Big Families, Food, Guam, Ranting & Raving About Island Living

Reduced-Guilt Ice Cream

When my kids text me, “Mom, plz buy some ice cream on your way home! Pleeeeezzzz!” I think, “Hmmm, college education, or ice cream, college education, or ice cream?” If you live on Guam and shop off-base, you know that anything resembling creamy decadence is a sheer luxury. A typical 1.5L container of ice cream could set you back $8.99! Fortunately I have found a way to serve yummy ice cream to my familia, without staying up at night feeling guilty! Okay, if I eat some of it myself, I might still be up at night feeling guilty, but that is a whole different story.

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At a cost of roughly $2.70, I can make the same amount of ice cream that costs $8.99 at the market. I haven’t ventured past plain vanilla yet, but my savings tastes so good that I am feeling quite satisfied in all its simple glory.

Vanilla Ice Cream (Using a Vitamix, but a Nutri-Bullet should work too)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • 1/3 cup powdered milk
  • 1 cup (120 g) powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
  2. Select Variable 1.
  3. Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
  4. Use the tamper to press the ingredients into the blades. In about 30 seconds, four mounds will form in the center of the mixture. Stop machine.
  5. Serve immediately

I’m sure you can try non-dairy substitutes as well. Use mint, chocolate chips, or your favorite flavor to make it your own special treat. You know I’ll be throwing ripe mango in once the season is in full swing! Substitute maple syrup, or honey for the powdered sugar. Use a fresh vanilla bean instead of extract. If serving later, pre-portion ice cream into bowls and place in the freezer. Allow bowls to sit out 5 minutes before serving. If your frozen dessert is not setting up well, just add more ice cubes (or frozen bananas:) to your blend. 

I’d love it if you’d share a tip about how you enjoy a treat without breaking the bank.

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Children, Christianity, Faith, Guam, The Act of Motherhood, Uncategorized

You’re Doing a Great Work, Mom

Nehemiah 6Today, I had the incredible privilege of listening to over a dozen young adults tell their stories in hopes of getting scholarships for college. As expected, some could use work on their communication skills, some did relatively well and others knocked it out of the park.

The one theme that stood out in my mind came from the question, “Who inspires you?” The answer that was given almost every time surprised me. It was “MOM.” These young adults shared their stories of their mothers having taught them to be courageous, diligent, respectful, caring, faithful, humble and to serve. I was touched to watch each person choke out sweet words about their moms over and over again.

It made me think of my role as a mom. I am encouraged to look further than tomorrow or next week. I’m inspired to remain diligent in the task at hand.

In the Old Testament, Nehemiah left his post as a servant to King Artaxerxes. God had revealed to him that he should go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the surrounding wall to protect the city. He obeyed. While he was focused on carrying out the mission, the enemies wanted to get him to stop. They tried to distract him, calling him down from the wall. No matter what, Nehemiah stayed focused. He stayed on that wall and hollered down, “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down.”

Moms, we are doing something meaningful. You may not be feelin’ it today, but you’ll be surprised how many little eyes and ears are picking up meaningful lessons along the way and finding their deepest inspiration in YOU! Despite the distractions and responsibilities pulling this way and that, stay on the wall and do your great work! #motherhoodmatters

Big Families, BTW, Have You Seen My Head?, Children, Guam, Productivity, Self-Improvement, Uncategorized

6 Parenting Lessons I Learned from Running a Restaurant

My kiddies getting homework done at the restaurant.
My kiddies getting homework done at the restaurant.

Forks clanking against white porcelain plates. Small giggles and hearty laughs amidst the steady hum of conversation and the rich smells of grilled steaks and steaming soups. This was my life for a while as I assisted managing our family-owned, downtown restaurant.

It was an exciting but difficult time because of the inevitable juggling that had to take place. Five kids and a busy husband on the one hand and a busy restaurant on the other. We eventually resolved to sell the business, but while we were hustling, I learned some key life lessons that have kicked up my parenting abilities a couple of notches. Maybe you will find them helpful too.

1. Write things down. Schedules, manuals, recipes, menus, signage–everything needed to be written out and made clear to all. This is so true in all areas of life. When we don’t write things down, they simply fall through the cracks. Things get left on life’s back burners, never to be moved to prime “get ‘er done” real estate. Do you keep a family calendar? Do you write out your goals and specific steps that you’ll take to reach them? Write it down, get it done!

2. Accountability. Until there was a designated staff member in the restaurant scheduled to clean the bathrooms at regular intervals, things would get pretty icky. If there wasn’t a log specifying who’d be cleaning out the chillers or the espresso machine, it wouldn’t get done.

Accountability is just as vital at home. That oh-so-useful chore chart is key here. It sets up the expectation and gives me a “fall guy” should the dog not get fed on time or the dishes not get put away. (Since we can’t fire our children, consider “docking their pay” which can translate to canceling the next planned trip to Yogurtland:-)

3. Murphy’s Law is universal, so expect the unexpected. The old adage, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” takes on a whole new meaning in a restaurant. An oven will break down just before a busy Friday dinner service. The credit card machine will malfunction just as a waiter processes 25 Naval officers on a quick lunch meeting–all paying separately. We need to have back-up plans and expect the unexpected.

Similarly, a child will have a tummy ache on the day Mommy is supposed to attend a big conference. The washing machine will die out when there are eight backlogged loads of laundry. Bottom line is, expect the unexpected and have a back up plan. A go-to sitter, a Whirlpool repair guy on speed dial. And sometimes, just a little margin in life so that when these crazy things creep up, we aren’t strung so tight that one little thing snaps us.

4. Own up to Mistakes.  A customer’s steak might be well-done when they swear they said rare. A chef might forget to put the coveted avocado in the sushi. A piece of cork might be floating in the glass of Merlot. It happens. Own up to it and work toward remedies for the situation. A genuine apology, a complementary dessert and even removing the item from the ticket might be necessary.

Parents, we might not like to admit it, but we are really good at making mistakes. We need to get better about humbling ourselves and asking for forgiveness. The customer at the restaurant might tweet something about a messed up order, but a child stores up all the little wrongs in their hearts when there isn’t a remedy to the mistake. Whether it’s a harsh word for spilled milk or not noticing your daughter’s first goal in the soccer game because you were on Facebook, they see our mistakes. We need to own up and apologize because it’s the right thing to do.

5. Get out of “the weeds.” Have you ever seen a waiter start fumbling orders, disappear on tables or auction off food because he didn’t remember who ordered what? That’s called being “in the weeds” and it is hard to get out.

Usually, the most effective way to rectify the situation is to have a manager or another waiter help out so that he can gain composure, get organized and get back in the game if you will.

A lot of times as parents, we find we are in the weeds too. We are overwhelmed by the stuff of life like home renovations, behavioral issues with kids, deadlines at work. It might get hard to see the reason we do it all when our we can’t see above the weeds. God never meant for us to go it alone. A spouse, family, friends, church community–there are so many people who can help us get out of the weeds. If we don’t reach out and we choose to loiter in those weeds, there are no happy customers.

6. Setting up for success. One of my most experienced chefs had years of experience working on cruise ships. He brought with him the phrase, “Set up for success.” He always made sure that nightly clean-up was done and that all necessary items were prepped for the opening shift. Sauces were made, veggies were chopped, and a list of required items to shop for was written and hung on a clipboard.

When I leave dishes in the sink, clutter on the dining table or miscellaneous laundry strewn about, I know I am not setting myself up for success. In fact, it usually means that I will wake up already in the weeds! I have to remind myself every night to complete the necessary tasks that my “future self” will thank me for in the morning.

Are you translating work skills into your home? If you’re not, what are some ways your work habits and skills could improve life at home? I’d love to hear your ideas.

PS Enjoy the FREE printable chore chart and help yourself stay out of the weeds:-)

Big Families, Children, Christianity, Daughters, Faith, Follow Jesus, Guam, Prayer, Ranting & Raving About Island Living, The Act of Motherhood

A Labor of Love

If you know me, you may have heard of how my second daughter practically came out running and hasn’t stopped since, or how I was induced with my fourth, sent my husband to get the other kids from school while I waited to have even one labor pain and proceeded to give birth, all within a fifteen minute span! I’ve told my stories many times over. I’m referring to the retelling of the “labor day” stories. We all do it–rehash the blow by blow of each experience with new moms, old moms, moms-to-be (albeit with small omissions to save them from sheer panic).

I know when I tell about the birth of each of my five kids, I get quite animated. Arms flail, voice quickens, eyes widen, volume escalates–and then the sigh of relief. Done. Some long and exhausting. Others short and, well, exhausting. I had all natural labors and deliveries which is quite the norm here on Guam because local women supposedly have “easier births.” Pshhhh! But I, like most women, enjoy telling the stories mostly because it is a Herculean accomplishment that is in the past.

Now that my oldest daughter is on the brink of her sixteenth birthday and my youngest is almost eight, I find myself reminiscing about those years bringing new lives into the world. (It doesn’t help that I’m also listening to soothing French cafe-type music that just brings tears to my eyes anyway).

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If you’ve raised a child for any amount of time, you know one fact for sure. “Labor” doesn’t end once that little bundle of blessing arrives in the world. We labor every day to take care of our babies. We labor to provide for them, to keep them healthy and relatively clean. We labor to teach them and guide them. Along the way we also make many mistakes and we labor to become better moms. We tweak things. We figure things out. We watch others. Some of us pray and lean on God’s grace.

No, we don’t get constant applause and thank yous. We don’t get a 15% tip on the table after we’ve cleared it for the 6,402nd time. We don’t get a stellar review on our annual performance report. We don’t even get paid leave! In this season of my life; however, I’ve come to the realization that I spent more time than I should have on looking at the “don’ts” of motherhood.

I am profoundly grateful for the “dos” these days. I do get to see these young people develop into creative, young individuals. I do get to share in their dreams and hopes. I do appreciate the many lessons I’ve learned through the tough times that inevitably come with raising five kids with very different personalities. Most especially, I do get to experience a little bit of what Jesus did when He walked the earth. Agape love. Given but not always reciprocated. The truest “labor of love.” And this has drawn me so much closer to the Lord. How could I not be thankful for that?

Happy Labor Day fellow Mamas! Go ahead, rehash those stories that are such a part of our motherhood story. And let God be a part of your Labor Day because He made the biggest, sacrificial labor of all and continues to pour out all we need to refresh and be ready to labor on in our roles as mamas. Be Blessable!

Children, Daughters, Diet, Guam, Health, The Act of Motherhood

‘T’ is for ‘Too Far’ or ‘Terribly Tired’

Two of my daughters decided to take me up on the invitation to go on a late afternoon jog. We weren’t 20 yards from our starting point when my youngest daughter Gia started to complain. (I already expected this of course because I know her all too well).

I was able to keep her motivated for a whole mile, but she soon started asking her sister and I for a piggy back ride! We humored her for the next half-mile, but when she realized that we had a steep uphill walk to get back to the car she all but lost it!

She begged and pleaded to quit. She asked if we could hitchhike, call Daddy to pick us up, call a cab, anything!

I realized that this was so much of the parenting experience with each of our kids. We walk beside them and encourage. We walk behind them and push them uphill. We walk ahead of them and show them it can be done.

And just when the words “I can’t do it!” made it past her lips, I had a choice to make. I could piggy back her and save her from having to do the work. I could tell her to “suck it up” and trudge ahead. Or I could point out a destination and say, “Look, I bet you can make it to that lamp post!” or “I’m sure you can make it to that sign!”

We can break the big goals down with them so they can experience small successes! This is true with just about anything in their lives, whether it is athletics, academics or even finding authentic faith. Our role is to lead them, one step at a time.

I pointed to this street sign and I rooted for her as she huffed and puffed uphill and of course, Gia translated this particular sign to be a “T” laying on it’s side, symbolic for the phrases “too far” or “terribly tired!”

And that’s when our job gets really hard. When they think they can’t take another step. When they want to quit because they don’t believe they can make it. What then?

I haven’t always handled this juncture very well. I’ve often been the “suck it up” parent I mentioned before. These days, I opt for a softer response. A hand on a shoulder that says, “I know you can do this,” usually while I’m praying silently that we can get through it with the least amount of drama. Guess what? The softer response wins hands down.

She made it to the finish line (our car) and assured me that she wouldn’t be attempting that journey again. I think she will join me sometime in the future–simply because she has tasted the success of reaching the finish line, one agonizing step at a time.

You didn’t hear much about Talia here. She did very well. She even volunteered to piggy back Gia to shut her up:-) I love these kids!

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Food, Guam, Self-Improvement

Medifast & Motivation

I placed my order for Medifast food about a week ago and it should be arriving within a day or two. I am excited for two reasons. One, I have seen many people I know experience great results with the program, and two, because it’s simplified eating. I need simple for sure. It’s like the “Einstein’s wardrobe” version of meal planning. Little thought involved in the process.

So, today, as I stood in line and the Department of Revenue & Taxation (DRT), I decided I will build in two great components for motivation to get through the next 15 or so weeks to reach my weight loss goal.

First, I will blog about my experience for accountability. Public failure just stinks! So there ya go!

Second, I will spend an extra few minutes each time I go to DRT and just people watch. There’s nothing like observing people at Rev & Tax to make you think, “Ewww, that could be me in a few years if I don’t turn things around now!” Haha!

I don’t know if I’ll be so witty on 1,000 calories a day, but I’ll definitely be smiling and prancing through Rev & Tax when I’m at my goal weight–even if it is to drop a check off at the Collections counter!

Christ's Bible Fellowship, Christianity, Faith, Guam

Christianity Looks Crazy

At church service yesterday, Pastor Tom Larmore delivered a message that really resonated with me. It was titled, “You Must be Crazy!” Living in today’s world with a Christian world-view is not easy. In fact, a friend called me several weeks ago wanting to know about this faith I have and repeatedly said she wanted to understand, but she felt it was just crazy!

In his sermon, Pastor Tom compared sports fans with Christians and the many levels that you find therein. At the most basic level, there are those who truly enjoy the sport. They catch their favorite team when they can and can hold a conversation about stats and players. At the next level, these fans make sure they block out time for the game, have friends over and post vigorously on Facebook during an exciting game. Then there are the über-dedicated fans. The ones who buy seats for the season, wear team jerseys, put their babies–and sometimes their pets, in team apparel! They are zealous about their team!

The same is true for Christians. Many go to church occasionally, feel pretty good about that and go about their weeks as usual. These might be “Believers.” Others may read their bibles and live repentant lives. These might be “Disciples.” And then there are the “Radicals.” They often go to church several times a week, do daily devotions, weave Jesus into everything they say and do. And they keep the Lord’s command by going out and spreading the Gospel.

Why do we cheer on the zealous sports fan and persecute the passionate Christian? The world often looks at Christians who truly live out their faith and say, “Wow! He’s crazy!” They wonder why we don’t look at our watch and fidget to get out of church. They wonder why we “Praise the Lord” when something wonderful comes our way and why we trust a God we do not physically see when we go through difficult times.

So there is a split in the road, in my mind, with this sermon. First, is the message to people who profess Christianity. Revelation 3:15-16 says, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Being a mediocre fan of the Lord is not the goal. Secondly, is the message to the unbeliever which is even more poignant.

Pastor Tom put it like this: “What’s really crazy is that you’d step out into eternity taking a chance with your soul.” I thought about that sentence over and over again for the rest of the day. I was struck by the sadness of that statement. Our souls—the part of us that can live for eternity in a heaven that is incredible beyond our broadest imagination, and so many are willing to take a gamble. To accept what other people say about salvation or to avoid the subject all together. To believe that there are many ways to salvation because it makes them feel good. I realized it’s not even a gamble. With a gamble, at least you have a small percentage of chance to win. When you gamble with your soul, it’s always a losing game. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” There’s no 50/50. Not even 80/20. It’s 100% Him and no other way. Win or lose. The idea seems crazy if you are afraid to face the truth. The choice to follow Him with passion is far from crazy because He is worthy!

What's really crazy...
What’s really crazy…