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Back to Blogging

Back to school for the kids and back to blogging for me. This summer went by extremely fast. We went from nothing planned to a summer full of events, camps, travel and more. Even though it went fast, we had a great time and shared some amazing memories. One of them was going to a beautiful lake for vacation. The beach is our usual vacation spot, but this year we went with something different and were so glad we did. As I kid, I went to the lake every summer with my family and grandparents, so I was excited to experience the same thing with my husband and kids. The boys had so many “firsts” on this trip. I loved sitting back and watching them leap into the lake, hold on tight while riding the tube and scream “faster” on the jet skis. We also were able to travel to California and Louisiana to visit friends and family. We savor every chance we get to see them. (Check out some snaps of our adventurous summer below)

And now we are back to getting on schedules with school, sports, work, groups, etc. This is always a fun transition…said no one ever! Liam is starting first grade and playing flag football and Nixon is starting Pre-K and playing baseball. We are excited to see how they continue to grow and learn. I also absolutely love watching them play sports and yes, I am sometimes the mom who is obnoxiously screaming from the stands for their kids. With all that the rest of the year holds, I am excited to share some new stuff on the blog. I have some new recipes I’ve tried out, parenting tools I have found and some things I am learning about in life. So happy “Back to School” and “Back to Blogging” everyone. I am looking forward to connecting again next week….And just a hint I might be sharing a little something about avocados.


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“Shout Out to All the MOMs!!!” by Heather Cromer

A few weeks ago my good friend, Heather Cromer, shared such an encouraging word to a group of moms and I could not pass up the opportunity to share with you. Heather is an amazing mom of two boys, 4 and almost 2 years old. She mothers with such a beautiful heart. She is the mom who has gone and will go to the ends of the earth for her children. I have watched first hand. I hope her advice and reminders below encourage you as much as they encouraged me.

Dear Sister Friends,

The past 2 years I have found myself in one of the most authentic, hilarious, life-giving small groups of women. I think I love it so much because I see the body of Christ active in it. As a group, we celebrate when one of us has something to celebrate. When one is grieving, we all mourn AND PRAY together. During this season of raising littles, there have been so many times I just needed someone to remind me that I, my unique self with desires and dreams of my own, was still in there. I needed the reminder that I was more than just a mom. That I was more than just a food-preparing, laundry-folding, diaper-changing robot with no actual thoughts or feelings. These moms do that for me. When I got together with them a few weeks ago, God gave me some encouraging thoughts to share and I pray they encourage you as well.

DISCLAIMER: For the following thoughts to make sense, You should go read 1 Corinthians 12:12-28.

– COMPARISON is SUCH A KILL JOY. I am so thankful to be in this particular time and surrounded by a group of women who seem to be understanding that we are not in competition with each other. In fact, we actually help to complete each other. We are after all each different parts of the body! God is all about unity & honors it. We need each other!

– I want to bring to your attention the fact that there are internal organs in your physical body that will literally never see the light of day BUT without them, we DIE. In the same way, there are some behind the scenes roles in the body of Christ that may never be recognized or abundantly appreciated but without them the body of Christ does not function as it should. I know sometimes as a stay-at-home mom with a son with special needs, I have thought, “I may never see the light of day”. However, the work I am doing is SO valuable. So is YOUR work. I want to encourage you if you are feeling like an “unseen part” THE BODY CANNOT FUNCTION WITHOUT YOU. I SEE YOU. GOD SEES YOU.

– Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first. You are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life” – Anna Quindlen

– From For the Love by Jen Hatmaker:  “A worthy life involves loving as loved folks do, sharing the ridiculous mercy God spoiled us with first. It means restoring people, in ordinary conversations and regular encounters. A worthy life means showing up when showing up is the only thing to do. To Mama at home with a bunch of littles, you can live a life worthy right now. Your calling is today. God makes you worthy as you desire goodness for your children, meeting needs and nurturing little souls. No future calling is any more important than your current stationYou have access to the kingdom now: the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That is every Christians calling and the gospel is perfectly demonstrated through the daily labor of parenting.” (Can I get an amen!!!)

– Faithfulness is not easy, but it is simple. You are already able, already positioned, already valuable in your normal life on your normal street next to your normal neighbors in your normal work.

Jen Hatmaker in For the Love described my heart’s desire for you so perfectly. I encourage you to read this out loud and replace the “you” with “I”. Declare this truth over your life.

“You are smart and capable, strong and wise. You are an overcomer, a prized member of the body of Christ. You have so much to offer. You can gather your girlfriend tribe and raise kids together, providing the happiest childhood they ever complained about. You can crack open your bible and preach good news to the poor. You can model faithful friendship around your table, and you can stretch your hand across oceans to mamas everywhere. You can do small work. You can do big work. You are so able in Jesus, so beloved, so permitted. You have a role. Your place is secure. You have authority to use your home as a sanctuary, your hands as tools of healing, your voice as an instrument of hope, your gifts as channels of incredible power.”

I want to continue to spur you on to pursue your dreams and encourage you as you complete your everyday duties. I want to continue to be this sisterhood of fierce women who complete each other as we are pieces of the body of the Christ. Thank you for choosing to lift each other up rather than tear down. Thank you for doing hard things in invisible trenches. I am so inspired by you!

Much Love & Respect,

Heather Cromer


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Oh Lovely Sight Words

Sight words….they are every kids worst nightmare and every homeschool moms least favorite to teach…at least for me it is. Our six year old is a problem solver and thinker, so sitting down to recite and memorize sight words is agonizing to him. I can hear him as I write this blog say, “Awe mom, please don’t make me do sight words again.” And I get it, they never end. Sight words keep showing up every day of the month….in, out, her, his, had, has, her, his, our, they, their, who, when, where, say, said, and the list goes on and on and on and on.

sight words 1

Since they aren’t the favorite thing to do at our house, I decided a few weeks ago to switch it up a bit. I simply hid the words around the house and told my son that if he found them all and was able to read all but two of them he could have a sweet treat. At that moment something shifted…all of the sudden he was moving quickly through the house and when discovering a word, he almost immediately read it. As I watched him, I thought to myself, “This could not be the same boy who fights me at the desk to read just one word. This could not be the same boy who at the hearing of the words “sight words”, lays his head on the table.” But it was. Before I knew it, he had not only found all the words, but read them aloud as well. See he was in his element. He had solved the problem and was rewarded for doing so. I knew after this I needed to find some more creative ways to work on our “oh so lovely” sight words.

Here are a few activities to help create an exciting way to learn sight words:

  1. Sight word Go Fish – write each site word twice on individual index cards, shuffle and play
  2. Sight word Hop Scotch – as you jump from word to word, recite the word.
  3. Sight word Bingo
  4. Sight word Seek and Find – this can be as simple as writing a bunch of words on a sheet and have them highlight or circle their current sight words or grab a book and see how many points they can get for finding sight words in the book.
  5. Sight Word Search and Find – write many words, pictures, stickers, etc. on a piece of paper and have your child highlight the sight words.

You can find many more activities at Childhood 101 and by googling or searching Pinterest for sight word activities. With activities like these, I believe both you and your child will find sight words a little more lovely. If you have any ideas to share, please do so as we are always looking for creative ways to learn.


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Open Hands

We have a phrase in our house…”We live open handed.” We say this phrase to remind ourselves that we desire as a family to live generously. We don’t want a life of white knuckles holding onto our stuff, selfish and greedy. When our kids are in the midst of fighting over their toys, we always remind them…”Open hands. The Laird’s live with open hands.” Our children have heard the phrase so much that we can simply look at them, open our hands and they know exactly what we are communicating. And it is not just a phrase for teaching our kids, my husband and I have to remind ourselves of this very phrase as well for there are days we don’t want to give up our things, time, and money. This phrase might be simple, but it is such a great reminder for our family to be willing and ready to release anything the Lord asks of us.

This phrase had always been singular focused on the opportunity to give and release, but one day God shifted it to be more. A few weeks ago I was sitting across from my oldest son, Liam, at lunch. I cannot recall the very conversation, but as we talked I was about to remind him of how and why we live open handed. As I was about to give my familiar speech, I felt the Lord tell me this…”Jennifer, you don’t live open handed to only give, but I want you to live open handed to receive.” As soon as I heard this I was quickly telling Liam. I explained to him that there was more to just living open handed to give, but the Lord wants us to live open handed ready to receive.

How could I have missed that? Open handed is way more than giving, but I think it is naturally how we think sometimes as Christians. We think we honor God only when we are giving something up. We become some focused on living a life of sacrifice that we can easily lose sight that our God is a giving God who desires for us to receive. Sacrifice and giving is definitely a part of our Christian lives, but I believe God wants us also to see how much we honor Him as we receive as well.

God desires for us to receive wisdom, blessings, revelation, love and much more. He wants us to receive from our friends and family when they offer help. He wants us to receive rest when we have lived in a week of being non-stop on the go. He wants us to receive the complement and encouraging word from our friend and spouse. And the ultimate gift He would have us receive is salvation. See God released His son and gave the ultimate sacrifice for us to receive grace, righteousness, and an abundant life. Who would not want to receive such a beautiful gift?

James 1:5 “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

White knuckles can keep us from not only living in a posture of generosity, but also a life where we miss out on the opportunity to receive. For me giving is usually what comes easier than receiving. I am guilty of staying focused on releasing and missing out on opportunities to receive. Therefore, I know this word was not just a word for my family or for you, but it was directed to me as well. Living open handed is two-fold…to live a life that is ready to release and receive. Our phrase may be the same, but it has a bit more to it now and I am so grateful it does….”Open hands. The Laird’s live with open hands.”

Open Hands

 


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Simple Slow Cooker Recipe: Salsa Verde Chicken

Before I create my grocery list for the upcoming week, I usually do a few things…look to see what is already in the fridge and pantry, check our schedules for the week and think through what we had to eat for dinner the week before. A couple of weeks ago I realized I would need a few slow cooker meals due to our upcoming week having a few busy days and nights. After browsing some of my favorite foodie sites, I came across the most simple recipe. I know I might have mentioned a recipe I’ve posted before as easy and simple, but this recipe is on it’s own level of easy.

Before I share the details of this great find, guess how many ingredients you need for this dish?

FOUR! Yes, it is only four ingredients and they require no prep work. All you have to do is put the ingredients in the slow cooker, place lid on, set timer, and walk away. It’s crazy not only how easy it is, but how great it taste. My husband could not believe how great it was and he is not a big fan of chicken for dinner. This salsa verde chicken recipe is as follows.

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups of salsa verde
  • 1 bottle of beer (we use Modelo)
  • 2 tsp of cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place chicken in the slow cooker
  2. Top with salsa verde, beer and cumin
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your liking
  4. Turn the chicken so that both sides are covered with beer and salsa
  5. Cover and cook 3-4 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low
  6. Chicken is ready when it easily shreds with fork

Once the chicken is ready there are many ways to serve it…tacos, nachos, rice bowl, etc. We recently used the chicken for stuffed poblano peppers and they were delicious. We have also just placed the chicken in a bowl and topped with cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. No matter how you serve it, it will be a great lunch or dinner. 

So thanks to GIMME SOME OVEN I have discovered a go to recipe when my day does not have time for prepping food. It is a go to when I have a few friends coming over and I would rather spend time with them than be in the kitchen most of the time. And sometimes it is simply my go to because I crave it. LOL. I hope your family enjoys this easy, simple and yummy dish as much as our family and friends do. 


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Quick and Easy Valentine’s Day Treats

There is something so traditional about having something sweet given for Valentine’s Day and how special to have something homemade to share. What is great about both of these recipes is that they can be made within 15 to 30 minutes and the prep work is extremely simple. If you eat Whole30 or paleo then you probably have all the ingredients listed below already in your pantry.

The first recipe, Thumbprint Cookies, is from Elana’s Pantry. Putting these ingredients together took less than 5 minutes and they bake within 8 to 10 minutes. We used strawberry jam, but you can use any jam you have on hand.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups blanched almond flour
  • ¼ teaspoon celtic sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ¼ cup jam

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a food processor combine almond flour, salt and baking soda
  3. Pulse in coconut oil and honey until dough forms
  4. Scoop batter 1 tablespoon at a time onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet
  5. Press your thumb into the center of each cookie to make an indentation
  6. Place ½ teaspoon of jam in the center of each cookie
  7. Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes until golden brown
  8. Let cool on the baking sheets and serve

The second recipe is from Inspired Edible’s Miniature Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. I have modified it using almond butter and cookie butter a few times. You can use whatever “butter” you prefer as I am sure all options will be delicious. You can also serve these in red mini cupcake liners or cute Valentine’s Day ones to celebrate this weekend. And if you want to really bring them to another level, try adding orange extract and top with a sliver of an orange peel.  (Note: These can melt in your hand and if they do; don’t worry because they are totally worth it.)

Ingredients

  • 200 grams 75% cocoa chocolate (two large bars)
  • 1/4 cup (or so) of almond butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds

Directions

  1. Melt chocolate using a double broiler on low heat.
  2. Meanwhile, place 12 miniature muffin cup liners into muffin cups.
  3. Once chocolate has melted, pour first layer of chocolate, about one tsp, into each cup.
  4. Allow chocolate to solidify in fridge for approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Remove muffin tray from fridge and place about 1 tsp of almond butter in a ball-like shape over each layer of chocolate such that it does not cover the full surface of the chocolate. This will allow the second layer of chocolate to fill in along the sides of the cup for closure.
  6. Pour the second layer of chocolate over almond butter using about 1 + 1/2 tsp of chocolate.
  7. Top each cup with a few chopped pieces of almonds as desired.
  8. Return cups to fridge or freezer to solidify before enjoying.
  9. If you have any left store either in the freezer or fridge. I prefer the freezer.


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Looking Back

Last week I began thinking about 2015…What were my goals? What did I set out to accomplish? What were all the things I planned to do? (I know this was probably not the ideal time to take a first look at this being a week away from 2016, but better late than never.) I searched Evernote, journals, and notes on my phone until I found my 2015 goals. As I began reading them, I realized that I had not nearly accomplished all I had set out to do. I felt a little depressed as I looked at the list and thought of all I had not done. There I was with all my un-accomplishments staring me in the face. As I buried my head in regret, I asked myself a quick question, “What had I done with 2015?” This simple question that was being asked in regret, instead lifted my head as I realized all that 2015 carried. It might not have been a year where I checked off goals completed, but it was a year that was filled with purpose. Sure I wish I would have been better at looking at my goals throughout the year and I definitely wished I would have sent more cards to friends and family and read a few more books, but just because these things were not completed does not mean the year was a fail. This year was full of purpose…

  • Liam started Kindergarten and our homeschool journey officially began;
  • Jason and I celebrated our ten year anniversary in Israel;
  • Friends and family moved to the DFW area;
  • We received impactful words of encouragement from our church, family and friends;
  • We no longer have diapers in the house (this should definitely be celebrated!);
  • We had great traveling adventures with family and friends;
  • We watched friends and family step out in faith to accomplish the dreams in their heart;
  • We watched our two boys grow in their personality and character;
  • We walked through some “valley” moments and we came out stronger;
  • We had a few updates to our house;
  • We played and rested; and
  • So much more.

So yes this year might not have been all it was set out to be according to my plans, but it was indeed a year that had purpose. Saying all this, I want to encourage you not to be so hard on yourself for missing a few check marks on your goal list or to do sheet. In reflection of 2015, think of all that was accomplished. I firmly believe there was something good that occurred and even some great that 2015 carried. Give yourself grace to enter into 2016 free of guilt or regret instead of being focused on what wasn’t completed. This is what I am choosing. I am choosing to focus on all that was done and all that is left to do with excitement, joy and grace. Will I walk into 2016 with more goals and another to do list? Most definitely, but I will not become so focused on completing them that I lose sight of everything else that is happening around and through me. I want to step into 2016 being aware of each day and all that it holds.

Cheers to 2016!!! Let this be a year full of joy, love and grace!!!