Don't Stop Dreamin'

Some time ago, I blogged about connecting with someone who was a perfect stranger to me and how it felt like I'd known her for years.  I don't know if I felt like that because of where I was personally and spiritually at the time,  but nonetheless, that talk was one of those kind of moments that sticks with you for a while, you know?

Since that time I have stalked her on facebook and twitter read a few things she's written, and we've shared an email or two.  She is one smart woman (or at the least, she is incredibly well read!) Just Google her, Alli Worthington, and you'll see what I mean.  She's actually published a book about using your iPhone camera (some very helpful tips!)

So when she asked if I'd heard of Kid President, I had to Google him really quick like, and soon discovered why he's blowing up You Tube, Facebook, and pretty much every one's blog.

But just in case you've been fastbooking, or living under a rock, and you've missed him, check him out!  Best line ever . . . "Don't stop dreamin', unless your dream is stupid."

All that to say, thanks Alli.  I spent far too much time watching his videos.  But felt totally pep talked afterward!

Use Your Powers for Good

In the news a few weeks ago, on  EVERY.  MAJOR. NETWORK.  was the story of the little girls who got a puppy by getting a million "likes" on Facebook.

One million people took the time to post a picture of people who were most likely strangers to them, and then "liked" the photo and asked their friends to do the same.

One million people.  In 13 hours.

That's a lot of power for something as simple as a puppy.  

As I read and study the power of social media (preparing for the launch of in March) I am amazed, truly amazed, at the power of social media.

The power to do tremendous good.

The power to do tremendous harm.

The power to waste our time and wreck our marriages.

The power to cause us grief, envy, loneliness, and anger.

The power to lead inauthentic lives and to encourage others to do the same.

But also, the power to help others,  join a cause, overturn a conviction, stop a law, start a law, free slaves, get a puppy.

It's pretty heady stuff.

All that to say,  "Use your powers for good young Skywalker.  Use your powers for good."

Why Pinterest Makes Me a Bad Mom

I don't know about you, but sometimes I worry I don't measure up as a mom.  ESPECIALLY because I'm an old mom.  I'm 51 (and a half), and I am the parent of twin 4 year olds.  My "peers" in the parenting world are half my age with beautiful skin, great bodies, and the energy of . . . well . . . a 20 something!

While they are worrying about getting Bobby into a great college (even though he's only 3),  I'm working on being healthy and alive when my kids get to college!

On the flip side, I've parented kids through every stage of life, from infancy to adulthood.  I've survived the terrible twos and potty training, bad grades and bullies, teenage attitudes, driving, dating, drinking, and broken hearts (and not necessarily in that order).

I'm pretty chill about the fact that one of my four year olds still wets the bed.  I'm okay that they don't know how to read, or add 2+2.  I'm fine with the notion that they might not read until kindergarten or dare I say it . . . first grade.  And it's okay that they may or may not be in the "gifted" class at school.  When it comes to rearing children, I've learned to take life at the pace it comes.

I'm Chill.

That is.


I get on Pinterest.

And then I am overcome with the need to create, recycle, upcycle, do, glue, paint, design, decorate, make and bake all for the sake of "making memories" with my children. And when I'm done with all of that, I need to dream, surprise, inspire, delight, protect, teach, date, nurture, discipline, and feed them!

I tell you, I thought I had it all together, until I got on Pinterest.  As it turns out, I am a slug for a mom.  I don't know how to cook.  I'll never have buns of steel.  I can't convince my husband to date his daughters (heck, I can't convince him to date his WIFE!) and I don't know how to make a damn darn thing from an old pallet.

All that to say, I guess I'll just have to stick with what I know; teach them what they need to know, when they need to know it, fill our home with laughter (mostly), and love them unconditionally for their lifetime.


The other day we were visiting some friends whose house backs up to a lake of sorts.  It's really more like a really, really big pond, but nonetheless, a substantial body of water.  We took a walk, my friend and I, and our two sets of 4 year old twins, down a path that eventually led to a gazebo that overlooked the lake.  Very picturesque, even with the lifeless pall of winter overshadowing the scene.

The girls, all armed with a small twig, knelt down at a small pool of water just alongside the gazebo, pretending to fish, as my friend and I talked.

And then, almost as if it were happening in slow motion, Shannay leaned ever so slightly too far in and the weight of her off-balanced body caused her to topple, head first, into the lake.  My friend moved with ninja speed (I don't actually know if ninjas are fast, but in my mind it sounded right) and rescued Shannay from the water.

The other girls thought this was delightful and laughed with glee, but Shannay didn't think it was too funny.  Once she stopped screaming, she said, "I kept draining."

I feel it important to note that at no time was she actually "draining," a fact she realized as soon as she stood up in the knee deep pool of water.  But nonetheless, a very scary thing for a 4 year old.

Today, I was thinking about her feeling like she was drowning, and as her fear overtook her, she was incapable of simply standing and taking a deep breath.  In her mind, she was actually drowning.

I understand that feeling some days.  I think I'm drowning, but in reality, if I could just look past my fear and stand up, I'd realize I'm actually okay.

All that to say, fear has a lot of power in our lives; too much power.  Funny thing is, it only has the power over us that we let it have.  So to you, Fear, I say, "I'm not draining.  I'm standing.  And I'm breathing. Boo ya."

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Finding the Margins

When I was in college, I had this one professor who always allowed us to use a cheat sheet on test days. That policy, in and of itself, was not that unusual, as many professors had similar policies.  But where this professor differed was that he had no rules about our cheat sheet other than it all had to fit on the front side of one sheet of paper.

No rules about font size.

No rules about margins.

Simply, "However many words you can get on the front side of one piece of paper."

Like everyone else, I tried to type my entire study sheet on that piece of paper.  Every. Single. Word. I used size 6 font and set the margins as wide as I could.  And in whatever white space was left by my printer's inability to print that wide, I wrote by hand.  There was not one square inch of white space.  No discernible margin.

I noticed, though, that this didn't actually help me on test days.  There was too much on the page to be useful at all.  I couldn't find any of the information I needed because the words were all just crammed together on the page.

So I changed my strategy and actually studied for the test.  Then I put information on the sheet that I thought I might need during the test.  Around each piece of this information was space.  Lots and lots of space.  And because I had created margins around my information, it was easy to find what I was looking for.

I was thinking about this yesterday because I listened to a sermon from Andy Stanley called Breathing Room,  and it made me realize that sometimes too much is just too much.  Cramming everything into life that you think you need doesn't make your life better, it makes it busy.  And it makes it infinitely harder to find the things in your life that are actually beneficial.

All that to say, I'm going to begin today to find the margins of my life, create some white space, and enjoy the breathing room.

Forgiveness According to Yang

I was watching Grey's Anatomy (don't even think about judging me right now).  On the show this week, there was a scene where Dr. Christina Yang went in to talk to Dr. Derek Shepherd.

She said, "You need to forgive Owen.  You're holding a grudge."
Dr. Shepherd said, "I can't."
Dr. Yang said, "You need to."
Dr. Shepherd said, "It's hard."
Dr. Yang said, "I know.  Do it anyway."

And of course, he forgave him.

But life is not a TV drama.  That's not to say that life is not sometimes LIKE a TV drama.  But in real life, things like forgiveness don't often happen in the course of an hour, wedged in between short commercial breaks.

In real life, forgiveness is often a process, a process that takes days, weeks, months, sometimes even years.

In real life, forgiveness comes with conversation, tears, prayer, and much soul searching.

And though I am wise enough to know that Grey's Anatomy is not real life, I like Dr. Yang's thoughts on forgiveness; "I know it's hard.  Do it anyway."  Just do it.

Someone said to me once (I think it might have been one of my sons), "Can you see yourself forgiving them years from now?"  And when I said yes, they said, "Well then why not just forgive them now and save yourself the headache?"

The process of forgiveness might be a process, but the act of forgiveness comes in an instant.  I think sometimes we just need to speed up the process and just get to it.

All that to say, life may not be a TV drama, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from it.

Cleanish Sweet and Sour Chicken

Like the rest of us on Pinterest, I often pin things and never go back to them.  But this recipe kept popping up and everyone was commenting how awesome it was.

Awesome and easy.  My two favorite things when it comes to cooking.   And it looks so beautiful and succulent in this photo.

Don't you think?  Admit it, that's why you pinned it in the first place!

Funny thing is, I don't even like Sweet and Sour Chicken.  But, I'm trying to be open to new things, new experiences, etc., so I decided to try it.

I loved it.  (Which is critically important, because if I don't love it, no one else will get to even try it! I have straight up thrown a whole meal in the trash if it didn't taste right to me!)  The girls loved it.  My husband, Mike, . . . not so much.  In fairness to him, he told me in advance he didn't like sweet and sour chicken, but it was already on my menu for the day, so it's what got cooked.  He "said" he tasted a bite of Nikki's and didn't like it.  I did not see "said bite" and therefore doubt him.

But everyone else loved it.  You decide for yourselves.

I modified the recipe to be clean, or cleanish.  My ketchup (HUNTS) did not contain high fructose corn syrup.  Just tomatoes, water, sugar and salt.  Since my recipe only had 2 tablespoons of ketchup in it, I decided I'd risk that unclean sugar. :)

Here's the recipe.

The Chicken:

3-4 boneless chicken breasts
salt + pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil

The Sauce:

1/2 cup honey
4 tbs ketchup (I used Hunts)
1/2 cup (minus 4 tbsp) distilled white vinegar
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp garlic powder

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. 

Mix all of your sweet and sour sauce ingredients in a bowl with a whisk and set aside. 

Cut chicken into cubes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dip chicken into the eggs to coat then dip into the cornstarch.  Heat your 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet and cook your chicken until browned but not cooked through. Place the chicken in a 9x13 greased baking dish. 

Pour sweet and sour sauce over the chicken. 

Bake for one hour, turning the chicken every 15 minutes.  (Now, if you're like me at all, you're wondering why you have to turn the chicken so often.  AND you're going to panic about how liquidy this junk looks.  RELAX, the liquid thickens, and the chicken does not get overdone!  You have to bake it for an hour so the liquid thickens.)

A note about the sauce:  It originally called for 3/4 of a cup of sugar.  So when I converted it to honey, I had to remove about 6 tbsp. of liquid from somewhere.  I chose the vinegar.  If you use sugar, then use a full 1/2 cup of vinegar.

 Fried Rice                                                                                             

3 cups cooked brown rice
3 tbs sesame oil (evoo works fine, that's what I used)
¼ cup finely grated carrots
½  small onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup soy sauce

 On medium high heat, heat the oil in a large skillet or wok.  Add the carrots, onion and garlic. Stir fry until tender. Lower the heat to medium low and push the mixture off to one side, then pour your eggs on the other side of skillet and stir fry until scrambled. Now add the rice and soy sauce and blend all together well. Stir fry until thoroughly heated!   

Note: I changed this recipe considerably.  It called for peas and carrots, which I do not like in my fried rice.  It called for white rice, I used brown.  It called for 1 whole small onion which I thought was too much.  And it called for 2 tsp of minced garlic.  I used 2 and it was TOO MUCH garlic IMHO, so I reduced it to 1 tsp.

I served it with stir fried zucchini and onions and broccoli.  Yummy.

Also, since there are SOOOOOOO many opinions about what is clean or not clean, feel free to modify to your particular clean standards and not judge mine!

And be sure to go by this girl's blog, to check out the original recipe.  It's the unedited version. She calls it "baked" but I couldn't really do that because you actually FRY the chicken before you put it in the oven. :)  But I'm okay if she wants to call it baked.  It's her recipe after all.

All that to say, a couple points to remember when eating "clean."  Clean eating is not calorie free eating.  Clearly, this dish is not calorie free.  If you are working on losing weight, eat an appropriate amount of this food.  It was delicious, so you will want to overeat.  Just saying.

Once you make it and are telling all your friends about how awesome it is, come back and tell me what you think!  I'd love to hear if you make any modifications too!  Change is good.  Make it yours!

The Skinny

There are a few things as a parent I wish I could go back and do differently (and by God's grand design, I have an opportunity to do just that with our girls!)  Perhaps the greatest thing of all that I would do differently comes in the area of eating.

As a child, I grew up with a step-father who insisted we eat everything on our plate.  Everything.  He didn't care if we liked it or not.  He didn't care if we were hungry or not.  He did care whether or not we slurped our soup, and was adamantly opposed to dousing foods with ketchup to hide the flavor, but beyond that, his only real rule at the table was to eat everything on your plate.

Clean your plate, you were a good kid.

Don't clean your plate, you were a bad kid.

Have the audacity to try to pick things out of your food (like mushrooms or onions or chunks of gross stewed tomatoes) and you were an abomination to the human race.

I may be overstating . . . a bit . . . maybe a lot . . . but my point is, I grew up with eating issues.

And as we all do when we become parents, I SWORE I would not repeat the parenting mistakes of my parents (though I have).

So, when I had kids, I was pretty excited that they were good eaters.  We just never had any arguments about food.  They ate anything we put in front of them.  Fruits, veggies, seafood (and they started life in Louisiana so there was LOTS AND LOTS of weird seafood), meats, wild game . . . they ate everything.

And then they went to school.  And something happened.  They stopped being good eaters.  They would eat meat, and cheese (a family staple from my own childhood) and fruits, but no veggies.  Ever.

And then one of my children developed a weird texture thing (that I later learned was a form of OCD) and wouldn't eat anything that felt "hairy" in his mouth . . . pulp in orange juice, oranges, beans, onions, the list was endless.

I didn't want to force them to eat, like I had been forced to eat, but I wanted them to get the nutrients they needed.  When I talked to my pediatrician, he HIGHLY encouraged me not to force them to eat foods they didn't like.  He said it could lead to all kinds of eating disorders, and that I should just make sure they had good vitamins, offer healthy foods, and in their own time, as their taste buds developed, they would start eating veggies again.

This rang true to me because when I met my husband, the only vegetable he ate was corn, and when I explained to him that corn was not a vegetable, MAN, did that spark a riot!  But now he eats almost every veggie (though I still don't think he actually ENJOYS them).

So, I no longer forced my kids to eat veggies.  They weren't allowed to eat junk all the time (they developed THAT bad habit on their own), but they were also not forced to eat vegetables.

I was encouraged not to draw attention to my child's issues with texture, because that would only make them worse.  So I didn't.

Fast forward 10-20+ years, and I have come to realize this.  My pediatrician was wrong.  I agree that I didn't need to FORCE my kids to eat, but I should have been a little stronger in my "at least try one bite" approach.

My daughters have foods they actually don't like, either the taste or the texture of.  But they have to take at least one bite.  And over time, some of the foods they didn't initially like, they have come to truly enjoy.

Why am I writing all of this?  Because I, like most of you, am caught up in the "Clean Eating" wave.  And I'm wanting to make changes in our lives, and eating habits, so that we can live not just long lives, but healthy, long lives.

Unfortunately, I am not a bandwagon kind of girl.  I'm not just going to throw my bread out the window because someone said it was bad for my gut, any more than I was willing to start using artificial sweeteners in the 80's because people said sugar was going to kill me.

Sure, there are terrible things that the food industry has done to turn good foods into bad ones and bad foods into "good" ones.  If you don't believe me, eat a fresh pineapple and then eat a canned one. You would never know you're eating the same food!

And remember Olestra?  The gift that was going to let us keep on eating our potato chips?  But later was pulled off the market because it caused "anal leakage"  (not kidding.  They had to write that on the bag as a warning!)  Funny thing is, we all knew we shouldn't be eating chips all the time, but we were willing to risk "anal leakage" in order to eat more chips!

My point is this.  I want to eat better.  I want my family to eat better.  But I don't want to live every day of my life stressed out about food.  In fact, I'm not going to.  I'm going to purposefully choose healthier foods every day.

I stopped frying foods long ago!  I stopped having dessert after every meal.  I stopped covering everything I ate or served with cheese.

I started eating brown rice and whole grain breads and pasta whenever possible.  I eat egg whites (and have for a lot of years).

But if a recipe calls for ketchup, I'm gonna be pretty okay to toss in that 2 tbsp of ketchup, even if it does have some sugar in it.

And if I occasionally want to order a pizza or better yet make one from scratch, I'm going to do that too.

And sometimes, every now and then, I might have a french fry or an egg yolk or a margarita.

In general, I know I need to do better.  But I know that if I go to an extreme, I'm not doing better.

I'm not saying people that have food allergies and digestion problems are extremists.  I know plenty of people who MUST be extreme because their bodies simply cannot process certain things.  Funny thing is, the people who are gluten free, sugar free, etc. because they are allergic to such things, tend to be the most balanced in their attitudes.  (Check out this blog as a good example.)  She doesn't update nearly as often as I wish, but she's balanced and just trying to do better for her family.

So I'm reading.  A lot.  And I'm experimenting. A lot.

And I am choosing to stress way less.

I'm taking it slowly.  One day at a time, one food at a time, one food group at a time!

All that to say, the skinny on clean eating for me is, well, to think about my long term health goals and those of my family, and to make consistently better choices every day.  Now, off to make a nice healthy and tasty version of sweet and sour chicken with fried rice (calm down, it's not actually fried.)

Live the Tree, Just, For All Y'all

Funny thing about the girls is that they often burst into simultaneous, in stereo, twin song or twin chant.

You never know when this is going to happen, but you can be pretty sure about two things.  It's going to be in perfect unison, and it's going to be insanely loud.

I have no idea what prompts these episodes, or how they even communicate with each other to do it.  I wonder if they have some telepathic ability that says, "In 3 seconds, sing "Silent Night" as loud as possible!  3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . GO!

Sometimes they disagree about the placement of a certain word, and spend a few seconds disagreeing about said word, but then they simultaneously jump back on track and finish their performance.

I so wish I could record these moments, but because they happen spontaneously, I cannot.

However, I wanted to entertain you with a recent twin chant.  I have no idea what set them off, but we were standing in the kitchen and they simultaneously burst into the Pledge of Allegiance.

Here's how it went:

"I pledge allegiance
to da flag

a nited states a medicine

and these important
take a stand

one minutes
on the God


("No it's in the bull!"  "No it's not.  It's invisible cuz you can't see it."  "You can't see the bull?"  "No, not a bull. Nikki.  It doesn't say bull.")

with live the tree


for all y'all.

All that to say, "Live the tree, just, for all y'all."

Around the Corner

It's been 4 steady months of change here in the Jones household.  Job changes, foster babies, companies being started, companies being sold, family visitors, dietary changes, workout routines . . . the list seems endless and exhausting.

But little by little, we are finding our footing and moving forward in the direction we believe God is pointing us.

My work as a freelance writer is growing by leaps and bounds, and many new opportunities seem to be opening.  I have some very steady clients that are incredibly wonderful people doing really great things out in the world, and I feel very blessed to have their trust (as well as the income they provide!)

One new thing that is literally right around the corner (MARCH) is the launching of That Carol Jones.  It will be a comprehensive website that will be a portal, of sorts, to all different kinds of blogs, eBooks and other very interesting mind candy for you.

We are still in the planning stage of what all will be included in the launch of That Carol Jones, (and by we, I mean those of us over here at Benchmark Creative Resources).

For sure, this blog, All That To Say, will be there.
There will be a blog related to the Adoption Journey called What Color is Family.
There will be an "as yet unnamed" parenting blog.  (I'd love you to help me name this!)

And I'm toying with some fun things as well, like For the Love of Cheese and Bacon, a cooking blog about . . . well . . . cheese and bacon and who knows what else?  I'm open to suggestions!

All that to say, there's a lot going on over here at Chez Jones, and a lot coming around the corner.  Stay tuned. :)

Always Kiss Me Goodnight

When we brought the girls to this house over two years ago (TWO YEARS AGO!), I wanted their room to look like it was "their" room and not an eclectic garage sale version of the room they'd had before when we were fostering them.

Even though we were very grateful for all the furnishings that people had loaned us in the early days, we wanted their room to say, "You belong here.  You are ours."

But I didn't have a lot of money to spend on decorating, and I'm pretty thrifty, so I shopped at a local online resale site and bought matching, white, Jenny Lind cribs.  Then I finished them in high princess fashion, complete with tulle crib skirts and matching, handmade crib blankets.

We were given a really cute little blue rocker (courtesy of a sweet friend, Shauna Maness) as well as an adorable bookshelf that Zack insisted we paint lavender.  And then rounded out the room with a garage sale dresser ($5!) that Zack refinished, and a sweet little lamp and nightstand that I paid $7 for at a garage sale and refinished.

Perhaps the greatest amount of my budget dollars were spent on three pieces of wall art from Pottery Barn and an adorable little sign that says, "Always Kiss Me Goodnight."

I was so proud of that sign.  I attached a piece of pink grosgrain ribbon to the back of it, and hung it from a pink crystal drawer pull that I screwed into the wall between their cribs.

Last night while I was rocking them to sleep, (yes, I still do this . . . they need the skin to skin contact, and it helps them sleep better) I looked at that sign and I was overwhelmed, to the point of tears, at just how far they have come.

Two years ago, when meltdowns were a daily part of our lives, they would stand in their cribs and reach up to that cute little pink sign, barely able to reach the edge of it, and they would push it as hard as they could, causing the sign to swing wildly from that pink knob.  I hated that sign in those days.

But I left it hanging there because it was my reminder that no matter how bad their meltdowns were (and they were very, very bad)  I needed to kiss them goodnight.  It was my reminder that they needed me to kiss them goodnight.  They needed my unconditional love and acceptance, no matter how horribly bad their meltdowns had been or would be.

And every night when I would sing made up lullabies to them, and rock them to sleep, I looked at that sign and begged God to heal their little hearts and minds.

And now, when I look at that sign, I am grateful for the healing work He has done and continues to do.

All that to say, I imagine that sign will always hang somewhere in their room.  It's a great reminder of God's faithfulness to us, to them.

A Dime's Worth of Change

I am not a fan of resolutions.  Not because I don't think people need to set goals, but because people often set unrealistic goals, especially at the beginning of a new year!

Resolutions fail because people fail to think long term before they make them.

I'm all in favor of people getting healthier, having better marriages, drawing closer to God, but sometimes I think we all go about it all wrong.

What if I told you that your life could be significantly different just by changing it in small ways? Instead of thinking radical change, what if you thought about change in terms of a dime's worth of change?

Here are some examples of small changes, Ten Cent changes, that can significantly change your life for the better.  I've taken common resolutions and turned them into Ten Cent Life Changes.

Common Goal:  Read the Bible through in a Year.
Ten Cent Change: Read the Bible 10% more than you are already doing it.

(This one is for my Christian friends, or for those who are curious about the Bible.)  If you're not reading it at all, try reading it for 10 minutes every day.  If you're already reading it for 30 minutes, read it 33 minutes.  Increase it by 10%.  (Did you know that with just 10 minutes a day, you can read the Bible cover to cover in one year.)

Common Goal:  No More Diet Drinks, Cokes, Sweet Tea, Coffee (insert drink of choice!)  Only water.
Ten Cent Change:  Drink 10 more ounces of water every day.

That's a little more than one glass.  One simple way to implement that change is to order water when you eat out. The next time you drive through the drive through, order water.  Over time, you'll discover that drinking water when you are eating out has become a habit (and saved you a lot of money!)

Or maybe, every morning at breakfast, drink water (Bob Harper from the Biggest Loser says, "Skinny people drink water first thing every morning.")

Goal:  Get Healthy (Join a gym, lose weight, eat clean/paleo/gluten-free/primal/whatever)
Ten Cent Change: If you lead a sedentary life,  if you never exercise, if you are overweight and eat crap all the time; DO NOT TRY TO CHANGE EVERYTHING AT ONCE.  YOU WILL FAIL.

Change in increments of 10.
Step 1:  Get active. Do some kind of exercise for 10 minutes a day.  Then, once you are up to 30 minutes a day, then THINK about joining a gym.  But before you do, determine how it will fit into your life.  Otherwise, you'll waste your money and become part of the "January Gym" people.

Step 2:  Set a realistic weight loss goal.  How about 1 pound a week?  Or how about 10 pounds?  And then once you get to 10 pounds (however long that takes you) set another 10 pound goal.

Step 3:  Eating healthier doesn't mean you have to become a clean/paleo/gluten-free/primal plan eater.  There are many healthy eating options for you to choose from.  If you make a sudden, radical change, unless it is ordered by your doctor, you will most likely NOT sustain that eating habit.  Start small.  Try eliminating sweets and eating fruit in its place.  Or try the lesser fat versions of the things you love (salad dressing, mayonnaise, milk, beef, etc.)  Small, incremental changes are more likely to help you than fad diets.

Here's an easy exercise you can do to eat healthier:

Make a list of 10 small changes you can make to your eating habits.
1. Eat the lower fat version.
2. Eat more fruit.
3. Eat fresh veggies instead of canned whenever possible.
4. Don't buy junk food, but if you really, really want ice cream, go out for it.
5. Don't salt your food at the table.
6. Eat on smaller plates.
7. Try one new healthy food a week (or a month if that's too much for you)
8. Take your lunch to work.
9. Reduce the number of times you eat out by one time a week.
10. When you do eat out, ask for the to-go box at the beginning of the meal.

Now you make your list!

And for those of you who are following a clean/paleo/primal/gluten-free diet, I'm not saying you are a fad.  But I do hope you are educated about why you are eating that way, and not just doing it because everyone else is.  I talk to so many people who eat according to these strict regimens and have no idea why they are doing it.  For our family, we are trying to eat better and we are gradually adopting clean eating habits.  If I tried to do that all at once, I would have a revolt on my hands!

But I would like to say that Mike Jones gladly purchased whole grain pasta for me the other day and happily ate brown rice.  :)  Small changes people.  Small changes.

Common Goal:  Improve my marriage.
Ten Cent Change: Spend 10 intentional, focused, uninterrupted minutes a day with your spouse.  I mean, no TV, no phones, no computers, no kids, no interruptions.  Just 10 intentional minutes.

Of course, I know how Mike would want to spend his 10 intentional minutes. :)  (And I suppose that WOULD improve my marriage!) HA!

All that to say, you can set resolutions and keep them.  A dime's worth of change is better than a dollar's worth of good intentions.

The Facts of Life

Mike and I were at Chic-Fil-A yesterday with the girls.  It was miserably cold and rainy, so any outside playing was out of the question.  Finding an indoor play area becomes critical on days like this.  The mall area was overcrowded, and quite frankly, people do NOT watch their kids at that stupid place.  (The sign says "For kids 6 years old and younger" so the fact that it is overrun with older kids is a teeny weeny bit problematic for me.  I guess when my kids are 7, I might be thinking differently . . . but I digress).

So we went to Chick-Fil-A and enjoyed a nice, healthy salad and then let the girls play for a while.  Like most kids' play areas, though, there were some unattended kids in there just not being nice.

(As an aside, one of my FAVORITE things about Mike Jones is that he is the ENFORCER of the play area.  He's not gonna let any anyone get away with anything, and he ESPECIALLY is not going to let anyone be mean to his daughters!)

There were a couple of older boys, way beyond the height limit for the play area, being naughty and running over the little kids.  Someone went and got the boys' mom, and she came in to check things out.  She dropped a few expletives at her sons, at which point Mike Jones aka "The Enforcer" politely asked her to watch her language.  (I told you that he won't let anyone get away with anything!)

A couple of small girls came out of the play area and sat down near their mom.  They complained about the boys to their mom and one of them said, "They are mean.  They didn't like me."  I expected the mom to say, "I'm sorry that happened."  But instead she took that moment to teach some real life lessons.

She said, "Well, those boys shouldn't be mean, and they shouldn't even be in there.  But people don't always do what is right, and people are not always nice.  Sometimes you can only be responsible for yourself and do what you know is right."

The little girl said, "But Mommy, they didn't even like me."

The mom said, "That's okay.  They don't have to like you.  Everyone in life is not going to like you.  That's just life.  As you get older, you will discover many more people who don't like you.  But you will also have people in your life that love you, no matter what.  Those are your true friends."

She went on to say, "You will also see that there are people in life that you don't like.  You will have different personalities.  Maybe they will be loud and you are more of a quiet person.  Maybe they will be more into sports and you are more into reading.  There can be lots of reasons why a person doesn't "like" someone, but as long as you treat them like Jesus would want you to treat them, that's what matters."

The little girl looked at her mom.  You could tell she was really taking it all in.  And then she said, "Well, I was nice to those boys.  Even though they didn't like me.  But they hurt that little brown girl and her grandpa got really mad about that.  I don't think he liked them very much."

The mother looked over at me, a little chagrined at the girl's faux pas, and I laughed, assuring her that happens all the time (being mistaken for the grandparents).

Then the little girl said, "Can I have some ice cream?"

I love kids.  They make life so simple.  And they move on quickly.

All that to say, wouldn't it be awesome if all of life's lessons ended in ice cream?

Your Actions Are Speaking Louder Than Your Parenting Skills

As the parent of two grown children, and two toddlers, I have become incredibly aware of the things I have passed down to my kids ( I mean BEYOND the love of cheese and bacon!)

I used to like to blame their father for things I saw in them that I didn't like and to take all the credit for the good things I saw.

These are a few things I have observed:

As it relates to my older kids, they are know-it-alls.  I say that with love, as I, too am a know-it-all.  I am keenly aware of the fact that I do not, in fact, know it all, or close to "it all", but nonetheless, I have accumulated a vast amount of useless knowledge which serves me well, but annoys LOTS of people.  I worked with a woman once who called my inane facts "Carol Fun Facts."  She DID NOT say this with love.

Funny thing is that in my family, I am the lesser know-it-all.  My husband is the Supreme know-it-all.  He enters most conversations with these two words, "Well actually . . ."  My sons follow a very close second to his know-it-all-ness (yes, that's a made up word.  We know-it-alls take license with language rules.)

Secondly, they are almost never wrong.  And if by some chance they think they are wrong, they will spend a good amount of time researching how right they are so that they can inform others of how "right" they are.  They most assuredly got this one from me.

Thirdly, they are collectors.  They collect information.  They collect shoes (yes, they are boys, but they collect SHOES!)  Jacob came to visit for one week and he brought 10 TEN pairs of shoes!  Yep.  They also got this one from me.

Fourth, they have VAST vocabularies.  When they were little, I didn't dumb down my vocabulary for them.  I talked like I talk and they developed very large vocabularies.

Lastly, (though I could go on FOREVER) they are incredibly real people who deeply love others, who sometimes get hurt because they love so deeply, and who genuinely care for those who are needy, broken, or hurting.

Even with the girls, who are only 4 year olds, I see so much of my personality coming out in them.

We often blame our parenting skills (both good and bad) on the things our children do. But more often than not, it is our personality that is their instructor.

I don't know if that makes sense to you or not, but the point I am trying to make is this.  YES, your parenting makes a difference.  Failing to teach your kids right from wrong, failing to hold them accountable for their mistakes, failing to expect them to do their best, is poor parenting, and it will effect who they become.

But a lot of who YOU ARE is who they will become.  So think long and hard about the things you see in yourself that you do not want to pass on to your kids, and work on changing those things.

All that to say, teach your children well. Your actions are speaking louder than your words.

Can You Be Your Child's Friend?

My mom and I were sitting and looking through some old pictures the other day and she commented, "Every time I see a picture of you and your boys, you just look like you are really enjoying being together."

I said, "We are. We're good friends."

And she said, "That's saying something."

It is saying something.  

Parenting is a very hard job. Kids don't come with a book, so a lot of what you learn about parenting comes from how you were parented, or from what well-meaning friends tell you, or from big fat mistakes you make along the way. (And please do not write me and tell me that they do come with a book . . . the Bible . . . because I have read the Bible cover to cover and no where in there does it tell me how to potty train without damaging their psyche!)

I often hear parents say that their goal is not to be their child's friend. I understand what they are saying, but honestly, my goal has always been to someday be my child's friend.  

I knew that someday, way down the road, my sons would cease to be children, crossing the threshold into adulthood, where they would no longer need to be parented, but where they would hopefully still look to me for advice, counsel, wisdom, in the manner they would look to a trusted friend.

Oh trust me, as they grew up, they NEVER doubted who was boss.  Cultivating a lifelong friendship never got in the way of being their parent. I never let good parenting be thwarted by the fear of losing their friendship. 

I was always mom first.

And today, I can honestly say that I genuinely enjoy the company of my sons. (Mostly. Except when they are together and gang up on me and make fun of dumb things I say or culturally relevant things I don't know.)

We are friends.  And for that I am grateful.

All that to say, though it may go against the grain, I posit that you can, indeed, be your child's friend.

A note to my readers:  In 2013, one of the big changes in my life is my new website, (don't bother going there, it's not live yet!)  It will be a conglomeration of several new projects I have in the works, and one of them is my new parenting blog and resourcing site!  

You Smell Like a New Book

When I was a first grade teacher, I loved to teach writing to my students.  We spent a lot of time learning to write, all types of writing, but their most favorite type was descriptive writing.
I would typically have them draw a picture of some given topic and then have them describe that particular person/place/thing.

On one particular day, I was the subject of their work.  I asked my students to draw a picture of me and then describe me.  I let them "interview" me and recorded my answers on the board.  As was a typical part of most of their descriptive pieces, they had to incorporate at least two of their 5 senses in their work.

Hands down, my most favorite description was from a little boy named Matt Jones.  He wrote,

"Mrs. Jones smells like a new book."

I laughed out loud when I read it, and then just had to ask him what he meant by that.  He said, "Mrs. Jones, my favorite thing about coming to school is getting new books.  They smell so good.  And you smell good all the time.  I just didn't know how to say what you smelled like, so I picked something that smelled good and said you smell like that."  (He got an A+!)

As I think about the new year, I am reminded of Matt Jones, and it makes me smile.  New does indeed, smell good. 

All that to say, Happy New Year.  May every day smell as good as a new book.