Monthly Archives: March 2014

Learning the Ways of the Force

My husband warned me if I posted this I might loose all my readers due to extremely nerdy content. I apologize in advance!

 

A few months ago as I was thumbing through the DVDs at our library I was thrilled to come across Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I loved that movie as a kid! I could hardly wait to find a night to watch it with my boys. Pirates, an old flying car, a castle, Dick Van Dyke…what’s not to love?? It’s a classic! The night came and we all sat on our couch with popcorn bowls. It didn’t take long before my boys were in a panic. Who would have guessed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would be too scary? I suppose I should have known (the kid snatcher, hellooo Mom!) given our track record with movies. My kids are scared of anything moving on screen. Babe: No way. The Fox and the Hound: Didn’t make it through the first five minutes. Toy Story: Baaad idea. Winnie the Pooh: I’m not even kidding. Too scary. After my Chitty Chitty Bang Bang attempt I’d pretty well resigned myself to Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood forever more (at least Fred Rodgers is one of my favorite people ever).

You can totally understand my reaction when my husband came to me last week and said, “Dear, I think it’s time our children were taught the ways of the force.” I laughed out loud. I tried to remind him of the night we attempted to watch The Rescuers Down Under. “Star Wars? Our kids will have nightmares until they are 23!” Somehow he won, and somehow he convinced our two oldest boys to sit down and not cover their eyes the entire movie. He must have used some crazy Jedi mind trick, I’m sure.

Boy, was I ever wrong. How Chitty Chitty Bang Bang could be deemed terrifying, but Star Wars the coolest, most amazing two hours of screen time they’d ever had totally baffled me. Luke Skywalker became their hero over night. Lightsaber wars were being fought at every turn. They were well on their way to knowing the “ways of the force.”

Light Saber wars with good friends

Lightsaber wars with good friends

This week as I’ve had Jedi Knights running around the house trying to destroy a massive imaginary Death Star in a galaxy far, far away I’ve thought about our world here. In some ways I wish that the fight between good and evil were as clear-cut as it is in Star Wars. Ours is not a fight between the evil galactic empire, clone troopers, or the evil jedi-gone-bad emperor. Just as scary though is our fight to save a morally declining society. A society that sees life as indispensable when it’s inconvenient to care for it. An attitude that we aren’t responsible for our actions. A society that has little respect for the God who gave us life. Our “Role Models” teach our children that things are more important than people, that the opposite sex is simply to lust after, and that their most valuable asset is their looks, not abilities. Our society teaches our children that the family is old-fashioned. Something not worth working for and holding dear. Differing opinions are not matters to discuss, but to cause hate, hurtful words, and even violence. Ours is not a war between two physical forces. Ours is much more difficult to define, but just as important to fight.

As cliché and incredibly nerdy as this sounds, Star Wars is full of life lessons. I hope that my sons, though they are young, will catch on and learn them so that they can be brave and fight for what’s right. Here are some life lessons I found from long ago, in a galaxy in turmoil far, far away…

 

Be proactive. We can’t just Idley sit back and watch hoping something will change. We have to DO. From the wise words of Master Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Stand up for what is good and right, even when it isn’t easy. Even when you’re the only one standing.

Fight with love, never with hate.

Find good friends. Be a good Friend. be willing to stand by that friendship with everything you have. Hahn Solo and Luke were willing to risk their lives for each other.

Look for the good in everyone. Even Darth Vader had good left in him.

No matter how far gone you are or you think someone else is, there’s always a way back. Vader saved Luke and changed the fate of the galaxy even after the horrific wrongs he’d committed.

Believe in yourself, but have faith in a power greater than your own.

What’s right is not always (or rarely is) what’s popular.

Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you can’t do amazing things (think Yoda).

Doing the right thing is not going to be easy. But it will be worth it.

 

Every morning when my kids get ready for school I pray that they can be an influence for good in the world. I pray that when bad things happen, they can have the courage to do what is right. As young as they are, I’ve seen divine guidance in their lives and I know that they can make a difference. I know that they will be able to with the help of a Savior, a family that loves them, and good friends that will stand by them. Star Wars is just a good, fun movie, but I believe the life lessons really are ones worth living by. Life lessons I hope my sons will learn.

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And I’m optimistic that someday I’ll be able to write about the night my kids bravely made it through Chitty Chitty Bang Bang without a single tear.

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Lessons Learned in a 5K

I should start this story explaining that I’m not really a runner. If I were to make such a claim it would be an insult to my amazing friends who really are. I admire their dedication, stamina, and abilities so much and would love to be considered one of them. I try to run once or twice a week and I actually really enjoy it, but a real life, distance-tracking, medal-winning, marathon-training runner I am not.

Despite my being a “just for fun” runner, a couple years ago one of my real runner friends talked me into signing up for a 5K. We trained every morning for weeks until the big day. My adrenaline was pumping as I scanned the crowd of racers that morning. My friend and I took our places behind the start and nervously bounced up and down. The gun fired and the race had begun. back in high school I ran cross country, so I vaguely remembered the drill. Pace yourself. Start strong, but don’t wear yourself out the first mile. Keep your mind focused. I fell into the line of racers and tried to think about the pancake breakfast waiting at the finish line.

It felt great to be out on a crisp, spring morning hearing nothing but the steady breath of runners all around. During the second mile I caught up to a small group of fellow racers. They were decked out in fancy running shoes, fanny packs with water, and those “real runner” spandex shorts. They seemed to be pretty serious about this racing business. As we rounded a corner an 8, maybe 10-year-old boy sporting a number 67 on his race bib Came into view. His arms were pumping, head bobbing, and eyes straight ahead. He was determined. With each step, however, his legs looked more and more like jello and his course less straight. as we gained on him, those runners just ahead of me became visually agitated at this young boy for taking up so much of the trail with his awkward form. “Ugh. ExCUSE me!” I heard one lady breathe as she slipped past the boy. Another man yelled, “YOU need to learn to stay in your own lane!” As the two racers continued on, I overheard them say to each other, “Someone needs to teach that kid some running etiquette!” I’m sure the boy heard. His pace became just a little slower, his head hung a little more. But he raced on. My heart hurt for the boy. A part of me nagged to go give those big bullies a piece of my mind. Maybe even trip them and race on (I know, I know. That would have been really mean!). But they were three, maybe four times his age! The extra two seconds it took them to navigate around him didn’t loose them any gold medal… they were going the same pace as me for Pete’s sake. So his legs were all over the trail. He was only 10 years old (if that) and had just run two miles! I can think of a hundred things a 10-year-old boy could be doing at 7:00 on a Saturday morning. Sleeping. Watching cartoons. Playing video games. But he wasn’t. He was running a race. He was pushing himself, working hard, doing something worth being proud of. And despite the negative comments from others who should be encouraging a budding runner, he ran on.

I didn’t listen to that nagging desire partly because I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to confrontation with mean, angry people and partly because my legs were a bit jello-y too and didn’t feel much up to sprinting to catch up. Looking back I wish I would have been more bold. A few minutes later another runner passed the boy. Instead of more condescending snares, the man slowed as he approached number 67. “Great job, kid. You’re on your last mile! Hang in there. Try to keep your form. You can do it!” and off he ran. that seemed to lighten the boy’s load just a bit. His speed picked up, his form became more straight, and his determination was back. I passed him a few seconds after and breathlessly sputtered, “Almost there! Good Job!”

As I rounded the last corner and sprinted the 100 yards to the finish, I heard my boys’ little voices cheering me on. Those boys that I’ve tried so hard to help them know that they are capable. That they can work hard and finish strong. That if they want to do great things, all they have to do is put their mind to it. During those short 3.1 miles I was reminded that this life is full of people ready to take you down at every turn. To tell you you’re not good enough. That you aren’t doing it right and are just in the way. That day I understood first-hand that I can’t just teach my kids that they have the ability to work hard and finish strong…I have to teach them to work hard and finish strong EVEN (or maybe especially) when others tell them they can’t. When those runners passed the boy and criticized his efforts, he kept running. He could have walked. He could have sat down and cried. He could have said, “Wow, I’m going home to play video games. this running gig is NOT for me.” But he didn’t. He ran his jello-y awkward legs to the finish. Something worth being proud of, no matter what the other runners said. I hope that my boys can take criticism and learn from it, but not let the negativity define them. And more than anything, I hope that as they get into positions of trust, that they can be the ones to tell others who look up to them, “Good job, kid. you’re on your last mile. keep your form. You can do it!”

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The Bedtime Battle

Seven. That’s the number of trips I made into my boys’ room last night. Three times for bad dreams, once for a stuffy nose, once for a drink, once for falling out of bed, and once just because. By the fifth time I might have found it comical had it not been 2am and had I not been so darn exhausted. While seven is a bit more busy than most nights, the night-time rodeo is not an unfamiliar event in our home.

Every single night my boys decide to wage war on me. It’s our bedtime battle that occurs between 7 and 8 following brushing our teeth and stories. Given the never-ending back-and-forth the night before my patience is pretty well exhausted tonight. Why are they SO hard to get to sleep?! M, our middle boy, just goes and goes and goes until he finally crashes. Sometimes mid-sentence. Sit up, lay down, roll to the top, roll to the bottom, then, like someone turned his power switch, he’s gone. R, our oldest, complains of being so tired he can’t even climb his ladder into his bunk bed, but then spends the next 20 minutes making a nest out of his hundreds of blankets. And the questions. “Do we have tornadoes here? Can we get a pet eagle? What do eagles eat? Were you alive during WWII? Where is Europe? Why were they fighting? Did they have tanks like the one at the park?” N, the baby, thank goodness fell asleep hours ago, but it won’t take much to bring him into the crazy show.

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Tonight I try with every ounce of patience not to snap. I sing songs, hum, and write until that final surrender and the rare silence that follows. And when it does I look at those sweet, peaceful faces and the frustration washes away. I feel that guilt only a mother can feel for not enjoying the last thirty minutes of wiggles, questions and songs. I know that one day I’ll walk in to tuck them under their covers and they’ll say, “Mom, we’re big kids now. You don’t have to tuck us in.” and I’ll wish to have these sleepless nights back. I’ll think of those dishes in the sink and long for that excuse to let them wait. I’ll remember tripping on those toys as I stumble out of their finally silent room and close the door. I’ll wish the toys were still there to trip on. I’ll wake up at 5:30am and realize that I’d just slept for 7 hours STRAIGHT. Then I’ll probably walk in their room and look at their big boy faces and imagine their little ones so many nights ago needing me.

Seven. That’s the number of trips I made into my boys’ room last night. Seven exhausting trips to check on three amazing boys. Seven times of being needed. Seven times of saying “I love you, now please go to sleep.” One frustrating, sleepless, yet oh-so-very-worth-it night.

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When the Sun’s Commin’ Up I got Cakes on the Griddle

My husband and I met in college. Just like many college students, I was living off of cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and spaghetti. I was a lousy cook. My husband on the other hand ate really, really well. When we started dating I think he took pity on me and would invite me over to eat quite often. We ate ravioli, lasagna, enchiladas, turkey, broccoli, asparagus, salads, real cheesecake, homemade brownies, and anything else you could imagine. It was SO nice to eat good food! You see, he had a roommate who was an excellent cook (say hello to his awesome wife at http://www.kyinthekitchen.com :). Not just an excellent cook. If he weren’t an engineer I would imagine he could be a professional chef. He was THAT good. From the beginning I knew that he was the master chef of the apartment, but I suppose I just assumed that my soon-to-be-husband wasn’t so bad himself. Well, when we got married the truth came out. My husband was excellent at cutting up the broccoli. He could wash off the grapes like a pro or stir a pot with the best of ’em. Beyond being a really good helper, he was no more of a cook than I was. In some ways I’d say that our position was worse than most newlyweds. While we were both really bad cooks, we were used to good food thanks to his roommate. Burned casserole and love was just not going to cut it. I had to learn how to fix something… and FAST! I had some pretty epic failures that summer, but over time I got the hang of our closet-sized kitchen and successfully kept our little family happy.

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When you think about country living one of the first things that comes to mind is good food, right? A hardy breakfast, a filling lunch, and a dinner fit for a cowboy. I certainly won’t brag about my amazing cooking skills that I wish I could say I’ve gained over the last seven years, but I will say that we don’t have to eat soggy spaghetti for dinner every night. Since we moved to the country, I have made an extra effort to make breakfasts to fit our new country life. We LOVE breakfast at our house, and I try hard to make sure that anyone walking out of our door in the morning leaves satisfied and ready to tackle the day. I am totally convinced that a good breakfast can make monumental differences in how you feel, act, and do. And country livin’ (and city livin’ I suppose too) means lots and lots to do! Breakfast is so very, very important.

So, without further ado, here’s a week’s worth of breakfast meals from our country kitchen. Just remember that I’m a novice at this country living and a little at cooking too. I admit I’m a copy-cat cook, so most of my recipes are from friends who are better chefs than me or from two of my favorite food sites:

allrecipes.com

100daysofrealfood.com

Ultimate Enfrijoladas
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One reason I love breakfast so much is probably because of our lovely little hens who so faithfully provide eggs for us every morning. The dog is a bit of a pain some of the time, the rooster is terrible most of the time, but the chickens are just plain AWESOME all the time. I absolutely love having chickens and would recommend it to anyone wanting pets. They are just great. Stinky, but great.

This is our favorite breakfast around here. My husband spent two years in Mexico and had enfrijoladas for breakfast, so this is a spin on what he loved so much there. Plain Enfrijoladas are another fav (though not one we ate this week). It’s just flour tortillas with refried beans, grated cheese, and salsa on top. I like this tortilla recipe:

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/05/26/recipe-whole-wheat-tortillas/

Corn tortillas with cheese, ham, eggs, spinach and (if you want) refried beans and salsa on top.

If you’re feeling ambitious… Corn tortilla recipe:

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/04/26/recipe-easy-whole-grain-corn-tortillas/

Blender Batter Pancakes

This one is a huge hit here thanks to my sweet friend Suzanne. We have used this fantastic recipe hundreds of times since she gave it to me a year or so ago. She’s a great cook who has read tons of books on nutrition so I trust her kitchen expertise. This recipe is nutritious, easy and so versatile.

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1 Cup plain yogurt
1 Cup Old Fashioned Oats

1/2 Cup another grain (ex. quinoa, rice, millet, buckwheat…)

1 TBSP melted butter or oil

1 tsp vanilla (unless using buckwheat. Then omit)

Blend in blender and sit overnight (I think Suzanne said this makes it better for you, but sometimes I forget and just do it all in the morning) In the morning, add:

1 egg

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Blend until all combined. Add oats or yogurt to make it the right consistency. Cook on hot greased skillet.

Waffles

Probably the best waffle recipe I’ve ever tried.We like to add nuts to it too, cause we like those nuts!

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/07/23/recipe-whole-wheat-waffles/

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French Toast

French Brioche from allrecipes.com is the way to make these! I usually make a loaf of to have with pulled pork or soup the night before and use what’s left for French Toast. I’ve tweaked the recipe to as follows and have never had it fail me:

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  • 1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 1/3 cups Whole Wheat Flour*
  • 1 TBSP Vital Wheat Gluten*
  • 1/4 cup (heaping) honey*
  • 1 TBSP* active dry yeast
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons water

Italics and * are things I’ve changed.

  1. Place the first seven ingredients in bread machine in order suggested by your manufacturer. Select dough cycle.
  2. Turn finished dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead 5 to 10 times. Separate into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll with hands into strips. Braid or twist strips together. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Set aside to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Whisk together 1 egg white and the water. Brush onto the top of the loaf.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/French-Brioche/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Thumb&e11=french%20brioche&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page&soid=sr_results_p1i1

The French Toast part is simple. So simple I don’t even measure. one egg, a bit of milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Dip the bread in and fry it on a greased griddle.

C’s Cereal

We tried some hot cereal called Dee’s Cereal a few years ago and it was delicious. This is our home made attempt, using either cracked wheat or quinoa.

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Cracked wheat or quinoa, cooked. Sunflower seeds, Pecans or Walnuts (or both), raisins or blueberries, maple syrup or honey.

Oatmeal

Nothin’ beats good old oatmeal with brown sugar or honey, raisins or craisins, and walnuts!

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Granola

I’ve tried many granola recipes and this one knocks the socks off of any other I’ve tried. It’s crunchy and just sweet enough. Plus, the chunks actually stick together!

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/04/04/recipe-granola-bars-cereal/

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Eggs Benedict

This was actually our dinner one night, so here’s an extra breakfast idea! This is the most requested breakfast meal at our house. And it’s THE definition of country cookin’. Nothing says home on the range like poached eggs and ham on homemade english muffins smothered in homemade holindaise sauce sprinkled with parsley.

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English Muffins: www.http://pinkrecipebox.com/whole-wheat-english-muffins/

Only thing I did different was to use all whole wheat (no all purpose) and add 1 TBSP vital wheat gluten. They turn out great!

hollandaise sauce: http://goodfood-lin.blogspot.com/2010/04/hollandiase-sauce-101.html

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