Why I Make Mashed Potatoes

Originally posted January 2012

Want to help your kids stay off drugs and do better in school? Get cooking Momma! Or pay good money to a take-out joint that does.

Studies have actually shown that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to get into trouble…literally they tend not to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and they are much more likely to do well in school.

One study says that kids who eat most often with their parents are 40% more likely to get mainly A’s and B’s in school than kids who have two or fewer family dinners a week.

The chair is an anchor, not a bad anchor like a ball and chain, but a good anchor like the one that keeps your boat close enough to shore but just out of the weeds so that you can swim. Because, if you are anything like me and your foot touches a weed, it’s game over. Weeds and the theme to Jaws, two things that make me a big fan of pools.

Back to anchor…we sit, we eat, we talk. We live and grow together.

The conversation at the table is a window into each other’s lives. We share stories from our day and Lauren asks questions.

“How do people talk with their mouth?”

“Why is my head this size?”

“Why don’t we lick ourselves like dogs?”

And that’s why I make mashed potatoes because Lauren loves them and calls them “mashed-ta-pa-tatoes” and they keep her mouth really busy. Sometimes we just need her mouth to be busy.

Click on picture to go to Ree’s incredible mashed potatoe recipe!

I admit, eating together at the table is a struggle for my family. With kids ranging from 7-21 years old living in the house with busy schedules we have a hard time getting us all in the same place at once. But I love it when we do and I’m working on making it happen more often.

What about you? How often do you eat together as a family and what are your thoughts on the subject?

I’m on the “Real Moms of West Michigan” which airs Tuesday mornings at 7:05 AM EST.

If you are not in the West Michigan area, you can listen online at iHeart Radio: STAR 105.7

And visit Tommy and Brook at:
STAR 105.7
STAR 105.7 on Facebook
@TommyAndBrook on Twitter

What If Your Church Didn’t Exist Anymore?

Many hairstyles ago I stood in front of the church that my husband pastored and shared a thought that burned so deep inside me I couldn’t help but breathe it out loud. With a shaking that reached from my platinum blonde hair to my painted toes I asked the congregation, “What would happen if you didn’t have a church to attend anymore?” It was not an announcement of the church closing its doors; but more a sense of the burden on my heart that we are all too comfortable sitting in the church.

What would you do if there were no church to get ready for on Sunday? What if there were no Bible studies or MOPS groups?

How would your family navigate their Christianity without the church building? Do you feel equipped to teach the truths of the Bible to your children?

Obviously we don’t have to navigate the road of Christianity alone, we have churches and groups and the freedom to assemble, and for this I am grateful. But I still wonder, what if?

I believe that God wants a relationship with us that is not dependent on church attendance.

I have driven home from church and felt a sense of satisfaction by the mere fact that I attended. I hadn’t connected with anyone or learned anything that sparked faith in my heart. But that religious side of me felt approved by God just by walking in the doors, sitting in a pew, picking up a bulletin and smiling at the greeter on the way out.
I want more than that in my relationship with the God of Creation. I believe God wants more for us.
I think it does us all good to stop and think about how our lives would look if the freedom to assemble in our churches disappeared. I’m not saying this because I think that is what’s happening; I’m not storing up guns in my basement or buying rice in bulk. But I think we need to look at our relationship with the Father and consider if it’s authentic enough that it would pass down to the next generation without overhead projectors or flannel boards teaching them about Noah’s Ark.

THE Church (the body of Christ) will exist, but if your building weren’t available, how would you do?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Teaching Our Kids to Be Thankful

Yesterday I stopped into Meijer to grab my Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey was pardoned at our house this year, so I picked up ham, potatoes, corn and all the other traditional goodies to make our meal.
With a full cart I wheeled into the fastest lane. Yes, I pretend to live in a parallel universe where the lines are short and fast the week of Thanksgiving.

There were two people in front of me. A frazzled women with an overflowing cart full of groceries and clamoring children was at the register while an older man who had the face and the belly of a Grandpa stood between us. He looked remarkably like Santa Clause but he wore a black World War II baseball-style cap and there were no reindeer in sight.

The woman was a coupon-er. I am not a coupon-er but have the utmost respect for them. Unless they are in front of me in line. Then I have to wait while they finagle argue sort out their coupons with the cashier who is not conviced that they have all the correct sizes for the coupons in hand.

While I wait, I impatiently happily check my phone and catch up on the tweets I’ve missed. As the minutes tick by I search for anything written by Ann Voskamp because surely that will calm my nerves, quiet my heart and probably bring me to tears in front of God and everyone in Meijer.

But the sweet World War II veteran in front of me obviously doesn’t have an iphone or Ann Voskamp’s twitter name. He also seems to be shifting back and forth on his legs and his face shows the ache of many years and maybe a war or two.

He quietly slips out of the lane leaving his two items on the belt. He shuffles his feet to the other side of the store and settles on a hard wooden bench. He looks tired but relieved to be sitting. I see a slow breath leave his chest as his head looks down to the floor.

The coupon woman noticed that he left and apologetically pleaded her case with the cashier and I. She didn’t mean to be taking so long, why had he left?…where did he go?…was he angry?…she was embarrassed and even more frazzled. I told her that he had walked to the bench and surely just needed to take a break from standing.

As she walked away the cashier reached to take the mans items off the belt but I asked that she leave them. I would take care of it.

I paid for the grocerys and walked towards the door to the man on the bench. I reached over and handed him his bag and he burst forth with explanation that his legs had grown tired while standing there and he couldn’t do it any longer. I nodded that I understood. He then reached for his wallet and tried to pay me. I shook my head no and thanked him for his service. He struggled to pull money out of his pocket but I was already walking through the door and I repeated my thankfulness for his service to our country as I slipped out of the store.

I know it was a small gesture, but I can’t tell you how wonderful my heart felt to thank that man for his service to our country and it occured to me that being thankful is not something that we do just to bless others, it is a gift we give to ourselves.

A thankful heart is peaceful.
A thankful heart is not anxious or wanting the best seat at the table.
A thankful heart brings humility and it respects others.
When we are thankful, we esteems others as greater than ourselves and that is a beautiful way to live.

I want to live in that beauty and I want my children to also.

As parents we have the opportunity to train our children to be thankful. The best way we can do this is to live with a thankful heart. Children are smart, they see how we live and they live that way too.

I mentioned a couple practical ways to teach our kids to be thankful when I spoke on Star 105.7 this week on our Real Moms of West Michigan segment, they are:

  • Teach them to say thank you. And not just a half-hearted mumbled looking at the ground “thank you.” But we can teach them to look in to the persons eyes and clearly say thank you.

I had to work on this with my 7 yr old because someone would say to her, ‘oh you look so pretty’ and she would just smile and nod. As if to say- yes I AM darling.

No, I taught her, you need to look them in the eye and say thank you.

  • Another thing that is helpful is to ask your kids at bedtime, what are you thankful for today? If they don’t know…teach them the things to be thankful for:

“That we were kept safe every time drove in the car”
“That we are all healthy”
“That we have a warm home to sleep in”

  • Also, teach your kids to be thankful

    by giving to others.

I read about a great idea on the Happy Home Fairy blog to teach your kids to be thankful for others…they took individual bags of un-popped microwave popcorn and attached a little sticker/tag to it that said, “we just want to pop in to say we are thankful for you…and then signed their name”
You can hop over to the blog for free printable tags.
Give them to teachers, mailmen, bank teller, coaches and anyone else that touches their life. It helps to get our kids thinking about who they are thankful for.

Thankfulness is not just something to focus on during the holidays but if it opens the door to have the conversation, by all means walk through it. Use this time of year to teach the kids what a heart of thanksgiving looks like.

It will grow them up to be beautiful people.

The “Real Moms of West Michigan” airs Tuesday mornings at 7:05 AM EST.

If you are not in the West Michigan area, you can listen online at iHeart Radio:
STAR 105.7

And visit Tommy and Brook at:

STAR 105.7 on the web
STAR 105.7 on Facebook
@TommyAndBrook on Twitter

Holiday Family Fun ~ and Other Oxymorons…


If you have a ‘Currier and Ives’ holiday planned, just skip this post, it won’t make any sense to you.

But for many, holiday celebrations are laced with these types of conversation:

“So (awkward pause) you’re still single…”

“Wow, somebody’s been eating good this year….”

“Do you like your hair like that?”

“Your sister’s kids are all getting full rides to Harvard!”

“What do you mean you won’t be here for Thanksgiving AND Christmas Day?”

Just in case you ever stress over family get togethers, I want to remind you of a few things…

1. Your number one priority is your spouse. Don’t let family members get your focus off what God ordains for the most important relationship on earth.

Genesis 2:24
This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

2. Let peace rule in your heart, not bitterness. Offer grace to your family, even if it’s not offered back. In other words, make the choice before you leave that you won’t judge their decisions. We all reap what we sow, you don’t have to convince anyone of that…it will happen. But we are called to display God’s love even to those making really bad decisions. Only offer opinions when asked. Unsolicited advice is seldom heard.

And on the other hand, don’t let “assumed” or spoken criticism set you back…choose to forgive…bitterness makes your butt look big and none of us want that.

Hebrews 12:14-16
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

3. Shine! And remember, you don’t need to be preachy to shine, in fact…there’s nothing shiny about preachy.

Matthew 5:15-16
Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

4. As cliche’ as it sounds…don’t forget the reason we gather this week. To be thankful.

1 Thess 5:17-18
No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Decide today not to let “holiday family fun” be an oxymoron this Thanksgiving. Be good for goodness sake and whatever you do, don’t get bitter!

Guest Post ~ I Know Everything!

Here’s another fun post from my good friend Denise!

This week I took the boys fishing.

I don’t like fish. I don’t like worms. I don’t like bugs. I can’t eat fish, it makes me sick. I do not take fish off the hook. But, when the weather is nice and I am sure to get some sun for a tan, I do take the boys fishing.

First though, I had to stop to get a fishing license. I have faithfully bought a fishing license for two years in a row now. This is big time stuff. When I walk in, they must think I am slightly crazy. Four boys, me and fishing. Yah, I would find us crazy too! But the local hardware knows us well and the gun and bait shop we now stop at somewhat regularly is always extra patient with all my questions and helps us out a lot.

So, we were standing in line and our youngest had to give us a play by play of the other couple with a young boy in line next to us. “He has ice cream.”

“I know. I can see it.”

“I like ice cream.”

“I know you do.”

“Can I have some ice cream?”
“Me too!” comes from the other three at a totally not in-sync chorus, each one trying to be louder than the other to make sure I hear that they want ice cream.

“No, we are not getting ice cream.” Why do they do that? Why do stores put tiny freezers full of ice cream truck treats right where you have to get fishing licenses on the first official day of summer vacation. But I was holding firm, we had just gotten our delivery from the Schwan’s man – yum!

“He’s eating his ice cream.”

“I know, I can see him.”

“Moma, I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“Moma, can I have ice cream?”
“NO!” and then it was our turn to be helped so I could get my fishing license and get out of the store. Phew! We made the purchase (they always ask me if I want a restricted one or not. I just tell them I am just taking the boys fishing, nothing more. The older boys then tell me it would be cool to go on a boat to go fishing, in say, Lake Michigan. And that trout do live in Michigan, just in case I didn’t know. As if I would ever take all four boys on a chartered fishing boat!)

We are ready to leave and S3 decides he should inform the employees and everyone else in the hardware store that we are going fishing. “Really?” the store manager asks “Well, you have fun.”

“We will!” S3 says confidently. “Cuz I KNOW EVERYTHING!”

Yup, he really said that. The manager chuckled and said “Well, that is good to know. Try not to forget it all by the time you get big like me.”

“I won’t,” S3 vowed, “well, bye!”

And we were off to our favorite deep woods fishing spot. We caught six fish, seen three snakes swim near us, watched a blue heron take off from the bushes right next to us, untangled two fishing poles that were so knotted up we had to cut them apart, rolled pants of boys who thought they would get better bites if they actually stood in the water and I got some sun, while reading a magazine on the dock when everyone had run out of worms and were trying some ‘new fancy bait’ they were sure would get them the biggest bass in the whole lake. We came home with four little fish, and S3 cried the whole way home, because he hadn’t caught a thing.

S3, who knew it all, who told us how to fish, who stood there extremely quietly sure he would trick the fish in, never caught a thing. I felt bad for him. It was surely not for lack of trying.

I was thinking of that later in the evening. I’m not much unlike my four year old. For instance, I don’t like to let my kids know I can’t do something they know how to do…S1 knows how to run our roto-tiller and I don’t have a clue but I won’t ask him. I know everything cuz I am a mom, right?

I think you can see where I am going with this.

It’s impossible to know everything. But I do know I am guilty of thinking I know everything in my Bible so why bother reading it? I mean, I have heard these stories since I was born, literally. And then something will happen in life, or a simple conversation, and I’ll realize how shockingly ignorant I am and how prideful I really had been.

Once again, God gave me a little insight into my own heart from the mouth of my gifts from Him.

If Momma Ain’t Happy…

Ain’t nobody happy!


Unfortunately, there is an ugly amount of truth in that isn’t there??

Have you ever just suddenly heard the tone of your voice and realize that you might be speaking a little below the line of “sweet”?

Yeh, me too.

Why is it that we act the worst around the ones we love the most?
Sometimes I think that I should have my family stand in front of a mirror when I speak to them so I can see myself and the reality of what they have to deal with!

Unless you are one of these people that has the hallelujah chorus following you around, you know what I’m talking about.

Moods, they not just for breakfast anymore.

If we let them get the best of us, it can be a real downward spiral. One minute we’re laughing with our girlfriend on the phone, then crying at the story of the mom on TV who finally got pregnant after 10 years, then yelling at the kids to hush up while we watch the program~bless the Lord.

This week’s message is nothing too deep, just a reminder to pay attention to how we speak to the ones we love.

Is it gentle or harsh?
Would they know how much we love them by the way we speak to them?
Have we been too short with them?

Here is a good barometer for us, not only as Christian’s but also as wives and mothers:

Ephesians 4:29-32
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Now that’s a verse that will preach, amen?!

Don’t get mad at me, my toes are bloody too!

Guest Post ~ Thankful Journal

A guest post by my girlfriend Denise, click on the picture to get to her blog.

On Thanksgiving Day, 2007, I started a ‘thankful journal’ for our family. When dinner was done, we would read a family devotional (i.e. Gotta Have God for Boys or something like that) and then we would go around the table and list three things we were thankful for that day.

We followed this faithfully until harvest season this past year and got out of the habit and we JUST started it up again. Flipping thru the book, it’s so fun to see what we have to be thankful for, and how our boys have changed. For example……..

DS4 (son #4) said he was thankful for Daddy, Elmo (my mom), Papa (my Dad), tractors, my Tigers (a cat)
What you have to understand is that when he says he is thankful for Daddy, my husband gives a huge silent cheer,
when our son says ‘Elmo’, my husband says ‘she’s mean’(all the boys say “noooo! Oma is nice!”),
when he says Papa, my husband says that is ‘okay’,
when he says Tigers my husband says ‘Tiger is a stinkin’ varmint’.

It will go like this thru the whole ‘thankful for’ list.
DS3 said Daddy (silent cheers again), plant potatoes, so I can be a good farmer
DS2 says Daddy (can you see the pattern, notice no Moma!), my bird (he had rescued a baby bird fallen from the nest), all eating dinner together
DS1 says Daddy, we had field day today, fun playing with Isaac
Daddy says my boys, my asparagus patch and Moma (hooray for a ‘Moma’ vote!)
Moma says spent the whole entire day with my boys today, my super cool new camera, & we have clean sheets today.

They are little snapshots of our life, they also help us know when we started getting the asparagus in, when we planted potatoes, when we harvested the pumpkins and so forth!

I also keep little extra notes on some days, for instance, he heard Moma’s tummy growl and looked at me and said “you have frogs in your tummy”.

When they saw all the lilac branches being trimmed off, one of the boys gave me a hug and said “it’s okay, Moma, we’ll get you a new one”.

On DS3’s first day of school, we asked him if he made friends at school that day.
“No” he shot back, as if we were totally clueless, “we made FROGS! Not friends, FROGS!”

As I said, we fell out of the habit. When we are back to it, I imagine it’ll be like it was before. The boys watch for my last fork full of food and literally race to see who can get the ‘books’ (Bible, Devotional, journal) to Moma first. The devotion helps sparks some good conversation, and see into our boys lives at school and what they struggle with. And the thankful journal keeps our spirits high; on a down day it helps to find three things that went well. And flipping thru it, it helps remind us of God’s goodness to us.

Try it, start collecting your families lifetime of thankfulness to treasure.

I have been blessed!

We are back from a long weekend in Illinois. We left last Wednesday and got home late last night. We had a really good time, met lots of people and hung out with old friends.

I met a young mom named Heather that is working on starting a trackside ministry along with her husband and a minister friend. They hope to have services at tracks in Minnesota and she is reaching out by offering coffee to moms. She was a real sweetie and told me about the book she was reading, The Bait of Satan. I’ve read this book years ago and remember what an impact it had on my life. So I wanted to pass along the info to you all.

Very powerful, if you are struggling in your church or relationships at all, get this one.

Are you ensnared by bitterness, seized by anger, held captive by
resentment because someone has offended you?
Bevere shows you how to escape
Satan’s grip, avoid a victim mentality, practice forgiveness, experience
reconciliation, and remain free in Christ. Features updated anecdotal
stories and testimonies, and an extensive study guide for individuals or
small groups.
I also wanted to share this song with you. I’m not as thrilled with the video as I am with the song, it really touches my heart and “brings me home.”
It is my current favorite in the ipod… but I also like this and this and that… (I always have a million favorites!!)
It helps me remember what is truly important these days!!!!


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