Saturday, March 11, 2017

Dragon-Fire Words

Every year for the past 15 or so years, I've read the entire Bible through in a year. Since the baby was born, I've felt like I've been reading more to be able to mark it off of the checklist and less for comprehension and understanding.  In an effort to change my ways, I've been trying to get up 15-20 minutes earlier than usual to have some quiet time to read, pray and reflect.  I've taken away my checklist and I just try to read 1-2 chapters and really meditate on them as well as memorize some verses.  This past week I had an a-ha moment while reading in Proverbs.  I'm sure it isn't anything new or brilliant but it just clicked for me. I figured I'd write it up to internalize it and perhaps it might be helpful to someone else.

This past week I had one of those days.  You know the ones where you were up 3 times the night before with a teething a baby and you're super tired?  I finally made my cup of coffee and sat down to do some meal planning which I find relaxing and enjoyable.  The kids came into the room and started arguing over something ridiculous and the next thing you know, my precious cup 'o' joe was all over the table and the floor.  I was so mad and so tired.  I remember trying to keep my mouth shut and not say anything because I knew that I had a boiling cauldron of angry words burning up inside of me waiting to fly out and punish the children for their carelessness.  
As it turns out, there is a Proverb describing this exact situation: "A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire," Proverbs 16:27.  Scripture is full of verses about the power of words but what this particular one demonstrates is the fiery nature of our words.  I was the dragon mom spitting out fire to burn my children.  I'm good at pretending that I'm using my words to discipline (build up and instruct) but what I'm oftentimes doing is actually attempting to punish them (make them pay for their actions).  So often I spit out my words wanting to scorch someone whether it is my children or the employee at the badly run Wal-Mart (I try not to go to Wal-Mart because I always end up leaving super mad).  I see this in my children as well.  They shout things at each other all the time like, "bad boy," or "I'm not going to be your friend."  Their intent is not to fix the situation or even change the other person but rather to hurt them.  These are dragon-fire words.  
Now the analogy of a dragon eventually breaks down because, you see, dragons can spit out fire without ever hurting themselves.  They obviously have fire proof throats and bellies.  We do not.  If the mouth speaks out of the overflow of our hearts, then our hearts must be filled with fire and we are most definitely not fire proof.  We may attempt to use those fiery words to burn others but really we're scorching our insides.  Am I happier when I let my children know just how annoying and inconvenient they are acting?  Well, for a time I may feel justified and maybe it even feels good letting everyone know just how I feel.  But after a few minutes or even seconds, I feel guilt, and anger and bitterness welling up inside.  I might see my children upset  by my words or perhaps they are carrying on the same exact sin because I haven't truly disciplined them. Those words are turning my soul bitter and black and hurting me as much as I want to hurt those around me.  
However, if words can be like scorching fire, the opposite is also true: "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body," Proverbs 16:24. 
I love to give my children special treats and watch them get all excited.  You know that look on their face when you make them the special birthday dessert they requested 364 days ago?  They are thrilled and I love watching them enjoy good things!  My words can be just like that.  This doesn't mean that I need to only say nice things or always pretend that everything is ok.  When true words are spoken with love, they are both sweet and nourishing.  This isn't Valetine's day candy sort of love; this is a hard-core 1 Corinthians 13 sort of love.  Words that are spoken without rudeness, arrogance, or self centeredness but are filled with patience and kindness and coming from a person who is willing to endure and bear all things out of love.  Only then can they have the sweetness of honey but, at the same time, be just as healthy as organic kale.  In my crunchy mama book, this is the best of both worlds!  
So lately in our house we've been talking a lot about words and I've been doing a lot of repenting.  As I hear the good and the bad coming out of the mouths of my children, I try to stop and ask them if they are using fire words or dessert words. I also find that I have to constantly ask myself the same question.  It is hard work but, as I spend time meditating on Scripture, I'm thankful that we have the Word and the Bread of Life which are as sweet as honeycomb to fill and sustain us.  

Friday, February 3, 2017

Belly Like a Watermelon

My sister is working on a motherhood project and asked me to write up a short piece for her.  Since I've already put the work into writing something, I'd thought I'd share it here as well.  Be sure to check out her whole series when she posts it on Facebook!

8 Days overdue and on our way to the wedding
Whenever you first find out your due date, everybody stars their mental timers.  You can almost here the countdown, 5...4...3...2...1... and then BOOM it is your due date and the baby is born.  In reality, due dates do not work like that.  They are just educated guesses based on the average woman and a normal pregnancy lasts anywhere from 38-42 weeks.  According to current research, as long as mama and baby are both healthy, it is safer for the baby to remain in the womb than to induce as inductions increase the risk of c-section, uterine ruptures, and infection.
My first baby was born only two days after her due date, so when I got pregnant with baby #2, I assumed it would be similar.  Around 37 weeks, I packed my hospital bags and began waiting for the baby to arrive.  His due date came...and went with no sign of impending labor.  I began to get regular texts and phone calls asking if I was in labor.  Every time my midwife checked me and declared that I was still not really effaced or dilated, I would leave her office in tears.  I tried every kind of safe, natural induction method on the internet including squatting, walking, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and accupressure videos on youtube.  Nothing worked and every time we went somewhere and someone commented on how I was still pregnant, I was freshly reminded of my body's failure to produce the baby.  Sometimes I could deal with the comments and questions, which were all meant kindly.  However on other days, I would come home from an event bitter and near tears.  Each day that passed produced yet another ugly red stretch mark on my belly.  A week and half after my due date, my midwife encouraged me to get an induction since both her and her back-up doctor were going out of town for a few days.  The thought of an induction added to my stress and every day that passed made me feel more and more like a failure.  
On the day before my midwife wanted to induce, I began to have some bleeding.  My midwife checked me and said that I was still not effaced or dilated and I was convinced that I was going to be eternally pregnant unless I went ahead and got induced.  Later that same afternoon, I began to have some light contractions and the baby was born 12 hours later.  My body made up for its earlier failure to progress by going from 4-10 cm in a record 2 hours.  
When I found out I was pregnant with my third child, I did things different from the very beginning.  When people would ask me about my due date, I would respond that we expected the baby to come at the end of the month and told very few people my actual due date which was in the middle of the month.  I also began to mentally prepare myself for a late baby.  It was no surprise to me that my due date passed with no sign of the baby.  In general, I refused to be checked by my midwife as I knew my body would not have any significant dilation or effacement until labor actually started.  I did let her check me twice and the results were exactly as expected but this time I did not leave the office disappointed. I trusted that God had designed my body in such a way that it was normal for me not to show signs of labor and until labor actually started and this provided me with peace.  Instead of sitting around waiting for the baby, I would give myself something to accomplish or look forward to everyday even if it was something small like a favorite dinner.  I tried to soak up as much time as I could with my two small children.  I remember looking in a mirror before going to a wedding 8 days past my due date and being filled with discontentment but I decided that there was nothing I could do to get this baby out so I'd better just choose joy for the day.  My day was much more enjoyable after I made that decision.  I kept reminding myself that a couple of weeks was nothing to the long 9 months I'd already spent waiting for my baby to arrive.  My sweet son was born early in the morning 11 days past his due date and he was just perfect! 
This was taken probably 2 days before the baby was born.  Aaron laughed so hard when I told that we were having frozen pizza for dinner for probably the first time ever in our marriage.  He insisted that we take a picture to document the occasion.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

Baked Spaghetti Squash Pizza Recipe

About a year ago, I made up this recipe for Baked Spaghetti Squash Pizza and I thought I would share.  To be honest, this is not truly pizza. If you're like me and love pizza, do not consider this a substitute.  Eat the real thing!  However, this is great for an easy weeknight meal and healthy to boot.  I modeled it off of baked spaghetti with pizza toppings.

Baked Spaghetti Squash Pizza
1 medium spaghetti squash, cooked and cooled slightly
1/2 c sour cream
3/4 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 jar of spaghetti squash or the equivalent homemade
1-2 c Mozzarella Cheese
Your favorite pizza toppings (I chose black olives, turkey sausage, peppers and onions)
Shred the squash with a fork and put in a 9x13in pan with Parmesan, salt, pepper, egg, and sour cream. 

Stir and spread it evenly in the dish. Pour on your spaghetti sauce and top with cheese and your toppings of choice.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  

One of my life goals is to actually learn about food photography.  I'm not terribly interested in photography but I want my food to look good enough to eat. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Things I'm Lovin'

Despite my months and months of blogging silence, I thought I'd pop in and record some of my favorite things right now as much for my sake as for yours.  So here goes in no particular order.

  • Sleeping at night.  Sounds strange, I know, but my baby miraculously only wakes up approximately twice a night.  To some moms this may not be a big deal, but my last son woke me up 4-6x/night for 6 months.  I love waking up at decent time (I do sleep in a little) and still being able to function and feel like a human.  
  • Snuggle nap time.  I've been getting a power nap nearly every day.  For the most part, it looks something like this.  Newborn baby snuggles are the best!  Especially cause they can't kick you or accidentally whack you in the face.  
  • Coffee and tea.  I love good coffee or a cup of tea.  Before the baby was born, I broke my addiction to caffeine and only had a few cups of iced coffee a week.  I hate feeling like I need caffeine to function and I also wanted to cut out the sugar involved in a daily cup of coffee.  However, now that the baby is here as well as cooler weather, I have a hard time resisting the urge to drink something every single morning.  Most days I don't "need" the caffeine, I just love the taste.  I love to froth up the half and half with some kind of flavor (usually vanilla) in a little blender and then add it to my tea or coffee.  So yummy!  I should probably break my obsession so I can loose the extra baby weight but right now I'm still lacking the motivation. 
  • Talking about baby weight, I love being skinnyish! I'm not wearing my pre-pregnancy pants or anything but I love being able to sleep on my stomach, bend over, sit up, hug my husband, wash dishes without getting my belly all wet, etc.  Such a nice feeling!  Hopefully, in another week or so I can start working out again at least a little bit and work on getting back into my skinny jeans in time for my annual Holiday weight gain.  I was out at the store the other day and for the first time in my life I seriously considered buying jeggings.  I'm kind of an anti-leggings person and I used to laugh at jeggings.  However, they might be a nice alternative to hiking up my maternity pants constantly.  Anyone have experience?  
  • My kindle.  This one is kind of a love/hate relationship.  Often times reading for too long on the kindle will give me a headache since I don't have a Paperwhite.  However, it works amazing when you are trying to breastfeed and fend off two toddlers as well.  The past few days, I've been forcing myself to take it easy one thing that is saving me from extreme boredom is obsessively reading this series.  It isn't the best book ever but it is super addictive and easy to read kind of on the level of the Hunger Games. Feel free to comment and let me know of your favorite addictive books.
  • Song on repeat: Saints Out of Sailors by Flannel Graph.  I just randomly stumbled across this song on Spotify and now it is stuck in my head all the time and I can listen to it on repeat more than any other song I know of right now.  
  • Cooler Weather.  I've been taking the kids outside nearly every afternoon lately.  Levi and I just curl up with a book on a quilt and the big kids ride their bikes.  It is still in the 70s just about every day but there is no humidity and a beautiful cool breeze blows nearly every day.  

Friday, August 5, 2016

Freezer Cooking and Summer

Sometimes I'm sad when some of my favorite bloggers don't update their blogs for a while...and then I remember that I haven't written on my blog in a month(s).  Unfortunately, I've also been neglecting my personal journal.  So here is a quick update on my life.

I recently potty trained Will.  I noticed that he seemed somewhat ready to train but he was also super young at only 24 months.  Fortunately, he got the hang of it mostly in just a few days and after another week, he improved his rate of getting number #2 actually in the potty.  Now we've been going strong for 2 1/2 weeks and haven't had an accident in 4 days and he actually has been waking up dry the past few days!  It is so nice to have it over and done with before baby #3 is born.

Speaking of baby #3, did I mention that I'm due next month?  Today my sweet friends hosting a little shower which helped me to get some of the random things I need.  There are a few more things I want to pick up such as a nose frida but I currently have 3 packs of newborn diapers so I should be good for the first week, right?  Another thing that I've been doing to prepare is making freezer dinners.  With baby #1, I don't think I made any freezer meals.  I knew people from church would bring me dinner every other day for 2 weeks and I love to cook so I was happy to get back into it as soon as possible.  With baby #2, I think I made a couple of freezer meals but not much.  It was much harder to get back into cooking as 5 pm seemed to be the magic hour when the toddler and the baby meltdown at the same time.  But it was still possible to cook especially if I planned ahead.  This time around, I'm not taking any chances.  Since 28 weeks or so, I've been trying to make 1 freezer meal a week.  I just try to double whatever I'm cooking and stick in the freezer so it doesn't overwhelm me or our budget.  I thought I'd share with you a few things that I've frozen.

Here is what I have so far:
Lemon Garlic Chicken  - this cooks in the crockpot!
Philly chicken Cheesesteak - another crockpot meal!  Notice a theme?
Korean Beef - there are so many recipes for this online.  Super simple and super yummy!
Chicken and veggie parmesan - I'll just cook up some spaghetti and heat this in the oven
Healthy Indian Butter Chicken -  I cooked up a double portion and stuck half the freezer to be reheated
Chicken pot pie filling - All I have to do is muster the strength to make a pie crust and we'll be good to go.
This week I also plan throwing a bunch of chicken drumsticks in a marinade and then freezing so Aaron can throw them on the grill as well as some of these addictive sweet potato and black bean burritos. 
I would love to do some soups as well but it has been sweltering here so we haven't been wanting to eat any for dinner. There is a good chance that enchiladas or a lasagna will also end up in my freezer in the next few weeks.  What are your favorite meals to freeze?  I'd love to hear your suggestions?
There are so many freezer meal tips and tricks online but here are my top three tips.
1. If possible, place the meal in a freezer bag, press it as flat as possible and freeze on a baking sheet.  Flat bags of food stack so well in the freezer.
2. If you plan on freezing several different things, start an excel spreadsheet listing every meal, what "extra" ingredients are needed, and basic directions.  
3. Don't be afraid of freezing meals that are marketed as a "freezer meal."  Seriously, I have frozen several delicious meals with success that were not labeled as a freezer meal.  Most freezer meals tend to be casseroles so I'm looking forward to pulling out a super comforting curry.  Just be sure and read a few tips about what types of food don't work well in the freezer before you get too carried away.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Birthday Dessert

Last year I decided that if no one was going to celebrate my birthday, I was just going to do it myself especially by making the best, most decadent birthday dessert imaginable.  Hey, if I want a birthday dessert, I usually have to do it myself so I might as well do it in style, right?!  This is what I came up with last year. The bottom layer was devil's food cake (homemade), middle layer was cheesecake, the top was raw (safe to eat) cookie dough and of course it was topped with ganache.

My birthday is in less than a week and I have yet to pick this year's winning creation.  Here are a few ideas: 
NOTE: My heart is currently broken because I wanted to share some pictures of these amazing desserts with you but for some reason blogspot is insistent that I NOT post them.  Be sure and click on the links as they really are super beautiful! 

1. Creme Brulee.  I don't have a specific recipe but I just remembered that this dessert existed.  The only problem is that we don't own any ramekins and we'd have to buy an appropriate attachment for the propane torch.  But still, I've never seen or heard of anyone in Owensboro making Creme Brulee or selling it so it would original. 

2.  I love carrot cake!  And I love cheesecake!  What would happen if you combine the two?  How about a carrot cake cheesecake topped with coconut whipped cream!

3.  I also love chocolate.  What birthday would be complete without dark chocolate?  Salted caramel is my other new crush so perhaps a salted caramel chocolate fudge cake is in order. The only problem is that I'm super picky about cakes and I only like a few.  I also stink at assembling and decorating them. 

4. Homemade donuts.  I think that is all I have to say.  There are so many amazing looking recipes out there!  I love the idea of creating or trying out some more unique recipes and flavors.  

What do you think?  How would you decide?  Or perhaps you have a different suggestion entirely.  Nothing is decided yet so go ahead and submit your favorite desserts! 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Word About the Somalis

Before we ever met our Somali friends, we wondered what they would be like.  What sort of food would they eat?  How clean would their house be? What would they wear? We've officially known them for several months now so I thought I'd write a brief post about what they are like.  This isn't meant to be critical or even a generalization of their entire culture.  This is just things that we've noticed since meeting them.  We are currently friends with three different groups of Somali refugees.  The first is an educated family that speaks decent English.  We still get stuck on certain words when talking but you can communicate with them on a fairly basic level.  From the little we know, both parents were educated and even taught their 5 children some English before coming here.
The second family has 8 children and came from the worst refugee camp in the whole world.  From the little we've gathered, they only had enough money to send their firstborn son to school so he is the only one that speaks any English besides basic greetings. They do not know the birthdays for any family members except for the last few children born.
The last person is a single young man who is probably 18-22 years of age.  His English is the best.  He currently works in a factory and is working on his GED.  We just met him so we know the least about him.

Both families are extremely hospitable.  Whenever you go over to their apartments, they immediately hand the kids glasses of juice or chocolate milk as well as biscuits, cookies or cups of pudding.  They give Aaron and myself tea, juice, bottles of water as well as whatever they happen to be cooking for dinner.  It can get kind of tricky because we usually try to visit both families in go since they live in the same apartment building.  This means that we go to the first house and get plied with all sorts of sugary treats (which are impossible to refuse because they don't ask if you want any before giving it to you) and then we visit the next family where this same kind of treatment is repeated.

As far as clothing goes, the women of both families always wear dresses and head covering.  They do not cover their face and their clothes are often colorful but they still adhere to a Muslim dress code.

Both families have served us what seemed to be the same sort of dish.  We've seen them eating it at other times so I guess it is traditional.  It starts with spaghetti noodles covered in a tomato sauce that might also have tiny bits of potatoes in it.  The sauce isn't thick like an Italian spaghetti sauce and it doesn't seem to have a ton of flavor.  They did serve us lamb ribs with it once and they were deliciously seasoned.  I could have eaten a whole plate of just the ribs.  They top the spaghetti with chopped bits of iceberg lettuce, chunks of banana and bits fresh of tomato.  I don't really understand the banana to be honest.

We know that both families are Muslim.  We are not sure of all the details of their faith.   A lot of the books and websites that we've read suggested that a lot of Somali Muslims are more of folk Muslims and combine traditional African spiritualism with Muslim beliefs.  I can't really speak to this as we have trouble communicating more philosophical concepts.

 One of the first things both families purchased once they found a job was a new tv.  The tvs always seem to be on though they are not necessarily always watching it.  We just about dying laughing the other day when we went to visit them because they started off watching soccer but by the time we left, they had switched over to professional wrestling.   Our kids were mesmerized and wouldn't stop staring at the screen.

They always seem to be cleaning their houses and in general things are quite tidy.  However, they seem to not understand how germs work.  The one time we used the bathroom, there was no soap in it at all but there were a lot of cleaning supplies for mopping the floor and such.

That is all I can think of off the top of my head.  If you do not have any ethnically diverse friends, please try and make some.  It is kind of hard where we live to find ethnic diversity but it is so worth it.  I want my children to know that not all people think, act or look just like us and that is ok.  While I really want these Somali friends to be saved, I also want to appreciate their culture and respect their heritage.