Greek Tortellini Soup with Chicken and Spinach

Back to school time does not always find me being a very happy mama. The “dinner hour” at our house is crazy. David and I are both arriving home from work. The kids are both clamoring to tell use about the good and bad things that happened to them during the day. They both have homework that needs to be done, baths that need to be taken, stories to be read, and so on. Then I have three people standing around asking “what’s for dinner?”

I hate that question, and I’m sure that you do too. That’s why this month the Happy Mamas got together and decided to share our favorite go-to weeknight meals that can be prepared and on the table in a flash and most importantly, will be eaten. I’m sharing a recipe for Greek Tortellini Soup with Chicken and Spinach (adapted from Cooking Light Super Fast Suppers).

Greek Tortellini Soup with Chicken and Spinach is a quick, easy, and healthy dinner that is a family favorite.

Ingredients:
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1/4 fresh lemon juice (about two lemons)
1 cup diced, cooked chicken
1 14 ounce can quartered artichoke hearts (optional)
1 7 ounce (or thereabouts) package fresh spinach
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 9 ounce packages 3-cheese tortellini (like Di Giornio)

Instructions:

1. Combine the broth, water, wine (I don’t use that), and lemon juice in a good size soup pot and bring to a boil.

2. Stir in the chicken, artichoke hearts (I leave these out too), spinach, oregano, and pepper.

3. When the soup returns to a boil, add the pasta and cook for about eight minutes.

4. Serve, enjoy, and pat yourself on the back for making a great dinner in less than 30 minutes.

While we all love this tortellini soup, it is one of Cady’s favorite meals. She asks me to make it all the time. I love it because, not only does it taste really great, it is super easy to make, cooks really fast, and is healthy. This meal is definitely a mom win.

For more easy weeknight meals, check out these recipes:
Ground Beef Recipes that Make Easy Weeknight Meals
Easy Pizza Pie
Beef and Black Bean Quesadillas
Easy Parmesean Tilapia

What is your family’s favorite weeknight meal that is quick and easy?
We would love for you to link up your recipe below so that we can try it out. Also, be sure to visit all of the other happy mamas for more great recipe ideas.

S.T.E.A.M Inspiration for your Tween

As a member of the Netflix Stream Team, I receiving products and/or services. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

With the start of school comes the age-old question from parents, “What did you do today?” What most of us really mean is, “What did you learn today?” We all want our kids to be excited about learning and hope wish dream that they will embrace it every day. We see the road ahead of them and know that a good education will take them farther in life. They see work. And more work. And more boring yucky work that takes time away from watching doll reviews and Minecraft videos on YouTube. Or maybe that’s just the way it is at my house.

There is one subject that both of my kids love – Science. They both like to do science experiments at home and it is usually the first thing subject they tell me about when they learn something new. I think this is awesome, and I encourage both of them to love it by letting them destroy my kitchen and use every bowl, measuring cup, and spoon in the house to do these experiments. Sometimes. Especially Cady.

Traditionally, girls have not been encouraged to pursue careers in Science. Or math. Or technology. Or engineering. But Cady is really good at all of those things. They way her brain works helps her to solve problems and see concepts that other people might struggle with. That is definitely something I want to encourage her interest in. That is one reason why I was excited when Netflix asked me to preview a new show for them called Project Mc2, which is a show about four girls who use science, technology, engineering, arts, and math to solve a crime. I asked Cady to watch and review it for me and this is what she had to say:

There is a new girl in town named Mckayla. She ended up showing up at a very coincidental time because Prince Zander is taking a trip to outer space. But three girls named Adrienne, Bryden, and Camryn think that’s more than a coincidence so they decide to start investigating and find out she’s a spy. Together, all four girls work together to keep the prince safe from the person who is trying to stop the launch.

I personally thought that this show was pretty cool. I mean, it’s hip and scientific all at the same time. If you like something cool, scientific, mysterious, and fun then this series is for you.

So there you have it from the resident tween girl at the Wiliams house. After she finished the series she told me the only bad thing was that she wished there were more episodes. Hopefully there will be more soon.

To learn more about the show you can watch the trailer below or visit the website, which has some cool activities and science experiments your kids can do at home.

Check out Project Mc2 on Netflix .

What shows are your tweens streaming on Netflix?

A Trip to the Farm

My mom married a man that loves horses. And since the first time James visited them, he fell in love with horses too. This weekend my mom took him on a little road trip up to the “the farm”. I’m pretty sure James was in a part of his heaven. She posted this photo on Facebook of him climbing the hay bales in the barn.

A Trip to the Farm - Climbing the hay bales is fun until someone tells momma what likes to hang out around the hay.

I thought it was adorable. I was happy because I could tell James was having good kid fun. I showed it to David.

“Look at James.”

“That’s cute. I hope he watched for snakes. Snakes like to hang out around that hay.”

Thanks for that David. Couldn’t he let me bask in the glow of my kid’s happiness for five minutes without triggering my inner helicopter mom.

That evening I went to pick James up from mom’s.

“Did you see the photo of James in the hay?”

“Yep. I thought it was adorable until David told me about the snakes.”

“There’s no snakes in the hay.”

Billy, who is a quiet man, studied the food on his plate.

“David said that snakes like to hang out around hay. Ask Billy.” Him, being a veterinarian and having been around horses and cows most of his life, knows way more about animals, hay, and snakes than we ever will.

Mom was aghast. “Do snakes like to hang out around the hay?”

He slowly looked up with a small smile. “Uhhhhh…. I don’t know.”

I laughed and gave my mom a pointed look. “That means yes.”

My overprotective mother could not believe what she was hearing. “Seriously?!”

Billy chuckled. “Well, maybe sometimes.”

I looked at James who was listening with a smile. “Watch for snakes the next time you’re climbing in the hay.”

I guess this was our first lesson that a trip to the farm might not be all fun and games.

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Back to School Tips that Earn You an A+

It’s the time of year that either induces tears of joys or cries of panic… Back to School. I’m kinda, sorta prepared this year. Meaning, I have a few more things to do before the kids are fully supplied, clothed, and shod with new footwear. Are you ready? Here are some back to school tips to help you get that way.

Practical Back to School tips to help you get prepared for the first day of school

Start a tradition

Is this your first year sending little ones off to “big kid” school? Then start a tradition that will carry you (and them) all the way through graduation. The internet is full of ideas. Maybe you can have the same breakfast every year or take a photo in the same spot or have the same dessert when they come home from school that day. Whatever you do, make it fun and EASY. Back to school time is stressful for kids and parents. You don’t need to add any time-consuming rituals. It is the little things that matter. Also? It really is never too late to start a tradition (unless they are graduating and this is your last year). Come up with a fun idea and try it out. Maybe it will stick.

Create a Command Center

We are about to be inundated with all the paper that the school ever purchases. Or at least it will feel like that. Plus all of the additions to our schedules. School picture day and snack day and money due back for yearbook on this day and return the library book on Friday and… It is pretty much unending. All of that can be hard to keep up with, at least for me. That’s why I created a Back to School Command Center in my laundry room next to the back door. It was easy and it helps keep me and the kids organized during the school year.

Command Center, Back to School, Organizing and Storage, DIY, Craft Project, Parenting, Children, Being a Mom

Print all the Registration Paperwork from your School’s Website

I love that our school puts all of the running start and new student registration on their website. I download it and fill it all out before I head to the school for running start. It makes the whole process go a lot faster. Plus all the details for when I need to be at the school for running start and meet the teacher/orientation are right there. I add the dates and times to my calendar to make sure I don’t miss anything. Hopefully your district will have this information available for you too.

Prepare your kids

Lazy summer days are the best. Sleeping in (to 7:00, WOW!), watching TV, playing on electronics, eating whenever you want… at least that’s how it goes for my kids. Reentry is hard. It helps if you can start preparing them a few weeks ahead of time with earlier bedtimes and by waking them up in the mornings. Try to set a better schedule in the day to get them used to it again. Also, if you have a new one going to school or a child that seems to be anxious, talk to them about back to school and their worries/concerns. This will help them to know they can come to you if they have any problems.

Organize Your Lunch Supplies

One of the best things I ever did was organize a shelf in my cabinets for lunch supplies. I never have to spend time in the mornings searching for missing lids or lost thermoses. Everything is right where I need it. Consider organizing a lunch station in your house to make meal prep easier.

lunch station, meal preparation, school lunches, children, kids, being a mom, parenting

Charge the Camera Batteries

Back to school means lots of photos. You’ll want the traditional first day poses, but you’ll also want to take your camera to meet the teacher. This is the best time to get a photo of your child with their new teacher(s) and you can get their classroom while you’re there too. The first day of school is always hectic. Don’t wait until then to try to capture the perfect shot.

Store all the Papers

So much paper. Artwork and assignments and spelling tests and journals and photos and… Your student will be bringing home a ton of stuff from school during the year. You will want to keep some of it. Make sure you’ve thought about this before school starts or you will wind up with a big pile of papers on your kitchen counters driving you crazy. Pretty soon all you will want to do is trash it. I have a portable file box (affiliate link) like this for each child. Inside is a folder for each year. I save the things I think are the best and store them in the box along with a class photo, group photo, and other mementos from the year (like awards and kindergarten graduation caps).

Back to School Tips - Portable file boxes make the perfect storage for all of your child's school work.

What’s for Lunch

How will your littles do lunch ever day? Buy it school? Take a lunch? Whatever you decide, prepare ahead of time so that you aren’t rushing on the first day to make sure they have something to eat. Charge up their account or make a grocery store run for their favorite lunch items. Most days my kid buy their lunch at school (their choice), but on the days that James takes a lunch, he prefers a hot meal. Here are 14 hot lunch ideas that I wrote about last year in case your child is the same. You can also find a ton of lunch ideas on my Pinterest page.

The most important back to school tip is to not wait until the last minute. Those fully stocked supply aisles at your local store look pretty intimidating right now, but they are nothing compared to the anxiety caused by the empty aisles the week before school starts. Start talking with your kids now about what needs to be done for back to school. That way you will all be ready when the first day comes. Or as ready as you can be.

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This month the Happy Mamas are sharing all of our back to school tips. Simply Stavish is hosting a link up for back to school tips and sharing her tips on how to prepare your little one for kindergarten. Be sure to check out all of the tips that are shared this month and share yours with us. We would love to hear how you prepare for back to school.

Movies Featuring the Sexiest Men Alive on Netflix

As a member of the Netflix Stream Team, I receiving products and/or services. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

It is summer and it is hot, hot, hot. Want a way to enjoy the heat while staying inside the air conditioning? Check out these movies on Netflix featuring actors who topped the People’s Sexiest Men Alive list for the last 15 years.

Stream these movies that feature the People's Sexiest Men Alive from the last 15 years.

2014 – Chris Hemsworth

2013 – Adam Levine – Nothing, but maybe one day…

2012 – Channing Tatum

2011 – Bradley Cooper

2010 – Ryan Reynolds

2009 – Johnny Depp

2008 – Hugh Jackman

2007 – Matt Damon

2006 – George Clooney

2005 – Matthew McConaughey

2004 – Jude Law

2003 – Johnny Depp (again)

2002 – Ben Affleck

2001 – Pierce Brosnan, who I remember all the way back to Remington Steele. Granted, I was a kid then.

2000 – Brad Pitt

I didn’t know about some of these movies, but they have definitely been added to My List.

Who would make your top list of hot summer actors? What are their best movies?

Summer Happy – Making Memories that Last a Lifetime

I think making memories that last a lifetime with our kids is something all moms hope to do. I know it is one of those little worries that niggles at the back of my mind. “Will my kids remember being happy?” This summer I went a long (and expensive) way to make sure that happened.

The Friday after the last day of school we loaded up the car and went to Disney World. And it was amazing. Really, truly, amazing.

Summer Happy - Making Memories that Last a Lifetime with Your Kids

Memories from our trip…

In the car, James making a stick out of markers and lightly tapping David on the ear while whispering “tap, tap, tap”. Which doesn’t seem funny now, but was hilarious at the time. We still all laugh anytime someone says “tap, tap, tap.”

Also in the car, forcing the kids to listen to 80s music. And Cady asking if it would ever end. Not today PYT. Not today!

Arriving in our room at Animal Kingdom Lodge and seeing giraffes outside through the sliding door. And pushing Cady out of the way so that I could walk out on the balcony first.

giraffes at the animal kingdom lodge

Finding out that there is an animal called a Somali Wild Ass and that there were some outside our room in addition to the giraffes. And then calling the kids Somali wild asses any time they stepped out of line for the rest of the trip.

Sliding into the pool at the resort and seeing my kids laughing when I came up for air. Apparently I have spread eagle issues when coming off of a slide. I also sink to the bottom butt first.

Hearing another mom in line say in a shocked/frustrated tone “OH MY GOD! ARE YOU SERIOUS?! YOU JUST ATE!” when her son told her he was hungry. Again. I may or may not have uttered this same thing once or twice.

Watching David, James, and Cady laugh as they rode the teacups. And being glad that I did not ride the teacups.

Eating at Askerhaus and taking photos with the princesses. I especially love the fact that James had picked out a sword and shield to buy with his souvenir money before we got there. (And OMG Cinderella was there. SQUEEEEE!)

meeting Cinderella

Getting caught in the rain. Getting soaked. And then winning a free frozen treat because I was silly enough to quack like a duck and shake my tailfeathers when asked by some castmembers.

Watching my kids eyes light up when they saw characters they loved or were amazed by something or thought a ride was the most awesome thing ever.

Witnessing Cady be shy with this those same characters. My girl is NOT shy.

Watching the live Nemo show at Animal Kingdom. Nemo is one of my favorite movies ever. I was downright giddy.

Laughing with my kids about “roller coaster” face.

roller coaster face

And so, SO many more things. It was a great trip. But taking a trip to Disney World is not the only way to make memories with your kids this summer. You can go to a local waterpark or camping or swimming or set up a sprinkler in the backyard (my kids love a “backyard” waterpark) or go for a walk and smell the flowers or hunt for fireflies or bake cookies or… So many other things. Really all you need to make memories is you and your kids.

What ways are you making memories with your kids this summer?

Share your memories this month on Instagram with the hashtag #SummerHappy and @thedudemom. Then link up your images in the form below for a chance to win a $110 gift card from Target. Something that is sure to make any momma happy.

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Classic Shows and Characters on Netflix

As a member of the Netflix Stream Team, I receiving products and/or services. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

As self-proclaimed TV junkies, David and I love sharing some of our favorite shows and characters with our kids. I was so happy when James found a love for Scobby Doo, and David is still trying to get them to like The Waltons. (blech) Thankfully, Netflix makes sharing our favorite shows and characters with our kids easy.

Classic Shows and Characters on Netflix

1. Scooby Doo
2. The Wonder Years
4. The Magic School Bus
5. The Munsters
6. Power Rangers
7. Quantum Leap
8. My Little Pony
9. Leave it to Beaver
10. Spiderman
11. Danger Mouse
12. Inspector Gadget
13. Strawberry Shortcake
14. Garfield
15. Smurfs

For the bigger kids try: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks, Twilight Zone, Gilmore Girls, and Saved By the Bell.

What are your favorite classic shows and characters to share with your kids?

Lessons Learned – Why We Need to Address the Past

We had an avocado green rotary dial phone that hung on the wall in our kitchen next to the stove. It had a long cord that could be stretched to allow my mom to sit in the living room while talking. One night when I was in second grade, the phone rang. My dad, who was sitting at the kitchen table, answered.

His side of the conversation consisted of short sentences. “Yes. No. What happened. I’ll take care of it.” I didn’t know who was on the other end of the line, but when he hung up, I knew that I was in trouble. I didn’t get in trouble often, especially with my dad, but all kids know the look a parent gets when they are upset about something you’ve done.

“That was Stacie’s mother. She said Stacie came home crying from school today because you said some mean things to her. Did you say these things?”

Never one to lie, I confirmed what Stacie’s mother said.

“Go to your room. I’ll be there in a minute.”

That was one of only two spankings I ever got from my dad. I don’t remember what I said to Stacie to hurt her feelings, but I do remember what my dad told me afterward. “You are the same as everyone else. You treat everyone the same. And you don’t hurt people on purpose.”

That lesson stuck. Those words became my principles.

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Sometimes I wonder what dad would think about things that are happening in America today. He grew up in a small East Texas town where his family had lived for generations. He went to school during desegregation and was a young man during the civil rights movement. If you asked him if he was a racist or hated black people, he would have told you no. Everyone is the same.

Still, he (and I) grew up in a time and place where the n-word was just a word. No one ever thought about the negative connotations or the hate that was laced into its meaning. He was taught there are “good” blacks and “bad” blacks and that was something he taught me, along with other racial stereotypes, through his words and his actions. Not because he harbored any hate in his heart, but because that was all he knew. Another perspective was never offered. That was the way it was.

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When I graduated from college, I was offered a job in Houston and accepted. I didn’t realize the difference in the level of cultural diversity I experienced until I moved back home after Cady was born and returned to work. I was shocked to see so many white people. It seemed like everyone was white.

During a meeting at work, someone asked what changes or improvements we could make. I looked around the room of white people and responded, “Well we could start by hiring some people of color.” Everyone looked at me confused.

“But we have those Asian guys over in engineering.”

I was stunned. I had no idea how to respond. I also didn’t realize that was my first eye-opening moment of what it might be like to be a person of color. After that, I started paying attention at different places I worked and different businesses I went into. How many people of color were employed there? How many were in positions of leadership? How open were companies in their attitudes, not publically, but behind closed doors?

I didn’t know the seeds of change had been placed in my heart, but they were there, diligently working away and making me question everything I ever thought I knew.

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A few years later, I was talking to a black friend about local accounting firms. “I interviewed there, but they don’t hire black people.”

I was stunned when she told me that. “Are you serious?”

“Jennifer…” And then she gave me a look.

I started thinking about the people that worked there and realized she was 100% right. I was so offended for her. I was outraged.

“Why didn’t you file a complaint? Why didn’t you do something about it?”

“What’s the point? I got a better job and it wouldn’t have changed them anyway.”

The planted seeds started to sprout. Racial inequality was never far from my mind. I started noticing things I would have never noticed 10 years before and started seriously self-examining my thoughts and reactions. Why did I think they way I did? What were my knee jerk reactions? Where was that rooted? Did I really treat everyone as an equal?

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And then Trayvon Martin was murdered.

The seeds that had sprouted burst into full blooms inside my heart. I read and I read and I read. And I asked questions. And I witnessed. And I believed. And I changed.

And since then I’ve continued to grow and learn and empathize and grow and learn some more.

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Racism isn’t based on the individual feelings of one man or one woman. It isn’t about being a good or a bad person. It is a system of thinking that has been passed down through generations of families. This system has such far reaching implications that I, as a white person, will never completely understand it. But I know that it exists. And I know that if we do not address the sins of our fathers and their fathers and their fathers… then this system will continue to exist.

It hurts. It is painful. I feel shamed. It is hard. Telling these truths. Writing these words. It isn’t easy. It shouldn’t be. But most of the time the right thing is not the easy thing.

I know some people who read this will not want to agree with me. That awfulness they feel when this subject is brought up makes them pull away. It makes us want to hide. “But I’m a good person. I don’t hate anyone.” I’m not saying that isn’t true. But I am saying that we have lived too long behind the veil of a system that allows bad things to happen to people of color. We have ignored that veil for too long. It is time to pull it aside and cast light on the darkness. Because that is how we drive it away.

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This post has been on my mind for awhile, but I wasn’t sure how to put it together. Thanks to a prompt from Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop it all came together.

ABC’s of Me

I want to put words here, but sometimes words are hard to figure out. I saw my friend do this little meme on Facebook so I thought “why not?”. It isn’t a story, but it is something.

A- Age: 43

B- Biggest Fear: Something bad will happen to my kids or David and I won’t be able to stop it. And lizards. Creepy little bastards.

abcs of me2

C- Current Time: morning

D- Drink you last had: Coffee with milk

E- Easiest Person To Talk to: David. Always.

F- Favorite Song: Amazing Grace

G- Grossest Memory: One time when my little brother was sick he was resting his head on my lap while we waited in the car for my mom to go in the pharmacy to pick up his medicine. He puked all over me. Still grosser than all the times my kids puked on me.

H- Hometown: Southeast Texas

I- In love with: Netflix. I can’t quit.

J- Jealous Of: People who don’t have to worry about having enough money.

K- Killed Someone? ‪No (that was dumb)

L- Longest Relationship: 27+ years

M- Middle Name: Ann

N- Number of Siblings: 1 (That I know of. I swear some day some long lost half-sibling is going to show up at my door.)

O- One Wish: To be flush.

P- Person who you last called: CVS, Does that count? If not then Cady.

Q- Question you’re always asked: Can I tell you something? <---- James. Multiple times every day. R- Reason to smile: This weekend I took my brother to pick up his kids. Before I even saw them, I heard my youngest nephew scream "Daddy!" The look on his face and my brother's... That is something to smile about. Love is always something to smile about. ABCs of Me

S- Song you last sang: Probably Love Me Like You Mean It by Kelsea Ballerini. Cady and I have been walking around the house singing it.

T- Time you woke up: 5:30

U- Underwear Color: White

V- Vacation Destination: Today I would pick something lakeside.

W- Worst Habit: Making excuses.

X- Xrays you’ve had: Shoulder, foot, chest, jaw… That’s all I can think of right now.

Y- Your favorite food: Mashed potatoes

Z- Zodiac Sign: Virgo

About Having Guns in Churches

For my fellow Christians…

Brother and sisters, we need to have a talk. Since the massacre in Charleston last week, I have seen some pretty shocking things being said about what should happen in churches or how things could have gone differently if someone in the church had been armed or maybe, just maybe the pastor shouldn’t have voted against guns.

Which, let’s just stop for a minute right here and address that last one. People that is nothing but someone using a tragedy to further their own political agenda. It makes me sick to my stomach, and regardless of what you believe, you should find that as disgusting as I do. Attacking someone who died because they didn’t agree with your political platform is heinous. Period.

Now, let’s get back to the other thing I wanted us to talk about. Guns in Churches. Are you kidding me with this? Are you serious with this argument that pastors should pull out a gun Dirty Harry style and ask someone if they feel lucky? For real? If you are then we need to revisit John 18. Here’s what went down…

Jesus and the disciples were hanging out in the garden talking things over when some soldiers arrived and started questioning them. Now, Jesus knew what was coming. He had been planning on this happening since day one. He answered that’s who he was.

Now Peter, who had always thought that Jesus was going to be some kind of warrior, thought this was it. Time to fight. He jumped out with his sword and cut the ear off the high priest’s servant.

Then Jesus was all, “Are you serious right now? Did you really just do that? Put that sword away. Have you not been listening to everything I taught you about turning the other cheek and loving your neighbor. I told you this was going to happen. Do you have a problem with God’s plan?”

Now, I have paraphrased this a bit, but you can read it for yourself. As a matter of fact, please do go back and read it for yourself. I’m pretty sure that some of you have forgotten this lesson.

We like to walk around with those WWJD bracelets and talk about how we love Jesus and follow his teachings, but then some of you come and talk about carrying guns in church and shooting people (maybe you should also bone up on the commandments while you’re at it). Now do you really think that’s what Jesus would do? If you do you are wrong.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, not the prince of packing heat.

The Bible warns us about false prophets. Now is a good time to separate the leaders who are fluff from those who are faithful. The faithful will be teaching you about love. They will be leading you in prayer for the victims and their families. They will be telling you to examine yourself for sin, not to examine others for theirs.

I know it is easy to be like Peter. We want to adopt the teachings that fit the way we think and believe. But that is wrong. You cannot pick and choose. You have to take them all together. And over and over and over again we see that Jesus was about love. If you aren’t, then maybe you aren’t a Christian.

guns in churches