Thursday, March 27, 2008

Need Prayer Now

Paul and I have to make a hard decision quickly, as in by noon. Please pray for wisdom.
Will discuss later depending on outcome.

Post-Spanking Grace

My boy got the spanking.
I got the grace.
He was disrespectful to me at co-op during art class and I promised him a spanking at home.
I followed through.
It was a hard one, made him jump up and down, holding his butt.
I wasn't angry, I was in complete control. I just explained what he already knew: You may not talk to me that way. It's wrong, and you set a bad example in class.
Afterwards, two minutes later, he came and put his arms around me and said, "You're the best mom in the whole world."

I don't ever remember thinking in my pre-child days that spankings could end so sweetly.
The grace he gave me.
So pure.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Be Polite Even When You Sing

Joel cracked me up yesterday with a really good one. Just when you think your kids aren't catching on to the whole manners thing....

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Get Your Kitchen On: Cooking Contest to Feed the Poor

Moving this post up. Minor changes noted in bold.
Here's a contest I've designed for all you foodies OR anyone who is okay to give their prize away for the sake of the hungry worldwide, which is what this contest is really about.

The contest:
Make 7 new things in 10 days.
The days are April 1-10.
There are 7 categories; the object is to make one NEW-TO-YOU thing from each category.
You can make one per day, or combine new things in a single day, but can't take more than 10 days to complete it.
You must post your recipes, give the source, and post your own review on your blog.

Not a blogger but want to enter?
Email me your recipes and reviews instead. (Only people I know will get my email address.)

Keep your reviews short and sweet, such as "Always wanted to try this fish on the grill. It was easier/harder than I thought. In the future, I would/wouldn't try it again. I give it (how many) stars (out of 5). I tweaked it/ followed the recipe exactly. I would or wouldn't recommend it." No pressure to talk us into the recipe. The idea is to try new things for your sake, your family's or friends' sake, and the sake of the poor.

How will it benefit the poor? Glad you asked.

Because here's the prize. The person with the most new recipes tried--and posted about-- in 10 days wins one dollar for each one, and the money goes to Compassion OR Global Aid Network. (Winner's choice.) I will also add a dollar for each new thing I try. (You do 7, I do 7, I'll donate $14). Winner gets to pick between GAIN and Compassion. Winner gets to tell me where to donate within the organization as well.

HOMEMADE is the key. You can't try the bruschetta from Costco or mango iced tea from Chili's or dessert from a box of Mrs. Smith's, in case you were wondering. You must make it yourself. You may enlist sous chefs, but you are the head chef!

In case of a tie, first one to leave their comment that they've posted all their reviews on their blog wins. Pictures are great but not necessary.

Here are the categories:
1. beverage (hot, cold, single serving or whole pitcher, doesn't matter)
2. appetizer
3. meat entree (any meat, including fish)
4. vegetarian entree (not even fish; but must contain protein)
5. vegetable
6. bread
7. dessert

Contest runs April 1-10.

Please leave a comment if you plan to enter the contest and ask all questions before April 1st.

So, folks, get your kitchen on! Plan those "I've-always-wanted-to-try ____" recipes,
tool around GAIN and Compassion and pray for the hungry while you scan cookbooks and go grocery shopping with ALL those choices of yummy, clean foods!

If entering, let me know in the comment box or by email before April 1.

Looking forward to cooking with you April 1st-10th!

"Vociferous and Atonal": Check out 22 Words Blog

Amy linked to a blog called 22 Words. I love it (what little I've skimmed). Each post is exactly 22 words long, not counting titles. Imagine the discipline to limit your posts (or stretch them if need be) to 22 words each , yet capture the essence with eloquence and style?

I loved what the author said in a post that begins with "Terrible singing...." Check it out.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

It was a Good Friday

Since our church didn't hold a Good Friday service, but I had a great longing to linger at the cross with many fellow believers, I went looking for one. Thankfully, I didn't have to go far. Our sister church, Grace Community, held one I won't soon forget.

A video opened. One written word per slide, with the sound of a hammer banging each word like a nail into an unseen cross.


A song interlude, which I could barely sing.
Then the sermon.

It seemed the message was aimed right at me. Pastor Matt started by asking a few questions akin to this: "Do you ever feel, that when it comes to measuring up, you are on probation with God? Or this: "I'm His child, but certainly not one of His favorite kids"?

He asked a few more, but I couldn't take them in. I kept thinking, "Yes, on probation. That's how I feel right now. I've been angry-- out of control. I have been ready to walk out on everything and everyone who's important to me because I have been such a screw-up. I had the perfect opportunity to invite my hair stylist to church today and I blew it. I've been in a desert (on a horse with no name) for who knows how long. Nothing from the Bible has lifted me lately, though I still read almost every morning. I even sinned against Paul and the kids before leaving the house tonight, trying to make Paul feel guilty for staying home and not leading our family to Good Friday service. I had told Sarah, who at 6:15 was coloring eggs with Joel and doubting she'd go to church. I told her she was putting a pagan practice over a sacred one." Sure, who'd WANT to go with me--me the manipulative, self-righteous, barking dog? Probation. Not one of His favorite kids. Probation. Not one of His favorite kids.

Another song interlude. Still I had little voice to join in.

I felt so condemned. Why did I come?

True desire to reflect on the Lord's crucifixion?

Or legalism?

After all, I reasoned, wasn't I better than everyone else in the world who chose to stay home? Better for sure than anyone dyeing Easter eggs as if the Easter Bunny had resurrected himself from the grave.
Wouldn't God look more favorably for not giving up on going to Good Friday service just because our own church wasn't having one? Wouldn't he smile bigger on me for the effort I put into traveling a half hour to church instead of zipping around the corner to the closest house of worship?

And again He said, "No."

My smug self-righteousness was nailed to the cross.
My holier-than-thou attitude made me shudder in my seat.
I don't have favorite kids, He spoke to me. You're all just as special as my firstborn son, Jesus.

I confess: I didn't listen word for word to Matt. I trailed off mentally at times from his message, but God had me hanging on to every word His Spirit was telling mine.

There is no probation in God's justice system. You're either a forgiven child of His and stand righteous and innocent, or you are an object of His wrath. Nothing in between. I knew I was not an object of His wrath, but how my thoughts had deceived me once again into believing I was on probation. Not one of His favorite kids. It's my personality. If only I didn't talk so much. It's my lack of self-control. If only I didn't run to the fridge for comfort instead of to Him. It's my scattered brain. If only I'd concentrate harder on the verses I read every morning. It's my anger. If only I wouldn't let people and things bother me, if only, if only, if only, if only.

Satan was on the attack as I lingered at the cross. Literally there was a seven-foot, plain, grey cross at the front of the auditorium. A focal point.

Another song. I was starting to find a voice to sing my thanks to God.

Forgiven. Paid for. In full.
My anger? Forgiven!
My lack of self-control? Forgiven!
My inattention to scripture? Forgiven!
My self-righteousness? Forgiven and hanging blood-stained on the cross. Filthy rags like the folded graveclothes left in the tomb.

I'm no better than anyone else, and I'm no worse than Jesus right now. I am every bit God's daughter as Jesus is His Son. Can it be? Yes!

The service closed with a poignant act following communion. I joined the believers who, row by row, went to the front of the auditorium, took communion, knelt for silent prayer, and then (believer or not) we each took a white index card and marker, signed our first name and taped it to the cross. I taped mine to the right side over Victoria's, beneath Joe's. By the end of the procession, the grey cross had turned white.

was ready to sing. Still dabbing my eyes, but in thankfulness. I was not on probation. Never had been, never would be, despite my feelings.


Friday, March 21, 2008

20 Years Ago Today

Happy birthday, Ben.

I never really thought this day would come. Twenty years. Has it really been that long since that first day of spring in 1988, when we brought you home from the hospital (all seven pounds of you)?

Those were the days Dad always wore free T-shirts, I wore sizes in the single digits, and you wore diapers up to your armpits. I'll never forget the months leading up to your birth, though the ones right after are quite blurry.

Dad and I always talked of wanting four children, at least one boy and one girl, and wanted to wait a full year as a married couple before babies came along. Well, four months after our wedding, I thought I was pregnant. Selfishly I thought it was too soon because I was so enjoying having Dad all to myself. But when the test was negative, I was disappointed, and immediately stopped birth control. (You're old enough to hear this.) Three months later, it was for real. I remember coming out of the doctor's office, tapping an elderly lady on the leg, beaming, "I'm going to be a mother!" I told everyone in my path, and when I got back to the car, I just wept in gratitude. Your life was the answer to one of my deepest prayers. Of course I told Dad right away. Of course he doubted me at first (as he did with every successive pregnancy because he sees zillions of dollar signs and just can't process). But by nightfall we were wrapped in the glowing wonder and fear of becoming parents.

Back in those days, women didn't usually find out their baby's gender unless there was a problem. That was fine with me. I wanted some surprise. But I also wanted a boy first since I had always wanted an older brother. It was in carrying you that I realized it was okay to go ahead and ask God for what I want specifically because He knows anyway. I couldn't honestly say, "It doesn't matter," when people asked, "Do you want a boy or a girl?" I also added to my prayer that I'd love our little boy to have blue eyes.

You were due in mid-April. But, true to your nature, you just couldn't wait. (I was given a baby shower on the night of March 20th, and the next morning, things happened.) When it came time to deliver you (drug-free), the doctor said you were breech. You would have to turn or be turned, or else come by C-section. The doctor was Hindi, and we wanted God to show Himself powerful to her and to us as well. We said, "May we have 15 minutes? We want to pray that God turns him." "Sure!" she said, "but really, there is no room in there, and not much time. If he doesn't turn, we will have to take him."

She left the room and Dad prayed with me as contractions grew stronger. A simple prayer, as Dad's always are. "Father, please turn the baby." As soon as he said, "Amen," I felt an unmistakable flip in my womb. Could it be? How? Truly, was there room in the "inn"? The doctor returned, examined me and said, "I can't believe this. I feel a head." I said, "We asked God to turn our baby, and He did." A few minutes later, at 5 pm sharp, you were born.

"He's so beautiful! Oh, Paul, he is so beautiful! Now I know what it means that we are made in the image of God! Oh, Paul, he is so beautiful. Let's have another one!" (Drug free and yet delirious was I.) I couldn't stop the tears. Before long we were surrounded with family and friends to admire our precious gift. Our little boy.

Ben, I look back and see that God made you quick to repent in the womb. Literally, to change direction when you're headed the wrong way. The baby Ben gave many clues into the man you'd become: healthy, determined, adventurous, punctual, social, handsome. And over the years, though you have occasionally turned your will against ours and God's, you have been quick to repent. I cherish the times you've come to us in tears over your sin, fully aware of the foolishness of your choice, your inability to change yourself, and your humility to ask God for forgiveness. I've appreciated your candor (later, not in the moment) about wanting to try what's out there in the world, as if you're missing something, because it tells me you're human AND you're not hiding your desires behind a mask. It gives me raw material to pray about, that's for sure! You may not always be wise, but you are genuine. You may not always choose the right path first, but you quickly repent.

I haven't been the ideal mother I set out to be. There have been many times in your teens that you and I have not seen eye to eye, and you wished for a different family, and sometimes I wished you had the perfect mother. But then God would gently remind me of something someone told me when you were born, knowing there'd be not-so-ideal days. "Your baby is the perfect baby for you, and you are the perfect mother for him." I'm so thankful God gave you to me. I'm sorry for the times my actions seem to disprove it, but I love you very, very much and hope the next 20 years are even better.

Have a great time with your friends tonight, you tall, dark and handsome man, you!


PS Save me some dessert. I think I've earned it:)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Put Amicci's on Your Restaurant List

Not the easiest place to find, but Amicci's is well worth the effort. (Paul thought he could find it easily enough without a map since Little Italy is, well, little.) We (I) stopped and asked a group of young people on the street, but they shrugged and apologized. Two more blocks featured an older Italian-looking man on his front stoop, standing there as if waiting for someone. He knew exactly. "Turna right at the stoppa sign and go halfa blocka. Iss onna yer righta."

Most of the restaurants in Little Italy are old rowhomes. They have "great bones" and lots of character, much better than modern chain restaurants any day. I loved the rich hardwood floors, the high ceilings, the gorgeous staircase, and the hominess of the many small dining rooms.

As for the noise level, it was perfect for our family. We were ushered to the very back dining (through twisty-turny halls--very cool) and were one of four large parties there. Thankfully! I sure didn't want our table to be the loud oddball. A quartet of college girls sat nearest us, laughing and carrying on. A family larger than ours sat on the opposite wall, with a boy about Joel's age. A party of 8 was having an obvious good time at the fourth table.

Though I prefer linen tablecloths, I was okay with the vinyl. At least they had cloth napkins. To Joel's chagrin, I took the opportunity to teach him (again) how to place it and use it.

We started off with fried calamari, garlic cheese bread, and two large house salads to share. The calamari was just okay; tasted like skinny French fries to me. The bread was scarfed by the others. Joel left me a crusty morsel, so I have no real comment on the bread. However, the salad was amazing. (I need a better adjective; wearing that one out, but it fits.) Fresh romaine, crisp and sweet onions, juicy Roma tomatoes and pitless black olives (which I always bite into very carefully after breaking a tooth on one last summer.) The dressing made it. I don't know what it was, but all of us commented several times how good it tasted.

The menu was simple but didn't make for an easy choice. It was so hard to choose between alfredo and a marinara dish. I love them all! I wanted shrimp and pasta, but they have plenty of choices to suit that combo of passions. Sarah was having an equally hard time deciding, so we ended up agreeing to share two different ones: the Carlo and the Shrimp with Broccoli Alfredo. Ben ordered Penny's Tortellini, Stephen chose the Tortellin Roma , Paul had the Chicken Lorenzo, and Joel piped up enthusiastically for the penne with meatsauce.

All of us loved what we ordered. That's saying a lot in a group of six who aren't prone to casual compliments. Usually there's a so-so vote or someone eyeing the other's so much you feel guilted into trading. But not this time. Even Sarah and I were so enamored of our choices that neither of wanted to trade after all. Joel said of his meal, "This is the best of the best! It's like ravioli without the ravioli !" I would have to said, though, that Paul's was the best of the six. Lightly breaded chicken, tender mushrooms, tasty provolone, roasted red peppers, perfect zucchini, all marinated in a wonderful wine sauce, what's not to like? When I tasted a bite of his, I wondered if I could possible duplicate the recipe at home. It was beyond good.

Service was very good. Our friendly server kept the drinks refilled, the plain bread coming, and talked us into dessert. We shared two cannoli and I had half a decaf coffee. Would've liked the whole thing, but my family doesn't know how to linger after the last bite. Either that or I don't know how to enjoy dessert without coffee. But I'm willing to learn, if it means another dinner at Amicci's!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Menu Plan

This is for 50 Company Girl points.

Mon-spiral ham, stuffing, green beans
Tues-shrimp scampi, Caesar sald
Weds-turkey roll-ups (deli turkey filled w/ instant mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli; rolled up, baked till warm, smothered w/ gravy)
Thurs- leftovers
Fri-Ben's favorite Meal for his Birthday TBD(plus carrot cake)
Sat- grilled cheese and canned soup

How Many Pollocks Does it Take to Make a Decision?

Disclaimer for those who don't know: Our last name ends with "-ski." I am allowed to make fun of us. Hence the title of this post.

Now on to matter at hand.

Our family makes no decisions quickly. Coming to a consensus on where to eat last night was no exception. It's kind of funny, actually. Maybe someday I'll be able to laugh about our process. The factors we were dealing with last night included, but were not limited to:

1) Paul wanted it to be a nice restaurant: taste trumps atmosphere, but it can't break the bank.
2) He didn't want to wait more than 35 minutes for a table if we got there at 6:30.
3) He wanted to try someplace new to the family than came highly recommended by people who share his passion for fine food.

4) I wanted someplace new. Atmosphere and taste are twins, with A born first. Price? Who cares, as long as it fulfills those twin requirements?
5) I was fine with seafood (always am) . Pasta with seafood is another set of wonderful twins.
6) It had to be a place where an energetic kid would not stick out in the crowd.

7) Ben wanted it to be close to home. He's not about spending an entire evening around the table. You sit, you eat, you pay, you leave.
8) He wanted protein and a good salad.
9) Price never matters to him if someone else (in this case Dad) is paying.

10) Sarah loves a long drive. She did not want a local joint.
11) She is price-conscious and doesn't like anything too froo-froo.
12) She loves Italian food.

13) Stephen's middle name is Shrimp. His nickname is CarboMan.
14) He is the most agreeable one in our whole bunch. Price, location, atmosphere, taste, are all about equal.
15) He believes in letting the ones buying have the first and last word.

16) Joel loves pasta. Hates fish.
17) He knows nothing about the price of food except how to read it. We hoped for a good kids' menu.
18) If the atmosphere calls for quiet, sit-down and act twice your age,
he gets loud, gets up when he's done, and acts half his age. Nuff said.

We got only Beth's recommendation before leaving the house and found out Bonefish had a 35-40 minute wait. We headed there. But Sarah said, "Bel Air? That's not far enough!" We weren't out of the neighborhood before Paul told her to pull over. We discussed the options. Again. Napless Joel was making it clear that a long drive might be just the ticket to make the evening pleasant. He could not be convinced that Bonefish is not all fish.

Paul was asking me where I wanted to go. I said, "We're celebrating your new job, and Ben's new job, and Sarah's teaching, and Stephen's scholarship. I want the 4 of you to agree. It's a bit cold, so I'd prefer not to go to the Inner Harbor. And Joel needs some sleep."
Ben: It's not all about Joel. Since when does a six year old decide where we go for dinner?
Me: He doesn't. But if you want to see him rested, we have to take a longer drive. He's on Wii overload.
Stephen: Can we decide while we drive?
Sarah (driving): Do I turn right or left out of here?
Me: Stay put.
Paul: How about Amicci's? It's got pasta for everyone, I'm sure chicken parm or something for Ben, plus salad, it's a long drive for Sarah, you won't have far to walk, Joel can get some sleep, and I can tell Curtis {former boss he thinks the world of} that we went to his favorite restaurant.
Me: Sounds good to me. Everyone?
Ben: (asleep)
Joel: (asleep)
Stephen: Fine.
Sarah: So I turn left. Yes! Finally!

Next post: My review of Amicci's, which I promise to make at least as long as our deciding process, and twice as boring.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Restaurant Recommendation for Tonight?

Anybody out there on a Sunday afternoon reading this in the Balto/Harford Co area? OUr family is trying to choose a nice restaurant to go to this evening to celebrate some of our recent blessings.

Amici's (Little Italy)
Bonefish Grill (Bel Air)
Bluestone (Timonium)
Macaroni Grille (Timonium)
Oceanaire (forget where this is)

Keep in mind we are a party of 6--5 adults, one child 6 years old. We all love pasta, esp the youngest and I; all love seafood but not all like fish; all love Mexican, some of us prefer a nice quiet ambience, some of us can create a less than quiet ambience. (First guess doesn't count.)

Any help from bloggers out there?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How do I...

get my name to link to this blog, rather than to my old "Penchant for Pens" blog?

-relearn to communicate my wants and wishes without yelling? Whether it's obedience from a little one, attention on what I deem an important matter from my hubby, or anyone in my family, I tend to raise my voice much, much too quickly. It's a bad habit, yet I don't see that anyone really takes me seriously unless I get loud. Than they want to shut down. I wish I was only 22 asking this question.

-make a great, thick, spaghetti sauce? I love ground beef, and don't care for ground turkey. I also put the emphasis on THICK. I don't like thin sauce. To be quite honest, I love Ragu, just about any variety, but I want to learn to make my own really good sauce. Got a recipe that would fill this bill?

--change my family room so that I like it? I have been harping on this one for way too long. Paul is not ready (YET!) to invest in change, so I feel stuck. REally stuck. I don't feel like the room reflects my personality (or maybe it does which is why I am not liking it). I am not content or relaxed in it. Love the color (sage green) and the curtains I put up right after Thanksgiving, but they were for warmth and now i need it light and airy. That's about it.

--take a blogging break seriously? I am always drawn back to the hum of the computer, always wanting to check in with my virtual homies.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Q&A Wednesday

How do you picture your life in 5 years? 10? 20?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Chili with Sloppy Umbrellas

I used to call my own dinner creations "Delights" (Chicken Potato Delight, Beef and Mushroom Delight, Pork and Cheesy Rice Delight) until some of them didn't turn out so well. That's when the dubious guinea pigs at my table started asking if I wouldn't mind using a real recipe. Now whenever I throw something together "out of my own head" (as Joel says) I try to give it an ending other than "delight" so that my family will actually try it, not just nibble skeptically at the ends of their forks.

So, here was tonight's creation. I call it....


-Enough chili to fill a 13x9 pan (I had a frozen block of Smart Chili--vegetarian--from Cheaspeake Quality Traders). I put it in the oven, frozen, on 250 for 1.5 hours, then turned it up to 350 while making the "umbrellas."
- Put shredded cheddar or nacho cheese on top of chili.
-Dice a medium green pepper. Sprinkle them randomly over the cheese layer.
-Make biscuit mix according to box (such as Bisquick). I used about 4.5 cups mix plus almost 3/4 cup milk and stirred lightly. Plop this mixture like sloppy umbrellas on top of chili. (Calling them "umbrellas" just makes me smile.) Bake till biscuits are golden brown. (Box said 8-10 minutes, but I forgot to set the timer and I think 30 minutes later they were perfectly done. God's grace saved my meal again!)
-When it comes out, sprinkle dried savory over it to look nice.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


A happy ending to a happy week. This was quite a surprise blessing. Over a month ago we listed Sarah's old car on Craigslist. (When I say "we" I don't mean "me"; I wouldn't have listed it for as high a price as Paul did). We only got 1 call and 2 emails on it back then.

However, last night a man called--the same one who called a month ago--and asked if we still had it. He came today and bought it. Paul did a great job negotiating with him (while I was shopping at JoAnn's) but I had to come home and sign over the title.

I was feeling very uneasy about the whole thing as I drove home because Sarah had called me at JoAnn's to say the guy was trying to really lowball us (as in a grand less than we wanted to go) and so I phoned the church as I drove, hoping to ask a pastor for prayer. No one was in the office, so I called a friend who prayed for us over the phone. I felt peace before I walked in the door and met the man. He was very friendly and easygoing. All of the tension I had felt melted away as we shook hands. I was a bit taken aback at the price on paper (too low) but I didn't question it in front of Paul.

The three of us drove three different cars in the pouring rain quite a ways to a muffler place where the guy would do the inspection on Monday. Paul and I drove home together in the van and he informed me the guy is a mechanic so he was the perfect buyer, able to see for himself what the car needed, even though Paul told him every problem we had encountered. The guy wanted the car for X dollars and Paul wanted X plus 300, so he sold him the car for X and the CD changer in it for 300. Made everyone happy.

We are grateful to God that we didn't have the hassle of relisting the car, screening calls, setting up appointments to show it when Paul's here (for safety reasons), and the guy was a mechanic, and he wasn't nasty but he gave Paul a chance to use his marketing skills. We won't have to carry insurance on it anymore or have it take up space in our already crowded driveway. We were so tickled about it we went on a spontaneous date to celebrate!

As I said, when it rains, it pours. Blessings!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Hallelujah! Big Week Just Got Bigger!

Drumroll for God, please....!

Today Stephen got a full scholarship to our community college! It's worth up to $5000 per year, depending on the size of his course load. It's also renewable each year, provided he maintains a certain GPA.

I was so happy I got teary-eyed. He was beaming, too! "Let me kiss you, Stephen!" (and he did).

Sarah received word that her essay ranked high enough to qualify her as an alternate in the event a scholarship winner declines it for one reason or another. She says she is relieved from the pressure of having to maintain the GPA, even though I am 99% sure she would anyway.

Thanking God for his blessing! All those years of combat training--I mean homeschooling--have literally paid off!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

How to Love Shrimp Two Nights in a Row

Once a month we get to shop at a place called Cheapeake Quality Traders. It's a food warehouse that sells restaurant-quality food below grocery store prices. The selection is unpredictable, but I like surprises and variety, so it's great.

This time around I bought peeled and deveined shrimp, medium-large.

Last night I fixed a shrimp meal, sort of concocted of all my favorite on-hand ingredients. Shrimp with bacon is a combo I love. I call it...

Don't Invite the Rabbi, Just the Pasta

Shrimp (peeled & deveined), sauteed with garlic and butter
Bacon, crisp-fried; pour out grease but don't wipe out pan.
Pasta of choice( I had spaghetti on hand), al dente. Drain and drizzle olive oil; sprinkle herbs.
Spinach (sauteed for last last 2 minutes in that bacon-flavored pan)
Freshly grated Romano cheese (which I totally forgot to serve in a hurry to get out the door by 7:15.)

Tonight, since I had half a box of the thawed shrimp needing to be cooked and half a bag of fresh spinach., I made up another shrimp number. Let me preface it with this anecdote:

Joel is really enjoying helping me cook these days. Tonight he was standing on a chair next to me as I steamed shrimp and handed him spices to shake onto it as I instructed.
"I'm not a very good cook," he said.
"Well, you're learning," I told him.
"This isn't training, is it?" he asked.
"Uh-huh, it is, " I said.
"It's not combat training, is it?"
I laughed. "Not unless you argue with me."

(He had read a Beetle Bailey cartoon I'd cut out and copied for soldiers. It features a man of the cloth addressing a bunch of troops in a chapel. In the first scene, he says, "Remember, men, you have but one life to live, so live it well. You have but one body, so don't harm it. Keep it safe."
In the next scene, Bailey says hurriedly, "Thanks, Chaplain. Okay, men, that's it. Time for combat training!" )

Combat Training Shrimp Wraps

Shrimp, peeled & deveined, about 2 pounds
Old Bay seasoning (I ran out after a 1/2 tsp so just used the spices listed on the side of the Old Bay in quantities I like)
Fresh spinach leaves (a large cereal bowlful)
Fresh red pepper, diced (1/2 medium pepper)
Shredded cheddar, extra sharp
Avocado dip from CQT (or make your own, keeping it a bit chunky)
Wraps (these were tomato-basil from CQT)

Load 'em, roll 'em, eat 'em. They're so good you might get into combat over who gets a second one first.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

BIG Week Here

"When it rains, it pours" is a phrase that usually has negative connotations. But I am here to put a positive spin on it.

This week the blessings of God have poured out. It's been a big-deal week for us.

On Monday we bought the Saab convertible. I love it. I am such car nut, it's pathetic. (Pictures soon!) In many ways I wonder if I'm not more man than woman when it comes to loving car design, engineering, speed, style, all that. This baby does zero to sixty in 7 seconds. With a minivan, I was used to doing 0-60 in an afternoon. Okay, so we bought it for Sarah and Stephen, but I keep reminding them "it's in my name, it's in my name." I drove it home from Paradise, PA, and tried not to scare horses pulling buggies. This car handles turns like nothing I've ever driven. The only thing I don't have a full peace about is visibility out the back. But it's okay, the mirrors are fine, and I haven't hit anything yet. I had the pleasure of driving it in the rain last night to Panera, and just loved hearing the pitter-patter of raindrops on the top. It's like driving under an umbrella; kind of relaxing, actually. Anyway, I hope I am not coming across as a show-off. I get just as excited over finding pretty dishes at Goodwill. This thing was paid for with 2/3 of an income tax refund, so you know it wasn't a mammonth cash expenditure for the sake of fun. I repeatedly asked Paul for his opinion (not trusting my instincts at the moment) and he was fine with it. CarFax report shows it was owned its full life by a leasing company, who take impeccable care of their fleet. The dealer was not pushy, was very reasonable with our offer, and all in all it was a well-informed decision, I believe. Anybody want a joy ride?

Tuesday 10 a.m. Paul started his new job. Since his boss was recovering from jetlag, she told him to come in at ten when she'd arrive. How's that for an easy request? Then she was telling him how they have been doing things, and Paul, being so used to the yes-man syndrome, kept nodding along. She finally said something like, "Around here we want your input. If you think there's a better way, please speak up." He is going to have to shift gears (okay,sorry for the car analogy, can't help myself) but I am sure he's eager to have his opinions matter--and possibly used! He is supposed to give a presentation to the big wigs in Connecticut on Friday, so he's got his work cut out for him.

Tuesday afternoon, Ben passed his physical and will be working at Pier 1. He said the money really makes a difference (better than the Depot) , and he likes what he saw at least in the HR departements (clean, neat, friendly, professional). Being the muscle man he is (and likes to joke) he said they asked him to lift a 50-pound box to his chest and he said, "With one hand or two?" (He told us this later and 6-year old Joel said, "I'd use two, Ben. That's pretty heavy.") I like Pier 1's style, so maybe he can inquire of the employee discount ASAP for his mama??

Tuesday night Sarah wrote her Philosophy of Education paper. Why is this "big" to me? Because as a mom, it is so gratifying to see how the Lord has crafted my children with certain gifts and adds enthusiasm and joy in using them. To me, discovering a child's "bent" is one of the most exhilarating parts of parenting. Having four kids, I can see 4 different "bents" and I just love it. I can definitely look back on 15 years of homeschooling and say it was so worth it; if nothing else, I had the privilege to walk closely with them while observing their gifts, and was (am) able to tailor schedules and opportunities to fit them. I wasn't locked into observing them just from 4 pm to bedtime. Sure there were times I longed for a big yellow school bus to take them away, after breakfast, but those days were few and far between. (Rougly 28 days apart, if you know what I mean.)

Wednesday (today) I heard from one of my penpals.  She got my package the "All About Feet" theme and says the girls will put it to much use. "Imagine wearing combat boots 12 hours a day," she wrote in her email. "We've been having sand storms and have only 5 feet visibility." The sand is really hard on their feet, skin, and hair. I had prayed to hear back from any of the troops I sent boxes to, by March 5th, and lookie what happened. It does my heart so much good! She says they are so grateful to know people back home really care.

This afternoon I have the intention of taking Joel to the library for his card. In our home, a special tradition for turning 6 is that you get your own library card.

Sometime this week, Stephen wants a different kind of card. You know, the kind that the DMV issues. Yes, that kind.

Big week, big deals, big blessings from a Big God!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

One Small Thing for God, One Huge Thing for Me

I've been reflecting lately on areas of my life--small as they may seem to others--that reflect a change that God is bringing or has brought.

One of those things is that I no longer hate going to the grocery store. It sounds laughable, but it's not. To me it was something I detested, avoided, and wished anyone would take over. I knew it was wrong to feel this way. I knew I should be grateful for the choices, the freshness, the close proximity of several, the money to buy a decent amount at once without being anxious, and many more reasons. But deep down I resented having to go out of my way to do something so basic, so mundane, so repetitious. I didn't mind popping in when I had a very well organized list of a few things for a gourmet meal, but to go for a week's worth or more? Forget it. I prayed God would change my heart, to want to serve my family with a better stocked pantry and fridge, to have many more meals at home, and to have a good attitude about it. I can confidently say God has changed my heart. Not that I love grocery shopping now, or eagerly anticipate my outings to Klein's or Aldi, but I no longer dread it. That's a huge change. I take NO credit for it whatsoever.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Looking Forward To...

...getting our other computer back. It has sooo many of my pictures on it. I was absolutely heartsick to think it was broken for good, and I hadn't backed up my favorite shots. All I could think of was "Russia pictures are GONE!" And Christmas, and Joel's birthday, and art class, and so many other special ones.

But my trusty, smart brother-in-law looked into and it found the motherboard needed replacing, so we should have it back tomorrow or soon thereafter. I can hardly wait. Post after post without pictures gets pretty boring, huh? So don't be surprised if one of my next entries is simply called "Gallery"!

Car Advice Wanted

As most of you know, we made a mistake with our last car purchase. It was a 95 Lexus we bought from a private owner in Delaware. It's been nothing but trouble, and we not-so-affectionately call it the Lemonexus.

So......we are replacing it. I would like some advice on the car we are now considering. After having spent HOURS and HOURS scouring the internet and a couple hours looking in person, we found today, in PA, a 97 Saab convertible. It's a prettty coppery brown with a black top with lots of amenities, 124K miles, with an attractively low price. Paul, Sarah and I all felt a trust in the lot owner and his wife, a strikinginly beautiful Russian woman. Paul and I SArah test drove it while I watched Joel in the office area. They liked the way it handled and the well-kept body. EVerything they tested worked fine. We want to take it to our mechanice, but because of the distance (an hour and a half) the dealer didn't really want us to take it that far, understandably. He was more than happy to let us take it to theirs,OR to a closer one of our choice.

Question for advice: Have you ever owned a Saab or a convertible? Driven one? Good experiences, or bad?
Anything we should know in general? Specifically?

I have on my list of 100 Things to Do Before I Die: ride in a convertible and, if possible, own one, cuz I have a thing for cars. It's something I get from my daddy. A Penchant for Cars could be my alternative blog title. I have ridden in a convertible (my uncle's 65 Mustang) and now the opportunity is before us to own one. It would be for Sarah's and STephen's use primarily, but you can bet I'll drive it and even take my friends joy riding if we buy it.

But I am leary of my own judgment after having messed up the last decision. We are thinking about this car deal over the weekend and, if we decide yes, will return on Monday afternoon--after Paul's last 1/2 day at work.

Please advise. Don't be shy. I know people don't like to leave negative comments,but we want the wisdom that comes from amultitude of couselors.