Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Lord Giveth....a DNA story with a happy beginning

A picture from the first day we met in
person, with the heart rock she gifted me
I've been wanting to write about this for a few months now. I've had to give myself some time to wrap my head around it all first. It's not anything I really expected to happen, but maybe in the back of my mind I hoped for it without allowing myself to dwell on it.

Most everyone who's been here knows that I lost my little sister 4 years ago. It's been a struggle since then to be an only child. Lonely. Funny to say that, you wouldn't think it, since I have such a large family with my husband and children. But it's true. I lost the person who grew up with me. Someone I spoke to often, even when we didn't always agree. National sibling day on social media only made it worse,  and holidays were a sore reminder of what was missing.

I knew that there was a possibility of having other siblings out there from my biological father. I didn't know him well. Visitation stopped when I was 4, likely because he was a severe alcoholic and ended up homeless now and then. I met him once when I was 11, while in foster-care, when he came to court to help my mom try to regain custody of me. The visit lasted maybe an hour, and I vaguely remember he mentioned 2 younger sisters. I didn't have any other information though. I did try to track him down once I was an adult, but wasn't successful and he passed away in 2005, which stopped me finding out anymore. I figured that door was closed permanently.

Our father in about 1980
Fast-forward to this past summer, when on a whim, I decided to jump on the DNA testing bandwagon with my husband for Amazon Prime Day and ordered tests for each of us from both Ancestry DNA and from 23andme. Once the tests came, I figured I'd learn some health info on the 23andme and maybe track down some relatives and learn about my heritage. Ancestry.com didn't pan out on tracking anyone who knew my father down, and that was the one I pinned most of my hopes on, since it was the one I'd heard most about.

By the end of August, I finally got my results from 23andme. There, at the top of my DNA relatives, caught my attention and made me catch my breath. Half Sibling. I don't know how long I stared at it before it fully registered. WHAT?! Was this real? Could this be real? A sister. I had a sister. Her name was right there. Dayna. It gave her last name too, and it wasn't a common one.

I don't know how other people would've handled this, but I did the most stalker-y thing I've ever done and looked her up on Facebook. There was only one person who came up with her name, and she lived in the same state as me! I went through pictures, looked for a resemblance, looked at her family members, pictures of her life, and then when that checked out as being a normal, non-psycho looking person, I sent her a message on 23andme.com and I waited. And I waited. And I waited. A few days later, when talking to my aunt about my discovery, and my hurt and embarrassment that I hadn't gotten a response, she encouraged me to send a message on Facebook, saying maybe my newfound sibling hadn't seen my message. So I gathered up my courage, set aside my pride and did exactly that.

"I hope this isn't uncomfortable or weird, but I'm wondering if you're the same Dayna..... who came up on my 23andme DNA relation match. I won't bother you again, but if you're open to a conversation, I'm here. πŸ™‚"

And then I waited some more. I got a response the next day:

Dayna.... accepted your request.
Dayna Kinzel
That's me πŸ™‚
Who are your parents?
Nellie
(Information removed for privacy)
Dayna Kinzel
Omg!!
Seriously!
We are sisters!!!
Are you serious?
Nellie
I am very serious
Dayna Kinzel

Nellie








We spent a lot of time over the next several days messaging, then talking on the phone and then eventually setting up a visit. I was excited, terrified, hopeful, fearful.....We learned we'd grown up in much the same way. Both of us had been in foster-care. Both had difficult childhoods we'd overcome. Both were married with children. The more we learned, the more we wanted to know. And we very quickly came to love one another.

She's better at expressing her emotions, I think. I can do that in writing, but when my emotions are that caught up and strong, I have a harder time, due to fear of being hurt. But when she went with me to a procedure I had in September, the anesthesia took out my inhibitions and opened the floodgates as I came out of it.

I woke up crying and apparently told her how happy I was that I wasn't alone anymore and how much I loved her, as well as how excited I was to be an aunt to her children and how scared I was they wouldn't like me. I did this all while clutching her hand.......Yeah....I put it all out there. Which she said she loved and appreciated because it made her feel more secure that she wasn't the only one invested.

Dayna knew of my existence, though didn't know my name or much else. She had more time getting to know our father, though not a whole lot. She took the test before I did, hoping that after 10 years of searching, hoping and waiting, that something might turn up. She said she lost hope after a while of getting nowhere and finally set it aside. Until the day I messaged her.

First family gathering together for one of my daughter's birthdays
We want to find out more together, and maybe there's a possibility of us finding the other siblings out there. She says she's pretty sure we have 2 brothers and one other sister. But we don't have much info to go off of, and they haven't come up on the DNA tests we took.

We've spent time with our families together, gone to each other's children's birthday's, started a new Christmas tradition in painting ornaments together, and even had Christmas dinner together! I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for this major blessing in my life. I have wonderful friends, and amazing family. But to have a sister, to have that relationship possible again after I thought it was gone forever.....I'm so humbled. I'm so looking forward to building this relationship with her and her family. We've had a great beginning and I'm hopeful of our future!



Tuesday, June 27, 2017

That moment you realize you know nothing at all

This post is a long time coming. It's been one I've been thinking about, but wasn't quite sure how much to share. I'm a pretty private person. Funny, right? I have a blog here, I've shared so much already, but when it comes to the details of my immediate family, I always struggle with what I'm okay with sharing, and what they're okay with me sharing. I've said I want to help people, but really, I'm struggling in finding my own way, so what help can I really be?

Have I mentioned parenting is hard? I have children ranging in age from 19 down to 4. With six kids, you'd think I'd be a pro by now. You'd be wrong. I have no idea what the heck I'm doing here! And the stress! Who knew that I'd lay in bed at night and over-analyze every single detail of every choice I'm making with each kid, and how that may have shaped them to become who they are and influence what they're choosing to do now?

I remember a day--and please don't judge me too harshly if you already know better (I was pretty blissfully ignorant back then)--when I was talking to a friend about raising kids, and how I took the job so seriously because literally who they became was based on how I raised them. Then I went on to say that if my kids grew up making wrong choices which made their lives a mess, that it would be my fault for not teaching them the right things. This ideal on the surface may seem sound to some, as it did to me then, but it really is flawed. I've been learning this the hard way, repeatedly. It's so much more than that.

Kids have their own minds, their own spirits, their own way of making sense of things and their own free will. Sure, we as parents can influence some of that, but we're far from the only influence, especially in this day and age. We don't have control of all they see, hear, think, or believe. We can try to limit certain things, and push others, but really, we have no control over so many other factors in the world. None. At all.

One of my children, who was once so hopeful, so inspired and inspiring, has taken those extra things and viewed the world in such a dark, meaningless way. As a consequence of several choices made, starting a few years ago with small ones and going on from there, he is no longer sure what he should believe, think or feel about anything. I see the struggle in the daily choices, the consequences of the bad ones, the hopelessness and that lost feeling that increases day by day. And no matter what I say, no matter what I do, no matter how I pray, I can't seem to break through and change what's happening. I'm watching my child struggle to even find purpose, meaning and love for life. It's agonizing. I can't fix it.

I've spent more nights than I care to remember, getting up in the middle of the night to make sure he's still breathing. I've cried more tears and begged and bargained with God to the point of being physically ill. I've spent moments almost crippled by fear of saying/doing/or even thinking the wrong things and making it all worse. A month ago, I spent a few hours talking my child down from a building. Literally. What am I doing?!

And without meaning to, or wanting to, I fear what people would think of me if they knew how much I really am struggling here. Many of those who know anything of what's going on, I'm sure think we must've done something wrong. We must've failed our child in some way. God knows I find myself thinking this very thing. I just don't know.

I find myself wondering how much of this hopelessness stems from choices he made, and how much comes from the genetic predisposition he was given for depression? Depression is real. It is ugly. It is terrifying. It lacks in sense and it is obstinate.

Looking from the outside, I see someone smart in all the ways I wished I were. I see talent. I see a beautiful heart. I see so many possibilities. I try to encourage, to guide, to advise. It does nothing. Because all he sees in the mirror is someone worthless. A "dumb ass", to quote him exactly.  Hearing that pierced my being in ways I can't begin to describe.

And I'm fighting against the world here. The world says whether or not you have worth, and our children believe that determination. The world says there's no harm in sharing everything you've got if you want to find out who you really are and if you've got potential, and then it tears you down with those very intimate details you shared. It tells you that the things which bind you with another person are no big deal and can and should be explored with whomever, whenever. All this so it can tear you down when you eventually don't measure up to impossible and changing standards.

And who am I to compete? I'm just me. I thought my voice would count because it's been there longest. I thought my opinion would count more because it's the most informed, and it comes from a good place. But it appears this isn't the case. How do I get through that louder, more prominent voice and say that YOU are the one who determines YOUR own future? YOU decide who YOU are. And God is the only important judge to measure yourself by, and He's always willing to forgive and guide you to make changes.

So what do I do? I wake up everyday, I keep trying to break through that dark cloud, I keep reading, researching and trying to learn more. I keep putting resources out in front of him. But ultimately, it's up to him, and all I can do is pray.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's About to Get Real

I know it's been a really long time since I've written. I've been trying to get my life back on track, which, I'll be honest, hasn't been easy. I was really shaken with the death of my sister in July, 2013. I thought I was doing okay, but a year later, when the fog cleared from my mind (that's the best way I can describe it), I realized I'd been on autopilot for that whole time.

When I "woke up" I could see how much I'd been missing in what was happening around me. It's hard for me to admit publicly that I wasn't holding things together as well as I wanted to believe I was. I believed I was broken. I thought I would never again feel okay, but I did my best to fake it because I had a family to take care of, and they needed me to be okay.

I pulled back from the world. I stayed home most of the time because that was easiest. I wanted my family to be home with me too, which really, wasn't fair to them, but they complied quite easily most of the time. They were and are the most important part of my life (outside of God) and I wanted the comfort they gave me. Unfortunately, they weren't getting the full part of me at home either though. Really, when you're on auto-pilot, you miss a lot. I missed a lot.

When that fog cleared, and I suddenly felt more aware, alert to what was happening in the world around me, I was ecstatic! I wasn't broken! I could be happy again! I felt hope again! The pain is still there, and always will be. I love my sister. I miss her. But I can see that I still have so much to be thankful for in my life. And I know my sister is in a better place.



That suddenly clarity wasn't all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns though. I realized how far I'd let things go around me. My preschooler had been coloring on the furniture, the walls, you name it. And while I knew it was happening, and took the things from her when I caught her, I did little to prevent it further and rarely cleaned it up. My once relatively clean and organized home (as clean as it can be with 8 people living here!) was the most cluttered, disorganized, out of sorts as I've ever let anything get (let's just say I once was OCD about the shape of my house, and while having so many kids relaxed me, I was still very much into keeping things in the kind of order that wouldn't make everyone completely insane, but was very comfortable and wouldn't scare away company! Haha!) I won't even get started on the shape of my yard! Ugh!

Besides the shape of my house, more importantly, there was also the emotional well-being of my children I needed to address, and the relationship with my husband. They got use to the new me (foggier, reclusive, less active....well, you get the gist of it).  They didn't want to burden me with their problems. And now that I was awake and wanted to jump back in, that took some adjusting to get back on track. It also took some convincing that I could handle whatever they threw at me! Something they'd never doubted before this tragedy.

It hasn't been easy to jump back into being social either. A lot of times I feel really awkward in a group, but I never regret getting out there. Being a recluse for that long is a hard habit to break though! I'm working on it....

Grief is a strange thing. I'd thought I could get through it in the same ways I've had to before. I'm not a stranger to loss. I've lost a lot, as so many have, really. But the hardest loss was my baby sister. That went beyond any pain I'd felt ever. I'd heard it would take time, but when days, weeks, months passed and I wasn't able to bounce back the way I'd been able to in the past, and eventually I was sure I never would. Oh ye of little faith......

Ultimately it was God who woke me up. I recognize His hand in so many things that made me keep going. He didn't go easy on me, He knew what I needed to get through this and He never abandoned me, even though at times I thought for sure He had. He knew I had to keep moving to move forward, and I was a resistant, stubborn,
pain in the butt at times, I'm sure!

I'm having such life-changing, faith-affirming revelations as a result of the trials of the last two years. One of those is that these are the things that make us who we are. These are the things that draw us closer together. These are the things we learn most from and help us grow.

So while I can't promise to be here daily, I can say I will try to do better. Writing has always be therapeutic for me, and I've always loved sharing what I learn in life, so there are two great reasons to be here!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Should we stay or should we go?

We built our house 9 years ago. It's a modest house in our neighborhood at just over 2600 sq ft, but it's nice (in my humble opinion). We chose the lot, the options and did all the landscaping ourselves so the attachment here is real.

We have just under half an acre for our yard, which has allowed us to put in a nice play set for our children, a covered patio, a chicken coop, fire pit area, an enormous garden and we still have room to grow.

When we moved here, settled in and got to know our neighbors, I decided I could live the rest of my life here, I love it that much. What's the problem? We have a four bedroom house and we're eight people. Could we make it work? Sure we could, but it's crowded sometimes, and even more so when we have houseguests--which we do from time to time.

Right now we have our four girls paired up in two rooms and our oldest son has his own room (the smallest room of them all), and that leaves the baby in our room with us. It's working for now, but ideally, I'd like our little guy to move out of our room....I'm sure you can imagine multiple reasons why!

Right now, there's no space to move the baby to though and this has us contemplating selling our house and buying a bigger one. The very mention of this has differing reactions from our children--one being excited at the prospect of her own room, two freaking out at the idea of not having their best friends just a few doors down, some refusing to change schools no matter what enticement we may find.....They have only agreed to look into the idea with us if we stay close by. Honestly though, we'd like to stay in the area since the schools here are top-notch.
A view of the last half of our back yard. We have nothing behind us but the nature conservancy.
One problem is that our mortgage here is over $100,000 less than the houses in our area with our size requirements for house and yard (hoping for 6 bedrooms, 2+ bathrooms, a basement--which we do not have here--and at least 1/3 acre). We really don't want to go from having an enormous yard with plenty of playroom and a bountiful garden, to having a tiny space with a few little garden boxes!


We have a few garden boxes for our sage, onions, potatoes, garlic and we also moved some of our raspberries this year.

These pictures are from shortly after we planted our garden at the end of May.
This shows the plastic mulch we use to keep the weeds under control. The plants do very well with it.



We've had conflicting opinions from realtors about the value of our home, two of them telling us to list it for significantly less than some competing properties. Funny enough, several of the ones they email me to pique my interest are comparable to what we have now and they cost quite a bit more! Ugh!

We have some debt (yuck, I know) that we want to pay off, and so we don't want to sell with a realtor if it means we can't pay off those debts and have a down payment for another home. But I'm hearing conflicting opinions about how hard it is to sell a house on your own. But if we do this, we can ask for a lower price, pay off what we want, do it on our own timeline......It's all just so overwhelming!

I wish I knew some expert that we could trust in helping us in the right direction, but those seem to be in short supply just now. Pretty much we've just about decided to spend the next year de-cluttering, re-painting, cleaning carpets, etc. and then possibly listing around May of next year. We're not sure if that's the right decision, but we aren't going to rush into something that doesn't feel good.

We shall see, I suppose. Any ideas or experiences here would really be greatly appreciated. :)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentines are Not Trophies

I saw this story in my newsfeed on Facebook. It was a teacher under fire for sending home a letter to parents instructing them to make sure their child brings a Valentine for every child in the class if they chose to participate in the passing out of Valentines. Funny enough, people thought this was outrageous. Some even likened it to receiving participation trophies for kids' sports. Some were talking about how this teacher needed to help prepare these children for the real world. Perhaps I should mention that this teacher is a kindergarten teacher. What does a 5 year old need to learn by not receiving Valentines cards?

This wasn't the first time I heard this sentiment though. I was surprised to read it on the Matt Walsh Blog too:
"I still have my pity-trophy, it’s right up there on my pity-mantle, next to my pity-game ball and the mandatory Valentine’s cards I only received because elementary school rules required every child to give one to every other child."
He had me agreeing with most of what he said until that point. Because I'm trying to see what trophies have to do with kids receiving Valentines along with every other child on Valentine's Day. I wasn't aware it was an award. Did these children do something special to deserve these Valentines?

Honestly, I'd always thought of Valentine's celebrations at school as being much like another trick-or-treat or reason to have a fun party. But let's say it's not. Let's say these cards and little candies that the children pass out during school hours are awards and they should be earned. What, then, makes a child unworthy to receive one? Are they not pretty or handsome enough? Do they not dress well enough? Do they need to bathe more often? Are they not rich enough?

In all my school years it was always said by the teacher that all students should receive a Valentine from students who chose to bring them. It made some of my elementary years more bearable, because the students actually listened. I'm sure that in grades 3-5 that had that not been the rule, I'd have gone home feeling even more worthless than usual on that day. Why? Because I was bullied. Many of the kids didn't like me. I wasn't like them. I didn't go to church. I smelled like cigarettes. I dressed myself. I did my own hair (and not very well, I might add) and I lived in a trailer park. People called me "Smelly Nellie" and "trailer trash" among other things, they'd actually follow me around the school yard to do it.

Every morning I would wake up to my alarm clock, force myself to get ready for school and to walk to where I knew people were going to be mean to me. How did I handle it? I laughed. I acted like I didn't care and then I went home and cried my eyes out on the particularly bad days. But Valentine's Day was a good day. I was treated, miraculously enough, like anyone else. I got to take home my Valentines and show my mom and sister and feel like everyone else for a day.

What can be so terrible about what this teacher asked? None of these children earned any of those Valentines. It's just an excuse to have a little fun and celebrate. If every student in elementary doesn't get one, then none of them should. Valentines in school has nothing to do with accomplishment and everything to do with fun, and perhaps a little about teaching them about love and friendship.

Are people seriously advocating leaving children out of this? For what purpose? Is giving them a Valentine somehow going to leave them ill-equipped for the real world? I highly doubt it. But leaving them out feels a lot like bullying. For teachers to not make this rule in their classroom seems wrong to me. What is right about allowing a child to be left out of the passing of Valentines? How is that going to strengthen their character or teach them good lessons?

You may be surprised to learn that I don't believe in rewarding children for nothing. We don't go for the participation trophies here. We encourage our children to work hard and to do their best. If they win, fantastic! If they don't, hopefully they did their best and learned something and will do better next time. But we don't want them receiving what they didn't earn. We want them to be prepared for the work it takes to make it in the real world.

But Valentine's Day has nothing to do with this. And once these kids hit Junior High and High School, they get to choose whom receives their Valentines gifts and they understand the deeper meaning behind those gifts. In elementary they don't yet understand this, and they don't need to. They're children. I think there are already too many ways some children are ostracized. There's no need to provide one more way. If they want to do an extra special Valentine for their very good friends, by all means, let them do it, but don't encourage them to be mean and leave someone out because they don't like the way they dress, smell, talk, etc. This doesn't teach them anything valuable.

Just my two cents. Happy Valentine's Day! :)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Great Deal for those Xbox Fans

We love our Xbox 360 and use it everyday. It's not just for gaming. We use it for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant, etc. We'd be lost without it and it's made our cut from cable/satellite much easier.

One thing that makes it do so much for us, and enhances all those Call of Duty games my husband and oldest son like to play online, is the Live membership. It usually runs about $60 a year, but I can almost always find it for less on Amazon (another reason I'm an Amazon Junkie!). Today I got an email from Amazon saying that the 12 Month Xbox Live Membership is discounted $20 today until February 1 (which is this Saturday) or while supplies last, making it $39.99! This is an awesome deal and one you'll rarely find! This deal is for the online code only (which works perfectly).

Just thought I'd share it! Tell your friends :)

Friday, January 17, 2014

What Happened to Honesty in Business?

Maybe I'm naΓ―ve to think that it ever existed, but I'm sure there must've been a time when people didn't try to cheat each other--when they actually did what they were supposed to do and didn't try to hide a mistake when they made one. I've had multiple bad experiences throughout my life with unscrupulous people, but I've still, somehow against all odds, managed to stay optimistic.

I loath dishonesty in people. I try to live by the motto: Treat others the way you want to be treated. I'm not going to say that I'm perfect. Certainly, I'm not. But I work hard to be a good person. I teach my children the same thing. And most days, I guess I think most people are trying just as hard. But this past week, well, I'm losing faith fast!

We took our SUV into Les Schwab a few months ago for flat repair. We waited quite a while, about half an hour longer than they said it'd be, and then when they gave us our keys back, they said it was on the house. We were pleasantly surprised and figured it was because of the long wait. We thanked them and they said to just keep them in mind when we were in the market for new tires (which were getting close. These are the only words exchanged.

This is what the stem looked like with their cover.


This is what we found under that cover. The stem is broken.
A few weeks later we started losing air in the tires again, so Tony went to fill them up with his air compressor. One of the stems was broken on a tire that Les Schwab had repaired, it had been covered by one of their valve covers and we'd never noticed. Tony was unable to put air in it because part of the stem is broken off.. He told me to call them about it, to see if they'd fix it. I should have, but I didn't.

Why didn't I call? Well, I've been working on getting out of bed in the morning. Putting one foot in front of the other. Keeping my children fed. Working hard to not about what I lost. Trying not to cry daily. Tying to keep track of appointments. Trying to focus and concentrate, because for whatever reason, my brain feels all out of whack.

Basically, it's taken everything in me to just do the basics. Everything extra has gone out the window. I'm working on it. Trying to get better. I think I've improved because my daughter Ashlyn said to me last week, "Mom, what happened?" I asked what did she mean. She said, "You look happy again." I was stunned. I didn't know what to say. I felt awful that she'd noticed I wasn't feeling myself before. I thought I'd done better at trying to be normal.

Anyway, I didn't call. I didn't want to deal with it. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal anyway, since we were soon getting new tires. Well, turns out it's a big deal after all, because that stem has a sensor in it and that sensor runs from $60-$80! We just found this out on Saturday. So I girded up my loins (I can say that, right?) and told Tony we needed to go in there and talk to them about this. Thus began my disillusionment with this business.

The technician had put it in the notes that the stem was already broken before we brought it in and that they'd talked to us about this before we left the store. Really? When? No such discussion took place. They "repaired" our flat, gave it to us for "free" and sent us on our way with a smile.
This is what the covers look like on all our other tires.
It's also what our cover looked like before our visit.

This is what the stems look like on all our other tires.

It's their cap on the stem. My husband had filled it before we even went in there, so we KNOW it wasn't broken then and that it had been our valve cap on there beforehand. A few weeks later, boom! It's broken underneath their cap, instead of the one that is identical to all our other caps on our other 3 tires (I wonder what they did with our cap? I'm guessing they didn't put it back on because it wouldn't fit on after he broke it....). When we showed the manager our stem, he said he couldn't believe they would let us out of the shop like that--with a broken stem and the cap shoved on there like that. He said he would talk to his tech and get back to us on Monday.

Well, Monday came and went. Tuesday came and went. Wednes....well, you get my point. So I called them today and asked what the decision was going to be. He said his tech insists it was already broken or that it was more severely broken after we left the shop over the last few months. He said that if it had happened at the shop, they wouldn't have let us leave like that. Well, they did! The cap should prove it, if nothing else. It's their cap!

Our ownership in this mess is that should have checked the work before we left the premises. Also, we should've brought it to their attention when we caught it. I can't keep letting my emotions get in the way of my responsibilities. I'll admit those mistakes. Had they said that the length of time was the reason for not replacing it, I'd have had to accept that. But this was an outright lie!

I told the manager that I understood that he didn't know us personally, and he wasn't there when this all occurred, so he has no reason to trust us. But I told him, "I know that we don't lie. I know that we're honest people. And I KNOW 100% that when we brought our car to you, our stem wasn't broken." He offered to give us the part at cost. I have to accept that. It's better than nothing. But it still gets to me. I'm not upset at the manager really. But that technician....well, that's another story. I hope he learns the value of honesty. I won't hold my breath.

I guess the best we can get out of this is that we know to not take our business there anymore.....

Friday, December 6, 2013

Make your own bean dip!

All ready to eat my chip with my homemade dip!
One of the things I stopped buying when the economy tanked was bean dip. That probably sounds funny to some of you, but really it was too expensive and went too fast for me to justify it to myself. We could quickly go through a can of Fritos Bean Dip in one sitting, along with half a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. I have to say I missed that dip, and Doritos just weren't the same without it and I rarely ate them because of that.

A few days ago it hit me: I make my own honey butter, garlic butter spread (to make garlic bread and grilled cheese sandwiches) and frosting--all things I once bought from the store without much thought. I figured out how to make those things because it was cheaper and often tastier to do them myself. So why couldn't I make my own bean dip?

I did what I do best and scoured the internet for a recipe that would taste just like the Fritos one (because you could say I'm a bit picky). I found a recipe on a site called Eat Cake for Dinner that I decided to try. It calls for a 16 oz can of refried beans, sliced jalapenos, some of the brine, paprika, cayenne (red) pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and sugar.

I keep most of these things as staples in my pantry, so I only had to go buy cayenne pepper and jalapenos from the store to give it a try. The main reason I didn't hesitate to try it was because it sounded so easy! I only had to put all the ingredients in the food processer.

The recipe is as follows:
1 (16 oz.) can refried beans 
5 slices bottled jalapenos 
1 1/2 Tbl. brine from bottled jalapenos
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 + 1/8 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

I put all of the ingredients in my little kitchenaide chopper on the puree setting and ran it until it was smooth. Then I scooped it all into a storage bowl. We did try it after only about 30 minutes in the fridge. I prefer it colder than that and liked it better after it'd been in the fridge overnight. 

I think I'll make some tweaks to it to make it less spicy (I no longer have a gall bladder and spiciness is a luxury my body can no longer afford! Haha!). Next time I'll cut it down to 3  jalapenos and keep the brine the same. It only calls for 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper, so I don't know if I'd cut that the second time I make it. I think I'll try cutting down the jalapenos first and see. Not that it's super hot as it is, but it is spicier than the Fritos dip as I remember it. So if you like spicy things, you can leave it as it is. I like a little spice, but I don't want anything burning after I've swallowed it. :)

Overall, I think it was a hit. Both my hubby and my oldest son couldn't stay out of it. It's cheap though, so for once it didn't panic me to see it disappearing so fast!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I think I just may be a scrooge

My 9 year old daughter came home from school this week and asked me if we could do "Elf on the shelf." Had she asked me this last year at this time, I'd have been clueless to what she was talking about! But in this day and age of the internet and Facebook, I've come to find out what this game is. Apparently parents buy a toy elf and move him around to let their children know that he is watching them before Christmas for Santa Claus (at least that's how I understand it, so please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

Some parents make the game more simple in having this elf move from one shelf to another, or even from room to room. Some parents get more elaborate and have their elves get into mischief (i.e. making messes around the house that the elf supposedly did while everyone was sleeping). I, for one, have enough messes to clean up without getting into anything like that! Hah!

I looked my daughter straight in the eyes and said, "No, I'm never doing that. Sorry." I'm sure all her childhood dreams were subsequently crushed and she'll need years of therapy to make up for this deprivation. I did go on to tell her that while I think it's a fun game for some families to play, with six children, and being the primary one responsible for researching and grabbing all the good deals for Christmas online (which takes quite a bit of research!), I just don't have the time or the desire to start this game.

I should probably note that my 9 year old doesn't believe in Santa anymore. Before you think I'm terrible, I'll say that while I love the idea of Santa Claus and we do play along with the fantasy with our children when they're young, we also have the "Honesy when asked" policy. So when she came to us last year and said she wasn't sure she believed anymore, I asked her if she was sure she wanted to believe anything other than what she knew about Santa being real. She said she really wanted to know, so my husband and I told her about the history of St. Nicholas and how the idea of him lives on in Santa Claus. She thought this was great!

Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking this year. I think in some ways some people might think I've become a bit of a miser when it comes to Christmas. I just hate what it's becoming. I remember when I was little and we had next to nothing sometimes, that it didn't really matter what I got, I just remember the time spent with those I love. Now it's all about who can get the best gadgets and gizmoes. It's all about taking away yet another holiday from workers and opening businesses on Thanksgiving so people can fight, push and shove on a day we profess to be thankful for what we already have (this is a favored holiday of mine) and it just goes on from there.

Early in my adulthood, I did try Black Friday at Walmart a few times, but the last time I did people were crashing their carts repeatedly into my heals, pushing me out of the way to get to something first and one man was even deteremined that he wanted to get into a fist fight with my husband because we walked around him while he was looking at movies in the aisle! We didn't butt in a line, we didn't shove him, we just pushed our cart quickly around him so as not to block his view for long so we could make it to the other side of the store and the bathroom for our toddler at the time. Yeah! That's what Christmas is all about! And from the news articles and YouTube videos I've seen, this seems to be the accepted norm.

After those experiences, I tried waiting to shop until the week of Christmas. Then I started doing all of our shopping online several years ago, so as to minimize the amount of time we have to spend out in the crazy stores. That's just not my thing! I really don't care about this stuff. You can't take it with you and most of it's forgotten in a month anyway. That's not to say that I don't enjoy finding gifts for my children that I think they would genuinely enjoy. I do. But in moderation, so they appreciate it when they get it.

I also don't do much by way of decorating. I hate heights. I get severe vertigo so you will never catch me attempting to hang the lights on the house. My husband doesn't mind roofs so much (he's used to it in his profession), but he's not that driven to go out there in the freezing cold temperatures to get the lights on the often slippery roof, only to have to do it again to take them all down again in a month. Not only that, but we noticed the jump in our utilities when we had all the lights up and decided it wasn't that big of a deal and we could just do the stockings, tree, wreaths, nic nacs and perhaps the ground decorations outside.

Saying all this out in the open here makes me think I probably sound like a grump. I don't really think I am. But I am practical. We have a very small Christmas budget to stretch out amongst our children here (my husband and I don't even do gifts for each other so as to maximize what we can do for our children) and if I can save money by not doing some of these other things, I will.

We do like to watch Christmas movies starting on Thanksgiving. It's a family thing and we do it several nights a week up to Christmas day with all of our children. We make goodies for our neighbors (though we missed last year because I was so sick with my pregnancy).

We do a Christmas dinner and talk about the nativity and why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Sometimes that's so easy to forget in the commercialism and age of political correctness we live in now. I don't say Happy Holidays. I say Merry Christmas because I'm celebrating Christ. I believe in Him. I'm thankful for Him and I'm not going to belittle or skirt around that and I don't want my children to either. That's not so say that I don't respect those who believe differently from me. I won't ask them to change the wording and ways they celebrate their holidays and expect the same courtesy.

So if that makes me a scrooge, because I know I'm not as much fun as some of these Supermoms out there, then so be it. That's just who I am. :)


Friday, September 13, 2013

When Unspeakable Things Happen

Alix Norman before her murder. You can help her mother here.
I grew up in a small town called Brigham City where I experienced both the good and bad parts of small town life. One good thing I remember had to do with a girl named Chrishell, whom I knew in high school. I saw her as bubbly, happy, easy-going, friendly and non-judgmental--that part was a big one for me, because I'd experience a lot of negative judgement growing up the way I did.

Chrishell always had a huge smile on her face and she was beautiful. She often invited me to go to church, but I never took her up on it, because that was during a time when I had turned my back on God. She never judged me for refusing her. She would just smile her beautiful smile and ask me to go another time. I genuinely liked her, but we never saw each other again after we graduated, and she became a distant memory.

That is how it remained until the unspeakable happened and I found out through Facebook that the tragedy I'd read about on the news had happened to Chrishell. I couldn't fathom it. How could something like this happen? When I'd first read about the apparent murder-suicide of a stepfather to his 16 year old stepdaughter, it both saddened and sickened me. But finding out that it happened to someone I used to know and liked and respected, took it to a whole new level.

I've kept up on the story since then, hoping to find out something that could make sense out of something so senseless. But really, it will never make sense, and my heart goes out to her and those others of her friends and family who were floored by this awful event.

When I got up this morning and got my kids off to school, I saw a picture in my newsfeed on Facebook which got my attention. It was a picture of Chrishell's daughter, Alix, with a link asking people to help her. I can't do much, but I figured I should do whatever I could. And one way I can help is to spread the word.

Some friends of Chrishell have set up a website to accept donations to help her through the financial part of this tragedy. If you can't afford to donate anything, please help to spread the word. Let Chrishell know that people care about her, and that her Heavenly Father loves her, by doing His work.

She once extended her hand out to me. Now I want to help her.