Smile for the Joy of Others

Smile for the Joy of Others

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Recent Reading Adventure

Reconstructing Amelia. * * * * * (5 Stars)

Wow! This book. If you weren't aware of high school bullying, high school social classes and peer pressures most of us were most likely never exposed to, this book will be an eye opener.

Firstly, let me put out some disclaimers here: This book is full of strong, foul language. There is a lesbian relationship with details (some of which I think could have been left out). This book exposes bullying to the extreme, so some of the content may be disturbing to some. This book exposes the lack of respect for authority. Also exposed is the lack of awareness parents have in regards to their children's social life, media life and academic life.

While I don't make it a habit and I'm not drawn to books with such foul language, I do believe the author included this as a way to expose how teens talk to each other and authority. And sadly, it's true. There has been such an increase of disregard to authority and the abundance of disrespect displayed it's staggering.

In Reconstructing Amelia, Kate is a single a mother rearing Amelia. Kate is an attorney at a prestigious law firm in New York and pays high tuition for Amelia to attend a prestigious academy. However, in spite of the family dynamics of an overworked mother who leaves her daughter home alone most of the days, Amelia is a good student and a good daughter. However, she quickly became wrapped up in a social clique and became a good girl who was targeted thus leading Amelia to make bad choices.

Kate was at work when she received a phone call that Amelia had been suspended for cheating on a paper and Kate needed to come pick her up immediately. Kate was later than she had planned to pick up Amelia and when she walked up to the school, she walked up to find her daughter dead. Amelia had jumped off the school's roof. Or had she? When Kate returned to work after her sabbatical to grieve Amelia's death, she received an anonymous text from a blocked number "Amelia didn't jump". This text takes the reader on a journey full of twists and anticipation to finding the truth behind Amelia's death. And in finding the truth, the world of high school social life is exposed.

I can't say that the book is well written. It's a debut for Kimberly McCreight. But the plot is one full of twists and suspense. The plot is entertaining in regards to reading. But sadly, the plot is very real in regards to teen/high school social life. And for that reason, is why I would encourage parents to read it. This was a book I chose for our book club. Two of the women said they couldn't finish because it hit too close to home with some issues they had had with their children. They were most respectful of the choice and wouldn't discourage others to read it and they both agreed that they need to read it but in due time. I had read several discussions where mothers found this to be a hard book to read because of all the issues it exposes.

When reading this, I felt I was reading an episode of Law & Order SVU. You know the ones where a teen is involved and the detectives just keep uncovering the most twisted of plots in the secret of life the kids involved. Well, this book is much like that.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Parenting vs Screen Time

There are days I could honestly throw our TV, PlayStation, IPads and phones into the lake that's 1/2 a mile from our house. There are days I have a very real guilt for the amount of time I spend on my phone and the amount of time I allow my boys to spend in front of a screen. It's a difficult struggle to balance active play, active family time with screen time.

I find it much easier to park in front of a TV than to plan active family time or non-screen activities, especially, when there are 4 of us with different ideas of what is "fun".

I'm a convinced believer that TV has helped contribute to the breakdown of the family. Well, not the TV itself but the influences TV/media has had on the family. And now, in my lifetime, I can add Smartphone, computer and social media technology to the list of modern influences to the contributing factors.

I'm very well aware that these facets in and of themselves aren't the enemy but we easily and conveniently choose them to entertain us to the point they separate us instead of bringing us together. And in the worst cases, causing heartache and harm to the family.

I wish I had some testimony of how I am able to convince myself and my family to spend less time looking at a screen. But truth is, I don't. I go through sporadic interventions with our boys of cutting back but then we seem to fall back to the old convenient entertainment of screens.
I can attest, though, that my boys exhibit much better behavior and attitudes when they have been detoxed from video games and TV.'s hard and screen/media certainly adds to the pressures and vigilance of trying to do it rightly.

^^^^The above link is an article from Forbes "The Truth About Parenting in a World Full of Screens

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Easy Crockpot Potato Soup

1 30oz. bag of frozen diced hash browns
1 32 oz box of chicken broth
1 can of cream of chicken soup (10 oz)
1 pkg. cream cheese (8 oz, not fat free)
3 oz bacon bits 
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
salt and pepper to taste 

Put the hash browns in the crockpot.  Add in the chicken broth, cream of chicken soup and half of the bacon bits.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper.  
Cook on low for 7-8 hours or until potatoes are tender.  
An hour before serving, cut the cream cheese into small cubes.  Place the cubes in the crock pot.  Mix a few times throughout the hour before serving.  
 Once the cream cheese is completely mixed in, it's ready to serve.  
Top with cheddar cheese and some additional bacon bits.  

**** I've used both frozen shredded and diced hashbrowns.  Both worked the same.  Instead of bacon, I use cubed ham.  And don't use fat free cream cheese.  I know it's tempting so to make it less fattening but it doesn't mix well.  I tried it and it stayed clumpy in the soup.  I also add velveeta cheese to taste to help make it creamier.  And I don't a blended cheese such as casserole blend or Monterey jack.  Cheddar can be a little greasy.  It usually takes less than 7-8 hours.  Just keep checking to see how tender the potatoes are to your liking.

All 3 of my boys love this soup.  So when it's a winner for all 3, it's a keeper. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Neighborhood Libraries

If you recall, you may remember a blog that mentions me making a proposal to our neighborhood's council to install 2 Little Free Libraries in our neighborhood.  I'm excited to announce that Board also approved the idea and we now have 2 Little Libraries.  One is used for children's books and the other is used for adult books. 

A resident graciously purchased one and the other was purchased using homeowner fee money.

You will see the ones that were chosen for our neighborhood.  Though the picks don't show books in there, they are now filled with books. 

This one is placed in the neighborhood park to be used for children's books.

This one was purchased by a resident.  He wanted the classic library.  This is the first version of the Little Free Library. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Christmas, Consumerism and Commercialism

As I watch all the marketing strategies in commercials used to get us to buy more stuff for Christmas, I can't help but wish I had tried something different for our traditions when my children were born.

For the Christian, Christmas is and should be ALL about celebrating and recognizing the birth of our Savior, Christ Jesus. Yet, it's no secret that we've allowed materialism, commercialism to be the spotlight of the year instead. We've adopted this theory that if there are toys or gifts under a Christmas tree, whether put there by Santa or not, then there can't possibly be a Christmas. We've watched an increasing amount of mainstream cartoons and movies highlight a secular cultural theme "save Christmas" by helping Santa get out of some predicament that would otherwise prevent him from delivering toys to the children of the world. Again, that theory of no Santa, no toys equals no Christmas.

Even with good intentions, Christian ministries and churches resonate the same panic by hosting toy drives. "Help the less fortunate have a Merry Christmas"...Donate toys, choose an angel on a tree, purchasing the requested items on the back. I'm not saying these ministries or acts aren't needed or I'll-intended, it's just that they can easily resonate the same secular theory "no gifts equates no Christmas".

So where does my wish play into all of this? I wish I had considered and recognized all these troubling facets that have taken over this season sooner. As I ponder them, I also try to think of solutions that would work for my family. If I could go back, I would consider making the whole Santa effect of surprise gifts happen for my children's birthday instead of Christmas Day. At the time of their bday, we would have a Saturday where they wake up to a plethora of surprise gifts. I would take the energy, money and intent used for Christmas giving and use it at their birthday, instead.
Come Christmas, the energy, intent and money we use for Christmas morning would be used to provide necessities or a service to a less fortunate family.

For our family, I honestly think it would help keep more focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas.
My thoughts are in no way condemning anyone for how you celebrate. These thoughts solely regard my family and my family alone. I do not in any way project my convictions and thoughts upon any else's traditions or convictions.

My hope is that your family will be truly blessed with celebrating Christ's birth and not worried with what is under your tree on Christmas morning.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Cinnamon Bun Cake

This past Saturday, Brother C, the Daddy, and Pappaw went fishing in a nearby lake about 45 minutes away.  Brother C lives for the days he can fish.  Brother B on the other hand doesn't have much interest in fishing.  So, he and I decided it was as good a time as any to try a new recipe. 

Let me introduce you to the newest cake added to our recipes. Cinnamon Bun Cake, it's, oh so very rich but worth it...add in a glass of milk and it's melt in your mouth heavenly!

3 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 c sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 c milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c butter, melted

1 c butter, softened
1 c brown sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cinnamon

2 c icing sugar
5 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking pan (buttered).

Mix all of the base ingredients together, with the exception of the butter.  Add the melted butter last, and then pour into your prepared pan,

Mix all of the topping ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Mix well.  Drop by teaspoonful over the base, as evenly as you can over the entire base.  Take a butter knife and swirl the topping into the base.  Pop into the oven and bake for 28-30 minutes.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze and set aside.

Remove from oven and glaze the cake while still warm.

***I cannot take credit for creating the recipe.  I found it on Pinterest so the source is unknown to me.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Back Among the Living

To my minimal followers, you can tell I've been absent from my blog.  The following blog may be "too much information" for some.  You've been forewarned.

Well, I actually have a better reason than just failing to blog.  November 7th, I had surgery.  I finally had a long awaited hysterectomy along with some other issues dealt with.

For the past 4 years of my annual pap smears, they have all come back abnormal.  And during those four years my periods have become increasingly worse with severe cramping.  (I'll just leave it at that).  And within the past 2 years, my C-section scar had begun to stretch vertically causing pain, inflammation and bleeding under the skin. 

My GYN has been offering to do a hysterectomy or other procedures during these past few years to help correct the bleeding issue but after the 4th abnormal pap smear, he highly recommended a hysterectomy.  "It's best to do the hysterectomy now before we are dealing with more than just 'abnormal' pap smears."  And I fully agreed.  However, there were issues that prevented the routine hysterectomy.  Scar tissue from my C-section had attached itself to my uterus. This is what was causing the issues with my scar. It had gotten to where if I did any length of walking or mild exercising, it would become inflamed and blood to pool under the skin.  The scar tissue was being pulled and, yes, I could feel it. I didn't know what it was but I knew it hurt, kind of like sharp pains. 

In order to fix this, my C-section scar was going to have to be completely removed and then the tissue under it was going to have to be cut out and removed from my uterus before they could remove it.  And then I would have to be closed back up making a new scar. 

Because of my C-section and the size my stomach became carrying twins to a full 37 weeks, my abdomen was a wreck with rolls over my C-section scar.  These rolls had to be removed in order to make the new scar and to successfully remove the scar tissue for the uterus to be removed.

My GYN told me he could do this but that I might want to seek the opinion of a plastic surgeon.  I was so very appreciate of my GYN being honest with me.  "We GYN's are the one who made the C-section scar, we don't have much training in removing them and dealing with all the scar tissue.  I've done it before and I can do it again. But if you would like the opinion of a PS, I'd support you on this."  To which I took his suggestions.  After consulting with the PS, he read and talked to my GYN and agreed that he would be best at fixing the scar, removing the scar tissue and fixing me a new scar. 

So the surgery went as follows:  My GYN wanted the PS to open me up.  The PS then shaved and cut away the scar tissue and removed what needed to be removed in order for my GYN to do the hysterectomy.  What happened next is a confirmation that getting the PS to do this was the right choice.  His skills were so good that he was able to remove the scar tissue from the uterus so precisely that my GYN was able to remove my uterus laproscopically.  It was questionable going into it if that would be possible or if it would have to be removed abdominally.  This is one reason my GYN suggested the possibility of a PS dealing with the scar tissue. 

My GYN removed my cervix, uterus and tubes.  (I'll explain the tubes later in a following paragraph.) After my GYN did his thing, the PS removed my C-section scar and then had to repair the muscles and other tissue that had been cut from removing the scar tissue.  He did remove the lower "roll" of my stomach to aid in making a better scar.  One issue that had been a possibility that I had hoped wouldn't be was having to move my belly button.  It did, in fact, have to be moved.  With the amount of scar tissue that had to be removed, which had also attached itself to my umbilical tissue, he felt removing it and replacing it would prevent a future umbilical hernia.  Yet, another reason I'm grateful I sought a PS to do this.  When researching the option of a PS doing all this, I had read several testimonies of umbilical hernias happening if it wasn't done correctly.  This gave me more confidence in my GYN...I guess in the years he's been doing this, his experience with outcomes was valuable. 

So, with all that done, my recovery has been harder, longer and slower than a routine hysterectomy.  Not that a routine hysterectomy is an easy surgery required more than a conventional approach to a hysterectomy. 

If you have had hysterectomy, you may not have had your tubes removed.  Keeping your tubes was the standard if there was no reason to remove them.  That's not the case these days.  My GYN had already planned to remove my tubes, especially if they were damaged from the scar tissue but also because he does this with the routine hysterectomy.  He said that in the recent years, studies have shown that ovarian cancer may actually start in the fallopian tubes so removing them has shown fewer cases of ovarian cancer.  But this doesn't come without a trade off.  Removing the tubes can cause ovarian failure because it cuts off the blood supply to the ovaries.  There is a high chance that I will go into early menopause.  I guess early menopause is a better case than ovarian cancer.  Removing my tubes would have most likely been the case anyway just due to the damage they had from the scar tissue wrapping around them. 

There you have it.  This has been the reason for my absence the past month.  I have a one month post op appointment with my PS next Monday.  At my one week post op, I had my drain tubes removed and he was very pleased with my progress.  I already feel better without the sharp pains shooting through my lower abdomen.  While I have pain from the surgery, the sharp pains aren't there anymore.  And the best thing....neither are my periods!!!  This is the best aspect of this surgery.

And I can't end this blog without mentioning God's humor...I started my period the day of my surgery.  It made for a great laugh when going into surgery.