Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fabulous Potatoes

 I grew up in Idaho-- Potato Country. And this dish could be found at almost any church or civic function. (They're also known as "Funeral Potatoes," due to their propensity for being served at funerals, as well.) I enjoy making this delicious casserole as a side dish, or even as the main course*. (In our home, we have to double the recipe.) Try them today-- I know your family will love them!

8 to 10 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can (10 & 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup sour cream 3 green onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil; cover and cook until almost tender. (Don't over-cook.) Drain and cool. Combine soup, half of the cheese (1&1/2 cups) sour cream, onions, salt and pepper. Stir in potatoes. Place in a greased 9"x13" baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until heated through. Serves 8-10.  

*We like to add cubed ham before baking for a full-meal casserole. These are also wonderful served with a Baked Ham.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Greatest Forces in the World

Artwork by Jessie Wilcox Smith

One of my favorite quotes of all time was written by a man named E.T. Sullivan at the turn of the 20th Century. I hope it inspires you in your mothering efforts today!

A century ago men were following with bated breath the march of Napoleon, and waiting with feverish impatience for news of the wars. And all the while, in their own homes, babies were born. But who could think about babies? Everybody was thinking about battles.”

"In one year, midway between Trafalgar and Waterloo, there stole into the world a host of heroes. Gladstone was born in Liverpool, Tennyson at the Somersby Rectory, and Oliver Wendell Holmes in Massachusetts; and the very same day of that same year Charles Darwin made his debut at Shrewsbury, and Abraham Lincoln drew his first breath in old Kentucky. Music was enriched by the advent of Felix Mendelssohn at Hamburg”

"But nobody though of babies; everybody was thinking of battles. Yet which of the battles of 1809 mattered more than the babies of 1809. We fancy that God can only manage His world with big battalions when all the while He is doing it by beautiful babies. When a wrong wants righting, or a truth wants preaching, or a continent wants opening, God sends a baby into the world …perhaps in a simple home and of some obscure mother. And then God puts the idea into the mother's heart, and she puts it into the baby's mind. And then God waits. The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and thunderbolts. The greatest forces in the world are babies."

The Poison of Perfectionism

 (Please note: This is a repeat of an article I wrote on another blog over a year ago. I want to share it here, because I feel it is very applicable to mothers like us who are doing our best to be a force for good in the world and our homes-- though we usually fall short, simply because we are human. I need to be reminded from time to time that God accepts my efforts, imperfect though they are.) 

I am a perfectionist. I hate it when things don't go the way I think they should. I get so angry at myself, and the self-loathing starts. Then I can't seem to do anything "right."

So I do nothing.

My kids suffer, my house suffers, my poor husband suffers, and I suffer.

Today, I am trying to look at things in my life in a more reasonable way. I am not perfect now, and will never be in this life-- perfection is for the next life.

Tuesday morning I woke up early with a panic attack about some little matter that I had not resolved. Luckily, I was able to get back to sleep while nursing my baby. But when I woke up at about 7am, the black cloud engulfed me. "I can't do anything right. Why did I think I could get -- accomplished? Why did I volunteer to help with---? I always mess things up."

On and on these dark thoughts battered me. I thought of the sink of dirty dishes I had left undone, the laundry I had forgotten about, the reading I didn't accomplish, the weight I need to lose, etc. I began to cry.

My wonderful husband-- heaven bless him-- comforted me. He found some essential oils to help me emotionally, and proceeded to rub my feet. I began to feel a bit better. The black cloud lifted slightly, and I could see a ray of light peeking through!

Then I asked my true love to give me a priesthood blessing, and the Lord spoke beautiful words through him. I was reminded that my Father in Heaven loves me, and does not expect perfection of me. He knows I have great potential and infinite worth, and that I should never forget that. I was also told that the adversary desires to have me, and bringing me down in the depths of despair is one way that he can get to me.

My home is never going to be 100% clean for more than a brief instant. The laundry will never be "done," and I will never spend all the time I wish I could studying. It's okay!

Only today will my toddler grasp my neck and say "I wuzsch you, Mama!" Only today will my daughter have her first church youth activity. Only now will my ten-year-old son ask me what new book on the shelf he should read next, my baby to smile big enough to show her dimples, my little artist to beg for some space on the fridge, my four-year-old to grin mischieviously, my son to make "Silly Putty" in the kitchen, and my five-year-old to ask for help with his paper airplane.


And "good" does not have to be "perfect" to bring me JOY.

What a relief...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families

 I recently rediscovered this amazing book, and I have seen some of the most beautiful changes in myself, my family, and the feeling in our home! It is written by Steven R. Covey, who has a warm tone to his writing, and really makes me feel that "I can do this!"

Some of the things that really spoke to me are:  

Habit #1-- Be Proactive He speaks of a quote he read while on a Hawaiian sabbatical that says, "Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness."

I have decided to memorize this quote, because I have a real problem just immediately reacting to things my kids do. I never used to take the time to think and choose a response. I know that my kids were not being given help, real discipline, or a good example when I would fly off the handle. I have since made a conscious effort to improve, and the results have been astounding to me. My children now listen and obey more often than in the past. I find that I am hugging them more, and losing my temper less. When things get crazy, all I have to do is close my eyes, and think, "Between stimulus and response, there is a space..." In that instant, I can step back and trule analyze the situation and check myself. If all I got out of Dr. Covey's book was this one concept, it would be worth its weight in gold!  

A Family Mission Statement We have worked on a family mission statement in the past, but have never had one "stick." This is something that continues to evolve and change over time, with our family.

In his book, Dr. Covey states, "For the most part, families don't have the kind of mission statement so critical to organizational success. Yet family is the most important, fundamental organization in the world."

I definitely agree with him, that the family IS the most important organization in the world. In reading further in the chapter, I found that he believes that the mission statement can come in many forms, like a song, a poem, or a piece of artwork. I then realized that my grandmother knew what she was doing when she chose a "family song" years and years ago. I have sung it with my amazing extended family time and time again over the years, and it still reminds me of who I am, and what I want out of life. Every time I hear it or sing it, I am inspired to stand a little taller and be a little better.

In our own immediate family, we have finally-- after years of trying-- created our unique family crest. I have done years of study in the art of heraldry, and we have finally come up with something that speaks to us, and represents what our family is all about.

Dr. Covey says this about a family mission statement: "The mission statement itself has given us a clear, shared vision of the destination where we as a family want to go." This thought has impacted me tremendously. I am now examining what my goals are for my family. Where do I see my kids is the next five, ten, or even twenty years? What kind of "beautiful family culture" do my kids need in order to meet those goals and the vision we all have for our futures? He has some great tips and ideas on how to create a family mission statement in his book.  

We CAN Be Successful Lastly, I love this quote in his book, which was originally given by Marianne Williamson: 
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." 

We are all, truly, destined for great things, as are our husbands, and our children. We can be a light to them, and to our friends, associates, and the world. I want to be the woman that God believes I have the potential to be. I know I can do it, with His divine help.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Red, White & Blueberry Pie

I made this yummy pie for our family's Independence Day celebration this past July. It was a hit, though VERY rich. Next time I make it, I think I'll only use half of the white chocolate. This one's a keeper!
  • 4 squares (1 ounce each) white baking chocolate
  • 8 large fresh strawberries, halved lengthwise
  • 1 graham cracker pie crust
  • 3/4 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, cubed
  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 3 1/2-ounce instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup whipped topping

1. In a microwave or heavy saucepan, melt white chocolate, stir until smooth. Dip the 8 halved strawberries halfway in the chocolate. Place cut side down on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until set. Spread the remaining melted chocolate over the bottom and sides of the cracker crust. Arrange sliced strawberries in crust.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioner's sugar until smooth. Gradually add milk, mix well. Beat in pudding mix on low speed for 2 minutes or until thickened. Spread evenly over sliced strawberries.

Place blueberries in center of pie. Arrange dipped strawberries around the edge. Pipe or dollop whipped topping between the strawberries and blueberries. (We never did this step, and it turned out fine.) Refrigerate until serving.

(Makes 8 servings)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Be the Change...

There is a fallacy that is too commonly accepted in today's society-- the idea that one person can "change" another.

We each choose, moment by moment, our reaction in any situation.

We can face struggles with fear, or dogged determination.

We can be so focused on our spouse's weaknesses, that we forget we have a multitude of our own; or, we can stand back and look at a situation honestly, and ask ourselves how WE can change.

The great Gandhi said, "BE the change you wish to see in the world." We can choose to stand, arms crossed, and insist that the other person is the one who needs to change. The result of that experiment would manifest itself rather quickly in the form of hostility, resentment, heartbreak-- but never can produce change, love or respect.

I'd like to recommend here a series of books on relationships by the Arbinger Institute. My favorites are: "The Bonds that Make Us Free," and "The Anatomy of Peace." These books are about saving relationships, and seeing that when we try to push, and force someone into changing, we are deceiving ourselves. What we are really doing, is creating more of the same problems we are trying to fix!

I highly recommend the above books for healing hearts, homes, and relationships. We can choose to be "right", or we can choose to heal that most important and precious of relationships.

Gandhi was one man who changed an entire nation, and brought a world super-power to its knees with love, unselfishness, and peace in his heart. Surely, we can put forth a little effort to have peace in our homes and marriages.  

"BE the change you wish to see in the world."
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