giveaway winner!

Congratulations to Jessica D! You’ve won a copy of Crock-On! It should appear in your email inbox shortly! 🙂

If you didn’t win, don’t forget you can purchase a copy of crock-on here. And thank you to Stacy Makes Cents for making this giveaway possible!

🙂 Jessica

Giveaway for Valentine’s! Win “Crock-On” Cookbook!

What?? Is it weird that a crock-pot cookbook is a romantic giveaway?

It’s not to me! I guess my view of “romance” has shifted a bit over the last five years.

Case in point: A few months ago, Todd and I left for a date, and pulling out of the driveway after leaving our kids with my parents, Todd said, “Do you want to go take a nap? Let’s just go park somewhere and take a nap.”

Don’t worry, we didn’t go through with it. We did go have our nice (albeit tired) fancy dinner. But I guess I’m just not so crazy and wild as I was back in the day. Which, let’s be honest, was never really that crazy and wild to start with.

Anyway, I think it is perfectly appropriate to give away this rockin’ crock pot cookbook over the Valentine’s Day season. Love = comfort = crock pots. Agreed? Great.

If you are not familiar with Stacy Makes Cents, do yourself a favor and follow her blog. She has the terrific knack to make things like razors and salt seem entertaining, while at the same time you learn something. That’s a skill, y’all. (And ps, everyone knows that when people say “y’all,” they are really telling the truth. No one says “y’all,” and lies.)

image courtesy of stacymakescents.com

image courtesy of stacymakescents.com

Anyway, I have been really impressed with her cookbook Crock On Cookbook so far. This week I made two recipes from it: Creamy Chicken Chowder, and Stuffed Pepper Stoup. Both were delicious. My family literally devoured the Stuffed Pepper Stoup. As Stacy suggested, I served it with cornbread (my dairy-free, egg-free healthi-fied cornbread, to be exact…stay tuned for that recipe). I was literally shocked at how delicious it was! I can’t wait to try a few more recipes from the book this week!

Here’s what I like about this cookbook:

  • the recipes are original, healthy, and simple
  • it includes great pictures (aren’t picture cookbooks just better??)
  • it includes Stacy’s cute and funny commentary. Might as well enjoy yourself while you’re making dinner.

You can purchase a print copy of the book for $12, or an e-book for $5.

You can also enter to win an e-book version of the book here!

To enter:

  1. “Like” Smartter Each Day on FB, or subscribe via email.
  2. Comment below: What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten out of a crock pot?

Contest ends 8:00am Saturday, February 16, and I’ll announce the winner here sometime that day.

Kids’ Bedroom Chore Chart: The Answer to ALL Your Problems

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Don’t you just love when you think of a solution for a bunch of problems at once?!? It’s only happened to me about twice in my life, but, man, it’s the best.

I know you’re finding it difficult to see how that ghetto-looking piece of middle school artwork, affixed to the wall with masking tape, could be such a problem solver.

Oh, but it is!

Here’s how. This poster, which (shocker) I made, is taped to the inside of Sam’s bedroom door. Anytime he wants to come out, either at morning, or after his “nap” (quotation marks essential), he must do all of these items first.

In case my snazzy drawings aren’t clear, the “to-do” list includes: make bed, put CDs in dresser (the CDS are the things that kind of look like breasts), put the balls in the basket, take extra toys to the “man cave” (our word for playroom), take your drink downstairs, etc. etc.

Here’s the best thing. Miracle of miracles, somehow, a chore spoken is horrible/awful/ignored, but a chore drawn, with markers, is FUN! Sam literally made me mess up the room twice during the day so he could do all the chores. It was awesome.

Here’s his room, all cleaned up. And Ty, wondering where all the fun mess went.

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Yes, it’s not decorated. Stop judging me.

See, as an added bonus for reading this already-informative blog, you get to feel super, super good about yourselves and all your perfectly decorated, awesomely painted, wooden-initial-adorned children’s rooms.

Because, yes, we have lived in this house a year and my children’s rooms are neither painted nor decorated. It’s a sin, really. Someone should just call child protective services. I’m not sure how you can raise a well-adjusted child in such bleakness but I’m going to try to defy the odds. My excuse is that I don’t want Sam inhaling all those paint fumes and triggering his asthma. And of course, you can’t put up pictures or shelving until you paint. So here we are. Barren.

I think I’ve gotten off topic. Back to the bedroom chore chart. Here are all the amazing things it accomplishes, all at one:

  • Sam hones his work ethic, which, despite all of his time spent in his “work shop,” is a vastly under-developed trait, I’m afraid.
  • His room gets clean. Which makes me feel less bad about the decorating issue.
  • Sam stays in his room longer during “nap” time doing something productive.
  • Sam learns a few sight words.

Viola! Brilliant, right?!

I encourage you to try a little chore chart at home. We’ve also done morning chore charts and evening chore charts. The drawings are essential. And I don’t think I have to tell you to not let your lack of artistic talent stop you. Obviously it didn’t stop me!

Have you ever used a chore chart for your toddler? How did it work?

weekend reading…2/9/13

Happy weekend, everyone! We’ve been battling some winter colds around here (including a nice little asthma attack), so this week was low-key. (Who am I kidding..they’re always low-key.)

This coming week, however, Todd and I have a very romantic Valentine’s Day take-out dinner from Carrabba’s planned. I know… you’re jealous. We might even get some of those mini-desserts too. It’s a crazy life we live.

Here are a few things I enjoyed this week:

This week, also, will start the new renovations here at Smartter Each Day! It should be a few weeks before it’s finished. I’m sure you’ll all be on the edges of your seat. Try to remain calm. Blessings to you and your family this Valentine’s Day week!

Jessica

Anxiety in Motherhood

This morning I’m guest posting at Modern Alternative Mama, speaking about my struggles with anxiety. This was a difficult post to write, but I’d love to know it was passed along to others who might benefit from it!

I’ve been a mother for three and a half years, and I’ve struggled with anxiety for much of that time.

From the day I brought my little one home, I hated how powerless I felt to protect him. Worry only worsened as we navigated our son’s severe food allergies and asthma.

I remember when I hit rock-bottom.

Click here to read the rest of this post at Modern Alternative Mama.

Make Your Hormones Work for You: what to do, when, in your cycle

Attention: This post is for women. (In case the use of the “h” and “c” words in the title didn’t already send the male readers {my dad and brother} fleeing for the countryside, metaphorically speaking.) I do imagine my husband is still reading, however…He is probably both amused/afraid of what he is going to read next in this scintillating article.

Well, here’s the thing, ladies (and Todd). In case you have not yet noticed, the female species is not actually a “static” creature, so to speak. It’s not so much a “put in x = get out y” sort of thing. More like a, “put in x = there is really no telling what will happen next” sort of thing. Makes life exciting. Or something.

Sometimes we are up, sometimes we are down. Sometimes we can conquer the world, sometimes we should just have a sundae and call it a day.

So I was thinking the other day. Wouldn’t it be brilliant to plan my activities around my menstrual cycle? (And with that, I send any remaining male readers dashing for the “back” button.)

But really ya’ll. It makes sense. I did a little research on the 28-day female cycle (which, obviously, wouldn’t necessarily apply to pregnant/nursing/menopausal women. But it’s still interesting.). And, here is what I’ve come up with. A week-by-week guideline for what to do when. You’re welcome.

In case you’re wondering when I become an OB-GYN in my spare time, oh, I didn’t. Isn’t the internet amazing? 😉 I’ve just become a semi– expert on the women’s cycle in my free time. Here is one of the articles I’ve used, to give you an idea. The basic premise is that there are three main phases in your cycle:  “Follicular phase” (begins first day of period, lasts for about two weeks),  the “ovulatory phase” (around day 14 of cycle), and the “luteal phase” (PMS). During these phases, estrogen rises and falls. Estrogen affects your energy, libido, appetite, extroversion, etc. etc.

So…without further ado, here’s how to make those hormones work for you!

So, week 1 (first day of period, to day 7)

  • what’s going on: rising estrogen levels. Once the crampiness subsides, you start feeling energetic and happy.
  • what to eat: healthier things. You have a smaller appetite, so go with that and do one of those dumb healthy cleanses or a Pinterest kale smoothie thingy.
  • what to do: work out, clean your house, schedule play dates or other social activities, do your budget or something else requiring your smart brain
  • what NOT to do: go shopping (because you’ll feel happy, impulsive, and skinner, thus buying more items)
  • what to wear: skinny jeans, tight little workout numbers you wore before you were a mom, etc. etc.

Week 2 (day 7-14)

  • what’s going on: Estrogen continues to rise until it peaks this week with ovulation
  • what to eat: more healthy foods
  • what to do: well, if you’re trying to get pregnant…then try to get pregnant. 🙂 Also, anything that might be physically painful, because apparently high estrogen masks pain. who knew.
  • what NOT to do: hang pictures, pick out paint, or get a new haircut. High estrogen makes you more easily stressed, let’s just avoid those potential stressful moments. 🙂

Week 3 (day 14-21)

  • what’s going on: “pre-PMS” symptoms. Estrogen plummets, so the moods level off and fatigue sets in.
  • what to eat: a lot! I always get really hungry during this time. Go with that. Foods that fill me up are beans, avocado, and chicken. Sounds like a good excuse to get a Grilled Stuffed Burrito from Taco Bell. Not that I would ever do that, except every Sunday.
  • what to do:  Watch your kids, from a couch, resting. 🙂 Read books to your kids. Take a small walk everyday, to get the sunshiny happiness in your life. Watch some weird bow-hunting video with your husband, because, heck, you might as well hang out and do nothing productive.
  • what NOT to do: try to analyze your health insurance, do your taxes, or anything requiring lots of concentrated thought.
  • what to wear: something comfortable.

Week 4 (day 22-28)

  • what’s going on: This is what is fondly referred to as “PMS.” Here is a post I wrote on that. All the hormones plunge, and so does everyone’s mood.
  • what to eat: You’ll want chocolate and potato chips. Actually, this isn’t the worst thing in the world. Foods that increase serotonin are not a bad idea.
  • what to do:  Have a conversation where you have to be assertive. You’re going to want to bite someone’s head off, so utilize that for good. Need to cancel your cable? Need to dispute a charge on your credit card? Go with that.
  • what NOT to do: meet someone for the first time you want to impress, try on bathing suits, go on a diet,
  • what to wear: two words: Yoga. Pants.

Was this helpful? Do you find yourself more hungry, tired, or happy at certain times?

Why Does God Allow Asthma? (with real answers)

I need to say something first. I feel the need to acknowledge that I’m talking here about asthma. Not leukemia, not AIDS, not violence or other horrible things. And PRAISE THE LORD for that.

It’s been a rough few days here…the same kind of rough days everyone has in every house these days of the year, when kids get sick and no one sleeps and snot and aches and needing-mommy (no matter how old you are) is par for the course.

sick days...

sick days…

My rough days are nothing. Nothing.

I found a blog the other day….(darn those blogs of sick kids…why do I keep finding them? I forget about one, and stumble on another! I get hooked on these things!)

But this particular one was an adorable little five-year-old fighting leukemia. It jolted me out of my reality to see a picture of her, hairless, sitting “normally” on a hospital bed, reading books.

So I’m not braving leukemia here. I know that.

But still, is it wrong to ask “why?” of your struggles (no matter how little) and to brainstorm the good they bring? I don’t think it is.

Here’s what our struggles look like.

We have a child with asthma. It’s not even *bad* asthma, I don’t think. When Sam gets a cold, he’ll cough more than normal. Sometimes he will be short of breath and wheeze as he plays. We have to give him breathing treatments every four hours or so during these times.

The tricky part, the part that wears on us – is trying to troubleshoot when the medicine’s helping and when it’s not, and to make these decisions off of the breathing patterns and feedback of a three-year-old. It’s a really exhausting mental battle. I feel a lot of pressure to make “the right decision.” To avoid overreacting and give him too much medicine. To ensure he has medicine when he needs it.

We find ourselves having these repetitive conversations (mostly at some absurd hour in the morning): “How is he breathing?” Fine, I think. “Did you give him his medicine?” Yes…do you think he needs to be seen tomorrow? Etc. etc.

It’s really a blip on the radar of life, and I wouldn’t trade the struggle (or the child) for anything. But like any difficulty, at times you feel frustrated and (wrongly, I know) wonder what good it’s doing.

I asked that question last night. What is the point of this?

And wouldn’t you know. I came up with a whole host of reasons. Beautiful, gracious ones.

  • For one, quality time. (Which I wouldn’t trade for the world.) Oftentimes we’ll give Sam breathing treatments during the night. Sometimes he doesn’t wake up. For twelve uninterrupted minutes of silence and dark, I get to concentrate on the beautiful little boy that I am amazed is mine. His little cheeks. How he holds Samule’s tail to sleep. His perfect blonde curls. I always leave so grateful, and I know I’ll treasure these moments.

Sometimes, though, he does wake up. These times are precious, too. One time he told me, “Mom, thank you for giving me my medicine! I was wanting that!” Sometimes I’ll tell him stories, about things we’ll do and places we’ll go, or things Little Bear and all his friends do. You can just tell on his face that he knows we’re taking good care of him.

I was thinking the other day (and now kicking myself for thinking this) but it had been a while since my boys had been sick. And the thought did cross my mind: I almost miss seeing Sam and Ty at night, rocking them, and caring for them when they need it. That is not to say that anyone enjoys leaving their amazing best-gift-ever electric blanket from the dead of sleep to wipe off snot. But nearly.

  • And also, a mission. This is going to sound weird. But taking care of sick kids makes me feel needed. I once told my mom, “You know, if this motherhood thing weren’t so terrifying sometimes, I would absolutely love it. I was made to do this job.”

It’s almost fun to navigate the world of allergies, and colds, and asthma and neediness. God knew that I loved figuring things out, and caring for people, and he gave me the perfect job.

  • For another, answered prayer. We were leaving the Super Bowl party and my sweet sister-in-law said, “Aww, Sam I hope you start feeling better tonight.” Sam said, “Yes, can you pray for me that I feel better?” It wasn’t whining, or cliche. He knows that we pray to God for him, and he knows that God listens. This asthma is a tangible, unfettering reminder in our lives that we are weak and need the Lord.

Today Sam told me that he knows God can make people feel better. Here is the transcript of that amusing conversation.

Sam: Mom, do you know how God heals people? (how?) Because he’s the one that made them!!

me: wow, Sam, that’s right…How did you know that?

Sam: I knowed it because God telled me it! God tells me things and then I knowed them!

me: aww, Sam, that’s great! What else did God tell you?

Sam: well, I know that God and Jesus are mixed all up, because they’re the same person! I know that! And…I know that God is stronger than the others!

me: yeah…what others?

Sam: like all the other dads! (with amazement, as if there were nothing else stronger 🙂 )

That last part didn’t really relate to asthma, but I kept it in there because it was cute. But anyway, you get the point. Without those prayers for our children (some painful and frustrated), they won’t know God listens and answers.

  • Finally, and this might sound hokey. (Not Hokie, like the mascot. I mean “weird.” VERY different.) Anyway, Sam is very interested in medicine. Sometimes I get this crazy thought that Sam will grow up to be an awesome doctor who saves lives, all because he learned so much about medicine when he was little. just a crazy thought.

Here’s the principle to the whole thing, though.

You may not have an asthmatic child. You may not even have a child.

But you have problems. I love that we serve a God who uses them all: “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (romans 8:28). Or, to say it in music, listen to this song, called “Nothing is Wasted.” Love it!