Parenting: Meet Your Mother, The Human.

Yesterday, like so many other days lately, was a really hard day as a parent.  Somedays, I feel like such a failure at mothering my children.  The emotional highs and lows are almost too much to bear day-in and day-out, and I’m not the only one that has them – my daughters seem to be mini emotional rollercoasters too.  At this stage in the game, the household is intense, and some days (like yesterday), I just crack under the pressure.  I crack and I shatter, and they get a good hard look at their mother, the human.

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Some days, after hours of the kids melting down, tattling, arguing, hitting, screaming, bickering, and ignoring the very sound of my tired voice, this mama just breaks down.  We can only take so much sometimes, and it’s on those days that I let my girls see my humanity – my brokenness, and here’s why…

 

I hope that they remember more than the uglies.

My girls need to remember me, in all of my complexity.  I know, myself, that I have very few memories of my own mother showing a variety of emotions.  I clearly remember when she’d had enough and lost her cool, and I remember a few specific times in which she was crying for reasons beyond my childish understanding.

I want my daughters to remember my brokenness as much as my laughter, because one day, they too will be wives and mothers dealing with the highs and lows of the mundane.  I want them to know that emotions are real, and okay, and not to be suffocated.  I want them to remember that their mom did more than yell.  She laughed, she cried, she praised and she sighed…she was human.

 

I hope that they observe that their choices affect others.

Even if that “other” is their own mama.  We were reading the story Cinderella: Kindness and Courage (aff. link), and as I was reading the words on the page, they were sounding familiar to both me and my girls…

They made her do all of the chores.

Who does all of the chores?  Mama.  Not because I want to, or because I don’t require help from them, because I do.  Little ones are expected to pull their weight around here in little ways – bring mommy your dirty dishes, throw your own trash away, clean up your toys, put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket, hang your coat and place your shoes in the closet…  Little stuff.  I don’t think I’m being a terribly mean parent by giving them responsibilities.  They choose, however, more often than not, to ignore me.  Yes, there are consequences, and yes, they oblige under pressure, but they don’t willingly offer to lend a hand when the task at hand doesn’t involve “testing” cookie dough or stirring cake batter.

So we had a brief chat after that line.

Cinderella’s family makes her do all of the chores.  They don’t help her out.  Who does all of the chores at your house?  Mommy?  Right.  The book said that that was cruel of them.  Do you think her step-family is being cruel?  Do you think it is cruel to ignore mommy when mommy asks for your help?  Do you think that if they helped Cinderella more and maybe took care of themselves sometimes that Cinderella would be thankful?

It’s important that my girls grow up with the understanding that their mom is not a doormat.  Yes, I serve them and serve them with love, but they need to appreciate being served or else they will grow to expect it.  When a service is no longer perceived as an act of love but rather as an obligation on my part and an entitlement on theirs, we are headed for trouble when they step into the real world.

 

I hope that they learn that others’ feelings matter.

A few weeks ago, I really angered my four year old.  I forget now what I said or did that made her so angry, but I think I put one of her favorite toys on top of the refrigerator for naughty behavior.  She was stomping her way down the stairs towards me, looked me right in the eyes and said,

I don’t like you, Mommy.  You are the worstest mommy ever!

And she meant it with all of her little heart, which broke mine.  It was the first time she had ever said those kind of words to me, and they hit me hard.  Little baby darts that stung her mama’s heart.  As I directed her to “Time Out”, a few tears streamed down my cheeks.  She locked eyes with me as I sunk to her level.

I know that you are angry with me for taking your toy away.  It is your consequence for naughty behavior.  You hurt my heart with your mean words.  I love you very much.  I love you too much to let you make bad choices.  Do you know that I love you?  Good.

And then, I hugged her tightly.  She didn’t escape her “Time Out”, but I didn’t want to let that moment pass unaddressed.  Otherwise, her harsh words could become commonplace, next time directed at her sisters or a friend…  I want her to remember my tears and think twice before uttering cruel words again.

 

I hope they see me modeling unconditional love and forgiveness.

In every situation, they need to see and feel the effects of my love for them.  As their parent, my love is unconditional.  I need to use these times of weakness to emphasize that truth.  Sometimes, it’s not easy.  Sometimes, I flat out want to take a break from being “mommy”.  You know that saying, “I love you, but I really don’t like you right now”? If their constant fighting pushes me to tears, I need to let that be evident (within reason).  Sometimes, moms cry.  Guess what?

Mommy is a person, just like you, with thoughts and feelings, even frustrations.  What do you do when someone hurts your feelings?  How does it make you feel when your sister shouts at you?  Does it upset you when you ask her nicely to help you with something, and she says ‘No!’ and walks away?  It does?  Well, I feel the same way.  And even when I am angry or frustrated with your choices, I still love you.  I forgive you for your naughty behaviors and love you always.  Do you know who else loves you that way?  Jesus.

 

I hope that they see me relying on and learning from Jesus.

In teachable moments, I use my brokenness to share with them the love of the Father, our need for Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.

After our really hard morning/afternoon yesterday, both of the Bigs were enduring “Quiet Time” in tears.  I won’t go into great detail, but they are required to have a “QT” every day, and all they must do is remain on their bed for one teeny hour either sleeping or reading.  That’s it.  Well, a rowdy, frustrating morning rolled right into an even more frustrating “QT”, and neither child was giving in without a fight.  I let my humanity leak (too much) and yelled at them both, vowing to take away their most precious belongings for the rest of the day.  When they saw that I wasn’t budging and my inner monster had reared its ugly head, they tearfully retreated and laid in their beds just sobbing their little hearts out.  It was just a cumulation of the entire day’s frustrations boiling over within each of us.  I thought, “We can’t keep doing this.  They need to know what my intentions are here.”  So I sat down with the oldest one first.

Ava, all I want to do each day is wake up, make you and your sisters a good breakfast, and enjoy our time together.  I want to read you stories, watch movies with you, play with you in the playroom, run around outside with you, help you make things and watch you paint and draw…  I want to have fun with you and your sisters.

All I need from you is for you to listen to me.  Obey when you are told to clean up your toys.  Then, I will have more time to play with you.  Be kind to your sisters, so that they will want to play with you.  Take your “Quiet Time” without fussing, so that it’s short and you’re up in time to enjoy the rest of your day.  You are still growing, and your body needs good rest.

I don’t want to spend my day yelling at you and putting you in “Time Out” for things.  I want to enjoy you and laugh with you and play with you.  It hurts my heart to yell at you.  I am working on that.  I don’t want to yell so much.  Can we both do better?

And then, I repeated my conversation with Isla, stroking her face and wiping her tears.  She fell asleep in my arms, and while I knew this process was painful for them and ugly for me, I found some reassurance in knowing that all three of us were learning and growing through it.

Today, I’ll try to do things better than I did yesterday.  I may actually do worse, but I’m still trying and learning, and I want them to know that.  I want them to grow up seeing that.  I want them to watch me change before their very eyes into the mother, wife, and woman that God created me to be.

Mommy is human, just like me, and she messes up and makes mistakes.  She gets back up when the day knocks her down, and she asks for forgiveness and gives it too.  She loves me even when I’m making bad choices and her arms are always ready to embrace me, even when I’m disobedient.  She expects good behaviors, because she knows that I am good.  She prays for more patience and kindness, and she leans on Jesus for strength and grace.  I know Mommy has Jesus in her heart, because I can see Him working on her.  He’s changing her and helping her to be the best mommy I know.  I’m glad that she wants to be more like Jesus.  I want to be more like Him too.

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Memories over Milestones

My precious Miri is 10 weeks old today.  As I sat looking at her the other night, trying to coax her into a smile, I found myself already wondering when she’d start to giggle.  She waved her little hands around and when they met mine, they paused, and I thought, “Did she try to touch me on purpose?  I wonder when she will reach for my face.  Is this a milestone that I should record?”

Suddenly, I was thinking of Ava, our five year old.  She’s so grown up, so well-spoken, so…not a baby anymore.  My heart felt a little broken at the realization that I spend (and had already spent) too much precious time thinking about the “what’s next” and sacrificing the “now”.

Ava begins Kindergarten in the fall, and Isla will be going to preschool for the first time.  Our home will be different.  I will be missing two little people throughout the day.  My home will be a lot quieter.  Our lazy Tuesdays and Thursdays will no longer be just that.  Instead, we will be in the car for most of the morning and our schedule will never be as free as it is now.  We will long for summer days just to have the blessed time that I have been taking for granted.

When will this one walk?  We have to get that one potty-trained.  She’ll be eating rice cereal next month, so maybe I should start stocking up now.  Wouldn’t it be nice if they stayed in their own beds all night…

I catch myself thinking about such things often.  Too often.  I need, we need, to soak up the now.  I need to sit and listen to Isla’s conversations, because all too soon, her little accents and quirks will have faded, and she’ll be as well-spoken as her sister.  I need to relish in Ava’s nose-kisses and the way she wants to be touching me in some way at all times, because she’s growing more and more independent every day, and maybe tomorrow will be the day she decides she’s “too big” for that stuff.  I need to hold Miri on my chest, and feel her weightiness that’s comprised of nothing but squishy baby rolls, because those rolls melt faster than any mama wants them to.  I need to enjoy the way her feathery, little mohawk tickles my chin when I hold her, because, if she’s anything like her sisters, it’ll be down to her shoulders faster than I can blink, and I’ll be trying to convince her to let me brush it.  I need to chase Eden around the house in her disastrous potty-training nakedness, and tickle her belly and pinch her bum cheeks, because this hilarious, albeit messy, stage won’t last long, and she’ll be taking herself to the bathroom like my big girls do.

I just need to live in the now.  It’s one of those things that you tell yourself, and that others will remind you to do…”Enjoy them.”  And you think, “Yeah, yeah.  I know”, but then, you get caught up in preparing for everything else that’s coming.  And before you know it, another day has ended.  Another day will have gone by without you savoring the moments.  We’re too worried about the schedules, and the checklists, and the milestones, and we’re sacrificing the memories.  I don’t care to dwell on the future as much from here on out.  We’ll work towards what we need to work towards for the children to be healthy, safe, and on-track developmentally, but I’m tired of using my mental space as a to-do list when it should simply be used in being present.

Will you join me in being present today?  Stop thinking about summer vacation or school in the fall.  Stop wondering when baby will sit-up when you just need to be enjoying her newness.  Stop getting frustrated if your potty-training tot just “isn’t getting it”.  Instead, savor the sight of ornery little tushies running wild and making messes with the toilet paper.  Sit and record every expression.  Write their quotes on the tablet of your heart.  Play a game or build a puzzle and take a moment to touch their hand and take in how soft they are.  Even at five, my sweet girl still has darling, pudgy, dimpled fingers.  I need to pay attention to those details before they are gone, and I have a house full of little women and not little ones.  Read a story and smell their hair.  They all have their own, sweet smell beneath that maple syrup…  Enjoy them, right now, mama.  I appreciate you reading this, but close up your laptop, put down your phone for a few, forget about those mile markers, and go make a memory. xoxoxo

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Delicious and Simple: Honey Citrus Grilled Chicken over Amazing Black Beans and Rice

Hello, y’all!

Wow.  It’s been a looong time since the last post, and I’m starting things back up with a recipe!  We had this one for dinner a few nights ago and, to be perfectly honest, I was a bit unsure as to how the family would react.  My hubby is NOT a fan of beans of any kind.  In fact, I usually puree them when I am making a Mexican dish or chili.  Saves me an earful, if you know what I mean.  😉

But…he loved it!  Yay!  So here it is:

Grilled Chicken with Citrus Honey Marinade over Cuban-style Beans and Rice:

For the marinade (place in a large Ziploc bag with 5 chicken breasts):
3 small, ripe oranges, quartered (I used Cuties / Halos)
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp sea salt
1-2 tsp cracked pepper (your preference)
** Seal bag securely and press oranges well, massaging into chicken.
** Store in refrigerator 1-2 days prior to grilling.

For Rice and Beans:
Brown 2 cups of rice in skillet with 2T olive oil and 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
Once rice is a golden color, add seasonings
1 heaping tsp oregano
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cumin
Stir in seasonings until thoroughly distributed
Add 2T red wine vinegar
Add 2T favorite pasta sauce (our’s is Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce, 24-Ounce (Pack of 4))
Add 1 Bay leaf
Add 2 cups water
Finally, stir in one 10-ounce bag of black beans

Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes, until rice is tender and fluffy.

Serve with grilled chicken breasts.
Garnish with cilantro, fresh lime juice, sour cream, etc.


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Deliciously Sweet and Cream Pumpkin Pie

Well, the hubs thought that I was nutso for baking a pumpkin pie in January, but truth be told:

I.Don’t.Care.

1) It’s my all-time favorite pie.
2) I still have 2 cans of Trader Joe’s Organic Pumpkin (15 oz) in the pantry.
3) It’s my favorite pie.
4) I had the other ingredients.
5) I’m very pregnant and it’s my favorite pie.

None of the recipes that I came across really struck me as perfect (and I didn’t have any evaporated milk or whipping cream), so I decided to just skim over a few trusted sites and kind of make things up on my own.

I am happy to report: It turned out perfectly!

Here’s the very simple recipe. (It took literally 5 minutes to whip up in the KitchenAid mixer.)

 

Deliciously Sweet and Creamy Pumpkin Pie

1 15 oz can of TJ’s Organic Pumpkin
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c. half n half
1 c. soy milk (or coconut or almond)
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (I use TJ’s)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. corn starch
1/2 c. brown sugar

Mix well. Pour into prepared pie crust. (I had a pre-made one on-hand and thawed out.)

Bake at 375 for 65 minutes. I covered the crust edge with a pie shield for the final 15 minutes.

Check for doneness by inserting a kitchen butterknife into the center. (It will still wobble, but if it comes out clean, it’s done.)

Chill in refrigerator overnight, and devour way too much with your kids during breakfast.  😉

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Respect for the “Solo” Mama and 5 Things that Keep This One Sane…

I must say… I have such a new level of respect for the “solo” mama.  I’m not going to go as far as to say “single”, because I know you can be married and still spend the majority of your time parenting alone.  And by “alone”, you know what I mean, right?  Like, physically the only adult in the picture, hands-on.

My husband has been traveling more this year than I ever thought he would.  The weeks are long, and the nights are longer.  With three little ones under the age of five and being almost six months pregnant, I am well out of steam by 10am Monday morning.  That makes for a looong week when the hubs is off daddy-duty, friends.

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I thank God for my mom popping in a couple of times here and there on those weeks to drop something off for our business (Eden Gray Clothing) or to bring lunch or dinner on a whim.  She babysits full-time for my brother, so I can’t steal her away for long, but if it weren’t for her little visits, I would surely unravel by Friday.

This last trip of his, I found myself thinking a lot about single moms and military mamas or wives of other men that spend more than the tolerable time (for a wife) at the workplace – doctors, fellow travelers, etc.  some of us women spend a lot of time parenting alone, and it’s hard!

My hat goes off to you, mamas!  God bless you with a visitor, a nap, a phone call from a friend, a surprise meal…
God bless you with sanity!

And on that note…here are some things that I have gotten into the habit of doing to keep my sanity with these little, needy, beautiful, dear souls entrusted to me when the days are extra long and tiring…

1 – Say “I love you.” A lot.  Especially when you want to throw them outside but can’t (because it’s raining or freezing or dark… haha).
My husband has called me in total frustration in the past, “Where are you?!  How much longer?!  Are you almost home?!  I can’t take any more of this!  You were made for this!  God gave you more patience than me!”,  and the list goes on.  Ever get those same calls or texts while you were simply making a grocery run?  haha  Yep.  Made for this.  Well, maybe that’s it, because I’d like to believe that I am “made for” this mothering thing, but I admit that I lose my cool with the kids just like Dad does.  I get tired and frustrated too.  The whining…the tattling…the constant requests…it can be like nails on a chalkboard at times, but… I still adore them, and telling them out loud does something to my soul.  It resets my nerves and gets my focus back on track.

I first noticed it when my second was a newborn.  I remember she was up, miserable, crying incessantly one night.  I had a bad cold, and she was nearly brand-new.  It was late, like 3am, and I wanted so badly to just lay her down in her crib, shut the door and go to bed.  I didn’t.  Instead, I remember standing in our living room, holding her unhappy self in my arms and just saying over and over, “I love you.  I love you.  I love you.”  I’d kiss her forehead and say it, and you know what, it’s when I feel the least “together” that the “I love you” wants to flow out of me the most.  It has become my grounding mechanism.  Whispering “I love you” to your child when aggravated is like a soothing force over a weary mind.

2 – Touch them.
Now, not in the spanking sense that you may want to gravitate towards when they are acting up, but rather, get down on one knee if you can, and touch their arm, their hands, their face…  make a connection with your eyes and your hands.

I just used this method today.  My child was acting up badly.  She shoved her little sister right in front of me and was sent immediately to “time out”.  “Time out” was going poorly too.  She was standing on the chair, jumping out of the chair, touching things on the table beside her that she wasn’t allowed to be touching, sticking her tongue out.  She was acting rotten to put it plainly.  All of that bought her extra time of course, which was explained to her over her 11 minute stay in isolation (normally 5, because she’s just seven weeks shy of her 5th birthday).

My frustrated self wanted to scream, wanted to demand that she go and take a nap… but, I also could realize that she was acting this way for a few possible reasons:  she’s tired after school and refuses to fall asleep for naptime after lunch, she was up several times throughout the night and went to bed later than usual, she was feeling unhappy/grumpy about something that happened at school, and she was arguing with her sister (who was still trying to mock her from the other room)…  So, after her ‘time out’, I called her sister over, dropped to my knees and took them both by the hand.

My physical touch helped to hold their undivided attention.  I didn’t have to squeeze or hold them in place, I just held their hands and told them to listen to my words and look at my eyes.  I kept my expectations brief and simple:

“Mommy has to finish some work, and I have to clean up the house.  I need you to play quietly (because the baby was sleeping) and nicely together, or you will have to go to your bedroom.  No fighting.  No yelling.  No walking or jumping on the couch.  Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

That was over an hour ago, and I haven’t had to yell at them or break up one argument since.  A soft but firm tone and a gentle touch that says, “I love you, but I mean business” seems to go far most of the time.

3 – Keep the house straightened up.
I know – you want to smack me, right?  Yeah.  I get it.  I can’t stand cleaning up this house every day.  I think of how much simpler it was when we were selling our last home and 85% of our belongings were boxed up and out-of-sight.  Life was so less cluttered and so was my mind!  Now, these little tornadoes are just that…tornadoes.  All.day.long.

I am tempted to just let it go…let it be.  After all, you can only do so much, right?  Especially when you are the only parent at home for an extended time, but I have learned the hard way that when I “let it go”, I pay with my sanity.  The mountain on the kitchen island…the random piles of laundry…the dishes calling my name…the sea of crumbs on the floor…  they take my anxiety level from bad to oh-my-gosh-help-me-get-out-of-this-nightmare-worse.  Seriously.  When you are tired and stressed, the last thing you need is to also feel like you are living in an episode of “Hoarders”.

So, I adopted the motto:  A clean home is a calm home.

I fail at keeping the place looking top-notch, and I never accomplish as much as I wish that I could, but I force myself to clean something before carting myself off to the couch or the bed.  I may not tackle every area, but generally tidying up the house each evening does wonders for my soul come morning.

4 – Read to them
Nothing calms my nerves more than sitting down on the couch with my favorite blondies snuggled beside me and a book in my lap.  When they are super tired (and I am super tired), they will happily sit at my side for an hour at times.  Just sit there.  No fussing, no whining, no fighting.  A few times, I have gotten lucky and our story time has led to a late afternoon movie and a couch nap!  Seriously though, if your babes are tired, but fight sleep like mine, have a story time with them and enjoy the chance to sit quietly together while they calm down and you recharge.

5 – Play with them / get silly   
My kids just want my attention (don’t all kids want that from their parents 24/7?).

When I am flying solo or having a lousy day, sometimes, I just stop whatever it is that I am doing and play with them.  A lot of their play time is with one another.  I try to play, but they leave me in their dust!  (I am pregnant, remember? lol) But even if my body could keep up, often my imagination can’t!  I have noticed that on the rough days, just being there – on the floor, in the same room – they will calm down, and everyone (especially me) starts to smile a little more. It resets the mood of the day.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that when I am about to lose my mind, if I actually let my grumpy guard down and succumb to the madness – SING a song that they love in a goofy voice, act out the scene of a favorite movie, talk to them with an English accent, anything remotely goofy… my mood improves immediately.  Life gets better immediately!  Yes, the mess is still surrounding me.  Yes, dinner is still needing to be prepared.  Yes, the garbage still needs taken out.  But, I am soooo much calmer and ready to tackle my tasks and mother appropriately when the “reset” button is hit.  Bringing out my inner “fun mom” helps tremendously.

So those are a few of the ways that I maintain my sanity as an overworked, overtired, pregnant mama of little people.  How about you?  What are your go-to methods / sanity-saving practices?  I would love to hear about them!

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Update: Since writing this article, we have added to our crew! Our fourth daughter was born in 2015, and, while my husband has a new job that requires less travel, I feel the need to reread this post and follow my advice daily! Four kiddos, six and under, is exhausting!

Remember, keep your love on, keep your perspective in check, drop the perfection, and just breathe.

You’ve got this, Mama. I know you do. xoxo

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Delicious Crockpot Lasagna

Well, I did it, friends. I made a lasagna in the crockpot! You may be thinking, ‘hmph, I do that all of the time!’ but this was totally new to me! I have this incorrect notion that my crockpot is strictly for soups, stews, roasts, etc., so the idea of creating an ‘oven’ meal in it was a big deal for me. I am happy to report that it went perfectly! It was way easier than the oven, and in the summer months, it’s extra great, because you’re not heating your house up!

So here it goes… (oh, and I noticed as I was mentally recapping my ingredients that every single thing was from Trader Joe’s, and it was perfecto!)

**Update** Find my notes regarding a vegetarian variation below this recipe!

 

Ingredient list:

*marinara sauce
*6-8 oven-ready lasagna noodles
*1 lb. ground turkey
*1/2 red onion
*fresh basil
*fresh kale
*4 garlic cloves
*fresh parmesan
*fresh mozzarella
*15 oz. ricotta cheese
*1 zucchini squash

I had left over TJ’s marinara sauce in the freezer, so I thawed it out overnight in the refrigerator. (I usually take a jar of marinara and a big can of crushed or pureed tomatoes and mix them for my sauce.)

In a skillet prepped with a drizzle of evoo, I sauteed 1 lb. of ground turkey and seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper. Once it was nearly cooked through, I added a half of a red onion (diced), a hand-full of fresh, chopped basil, about 1/4 c. of fresh, chopped kale, and 2 cloves of minced garlic.

Once that simmered for a few minutes, I added all but about a half cup of the sauce and mixed it together well.

The 1/2 c. of sauce that I reserved went into the crockpot first, and I covered the bottom evenly.

Next, I prepped all of my ingredients for layering.

In a small bowl, I combined a small tub of ricotta cheese (15 oz.), 2 more minced garlic cloves, and about 1/4 c. of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Next, I peeled and thinly sliced a zucchini and cut all of the slices in half, so that each was about 3 in. long.

Then, I sliced a a ball of fresh mozzarella into thin slices (i think it was around 8 oz. whatever the baseball-sized ball is??)

Finally, you are ready to layer!

On top of the sauce, my layers went like this:

*TJ’s ‘oven ready / no boil’ pasta (cracked in half, using 4 halves per layer)

*zucchini slices, filling in any gaps left by the noodles

*meat sauce (I wanted to put the sauce and zucchini right on the noodles, because both are full of moisture, and those oven-ready noodles really suck up the moisture in the dish if you aren’t prepared for them to do so.)

*ricotta/parmesan mixture

*mozzarella slices

*pasta, zucchini, meat sauce, cheeses, repeat…

Finish off the dish with any remaining mozzarella and a fresh layer of parmesan. I rinsed my crockpot lid off, prior to putting it on, in order to really add some extra moisture. I think all of the steam helped, b/c not a single noodle was dried out.

Let it cook on low for 4 hrs. (or on high for 2 hrs.) Easy and delicious. I will definitely be making lasagna this way from now on. My house stayed cool, the aroma filled the kitchen, and it turned out perfectly.

 

Try it, and let me know if you like it as much as we did!

 

 

 

crockpot_lasagna5 

I recently made a meatless version with half the ricotta, and it was also delicious!  Instead of kale, I used frozen spinach (just enough to sprinkle two light, even layers), and I also added thinly sliced portobello mushrooms (6 mushrooms / 3 per layer).  For the ricotta portion, I used half of the 15 oz. tub, 1 egg yolk, 1 large clove of garlic, 2 tbsp. Italian seasoning, and a pinch of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  In place of the fresh mozzarella, I used layers of Trader Joe’s shredded Quattro Formagio and sliced provolone.

 

 

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Heavy Heart. Heavier Hands.

Hands.

I wish I could just get rid of you.

If I ignore you long enough, maybe you’ll just go away. *Backspace. Backspace. Delete. Hit the spacebar like I’m playing ‘whack-a-mole.’*

You stink, hands.

hands

You used to be my friends. You could curl around a softball and whip it from the fence to home plate in seconds flat. You could braid the finest hair and tie a ponytail before I even finished a sentence. Come on. What the heck is happening to you?! *Backspace. Delete. Delete.*

You are heavy.

You can’t bend right. Your fingers are weird. They snap and pop and curl. They’re lazy. They’re sleeping. They’re weird. You are numb. You fall on the keyboard like Frankenstein walking. You stomp the keys like each knuckle is weighted. You’re swollen. You are ugly. Your skin is cracked and dry, And it hurts to make a fist, because your skin doesn’t even fit you anymore. Squeezing you tightly is like trying to stretch a rubber glove around a basketball.

You stink, hands.

You stink.

If i just fight past it and pretend you’re not failing me, I think you’ll go away. you’ll stop this ickiness and wake up again. You have to wake up again. I have things to do.

I am tired of you. I don’t want to wedge you under my leg anymore, trying to lay you flat – trying to make you feel well again. I don’t want to stretch you out all day and night, hoping that this will be the last time before something miraculous happens.

You stink, hand. You just stink.

I think back to when I’d ‘hit the gym’. How you were simple tools in executing my agenda. You just did whatever I wanted – whatever I needed. You were mine, and you worked. You are no longer mine. You hate me and don’t work for me anymore. But maybe if I just pretend that you do, you will, and we’ll be a team again. I keep thinking that I’ll fix you. I’ll start running again. I’ll do push-ups and jumping jacks. I’ll pick up a paintbrush or ride a bike, and somehow all of that ‘normal’ stuff will pump a whole lot of ‘normal’ back into your veins.

I know I can’t just get rid of you, but I sure wish that I could. I know I can’t fix you, but I sure want to. As much as I can’t stand you, I could cry over you. I miss you. If you get better, then it’ll be a miracle, and you know what?

I believe in those.

I believe I will have my hands again.

Praying for all of you struggling with sjogrens/rheumatoid arthritis/autoimmune disease symptoms. They’re not normal. They’re not of God or from God, but their healing will be for His glory.

And these dysfunctional hands type, “Amen.”

video009 from Kristi D Klover House on Vimeo.
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Choose Joy

All day every day, we’re making choices about how to feel, and how to convey those emotions in a healthy way to our family…our friends…our co-workers…strangers at the grocery store…  Is it just me, or is it so hard some days to choose joy?

 

I have so many things that I want to write about – I’m living all ‘Young House Love‘ up in here…and I’m hoarding so many pictures of food on our camera, that I’m constantly seeing the message, ‘memory card full’…BUT this topic is heavy on my heart tonight and takes precedence over tasty meals and home projects.

 

Sometimes, I realize though, it’s not just about choosing.
I owe them. 
Who?
My kids.
I owe them JOY.
I realized the other night while gazing at their sweet faces, that I am dealing them a side dish of misery with every day lately.  I serve them up a hearty dose of resentment, discontentment, frustration.  It’s not right, and it’s not fair.
It has nothing to do with them either!
My girls don’t know that my scowl is because I can’t get the mini blind to stay up or the toilet to flush…they don’t ‘get’ that I’m groaning because BOTH the washer and dryer are broken and I threw away a moldy shirt for the 3rd time in two weeks…  They can’t translate heavy eyelids and sarcasm into exhaustion.  They just see an unhappy mommy.
They don’t deserve that.  No matter what.
They absorb everything.  They see what’s literally there in front of them.  They see smiles or frowns.  They hear groans or laughter.  They watch me pace and wring my hands or lift them in joyful praise…
These days are forming their perspectives.  Like a river that carves stone over the course of hundreds of years…my  outpouring of whatever emotions are carving a lasting impression on the hearts and minds of my children.
Who is Mommy?
I’m not proud of who I’ve been in front of my kids some days.  Most days.
Who is Mommy?
I want them to say, ‘She is JOY.’
I, like you, only get one go at this.  They are only little once.  They only get one childhood, and while I’m not arguing that we can’t have our bad days or our moments…I’m proposing that we make a serious effort to show them joy.
Car breaks down…
In a rut with your spouse…
Bad day at work…
Serious case of road-rage…
Woke up on the wrong side of the bed…
Screwed up dinner…
Opened an unfriendly e-mail…
Found out someone you love has cancer…
Insert your heartbreak or frustration here…
I have a choice in every moment – unnecessary transparency or intentional joy.
Let’s choose JOY.
I opened up facebook the very next morning after confessing these thoughts to my husband and saw this post immediately.  I was so blessed by it, and I believe you will be also.  Give your family the GIFT of a happy mommy.  I love that she talks about happiness being cultivated, not faked.  We can do this, and we, and our families, will be so blessed because of it.  Carry on, sweet mama.  Choose JOY today.
They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. 2 Corinthians 8:2 (NLT)
Joy

 

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15-Minute Method: How to Boil the Perfect Egg…

One Good Egg

I am one of those people that has had to ask Google “how to boil eggs” probably more times than I should admit.  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t remember!  I must also confess, I would just pick a suggestion randomly, and they often didn’t even turn out well!

At last, by trial and error… I have finally achieved trial and success! These eggs are perfect!   Yes, I said it… PERFECT, and I’m happy to share the super-easy-to-remember process with you too!

egg

The “15-Minute Method”

Okay, I start out with my 2 quart pot (it’ll usually have a label on the underside or handle) – it’s like a medium sized pot.  I like to stick with 7 or 8 eggs at the most.

I cook several at a time, because my Avey-baby will gobble them up like nobody’s business.

Plus, they fit perfectly in this sized pot…

Place them in the pot filled half way with tap water before turning the burner on – for obvious reasons. If you try to place eggs into hot water, it will hurt, people! Plus, you can’t drop them in, because they’ll crack… so, unless you want poached eggs, trust me.

Then bring it to a rolling boil and set the timer immediately to 10 minutes (once it’s boiling). I usually have to turn the heat down a bit halfway through, because the roll gets a little violent, and I’ve quickly given myself a poached egg or two. Do not, I repeat, do not put a lid on it.

Once the 10 minutes is up, remove the pot from heat and let them sit in the pot for an additional 5 minutes – still uncovered.

Once the 5 minutes is up, drop them into a prepared ice bath – I like to use this large, glass measuring cup, because it’s easy… I use it to scoop up a bunch of ice, and then I just pour the water out when it’s time to stick them in the fridge.

Plus, being that it’s glass, it’s easy to see how many eggs I have left and identify them as hard-boiled…  You don’t want to stick ’em back in an egg carton and grab the wrong kind when you’re in a hurry.

These eggs have been perfect every time, and they’re a cinch to peel…

Quick Re-cap

I call it the “15-Minute Method, because it takes exactly 15 minutes to achieve perfectly hard-boiled eggs.  Lucky for me, it’s such an easy phrase to remember.

So, 10 minutes boiling and 5 minutes sitting in the hot water, removed from heat.  Ice bath, peel, DONE!

See??? Perfection!

eggs

Miss Avey would have to agree… She just downed three!

Enjoy!

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