Friday, November 23, 2012

Sausage and Cheese Soup and Unscheduled Evangelical Poverty

Hello, internet.  It's been a while (as usual) so here is a recipe just so you know I'm alive and I still think of you every now and again.  We have Ryan's parents here visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday.  We were very relaxed on Thanksgiving Day, Skyping with the rest of the family, going for a hike on a gorgeous day, playing with the children.  Well, I was.  My father-in-law and husband were hard at work grilling the turkey and cleaning up our yard before our house is appraised on Monday.  Then the ladies had a frantic hour when the turkey was done much earlier than anticipated, the babe needed to be nursed, and we had no stuffing or mashed potatoes prepared.  Served me right for being so Zen (read: lazy) all day.  My in-laws are very good sports.  George even mashed the potatoes.  I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day too!

Today we'd had a big lunch, and not yet ready for more Turkeyish delight this evening.  So I made this soup from odds and ends, and it was a winner.  As always, measurements are approximate.

Bring to a boil:
  • 6 cups turkey broth
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
Reduce heat to simmer.  Tie together in cheesecloth:
  • 3 sage leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 3 cloves
  • part of a cinnamon stick
Cook for 30 minutes, or until squash is tender.  Meanwhile, nurse the baby yet again, cook in a skillet and drain the fat from:
  • 1 lb. sausage
Remove the spice bag and puree the soup.  Stir in:
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • 2 cups baby spinach
When cheese is melted and spinach is wilted, add the sausage and salt and pepper to taste.  I like to use white pepper because it disappears into the soup, but it tastes the same as black.  We have been eating a lot of squash this fall.  Squash has been 35 cents a pound, so that's why.  I'm not tired of it yet.

So, yes, our house is getting appraised on Monday.  We are in the process of refinancing our mortgage.  If anybody reading this is a homeowner and doesn't already know:  Now is a great time to do this.  Interest rates are as low as 2.63% right now!  We're taking advantage of the much lower interest rate to change over to a 15-year mortgage, so we will be debt-free by age forty.  We'll have to come up with more money each month, but it will be so worth it. 

We had the mortgage broker at the house last week and he just kept running the numbers over and over to tell us in so many different ways what we already knew:  We are saving a boatload of money by making this move.  He was practically giddy.  Actually, he was a really nice man about the same age as us.  He was so happy to meet a family serious about getting out of debt.  He called it a "breath of fresh air," and being debt-free by age forty is such a rare thing nowadays.   He told us that he'd worked with a couple who both worked for the same company as my husband and had high incomes.  They we in their forties, had a $400,000 house and $100,000 in credit card debt.  They signed a new 30-year loan.  He says they are not unusual.  Part of me still can't get over that.  I hate being in debt, even though ours is all "good debt." 

There's no such thing as far as I'm concerned.  I want it gone.  I want that seemingly gargantuan amount we pay out on loans every month to be free to do something better than maintain the status quo.  I'm talking giving it to the Church, or to good charities like Heifer International, or building up our little farm.  If all our debt money went to these things instead, it makes me so excited to think just how far that money could go.  Evangelical poverty has to have this kind of purpose.  "Love of God" sounds great but at least for me I'm not at the level of sanctity where I immediately see the connection between loving God and walking down the ice cream aisle without stopping.  Love of God, I hope, is the underlying motivation, but I need a more concrete-feeling bridge between the two if I'm going to actually make the sacrifice most of the time. 

Also, what do we want to get out of debt so soon for?  Certainly not so we can finally have all the ice cream we want.  The hundred-grand-on-the-credit-card couple proves that debt is not an obstacle to gratifying little desires.  It is an obstacle to the big dreams, and being able to give generously when the opportunity presents itself.  Anthony's godfather, for example, purchased two houses downtown outright to convert into the house for the Oratorian fathers to live.  He just couldn't have done a thing like that had he been drowning in debt.  We also are not getting out of debt so we can just watch our bank account get fatter and fatter.  We are stewards only.  When Judgment Day comes He won't be interested in our bank statements, but whether we fed the hungry and clothed the naked.

This is getting rather long and completely stream-of-consciousness.  And my consciousness is fading fast. The nitty-gritty of tithing will have to wait for another (fort)night.  I need a pithy sentence to sum up with and call it a night.

"Money, if you'll pardon the expression, is like manure.  It's not worth a thing unless it's spread around, encouraging young things to grow."  Thank you, Ephraim.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quick Takes: Heavy and Light

--- 1 ---
I just didn't have the heart to talk about the election the other day.  I had always expected President Obama to be re-elected, or at least for quite some time now.  I had a good talk with a friend the day after about what it all means.

President Obama has declared war on the Catholic Church with his HHS Mandate.  I know that lots and lots of people, and even a majority of Catholics, just don't see this.  We voted for this state of affairs, and the gloves-off attack on religious freedom that's sure to come is entirely the consequence of our lukewarmness.  The President is trying to force division:  Do we choose the unborn and let Catholic service in the public square disappear, or to serve the poor and the sick at the expense of the lives of our smallest brothers and sisters?  It's an impossible choice.  We can't abandon any of our brothers and sisters and still be Christians.  Do we choose to follow the laws of God, or the unjust laws of Caesar?  There is only one choice. 

But it's going to require even more heroic grace than ever.  We are a weak people.  And there will be many souls lost in the battle.  Lord have mercy.

--- 2 ---
So new political strategy:  Be a saint.

--- 3 ---
While I try to figure out #2, I still have the everyday domestic things to attend to.  (Actually, those are my means to sanctity, as I've talked about a little bit here.)  Oh, yes, happy belated Feast of All Saints!

--- 4 ---
The garden is finished for the year, except for five lonely heads of lettuce in the cold frame.  I'm going to miss our little (?) friend, the praying mantis who lived in our green bean plants and kept away all the bad bugs.  I can't count how many times I've thought, "How did I miss that big one?" only to find I was trying to harvest the praying mantis!  Anthony always had to look for him each time we went out to pick some green beans.  He called him his "pet" and would in fact pet him.  Katie Rose thinks he's funny too.
--- 5 ---
We pulled out all of our carrots, even though we're a ways from a hard freeze.  Most of them would have been respectable radishes, but they probably weren't going to get much bigger at this point.  Some of them were getting eaten by clusters of little grey bugs, so I thought it's probably better to take away their food source.  We'd been pulling them up periodically, so this final haul is probably about 1/4 of the total carrot yield.  I'll definitely grow them again next year, but I'll try harder to space them properly to begin with.  Thinning carrots is a sad job, and I mostly left them too close together to really get to be a decent size.

--- 6 ---

14 pounds of green tomatoes.  Most of them went to make green tomato relish.  That project took up half of the day on Tuesday, so I wasn't just fretting about the election.  It's quite good!  This might not make sense, but it tastes old-fashioned.  Green tomato relish is the embodiment of the old-time idea of never letting anything go to waste. It looks really Christmasy, green with bits of red.  The recipe yielded over a GALLON of relish, so I think some of these jars are destined to be Christmas gifts.

--- 7 ---
There's a runaway train of clean but unfolded laundry behind me as I'm typing this.  I should get Anthony down for his nap and deal with that.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Halloween Photos

It was so hard to get Anthony to hold still enough for a photo!  He was just too excited to be a "CHOO-CHOO!"  His cardboard box was the hit of the neighborhood.  And he sure hammed it up.  But he did learn to say "Tank you," by the time we got to the very last house. 

Katie Rose's flower petals were mostly chewed on.  It was cold and drizzly, so she stayed home and handed out candy with Daddy. 

I like Halloween.  I wasn't too much into it as a child, but I like how on our street most people are outside and ready to chat about neighborhood happenings and get to know you a little bit.  We moved into our house on Halloween three years ago.  It was the perfect way to meet our new neighbors!  And of course I like the Snickers which Anthony so generously shares with me. :-)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Evangelical Poverty: Part 1

We all have so much.  Even those of us who are reading this wondering if the budget sheet is going to be in the negative numbers this month.  If you are reading this, then count yourself among the world’s wealthy.  You are literate and have internet access, even if it’s at the public library.  You also have leisure time to spend reading the scribblings of some Midwestern housewife.
I hope you don't mind pictures from our garden way back in July.  I never posted them, and it seems to fit with this post: Very full of promise!
Guilt trip, yes?  Sorry, but I do have a point in beginning that way.  Well, are you worried about finances?  No matter how much we have, we worry about how to hold on to that level of financial “freedom,” but really we are kind of enslaved because of how much of our energy is devoted to money:  Working to earn it, time and thought about how we’ll spend it, worrying about how we haven’t saved enough of it.  I have to confess that I often stress out when I need to spend money unexpectedly, or even on stupid stuff like I need a haircut.  Last Friday I had a fender-bender (We are all fine!) and got a $130 ticket.  Ouch.  Plus fixing both cars and likely our insurance rate will go up. How are we supposed to get out of debt and start a farmstead now?  Yes, I am aware of how stupid that sounds, since I’m not bashing around like Cruella De Vil.  But I still have those sort of discouraging thoughts with each setback.  It’s human nature I think.  But that is not what God wants for us.  God does not promise us earthly riches, but something much much better. 

“Fear not, little flock.  For it is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Luke 12:32-34)
Before I get too far into this subject, let me be up front that Ryan and I are not struggling financially.  On the contrary we have been very blessed with a good job and a comfortable home.  We do have significant debt from our student loans and mortgage, which we are working hard to pay ahead of schedule.  This information might lead some people to say for me to talk about the virtues of poverty is just ridiculous and insulting to those who are really in need.  I hope I don’t come across as just some starry-eyed girl playing at being a saint.  Because I am well aware I am far, far from detached from this world’s material goods.  I like birthday presents and ladies’ nights out and buying something pretty for myself every once in a while.  I’ve just been thinking about this subject an awful lot lately, and I’m trying to organize my thoughts as well as share them.  I think it's very important, especially as more and more people are having trouble paying the bills and might give up on giving.  I’d be very interested in any additional insights or even corrections my readers (all five of you!) may have.

So, the kingdom.  Something money cannot buy, but we have to be detached from money before we can obtain it.  “One cannot serve both God and money.”  Money is a little thing in comparison with what we are promised.  Few of us are called to the radical poverty of St. Francis of Assisi or to give all of our money to the poor, but I’ve become convinced that we are all called to tithe.  The fifth Precept of the Church is, “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.”  This is not specified as a set amount, only “according to his own ability.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2043)  So I don’t claim that not paying a 10% tithe is automatically a sin.  However, I think giving 10% of one’s income—before taxes—is the first step in trusting God with our finances, of letting go of our attachment to money.  I don't think attachment to money is exclusively in the realm of the rich man; Jesus' admonition to not worry about our food and clothing applies to everyone.

The Old Testament is full of exhortations on the importance of paying our tithes.  The Old Law may have passed away, but human nature has not changed.  God doesn’t need our money.  A million dollars is nothing to Him.  The tithe is ultimately for our own benefit.  The 10% figure is high enough that we have to make a deliberate decision to give that much and lay claim to God’s promises, yet low enough that God is still very lenient with us.  If you think about it, God lets us keep 90%, when He could justly claim all.  He is God, after all. 


It is a “stepping out in faith” to begin to tithe.  I can only say for now that the only way to learn to trust in God is to do it!  Pray for grace, read the Scriptures.  The ones I referenced here were important to Ryan and me in beginning to tithe, also Mark 10:21 and Matthew 6:31-32.  Tithing changed my whole outlook on stewardship and Divine Providence.  Our money is not really ours.  Charity is an obligation.  God WILL provide.  We'll talk about all of this.
Meanwhile, God makes another incredible promise regarding the tithe that is still true, because God never goes back on His promises: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me in this, says the Lord of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?” (Malachi 3:10)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thank God for dirty dishes.
They have a tale to tell.
While other folks go hungry,
We’re eating very well.
With home and health and happiness,
We shouldn’t want to fuss.
For by this stack of evidence,
God’s very good to us.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

6 Months Old!

Happy half-birthday, Katie Rose!  She is the happiest baby.  So chubby and cute.  We listen to her little squeals all day long.  She loves to blow raspberries and see everything that's going on in her little world.  She has smiles for everybody, as long as Mama is nearby.  Even when she is sad, she will have a smile for Daddy.  And nobody can make her laugh like her big brother.  She's very snuggly, and will give big hugs and nuzzle into me when she's getting tired.  We love you so much, little girl!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

To Roast a Chicken

I was planning to sit down in my solitary quietude tonight and write a thoughtful piece about trust and tithing and evangelical poverty.  Ryan's in Boston overnight, and the children are asleep.  But that would be bound to end up a rambly mess tonight, so another cooking post it is. 

Today I washed almost all of the windows in my house.  Pulled the screens out and scrubbed the frames with Q-tips.  We've been overrun by gnats.  We get them every fall, thanks to the hackberry trees lining our street, and they nest in the little spaces around the window frame and in the screens.  They die when the frost comes for good.  But with temps in the upper 70s a few days before Halloween, this is the worst I've ever seen them.  I've been saying I wish I had the energy to do a for-real housecleaning this fall.  I've always thought fall is the best time for a thorough housecleaning.  After the mess of summer outdoor life, and before the holiday rush sets in.  Well, now I've begun, energy or not.  More like not, at least at the moment. 

But the windows do look nice.  I'm hoping after a good night's sleep the windows will inspire me to the next step in next-to-godliness. Bedroom, definitely.  At least put away the baskets of clean but not folded laundry and dust before Ryan comes home tomorrow.  I think I can do that.

Anthony had fun washing the storm doors for me.  And you know what?  They actually are much improved!

He's getting to be quite helpful.    He likes to do fingerpainting at his little table, and afterwards he cleans up with his own little sponge and scrub bucket (a beach pail unearthed from the Basement of Death).  He's very careful to get every little bit of paint off the white tabletop.  It's one of the Montessori-esque things we've been doing a lot more of lately.  But that's another topic for another day.  See why I couldn't tackle philosophical subject matter tonight?  I haven't even mentioned chicken yet!

 Anthony's taken my roasting pan for a lentil-pouring tray.

Yes, chicken.  Rosemary and Christine both commented that they weren't really sure how to roast a chicken.  My first thought was, "You know, now that I think about it, I'm not sure either!"  I think it's different every time, 'cause I like to walk on the wild side like that.  I'm not going to be like a silly cookbook I have that often says, "Cook until done."  If Ryan understood things like cooking he could break it down so much better, but here is my method as well as I can analyze it.

First, if you have the time, wash and season your bird a few hours before you plan to cook it.  Remove the giblets, rinse it inside and out with cold water, and pat dry.  Drying it makes the skin crispier.  I use paper towels, despite being a dirty conservative hippie.  If you use a regular kitchen towel, hang it up to dry before mixing it with other dirty laundry.  And then wash it with hot water and bleach.  I don't really have a designated place for bacteria-laden laundry besides the diaper pail.  That's gross and I should remedy that.  But anyway, back to chicken.

Your bird is rinsed and dried.  Now place it in a shallow roasting pan.  Any baking dish will do, really, if you haven't got an official roasting pan.  Now for flavoring.  First grease the skin.  I like to use olive oil usually, but melted butter is fabulous.  Choose some herbs, about three tablespoons worth is not too much.  Mix them in a small bowl with pepper and loads of salt.  Coarse sea salt is a must.  Rub this mixture all over the outside of the bird and you can do the inside too.  Any herb or blend you like will do.  Inside the cavity, you can put in onion wedges, celery, carrots, half of a lemon or orange, garlic cloves, or apple wedges in any combination you fancy.  Or don't put anything inside, but it makes the chicken smell lovely as it roasts.

Some favorite combinations:
  • Herbes de Provence, lemon and rosemary sprigs inside
  • The Simon & Garfunkel:  Parsley, sage, rosmary, and thyme
  • Lots of garlic (stick slivers under the skin), rub with salt and red pepper flakes, drizzle the whole thing with honey and lemon juice.  More whole garlic cloves and lemon inside.

I don't usually find it necessary to truss the chicken.  As long as the stuff inside doesn't fall out, it's all good.  I usually make a smaller chicken; about 4 lbs is right for just us with a meal or two from the leftovers.

Pop it back in the fridge until an hour before cooking time. Letting meat sit on the counter might seem odd, but I find it helps it cook more evenly to bring it to room temperature first.  Otherwise your skin will be burning before the thigh meat is done.  Preheat your oven to 450.

When you put the chicken in the oven, turn the heat down to 375.  If it's a bigger bird, say 7-8 lbs, wait 10 minutes before turning down the heat.  This higher heat to begin with seals the juices in and helps with that fabulous crispy skin.  I think basting is optional.  At least I usually get distracted and forget to do it, and it's still yummy in the end.  But it does make it look pretty.  Every 20 minutes or so is plenty. 

A 4 lb. bird takes about an hour and a half to cook, but start checking the temperature well before that.  Getting the meat thermometer in the right place in the thigh is the hardest part to learn, I think.  It's done when the thermometer reads 180.  I don't have a picture, but here's one from the USDA:

You have to get a feel for it really.  If you can feel the tip of the thermometer hit the bone you've put it in too far and will get a falsely high reading.  Another way to tell if it's done is to pierce the skin with a skewer (or the meat thermometer).  The juice that comes out should be clear, not bloody-looking.

Once it's done, carefully move the chicken to a carving board to rest for 15 minutes or so before carving.

Roasting a turkey is this exact same thing, just longer.  The turkey I made last year was the Herbe de Provence version.  You are now equipped to host Thanksgiving dinner! 

See? This is you! But you have better hair.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Simple Autumn Food

I love fall.  It is definitely my favorite season.  The leaves, the pumpkin patches and apple orchards, sweater weather, and the FOOD!  I love comfort food.  I just really enjoy the homeyness.  As befits a lady aspiring to a housewifely ideal. :-).  Autumn food is simple in ingredients and preparation, but luxurious in time.   It requires you to just let the food do its thing while you savor the aroma of the meal to come and just being at home together.  Slow food is autumnal.  The harvest is done, and you can relax and partake of the warmth of the kitchen and the fruits of your labor.  Canada got it right by putting Thanksgiving in October.  I feel almost in a Thanksgiving mood, except here we're still getting a steady supply of tomatoes and green beans.  Not a large amount, but more than we had in midsummer when it was just too dry to fruit.

I've almost always done "from scratch" cooking since being married, but this fall I find myself just winging it and going recipeless more often than not.  I really enjoy just seeing what produce looks good at the market or is available at a good price.  Which really means eating locally and seasonally, if you want to get all foodie about it.  I've read a fair amount about our modern agricultural system and how unsustainable it is, etc.  But at the end of the day it's all about delicious food.

And you know what?  It's so easy!  And not expensive at all!  But it sure looks fancy.  Rustic chic.  You know, fancy-looking things like the garnish

 Roasted butternut squash and leek soup.  The rolls are a variant of The Best Bread Ever.  You know, fancy-looking things like the garnish on this soup really take very little effort when you're working with fresh ingredients anyway.  Just toss the seeds in the oven for a few minutes while the squash is roasting and save a few of the thyme sprigs from going in the pot.

Carrots (from the garden!  Yay for clay-tolerant varieties!), red onion, potato, apples, thyme, butter, and brown sugar. I didn't take a picture of it actually roasted.  I would go for maple syrup over brown sugar if you try this.  The brown sugar just kind of burned and slid down in the corner of the pan.  But the butter was a good decision.  Julia Child would back me up; when in doubt put butter on it.  I made this and a roasted chicken on "one of those days," when things were a mess and the children were cranky because we had done a lot of running.  Ryan appreciated what he thought was the special effort to make a"Sunday dinner" despite the busy day.  I didn't tell him then that there's nothing easier than to rub some salt and seasoning on a chicken and cut some veggies into chunks.  I was out of the kitchen in fifteen minutes and able to restore order and read a story while it cooked.  But now the secret's out, so enjoy your autumn cooking!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Already a DIY Kind of Guy

We had a day with several accidents on the way upstairs to the bathroom.  That evening at dinner I said to Ryan, "Maybe we should just get a little potty for the kitchen."

The next day, I was on the couch nursing the baby when Anthony said from the kitchen, "Pee-pee potty!" 

"Ok, just a minute," I said, preparing to break latch and take him. 

"Pee-pee potty!" he said, proudly, coming in pantless.

"Oh no," I thought.  But I said, "Show me where you went and we'll clean it up."

This is what he showed me!

And yes, he had used it successfully.  Then he lifted the yellow block on top and said, "Pshhhhhhhh." So funny!  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Tastiest Bread Ever

This really was the best loaf I have yet made.  I'm writing it down as a recipe here, but really I was feeling experimental just added this and that until it looked right. I could never recreate it completely.  Hopefully this is close.

I did it in the food processor, so that's how it's written.  If you're more of a bread purist, you probably know better than I how to do it by hand. :-)  It would basically be the same recipe, but you add your dry ingredient mixture to the yeast and water instead of the other way around.

The cereal is my first attempt at making granola.  Honey and walnuts.  It really is as easy as it seems!  I used Leila's recipe as a starting point, but I don't like coconut so that was left out.  And I left out the dried fruit too, since I only had a meager handful of Craisins for all that cereal.  That can always be added in later.

And now for a goofy picture of my children:

The Best Bread Ever

In a one-cup Pyrex measuring cup, combine:
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
Let rest until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, put dough blade in food processor.  Add:
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tsp salt
Process for 10 seconds to combine.  Add cold water to yeast mixture until foam just reaches the rim of the measuring cup, about 1 1/3 cup.

With food processor running on dough speed, slowly pour in the yeast mixture.  Keep processing until the dough all clumps together.  If it's too sticky, add more flour.  When dough starts to clean the sides of the bowl, process for 45 seconds to knead the dough.

Let rise, covered, for one hour.  Punch down and shape into a long loaf.  Let rise approximately 45 minutes longer.  Score the top of the loaf.  Bake at 350* for about 45 minutes.

Friday, August 10, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Nuptiality, Sexuality, and Pot Roast

--- 1 ---

My sister Elizabeth got married on Saturday! Definitely the biggest news around here. It was a simple, intimate wedding, exactly what Jason and Liz wanted. A lifetime of joy to you!

--- 2 ---
I adapted this recipe for the slow cooker yesterday.  And changed a bunch of stuff, so I think it counts as being original.

Trim a 2 1/2 lb. chuck roast of all visible fat.  Heat a tbsp of oil in a skillet, sear the meat on all sides.  Put meat aside.  Saute one chopped onion, 3 cloves minced garlic, and a package of sliced mushrooms in the pan.  Put the vegetables in a crock pot, put the meat on top.  Add a bay leaf, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper. Pour a can of beef broth over the whole thing.  Cook on low four hours.

Add 1/2 cup of pearl barley, cook on low another four hours.

Remove meat.  Stir in 1 1/2 cups of frozen peas, turn heat to high.  Peas will be ready in about five minutes.  Empty crock-pot into a colander set over a bowl to catch the gravy.  Yum.

--- 3 ---
Note to self:  Do not chop onions while wearing the baby.  She cries too!

--- 4 ---
Speaking of baby wearing, I've been wearing Katie Rose pretty much All. The. Time.  With Anthony, I would wear him because I'd read about how beneficial being close to Mother is for babies.  This time it's because I need two hands free when Anthony's around, I don't like moving the baby from one landing zone to another constantly, she doesn't take kindly to being left in the swing or bouncer for more than a few minutes anyway, and I need to protect her from her big brother's affections!  So purely practical, not at all idealistic.  I've read that first borns tend to be idealists, while second borns are pragmatists.  I believe it!

--- 5 ---
I'm back to doing French lessons with Rosetta Stone.  I took a hiatus when baby time came, but I actually remembered all of the vocabulary!  Hurray!  Now I'm on to some more about families.  The phrases for hugging and kissing in France are quite difficult to me.  If I go to France I'll just have to maintain my personal space.  I like that the words for "wife" and "woman" are the same.   It is in the nature of the woman to be a wife.  Every vocation is nuptial: We can be married to a man or else be brides of Christ. "Her desire will be for her husband."

--- 6 ---
In the same vein, my friend Kate shared a crazy thought with me this week:  Ballroom dancing is really Theology of the Body in a nutshell.  It's actually quite brilliant.  I keep coming up with more ways it fits.  Here are a few:  You can only dance with one person.  It needs to be male-female pairings to really work.  The man has to lead.  If both try to lead, they fight each other, and if neither leads, nothing happens.  If the woman leads, it doesn't really work so well because the woman's role is to be receptive.  She is the one being spun around, dipped, etc. in most dance moves.  They could technically make it work, but it would require much more effort in communication than if they did it the traditional way (e.g. The man only has to turn his hand a certain way for her to spin around.).  It's easy to come up with them.  Share yours in the comments, if you're feeling inspired.

--- 7 ---
Kudos to the Boy Scouts for holding fast to their policy of excluding gays from being members or leaders.  And boo to Mitt Romney for trying to appeal to both sides on matter.  Romney's been an all-around disappointment, so this is really no surprise.  Fence sitter since 1994.  At least he's consistent.  Bah.  Anyway, I wanted to talk about the Boy Scouts.  The Supreme Court upheld their right to exclude whomever they wish as they are a private organization, but the pressure has naturally been turned way up of late.  I hope they stay strong.  They're absolutely right to keep gays out.  The great thing, or one of the great things, about the Boy Scouts is that they are unapologetically masculine.  That is a rare, rare thing nowadays.  Even the military is more and more feminized!  Boys need to experience manliness, to test their mettle against nature together with other boys.  Adding a gay kid to the group would completely change the group dynamics, no matter how much sensitivity training occured beforehand.  This shouldn't need to be explained, but it would just be plain awkward to have to share a tent with someone who might be sexually attracted to you.  Boy Scouts ought to be a safe place to test and develop one's manhood.  Adding homosexuals to the mix would automatically hinder that process by making it self-conscious.  It wouldn't be fair to the majority of the boys, and most likely the gay child would have a hard time of it, too.  They would sense that their presence is a problem, even if everyone were outwardly very accepting.  And homosexual leaders are just a bad, bad, bad idea.  Let's not repeat the clergy abuse scandals that arouse from admitting gays to the priesthood.  If people object to this policy, they can start their own organization rather than bully the Boy Scouts into changing it.  The American Heritage Girls were founded as an alternative to the ever more liberal Girl Scouts, and they are thriving.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Quick Takes!

--- 1 ---
My parents and younger sister were here visiting all last week.  It was super super hot, so we did a lot of indoor things and splashed in the big fountain at Sawyer Point.  But we didn't take many pictures.  Or at least Teresa hasn't e-mailed them to me yet. By far the most exciting event of their stay happened on the Fourth of July.  A power line burst and was shooting sparks all over the sidewalk directly in front of our house.  Our guardian angels were taking care of us, and our neighbor's bushes, which miraculously did not go up in flames in the heat and dry weather.  But that wasn't the most exciting part.  The exciting part was that there were fire trucks, police cars, and power company trucks all RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE!!!  Then the line burst again and they all came back!

This photo is after a solid hour of truck watching.  We couldn't tear Anthony away.

Aunt Teresa.  Anthony calls her "Essa."  Now so do I.

--- 2 ---
I took Anthony to see even MORE TRUCKS this week.  A nearby township hosted "Touch a Truck."  Kids can climb onto garbage trucks, construction vehicles, a city bus, a Medivac helicopter, a fire truck, etc.  There were probably about 20 vehicles.  And 200 charged up preschool boys.

--- 3 ---
2 1/2 months old!

--- 4 ---
I've noticed that I'm in much better shape now than I ever was before children, even though I used to conscientiously work out then and never now.  I'll spare you the photographic evidence, but certain areas of flab I thought were just facts of life are gone!  It could have something to do with the daily walks/trots around the neignborhood wearing the baby and either chasing Anthony or pulling him in the wagon.  Or bringing the dirty laundry down two flights, a clean load up two flights, back down one then right back up again because I forgot something, then back down, then up again because the baby's awake.  Or scrubbing the dried-up jelly off the chairs.  I could do a whole post about how motherhood IS exercise.
--- 5 ---
Eight cucumbers today! And lots lots more coming very soon.  I need to learn how to make pickles, and fast.

--- 6 ---

We had a great summer menu last night:  Grilled porkchops and peaches, corn on the cob, cole slaw, and watermelon salad.  The watermelon salad is a recipe from my mother-in-law.  All it is is watermelon chunks, a handful of chopped parsley, feta cheese, toasted pine nuts, and a splash of lemon juice.  Fabulous.  Tonight will be chilled cucumber soup.

--- 7 ---

Here's another quote from Abandonment to Divine Providence.  This one hit me hard yesterday:

"Faith is the mother of sweetness, confidence, and joy.  It cannot help feeling tenderness and compassion for its enemies by whose means it is so immeasurably enriched.  The greater the harshness and severity of the creature, the greater by the operation of God, is the advantage to the soul.  While the human instrument strives to do harm, the divine Workman in whose hands it is, makes use of its very malice to remove from the soul all that might be prejudicial to it."
Jean-Pierre De Caussade is a genius.  The first line is a good litmus test to see if I am really trusting in God:  Where am I on the "sweetness, confidence, and joy" scale?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Which I Need to Take a Nap, but Don't Like to Admit It

After writing that title, I realized I'm not much better than Anthony!

I’ve been feeling rather depressed lately.  Really I think a big part of the problem is sleep deprivation.  The night-owl  husband often keeps me up rather late, the little girl keeps me up through the night, and the little boy has me up rather early.  I’ve discovered my family is actually one of those 60s cults that deprive their members of sleep and restrict bathroom privileges.  Help!

In seriousness, I know periods of little sleep are sometimes just an occupational hazard of early motherhood.  I am trying to do better about getting to bed earlier and not feel guilty about taking naps if I have the opportunity.  That touches on my other, more serious problem.  Feeling discouraged and guilty that I need more rest in the first place.  And I do need it, I must confess.  Every time I try to deny my body’s needs I end up crashing.  We did the mastitis thing over the weekend again.  Yuck.

You see, I do this thing where I compare myself to other mothers.  I realized in prayer this morning that I’ve been trying to compete with absolutely everyone I know.   If Jane can do X, then I feel like I should be able to do X too or I lose.   (Anne doesn’t take naps!  Emily doesn’t ask her husband to do the grocery shopping!)  There’s a poisonous pride working in me that I didn’t realize, making me feel discouraged by the very women who would give me encouragement and help.  Lest any of you reading feel awkward, by the grace of God I have been spared feeling jealous of other women's apparent superiority.  I don't hate you for being better than me, I just wonder how you manage to be so awesome.

This post might just reveal me as totally lame and insecure to boot.  I probably am.  I sure feel it!  But I think I need to blog about it because I KNOW I’m not the only one.  And also reading mom blogs can be a great way to fuel that insecurity, so a little perspective would probably be a good thing to have out in internet-land.  Generally I severely edit which parts of my life make it onto this blog.  You won’t see me posting my deepest, darkest secrets.  Mostly just fluff about some pretty thing I made or yummy thing I cooked or cute things my kids do.  If all anyone knows of me is my blog, that’s not the full story.  Same goes for everyone else.  Also in real life, we generally don’t let everyone know everything, nor should we.  The obvious conclusion is just because I’m not doing what someone else is, doesn’t really give me enough information to compare myself to her.

The whole above paragraph actually doesn’t matter, because I shouldn’t be trying to compare myself to other mothers at all!  Ryan tells me this all the time.  He’s right of course.  But it’s so natural to do it!  I want to know if I’m doing a good job.   I’ve been so conditioned through school to gauge my performance by everyone else’s.  (Class rank, grade on the curve type stuff.)  If I got a bad grade, it was softened if half the class failed, too.  Also, I got used to always being at the top of the curve and getting straight A’s.   I’m not on the Dean’s List for Mommy University.  I don’t have constant affirmation from 100% on every weekly task.  Boo-hoo.  In my head I often unconsciously translate things in to grades.  I got 7/10 things done on my list today.  C- for me.  Anthony was defiant and I completely failed at not escalating that particular situation.  F!  I also tend to take the “A” moments for granted, as just doing what’s expected.  No wonder I’m so discouraged.

I have to internalize that only one Person is “grading” me.  And He has a completely different rubric :  He asks for faithfulness, not success.  What matters is that I sincerely do my best to do His Will at every moment.  Accept my weakness, so that I can accept His strength.  What prompted me this morning was a line in Abandonment to Divine Providence that said that the thoughts that distract us in prayer reveal what we value above God, what we are not entrusting to Him.  I have to surrender my vocation to Him once again, because I simply cannot do it on my own.  I must come to rely on His grace, but first I must truly believe that His grace is sufficient for me.  This all sounds like platitudes.  But it really is true, I know it.  Maybe I could write about it better if I were actually doing it.  Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. 
Forgive me if this post is rambly and not that fabulous.  I haven't slept much lately.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: All Four in Less than a Minute

round button chicken
This is a pretty good summary of life with two little ones!  Enjoy, and check out everyone else's PHFRs over at Like Mother Like Daughter.



Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Our second batch of radishes is ready.  We've got lots!  I didn't really know what to with them besides slice them into salads, but emboldened by my success in April I planted a lot.  If you leave them too long, they get tough and bitter instead of the delicious mild peppery flavor they are now.  They don't keep long once they're pulled, but that's not a problem!  I've been snacking on them all day.  I've learned the French like to eat them with butter and salt.  I tried it, and it's good, but I definitely think that eating a plain handful that were in the ground five minutes ago is the way to go.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Day in the Tunnel

The "tunnel of parenthood" is those early years, when your kids are all still very young, very dependent, and you're still rather unsure of yourself too. I will often think of it when things are tough in my life as a mother. They will not be this way forever, they will get more independent and reasonable, although it's sometimes hard to see that light. Like today.

Today I took both children to Mass.  Alone.  Already you know where this is going, I'm sure.  We went to the playground beforehand with the idea that if Anthony ran off a chunk of his energy he'd be better behaved.  Ha. 

This is how we spent Mass:  We arrived early enough but were actually late from going potty.  Again.  Settle in just before the Gospel.  Anthony whines really loudly; tries to pick up sleeping Katie Rose, waking her; tries to climb into my lap while I'm nursing, making me expose myself to the gentleman behind us; and/or tries to empty the diaper bag into the lap of the gentleman behind us.  We make a racket leaving for disciplinary action to be taken.  Anthony doesn't seem to care about said action, and just wants to play out in the vestibule.  Well, in my battle-fatigued mind I can't reward his misbehavior by giving him what he wants, so back in we go.  Rinse both hands in the holy water font and repeat.

By the time we finally get to Communion, everyone is done.  I had already determined that on the way back from receiving I would scoop up the long-abandoned carseat from our pew and make a graceful (i.e. immediate) exit.

About a third of the way up the aisle, Anthony plunks his bottom down and refuses to move.  Of course he's whining, too.  After a few awful seconds of standoff, I had no choice but to pick him up.  Mercifully, he shut up.  So here I go charging down the aisle, newborn in the ring sling, toddler under my arm as if I'm about to score a touchdown.  I certainly wasn't in a recollected state of mind to receive Holy Communion.  My state of mind was more like, "JesusMaryandJosephhelpmenow!"  I really, really, needed a major infusion of grace just then.  The priest seemed to think so, too.  He gave Anthony two blessings.

So we get back to our pew like this.  I have no choice but to put Anthony down in order to pick up the carseat and diaper bag.  Again that child won't follow me, and resumes his whining.  Now what do I do?  "Anthony, we're going home." Nothing doing. "Come on!  Now!"  The older gentleman is probably ready to kill me now.   "Come on, wee're going outside."  "OutSIDE!  OutSIIIIIIIIIDE!!!!"  "Yes, now come quietly with mommy." 

As I'm opening the door to leave, he turns and blows Jesus a kiss.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: A Walk in the Woods

round button chicken


I love the woods. Like Anne Shirley, I don't think I could live where there are no trees. I also love that we have some nice trails about a five minute drive away. Anthony, Katie Rose and I ventured out for a ramble this morning. Katie Rose was snugged up in the Moby wrap, so she didn't get into any of these photos, alas.

So here is one I snapped of her this morning.


Anthony is a good little hiker.  The trails are a bit strenuous in places for a two-year-old.  Lots of fallen trees to clamber over, tree roots to step around, and stone steps like these here.  Of course that all adds to the fun for him, and he is so proud that he can do everything all by himself!

So this isn't really humorous.  More curious.  The ground all around these tree roots has eroded away, leaving the roots completely exposed, reaching across a pit about four feet deep.  This was the best picture I got, because I have a toddler who is certainly curious!  It's amazing how complex the network of roots is.

A tired out little boy!  We walked about a mile and a half.  He's sound asleep now.