Saturday, February 27, 2016

#HolyLens Week 3

Sunday- February 21- Light

Enjoying a cup of "coffee" before church.  Daddy had the big kids at the car wash, so I got to enjoy a few quiet minutes alone with L.

Monday- February 22- Rock

L is two.  Although he is generally a pretty easy-going kid, meltdowns and tantrums are a thing for this age, and he has his fair share.  I've learned, though, to be pretty comfortable with meltdowns.  I'll admit that I still get frazzled when there are things to be done rightthishotsecond and a kid is out of control wailing, but when there's nothing too pressing on the agenda, I've gotten good at just holding the space for the unhappy kid.

I say what's happening, and then I sit and wait.  Today it was: "You want to stay outside, and it's time to come inside.  You're very upset."  After a few minutes, L generally comes to sit on my lap, and then I continue to sit and rock him until he's had his fill of crying.  When he's all done with his cry, we go on with our day.

It took a long time for me to be ok with just rocking my little while he finishes working through his bad feelings.  It's easy to want to just end the crying, by distracting with toys or treats or insisting on quiet.  Feeling bad feelings is part of life, though, and learning to move on after you're done feeling is a good skill.  So for now, L wails, and we rock, and it's another day.

Tuesday- February 23- New

I was lamenting to a friend that Z and I have nothing we consistently enjoy doing together.  He's got things he loves, and I'll join in when I have the chance, but I'm never excited to play Legos or to watch him play Minecraft.  Last week I randomly got the idea to introduce him to the Dada game Splendid Corpse.  The basic set-up is a piece of paper folded in half for each participant.  Each person spends 6 minutes drawing the top half of a strange creature, makes sure a few lines cross the fold, and then passes their paper to the next person.  Each person then has to complete the creature that was passed to him without having any idea what the previous person drew above the fold.

Z loved it.  I had a ton of fun playing with him.  It's our new thing.  Whenever we get 15 minutes, we sit down and play a round together.

Want to see a few examples?

Wednesday- February 24- Serve

My SIL, who has a standing invitation, showed up at 10 minutes to dinner time.  The original meal was supposed to be sushi, which she can't stand, but I decided Wednesday morning that I wanted ginger pickled carrots in my sushi roll.  I prepped the carrots, put them aside to pickle, and made Thursday's meal for Wednesday's dinner instead: loaded baked potatoes with roasted cauliflower and rapini.  Everyone was delighted with the meal I served.

Friday- February 26- Sow

We went to the Museum of Science and Industry today.  We've got a membership this year, so that maybe wasn't a huge deal.  I did keep Z home from school, though, so he felt it as a special treat.  Each kid picked one exhibit.  Z picked Numbers in Nature, which included a really cool mirror maze; V picked the space exhibit, which was a disappointment to her, because it was all about NASA and space equipment, rather than being about stars and planets; L picked the farm, where V enjoyed watching the video of a calf being born over and over and over and the boys pretended to drive a combine for almost an hour.

I learned that tractors manufactured since 2010 have contained more computer technology than NASA spacecraft during the Apollo era.  As in, every spacecraft that ever went to the moon had less computer technology than the average farmer parks in his barn.  That's amazing.

Saturday- February 27- Merciful

Today was a good day.  We walked to the library in the beautiful warm sunshine.  Husband finished his first draft of the rewrite for our church constitution.  We had friends over to play Settlers of Catan after dinner, and husband won.  God is so merciful to give us this season of rest.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

#HolyLens Week 2

Sunday- February 14- Bread

Our family Valentines Day tradition is the Chicago Auto Show.  I packed along dinner, because a soda at McCormic place costs more than I want to spend on a meal for one person.  We ate sitting on the carpet on the floor behind a truck.  Sandwiches with 7 grain bread, honey ham, provolone, swiss cheese, mustard, avocado, and bean sprouts.  Mandarin oranges.  Chips.  Cookies made by my sister-in-law as a valentines day gift for all of us.  I also brought a big water bottle and my color-coded plastic cups.  An hour later, a woman walking past me in another section of the show said, "Hey!  You're the ones who were eating that picnic earlier!"  We were.  It was delicious.

Monday- February 15- Speak

My husband says that during the past few months we've been re-learning how to be married.  So much of 2015 was crisis mode, exhaustion, and just getting by, that now that we have time to breathe again, we've got some serious catching up and reconnecting to do.  We had a wonderful long conversation about some major points of friction in our marriage that resulted in both of us feeling understood and making a commitment to concrete behavior changes.

It feels so good to speak and be heard.  It feels so good to have my love speak to me with love, gentleness, and even correction.  I'm grateful for this season of rest, for the chance to build my marriage back up, and for the man beside me in the mess.

Tuesday- February 16- Pray

Wednesday- February 17- Sign

I had a babysitter this morning, so I went out to run some leisurely errands.  I was at Target buying myself a heart shaped box of discount candy (because I'm worth 50% off!) and another woman rolled up with a kid in her cart.  We chit-chatted, and in the course of things, she mentioned that she's got three daughters.  When I commented that three is a full house, she said her sisters have five and six respectively, and they tease her about having an easy life.  I quipped that after having five, having only three does seem easy, which led into an explanation of my having had foster kids.

She lit up with excitement: her husband started talking a few weeks ago about the possibility of fostering to adopt, and she hasn't been able to stop thinking about it.  She was sure that our meeting as a sign that they should move ahead with learning more.  I encouraged her to sign up for the foster parent training class, because it's great for helping you solidify your intentions, whether you decide you do want to foster or not.  We ended up talking for 45 minutes or so, me sharing some of my experience and insight, and her sharing about her family and her hopes and fears.  It was a beautiful thing.

Thursday- February 18- Help

The refrain for the morning lessons: Behold, God is my helper.  It is the Lord who sustains my life.  Psalm 54:4

L is helping put the veggies on plates to go on the table for lunch.  He's a good helper.

Friday- February 19- Brother

V enjoys "reading" books to L.  She likes to help take care of him.  When he cries, she runs to his side and tries to cheer him up.  She loves to be a big sister, and takes great pride in helping her little brother.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

#HolyLens Week 1

Ash Wednesday- February 10- Clean

Today I was struck by the way Christians mark our desire for clean hands and clean hearts by walking through the world with dirty faces.

Also, V cleaned the living room because she wanted to have a dance party.  She enlisted L's help: "We're cleaning up so fast!  It's almost like we're dancing already!  I'll sing you the cleaning up song!"  Gosh those kids are adorable.

Thursday- February 11- Choose

The Divine Hours' morning reading for today: Matthew 5:38-41 Jesus taught them saying, "You have heard it said: 'Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.' But I say this to you: offer no resistance to the wicked.  On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the left as well; if someone wishes to go to law with you to get your tunic, let him have your cloak as well."

Choose to meet violence with gentleness.  Choose to meet evil with love.  Choose to give generously to those who try to rob you.  I have difficulty choosing not to yell at the people I care about the very most, and here Jesus calls me to choose abundant goodness when faced with people I actively dislike.  And why am I called to this?  So that none who seek the Lord will be disgraced because of my behavior (Psalm 69:7).

Friday- February 12- Fast

Riding trikes and playing balls in the church basement.  "Look Mom! I'm going so fast!"  (I'm well aware that isn't what the prompt meant, but that's what I'm posting anyway.)

Saturday- February 13- Teach
I took my three kiddos grocery shopping.  I actually really enjoy teaching them to shop well and wisely for their food.  I got a compliment on it a week ago, too.  Some random stranger said I was doing a great job by coaching to Z on how to pick out the bell peppers and then stepping back to let him do it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


We always mark the changing seasons of the Church calendar in our home.  I enjoy the rhythm of celebration counterpointed by contemplation, and acknowledging the seasons of spiritual, as well as physical, life helps me to refocus on God and my relationship with him with every turn of the calendar.

We are, however, not Catholic, nor involved in any kind of liturgical church, so we feel pretty free to shape the traditions to be meaningful to our current context.  We've done some notable "giving up" for lent in the past.  One year we ate vegetarian, which for my husband was a huge sacrifice, and for me took a fair amount of extra planning and work.  One year we gave up going to stores and spending money.  We didn't window shop for fun, and we didn't buy anything at all.  Although there were occasions where my parents bought something for us, and we sort of  cheated by using gas cards to fill our tank.  Two years ago we gave up our kitchen table.  During lent we ate sitting on the floor of our dining room.  That worked well with two preschool children, because it was a distinct change for them, but the loss of the table didn't feel like a sacrifice.

This year, I'm planning to participate the the #HolyLens project.  Each day of lent there will be a single word prompt based on the Catholic readings for the day, and the goal is to photograph something related to that prompt.  More than being about photography, or even the readings, the project is about looking at the world around us with spiritual eyes.  Being the non-conformist that I am, I am not taking this on as a visual arts project at all.  I plan to photograph, make, or write something every day, again, with the goal being to look at my ordinary life with spiritual eyes, and to be open to seeing God moving in the mundane moments.

Do you do anything for lent?  What's your plan for this year?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Meals for nights when you Just Can't Even

There are too many options here, really, for most people's ordinary lives.  If you have one or two emergency meals a month, you should probably just pick the one option you like best and stick with it.  This list may come in handy, however, for those stages of life when you can realistically anticipate eating an emergency meal three times a week for the next month because of  a new foster placement, new baby, out of state move, serious illness, death in the family, legal battle, or whatever disruption is currently running the show at your house.

Also, please note my use of the word premade to refer to food that you already have in your fridge or freezer.  "Leftover" sounds like nobody wanted to eat that food the first time around, so now it's on for a repeat.  "Premade" reminds you that you're smart and efficient.  Because everybody loves your delicious [chili, hummus, salsa, pulled pork, grilled chicken, whatever], you made extra and carefully stored it for just such a time as this.  You deserve a pat on the back from your future self!

The Assumptions

Despite the chaos, you have access to a reasonably functional kitchen, including a microwave, freezer, oven, and stove.
Even as you scramble, you have a few basic kitchen tools, including a skillet, pasta pot, and baking tray.
Under normal circumstances, you can cook a number of basic meals without panicking.

The Rules! 

Everything needed for the meal can be easily kept in the house for two weeks or longer.  Frozen items, pantry items, and long-lasting fruits and veggies are all fair game.
The entire meal takes 10 minutes maximum of hands-on preparation.
The foods are reasonably family friendly (including deconstructed preparations that allow picky eaters to skip things they don't want).

What's For Dinner?!?!

  1. Frozen Dinner.  If you've made a meal and frozen it in advance for a rainy day, you are ahead of the game.  You can feel smug.  You've got my permission.  Also, I'm sure your grocery store sells a variety of pizzas, entrees, and sides, all conveniently frozen for you to heat and eat.  Find a few of those you like and keep them in your freezer where they will save your sanity for a lot cheaper than ordering take-out.  You can feel smug about that, too.  No worries.
  2. Pasta.  Serve with a jar of sauce, frozen peas, and possibly even frozen meatballs.  Cook the pasta in boiling water.  Heat everything else on the stove top or in the microwave.  If you make meatballs, you can choose to heat them in the sauce to save a dish or heat them separately for meat or tomato haters.
  3. Baked potato bar.  Wash the potatoes, stab them a couple of times with a fork, put them in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour.  (Yes, you have to start an hour before dinner, but if you hustle, you can wash and stab 10 lbs of potatoes in about 4 minutes)  Serve with any combination of sour cream, plain yogurt, frozen broccoli, bacon bits, pre-cooked bacon, store bought or premade chili, and/or olives.  If you've got herbs growing like weeds in your back yard, wash them and put them on the table with a pair of scissors to snip over individual potatoes.  So fancy!
  4. Tuna Salad.  Basic tuna salad for 3 to 5 sandwiches (depending how you spread it) is 1 can tuna, 1-3 tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tsp mustard, 1/4 cup each minced onions and celery if you've got time, salt and pepper to taste.  Make sandwiches on bread, wraps with flour tortillas, tuna melts (spread tuna salad on one slice of bread, top with cheese, toast under the broiler or in the toaster oven until hot and bubbly), or tuna noodles (mix a double batch of tuna salad with 1 lb of hot or cold pasta).  Serve with a raw vegetable.
  5. Quesadillas.  Put a flour tortilla on a griddle or skillet, top with pre-sliced or pre-shredded cheese, top with another flour tortilla.  When the cheese is melted, flip it over to make sure the whole thing is hot.  Serve with any combination of store bought or premade salsa, canned beans (black or refried), sour cream, plain yogurt, and/or premade meat shredded or sliced.  Lettuce or cilantro are nice, but don't fit rule #1.
  6. Taco Bowls, nachos, or taco salads.  This is almost exactly the same thing as quesadillas, only you get to skip the griddle or skillet part.  Assemble bowls or plates according to individual preferences.  Use any combination of corn tortillas cut in strips, tortilla chips, frozen corn, store bought or premade salsa, canned beans (black or refried), sour cream, plain yogurt, shredded or sliced meat heated through, premade sweet potatoes, and/or cheese.  Again, lettuce or cilantro are nice, but don't fit rule #1.
  7. Garlicky Greens and Sausage.  Put a tablespoon of oil in a hot skillet.  Smash one clove of garlic and toss it in the oil, or use the equivalent of jarred garlic, and cook just until it starts to smell good.  Add whole or sliced fully-cooked sausage (kielbasa, polish sausage, etc) and a package of frozen greens (every supermarket has spinach, but yours might also have kale, collards, turnip greens, or something else fancy).  Serve with bread, cornbread, or rice.
  8. Muffins, cheese, and fruit.  If you use a mix, muffins will take 3 minutes to assemble and 20 to bake.  If you refuse to use a package mix, muffins will take 10 minutes to assemble and 20 to bake.  My kids think fruit is fancier if you cut it up.
  9. Mediterranean Platter.  Serve any combination of olives, cheese, raw vegetables cut into spears or bite-sized pieces, store bought or premade hummus, pita bread, pita chips, sliced bread, premade grilled meat, boiled eggs, fully cooked sausage slices, or frozen meatballs heated in a skillet.
  10. Scrambled eggs.  For starch, serve toast or frozen hashbrowns browned in a skillet or heated in the oven.  Raw veggies or salsa are also good sides.
  11. French toast.  Serve with applesauce, canned peaches, or frozen berries.
  12. Fried eggs and Accouterments.  If you've got tiny bits left of delicious premade casserole, stew, soup, cooked vegetable, or grain-based dishes, heat them up and top with fried eggs.  Shirred eggs are a similar sort of thing: heat up dribs and drabs of whatever, put them in ramekins (or coffee cups), crack an egg into each cup, top with a smidge of butter and salt, and bake at 375 for 10 to 20 minutes (depending on how you like your eggs done).
  13. Ramen noodles.  Splurge on the dollar-a-package ones if that makes you happy.  Add any combination of frozen broccoli, frozen peas, hard boiled egg, nori, or premade meat.
  14. Nourish Bowls.  This is a concept, not a recipe.  A nourish bowl (also called a mighty bowl, Buddah bowl, power bowl, or rice bowl) is a scoop of grain, a vegetable or two, a protein source, and a sauce.  There are a billion combinations, so if you Google around you will either be inspired or overwhelmed.  Build around what you keep in your pantry.  White rice, quinoa, couscous, bulgur, buckwheat groats, teff, and amaranth are all quick cooking grains, but no grains really need babysitting.  If you've got time before dinner (or if you know tonight is going to be a disaster by 9 AM) throw your long-cooking whole grain in a pot ASAP, and you'll be most of the way to dinner before dinner time.  Five random ideas to get you started:
    1. Kraut Bowl- millet, shredded cabbage and carrot (or coleslaw mix without the dressing), kielbasa, honey-mustard dressing.
    2. Thai Curry Bowl- rice, frozen mixed veggies, premade or canned chicken, coconut milk, red curry paste.
    3. Peanut Bowl- quinoa, carrot coins, frozen bell peppers, chopped peanuts, peanut sauce.
    4. Pink and Green Bowl- bulgur, frozen greens, pickled beets, canned garbanzo beans, green goddess or yogurt dressing.
    5. Amore Bowl- teff, roasted red peppers, red onion, chopped almonds, pesto.
What am I missing?  What are your favorite ultra-fast dinners?