Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Woman in the Parking Lot

When you have two small kids and you're out doing errands trying to beat an incoming Nor'Easter the morning before Thanksgiving, making small-talk with a stranger in a parking lot is not the event you'd like to have happen.

But yet, there I was yesterday morning hurrying back to my car after grabbing diapers when a woman saw me pushing my tandem stroller back to the mom-mobile when she called out "Happy Thanksgiving!". Not wanting to be a Grumpy Gus, I smiled and said "You as well!" to which she replied "Thank God this only happens once a year... right?". I then laughed in kind and heard her mumble "Oh, but then there's Christmas... and New Year's".

There was something in the way that she said those last words that gave me pause. This was not a woman who had joy on her heart, but rather seemed overwhelmed. I turned around as I loaded the second kid into the car to give her a smile and said "Happy Thanksgiving, again!".

She stopped and smiled. "Oh, yes. You too. I'm so... there's just so much to do..."

I closed the door to the car after making sure both kids were snug and secure in their carseats, and turned back to the woman. She was maybe in her mid-50's, sweatshirt and jeans, blonde-grey hair quickly styled. She looked overwhelmed and concerned. I made eye contact with her and smiled.

She put her hand to her forehead and sighed. "I work in a nursing home and I have to work tomorrow," she said. Then she looked at me as if wondering if she should continue or not. I could tell that she wanted - no, needed - to, so I acknowledged what she said. "Well, I can tell you that if I had family in a nursing home, I would be more thankful than I can express that someone would be there to make sure my family member had a good Thanksgiving. It's better than retailers making their cashiers work just to make a buck."

Market Basket - More for your Dollar (and heart, apparently)

I could see her shoulders relax as she continued to tell me the rest of the story. She wasn't just working in a nursing home on Thanksgiving. She had to get there and organize the meal; this meant she had to organize the team cooking and serving the meal as well as making sure that the reservations/serving times for each family were in order so the holiday could go without a hitch for the residents and their families.

She had to arrive at the nursing home at 2:00 AM to start this process. Then after that was all done, she had to go to the airport to see if her brother had arrived from Switzerland for the holiday.

As she wrapped up her story, the look of worry took over her face again as she sighed and rubbed her temples.

It was then that it hit me... the Nor'Easter.

She had to drive to work in the middle of a snowstorm predicted to bring snow, sleet, and rain. She wasn't just overwhelmed - she was nervous. And I could relate, because I hate (and I mean HATE) driving in those conditions.

I decided in that moment that I didn't care about personal space or the fact that this woman was a complete stranger. I walked over to her and gave her a hug. Suddenly she was laughing and I said "Have a wonderful Thanksgiving... be safe, have fun" and rubbed her arms before letting go. She smiled and said "Oh, thank you! You too!" and walked back to her car.

I slowly got in mine and put both hands on the steering wheel when I realized I had a huge lump in my throat and that I was holding back tears. I took a few deep breaths and as one of them let go from the corner of my eye, I said a prayer. I asked God to help calm her heart, to protect her on the roads during the storm, to let her find joy in the moments of service and to enjoy the holiday.

As I said "Amen", I heard my son's little voice from behind me. "Mommy, otay? Wanna go home now. Mommy otay?"

"Yeah, Buddy. Mommy's OK. We're going home right now."

I share this story because I want to encourage you today too. I want to encourage you to open your heart to let God move in and use you. Use you for big things, use you for small things, but to use you. I find that He tends to use me for small things, but I know that those small things - those "lead from behind" things - make a difference to His people. I encourage you to pray that He help you to hear His voice. I don't always, but I find when I do it's for something that requires love.

I don't know why I was moved to cry. But I do know that God moved me to love on that woman yesterday. To be there for her  - maybe because no one else was. Maybe because if she didn't have release in that moment she would not have been able to release some of the nervousness. Maybe because sometimes people just need to vent to feel better.

Maybe because she just needed a hug, and God knows that I love to hug.

I don't know the why, but I know that God used me yesterday.

He wants to use all of us.

Today - Thanksgiving - I am thankful that God uses His children to do things. To do big things. To do small things. But all of the things that He calls us to do... all of the things matter.

Ask Him to use you too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Holiday (or Party) Allergy Guide for the Non-Allergy Crowd

When my husband and I used to lead the youth group at our church, I was always the one to be on top of who had food allergies and to say no to peanuts that may enter the room. At the time I had no idea how serious a reaction to peanuts could be, I had no idea that tree nuts could cause the same reaction, I had no idea how serious cross-contamination could be, and I only had a vague idea of how to use an epi-pen. All I knew was what I had heard peripherally; that peanut and nut allergies were serious business and could send someone to the hospital.

Then our firstborn child Will got diagnosed with peanut and walnut allergies when he was 16 months old. It's funny how what I did as a mindless precaution with children that weren't my own suddenly had to become serious, front of the mind business. 

Our garbage bag filled up with our beloved peanut butter stuff, anything that contained peanuts, anything with a walnut in it (like the bag of walnuts in my fridge), and anything that couldn't tell me exactly what tree nuts may or may not be included in their ingredients. We retrained ourselves grocery shopping to read every label, every time (yes, even things we've bought before - a salsa we've bought for ages recently started to indicate that there may be traces of tree nuts in it). Samples at grocery stores? Gotta read the labels first. Been around peanuts out with friends or at work before coming home? Strip down in the basement, start the washing machine, and put on clean clothes before saying hi to Will. 

Why such extreme measures? Don't we carry an epi-pen or Benedryl? 

Here's what the non-allergy crowd doesn't realize and the reason that I'm writing this post. 

Exposure to the allergens that cause an anaphylactic reaction isn't just a hit with an epi-pen. It's a 911 call and an ambulance ride... and usually another hit with an epi-pen, and risk of the reaction coming back in the few days following the initial reaction. Which can mean starting the epi-pen/ambulance cycle over again. 

Well... this just became "the year the ambulance came"...

I've now been on both sides of the coin and I have to tell you - it's so much easier on the non-allergy side. I've had to send emails out to Will's playdates asking them not to bring peanut butter on picnics because toddlers - no matter how many times you tell them - just can't not touch each other's food. There's a new Chik-Fil-A with a play place opening up near our house, and I'll have to turn down times with Will to hang out with his friends because they cook all their food in peanut oil (and while I can bring food for him to eat, that grease will be all over the twisty slides). 

The worst was when I recently had to tell my grandmother that I couldn't accept her gift of animal crackers for him because they were made in a facility with nuts. My grandmother. Animal crackers. 


I'm now that parent. The one that I am sure other people roll their eyes at in stores when I block the aisle reading labels. The one that feels rude and awkward turning down gifts or dictating what lunches people can't bring on outings. 

So it is with this post that I ask the other 85% of the population (our allergist said that 15% of the population suffers from food allergies) to be compassionate, patient, and maybe even help out the allergy parents and allergy kids (and even allergy adults) this year at your holiday parties. There are a few simple yet super helpful things that we can all do that will help those of us in the 15% category to feel less awkward and like there is a community of friends and family helping us to protect our kid. After all, the holidays are a time to spread love and joy and parties should be a time to relax and celebrate. 

Family parties shouldn't be scary places. For anyone.

So... what can YOU do to help?

1. Be aware of what's in what you bring to a party. This is as simple as reading the labels of whatever you put in the dish and making either a physical or mental note of what does/may or may not have an allergen* in it. I mentioned that we had to switch salsas recently, so don't just assume that there'd be no way something would have any nuts in it. Things I've been shocked or annoyed at for potential nut contamination have been the aforementioned salsa, steel cut oatmeal (it's what Will prefers and there's only 1 brand I've been able to find that is totally safe), some flours. You could even cut the labels off the products you use and bring them with your dish so people can make their own determinations. Which brings me to number 2...

2. Label your dish OR if you're the host provide labels for people to write on. This way there's no question, no random asking "what's in this", no needing to hunt for who brought the thing and asking what's in it. It also makes it easy for you to tell your child they can have this this and this, but not that that and that in one fell swoop. At our church cookout this year a few people did that at the dessert table and it meant that I could find something for Will without belaboring my decision. It was amazing. 2A: Do not cross-contaminate serving utensils from one plate to another - you never know what someone else put in their dish!!! In fact - please bring a separate serving utensil for your dish OR if you're the host, provide additional serving utensils for people to use. 

Something like this would be simple & perfect for your guests!

3. Don't share your food with someone else's kid. Period. Don't offer something off of your plate even if you know it's safe - something else on your plate might have cross-contaminated it without you realizing it. If a kid asks you for a bit or says they want some, redirect them to their Mommy and Daddy to ask them if it's OK. There was one day I went to the beach with some people and Will started to cough in the back seat; all I could do was wonder if he had eaten something I didn't know and whether or not it may have had nuts in it. When I pulled over he was fine and had just choked on his own drool falling asleep... but what if that wasn't the case? 

4. Throw your plate out when you're done. I know, this seems simple and I'm sure you're saying "Of course! Who doesn't!". Turns out the answer is most people don't immediately throw away their plates at a party because they're deep in conversation or they're people watching or playing with their phone or whatever. Think about it. We've all taken a turn being the person that collects a handful of garbage and makes a trip to the trash can asking "Are you done with this?" to everyone in the process. Here's the problem from the perspective of the parent of a toddler with allergies... the word "toddler". Toddlers - no matter how many times you tell them - don't understand "don't eat off of someone else's plate". They see "stray cookie" and they pick it up and it makes its way to their mouths. Will had hidden a brownie in his Batmobile that he pulled out four weeks later and started to eat. They don't care. Throwing your plate out helps the already-stressed parents of the toddler in ways I can't even begin to describe. 


I want to say that I fully recognize how easy it can be to say "just watch your kid" or "there go the allergy kids making everything a pain again". But take a minute and remember how "easy" it is to watch a toddler's every single move (don't you need to go to the bathroom or eat your own dinner?). Or think of a time that you felt really awkward at a dinner party when someone made something that you didn't like or couldn't eat for some reason. 

Now imagine that happening every time you go to a dinner party. Every. Single. Time. Only instead of a bad taste in your mouth if you eat it, you end up in the back of an ambulance with a loved one beside you praying you're going to live through it. 

All that the parents of an allergy kid want is for their kid to have as normal a life as possible. 

All that I'm asking the other 85% to do is to be a part of the village that it takes to raise a child and help out with that. 

Enjoy the upcoming season of celebrations and thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully incorporating these simple steps into your holiday plans. 

*The eight common allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, soy, shellfish, wheat, eggs and fish.

For more information about food allergies, visit

Thursday, October 23, 2014

When Mommy Needs a Timeout

There was a baby crying. There was a loud toddler singing. There were adult day recaps on both sides of the table. Dishes clanging. Background music coming from the small speaker on the counter. So. Much. Noise.

I could feel the muscles in my back tensing. I could feel my head getting foggy. My breathing was getting quick. Small imperceptible tears were forming in the corners of my eyes. There was too much, and I was getting overstimulated.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to hide and find quiet. Instead I snapped at my husband who was very likely just trying to help by entertaining the toddler or trying to show interest in whatever it was I had done that day.

We've all had these moments, the ones where we lash out at the first available customer instead of handling the chaos of life's daily grind with any sort of grace or poise. My moments like that tend to come between the hours of 4-6 (I've heard that's often called the "witching hour" by other parents...). Dinner, the hubby getting home, tiny people at the start of tired time when they're also hungry: all of these factors are the perfect storm to send me into a tailspin.

So there I was, standing at the island in the middle of my kitchen feeling like exactly that - an island in the chaos of the waves, just trying to hold my emotional shoreline together when the I just couldn't take the erosion on my own anymore. And I snapped at my poor husband who hadn't done anything except just be.

Didn't I learn anything from that sand and rocks lesson that Jesus gave? Clearly not...
(Image from
While I have no doubt that God is always present in my home, it was in the moments that followed that I realized I had been ignoring that presence (again). My husband put down whatever was in his hands, walked across the chaos... er... kitchen... calmly, took me by the shoulders, and looked me in the eyes.

"Dee," he started quietly, "go upstairs, take five minutes. Don't argue with me. Go upstairs, take five minutes." He paused to let me process what he had said, then made sure he still had my eyes and said "OK?". 

I nodded. I put down whatever it was I had in my hands. I left the room without a word, marched up the stairs, and flopped face down on the bed. 

I could hear the chaos continuing in the background, only this time instead of my own stressed-out voice I heard the energetic voice of a dad trying to settle the chaos down before the mom came back downstairs. I may have cried a little bit, I don't remember... but mostly, I talked to God.

I told God I was sorry for not paying attention to His presence in my kitchen. I told God I was sorry for ignoring His hands that were trying to give me the resources I needed to get through the rest of the evening and then opened my heart to accepting those resources. Then I thanked Him for giving me a man who clearly knew that it was time for Mommy to take a timeout when I was too stubborn to realize it myself.

I took down my husband's "I Love You Because..." boards where we leave each other notes (totally stole that from Pinterest, by the way), wrote a note thanking him for being an example of God's love and grace, left it on his pillow, took a deep breath, put on the armor God had just given me, and opened the door to return to the storm.

My sunshine-filled storm... October 2014
(Image taken by RLPhoto)
That was a little over a week ago, and since then I have been working to become more in tune with when Mommy needs a time out. I have always been susceptible to overstimulation (it is one of the reasons that I was grateful to have my own room as 1 of 4 children growing up) and what's worse is that I know it about myself, I know the triggers - and I often ignore them. I always try to push through it myself, to handle the chaos without God or anyone else around me and inevitably I feel physically and emotionally worse on the other side of it.

It is in the times that I ask for help either from God directly or from the people and support He has placed in my life that I feel the best when the storm calms. Those are the times that I am able to be the best mom, wife, and whatever else I have been called to be.

I need to be brave and strong enough to recognize when I need to take a timeout and to take it. I need to be humble enough to ask God or others for that help when the time comes. And I need to never stop praying, never stop asking God for His resources, and always asking for clarity of mind so that I really KNOW when the time is coming for a timeout.

I encourage my fellow moms out there to do this too. Know when you need a timeout and don't be afraid or ashamed or too proud to take it. Runners know that you won't go far if you don't remember to breathe. Video game consoles, computers, and cell phones all need that occasional reset in order to work properly.

This one is here to see if Steve is reading. Applicable, but also an inside joke.
(Image from "The IT Crowd", found on
Take the timeout. It's OK. I'm allowed. You're allowed.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Because There Aren't Enough Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipes...

The leaves started to change on the trees and so began my favorite of the seasons - fall. The most beautiful, the most comforting, and yet - the most short in length. Oh how I wish that fall in New England could actually extend until Thanksgiving instead of the winter creeping in much earlier than should be allowed.

Part of what makes the fall so wonderful is the food. Apples and cinnamon and nutmeg and roasting poultry and butternut squash and of course - pumpkin. Try to find a chain that doesn't cash in on the arrival of the Great Pumpkin; one look around while driving and you'll see advertisements for pumpkin lattes, donuts, bread, muffins, pie, bread pudding, soup, and whatever else people can create out of the big orange ball that seems to become prominent this time of year.

Before I had kids, I would pine for my first purchased Pumpkin Spice Latte (or "PSL" for the 140-character crowd). The first leaves would fall from the trees and I would be desperate for the spiced coffee. Now, however, I have found that dragging an infant and a toddler into a "FiveBucks" just doesn't make the PSL all it's cracked up to be. Unless, of course, I could make it at home in the same amount of time it takes to wrangle a toddler and lug a carseat into a coffee shop. Plus, then it would make my house smell all fall-like and comfortable too.

So I set off to research how people do it, and found that like any other recipe there were many iterations. I found one that used what I had in the house (I don't remember which one now), tweaked a couple of things, and came up with what I believe to be the perfect homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe.

For me, anyways.

Note: If you are looking for a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, do a search for a copycat recipe. This... this is not Starbucks. It is, however, wonderful and full of fall comfort. 

Pumpkin Spice Latte


  • 1.5 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I used Almond Breeze)
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin 
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1.25 cups brewed strong coffee 


  • Combine everything except the coffee in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking regularly. 
  • Once it is boiling, bring down to a simmer and add coffee. If the coffee you're adding was already hot, turn off the heat before adding (mine tends to be room temp or chilled when I add it because I brew it ahead of time).
  • Serve. Sip. Enjoy. 
A note: because this recipe calls for real pumpkin and not pumpkin-flavored syrup that is used at fine coffee establishments, there will be sediment at the bottom of your mug that not properly tended to will become sludge. I just keep a spoon in my mug and stir it between sips to reduce the amount of sludge at the end of the mug and make sure to get as much of the fall-pumpkiny-goodness in every sip.

Happy sipping!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why I Joined (and stuck with) a Moms' Group

I remember lying on the couch, hoping to fall asleep, absently watching "Kelly and Michael" while a 3-month-old Will snoozed peacefully in the cradle beside me. My sweet baby boy, my first born. My perceived-to-be-perfect infant son who wouldn't take a bottle, he cried every time he dirtied his diaper, and his nursing habits were annoying at best (one side every 1.5 hours on the button... and he took his time). It was then that I got the text from a friend inviting me to a women's brunch at a local church. It wasn't my "home" church, but one that I know a lot of people from and would be comfortable at.

It started in 30 minutes.

I remember starting the text saying I couldn't make it. Will was asleep and I didn't want to move it. I was in frumpy clothes and couldn't change in time. I just generally wasn't feeling up to it.

At least he was cute... Will, 3 months.
That wasn't the text that was sent. What I sent was something along the lines of saying I'd be there, please save me a seat. I gently moved Will to the carseat, packed what seemed like a million diapers, and went.

I hadn't realized it yet at the time, but I was struggling through a mild case of post-partum depression. I was anxious. I was down. I dreamed of the end of the first 9-12 months daily. I felt frumpy on a daily basis but did nothing to lift myself out of it. I looked forward to naptime not so I could get time to myself, but so that I could nap too.

To this day I am convinced that my friend's text was moved by God to get me there. It was God that moved my fingers to text her back, and I know this because my fingers would have sent an excuse as to why NOT go left to their own devices. I don't want to say that joining a moms' group saved my life, but I will say that doing so set me on a path to get "me" back again.

There is no way I could go through motherhood without other "mommy friends".

Image from
Did I know everyone in the group? No. But that didn't matter. Everyone in that group was a mom. Everyone in that group knew what it was like to have a new baby, and a lot of people in the group could relate - if not in whole - at least in part to what I was struggling through with Will. And above all else, being surrounded by moms who had been there and watching other moms talk of their struggles with varying instances of PPD after their babies helped me to find the strength to listen. Listen to my heart, listen to the pleas of my husband, listen to my brain and realize what I was going through.

Once I realized it, I sat on my bed in tears opening up to my husband and apologizing for not listening to his concerns with seriousness. I sent a note to a few close friends admitting where I was at and asking for prayer. I no longer felt alone, I began to feel less anxious, and I let the healing begin. By the time we became pregnant with Evie, I was feeling more like "me" again.

We are not meant to be alone, we are not meant to do life alone. Though I knew few women at that first brunch and though I was nervous to be there - I went. When Will started to go into the nursery and his tears would flow and I would get called back to check on him and my heart would break - I pushed through the anxiety and the pull to stay home - and I went. I kept going because I knew in my bones I could not keep going without the strength of a community of moms to hold me up.

Image from
Today I went back for my third start-of-session women's brunch and was once again reminded of why I kept going. I dropped off Will to his new room and the tears and screams for "Mommy" almost immediately began to flow. I had several moms assure me that it was a phase, that their sons went through it at the same age and outgrew it. I was reminded of what community is as the moms I've grown closer to over the years came together and talked about plans to do with our kids in the coming weeks. I accepted hand-me-downs from other moms whose kids no longer needed them. I shared in a brunch meal with moms I haven't gotten to know as well over the years and am glad that I did. I was able to ask for help rather than allowing anxiety to overtake me when I had to fetch Evie to feed her from the same room Will was in. I made sure to connect with at least one of the new moms in the group that came today.

I came to a moms' group because another mom invited me.

I joined a moms' group because I felt in my heart that I needed to at least try it out.

I stayed in a moms' group because we are stronger as a community of moms than we are alone as islands of moms.

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 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

  • 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)

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.