Friday, June 26, 2015

Top Five Hated Food Messes

I'm pretty sure that if someone were to say the word "kids" in a word association game, many people would respond with the word "messy". It won't surprise the parents out there (or caretakers of children) that I spend a rather large portion of my day cleaning up messes that my kids have made. I have tried to teach them how to clean their messes themselves, but this endeavor usually lands with blank stares, distractions from other toys, or misplaced "cleaning" of things that don't need cleaning later.

There is no doubt to any who know me that I love my children. They are lights to the world, they have smiles and personalities that could win the hearts of the masses (and if not, my younger child might force you to give her your heart... she's a bit aggressive).

But boy can those children make a mess.

In the just over 3 years that I have been parenting and the millions of messes I have cleaned, I have developed a love/hate relationship for my kids' eating habits. I understand the sensory and developmental benefits of letting them experiment with textures and playing a bit with their foods. I appreciate the need for a variety in their diet and not surviving just on mac & cheese and chicken nuggets (though my children wouldn't complain, that's for sure).

There are many messes that I don't mind cleaning at all. I've been known to chuckle and go with it when my kids dump boxes of Cheerios all over the floor. I strip them down to the diaper on pasta & red sauce night so they can make a mess without the stress of destroying their clothes. Paint? Clear out the sink and hose 'em down when they're done.

But there are a few foods that I just can't stand cleaning.

Top Five Food Messes 
I Hate Cleaning Up

Shredded Carrots: My son (3 years) is especialy not a fan of eating just plain vegetables; he's doing that whole toddler "I am not going to eat anything" thing these days. As such, I have to hide them in lots of places - smoothies, eggs, pizza, pasta, baked goods, rice.. really anywhere I can think of - to get him to eat them. One of the easiest and least expensive (only $0.89 for a pound of organic carrots at Trader Joe's!) vegetables you can do this with is carrots. They shred easily, they cook fast, they have a sweeter flavor that kids don't mind partaking in, and are quite good for you. But good gravy... they can be a pain to clean up after a kid has thrown them all over the kitchen. A wet shredded carrot that isn't immediately - and I mean the moment - after it hits the floor is destined to stick there. We have a steam mop that cleans up just about anything, and you have to hover over a dried shredded carrot for quite a while before a hard scrubbing will get it up.

If you're ever at my house and see little orange specks all over the floor, you'll know I just gave up trying.

Delicious! Nutritious! Impossible to clean!
Oatmeal: I LOVE oatmeal for breakfast, and so do my kids. You can add all sorts of dried fruit to it, maybe a little bit of honey, some almond milk - oh man, I love a good bowl of oatmeal. I found a recipe recently for banana oatmeal that my whole family loved. My daughter has just hit the age (14.5 months) where using a spoon and fork as part of the ways she gets food into her mouth are becoming a regular practice. This is also the age where oatmeal gets every-freaking-where. On the high chair, on the floor, on the table, on the walls, in her hair, on her legs. And the stuff is like cement; within seconds of it getting spread thin and exposed to air it becomes virtually impossible to clean. There was one day I didn't get to it right away and it took soaking it under a cloth and a green non-abrasive scrubber to get it off our kitchen table. Sometimes I have to wash the table 2-3 times if I don't wash the table off the nanosecond the kids get up from the table when they have oatmeal for breakfast. Have you tried to do ANYTHING the nanosecond after a child under the age of 4 finishes something? If not - try it sometime. It's the best exercise in futility you'll ever experience.

Tiny Fruit Seeds: You know what kids love? Bite-sized fruit. Blueberries, grapes, sliced kiwi, and strawberries are among some the favorites in our house. It's wonderful to know that I have healthy snack options that I can fall back on when the kids are driving me crazy right before dinner and I don't want them filling up on another handful of Goldfish crackers. But as all parents know - what goes in must also come out. When a tiny person digests bite-sized fruit they also digest the microscopic seeds that are encased in each little berry. Cleaning the diapers on the other side of a blueberry fest can be... let me put it this way. My husband will often volunteer to do diaper changes on the weekends when he's home to give me a bit of respite; since both kids are still in diapers, I do a LOT of diaper changing in the course of a day. There was one day that my daughter was especially ornery and had a full diaper after a family blueberry devouring had occurred. His words as he fought to get her to lay still to me in the kitchen were: "D! WE CAN NEVER FEED THESE CHILDREN BLUBERRIES AGAIN!!!"

We did, of course. Because blueberries are awesome.

Blueberry picking - Fall 2014
Wet Rice: This will be brief. I hate sweeping up rice after a meal. If there's any mess I'm content to let sit until the next meal to clean up, it's rice that hasn't dried yet. If I serve rice at dinner, I spend more time in the cleanup portion of the evening trying to coax wet rice into my dirt pile with my broom than I do any other part of cleaning my kitchen. It just slooooooowly drags across the floor, making you think that maybe it will cooperate but ultimately just moving about a quarter-of-an-inch every time you try to sweep. So you sweep with shorter, faster motions thinking maybe that will work. No. It just scatters and makes a bigger wet rice mess. It's horrible. I hate it.

Watermelon: Aaaah watermelon. A staple at any summer cookout, a must-stock in my kitchen this time of year. There's really nothing quite as refreshing as a slice of cold watermelon. Except in my house we don't do slices. In addition to not giving you good visibility to the choking hazard that are watermelon seeds (and before you say it - yes, we buy seedless, but there are still seeds - they aren't seed-free, just seedless), slices create wet, slurpy, disgusting messes of children. In our house we make "watermelon fries"; my husband cuts watermelons into these thin, french-fry sized pieces. They're fantastic finger food and are still messy - but don't cause the giant dripping disaster that a whole slice is guilty of doing. And can someone please explain to me why it is that watermelon - which is clearly red or a redish-pinkish color - causes orange stains in clothes that are also close to impossible to get out? Thank goodness for OxiClean gel...

No seriously. This stuff has saved more articles of clothing in my house. Pen, grease, watermelon... it's awesome.
And no, OxiClean didn't pay me to say that. But if they want to give me some free gel, I'l take it.

Look, I'm a fan of my kids and I let the messes happen. You don't even want to know the playroom disaster I'm going to look at when I get up from writing this post, or what my daughter is doing to the leftover pancake my son just gave her right now. Making messes, getting dirty - it's all part of being a kid, and I'm OK with that. I don't stop giving my kids the things that make the messes...

...but you better believe that I've been working to help teach them how to clean them up.

"What kind of mess can I make with that....?"

Friday, June 19, 2015

John 13:34

So I have this blog.

I have this blog, and I hope that when I write I can do some good with it. Maybe I strike a chord with people, maybe I can help someone want to help someone else. Maybe I can relate to another mom. Maybe you want to make whatever the recipe was that I just made. Whatever.

But I have this blog.

Six women and three men died in South Carolina this week. Six women and three men who were just trying to meet and talk about Jesus. Six women and three men who welcomed a new person into their bible study. Six women and three men who were then shot and killed by that same new person.

Six women and three men that were black. They were sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, sons, daughters. People. Were killed. By another person. Who was white.

A white person who told authorities today that he was looking to start a race war. He confessed. He wanted to start a race war.

I don't often talk current events on this blog. Maybe I should more often. I don't know.

Here's what I know: I'm white. I live in a bubble. I have and have had friends of other races but I never thought about it - because they're people. They're just people. God made Man, God made women, and we're all just people.

But... I stopped living in that bubble when it became personal. My sister gave birth to my nephews who are mixed-race. My cousin married an awesome black man who she loves with all her heart. Now it's my family too.

But... I should have stopped living in that bubble a long time ago. Because - we're all. just. people. We're all family. We are all God's children.

I wish that I knew the answers to change the minds of people who can blindly hate another person just because of how they look. I wish I knew how to make us all stop judging - because we all judge one another - and just let people prove who they are. I wish I knew how to make more people choose the side of love and to let love win.

Here's what I do know.

I know that Jesus is weeping.

Regardless of your beliefs, a man had evil and hatred in his heart for other people. My beliefs say that the Devil won that heart from God - he is more powerful than we as people give him credit for - and filled it with that hatred.

Jesus wept when that heart was lost.

That man then took that hatred and - if you believe that a church is a house of God - essentially walked into Jesus' own house and lured nine of His children into a false sense of comfort. And then killed them. Six women and three men. Dead. Because of hate.

He admitted to police that he wanted to start a race war.

Jesus... Jesus is weeping...

We should be too.

Let it be clear - this should not be viewed as a gun issue. That's not the problem.

This is a heart issue. There are people who live in this country that feel that they are better than others - so much better, in fact, that they feel the others don't deserve to live. There are people so full of hatred...

I'm not a big "Daily Show" fan. I'm just not, and it saddens me that a lot of people get their news from that show. But today I saw a clip from Jon Stewart's show last night and he really hits it on the head.

We pour all this money into sending our people to other countries to fight terrorism, when we are just imploding on ourselves with the hatred that's still in our own borders.

What are we going to do about it?

I don't know the answer. I don't.

But... I have this blog.

So I am going to make a plea.

If you pray - pray for the hearts of those who are filled with hate. Pray that they can be softened, that they can work to dissolve that hatred that has filled their core and let love begin to take over. Pray that God can prevail over the Enemy in the battle for God's children, that God can win.

Do what you can to dissolve race lines from where you are. If you even have the smallest shred or ounce of racism in your heart - and let's admit it please, WE ALL DO, the denial of that hurts us more than we care to admit - pray that God can take it away. Work to see others as God does - just as people.

People. We're all people. We're all sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors, coworkers.

Pray that folks of all races can be able to hold their heads high and to walk without fear. We cannot let fear win the battle of our hearts; when we do, we are letting the enemy attack.

Our generation is in desperate need of a real and true Martin Luther King, Jr. A real revolutionary. We've become too complacent. Or maybe a whole lot of "one person" to stand up and say that it's ridiculous. If love comes in numbers... don't they say there's strength in numbers?

Anyway... I have this blog. I have my prayers. I have love. And I have work to do.

What do you have?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More Important

When I was in high school, I spent the better part of my senior year bussing tables at a small Italian restaurant. It was the kind of place that had a fancy menu and a pricey wine list. It had two dining rooms; one was a bit more on the elegant side with trellises and carpeting and a "faux al-fresco" platform while the other had red tablecloths and a black & white checkered linoleum floor. My uniform was a dressy white shirt and black dressy bottoms - either a skirt or pants - and dressy but comfortable black shoes.

For those that don't know what a busperson does - I was the person who brought you bread & water at the beginning of the meal, made sure you always had water, helped the server bring plates to the table if needed, and cleared away your empty (or mostly empty) plates. I pulled trash and carried tubs of disgusting dishes to the back to be washed. Because I did a lot of work to keep the service going, the servers "had" to give me a percentage of their tips at the end of the night.

Being a nicer restaurant, we would get a lot of couples out on dates or families having celebrations or business people bringing a client out for a nice dinner. But once in a while a reservation would happen that would put the restaurant staff on high alert.

The Antons were coming. (Yes, of Anton's Cleaners for those that live in the Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts area - those Antons.)

Every martini glass had to be washed and the buspeople would be advised to make sure to stay on top of seeing they got washed as they got used. Extra bread would be baked and extra calamari brought in for that night. The "who can work late" question would be asked and those people would be assigned to that table. And by "table" I mean 4 tables put together to accommodate a party of at LEAST 10 people who would eat, drink, and be merry from about 7:00 PM until close to midnight. Mr. Anton would usually sit somewhere in the middle of the table where he could interact with everyone, and whenever he would bring his people in it was always a good night to be working.

This picture was taken by us at a fundraiser at a local restaurant.
Funds went towards relief efforts for the Haiti earthquake.

"Who is more important: the one who sits at the table or the one who serves?" This is the question that Jesus asks His disciples at the Last Supper (Luke 22:27).

"Who is more important...?" That night as far as the proprietors of that small Italian restaurant were concerned - the Antons were the most important people, and Mr. Anton was the most important of the important people.

And when Jesus asks the questions, He immediate answers: "The one who sits at the table, of course."

"Of course."

When the Antons came, we were to find the utmost of our abilities and perform there. Be as attentive, as kind, as anticipatory of needs as we had ever been in our lives. We worked like our paychecks - at least for that evening - depended on it. Because Mr. Anton and his party were the most important people, we made sure to treat them as such.


There's always a "but" with Jesus, isn't there?

Jesus sat there at the table at The Last Supper, certainly by all measures the most important person in the room. Son of God, the Messiah who would go on to die for our sins, worshiped over the ages by millions. After asking the question of his disciples as to who was more important, saying that "of course" it is the one who sits at the table - Jesus sticks his "but" into the conversation.

"But not here! For I am among you as the one who serves." 

Jesus was, by every measure, the most important person at that table. He is the Son of God. He would go on to sacrifice His earthly life and take the punishment for all of our sins.

I've really got to get a copy of "The Brick Testament" for the kids...
He sat at the table, yet He placed himself in the status of one who served.

Something to ponder: If Jesus is saying that at the table of His last earthly meal that He is NOT the most important person, that He is the one who serves - what does that say about us each time we take communion? Before discussing who is the most or least important, Jesus tells his disciples to take the bread and drink the wine in remembrance of Him. We continue to take the bread and drink of the cup over 2000 years later in His honor.

He went on to serve us in the biggest of ways. He gave His life for us. He went to the tomb and rose on the third day and walked among us before ascending to Heaven to sit beside the Father.

He restored the most broken of relationships - that between Man & God.

The most gracious, most sizable, most beautiful act of service in history.

There was one night that I was able to get a later ride home when Mr. Anton brought his crew in and was therefore able to be part of the service staff that worked his table. I spent the better part of 4 hours running empty martini glasses back and forth from the kitchen, pouring pitchers of water into glasses, clearing plates, bringing clean silverware, helping the waitstaff get meals to the table in a timely fashion so they could all eat together, and just generally making sure this very important party was well taken care of. It was a whirlwind night.

As the meal was coming to a close, I felt someone gently grab my arm. I turned and saw Mr. Anton's hand as the culprit and asked how I could help him.

"Young lady," he said, "you have been working hard all night. I know you tip share, but here - I want to make sure I give you something too." With those words, this older gentleman quietly slipped a $20 bill into my hand, closed it, and patted the top. "Thank you for a great night, young lady."

I smiled, I thanked him, and I topped off his water glass. Buspeople didn't get $20 direct-from-the-customer tips. $20 is what I would get in tipsharing from one server on a busy Friday night.

Arthur Anton at an event recognizing his service to the community - 2013.
Photo credit: Meghan Moore, Megpix
I have never forgotten that act of kindness. That small, quiet act of kindness by a successful businessman is one that I have kept in my heart for almost 20 years now. I have always viewed it as
an example of staying humble, of remembering to serve each other, of recognizing the hard work that people do.

A reminder that no matter how important we become, that we should still serve. We should still love, We should still be humble.

Jesus sat at His last meal and reminded us that He walked the earth to serve.

We need to remember His example. We need to do the same.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Beauty in the Weeds

A few weeks ago I was having a rough day. The kids were going crazy,  I was overtired, and it was all I could do not to drown myself in a pile of chocolate and/or lock my kids in their playroom while borrowing my husband's noise cancelling headphones for an hour. Or even five minutes.

After dinner, my husband brought Will outside while I cleaned up the kitchen and gave Evie a bath. While I was doing the former, the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find a certain blond haired, blue eyed little boy standing there with a giant grin and a fistful of dead dandelions.

"Here, Mommy! I picked you some flowers!"

I looked down at that little face and its giant smile and bright eyes and all my frustrations of the day melted away. I then looked down at the fistful of dead dandelions and had an inner sigh - especially as I glimpsed the semi-apologetic look on Steve's face as he handed me a branch from our blossomed cherry tree and a length of phlox. The look that said "I tried to teach our son how to pick flowers for Mommy, and he decided that dead weeds were the way to go."

But I mean... that face on that little boy holding those browned stems with the seeds holding on waiting for a strong breeze... talk about a heart melt...

When this face hands you a fistful of dandelions, you love them.
Because you love this face, and the giving heart behind it.

My paternal grandfather died when I was just shy of 8 years old, but I have very clear memories with him in the few years before that. My parents divorced when I was 5, but my brother and I would still head to visit with my grandparents and father about once a month. My grandfather had a vegetable garden and several flower beds, and I would follow him around asking what things were and being a general 6 or 7 year old nuisance. I would sit beside him on his bed as he watched "The Victory Garden", hoping he would notice me and take the headphones out so I could hear too.

One day while I was out in the yard with him, I very clearly remember picking some dandelions and buttercups and little purple flowers and bringing them over to him. I wanted to share - very proudly - these beautiful yellow flowers that I even left enough stem to put in a cup of water.

He looked at me confused as I reached to hand him the flowers. "What are you giving me weeds for? Those aren't flowers!" 

This was the day that I learned the difference between weeds and wanted, purposeful plants. I also learned from my Papa that day that my Nana loved to get flowers from her grandkids, so I brought them to her from then on while Papa shook his head with a smile.

"Bena and Kenny" - Circa 1980-something in my grandparents' back yard.
Yep, that's a scan of a Polaroid.
Confession: To this day when our lawn gets cluttered with the yellow heads of dandelions every spring, even though I know that they can choke out the grass and deteriorate the health of our lawn - a part of me still sees the beauty of the yellow against the backdrop of green. When I see the weeds that sprout purple flowers start to take over the cracks coming out of our rock wall, I wait until the flowers have withered before I pull the weeds out.

I have fond memories of dandelions and purple flowers and the yellow buttercups of clover plants sitting in Dixie Cups on windowsills in my parents' kitchen that we picked. They were the first flowers I picked as a gift and the first flowers I taught my siblings to pick.

Image from
Check out this write-up about dandelions being used in tires.

Then there is the story of Jesus being anointed by the sinful woman while dining with the Pharisee.

"When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself , 'If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is - that she is a sinner.'" (Luke 7:36-39)

A sinner. A societal weed. A broken, unwanted person among those who are perceived to be beautiful and desired. Someone who is viewed as disposable, who will choke out the beauty.

But Jesus.

Jesus doesn't see the ugly that the Pharisee sees. He sees this woman's beauty, he sees her heart, sees more than her sin.

"Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - as her great love has shown.'" (Luke 7:44-47)

Wild violets - my favorite weeds. Yes, I have favorite weeds.

There is much beauty to be found in the weeds and it's more than the beauty of the yellow, purple, white, or whatever colored flowers that poke their heads out in the spring.

Last night while we were out playing with the kids, a baby bird just kicked out of the nest was trying to figure out how to fly and had flown itself right into the middle of our street. Steve ran into the basement, grabbed a box and some gloves, and rescued the baby bird from becoming road kill. "Mommy," Will asked me, "what's Daddy doing?"

"I am going to bring this baby bird back into the woods so it doesn't get run over by a car. Do you want to see it before I bring it back?"

My 13-month old daughter bounced excitedly and reached up for me to bring her to see the bird. My 3-year-old son said "Oh! Yes!" and ran up the sidewalk to see the tiny bird. On his way up, he passed a grouping of dandelions on the edge of the lawn. "Oh! I will bring it some flowers!" he said as he grabbed a fistful and ripped them away from their base.

Notice the dead dandelions on the right side of the box. 
The heart of a 3-year-old says to bring the scared little baby bird some flowers because that will make it feel better.

The beauty in the weeds isn't in the flowers. It's in the heart of those that pick the flowers to give to their Papa, their Nana, their Mommy, or the scared baby bird. Yes, weeds have undesirable qualities - but so do I. So do you.

The beauty lies in the heart.

Let your heart flowers bloom.