Category Archives: Uncategorized

Strawberries at the Farmer’s Market


There will be plenty of seasons where weekends mean spring cleaning, errand running, organizing, preparing, and taking care of household business. But these days of little ones, it is a season of slow and present weekends. Moments spent outside watching them discover the new life that has sprung from the depths of winter. Tripping over messes that trend towards chaos, always. Places that heighten their senses and fill them with curiosity like trips to the farmers market, the forest preserve, and the playground on repeat. It means doing everything as a family because the days when they want to go their own way will come too soon. This season is full of putting my reflexive type-A conditioning on the back burner, because I have spent 30 years of my life dreaming of this and I don’t want to miss one fleeting, sun-kissed, strawberry-juice-dripping-down-their-chin lick of it. Because it only lasts a short season and I want to soak the moments in so deeply that they change me in the very best way. #motherhoodmusings #sweetsummertime #dontblink

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the grandeur of trees

fall 2013


praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. to be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all. — buddha

when we moved into our house, it was not on the list of realtor highlights: beautiful front yard tree, wide canopy, provides privacy, shade, and delight. will not be swayed by storms but will sprinkle abundant, pointed, leafy confetti in late autumn. its roots apparent in the ground it has erupted to grow deeply. it will greet you every morning, with the sunrise cascading from behind it’s fullness to reach your windows. it will bid goodnight each evening with a bow. and every 4th of july, when you sit on the roof to watch the fireworks, for one night a year you will feel like holding hands with its outstretched grandeur. unlike any other, it will captivate your heart forever.

what is it about the love of the only tree in our front yard that could bring us to our knees when the dreaded red “x” showed up on it, a symbol the town uses to indicate trees that appear to be infested with the emerald ash borer. our hearts broke to find it marked one recent day in march.

its days were numbered. we danced around it on sunny days. we colored it in sidewalk chalk, like an ancient ritual. we sat against it. we traced our fingers along its bark. we poured out the love we had for it in any way we knew how (which i admit is limited). we sat in awe of its grandness.


and yesterday our beloved tree was cut down. the only one at home to witness it was our dear Tiki. as we drove up we glanced across the sun-drenched front yard, barren, missing its lifetime partner. a perfect symbiotic relationship to all the other living things in radius.

there was something special about this tree that we remarked about every year, especially in the spring when we would comment on its beauty in budding. and again in the autumn as we would wait patiently for the late drop of all its leaves. we were connected. our family, our home, that tree. 

to being and becoming

  
“the work of being and the friction of becoming are inextricably knit together.” // mark nepo

i picked up Mr. Nepo’s book, The Endless Practice, at the library this week and it is balm for my soul. he is poignant and graceful with his words and conveys such peace with his reflections on the inner life we are bound to honor.

enjoy your spring weekend! here’s to being and becoming.

Princess Snack Mix Recipe

  
It was family movie night and she had decided on Tangled – the Disney movie about the princess Rapunzel. She loves the storybook version of her long hair (and often remarks about how her own hair is short) and enjoys the mostly upbeat story line with very few scary parts (a requirement for movie picking these days).

We had been talking about it all week. Friday would be movie night! The excitement was building. Each day we’d talk about ways we would make it special — getting into jammies, pulling pillows and blankets into the living room, and making a special treat to eat on the couch.

After tossing around a few ideas, we settled on what we called a Princess Snack Mix. A perfect mix of sweet & salty, it would consist of rice chex, pretzel sticks, and white popcorn drizzled with white chocolate. It was delicious! And half the fun was making it together with both of them on the Learning Tower taking turns scooping and pouring and drizzling. Oh and snagging lots of tastes along the way!

The recipe is below. The only thing that made our snack particularly “princessy” was that we dyed half of the white chocolate purple and half yellow to match the color themes of our particular princess movie. For Frozen you could do blue & white, Cinderella could be blue and yellow, etc.

Here’s to many happy family movie nights!

Princess Sweet & Salty Snack Mix

Ingredients:

  • rice chex, 2 cu.
  • pretzel sticks, 2 cu.
  • popcorn, 2 cu (I air pop 1/3 cu popcorn kernels which makes plenty)
  • white chocolate candies/chips, 12 oz bag

Directions:

  1. Spread each of the dry ingredients on a foil-lined baking sheet and toss to mix
  2. Pour melted white chocolate chips over mixture and stir to coat
  3. Let harden for about 20 minutes before serving

Recipe adapted from here: http://bloomdesignsonline.com/2012/03/make-it-monday-bunny-bait.html

wild love.

  [21 months/ 3-29-16]

when he tugged on the plant leaf in curiosity and tipped the ceramic planter onto the hard wood floor this morning, i almost broke his spirit along with that old planter. soil scattered wide and two pieces of ceramic. i looked at his eyes to see if he had recognized what had been done. with a harsh tone, i told him that he broke it. YAH he said half smiling, not knowing what else to say. i pressed hard to hold back any further words in my impatience. you see, he wasn’t supposed to be home with me today. today was an assigned daycare day. a break for mama to accomplish things. but he was feeling under the weather. so mama got a sidekick. the kind that fling food at mealtimes and cling close at cleaning time and beg to be a butterfly in the breeze, outside 24/7. already upset at the detour in plans, i found myself low on tolerating his toddler antics and the curiosity that cracked the house plant.

but i slowed down.

“s l o w i t d o w n” i internalized.

because when i pause, when i go half as fast, i notice twice as much.

and so i went to the sink to dump out the spilled soil. i looked closely at the broken pottery and reconsidered my plan to trash it as i fumbled through the junk drawer for crazy glue. below me i heard a “mama mama!” and when i glanced towards him, he showed me the children’s broom pan he had dug out of the bin we keep in reach just for them. he was proud, and i realized in that moment, i didn’t need to speak any harsh words.  a reflex, does it do anyone a bit of good? we’re all just doing the best we know how, one damned step at a time. And that wisdom rings true, the wisdom to only speak words that make souls stronger: “When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger.“ Ephesians 4:29 (NCV).

his pride, his stance with his broom pan — it was the grace that swept me into a new realm. I knelt and smiled and praised and loved wild. We searched for the missing broom piece. and without any prompting, I saw him walk over to the mess and get down to business, scooping the dirt with the pan — the best he knew how. And I encouraged him wildly.

Adventures in Baby Purees: Pumpkin & Banana

    
    
    

pictures from age 9 months

 
Sweet & earthy, pumpkin provides a beautiful groundedness to the sweetness of overripe bananas. This recipe makes perfect use of browning bananas that get too mushy or soft to eat, otherwise.  I always keep a can of pureed pumpkin in my pantry.  That makes this recipe so low-maintenance and one of the reasons I love it so much and have been making on the regular since he’s started solids. And it’s a welcome food when he’s not feeling well or recovering, a delicate flavor with both ingredients being gentle and restorative to the digestive system.Pumpkins are loaded with potassium, fiber, beta carotene, & iron. One hiccup – this one can’t be frozen. But he almost always eats this faster than I can keep it around anyway!

Baby Food Details

Current Age: 12 months

Recipe:  “Yummy Bananas and Pumpkin ” recipe from the website “Wholesome Baby Food

Likes/Dislikes: He loves it! It pairs well with a solid creamy greek yogurt.  He will really eat this any time of day/ any day of the week! It is an all-time favorite here.

Happy adventuring!

Finding Meaning in ‘the pits’: Sick seasons with Babies & Toddlers

Alternatively titled: how to not beat yourself up when the kids are sick
I don’t have a good picture of what it looks like for everyone to be sick. But this cup of dandelion root tea will have to do. Liver cleansing. 

A few months ago I wrote a post about breastfeeding through the flu. I wish I could say it has been smooth sailing since then but it has been anything but smooth.  You name it we’ve had it this past sick season: flu, ear infections, thrush, RSV, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, more ear infections, more thrush, pink eye, coxsackie virus, more flu (thanks for nothing flu vaccine), strep pneumonia, and stomach virus. Don’t think for a minute that I think this is anywhere near over (the flu in April — really?!). Oh no I’ve learned better than that now.

Each time one set of sicknesses leaves us, I take a deep breath and start to mend my tattered sail. I might even pat myself on the back for a short moment: “Whew you made it through that one, mama. Look at you, stronger than you knew!” I start looking at the map again, “where are we? where were we going? let’s get going!”  I might even start to move along the choppy seas again, trying to find my rhythm after the storm. But before I get too comfy in my cautious optimism, the next storm comes out of nowhere. Another child down for the count. The sail that I thought was mended breaks much more easily this time and in more spots. And I am once again trying to navigate the storms of illness, weary and ill-equipped. My boat feels like it is about to tip over, turn wide, dip deep & fill with water. I can’t find the balance. 

The worst part is that I am such a problem solver that I think everything that goes wrong can and should be fixed. So I obsess about cause and effect. I beat myself up over every mis-step.

The doubts come fast and heavy, flooding and drown me. Are we not washing hands frequently enough? Is there something wrong with my breastmilk? I thought breastfed babies have higher immunity. Am I giving them the right kind of vitamins? Enough vitamins? Enough healthy food? Should we be using that antibacterial soap with the triclosan in it? Am I cleaning those pesky humidifiers often enough? Spirals and cycles of relentless self-doubt pound my sail in a deluge, adding to the heaviness of it all.

But I have discovered, through these storms, self-knowledge along the way and here’s the heart of it: the self-doubt is a dead-end. It is darkness and it is dizzying.  Trust — in a divine plan, an infinite intelligence — is healing, it is living breathing balm for soul that covers over, forgives, and finds a way to journey on in light and in love. Without blame or guilt or shame. In the loving embrace of a Heavenly Father, we can find peace. He carries us through the darkest hours & never grows weary.

So I hold tight and anchor my boat to Him. I turn off my mind that wants to reason and argue, blame and shame. And I promise myself not to try to explain the unexplainable, the seas ever-changing. The squalls come but I am anchored to the One whose peace runs deepest and I embrace whatever arises. I cease cursing the wind and rain, instead pausing to be with it and acknowledge its life force — fierce & consuming. My sail may get tattered but His healing Love never ends.  I breathe, long and slow, and drink my dandelion tea. And I remember that this storm is not bigger than Him.

Our Halloween Candy Solutions

“I’m two and a HALF!” she says.

Last week, at 2 1/2 years old, we took our daughter trick or treating for the first time! She could not have been a happier Minnie Mouse, walking from house to house with her 2 1/2 year old little friend, knocking on doors. And jumping in leaf piles, of course.

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Little legs can only walk so far so we decided to only visit about 10 houses. But when each house gave out 2-3 pieces of candy, well, she ended up with a pretty full bucket and the dilemma set in for Husband and I….what to do with all that candy?

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Here are a few ideas we came up with (we went with #1 this year and it was a big success).

1. Invite the Switch Witch – The Switch Witch poem as described in <a href=”http://www.natural.bm/kids/susie-switch/”>this poem </a> is a good witch that visits children’s homes on Halloween night and while the children sleep, she takes (not steals, she is an invited guest) the candy that the children leave for her while leaving a toy in its place. Husband and I both loved this idea and think that this age is perfect for a fairy-tales, with all their wonder and awe. After dinner on Halloween night, we let her choose a treat to eat (naturally, a lollipop) and then shared with her the poem. She was very excited about the “fitch witch” and was very curious, asking me questions throughout bath time. Then it was time to choose her candy. We let her keep seven pieces, placed carefully in a pumpkin bag that was protected by mom & dad (“fitch witch not get this, ok mommy?”) and the rest of her loot was in her bucket on a little table in her room. She made sure to tell me that she would prefer if Susie did not take her festive bucket, please. And then proceeded to hide under the covers because “don’t want her to pinch!” I gently reminded her that Susie is a friendly witch. She slept so soundly and in the morning was delighted to find that Susie left her bucket (!) and a dress-up pair of Minnie Mouse light-up high heels! And she doesn’t miss the candy a bit with the seven pieces she set aside to enjoy during the week. It was the perfect extra touch to make Halloween extra special. [Warning: I can imagine this might go over differently depending on the child’s disposition so be sure to ask the child first if they would like to invite Susie or not – no use scaring them, otherwise!]

2. Donate it – This can be a great lesson on giving for children of all ages. There are many national and local initiatives that work to collect and distribute donated candy to less fortunate children and troops. Some places to look into include your church/temple/place of worship, <a href=”https://www.operationgratitude.com/halloween-candy-buy-back-2012/”>Operation Gratitude</a>, <a href=”https://operationshoebox.com/how-you-can-help/candy-donations/”>Operation Shoebox</a>, and Ronald McDonald houses.

3. Bake – The amount of sugar and chocolate can just be overwhelming when it is sitting a big bucket all together. But diluted with some good wholesome ingredients, can still be enjoyed without the feeling of overindulgence. Some fun ideas include these <a href=”http://abc.go.com/shows/the-chew/recipes/candy-bag-banana-treats-clinton-kelly”>candy bag banana treats </a>(maybe substitute the chocolate chips with carob to make it a little healthier), <a href=”http://cookiesandcups.com/snickers-popcorn/”>snickers popcorn</a>. Or toss those extra skittles, M&Ms, and candy corn with some nuts & dried fruit for a festive trail mix.

4. Host an Adult Wine & Candy Pairing Event – I love the idea of adults mixing their youth with their maturity and what says that better than Halloween candy & wine?

Cheers to a happily-ever-after Halloween!

A Summer State of Mind: Mango Black Bean Salsa

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Note: So I actually wrote this post at the end of September & considering Halloween is less than 10 days away now — that fact may help put the first sentence into context! I’m still trying to find a rhythm with blogging and hope to get there soon.

It is officially Fall, there is a chill in the morning Chicago air, Halloween costumes are on sale, and the aisles are lined with candy and caramel apples. In our house, we are heaving one last summery gasp as we hold tight to a summer that seems to have passed in a blink.  Our first few weeks of summer were spent in anticipation for our sweet second baby to join us, long days spent at the park to pass time, holding hands, clamy & tight. Then he arrived!! And the next few weeks were spent inside mostly, getting to know our new dude. And as anyone experiencing a brand new life knows, thieves of time in all their adorableness, you blink and a season has passed.  Longing to have more days filled with hot sun, root beer floats, a ballgame hot dog, and smores, we continue right on making the flavors that keep us steady and unmoving in the season of our minds.  Some flavors we really soaked up this summer included fresh cilantro, mangos, and limes.  And this recipe has just the combination that takes our palette to a summer state of mind. 

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Inspiration for this recipe came from here. It’s easy to make a few days ahead to let the flavors marry or day-of (just as tasty) and load it on top of grilled chicken and a bed of rice.  This salsa can be fairly quick to whip together with all the ingredients easy to keep handy in the pantry. The only limiting factor I tend to have is the cilantro (time to grow my own?). Otherwise, that is the thing I always have to run to the market for.

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And while I certainly could use a little work on “respecting the seasons” as Mario Batalli would say, for now, I’ll take this last gasp of summer & savor it all for the moment.

Tagged

Mexican Enchiladas: A Dinner Plus Freezer Meal

Last night I made Mexican Enchiladas from the Weelicious “One Family, One Meal” cookbook. I borrowed the book from the library this week and so far, I’m loving it. It has great ideas for tasty recipes – ones that are healthy, but not too involved or requiring rare ingredients I don’t have at home.

When I flipped to the recipe for Mexican Enchiladas, I knew immediately I needed to make it the next day. It called for shredded chicken which was perfect since I had some leftover grilled chicken hanging out in the fridge. Also, the author suggested it’s a great one to double and freeze the surplus. Right up my alley as I prepare to go back to work and wonder how we will manage to get dinner on the table half the week (now accepting all easy-to-implement tips…).

So I ran to the store to purchase a few ingredients. Below is a run down of the ingredients and what they cost at my local market:

Yellow onion: $1
Red bell pepper: $2 (only because I chose organic for this)
Garlic: $0.50
Chicken: $7
Frozen Corn: $2
Shredded cheese, mexican blend: $3
Enchilada Sauce: $3
Flour Tortillas: $3

Things I keep in my pantry: $0
olive oil
kosher salt
ground cumin

Total Cost: $21.50 (serves 3-4, $6/person)

The Results
This recipe was simple and straightforward to make. To shred the chicken (something not described in the instructions), I chopped up the grilled chicken I had in my refrigerator and threw it in the food processor. It was a bit smaller than shredded, per se, but it worked great with the recipe. My 2 1/2 year old thought the enchilada sauce was too spicy so I ended up just giving her the filling (which didn’t touch the sauce) and mixing it with some rice for her. She gobbled that up which is a big win in my book because it was filled with vegetables and protein! My husband, the guy who typically orders enchiladas at the mexican restaurant on date night (so he knows a thing or two about good enchiladas), gave it 2 thumbs up, even going back for seconds!

When a recipe can make Dad & Toddler happy, this Mom calls it a success! Oh and bonus – I have a batch in the freezer for the end of the month when I head back to work!

This was my first time making (&eating – eek! is that a chef faux pas?) enchiladas. What I didn’t realize is that not every enchilada recipe has vegetables in the filling so the recipe got more bonus points from me when I found this out! Having the vegetables was a big draw for me — the bell pepper and corn gave it a great crunch and punch of nutrition.

Next up, inspired by this mama, I’d like to try these ranch chicken enchiladas to see if they might entice Michaela with the milder but still tasty flavors.

Have you made enchiladas for the whole family before? If so, which versions were a hit? Did you make extra batches for the freezer?

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