Friday, October 24, 2014

5 Recipes (DON'T WORRY; They're Not Mine)

I'm not sure what statement strikes the most terror in our children's hearts, but I know this one has got to be in the top ten, easily:


Now, first of all, come on, children.  JUST COME ON.  I cannot stress how not-scary the food I make for this family is.  Do you know how many times I've tried to sneak things like mushrooms or escargot or backyard rabbit into their meals?  Zero.  Zero times.  I get being a bit picky; I have a serious aversion to cream-of-anything blobs from a can, and if my mom tries to tell me that sugar-free jelly tastes just like the real thing one more time, I'm having her committed.  (Tastes like I licked the inside of a beaker in Chem 120, Mom.  A strawberry-flavored beaker.)  But I cannot eat Lazy Beef Lasagna and Sour Cream Noodle Bake (which are basically the same recipe but with different spices) every night of the week like certain ungrateful underage heathens currently residing in this house.  Sometimes you just have to try a new recipe.  Or five.  In the space of a week.

So, it's entirely possible I brought this whole thing on myself.

I liked almost all of the new recipes.  Derek only once droned, "I love everything you cook," which is his nice way of saying This food is the worst.  Where's the sour cream noodle bake?  

Here's what I've been subjecting our family to, so you, too, can torture your own ungrateful loved ones:

  • PW's Chicken Pot Pie.  I had forgotten all about chicken pot pie until my sister made a rather bitter comment recently about how she loved this dish growing up but never got to eat it just because her picky older sister hated it.  I decided I'd try making it for myself, because sometimes food you didn't like as a kid is less scary once you can see for yourself what all the ingredients are, in addition to controlling what exactly goes into it.  Well.  It was delicious.  Derek and I both loved it, and it was possibly even better heated up for lunch the next day.  I'm also not sure why I've been so intimidated by PW's homemade crust; that thing was easy as pie (THAT'S RIGHT.  I WENT THERE).  There's also a delicious kind of irony to loving something now that my sister couldn't have because I wouldn't eat it as a child.  (Really, for the most part I've given up my life of younger-sister torture, but sometimes... well, sometimes you just can't help yourself.  Love you, Kelli!)

  • PW's Hamburger Soup.  I liked this.  Derek liked it.  One of the kids liked it, but I really can't be expected to remember which kid likes which thing anymore (don't you judge me).  None of us just really, really loved it.  I liked that it had a lot of veggies in it, and is really pretty easy to throw together, although it took longer than her supposed prep time, probably because there was a lot of chopping and I'm rather attached to all eight of my fingers and both my thumbs.  I'm selfish that way.  I'd halve the recipe next time; if it were something all three kids loved I'd need the whole recipe, but as it was I had a ton of leftovers.  Good for the impending cold weather.

  • PW's Cajun Chicken Pasta.  Now, this, THIS I loved.  I was pretty much the only one, though.  Derek ate it and said it was fine, none of the kids cared much for it, although Adelaide really liked the chicken in it.  I do think next time I'll cook the chicken the same way but omit the pasta and double the veggies to make my very own perfect meal that will keep me in lunch leftovers all week.  Even this first way, though, I had it for supper Saturday night, lunch and supper Sunday, then lunch again on Monday and still wasn't sick of it.  I only stopped because I ran out of the chicken and veggies and was left with a big container of noodles.  I can't wait to make this again with my adjustments.

  • Foodie Bride's Slow Cooker Honey Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas.  This was super easy and super flavorful.  My family all did this adorable thing where they acted like their mouths were on fire after one tiny chipotle pepper in adobo sauce-bite, and everyone scrambled for milk and yogurt.  I thought the heat was fine, but then, I love spicy food.  I almost never cook it for the fam because this is how they react, and as a result, their heat threshold is depressingly low.  Derek admitted it had good flavor, was just a bit spicy for him, the kids all acted like I was trying to kill them through their mouth-holes.  I thought it was very tasty both for supper and left over for lunch.

  • Foodie Bride's Mojo-Brined Chicken.  Now, listen, my people.  If you're going to make one recipe on this list, make this one.  And just in case you've lost interest in this post and are only skimming the remainder, I'll put it in caps to catch your attention:  THIS IS THE ONE YOU MAKE.  It's an easy and quick brine that will render your grilled chicken so juicy and full of divine flavor that you'll give thanks to God for delivering you from the bland, dry chicken wilderness you've been slogging through into the promised land of tasty, tasty poultry.  The end and amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

For My Next Half Marathon

Not that I'm definitely doing another one, you understand.

Things I would do differently:

  • Carry my inhaler while running.  Do I have allergies?  Yes.  Do I have asthma?  Yes.  Have I had asthma attacks before on runs?  Yes.  And yet, stupid, idiotic, imbecilic, insert-your-own-favorite-adjective-that-describes-a-complete-ignoramus ME didn't carry any of my two dozen inhalers.  I know why:  I haven't had a running-related attack for a couple months now, have never had an attack during one of my long runs, and took an allergy pill before I left the house, thinking that would be enough.  Oh, Lawdy, WAS I WRONG.  Right around mile two I could feel my lungs tightening up, and for the next four miles couldn't draw anything deeper than a very, very shallow breath.  This sucked.  I almost gave up and walked close to the beginning of the attack, but saw a lovely, lovely friend of mine standing on the sidelines who cheered wildly when I yelled her name and she saw me, and this helped carried me through.  I kept running, I did not walk.  I saw her again just as my demon lungs were opening up and begrudgingly letting some oxygen back into my system, and I felt so much better after my Lori/oxygen hit.  

  • Bring an allergy pill with me to the race, take it thirty minutes prior to start time.  I left the house so far in advance of the race, and was so nervous and, well, running so much, I believe I burned right through it, so it couldn't cover me through the whole two and a half hours I needed it to.

  • Try to enjoy the course and the running itself a bit more.  This is one I can keep in mind for next time, but I really don't think I could have done it this first time.  I was so overwhelmed with the thousands of runners around me, the crazy, intense (but positive) atmosphere surrounding the whole event, and my own jangling nerves I really don't remember a lot of the details of the race itself.  Somehow over two hours of running went by incredibly quickly.  

Things I would absolutely do the same:

  • Rely on my running guru the Magnificent Mindy for advice and my training plan.  I whined, she listened.  I freaked, she stayed calm.  I said, "I'm thinking about signing up for a half marathon," she said, "LET'S DO THIS.  Here's what you're gonna need."  I freaked out again, she bought me coffee.  I was one and a half miles into the actual race wondering what malevolent dissociative personality apparently lurking in some forgotten corner of my brain had signed me up for this, and there she was on the sideline, hugging me fiercely when I trotted over.  Running gurus for the win.

[I would just like for everyone to know that I wrote all of the above last night, and am now forcing myself to finish this post before I have a single cup of afternoon coffee, freshly ground and brewed and staring me right in the face over there on that kitchen counter.  I am a cruel, cruel task master.]

  • The half marathon training plan detailed in the book Train Like a Mother.  This is the book and the plan within its pages Mindy prescribed for me, and while I may not have stuck to the letter of its law every single day, I definitely stuck to its spirit, using it as a general guide.  The morning of the race I woke up, my brain decided that it was Crazy Time, and I convinced the part of me that was still waking up that I was not ready.  I had trained all wrong, all wrong.  This was going to be the worst morning of my life, and I had brought it all on myself.  Having ample past experience, I managed to beat back most of the Crazies by the time I was starting the actual race, but there were still some trace doubts floating around in there- until my asthma attack.  The fact that I was able to keep running through four miles of not even really being able to breathe- then run seven more good, faster miles after?  I chalk it all up to a great training plan that had me physically and mentally ready.  Well, that and God.

  • Ride down to the race with the Amazing Anne.  (If you haven't given all your friends alliterative mental nicknames, I don't know what's wrong with you.)  She's done all this racing stuff many times before, so she knew right where to park, had a loose pre-race routine in place, plus she's kind and funny and knowledgeable and fast.  Hoo.  We lined up together, knowing we weren't going to be running together, because, well, she is fast and I am slow and we are both okay with that, but man.  Seeing her take off was so fun; it's always enjoyable to see someone do something really well and with great proficiency, except for maybe this guy:

The six-fingered man:  Really good at torturing people.

  • Focus on the cheering crowds and their homemade encouraging signs.  Among my favorites:  "Run fast, you will:  May the 'course' be with you."  "You're doing all this for a free banana?"  1st person:  "Go, Becky!"  2nd person:  "Go, Karen!"  3rd person:  "Go, random stranger!"  "Worst. Parade. Ever."  [Terribly unflattering candid head shot of a shaved head Britney Spears] "If Britney can survive 2008, you can survive 13.1." "I bet this seemed like a much better idea three months ago."  Yes, many of the people were there to cheer on their loved ones, but they also didn't hesitate to cheer for every other runner who passed them.  The nicest people ever may be found on the sidelines of a marathon, I'm now convinced.  

I'll probably think of a bunch more over the coming weeks, but for now:  Coffee Time!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Big Fat Race Recap Tomorrow

I survived the race.  It was fun. It was challenging.  I don't know if I'll ever do another half-marathon, but I'm happy to have completed one at least once.

The end.

Oh.  Oh, ho ho.  You didn't think I was going to leave it at that, did you?  I am physically and mentally incapable (read:  just don't want to) of writing ten words when I could write a thousand.  The other day part of my Bible study homework read, "Read Whatever 7:77.  Write one word to describe this verse," and I was like, "I had no idea you hated me, Beth Moore.  GOOD TO KNOW."

I do have a long, overly wordy and detailed recap swirling around my brain, but I also have two sick kids in my house, one of whom has been sick for nigh on three weeks now, so my time for things like blogging has been more limited than usual. (My mental mantra for the past few sickly weeks during naptime, when I usually get me-stuff done but now have a high-maintenance sick daughter constantly at my side:  "I GUESS I JUST DON'T GET TO DO ANYTHING I LIKE ANYMORE.")  I'm going to try, try, and try some more to brain-vomit it all out onto the laptop tonight and tomorrow, hoping it just, I don't know, organizes itself into sentences with real live punctuation, preferably in English.

See you tomorrow.  Good luck making sense of whatever makes its way on here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Halloblaaarghween *Updated*

Halloween is two weeks away.  Uuuuuggh.

I feel like I should be more excited about this, but when you live in a time and place where people think nothing of spending waaaay too much money on their kids' costumes (note: anything more than $10 TOTAL constitutes "too much" in my book, which practically guarantees our children are going to have those sad "my mom tried to get creative with a black trash bag and now I want to kill myself" looks), Halloween fills you more with dread than excitement.  

Adelaide is still undecided, costume-wise.  I keep killing her buzz with questions like, "So how exactly are you going to execute this coffee mug costume?" and "You do realize I'm not going to allow you to draw on your face with Sharpie, right?"

Atticus wants to be Robin Hood, but the only Robin Hood-ish costumes I've been able to come up with are made from my own brown and green clothing, so it'll be a battle to make sure he has a "robs from the rich to give to the poor" look and not a "I like to prance around the woods in women's clothing" Robin Hood in Drag look.  

As for Caedmon, I'm pretty sure he's going as a Communist, as all he likes to talk about anymore is working.  "Welp, I'm going to work," "No, mom, I'm working," "Mom, working is more important than anything."  I just won't feed him for the next two weeks and dress him in burlap for trick-or-treating.  On the plus side, he won't be able to complain when I divide his candy equally between each member of our family.

And real quick:  Nobody panic.  I'm not going to force our six-year-old into tights or starve our four-year-old.  I just need to get these negative Halloween feelings out so I can work on actual obviously-homemade costumes that our kids can proudly complain about for years to come.

I don't know how I'm going to top last year's four-dollar roasting pan and spray paint turtle costume, but I'm working on it.  I'm working on it.  (Heh.  I just looked, and Atticus is wearing my clothes in this photo, too.  Hrrmmmm...)

UPDATE:  I'VE GOT IT.  I'll just throw paint on the lot of them, and when people ask, "What are they?" I'll muster up as much disdain and superiority as I can and scathingly tell these obviously uncultured peasants that "It's ART," and if they look skeptical I'll string a bunch of nonsense phrases together relying heavily on words like "visceral" and "symbolism," plus I'll heave a bunch of huge sighs because true artists are never appreciated in their own time.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Mystery in the Cathedral

(Despite the sound of that title, I saw zero Nancy Drews in the Cathedral of St. Paul.)

Let me begin by saying this:  I am not Catholic.  I was not raised Catholic.  Yes, the pope and I are best one-sided friends, but there are many things I don't understand about Catholicism.

Like this:

Now.  Have there been times when, all other disciplinary measures having failed, I have sprayed water our on children, chanting, "THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!"?  But of course!  Sometimes the only thing that will do is a good old-fashioned exorcism.  I'm pretty sure I read that in The Happiest Baby on the Block.  

Seriously, though, sisters of mine, what on earth is this for?  Is this one of those things I didn't even knew I needed until I had it, like my bendable cutting mats or good, warm socks?  Is this for cooking the best, most pasta-y pasta this side of heaven?  Am I going to hell for joking about this?  

Fortunately I wasn't quite so befuddled by all the wonders contained within the Cathedral.  I may not go to the kind of church that houses massive statues of the doctor, but I still understand this one.  I think.

Not The Doctor, of course- Dr. Luke.  OH, OH, OH, UNLESS... no.  I have tip-toed uncomfortably close to blasphemy already in this post.  I will restrain myself from suggesting that the gospel writer Luke and Doctor Who are one and the same person.

It's true- we don't have any of this fun statuary in my church.  Or, hang on, whaddayoucall'em- shrines, I think.  Is that right, my Catholic brethren?  Shrines, correct?

Whatever they are, I enjoyed the heck out of them.  Partially because they were so beautiful, so impressive, but also because most contained elements I wouldn't have expected.  

Take the above photo- is that a pegasus there on the bottom right, next to Luke?  I don't really remember reading about a pegasus in the book of Luke, or in any of the gospels, to be perfectly honest, which is really a shame.  Was this a strange whim of the sculptor ("You know what this disciple needs?  More pegasi.")?  Or is this yet another mystifying Catholic thing?  Do you unlock the mystery of the pegasus when you're going through Catholic confirmation classes?  Because in the Lutheran ones the most mysterious thing ever discussed was the Office of the Keys, which, after nine years of Lutheran school and two years of Lutheran catechism classes, I still can't tell you exactly what that dang thing is.  It just sounds cool. 

My questions about this one were answered by the tour guide:

I took these photos before the guided tour, and I may or may not have discovered the unfortunately impressive acoustics in the Cathedral when I snorted aloud at this picture of Catholic story time:

"Goodnight light, and the red balloon."
I was taught during the tour that these are Saints Cyril and Methodias (don't ask me which one's which, they're like those identical twins you went to school with, where you could never quite remember if Mandy or Mindy was the one with long hair, except with beards here, I guess), as in the Cyrillic alphabet.  I've decided that until they name an entire alphabet and its associated language after me, I should probably forfeit the right to make fun of them.  This notion was followed by some pretty intense guilt, which they apparently pump right into the air in these places.

Unlike the rest of the shrines, however, I knew this guy the moment we made crazy-eyed contact:

Oh, John the Baptist, with your hair toga-thing and your steady diet of locusts.  


It's a little frustrating to look at these photos now, because they really don't give you any sense of the scale of this place.  It's massive, that dome up there soaring some 186 feet above the ground.  

It's the same with the stained glass.  The Cathedral's just dripping with it, but you're not experiencing the incredible play of light and color through them unless you're there.  

And while I may not be Catholic, I'm Lutheran enough to know that you don't just sashay up to the altar to walk your dirty little sinner's fingers all over everything, something a lady in our small tour group started to do, prompting two other women and I to audibly gasp and the kind elderly gentleman who was our tour guide to do a kind of, "UBUGUHGGG-D-D-DON'T GO UP THERE!  *Ahem* Excuse me, you are permitted to walk behind the screens to view the shrines, but please don't approach the altar."  It was a moment.

I just loved the whole thing- the beauty, the incredibly knowledgeable tour guide, the insane amount of detail, the shrines, all of it.  Makes me want to put stained glass in one of our windows, and maybe one of those bathtub shrines you bury in the dirt in our backyard.  Probably exactly what the architects of the Cathedral had in mind.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Six Years' Worth of Atticus

We interrupt the regularly scheduled St. Paul recap for this important announcement:

Atticus is six today.

See that little scrunchy-faced thing in my arms, still covered in vernix caseosa?  That would be our very own Atticus.

It's hard to believe that on this day, six years ago, Derek was taking me in to the hospital to be induced.  I was four days overdue, and the doctor was getting anxious to get the little guy out, worrying he was getting too big in utero.

They started the pitocin drip, we were assured we'd have a bouncing baby boy within a few hours, and everything was going swimmingly.

A few hours in, however, my contractions began to slow down.  They started saying alarming things about our baby's heartrate.  The words "emergency c-section" were mentioned.  

Our (wonderful, wonderful) OB (seriously, I've had three babies in three different states with three different obstetricians, and while I liked all three, Dr. H is the clear winner) had just finished updating us on what was going on and what might be happening soon, etc, etc, patted my arm, and was getting ready to walk away when he looked down and said, "Why is there a puddle right here?"

Well.  It turns out the nurse had accidentally detached my drip, so all that pitocin had been dripping out onto the floor instead of into my system, explaining the slowed contractions, along with everything else.

I was about 1% irritated and 99% super sympathetic for that poor nurse, who was clearly mortified and red-faced and quailing under the strong, disapproving and "WE'LL TALK ABOUT THIS LATER" gaze of Dr. H.  

They hooked me back up, everything sped back up, and within the hour we had ourselves an Atticus.  He weighed 9 pounds, which to me meant the doc was right, we did need to get him out before he went all Monstro on us and I had to deliver a giant (bad enough that just when I thought I was done the doctor said, "Okay, looks like you've got one of those whose shoulders are as big as their head, keep pushing,"), but to Derek he was still teeny (my husband was 11 lbs, 11 oz when he born, and I think was secretly hoping to have babies as big as he was, never mind that such a thing would surely have split me right in half).

Now we have this guy:

Also this guy:

And this one:

That thing on his forehead is a temporary tattoo that's begun to fade.  Because I'm the kind of mother who says, "Whatever," when he asks if he can put the tattoo on his face.

He loves golfing and riding his bike and building with legos.  He's the only kindergartener I know who was seemingly born with the gene for delayed gratification:  If he's offered a piece of candy, his first question will be if he can wait and eat it later.  If I say, "You can either have dessert now, or after supper," he will always choose after supper.  I thought I knew what all his favorite clothes were until recently, when he told me, "Mom, do you know why I always pick the clothes I don't like as much?  It's so I can wear my favorite shirts later, and they'll be clean if I need them on a different day."  He has a backpack full of suckers and other small rewards they hand out at school, and nothing seems to make him happier than quietly adding to his little stash.

He's incredibly physically affectionate.  He loves to be hugged and held and never wants to sit next to you so much as half-on you, a leg and an arm draped across your body.  He's friendly and laughs easily and makes friends quickly.  He's tall and skinny and so, so dear.

Five short years ago.  Gracious sakes.

You should really click to embiggen this one, because Atticus still stares adoringly at Derek in this exact same way.

Bless my stars.  You guys are lucky I can't access his baby pictures on this computer, or today would be a total wash.  It's not my fault I have a ridiculously cute son, okay?  A six year old son who woke up this morning and joyfully exclaimed, "I'm six!" at least a dozen times before he left for school.  

Oof.  Six.  Happy Birthday, Atticus!