It’s the same story each year, it seems. Every time I turn around, there’s another post about simplifying the season. Every other person I talk to is bemoaning our “I want/gimme” society. The over-riding sentiment is that we’re totally screwing our kids up with this over-the-top materialism that rears its ugly head every Christmastime.
Honestly? I get that. When I see the electronics store ads with the woman buying $90 phones for all her nieces and nephews so she can be the “cool aunt”? I cringe. This is obviously not what the holidays should be about. I feel confident in saying that much.
But, if I’m truthful with you all, I’ll tell you that, in this house? We do Santa. The man in the red suit brings each child one (unwrapped) present, some funky socks (don’t ask me how that tradition started, but it stuck), and some candy and treats in a stocking.
We give our children gifts, too. And, um, I also admit we give more than three per child, despite the fact that “that was good enough for Baby Jesus.”
I don’t know how to categorize us, really. I think we’re kind of moderate when it comes to Christmas? We’re definitely not winning any awards for paring down. We also don’t come close to the level of indulgence that some families enjoy.
What matters, of course, is just that it works for us. Just like cutting down to a few gifts works for some families. Just like having heaps of presents works for others.
The big fear, however, is that, no matter what we choose to do, we’re ruining our kids. I’ve seen a lot of people place a lot of blame on the shoulders of Christmas and, more specifically, how it is celebrated.
“We’re creating an entitled generation with all these presents!” I read, as people expound on why they’ve chosen to cut way back. “Giving more than three or four gifts at Christmas just increases the “wantsies” and that’s not right!”
I click over to read another.
“It’s lack of gratitude that I see. In order to foster a sense of gratitude, we must cut back on stuff. This will allow our children to enjoy what they’re given and appreciate things more fully.”
Honestly? It all makes good sense. And I have absolutely ZERO problems with deciding to simplify the season and cut back on the heaps of presents.
It makes me a touch squirmy, however, since, instead of feeling convicted or challenged, I kind of feel called out. I recognize that that is my own issue, and I truly harbor no resentment toward those sharing what works for their families, but it makes me question if I’m doing a good enough job in fighting entitlement and fostering gratitude in my own kids.
After all, I let my kids believe in Santa.
I also give them more than five gifts.
But, as I drove them to an after-school activity, I casually remarked, “I can’t believe it’s December already! Christmas will be here before we know it!”
And I heard the voices in reply:
“I’m so looking forward to Christmas, Mom. But not because of the presents. Because I think it’s so amazing to celebrate Jesus’ birth.”
“Me too! It’s like we’re invited to His party every year! And it’s SO beautiful!”
“I like presents. But I like Jesus more.”
And I smiled.
They’re grateful kids.
I don’t think they’re particularly entitled.
Maybe, at the end of the day, it’s less about how we “do Christmas” and more about how we “do life.”
“With the holidays upon us, giving and reaching out to our community seem to take on even more weight and significance. While I am a huge believer in kicking up our donations through the summer months, when so many children no longer have access to free lunch and breakfast at school, I also know that this time of year naturally lends itself to a “giving mindset”– and that’s a wonderful thing!
This is a great opportunity to teach our children the importance of giving and reaching out to those who are less fortunate or struggling. I’ve found that little kids are naturally very compassionate and they are very enthusiastic about lending a helping hand or getting their hands dirty.
There are innumerable opportunities to reach out as individuals and families, but there is also value in having a class or whole school come together to take on an even greater project. While it’s true that public schools have many academic expectations they need to be meeting, I believe there is still room and time to teach our children about social conscience and showing compassion.”
. . .
HEAD OVER TO LIFE AS MOM to read my suggestions for incorporating compassion and social conscience in the classroom.
Gingerbread makes the whole house smell amazing and conjures up wonderful holiday memories. These pancakes are a fast, fun, and festive way to enjoy a special treat. The optional glaze just takes them right over the top.
It’s December! And Thanksgiving is done!
So, um, can we all stop talking about pumpkin-everything-under-the-sun?
I kid (sort of), but I do look forward to lots of other flavors this time of year. One of my hands-down favorites?
So how about some gingerbread pancakes? And, since I happen to think that syrup is fine but a bit yawn-worthy, how about a delicious cinnamon espresso glaze to drizzle?
Now we’re talking.
Gingerbread Pancakes with Cinnamon Espresso Glaze
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- approx. 2 tablespoons very strong coffee, cooled
1. In a bowl, mix together all dry ingredients for pancakes.
2. Make a well in the center and pour in wet ingredients.
3. Whisk together until thoroughly mixed, though still a bit lumpy.
4. Pour by ladel-full onto griddle or in frying pan over medium heat and cook until bubbly all over the top. Flip and cook other side.
5. While that’s happening, mix up glaze ingredients in a small bowl. Adjust powdered sugar or coffee amounts to thicken or thin, respectively.
6. Serve pancakes with glaze drizzled over the top.
We’re gorging on a delicious retail sandwich right now, my friends.
Friday, also known as Black Friday, brought with it a flurry of fantastic deals, did it not? Stores opened bright and early (or even the evening before) to get us all riled up and excited over the phenomenal bargains to be had. Nothing wrong with wanting to snag great prices on gifts and things, right?
And today! Oh, today! Arguably, today is even better, particularly if you’re a big mob-phobic like yours truly. Today is Cyber Monday and promises all sorts of phenomenal promotions and savings right from the comfort of your desk, bed, or couch. How great is that? Again, nothing wrong with scoring some fabulous finds.
It is, indeed, a spectacular retail sandwich.
But… what’s inside? What do we find if we peek in between those two ends flanking this delectable weekend of deal-scoring?
Well, there was Small Business Saturday. And that was cool. Always good to support small, local (if possible) businesses. I can get onboard with that.
Still, that fits right into the retail feast, no?
What else is there, really? What’s the, well, MEAT of the sandwich?
. . .
On a whisper, with very little fanfare, we ushered in Advent.
No flashy banners. No bright signs. No pulsing neon letters.
Just a flicker of candlelight as match touched wick.
No noisy ads. No promotional jingles.
Just murmured blessings over a gathering by a wreath.
No pushy crowds. No camping by the door. No fighting for a place.
Just room for everyone. A place for every man, woman, and child. All welcomed and embraced.
Heads bowed, we watched the first purple candle alight.
That’s what this candle represents.
Not for a good deal.
But for a Savior.
I would go every chance I got to visit my tiny little girl. It was hard, having a ten-month-old and a newborn who was not yet home, but I was determined to spend every moment I could manage with each of them.
C. was so, so small. Less than one and a half pounds, she was so itty bitty and delicate. We’d pass other families, share an encouraging word or a smile, and gaze proudly at our tiny daughter. I think we already knew she had something to teach us all.
She may have been eager to get started on her life in this big old world, but she was going to have to demonstrate some serious strength before she could get on with it!
Less than two pounds and fierce with determination. And her determination continued to grow, right along with her weight. Little C. was tough and, day by day, got even stronger. Part of the routine to keep her that way included making sure she got both caffeine and sodium.
I used to tease that she was having her daily “coffee and a salty snack.” I used to laugh that she probably looked forward to it– surely, that had to be one of the best parts of her day, right? I mean, let’s be honest– coffee and salty snacks sure make ME happy.
But there are times it’s so much easier to focus on the tough stuff, right? Times it seems like the road ahead can be so very steep.
Even just the day-to-day grind can wear us down. It can feel exhausting to put one foot in front of the other when life feels overwhelming. Baby up waking through the night, eggs burning to the omelet pan, stain on the front of a favorite blouse… all those things can send the whole day into a tailspin.
It can so easy to throw our hands in the air or burst into tears when it seems like things are just too hard.
Things were hard for C. sometimes too. And this was her response to that:
Still a featherweight, dealing with all that came with that, she smiled.
Showing strength and feistiness at every turn, she smiled.
Gram by gram, getting bigger and stronger, she smiled.
And, with every passing day, teaching all of us how to find joy in adversity… she smiled.
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Cranberry salsa is tart and bright and perfect for the holidays. Try it with traditional tortilla chips or tucked in a turkey wrap– what a fun change from typical cranberry sauce!
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 1/4 cup sliced jalapeno
- 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
- juice of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried cilantro (<– or a tablespoon fresh, if you have it!)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
1. Pulse onions and jalapenos in food processor until coarsely chopped.
2. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until well-chopped and -mixed, but not completely pulverized. As with most salsas, the flavors will improve as it sits for a little bit and they’re allowed to combine.
– This salsa is TART, even with the honey and sugar. I feel the sugar is necessary in this one, and you might even prefer it with more. Don’t fret that– tomatoes just contain a lot more natural sugar than cranberries.
– You can adjust the heat by adjusting the peppers. I do not find this overly hot and all my children are fine with it. That said, people have different tolerances, so adjust accordingly.
– If you’re going to eat it all right away, you can add an apple into the food processor. It tastes delicious in there and adds some sweetness. I find that it starts to break down and get mushy if left to sit very long, however, so bear that in mind.
Breakfast pizzas are easy and economical. This one combines delicious Fall flavors of apple and maple and makes the whole house smell delicious!
Deep-Dish Maple Apple Breakfast Pizza
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) yeast
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon maple syrup, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (<– substituting part white whole wheat works fine)
- 2 apples, washed and sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- generous sprinkle (about a tablespoon?) cinnamon
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons water
1. Add warm water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon maple syrup to large bowl. Stir and allow to sit for about five minutes until bubbles form and it looks “foamy.”
2. Add salt, olive oil, and two cups of flour. Stir until smooth dough forms. Using hands, incorporate remaining flour until dough holds a ball shape and is not terribly sticky.
3. Press dough into a greased 9″ x 13″ cake pan. Top with an even layer of apple slices; it’s fine if they overlap a bit.
4. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup and 1/4 cup melted butter. Drizzle this over the apples.
5. Sprinkle cinnamon generously over the top.
(*At this point, the pizza can be covered, put in the fridge, and left overnight– this is what I prefer to do.)
6. Bake in a 375 preheated oven for 13-16 minutes. Remove to cool for just a few minutes before cutting.
***7. An optional glaze can be made from the powdered sugar and water. I did make this and it made it look glossy and pretty. That said, it was almost TOO sweet for our tastes, so I would likely skip it next time. The same pretty gloss could be achieved by drizzling a little melted butter over the top of the baked pizza; I think that’s what I’ll do next time.***
So, like I told you last week, I was absolutely beyond happy that they had finally figured out the actual cause of all my pain and turmoil. I had finally reached my breaking point when I realized that the increased doses of medication weren’t making the pain go away– of course they weren’t: those meds treated nerve pain and, by that point, I was dealing with bone pain.
Anyway, after they found the tooth issue, I was feeling optimistic.
I had to go on an antibiotic. I’m not one to take a ton of antibiotics, but I do recognize that they have their place– this was one of those places.
The last time I had had an antibiotic was close to ten years ago, for a kidney infection. I needed it then, too. The eye infections, ear infections, sinus infections and what-not have managed to clear up on their own, but I knew this infection deep in my jaw bone was going to require some help– honestly, some doctors have been surprised I avoided surgery.
Anywho, I filled the prescription and, little rule-follower that I am, read the information sheet carefully.
One of the side-effects? “Severe, rarely fatal, diarrhea.”
Now that did not sound good at all.
I polled some friends and combed some websites and resolved to eat the very best diet I could to try to counteract the nasty gastro-intestinal side effects of this medication. Plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and tons of water became my best friends. I all but gave up sugar. I took probiotic supplements.
Did I love it? No. But, since I hadn’t been able to eat much of anything while I was in pain, I really wasn’t too picky.
Whether through luck or diligence, I avoided the dreaded fatal diarrhea.
It’s been a little over a month now, since I had my palate opened and my tooth drilled. Since then, I had my root canal finished.
I feel fabulous.
The oral surgeon, endodontist, and dentist have all told me my pain threshold is “off the hook.” My dentist figured most people would have been in the ER. Dr. Hottie, er, I mean Dr. Tucker ( ), said that he couldn’t believe I only rated the pain an 8 on a 1 — 10 scale. I laughed, “I need to honestly and truly believe that death is imminent before I’d go above an 8.” “Crazy pain tolerance,” he murmured again.
I don’t really know about all that, since I really have no basis for comparison. I can’t, obviously, feel another’s pain, so I don’t really know how mine compares.
I know it was bad. I know I’ve never hurt so much in my life. I know that the thought of having to live like that for the rest of my life made me want to crawl in a hole.
But I also know that it has made my relief that much sweeter.
I can’t even bring myself to complain about pain just yet.
I turned my ankle a couple weeks back and it turned all shades of purple. I never mentioned it or cared much.
Headaches, cramps, sore throats, and sinus pain come and go and I don’t bother doing anything about it– it just doesn’t bug me right now. It pales so very much in comparison that I can’t even bring myself to complain about it.
Locked up back and shoulder one day? Annoying, yes. Worth moaning about? Nope.
I have a whole new view of pain and a gigantic level of respect for people who live with chronic pain. I can’t even imagine.
And, so, I’m doing great.
I hope I never forget those couple weeks, however, because I think I learned some very important lessons along the way.
I am so grateful for my health.
I am so grateful that I healed so well. (<– this surprised my dentist, who said it was the worst infection she’s seen in her entire career)
I am so grateful that I had love and support throughout the worst of it.
And I am so aware of how deeply day-in and day-out pain can affect someone’s life.
(Also? I’m super grateful I didn’t get the fatal diarrhea.)
A pizza crust can really serve as a base for all manner of flavor combinations! This ranch-y turkey pizza is a huge departure from plain old pepperoni, but the flavors are universally popular and well-received. (Plus, you work in lots of veggies!)
Turkey Ranch Pizza
- 1 batch of pizza dough (your shopping list includes everything you need to make this, too)
- 1/2 cup ranch dressing
- 1 large or 2 medium carrot(s), lightly cooked (I boiled mine for about five minutes) and chopped
- 1 small head of broccoli, florets removed and lightly cooked or steamed (I steamed mine for three minutes) or about 1/2 bag frozen broccoli florets
- 1/2 cup diced green pepper
- 1 cup turkey breast, chopped
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz.)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (about 4 oz.)
1. Preheat oven to 425. Grease (or sprinkle with corn meal) a 16″ pizza pan.
2. Pat and stretch dough to fully cover pizza pan. (You can toss it with your hands or roll with a rolling pin, if you prefer. I’m a “pat and stretch” kind of girl, myself.)
3. Pour on ranch dressing and use rubber spatula to spread all over the top of the crust dough.
4. Sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese.
5. Scatter carrots, broccoli, green peppers, and turkey evenly over the pizza.
6. Top with cheddar cheese.
7. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to sit for about two minutes before slicing; this will minimize the toppings slipping off.
Turkey sandwiches are a given when using up a whole turkey, but this simple warm wrap adds new character with bright green broccoli and sharp cheddar. A drizzle of honey mustard adds flavor and keeps the turkey moist.
Turkey, Broccoli, & Cheese Roll-ups
- 8 flour tortillas, soft taco size
- 1/2 of a 12-oz. bag frozen broccoli florets, steamed (<– 6 oz.)
- 2 cups turkey breast, cut in strips
- 4 oz. sharp (or extra sharp) cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 tablespoons mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey
1. Warm tortillas in microwave (about 30 seconds) or low oven (about 3 minutes) until pliable.
2. Lay a row of turkey strips down the center of tortilla. Top with about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of steamed broccoli florets. Sprinkle with a couple tablespoons of shredded cheddar. Repeat for each.
3. Heat in microwave (about 45 seconds each) or low oven (about 5 minutes– as many as you can fit) until warmed through and cheese is melted.
4. While heating the wraps, mix honey and mustard together in small bowl or small zip-top bag. If you do it in a bag, you can snip the corner for artful drizzling and easy clean-up.
5. Drizzle honey mustard over the filling of each and roll up in a tube. Secure with toothpicks on each end and cut, on an angle, down the middle.
6. Plate one or two roll-ups per person and serve.
serves: 4 — 6