Saturday, August 23, 2014

Love Must Be Loud

The were being typical little boys. "Mom, he did blah blah blah." "But mom, first he whine whine whine." And finally "I wish I could trade him in for a different brother." That was my final straw. I told them (for the millionth time. Not exaggerating) that they should always treat each ther with love, gentleness, and respect. I had them give each other hugs and say out loud  "you are one of the best gifts that God gave me." I make them say things like this often, because they don't  yet realize how strong your brain is.  If you keep saying it eventually you believe it.  So if I keep saying my brother is special, eventually the thought will stick. Or at least that's what psychologists claim... One brother enthusiastically grabbed his brother in a Bearhug/headlock and exclaimed "YOURE ONE OF THE BET THINGS GOD GAVE ME!" The other responded a little more quietly and even after multiple cues his mumbles could barely be heard. He was not putting any effort into this reconciliation.  Finally I explained that love must always be louder than anger.

Of course this confused them.

They understood that it is easy to express anger, hurt, frustration, and hate. Those easily carry human emotions into a loud, often explosive, physical state. But a quietly mumbled "I love you" is easily overshadowed by a screamed "I hate you." Ok, they got that one. So we moved on to finding Biblical examples of when love was loud. Love groaned in agony from the cross. Even as a desperate Son questioned why His own Father had turned away, he still chose to stay. For us. Out of love. When asked what the greatest commandments are, He boiled them down to loving God and loving others. 

I'm not talking about mushy, sentimental, country Western song love.  I'm talking about love as a decision. The love that looks at a person, flaws and all, and says "I love you." The love that makes a parent stay up nights and clean up vomit without complaint. The love that sees a man visit his wife long after her dementia has taken away any memory of him. The love that says "I could let go but I refuse." That's the kind of love that shouts as it works day in and day out. 

But too often it's silenced. 

I asked them if mommy and daddy always agree. No. Have we fought in front of them? *hangs head in shame. But we've been working on it. It's been a loooong time since an honest to goodness fight. But we still have difficult discussions and decisions to navigate. And we still will as long as we're married. But I old the boys that what gets us through is knowing that we're not going to give up. That we love each other more than were angry, hurt, prideful, etc.  The boys have already seen many failed relationships in their short lives. Their little friend's divorced parents. Grown siblings who don't speak to each other. Pride that is stronger than love and has torn families apart. They've seen much already. And they don't want it. So I try to lead them into making choices. The kind of choices that scream I love you! So that when the relationship is strained, when it's near breaking, they will know that love is still present. That they will stop and fight for that relationship because love is shouting don't give up! 

When anger is shouting that you must prove your point and be right, love must shout louder. When hurt gives the cold shoulder, love must be stronger. When pride refuses to reconcile, love must be the more stubborn . When all the selfish humanity inside you is screaming to put yourself first, love must calmly say over the din I choose to serve. As often happens, when I teach my children, I learn the most. Am I more willing to express how others disappoint me or how I love them? How will this change how I treat those I love? Will it challenge you?

"...Faith, hop, and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My response to the Frozen furor

Since the arrival of Disney's Frozen in the movie theaters, there have been both it's supports and vehement nay-sayers. Which is normal. This time, however, the conservative Christians didn't focus on the use of magic in the film, which is the want, but on one of the character's songs. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know the story of Frozen, so I won't rehash it for you. Here are the lyrics that are troubling to many parents:

                                         "Let It Go"

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation,
And it looks like I'm the queen.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn't keep it in, heaven knows I tried!

Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Well, now they know!

Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door!

I don't care
What they're going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!

It's funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can't get to me at all!

It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I'm free!

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You'll never see me cry!

Here I stand
And here I'll stay
Let the storm rage on!

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I'm never going back,
The past is in the past!

Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!

Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!
Lyrics by Idina Menzel.

And I get many of the points made. I'm a mom of three. It's hard to teach them right and wrong in our current culturel obsession with relativity. Having a song with beautiful animation, supporting casts including taking snowman and a cute reindeer, and a pop star singing doesn't make the issue any easier to ignore.

But let's take the story in context and realize that the song, although played incessantly as a single on the radio, is actually part of Elsa's character development. And it may be a cartoon, but the script was written by real people, so let's put ourselves into Elsa's shoes. have you ever been told that there is something fundamentally wrong with you? That the way you were born is a shame and a disgrace? That part of you needs to be hidden because of your potential to damage someone else? You may not, but I have. I once volunteered for a non-denominational organization in Russia. It was an opportunity that I had been waiting and working for over a period of several years. My dream. But I had a problem. My hair. I was born bald. Then as a child I grew thin, incredibly blond hair. Somewhere over the course of the next several years my hair grew very thick. Then at fifteen it started growing wavy. Not all at once, mind you. That would have been too easy. It started in different patches and took about three to four years until it reached a relative homeostasis. And I didn't have a clue what to do with it. I tried gels, mousse, shampoos, conditioners, hairsprays, hair cuts, and anything that any hairdresser would recommend. My mom and my hairdresser tried, but neither one had a clue either. Sure, I could straighten or hot roll it every day, but that took spending well over an hour on my hair alone. Time that I knew I wouldn't have in Russia. The best solution seemed to be to put a perm over the top of the natural curl to try to make it a little more uniform and tame the frizz a bit. Did I mention it's frizzy? if I don't do anything with it I look like I walked through gale-force winds. Back to the point... I thought I was doing pretty well, but evidently it wasn't good enough. I was told on multiple occasions, by men whose wives had stick-straight hair that I was somehow a distraction. That the curliness was often "unkempt" looking and didn't leave a good impression with the leaders the organization was working with. therefore I was instructed to keep my hair "plaited." Laugh if you want at the archaic terminology. But it wasn't a laughing matter.

Have you ever worn a baseball or winter cap all day? you know that feeling how at the end you just want to take it off and run your fingers through it just to feel some movement? Yeah, I felt like that a lot. I also keenly felt the sting that while these people were preaching that God makes no mistakes when He creates each individual, somehow just didn't apply to the way He created my hair.  Some people wither under such criticism, but my family had built some into me some good self-confidence so I knew that what I was being told was ridiculous. While I catered to the request demand made of me, not for one minute did I believe it was right. My sarcasm went into overdrive and I ran with the new nickname from my friends, Rapunzal. Check the name of the blog, I still use that nickname. And I will never be able to forget that someone tried to make me believe that there was something indelibly wrong with me that needed to be hidden for the good of others.

When Elsa reached back and took her hair out of the bun and let it hang down in a braid, I could identify with the feeling. When she talked about no longer needing to hide, I thought of another blond girl with long hair who desperately wanted to be accepted for who she was.  I was already struggling to make my curly hair look nice, and all I was told was that it was hurting the ministry. You know, many people actually like curly hair and think it's beautiful. Not these people. Elsa couldn't help that she had been born with the snow powers. And while her parents weren't trying to make her feel evil, their "help" only consisted of trying to make her hide them. ("Conceal, don't feel.") She lived in constant fear that the very traits that she had been born with and used to entertain her sister would in fact seriously endanger them again.  We both faced condemnation for something that was in our very DNA.

 While many look at Elsa's actions as running away (which she was), also remember that she was running towards something. She was seeking to, for the first time in years, be able to be unapologetically herself. When I got home from Russia, I scheduled a hair appointment that first week to cut the remnants of the perm out of my hair. I have no desire to ever have another one. I'll deal with my natural state from now on, thankyouverymuch!  Elsa looked to be in the neighborhood f 6 when the accident with her sister occurred, forcing her into hiding and preventing her from enjoying a rather fabulous gift. Who can blame her for wanting to be whole, to no longer hide behind a locked door? Surely loneliness with truth must have seemed better than living in isolation in the middle of a city and pretending to be something that she wasn't. Those were the only two options that she could see. There is a vast difference, as illustrated in this movie, between learning to control yourself and attempting to completely eradicate a part of yourself. Perhaps while we talk to our children about the song, we can also talk to them about developing the beautiful person that God created them to be. To learn to use the gifts we are given and to not live our lives in fear but enjoying the life He gave us.

That's my own personal story relating to the film, but I was wondering about the children.  So I asked the targeted demographic: my six and eight-year-old kids. They acknowledged that, yes, she was talking about not having any rules. But I asked them if they thought that's what she still believed at the end of the movie and they said no, that Elsa had come back home and was the queen. And everybody knows that Queens have to follow rules even if they get to change a few. They also answered that they didn't want to leave behind all the rules because they didn't want to be lonely. Although they did seize the opportunity to ask for a reprieve on the "no video games on school nights" rule. They tried, gotta hand it to them. :) While I would not want someone telling my children that it's ok to live with no rules, I think if taken in the larger context of the story itself, the children see the consequences of those actions. And no parents should let their young children watch movies or read books without taking the opportunities to talk with them and help guide them. Disney isn't raising my children. I am.

If you haven't seen Frozen, grab it here from Amazon. Disclaimer: This is an affiliate link.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Disappearing Southwestern Salsa

     It was July 4 and we were headed to a cookout. I've been dying to try a sweet corn salsa with Husk, and just needed the opportunity. After looking through numerous recipes, I combined what I liked and came up with this. Really not trying to brag, but it was beyond delicious. I got "yelled" at for not bringing enough, even though I had doubled the recipe. The salsa had disappeared before the burgers were even cooked.  I was informed by several friends that this is now my new go-to recipe (even better than my hummus!) and I'm to bring to all get-togethers. :)

     There are onions and jalapeƱos in the recipe, but there are just enough to provide a good depth and some mild heat to the salsa. It won't burn your mouth. Promise. Black beans and avocado help smooth out the flavors too. The kids, even the ones who normally won't touch anything hot loved it. The adults who normally say "the hotter the better" devoured it too. Truly is a crowd pleaser. If you want it hotter, of course add more jalapeƱos. But I think the balance is just right.

Here's the recipe. Not kidding though, you need to at least double it!

The fresh ingredients
Disappearing Southwestern Salsa

1 bag Husk sweet corn (drained)

15 ozs black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (halved)
2 avocado (chopped)
1 lime ~2 TB (juiced)
½  medium purple onion (diced)
2 jalapeno chilies (seeded and minced)
2 clove garlic (minced)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro chopped or torn (or a good 2 TB of dried cilantro if fresh unavailable)
¼  tsp freshly ground pepper
½ TB Kosher salt
½ TB Tony Chachere's Lite Creole Seasoning (lite because it's low-sodium. Calories are negligible. Zataran's would also be acceptable.)
Both groceries in my town were out of cilantro so I had to use dried.

You can mix ingredients earlier in the day and even the day before to let tastes meld. Add avocado shortly before serving as it tends to brown. The key to the wonderful combination of sweet, savory, bitter, and salty flavors is finely mincing garlic, jalapeno, and red onion as well as using Husk corn. Husk is sweeter than any other frozen or canned corn on the market.
Mincing hotter ingredients is key

There you have it! A delicious, healthy party food. I would love to hear your comments! Simple to leave below.

. You can also top grilled chicken with it, or put it on a salad and skip the dressing. Enjoy!
Colorful and addictive

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Why we should leave Dad alone with the kids

Guys as parents often get a bad rap. There are tons of memes on the internet with some admittedly pretty hilarious photos describing why fathers aren't as responsible a parenting choice as mothers. I believe that, instead, men are different than women. *Gasp!* But despite the fact that dads are more likely to hang their children upside down by a leg occasionally, that doesn't mean that they're bad parents. Just see things a bit differently.  Is there anything wrong with a different parenting style? So in honor of my husband who is a fantastic father, his dad, my own father, and all of our wonderful grandfathers, here's a post on why you SHOULD leave your kids with good old dad!

1. They show up. When it's not convenient. When the occasion is big or little. When they're not feeling well. When they have something else to do. They come and support. (And a big shout-out to Nana, who is in the middle of radiation treatment at the time of this picture and she still made it out to the kindergarten graduation.)

2. They support all the school endeavors.

3. They're always ready to go fishing with their kids, even when the "kids" are grown.

4. They bring chocolate.

5. Dad then shares the chocolate.

6. He's always a shoulder to lean, or sleep, on
Proud daddy and baby's first steps

7. He's there to help you with your first of anything, steps, baseball, reading, etc.
8. He even shares his ice cream

9. He loves holding you even when Mommy goes a bit overboard in the dressing department.

Boating with baby can be a handful
10. He includes his kids in his favorite activities even when they're little and it would be easier to go alone or with a buddy.

11. He teaches them the value of hard work. And how to work with their hands.


12. Dad plays games with the kiddos.

13. He teaches them how to let their hair down. :)

14. He untangles fishing line. Again. And. Again. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Ruffled First Birthday

Confession: this one year birthday party planning started at three months. And it revolved around the dress. Doesn't it always? Since everything surrounding a baby girl is pink, I had planned on having her party in purple, but the dress changed all that. I was shopping with my MIL and exchanging a baby gift that was too small at a department store when I saw it. And I fell in love and knew that this was going to be my baby girl's first birthday party dress. And it is quite the party dress! But it only came in pink, so the purple color scheme flew out the window. Come to think of it , the same thing happened to my wedding colors. But I digress. Pinterest and I became good friends as I planned out little one's party. My party board has quite the collection of girly party ideas next to the Lego and Star Wars party ideas for the boys. :)
The inspiration for the whole thing, THE dress
My husband went along with all my crazy schemes, tolerating the endless ruffles, "check this out!" as I shoved my iPhone with yet another Pinterest find in his face, and near obsession with this party. He kept reminding me, probably trying to keep me from going further overboard, that Tinker would have no memories of this day and it was more for me and for the pictures. You bet it was! I've always wanted to throw a fancy decorated party and this was the perfect chance. And yes, after all that I've been through in the last year and a half, you better believe I was celebrating her first birthday!!! I have prayed for many years to add a girl to our wonderful family. God answered our prayers, but we had quite the difficult time last year. So I took this as a time to celebrate God's faithfulness, my darling little daughter, and the amazing group of family and friends who have been through this journey with us and supported us. We wouldn't be where we are without them.
photo wall 
The photo wall was pretty easy. I alternated pink and white crepe paper streamers and secured them at the top with tape. I didn't even bother coming back later after the photos were paper-clipped on to tape the bottom and they did just fine.  This was on a back wall though. If it were a high-traffic area like a door or hallway I would use tulle or ribbon instead of crepe paper for sturdiness and tape both sides. I then grabbed tissue paper pom pons at random and taped them. You could mount them onto card stock to but I thought they were cute without it and I liked the pink crepe paper peeking through. My idea photo came from this pink and green polka dot party, photo 3 of 20. I think the hardest part of this was narrowing the picture choices. This shutter bug momma likes to take pictures. :)

Party central
High chair with ruffled tutu 
I absolutely adored the princess throne high-chair idea. Tutu on the chair to dress it up? Brilliant! I also threw a disposable pink table cloth over the chair. A baby eating is always a messy proposition and there's enough to clean up after a party without taking the time to get icing out of the nooks and crannies of a high chair. And it added to the atmosphere! My cousin had made Tinker a tutu for Christmas using tulle and pink polka dot ribbon. I love it and was so excited to be able to use it for her party. Plus it was one less thing that I had to make. 

Party and smash cakes. Ruffled, of course!
What's a party without a cake? I searched and searched to find the exact cake that I wanted. After discussions with my MIL and my friend Meggan, two extraordinary cake decorators, I ruled out anything with fondant or horizontal ruffles. Vertical were definitely easier. What's surprising is how easy this was! It looks hard. the bottom layer was a white cake and the top was strawberry. The smash cake is strawberry. I used two of those enormous muffin tins to make the smash cake and merely cut the tops off. Both were iced 100% with buttercream.

Gift table
Rolls of ribbon from the dollar store meant that I didn't have to be stingy with how much was used. I asked my mother-in-law to hang them are varying lengths. The results were darling. For the draped tablecloth(photo 6) I used a light pink one for underneath and the pink damask on top. I played with the gathers until I found a look I liked and poked a hole with scissors before tying a bow with the ribbon. Simple, yet it looks like draping on a princess dress. 

Food and drink tables
Pom pom centerpiece
Pom poms are one of the easiest things to make. I bought several packs from the dollar store plus raided my Christmas/birthday wrapping box in the basement. One bag of them was made during family movie night. The process, however, was taking a while because tissue paper is like a child magnet. So I took everything to work and asked the occupation therapists if they wanted the project. My delighted residents knocked out three more bag fuels by the end of the day. One resident told me how they always used to make these with their Mexican grandmother for family parties. She hadn't made them in years and had so much fun! I had multiple patients demanding pictures of the party after that. :) We had large, medium, and small. My biggest lesson was to have at least 6" of ribbon when they are tied as otherwise they were difficult to tape to various walls. Retying one more ribbon was just one more step that could've been avoided.  The tutorial for the pom poms explains pretty well. You can also make different kinds of flowers and sizes.

I placed various sizes in glass vases that I already owned. We had enough for one on each table and one on the drink table. I think I like the square vases better.

I love how it all looked together

Dainty little bites
My three precious ones

Royalty must hold court

Love this girl

One of her favorite gifts

Playing in the tissue paper from her gifts

Making the rosette-covered "1"
The inspiration photo for the rosette-covered "1" is gorgeous. It made me think, I can do this! It seriously only took about an hour, including setting up my station and watching the video several times. Obviously, the first couple took a while. I stopped doing more than just a perfunctory fluff after about 5. Hot glue was my friend. I also just hot-glued a pink and white polka dot ribbon tot he back to hang it up.  The instruction video on Youtube is simple and thorough.

So grateful to everyone who helped us have the perfect party for our little darling and for coming out to celebrate life with us. Thankful for those who have helped us through this last year and continue to be the village for my little family. Even if we didn't have the ruffles and the frills, we are blessed beyond measure.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Midwestern Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie with Husk vegetables. An easy, hearty winter meal for the family.
I LOVE my Husk sweet corn. Really love it. Not exaggerating.  I keep looking for more recipes that include corn just so I can use more of it. This time it was the middle of winter and I was a little tired of soup but I still wanted to eat a comfort food. Healthier comfort food, that is. This is another great recipe made from what I had on hand. I ended up doubling the recipe and intended to freeze the rest. It never quite made it to the freezer as everybody ate it for lunch and supper for a couple of days without complaint. It was that good. This recipes is adapted from Gordon Ramsey's. See him cook it on this youtube video. It took maybe 25 mites prep time, which wasn't horrible. It's always hard for me to get an accurate count because the kids are running in and out, somebody has a homework question, the phone rings... You all know the drill. The most time-consuming part of the recipe is cooking the meat and making the mashed potatoes. The recipe as directed serves 6.

Ready to use. I forgot to thaw ahead of time. Just took a little while longer.


Nonstick spray
2 lbs lean ground beef (I used ground deer meat)
fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 cups onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped

1 small sprig fresh rosemary (a little goes a long way)
1 bag Husk sweet corn, thawed
1 bag Husk peas, thawed
1 bag Husk green beans, thawed
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons flour
7 ounces red wine
2 1/2 ounces Worcestershire sauce
1 liter chicken stock
2 lbs boiled potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
5 ounces milk
2 egg yolks
salt to taste
Parmesan cheese

  1. In large skillet, brown the meat with the salt and pepper. Drain any fat that has cooked out. With the deer meat it is so lean that I never have this problem. Meanwhile add the potatoes to a large stockpot and begin to boil.
  2. Next saute the onion and garlic with the thyme until the onion is translucent. Then add the meat, tomato puree, and sprinkle in the flour. Cook 2-3 minutes to cook the flour.
  3. Add both red wine and worcestershire sauce and cook until half of the liquid has been reduced. Then add the chicken stock. Bring back to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the mixture is thick. Keep on low and add in Husk vegetables. They are already blanched so just need to be warmed, not cooked.
  4. Mash the potatoes and add in butter, milk, and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Spray non-stick spray in pan if you have a tendency to get things stuck like I do. Layer meat in first, then cover with potatoes. The recipe calls for Parmesan, but I forgot to pick it up at the store so I used some shredded cheddar in the fridge that needed to be finished off. I think the Parmesan would've been better, but you still can't go wrong with sharp cheddar!
  6. Cook for 18-20 minutes to brown the potatoes.
  7. Serve. Watch your normally picky eaters ask for seconds. Smile. Make a mental note to make more the next time so you'll have enough leftovers for another meal.
    Yum! Get a load of that delicious corn, peas, and green beans!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Not a Mini Night

Normally on this night of the year I would have been in bed hours ago. Four am comes too quickly for this night owl. Instead, for the second year in a row I will be staying home the first Saturday in May. I thought about it today a bit. But I was too busy working to truly pay attention. I thought I was ok.
But tonight Its late and I risked logging onto Facebook. Stupid Facebook. Like a sock in the stomach, the first thing I saw was a friend's smiling face as she held up her bib number where she had picked it up from the race expo. And it sank it that I wouldn't be running with my friends and 35,000 other people again this year. Once more I would miss seeing how the city of Indianapolis stops in its tracks to support the runners of the 500 Festival Mini Marathon. It really is one of the most wonderful tortuous events ever.
I miss it. I miss the crowds, the bands, the excitement. The feeling of immense satisfaction after crossing the finish line. Going out for a hamburger afterwards to celebrate and the unison groans that accompany the attempts to stand as we try to leave. I miss the months of preparing. The early mornings and late nights pounding the pavement with my dog. Logging another run and realizing that I've increased my distance or tempo. There's a nagging feeling that I won't ever get it back. Last year as I lay holding my newborn daughter and preparing for an imminent surgery, I thought for sure that a year of recovery would be ample time. But I still can't run. And I don't know if I ever will if I'm completely honest. I'm working hard. Exercising. Doing my therapy.
Some days it hurts emotionally more than others. I'm happy for my friends. Praying that they all have a safe and fun time tomorrow. I want to see more smiling faces tomorrow on Facebook. But please forgive me my little bit of jealousy. It's just a mini thing.