Tuesday, November 22, 2016

beware false peace

I've been thinking about peacemaking recently - what it looks like, how one goes about it. There's obviously been a lot of talk about peacemaking since the election, too, within churches and communities, hence the thinking on it.
I think, though, that we need to be careful about the narrative and visuals we get in our heads when it comes to using the verse in Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

I think for many of us, when we hear the word "peacemakers", we visualize those people who we view as bridges - bringing two opposing sides together at the table, asking them to lay down weapons, to make amends (reparations or compensation). This type of peacemaking is important.

But sometimes, the job of peacemakers is to disrupt a false peace, or to keep it from taking root. We know what is meant by false peace, right? Simple absence of open conflict. Sweeping things under the rug. Ignorance, willful or not, of that which is really happening. It's the type of "peace" that looks neat and tidy and peaceful to anyone on the outside, but is full of decay on the inside.

As an example, Jesus was this type of peacemaker, I believe, when he "made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables..." (John 2). At first blush, his actions seem incredibly unpeaceful to my white, Western eyes - I wonder, sometimes, how I would have responded if I'd stood witness there. Almost surely, in some of the communities I've lived in, this would count as a "disturbance of the peace". Today, the police might have been called. He may have even been arrested. And yet, and yet, Jesus always knew exactly what he was doing. He saw the situation for what it was. This was no place of peace, at least not anymore - it had become a "den of robbers" (Luke 19). People were being excluded from worshiping his Father in that space, or at least having to bear the burden of overcoming financial and ethnic exclusion in order to do so, and that enraged him. To those people, those who were excluded, it was an act of disrupting false peace - an unburdening, a defeat of oppression, a breaking down of walls.

After the beatitudes in Matthew 5, Jesus addresses some specific sins - anger, lust, etc. He's clear that it's not just murder or adultery (outwardly obvious actions) that are sinful, but the heart attitudes that lead to such actions that are sinful as well. I wonder - in what ways may we be settling for a false peace within many of our churches and communities? Our homes?

Absence of conflict does not equal peace. May we have eyes open to root out false peace.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Chili Recipes Recommended by Friends



On Halloween night, we missed an opportunity to join friends for a chili dinner before trick or treating. The combination of no naps for either of my kids, Mark getting home a little later than I expected, and just a general lack of energy meant that I think we made the best choice for us by staying local (my husband took the kids to about 5 or so houses on our street before they were done).

But the hankering for chili hadn't left me by the next day, and with the cooler weather (by So Cal standards), I decided to crowd source Facebook for my friend's recommendations for their favorite chili recipes. And this time, I'm keeping a record of them! I've done too many crowd-sourcing moves on Facebook that then get lost in the shuffle to let this opportunity pass me by. 

So, while I have only made one of the recipes below, I imagine the folks who sent them my way to know good chili, and wanted to keep a compiled list and pass it on to you all as well. I've divided them into "crock pot" and "non crock pot" lists. Enjoy!

Non Crock Pot Recipes

1. White Chicken Chili from Taste of Home (Prep Time 15 mins, Cook Time 25 mins)

Recommended by my friend Daralynn, who says it is "super spicy if you use all the cayenne pepper". She recommends no more than 1/2 tsp. with little ones. 

For my own family, I'd probably cut out the jalapeno as well - Mark has super sensitive taste buds when it comes to spicy stuff. Zoe is starting to come around to appreciate a little kick in things like soup. 

2. White Chicken Chili from Cheeky Kitchen (Prep/Cook Time Approx 30-45 mins)

I made this one the other night. Recommended by my friend Rita, who says she likes it with the sour cream and cheese as a topping, and also with salsa.



I made it as instructed by the recipe, but substituted a quarter cup of white wine in for an equivalent amount of the broth (I probably could have done more!) and added a wee bit of corn starch in cold water near the end to thicken it just a bit more. Scrumptious, and delicious as leftovers the next day.

I love a recipe that starts with bacon. For this recipe, I might use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. Less prep and less mess!

3. CD's Chili Mole (Prep/Cook Time Approx 3 to 3 1/2 hours)

While this vegetarian recipe is easily the most complex (prep wise and taste-wise) recipe of those that were recommended (sounds like the perfect kind of recipe for a wide open Saturday morning or evening spent watching some Netflix or football in between tending to the stove), my friend Emily simplifies it by using canned beans. Still, well worth giving it a shot - I always appreciate eating recipes that are more complex! 

Most intriguing ingredients: unsweetened chocolate, peanut butter, raisins, lots of interesting spices and beer (note near bottom that beer can be substituted for a portion of the broth). 

4. Shrimp and Red Bean Chili (Prep/Cook Time 30-40 minutes)

If you like the good taste of shrimp, this sounds like a nice easy way to eat it other than in cocktail format. Like my friend Susana does, I'd likely reduce the amount of peppers/hot sauce to keep it on the mild side.

Crock Pot Recipes

1. Crock Pot Sweet Potato and Quinoa Turkey Chili from Iowa Girl Eats (Prep Time 15-20 mins, Cook Time 3 to 6 hours in crock pot)

Recommended by my friend Erin, I love almost any recipe that includes sweet potatoes - a low-cost way of getting some good nutrition. Plus quinoa!

2. Red Bean, Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew from BHG (Prep Time 20 mins, Cook Time 5-6 hours)

As my friend Jamie said, while not technically a chili recipe, it still sounds pretty good! I am so intrigued by the peanut butter - sounds like just the kind of oddball ingredient whose flavor I'd appreciate. 

Per Jamie, this is also easy to prep ahead of time, freeze, and then toss in the crock pot when you are ready to use it later. 

3. Three Bean Chili from Smitten Kitchen (Prep Time Time 30-40 mins, Cook Time 22 minutes to 7 hours)

Recommended by my sister in law, who really knows her stuff when it comes to cooking for health and flavor, this one is great because, as she said, it breaks down lots of options for cooking it in a pressure cooker, on the stove or in the crock pot, in addition to recipe notes and substitutions. So, this one could be a crock pot or not crock pot version.

Most intriguing ingredient: beer. I'd forgotten about how much beer can be just the kick you need for a good chili recipe. I think it helped influence my choice to substitute white wine for some of the broth in the white chicken chili I made last night.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Year of Showing Up


Ding. I looked down at my phone. A friend is hoping to visit her sister in the hospital - could I watch her two boys for the later part of the afternoon? My two kids are already well into nap time. It's the type of request that, years ago, perhaps even several months ago, I might have refused. The quiet of afternoon nap time is sacred space - time for processing and re-setting for the rest of the day. I guard it, I protect it. I cherish it. And, honestly, there's nothing wrong with that for young parents - it is one of the few breaks we get, and it's not always consistent.

But there's this voice that gently tugs at me too as I re-read the text: Show up. Show up.

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There are two times during a year, generally, when it feels most natural to set new rhythms, leave behind unhealthy habits and create some new ones: once at the beginning of January, and once again at the beginning of the academic calendar near August or September.

I've never been huge on resolutions or intentional creation of space for reflecting and starting with new habits. A "word for the year" hasn't ever really grabbed hold of me. But this past spring as I contemplated the rest that would be brought with summer and a certainty that I was not being called back to serve in a particular place where I had served for the past two years, another thought entered: showing up. Choosing to serve in places and with people who just required my showing up - no frills, no circus, very little to no preparation, but ready with hands and feet ready to receive marching orders.

Preparation is good. Or, it can be good. And for some folks, especially the perpetually prepared Type A friends that I know and love, preparation and consistent service allows the calm and lack of anxiety that they tend to prefer, I think, in order to move through their days well.

For me, however, I have begun to notice particularly in this season of young motherhood, that serving in places or being with people in ways that require much preparation actually causes more anxiety - it's just one more thing I haven't done on the perpetual list of things to do.

As I thought and listened and decided to be intentional about where to commit my time as fall picked up the pace, I realized there was this constant thread of wanting to be in places where all that was required of me (mostly) was my being there. This summer, it looked like offering to drive Afghan refugee women and their children from their homes to English classes at a local church, showing up with a van. A couple times, it's looked like being able to watch after the children of friends while they care for others who are facing crises, showing up with a house and toys to share. For some people (and sometimes this includes me), filling in for these last minute needs would be stressful. And it's not that they are without their own stresses. I don't want my kids to resent time spent in the car shuttling people back and forth, but I do want them to learn about people coming from other countries to our own country to seek better opportunities. I want them to know these new acquaintances of ours firsthand.

But for the most part, opportunities like this do not stress me out the way they did before. They usually come last minute, and therefore require little thinking ahead. It's just a "will you be there? Yes or no?". I have gotten better at saying no when I need to, but most of the time we just happen to have an open afternoon or other plans that have been canceled.

I know of many people who much prefer to serve and be in places where there is more preparation required, or something that involves a more consistent schedule, and if you are one of those people I so admire you and thank you. Thank goodness there is a diversity of people when it comes to serving in different ways - we need both (and anyone else who falls somewhere in between)! I think there is also quite a bit of fluidity here - in some seasons, I will need to prepare more to serve in some places. But right now, when so much of my energy is going into keeping kids alive, well fed and mostly happy, I need spaces where all I have to do is get there. Sometimes, this doesn't even require me leaving my own house.

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"Sure!" I text my friend back. "Bring them over, no problem."

I'm sure it helped that I happened to have popsicles in the freezer that day. And that my friend didn't mind that I let her boys watch television until my kids woke up. Or that the weather happened to be pleasant enough that we all played outside. Or that I already happened to have a plan for dinner that day (miracle of miracles!). What gifts!

This is my declaration: this is my year of simply showing up. Showing up with whatever I have and saying no (sometimes out loud) to anxiety and guilt for what I may not have. There's no shame in simply showing up with ready hands and feet.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Sharing The Load


This post is published in full at The Village Magazine blog. Thanks for reading!

The first time he prepared my coffee was on the morning of our five year wedding anniversary. Our daughter was two, our son had just been born a few weeks earlier, it was nearing the end of the fall semester - one of the more overwhelming times on the academic calendar to which our family is beholden. We had no plans to celebrate until later that month, no gifts for each other, but his simple act of kindness was gift enough that morning for this sleep-deprived mother: a hot, steaming cup of creamy coffee perfection, waiting for me right at the table.

The best mornings now start when he gets my coffee ready. It's "my" coffee for several reasons, the most obvious being that he doesn't drink coffee - abhors the taste, hesitates to kiss me after I've had my cup. But he knows how much it's like a warm hug to me in the morning, to hold that cup in my hands as the day begins.

It was purely an act of love for him to learn the process: boil the water, grind the beans, measure it out, let it steep for no more than 5 minutes, pour, add cream. And it's an act of love each time he prepares it for me and there's a hot cup ready and waiting like a love note in the morning. It doesn't happen every morning, and I'm glad for that - I have a habit of taking things for granted. This isn’t one...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

5 Phrases To Help Avoid Toddler Meltdowns

This article is published in full at Parent.co. You can read it in its entirety here.

I’m not a huge fan of offering unsolicited parenting advice. I’ve received enough of it myself to be wary of people’s intentions when they do offer it.

Are they judging? Criticizing? Honestly trying to help?

My hope is that, if you’re reading this, it’s because you’re curious to learn what’s worked for other parents who were aiming to raise kind, thinking, strong, and flourishing people. The internet can get a bad rap as a really easy place to find bad advice, but I think sometimes it can almost feel safer than asking in person: those who are looking for advice can find it, those who are not looking for it don’t have to be subjected to the unsolicited version of it.

What I write here is offered only as a “this is what has worked for me,” and perhaps each phrase will only be used for a season. What works at three years old may not work at four or five. I think the best thing for parents to remember is that we usually know our kids better than any other adult on the planet. We know when things work, we know when they’ll fall apart.

There has never been a silver bullet for parenting, and there never will be. That’s what makes it so hard. It’s also what makes it so beautiful – we grow so much more when we are forced to dive deep into knowing our individual children well.

That said, here are the phrases that have helped us.

1 | “We are problem-solvers, not whiners.”
My husband is an engineer – a perpetual problem solver, if you will. As his spouse, it’s both a blessing and a curse; he loves to solve problems, but he also loves to solve problems. As one who loves to work through the process, sometimes I have to remind him that I’m not looking for a cut and dry solution right now. The strength? I can usually present him with the situation when I have a particular problem and expect that he won’t give up on it until it’s resolved.

As a dad, he’s found this phrase to also be helpful with our three-year-old, who is (I hope) at the peak of the whiny years. When we hear her voice creep ever so slightly into the whiny range, we remind her of our goal: “We are problem-solvers, not whiners.” Most of the time, this helps her re-orient to a frame of mind in which she’s focused on figuring out what the problem is that led her to want to whine. Then we can move on to fixing that problem, or working past it.

I’m waiting for the day when this phrase eventually backfires and she responds with, “I’m a whiner!” but for now it’s working...

You can read the rest of this article here at Parent.co

Friday, July 15, 2016

Things I Heard In A Sermon This Week That Bothered Me

The sermon to which I am referring was preached on the text of Acts 4, after the events of the week of July 4th, 2016.

"I wrote this message on Wednesday, before the world went to hell this week."

Alton Sterling's death happened Tuesday evening. Philando Castille was killed Wednesday evening. Five Dallas police officers were killed on Thursday. Unless we are favoring the lives of police officers over black men, the "world started going to hell" this week on Tuesday (and far, far before that for Americans of color). 

"America is the greatest country on earth. If you don't believe me, you haven't traveled."

In what respects? To whom is it the greatest country on earth? It was founded on the backs of slaves and mistreatment of indigenous people who were already living here, many whose communities were destroyed. I'm not sure what's so great about that. On a personal note, as a young mom, I'd much rather live in a country that offered paid parental leave, though that's a little off topic here. 

"The police of the day, the people in power of the day, the Sadduccees have them arrested. See what believers do - they submit to authority. We need to submit to authority even when they get it wrong..."

So, even if authorities take us down for no other reason than that we are wearing clothing traditional to our country and speaking our native tongue on a cell phone - even then we should submit? I suppose that makes sense if we don't want to take the risk of being killed, but sometimes even when you submit to authorities, you end up dead. This bothers me most especially, however, in that not even Peter and John were submissive to the authorities of their day (in the text that was used for this sermon), who commanded them (v. 18) not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Their response? "As for us, we cannot help but speaking about what we have seen and heard." Basically, a big "#sorrynotsorry - what God commands is far more important."

"What you can do is witness a video where a black person is killed, the same video, we're all looking at it and we're seeing it from different perspectives. You're seeing it from your truth and I'm seeing it from my truth. And let me tell you something - God doesn't have a problem with us seeing things from different perspectives..."

He may not have a problem with us seeing things from different perspectives initially, but He always tells us to look for the truth. I may be seeing something from my perspective, but if the lens that I am looking through is faulty, I am not seeing the truth. In the end, it's not my perspective that matters, it's the *truth* that matters. The *truth* will set me free, not my perspective.

"The church doesn't protest, the church doesn't march - what do they do? They pray."

What does this mean about the many marches, demonstrations and protests led by Dr. King during the Civil Rights movement? God's people pray and protest. We civilly disobey, we afflict the comfortable. We preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, we use words.

"The world is watching how the church responds, and they will not forget."

Yes. Keeping in mind that the majority of the world is made up of people of color, when our first response to the death of people who have a history of oppression in our world is to question the circumstances under which they died instead of immediately lamenting and mourning the fact that we have lost yet another image-bearer of God (something which should be part of the response of every single member of the church), something is wrong.

"My favorite song, the first song I remember singing in the church is Jesus loves the [little children of the] world: red, yellow, black and white, they are all precious in His sight. Yes, Jesus loves the children of the world."

This song is straight up racist. Both "red" and "yellow" have been used as derogatory ways to refer to people of Native American and Asian descent. The sentiment and intent behind the song is good - but it's well past the point to stop using that verse. This is why pastors and preachers need to be surrounded by diverse people groups, and read books, essays and publications from diverse authors and thought leaders. Otherwise, you end up using a racist song as a way to end your sermon.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Recipe: Blackberry Bacon Swiss Grilled Cheese

Summer where I live in California can come with some pretty intense heat. So hot that if you haven't gotten the kids to the park and off the slides before 9am, forget about it. Hot enough that I'm learning I have to cover my tomatoes so they don't burn before they are ripe enough to pick. And hot enough that the last thing I want to be doing is preparing a meal over a hot stove, oven or even a grill. Even a crock pot can heat up our little kitchen a bit too much.
All the ingredients for one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I've ever had.
To that end, I was delighted when I saw some ideas for summer sandwiches - easy, delicious and best of all: no heat required. Well - only very small amounts of heat, and that's only if you want the cheese melted. I like this particular sandwich heated up just a bit in the microwave, but I'm guessing it would taste just fine cold, too. If you're daring enough to actually use a griddle on a hot summer day, you can get the nice browned outsides too. This recips is a twist on one I saw from Lemon Tree Dwelling that sounds delicious, but since my family cannot do jalapenos (I personally love a little kick, but maybe not quite as much as you could get in a jalapeno), I improvised.

This is the part where I apologize for the fact that I am neither a food blogger nor a photographer. But I promise I do know when something tastes too good to not be shared!
I am a sucker for salty/sweet combinations, and one of the great things about this sandwich is that it's easy to substitute what you have for what you don't. No goat cheese? Cream cheese will do. No bacon? Sliced ham or lunchmeat will work in a pinch. No blackberry jam? Use whatever flavor you have on hand. A friend even thought an apricot or mango chutney might work well. The possibilities are honestly quite endless.

Confession: for photos, I did use cream cheese, not goat cheese. A good substitute!
I make a lazy "pesto": lots of basil, a small handful of kale & a couple tomatoes. It really doesn't even count as pesto. I like going a little heavy on the basil.
Lazy Man's Pesto. 

Blackberry Bacon Swiss Grilled Cheese
An easily modifiable twist on an old classic.
Ingredients
  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 1-3 TB blackberry jam
  • 1 TB goat cheese (or cream cheese)
  • 2-4 slices bacon (I use pre-cooked bacon bought at Costco)
  • 2 slices swiss cheese
  • large handful basil
  • small handful kale
  • 1 small tomato
  • 1-2 TB butter (optional)
Instructions
Toast both slices of bread. Spread butter on outsides of slices if desired. On inside of one slice, spread blackberry jam. On the other, goat cheese (or cream cheese substitute). Layer bacon and swiss on one of the slices. In food processor, combine kale, basil & tomatoes until they form a loose pesto-like consistency. Spread portion of mixture to taste on sandwich. If desired, heat sandwich in microwave just enough to heat and melt Swiss cheese (about 45 seconds). Enjoy!
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 sandwich

I'd love to hear about how you'd modify this recipe with what you have. I think sticking with the salty/sweet combo is key, but the rest can be played with. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

To Three or Not to Three: A Two-Kid Family Dilemma

This post was originally published on Parent.co. You can read the entire post here.


“I just realized­ this is the first summer I will not be either pregnant or breastfeeding since 2011!” I text my friends.

I don’t remember what made me think of it, but it’s a groundbreaking revelation for me. Every one of the past four summers I have been growing a baby inside or outside my body, with my body. My daughter is now three-and-a-half, my son is eighteen months. It certainly doesn’t feel like it’s been four years of this, but it’s been four years of this. An amazing four years, a beautiful four years, a privileged four years. But four freakin’ years.

This is the first summer, in other words, where I will actually not be sharing my body with a tiny person for the purpose of nourishing their physical bodies.

I tell my husband about this revelation as he eats breakfast.

“Oh, we can fix that,” he quips. I laugh and give him a “deer ­in­ the ­headlights” look. Not what I was getting at, but we’ve been in negotiations about this recently...

You can read the rest of this post here. Thanks!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Squeaky Clean: How I Got My Toddler to Brush Her Teeth

This post was originally published on Parent.co. You can read the post in full here


With her pajamas finally on, I reach my hand up above my daughter’s belly, widen my eyes, and grin at her; she stills and begins to giggle in the middle of the long pause as she anticipates another round of tickle wrestling.

I growl playfully and plunge the tips of my fingers onto her belly, underarms, legs. The squeal of tickled laughter fills the tiny bedroom. This is my favorite part of the exhausting process that is the bedtime routine.

And then I remember. Dang it. It can wait until morning, right?
But tonight, Elmo toothpaste has apparently lost its appeal.

“Zoe, we forgot to brush your teeth,” I say, wishing I could have blocked that other part of me that whispered something about having to build consistent dental hygiene habits.

“Uh oh!” she replies smiling, the tickles still miraculously working their happy effect.

“I know, silly mama forgot. Let’s go to the bathroom, kiddo.”

We trudge down the hall and flip on the lights. I sigh as I lift her up to sit on the bathroom counter so she can only move so far. I pull out her generic caterpillar toothbrush and the Elmo toothpaste. In this house, Elmo wins everything, and so far, Elmo toothpaste has helped us with the teethbrushing routine. Thanks, Elmo.

“Please, Zoe, open your mouth. We need to brush your teeth!”

I am met with pursed lips. I don’t have the energy for pursed lips.

“Come on, Zoe, we can get it done really fast and then go rock and snuggle!”

Toddler bedtime ranks right up there with doing your taxes and driving the freeway during rush hour in the way that it can suck the life out of you...

You can read the rest of this story here. And if you like it, please consider sharing!



Friday, June 10, 2016

6 Inexpensive Things That Will Entertain Traveling Kids

Our sweet little Honda Fit that we stuffed with 2 adults and 2 kids under 3, one double BOB stroller, one pack n play, snacks, one Bumbo and two suitcases jam packed full of clothing for all four of us, for a two week trip up to Seattle and back down the West Coast. It was awesome, and might have been even more awesome with a couple long trip toys to keep the kiddos a bit more chill.
This post was originally published at Parent.co. You can read the entire post here

It's that time of year again! Summer is here, and while traveling long distances is not a part of every family's summer plans, for some families who live far away from grandparents and extended family, this is peak travel season.

This summer we will travel back to the MidWest for my brother's wedding, and while I love getting to go back to my hometown and see some of the people I love the most, I always get a little panicked worried thinking about the long airplane trips we sign ourselves up for. We usually have at least one layover involved, making for almost an entire day of travel with our two young kids. While we try to schedule our flights around nap time to ideally pass a few of the hours with cranky and tired sleeping children, my 3 year old daughter has recently started giving up her naps, so I'm hoping to get a little more creative with how we keep her occupied on the plane ride this time.

While she is old enough to be addicted to appreciate screen time and apps, my son is still a little young to fully utilize them, so we are looking for a mix of hands-on and screen-based activities. Thankfully, there are quite a few of both out there that can keep our kiddos occupied. I try to look for activities that will hold their attention for longer stretches and are low cost. Here are a few I recommend:

You can read the rest of this post here

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

5 Things I Hope My Children Learn From Growing A Vegetable Garden

This post was originally published by Parent.co. You can find the entire version here.



Growing up in Michigan, my mom had a vegetable garden that she grew just adjacent to our back porch. I remember her excitement at bringing in lettuce leaves, making rhubarb bread, and trying to recover from spying the occasional slithering garden snake.
I don’t remember getting involved in the gardening process much, other than eating (and probably complaining about eating) the vegetables and fruits that were grown there, but now – deep into parenthood myself – I appreciate much more the effort involved in raising young children and trying to keep plants alive and growing, too.
I started a garden in our California backyard when my first child was nearly one year old with the simple intention of trying to save a little money by growing some of our own food. As we added another child to our family, my commitment to gardening waned because, well, children. But we are finally coming to the surface for air again this growing season with a 3-and-a-half-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old, and I’m trying to approach it with new intentions as I get my children involved.
Here’s what I hope to show them without directly telling them:

1 | Good things take time.

It’s been roughly 80 days since our first tomato plants were planted earlier this spring. We have harvested four tomatoes so far, each on separate days, two of which were bite-­size cherry tomatoes. The anticipation of a ripened tomato has been hard for my daughter when I tell her they aren’t quite ready yet, especially when I’ve enticed her outside with, “Let’s check and see if the tomatoes are ready!”
However, the few times we have taken a ripe one off the vine, sliced it, sprinkled it with a little salt, and bitten into it have been moments worth the wait. We’ve even convinced her to categorize tomatoes as a “dessert” item. (Relax… she’s known about chocolate for years.)...

Friday, June 3, 2016

Letter to Joel + Bumble Bee Tickling Rhymes


Dear Joel,

Sometimes I want just an entire day to stare at your face, to kiss your soft cheeks, tousle your hair, chase you and your sister around the house, tackle you with tickles and rock you to sleep. Actually, when I think of it, most of our days are made up of moments like this - they're just mixed in with moments of tantrums, whining, slips and falls and many, many tears. I can't have one without the other at this stage, but that's ok. I'll take the pain and growing moments with the delightful ones.


You got your hair cut a couple months ago. It was much needed, as your hair had fallen well over your eyes and was getting full of food at dinner time. I was ready and not yet ready to say goodbye to the baby hair, but when I could see your eyes clearly again without having to sweep your hair to one side, I saw how much expression I had been missing out on, too.


You have so many new words, and I sense that this summer will be one of vocabulary explosion as it was for your sister the summer before you were born.

"Wawa" - specifically water, but useful to refer to any liquid drink that you are pointing to, be it milk or orange juice.

"Ah-poo" - specifically apples, but useful to refer to any fruit that you are pointing to, from bananas to strawberries and, much to my chagrin, even Welch's fruit snacks.

"Mama" - you've had this one for a while, but it's particularly delightful to hear when I appear after an absence from you and you turn to me, arms wide open and stumble-running, inflection changing from high to low between first syllable and last, as if sighing out an entire feeling of peace - "Mama is here, all is well."

"Dah-dee" - you've also had this one for a while, equally as delightful. I'll admit it stung a smidge when you first started calling out for Daddy through cries and tears after a tumble or a bump, especially when I was already holding you. I think, however, it was sweet to realize that you were just imitating your older sister's cry out for Daddy after such events. She also used to cry for me, and then when you were born, she and Daddy grew much closer as it became more difficult to hold two little independent, wiggly bodies in my lap. Still, most days, your preference is still Mama.




"Diddy" - your word for your sister, Zoe. Not to be confused with "Dah-dee", a distinction we, as your immediate family members, can usually make but others cannot. Perhaps because we occasionally call her "Sissy", which I'll admit is easier for the toddler tongue to imitate than the buzz of the "Z" that starts your sister's name. Particularly sweet on the mornings, most mornings, when you wake up earlier than she and must wait around for her slumber to lift, making do with boring old Mom or Dad until the most exciting member of our tribe awakes.

"Nah" - snack, particularly one you have spotted with your little eye or when you come running upon hearing the crinkle of plastic being opened.

"Bee" - blankie, a recently developed comfort object. Thankfully, it can be any "bee" and not a particular one. When you go down for nap or night night, this is your favorite thing to grab as we rock and snuggle.

"Nigh-nigh" - you eagerly head toward nap time and night time, as long as you are sufficiently tired (not difficult when you have your older sister running you ragged all day). The other night, you even kind of asked for it when you stepped down from your chair after dinner, laying your head on the seat. "Nigh-nigh" you sighed, and it was clear you were more than ready. You know when we talk pajamas and brushing teeth and giving night night hugs and kisses that one of your most treasured times of day is coming - snuggle time. My little introvert baby.

"Side!" - always with an exclamation point when you hear that it might happen, always with many tears and gnashing of teeth when it becomes apparent that it will not be happening. Outside is your favorite place, and I am so glad that we are now at the point where I can send you out on your own and watch from the kitchen window, or charge your older sister with keeping an eye on you (she's more than happy to be in charge of you, though I usually try to keep her focused on being your friend and sister, not your keeper).

"Ahp! Ahp!" - when you need to be lifted to our bed, or a couch, or a chair, or up into our arms. As with your sister, this is used interchangeably with "Dow" (down) - the point is, you want whichever position you are not in currently.

"Nnnnnnno!" - your sister told me the other day "Mama, Joel is practicing saying 'no'," as indeed you were. Always the long emphasis on the end, often with an added push away of whatever object or physical touch is being offered to you.

"Bah-bah" - bumble bee. Your grandma introduced me to some precious tickling rhymes that my grandfather, the impish jokester, had used with her growing up, and your dad and I have adopted them and added to them. We get you and your sister while laid out on the bed, while sitting on the couch, or whenever we need to distract you from something, particularly a path leading toward Whinesville. You have recently started tickling us, using your pointed finger to represent the Bumble Bee in the rhyme, circling your arm to make it fly toward its destination. A few examples of the rhymes:

Bumble bee, bumble bee, come from the farm 
to sting little Joel right under the arm!

Bumble bee, bumble bee, come from Quebec 

to sting little Zoe right in the neck!

Bumble bee, bumble bee, from Winnipeg 

come to sting Joel right in the leg!

Bumble bee, bumble bee, come from the jelly 

to sting little Zoe right in the belly!

Bumble bee, bumble bee, come from a rose 

to sting little Joel right in the toes!

Turns out that some Canadian cities make for good tickling rhymes - who knew?


I love that I get to be a mama for a second time. You and your sister and your Dad are such gifts to me from a God who loves beyond comprehension. These days are hard and full and good and I know I will miss them. I already miss them, some days, when you and your sister are asleep and I want to just breathe you in for a little bit.

Love you forever,

Mama

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Tomatoes.

Sweet 100 Tomatoes. These rarely make it indoors - pop 'em in my mouth, just like candy.
It's my third summer at attempting to grow tomatoes, and I think I'm finally getting the hang of it enough to not outright kill them. It's the first summer where we will be around to really enjoy the peak of tomato season. I think I could grow an entire backyard of tomatoes and never get tired of them, or at least never get tired of giving them away. And, though you can put them in all sorts of great recipes, I honestly love the simplicity of picking one ripe off the vine, slicing it up, sprinkling it with a wee bit of salt, and eating it fresh.

This post is entirely made of pictures of tomatoes, because I honestly just can't get enough of how fun it is to finally be growing some of our own vegetables. I'm working on gleaning some lessons as I continue to garden, and I think the one that God is trying to get across to me right now is that in order to grow you must be watered. Without water, leaves of the plants curl up, wither and eventually the plant dies. Sometimes it's amazing how long they can hold on without much water, but eventually, the fate is the same. Watering is the one thing I have changed to be more consistent with in caring for the tomatoes this season. It seems so simple, but I'm such a stubborn one. I don't always want to sit still and drink. But the beauty that comes with regular watering is beyond compare. Love these colors. Even the pre-ripened greenery is gorgeous - the anticipation for it to be ready enough to pluck from the vine is so much like the anticipation on Christmas Eve, and each ripened tomato like a gift. Hoping to see many good gifts this season.

L to R: 2 Early Girls, 3 Black Princes
Sweet 100 Tomatoes

Top: Purple Cherokee, Bottom: Early Girl
The first Black Prince of the season
The first Early Girl of the season
Eager gardening apprentice 
Early Girls on the vine
Sweet 100s on the vine

Unripened Black Prince tomatoes on the vine 
Unripened Black Prince tomato

10 People Who Are My Everyday Heroes as A Parent of Young Kids


This post was originally published by Parent.co. You can find the entire version here

It takes a village to raise a child - it always has, it always will. Parents can often feel very alone in the process of raising children, and to a certain degree there is validity to those claims. An increasingly globalized world means we often don't live close to family members (my own family lives three time zones away from the nearest grandparents), and in some cases we don't even get along with family members nearby. It can be easy to forget how much help we truly have around us - I've certainly fallen into this trap.

On a daily basis, I rely on the help of many people who likely see themselves as doing nothing extraordinary, but to me it can feel pretty monumentally helpful. These people are my everyday heroes - you may even be one of them:

1. The grocery cart swipers. These are the folks who, while walking through the parking lot on their way in to the grocery store, notice the struggle bus that is me trying to load two children back into car seats and ask if they can take my cart. What kind of angel are you, dear stranger? Yes, YES! What a win - you get a cart, I get to schlep my kids and groceries home about 30 seconds earlier - a 30 seconds that might make all the difference today in my maintenance of sanity. Bonus points if these are the same people who offer their empty carts to a just-arrived parent and their crew.

2. The meal bringers. Whether it's because we have a new baby or our family has the latest case of feels-like-death illness, these are my chicken-soup people. They know that food might as well be a love language, and may or may not know the weight lifted in not having to figure out what the next meal will be. They know it doesn't have to be fancy or even homemade to communicate solidarity and warmth.

3. The caretakers. The people who watch my kids on occasion - parents morning out or evening out at local churches, grandparents, babysitters, fellow friends. My village. Even if I'm paying $10 per kid for 3-4 hours (side note: so cheap!) this much-craved alone time is the time I look forward to so much. One of our local churches has a weekly parents morning out on Wednesday mornings, and it became so popular that the sign-up list fills up within an hour of being opened. The poor church secretary - also a hero of mine.

4. The February Christmas light take-down crew. People who see a need you had overlooked and offer to fix it for you. I know some folks might take offense to being offered help with something like this. Like - should I be ashamed that someone noticed my Christmas lights are still up? My advice to you: lay down thy pride, sisters and brothers. There is nothing like the swallowing of pride that happens as a parent to young children. Had they not offered, it is entirely possible those lights would have remained up until June. Or December. Whatever...



Friday, May 27, 2016

To The Barista at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, the Everyday Hero Who Made My Day

Gifts from one of the kindest baristas. 
You totally didn't have to do what you did. But you totally did. And it made such a difference to me, a mama who rarely has all her ducks in a row.  Today I just happened to forget one of the more important ducks: the wallet duck. Headdesk. 

I almost didn't come here today to write. It's not exactly budget-friendly to purchase coffee or food on a regular basis so that I can have an energetic yet quiet enough space away from my home and my precious people there to process my thoughts, to write them down, to get them out here. In my childhood I was brought up to try as much as possible not to spend unnecessary money, and purchases like this might be seen as unnecessary. But here sounded just a tad better, even if it was further away than my other options. These are precious quiet creative hours, so the location counts. It counts so much. Plus, I was really looking forward to the chocolate chunk muffin that is my weakness here.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Recipe: Rhubarb Sauce (on ice cream!)

Having grown up living in the same state as both sets of my own grandparents, I never really pictured what life would be like raising my own children three time zones away from theirs. We have been fortunate so far to have had grandparents visits several times since moving out here, but creating shared experiences between grandparents and grandchildren that keep bonds strong in the in between times can be difficult. One of my constant hopes is that my children will grow deep relationships with their grandparents despite the geographical distance.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Unsolicited tears.

This is the face of a mom (and daughter) who'd prefer your unsolicited encouragement before your unsolicited advice. Otherwise, you may receive our gift of tears.
I need your unsolicited encouragement over your unsolicited advice.


That’s what I wish I had said to the man. Why does it always take a week and a half to arrive at what you wish you had said?


It had started like this: my husband, two young children and I had just finished a good, but long, week at a summer family camp - the last installment of our many good, but long, summer activities. I was ready to jump back into the welcoming arms of the school year routine, sleep in my own bed, use my own bathroom, heck, even cook in my own kitchen again.


All the families boarded and were settling into seats on the ferry that would take us back to the mainland. We were all, perhaps, feeling the bittersweetness of leaving such a beloved place of rest where there was limited electricity and no cell phone service - a rare world of stillness and undistracted presence with each other and God. We would try to carry the beauty of that back to the mainland with us, for at least a few hours.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Be My Village

Me (the curly top), my sister and my mom c. 1989

"I got it," my husband said slowly as he ended the call. We both smiled and hugged each other tightly. It was his first offer for a college teaching position after getting his PhD a few months earlier. In an economy that was still in a holding pattern after suffering a severe blow several years earlier, it was welcome news.

We'd also received some welcome news a few weeks prior to that: our first baby was on her way. I was teaching high school Spanish at the time, and while I was certain that I loved my particular job more than I had any other up until that point, I also knew I'd want to be home with my baby longer than the maximum 12 weeks of maternity leave that I'd be able to get as a teacher.

The only news that was a bit unwelcome at the time was this: my husband's new job required us to move three time zones away to Southern California - far from the MidWest towns each of us had grown up in, and far from our parents who still lived in those hometowns. It was even opposite the East Coast where my husband's sister had lived for over ten years.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

adventure and miracles


Today, we said "yes" to a long train ride to a place we'd never been before. We said yes to an adventure that required us to get up earlier, to not know every possible scenario or every possible outcome, to give up quite a bit of the façade of control, to enter unprepared. We said, I said, "even if we want to go home at noon, we can't." Like any good commitment, it felt brave and absolutely crazy. Absolutely crazy-brave. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Secret Family Pancake Recipe

Today I'm doing a little guest blogging over at Trouvés Home, a lifestyle blog focused on simplicity and written by my friend Julia. Head on over there to find my family's delicious secret made-from-scratch pancake recipeAnd, shameless plug, it's my birthday...so if you'd leave a little comment love, it would be like a birthday present to me. 

Do you find that the degree to which you enjoy a certain food can depend largely upon the memories you have attached to it? I do. A particular chicken pot pie recipe always reminds me of the friend who first brought it to us and joined us for dinner soon after one of our children was born. I never grow tired of the steak marinade that my mom uses for almost every birthday dinner she has made my dad. I've come to love the butter and brown sugar crusted sweet potato recipe that my husband's family use to make every Thanksgiving as he was growing up because I enjoy seeing the delight in his eyes when he serves two heaping spoonfuls onto his plate. Making food as a way to show people you love them is as old as time itself.

One of my favorite food memories is waking up early on Saturday mornings, completing the newspaper route (usually with my Dad), and coming back to enjoy buttermilk pancakes hot off the griddle...
(...head on over to Trouvés Home for the rest of the post and the recipe!)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Rain Makes Applesauce

Drip, drip, drip. Splatters, splashes. It's been a rainy couple days here in So Cal, and boy are we glad for it. Drought is a serious business, and though our lawn is probably a little more green than it should be, we try to conserve water in other areas (hooray for using the drought as another excuse for not getting a shower in today! Or skipping bath time!). Trying to figure out what to do on a rainy day can be a bit of a chore, though, when you're used to being able to just get the whole crew outside when you start driving each other bonkers. Splashing in puddles loses its novelty once you get thoroughly soaked and cold.