poppy made it

look what santa brought me!  (um, i realize this post comes a bit after the fact, but you'll have that.)  jim commissioned his dad to make this gorgeous bench for our living room, made entirely of scrap mahogany.  beautiful, sturdy, one-of-a-kind, and salvaged from expensive wood destined for the dumpster. how cool?

dylan exclaims, "poppy made it!" about just about every object in the house.

the truth is he probably could make anything he set his hands to, and we're so thankful for our growing custom collection.

Exhibit B:  dylan's big girl daisy bed.  isn't it sweet?  again, poppy dreamed up the whole thing in his head.

Exhibit C:  stunning baby cradle.  this is heirloom.  i just love the sun, moon, and stars.
Exhibit D:  cool storage bench that matches our ikea living room furniture but is significantly more durable
i forgot to photograph the matching shelves poppy made to fit the quirky low walls and slant ceiling of the bedroom in our first apartment.  we now have one in our room, and its pair makes the perfect child's book shelf in dylan's.

poppy is a woodworker by trade (completely self-taught), but shouldn't he be in business for himself?  he's an artist who can create anything, and he skillfully carves such love and time into every piece and project.

if you live in the nashville area and are looking for custom furniture, i know a guy...


3 is the magic number

james slept through the night, in his crib, for the past three nights.

as dylan has been known to mutter to herself around the house, "thanks be to God!"

she really is a little sponge--even the liturgy soaks in.  we have to be careful of other things!

they say those first three months for newborns are almost like a fourth trimester (quarter?), and i think that's so true.  it seems to take a full three months for babes to start to acclimate to life on planet earth.

at three months, no only is our sweet boy smiling, laughing, and cooing, he's beginning to settle into some natural rhythms.  i can put him down to nap (by himself, finally!) for longer stretches of time, and when he's awake he really engages with people and his surroundings.

james love face time, whether in our laps or on the changing table, and he flashes the widest grins whenever he catches our eyes.

james finally seemed like he was ready for a bedtime, so we started putting him down by himself, and he didn't fight it.  when he woke later, we'd bring him back into bed with us, not wanting to provoke the kind of battles we fought when dylan was a wee thing.

ok, she's still a wee thing.  in fact, they're in the same size diapers!

if it ain't broke...

but, co-sleeping is not our parenting philosophy or anything, and it was time to give sleeping in the crib a try.

james woke up, i nursed him, and put him back in his bed.

and he slept!

and then the next three nights, he didn't even wake up until morning.

that's my boy:)

i'm not deluding myself that he'll sleep like a little cherub forever and ever, amen, or anything, but he did last night, and for that i am thankful.

thanks be to God.


nourishing chicken stock and noodle soup

Around the time I read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and became more interested in eating more real food and less junk, I purchased Nourishing Traditions, which is sort of the bible of the "slow food" movement. I've yet to adopt many of its traditional practices, but I've successfully made homemade chicken stock and wanted to share the recipe.

What other recipe says, "You are loved" quite as well as chicken noodle soup from scratch?

Making stock from chicken bones you might otherwise throw away is old-school thrifty and healthful. It's not just an old-wives tale that chicken soup is medicinal: gelatin-rich stock is nutritious and aids digestion. Plus, homemade stock has no weird additives, and you can control the sodium content.

Roasting Chicken:
First, I roasted a chicken (for the second time in my life.) It was a 6 1/2 lb chicken, and after cleaning it and patting it down (and removing the gizzards), I stuffed it with celery stalks and a quartered onion. Using a few tablespoons of butter, I rubbed the outside and put the rest under the skin, along with a mixture of a few teaspoons (combined) of garlic, thyme, and Italian seasoning. Then I squeezed a lemon over it, popped it in, and let it cook at 350 for about 2 1/2 hours (until the internal temperature reached 180), basting occasionally.

The chicken was moist and delicious. I could have made a good gravy, but instead I used the drippings in my stock. Jim cleaned most of the meat from the carcass, and I put it in the fridge for soup later.

Making Stock:
As per Nourishing Traditions, I broke or cut all the bones in half, to release maximum flavor and nutrients.

Bones, skins. and pan drippings went into my stock pot along with  
four quarts of cold water and
two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.  I also added a  
quartered onion, 
two smashed cloves of garlic, and
several carrots and celery stalks, cut into chunks, and 
three bay leaves.

Let it stand for 45 minutes to allow the vinegar to draw minerals from the bones. 

Then, bring to a boil, skim any scum that rises (I didn't actually have any), and turn the heat down to a simmer.

Let it simmer for anywhere from 6-24 hours. I set mine to low and let it go all night. Flavor takes time, and it's worth it. In the morning (after about 12 hours), I threw in a bunch of parsley and let it simmer another ten minutes. Then, I turned it off, fished out all the solids, and discarded them. After all that time, the veggies had given up all their goodness and any remainder meat had cooked too long to be very flavorful. (Remember, most of the meat was in my fridge, waiting for later.)

Strain the stock through a sieve and let cool. (I put mine out on the porch for a bit until it was cool enough to stick in the fridge--a perk of winter cooking.)

After a bit in the fridge, the fat will rise, and you can skim it off. (If you're making soup, you could probably just skip the whole cooling and skimming bit.) At this point, can or freeze your stock for future soups or recipes, or you make a delicious chicken noodle soup.  I improvised, and it turned out beautifully.

Making Chicken Soup:
I cut up more 
celery, carrots, garlic and an onionsauteeing and sweating them a bit in the pot before adding my stock back.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. I added a teaspoon each of garlic, 
sage, and
crushed rosemary,
2/3 tsp thyme
3 tsp parsley and

2 tsp salt. I added another tsp later but probably could have done with less.

I added 2/3 of a bag of noodles and let them cook for five minutes. Then I added my leftover chicken from the night before, and in a few minutes, it was ready to serve.

There you have it:  lots and lots of nutritious meals made from Sunday dinner leftovers, a few carrots, onions, some celery, noodles, and spice. How great is that?

We enjoyed our soup tonight with this deliciously bread recipe. Oh. My. Goodness.

I'm clearly a newbie at traditional cooking, so if anyone wants to leave a tip, I'd love to hear yours.  What are your favorite healthful foods to prepare?

Shared with Your Green Resource at SortaCrunchy, The Greenbacks Gal, A Delightful Home, and Live Renewed.  
images:  stock, carrots


sister love

if you are a praying person, would you please lift up my sister, tiffany, in prayer?  she is undergoing surgery today for breast cancer.  i talked to her this morning, and she was feeling full of peace and enveloped in prayer, but a few more prayers wouldn't hurt!

please pray that the five hour surgery goes well, that they don't find cancer in her lymph nodes, and for her recovery and complete healing.

isn't this such a cool picture?  this is tiff at machu picchu.  she is a world traveler and a fantastic sixth grade teacher.

while you're praying, my other sister, bethany, could use prayer, too.  she is studying spanish in guatemala and got her identity stolen, bank account wiped, and an additional two grand overdrawn.  she's traveling alone and going to language school so that she can come home better equipped to serve brooklyn as a tenant organizer.  please pray for her safety there and for peace as this financial mess is resolved.

my sisters are two of the most important people in my life.  they are strong and beautiful, inside and out, and i'm so proud of both of them and thankful for them.

thank you for praying with me for these amazing women!


out of the rubble, something beautiful

if you want to read an amazing story, click on over to rage against the minivan.  the howertons have been entangled in a heart-wrenching 2 1/2 year process of adopting from haiti, and today their little boy came home.  he was just a baby when they were placed, and today he is three and joins his mom, dad, two sisters, and brother in california.

if there hadn't been a horrific earthquake, who knows how much longer their family would have had to endure the separation?  it's amazing how God can work good out of even the most painful and devastating circumstances.

of course, haiti continues to be on everyone's hearts and minds.  dylan must have caught glimpses of news footage, because when we prayed tonight for people in haiti, she said "houses fall down.  boys fall down."  my heart broke all over again.

continue to pray and give.


lift up your head

many thanks to everyone who shared encouraging words when i confessed i was feeling "in over my head" with my little ones. it did my heart good.

while i know that i don't need to do everything on my own, and that as a christian, i'm called to trust the Lord to give me the strength i need, sometimes, it helps to hear it from you.

and my mom.

she sent me a voicemail saying that perhaps God is trying to teach me to be more dependent on him. she said the we are "created for dependence."

i believe that. and yet, it is so easy to lose sight of.

the rugged individualist, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps american spirit suggests otherwise. it tells us we shouldn't need to ask for help and that there's possibly something wrong with us if our lives aren't perfectly managed.

that individualistic spirit of self-sufficiency has crept into christianity as well, threatening to warp a faith of dependence, discipleship, and denial of self into some kind of creepy american civil religion where sin is is neatly managed and the cross of Christ rendered unnecessary.

that's not the kind of faith i want to practice.

i want to show my kids that serving God is not about being perfect or about having it all together, but about submission, repentance, forgiveness, and trust. it's about God working in us and through us because of his goodness and power and love.

my mom also reminded me of the psalm that says that God is the lifter of our heads:

But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. (psalm 3:3)

it's funny, because over the past week, i'd been singing the chorus "God will lift up your head" around the house to myself and dylan. (you can listen to it here.)

i didn't even know all the words until i looked it up. it's a good one:

Give to the wind your fear
Hope and be undismayed
God hears your sighs and counts your tears
God will lift up, God will lift up, lift up your head

God will lift up your head 3x
Lift up your head

Leave to His sovereign sway
To choose and to command
Then shall we wandering on His way
Know how wise and how strong
How wise and how strong
How strong is His hand

God will lift up your head 3x
Lift up your head

Through waves and clouds and storms,
He gently clears the way
Wait because in His time, so shall this night
Soon end in joy, soon end in joy
Soon end in joy

God is strong. God is compassionate. God is in control. and he will lift up our heads.


everyone knows i'm in over my head

i see it in the eyes of shoppers at the grocery, who watch me juggling my toddler, cumbersome infant carrier, cart, diaper bag, and stash of grocery totes with a mixture of concern, pity, and relief that they're not walking in my snowy boots.

i see it in the eyes of congregants at my church as i carry both children back from the communion rail, having just wrestled dylan away from the choir chancel with james strapped to my chest.

i am in over my head. there's no disguising it.

it's been almost three months of parenting two kids, but i don't feel any better established. if anything, i feel more scattered and disorganized.

it takes a full hour to get all three of us dressed and out the door in the morning, and that's only if i skip my shower and james' spit up doesn't require multiple costume changes and no one needs a last minute new diaper and it hasn't snowed, requiring shoveling and scraping just to leave the driveway. and that doesn't include time factored in for feeding dylan or nursing james.

in fact, by the time i'm actually ready to get out the door, it's usually time to feed/diaper/change him all over again.

i don't mean to complain. i'd just hoped to be falling into a better system or something by now. plenty of people have more than two kids and manage their families with the kind of grace and calm i can only dream of.

what is their secret? am i missing a page in the manual that explains how to manage the chaos of life with little ones?

on one hand, i suppose, there's a certain liberation in acknowledging yes, i am in over my head. it's almost the american way to walk around pretending we have it all together, but if you took one look at me, you'd know that isn't an option. it's kind of impossible to carry two babes through a snowy parking lot with poise and grace.

today, i am ok. but please keep asking, because sometimes i'm barely hanging by a thread and need to know i'm not alone.

thank you for holding the door for us.

thank you for helping us with our coats.

thank you for picking up whatever it is i dropped this time.

thank you for being patient. God knows i'm trying to be patient, too.


daddy's home

after enduring eight days and billions of snowflakes with two very small children, i'm happy to report that jim is home, safe and sound from backpacking cumberland island, georgia.

even georgia wasn't immune to the record low temps: supposedly, the island experiences snow once every hundred years, and it fell once during the night while they camped. (but they slept threw its fleeting presence.)

it literally snowed every single day here. i had visions of play dates and outings to break up our week, but we were lucky to make it to the grocery store once. it was a loooong week.

jim saw armadillos and wild horses. i saw a lot of baby spit up and countless diapers, but we did actually get a cool wildlife experience: dylan and i watched eight deer feeding right in our snowy yard. they saw us at the kitchen window (and heard our frantic dog) but didn't seem to mind our gaze and stayed for a half hour!

dylan loves animals, and it was fun to watch them up close together. the snow made such a striking contrast to their brown bodies. the small fawns delighted dylan with their awkward hops over the big snow drifts. we had a nice little nature experience from the cozy comfort our our kitchen.

we are all glad to have jim back. this morning, he got up with dylan and i stayed in bed with the baby until after nine. heaven!


kiddie prayers

my week of single-parenthood has (so far) gone better than i'd anticipated. the kids have been pretty good, and they were downright angelic this afternoon at the grocery store and when i locked us out of the house for the better part of an hour(!)

really, it's just the dog that's been driving me crazy. but apparently, just me: dylan seems to enjoy sydney's misbehavior.

an excerpt from tonight's bedtime routine:

ME: what do you want to thank God for?

DYLAN: sydney!

ME: thank you God, for sydney. anything else you want to thank God for, d?

DYLAN: sydney eat poop!

um, i know we're to "give thanks in all circumstances," but i'm drawing the line somewhere. sorry, Jesus.


on books and big love

so back at the end of my pregnancy, i said something wishful about how maybe i'd catch up on my reading once i was nursing a baby full-time.


yes, i've got my hands full with two little ones, but i can't really make excuses. in the 2+ months that james has been on the planet, i only read two books, but i managed to watch 3 seasons of big love during dylan's naps.

cuz i'm a reader like that.

i know, i effused about the merits
of below basic cable, but we traded up last summer when twenty bucks no longer seemed like such a steal for ten channels, and they offered 100+ for $30. somehow, we didn't know that we had on-demand cable, too, so i guess i was making up for lost time with my big love binge.

big love: yeah, it's about polygamy, but it's also about family, faith, and community. and the new season starts sunday, and i'm all caught up!)

so back to the books...

i never quite got caught up from stalling out this summer in my book group reads, but i'm almost there. i'm skipping the
one about the library cat, reading december's now, and hopefully, will finish january's by the end of the month.

here's what i did read:

beautiful boy is a poignant memoir about the tolls addiction takes on family, written by a father about his young meth-addicted son. it's a heartbreaking book examining one of the last taboos in our culture. no one likes to talk about addiction or the fact that recovery is often a lifelong journey full of relapses and painful setbacks. it provides no easy answers or happy endings but makes a good case for addiction being a disease. it's a good read for anyone coping with a loved one's addiction or looking to learn about that perspective.

the next book was the girl with the dragon tattoo, a real page-turner, that i even read aloud a bit to jim on our christmas travels. it interweaves the stories of a financial journalist who's been set up for libel, an elderly tycoon looking to solve the decades-old disappearance of his great-niece, and brillant but damaged female investigator.

it's actually written in swedish, and i don't know if there are several translations, but mine was definitely a british one, and on several occasions i had to stop and figure out what exactly was being described. there were a few dark, disturbing scenes, so i wouldn't recommend it for the faint of heart, but i couldn't put it down.

here's to more books, less tv, but more big love in the new year:)

un-card-worthy pictures. not that we sent cards.

when you have little kids and especially a new baby, you feel like you should send photo christmas cards and that a regular card would somehow be unappreciated. i really did want to send photo cards, but i'm just not that organized. plus, this is some of what i was working with...

i apologize that you didn't get a card from us. i'm still entertaining the idea of sending new year's cards, but i wouldn't hold your breath. so anyway... happy new year! love, team paul:)


sleep in heavenly peace

james is sleeping in his cradle, and has been for over two hours. it might not sound like much, but this is a huge triumph. the boy sleeps, but not for long unless he's being held. my house is fairly organized, i read through and recycled the sunday paper, i'm blogging without simultaneously nursing. it's a big day:)

especially, because this is day one (of SEVEN) of jim being out of town on a backpacking trip. so far, so good. getting out of the house helped. even though it was snowy and in the single digits, we made it to church and had a lovely dinner with neighbors. dylan kept tantrums at bay, and she and i even got a little nap in together in her big girl bed.

thanks, Jesus!


grow this year in love

when last year began, i chose to meditate on the word shalom, and as this new year dawns, the word that's stirring my heart is cultivate.

to tend, as a garden
to nurture
to refine
to actively pursue growth

while i always desire to grow in theory, in practice, i don't often want to put in the work. i'm not naturally inclined toward cultivation. left to my own laziness, i'll stagnate, and this year i want to allow God the room and space to work in my heart and my home. i need to be teaching my kids from a place where i myself am conforming to the likeness of Christ and stretching beyond where i am comfortable.

these are the ten areas i'm focusing on cultivating in 2010--areas of my life to deepen, refine, and invite God to work. i acknowledge, like Paul, that growth comes not from myself but from God (1 cor 3:6-7). i can't create results, but i can be faithful and obedient. and i can be forgiven for stumbling along the path.

in 2010, i want to cultivate:

love: "live a life worthy of the calling you have received. be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love" (eph 4:1-2). what better prayer than to grow this year in love, striving to live a life worthy of the great calling i've received in Christ?

spiritual discipline: get back into an intentional, consistent devotional practice, including daily scripture reading.

our marriage: pray daily with jim and get james to sleep in his own bed.

play: be the mom who says "yes" to creativity, spontaneity, pretend, books, and the outdoors.

learning: with dylan, i want to identify teaching moments in everyday experiences and resist the urge to rush through activities. for myself, i've only thought of the embarrassingly modest goal of continuing in penny's book circle and finishing each month's pick on time:)

health: bake more, buy less. get back to the gym. (they offer free childcare, for goodness sake!) can and freeze more from our garden and the farmers' market this summer.

hospitality--each month, welcome at least one person or family into our home for a meal.

friendship: each week, seek out good grown-up conversation, ideally in person, but at least on the phone. jim doesn't count! i'm not waiting anymore for others to reach out first, and i want to pray for eyes to see where others are in need of encouragement.

solitude: though being a stay-at-home mom to little ones can be lonely, it doesn't allow for much solitude, and i'd like to spend at least an hour a week by myself at the library or coffee shop (ideally not the grocery store;) alone with my thoughts and my God.

order: i function best without clutter, and so before bed and at other points in the day, i'd like to practice five-minute organizing blitzes to manage the chaos.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

Father, may my life bear much fruit this year, as i abide in you.

what new year's goals are you mulling over?
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