Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Sam

My firstborn son turned six this week! Six sounds old to me, because I remember being that age so well. The new awareness that my baby is growing into a boy has caused me to stop a moment and reflect on these years. Sam has been far from an "easy" or "ideal" child to parent. In fact, learning how to be his mother has often felt like one challenge after another! There have been many times when I have struggled with disappointment, frustration and even bitterness about how difficult it has been to interact with and train my son. As someone who always longed to be a mother--I thought I would naturally be good at it! I failed to take into account that each child is different and there is no clear guidebook on how to nurture them. I also didn't recognize how much I still needed to grow and mature! Looking back, I see how lame my view of Christian parenting was. I would be the mature, happy mother, naturally pouring out unselfish love for my child, and he, in response, would love me and of course my God too. My child would never be compelled to scream in anger at me, or stomp away in defiance. And I would never lash out in my exhaustion or complain about him to my friends! oh no, I would not do such things.

HA! God gave me Sam first, and I am so glad He did. What felt like a slap in the face, was an act of grace. Mothering Sam has humbled me in ways I never could have been otherwise. Parenting an intense, persistent, sensitive, emotional child has forced me to face my weaknesses. I quickly learned that I cared too much what people thought of me. I found out that I get really impatient and angry without consecutive sleep. I became aware that I had trusted my own wisdom/ability too much and rarely asked for help from God or others. I discovered the depths of my selfishness. I saw that I found my identity in being in control of myself. And I could go on... but you get the point. My journey of motherhood has been arduous. But after six years, I can say that God has used these challenges to help me grow on so many levels! Sam is still a more-challenging-than-average child to raise, and I still feel completely lost and even angry at times. But I am learning to love him--for who he is--and love him well. The Lord has graciously opened my eyes to see that *I* am the core reason that my relationship with Sam isn't what it should be! It is my responsibility to delight in my child and patiently train him and serve him even when it hurts. And as I learn to do this, I am able to enjoy the many wonderful things about my son! And as he feels safe in my love, he is blossoming in his love for me and motivated to mature in other ways too. This is exactly as it should be--still my fireball Sam, but with a tender heart. I am a far better mother because of this complicated boy. 

I haven't publicly praised Sam enough. For my closing thoughts I just want to record a few things I love about the Sam I am now able to see with new eyes:
He is passionate about everything he does.
He is such a tender and fiercely protective brother.
He loves to show physical affection to all, especially his Mama. 
He makes friends with everyone.
When he is happy, his joy overflows. 
He is super fun.
He thinks about and questions important things. 
He enjoys learning.
He loves participating in almost anything. 
He is a very good helper and rarely complains when I ask him to fetch things for me.
He loves his family.
He cares deeply when he knows people are hurting and wants to do something.
He is good at sharing. 
He is trustworthy and reliable. 
He's a sweetie. 

And he's my firstborn sweetie. I'm so grateful for what I learn both from knowing him and being his Mom. Love you, Samuel Parker, and can't wait to see the man you will become! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"WE only eat organic"

Something has been bugging me for awhile and I thought it was appropriate to blog about it. I realized that there are people in the world who get so wrapped up in eating well, that they forget how to live well. This is a very real (and common) trap which would be easy for me to fall into. In fact, I kinda did. While I still think it's great to buy local, organic, cook fresh and from scratch, etc., it has become less of a priority. As a Christian, it is equally important to me to care for others, particularly the poor. It is also extremely important for me to care for my family beyond just cooking for them. We aren't wealthy, and as such, we have to make choices about our money. We can't have it all. And as much as I value caring for our bodies by eating well, I cannot value it above being able to feed the poor. As much as I want my kids to eat well, I also want to feed their souls, give them a somewhat organized home, and save for their future. We were spending too much time and money on food. And in reality, how much difference will those little choices I stressed over make on their well-being? And how much more important for them to see us giving, even if it has to hurt a little? Don't get me wrong...I'm not here to tell you that it's wrong to buy raw milk from a farm, or use organic apples. (That would be funny, coming from this blog!) I'm just realizing this isn't for us--at least for now. Maybe someday when we are in a different financial position, we will do some of those things. But this has given me food for thought. Is MY child so important that he should eat a PERFECT diet while other children die of starvation? It is our God given responsibility to care for our bodies, but there is a line between careful and phobic. Between wisdom and worship. We are responsible for many things, and I want to be more aware of keeping those things in balance. For now, I've gone to buying regular meats, dairy and vegetables from ALDI. We buy specialty items (like GF and dairy free items or treats) from Trader Joe's. And of course the occasional trip to Costco for a few things and stuff for HATC. I still cook mostly from scratch (which saves money and is healthier) but have tried to simplify our meals. We have more money, less stress and more time with the kiddos. I'm pleased with this switch. It feels right for this era.

The world has changed...

...for the better! You probably haven't heard that much. We often tend to see the negative and only focus on all the work that lies ahead of us in this life. I have observed something lately and wanted to share it by way of encouragement...

Today I was reflecting on trips to the "Health food store" as a child with my Mom. (Way to go, Mom, for being crunchy way ahead of her time!) This involved driving in our car for what seemed like an eternity to go to some sketchy hole in the wall run by stoned hippies. There were shelves of strange concoctions, crudely labeled, with high pricetags. And some prepared foods. I think I recall honey sticks and fruit leather--both of which always looked appealing but were inevitably a disappointment. I don't think there was ANY fresh food at these stores? I didn't learn the word "organic" until "Fresh Fields" (which eventually became WholeFoods) moved into Annapolis in the 90's.

NOW... a huge variety of healthy foods exist, and are readily available! Right down the street I have an excellent small organic market. Whole foods and Trader Joe's are 15 minutes away. And EVERY grocery store has a "health food" section and a huge selection of quality produce. Not to mention the farmers markets in every neighborhood! There are tons of delicious, healthy options. I love this. And this is when you KNOW the world has changed... when you go to Costco and find "UDI gluten-free" bread in the freezer! (Along with soy milk, natural peanut butter, organic chicken, etc) People have been using there buying power to make better choices, and now even the big guys are taking the hint. :) Keep it up, people!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

Yes, I know I've been M.I.A. for an eternity. I have a few things I'd like to say, but haven't been organized enough to keep up with the basics of wifedom/motherhood. So alas, they will have to wait a bit longer. But since I wanted to write this recipe out anyway, I figured I'd post it for you to enjoy. Since I last wrote, my husband has gone Gluten-Free and I've had to let go of dairy again. It has been a crazy adventure, but our health is greatly improved. 

I adapted these from the Gluten-Free Goddess blog. They were absolutely delightful! Here is the original recipe: (They looked just like her photo, too!)

And here is what I did :)

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies 
{Gluten-free & dairy free}

5 ounces dark chocolate (check ingredients for dairy)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup hazelnut flour (almond would probably be fine too)
1/2 cup gluten free baking flour mix of your choice (I love Better Batter)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
hazelnuts, to taste
chocolate chips, if desired.


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line an 8x8-inch square baking pan with foil and lightly oil the bottom.

Melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat, gently stirring. (or melt at half power in microwave, stirring occasionally. This is what I did.) 

In a mixing bowl whisk together the brown sugar, flours, salt and baking soda. Make a well in the center and add the beaten eggs, vanilla extract and melted dark chocolate mixture. Beat on low-medium for two minutes, until the batter begins to come together. Beat until it thickens and becomes smooth and glossy. Gently stir in hazelnuts. Place in pan and top with chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 for 32 to 35 minutes, or until the brownies are set. The top should look cracked when done. 

Cool on a wire rack; and remove the cooled brownies from the pan by gripping the foil edges and lifting the brownies out as a whole.

Allow to cool for an hour before cutting if you don't want them to fall apart.

Yield: 12-16 servings

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day! I have to admit...all I did in honor of Earth day was to pick up my free cuppa joe from Starbucks in my travel mug. Tough, I know. :) But I'm actually in the habit of using my travel mug at starbucks these days. So I figured I'd write about a few things I've done to become more green this YEAR.

Travel mug at starbucks. (as a bonus, it saves 10 cents!) I also buy the coffee we drink at home from a local roastery who uses only organic, fair trade beans.

We became a one car family! Bought a beautiful and environmentally friendly 2010 Honda Fit, which is on the top 10 list of "green" cars for last year. I cannot tell you how much I *love* this car! What a blessing. :) 

I've made better use of one of my favorite posessions: my set of baggu's. :) I've finally gotten in the habit of grabbing them on my way out the door, and I keep one in my glove box for random stops at the store. I sometimes even use them at Target. (They give you 10 cents off also!)

Cloth diapering...round 2...complete with homemade wipes. :)

I've switched most of the lotions/cleansers we use on our skin. I try to avoid sulfates and petroleum in particular. I am impressed with Avalons skin skin has never looked happier. :) Body soap is bought from a local soap lady, and I make my own scrub.

I use white vinegar and baking soda to clean most things in my house. I also love these products ( for tougher jobs. They smell fabulous and work great!

Lastly, I've been striving to buy local, in season produce, and to cook/bake almost everything from scratch. This has been tricky in my tiny kitchen, but I've enjoyed the challenge. :) This has been better for our bodies, and better for the world since we aren't using fuel to transport our food from across the country.
Happy earth day!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

possessed American

I am in a room, surrounded by things. In America, it is so easy to become overwhelmed and burdened by our possessions. This is such a problem, that there is an ongoing television series called “Hoarders”! And many of us are not SO far off from those featured on the show. Hopefully you aren’t so obsessed with keeping things that you can’t take your TRASH out! But look around your house and just think about this: How many winter scarves do you own? How many do you NEED? How many pairs of shoes? How many do you NEED? How many cookbooks? How many do you actually USE? How many mugs? (Oh I am guilty on this front!) How many do you require? (Come on Rebecca, when was the last time you served coffee to 20 people in glass mugs?!! LOL) I’ve spent so much time asking myself these tough questions, and paring down, and I STILL have...Way. Too. Much. Stuff.  It’s an ongoing struggle here. But this week, I’ve gotten fed up with our stuff, which caused me to reflect on some sermons I heard recently. Our former pastor preached through the book of Ecclesiastes last year and I've been listening to his wonderful sermon series! This book of the Bible discusses how brief, busy and wearisome life is, and recommends that we enjoy the simple things we have( love, work, and wealth) while we have them. This has caused me to look at my possessions differently. I've started to see the burden they can be. We live in a small apartment with 2 children, and having too many things has been causing me so much stress. I truly have to choose between my kids and my home. If I want our home to be remotely tidy, I sacrifice my children, and if I want to enjoy my kids, our house is a constant mess. Lately I have tried to spend more time with my children, which I believe is the best choice (a delightful, though not always easy one) but after only a few weeks, I’m drowning in things and the chaos they create. I have put a ton of effort into good storage, it’s just not enough! So lately I've realized that we have too much, and I need to be more radical in my fight against materialism. Until recently, if something had a use, it was "useful" and therefore kept. But now, I am beginning to see how even useful things can suck life from you. For example, I love my mugs. But when I have 20 of them, and all 20 end up getting used and put into the sink…INSTANT stress! This is ESPECIALLY true with children's toys. Sam has many bins of toys, and sometimes he just dumps them all out on the floor. Some of these toys have many pieces. If we don't pick up his room when he's done, he won't want to play in it anymore, because he can't even choose a toy to play with. It's TOO much visual stimuli! I don't blame him, because I feel the same way. I have so many clothes, most of which don't fit properly, yet I cling to them. I end up digging through mounds of clothes trying to find "the shirt that is comfortable and fits and isn't stained." :) I want to have maybe a weeks worth of clothing that works and nothing more. We have so much more than we need. So now that I've had these realizations and I feel that I "need" a certain object, I've come up with two questions that help me discern whether an item is going to benefit my life or waste it:

Is having this item WORTH the amount of Joe’s life it will take to pay for it?
Is owning this item WORTH the time and effort I will spend cleaning it up?

On a side note, I do believe in the importance of owning a moderate amount of things you enjoy for simply for their beauty! But that is a post for another day. :) I want to enjoy my life, and the things I own. I DON'T want to be possessed. :) I'm at the start of a journey to a place where our home is purged of excessive/ugly/burdensome things, and there is more space/time/energy to enjoy life together. One good thing that will be accomplished on this journey is donating many things to the thrift store for people who want to spend less. And eventually, I'd love it if we were able to give money we save to those who need BASIC things...Food. Clean water. Clothing. Shelter.  I'm excited, but there is such a long road ahead...