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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Beat the Heat – Cookin’ in the Kitchen

beat heat kitchen

Summer time in Texas is full of beauty, fun, and heat! When it’s sweltering outside, the last thing I want to do is swelter in the kitchen. But alas, the family still needs to eat healthy meals. With a few changes to our school-year cooking routine, I easily overcome the desire to stay out of the kitchen!

Find recipes that do not require cooking.

  • Fruit – This is the season for fruit! Instead of allowing kids to snack on chips and junk food all day, keep plenty of fruit on hand. If your child isn’t a fruit eater, make smoothies or puree the fruit and freeze as popsicles. Frozen grapes are a favorite pool side snack! We love fresh watermelon, but one watermelon will get mushy before our family finishes it. Whatever we don’t eat after a day or two, I put in a blender then freeze as popsicles. Added coconut milk changes it into a creamy treat!
  • Salads – I eat salads all year, but in the summer I make some changes. Adding specialty cheeses or fruit gives salads a new twist. This is also the perfect back-drop to eat leftovers. Grilled steak from the night before becomes a fancy salad with goat cheese and cold sliced steak.
  •  Smoothies – Adding peanut butter, chia seeds, or flax can up the protein and nutrients.

When you do cook, make extra for another day. I’m a huge fan of once a month cooking. This wasn’t always the case. After taking a course and learning a new approach, I’ve embraced it enthusiastically over the winter months. (Check out Meals Masters) Now that summer is quickly approaching, most of my recipes are winter fare.  Before summer arrives, I will be revamping my once a month cooking recipes to make them summer friendly. So far, I’ve come up with a few twists on our family faves.

Roasted chicken

I roast at least two chickens a week. We eat the meat for our lunches (cheaper alternative to lunch meat) and I use the rest of the chicken for healthy chicken broth. For the summer, I will still roast chickens and make broth, however, instead of eating chicken hot out of the oven, I’ll use the chicken to make cold chicken salad. With a side of fruit, this will make a delish cold alternative for the hot summer days. Instead of using the broth for chicken chili, I have a new butternut squash soup recipe that can be eaten hot or cold.

Move the cooking outdoors and GRILL!!! As long as the weather is nice, we cook and eat outdoors. Some of our favorite meals that were cooked in the oven will be moved to the grill. However, this is Texas, so I know the day is quickly approaching that even grilling outside is just too hot!

Another tip: I’m moving the crock pot to the garage. I’m not sure if it really does keep the kitchen cooler, but it just feels like it will. And that’s half the battle of beating the heat in the kitchen.

Get your kids into the kitchen! With kids out of school for the summer, this is the perfect opportunity to teach them how to cook. Some of our favorite summer nights are the ones where the kids cook. Each child is assigned a night every week or so. I help the younger kids while the older ones are encouraged to learn a new technique. They pick the meal, make a shopping list, grocery shop with me, cook, and clean. It’s their special night! Some nights we’ve had sandwiches for dinner and ice cream sandwiches for dessert. We’ve also had dippers meals, where everything was finger food that had different dips: chicken nuggets with choice of sauces, fruit in peanut butter, carrots dipped in ranch, and an assortment of items dipped in chocolate.

My new favorite place to find recipes is Pinterest. Check out my board called Beat the Heat – Summer Recipes. Hopefully it will give you inspiration to beat the heat in the kitchen while still cooking healthy, family friendly meals.

How to Crochet

Learn How-to-Crochet

Kimberly Vogel Crochet

One of my favorite ways to relax involves wrapping yarn around my fingers and using a funny tool with a hook on it to make beautiful creations. Crochet. Ahhhh…. I just love it. I must confess, it wasn’t relaxing at first. When I began, it was very frustrating and I often felt like throwing the hook across the room. I persevered and now it flows almost naturally. I won’t say it doesn’t ever frustrate me, but it’s more of a puzzle to solve rather than a ball of yarn that’s getting the best of me!

Now, I’m not actually going to post step by step instructions here – but I am posting links to my favorite instructional sites. I love to teach people how to crochet, but in person. So – if you want a lesson, let me know and we’ll set up a mini-class! But for now, enjoy these links!

Free how-to-crochet tutorials

Crochet School

Lion Brand

My Crochet Help

Yarn Council

Free Patterns


Lion Brand


You can find free patterns everywhere, however some aren’t very well written or full of mistakes. It’s very frustrating to be halfway through the pattern and realize it isn’t working. I stick with patterns from name brands in crafts or yarns. Ravelry has a lot of patterns – just because they are on that site, doesn’t mean they are good. I look for patterns that are NOT by people, but from companies. Most of the patterns you buy are better patterns. There are some good patterns by people, but until you know, it’s better to be cautious.

Reading a pattern

Annie’s catalog

Yarn Council

Red Heart

Where do I start?

I suggest starting with a small pattern, like a flower or heart. Better yet, to practice the different stitches, use a cotton yarn and make a swatch. If you make it big enough, it can be a washcloth.

Free Washcloth Pattern

Chain 2o stitches. Turn. For the first row, practice single crochets. Turn. Chain 2 then do a row of half double crochets. Turn. Chain 3 and do a row of double crochets. Turn. Chain 4 and do a row of triple crochets. Repeat until you have a square. Fasten off and weave in ends.

Chain 20 stitches.

R1: sc in third ch from hook, sc across. Turn.

R2: ch 2, hdc across. Turn.

R3: ch 3, dc across. Turn.

R4: ch 4, tc across. Turn.

Repeat rows until desired length. FO and weave in ends.

Don’t Always Rescue Your Struggling Learner

Mistake #1 / Rescue

I didn’t realize how much I rescue my struggling learner.


Let me start with what I did right. When I noticed the panic of not knowing an answer in her eyes, my smile and words of confidence helped bring peace. If that didn’t work, and real panic set it, we would breathe or do a physical activity. Once panic abated, we would try to complete the assignment.

Here’s where my tendency to rescue stepped in. If the correct answer didn’t come soon enough, I would provide it, then explain the why and how. That’s what teacher’s do, right?

Now that I’m becoming an expert and working with NILD, I learned a big lesson.

Don’t rescue.

During our therapy session, I sat with her giving her ample opportunity to answer the question. In one of our exercises, she didn’t know the answer, and actually became really mad at me for asking it. With a few prompts, she eventually answered correctly (chalk throwing may or may not have been involved). During a different exercise, she had to repeat after me but change something in the information. She stayed calm this time, but really struggled. I didn’t rescue. I just repeated the information calmly. Over. And. Over. Guess what? She did it! I paid attention to my thought processes and realized I often rescue. After three tries, I give in and give up the answer.

When I rescue, I’m taking away the opportunity for her to succeed.

After the end of that lesson, she told me she never wanted to do the therapy again.

I didn’t rescue. I let her own those feelings. I felt pretty defeated as well. The next day we discussed why we are doing it. At the end of that day’s therapy, she confessed she had fun!

I didn’t rescue,

she succeeded,

and her confidence grew!

Disclaimer: The therapy we are currently doing is practice for my NILD course. In July I will be certified as an educational therapist (level I). I do not share any information about students I do therapy with, unless they are my own children, with their consent.

I Picked a Good Father for my Children

Well, actually, God picked him out for me. I just followed along love struck and giddy. Ok. Maybe not giddy. Definitely love struck.

His name is Kevin. Best. Dad. Ever.

When were dating, I was super impressed with his love for kids. He accompanied me to birthday parties for my nieces and nephews. He probably would’ve gone anywhere with me, but while there, he interacted with the kids.

His dad worked as a children’s pastor at church and Kevin taught in the two year old class. At first, I thought he had to, ya know, cause of his dad. Nah, he loved it.  I still get starry eyed when I see him teaching children at church. He doesn’t know this, but when I worked the Wednesday night program, I stand outside the room (behind those mirrored windows that let parents peek in) and watch him. Just to think about how awesome he is.

And that’s just with other people’s kids.

With our kids…

How did I get so lucky?

Wow. Sometimes he leaves me speechless. He far surpasses me with patience and gentleness. Yes, he loves our girls, but not only that – he invests in them. He builds them up in little ways (calling them young ladies) and big ways (he cut back on his teasing when he realized it was crushing hearts instead of nurturing them).

If you don’t read anything else – read this:

I know from my core the reason my girls haven’t gone through a stage of boycraziness and attention seeking from guys is because of the security, attention, and love they receive from their dad.

For that, I am thankful. In fact, it’s been on my mind quite a bit… and I feel a blog post coming in the next few weeks (months maybe) about that topic.

But for now – it’s time to celebrate the man and father my husband is.

Chores and the Bible


We are big on chores around here. Not only does it help take a huge load off of my back, it teaches my kids how to take care of a house. I have a system that works – sort of. I realized a few of the jobs are undefined and sometimes a job is done half-way.

But the big problem…



I’ve had chore lists for years. What we needed was a

Household Management Agreement.

The first thing I did was ask my husband for input. Together we called a family meeting and read the verses:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.        1 Corinthians 10:31

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.          Proverbs 14: 24

 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.              Titus 3:14

After discussing what each one means, we read the description of jobs. I want my kids to feel successful with their chores. It’s critical to make sure each child is capable of doing the jobs assigned. Teach your children HOW to clean. You know your child and what they are capable of. My personal goal is for each child to be able to clean the house by the end of Jr. High, if not before.

A question I receive any time I talk about chores is WHEN?

When do you start chores?

I started kitchen jobs as soon as the kiddos are able to hold a cup or plate. When I unload the dishwasher, the kiddos help by putting the plastic cups or bowls away. When my kids were toddlers, I kept the plastic bowls and cups in the lowest drawer or cabinet in the kitchen. That way, they could reach it and help. Now anyone with a two year old “helping” in the kitchen, knows that it takes longer to unload a dishwasher when you have that kind of help.

That leads me to the second question: WHY?

Why do you start that young?

I believe that anyone who lives in the house is responsible for the upkeep. (see Titus 3:14) It promotes an attitude of hard work and productivity. When a child is given responsibility, he is given a chance to succeed. When a child is given a chance to succeed, he is given a chance to improve his life and develop healthy self esteem. Also, when you start chores at a young age, that’s all they know.

Mom, it’s up to you make chores NOT a chore. If your attitude is that having chores is no fun, they will hate it even more.

That’s why I include these verses into our Household Management Agreement:

Verses for Mom:

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:14

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly, but those who despise him are devious in their ways. A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them. Proverbs 14: 1-3

I would LOVE to hear from YOU!

What verses do you use when discussing chores with your children? When do you start chores?

Man Up!

Mission Trip

The journey home starts today. On my daughter’s mission trip to South Africa, she was in a flash mob to promote a new organization called Man Up!

Open Eyes in Africa

Mission Trip

My daughter is on a mission trip. All the way in Africa. For me, this is a test of faith.

She asked that her eyes would be opened. The next communication was this picture.mission trip

I heard her voice. Once. So full of excitement. Wonder. Fun.

She’s having the time of her life. Learning lessons that only come from experience.


Like never before



Like never before


The stories are amazing.

But they are hers, not mine.

So I will let her tell them.

But for now, she has three more days before the long trek home. Will you pray for her, please?

I did something I never thought I was capable of

I became a leader.

It wasn’t my intention. I wanted my kids to be more involved in church and knew I needed to serve. I loved kids and wanted to make a difference.

So I signed up to volunteer on Wednesday nights. I just wanted to be there, behind the scenes, pull supplies or lead a small group. When we started, there were only three volunteers, but the program was small and it worked. With only three volunteers, there’s no such thing as behind the scenes. (Unless you’re the sound guy – which my husband quickly stepped up to do.) After a few weeks, I was asked to lead prayer. On the stage. With a mike.

Pause right here and think a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Now double it and add in fear, insecurity, and light-headedness. That’s a bit of how I felt.

But I did it. And the kids didn’t laugh.

The children’s pastor took me under her wing and began to mentor me. She showed me the ropes in building a program – what elements are involved, how to organize, time management, talking to parents… More importantly, she taught me that prayer is the most important element in planning. Some planning meetings became prayer meetings.

Little by little I stepped into different roles. I did things I NEVER thought I would do. I never saw myself as a leader. Until my mentor told me she saw it. The words she spoke into my life grew. When put in uncomfortable places, I learned a reliance on God. Anytime I step on the stage, I put myself to the side and became God’s vessel. For a time, I was a worship leader. (For those of you who don’t know me, I can’t sing on key and my dance skills are well, non-existent.) That is when I saw love in a whole new way. My husband – the sound guy – ALWAYS turned my mike off during the singing. That’s love. And I’ll never forget the boy and girl who would do the  motions a step ahead so I could follow their lead. God has a special blessing for them. (All because they didn’t laugh!) Being a leader means filling roles when others don’t show – even when it’s uncomfortable.

Over the next few years, I went from volunteer, to co-leader, to director. There were some nights the only volunteers with me were my family members or church staff. There were times I wanted to quit. Sure, I got my feelings hurt. But each time I looked into the faces of the children, I knew God was touching lives for Him.  Serving God is not about me, but about Him. Serving is learning. Serving is putting self to the side. Oh, and the nights I just didn’t want to go… there were plenty of those nights. You know, as soon as I walked into the church, that nagging headache or stomach problems – evaporated. And if they didn’t – I found someone to pray for me. God always gave me strength to carry on.

Through all of it, God taught me so much  more than I would’ve learned sitting in the service. Just as my mentor invested in my life, I tried to also invest in the lives of my team. I’ll never forget the prayers in coffee houses together, prayers in hallways, encouraging emails, hugs, and the life experiences I walked with my team. Leading is investing in the lives of the people in your program, as well as in the lives of your team. 

Leading is also about knowing when to step down. I felt the nudge that it was time to move on. Taking off my director hat is hard. After praying, then talking to my husband and finding he felt the same nudge, I knew. The time came to hand it over. Tonight’s the night – my last night. I know the door is still open. I can come back anytime to pray with the kids, fill in for a small group, or just get some hugs. I’m still serving God and part of the children’s ministry, just not leading this area. I wonder if I know what to do in big church?

I’m sad to close the door to this part of my life, but excited to see what God has in store for me now.

I would not trade these four years, or the lessons learned for anything. It was life changing. I thought I was serving to teach children about God and His love. God used my service to change and grow  my life. I went from a mom filled with insecurities, afraid to step out of my comfort zone, to a leader. A life changer. Every time I tried to show God’s love to the kids, it came back to me doubled. When I taught the Word, I learned a lesson too. I thought I was teaching the kids, in turn, I was the one taught. I thought I was there to show them God for their lives to be changed – it was me who changed. Being a leader is really being a learner and a lover.


I couldn’t sleep the night before.

I feared judgement.

I’m not talking eternal judgement or any deep, spiritual thing, I’m talking about judgement from another woman. I invited a woman to come into my home and see the deepest corners of forgotten about cabinets, and major amounts of book clutter. (Pictures of the book clutter were captured on Instagram. If you followed me this weekend you saw in real time what things looked like. It was fun documenting the process!) There’s something about someone seeing your dust in the corners that brooms don’t reach. Almost as invasive as… well… just know I’m blushing right now. Any whoo, I couldn’t sleep. I. Didn’t. Want. To. Be. Judged.


Morning came, and I got up extra early to clean. The entire day was dedicated to cleaning, but I had to declutter before the clutter expert arrived. All the areas she helped me declutter before… well, they needed another decluttering. (Shhhh… don’t tell her that. She still doesn’t know.)

I even woke the kids – and the husband – an hour before she arrived to help. Yes. I did. Needless to say, not much happened except a frustrated momma.

Before the knock even came I was a sweaty mess. Not sure if it was from the Texas heat or my nerves.

The knock came. Right on time. I pushed my pride away and opened the door.

Organize Em.

Standing there like a breath of fresh air. Her smile and warmth radiated through my nerves and I felt like it was going to be OK.

Her encouraging and soothing words put my mind to ease. I felt no judgement. Not even when we moved a computer desk and found enough food for a complete meal, allbeit covered with layers of dust. I felt no judgement. Not even when the kids didn’t listen for the umpteenth time. I felt no judgement. Not even when *someone* lost their temper. There was only help. And freedom.

She taught me.

How to organize.

How to throw things out.

How to find freedom and release from the things I don’t know what to do with.

She reminded me that I have someone there in times of anxiety.

There was a lot. of anxiety. She walked me through it. Sometimes her words were hard to hear, but she covered them in love and reality. Because she knows my dreams and wants to do all she can to help me reach them. Let me tell you – EVERYONE needs someone like that.

Seriously folks, I couldn’t do it on my own. I would’ve given up. Walked away. Quit.

But she helped me stay the course. And look.


*sigh* it’s beautiful.

2013-06-01 18.18.38

I feel so accomplished. And proud.

Thank you, Organize Em. To you, it was an overload of books and a stressed out mom. To me, it was a lifesaver. You listened, you caught my vision, you helped me stay the course.


We conquered the clutter. (Four or five kitchen sized trash bags of trash and five or six boxes of books to sell/donate.)

Thank you.

You didn’t judge.

You stayed.

You taught me.

You encouraged me through it.

Guess what? She can help you too!

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