Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another book - another life lesson - The Last Lecture

I recently reread a book called The Last Lecture.  Maybe you're heard of it?  It's a book written by Randy Pausch, a prof at Carnegie Mellon, before he died of cancer.  I had seen an interview on TV with him and his wife years ago and there was something intriguing.  There was acceptance.  There was a positive out of the negative.   I bought the book and read it years ago, promising myself I would read only one chapter at a time...making sure I slowed down to really reflect on it.  Yeah right, I read it straight through. 

This time around something caught my attention - something different than before.  Maybe something I needed to get out of it this time around.  Unfortunately I don't have the book in front of me, so hopefully I don't mess this up.

There is a section in the book about inspiring the dreams of others.   He talks about what a good coach, teacher, parent...should do...inspire others.  He talked not so much on the knowledge passed on, as the inspiration to reach for dreams.  He achieved many!  It got me thinking.  What can we do to inspire our kids to dream? 

Our oldest wants to become a vet.  She is currently applying to colleges and will soon be looking for a job to get her closer to her goal.   She also loves to write.  When she only 14 ( is that right Anna?) she wrote her first novel.  She couldn't publish it because it was fan fiction.  She had read the entire Trixie Belden series and was saddened when she was through...there were no more!  So, she wrote her own.  Did I inspire her to do this?  I am sad to say that I did not.  I wasn't against it by any means, I was just a tired, busy mom whose plate was pretty full.  But, her grandma inspired her!  Every step of the way!  They spent months editing that book...back and forth...until she was finally ready to "publish" it just for her friends.   It was 230 pages.  She became inspired.  She could write a book.  She has since written many short stories, a long running series, and a Catholic Trilogy that she would like to publish.  Again, she's been editing back and forth with her grandma, as well as a few trusted friends (one very good friend who wants to be an editor!  how cool for both of them!) and will soon be contacting publishers.  She knows it's a long shot.  But she's going for it!  I know she's my daughter, but I can honestly say she is a very good writer!  I really think she has a chance!  In fact, I've been trying to get her to push this thing forward much sooner.  But you see, that's my point here.  It was my dream for to try to publish these before she applied to colleges.   Seriously, wouldn't it look great on a resume?  I am a published author, I wrote (I cannot give that one away just yet).  But she writes because she loves it.  Not because she feels it's some sort of job.  She is achieving her dream - not mine.   She wasn't interested in putting life on hold for this.  She began and ran a peer writing club for years, she joined a varsity soccer team, she still takes her younger siblings on special outings.  Her life is balanced. 

All that came about because someone inspired her.  Someone was there to tell her she could do this, and to help her along the way (thanks mom).

Randy Pausch also talks about character.  He helped to choose who would be accepted to the college and who wouldn't.  It wasn't black and white based on grades.  And it wasn't based on a loaded up volunteer list either.  He mentions one young lady in particular.  Her grades weren't stellar.  There really wasn't anything that stood out on her application.  She wasn't immediatley rejected, just put back in the pile to review again if there was still room at the end.  When he opened her file a small thank you card fell out.   He's quick to point out this wasn't a "suck up" thank you card.  The student had actually written it to someone in admissions who helped her to navigate the process.  It was never meant for their eyes, yet the admission counselor had stuck it in her file.  They chose to accept her into the program.  She had integrity.

Integrity and character:  both often overlooked. 

What did I get out of this?  I will try to do more to inspire my kids to achieve their dreams.  To support them along the way.  Maybe point things out they are unaware of.  Give them time to invest of themselves in something they really enjoy.

What can we do to help them?  Whether we have 1 child or 20 makes no difference.  It's not our life to live - it's our childrens'.  Even if we are short on time, we can make sure our kids know we support them and that we will help them achieve their dreams.

So, I guess tomorrow....I better help Terese cut the fabric pieces for the quilt she and Anna want to make in the next month of so.   I'd cut them now since my "insomnia cure" hasn't kicked in, but I have no idea of what they have designed.  It's not always for me to know, just for me to help where I can.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Christmas shopping

I'm not one to do much Christmas shopping ahead of time.  I know many people feel better getting it done ahead of time.  Not me, I'd rather wait until a couple weeks ahead of time and get it all done.  Besides, I've never been much for shopping (yes, I am female :) ) So, I'd rather create my lists - cross referencing everything with where I can find it - and then shop with my regular errands.  There are only a few stores that I go to for Christmas gifts that I don't normally get to (Leaflet, Apostle Books, etc.)  That's me.

Even with a baby due in 3 weeks I'm just not feeling the stress here.  [Could it have something to do with all our time/energy fixed on getting everything out of our old house?  We closed on it yesterday!]

But this year, I think much of my shopping this year will be online.  I think I'll have to do it after bedtime :)  I was looking online for a Holley Shiftwell hotwheels car when Logan (age 3) walked in the room.  He started yelling to his 6 yr old sister to tell her what I found (she really wants one for Christmas - I hear about it many times a day).  Yeah, I'll probably buy this at Target or Wal-mart or something, just wanted to have an idea of what costs.  We're looking at a $7 hotwheels car here!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dairy Free foods

Disclaimer here:  I created this list to send to friends via email.  I am posting it because some other people will benefit.  I cannot promise this is all still correct.  You need to read the labels each and every time you buy something - formulas change - really!   But, hopefully this will get someone started in the right direction without having to start from scratch.  We currently have 4/9 people in this family who cannot handle dairy (3 with allergies, 1 with a lactose intolerance).  Just before our newest little one is born in a couple weeks I will go dairy free as well.  Every single one of our kids (except maybe the 1st) was born with a dairy allergy and what little passed through breastmilk made them sick.  (and...most baby formulas - even soy based ones - have dairy).  [if you find the math confusing it's because the other kids all outgrew the allergy somewhere between ages 1 and 2].

After you get used to the changes (most of them just changing brands of items) it's not too bad.

Many products have a contains statement on them.  Dairy, wheat, eggs, soy…..are in the list of top 8 allergens.  So, if under the ingredients you see a CONTAINS: wheat, soy, egg, or whatever   and it does not list dairy then it is dairy free.  I was told it’s the law to include milk or dairy if it is in the product and there is a contains statement.  Lots of products still don’t have a contains…then you need to read the label.

When reading the label be wary of casein, lactose, milk, whey, butter, and carmel coloring, there’s more too – I just cannot think of them off the top of head.  Carmel coloring can be made from milk or seaweeds.  It sounds picky.  But, when Nathan was a baby I was eating only dairy free things, then someone brought us meatballs.  Everytime I ate them he got very sick (he was probably on the extreme side) and we found out that the carmel coloring was a potential milk product!  You will find Carmel in almost everything brown.  (And, I do have a carmel recipe that is dairy free if someone really likes carmel for apples or anything).

This list is pretty picky.  You may not have to avoid carmel coloring or anything like that.  We did – so here it is in case you need to as well.


            Sunspire chocolate chips

            Enjoy Life Cholocate chips (very normal tasting) – dairy free, soy free, gluten free – but, like I said, very good!

            Carob chips (aren’t as good)

            Some pricey chocolate bars are dairy free – I can check what they are next time I buy them if you’d like.  They are quite the rare treat around here for Nathan

since they cost $2-$3 a bar.


            Crystal Farms DAIRY FREE sticks.  Blue package and has to have the words DAIRY FREE on the front (they have one that looks exactly the same that isn’t dairy free)

            Fleishmans Light in the tub (has to be light – not normal or olive oil)

            Earth Balance (This is the only dairy free margarine we found that holds up for things like rice krispie bars)


            Almond Breeze (chocolate, vanilla, original)

            Soy Milk – Most people I know agree Silk brand is the best (chocolate, vanilla, original, very vanilla)

            Rice Milk – cheapest usually – I use it for cooking but I cannot stomach it.

            There is a dairy free milk powder called DAIRY FREE.  Buy online at or some health food stores.

Cheese:  Some people can handle goat cheese fine, others can't.


            Country Hearth but NOT split top butter or raisin.  Arnold Bread

            Taystee buns, Cub buns, usually the cheap buns, but NOT WONDER brand

            There are also some others but I usually have to look at the labels to know – most bread DO contain milk

Processed meat:

            Believe it or not, most contain milk.  Be esp. careful of hotdogs and brats.  I know that the Old Fashioned Hotdogs with the red label are dairy free, and so is Hormel Natural Choice 100% natural lunchmeat – it comes in a brown cardboard looking package.  I think Hormel sausage is dairy free but I’m not sure.  We rarely buy it and I have to start picking up and reading labels to find one.  There is a turkey sausage link package that is dairy free.

Cereal:  Most contain milk – but check brands.  Some generic cheerios contain milk while the name brand ones don’t.  

Pop tarts –  again, check brands.  Usually the name brand ones are dairy free unless it’s chocolate. 

Granola Bars:  Most have dairy.   We buy some in a purplish package that don’t have dairy.

Spaghetti Sauce:  Haven’t bought in a long time, we make it from scratch,  but I think the Prego Traditional was dairy free.  Most have cheese.

Salad dressing:   Most have dairy.  Brianna’s doesn’t – in general.  The thing to look for, other than milk or cheese, is carmel coloring.  

Most processed foods have dairy.

Uncle Bens Original Long Grain Wild Rice is dairy free.

Bushes baked beans most/all are dairy free.  Their carmel coloring is NOT dairy.  My mom called the company and asked - and we have NEVER had a problem with it.

Pepsi products:  their carmel coloring is NOT dairy.

Tyson chicken nuggets and stuff are usually dairy free – some types have dairy but the have a CONTAINS statement.  I haven’t found it worth my time to check other brands – everything I’d pick up had dairy.

Foster Farms corndogs are dairy free – State Fair are not

VanDeCamp’s and Wal-mart brand fishsticks are dairy free – most have dairy

Wal-mart has some meatballs that are dairy free – most have dairy.


            Many are fine, but you need to read the boxes.  I know name brand Ritz and name brand saltines are dairy free.  Some off brands have dairy.  Wheat thins are dairy free as long as you stay away from parmesan ones or anything crazy.

Chips:  Most are dairy free – just usually have to watch out for sour cream or cheese flavored.  Even watch for things like Dill Pickle (Lay's are the only Dill Pickle chips we've found dairy free)

Cookies:  I think most have dairy.  But, most Oreos are dairy free.  We don’t buy them much.  You can find other dairy free ones in the “healthy/organic” sections but they cost a lot of money.  

Microwave popcorn:  Act II Butter Lovers flavored is dairy free (nope that wasn’t a typo) – most microwave ones have butter.  Obviously pop your own is dairy free.

Pizza crust:  Unless you make from scratch….Boboli has dairy.  We buy one that comes in a 2 pack and is dairy free.

Papa Johns and Papa Murphy’s have dairy free crusts.  Just ask for no cheese.

Flour tortillas:  Reeser’s is dairy free, there are other that are dairy free too but most, I think, have dairy.

Tofutti makes really yummy soy/tofu based products:  Their ice cream and sandwiches are awesome.  I buy them to have some ice cream for the kids sometime.  But, everyone, including other people’s kids, like them too.  They cost lots more, so we buy a box for Maria and John, and a box of Kemps for everyone else.  Soy dream and rice dream ice creams are kinda gross.   Tofutti sour cream and cream cheese aren’t bad.

Kikoman light soy sauce is dairy free.

Soups:  most have dairy and they say so on the label.  I need to check regarding Lipton’s Onion soup mix.  They list carmel coloring so I’ve never used it – but I’ve got lots of recipes that call for it.  Cream soups have dairy.  I have a recipe for your own if you need it.  

Broths:  Most have dairy.  Imagine foods makes some more pricey organics that are dairy free in cartons.  

Boullion:  Most have dairy  Wyler’s Sodium Free instant chicken boullion and Orrington Farms gourmet chicken base are diary free.  I know I found a beef one once but haven’t been able to find it again.

Pie Crust:  Most have dairy.  Some do not.

Whip Cream:  ALL have dairy EXCEPT Rich’s Richwhip.  Comes in a tiny milk carton looking container in the frozen section.  It’s the kind you beat for 8 minutes or something yourself.  Brooklyn Park Cub foods has it.  MG didn’t – maybe they do now.  It’s on the top shelf above the whip cream.

Sauces:  Brown sauces (steak, etc.) all have carmel coloring.  I’ve always assumed dairy and didn’t check.

I have a cookbook called Marnie’s Kitchen shortcuts.  There are recipes for make your “bisquick” mix, cream soup mix, etc.  They usually call for powdered milk – but – way up above I mentioned that there is a dairy free powdered milk.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Driving by a fatal accident

Friday morning I drove past an accident.  The 4th police car had just arrived on the scene, there were 2 cars stopped on the road.  A pedestrian was killed. It was clear this had just happened.  I could have turned down a side street, but I chose to continue on.  I was only a mile from our old house and needed to stop in there to take care of something quickly before an early morning dentist appointment.   As I was driving past I wish I had avoided the scene - suffice it to say I took a different route when I left.  After my appointment, an hour later,  I noticed that the entire 4 lane road was closed. 
I don't really know what happened except that it was still very dark, and there was no crosswalk there.  I've been praying for the victim as well as the driver.  I've read the accident report online and while the police are investigating, they are treating this as an accident.  How horrible for everyone involved.
While I wish I had turned down a side road and avoided the site, I guess it was good I drove down that road, in a way.  Whether I was there or not has no effect on what happened or on those people, it did have an effect on me.  I drive a big van, it's hard to see out of when backing up. We've done what we can with something that sticks on the back window giving a broader view.  But, it's still hard.  I would venture to say that unless you drive an actual car, you probably deal with the same thing to some degree.
I am also 35 weeks pregnant with a baby who is literally using my cervix as a pillow - and what little organ has the sad state in life to be in such close proximity? - sorry tmi maybe?  But, I am at that point in my pregnancy where I park and step out of my vehicle...and hope I can make it in to the rest room at my destination - and yes, I use it before I leave home (for anyone who has ever been pregnant you know what I mean).  However, ever since then, I have parked in spaces where I can pull through -I still look for those up close - but usually it means I park pretty far away from the door. 
I cannot do anything for the victim, driver, or their families except pray (I don't know anyone involved).  I CAN do what I can to keep others safe around my vehicle. 

In addition, I think it's important to give credit to all those emergency responders.  While in high school I attended a seminar for kids who wanted to be paramedics.  I have always liked medicine.  But, what was I thinking?  I could not handle it.  Police officers and paramedics see this stuff all the time.  It cannot be easy for them, yet they continue to serve us in this manner.  How blessed we are to have people willing and capable to serve us in this capacity.  It was a good reminder to me to be thankful for them as well!