Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy holidays, part II

After the noon meal with my family, we did dinner with Carlos' family at our house. More yumminess! My brother and sister in law brought a scrumptious ham, green bean dish and dressing, Carlos' parents brought blackberry pie, my brother in law's parents (who are officially part of our family get-togethers; the kids think they are their grandparents, too :)) brought a gloriously decadent creamy, cheesy potato dish and green bean casserole, and I had made doubles of all of the mini-croissants from before.

Again, the best part was just being with people that we love and even like. We had a peaceful, pleasant time. My dear sister in law astutefully observed that because the main meal is so good and satisfying, we rarely do justice to the desserts (although personally, I always do my best). So, since none of us are Black Friday shoppers, we agreed to all come back Friday morning for a late dessert-breakfast.

We had more mini-croissants, including the wild blueberry ones; apple pie pancakes; some savory fritters with chicken, onions, celery and sage; peanut butter kiss cookies; quesadillas and plenty of coffee. (Walmart actually has organic decaf coffee for only $6!). My mom made it over, too, and we all had a good visit. We watched National Treasure 2. I like movies about smart people.

Later, Ariana and I had a special, just-the-two-of-us, run to Borders. It was so much fun. I am used to dividing my attention. It was so cool to be able to only focus on her. Carlos, Joel and Elena stayed hime and played super-heroes together (Joel cracks me up as he runs around making the appropriate sound effects for his webs [whit, whit, whit] or robotic movements and rocket noises).

Ariana and I read numerous cook books (her favorite) plus several stories (Fancy Nancy, assorted princess tales and Clarice Bean), sipped our delicious drinks, looked at maps and talked abour far away places, and laughed together. We were gone more than two hours. On our way back, she was delighted to see all the Christmas lights. "Mami, they look like roses about to bloom".

After we got home, we began our own peculiar holiday tradition of several years: Star Trek marathons. (It's OK to laugh). When Carlos and I first married, one of the few TV shows that we regularly watched was Star Trek Voyager. We have the series on DVD, and so we watch a couple of seasons worth during our month off from classes. The best part is all the snuggling on the couch.

Happy holidays, part I

What a wonderful weekend we've had already! I don't do the whole Black Friday thing, but Thanksgiving always kicks off the whole holiday season for me. We spend most of the week enjoying Thanksgiving, then comes my birthday, then finals and vacation time, then Christmas and New Years.

Thanksgiving was so much fun. We spent lunch with my dad's family. My grandparents (and I feel so blessed that they are still living and that my children know their great-grandparents!), parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousins' kids were all there. Nearly all of them are fabulous cooks, so we always enjoy the food. (Digressing here, but when I was growing up, we did lots of church dinners. We learned quickly whose food was really good and whose wasn't. High on our avoidance list? The lady who mixed ground beef, ketchup and a can of beans and called it chili, andanother one who liked to use Dr. Pepper [aka cough syrup--blech] in the most unlikely dishes).

Even more impressive than the food was that it was a peaceful day. As far as I am aware, everyone had a good time, nobody's feelings got hurt, and we were actually glad to be family. Pretty remarkable with that many people, let alone people with that much history together. (Note: we didn't enter into any political discussions, although I thought I might have heard a couple of comments at the other end of the table, or perhaps things would have been a bit more acrimonious.) ;)

You know I love food, so you are expecting some details, right? Turkeys, naturally; gravy, mashed potatoes (I made mashed potatoes with caramelized onions and a touch of sharp Vermont cheddar melted inside), Pink Stuff (a family tradition that my aunt makes with cranberries, grapes, whipped cream and other yummy stuff), Green Stuff (I'm not sure, but I think it has fruit, Jello?, marshmallows, Cool Whip--you get the idea), rolls, deviled eggs, an assortment of yam and sweet potato dishes, the traditional green bean casseroles, and a bunch of other things that I can't remember.

Desserts? My grandmother made six pies. :drool: I made the mini-croissants: spiced cranberry with vanilla cream cheese, pumpkin pie, dark chocolate chip with Godiva cappuccino liqueur, and Bananas Foster. There were at least half a dozen other pies--Oreo, chocolate cream, my mom's blueberry dessert, and some others. My biggest regret about the meal was that because of Joel's corn allergy I didn't get to sample nearly the number of dishes I would have liked, since anything with cornstarch, most baking powders, etc. was out. And while you know that I love sweets, the things that I actually missed most were the cornbread dressing and gravy.

All in all, though, that probably worked out well, because later in the afternoon, all of Carlos' family met at our house for the Thanksgiving meal.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A peaceful moment--OOPS, COMPLETED POST

Our Thanksgiving Break doesn't really start until tomorrow, but it almost feels like it has already begun. I love the holidays, but no one can deny that they bring a bit of extra stress. Everyone in the house has some type of bug right now. The morning started off, (after being awakened at half hour intervals throughout the night) with my poor four year old vomiting all over herself and me and our immediate surroundings. The two year old is streaming snot, and the baby is fussy and nursing constantly, and while I am very glad she is getting the antibodies to help her stay healthy, I feel drained, both figuratively and literally. I have class in an hour. Thanksgiving is going to be at our place. And I will stop now, but you get the idea.

**********LOL. I was interrupted (surprise, surprise) and saved a draft but didn't close the window. Apparently Ariana got on the computer afterwards and decided to post it. Some of you may have been scratching your heads at the title (as an aside, do you know of anyone besides fictional characters who does that to indicate puzzlement? I've never seen it in real life that I can recall). Anyway, you probably decided that I was just desperate for a peaceful moment. ************

I think everyone has seemingly insignificant moments that stick in our minds and draw us back over and over. One of my favorite holiday memories happened over 10 years ago when I was feeling just as stressed as I was this morning. Like snowcream, it brings a bit of sweet coolness to an overheated day.

I was gearing up for finals, and for some reason that I've forgotten (if I ever knew it), I spent the evening with some acquaintances instead of studying. If I had been with some friends, it would have been great. The people I was with were nice, but we had nothing in common, and I felt out of place. We ended up in a horribly stuffy smoke-filled room where I watched the people around me drink and play pool (I do neither, and it wasn't a particularly entertaining spectator sport). It was so crowded it could induce clausterphobia. I had a headache from the cigarette smoke and was starting to have an asthma attack, and the overworked heater in there was making me feel feverish, so I slipped out for a few minutes and walked to a nearby cafe.

As soon as the door closed behind me, I could suddenly breathe. The cacophony was cut off, the air was delightfully clean and crisp, the sky was the deep cobalt of a clear winter evening, and the heavenly hosts were dancing. It was glorious. I felt such a peace and stillness inside. I knew I was in God's presence. I had a lovely walk to the cafe and was warmed on the way back with a rich white chocolate mocha.

That's it. No deep revelation, exactly, but ever since that night I've been able to close my eyes and take a deep breath and feel the stillness of that moment, the quiet in my soul. It is a moment I will be reliving many times in the next few weeks.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My favorite new holiday recipes

First, a disclaimer. With our allergy issues, we do mostly from-scratch cooking. This is great, and it has helped me become a better cook, etc, etc. Whatever. At holiday time, I am a mom with three kids under five, and I take any shortcuts I can find. I like these enough not to bother to ever do a completely from scratch version.

In the refrigerated section with the croissant dough, they have cans of Recipe Creations dough, which is just the croissant stuff without being pre-cut. A can of croissant dough would work, but you'd just have to pinch it together where it has been pre-cut. Again, this is about shortcuts. Puff pastry would be far better, but is more expensive, and I am cheap.

You also need cream cheese, sugar, a few more toppings and your imagination. A pizza cutter and a pan for 24 mini-muffins are helpful, but you could make do with a knife and 2 12-count mini-muffin pans. Finally, a couple of ziploc sandwich bags are easier than a spoon. (Reference the previous comment regarding shortcuts).

Preheat the oven to 375. Whip the cream cheese and sugar until well-blended (I use about 1/3 cup of sugar--adjust to your own taste). Unroll the croissant dough and use a pizza cutter to cut it into 24 squares. Place 1 square into each muffin well (the points will spill out a little. That's OK). Now the fun part! The kids loved helping with these.

Mix any desired flavorings into the cream cheese mixture, then put it into a baggie. Cut the corner of the baggie and squirt it into each croissant square. Add your favorite topping and bake for 15 minutes. Remove each little pastry and place on a rack to cool so that they don't get soggy.

There are so many possibilities. We added a splash of Godiva cappuccino liqueur to the cream cheese and topped it with dark chocolate chips. Yummmmmmmm. This morning we just did a vanilla cream cheese with wild blueberries on top (Ariana's favorite) and the same vanilla mixture topped with a homemade pumpkin pie filling (Joel's favorite). I want to try some almond cream cheese mixture with a cherry topping, too. Or peaches or apricots with nutmeg or cinnamon in the cream cheese? Apples, of course. Maybe a chocolate cream cheese mixture with a caramel in each one would be good, too. You could also do a savory version with ham and provolone (maybe a hint of mustard?), or maybe a sausage with red peppers, onions and cheddar...

I think further experiments are definitely in order.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New 'do

I finally got my hair cut and colored today. I really, really like the cut and color. I really dislike the pic, but it is after Elena had been nursing and snuggling and tugging on it, etc, so this is close to what I look like every day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Our breakfast tea party

Yesterday evening turned out to be much better than the first part of the day. Time with Carlos can transform even awful days into good ones. The kids started exploring the cabinets and found glasses from a punch bowl set that made perfect tea cups, in their opinion. It was right at bedtime, so we waited until this morning for a breakfast tea party.

We brewed a lovely pot of cherry spice tea. We also made cinnamon rolls with butterscotch chips. They had fun mixing the cinnamon sugar, adding the chips and using dental floss to cut them after rolling them up.

Then we had fun acting silly, crooking our little fingers while drinking the tea, and speaking in haughty voices to Sir Beeps and Lady Ariana. :D

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Blech. A day of disappointments...with a happy ending?

Ugh. Yesterday was frustrating and today hasn't been much better, yet.

Our dishwasher broke a week or so ago, and installing the new one turned out to be a bit more difficult than anticipated.

Yesterday, a large deposit that had cleared was charged back to my account. Problem is, since I was told it had cleared, I had already made some electronic payments. Nearly two hours on the phone and one in person visit later, I think I may be able to avoid most of the associated fees. The cynic in me, however, notes that so far every person has had a different answer and timeline version, so it is possible that the next person I talk to will change things again.

Neither the kids nor I slept more than a few hours last night.

A good friend who is about to have three kids in daipers knew I liked cloth, and after a few questions ordered over $200 worth of FuzziBunz. She woke up this morning to a huge blow-out poop and all the mess and frustration that goes with that. She is so disappointed that she is planning to return the ones she didn't use. Rationally, I could maybe help troubleshoot so that she doesn't have that experience again. Irrationally, I feel as guilty as if I had stolen a couple of hundred dollars from her family.

Finally, I had been looking forward all week to using a gift certificate to get my hair cut and colored. Since I am normally a $7 Walmart do-it-yourself haircolorist and 3x/year Supercut person, going to this salon had me very excited. It is one of the fancy ones where the tip alone is nearly double my usual cut. They just called and cancelled. I'll have to reschedule, and that is always a pain.

I want a really, really good coffee drink, a long soak in the tub with lots of lavendar oil, Mexican food with corn tortillas, a good book, and most of all, lots of uninterrupted time with Carlos. I will settle for leftover coffee from this morning, however long a bath I can get before one of the kids urgently needs me ,no lavendar oil :( , a homemade taco with the only flour tortillas that are corn-free (Joel is allergic), maybe re-reading a few pages of an old book before the bath is interuppted, and as much time with Carlos as I can get, which will most likely be full of interruptions.

To put things in perspective, though, all the little disappointments are pretty minor. The kids, Carlos and I are all well, our needs and most of our wants are met. And Top Chef is on tonight. If it is cancelled for some reason, though, I just might throw a tantrum.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kindred Spirits?

If you are one of the bloggers on my list or if you have clicked on their posts, you may have smiled at my use of the term "kindred spirits". There have certainly been days when it made me chuckle a bit. We don't always see eye to eye on most issues, to put it mildly.

I am passionate about gentle discipline, some are very pro-spanking. I prefer child-led weaning, some are appalled at the idea of nursing a four year old. I am very happy that Obama is our next president, some are very disappointed. I love junk food, some are very careful about nutrition. House keeping is very low on my list of priorities, some keep their homes immaculate. My faith is at the core of who I am, some are atheists or pagan. I love steak, some are vegetarian. They use proper punctuation, and I often don't. I could go on and on citing our differences, both trivial and important. It is also likely that many of the issues I consider important are pretty minor to them and that some things I dismiss easily go much deeper for them. And of course, most of the time many will fall somewhere in the middle.

So why do I consider us kindred spirits? At the risk of dissolving into a syrupy, happy-flower-kitty-land post, it is all about love and acceptance. I think that we all share a deep and abiding love for our families, a desire to help our children grow into loving and disciplined people who will make this world a better place. The ladies whose blogs are listed are intelligent and thoughtful. They look penetratingly at issues and at themselves. They inspire me to grow. They have graciously accepted me, despite things that probably prompt some inward eye-rolling and maybe even provoke some challenging comments. They are the kind of people that I want to keep in my life. Besides, even Anne and Diana disagreed at times (particularly on baking powder advertisements).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

An interesting sensation that requires my full attention

Isn't that how Ina May describes a particularly painful contraction, er, rush? Or am I confusing the quote? Anyway, I had a horrible migraine today that fit that description, and all things considered, labor was far more pleasant. I was in class when my vision went all weird. I had blind spots and could only see out of a narrow part of my eye. The rest was some rather psychedelic (maybe that triggered the Ina May thought? ;)) shimmering geometric patterns. I kept thinking it would go away, but after about an hour it was still going on.

Silly me. This is a fairly legitimate reason to dismiss class, no? Did I even think of it? Nope. Not because of any virtuous concern for my students or anything. I was just not thinking logically or rationally. So I call Carlos in Spanish and explain the situation and ask him to pray for me. I've never had vision problems, but I'm wondering what is up with this freak vision thing. Almost immediately, my vision went back to normal. Then the headache and nausea hit. Oh, my. I actually did a reasonable facsimile of teaching for the next 40 minutes before the tiny little cell in my brain that is still functioning came up with the brilliant plan of letting class out. I still can't quite explain why this didn't occur to me earlier, but I feel pretty stupid.

Thank God, getting home, eating (despite the nausea) and a hot bath helped. All I can say is that those of you for whom this is a frequent occurrence have my most heart-felt sympathies. I never want to do that again. Besides, after labor I had a precious, wonderful baby. All I got out of this was a residual feeling of general yuckyness and a wasted afternoon.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Maybe I am growing?

Well, the boobs, waist (or what was once upon a time my waist) and hips seem to be constantly growing, and my arm flab waving in the breeze could knock over small children, but that isn't what I meant. I was thinking recently about ways that I've changed in the last several years. Besides turning into a crunchy leftover hippy ;). For people who knew me before, probably one of the most obvious differences is that I am getting more comfortable with being around a lot of people.

I've always been the anti-social one of the family. Not really a good thing when your parents and parents in law are pastors. I like people, at least most of them, but I love solitude. Give me an endless supply of good books, good coffee and good chocolate, and I could spend days without talking to anyone. Growing up, whether it was a family gathering or a church meeting, as soon as I could slip away I would hole up with a good book. I didn't even like birthday parties. Maybe I get overstimulated way too easily, because one on one situations are much easier for me, but I've always craved time alone.

My beloved husband, however, is much more social than I. He loves being hospitable and enjoys having parties at every opportunity. Somehow without me realizing it, this seems to have rubbed off on me, at least a little bit. Every semester we have several classes over for a movie night and I cook tons of chili. Most days we have friends and family stop by. We do parties for lots of occasions, both important and frivolous. And the surprise to me is how much more relaxed about it I have become, and how much I genuinely enjoy it. So, if you are in the area and don't mind a messy house, please come by. I'd enjoy your company. Of course, if you want to bring books, coffee and chocolate, I still enjoy them, too. ;) They might be even better when shared with a good friend.

Friday, November 7, 2008

My little lactivists and their Elmo doll

Overheard as the kidlets were playing this morning:

Joel: Elmo is hungry. I think he wants a taco.

Ariana: Joel, that's silly. Elmo can't eat tacos. He can only have leche.

Joel: Oh, yes. He's too little. Come here, Elmo, I give you leche.

Ariana: Joel, usually only girls give leche.

Joel: OK, Nana. You give Elmo leche.

Ariana: Alright. (lifts shirt and pretends to nurse Elmo doll for two seconds) OK, he's done. (throws Elmo on his head).

Joel: Now it's my turn. (lifts shirt and pretends to nurse for about 15 seconds). Elmo's crying, Nana. We need to pick him up. (pretends to nurse some more). Look, Elmo's happy! Now Elmo wants a toy. I sorry, Elmo, I don't have toy for you. (hugs Elmo tight) Hey, let's put Elmo in rocket ship!

Ariana: Got it! (commences tossing Elmo into the air) Now I am a butterfly, and I will take you away.

Joel: Oh, look. Elmo did peepee. The baby did poopies, Mami. (I wonder if someone--not Elmo--might have had an accident. Thank goodness, the carpet is clean.)

Ariana: It's cold out and raining. Quick! We have to bring the blanket with us, so we don't get wet.

Joel: (urgently) Elmo needs his jacket!

Ariana: In here! (motions under blanket)

All three are now snuggling together under their blanket. :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Under the shadow of His wings

Some of you know that my dad's youngest sister died this week. She was less than eight years older than I, and has two children, 7 and 5. Please, please pray for them and for her husband. I can't imagine the grief and heartbreak that they are going through.

I have a lot of memories of M. I will probably come back in the future and share some of them. As I have been praying for her husband and children, I keep getting mind-pictures of beautiful, shadowy wings. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure of the full significance, but it is a lovely and comforting image. I believe that M is healthy, secure and full of Life right now, soaring in heaven with her Father. I pray that her family feels the loving shelter of God's embrace as they pass under the shadows right now, and that they hold tight to Him.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Where am I?

That is the standard query after any lapse in consciousness according to fiction, and although I don't suffer from fainting spells or head injuries, I have a bad habit of letting my mental multi-tasking get away from me at times. This morning I was helping the kids make cranberry biscuits, thinking about Ariana's dental appointment today, assessing the temperature and wondering at what point we should close the windows, wondering why after nearly a year of being diaper-free Joel has suddenly started peeing on the floor, reminding myself that we need to wash the sheets, planning lunch and dinner and wondering if our afternoon guests will be staying for dinner and if so what I should fix, calculating whether I should start a load of diapers or if we have enough clean ones to make it till tomorrow, nursing Elena, and...where was I? Yeah. That happens often. While I am at it, I have grading that needs to be done and posted online, student emails to return, Ariana is excited about her new schoolbook and wants some help, Joel is thirsty and asked for something to drink, I need to pay my credit card, clean the kitchen and mop the floor, and...

Most days I roll with it pretty well, but if Carlos is late coming home, I start counting the minutes. By Saturday morning I am already thinking about when class will be over and I can have a weekend. Hey, I am already excited about Thanksgiving break, my birthday, and final exams!

In moderation, I think that the ability to plan ahead and to juggle tasks is a survival skill. The tricky part is not focusing so much on what comes next that I miss out on what is right now.

One of my favorite quotes from Jim Elliot (yeah, the same guy who said, "He is no fool...") says, "Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God." I need this. I am no Calvinist, but I believe strongly enough in God's sovreignty to feel peace that most the situations I am in fall into the category of "the will of God", and if they aren't, it is probably my own actions and attitudes that need changing.

So, maybe I can amend that mental to-do list, and include lots of time outs. I need them to breathe, to giggle with my little ones and snuggle close with my beloved hubby, to pray, and most of all, to listen--really listen without letting my mind wander. After all, being here is a pretty good place to be.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Apocalypse

To me, one of the most interesting by-products of all the general election craziness has been the doomsday prophecies. I have been stunned at the number of people I know who sincerely believe that life is over if Obama wins. I understand being upset if someone with whom you disagree wins. All the stuff implying that he is the Antichrist or that we will suddenly become a nation of communist-Muslim-terrorists (Inconceivable! I do not think that word means what you think it means, with a cheer for The Princess Bride. Please excuse the digression. My mind jumps track often.) sounds a bit hysterical, honestly.

I don't know when Jesus will come back. I don't know if it will be in my lifetime or hundreds or even thousands of years from now. I figure that we are all in for some surprises. I certainly don't claim to know it all, or even most of it. But, since this is my blog, I'll share my general beliefs. I don't take this personally, so feel free to be candid about any disagreements you have. My position could probably be characterized as a partial-preterist and optimistic amillenialist.

As a partial-preterist, I think that most of the events described in the Revelation have already taken place. I believe that much of it was fulfilled a couple of millenia ago. So I'm not anxiously awaiting the Great Tribulation or Antichrist, although I believe that there have been many times and places of tribulation and many spirits that are anti-Christ.

As an optimistic amillenialist, I see the Church as a glorious Bride. I remember being puzzled at times as a child when I was around people who bemoaned how terrible the world is. Their eschatology seemed to consist of "Just a few more weary days and then I'll fly away...". I've heard a lot of despair and fear lately. Is the Church truly that defeated? Must she cower under the covers and beg to be rescued because she is helpless and unable to cope in this world? What a pitiful outlook!

A life-verse for our family has been Jer. 31:17, "There is hope for your future, declares the Lord". (And no, I didn't bring it up just because my political candidate has hope as a theme. Although I agree whole-heartedly that as Christians we have been choosing hope over fear for the last two thousand years.) :) I believe that God wants us to change the world, not be defeated by it. I have hope that as we live out the truths we have been taught that God's kingdom will come, His will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.