Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Barn Raising

That is exactly what it felt like at Chez Flaherty today.

Our neighborhood care group* poured into our house and helped us finish all of our painting. They painted our kitchen, the hallway to our bedroom, the master bathroom, and the rotary hallway to the boys' rooms... including all the doors and windows.

It is amazing to me how much work can get done in such a short amount of time when you let others help you. We have worked countless hours renovating this house and our former house. In doing so, we have been so blessed by friends who have come along side us to paint, tile, help hang trim, tear down a wall, and so much more. The work done here today saved us many weekends we now get to use for family time. We're looking forward to more Saturdays we get to devote to helping others with their projects, hiking trips, slow visits to the local Farmers' Market, and maybe even declared "Pajama Days."**

Renovating our house has been a long, slow, stressful journey. True to the old adage (I'm sure this is somewhere in the Bible!), house projects are usually more expensive, more annoying, and more time consuming than you originally planned. We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our house-renovating journey started September '06 at closing; now, we're only a few projects away from being DONE. Of course one is never done on some levels, but as far as we're concerned, all significant projects will be behind us. Saturdays, here we come!

So tonight, before we sit on our duffs and take in the deep and culturally significant movie, The Devil Wears Prada, we thank all our friends and family who have put in their share of sweat and muscle. Thanks for your love and support! We would not be finishing without you!

*Our church divides its members into groups by "neighborhoods;" each section of town has its own "NCG." It's a way our church practically and thoughtfully cares for its members.

**Term stolen from my dear friend Keri which describes a day when all members of the family stay in their pajamas all day... only playing and relaxing allowed. I can't wait to try those pajamas on for size!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Summer Eating

I love those moments when cooking transcends simply being functional, a physical answer to a felt need deep in our bellies. I love those moments when cooking becomes more like an art... when I take a recipe and tweak it to
my cravings,
the fresh food of the season,
the availability of ingredients in my cupboard at the time,
my whims of curiosity.

My cravings.
Today I wanted a summer dish. I wanted something a bit lighter than my typical kitchen journeys took me. Something not necessarily warm.

Fresh food.
Tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes. I LOVE them. I could eat them all day long. I wanted a new use for these seasonal plump red beauties. Another excuse to buy more.

Ingredient availability.
I love saving money and reducing trips to the grocery store. For instance, in the recipe below, I enjoyed subbing in balsamic vinegar for the white wine vinegar. Makes me feel smart to beat the system in this way. I mention below a few of the recipe originals in case they work better for you.

Whims of curiosity.
This trait has the potential to scare roommates and husband. In college, I once used my sandwich maker to make a green bean casserole sandwich. What a better way to use Thanksgiving leftovers, I surmised! I didn't get any takers on that one. Today's curiosity simply led to adding chicken and marinating it in the dressing used in the salad.

The following is a tweak to a recipe I gleaned from a recipe swap* among friends a few days ago.

Spinach Salad with Chicken and Apricot Vinaigrette
serves 8

6 chicken breasts, raw
2 TBL lemon juice
10 oz pkg of fresh spinach
1-2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 small purple onion, thinly sliced
8 oz of large pasta, like ziti or penne, cooked
(1 cup of chopped dried apricots)**
4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese***
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Apricot Vinaigrette, 1/2 reserved (recipe below)

Sprinkle lemon juice on chicken breasts. Pour 1/2 of apricot vinaigrette on top of chicken, stir until coated, and marinate for several hours or overnight. Cook chicken at 350 degrees for 30 min or until chicken is cooked. Place rest of ingredients up to vinaigrette in a large bowl. Pour in vinaigrette (or adjust amount to taste) and toss gently. Serve on plates topped with sliced chicken breasts.

Apricot Vinaigrette

1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup apricot jam
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp freshly ground pepper

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.

Enjoy! I plan on posting a few other of our family's favorites in the coming weeks. Happy eating!


*I fully recommend throwing one of these together. Eight of us brought 10 copies of 5 of our favorite recipes... the ones we use on a regular basis- easy and loved by many. We sipped coffee, nibbled dessert, and shared our recipes and cooking hints with one another.

**I didn't have these but I kept them on my tweaked recipe as they would definitely be a welcomed addition.

***Original recipe called for crumbled feta or goat cheese.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Monday Mornin' Blues

It's not even Monday yet and I already have the Monday morning blues.

I guess it's a sign of a good weekend.

Good Mommy and Daddy time. Not checking off the to-do list after the boys are in bed. A local restaurant's "death by chocolate" cake. A foot massage. Good conversation. Good cuddlin' to Casino Royale. (We recommend, by the way.) Laughing at our boys. Celebrating the Daddy my husband has been, is, and will be. Honoring him, enjoying him, spoiling him. Enough space in our schedule to just be.

Good time with the boys. We took them to the local farmer's market where Justin loves to run around in the small field of pinwheels. We bought local jam, squash, tomatoes, and our first tomato plant. (We'll see how that goes.) We each held a baby during church, as long as they would last. While we missed some details of the worship service, we treasured the closeness. We ran around with mixing bowls on our heads, played the new drums passed down from our friends, ate pizza while we watched the U.S. Open, worked on sharing our toys, enjoyed Nathan's laughing at Justin's antics.

Good time with friends. This week, two friends and their families drove up from the town I lived in before here. What a blessing to be with each other... old friends... friends who knew each other pre-k... pre-kids. Sprinkled into the child managing was wonderful conversation. We even took in local food from the local burrito place at the end of our street and the local Denny's (kids eat free, remember?!). ha. And the latter part of this afternoon we played at our (local) friend's house. Their house is like a mini vacation for us. The daddies threw a Frisbee (usually avoiding the kids) and the mommies caught up about life, while the kids played in the romantic creek that divides their yard.

And now the daily grind starts back up. I never thought I would have the Monday mornin' blues when I wasn't working (much)! I just figured the days would roll into each other and each day would feel like the weekend. How wrong I was! Tomorrow morning I must share my husband with the campus... a job and life I share a heart for, usually. However, right now I have more of a heart for me... for the weekend and the break and the in between. I have the "I wantsies." Right now I want more of right now.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Post for Nathan

You're my second child. My second son.

Second in birth order.
Your big brother preceded you by 18 months. A lifetime of age difference now; a blink of an eye in 18 years.

Second to receive my attention.
Today your brother stood up on a chair- again for the umpteenth time. At the same time, you had pushed yourself backwards... gotten yourself stuck under a chair. I left you in your desperate condition to give your brother some unwanted feedback before I returned to rescue you. Such is the reality of the second child.

Second in our experience in parenting.
This can be a good thing and a bad thing... I think I'll let this topic be another post for another day!

But you share first place to receive our love as our child.
I wondered if I could love another as much as your big brother. You proved that notion wrong the moment we first met at your birth. I stood holding you... dumbfounded; it was as if I didn't think the pregnancy and labor process would actually lead to a real baby this time. Hormones, emotions, and physical fatigue taking over this mama, I cried and asked, "How am I going to take care of another child?!" I was struck by the reality of your preciousness , your unique createdness, the gift you were to our family, your neediness of all of us in order to help ground you in this great big world. I wanted you to know-- every minute-- how much you are loved and to always feel secure in that love. In that moment, I realized how important you were and how incapable I was of loving you like you deserve and of meeting all of your needs.

I was once again overwhelmed by the love parents have for their children. And thankfully needy and aware I could love you Not in my own strength. Just as you needed me to rescue you from underneath the chair, I needed and need the Lord to rescue me- the dreadfully lacking parent- from my needy position every moment of every day. I need Him to give me the strength and ability to love you. I need Him to love you through me.

Thankfully, the Lord has come and enabled us to love you. And He continues to offer restoration and forgiveness when we push Him away and don't love you well. He always comes back, just as we commit to always coming back to you. He's helping us verb-love you and not just adjective-love you, which was so automatic from the beginning.

By the way, your big brother Justin adores you. At times he feels threatened by your increasing interest in toys first owned by him; sorry about that. We're working on that. Hopefully you're soaking in the moments when he takes your toys to you! But I can also see his enjoyment and love of you. Today found him copying your new talent by scooting backwards on the floor right alongside you. You were both so happy next to each other. When you awake from sleep, he immediately exclaims, "Hi Baby!" and rushes in your room to greet you in your bed. If he's the first in his car seat, he asks, "Baby?" and makes sure we didn't forget you... (this is actually a very helpful reminder.) I love watching you respond to him with gut-wrenching laughter. It blesses me to no end to see your interactions and love for each other deepen. I pray that your relationship will always be as close as your genetic composition.

Today we shared a moment together. You awoke early from a nap and were obviously still tired. As I lay you on the couch, you quietly watched the movement of trees in the wind outside. Already tired and wooed in by your content and quiet spirit, I joined you on that couch. You sucked your thumb and stared into my eyes as you drifted off to sleep.

We were closer than close. I loved that rare uninterrupted time together. I loved staring at your beautiful face, your plump forearms, your twitching little lips. I loved smelling your baby breath. When I awoke, I found my drool on your shoulder.

It was then that I remembered a very important Truth. This side of heaven, all great things come to an end at some point. Even though one can make lemons into lemonade, that lemonade eventually spills, gets sticky, even rots.

There I was, enjoying our shared nap, but confronted by my ever-growing need to relieve myself of the day's beverages. My shoulder and arm had unfortunately joined our slumber and were tingly and increasingly sore to the point of pain. And I had to put aside the fear of awaking you to relieve my own needs.

I had to peel our skin apart as I gracefully arose in an attempt to not awake you. Thankfully, you stayed asleep; this lemon only turned to lemonade today... the rotting largely postponed until a later date.

As I met my personal needs, I gratefully considered my love for you and our special moment together.

Nathan, this Sunday we baptize you. We formally and publicly welcome you into our Church family. We mark you with water, reflecting our hope that the Lord would indeed continue to be faithful to our family by pursuing you into relationship with Him as you grow as a boy and someday even as a man. Sometimes sweet as honey and usually as sour as lemons, we, your Mommy and Daddy, stand before our church family and ask them to help us raise you unto the Lord.

We love you so much Nathan and are so thankful the Lord has graced us with the gift that you are!!