Sunday, January 30, 2011

And also with YOU!

Many of my friends know what difficulty I had with A-man from about 20 months to 4 years of age, and many have witnessed the changes in him.  He went from total mild sweetness and predictability to raging vitriolic fury beginning from the time I weaned him at 19 months.  He had been starting to speak fairly clearly, but his words disappeared and were replaced by screams and growls.  I was fearful for his soul, to be honest. 

The change came fairly quickly, but there were enough good days to feel like it was a passing toddler phase.  Eventually, however, we came to expect a tantrum during every outing, so we stopped going out, a habit that continues to this day.  We became accustomed to every event ending with a massive ugly blow-up over some really minor issue.  Often there was a fit just before we left the house, so we were worn out before we got in the car. 

Complicating this was a major depressive episode that engulfed my spirit and my energy and made me feel utterly worthless and so inadequate for the task of mothering these beautiful children.  I was an angry hormonal mess, and I regret the way I blew up at my small boys in those days.   I sought treatment and found that I could manage things much better.  Dr. O' was progressing toward oral exams, the half-way point of his Ph.D. when this began, so he was very busy.  We were hurting, and we were in a situation in which being a perfect family was important. There's a lot I wish I could change about those days. 

In the spring of 2008, I realized that his behavior was not getting better, and his 3rd birthday was approaching.  I had met with our pediatrician, but I was fearful to acknowledge how bad things were.  Later, he and his colleagues gave us a diagnosis (which I refused to accept, but now can agree with) and offered anti-anxiety and behavioral drugs, but I could not medicate him until all other options were exhausted.  I had an epiphany that might seem unusual. 

We were in family housing at Notre Dame, and if we were expecting a 3rd child, we could get a larger apartment where we could have a room for him during his tantrums.  At that point, he emptied shelves, closets, drawers, and bins during every screaming tantrum, and he just needed a place where the white hot fire of his rage would have no fuel.  An empty bedroom with only mattresses would be perfect for him to learn to turn off his anger and calm himself without hurting himself or breaking anything.  When he couldn't be in his room, I had restraint holds that would keep him and me safe and would force him to decide to calm down if he wanted to be free. 

The nine months of a pregnancy would give us a timeline to get his behavior on track, and a younger sibling could potentially help him to develop better empathy.  The amazing thing is that over the last 3 years, it has worked!  Within weeks, he went from multiple violent daily 45-minute tantrums to 5-minute fits in his new room a few times a week, followed by a gentle knock at the door and a tiny voice saying, "Momma, I'm sorry, and I'm ready to change my heart.  Can I come out now?".  We still had the anxiety about going places and the fits at church, but Paula Triezenberg at South Bend Christian Reformed Church won his heart over and opened him up to hear about spiritual things. 

M-girl was born in March 2009, and he instantly took to her.  He has always been very gentle with her, and he has loved hearing about how he was the baby and was nursed.  I learned that he needs 10 minutes of holding each day to reset his emotions, and I still do that regularly. 

The move to West Virginia has been hardest on A-man, who loved University Village with all his little heart.  He was often in a pack of small boys running all over the playground wearing capes and brandishing swords.  As a little leader among them, he has felt their loss keenly.  His behavior toward me has become more negative, but we have the words now to communicate frustration, and he can calm down when he wants to.

We fell in love with a small congregation here, and I immediately asked if I could do a children's program during the sermon.   We had not been in Lutheran worship for the last few years, so A-man didn't know how to make connections with the liturgy, nor was he accustomed to sitting still for an entire service.  The Children's Chapel has worked out really well, and A-man and I study the stories during the week so that he knows what to expect.  His behavior in church is steadily improving, and I feel so blessed to hear and see him participating in liturgical worship.  He belts out "Glory to God" from the back pew and shouts "And also with YOU!" a second late, but he's engaging with worship.  I missed something sweet this morning when I was helping in the kitchen: he joined our pastor at the doorway of the sanctuary for the benediction and raised his arms along with the pastor.  I am so blessed by the kindness of our fellow members who came to me and told me they think he'll be in ministry some day.

After church, I was feeding M-girl some pasta and grapes from the potluck, and someone passed her a cookie.  I told her that she would have to eat the pasta and grapes first, and she smiled and said "okay!".  She ate her pasta and grapes and called them "mmm, nummy!" over and over.  Then she enjoyed her cookie.  As a momma who fought with one child over everything, I have realized how conditioned I am to expect a fight.  I can adjust my expectations, but I'm going to hang onto the joy I feel in my heart when they listen and obey.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Yogurt on the brain

Simple Yogurt Recipe
  1. Reconstitute 1qt of dry milk, add extra dry milk if you prefer tart and thick yogurt
  2. Thoroughly mix it with 2-4T of good yogurt with live and active cultures, like plain Dannon.
  3. Keep it at 90-110 degrees F for 9-18 hours depending on how tart and thick you prefer it. 
If you are starting with 1qt. fresh milk, you typically heat it to 180 to kill off bacteria, cool it to 90 degrees, then proceed from step 2. 

I get stuck on certain obsessions now and then.  This week it's yogurt. I used to make yogurt in a yogurt warmer with 5 individual cups, but it broke right before we moved. We were on WIC for many of our grad school years, and we had WAY TOO MUCH milk, and this was a good thing to do with it.  Now we're eating a tremendous amount of yogurt, and it's getting expensive since we're not on WIC.  Yogurt is about $8/gallon, and we could easily go through a gallon of it a week. 

Yesterday I cultured yogurt in an ice cream bucket yesterday and used my crock pot to warm it, but it was all manual and took frequent attention.  It turned out fine and cost $1.75 for the milk and the starter yogurt.  I drained a lot of whey from it, so it's essentially Greek yogurt.

Here's my plan for future yogurt making: 
  • Our current crock pot is a small round one with a crack in it, and I need to replace it anyway. 
  • http://www.amazon.com/Hamilton-Beach-Forget-6-Quart-Programmable/dp/B001AO2PXK/ref=cm_cmu_pg__header is a reasonable replacement, and it has a programmable temp control and a probe.  If the temperature setting doesn't go low enough, I can use the warm setting and glass jars in the crock pot when making yogurt. 
  • Dry milk will simplify the process since it won't need to be scalded first, and I can keep plenty on hand. 
  • If we slow down on our yogurt consumption, I'll only be left with a crock pot and some dry milk, both of which are useful. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sick days and other strange blessings

A-man doesn't really complain about not feeling well, but his tonsils have been a bit sore.  He hasn't fevered or had any other symptoms, so I've been sending him to school.  The school nurse called yesterday right before the end of the day to tell me he had a sore throat, but she thought he'd be fine to ride the bus home, so I let him finish the day. 

This morning was another 2-hour delay, and he said his head and throat hurt.  I looked, and his tonsils were bigger than usual, and quite red.  I agreed to let him stay home and figured I'd check I-M's throat as well.  Also red.  Both of them have huge tonsils normally, but they're definitely irritated today, so I decided to keep them both home rather than running out twice to drop them off and pick them up.  Worse yet would've been to get a call during M's nap and have to get A-man because of illness and later pick up I-M from the bus stop.  A recuperation day at home seems the best course. 

They have been playing quietly and are all 3 snuggled up in my bed watching PBS kids.  I got out a pack of muffin mix that's been in the cabinet for months, and those'll be done any second.  I love a cozy day at home when no one's fighting.  Makes being a mom such a blessing!  I love being with these guys!

Speaking of blessings, I have a funny sort of perspective on them, which you may have noticed.  I feel like we've been playing chicken with our finances this week.  Ever had that kind of week/month/life?  We operate on the belief that God owns what we have, and when we give it back, He will supply our needs.  We are blessed, and we need to share our blessings with others. 

We're still working on the practical side of the "right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing" (Matthew 6:3).  As in, we need to not have second thoughts about giving generously, but we also need to communicate so that the giver (Dr.O') and the primary shopper (Me) can coordinate.  I bought items that we needed this month, but maybe didn't NEED.  Like lampshades for lamps that we've had for 6 months and a food processor to make good cheap food in. 

That said, we had a lot of expenses this month that are hard to budget for.  All wiggle room gone!  We knew we had some quarterly insurance, and we budgeted for that.  After Christmas, we had a gas bill that was outrageous, even though we were gone.  It was based on an estimate and not an actual reading, but we didn't know if an actual reading might be even more since we've only lived here 7 months, so we paid it.  Then by mid-month we were out of everything, so I did an enormous stock-up using lots of coupons and sales ads.  Medical expenses for I-M came after that, leaving us with $20 for this week.

$20.79 for a week, and now it's down to $10.59 until Monday.  After college, seminary, grad school, and Ph.D. program poverty, I can totally do this IF we're already stocked.  Dr. O' and I thrive on this kind of week!  We love the creativity that comes from having no opportunity to spend money and having to trust God to meet our needs.  We have 1/2 tank of gas and nowhere to go beyond school most days. We are using our free month of Netflix to full advantage.  M's cute cloth diapers are in the washer, and a box of warranty-replacement ones are coming today.  Our change jar is now empty and the change used to buy milk, bananas, etc.  We have plenty of ingredients to make most of our favorite meals.  Our canned and dry goods are plentiful. Our fresh produce is dwindling, but there's still frozen produce, and we haven't wasted a thing!  We'll have to buy milk tomorrow, but we're getting to the end, and it's okay! 

When we have a week like this, I love the freedom from want.  I have what I need, and wanting more doesn't make it happen, so I am more able to focus on the simple pleasures and great blessings I have in my life!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Time for a Face(book) Lift

So I hinted the other day that I'm already thinking about what I'm giving up for Lent.  It's actually a New Year's resolution that I have put off fully putting into practice.  I started this blog to cut down on what I post on Facebook, and the other half of the resolution was to delete my old Facebook profile and start a new one without as many "friends" and without as many photos, etc.  Facebook was no longer providing the information from businesses and organizations that I like in my news feed, either, and I found it less useful as a result.  It looks like I'm online all the time, but it's actually that I can see the computer in my kitchen, so I jump on for a minute here and there, but I do get sucked in to a lot of unproductive time, too. 

I think Lent is a good time to completely detox from Facebook and spend more time preparing for Easter.  The complicated part is notifying those that I still want to keep in touch with what I'm doing so they don't think I've blocked them.  The other thing is to delete my photos so they're not floating around out there.  So Ash Wednesday will be my last day on my current Facebook profile, and it's also my 34th birthday.  It's a month and a half away, and I will be working on slimming down the current profile in the meantime.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

January has to end, right?

The announcement of yet another 2-hour delay for tomorrow morning came this afternoon, this time for frigid temperatures.  The upside is that I'll be leaving the house around 10 tomorrow anyway to go to a LaLeche meeting.  My hope is that it will not turn into a cancellation, although a few of those seem possible this week with continuing snowfall.  Here's hoping that February will be a little smoother.  Once my birthday comes in early March, I can usually feel the Seasonal Affective clouds lifting.  This year my birthday will be on Ash Wednesday, and I'm already thinking long and hard about what I'm going to sacrifice for 40 days. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Eau d'chienne

I finally bathed the dog today after 2 months.  I'm a bit horrified by how long I let that go, but my dog hates it, and I hate how cold she gets and how much she shakes water everywhere.  She's now on a heating pad covered by a bathrobe in a patch of sunlight on the floor.  She keeps shivering and looking at me accusingly.  I still don't feel like she's entirely clean, but I can't really trim her because she needs lots of fur in the winter.  The priority, however, is to keep her dander out of the air so that I-M stays healthy. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cozy Days In

I like snow days much better than delays and early dismissal because we don't have the stress of getting kids out the door.  I like them even better when I've cleaned beforehand.  Another "snowstorm" has hit Ohio County, WV.  This one is kinda bad, with snowmelt that froze solid, topped with 5 inches of fluffy snow.  The Jedis had an early dismissal yesterday, and their school is cancelled today.   Dr. O's university is also on a delay today, but he went in at the same time, opting to leave me the car in case of an emergency.  We have a load of clean diapers, plenty of milk, plenty of pizza ingredients, plenty of snacks, and plenty of energy on their part, which I'll put to good use keeping things from getting out-of-hand here.  The Jedis are going to earn privileges today by putting away their laundry and doing tasks as they become necessary. 

Things started out a little nutty here with someone sassing Momma and the Jedis trying to sneak breakfast into the living room.  A-man spilled Cheerios with frozen berries and milk on the living room hardwood floor, and I was tempted to get really angry.  I kept my annoyance in check and helped him clean up, thankful that I had put half the berries back in the bag before serving it to him.  I talked to the boys about how much easier our days at home will be if we all take care of the house, and I think they took it to heart.  I-M had pronounced our home to be "immaculate!" yesterday, and I told them that an immaculate house isn't important, but keeping things neat will keep the yuckiness from taking over! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Early dismissals and making the most of my time

So my house was pretty clean yesterday, at least on the surface.  After I went to Bible Study last night, not so much.  On Wednesdays I make dinner for Dr. O', enough to last him for Thursday and Friday lunches, and he makes some kind of kid-friendly dinner for the kids. Then he does homework with them, and I get home in time to help with bedtime.  The house, meanwhile, is mysteriously trashed.  I blame the Dog & Baby Show at least partly.  The dog chewed several crayons yesterday.  M-girl is typically involved in the random depositing of objects throughout the house. 

I woke up this morning and got the Jedis and Dr. O' off to their respective institutions of learning.  However, the Jedis will be coming home at 1pm today as part of an early dismissal.  I was quite tempted to let my Jedis stay home and play rather than make the effort to get them out the door and later get M-girl up for her nap to get them from the bus stop.  Freaking hassle. 

I decided to make the most of my morning and do a deep cleaning to mitigate the damage done last night.  I started my iPod with the Flylady Weekly Home Blessing podcast and got to work.  I made beds, gathered and emptied trash, wiped sinks, tables, counters, mirrors, a few grimy windows, and electronics.  I dusted, dust mopped, vacuumed, ran laundry, and put away toys. Now I need to have the Jedis check their bedroom floor (dark green carpet) for LEGOs, and then I'll vacuum it.  After that's done, they can watch a movie or play Wii.  M-girl can take her nap, and I can fold laundry and watch my Mad Men DVD that should be in the mail today!  I'm just starting Season 2, so don't tell me anything.  I've seen 1 & 4, so I mostly have it figured out, anyway. 

I feel good having fueled myself with a great berry, yogurt, and green tea smoothie this morning.  For lunch, I think I'll have some leftover Roasted Red Pepper and Sweet Potato Soup and a slice of bread that Dr. O' made last night.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

(too) calm before the (snow) storm

I have a feeling there will be a delay or cancellation of school tomorrow.  Wet roads and snowfall will almost certainly make for conditions that are too icy.  This alternation of frenzied days with everyone home followed by too-quiet days like today is messing with me.  I cleaned a lot yesterday, so my house is really quite clean with some clutter here and there, and now I'm bored.  THIS is why I wanted to take a class, but the school & winter weather issue is why I can't.  Also I have a lot of stuff to figure out for I-M and a lot of appointments to take him to that would surely interfere with taking a class.  But on days like today, I'm bored.  M-girl wants my attention only when I'm engaged in something else, so even reading a book is difficult. 

My friend Peggy from church was so helpful yesterday in taking A-man during I-M's appointment!  He played trains and then fell asleep on her couch.  I also talked to the mom of one of A-man's classmates about doing some childcare swapping. I could take her child when there's a delay or cancellation, and she could take A-man if I-M has an appointment.  She couldn't take him yesterday because she was working from home with her boys, but she's interested in playdates and coffee.  : )  I met her in the early fall, and she seems really nice. 

The allergist's has a very busy office, and things were chaotic enough with M-girl not having a nap and sprinking Cheerios everywhere we went and yelling at the top of her lungs for a "LOLLY!!!".  The tests showed that I-M is allergic to dust mites, cats, many local weeds, many trees, and a few things spelled out only in initials that I can't decipher.  He's on Xyzal, which is similar to Zyrtec and is ridiculously expensive, even with insurance.  He woke up without shadows under his eyes, so maybe I need some! He really was quite brave, and I was impressed with how the testing procedure has improved since I did it as a kid.  All the scratching gets done at once, so it's much easier to keep the child calm.  Hooray for calm!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Monkey Wrench + The Works = Complicated Day

I-M has allergy testing, or at least the consult for it today at 1:15.  I have the paperwork filled out and stored in my purse all ready to go.  I was hoping not to take M-girl because this is during her nap, but Dr. O' has a class during the appointment.  No problem, my daughter without a nap is like A-man was all the time at that age, and I lived through that.  The difficulty?  A call came from the school corp at 5am about a 2-hour delay.  We had some snow on the ground, which was then rained on, causing icy conditions.  Fine, I figured.  I just wouldn't bother to take I-M to school at all since he'd be there for fewer than 3 hours.  At 7:35, they called again with a school cancellation.  So now I have 3 monkeys, one who will be without a needed nap, to take to the allergist on icy roads today.  Dr. O' says the cancellation is legit, but oh my flippin' heck (To use the Utah expression)! 

I also had an appointment at school at 8:15 this morning for I-M.  I was to sign a form to initiate occupational therapy services at school, but I got a call yesterday to cancel that because someone forgot he doesn't qualify.  His low working memory kept him from getting a gifted services IEP (not sure if this is accurate; we're having him retested by more qualified practitioner; glaring errors on first test), and he doesn't qualify for special ed. services because his IQ is too high. I worked with him on his speech when he was three, so he doesn't need speech, which would also get him an IEP.  I'm fine with him being average, but I'm really irritated that he doesn't qualify for occupational therapy for coordination because he doesn't have an IEP for gifted or special ed.  So too bad if you're average?  Apparently Easter Seals offers OT services, but I was really hoping to not have another round of appointments to go to with 3 monkeys!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lost Keys and Procrastination

If you know me on Facebook, you are aware of the complete freak-out I had over lost keys today. I appreciated the offers of prayer for a relatively minor but very stressful issue! Because of an ankle injury and a depressive lull, I didn't go anywhere last week from Tuesday to Saturday, so I didn't need them that whole time.  I used Dr. O's keys yesterday and Saturday on errands.  Then we couldn't find his keys this morning.  We found them on the floor behind some furniture thanks to M-girl.  That got me worried about my keys.  I dug through the frozen trash from Wednesday through the weekend with a pair of rubber gloves.  I searched every low cabinet, shelf, nook, basket, and box. I spent a whole morning looking for my keys on a day that I would rather have spent playing with the kids!  I ended up finding them in a box on the dryer when I decided to move on to other housework.  I figured I'd find them when I stopped looking.  That's always how it is, right?  With my obsessive nature, that's hard to do.

Once the Jedis were out sledding in the back yard and M-girl was napping, I had the time and the motivation I needed to get out the drill and put up a hook for my purse and my keys.   I can see at a glance if they are put away, and M can't get at them!  While I had the drill out, I found the motivation to put up the bulletin board I bought 6 months ago and the mail organizer where I keep my grocery binder and my other organization stuff.  Makes me wonder what other projects I can get done.  I always curse my own procrastination when I'm tearing through the house looking for some critically important item.

I-M is having fun decorating the bulletin board with photos and drawings!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I love this machine!

WonderMill Grain Mill (110V)
http://www.amazon.com/Wondermill-WonderMill-Grain-Mill-110V/dp/B000CPJKWC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1295226664&sr=8-1

Why the blog title?

My kitchen is fairly spacious.  It's about 10x20 with reasonable storage, although we're thinking of adding a moveable island.  However, it's the activity that we pack into it that makes it the Crowded Kitchen of Love and Noise!  My computer cabinet is in one corner, and obviously I check what's going on online a fair amount!  The kids watch Netflix shows on the computer, or they play some educational games, and all our art supplies are there.   They rob the printer of paper regularly.  We have a plastic table for projects near the back door, and the kids eat breakfast and snacks there.  Access to the back yard, the bathroom, my bedroom, the basement, and the rest of the house is through this room. Because of my long-term love affair with useful electronic gadgets (nothing real fancy) and with kitchen appliances, the counter and the computer cabinet are littered with wires and chargers and additional parts.  I do get it all organized when it bothers me, but it gets loose again. 

With 3 busy kids, a dog and two adults, the kitchen traffic is pretty constant!  When I'm working in the kitchen, the dog is pretty consistently stepped on (YIP!) because she makes it her business to live underfoot.   The dog has a spot by the back door, where she sleeps when she's tired of me stepping on her.  The Jedis and M-girl like to dance and spin and have epic lightsaber battles in the kitchen as well.  Currently, it's also the location of the potty chair because we need quick access for M-girl without worrying about whether anyone else is in the bathroom.  The floor usually has a mixture of stray LEGOs, snips of paper, a few assorted toys, and whatever M-girl has carried out of the bathroom.  Currently, that's eye makeup remover. 

When the noise and activity reaches a fever pitch, I eventually shoo them toward the living room if I'm working with hot or sharp implements.  But if I'm not, I enjoy the love and the noise in my kitchen!

Abraham and God's Promises

I have the blessing of being a children's church teacher for our congregation.  We have a little lesson in our children's chapel during the sermon, and we return in time for Communion. 

Now I'm presenting a series of stories leading up to the first Passover, with travel to and from Egypt being a common theme throughout Scripture.  At Epiphany, I taught the children about how God sent the Holy Family to Egypt to avoid the infant Jesus' death at the hand of Herod's soldiers.  Travel to Egypt occurs a number of times in Scripture, and it always marks a significant event.  My theologian husband says it was especially important to the gospel writers to present Jesus as a fulfillment of the law and the work of Moses, a connection that I can see clearly in my preparation for class. 

These lessons will lead to the story of Joseph, who was part of Abraham's family's return to Egypt during another famine.  There they became numerous, just as God had promised, and their presence became a threat, so the Egyptians made them into slaves.  It took Moses to lead them back to the land that God had given them.  We will study the plagues and passover so that the children understand what Jesus is observing when He institutes the Eucharist just prior to His crucifixion and His resurrection!

Abram (Abraham) was born in Ur but moved to the trading city of Harran.  Life would've been comfortable for a wealthy man in a trade-heavy community.  In Harran, God presented Himself to Abram as the One True God, a novel concept in Abram's culture.  He promised Abram a land of his own and innumerable descendants.  Abram believed God, even though he had a comfortable life in Harran and his wife was too old to bear children. 

He went to the land of Canaan that God had promised to him.  He built and altar to God at Bethel.  Later, a famine came, and Abraham moved to Egypt, where food was plentiful at the time.  Rather than risk his life as the husband of a beautiful woman, Abraham told a half-truth and claimed that Sarah was his sister (they were half-siblings).  Pharaoh took her into his harem and gave Abraham wealth.  However, God punished Pharaoh for having Abraham's wife in his home.  Pharaoh got Abraham to admit his lie and sent him away.  I told the children that Abraham's lie lost him a friend in Pharaoh and was disobedience to God.  It showed a lack of faith in God's promises to bless him. 

Abraham and Sarah returned to Canaan with their ill-gotten wealth.  Still no children.  Sarah gave her slave Hagar to Abraham to have a child with her.  They rushed God's blessing and did it in their own understanding.  There would be serious consequences.  This arrangement caused trouble between the women and resulted in Hagar and her son Ishmael being sent away. 

In Canaan, Abraham saw that visitors were approaching, and he sent Sarah to prepare food for them.  God Himself was their visitor, although they did not know it.  He promised that they would have a son, and Sarah laughed to herself inside the tent because she was too old.  God reproached her for her lack of faith, but He still blessed her with a son, and she named him Isaac, or "laughter".  God still blessed them with Isaac, even after their lack of faith in having Ishmael and in Sarah laughing at God's promise.  However, God's blessings were divided between Isaac and Ishmael. 

Abraham and Sarah doubted God's promises in the face of impossible odds, which is easy to do!  They would be tested again, even to the point of sacrificing their son Isaac.  The lesson?  I think Jeremiah 29:11 applies here: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future!'"  Abraham still received blessings when he doubted God because God still kept His promises.  However, Abraham's blessings were diminished because he tried to make God's will come to pass under his own power.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's for dinner? 1/15/11 Sofrito Chicken Tacos

I made it to the produce market today, and I bought a replacement for the food processor that recently bit it.  It was time for a big batch of sofrito!

This is a cooking sauce that you can customize according to personal preference, but here's my basic recipe:

1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and minimally trimmed
2 onions
4 cloves garlic
1-2 red bell peppers, or 6-7 ajes dulces if you can get them
3 green bell peppers
(1T tomato paste makes a red sofrito)

Make a chunky puree of this in the food processor, then put into freezer bags and  store until ready to use. 

Here's how I'm using it tonight:

  1. In a large skillet, thaw 1/2 cup prepared sofrito, saute on medium in 1T olive oil until it starts to caramelize
  2. Add 2t soy sauce to pan, and 2T lime juice
  3. Add 2-3 chicken breasts and cook them slowly until they can be shredded.  If they're frozen, just keep the temperature pretty low to let them thaw and cook through. 
  4. Shred chicken with forks
  5. Optional : Add 1T cumin and 1T chili powder and stir to combine, add a bit of water if pan is getting dry (less if you don't want it spicy, add a sprinkle of cayenne if you want heat).
  6. You can also heat black beans in the same pan once the chicken has been shredded.  A can of tomatoes is also good to add at that point.  Just heat the beans and/or tomatoes through and make sure there's not too much moisture, or the tacos will be drippy.

Serve in whole wheat tortillas with some shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, etc. 

The sofrito from the original batch is about 8 cups, so my batch lasts me several weeks. Plus it's a great way to sneak in some veggies! It makes a nice cooking sauce in the crock pot for chicken.  You can use it to flavor rice and beans.  I like to make chili with it.  The possibilities are pretty endless, so google sofrito recipes and see what you find!

Friday, January 14, 2011

What's for dinner? 1/14/11

Friday Night Dinner

Every Friday night for about 4 years, we've made this pizza recipe.  We've had homemade pizza every Friday for much longer, but this whole wheat recipe has become the hands-down favorite.  I make the dough, prebake the crusts, then top and bake the topped pizzas.

Plans? Never heard of 'em!

I have lost my ability to make and keep plans for things since our move .  I had a summer of no plans to speak of, and it was wonderful!  Once school started, we were inundated with lots of meaningless deadlines, so I think I got numbed to them.  There were just too many, and each organizer felt that theirs was crucially important.  Now I'm trying to re-train my brain to put plans on my Google calendar, where I have Dr. O's imported calendar and the PTA imported calendar.  I can put my appointments and events and bill reminders straight into my Google calendar from my gmail, which has helped a lot.  I get a reminder email every morning, and it makes me feel much more competent.  The downside is that I do miss putting things in now and then when I make an appointment in an office or if I forget to put down an appointment that I make over the phone, but I'm steadily improving.  An example of success is that I remembered that A-man had Show-and-Tell today, an event that I have a history of forgetting (or dismissing!).

Days like today mess with my burgeoning system as well.  There's yet another 2-hour delay, we're way off schedule.  The MOPS meeting scheduled for today has been canceled because it affects so many of the mommas.  Monday is Dr. King Day, and I'm looking forward to a scheduled day off with my Jedis.  Hopefully, we'll have plenty of snow on the hill for the Jedis to sled.  I'll make sure we have plenty of milk for cocoa! Tuesday I have a meeting at school for I-M and an appointment to test him for allergies.  Wednesday, I figure he'll be home sick after that assault on his immune system.  How do you schedule for days like this when the rest of the world doesn't have 2-hour delays?

On potty training and parenting advice....

A happy unscheduled event is that M-girl has decided to give the potty a try.  She may change her mind. She's 22 months, which is less than 1/2 the age A-man was when he did this.  I haven't pushed, just watched to made sure she doesn't pee on the wood floors or the carpet.  She's ready and interested, and she likes to be without her diapers, for sure! 

I couldn't give advice on how to potty train for my life, nor can I take credit for potty training.  I always want to stick my tongue out at those who purport to be experts because they had the kid who trained himself at 15 months.  No one cares.  It just makes insecure moms feel like bad parents.  What I can say is that, like all parenting advice, it's not one-size-fits-all.  Anyone who tries to offer this kind of advice is trying to make others feel inadequate or trying to sell something.  They will do it when they're ready.  It's not worth destroying your relationship with your kid (or your carpet, or your sanity) to have them wearing undies. 

After we started a family, we moved to place where parenting advice was rumored to keep the electricity on, much like kids' screams did in Monster's Inc.  There, competitive parenting was an Olympic sport.  I grew a thick skin early on and decided that some of these parents were lunatics. (No, don't worry. Not you.  Someone who would never read this blog!).  Okay, that sounds judgmental, but that was also an Olympic sport there.  There was this divergence of big picture vs. micromanagement parenting, attachment vs. Babywise (I'll confess that I can't stand when they get all smug, so give me a point for judgment!  I've also seen them when they can't do anything for fear of throwing off the schedule), etc.

I eventually worked in leadership there and would get parenting questions.  My thought was always "Have you MET my kids?!?".  I had some extremely difficult years with A-man's behavior and I-M's encopresis issues (look it up if you want to, but it's gross. I'm just saying.).  People who asked me parenting questions HAD met my kids, and maybe they wondered how I could be a happy mom. I don't know, either.  Anything I got right was thanks to prayer from those who saw me struggling and to an extra measure of patience that God gave me when I most needed it.  My sole unsolicited advice on parenting is this: It's not about your ego, parent.  It's about growing good people and still having a relationship when them when they're grown.  In my case, I hope that I raise faithful hearts for God and that I can worship Him alongside them when they're grown.  Won't happen unless my relationship with God and my relationships with them remain intact.

Long post.  Enough about bad parenting advice.  Now I'm soliciting your GOOD parenting advice.  What's the best parenting advice you have ever been given?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On video games and LEGOs

I have been somewhat resistant to get my boys into video games, fearing the lack of exercise and lack of socialization that playing these games can lead to.  However, I am really pleased with the Wii that we got from my brother as a second-hand Christmas gift for the boys.  We bought the LEGO Star Wars ($20!) game that lets them play through all 6 movies, unlocking characters and scenes as they go.  Dr. O' has to jump in and play to get them through some of the challenges, but it's a good activity for him to do with them.  I do cringe a bit at the on-screen (very mild LEGO-on-LEGO) violence, but it seems to be a good outlet for boy energy to engage in protective and chivalrous battle for good.  I love that the boys have to communicate, to cooperate, and to move their bodies in order to play this game.  I-M takes the lead, reading for A-man and telling him where they're going to go.  It helps I-M's working memory to recall the next step and helps his problem-solving skills as they navigate the terrain.  Unfortunately, they saved a game yesterday back at the beginning, locking up 8 of the 10 characters that Dr. O' had unlocked for them.  We're going to start saving our progress on an SD card when we get to a new level. 

As for my socialization fears, I think it's good for boys to play these games in moderation so that they have an "in" with other boys and can play video games together or can play the story of the game outdoors.  They watch almost no TV and play these games less than they had previously spent watching TV.  After a stimulating time playing Star Wars, they want to go upstairs and build with LEGOs.  My kids have never been bound by the constraints of Star Wars canon, so they have made up their own Star Wars myth that they enjoy playing indoors and outdoors with lightsabers and in their room with LEGOs.  A-man reminds me every day that they don't have Darth Vader or Yoda.  I know, little man.  He's a tremendously thankful and contented kid, but he does see a gaping hole in the LEGO collection.  We have Anakin, multiple Lukes, Obiwans, and C-3PO's, but no Vader or Yoda.  In due time, kiddo.

{Edited somewhat for clarity. I read so much bad writing that I fear it works its way into mine!}

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bleh, winter.

I worked most of the years since my kids were born, minus April 2005-June 2007, when I had or was soon to have 2 very young children.  There are a few reasons for that.  First, there was the need for income to supplement the stipend we lived on during Dr. O's grad school years (we had a -14% income tax rate).  Second, there was the need for me to TAKE A SHOWER AND LEAVE THE HOUSE.  I do shower.  I do leave the house.  However, I get into this winter hibernatory mindset in which I bake and cook and do house stuff and put personal care on the back burner.  I put off leaving the house because it's so darn cold outside. 

I could have taken a course this semester. For free.  I waited too long, then couldn't find a time and a course with open seats that matched up properly for me to take a class at Jesuit this semester, and that's okay.  I need to get some things settled for I-M first.  I don't like to ask Dan to take off time and come home so I can go to a class. 

I could have taught a course this semester.   The money wasn't really much, and I didn't want the agita.  That said, I think that having my own small contribution to our income does boost my confidence.  I just don't know if it's worth the extra chaos. 

That said, I feel like I'm totally wimping out.  Kind of spinning my wheels. I feel this way every January and February that I don't spend working or in school.  Apparently, I need a Mack Truck of responsibility and deadlines bearing down on me so that I don't notice the bleak midwinter gloom until it's nearly over.  Then I have a birthday, which does lift the gloom and make me feel like spring is coming. 

The boys are coming home in 15 minutes, thanks to a weather-related early dismissal.  And I haven't showered. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cousins at the fieldhouse in PA

video

Epiphany Sunday musings on interpersonal relationships

I don't have to prove that I'm right. I don't have to take what someone says personally. I know that I do the best I can and that it's usually enough. Someone who criticizes hasn't lived my life, hasn't seen my morning frenzy or the afternoon meltdown, doesn't know the agonizing I do over the details, and that's okay. I don't owe that explanation to anyone. Someone who offers only criticism comes not just empty-handed, but as a vacuum to diminish others' joy because they have none of their own.

I have been struck by how much we rationalize and excuse our own actions but don't extend nearly the same benefit of a doubt to those around us, including those who should be closest to us. I have seen how starting with defensiveness only leads to more defensiveness, and no one gets heard. I have witnessed some passive-agressive behavior that leaves everyone involved dizzy and asking "wait, what was that?".

I try to be real and visibly imperfect and to serve with love and grace. I fail a lot, too. I recently thought of a 3rd phrase in my mantra with my children. I had "kind words and loving actions", but I've added, "and gracious attitudes". It's as much a reminder for myself as for my children.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Update from a month ago

Update from this post I took I-M to the ped for his 7 year check-up yesterday, along with a long list of issues to tease out. I'm so happy to have a great doc here! He confirmed my suspicion that everything we're dealing with-- health, learning, behavior-- is inter-related. We're treating his allergies to shrink his tonsils and adenoids so that he sleeps better and possibly has less bedwetting. We'll see an allergist soon and possibly remove tonsils and adenoids. If he sleeps better, he should have better working memory and less squirrely behavior and less of a short fuse in stressful situations. He will be receiving occupational therapy at school to improve his gross motor coordination, but we aren't expecting him to play team sports any time soon. Not his thing, and that's okay. He's also going to be re-tested for working memory by a more qualified practitioner, aka someone with a Ph.D. who also works with children. The doc says that his working memory is still above the range for those with ADHD.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy Birthday to my husband of 12.5 years!

Thanks to a gift card from Arin and Jim, Dan and I are celebrating his birthday by having lunch at Panera today. We'll take M-girl, who will be squirrelly and will probably dump something. I love my husband and can't wait to get some time out with him, even with a cute 3rd wheel. We are a great team and usually fight less than once per quarter, and I'm thankful for that. After marrying at 21, we feel blessed to have grown up together without growing apart.

Tonight I'm making shish taouk, possibly falaffel from a mix, and some tabouli. We will have carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I'm so happy that there are only 2 gingerbread cookies left! We do still have 3 gallon-sized freezer bags with the worst batch of chocolate chip cookies I've ever made, but I just can't seem to throw them away because they're edible, just not wonderful. Ridiculous, really. At least I'm not tempted to eat them!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy thoughts

-22-mo-old child saying "I luff it!" about a piece of fruit instead of screaming for a cookie.
-same child eating eggs instead of cookies.
-getting Jedis off to school on time despite waking up 45 minutes late
-Jedis having a good day back to school after holidays
-finding an $11 box of LEGOs on clearance for $2.75 and not mauling the woman who took the other 5 boxes. God will bless me for that, right?
-finding out that while I can not do an accelerated degree at Dr. O's university part-time, I can do the pre-requisites part-time and decide whether this career path will work for me. 20 credits part-time, then 80 credits in 18 months when M is 3.5 and can go to pre-school. It will be wild if I get that far, but I think I could love the job.

What I cooked for a crowd...

With the goals of using up what was in the fridge, feeding 18 people economically, and getting some whole grain and green veggie goodness into tummies to mitigate the cookiefest that we had going on, I cooked the following meals, with ingredients already on-hand in bold:

-Mashed Potato Soup with Ham (with mostly leftovers and a few freshly diced potatoes.)
-Grilled Cheese and canned Tomato Soup (used up the bread squirreled away in the fridge and the enormous blocks of RF American Cheese my MIL had in the fridge).
-Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and a pan of Ratatouille-Style Veggies that could be eaten over pasta, on the side, or in addition to the meat sauce
-Tacos with whole wheat tortillas, reduced fat cheese, seasoned black beans, whole grain rice (with onions, red peppers, and Adobo).
-Pizza on whole grain crusts, all with lowfat mozz. Varieties included cheese, turkey pepperoni, ham and pineapple, and chicken and zucchini.
-Minestrone with potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, beans, celery, carrots, beef bouillion, and pasta.