Monthly Archives: June 2011

My Little Warrior

Tucking Jackson into bed tonight was especially precious. Not only because we continue to work on the art of snuggling, but because he asked me, “Mom, can you tell me a story?” and I replied, “Yes. I want to tell you a story about God.”  I began the creation story describing something I can’t comprehend myself: nothingness.  I tried to describe the emptiness that existed before God made the world.  And if Jack was a little bit older, I would have parked there for a while because not only was I trying to imagine the unimaginable, I was trying to do so through the lens of a child.  It was overpowering.  Jack currently has no concept of outer space other than knowing, “Hey! There’s the moon!”  And my understanding isn’t much greater than his.  So even though the depth of my own fascination was swelling as I spoke to him, I summed it up quite simply: “God decided to make the world because it was a very good place, including oceans, mountains, animals, and even people.”

It didn’t take me long to arrive at the Noah’s Ark list of animals that God put on the Earth: lions, cheetahs, elephants, bears, whales, turtles…etc.  Jackson has three interests right now: dinosaurs, knights/dragons/castles (they go together), and animals.  His Schleich collection is beyond extensive for a not-even-three year old.

Animals entertain and enthrall him. He’s either playing with an animal or pretending to be one.  It’s crazy that I get the privilege of using one of his greatest interests to teach him about the grandeur and creativity of God. And this very lesson has me overwhelmed and astonished every time we discuss the subject.  When we stop to explain things to a child, we, too, should become absolutely amazed that the same God that designed the butterfly also designed us, except with much greater intentions in mind! Yes, Jackson, it is that amazing.

But, within the creation story is something very real and difficult for a mama to share with her baby boy.  I told him that people decided to disobey, and so that’s why bad things happen.  It’s so simple and ever so true.  There’s a reason why his knights need swords and why a princess needs to be rescued: evil is on the prowl.  He learns quite graphically from Disney movies that bad guys are in the world, and it’s up to the good guys to defeat them. We watch Lion King as Scar–the liar and betrayer–is dropped from a rock to his death, and we watch Jafar in Aladdin get consumed with jealousy, crave power, abuse that power, and even use fear by turning into a giant snake.  I have no intention of over-exposing my son to the reality of the world, but it’s becoming more and more important to me (and even more so to Josh) for Jackson to understand that things in this world aren’t right. Dragons aren’t tame; deception is real; people get sick; marriages fall apart sometimes, strangers can be dangerous. And, really, it’s all our (humans’) fault because life is infected by the consequence of wanting to be like the God who made us in the first place.

For some reason, I never thought I’d have a boy, and I never thought I’d be thinking of my own child as a future defender of evil.  In fact, that normally would sound really dramatic or extreme to me, not applicable to everyday life.  I didn’t like Christians who even used words like “evil” and “warfare” because they felt so condemning and heavy. Looking back, I mostly didn’t like it because I felt intimidated and inconvenienced. But, I can’t even tuck my child in bed telling the creation story without the awareness that evil has an agenda.  I can’t watch the Repunzel story “Tangled” without explaining that the bad woman is selfish with horrible intentions for others, and there are people like her.  I can’t play “knights” with Jack without pretending there’s a dragon or a bad guy coming to hurt us.

As my faith in Jesus grows stronger, and as I (finally) wholly submit to the authority of Scripture…I can’t help but be aware of the similarities between the stories I tell Jackson about heroes, victory, defeat, etc. and the greater story that has been going on since creation. I know we’re all fighting and managing the evil in our lives, even if it’s just breaking up sibling fights or trying to maintain self-control around the fridge, with alcohol, or with the checkbook.  Or for many of us, our battles are much more difficult, like divorce, betrayal, denial, cancer.  The world, as it is, is just not right.  I’m so glad God is giving me the courage to raise my son hopefully and prayerfully prepared as a warrior, aware of the bigger fight, and strong enough to take it on.

Yes, Jack, even though the world was once perfect, people disobeyed. And yes, we need to work very hard to keep bad guys away.  No, Jack. The world is not the way God wanted it to be. But don’t worry, sweetheart. It won’t always be that way. You’ll see…

 

Bon Appetit

One of the greatest misconceptions I entertain is that baking is cooking.  When I bake something, I consider myself to be cooking.  It’s no wonder why when a dinner recipe called for shallots, I have to think about what they are…then, at the last minute, run to the store to get them.  A big part of the stay-at-home mom identity is the cooking component, and even though I’m improving, it’s sad that food generally tastes better when Josh throws on the apron.* I’m not the greatest cook, and Josh reminds me frequently that my attention to detail is my greatest culinary downfall. I’m not a precise person.  I find precision exhausting and limiting, and if I follow a recipe verbatim, I don’t feel much of a sense of accomplishment in making it.  Even when I don’t know what I’m doing, I usually add some type of my own “flair” into the recipe so I feel like I’ve contributed something creative and, therefore, I can say that “I made this”.  When it turns out well, I feel so fulfilled.  When it flops (which is more often the case), I feel like an idiot.  It’s totally crazy, it doesn’t make any sense, and I’m working on it.

www.allrecipes.com saves my life on many occasions because of the “Ingredients List” feature.  (You’ve probably heard of and used this website; but in case you haven’t, it will be your new favorite thing. You’re welcome.) This is helpful to me, especially when my grocery shopping is infected by my lack-of-attention-to-detail. I try really hard to stay stocked with all the basics, but chances are there is at least one ingredient I forgot on my last trip to Aldi.  All Recipes allows me to type in ingredients that I have (sometimes ingredients I would never even put together!) and it pulls up a list of recipes for me. Additionally, I can type in what I don’t want as well. I did this last night, typing in “Chicken” and “cilantro”, and I got the greatest recipe for “Santa Fe Chicken”. I consider this to be a “Mom Recipe” because it involves a lot of can-opening and one huge tray of food that bakes in the oven.  My favorite kind of recipe, but it’s not really cooking either. (I did, however, add my flair by using Farmer’s Market peach salsa instead of regular, and I decided on green peppers instead of yellow.)

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about happiness and referenced my amazing new cookbook “The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook”.  And I also have reference Jessica Seinfeld’s books in other posts as well.  I decided to combine Jessica’s concept of pureed veggies in baked goods with America’s Test Kitchen’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.  Except, I did, of course, add m&ms to make what I now call “The Best Monster Cookies I’ve Ever Had”.  So, if you are one of the many who asked about the recipe, I’ve included it here with my additions in bold.  (Don’t be intimidated by the addition of the puree. It takes less than 15 minutes to steam and blend squash, and if you have kids, it’s SUCH an easy way to get veggies in their bellies).

My next attempt in the kitchen will be the art of marinating. Simple, I’m sure, but my hope is to learn to create unique marinades that results in savory, grilled meat.  I would also like to keep working my way through this cookbook trying Grilled Portobello Burgers and Grilled Vegetable and Bread Salad.  I want words like “braised” and “poached” to be less foreign to me. I want a variety of fresh herbs to be on a my weekly grocery list.  I want to use my wok and make my own spring rolls because I’m that kind of cook. The kitchen is the perfect place for creativity and practicality to collide, and I want to be right in the center–spatula or knife in hand–when they do.

Bon Appetit!

Ingredients:

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup WW flour

1/4 cup All-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp baking soda

4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 large egg

2 tsp Vanilla extract

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup pureed yellow squash

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup M&Ms

Instructions:

1. Preheat Oven to 350; line baking sheets with parchment paper; Whisk first 6 ingredients in a bowl

2. In another bowl, whisk the melted butter, egg, and vanilla (and puree) together. Stir in sugar until smooth. Stir in oat mixture, raisins, and M&Ms.

3. Using 1 heaping Tbs of dough, roll into balls and lay them on prepared sheets (dough will be a little bit harder to roll when using the puree, but still manageable), spaced 2.5 inches apart.

4. Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, 9-12 minutes (about 15-20 using puree).

5. Cool and EAT!

*Yes, Josh is a better cook than me, but it’s because he follows directions more thoroughly, takes twice as long to make something as I do, and the kitchen is always an atrocious, floor-to-ceiling mess.  Still, I LOVE it when he cooks.

 

 

Welcome, Summer

Summertime makes everyone happy around here.  It’s hard to believe that we’re well-entrenched in June with our birthdays and anniversary just around the sunny corner. I have loved the freedom of not teaching and the time I’ve been able to spend with soon-to-be three year old (and his dad, of course).  We’ve spent many mornings building forts, having sword fights, and watching “Tom & Jerry” together, and that has been absolutely beautiful.

However, once I put one project, job, or stage of life behind me…it doesn’t take long for me find another challenge to take on.  This summer, some of our goals are pretty big. We are going to finalize ALL adoption paperwork and officially begin the “waiting” process.  We are going to clean out the basement, attic, and garage so we live a little bit less like college students.  I’m sure Josh has many personal goals brewing (literally?) as well.  Mine include acceleration in the culinary department, trying many new healthy recipes out on my husband and the picky toddler we live with.  I’m also planning to make some advances in the sewing department as well. I’ve got some patterns downstairs that require larger amounts of skill than I currently possess.  (I’ve thankfully made strides with this already with help from mom. We made a shirt dress for one of my nieces and I’ll be completing the 2nd one independently. I’ve also begun my FIRST quilt with the help of my friend, Meghan!)  As usual, I try to lose some lbs in the summer, so I’ve started a new healthy approach to eating and kicked up my workouts by adding lap swimming to my agenda.  My goal of keeping plants alive for an entire season has had a solid start! The hanging baskets and window boxes are blooming in front. And my goals as a mother are quite large for the summer as well. Jackson WILL be potty-trained by the end of the summer! And already he is progressing as a swimmer faster than I expected, which was a big goal for the summer.  Thankfully, MVP (our gym) has an amazing outdoor pool along with swimming lessons that Jack will begin in 2 weeks. We also happen to have very close friends with a pool (Score!), so while Josh has been staring at his computer and attending meetings, we’ve been doing this:

It feels good to be on track with goals.  I’ve talked about wanting things to be a certain way for a very long time, and each day I try to chip away at the goals that are intended to enrich my life, strengthen my character, or make life better for my family.  I’ve done this better at times than others, and life is naturally going to slump every now and then.  But it feels so wonderful to have a successful dress made hanging in the closet for Lilly, to have the scale actually show me a smaller number, to be able to watch Jackson doggy-paddle to the side of the pool by himself and jump in confidently shouting “Super Jack!”.  It’s nice to see flowers opening their faces in the window box instead of dead petals on the ground below. It’s encouraging to see a day blocked off on the calendar for basement-organizing.

These are simple goals that contribute to a life of simple living, but it’s astounding how much work it takes and focus it necessitates to follow through on the accomplishing of goals.  I know people (myself included) who are professional list-makers, but not much actually gets crossed off.  At the end of the day, there are ideas that are beautiful and brilliant and inspiring, but probably won’t ever see any fruit because the focus it takes to accomplish one goal is used instead on the creation of another.  I think it’s very easy in life to be well-intended but to shy away from the work that actually gets us what we want.  I heard a sermon once that detailed beautifully that one of God’s main purposes for man was “work”, but not work as we often understand it.  Work refines us, and setting/attaining the right kinds of goals develops our character, makes us more capable, confident, well-rounded, connected to God who gave us the ability to work.

Summertime will be a wonderful season for us this year, gathered around the table on the deck with candles lit and hot cornbread dripping with honey.  The foundation of our family is much firmer; we are all moving forward in life taking the small–or big–steps in good directions.  Hopefully by the end of the summer, I’ll be able to make that Vogue pattern dress, Jack will be running around the house in undies instead of diapers, and Josh–well, who knows all that he will accomplish.  He tends to amaze me pretty frequently. And in the meantime, I’m thrilled to be in the pool, in the kitchen, behind the sewing machine, at the piano, doing grad homework or signing adoption papers…all with the intention of becoming the best possible version of myself and glorifying the God who made me with these purposes in mind. Goal accomplished.