Lost & Found

If we have met in person, and talked for more than 5 minutes, you probably know that I have a passion for story-telling. More specifically, telling stories through photography and preserving those photos in beautiful scrapbooks for my family.

Years decades ago, when I was first introduced to scrapbooking, it was all pretty paper and cutesy stickers and glue. Lots and lots of glue. But then, as all things do, scrapbooking evolved. And now, in order to scrapbook an entire year of my family’s life, all I need is my handy laptop, an external harddrive, and a moscow mule. Change is good.

Well, most of the time.

Long story short, and three laptops later, and online photo-hosts being bought out and getting rid of all files in my account… I was pretty sure I had LOST the jpeg files of the scrapbook pages of Emma’s baby book. This is a book I completed 6 years ago and have not ordered. And part of the reason I scrapbook digitally is to have a digital copy of these files should anything happy to the hard copy. But in this case, I had not yet purchased a hard copy and I was panicked to find the digital copy!

So tonight, I pulled out my old dinosaur HP laptop and said a little prayer. And while we watched Once Upon a Time as a family (GREAT show by the way!) I slowly combed through the files only to successfully recover these images! I am so happy!

Here is a little sneak peak of Emma’s baby book images:

Emma's Baby Book - Page 001 Emma's Baby Book - Page 002 Emma's Baby Book - Page 005 Emma's Baby Book - Page 012 Emma's Baby Book - Page 013 Emma's Baby Book - Page 029 Emma's Baby Book - Page 032 Emma's Baby Book - Page 040 Emma's Baby Book - Page 046 Emma's Baby Book - Page 049 Emma's Baby Book - Page 052 Emma's Baby Book - Page 054

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Revisiting a Favorite Recipe

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Chicken Farfalle with Balsamic Poppyseed Reduction Sauce

1 box Farfalle pasta – the bowties!

6 boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins (again, you can adjust this. I have made it with less when I had less on hand….and more when I can – I have even made it without meat at all!)

1 tsp poppyseeds

Shredded Asiago cheese to taste (we put about 1/3 c in the dish once it’s cooked up, and then use some to sprinkle on our own plates once it’s served)

Marinade:

1/2 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 TB water

4 TB Dijon Mustard

8 TB sugar

Stir together the marinade ingredients and pour it over the chicken. Allow to marinade anywhere from 3 hours to overnight. Boil the pasta. Grill up the chicken. Once it is all grilled up, cut into small bite sized pieces – small enough for the little ones to eat! Boil the excess marinade until it reduces by half. (When I don’t use meat, I just do this as a sauce.) Add the poppyseeds. Toss everything together, top with extra asiago cheese shreds and serve with your favorite colorful salad!

#wearethefosters

Life has been an adventure around these parts the last 3 weeks or so. We got our license to foster parent in writing just about a month ago. Dec 4th.

It was a Wednesday.

Then we spent the entire weekend wondering if we would get a call. And we did not. It wasn’t disappointing of course, it was just nerve-wracking. We had our dear friend’s oldest daughter who goes to college in a nearby town over to our home all weekend so she could rest, eat real food, and I could do her laundry and buy her groceries. Just loving on her. So we were busy. But it was on our minds.

Then the call came. Tuesday, Nov 10th.

Our sweet, sweet littles came into our home that night. Late that night. They were tired and for sure a little bit scared. I fed them some animal crackers and milk and whether they were stress eating or really hungry, I couldn’t quite tell, but they munched for a long time while we got to know each other a little.

“Princess” is 4 1/2.  But really she is more like a very young 2-3 year old. She is verbal, but can be very hard to understand. She does not have most of the developmental markers of a 4 year old. We have no idea yet if this is due to an actual delay, or if she just hasn’t had the right stimulation/environment to nurture her along. She is also in 2T clothing, so it helps to remember her developmental stage, since she is so tiny. She is truly delightful and we are enjoying loving on our little Princess.

“Dash” is 2 1/2. But he is really more like a young one year old. He is also very small – wearing 18 month clothes and even they are roomy. He is smart as a whip, just like sister, but when he came to us he only said the following words:

bye, hi, drink, no, and he could sign ‘more’.

Since living with us, his speech has improved dramatically and his vocabulary has increased by at least 100 words. It’s been awesome to watch.

Highlights:

Emma & Timmy adore Princess & Dash. They dote on them and snuggle with them and tell them how much they love them. This was exactly what we were hoping for when we made the decision to bring children into our home for whatever season God had in mind.

Princess & Dash are both incredibly happy. They have adjusted really well to life in our family. It’s been kind of ridiculously easy. Natural. Right. Even things like family prayer every night, they each get settled in for it and can’t wait to bless everyone. Tonight we skipped because we did evening mass & devotions around the Advent dinner table and at bed, Princess couldn’t stop blessing me and asking for blessings. Beautiful.

Everything is just more fun with littles around. Going for a walk, going to the park, going to the store. Everything is more fun. They are so adorable, and so easy that we spend a lot of time giggling. Giggles are a balm to the soul.

and

Lows:

All.The.Diapers. I mean, for real, that’s not really a low, but kind of. I mean, we haven’t had diapers in our home for nearly 8 years and so this is just a bit of an adjustment.

All.The.Plastic. I am working really hard at doing some things differently than how we did with our littles – you know because you learn some things along the way. And as we get older, you know, things just shift. I love wood toys and soft felt things and creative experiences instead of plastic and lights and sounds. But then life happens and people are generous and give you things and you pull out the toys and they love them so much, that you just clean them up again and stick them on the shelf and you acknowledge that perhaps you have bigger fish to fry.

Mom. The kids call me Mommy. And mama. So when I talk about Mom, I am talking about the dear sweet woman who gave birth to these two sweet souls that sleep in the other room. Those sweet souls who call me Mommy and look to me for comfort when they are sad, or for just an extra touch of security when we are out of the house and they want to know I am still there. Friends, this is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life. I still simply cannot wrap my mind around this reality. It seems so completely impossible to me that some where tonight there is a woman whose children are absent from her life, from her home, from her sight and that she is so broken that she doesn’t seem to care. I am not saying she doesn’t care. But when you are supposed to have the first visit to see your children the week of Thanksgiving and you cancel, it really makes it seem like you don’t care. And my brain? It CANNOT figure that out. This tragic world has got me completely wrecked. And so I just do the next thing: I feed the children, homeschool the olders, fold the hundredth load of laundry, bathe the children, rock them to sleep, sing them all the songs, and pray my guts out over them. Then I crash into bed and do it all over again the next day.

Because really, I can’t wrap my brain around it. So I just live it.

All in all, our season of life, our experience of foster parenting thus far has been nothing short of miraculous. While I cannot wrap my brain around the tragedy of the situation itself, it is not lost on me that I am participating in the very real work of the Gospel and that is humbling and encouraging in a way that is just so authentic. I have never felt more fully alive. We are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing and for that I thank God every moment.

This video speaks to what foster care means when lived as a calling for the Kingdom.

You are not foster children, you are engrafted into my home.

I am your Mama. Everything that belongs to me, now belongs to you.

Same way with the Kingdom. Now you’re engrafted into the Kingdom of God and everything that belongs to the Kingdom of God belongs to you.

4th of July Shenanigans!

A new tradition has begun around here.

And that is celebrating the 4th out on a farm. These friends of ours, their parents have a delightful little farm (80 acres, which I don’t really call little because it’s 10 times the size we want!). There is a pond for fishing, a barn, hayrides, golf cart rides, dogs, food, toy guns, tree forts, snakes, and a hootin’- hollerin’ good time.

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These friends also happen to be the kind of awesome Catholic friends who know basically everybody. So the party was a great opportunity to see a variety of friends we know from throughout the Archdiocese. Folks Tim has worked with at the retreat center, families in our homeschool co-op, fellow pilgrims from our trip to the Holy Land, priests, and even the Archbishop! It was really quite beautiful.

One of our hosts said that he was looking around at one point, and just was taken aback that this was probably a pretty accurate slice of the communion of saints and what it will be like when we are all together partying with the Big Guy.

The kids had a blast setting off their own little fireworks and then we prayed a Chaplet of Divine Mercy for our nation before our hosts put on a beautiful fireworks show for all!

A meal is never just a meal.

Today the kids and I spent the day in the kitchen. I have been wanting to pass along some of our favorite family recipes and really teach them how to make them over the next several years.

A gal I met at a homeschool gathering had this genius idea for teaching kids to cook:

Pick the meal. Make it the same night 4 weeks in a row.

The first week, the kids basically watch you cook, and you talk them through some of the steps.

The second week, the kids help you in the actual making of it – you showing them how to measure everything, walk through the steps, etc.

The third week, they make the meal with YOUR assistance.

The fourth week, they make the meal without your help! And voila! You have taught your child how to make a recipe from start to finish and they have confidence in executing it!

This is something I will be doing this summer and throughout the school year as a part of homeschooling. It’s just such a valuable skill that I can’t not do this for my children.

This was week one. We made one of our family’s most treasured recipes. This recipe is not only incredibly delicious but also filled with a story of a dear old friend.

The story goes a little something like this. Years ago, we were in a season of intense grief. Our baby that we were adopting had died at 36 weeks and we were beside ourselves in sadness. Only one family brought us a meal. It’s funny the things you remember, huh? Well, that meal was brought by a dear friend, Laurie. And it was this delicious pasta you could eat hot or cold. We loved it because it was so tasty and also because it tasted like love. The love and compassion of a friend who knew that while she couldn’t do anything to heal our grief, the meal she made us could be a comfort. And a comfort it was.

We loved that meal so much, that months later when I came out of my fog, I remember emailing her for the recipe. She replied quickly and attached the recipe and we began making this meal both for our family, but also to give away to other families as regularly as possible.

Months turned to years and I didn’t see my friend much. Then one day, the unthinkable happened.

This beautiful homeschooling mama of many littles was standing in her kitchen one moment while life clattered on beautifully all around her. And the next moment she was on the floor, gone. Just. gone.

An aneurysm took the life of this holy, kind, and compassionate woman.

And so this recipe, this meal, it takes on a whole new meaning every time I prepare it. It draws me deeper into prayer for Laurie’s husband and children, and for their entire family who have grieved her. It encourages me to pray for all families who have lost someone. It grows my capacity to love and to be love & compassion to others.

This is why this recipe matters. These are the lessons I want my children to remember. A meal is rarely ever just a meal. It can taste like love, and compassion, and holiness, and community, and courage, and beauty. So the moments we spend pouring over a recipe or working the sauce until it’s just right… these are moments pregnant with grace. These are the moments we taste the divine.

The kids chose this meal to be the one they would make this week. They planned the menu, all the while knowing that we would be making TWO of this meal so as to bless another family with a full meal tonight.

So I texted a dear friend and told her to not plan anything for dinner, and that we were bringing her a meal. She is 7 months pregnant with her 6th boy and they are in the middle of moving. I knew it wasn’t a big deal as she is not sick or bedridden or anything, but it was a little something we could do to just say, ‘hey, we love you guys’.

They called when dinner was over and each of their boys got on the phone with my son (Emma was at soccer) to tell him their favorite part of the meal. It was a delight to watch his face light up as each of his friends told him what they enjoyed. This was a tangible act of service that he will remember for years to come.

The blessing of this meal is that it helped us to re-learn the lessons of grace & compassion as well as a spirit of generosity! See? A meal is never really just a meal.

Farm to Table indeed

Today we ventured out in the rain to hit up our local Farmer’s Market. It was just my boy & I since sister was sick. We meandered through the various booths offering their delicious bounty.

Timmy got to talk with local farmers and even do some of the purchasing! They were having raffles throughout the day, and Timmy won!! He was super excited, but was hoping for a pie instead of onions & beets. 🙂 We got drenched on the way home, but all told had a total blast exploring the market and shopping for some local delicious food.

Our dinner tonight will be Farm to Table indeed.

Family Camp Week One: Farm to Table Kickoff: Strawberry Fields Forever

Today we decided to kick off Family Camp Week One: Farm to Table with a little visit to a strawberry farm! It was incredibly fun to drive out into the country and weave through the roads that led to this quaint little strawberry farm.

As we meandered up the gravel driveway, I fell in love. Honestly. I want to move in with these people. I want to sit on their front porch and have sweet tea and long talks while we shuck corn. Or something.

But for now this visit to the farm of my dreams had to be enough.

After we came home, we went ahead and spent the afternoon playing Settlers of America. A game of farming resources and western settlement. Connecting with the concepts of our pioneer agricultural roots here in Kansas. And pretty darn fun too!

You can read about the rest of our Farm to Table adventures this week HERE.