Monday, July 14, 2014

Building Cathedrals

Sometimes, when I'm out in public, someone asks me what I do for a living.

It's an innocent question, really. 

After all, much of who we are stems from what we do, and if nothing else, it allows for some polite chitchat.

So, I answer. 

"I watch children in my home and stay home with my kids."

And then comes the look.

Glazed eyes, head nodding gently, benign smile.

I can practically see the wheels turning.

And for many people in this world that continues to value jobs outside the home so strongly, the idea of staying home and caring for children is truly mind-numbing.

And sometimes, it can be.

After all, the majority of my days are spent in the mundane.

Pack and unpack the travel bag. Change diapers. Start laundry. Wash dishes. Correct behavior. Read stories. Arrange play dates. Prepare meals.

And the craziest thing of all?

All of these mundane tasks must be repeated ad nauseam. Many times a day. Everyday. For years.

But, friends, there is joy to be found in the everyday.

Buried in that soil are beautiful flowers and vegetables that need just a little tending to flourish.

Hidden in those stories read time and time again is a child on the verge of discovering the world of books.

Unearthed below the piles of dishes and laundry and dirty floors and endless meal preparation is a family walking in the door and finding peace at home despite the chaos of the world.

There is value here.

Have you heard this story?

"A man came across three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks.

The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ’til 5 when I can go home."

A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work, was hammering diligently and when asked what it was that he was doing, answered, “Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.”

A third mason was hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I…am building a cathedral!"

Is the work boring, repetitive, anti-climactic?

At times, it sure is.

Some days, we crave a new project, a meal with friends, an evening among adults.

But what we do in our homes is life-giving in the most basic, literal sense.

We are giving life.

Perhaps I should respond differently the next time someone asks me what I do for a living.

"Me?  Oh, nothing much.  I'm just building a cathedral."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weekly Menu (4.6.14)

My goal for each week is to make a menu and do my grocery shopping based on that menu.

I sit down with some past menu successes and a couple of favorite cookbooks and my computer and go at it.  I do a check on our schedule for the week, and also do a quick run by the Meat Man in case there's anything in particular he's wanting.

I have some sites that I will typically search when I'm looking for a recipe of a familiar food (Pioneer Woman or Annie's Eats), and other times I use general search sites (AllRecipes) or even a search engine.  I've gotten pretty good over the years at gauging whether or not something will be successful in our home just by looking at the ingredients, but every once in awhile I'm surprised by the result.

I don't have a lot of patience for recipes that don't come together smoothly (who has time for that!?) and you can read more about how I choose recipes and plan our menu here.

I am probably successful at menu planning about fifty percent of the time, and when I keep up with it, it helps SO much with our grocery bill and how smoothly our home runs in the evenings.  My goal is to be a little better about doing it more often--maybe a consistent eighty percent or so.

I can pretty much guarantee that I will not be able to keep up with sharing our menu each week, but I am going to try to do it at least every so often.  So, without further ado, here is our menu with links included.

(And a note--remember that I watch kids at home too, and even the Meat Man takes leftovers to work, so our leftovers disappear quickly around here!)

* Reuben sandwiches (toasted deli corned beef, swiss cheese--I actually used a horseradish cheese this time and we loved it, thousand island dressing, and sauerkraut on rye or pumpernickel)
* Chips and pickles

* Certified Angus Beef t-bone steak on the grill
* Salad--greens, crumbled gorgonzola, walnuts, craisins, balsamic vinaigrette
* Slices of rye bread
( Helpful hint: I had two meals I was making and delivering for friends who've just had babies, so I just tripled the meal tonight and doled it out into separate containers.  LOVE doing that.)

* Leftover steak or chicken, salad, bread

* BBQ Pulled Pork (literally throw a big old pork roast--butt or shoulder--in the crockpot with a bottle of BBQ and let it go low and slow all day--couldn't be easier)
* Cilantro Lime Coleslaw (Cabbage, carrots, cilantro, lime zest thrown together with dressing made of olive oil mayo, a little sugar, grainy mustard and lime juice)

* Leftover pulled pork and coleslaw

* Honey Mustard Chicken (this is one of those unexpected recipes that really blew me away.  I use chicken thighs, which are cheaper and more flavorful than chicken breasts, but I do pull off the skin before cooking.)
* Sauteed veggies (I grab a bag of frozen stir fry veggies and saute these in a little coconut oil to go along with the chicken)
* Rice (Just plain old, slow-cookin' white rice with a little lime zest and juice added)

* Leftover chicken, veggies and rice

* Falafel pitas
* Strawberries and mangoes (chop and combine, add a touch of honey and some lime zest or juice)

* Leftover falafel

* Plantains (cut plantains in chunks, sprinkle with a tiny bit of sugar, and sear in a skillet that has a tiny bit of coconut oil)

* Leftover tacos

* Probably pizza or pbj something--the hubs and I have a date, but we'll do something simple for the kids.

Desserts for the week (I make one, and when it disappears in a few days, I make the second.  We have desserts as small, after-meal treats only, unless it's a special occasion, so they usually last the week.)

Do you meal plan?  Any tips or tricks you can share?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

No wimps allowed.

Apparently, I needed a reminder today.

Because I obviously must've forgotten how big life can be in the moments of raising our littles. (Sarcasm font, anyone?)

But, I guess that in the day-to-day, I do forget at times.

And some days, the moments are clicking snapshots in my mind.

A huge squeeze from small, pajama-clad arms thrown around my neck.


Nursery rhymes sung loudly and off-key, complete with hand motions.


Gentle discussions on how to handle real life situations.


Raucous giggles from conspiratorial boys.


Kisses and hugs and reading and laughing and crying and yelling and whispering.

Click. Click. Click.

And I look back on the day and sigh a great, exhausted sigh of contentment, and I think to myself, these are humans we're raising.

These little people are learning in every look, every gesture, every reaction.

And we, hopelessly flawed people that we are, are teaching them in all that we do.  

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this parenting thing is not for wimps.

Man, am I thankful we only have to live each minute one at a time.

And we get a chance to teach all over again tomorrow.