Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Just Can't Leave It Alone...

I found the below recipe inside the box of my generic low-fat cream cheese last month. I've been just waiting for the right time to make it. Frankly, to be home for a morning long enough to play around with it.

Normally, when I find a new recipe, I try to make it exactly as written for that first time. I might jot notes in the margins or think out loud while I'm cooking about the possibilities for tweaking it, but I really try to just follow the recipe. The first time.

However, when I saw this one, I knew immediately that I just wouldn't be able to do that. It's a simple, straight-forward pasta dish and when I read it, I could all but hear it BEGGING me for some creative touches. Some panache. Some wow factor changes. Really. I heard the little white cut-out card whispering to me.

It's a sickness. I know. Leave me alone with my voices, thankyouverymuch.

I canNOT wait for dinner, now. The smells in here are making me swoon. The texture of this dish and the look of it, even just waiting to go into the oven for tonight's feast is making my fingers itch. I want to pick at the tender pasta and sample the chicken smothered in sauce. I can't stand it.  And as of this writing, I have about 6 hours of this torture to go.

I'll share the bare-bones original recipe with you here, then I'll give you all my tweaks and tricks that have produced this masterpiece sitting on my counter.  I'll add more pictures later, to show you the bubbly yummy goodness, after it gets topped with these babies and cooked to perfection.

Three Cheese Chicken Penne Pasta Bake
1 1/2 c. multi-grain penne pasta, uncooked
1 pkg. (9 oz.) fresh spinach leaves
1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
1 tsp. basil
1 jar (14.5 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
2 oz. low-fat cream cheese, cubed
1 c. shredded mozzarella
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375. Cook pasta as directed, adding spinach leaves to the pasta water at the very last minute.

While pasta is cooking, cook and stir chicken and basil in a large non-stick skillet on med-high for 3 minutes. Add spaghetti sauce and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Stir in low-fat cream cheese.

Drain pasta and return to sauce pan. Stir in chicken and sauce mixture and add 1/2 c. of mozzarella. Pour all of it into a lightly sprayed 9x9 baking dish.

Bake 20 minutes and sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Bake another 3 minutes till cheese is melted.  Makes 4 servings.

What I did:
  • I doubled everything, of course, in my handy-dandy 9x13 P@mpered Chef stoneware baking dish. LOVE my PC stoneware, incidentally!
  • I used almost 4 c. total of uncooked pasta (to make up for the added water in the spinach - see below).
  • Once cooked and drained, I poured the pasta into a sprayed 9x13 stoneware pan.
  • I grilled the chicken breasts low and slow on the outside grill (it was a gorgeous sunny morning and I wanted the flavor that only grilling can produce.). I didn't add it to to the sauce either. Once the chicken was cooked, I chopped it up and layered it all over the pasta in the 9x13.
For the sauce, I did this:
  • I omitted the basil, as my sauce was already quite flavorful.
  • I used more than 2 oz. of cream cheese - I was trying to use all the left-overs from another recipe.
  • I added two little triangles of Laughing Cow Garlic and Herb spreadable cheese, as they needed to be used up. (Hey, I'm frugal, what can I say?!)
  • I added extra parmesan to the sauce - probably about 1/4 c. (I am 50% Sicilian, after all!)
  • I added about 3/4-1 c. of white wine. (See above note about my Sicilian roots.)
  • I used a box of frozen chopped spinach, and just put it right in the sauce mixture from the start to thaw it and retain the nutrition in the mix.
  • Just before I took it off the stove, I added 1 c. of mozzarella and about 1/2 c. of an Italian blend of shredded cheese left from another recipe. (Frugal. Sicilian. Cheese Lover. Whatever.)
  • When it all came to a boil and simmered for a while (I lost track of time while I was breaking up fights over Little People weddings at the Little People zoo.), I poured the sauce over the pasta and chicken in the 9x13 and gently mixed it all up.
It's in the oven now, set on time delayed baking and waiting to be topped by yet more cheese. Don't worry, my heart will be fine. All my mozz is of the part-skim variety. I promise.
I can guarantee, when this baby makes it to the table, I will NOT be the only one who can't leave it alone. If heaven has a smell, it is this dish. Really.

Mmmmmm, just look at this beautiful, cheesey,
creamy, wine-y goodness.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Experimenting in the Kitchen

Ooooh, I'm going a little stir-crazy here at the Gang's house. Runny noses, cold, rainy, windy days (sometimes all at once!) and (gasp!) boring menu plans. It happens about this time every year. And you, my dear readers, get the benefit of my antsiness. In the form of a new-to-me (and now maybe to you!) recipe.

Bear with me, this one came to me as I was boppin' in the kitchen to old 70's tunes.

"I Woke Up In Love This Morning" quickly followed by "I Can See Clearly Now" then "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and some awesome CCR tune I can't remember the name of.... Seriously, it was one  great tune after another in here while I was whipping this baby together. 

Heh. That might explain the wine.

Then again, it might not.
Creamy Apricot Porkchops
4 bone-in porkchops
1 package stuffing mix, prepared as directed and set aside
3/4 c. apricot preserves
          (or jam, as long as it's got pieces of apricot in it)
3/4 c. light sour cream
3/4 to 1 c. white wine
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Spray a 9x13 baking dish lightly with baking spray and place porkchops in it so they are all flat and not layering over each other.
In a bowl, whisk together the apricot preserves, sour cream, white wine, and garlic powder till well blended. Pour over the pork chops. Bake uncovered for 1 hour at 300. If cream sauce starts get too brown, cover with foil for remaining hour.
Remove 9x13 dish from oven and turn heat up to 400. Across the top of the cream sauce covered pork chops, dollop the prepared stuffing mix as evenly as you can without burning yourself.
Be careful not to drop the stuffing mix from up too high - the splatter is ouchy.  Drizzle the whole dish with the melted butter and return to hot oven. Allow to brown and crisp up lightly.

It smelled amazing in here while it was cooking up - and who doesn't love pork and apricot together? Especially when it's cooked low and slow like this. Be sure to let me know if you try it and what changes you and your gang make to the dish. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Year of the Dragon!

I am all out of whack this week! In my efforts to be more consistent at posting here (as much for me as for you, my three dear readers!), I've been making use of the scheduling device that blogger offers. However, when I wrote up yesterday's post about Dr. D's amazing box, I completely forgot that I'd made a mental note to myself to post it on Tuesday so that I could post about the Chinese New Year on Monday.

Oy. That's what happens when I rely on mental notes. So now I'm making a mental note to use paper and pen for all future notes.

Yeah. Ummmmmm. Anyway. So.

Happy Chinese New Year,
one and all!

The Year of the Dragon is considered to be the luckiest of all the years of the zodiac cycle and so many Chinese people across the world are anticipating this to be a year of great change and prosperity.  We at the Gang's house are anticipating our own big changes and looking forward to God's continued blessing upon our home. We pray that this year brings the same to you!

We celebrated together last night with a yummy family dinner (a rarity these last few weeks, in that all 7 of us were at the table together. For the same meal. At the same time. Wow, I already feel lucky just for that!) of Plum Good Chicken Thighs over brown rice, dumplings from our favorite little Chinese restaurant, and a big garden salad. We're also really looking forward to being with some of our agency family on Saturday for another food-focused celebration!  Mmmmmmm, I love festivities partnered with good food and family. Nothing better, in my book.

During our dinner prayer, The Boss was thanking the Lord for the beauty of China, for Chinese food, for the people of China, and for the gift from China of our Li'l Empress.  Even before his mouth formed the final "n" of "Amen," Li'l Empress looked up and said, "Daddy, I'm from Chwina!"  We thought that was funny, until she proceeded to give him her whole "brain dump" on her version of her life story so far... Does anyone else's kids do that? ONE thought, ONE word, and it triggers a whole monologue of everything she knows related to her, to China, to Chinese food, to it all. Seriously, it went something like this:

"I was borned in Chwina! And my China mommy fed me bottles! And den Mommy and Daddy flew aaaaalll da way crost the ocean in a big plane to come and get me! {breath!}And my Daddy fed me bottles! And I didn't have any hair! And den I comed home and flew on da big plane with my Mommy and my Daddy and I comed home! And Dr. D teached me how to walk! And I didn't have any hair! And I slept in a crib in my green and pink room and my Mommy rocked me to sleep! And I didn't have any hair."

Yeah. Just like that. Really. My ears hurt just remembering it.  No wonder I was in bed by 9:05 p.m.

Sooooo... How did you celebrate with your gang?

Monday, January 23, 2012

It's Not Just a Box

For weeks now, we've been hearing an almost nightly update on Dr. D's box. The box that he has been making in his Manufacturing class at school.

Think updated version of our old shop class in high school.
Add some high-tech tools and way-cool power equipment...
Yeah, I know. A workshop full of power tools and teen boys. Ugh.

It's gotten to be a bit of a joke, in that the moment conversation lulls in the slightest, Dr. D proceeds to share all the minute details of the progress he made that day on this box. Sometimes we even pause our other conversations just to see if he'll pick up the thread of that conversation again, long after we've moved on from it as the main topic.  We like to mess with each other that way.

I must admit that we were not taking him nearly as seriously as we ought to have been. I mean, we didn't really know we should be taking him more seriously, given that he kept saying, "It's not that big a deal, it's just a box" every time we questioned his progress reports or asked for a description as to what kind of box it would be.  He was more focused on telling us the funny and risky pranks some of his classmates would pull and the very laid-back responses the teacher would have to said boy behavior.

There is no way I would EVER be able to be a shop teacher
in a class full of high school boys. Sheesh, that man must have nerves of steel!

But it has been fun to hear how excited he was about the things he's been learning and how much he has enjoyed creating something with his own hands. Still, we were BLOWN.AWAY. when he walked in Thursday night bearing this beautiful piece of workmanship.

Routed raised panel top.
Beautiful cuts and joints.

The top opens to reveal a removable shallow tray.

Inside the box, the slats that hold the shallow tray
in place are also removable. 

Dr. D was poking a bit of fun at me as I was "ooooohing" and "aaaaahing" over his craftsmanship. I kept hitting his arm and saying "This is NOT just a box!"

As I was running my hands over it and listening again to all the details of skills he learned on the project, I just kept thinking of my grandfather. A master carpenter, my grandfather made many beautiful things like this over his lifetime. I have vivid memories of the smells and the sounds of his workroom in their basement in Methuen, listening to him singing while he worked (he favored great Italian tenors!) and seeing his handiwork all over their home and ours.

That's when Dr. D REALLY poked fun at me.... "Are you crying, Mom?"

He asks me this question often.
I have a tendency toward leaky eyes when I'm really happy.
Or proud. Or excited.....

"Yes, Dr. D. I am. Your great-grandfather would love this box. Smelling it and hearing you talk about the joints and the router and the planer reminds me of him. He was a great carpenter and a great man. He would love this box. He would be so proud of you right now."

It is not just a box.

Mom, this post is for you.
Grandpa would be so proud, wouldn't he?

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Little Reminiscing

We were talking the other night about our upcoming series of home-study meetings, explaining to the kids what the "big family meeting" might look like and what questions might come up. It led to a conversation about how much each kid has grown and changed since our first home-study back in August of 2006. Yes, I said 2006. That led to a conversation about life when it was just Momma hangin' out with Shaggy and Dr. D.

Only, they weren't Shaggy or Dr. D back then.
They were my sweet, funny, silly little boys
who never once warned me
that they were gonna grow up
and become MEN, for crying out loud.

But aaaaaanywaaaaaay, Baby BlueEyes loves hearing stories of the stuff those two got into so I told one of my favorite stories....


One day, The Boss was hanging out with the two boys in our little duplex in town. They were talking about different words for multiple objects vs. words for singular objects. It got to be a bit of a word game, each boy trying to spit out the answer before his brother could.

The Boss: "What's a big group of birds called?"

One of them piped up, "That's a flock!"

"Well, then, what's a big bunch of cows called?"

"It's a herd, Daddy!"

It went on and on. Till The Boss got a little tricky with his boys.

"Okay. So let me ask you this. . . What is a great big group of people called?"

At the very same moment, with no hesitation, both boys yelled out their answers triumphantly.

Shaggy shouted, "IT'S A PARTY!!!!!"

And Dr. D yelled, "IT'S A FAMILY!!!!"

How cute is that?!

The strange thing is, those particular answers were very true of their personalities for quite a long time. The stranger thing is that, essentially, I think they have flip-flopped since they became teens. It's been one of those parenting conundrums for me.... One of those things that keeps me guessing. It might just be their way of keeping The Boss and I from being too assured of our methodology with this gang.  Which, I'm fairly certain, isn't a bad thing.

Forgetting to warn me that they would be growing up into MEN? Well, I would have liked to be in on that decision for sure. I'm pretty sure I would have voted for an extension on the deal.

Have a great Friday everyone!!!!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cold Weather Comfort Food

LadyBug has been taking a mini-course at school in Latin. Since the marking period ends very soon, the kids are busy doing projects and papers on ancient Roman culture.  Last night, as I was helping LadyBug whip up her baking project, it occurred to me that this just might be a brilliant ploy on the part of the Latin teacher. After all, this is now the 3rd baking project I have done with one of my gang members for this class. I'm thinking teachers really like repeat students in situations like this. I mean, what's not to like? This yummy pan of good gooey-ness features all the essentials of the perfect winter comfort food. Especially if you have a sweet tooth! Once our fast is broken, LadyBug will have to make this one again, just for The Gang. Let me know if you make it, and how you like it. Enjoy and try to stay warm today, my friends!

Old Roman Apple Cake

3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. orange juice
1 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla
3-4 lg. apples, sliced thin
4 eggs
Cinnamon, for sprinkling
Brown Sugar, for sprinkling

Mix all ingredients (except apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar) until well blended. Pour 1/2 of batter into a greased and floured tube pan or 9x13 cake pan.

Sprinkle half the apples on top. Sprinkle some cinnamon over apples. Cover with remaining half of batter. Top with other half of apples and sprinkle cinnamon and brown sugar on apples.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours, testing with a knife after about 55 minutes. Cake is ready when knife comes out clean but wet.

Allow to cool. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar to serve.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday {or not....)

During our church's season of prayer and fasting, The Gang decided to give up television together. And when I say "The Gang decided," we all know that I really mean "The Boss and I decided for us all." In the interest of putting aside some of the "noise" of the world around us, we've been encouraging the kids to find other pursuits.

Here's what they did Monday night for a while.

I can't believe no one called Li'l Empress for cheating
by hanging on Shaggy's neck for help!

Let's just say that Shaggy is not nearly
as flexible as he'd like himself to be.
Which suits Dr. D just fine.
He emerged the victor!

wordless or not,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.
And please, stop lurking!
I see you there in the stats, you know.....

Monday, January 16, 2012

An Update on The Progress

As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, January is our "big push" for paperwork as related to our second adoption journey.  I thought you might be interested to hear what we've been doing since the week following Christmas... Not the most exciting post I've ever written, but I'm LOVIN' all the little crossing off I get to do on my checklists. Prices of most documentations haven't changed all that much since we adopted Li'l E but now we have to include Shaggy in most of the process and maybe even Dr. D for some. Working on clarifying the answers for that but here's what we've done so far....
  • Home Study Fee - It's sitting in Mei Mei's savings account as I type! Thank you, Jesus!
  • Preliminary Questions Sheet - Done!
  • Marriage Licenses - Both copies ordered and in hand already!
  • Birth Certificates - All three copies are in hand.
  • Proof of Training - Already submitted to agency and cleared.
  • Prior Home Study - On file with the agency.
  • Medical Forms - Kids are dropped off at the doc's office, waiting to be called for pick-up. Mine and The Boss's will be delivered to dr. at 4 p.m. this afternoon. Please pray about this one with us - we both are a tad concerned as our dr. wasn't the most compliant sort when we had to do this for Li'l Empress's journey. Twice. :(
  • Financial Statements - Materials all gathered, waiting to be condensed onto worksheet today or tomorrow and then we need to print them...
  • Police Clearances - Forms submitted on Friday. Think we might need to do one for Dr. D now too.
  • Child Abuse Clearances - Forms submitted on Friday. Think this also needs to include Dr. D now.
  • FBI Fingerprints - Form submitted and approval for appointment granted. The Boss is looking today for the nearest site so we can knock this off ASAP.
  • Reference Letters - Sent out five to our closest friends and waiting to hear that at least 4 of the five have been returned. I forgot till now that one of them has to be from a teacher, since we have school-aged kids. Didn't know that detail when I got that done early in December so I'm fixing that today. Ugh.
  • Proof of Medical/Health Insurance Coverage - The Boss is getting this done...
  • Verification of Animal Vaccination - Really?! Ugh. Guess I'm going to the vet this week.
  • Proof of Income - Easy peezy this time of year, letter of employment already in hand, forms being sent by CHOP soon.
  • Verification of Debt - The Boss compiled that on Saturday. 
  • Verification of Assets - Ditto. I need more ink for the printer before we can officially mark these two things done. Guess I'm going to Walmart while I'm out at the vet!
  • Financial Worksheet - Ugh. Letting The Boss do this one too!
  • Proof of Life Insurance Coverage - Copying from files, easy peezy, too.
  • 6 Photos of "Everyday" Life - yeah, ummmm, really need to go get that ink!
Finally, we have our first "tentative" home-study appointment coming up at the end of the month. And the whole family meeting is scheduled for mid-February. We are hoping to make that the last of the four necessary meetings. But to schedule the other two in our agency's office, we're up against the challenge of coordinating The Boss's work demands, my babysitting obligations, and both Shaggy's and Dr. D's activities. Throw in the social worker's similar constraints and you can see the complications we foresee. But we will push through it and it will get done. I am determined!

Oooh, and in a bit of other fun family news, we think we finally have a name. I'm not sure yet how I feel about sharing it, as it is still kind of new to us and we are "trying it out" for a bit. But I will post more about that later. I promise!  How's that for another teaser?!

Friday, January 13, 2012

The 3 P's {Purity}

If you are just popping by today and you didn't get the backstory of my 3 P's, I encourage you to head to yesterday's post (click here!) and check it out first. Hopefully, you'll read the other 2 P's, too. Truthfully, I was hoping for more discourse over these three topics... Are you lurking again?!

"Purity" sure is a hot topic in today's culture, isn't it? Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines "purity" as "the quality or state of being pure," and lists the synonyms of  "chasteness, immaculacy, innocence, modesty, and chastity."  Huh. Pretty big words. Pretty big concepts. And certainly NOT all directly related to the obvious definitions of purity that come to mind the nanosecond the word is uttered.  That's what stuck in my mind when the Lord gave me these 3 P's: "purity" is so much more than staying sexually pure and remaining a virgin until marriage. PURITY is a quality or a state of being. Keep that in mind as you track with me on this one.
Praying for Our Kids' Purity
Pray for your kids to carry a child-like faith and sweetness through all of their days. Pray that the innocence that brings you (and God!) such joy now, while they are young, continues to be a hallmark of their character. As our youth pastor's wife pointed out, we aren't praying for niavete. Rather, we are praying for the choice to remain innocent of the temptations to seek worldliness and "street smarts" that can lead to unhealthy choices and broken, painful consequences. Pray for a tenderness of heart that seems "other-worldly" when compared to our culture's secular understanding of innocence.
Of course, pray for your children to seek moral and physical purity in all of their relationships with others. But you can also ask God for a purity of understanding regarding the God-ordained roles of maleness and femininity. Pray for them to remain unscathed by the input of others that would seek to destroy or beat down the ideals of abstinence, virginity. Ask God to give them opportunities to speak of about the divine healing that  is available to those whose innocence has been stripped from them.
Pray for them to rise up and be a generation that honors and promotes God's plan for marriage and family.  Pray that they will stand strong in the face of the enemy's attempts to destroy the crucial foundations of our culture. Pray that they seek compassionate responses to the culture around them and act as agents of healing and restoration for those that desire to destroy what God created in the family and in the institute of marriage.
Finally, pray that they would see the world around them through the purity of the lens of The Word. Ask Him to give them eyes to see the things that He sees, the way He sees them, and be moved to speak as a voice of Truth and a seeker of justice for those who are oppressed or hurting or broken. Pray that their hearts be broken by the very things that break God's heart, that they be His hands, His voice, and His heart to the world in which they live. His heart beats with the ultimate purity of heart and we can seek God on behalf of our kids for that heartbeat every day.
Wow. I saved the biggie for last, didn't I? I know it's a potentially controversial conversation for the many different readers I have around here. But no matter. I believe that purity of heart is indeed something for which we should all be seeking God. What Scriptures can you share with us that would help us pray for our kids? I'm interested to hear your take on the topic and how you handle the conversation with your own gang.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The 3 P's {Purpose}

If you are just popping by today and you didn't get the backstory of my 3 P's, I encourage you to head to Tuesday's post (click here!) and start there.... It'll make more sense if you do, I promise.

When you are the parent of a passel of little bitty treasures, the idea of "Purpose" can feel overwhelming and "too big" around which to wrap your sleep-interrupted, dirty-diaper-focused mind.  But as much as I hated to hear it when I was in that baby/toddler/two in diapers stage of my parenting, the years DO fly by. The days of monotonous replays of Barney, Sesame Street, and Dora (rewind, repeat) really do come to an end. And if you don't catch a hold of the Purposes of God for your kids and teach THEM how to grasp that "big idea" also, they will get stuck in their own litany of monotony, only it won't be the all-too-brief season of diaper-changing and baby-rocking. It won't be with the big purple guy and that strange little backpack. It will be with REAL.LIFE. Grown up stuff that won't grow up till they face it. I know you don't want your kids to settle for "less than" purpose-filled, God-ordained, intentional lives. But getting them there requires our diligence and our own catching hold of the purpose for which God has us parenting them. Getting our kids to the point of living fully in their big dreams and passions requires that we teach them and we pray into them the purposes of God.

Praying For Our Kids' Purpose
Ask God to show you some things about the path that He has for your children's futures. Pray for intentionality in their pursuits of His plans. Pray for that pursuit to be based on The Word of God and carried out with integrity and creativity. They have plans for their lives and He knows just how to fit them into the bigger picture of His kingdom and the niche only they can fill within that kingdom.
Pray for healthy and productive child development. Pray that the sequential stages of their development  will be productive and useful toward preparing them for the next stage and for their future growth. Each stage  of learning that our kids encounter has been put in place by God. He created them and those stages have an important function and "big picture"  purpose. It's so tempting to try and rush them through the stages, but instead, try praying them through the stage and asking God to give you a peek into what they are learning. Sometimes, you might even need to pray for a stage again, as often kids "revisit" stages for different reasons or seasons of their lives.
Pray for your children to identify their life purpose(s) in His timing and learn how to continually surrender it to the glory and the honor of Their Creator. Pray that his or her individual purpose supports and contributes well to the Body of Christ at large and to the local church family in which they are planted. Yes, planted even now as kids. We are all created to glorify The Father - and that can be done at any age.

So how about it? Let's chat again. What verses from The Word can help you key in on the purpose of your child's life?  I'm anxious to hear from you and can't wait to dig into The Word with you!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The 3 P's {Passion}

If you are just popping by today and you didn't get the backstory of my 3 P's, I encourage you to head to yesterday's post (click here!) and check it out first. I don't often name my posts with such disarming titles as "Passion" so things will make more sense if you start there.

I love that God has created each of my Gang members so uniquely and specifically. They are about as different from each other in their unique-ness as snowflakes are from other snowflakes. I love learning about "what makes my kids tick," so to speak. So praying with the focus of Passion is really exciting to me. And while it's likely pretty obvious to most of you what "passion" means in this context, I am going to assume nothing and share with you the definitions and explanations as I feel the Lord shared them with me. It isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, nor is it to be a formula. These are simply the ideas I felt the Lord giving me, here and with the coming "P's" for praying.

What I would LOVE for you to do is read them over and then share what Scriptures come to your mind that help you pray specifically for your own child.  I certainly have my own favorite verses when praying for my kids but I love hearing others' views on The Word and how they use it as a tool for strengthening their family.

Praying for Our Kids' Passion
Pray for your kids to know early and intimately WHO they are in Christ. Pray that they know how passionate their Creator is for them and how BIG He dreams for their lives.  Pray that you be able to communicate to them how BIG you dream for them, as an extension of those dreams their Heavenly Father has for their life's journey.
Pray that God would show them early what passions HE has woven into their being. These passions obviously include their natural gifts and talents, but can also be their temperament, their life's work, their calling or vocation, and even their hobbies. Pray that as they discover more about how God has wired them, they would also learn how to submit those gifts to His leading. Pray for protection against pride or arrogance that can come with God-given talents or traits. Pray for blossoming of these passions to be in His timing and in accordance with His plan for their lives, both here and now AND in their big, beautiful futures.
Finally, pray for Him to be glorified in the growing and developing AND in implementing of these passions. Pray that He teach you how to teach them that it's all for Him. All of it.

So how about it? What comes to your mind when praying for your kid's passions?  I'm anxious to hear from you and can't wait to dig into The Word with you!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The 3 P's

Over the past 3-4 months, the Lord has been showing me how I need to be more intentional in my prayers regarding my kids. I feel like I did such a great job when the three older kids were pre-schoolers and elementary-age, in keeping my focus on covering them with prayer, teaching them to pray, and seeking the Lord as to how to pray for them. I commented to a friend today, that poor Li'l Empress is probably walking around with big holes in her parental prayer umbrella.  How's that for a spiritual metaphor?!

But sadly, it's not that far off of the truth.  The intentional training and disciplined focus I had to have when the older kids were really young has made way for their own spiritual disciplines. It's as it should be. For the older kids. However, it doesn't address the fact that we still have two younger kids (and one on the way!) that still need to learn how to pray, that still need active, illustrative modeling to "catch it" for themselves.

So one of the things that I'm asking the Lord to change in me during this season of prayer and fasting is my prayer life for my kids. Back in November and early December, when I was really feeling pressed to the wall by the Holy Spirit over this issue, I also knew that the church was gearing up for this annual focused time of prayer. And it really helps that I lead a Moms' Group at our church and I wanted our January meetings to share the same mission and focus that is going on church-wide. With all that in mind, I asked God to lead me to His plan for me and for the moms' group I lead. I felt like the Lord gave me a neat tool for praying with focus over our kids.

I'm sharing it here because I know I cannot be the only mom in bloggity-world that loses the "ooomph" to pray for her kids once in a while. And I know that I'm not the only mom that wants it simple and accessible... After all, if there's a big long formula or complicated process I have to access, I'm likely to shoot off one of those generic, "Bless the kids today and help them be a good friend today" kind of prayers every morning when I'm sending them out into that big world outside my doors.

Not that there's anything wrong with that prayer,
but really, with all our kids face and all that God dreams for them to become,
there is truly so much more to it than that.
I am NOT dissing generic prayers. Honest.

Here's what I call "The 3 P's of Praying for our Kids."

Praying for Our Kids' Passion
Praying for Our Kids' Purpose
Praying for Our Kids' Purity

Ooooh, are you intrigued yet?!  Hang on.... this is just a teaser!  You have to come back over the next few days to see what each one means!  And when  you do, please be ready to share in the comments some of your thoughts and maybe even some great Scripture references about how you might go about praying for that theme to be accomplished in your children's lives.

I'm really hoping that this little series of mine sparks some great idea swapping and spiritual encouragement for us all!

HINT, HINT!!!!!!

Monday, January 9, 2012


The other day, my son came home with a sad story of a young man he knows. This young man has likely the hardest life experiences my son has encountered among his peers, so far. As he related his new friend's life-story to The Boss and I, my mind was racing. My heart was breaking. I could see the sorrow in my son's eyes. I could hear it in his voice. I was immediately transported back to a similar conversation with my own mother regarding the brokenness I was starting to recognize in my own group of friends back in high school. There were actually many of these conversations in the years I lived at home.After all, brokenness is everywhere around us. We see pain every single day, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Whether we choose to be involved with it or not.

As I listened to my son, I couldn't help but feel a bit of pride for his response to the experience and his response to his friend. He admitted that his first instinct is to step up and figure out how to help his friend fix the various scenarios related in their conversation. But just as quickly, he admitted that he knows there is nothing he can do to fix anything. That his friend, in many ways, is just as powerless to fix the situations he must endure. It's not a comfortable position for this son to face; he is much like his dad in that way.   

We listened to his heart coming through the conversation and I couldn't help but think what a treasure it is: that he gets to come home to us and share what he experiences. And what a blessing it is that he can have these first glimpses into the brokenness of the world in which we live while he is still home with us, his safety net.  What a privilege that is, to be able to provide that for our child.

It was such a good reminder to me, that our kids are faced everyday with such hard, painful, broken circumstances all around us. We have to be intentional about creating a safe place for them to unload the hurt and learn how to surrender it while learning that they likely will never be the ones to fix it. We can't take that lightly - no matter what environment our kids face each day, they will encounter broken people. Some have gaping wounds and are hemorrhaging fast. Some have tiny cuts and scratches and walk around feeling bruised all the time. Some have internal bleeding that no one catches until it seems as if it is too late. And sometimes, our kids, our kids who have healthy, loving, safe homes are the only ones to whom these broken people will turn.

Being the "mom" that I am, I made sure my son knew that this friend was welcome in our home and at our dinner table, should that be a need we could meet together. Then I asked him how he left things with his friend. He said that really all he could do was listen and accept his story. And then he said the thing that made me tear up. He said, "I just finally asked him how I could pray for him.There isn't really anything else I can do."

And that my friends, is really what it is all about. THAT, my friends, is what we are to be doing ourselves. While I know that there was a certain amount of frustration in my son's heart at the lack of action to be taken on behalf of this friend, I also know that he is learning a crucial life lesson. We cannot fix the broken around us. We cannot. But we can pray. And we can leave them in the hands of The One who mends broken hearts. We can give them our love, our acceptance, our support, our help. But for true healing, for true repair, we are powerless. Until we pray.

Today, our church family launches a 21-day season of prayer and fasting. This conversation with my son will be ringing in my ears for the whole 21 days. I have many things I want to see God do in me over these three weeks. I cannot make any of these things happen. I cannot move the mountains in my life, nor in the lives of those that I love. But I can pray. And so I will. I'm planning for these next three weeks of posts to be my reflections on that journey. I'd love for you to share your heart and your experiences as I reflect on what God is saying during this time.

Let's pray.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Can I Call a Re-Do?

Well, this week hasn't been AT ALL what I'd hoped it would be.... Knocked off my game by a nasty head cold, I've spent most of the week huddling up with a blanket, a box of tissues, and an editing project. Mugs upon mugs of tea have been consumed. Vicks has been rubbed. Sudafed has been my BFF. And while I've immensely enjoyed digging in to wrap up this particular editing project, I'm frustrated  that I've not been able to summon the energy to complete my new year's kick-off "mission."

I had this week off from child-care duties, kind of a bonus week of Christmas break. My lofty plans were to tackle some of the paperwork for the home-study prep for Mei Mei's adoption. And to dig in and tackle some of the little pockets of disorganization that exist here in The Gang's house. I figured, with Li'l Empress off to pre-school three mornings and nothing else on my calendar, the time frames would be just perfect. You know, a shot in the arm of cleaning and sorting without slaving away at it all five days of the new year. I had several drawer and a couple cabinets on my hit list, along with my dresser and closet lined up that I thought would fit the bill. Especially since they are locales that I can't really get to with extra little ones underfoot during the day.

So, I'm going to have to figure out another plan of attack for those areas.  I must be feeling better - I'm beginning to view those little pockets as terrorist cells lurking in the landscape of my home. That's always a good sign. And the paperwork?! Well, it's been warned. I'm coming for it, too.

I'm calling a re-do.

I hereby declare January 9th the new New Year.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

My favorite pictures of the holiday season.
He has created a whole new persona
with the gift of this new robe.

I love this kid!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.
Leave me a comment and I'll come by to say hi!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Starting It Right!

For Christmas this year, several of The Gang members got new Bibles. I think it's one of my favorite gifts to give my kids. I especially loved Li'l Empress's reaction to her new big girl Bible.  Look at her - she opened it and dove right in, telling me that she was readin' her new Bible, "jus like Sissy does."

We had to pull her out of it to keep the gift exchange moving before church that morning. It was so cute and she was thrilled with the promise that Mommy and Daddy would read it with her for bedtimes every night. She is holding us to it, too!

This morning, I let Li'l E sleep in as long as she wanted. I'm feeling quite run-down and congested with this head cold, so I figured the rest was good for both of us.  When she finally woke, well after 8:30, the conversation went something like this:

"Good morning, Li'l E.  How did you sleep?"

"I slept good, Mommy. Where is da kids?"

"Well, they all left for school already. You slept a really long time. They had to get on their buses."

"Oh. Okay! Mommy!"

(She wakes so cheery, it's almost annoying when I'm un-caffeinated. Or sick.)

"Li'l E, is it okay with you if I hop in the shower now, before you go downstairs for your juice? I'll be quick but I think I need a hot shower to make my head feel better."

(You know, to break up all the snot and nonsense
that is threatening to catapult my eyes
out of my head at high velocity. Heh.)

"Oh! Sure! Mommy! A, a, a, a, and, I'll bring my Bible! And read it in you room! Okay?!"

Yeah. She really said that. With all those exclamations. The girl sure knows how to start a day.

And how to remind Momma what is right and good.

Gotta love that about her.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Most of you who know me well know that I have an extreme love for, bordering on obsession with, organizing my home and keeping it free of "stuff."  I like to purge our possessions frequently.

I like it even more if I can talk about the purging of said possessions
in front of my sister, who really hates the word "purge."  Heh.

Anyhoo, most of you also know that we are hustling to raise funds for our ongoing adoption process. I have purposed to really contribute creatively toward those fundraising efforts. And the Lord has graciously provided. That little Adoption Jar is filling regularly! I am working a part-time job babysitting for a friend's two little ones. I have done some editing and some proof-reading for a couple folks. I have participated in consumer survey projects, with both big and little pay-offs attached. We have re-adjusted our budget with an eye toward tighter belts and cash-only spending. I have sold countless articles of furniture and clothing on cr@igslist and an online yard sale community I joined recently. And I have scoured sidewalks in local neighborhoods and sold stuff that other folks just put out for the trash pick up. I can't believe the stuff folks put out for trash pick up.

Oh, man, I found a coffee table that was so gorgeous,
it was super tempting to keep it for our family room!
But the Lord blessed us with a sale of $45 pure profit
over that one and I'm so glad He led me to it. 

Which brings me to the point of today's post. Because bringing home our mei-mei is going to be a HUGE focus of these early months of 2012. And I think some of you might be able to help. Especially my fairly local peeps.

I know that typically after the holidays, many folks get the bug to clean out their attics, garages, closets, toy boxes and more. And I know that most of the stuff that gets pulled out ends up in a big bag or box for the local Goodwill or Salvation Army, etc. I wonder if you might rethink that choice this purging season, on behalf of the Gang's adoption jar?  I wonder if you might consider "donating" that same stuff that you pulled out of your home so that I can sell it and further contribute to the efforts to fill up that little Adoption Jar o' mine?

I'm more than happy to work out delivery and/or pick-up. I'll do my best to make it as convenient as possible for anyone who is generous enough to give up their "stuff" for the efforts. I only ask that it be stuff that is "sale-worthy" to maximize the opportunities to add to the jar. Otherwise, my living room will start to look like the Stuff-Mart frequented by Madame Blueberry and her very veggie and fruity friends... which would seriously defeat the purpose, eh?

If you aren't local, then I ask again for your long-distance prayers. This adventure is a big one (which many of you know first, second, and third hand...) and we can use all the support we get as we keep stepping forward in faith. In the coming days, I hope to summarize for you all exactly where we are in the paper-chase, so that you might pray for us more specifically!

I thank you in advance for your considerations. You, my faithful readers, are some of the very best benefits of this journey we are following again! We feel so humbled and grateful for those of you who have become friends and family along the way.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all!

May the Lord fill your hearts and your homes with His presence and His joy.
May His path for you be well-lit by His Word and His dreams for you be HUGE.

Thank you for your faithful readership.
I'm really looking forward to getting back to more regular writing.
God is doing much in The Gang's life and I can't wait to share it as we go!

With Love From The Gang
(back row, left to right: The Gang's Momma, Shaggy, Dr. D, The Boss, & Li'l Empress)
(front row, left to right: Baby BlueEyes & LadyBug)