Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Beautiful Mess

From January 1, 2014:

I am feeling melancholy. By definition, there is no obvious cause for this feeling of sadness. Perhaps it is the result of reading a friend's post about becoming a widow last week. It was truly sad but I'm not sure it is the cause of this lingering sadness. My life at this point could even garner proof for the source of my feelings. That is if you don't look beyond the surface. Yes, we have hit hard times and yes, we have been in a financially depressed state for almost 5 years. Despite that, we have our home and continue to meet our mortgage obligations, we have food, we have clothes to wear,  we are more often than not healthy and we are still an intact family. I would say, that despite all our trials and difficulties, we are still very blessed.

Hindsight is always 20/20. If my 20 year old self could know the current outcome of my decisions, I doubt I would have made many of the decisions that brought me to this place. I could avoid the college debt and have picked a vocation. I haven't used my degree yet. Most of the job skills I possess don't require me to have a college degree. I could have chosen a more appropriate degree, maybe getting one in education. I could have been more materialistic and married for wealth instead of for love. I could have put off the physical deterioration into which pregnancy and child birth catapulted me. My husband and I could have accepted the job offer that would have moved us halfway across the country and away from every support person we knew.

Hindsight may be 20/20, but life isn't a sterile lab. If I had made all the "right" choices, I would have missed my partner in life. We would never have created 3 adorably challenging humans. I would be very superficial without any of the roots I have been forced to develop. My friends and family may look at my life, shake their head and say all the "if only's" that they want. I would not be the woman of character that I am today if I had not made some of the "mistakes" that I have made in my life. My challenges have forced me to dig down deeper, to hold on to the things in my life that matter: my faith, my marriage and my family. I am thankful that we do not see the future with 20/20 vision because I am not certain that I would have been brave enough to make the decisions that led me to this place.We have had some lean years, but that has only forced us to be grateful for what we do have.

This is the first year that we didn't spend money on gifts. As a result, I got to see my 7 year old create gifts for her family that were filled with thoughtfulness and love. I received the most adorably "simple" jewelry stand from my 5 year old. He and his dad created it with two pieces of wood, a handful of nails, some staples and red and gold craft paint. My boy received a life experience when he hit his poor little hand with the hammer, but he also had the satisfaction of creating something for his mom. My 9 year old amazed me with her sewing skills. I would have missed all of these blessings if we had just bought gifts. The funny thing is, I don't think anyone believed me when I said we were okay with not spending money on gifts.

My prayer and fervent wish is that we could move beyond our current challenges. I am ready for a season of growth and abundance. Even so, when that season of life comes to us again, I hope that I don't loose sight of the wisdom and lessons I have learned during our lean winter-like years.

Trite as it may seem, the cure for feelings of melancholy is counting your blessings*.

"When I'm worried and I can't sleep,
I count my blessings instead of sheep and
I fall asleep counting my blessings.
When my bankroll is getting small, 
I think of when I had none at all and
I fall asleep counting my blessings.

I think about a nursery
and I picture curly heads and
one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds.

If you're worried and you can't sleep,
just count your blessings instead of sheep
and you'll fall asleep counting your blessings."

*This is not a medical statement, if you are feeling melancholy, depressed, in crisis or suicidal, please seek out the advice of a medical or mental health professional. You can also contact the national crisis lifeline or a local Oregon hotline.
If your

It's Been A Long Time

I returned looking for some menu ideas. I had a vague recollection that I had posted some of our weekly menus on this blog. I did find a few, but what I hadn't expected to find was several memories from my children's early years. I think they will chuckle over some of the stories. I was also shocked to find some of the stories had much more detail than I remember.

So I've decided that I'm going to try and post a little more often. I'm finding my other social media venues are lackluster and chaotic. Here is to a simplified online profile!

Weekly menu:

Thursday ~ Little Man's birthday inspired by Five Guys Burgers & Fries
    Burgers, Fries and Peanut Appetizer

Friday ~ Fish, Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Baked Yams and Salad

Saturday ~ Spring Rolls and Chicken Stir Fry followed by
Vanilla Cake and Root Beer Ice Cream

Sunday ~ Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Monday ~ Chicken Cacciatore

Tuesday ~ TBA

Wednesday ~ TBA

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sean ~ A Leprechaun Among Us

Sean noticed the pretty young woman the moment she walked in the door. She was the same one who had come to observe him the week before. He had enjoyed watching her reactions to his shenanigans. If he was so inclined, he might even decide to like her. Although he would have to be careful. Humans could be problems and she would definitely be one of those if she decided to pay too much attention to him. She was smart and might just be a match for his wit, but probably not.

Sean had been attending kindergarten for the last 20 years. Child welfare made it much easier to explain why he didn't have parents. The others thought that he was crazy. That he took too many risks. None of the others would even consider spending so much time around humans. But Sean couldn't get enough of the looks on the teachers' faces when they tried to figure out how to control him. He loved wreaking havoc and playing tricks on the humans.

"Alright children, we are going to go to our tables and work on a project. We are going to walk calmly and sit down. Then we will sit in the learning position while Mrs. Sandy gives us instructions. Okay, please quietly go to your seats."

Sean bolted up from the carpet and purposely shoved the children. He ran to his chair and then began shoving the chair of the little girl behind him.

"Sean, please sit down in your chair."

Sean complied only to jump up and run to the front of the classroom to grab a pencil box. They couldn't get after him if he looked like he was doing something necessary. Oh the glee! Being naughty while doing what you were supposed to be doing. The teachers never knew exactly how to handle that. They would stare at you a little perplexed. Sean stuck out his arms and started careening around the room as if he had been a plane shot down. He came around to his aisle and saw two children sitting in chairs that weren't pushed all the way to the table. He took the opportunity to annoy the children and started shoving their seats. If the teacher tried to get after him, he would just say that he was trying to put the chairs back.

"Sean, please sit down now!"

Sean reluctantly left his play to go back to his seat. It never paid to make the humans too agitated. Last time he did that he ended up in the principal's office. He had led her on a merry trail of discontent until she threatened to call his mother. He couldn't have that. He'd have to find another foster family before she could call home and he had been putting it off.

The class was making butterflys out of heart shapes. Sean gleefully began cutting. He would just cut it all up into shreds of confetti. The teacher's aide would get all frazzled that her instructions weren't being followed exactly. It was almost too easy to upset her. Sean had amassed a pile of yellow that would rival his secret stash at home.

"Sean! What are you doing? Please collect all the scraps and place them in the recycling container."
"Right now!"

Aye, too easy indeed. Sean picked up some of the scraps and walked over to the trash can. He wasn't about to give them what they wanted. He started to throw the pieces in the trash but he saw something shiny at the bottom. He tried to reach for it but his short body began to pitch into the trash can. He ended up with his feet sticking out of the trash can wriggling around. The class room erupted in laughter. Sean was a little miffed that they were laughing at him. He hadn't done it on purpose after all. The shiny object wasn't even gold, just a piece of shiny, metallic plastic that had been wrapped around a candy.

When Sean emerged from the trash can, he instantly forgot his ire. The teacher was standing aghast with her jaw hanging open. She snapped it shut and immediately tried to control the situation. Quickly trying to quiet the children so that they wouldn't offend Sean's feelings. Sean waited stoically. He bided his time. He went back to his desk and retrieved the other scraps, slowly making his way back to the trash can. He waited until the teacher wasn't looking any more. He waited until he caught the attention of the little boy who would make the most noise. He smiled at him and nodded his head toward the trash can. Then quicker than a wink, he dove head first back into the trash can with his legs wiggling to and fro.

The little boy shouted with laughter and the class quickly followed. It turned into a classroom of 5 year olds all consumed with uncontrollable laughter. Sean smiled even as the teacher retrieved him again from the trash can. The young woman, who had remained quiet during the entire episode, quietly walked out the door.

"Alright, class, our project is over. Let's line up for recess."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Jesse ~ A short story

Jen clutched the clipboard and released a nervous sigh. Looking around the halls, smelling the familiar scents, took her right back to her own days in elementary school. All the technological advances and changes in current events didn't change the feeling of school. She stopped in front of the door to classroom 11. With a deep breath she entered and gave a little wave to the teacher to let him know that she had arrived. She glanced down at her clipboard and looked at the subjects name: Jesse Anderson. She looked at her watch and recorded the start time on her clipboard.

"Hey, you coming to watch us today," one of the little boys shouted the moment he saw her.

The teacher's aide casually walked over to the young boy and gave Jen a signal. So much for remaining unseen. Her subject had been the first to notice her arrival. Jen moved to the bookcase in the middle of the room and did her best to keep her eyes on the kindergartner without letting him know that she was watching only him. She made a mark on the chart indicating that her subject had gotten out of his spot and another mark to indicate that it was to gain attention.

The students were arranged in a group on a large area carpet with an alphabet design. Each child sat on one of the letters. It helped them maintain their own space and not crowd the other students. Her subject managed to stay in his spot the rest of the time at carpet.

The teacher directed the students back to their group tables. They quickly sat down and chatted until the teacher got their attention to show them their craft project.

"I will give you a bag and a piece of paper. First, I want you to cut out the thumb on the paper. Then, I want you to glue it to the bag." The teacher took a pre-cut "thumb" and showed the students where to affix it to the bag. The teacher's aide passed out the materials while the teacher was giving the instructions. "Please get out your scissors and begin."

Jen stifled giggles as she watched the class using their scissors. Some students had great eye to hand coordination and managed to cut out the shape fairly accurately. One of the young boys, however, kept cutting until his "thumb" was nothing more than a speck.  Jen had to restrain her natural instinct to interfere as she saw her subject, Jesse, cutting the air next to a little girl's braids. She cringed as he got closer and closer, waiting for him to actually cause some damage. He wasn't staying on task, which was one of the behaviors she was looking for, but she couldn't mark it because he had stayed in his chair. She could only record behaviors if he wasn't staying where he was supposed to be. Thankfully, he decided to start cutting his paper instead. Jesse made a jagged mess that didn't resemble anything. The next step was to glue it to his bag.

Jesse opened his supply box and pulled out his glue stick. He tried to pull off the cap. He turned the glue stick around and tried pulling the lid off with his other hand. Jen held her breath trying to keep the laughter at bay. He managed to stay a full five minutes in his seat only because he struggled the whole time to get the cap off of his glue stick.

Jen couldn't handle it any longer and got the aide's attention. The aide walked over to Jen.
"Can I help you?"
"Could you please help him? He can't get his glue open."
The aide walked over to Jesse and had to use some force to remove the cap. She handed the glue back to the kindergartner and walked over to assist another student before making her way back to Jen.
"Why did you have me open that for him? He isn't supposed to be gluing yet."
"He already cut out his thumb. You just can't recognize it."
Both women turned their attention back to the young boy.

Jen couldn't help it, a small giggle escaped. He was coating his white paper bag with the purple glue stick. The teacher intervened and assisted Jesse with the thumb.
"Let's set it right here and let it dry a little while."

The teacher walked to the front of the room with a stack of papers. "Okay class, when you are done with your thumb, you can come and get this paper with your animals on it."

The whole class rushed to the front of the room regardless of whether they were supposed to or not. The kindergartners shoved and pushed. Jesse scolded another student for taking his paper. Jen was amazed at how mean they could be to each other.

The teacher intervened and order was restored for a brief moment. That was until Jesse decided to pretend he was an airplane that needed to crash land into the little girl next to him. In the moments of chaos that this caused, Jen's timer reached 20 minutes. Her observation was over. Time to move to the next classroom. She quietly exited with a small wave to the teacher's aide. Jen felt bad for leaving the other adults to handle the mess. She could tell that the teacher's aide wanted to walk out the door right behind her.

Jen went back to her borrowed "office". It used to be a supply closet and was the only space that the school could lend her. She organized her thoughts and jotted some notes on her observation.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


I recently posted a comment on facebook that was entirely inspired by my desire for more. I know that it isn't bad to dream and have plans. I also realize that, in this season of my life, some dreams encourage me to be less grateful of the things that I already have.

"I am counting my blessings instead of gripes. I am blessed to live in a country where it is affordable to have socks. I am blessed that I have so many socks that sorting them is an option. I am blessed that even though I have a large pile that never seems to find its mate, I still have socks to wear. I am also blessed that I have the resources to wash these socks..."

All the lonely singles...

You see, I have this pile of socks that drives me insane. My perfectionistic tendencies really shine when socks are involved. I want them to all match perfectly, have no irregular mud stains, and have no socks left single. Anyone who has ever had more than 2 socks knows that this is never possible. So in the meantime, I have two options. Leave all the socks out on the couch so that I can maximize the number of sock matches during our never ending laundry OR hide them in a cloth bag hanging in the closet and pretend they don't exist. This led me to fantasize about having a room that could be fully devoted to laundry. A beautiful, breezy, clean, magazine worthy room that could be added to my other dream room, a dedicated craft room. Midway through my dream, I realized how greedy I was being. I don't think it is wrong to have those things. I also don't think it is wrong to want those things and to dream about them. But my motivation was wrong. I was motivated by those grumpy, griping feelings that I was allowing to fester. Those perfectionistic grumblings that my socks were not living up to my expectations.

I know it is extreme and uncomfortable, but I needed it in those moments. So, brace yourselves. I pictured those African orphans with the distended bellys and sockless feet. Children with hungry eyes that see right through you. Images that relief organizations throw at us because they know we will throw money right back at them just to get them to leave us alone. They didn't ask for their plight. They often don't even have homes, let alone dreams for a dedicated laundry or craft room.  (Consider sponsoring a child)

"How long will these people treat me with contempt?
How long will they refuse to believe in me,
in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?"
Numbers 14:11

You see, I'm a dreamer. It's the way God made me. Yet, I've been reading a lot about the Israelites. If you aren't familiar or it's been a while since you read some of those old stories, they were often a bunch of complaining, greedy, selfish and ungrateful people. My dreaming was not lofty dreams of what ifs and maybe somedays, but  why don'ts and not good enoughs. The moments that I posted those words on facebook were centering. By looking outside of myself, I was able to remember that this world and life are not all about me. There are others who have greater need, more desperate situations, less resources and face life with a steady grace. I was able to see that I have bounty and wealth despite my current economic struggles. I want to be a grateful dreamer, not an Israelite that gets bored with God's provision and demands something more and better.

I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
Psalm 63:4-5

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mmmm...What's for Dinner?

I have a dear friend whose husband has been informed that he must get in better health. She is a crazy busy high school teacher. So busy that, I often don't see her for the nine months that school is in session unless I make arrangements to get together. Then we try to see each other as much as we can during summer vacation.

Well, that being said, I have decided to try and research some easy (or tasty or both easy and tasty) recipes for her.

Tonight we had one of my own creations for dinner, Southwestern Quinoa. Quinoa is a great grain. It is gluten free and a complete protein. (If you haven't heard of it before, Jen Cafferty's article will give you some good information on it.) I love the nutty flavor of Quinoa and the slightly crunchy texture. To the usual black beans, corn and red pepper, I added hominy. My daughter saw it in the Mexican aisle at our local grocery store and wanted to try it. The kids ate this well (but my kids eat anything). This dish is different than most of the quinoa salad recipes that I find online because it is served warm and I did not add any acid(i.e. vinegar or citrus juice). Variations could include adding avocado/guacamole, sour cream, salsa, cheese. Really the options are limitless.

Southwestern Quinoa

1 Cup of organic red Quinoa (pictured, but any quinoa can be used)
2 Cups water*
2 beef bouillon*
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder**
1/2 tsp garlic powder**
7 oz (1/2 can) black beans
7 oz (1/2 can) corn
1/2 cup red pepper, reserve remaining red pepper
1/2 cup hominy, optional
1/2 cup cilantro, optional

Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a fine mesh sieve to remove the bitter protective coating. Put quinoa in a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and bouillon or 2 cups of broth. Add chili powder, onion powder and garlic powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed (about 20 min). Remove from heat. Add lid to retain heat if you still need prep time. Salt and pepper to taste. (I didn't add any salt because the boullion has some in it and we don't use a lot of salt.)

To cooked quinoa, add black beans, corn and 1/2 cup of red pepper. Reserve the rest of the red pepper to serve as crudites. I added about 1/2 cup of hominy and 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro. Stir and serve immediately, or refrigerate and serve cold. Garnish with pieces of fresh cilantro. Any of the amounts can be decreased or increased based on your preference. Makes 4 - 1 cup servings or 8 - 1/2 cup servings.

Suggested variations: cheese, queso fresco, guacamole, avocado slices, tomato, sour cream, salsa, green chilies, hot peppers, ground cayanne pepper, sriracha
*replace water and bouillon with 2 cups beef broth, reduce to 1 bouillon cube to reduce sodium to 282 mg per serving
**replace onion and garlic powders with 1/4 cup diced onion and 1 minced clove of garlic

I served this with a side of hominy (warmed up with 1/2 Tbsp butter, dash of salt and pepper),and red pepper and jicama crudites.

Nutritional Data: 1 Cup - Cal 226.4, Fat 3g, Chol 0g, Sodium 509.6mg*, Carbs 40g, Dietary Fiber 7g, Sugar 2.37g, Protein 8.9g, Vitamin A 7.5%, C 23.25%, Calcium 3%, Iron 15.25%   5 pts Weight Watchers Points Plus 

Friday, June 1, 2012


We were given a dresser and mirror by Mark's Aunt and Uncle. It sat in our house for a couple of months before I got around to cleaning it and putting it to use. I used some Stanley Wood Cleaner on the dresser, changed the contact paper and filled it with the girls clothes. Uh oh! No sooner had I finished then, we started finding stink bugs in the girls room. The girls were terrified. The beetles would hiss and charge at you. It was actually quite funny at times. After killing 3-4 a day and finally taking the dresser apart to make sure we had found them all, we were debugged. Now that it is warm, I took it apart again and took it all outside to give it a face lift. A coat of Kilz, two coats of Rose Sharon paint and some purple detailing paint and the dresser looks completely different. The girls are in heaven.

Just to keep them grounded, I stenciled on "True Beauty comes from a heart that serves GOD". I know that they may not recognize the truth of those words for years to come, but I hope that it plants a seed. Natalia has been very sure to show everyone she can her skill in reading the new words at the bottom of the mirror.