The Mommy Bloggy

Reflections of a Mother's Heart

Friday Hiking January 30, 2011

Filed under: Brad and Me Plus 3 — Michelle Ferguson @ 7:52 pm

On Friday afternoon, Brad and I decided it would be fun to take the kids hiking.  We shared our wonderful idea with the three L’s (Lindsay, Logan, and Luke), only to find that they did not have quite the enthusiasm we had hoped!  So we did the only thing we could do…we loaded them into the car and made the short drive to Crowders Mountain State Park in Kings Mountain, NC.  It was a beautiful, sunny winter day.  The sky was so blue, the trees so bare, and the wind made its presence known on that mountain.

After a stop inside the Visitor’s Center to get a map, we decided to hike the Pinnacle Trail, which was described on the map as a strenuous, 1.7 mile hike (one way) to Kings Pinnacle at an elevation of 1,705 feet.  We’ve done 4 mile hikes with the kids before, so the distance did not concern us.  The “strenuous” part did not really bother us either because we’ve hiked mountains and up is up…it’s hard work.  We decided to go for the challenge.

Our hike started out very well.  In fact, the kids led the way!  The boys had already found walking sticks to ward off any bears, so they were quite content.  We didn’t get far before we all took our jackets off and tied them around our waists because we were getting hot.  We came to an intersection with a trail leading off to the campground areas.  Brad thought it would be fun to investigate the primitive campsites, so we all followed him down, stepping over lots of rocks, then up again about .3 miles to the family campsite.  This campground is not accessed by vehicle, so all supplies are packed and carried in.  Each camp stie was meagerly furnished with a grill, picnic table, and a tent pad.  There was no bathhouse, no electricity, and no water.  This is definitely not my kind of camping at all!  Brad really got excited about the idea of actually camping there.  I told him to have fun!

We eventually left the campground and made our way back to the Pinnacle Trail.  Up a little further, we came to an area with lots of large rocks that the kids could climb on.  One rock even made a very nice arm chair, complete with an ottoman for the feet.  The kids enjoyed playing here for a few minutes before we moved on.  The next part of the trail was covered in various sized rocks, which made walking over them difficult.  Luke tripped a couple of times and banged his knees.  I think it was at this point that the word “strenuous” came back into my head!

After the rocks, the trail smoothed out, and evened out for a little distance, but then we found ourselves rounding the mountain on the trail and started going straight up.  We began our hike at about 2:45 in the afternoon, and it was nearing 4:00.  Brad was getting slightly anxious to get to the top and back down before sunset so we wouldn’t be trapped on the mountain for the night.  I thought that was a good idea! 

So at this point, we really needed to keep moving.  Luke complained that he did not ever want to walk again.  He said, “I want to go home and get in my bed and not ever get out again.  You can bring my food to me in my bed.”  He was holding my hand now, and I thought he was going to pull my shoulder out of socket.  I literally had to pull him up parts of this trail.  My shoulders hurt, my arms hurt, and Luke started to cry.  Then he said, “I am going to die.”  Yep, Pinnacle Trail was certainly strenuous!  We were so close to the top, and I just kept encouraging him that the view at the top was going to be worth the hike, and that he was so strong and could make it!

Brad waited up for us, then put Luke on his shoulders to carry him the rest of the way to the summit, which by then, was not far at all.  We hit the trail’s end at a huge wall of rocks.  We climbed up onto the rocks and Logan disappeared on the other side of the wall where I could not see him.  The warning signs to stay on the trail because serious injury or death could result  from falls echoed through my mind.  I yelled for him to come back and wait, and he did.  This trail was mentally “strenuous” too!

When we all climbed up and over the rock wall, we were met with a most beautiful view of the North Carolina mountains and surrounding towns.  It was so quiet at the top.  We were reminded of God’s majesty.  The kids were amazed at all we could see.  Brad had us on a time schedule now, so we spent about ten minutes at the top, resting, taking pictures, and indulging in snacks. 

Then it was time to head back down.  Our trip down was much quicker and way easier.  We took a different path back to avoid the hazardous rocky area.  We passed by a couple of trickling streams and listened for songbirds.  Lindsay found a cut tree trunk in the shape of a fancy letter “C.”  I took a picture!  She and I decided it would be fun to try and collect pictures of every letter of the alphabet as found in nature.  This will be an ongoing project for us.  So far, we have “C” and “V.”  We’re on our way…24 to go!

We made it back to the parking lot a little after 5:00, so Brad breathed a huge sigh of relief!  Then we headed home with a tired bunch of children who discovered that Friday hiking can be lots of fun!

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup January 19, 2011

Filed under: Recipes Worth Sharing — Michelle Ferguson @ 12:11 am

Well, it’s Tuesday, so that means it’s Soup night.  Last night, I put this soup together and it simmered all day in my crock pot.  I just love my crock pot!

I could not find a recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup that I completely liked, so I took the liberty to pick and choose ingredients and came up with this.  My family really liked it…good thing because it’s on the menu for tomorrow night too!

Instead of salad tonight, I served cornbread drizzled with honey.  It was made from a Trader Joe’s package mix.  It had real corn kernels in the mix and was a delicious complement to the soup.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

3-4 medium/large chicken breasts, boiled and shredded

3/4 cup frozen, diced onions

1 (15 oz) can corn

1 (15 oz) can black beans

1  (16 oz) can chili beans

1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes

32 oz carton chicken broth

1 TBSP lemon juice

1/2 pkg Trader Joe’s taco seasoning mix

Combine all ingredients and simmer all day in crock pot.  Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream, and cheese.

Trader Joe’s taco seasoning mix is quite spicy, so I only used 1/2 a package, but even at that, this soup has a kick!  Not too spicy, though, and my kids cleaned their bowls.  Enjoy!

 

 

Disney Day 3 January 16, 2011

Filed under: Brad and Me Plus 3 — Michelle Ferguson @ 8:36 pm

Here we go with our Day 3 at Disney World!  Before we left home for our vacation, I ordered Safety Tat tattoos for my kids to wear during our stay at Disney (see http://store.safetytat.com/store/).  They are cool tattoos that read “If lost please call” and we wrote my husband’s cell phone number on each tat with the handy marker they included in our order.  We placed them on the inside of their arms, and one tattoo lasted the kids all week.  I wasn’t so worried about my two older children getting separated from us, but Luke is a high flight risk (as my husband calls him)!  We didn’t lose anyone, thank the Lord, but you can’t ever be too careful!

We spent our day three at Hollywood Studios.  Our first ride was the “Great Movie Ride.”  It highlighted some of Hollywood’s most famous films  including “Mary Poppins,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Cassablanca,” and we were put right into the middle of a gangster shootout.  It was very exciting!

After we got our fast passes for “Toy Story Mania,” our next stop was “Journey into Narnia:  Prince Caspian.”  It was a behind the scenes look at the making of this movie.  The kids had their picture taken by Aslan’s stone table.  We took in a “Live on Stage” Play House Disney show with Mickey and pals.  Luke loved this!

Then we headed over to the Star Wars area, where we hoped the boys could be picked from the audience for Jedi training.  However, we learned (a little too late) that we had to sign the boys up to be assigned a time.  By the time we got there, the times were all taken.  Note to self:  Next trip, head to Star Wars first thing to sign the boys up!  The Star Tours exhibit was closed for updates, so we headed next door to the gift shop.  Here, the boys picked out and made their own light sabers.  Logan chose Darth Maul’s red double sided saber and Luke chose Yoda’s  saber.  Then we got to carry them around for the rest of the day…fun!

The children got autographs and pictures made with a storm trooper and Darth Vader, Pooh and Piglet, Green Army Man, and Buzz and Woody.  It was fun to see their excitement about meeting these characters.  They were awfully quiet around Darth Vader.

We hit the “Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular” show just right and walked right into the bleachers as it began.  We watched the 30 minute live show as famous scenes from the first Indiana Jones film were reenacted before our eyes.  We felt the thundering of a 12-foot rolling boulder than Indy heroically averted and the extreme heat from an explosive scene.  We got to see how Hollywood uses stunts and special effects to make their movie magic.  It was very fun and very entertaining, and my boys were in awe!

We ate lunch at the Backlot Express, and while we were standing in line, another boy nearby noticed Logan’s and Luke’s light sabers, and he challenged them to a duel.  He also had made his own light saber and was obviously eager to put it to use.  The three boys dueled in the courtyard before and after we ate our lunch.  My boys never knew this little stranger’s name, but there was a common brotherhood.  They were cute to watch!

After lunch, we headed to the “Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show.”  It was a highly orchestrated (and practiced) show of nail-biting chase scenes including motorcycles flying through rings of fire, cars jumping over trucks, fireballs, and a motorcycle stunt man engulfed in flames.  After the show, Luke leaned over to me and said, “When I grow up, I want to work HERE!”  I said, “Oh my!”  Needless to say, my boys ate this show up!

We made our way to “Toy Story Mania,” entered the fast pass lane and nearly walked up to the ride.  We donned our 3-D glasses and away we spun through the carnival-themed gallery, shooting everything from darts to burst balloons to eggs to splatter barnyard targets.  This was my favorite ride!  It was so much fun!

Lindsay and her daddy (the more adventurous of the family) headed over to the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with an Aerosmith theme.  I gladly waited with the boys who entertained me with a light saber duel.  The second time Lindsay and Brad rode this roller coaster, my boys somehow found another boy who also had a light saber to fight with them.  This boy’s name was Logan, too!  Brad and Lindsay loved the Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster!  They said it took off and in 2.8 seconds they were at 60 mph!  No thank you!  Oh, and it was in the dark with loops and blasting Aerosmith music.  Double no thank you!

We enjoyed the “Studio Backlot Tour” aboard a tram.  We experienced a Hollywood earthquake and resulting flash flood and explosion.  Again, my boys were in awe!  The more fire, crashes, and explosions, the better!

After lots of standing and walking, we took the kids to the “Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure.”  There they got to play among insects, mushrooms, and play dough cans, while crawling through dark passages and sliding.  This was a good place for them to move and stretch and get out some energy.

We had dinner reservations at “Hollywood and Vine” at 4:55, so we headed there for an early dinner.  Again, it was buffet style and so delicious!  Hollywood Studios closed early on this night, so we left and headed to Epcot.  We enjoyed playing there again before the 9:30 fireworks show and then headed back via bus to our room.

 

Homemade Bread January 13, 2011

Filed under: The Ferguson Family — Michelle Ferguson @ 10:04 pm

As I sit at my computer to write another post, my house smells so good.    No, I haven’t been cleaning!  (grin)  It’s because  I am making homemade bread!  It’s been a secret passion of mine for quite some time (two years, to be exact) to begin making our own bread.  And I began…yesterday!

I have been researching online how to make my own bread and have found lots of information.  I began by making hamburger buns (see my “Homemade Hamburger Buns” post from March 2010).  I have also recently found a recipe showing how to make hot dog buns.  I have not tried that yet, but I plan to sometime soon.

The Lord has put some incredibly wise women in my life who have shared with me their knowledge of nutrition.  When Logan was around two (about six years ago),  I attended a health and nutrition class at my church.  My eyes were opened to the lack of nutrition in fast and convenience foods, refined flours and sugars, artificial flavors and colors, high fructose corn syrup, and preservatives.  These things are bad for you…they are man made.  The best way to eat is how God intended, with real living foods:  vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lean meats, wild salmon, etc.

I have become a label reader…if I cannot pronounce an ingredient or if an ingredient contains any kind of a number (red dye #40), that product goes right back on the shelf.  I am teaching my kids along the way, too.  At the grocery store one day, we looked at a box of cereal that claimed to have an incredible amount of fiber and nutrition, but when we turned the box over to look at the ingredients, it was full of sugar and preservatives!  How deceiving advertising can be!

Over New Year’s weekend, my mother gave me my Dad’s old bread machine.  After I brought it home, I dusted it off, read the manual, and made a trial loaf of “Honey Banana Whole Wheat Bread.”  I used all natural, unbleached whole wheat flour which I purchased at the store.  My goal is to buy my own grain and grind it myself into flour to use in my breads.  All store-bought flours have had the germ removed.  The germ is the part that contains the nutritious oils.  Removing this part allows the flour to sit for months on a grocery store shelf without going rancid.  Grain flours, in general, quickly lose vitamins and minerals as soon as they are ground, so fresh bread is best.  The benefits of homemade bread are numerous, including curing everything from warts to headaches and promotion of colon health.

The first loaf of bread was a success and so easy!  I simply added all my ingredients (wet first) to the bread machine, and it did all the work: mixing, kneading, and baking!  Lindsay made herself a peanut  butter and creamed honey sandwich on the Honey Banana Whole Wheat Bread today for lunch.  She ate every bit of it, even the crust!  That tells me a lot!

Bread making is a personal passion for me, and it will be a process as I learn how to do this and experiment on my family with different recipes.  I cannot promise I will never have store-bought bread in my house again, but I can’t wait to try making all of our bread.

 

Soup and Salad Tuesdays January 5, 2011

Filed under: Tips and Tidbits — Michelle Ferguson @ 3:40 pm

I have decided to try something new for the next couple of winter months.  Tuesday night is now our official “Soup and Salad” night.  Tuesdays are busy days for us because they are the days our Classical Conversations (CC) home school group meets.  We stay after morning classes for lunch, a missions class, and then Play Ball (a sports program).  By the time we get home, it is 3:00, and we are all tired!

To simplify dinner on Tuesday nights, I thought it would be helpful to have already planned and prepared our dinner.  On Monday night, I packed our lunches for CC and put our Tuesday dinner together.  I made a beef stew.  I sauteed our stew beef with an onion in grape seed oil on the stove top, just until lightly browned on the outside.  I chopped carrots, celery, and potatoes and added them along with spices, beef broth, and the browned beef and onions to my crock pot.  Tuesday morning, I put my crock pot on low, and our dinner simmered all day.  The house smelled delicious when we got home from CC, and I think we could have eaten dinner then!

Since dinner was ready, we could eat early (which is always a plus!).  I made a mixed greens salad with orange slices, chopped apple pear, and feta cheese.  I served our beef stew over whole grain macaroni.  The macaroni helped the stew to go further.  Now we have leftovers, enough for dinner tonight!  Our RA’s, GA’s, and Mission Friends start up again for the new year at church, so dinner will be a snap tonight, too!

I do want to share a little more on the apple pear.  I had never heard of this fruit until this week when I was shopping our local grocery super center and came across the display.  I was curious, so I bought two of them.  Well, they were an instant hit at my house!  My kids were begging for more when we all gathered to sample this strange, new fruit.  (New to us at least!)  It is a very crisp, juicy fruit, that tastes more like a pear and looks more like an apple, but is both!  It is delicious, so if you see one, try it!

I must add that my Monday night prep work was possible because my wonderful husband cleaned up the kitchen and got the children in bed.  He liked the beef stew so much that he has agreed to clean up the kitchen every night!  Wow!  What a deal!

Next week, I am going to try a potato soup in my crock pot.  I will be on the lookout in the meantime for a good recipe!

 

To Pray or Not to Pray?

Filed under: Devotions — Michelle Ferguson @ 3:17 pm

As my children are eagerly and sweetly working on their school lessons this morning upstairs, I thought I’d take some time to steal away and blog.  Okay, who am I kidding?  I am sure to be interrupted a few times!  But here it goes!

“Pray without ceasing.”  1 Thessalonians 5:17

There it is…short, seemingly simple, and quite to the point!  According to the Bible, we should pray all the time.  But do we?  I wonder how many blessings I have missed because I’ve failed to pray about something.  Instead, choosing to handle the crisis, issue, or matter at hand myself, not even thinking to pray about it.

Oh, I pray about and for the big things:  my husband, our ministry, our children, our families, health and protection, missionaries and unreached people groups, our church, our childrens’ education, etc.  I pray about and for the small things:  warts to go away, self-control around chocolate, strength to get up when my alarm clock jolts me awake at 5:30, and help finding my cell phone (a conversation God and I seem to have a lot!).

But do I pray about everything in between?  If we are striving to “pray without ceasing,” I think we would be praying about everything.  I have a dear friend who is a godly prayer warrior.  When she tells me she’s praying, I know she is!  Her heart is on fire for missions and prayer.  As we visited yesterday, she shared with me a recent answered prayer.

She told me she had been praying for a small, indoor trampoline.  It was something she wanted for herself and her son for exercise and fun.  (Now if it had been me, I probably would have never thought to pray about something like this…I would have just gone out and bought one!)

As Christmas neared, my friend’s husband’s uncle drew her name for a family gift exchange.  He asked what she’d like for Christmas, and she explained that the only thing she really desired was a small trampoline.  He replied, “Oh, I’ve got one in our garage that we don’t use anymore.  I’ll pack it up and mail it to you.”

A few days later, my friend received her answered prayer in a package on her doorstep.  She rejoiced and thanked God for providing a trampoline!  Her testimony really encouraged and challenged me to pray all the time about everything.

I just love how God works!  It blows my mind what He can do if we just ask.  He has an abundant storehouse of blessings waiting to give us.  When we fail to ask God for something, we may be robbing someone that God may use in our life, of the opportunity to bless us!

Now let’s look at the surrounding verses of “pray without ceasing.”  Verse 16 says, “Rejoice always.”  Verse 17 says “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  I believe if we prayed about everything we would really see God working in our lives.  I believe we would stop taking so much for granted, and I believe we would be more thankful to God from whom our blessings come!  What a reason to rejoice!

I encourage you (and myself) to pray about everything in our daily lives.  All, of course, in the right spirit, not out of greed or materialism.  God knows our hearts and He knows our intentions, motives, and true self.  We must also remember that God will not always answer us exactly as we pray, but we can be sure He hears us and will answer in His time with what is best for us!  He wants to bless us, so let’s get praying!