Heart-to-Heart with Diane

Hello and Welcome! Isn't raising a family the greatest!? I know I've got the best job in the world, just being Mom! I love sharing things I've discovered that make being "Mom" better, easier or more fulfilling, and that is what this blog is all about. Welcome!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Makin' Easy Pizza

All ready to go into the oven

I love pizza!

With a big family, pizza can be a pretty pricey meal. . . unless you make it yourself. I think it scares cooks—it seems hard to make—but it is really a cinch once you get the hang of it.

I bake my week's bread every Monday morning (6 loaves). Today while I was shaping dough into loaves, I took one of them, divided it into 2 parts, and spread each one out on a cookie sheet. I poured some canned crushed tomatoes on top of the stretched out dough in the middle, and added a teaspoon of crushed garlic (or some garlic powder), and about a half teaspoon of Italian seasoning. I stirred this into the crushed tomatoes right on top of the pizza dough, and then spread the sauce out. Then I sprinkled on grated mozzarella, and added lots of veggies, slicing them right on top of the pizza, spreading them out as I sliced: olives, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, fresh spinach leaves and artichoke hearts (canned). I let the pizza set on top of my stove for 20 minutes, giving the dough a chance to rise. Then I baked it at 450 to 500 degrees for approx. 12-18 minutes.

The great thing about pizza is that you can be creative and it is not exacting. I doubt whoever made the first pizza had a recipe. Kids can't really mess it up--it turns out great without measuring, and the end result looks gourmet.

I use just one loaf worth of my bread dough to make 2 pizzas (recipe in a former post) and it is delicious with a whole (white) wheat crust, but if you are just making the dough specifically for pizza, cut the recipe in 1/4 and omit the oil and honey from the recipe. The recipe will be a bit crisper and save you some calories.

Here's my pizza, hot from the oven, just in time for lunch! Yum!


It really is easy!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Watch Out for Dinosaurs!

Little boys love action and the thrill of scary things! Slashing claws, ferocious teeth, hugeness. . . dinosaurs are a boy-magnet! So, it seems natural to put all this enthusiasm to good use in a learning environment, and many school classrooms do long units on dinosaurs . . . decorating dinosaur habitat dioramas, making dinosaur models and masks and booklets and more. One school classroom I walked into had been transformed via construction paper palm tress and crepe paper vines hanging from the ceiling, into a primeval habitat for dinosaurs! Little ones are taught to spout off their complicated names, eating habits, methods of fighting and killing their prey, and each dinosaur's temperament, long before they can name the books of the Bible or describe the temperament of God.

What's wrong with studying dinosaurs?

Teaching young kids about dinosaurs is a way to set the stage for their foundational misunderstanding of who they are and how they fit into time. Tucked neatly into those dinosaur habitats is the "billions-of-years-old earth" concept, morphing the past into an ever, ever, land before time. Our children's worldview is crucial. If they are taught the idea that the earth has existed for countless eons, then God can more easily be seen as a very hazy and remote being. And the Bible's creation story can seem bogus. How does "the Lord God created the earth in 7 days" fit into the steamy primeval rain forest where creatures crawl from the sea and transform fins into feet over time too long for a kindergartener to conceive of? Can right and wrong exist in such a evolutionary world?

The concept of sin—and our need for a Savior to atone for us—are taught in Genesis, right after the creation account. If the creation is just a figurative story, one may conclude that the idea of accountability for our wrongdoing, or the need for our Savior, is a myth too. Our children's future character—in fact, the very survival of our civilization— hinges on believing there is right and wrong, with consequences for our choices. And that there is a Savior who saves us from our mistakes if we repent. And that there is a God capable of forming the earth, with mankind being His crowning creation.

Because the schools teach it, the government teaches it, scientists promote it and the media, including National Geographic and Nova assure us it is a fact; the easy road for most Christians is to merge evolution with their Christian beliefs, glancing away from the obvious conflict. But there is grave danger in this. If humankind morphed into being, then can one really be held accountable for feeding his urges? It is a very different mindset than knowing you are a precious son or daughter of God "knit together in your mother's womb", "in the image of God" (see Psalms 139:14, Genesis 1:27)

What to do? In my homeschool, we skipped over dinosaurs and learned about the creation of the earth, focusing on the amazing animals that are in our current world: the common as well as the unique and bizarre! The enormous blue whale, the swift cheetah, the energetic hummingbird, exotic neon-colored jellyfish . . . evidence of God is found in all his handiwork, in the myriad of His diverse creations. I especially like using science resources that include creation in their teaching. Apologia Science textbooks are even entitled such faith promoting titles as: Exploring Creation: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. My favorite Biology DVD course uses the 7 days of creation as the organization in teaching the classification of all living things. Another great company for promoting God as creator is Moody Press with their interesting science DVDs.

Then, when my children are well-grounded in Christian teachings, we take a look at dinosaurs and evolution from a more objective, less politically-correct viewpoint. Junior high school is a good time since evolution is being taught in school science classes during this age anyway. Analyzed objectively, all scientists really know for a fact is that there are huge bones in the earth's surface. The way these creatures looked or acted, and even the time period in which they lived are all speculative. Teach kids about dinosaurs when they are old enough to trust that God has his purposes, and that the words of the scriptures are true. And while they are young, teach them who they truly are: precious children of God, the crowning creation of all God's works, and of infinite worth. A person with God as their father feels and acts very different than a creature whose ancestors emerged eons ago from a prehistoric lagoon. Humankind is not animal. Humans can make choices and bear the weight of responsibility for their actions.

So . . . watch out for dinosaurs!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Meatloaf in a Frying Pan

My granddaughter Rebekah
(not eating meatloaf, but enjoying her food!)

Tonight I felt like making meatloaf, but it is such a long-baking affair that I usually don't do it. Then I got the idea of pressing the meatloaf right down into my big frying pan and cooking it on the stove-top. It cooked in 20 minutes and turned out fabulously and everyone liked it just as much as the oven-spilling-and-smoking-up-the-kitchen, hard-to-clean-the-pans variety.

Here's how:

Quick Frying Pan Meatloaf

2 lb. lean hamburger or ground turkey
1/2 cup oatmeal
2 tsp. parsley flakes
1/2 onion
1 small zuchinni
1 carrot
1/2 green pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1/4 tsp. worchestershire sauce

Fill 1/2 cup measuring cup with oatmeal. Add hot tap water to the oatmeal to fill the measuring cup to the top. Set aside for 5 minutes to absorb water.

Break up meat into the frying pan. Put veggies through a food processor to grate or finely dice (or do it by hand) and add to the meat. Add seasonings and soaked oatmeal. Mix up ingredients thoroughly with your hands right in the frying pan (one less bowl to wash) and pat it down smoothly into the pan. Top with one 16 oz. can of tomato sauce, and then squirt a swirly design of ketchup on top, sparingly. (I use tomato sauce to cut down on sugar. It tastes great.)

Don't worry if you don't have all the veggies. You can use what you have. This is not an exacting recipe.

Cook for 20 minutes over medium heat until "meatloaf" is bubbling and is cooked through. Cut into wedges, pizza style, and serve with mashed potatoes and peas. Use the red sauce/juices in the bottom of the pan as gravy. Great comfort food!

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Nearer My God to Thee—through Mommyhood

Studying Martin Luther's life led my daughter Emily (19) to declare that she wanted to do something important with her life, to change the world, to make a difference! She didn't want to live out her day-to-day life doing small things. Which caused tears to spring to my eyes, and a passionate sermon on the merits of mommyhood to form on my lips . . . ending with "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world!".

Oh, to be a mother! Is there anything closer to God? Is there any job description that requires you to walk in the Savior's footsteps more closely? To love, lift up, nourish, heal, mourn with, comfort, rejoice with, to be there for. To be there for. Just like God, in so many ways.

The mommy-child bond is like no other on earth. We are genetically linked, and spiritually tied by an invisible umbilical cord that never separates. In no other relationship is there such a connection. The child who was within us becomes the friend, comrade and beloved all throughout life.

I was surprised at this powerful link, and at myself when I had my 6th child. Although I had lived thousands of miles away from my mother for years and years of married life, when the labor got very intense and things looked like they may be going awry, I found myself unconsciously and instinctively cry out, "Mom!". It shocked me to hear myself—and yet why should it? No one is more connected at a core level, no one more dependable, more caring all throughout life, and especially in time of trouble, than Mom.

My husband's grandmother described knowing exactly when her son was shot down in World War II half-way around the world. She said she felt it. The umbilical cord is ever present.

I know there are no perfect moms, and I am certainly not one, but my job description calls me to be. It calls me to step up daily and be less self-focused, more inclined to the good of another, less proud, more in tune, less fussy, more content. It causes us to stretch ourselves and live the high road. I know some do not have that wonderful mother, or even a working relationship with their mom, but that doesn't keep us, ourselves, from trying to be that angel-person for our own children!

Emily asked me to drive her to work, apologizing for the interruption. And once again I thought about life as a mother. Interruption? What's that? It seems that every day, all day long, is a sort of an interruption when you are raising kids. Not a negative thing, just a realization that what you are doing at the moment is not as important as nurturing and loving the children, and serving them, and teaching them, and modeling Christ-like living in the day-to-day for them. So they will know first-hand how to live! And the little things you do all day long, the in-and-outs of daily life, are the substance of greatness.

Mommyhood. It is something very powerful and sacred. To be there for. To be there for. Nothing we could ever do on this earth could compare to the noble influence we create by being a good and present mother. That impact will be felt generation after generation after generation . . . long after we are gone.

Do something important to change the world! Be a good mommy.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Homeschool Prom! Our 9th Annual

May I have this dance?

Emily, Julianna, and Louisa
My 3 daughters all ready for the Homeschool Prom!
Louisa is not yet 14, so she is going to serve refreshments.

Hey, we've really been at this—putting on Homeschool Promsfor 9 years in a row! Sort of surprised me to realize that. Life is what happens while you are making other plans, I guess. And I am really glad that this little bit of life found its way into our plans, because it has been such a fun tradition as my homeschooling kids have grown up. They looked forward to it, counted years until they turned 14 so they could dance too, designed and helped sew their formal dresses, schemed on dance themes and refreshments, listened to and chose appropriate music. It has been a great family project every year!

The thing I like most about Prom is watching the teens dance. It just makes me smile to see all these good, wholesome, modestly-dressed teenagers having a fabulous time with each other!

Girls dance with girls, boys dance with girls, boys ask girls, girls ask boys, nobody brings a date: it's great!

Come on, let's dance!

My daughter Julianna and my son Mark
show the teens how to do the "Stroll"

Wow, look at 'em go!
These were the two final couples from the Twist Contest,
showing off their best stuff!

Everybody likes doing the line dances!

Go, Ammon! The Bunny Hop!

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