Just say YES!

I’ve been working hard lately to improve my skills at saying, “yes”.

I love to do things for other people. I love that great feeling you get when you drop off a meal for someone or do something unexpectedly nice for someone in need.

But I’m not very good at accepting help. I always have an excuse.

“Oh, we’ll be fine.”
“You don’t need to do that.”
“Seriously, we can do it on our own!”

In the last few months, a lot of people have offered to help us in various ways. Since my husband hurt his back, and I have been in the last stage of pregnancy, we have needed help with a few things. And I realized that my gut instinct of refusing help was actually hurting others.

First, it robs someone else of the blessing of doing something nice for someone.

Second, it allows my pride to take over the situation. When I constantly try to convince people we don’t need help, I am only fooling myself.

So, I’ve been trying to make it a habit to automatically say “yes” to whatever people offer. Of course, there have been times when the situation wouldn’t allow me to say “yes”. But I’m getting better at saying “yes” immediately, without even thinking about all the reasons I could say, “no, thanks”.

“Can I take your kids for the weekend so you can get some things done around the house?” YES!
“Can I take a few days off work and help you when you have your baby?” YES!
“Can I mow your lawn?” YES!
“Can I watch your kids for you for a few hours while your husband is out of town?” YES!
“Can I go to the grocery store for you?” YES!
“Can I throw a baby shower for you?” YES!
And most recently, several people have said they would be available to watch my sick children if I go into labor earlier than expected. Even at 3 a.m. “OK… YES!”

I have successfully said “yes” on many occasions lately when it was difficult for me to resist the urge to make excuses for why I didn’t need help. I mean, there’s always Peapod that can bring my groceries. And I’m sure I can pay some kid in the neighborhood to mow my lawn. I can get a sitter for my kids, really I can.

But how nice just to enjoy the kind gesture of a friend.

I’m also trying to improve my “yes-saying” skills in a few other ways. I am trying to stop feeling guilty the whole time someone is helping me and to stop going on and on about how unnecessary it was to do what they did. A polite “thank you” works much better.

How about you? Are you better at doing for other people or being on the receiving end? Have you ever been in a situation where you had to put down your guard and just say, “YES!”?

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What to do with ALL that turkey?

I hope you had an awesome Thanksgiving! Ours was perfect.

My parents, three siblings, one brother-in-law and eight of my nieces and nephews joined us at our house on Thanksgiving Day since I wasn’t able to travel. The best part? THEY brought all of the food.

All we had to do was cook the turkey and make a salad. My husband used his amazing Orion Convection Cooker to cook the turkey to moist perfection. AND he cooked it outside, so we still had plenty of room in the oven for all of the side dishes.

My unbelievable sister then took all three of our children to her house for the weekend, giving my husband and I time to relax, go out to dinner and knock off a ton of things on our To Do List. Dare I say it? I think we’re ready to have a baby!

Unfortunately, one of the kids spiked a fever today and as much as my sister was willing to keep the sick children away from me, I couldn’t bare the sound of his sad, sick voice so far from mommy for the night. So, my husband is en route to pick them up at their aunt’s house two hours south of here.

The empty house and four hours of solitude gave me some serious motivation to complete one more thing I really wanted to do before the weekend was over: Figure out what to do with ALL of that left-over turkey.

I ended up making five meals, all but one of which went in the freezer to be used after baby’s arrival. Here’s what I came up with:

Jody’s Turkey and Noodles
I got this recipe from Once A Month Mom. I opted for the freezer version of the recipe.

Slow Cooker North Woods Wild Rice Soup
I combined the turkey and veggies in a freezer bag and plan to heat this one in the crock pot. I added a label with the full recipe so I will remember to add the evaporated milk and flour at the end.

Turkey Club Braid
This is one of my favorite recipes from The Pampered Chef cookbook, All the Best. I usually make it with chicken, but I think turkey will work, too. I put the filling in a freezer bag and plan to bake it in the crescent rolls later. This is my official stand-by recipe when I invite a friend for lunch. Amazingly enough, my kids LOVE this recipe!

Club Sandwich Salad
This is going to be lunch tomorrow. I cut up the turkey and the rest of the bacon from the Turkey Club Braid and put it in a ziplock. I will add the other ingredients when we get home from church. I think I will add an avocado to the recipe, too, to make it more like a Cobb Salad. If I change my mind, I will mix it with cream cheese and make sandwich wraps.

Curried Turkey Salad
I am going to freeze this in individual serving-sized storage bags since I am the only one in the family who likes this kind of recipe. This will be my lunch when the kids are eating frozen pizza or corn dogs. Yum!

So how about you? What are you going to do with all of that left-over turkey?

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Heian Nidan

One of the things I have tried to teach our kids over the years is the importance of setting goals.

We have daily goals for our school work, which they dutifully examine and cross off throughout the day. We have our chore charts, which get completed at times more religiously than others.

But it’s been really exciting this past year to see the boys set some goals for themselves.

They have been taking karate for about a year and a half now. I had no idea how they would like karate when we signed up. I thought it might go in the pile with gymnastics, soccer and T-ball of sports they endured, but didn’t inspire their determination.

They take karate through our local park district. However, the program is offered by the Illinois Shotokan Karate Club, which provides professional black belt senseis to teach each class. The classes are strenuous. They work hard, and the senseis teach the kids to act with discipline and respect.

Every six months, they are given the opportunity to test their skills and earn a new belt rank.

Both boys have said they want to earn their black belt. But I haven’t been convinced they were willing to put in the time and effort to achieve their goal. I didn’t doubt that they could, but I wasn’t sure of their true determination.

I will admit I was dragging my feet about even signing them up for their belt testing this past weekend. They both tested last spring and earned three stripes on their white belts, which was an “excellent” score. I wasn’t sure they had improved enough since then to earn more stripes or to move up to the next belt color of orange.

The testing is tough. Thousands of children test for their belts over the course of a month. They are broken down into groups and test in certain time slots according to their age and rank.

The testing takes several hours. However, the actual time spent in front of their judges is only abut 10 minutes. And it costs $45 per child. One bad move, and they don’t get a “do-over”.

But the boys were far more confident than their nervous mom. They were sure they would be able to earn their orange belts.

We got their results last night.

Our 7-year-old scored “perfect” for his group, earning him an orange belt with one stripe. His sensei said that only one in 1,000 children earns a perfect score.

Our 9-year-old earned an “excellent” score, moving up to an orange belt with two stripes. Although the standard is higher as the kids get older, the younger children have to earn more stripes before they can move up. So, in effect, our younger son tested a little better, but earned fewer stripes on his orange belt.

OK. I’m starting to get excited about karate now. I love how it teaches them discipline, places the full burden of success or failure on the individual child and gives them attainable goals. Plus, they love it!

Now that I’m starting to see what is reasonable, I’m more eager to help them set realistic timelines for what they would like to achieve.

Their next step is to perfect the orange belt kata: Heian Neidan!

What about you? Are you or your children involved in an activity that requires you to set goals? Have you helped your children achieve a goal and watched them reap the reward? Jump on over and leave me a comment!

Oh, and by the way, Happy Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it will be here in a day and I have been too preoccupied to write about it yet.

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Many times, the year seems to fly by as one big blur. Significant events are strung together by days and days of ordinary. As hard as I try, I often don’t take notice of the little things. I look back and realize another year has gone, and I’m not sure where it went.

But this year, I feel as if I have been able to slow down and enjoy so many more moments.

Maybe it’s because I put a lot of things on hold. I scaled back in so many areas of my life. I cut out some of the “good” things that were crowding out the best things.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been tired. I’ve had to move in slow motion. Stop rushing. Stop running. I’ve spent so much more time sitting and relaxing and pondering.

Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m in the “bonus round”. I know for certain this is the last time I will grow a human life. I know it wasn’t my plan but God’s plan to bring me to this place. I know I couldn’t have made it through with the joy, the good health and so much peace without trusting in him.

And now that I’m looking at my last nine days of pregnancy, it feels bittersweet. Oh, I can’t wait for it to be over. I can’t wait to be able to walk again without pain. I can’t wait to flip over at night without slowly rolling the basketball on my tummy. I can’t wait to see that baby’s sweet face.

But I’m also trying to cherish each moment. Enjoy the kicks and flips inside my body.

I’ve been getting a big smile thinking about all of the moments during the last nine months. I wish I could catch them in a bottle and hold onto them forever.

There was this day when I was so care free.

I had absolutely no clue even at that moment what was already happening. I keep remembering how I had just bought those new jeans. They were some of the more expensive jeans I had purchased in a long time. But I wouldn’t have more than a few months to wear them.

I keep thinking about my 40th birthday. I went to a spa with some friends and got a pedicure. I kept trying to come up with the words to tell them what I had found out a few weeks earlier. But it would remain a secret I would keep locked up tight a bit longer.

The one person I did tell was my midwife when I went to that comical doctor’s appointment ON my birthday.

Finally, I told the ladies at my Bible study. The news rushed out with a flood of emotion. I soaked half the people in the room with my sobbing.

A few weeks later, some friends had a surprise birthday party for me. “This isn’t a surprise pregnancy party!” my sweet hostess announced to the room. “It’s for your birthday.”

Half of the people in the room just got the news. Oh well. That made it a little easier on me.

Then there was Mother’s Day. That special day took on new meaning for me.

Not long after that, we told our kids that we were going to have a baby. Their reactions were so precious.

“Do you mean you are pregnant?” my oldest son, asked. “This is like a dream!”

We went to a picnic with our small group that evening and they spread the news to everyone within yelling distance. “OUR MOM IS PREGNANT!”

OK. So much for being discrete. In fact, they started telling everyone we encountered every where we went all summer long.

“My mommy has a baby in her tummy,” they would tell the teenagers taking our pool passes. Or their swimming instructor. Or random strangers. I would try to hide behind my sunglasses. Smile and nod. Smile and nod.

At 16 weeks, I thought I had developed a baby bump. I know you were laughing at this picture back then and now I can see why.

THAT is what we call a baby bump.

We started home school. And so far, we have all survived despite the teacher’s aches and pains and sudden need for a nap right in the middle of grammar.

“OK, it’s recess, everyone!”

We’ve had so many special moments this year as a family. The countdown to baby has dominated all of our thoughts almost on a daily basis.

I still wake up every morning and my first thought is, “Is she still in there?” I lie quietly and wait for her to move.

It’s a precious time. And we are ready for many more special days ahead.

Nine more days.

**Today I’m linking up to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky. Check out all of the stories of celebration of the small and sacred gifts of daily life. **

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