Friday, August 19, 2011

Bacon goes with...Chocolate Chip Cookies?

I enjoy trying new, unusual recipes, and last week my sister sent me a link to a recipe I just couldn't resist trying--Brown Butter, Bacon, and Chocolate Chip Cookies. ( ). The recipe called for three kinds of chocolate, giving me an excuse to buy three bags of chocolate chips, and I'd never made brown butter before, either, so I was really looking forward to trying it.

Making the brown butter wasn't hard, just a little time-consuming since I was worried about burning the butter (the recipe and my sister both warned that the butter could go from "a little brown" to "burned beyond being able to use" in just a few seconds). The instant it started to turn brown and smell nutty, I took it off the heat.

The batter tasted just like batter for chocolate chip cookies...with bacon. (I felt an obligation to try the batter, just to make sure it tasted ok to bake. I wouldn't want to serve my family an inferior product, after all!). As I spooned out the batter on the cookie sheets, it was a little strange to see bacon pieces among the chocolate chips...but they came out of the oven smelling wonderful!

Morgan wouldn't taste a cookie until I did...I bravely bit in...waited for the taste to hit me...and the cookie tasted like...a chocolate chip cookie with bits of bacon in it. It wasn't horrible or disgusting, but wasn't anything fantastic either. I tried another cookie this morning (OK, two of them) just to see if "aging" overnight made a difference...nope. I'm going to send some of the cookies to my niece; maybe she'll take them to school on Monday. I don't know if they'll make her "the-most-popular-girl-to-trade-lunches-with," or "the- girl-to-avoid-trading-lunches-with"...but I bet she'll try them.

My suggestion? Try the recipe but leave out the bacon. Tim was right--chocolate chips and bacon are both essential food served separately.

And I will look forward to the next unusual recipe Becky sends me!

There is a whole cup of chopped
up bacon in this bowl!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Blog!

Check out the new blog, featuring my book Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom's Guide to Caring for Herself, Her Family, and Her Home. I love being a mom, and now that my kids are a little older and more independent, I've felt a real push to encourage moms of younger children. I pray that the new blog does this, and that if they are interested moms will purchase Home is Where the Mom Is to further encourage them in their most important of jobs, being a mom.

I've also set up a FaceBook page, Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom's Guide. Check it out and if you like it, please "like" it! When I get 30 or so "likes" I have access to more information and can tell what posts get the most traffic, and therefore post topics of interest to more readers.

And as always--please leave me a comment as to what you like or don't like about this blog, and what you'd like to see covered in the Nebraska Family Times newspaper.


Monday, August 15, 2011

He Said, She Said…God Says

By Tracy Buzynski

A friend repeated something that she heard someone say about me. That person told someone else. Soon there was a loop of conversation about an untruth going around the school. Then it came back to me. So the saying “what goes around, comes around” left an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. How did this even happen and how did I end up in the middle of it?

How many times has this scenario happened to you or some one you know? What is more important; why does someone who you consider a friend, repeat something that ends up hurting you?

Quite simply, sometimes people don’t think before they speak. At the risk of sounding not cool or tongue tied, unkind words slip out. And then suddenly, when more is added to it, the story takes on a life of its own, wounding everyone in its path. Whether it is in person or online words can hurt. One thing that is different today for our kids and almost unavoidable is that our kids have a cyber presence at a much younger age than ever before. As a parent you can avoid it for only so long. It is part of their culture. They learn and use it in school. So instead of hiding your head in the proverbial sand, teach your kids how to handle this situation and know what God’s word says about this.

1 Thessalonians 4:11… “make it YOUR aim to live quietly and to mind YOUR own business.” The scriptures tell us to think before we speak, since our words can be a powerful source of good AND bad. Wow! Mind your own beeswax! God’s word is just full of common-sense advice. So why is it so hard sometimes?

The world is so full of things to occupy our minds. Parents need to make it a priority to teach basic values. When a learning situation comes up, take the time to point out how a positive choice made a situation turn out positive and vice versa.

If you find yourself falling into the gossip chain, make it stop with you. If fuel is not added to the fire the fire will die out. Proverbs 26:20 “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.”

Resolve to speak encouragingly about everyone. Try it. Take a day and guard your tongue the whole day. That means do not say disparaging things about yourself either. Ephesians 4:29 “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.” It is not as hard as you think, especially if you ask for God’s help.

Take this feel-good challenge that you will benefit from as will others in your path.

Teach your kids how to pro-act so that they won’t have to re-act and become victim to idle gossips. Know what GOD SAYS and make a choice to live by what HE SAYS!

Tracy Buzynski is the owner of Encourage Me Kids; Encourage Someone Today, at

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Columbus Family Hosts Exchange Students

“They become part of our family.”

By Shelly Burke, Editor

The Drozd family made the decision to host an exchange student very quickly. Cheryl Drozd remembers, “We read about exchange students in the church bulletin several years ago. Our daughter Natalie, who has two younger brothers, thought it would be neat to have a sister for a year. Within just a few weeks we had gone from not knowing anything about having an exchange student, to hosting one!”

Natalie Drozd, now 13 years old, had a great time with her “big sister.” Cheryl says, “They had so much fun together! They stayed up late at night, talking and giggling together, just like sisters.”

“Then our son Cameron (now age 10) thought it would be neat to have a big brother to help him improve his soccer game, so for the next two years we hosted boys from Italy.

This year we are hosting a boy from Germany. He’s coming from France to play American football.”

Ben, age 7, also enjoys having host students in the home. They are like part of the family, according to Cheryl. “They help with chores, just like our children do. They also help with projects around the house. It’s neat to look at a room and remember that an exchange student helped us paint it.”

Cheryl says one misconception families have is that they should wait until their own children are in high school before hosting an exchange student. The Drozds have always hosted students who are older than their children. Cheryl explains the student selection process; “Students are chosen to go overseas only after they’ve filled out an application, they and their parents have written letters (about why the student should be considered) and they’ve received recommendations from teachers. They really want to go overseas. They are good examples for our children; they follow all of the ‘family’ rules—helping around the house, going to church, and so on. They know that they will be expected to do this, so it’s not a surprise to them.”

To be an exchange student, the child must be between the ages of 15 and 19 and have good grades in school. Families choose the student they want to host based on that student’s age, interests, etc.

Exchange students are required to have taken at least 5 years of English, so communicating is not a problem. The Drozd family asks their student to teach them one word of their native language every evening at supper, and every evening they review the words they’ve learned.

Cheryl says that students typically find America to be “much more rushed” than their lives at home. “We try to slow down for one night each week, and on that night the student shares his or her culture with us—we eat what they would typically eat (sometimes the student cooks for us) and we talk about their culture.”

Every year Cheryl coordinates 7-10 exchange students and their families in eastern Nebraska, including the Columbus, Fremont, Lincoln and Omaha areas. Families choose the student they wish to host, and Cheryl coordinates the process. She also contacts the student, the host parents, and the school every month to be sure everything is running smoothly and the student is doing well in school. Cheryl acts as a mentor and meets with the family and the student if there are any issues.

The host family is expected to provide the student with a bed, meals in the home, and a ride to school (students are not allowed to drive while they’re in the United States). Students are prepared to pay for any outside activities—tickets to sporting events, meals eaten out of the home and any personal items.

Students usually spend an entire year with the host family, although occasionally they stay for just one semester.

Cheryl would like to place several more students with host families by the end of August. If you are considering hosting an exchange student, call Cheryl at (402) 563-0699 or e-mail her at Cheryl will talk with you on the phone or set up an in-person meeting to answer all of your questions, and put you in touch with other host families. If now is not the right time for you to host a student, but you’re interested in learning more, Cheryl will be happy to answer your questions.

The Drozd family obviously enjoys hosting students from different countries. Cheryl says, “The experience is life changing for our whole family. The host students become another family member, and we’ll think of them that way forever. We remember each others’ birthdays and send cards and letters at holidays. It’s such a neat relationship! We hope, someday, to be invited overseas to their weddings.”

(for more information go to STS Foundation-Students Traveling Schools –

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Little Help from Friends

By Melanie Chitwood

"When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up - one on one side, one on the other - so that his hands remained steady till sunset." Exodus 17:12 (NIV)


It had been a challenging year for our family. Opening a new business, extended family issues, a series of health challenges, writing a book, and daily life with newly-turned teenagers were some of the stressors we experienced.

One evening, feeling especially weary and desperate for support, I drove to my friend Holly's house to vent. I plopped on the couch, put my head in my hands, and announced, "I just don't think I can do this." Without missing a beat, her husband Dan said, "That's why you need your friends this year."

How true. We were never meant to deal with stress, discouragement, pain, or just a hard day with the kids on our own. God created us to need encouragement from each other, especially during hard times.

Today's key verse shows how Moses, just like us, needed support. While Joshua and the Israelite soldiers battled the Amalekites, God asked Moses to hold up his staff, representing God's power, throughout the battle. As long as Moses kept the staff raised, the Israelites experienced victory. It was a long battle, however, and Moses dropped his arms in fatigue. Then the Israelites began losing the battle.

That's when Moses needed help and encouragement from his friends. Scripture explains, "When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset" (Exodus 17:12, NIV).

The Israelites ultimately were victorious, and a key to their victory was Moses' obedience to God as he held up the staff. But he couldn't have done what God asked him to do without the help of Aaron and Hur.

In the same way over the past couple of years I've needed my friends to hold me up, so I can be the wife, mother and woman God has called me to be. Friends have listened, prayed and helped me with practical matters of everyday life. Their support has given me courage to press on, to remain hopeful, and to find strength in them and the Lord.

Just like Aaron and Hur did for Moses, my friends have held up my hands and lifted my heart so I can be obedient to God's call on my life. We all need the help of faithful friends.

Dear Lord, thank You for the encouragement of friends - and for providing each one at just the right time. Forgive me for the times I've been prideful and independent instead of vulnerable and honest about my needs. Let me be an encourager to others the way they've been to me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application Steps:

Take time to thank someone who has encouraged you. Write an email, send a text, make a phone call or send a special gift to your encourager. You can forward this devotion to them and tell them "thank you" for holding up your hands!

Maybe as you read this devotion, you realize you don't have a friend to help you during the hard times. Start by praying for God to send someone your way. Then take the first step to initiate a new friendship.


Is it easier for me to help someone or to receive help? If it's hard for me to receive help, I'll ask the Holy Spirit to reveal why.

Am I part of a church community? If not, this week I am going to attend church regularly and to get involved in a service group, small group or Bible study.

Power Verses:

John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (NASB)

Ecclesiastes 4:9, "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed." (NLT).

© 2010 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.

Melanie Chitwood ( has been married for 20 years. She and her husband Scott have two sons, Zachary and Tyler. Melanie is the author of two marriage books published by Harvest House, What a Husband Needs from His Wife and What a Wife Needs from her Husband, Melanie takes an honest and biblical look at marriage, uncovering what husbands and wives really need from each other and how they can best meet those needs. These books include many real-life stories from her marriage and other couples of challenges and victory in marriage and is available at the ministry with which she serves, Proverbs 31 Ministries,

Friday, August 5, 2011

Before School Starts…

By Shelly Burke, Editor

Whether your child needs crayons or a graphing calculator for the new school year, the following suggestions will make the start of a new year easier.

1. A new routine. After the more relaxed summer routine, it’s time to get back into the school routine. Determine what bedtime and getting-up time should be, and gradually adjust your kids’ schedule to those times. If your kids will walk to and/or home from school (or to a babysitter’s house) practice those routes.

2. Update calendars. Write down early outs, vacation days, sports and activity dates, and when pictures will be taken. This makes it much easier to plan your schedule accordingly. Encourage your kids to write down and tell you of important dates as they are scheduled.

3. Meet the teacher. Much of the anxiety of the first day will be dispelled if your child has met his or her teacher before school starts. This also gives you a chance to meet the teacher and tell her a little bit about your child, especially if he has any medical issues the teacher needs to be aware of. Call ahead to make sure the teacher is in the classroom and not in a meeting. If your child is new to the school, ask for a tour or take a few minutes to walk around and find the restroom and lunchroom.

4. In sickness and in health…If your child will be taking any medications at school, ask for the form you’ll be required to fill out, and do so before school starts. Ask about school policy; can your child keep medications with him or do they need to be kept in the office or nurse’s office? Any medications—non-prescription as well as prescription--will need to be in a labeled bottle. Be sure your child is clear as to when he should take or request the medications. If your child is entering kindergarten or 7th grade, make sure his or her immunizations are up to date.

5. Prayers. Begin praying about school issues before school starts. If your child is anxious about a new teacher, new school, or new classes, pray together for him to feel God’s presence. Recite and write down reassuring verses like Philippians 4:5. Your child can keep the verses in a notebook or his backpack.

As well as praying with your children, pray for your children. Also pray for the teachers, administrators, and other students. If you have a close relationship with your child’s teacher, ask what he or she would like you to pray for. Consider joining, or starting, a prayer group to pray specifically for issues related to the school.
Back to School, or Back to the Poor House?

by Tawra Kellam

Back to school is a time when many moms witness their money sprout wings and take flight, finding their homes at retail stores across America. I know that consumer spending is good for the economy, but I don't take it upon myself to keep the entire US economy propped up, so when my first-grade son announced that he wanted a backpack with rollers, I saw this as a wonderful financial teaching moment. His school is small, and he doesn't walk to or from school. He didn't need rollers.

I told my son that I would give him $8 toward a backpack. I told him that if he wanted a fancier one, he could put up some of his allowance money for the difference. That's the rule at our house. Mom and Dad buy the basics and the kids buy the extras. It was amazing how my son's perception of the need for rollers changed when his allowance was on the line. Yes, he has concluded, a regular backpack will do the trick this year.

Use some of these money-saving tips from and you can happily send your kids to school and keep some of the cash for mom's back-to school celebration!

Wait for the list to come out and stick to it. Otherwise, you might buy things you don't need. Remember that the Bank of Mom doesn't pay for frills. Any extras the kids want will have to be funded from their own cash reserves. I do understand that it is nice for kids to have "hip" back-to-school supplies. I look at yard sales and thrift stores for brand name finds. For instance, I recently found a gently-used Barbie backpack and a Barbie lunch box and no one would know that I paid $1 each instead of the $32 that Becky Johnson's mom paid. Who says that stay-at-home moms don't make any money?

Don't buy back-to-school clothes. Children don't need an entirely new wardrobe every fall. If they need something like a new pair of shoes or new jeans then buy what they need, but don't just buy a new wardrobe because it's the thing to do.

• Use back-to-school sales to your advantage. If you know your kids go through a package of socks, underwear or jeans every six months, then stock up while they are on sale. The same is true of crayons, paper, notebooks, backpacks and lunch boxes. My son went through two backpacks and two lunch boxes last year, so this year we will buy two while they are on sale instead of waiting until the middle of the year when they are full price. However, don't be tempted to buy things that you wouldn't normally use just because they're on sale.

• Go through last year's school supplies to see which things are still usable. If my student has a working calculator, the Bank of Mom will not extend credit for a new one.

• Limit activities to one at a time. Activity fees can add up fast. One at a time is the rule at our house. If you can't afford the activity, it doesn't hurt for the kids to use their own money to pay for it. The best way to teach them money management is to let them manage their own money when they have nothing to lose, instead of after they have maxed out the credit cards someone persuaded then to sign up for in college.

For money-saving tips and recipes, visit
School Year Resolutions for You and Your Teenager

Mark Gregston, Heartlight Ministries

Like New Year's resolutions, the start of the school year is a perfect time for parents and teenagers to make resolutions together in regard to goals, responsibilities, and expectations.

Think about what you and your teen hope to accomplish and how you will interact this year. That starts by reviewing your household rules to make sure they are still age-appropriate. And be sure to develop concrete plans to shore up and maintain your relationship with your teen, even as they get busier with school and after-school activities.

Make one of your goals to meet with them regularly, at least once a week. Make it a requirement to get together at a restaurant or coffee shop; or better yet, go have some mutual fun together. You'll find that every time you meet with your teen you'll learn something new about them, and your relationship will blossom.

A number of things happen in the first few weeks of school so I recommend that you double up your one on one meetings during the first month. Listen to what your teen has to say about their new teachers, their schedule and their peers. Perhaps they are already being bullied by someone, so it could be that they need to be quickly moved or the school officials told about the bullying. Getting it right in the first few weeks is critical, since you can still make changes in their schedule or classes before they get too far into the semester, and before they become discouraged.

Communication Means Listening

When you get together, your teen may never have a long discussion with you; it may just be the "instant message" version. But listen carefully, because what is said will probably be short and you'll have to do some reading between the lines. Repeat back what you think they said, or ask a few quick questions to clarify what they meant. This will signify that you are really listening and wanting to understand them.

If your teen is a boy, keep in mind that boys will clam up if a parent expects them to look them in the eye when they talk. My friend Bill Ziegler, a middle school principal and frequent guest on our weekly radio program, says, "Boys communicate better when we're side by side, versus face to face." I find that boys also seem to process life while they are involved in an activity of some sort. You'll be most successful if you can find something fun to do together, all the while interjecting thought-provoking questions to keep the conversation going.

For girls, too, conversation naturally comes out of having fun together. Talking less during these activity times may be difficult for a parent, but when it comes to getting teenagers to open up to you, you can't shut up too much. And be sure to prevent distractions during your time together. Don't bring along friends or siblings. Don't go to their regular hangout, where they'll likely run into their friends. Don't allow iPods or cell phones. And by all means, don't announce the activity is for the purpose of having a talk. Just leave the space open and available while you are with them, to see what happens next. Then zip your lip, be quiet, and practice listening.

School Is More Stressful Today

School has become a much more demanding environment for our kids these days. The pressures are significant to perform for others; socially, academically or athletically. So, take care in reviewing your teenager's schedule. Don't allow them to over-commit their time to school or other extra-curricular activities, including those at church. Adults will recruit them to commit to every spare second in their day to sports, clubs, music, or youth group, if you allow them.

It's up to you to help your teen prioritize their schedule, while giving them permission to cut out some things if it appears they are taking on too much. If they are unwilling to confront the people who are pushing them into a state of being over-committed, ask your teen's permission to speak to them yourself.

Other kids will under-commit and avoid involvement in anything but what's required. So you may need to help them by asking them to at least try out for a sport or a club or other activity that will broaden their horizons, give them a new skill, or put them in the company of a positive peer group. Remember, one of the most important things you can do for your teenager is to help them find a positive peer group - so do whatever it takes.

Is Your Home a Place of Rest?

Finally, but no less important, be sure to take a close look at the environment in your home. Is it a place of rest for your teen, or does it just add to their stress? Having reasonable rules and chores won't cause stress; it is when there is poor communication, excessive lecturing, bickering, and fighting. So, pick your battles wisely and major on the majors. Set aside the minor issues, especially during the first few weeks of school. When your teen gets home after school, allow them some time to kick back and find some rest, even if it is just playing a video game or going for a walk. They need to unwind, just like you do when you've had a stressful day.

I hope you use this time near the beginning of a new school year to recharge and regroup. Watch for signs of problems with your teen, especially during these first few weeks. If they get off course, it will likely be now as they are dealing with new teachers, new or suddenly "grown-up" peers, new pressures, and possibly a transition to a new school.

From Parenting Today’s Teens by Mark Gregston. See more at Used with permission. © 2011.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Public Schools Need You

By Al Riskowski, Nebraska Family Council

The public school system needs your input. New teacher and principal effectiveness standards are being developed by the Nebraska Department of Education. There are some serious questions that need to be asked about the new standards. Fortunately the State Board has scheduled forums for public comment.

In speaking with Donlynn Rice, Curriculum and Instruction, Administrator, for the Nebraska Department of Education, I was assured the new standards would be general in nature and only guidelines, leaving the detailed implementation to individual school districts. This approach creates a major concern for me because the Omaha Public Schools just purchased 8,000 diversity manuals.

The Omaha Public Schools used more than $130,000 in federal stimulus money to buy each teacher, administrator and staff member a manual on how to be more culturally sensitive.

According to a July 10th Omaha World Herald article, the authors of the book assert that American government and institutions create advantages that “channel wealth and power to white people,” that color-blindness will not end racism and that educators should “take action for social justice.”

The book says that teachers should acknowledge historical systemic oppression in schools, including racism, sexism, homophobia and “ableism,” defined by the authors as discrimination or prejudice against people with disabilities.

The book says teachers must overcome irrational fear of homosexuality and reject the “color-blind” approach to teaching in which teachers treat all children the same. Instead, the group identity of students of color should be recognized and esteemed, the authors say.

The authors, Franklin and Brenda Campbell Jones and Randall B. Lindsey, write that their intent in the book is “to prepare educators to unshackle themselves from tradition and become facilitators for reconciliation of historical injustices.”

Will the State Board of Education and the Omaha Public Schools remember that Christians also deserve respect when it comes to religious liberty and our expression of faith?

As a July 12th World-Herald editorial points out, "in a multicultural society all sides need to demonstrate sincere respect." I definitely agree with the comment that everyone deserves respect. In a multiracial society, all sides need to demonstrate sincere respect, to work together to build a common future. Will the State Board of Education and the Omaha Public Schools remember that Christians also deserve respect when it comes to religious liberty and our expression of faith?

I spoke with Bob Evnen, from the State Board of Education and chair of the subcommittee on diversity and multiculturalism, and asked him how teachers would be deemed ‘culturally competent’ under the new effectiveness standards. Bob assured me that he would not support the term ‘social justice’ to be included in the school standards. He stated that such a term is typically interpreted to mean socialism and the promotion of a radical left agenda.

To see the schedule of public forums on the development of educator effectiveness guidelines or to make comments online you can go to the Nebraska Department of Education website at and click onto teachers/principal standards survey.

At Nebraska Family Council we have available some very helpful pamphlets on parent and student rights and involvement in public schools.

To discuss the educator effectiveness standards in more detail or to request some free copies of the pamphlets contact Nebraska Family Council at or toll free at 1-888-777-5188.