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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

One Pot Rice & Beans Burrito Bowl

We love Rice & Beans!  On a tight budget, they fill the stomach of my two very hungry boys and one hungry husband.  This recipe is a simple staple of our house, one I always have the ingredients for in my pantry.  You will see their are several items optional, or with easy substitutions.

Dairy & Gluten free


  • 1 cup of shredded chicken (optional)
  • 3 TBSP of olive oil
  • 1 cup of white rice
  • 1 cup of your favorite salsa (sub 1 can of rotel OR 1 can of diced tomatoes for less spice)
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (optional, I use when I don’t have chicken)
  • 1 TBSP of Taco seasoning (I make my own, add more if you liked spicier food))
  • 1 cup of frozen corn (optional, I love corn in my Mexican food) 
  • 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock or broth (you can also use water in a pinch)
  • Salt to taste

  1. Sauté chicken in 2 tsbp oil with salt. (leave out to make vegetarian or if you don’t have any chicken on hand) 
  2. Move chicken to one side of pan, in the other side of the pan add another tablespoon of olive oil and keep stirring and sauté uncooked rice until some grains start to turn light brown (about 2 min). This makes the rice into NON-sticky rice, cooking some of the starch out.
  3. Stir in black beans, salsa, chicken broth and taco seasoning. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low.
  4. Cook about 15 to 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Let sit for 5 minutes to absorb all the liquid.
  5. Season with additional salt if needed. I serve with tortilla chips so I don’t add much salt.  Can also serve inside burritos. My kids add cheese to theirs, but I eat mine plain to be dairy free.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Redeeming Selfies

Selfies are part of our narcissist culture. They have come to represent a self-centered group of people that is at best to be pitied for it's insincerity & insecurity, and at worst deeply narcissistic and self-serving. It is obnoxious when EVERY picture on someone's Instagram is a selfie of them alone.   I myself have had to unfriend an acquaintance because everyday she posted a SOLO selfie. She posted almost nothing else.  She was beautiful, but it was draining. A friend's teenage little sister posts Instagram selfies that make her look like a 25 year old women, wearing clothing I would only deem appropriate to wear in front of my husband, alone. Teens post selfies with inspirational quotes, using the quote as cover to share a picture that makes them feel enough for that moment, in a world that tells them they are never enough.

But I am deeply thankful for selfies.

Sometimes we live in a world that thinks "if I didn't get documented on social media, it didn't happen".  Some of that is true, and frustrating as many struggle to be in the moment of their real life. Being in the moment is so important, do not let the camera steal you from experiencing the now-moments of your life.  But it is also OK to capture those moments with a picture, or gasp, a selfie.  Memories fade.  Alzheimer's exists. Children grow up and forget. People you love leave you way too early.

I believe Selfies can be redeemed.

Picture are powerful.  Pictures bring back details of fuzzy memories, maybe even the smell of the grass as you laid on a picnic blanket.  They sharpen your memory of a beloved's face after they've left.  They make you laugh at a joke told ten years before. They are time machines.

One of my first sessions as a family photographer, I was photographing a group with a very silly dad.  He made faces at his kids to get them to smile.  He laughed with his whole face.  I was just learning my style as a photographer, and I wanted to capture those moments of candid silliness.  I almost deleted half of them because they were not "frame-worthy" and slightly out of focus (I was still learning my craft). Thankfully I didn't, because three months after our photo session, I learned the Dad had suffered a major stroke and was paralyzed on one side of his body.  My photos were the preservation of his funny faces.

As a parent, and especially a mom, if I don't take selfies, I'm not in pictures. I am the main picture taker in our house. It is a personality issue, nothing my husband does wrong or neglects. Even before selfies were "a thing", I was the person in my extended family that gathered people for pictures.  Or I would get a groan after I snapped a candid.

And let's face it, we look prettier in selfies, because we can control the angle. Looking pretty will mean you will likely be in more pictures with your kids. I want my kids to have tangible memories with ME in them. As a family photographer I encourages families to get professional pictures done each year, but you don't want your kids to look back and only see a picture of you once a year; probably on a morning that you were all grumpy trying to get to the pictures on time and make sure everybody had the right clothes on. Selfies allow you to take everyday pictures of you at the zoo, or at museums on vacations, or snuggling on the couch reading a book. What a beautiful and amazing gift selfies can be to your children.

I am friends with women and moms who are the picture-takers in their families too.  If we don't get selfies of ourselves together, we don't have pictures of our friendship! Yes, we could ask our kids to do it, but they are shorter.  Short kids take pictures from an angle that add an extra chin to most women, especially me! It is normal to want to feel pretty in a picture.

And yes I will admit that I have a selfie stick. My kids are getting taller and without a selfie stick it's really hard to get all four of us in a picture. We recently went to Chicago for my twins' 11th birthday, and a selfie stick allowed me to get all four of us, plus the museum, in the picture. Yes I could have asked a by-standard to take a picture, but my insecure self probably would have not liked the silly double-chin I imagine I have, or how big my arms looks.  With a selfie- stick I get the best both of sides: a picture that I feel OK in and a memory to be preserved forever for my family.

Taken with my handy Selfie-Stick
Selfies are also a part of my kids' culture. As a homeschooling family, I'd like them to still have shared experiences with their peers. I had snapchat on my phone solely because my kids wanted to play with the filters. They don't have their own phones, but all their friends do. They won't be getting a phone any time soon, but I can allow them  shared experiences through silly selfies on MY account. I have since deleted snapchat due to their choice of content, but Messenger has fun filters we play with.

People also leave too early.  As we looked at photos for our brother's funeral slide show last year, I realized how 90% of our family pictures were pictures of the kids.  Let's face it, kids are cute.  Christmas pictures were zoomed in on happy faces of kids opening presents, with only my brother's arm in the frame. My brother was also separated and then divorced the last year of his life, and thankfully he chose to take selfies with his kids during that time. If he hadn't done that, his kids would not have as many pictures of WITH their dad during his last months. My last picture of my brother and I was a selfie a month before he left. His last fishing trip he took a selfie of him doing the hobby he loved best. These are memories I treasure more than words can describe.

Redeem the selfie; take it from a tool of narcissists, and turn it into something beautiful.  Use it as a gift for your children.  A snap shot of you, feeling beautiful and enjoying your life.
My brother and I, just a month before he departed for Heaven.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Puberty Book for Preteen & Tween Boys

I have been looking for a book like Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys since my twin boys turned 10 years old!  I don't usually dedicate an entire post to just one book, but this is too good not to share!   Each puberty issue is clearly addressed & well written, but not in boring technical terms or with a feel of an 1980's health class video. The fun illustrations and wording that will make any young boy interested.

Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys is a book I checked out from the library, then immediately ordered. By the time I had found this book, I had checked out multiple books, trying to find a book that covered these puberty topics in a way that:
 1.) was interesting for my kids
2.) was NOT more focused on sex education that the many facets of puberty

I recommend an adult read it with your preteen, as it opens up opportunity for great discussion. My husband will be reading this with my 11 year boys a chapter at a time as part of their nighttime routine.

The physical changes are explained, and accompanied by multiple practical applications, like how to correctly ice a sprained ankle and how to use baking soda in stinky shoes!

Each page has funny, yet informative, illustrations that will draw any young tween into reading.

I love that on top of the physical changes, there are many emotional challenges covered; like bullying , confidence versus arrogance, and late bloomers. The funny illustrations and simple to read terms are perfect for any preteen.

The book validates the emotional roller coaster of puberty, while also challenging the boys to use self reflection in their moods in feelings.  It spends a large part talking about the hormones that are influencing their moods, but I appreciate most the PRACTICAL tips to work through new feelings of moodiness and aggression (i.e count to 10, don't isolate, apologize if you know you were wrong, etc)

This is not a book about sex! It is about puberty. The small chapter on erections & nocturnal emissions discusses the biological aspects, and how to handle the unexpected erections in public or clean up after a nocturnal emission. These are biological things our sons must know. Zero about sex or masturbation. Those conversations are left for a parent. If you are looking for a book to introduce the discussion of sex, I highly recommend The Wonderful Way Babies Are Made.