Friday, January 28, 2011

Catching Snowflakes

Do you remember doing this as a child? In Minnesota we could pretty much make a meal out of them!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I overheard Liam say to Analee as they are watching movie: "Jesus loves you very much and he doesn't want you to lie. This is a picture of Jesus and Mary." (He must be pointing to one on the wall).  Analee can barely talk, much less lie.  But I love these Godly things he's slowing picking up recently. So sweet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Curry Night and the Story of My Indian Grandmother

Making Indian food is always an event for me.  This is something I must come to terms with before I attempt my next "quick curry".  For some reason, I always think it will be just another 30 minute meal.  But before I know it, it's been an hour, and my husband is asking when dinner is going to be ready. Another hour later, it's on the table.  Mind you, I cannot just cook one curry, I need to have at least two side dishes, plus rice.  I don't know if it's my over ambitious four course meal mentality, or if it's the list of ingredients that hits the bottom of the page in my Indian recipe book, but either way, my meal prep for Indian night needs to shrink.  I thought maybe this Indian slow cooker cookbook would help.  That's sort of the purpose of a slow cooker, right? to reduce cooking prep time?  Somehow it didn't reduce anything- just extended the amount of time the food was cooking.  This may have been part of the reason:

 Blanched tomatoes?  Haven't these Indians ever heard of canned tomatoes??
Liam helping me peel the blanched tomatoes
This was another reason: digging out my food processor to puree almost all the ingredients after I coarsely chopped them.  Wow, and I didn't even roast and grind the cumin seeds- that would have been just another step.  Indian food is good for a reason: it's hard to make. Kind of like French food, I suppose.
Analee helping me with the food processing.
She's thinking, Mom, you're nuts if you think I'm going to eat that.

So after an entire morning of trying to get this meal together (plus taking care of a baby, a toddler and homeschooling a four year old), I finally had everything in their crock pots by 11:30am. Just in time for lunch.  Hurray, another meal.

However, after coming home from Liam's French class at 3:30pm, all my previous feelings about never wanting to cook another Indian meal vanished.  The most glorious smell of cooking curry hit me as soon as I opened the door.  It filled me with good feelings and memories of my Indian grandmother who taught me how to cook Indian food.  

Ok, that's not really truth.  I wish I could say that my Indian grandmother taught me how to cook because it sounds really cool, but actually I don't have an Indian grandmother and she only tried to teach me how to cook.  I probably would have learned more if she would have been able to speak better English.

When we lived in South Denver, I nannied (or at least that's what they called it) for an Indian family and had some of the worst experiences of my life.  I actually was an underpaid tutor for a 13 and 16 year old and was treated like a servant, but I felt like a slave because I couldn't quit.  I was constantly belittled and threatened with being fired, yet I was bound to this job.  I had to help support my family and this was the only job that had the hours and pay I needed.  The. longest. 9. months. of. my. life.  Have you ever heard of a nanny job where you are held responsible for the kids' grades?? Kids who only got these grades because their previous nanny did the work for them! Yeah, that bad. And that's only the tip of the iceberg.  I may have very well escaped purgatory with that job if only I would have been able to offer up my sufferings without complaining so much!  The only good thing I got from that job was my love for Indian food. That, and free Maroon 5 tickets!

Where was I? Oh yes, Indian grandmother.  Granny, whose real name I don't remember, came for the entire summer to live with said family.  She treated me as respectfully as I would imagine she treated her servants in India, which was a lot better than I was being treated by my boss- the Mom.  UNTIL she started getting really sick of the way her daughter was belittling her too. You see, the mom was a tyrant who ran the house and held everyone under her fearful reign.  Even her husband was helpless and told Granny that he didn't know what to do with his wife. How sad. Anyway, Granny started confiding in me because she had nowhere else to go. And so started our odd friendship.

We managed to organize a night out of the prison where she would teach me how to cook Indian food.  I still smile when I think about how we snuck out spices from her daughter's cabinet.   I didn't have all the right ingredients that are needed for a good Indian meal, and there was no way the mistress was going to be as kind as to let me have a few grams of spices.  So Granny carefully wrapped about five different spices into napkins and stuck them into my pocket when the kids weren't around.  She was a sly one! Before we left for our fun night, the mom had to threatened me one more time.  "If I find out you've been talking about me or my family, You will be like gone!" I remember her spitefully saying.

Granny ( insisted her American grandchildren call her this funny name inspired by the Loony Toons Granny. I considered myself one of her American Grandchildren) tore up my kitchen like no other bossy old Indian woman could. "Now sweep!" she told me as she pointed to the mess we made in my kitchen.   She may have been old, but she sure was lively.  When it was time to eat, we sat down together with my son and my husband, but Granny didn't want to eat.  She'd rather watch.  After we took the first few bites, Granny not so shyly, said, "well....compliment me!"  Actually, I don't remember her exact words but I remember her funny little way of asking for some praise!  It was the most awkward, interesting dinner company we ever had.  It was fantastic! The food was good too, but not as good as the food Granny made in her daughter's house where she had all the right ingredients and tools.

So that's the story of my Indian Grandmother whom I fondly called, "Granny" mostly because I couldn't remember the correct pronunciation of her name.  When she left, she secretly gave me her email address, and I secretly gave her mine, though I never heard from her again.  I was too chicken to email her either.  I was still under the fearful reign of mommy monster and I didn't want anything to get back to her.  She told me I should visit her in South India.  Boy, would that be a trip!

And here's my Indian meal I made the other night.
Honey roasted eggplant with green chilies....mmmm! I've made these a few times before.  This is the only way I like eggplant.  It tastes like dessert with a bite!

I didn't make this naan from scratch- just had my husband grill them over the stove.  So good!  But for the record, Granny ate chapatis, not naan.  They were basically whole wheat tortillas.  I sure was funny to go to McDonald's with her and see her turn up her nose to a hamburger bun.   I immediately knew what she wanted and ordered a wrap for her.  I told her it was a chapati and she laughed at the fact I knew her so well!

I made a side of carrot curry with fenugreek (methi) seeds.  It smelled amazing, but tasted horrible because I accidentally added twice as much spices for the amount of carrots I used.  I tried to remedy it with coconut milk, but it was still inedible :(

Here's the finished curry. Chicken tikki masala with cauliflower and the inedible, but good smelling carrots. My husband and I loved the tikki masala.  I made so much, half went into my freezer for another night's meal. At least that meal won't take me two hours to make again!

And here's what the kids ate.  After two hours of slaving over hot crock pots, they eat pizza. Normally, I make them eat what we eat- whether they like it or not- but the curry was way to spicy for them.  I was being nice this night. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bellybutton Feeding

While breastfeeding Jude, I look on to see my almost two year old pull up her shirt, grab her stuffed kitten and put its head to her belly button.  I would have gotten a picture, but she is a very discrete bellybutton feeder.   I love this age!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thinking Happy Thoughts with Music

In the duldroms of winter, there is only one thing that works better than Vitamin D for keeping my spirits up: watching my children dance around the floor.  No matter what mood I'm in, they always will brighten my day when they start moving and grooving! Who can't hold in a smile when they see an innocent child's total abandonment to rhythm?  Even the Mother of God was distracted by the sight of children dancing at one of her visits to Kibeho.  This piece taken from Our Lady of Kibeho may seem a little off color to some who may think that holiness means "other worldly".  Being a saint doesn't make a person barely human- it make them fully human- the way God intended us to be.  (I paraphrased the parts that are not in quotations)

During one of Marie Claire's visions of Our Lady, she asks Mary why she is not looking at her.  Her response: "My Child, I am sorry. I was distracted watching all my lovely children who are dancing and singing so beautifully to me.  I love when my children play with me so innocently.  Marie Claire asks if she can see what her classmates are doing.  "I instantly saw my schoolmates dancing and singing in front of me and and that the Blessed Mother had joined them.  They couldn't see her, but she was indeed standing in the middle of the singing girls, smiling at them warmly and holding her hands out to them, accepting their gift of music and dance.  She was very, very, happy"

One of our daily home school routines is to dance and sing and play instruments to the songs from Making Music Praying Twice, available here.  This effortless music program is by far the best homeschooling purchase I have made.  My kids agree whole heartily! See for yourself:
God is smiling and so am I! joyfully. dancing. boy.

Analee loves to jump. The two foot jump is a *must* for more up-beat songs.

"The bell" is Analee's 'go to' move for all the slow songs. Ding dong!

Liam's pure abandonment with the streamers.

One of the best things about the CD is the variety of music. For one, there are five different CD's that coincide with the different parts the liturgical year.  Gotta love a CD that enforces Catholic seasons!  There are songs for prayer, classical music with a twist, folk music from around the world, and a few traditional nursery rhyme songs.  For the most part, I don't mind these songs getting stuck in my head all day- which says A LOT for a kid's CD.

The CD's are supposed to teach a variety of music skills when used in the right way.  I can't say we go through the instructional method very well because the kids just love to run around and dance too much! Oh well, even if they don't always sing along to music, I know they are learning the songs because they will sing them long after the CD is done.

This program would be great even for families who don't home school.  Just putting the CD in and listening to the prayerful and fun songs make for one very happy hour.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's a Screen Saver Party- Join the fun!

I'm starting a screen saver party!  It's a total spoof off of the "Pretty Over the Kitchen Sink Party" that I missed over at Like Mother, Like Daughter.  A couple of you did it.  I didn't participate because in the winter I can see my neighbors' houses. They are rental properties and the cops show up every now and then, but I won't get into that...

For the screen saver party, take a picture of your screen saver, post it on your blog, and link it back here so we call what you see when you sit down at your computer.  But here's the catch...You have to take a picture of your whole desktop just like you see it now. Don't hold back. You know you will want to straighten up those papers, but I'm telling you, we want to see your messy desk so we can feel better about our messy desk ;) And if you don't have a messy desk, throw some papers around, will ya?! Or maybe you're ultra swank and don't have a desk, only a laptop. Well, then be creative!

Here's my inspiration for this fun little event:

 Help, my baby is stuck in my computer and he can't get out! I laugh every time I look at my screen saver! When I uploaded pictures a couple days ago, I saw this picture of Jude that my husband took and I knew what had to be done. It's now going to be a permanent fixture on my screen, or at least until it starts creeping out our guests too much. 
 And that is my messy desk.  I didn't cut off too much of the desk on the left.  It really is that small. Hence, the mess.

Now take a picture and join the fun!

Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil: Thoughts on Censoring

With the March for Life coming up in D.C. (which I have to wimp out on this year) I've been thinking about what, if anything, I should tell my four year old son about abortion. 

Let me start off by saying, I never put a thought into censoring the abortion topic for children until I taught at an ultra conservative Catholic school some years back.  The school was wonderful and it taught me a lot about what other Catholic parents do- it's just that I wasn't used to some of the things they expected.  So at this school, we were not supposed to talk about abortion at all- even to my class, which was fifth and sixth grade.  Most of the kids knew what it was, but for those whose parents didn't wanting them to see or hear any evil, we weren't supposed to spoil their innocence.  I'm all about preserving innocence, but that threw me for a loop.  Fifth and sixth grade??

Which brings me back to the topic of how much should you censor for young children when were talking about an evil that exists so prevalently in our world today? I am seriously wondering, so your advice would be helpful! Do I tell my four year old that some people kill their babies today?  He was so distraught when he found out that King Herod killed the baby boys when Jesus was born.  Is this evil something he really needs to know? Or should I just stick to the "life" side of things and only talk about what a gift babies are to the world?

Of course, I would never show him pictures or go into the details about what happens to the babies, but I am wondering if I even tell him what abortion is before he asks.   Thoughts?

Book Giveaway at Allison's Blog

Allison is posting a giveaway for the most talked about book in Catholic circles: Unplanned by Abby Johnson. Seriously, I have only heard about this book about 10 different times since it has been out a week or so.  All the hype is really working on me and I was just thinking about ordering a copy when Allison over at Steadfast Spirit is hosting a giveaway (and I get 4 extra entries just for posting it here-yeah!).  So go on over for your chance to win too.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Baby Look Alike: Liev Schreiber?

Is it just me, or does my baby look like Liev Schreiber? Maybe you think I'm crazy, but every since he was born, I swear he looks a lot like that actor from X-Men and Salt.  The wide face, funny little smirk, and piercing eyes, the jaw line and not to mention those identical hairlines...I can't shake the thought that they are very similar looking.  The only thing is that their noses are nothing alike. That and the fact that Liev always plays the bad guy in movies. Jude is definitely the good guy :) What do you think, am I seeing things?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Am So Glad I Am Not the Only One With Crunchy Floors

"I hate when you do overtime", I said as he was leaving.  "You know, we do have 30% more kids now," implying how hard it is to stay at all day by myself with the kids.  His reply, "The good news is, the percentage will only go down from here!" This is why I love my husband!  Of course, I know why he had to do overtime and he knows that I don't blame him- or really expect him to not to go to work.  It was my way of saying, 'You will be missed.'

So began a day that I would not like to relive. I will not bore you with the details...there's really nothing interesting. Just regular old parenting stuff. But all day I felt like I had more of it than I can handle, until I sat down to ready about someone else's overflowing laundry and dirty bathrooms. 

This is why I love reading other moms' blogs: because I realize that I am not going crazy.  After having a day like I had, I was so happy to read about Ann's crunchy floors in her blog about being an "Upside Down" blogger.   Ann's floors were not only crunchy right after dinner time- that's to be expected with kids. Ann's floors were crunchy in the A.M from a meal that happened in P.M. Yup, that was me yesterday.  I also was relieved to learn about college friend, Alexis' bathroom mishaps (not hers, her kids'), and college friend, Mandy's "bad parent awards".  Thank goodness I'm not the only one, is what I am thinking as I read them with a smile.  Most of all, I was thankful to look at the crucifix and a picture of Mary and remember that they were human too and know what it's like to be me.  Of course, they did it without losing their temper and their patience, but that's why I rely on God's mercy, and His help to give me grace to be a better Christian tomorrow.
 So together with my second cup of coffee God's help, I try again to pick up the toys and myself with grace and a smile;   And remember that the percentage only goes down from here.   Oh, and if you find a lot amount of typos, it's because that second cup of coffee has not actually hit my hands yet, but it's going to, real soon.

"Perfection of life is the perfection of love. For love is the life of the soul." St. Francis De Sales (something else I took from my college friend's blog)

Monday, January 3, 2011

My Favorite Thing About Babies

My absolute favorite thing about babies are those first smiles they give you.  It's an uncertain curve of the lip at first, as I pry it out with a big smile on my own on my face and lots of high pitch sounds to get the attention of the baby, but soon it turns into a huge gaping smile.  And finally it evolves into an irresistible urge every time they see see their mamma.  Smiling in the middle of the night, smiling when nursing, and smiling with a mouth full of food.  Jude hasn't come to the last stage yet, but he is smiling a lot now.  We are still trying to catch a good one on the camera, but here's a blurry one:

I always feel like those first smiles are my rewards for all the diaper changes, crabby moments and sleepless nights.  It's as if he is finally really looking at me and thanking me with that toothless grin.  Well, your welcome, little baby. I will do again for a smile!

Pondering All These Things in My Heart

One day I found the figurines had moved from the stable to worship the "real baby" Jesus (as Liam calls this bigger version of Jesus).  I guess the smaller baby Jesus just didn't cut it because he is missing from his tiny manger and I still can't find him!

As the Christmas season draws to a close, I am left with a very full and thankful heart.  I haven't been writing too many blog posts because I have felt an abundance of grace in the past month that I have been savoring.  God has given me an understanding this Christmas that I have never had before and I am still pondering all these things in my heart. 

Up until this year, I have to admit that I have had a shallow understanding of what Christmas really is and what a gift the Incarnation truly is.   For the past several years, I have been trying to overcome this shallowness, but came up short.  I was always grateful on a certain level that Jesus was born, but I wasn't able to internalize the magnitude of this gift until this year.   It was something I knew in my head, but for some reason, couldn't get to my heart.  Christmas to me was always a very happy time of year, but not the most spiritual time of year. Lent and Easter were always the spiritual high for me and I just didn't see how the Christmas gift compared to the gift God gave us when he died on the cross. 

But this year was completely different.  Maybe it was the St. Andrew Chaplet I prayed with my family, or maybe it was the Vision of St. Bridget, but this Christmas, I was given the grace to see beyond the figurines of my little manger scene to feel and see in my heart what really happened on that night.   Light filling the dark stable as Jesus was born, Jesus lying on the cold ground, shaking and crying, Mary and Joseph worshiping their own baby; all these things I had never really thought about before. For the first time, I started to see how precious a gift it is that God would come down from the beauty and splendor of heaven to our dark and cold world.  And Why? I'm really not that great. He didn't have to become a man and subject himself to all the cruelties of this life for me. But he did. And I am more thankful this year than I ever have been.

I can say with certainty that this year, was the best Christmas I have ever had and I hope you can say the same.