Tuesday, March 29, 2011

wet week

We've had some wet weather around here... something like 5-8 inches in a week??  What I know for sure is that we have 12 inches of standing water in our basement.  Yes, we live in California, and have a basement, and it has become quite clear to me why most houses DO NOT have basements around here. 

Though I admit it is sometimes nice to have an excuse to have an "at-home" day, in general I try not to let the weather keep me inside.  We made it out to stomp around in the mud a few times.  Annike and I even went to our mom/baby outdoor swim class on one of the stormiest days of the year... though I would probably not repeat the experience.  She was a really good sport.  Hey, the class was all about teaching her to get her face wet, so no problem there!


Whenever it rains a lot and we all start to moan about it (we moms are the worst because we feel stuck indoors entertaining our kiddos), I get to thinking about why we have rain, and Who gives it to us.  Now I am no theologian, but in my study of the Bible it seems that the word rain is synonymous with blessings from God.  Rain is intended to be a gift.  (Maybe if we lived in the arid Middle East it would be easier to remember that rain is a blessing, instead of a mean plot against us by the weather man who is scheming to ruin our weekend?)


Just a few Biblical examples of rain given in blessing...
"Then the LORD said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.'Exodus 16:4

"Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy."  Acts 14:17

"that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."  Matthew 5:45

The verse from Matthew is particularly meaningful to me, indicating that God bestows this blessing on those who love Him AND those who don't... those who may have worked hard to earn a blessing AND those who don't deserve it at all.  Not sure which category I am in, but if He wants to pass a blessing along to me, then I will take it!


So, the next time I am tempted to sing "Rain, rain, go away; Come again some other day..." maybe it would be better to spend my energy considering the blessing behind the drops.  Maybe I deserve it, maybe I don't.  Either way, I am desperate enough in my life not to consciously turn away a blessing that God might like to give me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

the crockpot

You won't see me posting recipes very often.  I am not exactly known as a good cook.  It isn't that I can't cook, it is simply my limiting belief that a dish should not take longer to make than it does to eat... say, 15 minutes?  Maybe we eat fast around here.

When I first got married and felt the responsibility of making meals for someone else, I went around asking friends for quick and easy recipes they recommended.  Everyone told me I needed a crock-pot. They would say, "A crock-pot is perfect because you just throw everything in, and then you have a tasty meal that takes hardly any prep time."  Sign me up!

The first time I tried to use my crock-pot, I knew very little about cooking.  It was a day when I came home late from a long day of teaching high school students, exhausted and starving.  Drawing a blank on my dinner plans, I remembered the crock-pot.  Everyone says this is so easy, I thought, I will just look through this crock-pot recipe book (that some soul had thoughtfully given me) and find one with ingredients that I have on hand (which is really the only way I cook anyway, with whatever happens to be in the pantry.)  Every recipe I found required a cooking time of 3, 4, 6, 8 HOURS!!  I was horrified!  Despite all of the great advice I had been given, no one told me that the other name for crock-pot is "slow cooker".

Needless to say, I didn't use the crock-pot that night because I wanted dinner to be ready before 11pm.  However, I did not give up on the idea of throwing some ingredients into a pot and ending up with a tasty meal.  Truly, I have come to love using a crock-pot... I just have to remember to plan about 6 hours ahead.

Since I must be getting my appetite back after 3 months of feeling lousy (1st trimester of pregnancy), today I felt excited to throw one of my favorite crock-pot meals together.  If I ever post another recipe (not making any promises), my recipe motto will be:  If I can cook it, so can you!

Cream Cheese Chicken in the Crock-Pot

You will need these ingredients:
2-3 lbs chicken (4-6 breasts)
1 onion, chopped into bite-size squares
Italian dressing in a bottle
1 8oz package of cream cheese
1 10oz can cream of chicken soup
1 bag of pasta
(notice there are not very many ingredients, and, true to form, these are mostly ingredients I keep on hand.)

Part 1:
1) Lay the chicken breasts and onions in the crock-pot
2) Pour Italian dressing over the chicken so that it is mostly covered
3) Turn crock-pot on low setting for 4-6 hours, until chicken is fully cooked. (The time may vary for your crock-pot.  I am often in a hurry, so cook the chicken on high until I think it is done)

Part 2:
4) About 30 minutes before you are ready to eat, and after the chicken is cooked, drain about half of the liquid that is left around the chicken.  This is not an exact science, but the more you drain, the creamier your sauce will be.   
5) Add the package of cream cheese, and the can of cream of chicken soup.
6) OPTIONAL: Add other yummy ingredients that go with creamy chicken pasta recipes.  Some ideas: sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, olives, etc.  I usually add sundried tomatoes.  This time I did not have any of the above mentioned, so I added sun-dried tomato pesto (that is why my sauce came out orange instead of white.)
7) Let the ingredients continue to cook and melt together for the next 30 min - 1 hour, and the chicken sauce is ready!

Part 3:
8) Boil your pasta of choice, drain, and serve the chicken crock-pot sauce on top.
OPTIONAL: Top your pasta sauce with cooked bacon (we like turkey bacon around here), and Parmesan cheese.

Hope you find it as yummy as we do!  My 2 1/2 year old devours it, but she does take after her father who will eat almost anything - now didn't God choose well for me by giving me a man who likes anything I cook?  Remember that if I can cook it, so can you!

Note from the cook:
The original recipe can be found on food.com at http://www.food.com/recipe/crock-pot-cream-cheese-chicken-12458  I changed it to fit my cupboard.  I also don't believe in making extra pots or pans dirty, so I eliminated the step where you saute everything in a pan first.  If you wanted to do that, then why would you use a crock-pot??

sanity

Good moms don't let young children play with plastic,


but sane moms might make an exception for the entertainment value and the opportunity to maintain that sanity.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

here we go again...

Looks like we are going to have another one!  Nothing like seeing that little "teddy bear" waving and kicking in there to give me motivation to push through the challenge of nausea and enervation in the first trimester.


Photograph taken: 9 weeks
Due Date: September 10, 2011
Current Gestation:  14 weeks

A friend's husband once mentioned that he thinks about what he is going to eat at his next meal about 6 times an hour.  I didn't believe that was humanly possible until I got pregnant.  Apparently, I am now able to relate with men more than ever as my stomach has began to control my every thought.  There is about an hour gap between 2nd and 3rd lunch.  The entire time I am dreaming of the peanut butter, banana, yogurt smoothie I will use to wash down the pizza and brussel sprouts.  When those aren't available, I try not to panic. 

The strange thing about being pregnant is that I can't seem to take my eyes off of ME (and I don't mean the way I look in the mirror, although that is pretty shocking too.)  It is like wearing a pair of selfish-glasses; when I am looking through them all I can see is my own physical discomfort, the food I need to eat, the sleep I need, the way I feel when I am nauseous, the things that I couldn't possibly do when I feel this way.  It is hard to see past myself to the others around me that need some nurturing of their own.  It can't honor God to be so selfish.

Perhaps experiencing all of this discomfort is meant to change me for the better.  Perhaps that was the design from the beginning.  Pain is never enjoyable, but perhaps it can be used to refine us as people, grow compassion in us, and remind us that comfort is not to be take for granted. 

Eve is credited with gifting women with the "pain of childbirth", as described in Genesis.  Based on her behaviour in the Garden of Eden, I realize that she too had issues with selfishness.  But after the birth of her first child, which most likely included the pain God had promised, she still says "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man." (Genesis 4:1, italics mine)  God did not abandon her in her pain, but assisted her.  He made allowance for the trouble it was going to cause in her life, and our lives too.  So, as I emerge from the fog of the first trimester, I pray that this season of malaise has changed me in some permanent, tangibly better way. 

In the meantime, it is time I gave a huge THANK YOU to my fantastic hubby for picking up the slack around here, being flexible about dinner and extra messes around the house, doing all of bedtime duties and midnight wake-up calls with our daughter (which are suprisingly frequent for a 2 and a half year old), and for being an overall compassionate and sensitive man durating a very looooooong two months.  I am coming back to life.  Getting up off the couch, making dinner, cleaning something, wiping the look of disgust off my face... its a start.  Thank you, My Dear, for having grace for me!

Apparently humanity loves children enough to keep having babies.  At the moment, it seems a slim possibility, but one day I might forget about this season of me-ness and think that my pregnancy was easy.  Somehow that smiling, wide-eyed baby that arrives after 9 long months makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

patience

This may not be true for everyone, but I have decided that God has various lessons for me in each grand season of life which I pass through.  Please make no mistake in thinking that I have actually mastered these lessons... I simply recognize ways that He might want to use the issues I struggled through to refine me as a person who greater reflects Him.

Singleness was for learning about my identity... who Christ created me to be, how I define myself

Marriage was/is for learning about unselfishness... how to love someone else's ideas, goals, dreams like my own, how to include (and welcome) my partner in making decisions with me.

Parenthood is for learning patience... hmmm... someone once warned me not to pray for patience because it was one of those prayers that God liked to answer.  And, His answer usually involved testing one's patience.  As a parent, I now realize that parenthood is designed for those who never want to pray for patience, but need to learn about it anyway.

Patience is putting my child back into bed one more time, with a smile on my face.  Patience is making stuffed animals "talk" instead of finishing the pile of dishes in the sink.  Patience is allowing 10 minutes to walk to the car instead of the requisite 1 minute.  Patience is using a calm voice when I have been disobeyed, when yelling would feel so much more satisfactory.  Patience is making playdough animals.  Patience is doing puzzles with a 2-year-old.  Patience is not feeling frustrated when my child awakens early from her nap.  Patience is answering the "Why?" question.  Patience is reading one more book, giving one more kiss, singing one more song at bedtime when rushing off for some "me"-time sounds oh so much better.

Patience is a virtue, so I have been told.  Perhaps, one day, it will magically materialize in my life.  In the meantime, I will do my best to maintain that smile, having a little more grace for those who may not have much patience with me.
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