Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Night Summary, September 20, 2015

Reading: I took a break from book reading this week, and read a few blog posts covering quite a variety of topics.

First up and probably the most controversial, I read this article, and think it would be worth your while to read as well, due to my ever growing interest in understanding our nation's racial tensions.

Maybe it's because I married a man with "minority" status; he's Guatemalan, and a handsome one at that if I do say so myself.  Being Lawrence's wife has forced allowed me the opportunity to have challenging, awkward and sometimes gut wrenching conversations about prejudice, racism, and white privilege. He has been so patient with me as I have said stupid things, mostly out of ignorance vs. hate, drawn false conclusions and just plain out not been able, or maybe willing?, to see the truth.

I appreciate this quote from the above linked article: "Erikka Knuti, a political strategist, said, 'Part of white privilege has been the ability to not know that your privilege exists. If you benefit from racism, do you really want to know that?'"

My big take away from the article is to talk more candidly and often about race, mostly with my children in the safety of our home. But I also want to bravely, yet sensitively, engage in more conversations outside my home as well, with friends around a bonfire, with my family around Thanksgiving dinner (this is your forewarning, by the way.) and with my church and homeschool communities. 

The next article was from a blogger/speaker I recently began to follow, Wendy Speake, and I found it to be personally encouraging given the many constraints on my time in this season of my life. I just don't have the time I want to have to write consistently, privately or publicly.  I loved the concluding quote from Mindy Rogers,

I’m a collector of journals.

I keep them stashed in the console of my car,

tucked into the folds of my purse,

laid on the shelf in my entryway 

stacked by the jewelry box on my dresser,

and sometimes pushed deep into the back pocket of my worn out jeans.

My husband makes jokes but the truth is that they are everywhere.

Every day I spill my heart out in ink on the paper of these journals.”
(Mindy Rogers, 2014)

Because the refugee crisis continues to weigh heavily on my heart and is only growing worse instead of better, I want to provide a link to information on how one can practically help, particularly in the Baltimore area. One size does not fit all of us, but I do believe we can all help in some way. Check it out. 

Here is the article I was in the process of reading when I was pulled over, ironcially enough, for reading on my phone at a stop light among two other offenses---tag light was out (I did not even know what a tag light was let alone that it was out) and not presenting registration at the time of the stop (I was so flustered that I absolutely could not find my registration. And, I still haven't found it. Ugh!
By the way, you cannot be on your "hand held device" while operating a motorized vehicle, not even at a stop light, folks. Learn from me. Just keep your hands off of your phone. And, don't use those hands to wag a finger or two at me. Lesson learned, thankfully with just a warning and not by killing anyone, though I'm not sure how that could have happened while reading at a stop light. But, whatever.

As an aside, I never did finish the above article. Let me know if it's worth my time, and maybe I will get back to it when I can overcome my PTS. 

Last but not least is an article posted on the wall of a FB friend of mine, hopefully to become an "in real life" friend over the next year(s) as my family tarries at our current homeschool co op.  It pairs well with a post my cousin-in-law (is that such a thing?) and friend, Jessica Clemmer, wrote on navigating the ups and downs of social media.

Both articles provide food for thought on how we are pursuing friendship and community in the current digital age. It is something that as a parent, I think a lot about, knowing I am setting the example for my children. As much as I want to get this right, I know I am not doing it perfectly. Nevertheless, I want to strive to try to figure out how to best use social media, avoid its pitfalls and then help my own children as they will inevitably have to figure it out for themselves as well. 

Eating: I'm wondering how many recipes you have pinned to Pinterest that you have never tried. If you're anything like me, it's quite a few. Here is one I have had pinned for years and finally got around to trying it this week, thanks to my neighbor-friend, Amy, who came over, sat around my fire, dunked roasted marshmallows in Bailey's and chatted it up on a Wednesday night. The Bailey's soaked, roasted marshmallow was a treat, but the time to get to know a friend was even better. 

Lawrence and I had the rare pleasure of a night out to ourselves. We checked out a local place that several friends have recommended and were not disappointed. If you are local to us and are looking for good food disguised as a dive of a place, check out The Lodge

I ate the "Treehugger," so fitting for me. It was a wrap filled with mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and creamy horseradish sauce. I subbed veggie skewers for the fries, and they were equally as delicious. Lawrence and I shared the rockfish bites appetizer which apparently they are known for. Given I obnoxiously peeled as much as the fried breading off as I could, I found the remaining fish to be so-so. But, I'd say that has more to do with how I ate it than how the restaurant prepared it. 

Doing: We trekked up to Lancaster to take a tour of the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Facility as a part of the boys' preparation for their involvement with First Lego League this year. This year the challenge focus is trash. I found the facility tour to be fascinating, enlightening and educational. Bella just thought it was stinky and wasn't too keen on the gear we had to wear to walk the facility.

Our fabulous library celebrated Constitution Day, September 17th, and hosted a presentation of Betsy Ross by "Betsy Ross." Since we are studying American History this year, we made the time to go. I have long said that we have the best library system ever, and once again, they exceeded my expectations with this program. My kids were unsure for a few seconds if the impersonator was the real Betsy Ross, and then they did the math. 
 During the presentation, Betsy explained many things about how our American flag came to look like it does. In that explanation, Bella was crowned Queen Elizabeth of England.

 And, Judah was crowned King James of England.

I am a very proud mother. I only need a country for Tucker to rule, and then I believe my work as homeschool educator is complete. ;)

The kids had lots of play time with friends this weekend with four girls spending the night here on Friday night and a bonfire and s'mores on Saturday night. Lawrence's parents ate lunch with us today and then Abuela (Lawrence's mom) stayed with the kids for a couple hours so that Lawrence, his dad and I could help his brother and wife prepare their new home for their move this upcoming week. We are very excited about all that God has brought into their lives in the last several years. It is a joy to be a part of it all. 

Looking Ahead: It's a busy week, and I must say the novelty of a new school year has worn off already. Man, I didn't even make it to October. I think our weekend was so full and a bit taxing for me personally that I am really not looking forward to doing it all over again this week.
We also have a 
concluding summer activity overlapping with a fall activity beginning, making it a packed-more-than-usual kind of week.
But, I am scheduled to have my hair cut and colored, so all will be right with the world by Tuesday night.  ;)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday Night Summary, September 13, 2015

Reading: I started "In the Land of the Blue Burqas" by Kate McCord after a friend gave it to me to borrow. As one eager to understand the cultures and religious expressions of others, I am enjoying this book. As one who values the well being and honor of women, I am not enjoying this book at all. 

It is a very difficult read for me as it exposes the treatment of women within this particular religious and geographical culture goes beyond being unappreciated to being devalued and even dehumanized. This is hard to slog through. 

But because the author is a Christian and shares how she weaves the truth of God's grace, love and mercy for all humankind, including women, into the conversations she has with the Afghans, I keep flipping the pages to find hope upon hope for a people deluded and estranged from the true and Living God. 

Eating: I've got two fabulous recipes for you this week. At this point in the summer, most people have had enough of the garden ripe tomato. You've either canned tomato-based everything until the skin of your fingertips peeled off from all the acid, or you have given tomatoes away to everyone you know and some strangers, too. Maybe, like me, you learned this wonderful tip of freezing whole tomatoes but now you don't actually know what you're going to do with all of those frozen tomatoes.

I have at least one, very good solution for you and it comes by way of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. When I discovered her fresh tomato soup, I knew I would never be able to consume canned tomato soup again. (*unless you graciously serve it to me at your table, and then I will spoon up every bit of it and kiss you for making food for me)

And, guys, it's not hard to make. It might seem intimidating, but just try it one time. But whatever you do, do NOT try the whole "you can make soup in your Vitamix thing."  Ask me why later. 

Here's the link to this delicious and nutritious soup: 

Serve it up with grilled cheese made with garlic bread, and you have got yourself an awesome, autumnal meal.

I cranked out quite a few homemade desserts this week, and I'm not even entirely sure I know why I did that when I have six, yes 6, packages of Neumann-O's (like Oreos) in my pantry. Nevertheless, we had friends over on Saturday night, and my folks visited this afternoon and this dessert was a winner with both:

Doing: We had a low key Labor Day weekend last weekend because the recovery from my tooth extraction was is taking way longer than I anticipated. I was still taking ibuprofen around the clock, icing my jaw and avoiding talking five days post procedure. Avoiding talking?  You gotta know it was bad if I was asking to NOT talk.
Regardless, we were able to host two sets of friends on Sunday night for a small fire on our stone patio and s'mores while I iced my jaw. And, Monday, I felt well enough to make and take dinner to another friend's house where we enjoyed a small fire and s'mores again because, hey, it's almost fall and 'tis the season for fires and s'mores. Anyone with me?

We dealt with a recall on our Pilot and learned that we are apparently still not done with repairs. What is up, Honda?  Lawrence told me we have three things yet to take care of on this vehicle, but they can wait. Like until we have money again, maybe?!  Anyway, truly, I am grateful to have the resources to be able to take care of our vehicles and teeth even if it's not the most fun way to spend one's money. 

On Friday, the kids and I had our first day of homeschool co-op called Crossroads. A part from some nervous jitters and a bee sting during gym, we all thoroughly enjoyed our time and are looking forward to our year learning with this community of fellow homeschoolers. 

Friday night, I was able to attend a volunteer orientation with World Relief to learn more about how my family and I can serve the needs of refugees coming to our area. It was an enlightening time, learning from my friend, Nan Ross, the volunteer and church coordinator for World Relief. 

Saturday was filled with cooking, baking, cleaning and hanging with friends. One of our friends spent the majority of the summer in Russia, where my girlfriend is from, and we were grateful to have some time to catch up on Saturday night over coconut pie and chocolate magic cake.  

Today we thoroughly enjoyed a visit from my folks who made the two hour trek to see us. We haven't been able to travel up to Pennsylvania much this summer with the various car repairs and medical needs we needed to attend to. So, it was really nice to have a visit from them, eat fresh tomato soup that I made and vegetable beef soup that my mom made and catch up on all things family, house and health related along with a few games of Quirkle. 

Looking Ahead: The fall schedule is about to commence in full force this week... a field trip, summer and fall extra curriculars overlapping and some really fun social gatherings for me and the kids. And, I am really hoping and praying I can hit the pavement again running. It's been two weeks! I miss it like crazy, but even the walks I've done (it has sadly, only been two) have left my tooth throbbing afterward. So, we'll see what my body says "yes" to this week. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Sunday Night Summary, September 06, 2015

Reading: Much of what I read this week had to do with the refugee crisis. I am slain by the overwhelming need and fighting my cynicism to believe God's people in particular will not turn away in apathy or complacency but will do one.small.thing, as Ann Voskamp so eloquently encourages in this, her one of several posts on the call to the Church to be the hands and feet and mouthpiece of Christ

Please take some time to read some of the links she provides, to NOT TURN AWAY but to absorb and feel and then ACT. Though not in the same way as these refugees, I have nevertheless been a person in need. I have been a person who has grieved loss again and again. Life's circumstances could have broken me and made me bitter, but by God's mercy, they have not. They have shaped me, though, forging empathy into the fiber of my being. But, I am only one person. I have limited resources, but God has given me a heart that feels things so very deeply and a voice that I am not afraid to use to solicit others to action. 

Honestly, in light of what I have learned this week about refugees, I found it difficult to give emotional focus to anything else I read. Though, I finished "For the Love" by Jen Hatmaker and will say it was the most enjoyable and resonating book I have read in a long time.

She is beginning a book club of sorts for her book, and I am hoping to not only participate but include a few of my fellow "For the Love" local friends. I would much rather discuss the ins and outs of living out our faith sitting face to face with you, a glass of wine and piece of chocolate in hand, than online staring at a computer screen. Anyone in?  I'll provide the wine and chocolate. :)

Eating: This week it was a lot of smoothies and pureed food for me. I had my first tooth extracted. First, yes, of hopefully only two teeth that will ever be pulled from my mouth. The extraction itself wasn't so awful, but the recovery has been more painful and lengthy than I anticipated. By day 3, I fully expected to be back to normal. Instead, on day 4 I am still drinking smoothies, slurping soup, popping ibuprofen every 4 hours and icing the side of my face.

The upside to this is that I was able to pre-maturely prepare one of my fall favorites, Butternut Squash Soup. Of the plethora of recipes available, this is my current favorite.  Don't let the "vegan, paleo, gluten free" labels scare you. It's absolutely scrumptious.

I don't know about you, but I am eagerly anticipating the cooler temperatures of fall for the simple joy of making soup again. I am rather fond of soup despite my family's mere tolerance of it. I suppose it is too close to a casserole concept for my family's liking. I am one of those odd ducks that just loves casseroles, soups and salads.  Everything is in or on one pot, plate or bowl. Minimalist to the core. What's not to love?

For whatever reason (and that reason NOT being that I am pregnant) I was craving an Italian Wedding Soup and so took a stab at making it for the first time this week.  While the appearance of it was rather odd due to a technical error incorporating the eggs, the taste was outstanding. Even my hubby liked it enough to eat leftovers!
What soups are among your fall favorites?  Leave a link in the comments.

Doing: Well, this wasn't one of my favorite weeks ever. But, hey, "Momma said there'd be days like this." And, I've had weeks like this past one before. I know they are inevitable. And, I know we get through them.  That's what we did. We got through this week as best as we could. 

As I mentioned, I had my first tooth extraction. It went better than I anticipated. The surgeon and his assistant are wonderful--patient, thorough, sympathetic and skilled.  I was grateful to find an oral surgeon with whom I was comfortable.

Two days after my extraction, Judah had a laser treatment. For whatever reason, he experienced more pain with this treatment than he ever has before. He screamed all throughout the treatment and cried for about an hour afterward. 
He was in so much distress after his treatment that he felt he was going to pass out at one point. 

The doctor brought an ice pack for his face, and Judah sat with his face directly in the air conditioning fans of my hubby's car the entire ride home, moaning and asking God why He was torturing him. 

It was not one of the more fun "mom moments" but one in which I was very grateful Judah has a mom and a dad to be with him in these dark hours, to hold his hand, remind him to breathe, assure him the pain won't last forever. And, it didn't. 

By the time we were within 15 minutes of home and passing a local ice cream shop, Judah was feeling better enough to accept our offer for ice cream. Chocolate and Cookies-N-Cream with rainbow sprinkles and gummy worms for the win!

"Medical" and "Mechanical" are two budget categories that are absolutely bleeding us currently. Since the end of May, we have had near non-stop medical needs along with issues with our vehicles. 

This past week, our Pilot was at the mechanic again. Lo and behold as Lawrence pulled out of the mechanic's parking lot after having a sensor replaced, a part that we had fixed just a month ago broke AGAIN! No kidding. He literally turned out of the parking lot only to turn right back in and leave the Pilot with the mechanic for another day. 

Thankfully, the mechanic did not charge us for this second fix, but we are researching Honda recalls to find out if this is something the manufacturer can be held responsible for.  We have had the same mechanic for years and trust his reliability and skill. We will be taking it to the Honda dealer this upcoming week for a recall on another part that has been needing fixed for a while. 

I am grateful it will be covered financially and that I have friends who live relatively near enough to provide shuttle service or run errands for us as needed. Community is a beautiful thing. And, while we often try to arrange our lives so as to not need anything from anyone else, I have found God force me into this place of need time and time again to remind me that He comes near to those who humble themselves, ask for help and are willing to receive it. 

For some of us, the self sufficient, pick-yourselves-up-by-the-bootstraps, American ideal of "I can do it by myself" is the very thing that keeps us from enjoying the rich benefits of intimate relationships within community. Being a giver as well as a receiver is necessary for robust and well rounded relationships. 

Looking ahead: It is looking like a quieter week of plodding away at school and needs at home, of rest and healing and gearing up for the fullness of a fall schedule, which for us here at Montford includes A LOT of leaf blowing!

The kids and I have the first day of our new homeschool co op, Crossroads, on Friday. I am looking forward to jumping in headlong to this new community of fellow home educators and learners.