Jul 17, 2014

Six Reasons why a "Crock-pot" will improve your life

R2D2, "Crocky" my beautiful old Crock-Pot
My love affair with R2, otherwise know as Crocky.

Here is a little bit of background on my famous Crock-Pot otherwise known as R2. R2 is short for R2D2, named for the adorable little droid, if you squint your eyes just so you can see the resemblance. 

R2 is lovingly nicknamed Crocky. Yes, I name my handy household helpers but that is another post for another day.  

R2 is old, he is steady, he has been my Crock through thick and thin. I began blogging because of my Crock-pot. One of my dear friends told me that I am “Crock Crazy” and have a rather weird love affair with my beloved little R2.  She asked me why I love my Crock-Pot so much.  It hasn't always been that way.  My relationship with Crocky started off on more rocky than crocky, and I have to admit this is not my first Crock Pot.  

My first Crock was a harvest gold and green one that I had bought for my Mom one Mother’s Day for $10.  I remember it like yesterday.  I was just old enough to go to a real “store” on my own with my trusty 10 speed bike.  

I saw the Crock-Pot on the shelf and thought “Wow!”  Yes, it was love at first sight.  Yes, all sparkly love, with cartoon like diamond eyes.  I bought it.  No second thought.  Then I had to ride home balancing it on my trusty 10 speed bike.  Apparently, I hadn't really thought through that part of the process and just leapt into love. You try to ride 3 miles balancing a big, heavy Crock-Pot box on 10 speed bike handle bars.  I did it though, probably through sheer stubborn determination.

I wrapped it up with the prettiest wrapping paper I could find.  That Mother’s Day morning I gave it to my Mom.  The first ever “real” mother’s day gift ever, that I bought with my own babysitting money. Her reaction was sheer and utter speechlessness.  I think she was able to eventually utter a weak “ummm, thank you that is so sweet”.   I was devastated, how could she not see the beauty I saw?

Fast forward, I graduate college, I am in my first apartment ever, I have my hand-me-down furniture my parents couldn't wait to pawn off on me, hand-me-down dishes,  and a BRAND NEW STILL IN THE BOX Crock-Pot.  Yes.  It was harvest green and gold.  It was the original love at first sight Crock-Pot.

So, excitedly I tried a few recipes.  All, every single one of them, were an epic, horrible disaster.  Now I understood my Mom’s original reaction and why the Crock-Pot had come to me as a brand new hand- me-down.  The Crock-Pot went to Goodwill.  That was a hard break up.

It took me years to get over it.  

Then my hubby popped the question and asked me to marry him.  My mother took me shopping for a “Congratulations on getting engaged gift” .  Off we go to the department store housewares department.  That is when I saw it.  All sparkly, all white, with a removable crock for easy cleaning, with multistage timed cooking, with a “stay warm” timer.  I told her this is what I wanted. 

 She looked at me and said “No you don’t”.
“Yes I do” I replied, “This Crock-Pot is different”. 

She let out an audible sigh and said “I don’t understand your fascination with Crock-Pots but this is your choice. Okay.”

Well, since that day I have been on a search for yummy Crock-Pot recipes.  Some are wins and repeats, some, well some not so much.  

But, I do love my Crock-Pot with all my heart and it is part of our family, here is why:

I can make dinner in the morning, and it smells wonderful cooking all day.  

The house just fills with a wonderful aroma.  When the kids come home from school or various activities they come through the door shouting  “What are you making? It smells AMAZING!”  So I feel like a super woman, like a rock star chef.

I get to get my day started knowing the answer to “what is for dinner?”

I am not scratching my head at 6:00 pm, after losing track of the time, thinking what can I order for dinner that isn't pizza? (Though pizza is a food group for me, not so much my family. Can you believe that?)

It is easy clean up.  

One pot, enameled for easy, peasy, lemon squeezy clean up.  Toss in some Dawn dish soap, water and let it soak.  By the time I am ready for bed it is a quick wipe, dry and I AM DONE!

Healthy Recipes that include Veggies

With the internet and great recipe websites and food bloggers, I have found recipes that are healthy and include veggies.  Emboldened, I have learned to adapt and make some classic family favorites without having to stay home all day watching the stove or oven. So Crocky gives me my freedom and independence!

I can usually make a meal large enough to have some “lucky leftovers”.  

Which for a family of 5 that loves to eat and has children that have been lovingly called little locusts because they will strip your food supply bare, this is always a good thing.

New Traditions

Best part yet, I have started a new tradition that when friends come to visit our family I ask them to bring their family’s favorite Crock-Pot recipe.  This way, we can go out, do fun things families do and then when we get home we have a great meal I know my guests will love and my family probably will enjoy as well!

So Yes, I do love my Crock-Pot and now have a wonderfully mature relationship with R2.  R2 isn't so sparkly and new anymore, in fact Crocky is turning a little yellow around the edges.  There are also newer more technically advanced Slow Cookers, as they are now called, with very fancy options in all sorts of fancy sports car colors.  

But, Crocky and I understand each other.  We understand there will be good days and bad days, but more good than bad.  We understand each other’s limitations and for the most part accept them yet we continue to try to grow together as we explore new things and cooking adventures.  So I choose to keep R2 until he just isn't able to cook along anymore.  

Now if I could just make pizza with R2.  Sigh, no relationship is perfect.

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Jul 15, 2014

How to help your kids say goodbye to a pet

A week ago today my 18-year-old kitty, Obie, had to be euthanized.  My children knew he was slowing down and getting older.  We had talked about it more than once over the last year.  Knowing that he wouldn't live forever didn't prepare any of us to say goodbye to his sweet fuzzy face. We were lucky, we knew Obie's time was coming, and we had ample time to say goodbye.

Obie had been my cat since I was in college, he was a part of my family before I was even married to my husband.  He was my first baby, he slept with me (actually, on my pillow) for the first 3 years of his life.  He followed me around and played fetch like a dog.  He loved to hop into the shower with me (and continued the practice of standing in the rain or sprinklers to get fresh water until the last week of his life).  When I got married, Obie got kicked out of the bedroom, but he remained a center-piece of my life.  When the kids came, Obie patiently and studiously avoided clutching fingers and thrown toys, eventually becoming my son's best friend, first confidant, and faithful companion.

My kids are now 11 and 9. 

I went to bed that night knowing that it was time.  As I went to tuck Obie in, I realized he had lost the use of his hind legs.  He seemed confused and annoyed by the inability to walk.  When the kids woke up I had been up for a few hours (I couldn't sleep), and my husband and I sat down with them to tell them the bad news.  My son knew instantly, even before we could tell them, tears started flowing.  My daughter was surprisingly calm and stoic, though later it became clear that it was because she was convinced we were wrong and Obie would be just fine.

We had all morning to spend with him, petting him and cuddling him.  When it came time to take him to the Vet, I gave my kids the choice.  Both chose to go with he and I, to offer him their support.  The scene at the Vet's office was tragic, Obie was nervous, the kids were emotional, I was emotional, and in the end we were all weeping. 

The next few days were full of sudden tears and the need to talk about Obie frequently.  Both kids had found tufts of his fur and were squirreling them away; my daughter did so she wouldn't forget how soft he was, my son did so he could have him cloned sometime in the future {to each their own}. I am sure you can tell that we are all still reeling from the loss, he was a really amazing cat.  This is the only pet my kids have ever known, but I have hope it won't be the last. 

If you are facing the loss of a pet in the near future and want to know what to do about your kids, these are my two cents:

Honesty is the best policy.
Be honest with your kids about what is happening or has happened to your pet.  Don't sugar-coat it or use Euphemisms.  Using language that is appropriate for the ages of your kids, explain that your pet will die or has died.  Answer the questions they have and keep the lines of communication open.

Both of my kids had many questions about the process of euthanasia and what would happen to his spirit and his body after he died.  Just use simple language and keep it age appropriate!

Grieve WITH them.
It is okay for your kids to see you grieve.  It clearly upset both of my kids when they saw me really cry as I said goodbye to Obie in the Vet's office.  It also gave them permission to really grieve, and an example of what my grief looked like in that moment.

Every time one of my kids blurts out "I miss Obie", I am able to say "so do I", and they know I am telling the truth.

Let them say goodbye
If you have the time to allow your kids the opportunity to say goodbye to your pet, it is good to do so.  Life is not always easy, and it is okay for your kids to experience the pain and responsibility of saying goodbye to a loved one.   Even if it is hard in the moment, the closure they will gain is more than worth it.

Don't rush into adoption
Please don't run out and find a replacement pet for your kids.  Give them time to process and understand their grief and the loss of a beloved pet.  Adopting a new animal should be a separate and special experience that will be the beginning of a new relationship.  Rushing into an adoption may cause feelings of anger and guilt.  Children will need time, not the distraction of a new pet, to fully heal from their loss.

The loss of a pet is more than just the loss of an animal, for most of us the pet is a part of the family.  Keep talking, keep those lines of communication open and don't ever tell them to "get over it." Your children will be grieving more than the loss of a plaything, they will be grieving the loss of a playmate and the unconditional love that animal offers.

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Jul 14, 2014

Just a little bit nervous...

Hi there and welcome!  I am Kelley and I am incredibly honored to have been asked to be part of “One Part Joy, One Part Circus”.  Nervous, but honored.  Okay, to be really honest...my palms are a sweaty mess and my heart is racing as I write this because my writing has always been personal of nature,  just to friends and family.  I have never put my writing “out there” for public consumption so to speak.

Oh I talk a good game, I do.  But to actually DO what I TALK about? No, nope, nada, nilch (I know nilch is not a word but wasn't it full of alliteration fun?)  because it is so much easier to encourage others to follow their dreams.  Many friends have suggested that I write, but have I?  NO.  Why? Because, I am a huge, big, tough ‘ol scaredy cat that is why.  So with my friend’s encouragement, and husband and children's blessings, I begin my public journey.

So here it goes, I take a breath, and I leap off into the great wide world of the blog-o-sphere with the promise that my great friend Alissa will hold my hand.  She promised to be right there beside me on this leap of faith.

I am sure parts of it will be smooth, easy and fun, and parts will be rocky and more uphill than I care for, but that is life: a journey of progression and growth.

I am honored to begin this journey with you and look forward to our many beginnings.

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As the Blog turns... Someone Blue, Someone New!

Someone Blue:

ME!  I love this little piece of online real estate, yet over the last eight months I have been very busy and lax about writing. Worse still, I am facing a busy year as a full time student (starting back next month to get my teaching Credential).  I have some choices to make.  Do I shut it down to avoid all of the random spam comments?  Do I leave it collecting page views from my Pinterest pins? (100,000+ views and counting!) What to do?

Someone New:
I am trying something a little different. I am breathing new life into this little blog by inviting a friend to join the blogging community as a co-writer.  The idea first came to me when she said something about her life with her kids being a bit of a circus. (That is exactly how I feel!)  Then I knew it was meant to be when I realized I was eagerly awaiting her Facebook status updates about their recent move and the epic search for her Crockpot.  I thought... "I need that on my blog".   She's funny, she's helpful and she is all about the good ideas.

Without further Ado:
I would like to introduce you to Kelley!

Kelley will undoubtedly tell you more about herself later, but this is what I know.  She's a mom to three kids, including twin tweens (say that 5 times fast) and a fabulous wife, daughter, daughter-in-law and (of course) friend.   She will bring a lot of life, ideas, funny stories and a different perspective to this blog.

WELCOME KELLEY! I can't wait to read your first post!!

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Jul 13, 2014

Here I raise my Ebenezer - 7 ways to keep the faith in the face of exhaustion

Life can be exhausting.

If you are married or single, parenting or not, working full time, part time or a stay at home mom; life is exhausting.  It is the nature of life.  Not every moment.  Not every day.  But certainly often. 

How do you stay plugged in and focused on your faith in the midst of exhaustion?  Maybe you have on-going health problems, or your work is intense and difficult, maybe you spend all week dealing with demanding children day in and day out or you are struggling with a broken relationship.  All of those things can steal your joy

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is a hymn that I have become re-acquainted with over the last year or so, which was written in 1757 by a 22 year old British Methodist.  We (I sing on the worship team at my church) actually sing a more contemporary version of it, you can scroll down and listen to a similar version after the post. 

I am a lyric girl.  I love good song lyrics. This song has some amazing lyrics.  The title of this post comes from verse 2: "Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home."

Simply put, an Ebenezer stone is a stone of remembrance.  From the Hebrew it literally means "stone of help", or a stone that serves as a reminder of God's real, Holy Presence and divine aid.  When I am struggling with weariness, I often become self-focused, which quickly takes me away from God.  The irony is that I need God's presence to defeat exhaustion and find rest. I need an Ebenezer to remind me of how God has helped me in the past, so I can find the focus and faith to keep working through my current difficulties. 

If you came to my house, you will not find a collection of stones standing all over my yard.  Yet I have Ebenezers in my life.  Here are seven "Ebenezers" that can help you to remember God's power and presence in the midst of stress and exhaustion.

1. Talk to your {Christian} friends

Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God”

Christian friends are great for keeping your heart and mind focused on the positive in life (I hope).  They should be the first to remind you how God has helped in the past and can be a place of peace in the middle of life's storms.  If you are a Christian and none of your friends are believers, I suggest that you get some.  Friends that have faith in common can be a guidepost in the middle of your darkest night, leading you back to God. 

2. Stay connected

Romans 12:5 – “so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

Being in an intimate relationship with other believers through fellowship and worship (I like to call it "Church"), is great insurance against weary moments.  I have a couple of friends who are also church friends who are the first people I call when I have a crisis, and especially when I am exhausted and weary in life.  They are great in those moments because they listen and they pray.  (And they will offer me a figurative kick in the pants when I need it too.)

3. Keep a prayer journal
Psalm 42:4 - "These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng."

King David in Psalms is a great example of the power of a prayer journal.  He was honest and poured out his hurts and fears and anger to God, but he had a written account of all the amazing things God had done in his life, and all the ways God showed up in his weary moments.  I kept a prayer journal for 4 years that simply had prayer requests and needs listed out, and when I thumb through I can see all the ways God answered prayers.  Humans are fickle and are quick to forget how God helps us, having it all written down is one more way to remember in the midst of stress or weariness.

4. Be in the Word everyday

Deuteronomy 11:18 - "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads."

The more you read your Bible, the more you will remember those scriptures when you really need them.  The more you "fix" God's words in your hearts and minds, the more likely you will remember them when you are exhausted, stressed or afraid.  Plus there are hundreds of stories of God's faithfulness sprinkled liberally throughout the Bible, which is another reminder of His constant presence and protection.

5. Remember that God is always there

Deuteronomy 31:6 - "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

You are never alone. Never.  He is always waiting to hold you secure in His loving arms.  When friends or a spouse fails or rejects us, God is still right there.

6. Stay focused
1 Peter 5:8 - "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."

A couple of weeks ago my son went body boarding.  I kept my eye on him as wave after wave slowly pushed him away from our spot on the beach.  He was so focused on catching the next big wave, that he was unaware that he had drifted so far from me.  Soon he was 200 yards down-beach from I was sitting.  I had to walk down and get his attention and we walked back together.  Life is full of distractions.  Those distractions cause us to grow complacent and to slowly drift away from God on the currents of life.  Suddenly we look up and we are drifting far away from our faith and comfort.  Just keep looking up.

7. Tell your stories
Luke 8:39 - ""No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you." So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him."

There are many places in the Bible where we are encouraged to talk about the things God has done for us.  The more we do this, the more we will remember.  The more we remember, the better we will feel in the middle of a hard moment in life.  God works every day in our lives, we should take a moment to recognize His actions out loud to our friends and family, which will serve as an Ebenezer stone to those who hear. 

Listen to the David Crowder Version of Come Thou Fount here:

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