Please tell me I am not the only one who has a gap between the day or two before a big grocery shopping trip and having to think about the dinner meal that needs to be cooked with what’s still left. It happens in our house on a semi regular basis because we rarely have leftovers left for those kind of days. So, creativity has to play a part in making what I can with the random ingredients I still have.
It reminds me of the segment on the radio show, The Splendid Table, where people call in and try to see if the show’s host can come up with a winning meal with several random ingredients.
Because I can’t quite pull something out of thin air, I usually google a recipe for what I wish I could make if I really had all the necessary ingredients. Then, I modify it a little (or a lot) and it turns into… well something else. However, last night, it turned into something spectacular! It was so good I had to write it down so I didn’t forget it. It is not precise enough to be called a real recipe yet, but I will tell the story of how my version of taco pasta came into being.
The recipe I found online called for ground beef (I had some in the freezer), small pasta shells (I had less than 1/2 box of mini bow tie, onion (didn’t have one), garlic (used garlic powder), 1 can of diced tomatoes (this I had), taco seasoning (I had some but needed to finish off part of a packet of enchilada seasoning), cream cheese (none on hand but I had 2 slices of American cheese), sour cream (none), fresh cilantro (only had dried), salt and pepper (yes).
So here’s what I did. I defrosted and browned the beef in a while the noodles boiled. After the beef was cooked, I drained it and added garlic powder, the can of diced tomatoes with the juice, and the enchilada seasoning. I added the drained noodles to the pan and heated everything. Next, I added my two slices of cheese, cilantro, and salt and pepper. It ended up with a thin/medium tomato-ey sauce that with just a slight hint of cheesy flavor. It was surprisingly good. Oh yes, I forgot to mention I shook in some taco seasoning at the end to give it a little more flavor.
It was really fun to make dinner out of what I had and to put ingredients together into something tasty. Maybe my listening to The Splendid Table while I do dishes is paying off. It’s fun to be creative in the kitchen. I want to hear stories of how you all are creative in the kitchen with what you have on hand.
Darkness. Darkness is what I remember. Darkness and your dainty, surprisingly gentle hand on my fragile belly. I don’t remember at what exact point during that 7-odd months of bed rest that you called. I remember that it was relatively early on, and I remember trying to sound cheerful, trying to sound ok on the phone. But I felt only darkness, and I knew I should accept your offer to come pray over me and the little baby, even though I didn’t want to see anyone. Actually, I didn’t want anyone to see me. I was so lonely, that I wanted to see people. But I felt so frightened and sad and guilty and mad, that I didn’t want anyone to see me. Your initiative in showing kindness and concern won over my porcupine heart, and so I agreed to let you come that evening.
The room was dark because the wall of apartment windows was too far away, even in the summertime. The world was far away as well. It was just me and my insecurities on a faded and stained dark green old futon with black metal arms. You came and propped yourself on the side of the futon that had the least amount of space available, closest to me. It was dusk, I think. But it didn’t really mater. That darn room was always dark.
You greeted me and we talked for just a couple of minutes, and then you stretched out your hand to my belly. I instinctively drew back at first. That darn belly was so prone to contractions (you see, I had pre-term labor for 7 months), that even my cuddly, gentle husband couldn’t touch it without producing one. Even standing – standing often induced contractions. But your hand, your hand was different Julie. It was warm. It was warm and soothing. Surprising, for such a slender one attached to one of my most vivacious friends. You prayed quietly, but out loud. A few sentences that I tried to agree with and pray along with. I was not entirely sure I could mentally assent to it all, but I looked at your hand. I could see that. And the effect of that warm, gentle hand went straight to my soul. My memory is poor and mostly I remember the darkness. But I remember your hand, and it’s feeling on my belly. You were really the first to hold the tiny baby who we would later name Rebecca.
You finished the prayer and looked up at me with that half shy, half expectant, good humored smile. I have come to love your smile. That smile, your warm hand, and the darkness is what I remember clearly.
Actually, the darkness is not clear. Not all of bed rest was darkness, and this was not the only bright spot during that time. But it is one of the few that I remember today, and it is one of the few that I remembered as I went through it. As much as possible during that time, when I remembered your visit, I tried to convince my foggy self that this was evidence that I was loved, that God was there, that my baby would be ok. I must confess that my mind was weak and blind, so that little argument didn’t go very far. But when I did remember the feeling, the feeling of your warm hand holding my little baby, I was comforted by an invisible sun.
Rebecca is 2 now. A vivacious, sweet gift. I hope to tell her often of her honorary Aunt Julie, and how she first was held. It’s a pretty great story to start off life with.
I am not naturally an organized person. I have some organized tendencies, like wanting papers to be in neat piles, and not wanting things to fall out of the pantry when I open the door; and I’ve formed some good habits over the past few years, like actually making my bed at least five out of seven days. But my organizational skills leave much to be desired. However, that is exactly why my fellow “mommy brain” moms should take organizing advice from me … because I’ve been there. Actually, I am often still there. In any case, let’s make this organizing journey together.
What do I even mean by “organizing?” For the purposes of this post, I basically mean getting things done in my daily life; keeping the household running and workable for everyone who lives here. Here’s where I start … Continue reading →
Here’s a small sample of our living room situation over the last year. Yes, it has been quite a Situation. Occupying most of my angst and nearly all of my HGTV fantasies. The brownish black metal futon graced by my unshaved legs (lower right) itself graced our living rooms for the last 3+ years. It’s very comfortable. As a bed. For guests. Once a year. That’s about all I can say about it without hurting its feelings. So, I think you can imagine my eagerness to pitch it to the curb (or, more accurately, relegate it to the basement). Just this evening I am realizing the extent of my dislike for the looks of our living room. I have photos showing the layout of every room in our home. Except the living room. Close-ups of lovely people are about all the room could boast. And, thankfully, I do have many of those! So you may find it difficult to share my distaste for the room as it existed until this week. The futon is now in the basement! Erik’s men’s group delivered a previously enjoyed real couch last week, and also moved into the room the only piece of real life new furniture I have ever purchased (a large bookcase).
Now, as of today, we boast what you see above. And I admit that it’s not much to look at. The couch is far nicer (though dated in pattern); it has a cover, but the color is primary red (I’m not sure I love it, but I may end up adoring it); there’s lots of clutter; some glass in the built-in is broken; I may never achieve comfortable seating for 8 (it’s a very small, broken up space); and my handsome husband has just finished taping up a bunch of holes in the wall and ceiling. You see, the room had some visitors a week ago: a nice police man and 2 nice firemen. We smelled smoke after a circuit blew. There was no immediate danger that night. So we called in Jim the Electrician, who came this morning. He poked around (at) the walls and found what he called a “smoking gun” and “ticking time bomb” in our 100+ year old (but 1 year old to us) home. He’s fixed the immediate issue and will be back to finish some residual issues. For all of those who know about things like this, I must apologize. We’ve reached the end of my understanding of the technical details.
Rather than bemoan yet another $1000+ repair out of our budget, I’m getting some peace thinking about this scripture passage that’s on the wall. Really, what is money, time, dust, and worry over lead paint contamination in the kids, when compared with love? It conquers all of that.
Then there’s this. The poppy painting that’s been relocated from said living room to the pirate-inspired corner of the dining room to make a place for the bookcase. I love this corner. And I love pirate jokes. (What’s a pirates favorite automobile?) I need some more jokes in my arsenal. The world needs more pirate jokes. Please, for the love of everything that’s holy, send me some new pirate jokes in the comment section. Thank you in advance!
Also, oddly, this scrap of Trident gum wrapper that I found when vacuuming out the couch has been a huge boon to my mode today. We cleaned and cleaned and cleaned tonight. Sweep, then vacuum, then wipe down, then vacuum again, vacuum the vacuum, etc. We really went through the drill to try to get the living room livable again. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and remembering how much every one should pity me (after all, we’ve had major plumbing issues in the house too! And when my wee babe was only 7 weeks old! and we had to move out! and! and! AND!). And then I saw a gum wrapper below the cushion of the couch, and I knew that the world was ok. It’s a perfectly ordinary thing, you know, a gum wrapper in the bowels of a couch. And the electrical issues, and every trouble that may come along with them, submit to this perfectly normal, trivial little mess that any normal person will find in a couch from time to time. It doesn’t really make sense to me that this would clarify my mind so well. But it does.
And. I am being summoned to the nursing babe. Must go.
Good night friends! I look forward to welcoming you to my living room, some day!
“He fits under my chin. Thank you, God, that he still fits under my chin.” Those were the words that sang forth from my heart the other night as I was falling asleep, listening to Little Man take to rest like it is his job. Because at long last it is.
My son is almost 2 now. I can’t believe it. I have no idea where the time has gone. Much of it has been a blur. I know that is true for a lot of moms, but it was a blur that I could not have fathomed or imagined even if someone had tried to prepare me for it. A true whirlwind that has challenged and changed me in ways I didn’t think I wanted, and that I resisted.
As I hinted at in my last post, my pregnancies tend to be rough. I love the feeling of being pregnant, but for whatever reason my body doesn’t handle the first 25 weeks well at all. Since my son was my second pregnancy I thought there was no way the sickness could be more severe than the first. I held on to that thought as the first weeks of pregnancy crawled by. I kept telling myself I can just decide not to be so sick. But I couldn’t. It was worse. The sickness was more severe, and I felt defeated at times. I couldn’t care for my 2 year old. What have I gotten myself into?
It was a really hard 20 weeks, but we got through it with so much prayer and wonderful help that came (from miles away) right when we needed it – not early and not late. Just what we needed when we needed it. When I hit the 25 week mark and rallied (at last!), I clung to the thought that “most people say second babies are more laid back. Easier. Chill.” Yes. That sounds wonderful. And so I hoped for that.
Little Man came along and he was wonderful. He is all things wonderful. Family life was once again new and even more delightful, but he was far from the second baby that “most people” have. He was harder than my first; needed more than my first. But he was oh so sweet. These hard things will work themselves out, I thought. But in many ways they didn’t. He didn’t take to longer stretches of sleep. His weight gain was fine on the charts, but knowing that I was feeding his ever 1.5 hours day and night – long past the newborn stage – he should have had more to him. I started to lose the feeling that “I can do this”. He would scream, I would feed him, he would fall sleep – for a little bit and very rarely for hours on end – he would wake up screaming, repeat the cycle. If we got in what I considered to be a ‘good feeding’ without him completely passing out, he would (often) vomit all over me.
I was in such a fog from lack of sleep and caring for my daughter as well, and I was so consumed by meeting Little Man’s needs that it took me until he was 4 months old to string all those details together and realize that there was more to the situation than these things just being ‘who he was’. And besides, wasn’t he looking a bit thinner? I would ask others. I asked my pediatrician. Nope, on the charts he still looks fine. He’s fine. I would breathe a sigh of relief. Next minute Little Man would scream again and I would look at his tiny little body. No, he’s not fine. There is less to him. Can anyone else see this?
Not too many days later, I was taking in some reading and I ran across a post by Mommypotamus about tongue ties and lip ties. Before I even finished the post, I knew this was it. This was it! And it’s not normal. I had cried out to the Lord and he provided, just as He has every time. In fact, upon reading the article I realized that he had provided before that moment. It just took me a while to catch on. It was not the first time I read the article. I had come across it weeks earlier, still having failed to put the pieces together thinking, “Thank God! At least not dealing with this! That sounds so rough….whew.” And as I thought further, I remembered the lactation consultant who came in the morning after Little Man was born. Little Man was nursing with great commitment, which to me made it seem like everything was going exceedingly well. The consultant asked me outright if I thought maybe he had a tongue tie. I said absolutely not! Do you not see how eager he is to eat? Don’t worry, we’ve got this.
Fast forward a week after reading the post on ties, and I was right back in the office of that same lactation consultant and she was gently guiding me and helping me sort things out. We identified that Little Man was very tied. He had posterior and anterior tongue ties as well as a lip tie. That poor guy was so tight and restricted that whatever compensation we had used to nurse through the first 4 months of his life was not going to work any longer. The lactation consultant referred us to a dentist and myofacial specialist hours away from home. We were able to Skype for consultation and have Little Man’s procedure done by the time he was 6 months old. It was quite traumatic, but yielded almost immediate results.
With rehab, both at home and a few sessions with a PT, we finally got into a groove with nursing somewhere between 9 and 12 months. There were some really dark moments for me. I had moments where I was convinced that being a mom of 2 was somehow beyond me. Moments of near desperation. I felt so alone and isolated. Though nursing greatly improved, sleeping never did. During these months I was up a lot at night, which meant I would spend a lot of time thinking. I would think about my pregnancy….I had never wanted to know the feeling of being so human, so imperfect, so dead-set against enduring what was put before me in order to welcome life into this world. I would think about my desire to have an ‘easier’ baby…I didn’t want to know what it was to feel so torn between a toddler who still genuinely needed me to be so very present and an infant who was in some sort of agony night and day. I would think about the fact that I didn’t want to know how to navigate a rough, and seemingly impossible nursing relationship with my baby. I didn’t want to know how to do these things. But I do know how. And initially these experiences seemed to carry a darkness with them that I was afraid would cause negative shadows to remain in my experience of motherhood, breeding fear and discouragement in the face of adding new life to our family down the road. Thankfully, “when life feels like a mess, there’s something we can do.” Many around me listened, shared, prayed and listened some more. I have also been able to help others identify tongue and lip ties in their new babies. Bit by bit the shadows have been lifting.
Well, life has chugged along, and now we are in a new city transitioning into a new way of life. When we arrived I was still nursing almost-2-year-old Little Man. He wasn’t ready to stop and I wasn’t about to force that on him when we fought so hard to get where we were with nursing. We have been living with friends and sharing a sleeping space as a family. Little Man’s traditional waking of 3 times a night became 5 times a night after the move. After 3 months I just couldn’t do it any more. I had approached weaning him once before moving and once after moving. Both experiences which sent him into sheer panic and anxiety. It just didn’t feel right. We went back to nursing. However, just two weeks ago, in the middle of the night, I was asking the Lord to help me find a solution to the sleep/nursing combination. I just couldn’t figure out how to wean him peacefully.
I had glanced through an article just the day before where the writer recommended that if one was ever to wean a child before the child chose to be weaned, wean gently. Gently. That resonated with me. But I thought I had been gentle in my approaches before, and they hadn’t work. Back to that night two weeks ago….The Lord nudged me to start right then and there…in the middle of the night….and to aim for 24 hours. So I began. Little Man was crying. I told him there was no more milk. I told him I was so sorry that was so upsetting for him. I told him I loved him a hundred times over and I held him for the rest of the night saying that any time he wanted to be held, I would drop what I was doing and hold him – really hold him – until he was done being held. He cried some, but I could see it in his face that somehow he understood. 24 hours turned into 48, then into 72 and the longer he went without nursing, the longer he slept both at nap times and bed times. He now takes solid naps, sleeps through the night, and eats way more food than I ever thought a Little Man his size could eat. And best of all we hug a lot. I hold him a lot. A lot of brief, fleeting moments, but they are such sweet moments.
I have noticed that when Little Man hugs, he hugs with all that he has. He totally buries himself into me and exhales so completely that all his cares in the world blow right out of his little body and he is at peace with me in that moment, just needing me in that moment. Curled up in a Little Man ball and tucked under my chin.
We have been through so much and we have moved on from most things ‘baby’, but when he comes to find me and I drop what I am doing, he tucks himself right under my chin. Thank you, God, that he still fits under my chin. And I plan to soak that in for as long as he will let me.
Our toddler wanted a story before nap time. We were all the way upstairs, and mere seconds away from that blissful period, but she wanted a story from the “book. big booook!”, and the baby – for once – wasn’t needy, and her request was sincere, and I figured a one time delay wouldn’t become a habit – horror of horrors!, so I capitulated to the request. We opened to a children’s book version of the creation story, and I wearily began to read.
The words and illustrations call for more than weariness (until the seventh day, that is, and even then only if you’re God – ha!), and so naturally I began putting some expression into them. I even paused a couple of times to wonder aloud with her. ‘Just look around, Rebecca, this room, everything in it, you, everything outside; God made all of it!’ Now, normally I am focused to a fault. If we are reading a story, we are READING THE STORY, no interjections. And if it is nap time, it is NAP TIME, no interruptions. It’s a pretty big deal that I strayed from both tasks.
I am glad that I did, because a couple of days later either during breakfast, second breakfast, snack, 11-sies, or lunch (they all run together both, literally and in my memory), Rebecca was saying something about something outside the window that was next to her.
Yes, Little Honey, God is outside, because he made it. God is here too. Right next to you and right inside you. He even made that tree, right there. And Mommy and Daddy and Brother. And thank you for presenting such immediate and clear proof that a tiny thing I did to connect with you and teach you actually worked. It’s rewarding for me personally, and a fun little praise moment during a meal.
I regret that I have not been able to write consistently… I have had a terrible time formulating posts amidst the giggles and grime of keeping up with the kiddlets. So I finally decided to go with what MC said in her previous post and get some life on this here page. AND to top it all off, I am writing this, in part, during my prayer time. Yep. Me and Jesus, typin’ together. Sometimes I really struggle with what to do during my prayer time. I like to mix it up…I don’t stick with one method for too long…and this can lead to difficulties with indecision. So I going with what Sheila described in this post about actually making a decision. And it feels great. Onward!
One thing that has been on my mind a lot is that my life as of late: life surrounding marriage and motherhood has seemed to follow a progression that in the eyes of…I don’t know…those who have gone before…. is not highly recommended if one wants to be able to keep it all together. Have you ever heard that it’s not the greatest idea to do all the following within a year: get married, start a family, make a major out-of-state-away-from-all-family-and-friends move to start a new job and buy a house? Mmm. Hmmm.
You see, when I hear a list of such things, I have to laugh to myself because the chronology of marriage and family life shows my little family to be among the ones who regularly ‘break the rules’. This has, in turn, caused me to think about “the rules”. There are excellent reasons why all of that is not recommended, and yet that is sometimes just how life goes. I know we are not alone. I have many friends who have gone through similar situations, and it seems to often happen to the people I know and love when they let the Lord take the reigns on life. Sometimes I look back and wonder how in the world we made it through those times. But truly there is no question in my mind – it was the Lord’s guiding hand and never failing strength.
When my husband and I were engaged the Lord put it on our hearts, independently, to move half way across the country. So we discerned the desire and started praying for direction and applying for jobs. Marriage happened, and then pregnancy amidst suspected infertility (a true miracle to be shared at another time). With pregnancy came hyperemesis gravidarum, and just as I got over that came out-of-state training for the new job (where I could not live with my husband). Our daughter was born right in the middle of training and then we were assigned to Oklahoma….not at all where we intended to live – or where we initially thought the Lord was calling us.
But you see, when I look at that account of how our life together progressed – down to the very day certain things happened- I see a list of prayers being answered. One thing after another being ticked off the list. And not only that but I can reflect on those moments and see growth. I had to trust the Lord more than ever before during those times. I had zero control over every major part of life: Our living situation – didn’t have our own place to live the entire first year of our marriage and until after our daughter was born. Finances – due to hyperemesis I suddenly had to quite working. Our future living situation – my husband being subject to assignments. My role in the family -could we afford to have me stay home with the kids? Healthcare for myself and the baby was very last minute – I had to switch providers in the last weeks of pregnancy when my husband started training and we went through about a month without any insurance at all. I couldn’t even guarantee that my husband would make it to the birth without losing his spot in his training class (another story of miracles), and I was unable to live with him at the end of my pregnancy or for the first 8 weeks of our daughter’s life. I learned a lot about letting go. A Lot.
We certainly ended up in some of those situations by asking the Lord to work and change things for us – they were things that we knew we would go through in order to get to where we felt the Lord was leading us. But we also ended up in surprising situations through the cascade of events that followed the things that were expected.
I am currently reading the book Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe. Philippe talks about accepting the situations that you find yourself in that are not within your control – in particular, accepting difficulties/suffering.
He says, “The subject needs to be handled carefully. It is not a matter of becoming passive and learning to endure everything, without reacting. But whatever projects we have and however well we plan them, many times situations that are beyond our control and involve a whole host of events contrary to our expectations, hopes, and desires occur, and we must accept it.” Furthermore he goes on to talk about not accepting grudgingly, but freely resigning to and welcoming the situation, aka ‘choosing’ it even when it might truly be that we have no choice – which is of course especially hard in really painful trials. Philippe talks about how it requires following the Lord in faith and hope, and truly “believing him capable of drawing good out of whatever befalls us…” That if we can follow the Lord thus, He will draw out the good. Philippe calls this a fundamental truth.
As I have read through the book, I have really felt that Philippe’s words have shed great light on why it doesn’t matter if our family life follows the ‘rules’…and even more so that the ‘rules’ are the very things that don’t matter. What matters is that my husband and I are seeking the Lord and discerning His will. What matters is that I continue to offer my life and the control of it to the only one who has any control over it. It used to make me feel uneasy and out of control knowing that we were tackling so many things at once, and that there never seemed to be any slow-down to the things that needed tackling. But I am finding now that I have more confidence in navigating the challenges of life knowing without a doubt that I am doing what the Lord has for me to be doing. Did you know that you can be 100% confident about such things? I feel I am constantly seeing that truth burn brighter. Additionally, it is true in every situation that I mentioned above – good or bad – easy or hard – that the Lord has indeed brought about good. Mentioning all of the good would take several posts at least!
Now, I would not say that I have really experienced any truly painful suffering – especially compared to what I have witnessed others going through. This post is not at all to say that I feel I have the ‘choosing’ of difficulties and sufferings down by any means. In fact, I am currently finding myself challenged in a huge way as we have moved half way across the country (again!) with two kids this time…3 months ago…and we still do not have a house…and school is starting in 2 weeks…and I want to choose to accept these challenges – to embrace them! I find myself wondering how to do that from day to day…or if I am doing it…A work in progress. Always a work in progress. One step at a time, mamas.
I hope you find this encouraging! Anything to add? Please post below!
Early this summer, my husband and I ordered a build-it-yourself playset online. Our oldest daughter LOVES swinging, so we were pretty excited to get three swings & a nice new slide in the back yard. We also figured it would be a great way to expand our hospitality options. We have kids, most of our friends have kids, and some of our friends have a lot of kids – so when we have company over, our 1450 square feet can start feeling small pretty fast. If we had a great play set in the back yard, then at least in the summer, we could count on sending older kids outside and giving the adults some breathing room. Continue reading →
One Sunday I took my son to church with me at a different location. It is not our usual church, but on weekends my husband is working, I take my son there because it has a childcare during the service. That morning we woke up 15 minutes later than usual, which means we got out the door 15 minutes later than usual. I did not have time to feed my son a normal breakfast, so he had milk and a cheese stick in the car. After all, the childcare would probably have a snack.
We got to the church just as the first song was beginning as shuffled downstairs to the childcare center only to discover the lights were off and childcare was cancelled this week. We proceeded to go to the back to the crying room, so we could spend church there. Unfortunately I was not equipped with my normal cracker snack, books, and toy cars that I usually bring to the normal church when we go as a family. We made do with water in a sippy cup and an Apple TV remote that accidentally fell into the diaper bag. The crying room had two religious children’s books to look at, some wooden chairs that made a high pitched squeaking sound when pushed, and an icon of toddler Jesus and Mary, which my son pointed out how much he loved Jesus’ bare feet. “Jesus- FEET! FEET!”
We were soon joined by a couple with a 1 year old girl, who was quite energetic, and unfortunately copied some of my son’s less desirable behavior like jumping on the (low to the ground) ledge next to the large glass windows that faced the sanctuary. She started to “jump, jump, jump” just like him and hit her head on the bar right above. They decided to leave the crying room.
So, we had the crying room to ourselves, and I’d say we did fine and survived through the remainder of church. I don’t remember anything about the reading or homily, but my son and I were present there. During church that day I asked myself, “Why I am even here? How can this delight the Lord when it is simply a trial of my patience and a moment of possible stress?” The Lord said to me, “This is the day I have made for you to be with me. I am not asking you to be able to give church your full attention, but I that you and your son spent time with me today.” So, my encouragement for all of us, whether or not we have little ones or not, is to answer the Lord’s invitation to us at church and even in our daily lives. He wants us present to him. He doesn’t need anything fancy- just us. Can we all made Him smile by spending time with Him?
And by the way, never before have I noticed toddler Jesus’ feet on an icon! My toddler realized Jesus had feet just like him!