Freezer Cooking Recipes, Take 1!


I’ve had some requests for the recipes I used, so I’m going to try a little link-fest with notes for recipes I’ve done and we enjoyed. Hopefully I’ll have more in a month when we’ve eaten through the most recent round of cooking – I think there were some real winners in that round. Keep in mind with your frozen-but-ready-to-bake meals, it all depends on how big of a pan you do. A really big/deep pan will take longer to thaw and bake. Smaller pans can bake faster. It doesn’t seem to matter, you’ll just need to account for the possible extra time.

Also, let me throw out the tip of collecting recipes over a few days. When you choose all your recipes at one time, it’s easier to get a one-track recipe mind. I was apparently in the mood for everything that tasted like a taco or beef stew.

I’d probably make all of these again, some in heavier rotation than others. It took me the better part of a Saturday, but I was in no hurry and took a few breaks.

Crockpot Cheese Tortellini and Sausage. Now, I did not freeze this one, so I can’t speak for its freezing. But I did throw it in while I was making everything else, so I didn’t have dinner to worry about when I finished. This was easy, and really, really delicious. The kind of delicious where you exclaim every time you eat it, “THIS IS SO GOOD.” And then you make it again a couple weeks later because THIS IS SO GOOD. I used mild Italian sausage. I think I had it in the crockpot for 3 – 3 1/2 hours the second time, because the first time the full 5 hours seemed to ALMOST overcook the tortellini. But my crockpot runs pretty hot, even on low.

Taco Pasta. Made it. Froze it. Loved it. It was one of the more time consuming prep meals (because I am so lazy and tried to stick with dump & freeze). But it was worth it. I used ground turkey. I doubled it, because as long as you’re doing the prep just DO IT. So I made a huge batch and froze it in three pans. It took forever to thaw, so I usually ended up giving it a full hour to bake with foil on, then topped with cheese until bubbly.

Macaroni and Beef. I took extensive liberties with this one. I used rotini for the pasta. Instead of pureeing whole tomatoes, I just bought tomato puree. I think I threw in a can of diced tomatoes as well, because it seemed like it needed a bit more liquid. This is why you want to have extra cans of things. I knew this was going to soak up more liquid into the pasta, and I do not regret that extra can of tomatoes. I also threw in most of a package of fresh mushrooms, because I over purchased for another recipe. And I used ground turkey. Took a SWEET FOREVER to thaw, and I had to bake it way way longer, but it was delicious and should be made again. Part of the forever thawing was because I froze a giant, giant pan of it.

Chicken Enchilada Soup. This had a nice kick (Says the Scandinavian with a Minnesotan palate – so keep that in mind. My kick is not your kick.). It would also be good using rotisserie chicken, but I generally just buy giant bags of frozen chicken tenderloins and throw some of those in all the chicken recipes. I’m not saddling myself with the work of breaking down a rotisserie chicken on an already busy day. We topped it with a little shredded cheddar and some tortilla chips crumbled.

White Chicken Chili. Do you see the trend? Ok, I took liberties with this one as well. I used frozen chicken tenderloins, and shredded them when it was done cooking and put them back in. I used one can of white beans, and that was it. I don’t like beans. I can make it however I want. And I skipped the jalepeños. So it’s sort of loosely based on this recipe. I believe this is the meal that inspired my “place your bag in a bowl before filling” tip. Not sure how much chicken broth I lost all over the counter.

Baked Ravioli. Easy and good. I made two pans, and used two different kinds of ravioli so they would be a little different.

Chicken Enchiladas. Enchiladas are high maintenance to me. So much assembly. So I split this recipe into three pans, to enjoy three times. Right when I started cooking in the morning, I put some frozen chicken tenderloins in the crockpot on high with salsa and taco seasoning mixed together (so not really sticking to the recipe for the meat mixture at all). Wait – isn’t the tortellini soup in the crockpot, you say? I have two. I used the 4 qt for the chicken, and the 6 qt for the soup. Then I shredded the chicken and assembled the enchiladas as the last recipe. I kept the cottage cheese mixture as it reads. I have frozen with the sauce on and without the sauce on. I haven’t noticed a difference. These are pretty tasty, and you can spice to your preference by choosing the heat of the enchilada sauce.

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken. Six Sisters have some great recipes. I stuck to the recipe on this one. It didn’t knock me down with amazingness, but it was perfectly good. I’d probably make it again. It was easy and different.

Beef and Mushrooms. From the same Six Sisters post. It was good. I may have used red wine instead of apple juice, and I tend to throw some worcestershire sauce into everything with beef. Well look at that. Is there now an open bottle of red wine? Nice!

Beef Stroganoff. It was fine. I like beef stroganoff, and will make it again. I may or may not use this particular recipe.

Beer and Beef Stew. SO MUCH BEEF. See what happened here? I wanted a taco or some beef stew, and the next thing you know, that’s what we’re eating for a month. This was fine. But I skipped all the chopping vegetables and just threw in a bag of frozen stew vegetables. Then I added a small bag of frozen cubed potatoes when I cooked it. I’d maybe add the frozen potatoes much later or something, because the potatoes all broke apart in the broth. Probably if you do it the way the recipe says, it’s good.

Good luck! Let me know if you give the freezer cooking a try!

Freezer cooking tips, tricks & hacks for beginners


I have recently been delving into the world of freezer cooking, and I wanted to share some things I’ve learned. I’m new to it myself, but I’ve had a few friends asking about it. I’m not a cooking expert. Not even a little. Mostly I’m lazy and want to cut All the Corners. So I won’t tell you Actual Recipe Advice. And this is not necessarily going to be green or cheap or healthy here. Sorry.

I don’t mind cooking. Sometimes I even enjoy it. But more often than not, cooking dinner is less “hooray for a chance to channel creativity in the kitchen” and more “why can’t everyone just be happy eating cereal for dinner DIDN’T I FEED YOU PEOPLE LAST NIGHT?!?” I’m trying to run a little freelance business from home while also raising and chauffeuring three children. Something has to give. At least if I prep a bunch of meals for the freezer, cleaning the bathroom does not have to be one of the things I give up.

Have you wanted to try stocking your freezer, but the whole thing is kind of intimidating and overwhelming? Try just dipping your toe in the water. Prep 3-5 freezer meals that you can have on hand for a busy day when you know you won’t want to make dinner. There’s no need to start by making 62 meals the first time. Just give it a try and see what you think. You may find it’s easier than you thought, or at least way worth the trouble.

There are a million pins on the Pinterest about freezer cooking. Some of these handy and helpful bloggers have made you meal lists with recipes and even your grocery list all set to go. How nice! I’ve tried using those. See, I’m a picky enough eater that out of all the recipes they list, I usually just want to make a couple and have no interest in the rest. Maybe you can just follow those to the letter, and then good for you! I’ll bet it’s fantastic.

The following is my ever-evolving plan of attack, and some other random tips.

This is how I roll:
I pick a day to do the freezer cooking & prep. About a week beforehand, I gather the recipes I want to use. From the Pinterest, from recipe sites, from my own cooking repertoire (HA!), wherever. I make myself an old fashioned list of the recipes on paper, and note where it’s from (as in my recipe box or maybe what board I have pinned it to on Pinterest). When I have time, I make myself a document and copy and paste all the recipes I’ve decided to use into it. Shortly before cooking day, I make the grocery list. The day before, I do the shopping. Then it’s go time. I make sure I have most of a day to do it. This last time took me a couple hours the next day, because we had church in the late afternoon on Saturday. Does prep day stink? YES. But it’s so worth it to me.

Tips, tricks, hacks, what-have-you:

  • Before choosing a day, make sure you’re not going to be in a time crunch. The Awesome Food Bloggers say it’s going to take X amount of hours, but it always takes me longer. It’s recipes I haven’t made, and I’m adjusting them as I go. If you think it’s going to take 3 hours, do not start at 1 pm before a 4 pm swimming lesson. Give yourself time, extra time, and then more time.
  • When looking for recipes, I try to keep a few things in mind. Variety of dishes, variety of cooking method, variety of prep level. I try to keep from choosing a whole bunch of similar meals. It may sound nice now, but I don’t actually want to eat pasta for a month. Also, I like to mix up whether it’s going to be baked in a pan or tossed in the crockpot. And finally, I like to keep the prep required to an extreme minimum. If I’m planning to cook a zillion meals at once, I don’t want to spend an hour cutting vegetables or have a ton of meat to brown. You can find a lot of recipes that are just dumping some stuff in a freezer bag and calling it good. How handy is that? Also, when I started, I only used meals that were actually called “freezer meals” on Pinterest. I wasn’t sure what would freeze well. Now I can tell a little better and experiment more.
  • A confession: You may be thinking, “How do you find recipes your kids will eat, too?” I don’t. I might get lucky. But, because we’re friends, I’m going to admit to you that my kids don’t eat much of what I cook. THERE. I SAID IT. I might be making some dino nuggets while our dinner cooks, and I just don’t care. I’m sorry. I mildly regret that it has come to this, but in the throws of preschoolers that is not a hill I chose to die on. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?
  • When making my grocery list, I use the groceryiq app. I like putting the list together online, and then having it on my phone at the store. It sorts food for me, so all the canned goods are in one place on the list, etc. My word of caution is that it doesn’t always seem to sync well, so I make sure it’s synced before I head to the store. Don’t forget – before you actually cook all this stuff has to fit in your fridge or wherever. I try to get as much as I can at Sam’s Club first (for example, frozen chicken breasts), and then go to the grocery store.
  • When shopping, I buy extra. Did I need a bunch of cream cheese? Buy an extra. You need to be able to adjust recipes on the fly, and the last thing you want to do is drop everything to get a 99¢ can of tomatoes. A lot of recipes will be something you haven’t made, and if it looks like it needs more of something, you’ll be glad you’ve got it on hand.
  • Just before I shop, I also tally the number of recipes that are frozen in the pan. Do I have enough pans? If not, buy some foil pans when you’re getting groceries. Do I have JUST enough pans? Buy at least one disposable pan. Sometimes you will marvel that this recipe was supposed to fit in one 9×13 pan. And make sure you have plenty of gallon size freezer bags if you’re making some crockpot recipes. You might end up with some bonus 8×8 pan meals just because it won’t fit.
  • On the day of, I read through all my recipes while I have breakfast and COFFEE. I kind of figure out what I’ll want to do first. I do most of the things that need pans right away, because I’ll probably want those in the bottom of my freezer with the bags piled up next to it. I don’t worry about freezing the bags neatly flat like everyone shows. Maybe life would be easier if I did, but they wouldn’t fit next to my pile of pans if I did it that way. I try to choose the order of cooking to the order I want it to go in the freezer.
  • As I begin, I take out all the pans I need, and assign the meal I want to fit in it. At least to start – it’s hard to know how much space you really need til you’re in the middle of it. And so I didn’t mess myself up, I actually put a note on all the pans of which recipe it was for. There’s a lot to think about today, so make it as easy on yourself as you can.
  • Ok. Just suck it up, it’s time to start. Pep talk! You’re going to be so amazingly happy you did this. Every time you take something out of the freezer for a stress-free dinner, you will THANK yourself. I like to make my atmosphere as nice as possible. A little music! Start with a clean kitchen and empty freezer! I take my time, so there’s less stress. Maybe a second cup of coffee. Don’t rush it. It is what it is.
  • A note on efficiency: I am not efficient. Awesome Food Bloggers will help you dice everything that needs to be diced at once, and brown everything that needs to brown at once. Fantastic! My mind doesn’t work that way. I just take my sweet time plowing through recipe by recipe, because I need to see that freezer start to fill for encouragement. I need to check off recipe after recipe and feel some sense of progress. Four meals down! Good for ME!
  • I clean as I go when possible. It helps to have cleaning support if you can get it. I may need that giant bowl again later, so I just wash it now. It’s easier than being mid-recipe and wishing you had it ready.
  • Fill bags for crockpots in something. I mean, stand that bag up in a mixing bowl or something. It takes one time of having the bag tip over, full of chicken broth (and losing – wait – how much broth IS that??) to make you wish you had done this. I also fold the top of the bag over & out so that it’s a bit more open as I shove stuff in it, and it’s not covered in goo when I want to close it.
  • Don’t forget to label things. I write on the bags with a sharpie before I fill them. I include cook time & anything else that needs to be added when it is cooked (maybe you’re supposed to add 2 cups of broth or something). I usually put double foil on the things in pans, and I write that info on the top layer of foil.
  • A note on cheating: If I can cheat, I will. Does the recipe call for sliced carrots? I am using frozen sliced carrots. Diced onion? Frozen diced onion. I got tired of throwing the unused portions away (because I was not good about using the rest). Plus it’s a time and mess saver, and today is hard enough. Oh! Potatoes! Don’t slice or dice your own potatoes. Buy frozen. Every time I have tried to just do my own, they turned black in the freezer. Smart Cooks probably know how to fix that, but I just buy them frozen. Saves several steps anyway.
  • I’m not in a hurry, but I’m not wasting time, either. If something’s in the oven pre-baking, I’ll start something else, or wash some pans or something. Before I start each recipe, I take out what I need for that recipe. That way if I realize I need something else, I can save that one to do later.
  • Either pick one of your meals to be for dinner, go out, order pizza – whatever. Do not make yourself cook yet another meal after this.
  • On enjoying your meals: When a recipe says, “thaw in the refrigerator the night before” they are just lying to you. I have not had a single recipe work that way. I have put meals in the refrigerator two nights before, and they are still ice chunks when I take them out. Plan on cooking pan meals much longer than they say (I keep it covered with foil at first so it doesn’t dry out in the long cook time). Just keep checking it. You’ll figure it out, and it’s still better than actually making dinner. Crockpot stuff seems to cook fine even if it’s frozen, you just have to get it thawed enough to get out of the bag and into the crockpot (don’t forget you won’t want the crockpot hot when you put the frozen chunk in there, lest you break that precious crockpot). I also keep that set of recipes out til they’re all gone. You can make notes of what you wish had been different, and double check to see if something was supposed to be added when cooking.
  • Make note of what was delicious. I like to keep a “loved it” board on the Pinterest. It helps me remember what was worth making again. If a meal is a dud, I un-pin it altogether. Otherwise I end up making it again, having forgotten it wasn’t worth it.

Oh, Friend. Are you still here? Did you actually read this far? I’m sorry it took so long. There are just so many things to be learned, and I want to spare you from learning them in the process. Let me know if you have questions!

He wanted to tell EVERYONE


This song. There is not a Christmas song in the world that digs into me like Sara Groves’ “It’s True.” It’s a lovely song. But the thing that gets to me most is Sara’s little son, Toby, reading those words at the beginning and end. Brings tears to my eyes every time, and makes me wonder so many things. I know I’ve written about it before, but every year it seems to prick some new thought process.

One of the things little Toby says is that “God was like a new dad. He couldn’t keep the Good News to himself.” “He’d been waiting all these long years for this moment, and now He wanted to tell everyone.” WHAT A PICTURE. Honestly, I can’t get over it.

Until this moment, was God’s view of earth kind of like me watching Titanic? I know how it ends. I hope it will somehow end differently, but I know the ship goes down. I see everyone flitting through their lives and keep thinking in the back of my mind, “None of this matters – that ship is going down.” I see them being told about the lifeboats, and they poo-poo it. But I want to scream at them, “YOU’RE GONNA NEED THOSE LIFEBOATS.” I see the class system in action and wonder why Snotty Rich Lady’s life is more valuable than that sweet little steerage girl, Cora. Then they show all the people in the water and I want to shout, “It didn’t have to be this way!” None of it matters.

And then God comes with his real-life, bigger than Titanic, actually unsinkable lifeboat, Jesus. Can you imagine? Jesus being born into the world is not a last-ditch effort. It’s not a “Gee, nothing else is working, let’s try this…” From the beginning, God knew this would happen. This was always the plan. God is not surprised. And it’s time! “God, who came down to find you.” This is it. After so long, the savior is coming. And He places the star. It’s a spotlight for His Son. An invitation. He is physically pointing the world to the answer. It’s not for rich people or certain races, it’s for anyone and everyone.

Just like a new dad. Only it isn’t just his baby boy he’s showing off on Facebook, it’s the means by which He will be able to call His children back to Him. He came down to find YOU. Because you are worth it. The shepherd wants to take every last wandering sheep with Him to safety.

It’s true. It’s not a bedtime story. I believe it’s real. It’s so easy to get lost in Christmas Hoopla that we can forget it’s a celebration of the real and actual Savior. It sounds so ridiculous and strange. Completely outrageous. But as the angel says, “Is anything too wonderful for God?”

Words and Actions


I’ve been thinking so much about words and actions today.

Last December I saw a video about a little boy named Christian who started something called a Buddy Bench at his school. The idea is that they have a special bench out on the playground, and if you’re feeling lonely and can’t find someone to play with you sit on the bench. Someone will come find you, and see if you want to play or talk. This just struck me as Ella’s heart, so I showed her the video. She talked about it a bit at school, and we told our friend Mr. B about it.

Well, tomorrow her elementary school is putting three Buddy Benches on the playground. Ella was asked if she would go to the assembly where they presented them to talk about them, even though she’s off at middle school now. Just the idea made her heart race. She is petrified of that sort of thing. Mr. B understood (and anticipated) and offered a written option. She’ll do a great job with that, too, but it breaks my heart a little bit. Not because I don’t mind large groups, but because I know the power of words. I know the power of showing a group of people your emotions. Ella’s heart for the lonely is remarkable. Truly remarkable. I wish she was comfortable sharing it in this sort of way, because I have no doubt it would change somebody.

But Ella is comfortable with something that’s probably better. Action. She finds the good in every person and every situation. There are no strangers to Ella. When I showed her the video about the buddy benches, she didn’t want to talk about it. She wanted to do it. She didn’t need to wait for benches and programs and official processes, she found a way to reach out to people right away. She started looking for kids that were sitting alone at lunch. Then she’d go sit with them, and a few of her friends would join her. In a few minutes, that table would be packed. She still does it now, even at middle school. Sometimes I think she’s so unobservant – but really, I think she’s so focused on people, they are all she sees.

I can’t wait to see what she does next.

No apples for these teachers. Except maybe just this once.


Today should have been our last day of school. But since we apparently live in Narnia, we’re making up snow days until NEXT TUESDAY. I ran into a friend at Target last night, and we are torn. We just want school over already. But we’re also not ready to entertain and chauffeur kids to summer activities. It’s such a mixed bag. Summer is great, but it’s a lot of work.

One of my favorite things about the end of the year (besides the lack of homework), is end of the year teacher gifts. We don’t get Pinteresty. I just like to ask the girls what they think their teacher would like, because I want them to give something they’re excited about, now that they’re old enough to get it. And I love, love, love seeing what they’ve picked up on over the year. Mr. B drank a Red Bull every afternoon and is a healthy eater so he should NOT get candy (he admits Red Bull is his vice). Maybe a package of almonds! Miss S. liked the bottled Starbucks Frappuccinos. Ella was able to recognize the bottle so we could get the right kind.

When I asked this year, Natalie answered in a nanosecond, “Pens! Mr. L needs pens. His are always breaking.” So, off we went to Sam’s Club to buy some pens. She was very particular about them, and chose so carefully. I only wish I could let Mr. L know what love went into choosing a pack of pens. “He uses black, blue, and red pens. So the pack should have all of those colors.” She wanted to make sure they were good pens. We found a pack that also threw in a couple purple and green. She wasn’t so sure. Would he use those colors if he had them? Should we stick to a pack that had only the colors he uses? We spent a lot of time in the office supply aisle. Then we had enough leftover to get a smaller gift card. Where did she think he would like one for? He likes to fish. It should be something with fishing. Gander Mountain? No, because that’s what we got him for Christmas. He also works in a bait shop! Could we get him one for a bait shop?? Well, if he works in a bait shop, he probably doesn’t want/need one for a bait shop. We settled on Menards because he just bought a house and is getting married this summer. Surely he will need something from Menards. “Is there even anything you can BUY at Menards for only $10??” Oh, honey. No one spends just $10 at Menards. He will buy a whole bunch of things, and he will get to spend $10 less than he would have in the first place. She also wanted to bring him an apple. I’m on a strict, no-apples-or-apple-themed-items-for-teachers mode of operation, but she says he eats an apple every day and would appreciate an apple. I may cave.

Ella didn’t know where the gift card should be for, but she needed Dove chocolate to go with it. Had to be Dove. Could we pick up a Starbucks drink for her? If we knew what she drank, yes. Ella has not yet been exposed to the Starbucks situation. She knows that I go, but she doesn’t understand that there are roughly a zillion options, and we need a lot of details. Ella just knows Mrs. F drinks coffee every day in a white tumbler with a white lid and pink foam grip. I had to explain that she is likely drinking teacher’s lounge or home coffee in that tumbler, and that means nothing in terms of a Starbucks drink. I may give in and just ask her what we can bring her. I was lucky enough to meet someone through work this year that is a good friend of hers, and she was able to confirm that a Target gift card was an excellent choice.

They also couldn’t wait til the last day to give their gifts. I guess since this was supposed to be the last day, it’s close enough. I just wish I could relay to Mr. L that these pens were a Big Stinking Deal, and not at all a random gift. But from what I know of him, and the fact that he’s gotten to know Natalie all year, I think he’ll get it. Whatever we give, it’s never enough. We have been so blessed with amazing teachers yet again this year. They are delightful people, great teachers, and they really seem to know and like our kids.

Mr. Paulson


I knew Lee Paulson ever since I was a baby. Story goes, my mom handed me off to him at church or somewhere when I was a newborn, and I ended up peeing all over him. He was an English teacher forever, and the drama director of everything our town ever saw. By the time I reached high school, he had retired from teaching, but he couldn’t quite let drama go. Or they wouldn’t let him. I’m not sure. Maybe both?

I remember after the new high school was built, he came and found 8th grade me in the lunch room. Could I help him out organizing the new costume rooms? One simply did not say “no” to Mr. Paulson. A little because he was so insistent and convincing, and a maybe little tiny bit out of fear. You see, Mr. Paulson liked to yell if the need arose. I’d always known him, so my level of fear was pretty small (which might just say that I knew to shut up and do what he wanted the first time). In any case, I said I could maybe help for a bit. Which is how I ended up backstage for the next five years.

It was fascinating to watch the man work. He was not a spring chicken. But I swear he had more energy and drive than all of us teenagers put together. He had a passion for theatre that I will probably never see again. And boy could he yell. Of course I know now that he yelled to get your attention. He yelled because he knew you could do better and try harder. He yelled because he expected and demanded your best. And when he got it? Oh my goodness. The feeling of seeing him proud was amazing.

I dragged my friend Trish in, and we lived backstage for those five years. Late, late nights. Weekends. Operating power tools with zero supervision. With the keys to anywhere in the school, which he handed to us so he wouldn’t misplace them. Whatever needed to be done. All the shows blend into one in my memory now. But I have so many memories.

I don’t remember which show it was, but I remember him mid-tirade walking backwards right off the stage. He fell to the floor. And then he popped right back up and finished yelling. He must have been around 70. Scared us all to death. But I think he hoped he scared us into what he was asking for in the first place.

One day Trish and I were building sets on our own, and Mr. Paulson offered to get us some lunch. He ran into town to Subway and brought us footlong subs, chips, cookies, and drinks. That seemed a little excessive. But he must have known something I didn’t, because I think I ate the whole blasted thing. 

He knew I loved James Dean and Natalie Wood. One year, we did Rebel Without a Cause. I was able to help with the window displays from my personal collection of James Dean paraphernalia, including a life-size cardboard cutout and several posters. He brought one of his own, which I was deeply in love with – all purples and blues with black and white James Dean in the center. Later, he gave it to me.

When I was a sophomore, all I wanted in the whole world was to not be in high school anymore. I did everything I needed to do so I could do post-secondary and take college classes my last two years. I took the ACT a year early, I went on my college visit – I got all my post-secondary ducks in a row. “You’ll miss out on high school!” people said. “Great!” I said. I will never ever forget when I went to tell Mr. Paulson about it. We were standing right in the middle of the auditorium. “Well, you’ll miss out on high school, and that might be what you want, but you’ll also miss out on the college experience.” I thought about that long and hard. If fitting in was what I wanted, I certainly wasn’t going to fit in at college as a 16 year old. Living 30 minutes away. Being at least two years younger than everyone else. Still technically in high school. I decided not to go. I will be forever grateful for that perspective when I needed it, because it ended up being the best decision for me.

Later, when I got married, he was there. Our wedding was family and close friends – only 76 people. But you’d better believe he was one of them, and I’m not sure which category he fell into – family or friend. Not that I would have ever considered calling him “Lee.” I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded, but there are just some people in life that you can’t call by their first name.

Mr. Paulson passed away on Saturday. He was 89. The loss for my hometown is incredible. If ever there was someone worthy of “legend” status, I’d say it’s him. But I’m even having trouble with the idea that the world no longer has him in it. I spend my days quietly going about my business. I can’t imagine he ever did a thing he wasn’t passionate about. He had a passion for teaching. A passion for directing. A passion for politics. A passion for his church. A passion for reading. A passion for empowering youth to reach their potential.

Every once and a while I think of something he said or did, and I’m still learning from him. I am so grateful. And looking forward to the day I can see him and say thank you again. I hope I can infuse a fraction of his passion for life into mine.

Friday Five: Preschooler-isms


For today’s Friday Five, five of my favorite things Zoey says. Some of which I should correct her on, but they’re so cute.

  1. “Try not to catch me!” instead of “Try to catch me!”
  2. “Watch out for me!” instead of something polite like, “Excuse me.”
  3. She calls marshmallows “mushrooms.”
  4. She’s pretty sure Mickey Mouse’s dog is “Pludog,” or possibly “Bludog.”
  5. “Stop saying that!” Ok. This is not really a favorite, but it is pretty constant. Anytime someone tells her something she doesn’t want to hear, this is what we get.

Friday Five: <3 LOVE <3


Naturally, I’m Friday Fiving “Love” today.

  1. My girls think Valentine’s Day is akin to Christmas. They want to celebrate the whole day. Natalie was beside herself to learn Captain America did not have the day off. They found a heart shaped cookie cutter for their toaster waffles. Natalie used it again on her peanut butter sandwich at lunch. She’s also spent most of the morning making Valentines for everyone in our family. These girls love love.
  2. Captain America and I have never done much for Valentine’s gifts. Sometimes nothing. But, in my opinion, NOBODY writes on the inside of a card like him, and that’s what I care about. He’s good with the funny, he’s good with the sentiment, he’s good with words in general. I like words. I love them. HA! Love.
  3. I have loved Captain America for 6365 days. Our first Valentine’s Day together was 17 years ago. I already knew I would marry him then. We’ve been married for 5649 days. 807 weeks. 
  4. A year or two ago I forgot to pick up any little gifts for the girls for Valentine’s morning. So I found a heart shaped post-it pad and left little notes everywhere. Last night when I said goodnight to Ella she said, “I sure hope there are heart post-its tomorrow!” No pressure. I’ve used up the last of them after today, and I hope I remember to get more before next year.
  5. Some of my favorite love songs are When You Say Nothing at All by Alison Krauss (it was in our wedding!), Ho Hey by the Lumineers, The One I Love by REM, Your Song by Elton John (but also as it was in Moulin Rouge), Something in the Way She Moves by James Taylor, a bunch of songs by Sting, To Be Alone With You by Sufjan Stevens, You & Me by Dave Matthews Band, and Gone Gone Gone by Phillip Phillips.

Hearts and Flowers


Oh, friends. Last week I had Captain America out of town, an 8 year old down with a fever for days, and some winter weather that threatened my sanity. I think all of Facebook rejoiced when Captain America got back home. It was getting a little “Should we be laughing because it’s funny, or is she seriously snapping?” I was aiming to make light of it and get a laugh, but yes, I was also snapping. But it’s done now and life moves on.

It’s Valentine excitement all around, and I just had to share a story about my oldest girl’s heart. Because her middle name is Grace, but it could just as well be Compassion. The girls were really enjoying filling out their Valentines this year. “It only comes once a year!” “It’s nice to make people feel special!” It was making up for at least a few of those times where I’ve had to say, “Didn’t I already ask you twice to GET OFF THE IPAD?” They are givers, and I love it.

Ella has a boy in her class that’s diabetic. Every time Ella needs to bring treats of some kind, she wants to make sure there’s something he can have. “Twelve carbs or less, Mom. He can only have the treat if it’s no more than 12 carbs.” Usually kids bring cupcakes, and he takes it home so his brother can have it. Ella brought pudding cups, and made sure to bring some that were sugar free so he could pretty much have the same treat everyone else was having. Because she’s Ella.

So now she was packaging up Valentine treat bags. I hadn’t even thought of it, but then I heard, “Mom! The sucker is less than 12 carbs!” But the Rice Krispie treat wasn’t. She was so disappointed. So we figured out a plan where she could take a sucker from one of her teacher Valentines (Sorry about that, Mr. Bonnar, but we thought you wouldn’t mind), so her friend still got two treats but they were both something he could have. Then she cut out the nutrition label for the suckers, and put it in the bag so he would know for sure that he could have it.

I know Valentine’s Day gets over commercialized – I mean, it’s pretty much a Hallmark Holiday. Not a lot of substance to it. It’s obnoxious even. But I love it. I love the idea of taking a day to tell people they are special. Not everyone hears it as much as they should, or as much as they need to hear it. Even if it’s because the teacher tells you that if you do Valentines, you have to do them for EVERYONE. For one day, whether you’re the cool kid or the picked on kid – everyone is special and important. Ella thinks it’s sad that kids have to be told to bring a Valentine for everyone. I am so thankful for Ella and her big heart, and I hope I can be more like her.

**Edit** I should add, Natalie made sure her candy to give was completely peanut (and thus also chocolate) free due to the peanut allergy in her class. She checked labels as well, and following Ella’s lead, made sure the nutrition info was available on the items for her classmate. They both have huge hearts.

Friday Five on Monday: Leading Worship


I didn’t get as far as blogging on Friday, but I thought I’d catch up today. I got to help lead worship at our church yesterday, and I thought I’d do five things I love about that. I’ve been lucky enough to help out by singing occasionally since I was in college and going to InterVarsity. It was years and years before I realized it was actually a form of service – I thought “service” meant sacrificing and doing something you didn’t necessarily like. Like church nursery, particularly the toddler room. Surely worship team was too enjoyable to be “service.” I sort of forget about the time sacrifice, because I don’t mind it.

  1. Our church has three services: Saturday night, Sunday at 8:30 and 10:30. Sometimes if you’re on for Sunday, you practice Thursday night. I haven’t done that yet. I’ve only been on when you practice Sunday morning. We meet at 7 am. Which means I set my alarm for 5:30 am. On a normal day, if Zoey gets up at 5:30 am, I will tell her it is still the middle of the night, and she should go back to bed. I’m more of a 7 am kind of wake up person. Or maybe 8. While it’s way earlier than I like to get up for anything, leading worship is something that can drag me out of bed at that hour with minimal complaining.
  2. I love practice. As long as we’re not having technical difficulties, it’s usually a laid back and fun thing. I mean, I get to worship twice (or if it’s a Sunday, three times). Plus, I’ve probably been listening to the songs we’ll do for a few days, so come Sunday I am READY TO GO. Can’t wait for them. I also love the collaboration of practice. I love watching musicians work, because it’s amazing to see how people just hear something in their head and suggest it and we try it – sometimes it’s just the coolest thing, and I love being along for the ride. I still remember singing at InterVarsity, and the bass player suggested the song start with an instrumental of a Sonic Youth song and then work into the song we were doing. I don’t remember what either song was, but I remember being in awe of how great it turned out.
  3. I love the view. I consider it an honor to be in front during worship at church, because I get to watch others worship. Whether it’s a group of 40 or 600, when I look out and see a person completely lost in a song and therefore lost in God – well. I just can’t even put it into words. It’s incredibly touching to see people in such an emotionally vulnerable state, and it makes my heart swell. In that moment they are communicating with God in a special way. I’m incredibly grateful to witness it, and I don’t take it lightly.
  4. I just love singing. I love it. Whether I’m in the car or in front of people, it makes me happy. It’s hard to feel sad and discouraged after singing. Music is the thing that God has always reached me with, and I’m really grateful for that, too. I like learning new songs, and I love having them stuck in my head for days.
  5. I love the comraderie of being a part of the team. I’ve been on many different teams, and some have been better experiences than others. The majority have been great, and I have some life-long friendships that came out of it. On occasion it’s been more like a high school clique. But when you can connect with other people who feel the way you do about worship, it’s incredible. One thing I really enjoy about the team I’m on now is the prayer time before church starts. It’s a pleasure to sing with other people that are sincerely there to serve and worship God. It’s also fun to discover singing chemistry with different people. It’s really fun when to sing with someone enough where we just know what each other will do and our voices blend well, and I’ve been lucky enough to have that connection a few times. It makes things really easy. If I’m leading I’m thinking about making sure I do everything right and in the right order so everyone can sing along easily.  On harmony, I just get to worship and sing what I feel. I like both, but I think I like harmony a little bit more.