Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry

My kids love broccoli…I could probably fix it every night and they would gobble it up!  Weird, huh?!?  We also love stir-fry, but after two years of the same recipe, I decided it was time to change things up.  I found this recipe and we loved it!  Its just the right mix of sweet and salty…I usually find flank steak some other thin cut of steak on sale at Kroger and buy the big bag of broccoli florets at Costco (which then disappears in about a week!). I love that this recipe makes for a very cost-effective meal that our entire family enjoys!

Ingredients

    • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
    • 1/2 cup water, plus
    • 2 tablespoons water, divided
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 lb boneless round steak or 1 lb charcoal chuck steaks, cut into thin 3-inch strips
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
    • 4 cups broccoli florets
    • 1 small onions, cut into wedges
    • 1/3 cup soy sauce
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • hot cooked rice

Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons water and garlic powder until smooth.
  2. Add beef and toss.
  3. In a large skillet or wok over medium high heat, stir-fry beef in 1 tablespoon oil until beef reaches desired doneness; remove and keep warm.
  4. Stir-fry broccoli and onion in remaining oil for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Return beef to pan.
  6. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and remaining cornstarch and water until smooth; add to the pan.
  7. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.
  8. Serve over rice.

Back to School

Monday began our first official day of school…I can’t believe summer is over and yet I really like the structure and routine that home schooling brings to our days.  In the last two days, I think I’ve gotten more accomplished than in the prior two weeks!  The last time I posted about schooling at home, several of you had questions about curricula and such.  I thought I’d give a brief glimpse into our daily school routine and the curricula we’re using this year. As I was starting out in thinking about home schooling, I always wondered what a typical day for most moms looked like…well, here’s ours!

I wake up by 6 am in order to have time with the Lord (this is oh so important prior to me pouring myself out to my kids all day!), exercise, shower and get dressed before breakfast. The three oldest children wake up by 7:50, get dressed, attempt making their beds and read (or look at) their bibles until I come to get them for breakfast.  Somewhere between 8:15-8:30 we sit down to breakfast where we work on our Scripture memory (the children are memorizing the 10 Commandments this fall; every Friday is a review day of all our verses…they memorized 11 verses last year!) and read from The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos.  I always ask each child a few questions after we finish the daily reading to make sure they are listening and comprehending!  After breakfast, we brush teeth, clean up and I get Madden changed.  By 9:00, everyone is gathered at the kitchen table to begin our school day.  We always open with prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and singing a hymn from the previous Sunday’s worship service.  The children then take turns changing the daily calendar and telling the class the day of the week and date as well as the weather outside.  We then run through a few counting exercises and practicing our left and right.

Except for Tuesdays and Thursdays (when Miles will work on his Finding the Answers or Rod and Staff workbooks), Miles and Madden are then moved into the big kids’ room to play and watch Baby Einstein or Barney.  Mikias begins with his Zaner-Bloser handwriting workbook and then does one page of copy work.  Molly Kate and I move into the den for her to work on her reading using The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading.  Once we finish, we return to the kitchen where I teach Mikias his spelling lesson from Spelling Workout: Level A, Student Edition and give him the instructions from his workbook pages.  Then I flip back to Molly Kate and get her started on her handwriting in Letters and Numbers for Me or Handwriting Without Tears workbook.  About this time, Madden is ready to go down for his morning nap (he adds an interesting and sometimes humorous element to school this year…half the time I’m teaching, he’s either up on my hip or walking around chattering to everybody!).  Molly Kate finishes up handwriting and goes off to play with Miles for a while until we start math.  With the three younger kids occupied, I can focus on reading with Mikias.  Mikias’ reading has come along very s-l-o-w-l-y and as of yesterday, I decided it was time for us to switch books.  The Ordinary Guide just isn’t working for him and so today we started with Phonics Pathways: Clear Steps to Easy Reading and Perfect Spelling (Jossey-Bass Teacher) and he loved it!  He understood the blending sounds easily and read the words without hesitation or trouble, which greatly boosted his confidence.  I hate that I’m going to have to use two different books, but as my friend Stephanie reminded me, this is the beauty of home schooling, that I have the freedom to pick and use what works best for each child.  When Mikias finishes reading, he and Molly Kate enjoy a quick snack break and then move on to their respective Saxon math books (Mikias is actually already in second grade math and Molly Kate is using the kindergarten course).  I bounce between the two with math, though Molly Kate’s lessons are very short and once she finishes, she and Miles will head off again into their imaginative worlds of play!  Mikias’ lessons and work take a bit longer, but he can usually keep working while I start preparing lunch.  Madden re-joins us between 11 and 11:30 and is always ready to eat, so I have to be quick with lunch!  By noon, we are eating lunch and I teach the history lesson from The Mystery of History (which I’m loving!!). History is really only for Mikias, but I knew Molly Kate would love some of the activities, so I just let all the kids hear the lesson and then after lunch the oldest two tackle the activities. Wednesday will the be the odd day where I won’t teach history, but instead we’ll do science and art.  For science, I’m simply following the ideas in The Well-Trained Mind where we’ll spend part of our time on animals, part of our time on plants and part of our time on the human body.  For this, we’re using The Kingfisher First Encyclopedia of Animals (Kingfisher First Reference)Green Thumbs: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening (A Kid’s Guide series) and The Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia (Kingfisher First Reference. For art, I’m going through The Little Hands Art Book (Little Hands!) which has fun ideas that are simple enough for even Miles to participate.  By January, Mikias and I will also try to tackle some basic drawing work.  Once Mikias is reading well, he’ll also begin grammar, but he needs to improve his reading first, so we’re going to really focus on that this first semester.  By 1:00 or so, we’re finished for the day!  When Madden later goes down for his afternoon nap, I take about thirty or forty-five minutes to read to the kids from their library books or books of their choosing.  This is probably their favorite time of the entire day and I love the quiet time we spend cuddled on the couch reading.  In the next few weeks, Kevin will also begin teaching piano to Mikias and Molly Kate and they are super-excited to learn to play their first instrument!

I know I’m only two days in, but I am so genuinely encouraged in the attitude God has given me about school this year.  When I think of all our options, I’m so grateful that I have the freedom and ability to keep my children under my wings while they are so young, to be their primary source of information and education and to help them understand the world around them through the lenses of Scripture.  At the end of July, Kevin took all four kids for the majority of a Saturday so that I could sit and plan this year out.  That time was certainly invaluable and I can see that our days are running so much more smoothly because I am prepared and know exactly what work needs to be accomplished each day.  One specific prayer I’ve had this summer is that God would give me an excitement for learning that would foster a zeal in my children.  I see the Lord answering this prayer as I’ve been able to shrug off the thinking of “we’ve just got to get through this” and I’ve truly been genuinely excited to sit with the children and teach them.  Thanks and praise be to God, who supplies us with everything we need to carry out His will in the way which gives Him the most glory!

Below are our First Day of School pictures!  And always feel free to shoot me any questions you may have!

Mikias
Molly Kate
Miles

Water Park Surprise

Since we typically don’t throw blowout birthday parties, we’ve started trying to have one special outing for each child’s birthday.  For Mikias’ birthday, Kevin and I really wanted to take the kids to a water park.  Given that our kids LOVE the water and love a good thrill, we knew they would have a blast.  Most of the parks nearby are super-expensive for a family of six, but thanks to LivingSocial (I love them!) we got tickets to Big Splash Adventure for $30.  Its an indoor water park in French Lick, Indiana and it was perfect!  We didn’t tell the kids where we were going until we got in the van Friday morning and I only wish I could post the video of their reaction!  The set-up was great as it was a smaller park…we could keep an eye on Mikias, who spent most of his time on the big slides, while allowing the rest of the kiddos to enjoy the toddler/little kids area that included two slides, 50 different sprayers you could play with an a huge bucket that dumped water every 10 minutes or so.  They also had these awesome swings that kept Madden happy and content!  It was so fun to be able to give our kids a special and unique day and I’m thankful for the Lord’s provision to allow us to be able to do it frugally!

Miles could not have been happier!
Loving the swings!
Molly Kate taking a breather...she played super hard!
Mikias relaxing after a thrilling ride down!
Miles trying a slide "head first"! He was completely water-logged by the end of the day!
Molly Kate is always up for a little time in the swings!
Madden even got to try out a slide!
I grabbed this shot in the lobby before we headed home...do they look tired or what?!?!
And I took this pic about two minutes after we pulled out of the parking lot...what a trooper!

Happy Birthday Mikias!

I can’t believe he’s 7 years old…it seems like time has flown by and the tiny Ethiopian boy we met just a year and a half ago has grown in countless ways…physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I love and adore Mikias with a depth that words could never express…he has a heart of gold (sinful, yes, but God’s graces are certainly evident!) and a personality that makes everyone take to him in a heartbeat.  Most days you wouldn’t know he’s not biologically mine…he’s warm, personable, smart and a true perfectionist!  I love that he is always eager and happy to serve, he rarely complains about anything and he deeply loves his brothers and sister. Just today Madden crawled over to where Mikias was lying on the floor and just laid his head on his big brother’s chest.  The children think the world of their oldest brother and he cares well for them as the protector and leader.  I continue to pray that God will make the gospel more understandable to him, particularly that Mikias would grieve his sin and turn to Jesus in true repentance.  I have every hope God is working out a great salvation!

Mikias asked for a pirate ship birthday cake this year…he has a Melissa and Doug treasure chest that he’s always enjoyed playing with and I think that’s where he got the idea!  This year we started the tradition that the children get to plan the entire day’s menu on their birthday and Mikias loved having such control!  We feasted on cheese omelets this morning, hot dogs for lunch and shrimp scampi this evening…a nice array of dishes!  After dinner we had two families over for cake, ice cream and of course…presents!  I know Mikias felt the love of our friends and family today…he couldn’t stop thanking us for his super-fun birthday!

As a side-note, if any of you have ever considered adopting an older child but you just aren’t sure…talk to me!  I really can’t imagine my life without Mikias…he has probably brought more to my life than I’ve brought to his!

Posing with his cake!
Prepping to blow out all those candles!
Madden LOVES birthday cake!
Very excited about his Star Wars Clone Trooper costume from Nana and Poppa!
Family Pic...too much going on for MK to focus on smiling!
Suited up and ready to fight!

A Dear and Beautiful Friend

It was the summer of 2005 and I was scanning the sanctuary that Sunday morning to see if there were any new visitors that I might go and greet after the service.  I distinctly remember noting a certain couple because the girl was wearing a pale green skirt from Banana Republic that I just happened to own myself and I made a mental note to go and meet them after the service.  Kevin and I instantly hit it off with these visitors, named Matt and Ashley Wireman and as it turned out, we had even more in common than the pale green skirt.  They had just moved to Louisville for Matt to finish is masters at Southern Seminary, but they had each formerly worked for Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) just like us and they were from the South!  Our friendship took off quickly over the next year…we had coffee dates, double dates and hosted each other for dinners.  They attended an Ole Miss football game with us in Oxford, we welcomed babies upon babies into our two families, and even crashed together here at our home during an ice storm one winter that took the Wireman’s power away for a few days.

Ashley is a remarkable woman…as many would attest, to know her is to love her.  She is humble, compassionate, faithful, quiet, strong, wise and endearing.  She’s someone I can laugh with, cry with and just be completely myself with.  In just a few short weeks after we met, I knew God was giving me a friend like no other.  I’ve treasured her deeply over the last six years as she’s been a constant rock during hard and difficult seasons.  In every conversation, I can be sure that she’s going to ask me about my relationship with the Lord, whether I’m content and joyful or discouraged and weary.  She never fails to encourage me to hope in the gospel and I love her so much for that.

Two weeks ago, I gave my friend a huge (tearful) hug and waved good-bye from our driveway as the Wiremans headed to their apartment for their last night in Louisville.  They are now in Gaithersburg, Maryland where Matt is attending the Pastors College with Sovereign Grace Ministries.  We are beyond thrilled for our sweet friends and the plans God is working out for them, but oh how hard it has been to have them gone.  I can’t quite describe the first Sunday at church without them…but I didn’t like it!  Over the years, I’ve heard so many pastors talk about the deep friends their families made while they were in their seminary years…but none ever spoke of how hard it was to end that season of life and trust God as He planted them all over the world.  As I recounted all the ways God has been so good to me through my friend Ashley, I realized life here in Louisville will never be the same and makes me all the more ready for God to take us to the church He has prepared for us!

Nevertheless, one thing I know for sure…Ashley (and I know you’re reading this friend!) will be a part of my life for as long as God allows.  Thank you sweet friend for loving me so well…I praise God for you and pray His richest blessing to you during this new season of life.  I trust He is going to work mercifully in you and Matt in these months ahead.  I love you Ash!

Me and Ash in the Grove at Ole Miss!
Ashley hosted my Louisville baby shower for Molly Kate!
The Wiremans meeting MK just six months after we welcomed their first baby girl, Eliza!
Christmas Eve together!
Molly Kate and I meeting baby Henley (number 3 for the Wiremans!).
And oh how we've grown! Our big crazy families pictured at Molly Kate's birthday celebration in July!