my heart atwitter; and Will brought home a 100% perfect report card! :-) Down: Sis left school crying that a boy hurt her feelings; Davidson lost in the NCAA tourney; and Will & I had an emotional breakdown over his spelling. But as I lounged in my comfy sports mom chair at Will's baseball scrimmage - gorgeous, well over 80°, and sooo relaxing!!! - all the "down" completely melted away. Being out at that ball field was the perfect way to ride the day out on an upswing! It made the junk feel *so easy* to get over.

As if I couldn't love living here more: Friday evening at our Dixie Youth Baseball Opening Ceremonies - 80° in the shade on a perfect baseball field, blooming flowers & trees everywhere, and an invocation to start them off. You can say I'm wrong, but I *never* went to a secular sporting event up north that began with prayer; in the South, it's normal...and again, I want my kids to grow up knowing this "normal". It got even better when the man praying extended an altar call to "step up to the batter's box of life" to those who may not know Jesus. Some readers may be turned off by this, but let me tell you, it was 100% genuine, sincere, and not for show - you could tell those words were unrehearsed and came out before he knew what he had said; it was precious. He gave a little chuckle at his impromptu analogy, but then went on with it; and for me, it just felt so...edifying to be participating in an open community of faith. :-) God bless the South!

The kids & I had supper [JB was on biz in Mississippi Wed-Fri] at the delish barbeque place by our house after the opening ceremonies & before team pics an hour later. I had my fave - their dreamy barbeque baked potato - and we dined outside on the patio. ♥ Perfect weather, gorgeous sunset, & the singer they had even sang "I Love Beach Music"! (All you Carolina girls know how quintessential that is!!!) #Southernfamilyheaven

[Now, before y'all think I'm either charmed beyond belief or totally lying about all this perfection ;-) of course the meal was not w/o incident: Will made an already-tired Annelise burst into tears at the table when he said that polar bears (one of her fave animal species) will become extinct and be gone forever. Thanks, Bud. After a lengthy discussion on loss of habitat, conservation efforts, and the definitions of endangered vs. extinct, she calmed down enough to eat her sweet potatoes. :-P Another issue: our team pics weren't until 9 PM!!! My kids go to bed before 8!!! But we made the best of it; they were a bit touchier than normal, but they thought it was so cool & special to get to be out so late! :-D]

Friday night's formal team photo:
[Will: middle row, 2nd in, 1st in our hearts! :-D]

Saturday was a 99.9% perfect day: our glorious children let us sleep in peacefully until 10 AM!!!!! [No, they didn't sleep in - being up late does NOT adjust their waking up at all; but they "played school" together & watched kids' Netflix quietly upstairs = joy!] I enjoyed sunning myself in full spirit attire at Will's 1st baseball game:
‎[The 0.1% of imperfection was that they lost; but they played hard. They just had two hits get away from them, so it ended 10-6. Oh well, we'll get 'em Monday night!!!] Afterwards, we ate family lunch at the *new* Cafe 230 over by our house. The kids & I took a backyard walk and had a little photo time w/ wisteria & azaleas. (Giant picture post of those HERE! :-)) We rode out to buy veggies to plant: tomatoes, cukes, zucchini, & strawberries. We stopped by Swirl, where their new blueberry tart/white chocolate frozen yogurt is divine! Came home, planted the garden, and baked Zucchini Parmesan Crisps and baguettes. Oh, and lest I forget - Will decided to open our pool for the summer...IN MARCH:
I absolutely cannot imagine a better "average" Saturday. Perfect weather, being outside some, family time, productive, yummy eats, being on-the-go... This is my heaven!

Y'all, Sunday rocked, too!!! Family church time blesses me like nothing else. It's our kids' favorite event of the week - I kid you not. We stayed after today for a Leadership Luncheon (since I head the Zumba Ministry), and it was like we told them they would be staying extra time at Chuck E Cheese or something! We had to leave for Will's teammate's bday party at the park by the zoo, and we had to draaaag them out of there! :-P More sunshine, outdoor bliss at that party, followed by a quick stop to see some zoo friends. Annelise & her baby, Flamingo, hung out in their matching animal print attire with the gators:

I can't say it enough: I am so thankful for this life, this place... I feel blessed beyond belief to live somewhere that blisses me out so much that life's irritations roll off so easily... THANK YOU, GOD!!!

Gelish: Denim Team Spirit with Bronzed & Wiggle Fingers, Wiggle Thumbs, That's the Way Magic Comes

[What a title, right?! Gelish went a little overboard on the length of their Aurora EFX Special Effects Polish names! :-P]

So now I have three of the six in this collection. They're glitter bombs = ♥♥♥, and I knew I wanted to add the blue "Wiggle Fingers, Wiggle Thumbs, That's the Way Magic Comes" to my teal & purple when #1 - JB asked if I had a blue (his fave color), #2 - Will's baseball team is dark blue, and #3 - it was on clearance at Sally Beauty Supply!!! [I cannot tell you the will power it took for me to walk away w/o also buying "The Great Google Moogly" (Annelise's fave lime green) and "Izzy Wizzy, Let's Get Busy" (sheer pink with pink & blue holographic shimmer) - but I don't *need* that many different Gelish polishes, b/c the whole point of Gelish is not having to change colors so often. I always go three full weeks. ...But I completely reserve the right to pull the trigger on either color that may still be left waiting for me next time I need to go in there. ;-)]

This blue goes on surprisingly solidly, (like the teal, unlike the purple) so I only used *ONE LAYER* (I know, right?!) because I knew I could mask any thickness discrepancies (not that I had any) with the layer of "Bronzed" [a small warm gold glitter] over top. One layer of each gave an amazing, almost denim-like effect:

[I just happened to be wearing jeans! :-D]

I wish I would've cut my fingernails a bit shorter with such a dark color, but I cut them down so much, I was afraid to go more! It's AMAZING how long & strong my natural nails grow with the Gelish on - I'm *still* getting used to having so much to cut after three weeks! :-)

[Just a note - a sweet friend was alarmed when she read a Good Housekeeping article on "the dangers of gel nail polish". I finally found a copy at the store (why doesn't GH put their content online after the hard copies go out like Southern Living, Real Simple, etc.?) and was SO RELIEVED to discover *NONE* of their hazard concerns worried me. Most concerns raised are with other brands, not Gelish; the one Gelish question was in the first bullet point, that "it may irritate skin". Valid concern, but I have used it with absolutely no inflammation, damage, or irritation. Their other big concern was the UV light; I use (& of course recommend!) LED - faster & safer. :-)]

I did my toes the same blue/gold glitter/denim, as well, which look FANTASTIC with my denim wedges! [Will took a pic :-P
but the sun was just too bright! (What an awesome "problem"! :-))] Extra bonus? Will's Brewer's baseball team colors are dark blue & gold! ULTIMATE SPIRIT MOM SUPER SCORE!!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Healthy Banana Cookies

I finally made the "Healthy Banana Cookies" suggested by my friend Phyllis via Cathlin cooks this month. They absolutely lived up to the hype!!! Here's what Cathlin's look like with cranberries:
Kind of granola-bar-esque, but softer and chewier = big bonus for me! (I'm not a fan of hard, dry granola bars.) Plus, how awesome is it to have something other [healthier!] than banana bread to use up spotty brown bananas?! With no flour & no plain sugar!

Here's my tweaking of the recipe:

* 3 ripe bananas
* 2½ cups rolled oats [I prefer old fashioned over quick]
* ¼ cup coconut [optional - I omitted (love coconut flavor, but not texture :-P)]
* 1 cup dried fruit [like cranberries, raisins, dates, chocolate chips, etc. - I used Plumazins (diced prunes) AND choc chips, (b/c I doubled the recipe, so 1 cup then of each)]
* cinnamon & nutmeg to taste [I looooove a lot of cinnamon!]
* ⅓ cup applesauce [original recipe calls for ⅓ cup canola oil; next time I may use coconut oil instead of applesauce - more calories, yes; but it's a nutritious oil & makes you feel full faster: anything to make me eat less! :-D]
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas.
3. Stir in oats, coconut, dried fruit, spices, applesauce, and vanilla.
4. Mix well, and allow to sit ("soaking the oats") for 15 minutes.
5. Drop rounded spoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Use back of spoon or spatula [or your hand :-P] to flatten cookies before baking.
6. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until lightly brown.

Highest praise! (And yes, I am eating these for breakfast, before Zumba, etc. :-))

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bubble Tea at Home

I have lamented before the lack of bubble tea here in southwest Georgia. [What is bubble tea? Just my fave beverage EVER!] Our local frozen yogurt place, Swirl, has said they want to start carrying it; but until they do, I'm in a boba black hole. [boba = tapioca balls]

Making bubble tea at home from scratch *is* possible and really not much trouble at all...so why do I never seem to do it? Excuses banished today! I've made several different brands of cook-at-home boba, which I've ordered off Amazon, as well as finding in person at Asian markets. The brand I made today - WuFuYuan - is by far my fave: fastest cooking time (5 min), easy English directions on the largely-Chinese package, and a sensible amount (8.8 oz) in the bag. [I ordered a big 2.2 lb bag once from my favorite commercial bubble tea brand, Lollicup; but b/c the boba are so fragile until they are cooked (they're essentially tapioca powder gently pressed together into a ball) half the bag disintegrated into dust before I could use it.] I got a bag exactly like this (photo credit here)
for $1.59 when we were home last at Grand Asia in CLT. (If the black color of the boba is off-putting, you can get clear or even rainbow color! I like the traditional black, though. :-) Aren't these images so fun?!?!) This bag will make two batches (each ~1 cup, pre-cooked. Boba exapnds!)

The bag directions are simple: bring water to a boil (~8 cups), and add 1 cup boba. Gently stir. When they begin to plump up (~1 min), lower heat to medium, cover & cook for 5 min. That's it! I let them come down to room temp before using them, but they are best fresh. Technically, they'll keep in the fridge a few days, but every time I've done that, mine have gotten hard. :'( This fab WuFuYuan package, though, DID offer me a new tip: add hot water or microwave to soften them up, again. (If that works, I will be making bigger batches!) I keep mine just covered in some of their cooking water in a small storage container...to which I also add some honey! This is totally optional, but I like my boba to have some extra sweetness. :-)

So the boba is done. Now for the tea! At bubble tea shops, you can get the boba put into fresh fruit smoothies and fruit- or milk-based green or black teas. My favorites are the creamy milk flavors, like almond and taro:
The kids love mango and strawberry best.

I found a few recipes on Pinterest and tweaked a creamy coconutty one for my preferences:
*4 cups rooibos tea, cold [my fave - "naturally caffeine-free herbal tea from South Africa, aka red bush tea. Its naturally sweet flavor, lack of bitter tannins, and naturally decaf nature makes it a great kids tea, pregnancy tea, tea for lactating moms, and a hydrating tea for all of us that want an antioxidant rich tea without the jitters. Medical research has suggested numerous health benefits of rooibos including anti-cancer properties, particularly in decreased risk of skin cancer."]
*4 teaspoons stevia [use honey or agave, if you prefer; it'll be more, though, b/c stevia is very concentrated]
*1 14 oz. can [light] coconut milk
*2 cups regular low-fat milk
*a few drops of both vanilla & almond extract

[Hate coconut? Omit the coconut milk! Add whatever flavors you want! There's no right or wrong!]

Put some of your boba in a glass. Shake the tea mixture (yes - it's shaken, not stirred! :-D) with some ice, and pour it over the boba. [BTW: this step is what makes it "bubble tea". The bubbles are the foam on top from shaking, not the boba. Now you are a super smarty pants expert! ;-)] Finally, drink with a fun, fat straw! (And add more sweetness, if you prefer!)


Spring bliss...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bragging on Will

*Boasting Parent Alert* - 2 weeks ago (I'm late, I know; but today I actually remembered to make him pose with his accolades :-P) Will met his goal for the whole year (super early!) by getting on the AR (reading) WALL OF FAME at school. He read an astonishing 48 books for fun during free time in class just in February and also got the Good Worker award for the month! After showing up here this time last year from a school system that was really behind this one, I couldn't be more proud!!!


Will also came home with ALL 3's (best grade) on his report card last week!!! [Of course, we *expect* all 3's ;-) but his handwriting is truly horrific, so apparently he's being rewarded for his progress! Or else, his teacher has lost her mind... :-P]

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Faux Raw Oatmeal Cookie Dough Balls

I found seven recipes this weekend I'm dying to try, but I forced myself to pick just one sweet one today. Based on how easy it was and that they'll be nice to pop a few post-Zumba, the healthy & protein-packed Raw Cookie Dough Bites won. I changed that original recipe to fit my preferences better, and they are just as amazing as initially proclaimed!


Ingredients
2/3 cup almonds
1/3 cup pistachios
5/6 cup rolled oats
1/6 cup wheat germ
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon [upping to 1 tsp next time]
1/8 tsp sea salt [*omit, if your nuts are salted!]
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips

Instructions
1. In a food processor, [I don't have one, so I used my VitaMix blender] process the nuts, oats, wheat germ, cinnamon, & salt to a fine meal.
2. Add the agave nectar and vanilla and process to combine.
3. Next, add the cocoa nibs (or chocolate chips) and pulse just to combine.
4. Roll the cookie dough into balls (about 1 tbsp each) and place them on a cookie pan lined with parchment paper. Place the pan in the freezer for about an hour to firm up. Store balls in a tightly covered container in the freezer.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"What Do You Want To Be?"

Career paths seem to be a hot topic lately. [A little funny, as I'm "just" a stay-at-home mom. ;-) It's a choice this highly-educated woman is so proud of! I knew God was telling me this was the plan for my life, even when the world around me judged, "You are wasting your degree." Coming out of school over a decade ago, I had no idea my life would entail moving around so much; but I clearly see now that instead of my kids having the hometown roots I grew up with, *I* am providing the stability that they miss out on when we always change communities.]

After chatting with her daughter, my friend, Laura, blogged a list of careers *she* considered growing up, and I thought it was such a fascinating exercise! What all did y'all want to be? The first job my little brother ever wanted? Garbage man. For real. I have vivid memories of him racing to the window every time the "amazing" garbage truck came down our street. :-P My first "dream job"? Price checker at the grocery store! (You know, back before we had price scanners, and everything had little sticker prices? I wanted to be the person who went to go check on the price, if the item was w/o a sticker at the check-out! :-D)

So far, Will has wanted to be a herpetologist, train engineer, NASCAR driver, and football player. [He still wants to be all of those, to some degree.] I can see him as a judge (he loves telling people what to do & interpreting the law with his personal slant), a legislator (the first pure, uncorrupt politician ever? ;-)) b/c he loves making up rules for others, or maybe even a pastor or counselor, b/c he is the most intuitive, inquisitive, sensitive child of faith.

Annelise decided last year after her hospital stay that she wanted to be a doctor. I thought that may be a passing fancy, but no. The only update incorporates her passion for animals - she now wants to be a vet. I know every kid seems to want to be a vet at some point, but it wouldn't surprise me if she really does one day! This kid is truly an animal whisperer. I also would not be surprised if she ended up being a massage therapist - she is the most tactile person I've ever encountered.

I stressed out over jobs when I was little; I had a very unhealthy fear (*completely self-imposed*!!! I grew up comfortably!) of being financially unstable, (I even hoarded my allowance!) so I wouldn't let myself consider my passions (the arts) as "real" careers. At some point around 3rd grade, it was drilled into my head that "playing school" was not as good as "playing law firm". My BFF at the time started this notion, and I think my parents thought it was worthy of encouragement...but from that point on, it became my de facto reply to, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "I'm going to go to Davidson for college, Duke for law school, and be a lawyer." As I became more passionate about musical theatre, I edited to add: "I'm going to Davidson for college and Duke for law school. Then I'm going to New York to try Broadway, and if it doesn't work out, I'll have a solid law career to fall back on." I have to admit, it makes me a little queasy now typing that out. I can't tell you how many times I told that to be people from 4th grade into even my sophomore year at Davidson! I was at the top of my class, and it's what everyone expected of me, so I told them what they wanted to hear. [For clarification: I didn't feel like I was lying to anyone or even myself; but I just didn't know what else I should do.] I found a way to twist my interests into my college class choices - sociology classes for criminology, theatre classes for trial presentation, my year abroad in Germany to open the door to the UN and international law...but it was sitting in a phone booth in the basement of my German apartment building, trying to figure out when to do LSAT prep when I'd get back to the US, that I admitted to myself for real that none of that would make me happy. [FWIW: that *was* a scary revelation! Talk about leaving my comfort zone of academic achievement!!!]

Since I've battled those personal, self-imposed, irrational career notions, I want to actively fight against my kids feeling the same. If one says today they want to be a chef, I won't say, "But Honey, the hours are awful - you're working while everyone else is out at restaurants enjoying themselves; and you don't get to make what YOU want, only what they tell you to." I'll just ask what they'd want to cook! The negatives can come up down the road, if they get serious, but I'm not squashing their initial notions right off the bat. That hurts. Even (esp.?) when you're young. A teacher? I'd ignore the paltry pay & dealing with crazy kids; I'd encourage them in having one of the greatest impacts possible on young lives.

All the placating (of others & myself) that I did seems RIDICULOUS now, b/c post-graduation, I have *ONLY* done things I thought I couldn't/wouldn't:

* teaching high school - I wasn't annoyed by hooligan kids; I relished being a "favorite teacher" and really helping these kids learn.

* teaching dance - I would've never let myself consider, b/c of the pay & low hours; but it was more fulfilling than anything I'd ever done up to that point in my life!

* teaching Zumba - anyone who only knew me in high school would totally scoff, "You don't have the body type for that!" Ha ha! I look better now than I did then! :-D I'm stronger, healthier, and feel more beautiful! How many other mid-30's can say that??? (Actually, I hope a lot! Come to Zumba! ;-))

The girl who grew up irrationally constrained by the idea of not making enough money has made virtually none, and it hasn't mattered! [Don't you just love how God's perfect plans usually turn all of yours on their heads? :-P] I needed a priority check earlier on: true value & success should be measured by the lives you positively impact, not by your paycheck. God provided me with the perfect partner in JB; I love my life, and it's turned out for the best. ...But there are times I wish I could go back & tell Middle- or High-School-Me not to worry about the future, b/c if you pray about it, God will make sure the desires of your heart are fulfilled. Even as "just" a SAHM, I get:
* my love of performing = singing in church and dance/Zumba
* my love of photo layouts (I was editor of the yearbook :-)) = digital scrapbooking, MOPS newsletter, & Junior League web design
* my love of leadership = MOPS leadership & Junior League council
* wanting to bless others & improve lives = every child I've ever taught, helping moms through MOPS, charity work through Junior League, and now through my Zumba ministry

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Will Talking Future

I pray that Will will keep talking to me like he does now for years to come, well beyond the average "too cool for you" age cut-off...

The past two nights have been intensives on two of his most favorite topics with me:

Tonight was all about college. Will asked, "What's it like?" We discussed every.single.aspect for 30 minutes - how you choose the right college (class offerings, location, reputation, & scholarships), how it's different from grade school (you choose the classes you want to take based on what interests you, you're in the classroom for a shorter time but you have more homework), what classes I took, etc.

The night before was all about his ultimate passion - no, not NASCAR, Wii, or herpetology - but marriage. :-) He has been obsessed with getting married for years! I walked into his room to tuck him in, and he squealed, "Look at my table!" (He had set up every trophy and laid out every ribbon & medal he's ever earned.) "All the girls are going to see this and say, 'Oh my gosh! I have GOT to marry him!!!!!'" :-D We had another one of our myriad talks on who he might end up marrying, [he's already been through three beloveds - Kendall (still his NC BFF), Kaylin (neighbor up north), and now Kaylie (current girlfriend in his class)] and each time, I just keep saying, "It might be her, and that's great! And if it's not, God will send you someone you'll think is even better!" He counted the years until he can get married. At first, he stopped at 18; then we discussed why that wasn't as good as waiting until you're about 25, so that you can have gone to & graduated from college (thinking this ignited tonight's college query :-)), gotten a really good job, so you don't have to worry if you'll have enough money to pay for your house, food, lights, water, heat, car, doctor, phone, TV, computer, etc., *and* so you can buy the girl you want to marry a diamond ring! (I'd mentioned most of that in previous tête-à-têtes, but we'd never really talked about rings before. :-P) I showed him mine, and he was definitely on board with that plan! :-D JB doesn't like this topic with him, but I think it couldn't be a more perfect mother/son matter. I know how much he ponders it, so I even prayed for his future wife during his prayers that night: I prayed that, wherever she is, she had a great day today, that she's growing up in a happy household, and that she's having a great life that will shape her into the perfect partner for Will.

I mean, when you think about it, isn't it as important to pray for your children's future spouses as it is to pray for your kids? They'll be half of my grandchildren and hopefully helping to take care of me one day. ;-)

I feel so blessed to have Will feel comfortable enough to ask & tell me *EVERYTHING*; I feel like I have to dig a bit more information out of Annelise, but Will will offer up his heart to me on a silver platter. I know I could've asked my parents anything, too, but *I* was often too shy or embarrassed; I'm so thankful he's not, yet (or hopefully ever?) I love being open & honest with my kids! I could've chatted with him for another 30 minutes tonight before bed, but that school bus comes so early. Wondering what tomorrow night will bring...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mega Zumba Update

Y'all, I just realized I haven't done a Zumba update in a MONTH...and oh, what a month it's been!!! [I think it just wasn't on my mind blog-wise, b/c I'm constantly posting updates & talking about it on FB.]

Sooo, I'm now teaching not one, but *THREE* classes - two as free outreach ministries at church, one paid at a gym - with another paid on the horizon! ...Actually, potentially a lot more paid; but I'm not going to take those, b/c they'll cut into family time & Will's baseball. I feel a little stupid turning down paid offers when they reallyreallyreally want me; but I only get Will at home for the next ten years, and I want, I choose to make being there for his & Annelise's activities the higher priority. When I originally got licensed, my intention was to only teach during the day when the kids are in school; but with the economic demographic of this area, there aren't as many stay-at-home moms, etc., as any other place we've lived. :'( There's just so little daytime class demand.

JB comes home from work in time to take Will (& Sis) to baseball on Tuesdays so I can teach my Tuesday 5:30-6:15 PM class, (which has actually turned out to be a big blessing not only for me, but for the kids getting to have Daddy more involved in one of their activities. :-)) The kids come with me while I teach my 5:45-6:30 PM class on Wednesdays at the gym (I'm only cheating them out of one hour, right?) and then they're in school while I teach my Thursday morning 11:00-11:45 AM class. The 4th potential class I'd add would be Friday mornings, and the two I'd probably turn down (*if* I'm offered & after discussing with JB) would be Monday & Friday evenings. It would be AMAZING to get to teach all those classes, but I don't feel comfortable dragging my kids with or missing their activities four nights a week - it's the reason I don't do any musical theatre at this point in life, either, you know?

So yeah, my opportunities are exploding, which feels FABULOUS!!! :-)

And the stories I'm hearing from my class members are...uplifting, praise worthy, and above all, humbling. My ministry classes are so much bigger than me & Zumba!!! God is really working through them!!! I've had two ladies come back from doctor's appointments this week reporting that their blood pressure is already down. One lady told me she's rescheduling EVERYTHING that comes up to never miss, b/c it's the #1 highlight of her week. One noted that just by adding Zumba once a week, that she's down 3 pounds in a month, and another confided how much this is helping her battle depression - that she couldn't afford gym classes, but the ministry lets her get out & get moving in a happy, friendly, safe, silly, judgement-free environment where she doesn't have to worry about spending money and the endorphins (& remembering the fun music :-)) keep her mood up afterwards! The most amazing account took my breath away and made me weepy: an estranged mother & daughter who had not spoken in almost two years (I had no idea!) began to test the waters of reconnecting the exact same time I started the ministry class. Now they come together every week, and the mom told me this would not have happened without this opportunity to Zumba together - a happy, free activity they could both equally get into where there's lots of laughing & no pressure to talk...until they both decided they wanted to & began going out to eat afterwards each week now. :-) THAT IS ALLLLLL GOD!!!!!! And I can't tell you know life-rocking it feels to be a small part of it...

Mărțișor

Our Romanian friends, the Ciorteas, who just came to visit this week brought Annelise & me the most thoughtful little gifts: mărțișoare. I have such an affinity for learning about cultural celebrations, so these were beyond perfect, b/c they represent our friends, and they taught us something!


Mărțișor is an old Romanian celebration at the beginning of spring, on March 1st. The name Mărțișor is the diminutive of marț, the old folk name for March (Martie, in modern Romanian), so it literally means "little March". Mărțișor is also the name for the red and white string from which a small decoration is tied, and which is given by boys (Eli & Alec :-)) to girls (Annelise & me :-)) on the 1st day of March. [Look on my shirt & in Annelise's fingers!] Giving this talisman to people is an old custom, and it is believed that the one who wears the red and white string will be strong and healthy for the year to come. It is also a symbol of the coming spring. Usually, women wear it pinned to their clothes for the first 12 days of the month, until other spring celebrations, or until the bloom of certain fruit-trees. In modern times, and especially in urban areas, the Mărțișor lost most of its talisman properties and became more of a symbol of friendship or love, appreciation and respect. :-)

[They also brought us Nestlé Joe XXL Ciocolata cu Lapte:
Mmmm...chocolate & wafers - a bit like giant Kit Kats!]