Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I Need to Stop Surviving

I was caught off-guard last night by my son's big toe.

Ever since Evie was born in April, I've found that most of what my husband and I do could be considered "surviving". We make sure the house isn't a complete disaster, that no one is dead, make sure we tell everyone we love them and that we love each other, and we make meek attempts at sleeping. Whereas five and a half months ago, I was noticing everything - these days I have realized that things are flying right by me and I am very likely missing things.

I have no idea what things I am missing. I have no idea if the growth and development milestones I've noticed in both of my kids recently happened well before and I didn't notice or if they just happened. Like Will coloring in specifically identified areas in pictures or Evie pulling the glasses off of Daddy's face. Did that just happen, or has there been a build-up that I missed? Did it happen before right now and I blinked?

On my wall is a reminder that I printed from a Proverbs 31 Ministries devotional: "Noticers see the lovely in front of them and learn to love their story."

I try to be a noticer. I really do. God has blessed me with a home filled with love, a home that is filled with the smiles and laughter of two wonderful children, the resources to allow me to stay at home with them, a husband who loves me and tries his best to show it, and so many other things that I just don't deserve. There is so much for me to take pause, to notice, to take joy in during the course of the day that it's insane that I don't just walk around with perma-grin.

Seriously. Just look at these little blessings.
But my noticing skills are getting lost in the survival shuffle. And with it the moments that I should be taking to thank God for the joy that He is trying to fill my home with.

Yes - all of this thought process was triggered by a brief 10-second encounter with my son's big toe.

Why my son's big toe? Well... it's big.

As anyone with more than one kid will tell you, the first period of just you and your first child are filled with moments that you can just savor. You can take the time to memorize every detail of that child. Their hairs, their smiles, their eyebrows, their eye color, their smile, their coos, their giggles.

Then number two comes along and life changes instantly. And I don't know if it's because they're only 2 years apart, but I feel like life with a toddler and an infant is especially crazy. The 2-year-old doesn't understand the logic of "No, I can't read you a story right now because your sister is attached to my breast and doesn't just chill and eat". The 5-month-old doesn't understand that you're way overstimulated with dinnertime chaos and the last thing you can cope with right now is her crying fit.

The time to analyze and memorize every detail of the children has been gobbled up by making sure everyone gets attention, making sure everyone is fed, making sure everyone feels loved. By surviving.

I've stopped noticing and started surviving.

Then last night happened. Last night I was down on the floor playing trucks (or maybe Mr. Potato Head) with Will when he pointed out a "boo-boo" (crayon mark or something) on his big toe. Of course I made sure I took a close look before reassuring him that there was not any boo-boo and that it would come off in the bath - and that was when it happened.

I missed a breath. His big toe got big.

Those who know my son know he's a peanut (we're talking 3rd percentile on the charts), and so this is the kind of big that only a parent who realizes suddenly that their kid is growing up. But I really had to stop and say... when the heck did Will's toe get so big? Where did his baby big toe go?

I hid the tear because my son is also incredibly empathetic and I didn't want him to see me crying right before bedtime, but the tear was there. I missed it. I blinked. And his big toe got big without me noticing.

What else haven't I noticed?

When you focus on survival, you don't take the time to realize what is in your surroundings because you just want to make sure you don't die before you get to the other side. Say, for instance, you're lost in a jungle. If you're lost in a jungle, you're not going to focus on "Gee, that's a gorgeous flower on that tree" or "I bet those vines would weave into a really comfortable hammock so I can enjoy the sounds of the river and the monkeys and such". You're going to focus on "What the heck can I do to get out of this horrible, humid, place where every animal wants to eat me for breakfast alive?".

Image from www.survivalkit.com. I've never been to a real jungle.
I'm in a parenting jungle. I want to make sure I get myself, my husband, and my kids out of the next couple of years alive. The thing is that in a parenting jungle - you need to focus on the gorgeous flowers or the vines that make hammocks. I mean... the crayon scribblings and the blanket forts. If you don't, you miss big toes that become bigger toes.

Every mom that has come before me tells me to make sure that I slow down and enjoy the moments because they're not little forever. No one has the answers as to how though. As far as I can tell, there's a whole lot of moms out there that are missing big toes.

We need to figure out how to stop surviving and start noticing. The way I figure it, the right place for me to start is to pray. Pray that God can help me to slow, because I can't do it myself that's for sure. Pray that God can help me to treasure these moments close to my heart. The goofy smiles, the interactions of toddler and baby, the tickle giggles, the filthy diapers, the moments in the ER, the snuggles, the shoulder hugs, the floppy tired baby.

The big toes.

And we need to prop each other up as moms and dads. We need to help each other survive so that we can better notice.

I need it, anyways. I guess I should stop speaking for you. I need to stop surviving. I need to notice more. Maybe you do too.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sweet Potato Quesadillas - Naptime Dinners

For those who don't know me, I'm a mom of 2 tiny humans - a 2 year old (William/Will) and a 5 month old (Evangeline/Evie). This means that I need to maximize every minute of every day or my house would look like an episode of "Hoarders". As any mom will tell you, naptime is a prime time to get things done; in my case, I like to take advantage of the time to get things ready for that night's dinner. 

A friend of mine suggested that I share with you all the things that I make during naptime so that others may try their hand at doing the same. When I post these recipes, I'll make notes of the things that I was able to prepare ahead of the dinner hour so that you know where you can get some bang for your minutes. If you alter or experiment or have other tips that you discover if you try one of these recipes, please feel free to comment with what you did. I'm always looking for tips of things to do. 

The first Naptime Dinner that I'm going to share with you are Sweet Potato Quesadillas. I made these last night and thought the filler was pretty tasty. 

Sweet Potato Quesadillas

Ingredients: 
  • 1-2 tbsp. Canola Oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped 
  • 2-2.5 cups chopped sweet potatos
  • 1 large apple, chopped (I used Paula Red)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/3 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 tsp each cinnamon and sage
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 10 tortillas (I used corn, but if I made these again I would try flour)
  • Shredded Cheese (I used a sharp cheddar, and you should use as much as you want the quesadillas to be cheesy)
Directions: 

The part of this that I made ahead was the filler. To make the filler - heat the oil in a large skillet. Once the oil is warm, add the onions and saute until the edges are just brown. Once the edges are brown, add the sweet potatoes.

Time to add the sweet potatoes!
Saute until the sweet potatoes begin to brown, then add the apples.

Time to add the apples!
Once the apples are added, saute for another 2-3 minutes and then add the salt & pepper (to your taste). Once the sweet potatoes are tender and the apples start to reduce, deglaze the pan with the cider. Add the spices & brown sugar, stir and remove from heat after about another minute or two. 

Finished filler
Assembly is pretty easy and you could also do it ahead if you had time (which I did not as the 5-month old woke up from her nap). You take a tortilla, spread 1/5 of the filler around, sprinkle with however much cheese you want, the put another tortilla on the top. 

Assembly required.
To cook these, heat a skillet/cast iron skillet (or if you have a flat griddle that works too). Place a quesadilla down on the hot skillet and weigh down with another pan (or if you're cool enough to have a panini weight or steak press, those work too... I'm not that cool). Cook for 2-3 minutes, flip, and cook 2-3 minutes on the other side. I found that once my skillet was good and hot, 2.5 minutes/side did the trick. 
There's a quesadilla in there.
Once they're cooked up, cut them in quarters (or halves, whatever you prefer) and serve with your preferred side dish. I served mine up with some roasted sweet plantains, but rice or apple slices or even potato chips would work well too. 

If you decide to make these - enjoy! We thought they were pretty good but I didn't like the consistency of the corn tortillas after they were cooked up (which is why I think next time I make quesadillas I'll be making them with flour tortillas). If you make this and have any tips/ideas - please share!! I'd love to hear your feedback.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Been Too Long

There was a time when I blogged fairly often. 

I openly admit that I don't have a plethora of followers, and the few that I have had in the past are probably off reading other things at this point. But it's time. 

It's time for me to start writing again. Well... more often anyways.

I've come to realize that blogging was something that I did for myself and if I was able to help, entertain, or otherwise spark thoughts in others - then that was an added bonus. Writing helped me to gather my thoughts, to share some things that were on my heart, and to continue to work on being an articulate human being. You could say that it was a combined means of stress relief and continuing education.

I've been writing in a private blog that we keep for ourselves that documents our kids' milestones, but this blog has always been a way for me to process my faith in brief devotional-type writings, to share my thoughts on movies/books, to share recipes. A little glimpse into my brain, how it works... no matter how interesting or uninteresting it might be. 

And so, it's time. The kids are on a somewhat regular schedule, and so if I can take a few minutes a few times per week to write I think that it will be good for me. It will be my "me time", as it were. Something that is so important for moms to regroup - as any mom will attest to. 

Why today? Because Steve and I are both overtired. And today is the day that my toddler decided it was going to be his first "Naked Day". 

I needed some me time. There were very few ways to slice that. 

At any rate... I hope that you'll stick around, that you'll share my posts, that you'll offer your opinions/thoughts on my musings, that you'll allow yourself to be entertained (or helped... or put off... whatever), and that you'll be patient with me if I ramble a bit. 

I promise that there will be more posts - at least 4-5/month - because it's something I need to do to maintain my sanity. It's like yoga for my brain.

Especially on "Naked Toddler Days". 

Thanks, and I welcome myself back. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

That Comfortable Silence

"I'll set up my residence in your neighborhood; I won't avoid or shun you; I'll stroll through your streets. I'll be your God; you'll be my people." (Leviticus 26:11-12, The Message)

You know those seasons of a beautiful, sustained friendship where you can sit for hours in a comfortable silence and just know that each other are there? Those times where you're just looking at the wonder around you and your friend is by your side and you're just sitting there, silently, enjoying the beauty around you or just the comfort of each other's company?

Yesterday while I was reflecting on some things, I realized that this is the season that I am having with my relationship with God. 

The realization of this came from having the thought that things had been quiet there for a while. Not in a way that I haven't been praying or neglecting to read my devotionals or feeling far from him - but just... quiet. When I thought about it, I realized that I don't feel far from Him right now - in fact, I probably feel God's presence more in my life recently than I have in a while. He is answering our prayers and we have felt His provision and protection in more ways than we have ever felt before. We are watching as He moves in our friends lives in various and amazing ways. The ways that He has placed blessings big and small in our lives are not going unnoticed or taken for granted.

Yet, despite all of this, I feel like I am in a quiet, comfortable silence with God right now.

I think that part of the reason is that on the surface, life is kind of normally flowing right now. We get up, we shower, we do our things, we have dinner, we go through the bedtime routine, we wind down, we repeat the next day. We have good moments in which we have been smiling and finding joy, and we have bad moments in which we recover and have grace and forgive and process. The difference, I think, is that recently I have been much, MUCH more aware of God's presence in all aspects of my life. Not just the crises or the giant celebrations - but all of the aspects.

So what am I saying here? What's my point?

Will reminding Daddy that God is even at work with him during the day.

The bottom line, for me, is this: God is always there. He is the bestest of the best friends, His presence is one that never leaves. The key is to find that presence tangible - which is not always the easiest of things to do. Recently, I think that is what has happened; I have begun to feel God's presence more constant. He is always there. And for me, finding Him in the day to day has always been the most difficult. The "quietness" that I am feeling right now is, I think, His presence in the ordinary.

I have a couple of close friends - my husband included - that I can sit in comfortable silences with. They don't need to say or do anything, but I know they're there. Sometimes those silences are created by distance or time, sometimes they're created by lulls in conversation, sometimes they're created intentionally while we watch life happen or spend time outside in creation just watching. It doesn't matter what we're doing or how the silences are created... those friends, those relationships - they are still there.

Some of my most comfortable quiet God-moments have been beside the ocean.
So right now may seem like a time of ordinary sprinkled with the occasional extenuating circumstance, but it doesn't matter. I don't need a major event to feel God's presence... I just need to be aware of His presence in the normal moments of the day.

Today, take a moment to pause and find God in your ordinary moments. Find peace in that, then when you've found Him in one moment, look for Him in another. When you are seeking Him out intentionally, you will find that He is everywhere. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Macaroni & Cheese for One

Our son Will, like most kids who don't have dairy allergies and are able to eat full meals, LOVES macaroni and cheese. If I make him a plate of mac & cheese, he will quietly eat his lunch and oftentimes clean his plate. There are a couple of problems with this, however, when it comes to classic boxed macaroni & cheese:
  1. Will needs to gain weight. While the macaroni & cheese you get from a box does have more fat in it than the typical adult would prefer to have in their diet, our doctor had suggested we try to sneak more fat into our buddy's diet.
  2. No toddler can polish off a box of macaroni & cheese in one sitting, and it tastes terrible on the second day so leftovers are (kind of) out of the question. Which means that if I make Will M&C for lunch - it means that I also will be having macaroni and cheese. And typically this means that I end up having a little over half a box. Which I probably shouldn't be having. (2a - I LOVE MACARONI & CHEESE! Especially with some peas mixed in and a dash of black pepper... oh man...) Really... this is the bigger issue as there are a million ways to sneak more fat into Will's diet and I am very, very weak-willed when it comes to mac & cheese of any kind.
While I was pondering this issue, I remembered that I had once come across a recipe for "revolutionary macaroni & cheese". I had made it once for a friend of mine & I and it was delicious. I knew that I could adapt the recipe for one serving and fatten it up so that our little man was getting a fatter mac & cheese (in fact, in our house we call it fat-mac) AND I wouldn't have to be subject to a half of box (or more) of mac & cheese very time he had some (oh the horror...). A couple of tries, and I have perfected it! There are even a couple of veggies that I sneak in for total nutrition awesomeness for my toddler buddy.



Macaroni & Cheese for One 
Adapted from Revolutionary Mac & Cheese from Macaroni & Cheesecake

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup pasta (penne, tri-color mac, rotini.... your choice)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tbsp - 1/4 cup frozen spinach (or 1/3 chopped frozen broccoli)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Method:
  • In a small saucepan, put the pasta & milk and bring to boil. This will happen faster than you think - so don't walk away! As soon as it starts to boil, bring down to a simmer and make sure to stir constantly. 
  • About 5 minutes after bringing to a simmer, add the peas & spinach. Bring back to simmer & cook until noodles are tender (about 5-7 more minutes).
  • Remove pan from heat - DO NOT DRAIN!!! Add both cheeses and stir vigorously until cheese is melted in. The sauce will thicken upon standing. Add salt & pepper and serve. Or just eat it out of the pan, after all - this is only for one person.


A couple of things... first, this will easily feed two toddlers or one adult. I usually fill up Will's plate and then there's a few bites left to fulfill my macaroni weakness until I make it for him again. If I were to make this for myself - I would substitute in skim milk for the whole milk and it would work just as well and be just as delicious. Will loves this stuff; we've tried it with a couple of different cheeses but this seems to be the way he likes it the best. He'll eat either spinach or broccoli in it for us - whatever we have in the house - but the peas are a must. And in the long run it's cheaper than boxed mac & cheese... really, this is a winning situation all around! 

If you are in need of a quick comfort food fix or a good lunch for your kiddo... definitely give this a try. You won't regret it.