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Last week I took the two older boys out on a theater date to see the musical production of James and the Giant Peach. First of all, let me just say that I absolutely love live theater, especially musicals. There’s just something so magical about watching a story unfold on a live stage without the help of any special effects or editing. The talent and skill of those involved in a live theater production, from the actors and actresses to the people who design the costumes and props,  never cease to amaze me. In my opinion, a good musical is really entertainment at its best.

For many years this kind of entertainment was usually something we’d reserve for “special occasions,” since most of the time it involved expensive tickets and making the trek out to the city. That’s why I was absolutely thrilled when I discovered the Berkeley Playhouse a couple of years ago. It’s a small community playhouse (designed by Julia Morgan) literally walking distance from our house. They always have a production every season that’s geared more toward children and families. It’s a small theater so no matter where you sit, you’re guaranteed a good view of the stage, and they also provide booster seats for kids so that they can see better. And they have an actual orchestra in the pit! The first production we took our boys to was The Little Mermaid a couple of years ago. They absolutely loved it, and I did too. The quality of the productions that this little theater churns out is truly amazing.

On top of that, for every production they have at least two shows that are “pay what you want” nights. They’re usually on a Thursday and tickets go for a minimum of $5 each. So even though it is a school night, we usually take the kids on those nights when we can. Just to give you an idea of how easy and accessible it was, last Thursday after we ate dinner, I put Ezra to bed around 6:30pm, had the boys change to their jammies, drove to the playhouse at 6:45, parked, got tickets, and we were seated ready for the 7pm show with time to spare. All for less than the cost of 3 happy meals! I had them back and in bed by 9:30pm, both dreaming of singing bugs and giant peaches.

So how was James and the Giant Peach? I have to say I was a little skeptical; it’s not exactly a story that lends itself to an easy musical rendition. The main characters are bugs after all, and it is set mostly inside a giant peach. But as with all the other shows I’ve been to, this one did not disappoint. The musical interpretation of this classic Roald Dahl story was creative, endearing, and hilarious! My favorite scene was earthworm singing, “Plump and Juicy” to tantalize the seagulls. The boys got such a kick out of the show that afterwards the man who sat behind us remarked to me that he had more fun watching CC and Turner than the actual show.

James and Giant Peach will be playing until May 6th. Go see it for yourself and bring any kids in your life. I’m sure they will enjoy it as much as mine did! #supportcommunitytheater

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A friend reminded me the other day that I used to write and I thought to myself, “Oh yeah…what happened to that?” My last post was about a year and a half ago and Ezra turned 18 months this week, so if you do the math and put two and two together, you’ll find who to blame for my long silence on this space.

In all seriousness, I’d love to keep writing, not because I think you’ve all missed me (do people even read blogs anymore?), but because it is therapeutic and it gives me a way to actually use my brain, which isn’t working as well as it used to due to lack of sleep. It’s just been hard to find the time or energy when I spend most my days now following around a toddler who likes to climb on tables, walk off the tops of bunk beds, and throw hard objects, sometimes at people. I feel like his private bodyguard, except I don’t know who I’m protecting more, him, or the people around him. His poor big brothers both bear the scars of battle wounds on their faces, inflicted with little baby nails sharper than claws. And just yesterday I was too slow in fending off a matchbox car which Ezra threw and it unfortunately found my eye as its target. Ouch.

Ezzy the menace (that’s what I like to call him) is thankfully napping right now, and even though I know that I should probably be doing the same, I wanted to see if I could still get my writing juices flowing after such a long pause. No promise that this will happen regularly, but just wanted to get my feet wet a little.

I thought I’d share with you all some of the things that are saving my life right now, and boy does my life need saving. These are some of the small things that have helped me to get through the day, in no particular order.

  • COFFEE – okay, so maybe I lied when I said in no particular order, because of course coffee comes first. I use a French press because I’m the only one in the house who drinks coffee. Some friends who stayed over recently gifted me a stainless steel French press because I mentioned that my glass one broke. In fact, I’ve gone through two glass ones. I was so happy to receive this sturdy steel one which I can just pop in the dishwasher and not be worried if Ezzy gets his hands on it by accident.
  • Podcasts – I’m a latecomer to the whole podcasts thing, so I’m still trying to explore and find ones I like. Most of my day is filled with mundane household chores, so it’s nice to have something to listen to while I’m doing the dishes, folding the laundry, etc. I choose the podcast based on what I’m in the mood for at the time – to be entertained, to learn, or to get some spiritual nourishment. They really do help the time go faster and sometimes I feel like I’m just listening to a couple of friends chatting at my kitchen table while I’m cooking or cleaning. Here are some of the ones I enjoy and have started subscribing to: Life-study of the Bible with Witness Lee, The Simple Show, What Should I Read Next?, Up First (for news), and Read-Aloud Revival. If you have any you’d like to recommend, please share!
  • 7 minute work-outs – Larry recently introduced me to an app that gives you short customized work outs you can do at home. Both of us have membership to the Y, but the extent of our use of it so far has been taking the kids to the indoor kindergym. It was hard for me to find a time to go to the gym regularly, but doing these short routines at home has made regular exercise a lot more feasible. Sometimes I do them at night after kids have gone to bed, or sometimes in the morning with Ezra puttering around me. Often he will sit on me while I’m doing the plank or push-ups for added weight.

What’s been saving your life recently? I’d love to know!

 

 

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I’m usually not one for reviewing, much less promoting apps, but when I find one that actually does make life easier (instead of just helping me to waste more time), I’d like to let others know about it. In this case, the app I’m about to review hasn’t just made life easier, but helped me to parent more effectively. It has helped my kids learn healthy habits and be accountable. All that for a mere $2.99? Larry and I normally never buy any apps, but I think this one was a $3 well spent.

For awhile I’ve tried to get my kids, especially my older son, to regularly do their chores. We’ve tried all kinds of ways – physical chore charts with stickers, rewards, penny jars. Those things would work for a week or so, but eventually the novelty would wear off, and I have to confess I wasn’t that good at consistently adhering to whatever system I had started. So in the end the system would go out the window and I would go back to nagging them everyday and they would go back to ignoring me.

Well, a few months ago, Larry, believing that there’s an app for everything, did some research and downloaded some chore chart apps. There are so many out there, but the one he eventually decided on was Chore Pad. It’s relatively easy to use and you can customize chores for each child. There’s a simple reward system of checks and stars and you can decide what rewards they get. My kids love it. We’ve been using it for a few months and the novelty still hasn’t worn off. They have been consistently making their beds, folding their pajamas, cleaning their room, etc. with much less nagging from me. And I don’t have to worry about printing out anything or getting any stickers or pennies, all I have to do is whip out my ipad and have them check off their chores themselves. It has become part of our nightly ritual and both boys will often remind me if I forget to do their chore chart before going to bed.

I’ll walk you through it real quick –

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Each child gets his own page that he can customize. My boys decided to go with the snowflake theme for the winter.

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Then you assign chores for each child and how often they must be done. This is CC’s and…

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…this is Turner’s.

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You can also decide how many stars each chore is worth. The kids use their stars for payouts. So far the reward that has worked to motivate them are minutes for playing video games. CC also has the option of converting his stars to money, which Larry keeps track of in a different piggy bank app.

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As they accumulate checks, they also earn trophies for their virtual trophy shelf. There’s also the option to give them a bonus on each check, if they did a really exceptional job, or a minus, if they did their chore but not such a good job.

We also included a box for daily behavior which we check off at the end of the day if they behaved well. Many times if they’re misbehaving, all we have to do is threaten not give them their behavior check and they’ll change their tune right away.

Anyways, this app has worked well for us so far. It’s so easy even 3-year olds and non-tech savvy mamas like me can figure it out.

What apps have you found useful for parenting? Please share!

 

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Yesterday we had an early celebration for CC’s birthday. My not so little boy will turn 6 tomorrow. For weeks I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether to throw him a birthday party this year, not because he had asked for one, but because for some crazy reason I thought I’d be less of a mother if I didn’t. It seemed like ALL his little friends got birthday parties and I didn’t want him to feel left out. In all honesty though, we are not birthday party people in this house. Things like that tend to get me stressed because I feel like I have to get everything perfect and pinterest-worthy. Kind of like when I tried to bake the fire engine cake when he turned 3…I don’t need to remind you all how that turned out.

So Larry finally put an end to my hemming and hawing and put his foot down and said we would just celebrate CC’s birthday as a family. I complained for all of 5 minutes but was inwardly relieved. I told CC we would go out for dinner for his birthday and he can pick the restaurant. Just as I predicted, he picked Homeroom, a very hipster joint in Oakland touted to have the best Mac and Cheese this side of the bay. So yesterday afternoon, before heading out to Homeroom, we let CC open his one present from us (more on that later) and Face Timed briefly with his grandparents. The place was super crowded, even at 5:45, but we scored a table outside relatively quickly. We ordered two kinds of Mac and Cheese, a side of buttery minty peas and a Limeade for me, and watched my soon to be 6 year old son chow down more calories than he probably ordinarily gets in a week. He was happy as a clam, and I was too, knowing I didn’t have to frost any cakes or fill any goodie bags.

After dinner, the boys of course asked for dessert. Larry, thinking ahead, had printed out a coupon for a free birthday scoop from Ben & Jerry’s for CC. We asked CC in the car what he wanted for dessert and he said ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s. Score! Isn’t it great when what your kids ask for is actually the same as what you plan? So we made a stop at B&J and even though we were planning to get Turner his own scoop, CC very graciously said he would share his cone with his little brother. So we walked out with free ice cream and two very happy boys.

When we got home, CC had about half an hour to play with his birthday present before he had to get ready for bed. For his birthday, we got him a box of 125 Zoob building pieces. Recently he’s really been into Legos and can spend hours by himself just building things. So we wanted to get him something similar – open ended creative building toys. The Zoobs are pretty cool, basically ball and socket type pieces you can fit into different configurations. It also comes with guides with instructions of different things you can build. CC got into it right away, and for half an hour we all joined him in building things. Definitely quality family bonding time.

We got the boys ready for bed and CC thanked the Lord for his new present. I thanked the Lord for giving us such a simple yet wonderful day. My son will only turn six once. I’m glad I didn’t miss it because I was too busy planning a party he never asked for. When he looks back on his 6th birthday, I hope he’ll remember that we had mac and cheese and ice cream and that his mommy and daddy sat down and built Zoob robots and animals with him. I know that’s what I’ll remember. 🙂

Happy birthday CC!

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About a month or so ago I received a free sample copy of a small book from Bibles for America entitled “A Life of Forbearance but without Anxiety” written by Witness Lee. They asked me if I would read it and review it before its release in May. I replied that I would be happy to since I’ve always received tremendous help from the writings of Witness Lee and his co-worker, Watchman Nee. This book, or more like booklet, is short (consisting of only 7 chapters) and is actually taken from some spoken messages Lee gave on the book of Philippians. For the past month this little booklet has been everywhere with me – on my nightstand, in my gym bag, in the diaper bag. I’ve enjoyed reading through it, praying over it, and quoting it to friends.

These seven chapters unpack the last chapter of the book of Philippians, especially two verses (4:5-6) in which the apostle Paul tells us to “let our forbearance be known to all men” and “in nothing be anxious.” Lee makes it wonderfully clear from the Word that not only is it possible and normal for us as believers to live a life full of forbearance without anxiety, but even more, that it is God’s charge to us. He states very simply but profoundly that anxiety is the totality of human life, whether it’s anxiety related to our marriage, families, children, jobs, etc., and no human being is exempt from it. But just as anxiety is the totality of the human life, forbearance is the totality of the Christian life. What is forbearance? It’s simply Christ in us as an all-fitting virtue and to live a life of forbearance is to live Christ as the one who is reasonable and suitable in every situation. So while God might assign certain circumstances, and even sufferings to us, He never assigns anxiety to us. If we realize that those circumstances and sufferings are for our perfecting and transformation, and if we would come to the Lord in everything, as Paul encouraged us to do, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, then it is fully possible for us to live a human life as a Christian without anxiety. How marvelous is that?

I think anyone would receive help and encouragement from this book, whether you’re a new believer or have been a Christian for a long time. Let’s face it, we all deal with anxiety though it may be in different degrees. Lee’s words are a reminder from God’s word that an anxious life is not the kind of life we’ve been called to. I love how the chapters are peppered with real life examples and experiences that we can all relate to and is full of practical help for our daily life.

The book will be available starting May 5th. Go here to order a copy for yourself and maybe one for a friend! You won’t regret it!

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I know I would normally be writing my Truth Tuesday post today, but in all honesty, I got nothing. For this week the profoundest truth I can share with you all is that sometimes what gets me through the day is calling on the Lord and lots of chocolate. I should probably do more of the former and eat less of the latter. Anyhoo, check back next Tuesday and maybe I’ll have something deeper to offer you.

But I still wanted to post today…so I thought I’d start with something I’d been wanting to add to this blog for awhile now – recipes! I know, I know, it’s not like there aren’t enough recipes out there on the web already and I’m definitely not a gourmet cook by any standard – but I thought it would be fun anyway. If anything it gives me a place to store and archive all the different things I’ve made.

When it comes to cooking, my philosophy is simple – easy, convenient, and kid-friendly. I like recipes that don’t involve running all over the place for hard to find ingredients, is easy to follow when you have two little kids underfoot in the kitchen, and good enough to elicit a “Mommy, this is yummy” from a toddler. So I’m excited to share some of the recipes I’ve developed over the years that have passed this test.

Every Monday for about a year now, I’ve participated in a dinner co-op with two of my neighbors. We do a three week rotation where each week one mom makes dinner for all three families. At about 6pm, we report with our empty pyrexes to the designated cook’s house, take our portion and bring it home to our waiting hungry families. Brilliant idea, isn’t it? I wish I could do this for every night of the week.

Last night was my night to cook for the co-op and usually I plan ahead so that I have everything I need by Sunday night. That didn’t happen this week and I was panicking Monday morning when I realized that I probably wouldn’t have time to run to the store since CC was off from school and I had offered to babysit his friend for the morning. So I tried Instacart for the first time. Instacart is a basically personal grocery shopping service. It took me about 15 minutes to download the app, create an account, make a shopping list and schedule a time for delivery. So while I was at the park with the kids, some nice lady was buying my groceries at Costco and delivered them to my door while the boys were napping. Pretty sweet, I tell you. I don’t think I would use it for my regular shopping, but the service is definitely nice to have on those days when you just can’t make it out to the store. It’s worth checking out if Instacart is available in your area.

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My Instacart delivery

Oh yeah, so on to the recipe…last night I decided to make my Tried and True Turkey Meat loaf. Doesn’t sound that exciting, but to me meat loaf is comfort food and my kids love it. I’ve tried it with ground beef and mixtures of ground beef and pork, but I still prefer ground turkey because the meat loaf doesn’t come out as greasy.

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CC always insists on “helping” in the kitchen. Here he is mixing and taste testing the glaze.

Tried and True Turkey Meat Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small onion (minced)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs or oatmeal (I use 1/4 cup of each)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbs worchestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tbs brown sugar

Cooking instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  3. Shape into a loaf and place in baking pan.
  4. Put into oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Mix all ingredients for glaze in a small bowl.
  6. After 30 minutes, take out meat loaf, drain any excess liquid, and brush the glaze generously over the top.
  7. Place back in oven and bake for 15 more minutes or until done.

For our three families, I doubled this recipe and shaped them into three loaves. It was super easy and delicious, especially served with a side of rosemary roasted potatoes and steamed baby carrots. Bon Apetit!

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Happy new year, my friends! Sorry I’ve been pretty silent on this blog in the last couple of weeks. We’ve been down in So Cal staying with Larry’s parents and I just got lazy. But now we’re back home and I’m slowly starting to ease back into the swing of things, which I hope will mean that you’ll hear from me at least twice a week again.

So a few things from our recent winter vacay…

  • We attended the semi-annual training, a week long Bible conference, this time covering Genesis chapters 12-24. It was awesome and faith infusing. I hope to share some highlights with you in next week’s Truth Tuesday post.

 

  • We explored some more museums in LA, the La Brea Tar Pits and the Natural History Museum. CC loved both and could not stop talking about saber tooth cats, mastodons and of course dinosaurs. The charge for admission is the same at both museums, but the Natural History museum is waaayyy bigger and in my opinion, more bang for the buck. You can get a combo ticket that gets you into both (and you don’t have to go to both on the same day, just within two weeks time), which is probably what we should have done.

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  • So you know how I often complain about CC’s eating…or more like his not eating? My mother in law suggested that we take him to see her Chinese doctor, who’s a combination of a chiropractor and a chi gung master. I’m usually pretty skeptical about these kind of things, but I thought, “Hey, if it doesn’t hurt, why not?” So she made an appointment for him and we all went along. The guy put CC on the massage table, showed us how part of his spine was not aligned (which I couldn’t really see), gave him some gentle adjustments, did some special massages on his back and hands which were supposed to stimulate his appetite and told us he was cured. We were instructed to do those same massages on him once a week. For the next few days CC ate like a ravenous wolf, all without any prompting. I’m not saying I’m a believer now, but I’d happily do little finger dances and pinches up his spine once a week if it means there will be less battles at the dinner table.

 

  • On our winter break I started this book with CC – Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It was recommended to me by a friend, so I picked up a copy at Barnes and Nobles before we left for So Cal. My background and training is in teaching ESL, but surprisingly enough, I’ve never had any experience or exposure to teaching phonics. This book is broken down into 100 short lessons and you’re supposed to do one a day. The great thing is that it actually scripts out everything you’re supposed to say to the child word for word, so anyone can use it, even if you have no background in teaching. It really is amazing. Each lesson only takes us about 10 minutes and by Lesson 7, CC was already sounding out three letter words all by himself. I totally wished I had started this with him earlier.

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  • We had a pretty uneventful New Year’s Eve. While Larry’s parents went out to party, we had dinner at a mediocre Japanese restaurant, came home to do laundry and pack, and then put the kids to bed. Larry and I did however each spend some time to pray personally and then together to freshly consecrate ourselves and our family to the Lord. For us, it was the best way to end the year. I was in bed and asleep by 11. 🙂

Hope you all had a wonderful end to 2013, whatever that means for you, and I’m excited and looking forward to a new year which I hope will be full of more pearls of wisdom to share with you all!

 

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