Sunday, September 30, 2007


This is SO cool!


Sometimes a photo just begs for a name!

Chili at Don't Try This At Home is hosting a "Caption This" Carnival!

If you'd like to have some help coming up with the perfect caption for YOUR photo, then blog about it, include the photo, and link back to Chili.

Be sure and leave a caption for MY photo in the comment section here first!

I took the following photo on October 31, 2006, during a field trip to the zoo, and it really needs a great caption!

I will post my favorite on Thursday! Thanks for participating!

Saturday, September 29, 2007


There is only one "thing" that Mr. Brownstone loves more than XBOX.

Can you guess what it is?

If you're a man, then it shouldn't be too hard for you to guess because chances love it, too.

And if you're a woman? Well, it might not be too hard for you to guess either because chances are...your husband spent the day much in the same way as Mr. Brownstone.

Have you guessed what it is yet?

If you guessed "marking things off the honey-do list", then you would be wrong.

If you guessed "watching football" ~ DING, DING, DING ~ we have a winner!

Yes, Mr. Brownstone loves watching some football. ANY football! Now, don't get me wrong, Mrs. Brownstone loves watching some football, too, in moderation, but Mr. Brownstone...well, let's just say he takes it to a whole other level.

  • He will watch a PeeWee game and be totally into it.
  • He will watch a Junior High game, and be totally into it.
  • He will watch a High School game, and be totally into it.
The man is passionate about football.

PeeWee, Junior High, and High School do not even remotely match up to what lies in store on weekend television, though.

Our Saturday consists of Mr. Brownstone getting up and listening to sports radio in the shower. Then, he moves back into the bedroom where he promptly turns on the television and begins watching ESPN while getting dressed. (Now, if I'm being completely honest, these two things happen every day.) After getting dressed, he moves into the family room and scrolls through the channel guide to determine which college football games will have the honor of making it onto the DVR box, where they will then have the pleasure of living anywhere from one day to several months. (I finally convinced him to delete the Super Bowl a mere three weeks ago!) Once the games have been chosen, he watches ESPN for a bit longer to get a final "fix" before having to be a grown-up for the day.

During the day, he does actually get some things accomplished. We go to whatever activities Tornado and Twister might have scheduled for the day, i.e. "sports". We go to lunch, usually somewhere with a television showing ESPN, if possible. He gets the yard work completed with frequent water (cough-cough-TV-cough-cough) breaks. Sometimes he even works in a haircut at, of course, "Sport Clips". And then...his moment of all moments...he is ready to move to the sofa, where he proceeds to watch hours and hours of football at a much faster, commercial free pace. (Three cheers for DVR!) It's one of my favorite things to see him (or rather hear him) do. He gets SO into it!
  • He yells at the coaches.
  • He yells at the referees.
  • He yells at the players.
By yelling, I mean he expresses emotion about ALL of it ~ the good, the bad, and the ugly of the games. Sometimes it is in anger ("THAT was a mistake!"), sometimes it is in despair ("No, oh, no, no, no!"), and sometimes it is in sheer joy (Yahoo! Good job, boys, good job!). And yes, in case you are wondering, he really has used the term "yahoo", and he really does refer to them as "boys". These are the times that make me laugh and smile because he is such a big kid ~ tantrums, cheering, and all!

On Sunday, it's more of the same, except church is added into the mix, as well as conversation about football with other men. All in all, it is a very football packed weekend around these parts. honor of Mr. Brownstone, which teams are YOUR favorite teams. I'm looking for a college team and a pro team. Mr. Brownstone and I both love the University of Texas and the Dallas Cowboys!

And, please by all means, share if your husband has any funny football quirks! If you're a man, go ahead a take a moment to share your own quirks, too. It's OK to laugh at yourself...I promise. We're all laughing WITH you!

Friday, September 28, 2007


You will never believe this.

You might even be jealous!

I much good luck can one person have?


Since making my blog public, which was two weeks ago tomorrow, I have either won or inherited over $70,000,000!



Please...try to be happy for me.

If you haven't heard from Dr. Atiko Tijani or Mr. Daniel Vincent, don't be too upset. I'm sure you will. They both had clients whom are now deceased with no living relatives of which to speak, and they both have decided that little-old-me is worthy of inheriting their millions!
I have a feeling...they may have some money with your name written on it as well.

Yippee for us!

As if these two benevolences were not enough, Mrs. Rose Wood has emailed to inform me that I've won the
UK ONLINE LOTTERY INTERNATIONAL!! Now, I'll admit that it was not as exciting to receive the email as it would have been for Ed McMahon to show up at my front door with balloons and a giant cardboard check, but I won! I have also been informed by Sir Alan Clarkson from the Executive International Sweepstakes that I have won a very large cash prize, as my email address emerged from 250,000 addresses as one of two winners in the category \\\"A\\\. (I'm not good with the whole pounds to dollars thing, but let's just say I'm a millionaire...again.) I'm not familiar with the category \\\"A\\\, but who cares??? I won, and you are probably the other winner. I can just feel it! (Wanna go shopping for some Manolos later?)

Finally, to top it all off,
Mr. Guerino Marino has informed me that I have been chosen by the board of trustees for The Foundazion di Vittorio to receive a cash grant donation. I don't recall applying for a grant, and they didn't tell me what I should use the grant for exactly, so I guess I could use it for a down payment on a ski boat, or maybe a ski cabin. (I'm not sure if I want to go hot or cold yet.) I feel quite sure that Mr. Marino and the trustees might have a little something for you, too, as I am only one of the final recipients.

I would have published my blog long ago if I knew that it would bring me such fantastic luck and good fortune!

I really needed to lighten the mood around this place, and these fine - not to mention generous - individuals have given me the perfect opportunity!

Hope that y'all are having a blessed weekend! I'm off to spread some goodwill among men, do a little shopping, and then jet to Phoenix to look at a piece of oceanfront property. Tah-tah, darlings!


It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this. After receiving such great news about my grandmother, we have received news from the other end of the spectrum for a close family friend.

Please pray for my sweet friend. Out of respect for her privacy and her family, I will refer to her as Mrs. C...God will know who you're talking about when you pray for her!

Mrs. C was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She has just found out this week that it is Stage 4, and she just found out yesterday (Thursday) that it has metastasized to the bone. (She has six spots spread over three different areas of her bones.) It is in all of her lymph nodes as well.

They will be treating this cancer very aggressively. Chemotherapy will be the first step of many. Mrs. C has a very long battle ahead of her. Aside from the cancer, Mrs. C is very healthy. She has taken care of her body, and this will help her during treatment.

Ladies, Mrs. C was very faithful in getting her mammograms each year. Please carryout this important procedure on a regular schedule and do monthly self-exams. Report anything that feels or looks suspicious to your doctor.

I believe that God can take away Mrs. C's cancer if He so chooses. I believe in the power of prayer.

Matthew 19:26 says, "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Please, please pray for Mrs. C. Please pray for her husband and her two sons. Please pray for her extended family. Please pray that they may find peace in all of this sadness and fear. Please pray for a full recovery for her.

Blessings to all of you...

Thursday, September 27, 2007


My grandma remains faithful to the title I have given her: The Encylopedic Energizer Bunny That Is My Grandma!

Thank you so much to all of you that sent up thoughts and prayers for my grandmother yesterday as she had her mastectomy...and today as she recovers...and ever since we found out last week that her lump was actually breast cancer.

I truly believe in the power of prayer, and I'll tell you a few of the reasons why.

  • God has been faithful to my family in our hour of need.
  • My grandmother went into her surgery with complete peace.
  • I have seen a remarkable change in my mom - she was very worried, even though she tried to keep that bottled inside to be strong. She is back to her happy self, and I can HEAR the relief in her voice.
  • The surgery went well, and it went quickly. The doctor and his team said that the type of cancer she had was the best kind to have if you have to have breast cancer. (Of course, NOBODY wants breast cancer!)
  • They do not think that there will be a need for any further treatment; though we are still waiting for the results of the lymph node biopsies. Please still pray for that!
  • And now for the amazing 85-year-old grandma came out of her anesthesia quickly and began talking in complete, coherent stories. Not sentences. Stories! My mom said that she came in from the recovery room talking and that she talked for the rest of the afternoon as she received visitors! She did not even take a nap!
  • Today the nurses woke her at 4:30 am to weigh her, then the doctor came around to do a check, and when I spoke to my mom this afternoon, my grandma STILL had not taken a nap for the day.
  • And now for the REALLY amazing 85-year-old grandma HAS NOT TAKEN ANY PAIN MEDICATION!!!
I do believe that God answers prayers. Thank y'all so much for answering the call to pray for this sweet, sweet woman - The Encyclopedic Energizer Bunny That Is My Grandma!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


My grandmother is having a mastectomy today.

If you are a praying person...
Please pray that she will have no anxiety as she goes in for the surgery.
Please pray that she has no adverse reactions to any medications or anesthetics.
Please pray for the doctor.
Please pray that he will be easily focused.
Please pray that he will have steady hands.
Please pray for the other medical people that will be in the room.
Please pray that they will perform their duties efficiently.
Please pray that they will get all of the cancer.
Please pray that the cancer has not spread.
Please pray that she will have no difficulty coming out of the anesthesia.
Please pray for her speedy recovery.
Please pray that someone will learn about Christ through this.
Please pray for my mom.
Please pray for my dad that he can be a great support for her.
Please pray for my siblings, our extended family, my family, and for me.

Thank you so much to all of you that have sent well wishes and prayers this week. I truly appreciate each and every one of you for your support.

Have a blessed day!
"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice, and be glad in it!" Psalm 118:24


How many times have you heard your child ask this question?

I hear it at least once a month.
I also hear, "When can we have those brussel sprout thingies again?"
Or you might hear one of my kids say, "My mom makes the best shells and stewed tomatoes!"
And then there's what might be my favorite, "Can we have the boiled kind of okra instead of the fried kind?"

Of was not always like this. Tornado and Twister feared the unknown just as much as the next kid, but I have found something that truly Works-For-Me.

Every time I want to introduce anything new in the kitchen, especially vegetables, I ask my kids if they would like to help me prepare dinner that night. They ALWAYS say, "Yes!" And why wouldn't they? Cooking is fun! It's the clean-up that most people dread.

The part that I have them prepare is always the new vegetable. We keep it very simple.
  • They get to wash it if it needs to be washed.
  • They get to put it in the pot or the dish.
  • They get to measure the seasonings if we are using them.
  • They get to turn on the stove, oven, or microwave.
  • They get to set the timer.
During this time, I make a HUGE deal about what a great job they are doing as "Head Vegetable Chefs" and how it will be so exciting to try their new dish at dinner. I tell them that Mr. Brownstone is sure to love it, too. I also tell them why this particular vegetable is healthy to eat and an important part of our diet.

At dinner, I make an even bigger deal! They get to introduce the new dish to Mr. Brownstone, telling him all about it - how they made it and why it is important to eat it. Then I follow-up with what a great job they did in the kitchen.

Mr. Brownstone and I then sample the dish first and make the biggest deal ever! We tell them how this is the best
steamed spinach, or the best boiled okra, they are the best stewed tomatoes, or the best brussel sprouts that we have ever eaten. Tornado and Twister cannot help but be proud of their culinary skills, and of course, they want to sample the goods, too!

We have yet to meet a vegetable that they will not eat!
Not only do we get variety in our diet and and different tastes for our pallates, we are confident that our kids are getting necessary nutrients, and they are developing healthy eating habits for life! And we have fun while doing it, not to mention that they are learning how to cook!

This Works-For-Me, and I hope it will work for you, too! Visit Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer for more Works-For-Me-Wednesday tips!

For my first ever Works-For-Me-Wednesday tip, click here! It's a great tip about making travel easy with kids!

Previous Entry: My Second Menu Plan Monday

Monday, September 24, 2007


Previous Entry: Something For Sunday

Well, my first week of actual blogging was not as painful as I had feared! It's actually quite fun, and I have so thoroughly enjoyed making my first friends in Blogland! Thank you to all of you that were so warm and welcoming. I appreciate the kind words and support!

And now for the featured item:

Thanks again to Laura at I'm An Organizing Junkie
for hosting Menu Plan Monday each week!

Our schedule has not really changed in the last week and will not be changing for at least five more weeks before the first change occurs and then another six weeks before the next change. Ahhh...such is life!

As far as last week goes, we did have sandwiches on Monday night. On Tuesday night, we had pizza, but we just bought frozen pizza from the grocery store instead. YUM! Wednesday night, I got a horrible migraine headache, so I slept through dinner and church, while Mr. Brownstone and the whirlwinds ate from the $1 menu at McDonald's. To be honest, Thursday and Friday just sort of fell apart for me because the reality of the news we received on Monday was hitting me pretty hard, leaving me a bit disorganized and finding myself retreating to this blog or a book. Sadly, we brought in take-out (burritos and tacos) on Thursday night. Friday, Mr. Brownstone and the whirlwinds had a pizza buffet, and they brought me a hot sandwich and some chips. On Saturday, we got back on schedule - sort of - and had Taco Salad with friends. It was fun and relaxed to combine our food and just be at the home of great friends. Sunday went absolutely as scheduled with dining with our tween youth group for lunch and dinner with friends that night.

This week, we really do hope to dine in more...the kids, Mr. Brownstone, and myself are happiest when we can just chill out around the kitchen table. We also find that it is where our kids open up the most (next to bedtime) about what is going on in their lives.

MONDAY - For the next eleven weeks, Mr. Brownstone and I have a weekly obligation that falls in an awkward time frame. It's too early to eat a big meal before we leave and too late to eat a big meal when we get home. We will be having sandwich night until this commitment is completed.

TUESDAY - This is also an awkward night for us for the same reasons as Monday...we leave too early, and we get home too late. Tuesday nights will have to be $5 pizza night for now until this particular season of kids' sports is finished, which is five more weeks.

WEDNESDAY - We normally eat at church for only $10! The menu for this night is Spaghetti and Peanut Butter Bars. We love getting to dine with our church family on this night, but this week we decided to forgo the meal. There are some things that are harder to eat when somebody else is cooking them, and spaghetti is one of them! We will probably eat at Whataburger on this night because it's close to church, and I am gone all day long. It's also the day of my grandmother's surgery - I think I might be a mess that day.
****If you are a praying person, please keep her in your prayers.****

Bringing us to my three cooking nights...last week's planned Italian Pork Chops and Vegetables, though very tasty, are not calling out to me this week. Neither is the Spaghetti and Homemade Meat Sauce, or the Build-Your-Own Fiesta Salad. Those will all be wonderful for another time...just not this week!

THURSDAY - I have a
Club 56 planning session for most of the day, so it will be nice to have a one-dish-clean-up! We will be having Mexican Soup. (See recipe below!)

FRIDAY - We are having Fiesta Pork Bake and broccoli. (See recipe below!)

SATURDAY - We will have brisket, along with corn-on-the-cob (my FAVORITE!) and green beans, as well as King's Hawaiian Bread.

SUNDAY - We almost always dine out with all of our friends for Sunday Lunch AND Sunday Supper, and I suspect that is what we will do on this particular Sunday. What a wonderful blessing to have close friendships ~ we are making so many fond memories during these special times with friends!

That about wraps up our week. I hope you enjoy the following recipes, courtesy of my mom's recipe box!

Mexican Soup

pounds ground beef, browned
1 can hominy
3 can beans, any kind, mix 1 of each (I use pinto, black, and kidney.)
2 cans Ro-tel, or stewed tomatoes, any combination (I use one of each.)
2-4 cups water
1 package taco seasoning
1 package ranch dressing mix

Mix all ingredients together. Bring to a boil; simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Serve over corn chips (I use Tostitos), and top with grated cheddar cheese.

Fiesta Pork Bake

6 pork chops
salt and pepper to taste
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 large green pepper, diced
1 cup uncooked rice (I use long grain Comet, white.)
½ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups boiling water
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Spray 2-quart casserole with cooking spray, or coat with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper. Arrange in casserole. Top with soup mix, green pepper, and rice. Mix ketchup and water, then pour over top. Cover, and bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes, or until done. (Additional ½ cup water can be added if rice becomes too dry.) Remove from the oven, and top with cheese. Cover, and allow dish to stand for 10 minutes.

For more recipes from my mom's box, visit here, here, OR here!


Sunday, September 23, 2007


Mr. Brownstone and I are involved with a youth group for tweens at our church. The church leadership recognized that class-size seemed to be shrinking in this particular age group because they had really outgrown the activities that are in place for the younger kids, but they were not really old enough to be part of the Junior High youth group ~ they were just left floundering somewhere in the middle.

After some deliberation, Club 56 was born. It's a brand new program, and we are so blessed and honored to have been asked to be a part of its conception.
In addition, we are so very fortunate to be teaching with three other couples that are part of our closest group of friends. As a result of our friendship, we have gotten to spend a significant amount of time discussing this youth group and the direction we would like to take it.

Some of our goals for the group include:

  • classroom growth
  • increased excitement and actual involvement in Bible classes
  • Spiritual growth
  • learning new praise and worship songs
  • daily prayer
  • social development among church peers through class get-togethers
  • to be good examples at home, church, public places, and school
  • service projects
  • to increase awareness of the world around us
Today we had an activity that related to the last goal: to increase awareness of the world around us. We had our class this morning, followed by church, and then we loaded the kids into vans and took them to a church in the inner city. Our kids had lunch with the kids at this church and got to sing some songs before the other kids headed off to their Bible classes. At this time, we loaded our kids back into the vans and did what is known as a "drive-by". This is where we got a driving tour of the community with a guide giving commentary. We were encouraged to look out the windows and notice different things along the route, and we stopped at three different places along the way as well to hear more from our guide and to pray for the community and the kids of the community.

Our first stop was a plaza. We learned some of the history and contributions of the community, and we also learned that the plaza was the first completed project in the renovation of the neighborhood. On this stop, we prayed for the development of the community. We prayed that necessary funds would be provided, for good weather when projects were under construction, for support from extended community leaders, for involvement of the community, and many other things.

I'm not asking for an audible (or visual in the case of a blog) answer, but I ask you:
  • How often do you take for granted the opportunities and the businesses you have in your community?
Continuing on our drive, we saw many homes in disrepair, many abandoned buildings, overgrown lots, signs posted on homes, such as "No criminal activity allowed. No standing. No sitting." It was very eye-opening for a group of tweens. We also passed a park that was not a part of the neighborhood we were visiting. We were told that it is the park to which they must bring the kids in the church and after-school programs because the park in their community is not safe. We then drove to the park in their community, where we proceeded to get out the vans. I will admit that it was a bit out of my comfort zone. There were people in the park lying on benches; there were men congregated in small groups. We had been told that the park was not safe because it was a place for prostitution and drugs. We joined together in prayer. We prayed for the children of the community. We prayed that the park could be reclaimed as a safe place for them, that they would not fall victim to the negative influences so easily visible to them on a daily basis, for the people that were preventing the kids from being able to use the park, and for many other things.

Again, I'm not asking for an audible (or visual) answer, but I ask you:
  • When was the last time you could not take your kids to the park in your community because it was not safe?
  • When was the last time you saw a "No Criminal Activity Allowed" sign posted on a home in your neighborhood?
Finally, we arrived at the area where the MHMR (Mental Health/Mental Retardation) facility and the homeless shelters are located. The MHMR facility works primarily with substance abusers and those with mental health illnesses. The homeless shelters do not need further description, as they are exactly what the name implies. We were not able to exit the vans at this location because although the doors to the shelter were not scheduled to open until 7:00 pm this evening, there was already a long entrance line when we arrived at 2:00 pm. We did, however, park our vans in the parking lot. We prayed for the shelters. We prayed that the people working there would always be able to extend a helping hand; we prayed that they would be blessed with the supplies and volunteers needed to support such a facility. We prayed for the people waiting in the line for a meal and a bed. We prayed for the shelter across the street that houses only women and children. We prayed for the women and children that would be housed there for the night and each night in the future. We prayed for the shelters around the corner and many other things.

And now
I'm not asking for an audible (or visual) answer, but I ask you:
  • When was the last time you were not content with your home?
  • When was the last time you complained about having to prepare dinner?
  • When was the last time you had to wait in line for five or more hours to receive a meal and have a mattress on which to sleep?
After leaving the area, we drove back to the church building and toured the facilities there. We saw where the kids have their Bible classes and the rooms where they can come after school to get help with homework and to have a safe place to relax. We gathered in a circle and talked to our kids about what they had seen today. We asked how they had been affected by all they had witnessed. The homeless shelters were the area that had the most impact on them. They could see the anguish and defeat on the faces of some of those who waited in line. They could see the bodies that had been destroyed by substance abuse and bodies that were undernourished. They could see the mental confusion in some. They could see men, women, and children that were holding all they possessed in the world. Seeing the hundred or more people either lined up or milling about the area left a very distinct image in everyone's mind.

After our discussion, some of the kids wanted to know more about how they could help the children of the community. They determined that first and foremost, they could continue to pray. They also wanted to know, though, if they could donate books. Some wanted to know if they could come down during the week and help with the after-school program. Many of them verbalized their own blessings. They recognized how we often have such an overabundance of things that we take what we have for granted and do not appreciate all of our blessings. The day was a great lesson in thankfulness and contentment.

Finally, I ask you, and please feel free to participate by commenting:
We have so many things. The people we saw at the homeless shelter today had literally only the clothes on their backs and anything they could carry in a sack or two. Let's recognize our blessings even down to the most trivial ones...
  • What is something that you could do without?
I'll start by saying...I could do without television, without magazine subscriptions, without soda, without more than one pair of shoes, without restaurants, and the list could go on and on. I am so very thankful that we have a home. We have a comfortable bed. We have food in our refrigerator AND in our pantry. We have clothing that keeps us warm. We have a park that is safe for our children. We have amazing friends. We have families who love us. We have our faith and our church family.

If you are a praying person, I ask that you pray for the people that we saw today and that you pray for the things we prayed for in our drive-by of this community.


Saturday, September 22, 2007


Just for fun...

I was tagged before I ever published this blog...back when all of my posts were made strictly in draft form because I didn't want to even accidentally publish anything!

Well, I've been "live" for just a few minutes short of a whole week now. I thought it might be fun to provide you with the link to my first "unofficial" tag.

When I was tagged, I obviously didn't tag anyone else because they would never have seen it, not to mention...I didn't know anyone else to tag! I still don't know a lot of people through blogging, but if I was answering it today, I would tag Chrystal and Liza!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


For a couple of months now, I have been reading the
Works-For-Me Wednesday carnival hosted by Shannon at
Rocks In My Dryer.
And y' is so awesome! Each week I find wonderful new tips for just about everything! I've longed to join in the fun; but it wasn't until this past Saturday that I was finally ready to take the big leap and not only remove a post from draft form for the first time ever, but publicly publish that post as well! After privately blogging (in draft form) since the Spring, I am gradually making all of "XBOX WIFE" public. It's a work-in-progress. :)

Now, I am so excited
to finally be a part of:


This summer was a big traveling summer for our family. We took an airplane trip, as well as a long road trip.
Sometimes traveling with kids can be,shall we say...difficult!
They tend to get bored while waiting in line at the airport and hotel check-ins, making it an easy temptation for them to:
a)get loud, b)get whiney, or c)get lost by wandering away,
leaving you either angry, frustrated, or panicked (or all three) and wondering why you took the trip in the first place!

We found something that kept our forces of nature at bay this summer. And y'all, let me tell you, it made our travel time SO much easier! We gave each child their own suitcase. It's amazing what putting them in charge of their own set of wheels was able to accomplish. Not only did pulling their own luggage keep them occupied, it gave them a sense of pride and responsibility. They did NOT want any help, and they kept up with us in the airport. Focusing on their luggage kept them from being distracted by other things. They did not fight. They did not whine. They did not wander away from us. This held true in the hotel check-in lines as well, and it was wonderful!

Of course, there were additional benefits as well. We packed far less than usual. Each person was limited to their one suitcase. This made doing laundry so much easier when we returned home. Lastly, Mr. Brownstone and I were able to have a stress-free check-in at both the airport and the hotels because not only were our children cooperating, but we were also each carrying only one small bag. Long gone were the days of lugging a couple of large, heavy suitcases and several carry-on items, all while corralling in kids. We did each have one small carry-on item because their were certain things we wanted to keep on the plane with us. I had a large purse, and he had a backpack. These helped to occupy the kids after the luggage was checked.

We followed the same exact packing plan for our road trip. We do not have a large car, and the four small suitcases fit perfectly in the trunk. We kept the "carry-on" items in the backseat with the kids, so they could access them easily. It was easy to unload what we needed at each hotel, and it kept our children from all whirlwind activity.

I can definitely say that the idea of downsizing and adding more wheels Works-For-Me, and I hope that it will work for you, too!

**To see another thing that is working for me, click here!


Tuesday, September 18, 2007




It's cancer.



We've had a just over a month to prepare for the diagnosis. We were given the percentages. The doctors said there was a 98% chance the tumor was malignant. We were hoping and praying for the 2% chance it was benign.

We found out yesterday that the bigger percentage was bigger for a reason.

Eighty-five-years-old. My grandmother has been on this earth for 85 years. During this time, she has been healthy. She has rarely even had a cold.

Now she has cancer.

Simply typing it is hard.
Saying it out loud is even harder.

Breast cancer.

There is no family history of breast cancer. Of course, Grandma pretty much IS the family history. I’m guessing that breast cancer was not even detectable when her relatives were still alive.

I can’t really put a definitive label on my feelings right now.

I do know that I AM NOT angry with God. Grandma is 85! We can celebrate her life. We can celebrate that she has been healthy for 85 years. We can celebrate that she still has an amazing memory and is FULL of wonderful stories to share with us. We can celebrate that she has such a positive outlook on life in general, including her diagnosis. We can celebrate that she got to raise her children. We can celebrate that her grandchildren know her...even her great-grandchildren know her.

I do know that I AM sad. I am sad that there is cancer in this world. I am sad that there are so many people affected by this terrible disease in one way or another. I am sad that my grandma will have to experience any sort of worry over the next week as she prepares for surgery. I am sad that there are still more tests to run to see if the cancer has spread elsewhere. I am sad that my mom is feeling guilty for not knowing. How could she know??? I am sad that I did not know. She came and stayed with me for a week, and I did not notice anything out of the ordinary. I am sad that she will experience physical pain after the surgery. I am sad that she will experience sickness from the treatments. I am sad that my children have to know that their great-grandmother is sick. I am sad that Tornado is concerned about not finishing the big interview. I am sad when the thought creeps into my head that...she might not beat this.

And yet...I find a reasons to laugh and smile about the whole situation. I smile when I think about what happened after her biopsy. She put back on her shirt and said, "OK, now take me to Wal-mart!" I can't help but chuckle when I think about how the doctor asked this 85-year-old woman if she wanted to try and save her breasts. I think she got a chuckle out of that, too. I laugh out loud when I think about her telling me a couple of weeks ago that she had gotten an "angiogram" on the day she had a "mammogram". I have a smile, albeit a sad one, when I think about her positivity...when I think about her happy demeanor...when I think about how she unexpectedly got to stay with us for several days before we knew she was sick...when I think about that precious irreplaceable interview.

And finally...I am worried. Worry - I confess - is my biggest struggle. This past weekend I attended a women's workshop at church. We were told about a study that was done in which it was determined that the human brain is not able to worry and give thanks at the same time. Try it. I tested the theory and personally cannot do it. I cannot give thanks for something at the same time my thoughts are worrisome. Twice in the New Testament of the Bible we are asked, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" This exact verse is found in Matthew 6:27 AND Luke12:25, so maybe God was trying to tell us that this message is important - important enough to tell us...TWICE! We are also twice reminded " not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear..." in Matthew 6:25 and in Luke 12:22. Finally, in Matthew 6:34, it says, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." I think God is trying to tell us "DO NOT WORRY! I know your needs, My child. I will take care of you."

Easier said than done - right? I am worried about the obvious, the short-term. I am worried that the surgery will be too much for her tiny body to withstand. I am worried about the doctors having to give her enough drugs to put her to sleep before the surgery. I am worried about how much weight she might lose during the treatments. She doesn't have much weight in the first place. Then, of course, I am worried about the less obvious, or the long-term. It's breast cancer. Now it is most assuredly in our family history. Finally, I am worried about that thought that keeps creeping into my head...she might not beat this. And that opens the floodgates of regret. Did I spend enough time with her? Did I give her the attention she deserved? Did I appreciate her enough? Did I take in everything that she has to offer as one who has fully experienced life and all its tragedies, as well as all of its wonder? I think that the answer is "yes" to all of the above. However, it is easy to doubt...easy to worry...when you are faced with those questions.

For now, I am choosing to be thankful. I am thankful that I got to spend time with my grandmother recently. I am thankful that we have a close family. I am thankful that I have great friends. I am thankful that we captured a portion of her life on videotape. I am thankful that she walks in the Light. I am thankful that we have a God who loves us and has a plan for each of us. I am thankful.

What are your thoughts on breast cancer?
How has cancer affected you?
How did you deal with the illness of a loved one?

If you are a blogging person, I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you are a praying person, I'd love for my grandmother to have your prayers.

I do believe that God answers prayers. It may not always be the answer we want to hear, but God does answer prayer.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him." Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

Monday, September 17, 2007


Today I am making only my second ever published blog post! I've had a blog for a few months now, but no posts have made it out of draft form before this past Saturday! You can read about my fear of posting here since I've actually begun publishing some of my original posts. I will be gradually freeing all of my posts from "draft prison" but am still working up the nerve! :)

In my new found independence of actually posting what I blog about, I decided to join in the fun of:

Menu Plan Monday is one of my most favorite finds in the world of blogging. Thank you to Laura at I'm An Organizing Junkie for hosting this great carnival each week! I've thoroughly enjoyed reading through the great ideas from everyone and am so happy to be adding to them.

Sadly, we don't have much time for cooking on the first three days of our week for the next few weeks, but we will get to enjoy some great family time and good food in the latter half of the week. During the school year, I try to cook three or four nights a week. We then have leftovers available (and of course dining out) for the other meals.

MONDAY - For the next twelve weeks, Mr. Brownstone and I have a weekly obligation that falls in an awkward time frame. It's too early to eat a big meal before we leave and too late to eat a big meal when we get home. We will be having sandwich night until this commitment is completed.

TUESDAY - This is also an awkward night for us for the same reasons as Monday...we leave too early, and we get home too late. Tuesday nights will have to be $5 pizza night for now until this particular season of kids' sports is finished.

WEDNESDAY - We eat at church for only $10! The menu for this night is Hawaiian Hay Stacks and Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Thankfully, we will finally enjoy an actual home-cooked meal for the first time all week!

THURSDAY - We have a Curriculum Night at school, so it will be nice to have a one-dish-clean-up! We will be having Italian Pork Chops and Vegetables in the slow-cooker. (See recipe below!)

FRIDAY - We are having Build-Your-Own Fiesta Salad. I will double this and freeze some for a later date.

SATURDAY - We will have Spaghetti and Homemade Meat Sauce with Texas Toast and salad. I will double the sauce and freeze this as well.

SUNDAY - We are dining with the Tween Youth Group we teach on Sundays. Usually we dine out with all of our friends for Sunday Lunch AND Sunday Supper. We we still be dining with half of them, as there are four couples total that teach this youth group! What a wonderful blessing to have close friendships!

That about wraps up our week. I hope you enjoy the following recipe, courtesy of my mom's recipe box!

Italian Pork Chops and Vegetables

1 16-ounce bottle Italian salad dressing
4 pork chops
4 potatoes, sliced or cubed
6 carrots, thinly sliced (You can use whole baby carrots if you prefer. I do sometimes.)
1 onion, sliced

Place chops and vegetables in the slow cooker. Cover with salad dressing. Cover. Cook on high for 6-8 hours.

You may omit the vegetables if you want just the chops. We like to eat both, though! It's easy to prepare and easy to clean.


Saturday, September 15, 2007


You always hear the phrase "you can't control the weather", and that is true if you are talking about real thunderstorms, blizzards, hurricanes, droughts, and such. Today, though, I am talking about my own two little forces of nature...


Bet you can't guess why we gave them those names.

Actually, it's good that I am not a betting a woman because if you guessed that they are messy little whirlwinds, then I would lose.

We have had our fair share of stormy weather over the past few years when it comes to tidiness and responsibility. We've tried many different things - working to music, working together, mommy helping get things picked up and organized in order to start with a clean slate, mommy getting upset, family meetings...
We have finally found something that is working well for us.
We have finally found a way to control the weather.
And I'll repeat...
We have finally found a way to control the weather.

It's a hot topic.
A LOT of people would disagree with the way we do things...'s working for our family, and that is what matters to us.

We have created a combination of different things, and we are using all of it to teach our children about several aspects of life, some of which include time-management, making good choices and showing responsibility, as well as provide a happier environment for all involved.

  • The first thing I did was purchase an excellent marker board chore chart by The Board Dudes.
  • The second thing was to make a list of all the things that I expected from my children, as well as those that would just make for a happier day.
  • The third item in our quest for organization was sharing the whole idea with Mr. Brownstone to find out his thoughts and make sure that we were on the same page before presenting this to the kids. We also came up with a reward/consequences/learning system to use with the chore chart.
  • The fourth thing required was to harness in the weather for a little family chat during which we presented the whole plan to them.
Our chore chart includes twelve items - some of them are simple, and some of them are more detailed. They are as follows:
  1. Morning Routine - Have breakfast, get dressed, wash face, brush teeth, and brush hair in a timely and cooperative manner.
  2. Backpack - Empty lunchbox. Put dishes in the sink, ice pack in the freezer, and lunchbox in the pantry. Empty folders, and put all papers - along with folder - in personal wall bins. Make sure windbreaker, gym shoes, and socks are in backpack so as to be ready for the next morning. On Saturday and Sunday, since there is no backpack duty, bedrooms need to be vacuumed and dusted.
  3. Complete homework. This includes all assigned work, reviewing spelling test and math facts, and reading for at least 20 minutes. Have Mom or Dad check work, and put all items back in backpack for the next morning.
  4. Additional practice. This includes 30 minutes of guitar practice for one child and 30 minutes of additional reading time for the other child.
  5. Set the dinner table if dining at home. If not dining at home, wipe down the bathroom countertop and mirror.
  6. Feed and water Bow Wow Brownstone.
  7. Sweep kitchen floor.
  8. Wipe down kitchen countertops and table.
  9. Clear own dishes from table at all meals.
  10. Put away clothes. Clean? Hang it up. Dirty? Put it in the hamper. Put shoes in closet.
  11. Nighttime Routine - Take bath/shower, wash face, brush teeth, and put on pajamas in a timely and cooperative manner.
  12. Clean room and playroom, and make sure other rooms are clear of personal items. This is a two-parter. Putting items away needs to be done in the afternoons/evenings because there will not be time in the morning. Bed needs to be made in the morning before school.
So, there you have it - our nice little list of things that make all of our lives easier. Both children are responsible for 1-4 and 9-12. The remaining four items are divided between them. One gets 5 and 6, and the other gets 7 and 8. They alternate days to keep things fair. If you total the whole chart, each child is responsible for ten items a day.

Now for the hot topic part...
We pay ten cents per item.
Our chore chart is actually a commission chart. (Three cheers for Dave Ramsey!) This gives them the opportunity to earn $1 a day - $7 for the whole week.

I know that many people would disagree with this system.
I know that Tornado and Twister are part of our family. I've heard the argument that families should all pitch in and help because that's what families do.
I'm not knocking that concept.

It's just not what we choose to do - it is not what works best for us. I know that some people think we are crazy for paying them for doing their homework and completing morning and nighttime routines. is working for us.
We have far less complaining and that makes our day run more smoothly, freeing up more time for us to have quality family time. I know that some people think that $7 is too much, but letting them earn this amount is a great learning tool for us that still allows them to have some disposable income.

We give a star for every completed task. At the end of the week, we total the stars and pay the kids their commission. The money is then allocated to the different areas about which we are choosing to teach them.
  • 10% of $7 immediately goes to tithing.
  • 20% of $7 immediately goes to long-term savings. We have agreed to match weekly what they put into long-term savings. This is helping them learn about 401K's, 403B's, and 457 plans and so on and so forth. "Long-term" means that they save until they are at least eighteen years old. We are big fans of compounding interest!
  • 10% of $7 immediately goes to short-term savings. This can be used for bigger ticket items.
  • 10% of $7 immediately goes back to Mom and Dad to pay taxes. I know that this could be a hot topic as well, but we feel that it is important for our kids to learn that taxes are always taken out of your income. We keep this in our "tax bank" and plan to use it at the end of the year for something special as a family.
I say "of $7" in each of those categories because regardless of how much they actually earn, $7 is what they can potentially earn, and that is the amount we are choosing to use for the basis of tithing, saving, and paying taxes. They can make the choice to disregard their responsibilities and forgo their disposable income, but they cannot make the choice not to tithe, save, or pay taxes. At the end of the week, they can have $3.50 to spend at their own discretion if they have made good choices, or they can have $0 - even if they have made $3.50 in stars. All categories above are paid into first. This is teaching them financial priority. We believe that you should first honor God; and secondly, you should pay yourself to insure your future. And we all know that paying taxes is not optional, so planning for that should be a learned discipline as well!

We also use the stars to earn "screen time". Screen time includes television, computer, and video games. We have agreed to let our children earn up to one hour of screen time each day, but there are rules about how it can be redeemed.
  • Stars for morning and nighttime routines are not included in the count. A maximum of eight stars can be earned in a day.
  • Stars must be earned the previous day.
  • Four stars equal 30 minutes of screen time the following day. Three stars do not equal any screen time. They must have four stars to qualify. Likewise, six stars to do not equal 45 minutes. Six stars would still equal 30 minutes. Increments are only granted with the achievement of four stars.
  • Screen time may not be redeemed until all homework is complete and additional practice times are complete. Even when stars are earned, screen time is still a privilege.
  • Screen time may be accumulated and saved for the weekend, but accumulated time may not be used on Monday-Thursday. There is a strict one hour limit on school days.
Finally, stars may be taken away for being disrespectful, for having to be asked two times, for sibling rivalry, and for unauthorized screen time. Stars may also be taken away for things not listed here at the discretion of Mom and Dad.

This system is really working well for us. Our children are learning about responsibility. They are learning about consequences for poor choices. They are learning time-management. They are learning about tithing, saving, and paying taxes, as well as budgeting. They are learning that things like television are a privilege, not a right - and to be honest, they are learning to live without it. They do not always choose to redeem their screen time now.

I have been amazed at how much more organized this has made our lives in the short time that we have utilized this system. Our kids feel pride in earning their own spending money. They are much more cooperative in things like homework and cleaning their rooms. It has allowed the quality of our family time to improve because it has taken some of the pressure off all of us.

Thanks to Chili at Don't Try This At Home for this awesome carnival idea. It inspired me to make my blog public for the first time ever! I hope you enjoyed reading it and that you will come back often and leave comments! I will be adding all of my old posts gradually. (These posts technically have not even been published privately because nothing I've blogged about has ever made it out of draft form before today!) I've included the first six posts I ever made, in addition to this one. If the others are going public, I need to do some proofreading first! :) I sincerely hope you will come back and read some of them when you get a chance!