Saturday, July 19, 2008

Go, Children! Run into the street!

Today, against every parental sensibility, we encouraged our children to run with abandon into the street. We do this every year, just after noon on the Saturday of the weekend that comes two weeks after Independence Day.

Today was the Borough Days parade, kicking off our local two-day festival. The parade is… oh, some might say rinky-dink. It features clowns, local politicians, a very small marching band, a couple of kids’ drumming and baton twirling troupes, a dance group (that somehow never seems to be, you know, dancing when it passes us, even though the route is less than a half-mile long?), and fez bedecked Shriners joyriding on their snazzy ATV’s, the kind equipped with an extra wheel in the back for popping wheelies. And, of course, the backbone of the parade: fire trucks and rescue vehicles of every size, shape, and color of the rainbow, all with horns blasting and sirens wailing. (Ok, so there are no violet fire trucks, but let me tell you that powder blue does make a fire truck look almost pretty.) And the best part! Many of the paraders throw candy in the direction of eager kids along the route. Hence the encouragement to my kids that feels so very strange coming out of my mouth. My kids react as if we never, ever, ever allow them to have candy except on this day.

Rinky-dink or not, we faithfully attend the parade every year. We kind of don’t have much choice. It passes right in front of our house. The arrangement actually has its advantages for those among us whose sensibilities are most offended by the rowdy vehicles, and tend to prefer watching the parade like this...

... and may want to move up to watch from the front porch. Or maybe from inside the house, near the window. Or perhaps may even prefer to retreat to the far interior of the house with their hands placed staunchly over their ears in attempted denial of the whole traumatic event. It’s good to have options.

The parade progresses to the end of the street, where the festival commences. Again, it’s nothing spectacular, but a nice something-to-do. There will be a talent show this year, along with a band playing each night, booths selling food or running games to benefit local groups, and crafters selling (?) their wares. Somehow these wares usually are comprised largely of anything that can be made from crocheted doilies or plastic grids stitched with yarn. I had no idea that there was a market for such things. While walking past them, I usually nudge my husband and hint that July is not too early to begin his Christmas shopping for me. Then I make triple sure that he knows I’m kidding.

The grand finale will be the fireworks in the park tomorrow night. I could watch them from a blanket in the park. I have a feeling, though, that I’ll be watching them over the trees, from an upstairs window, inside the house. Or perhaps I’ll even prefer to just read Fancy Nancy in the back room and try to forget about the whole booming thing. I'm sure Girly Girl will let me know what I prefer.

It’s good to have options.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Have you met Katherine, who writes on her blog, Raising Five?

The name of my blog was loosely inspired by Katherine one day. She was asking her readers to let her know what kinds of things they were interested in, and what they would like to read about on her blog. In thinking about what really draws me to Raising Five, I realized that it wasn't in the subject matter exactly-- she writes mainly about her family life-- but in what is often plainly visible through it: grace. So many times when she describes how she responded (or should have responded--she keeps it real!) to an everyday interaction, I see it. That soul-expanding, life-giving , hopeful, heart-takes-flight release of God's grace, right there in the midst of everyday life. There it is! THAT's what it looks like, flowing outward, reaching into the mundane, touching others and drawing them in. (She's been at it again, simply and quietly inspiring me, with a couple of her posts this week.)

As I responded to her and typed the phrase "in real life," my brain simultaneously translated it to "IRL" in Typespeak, the native tongue of all hip modern keyboarders. ( That whole lexicon of text, e-mail and internet language deserves its own name, doesn't it? What should it be? And who gets to name it? Um, back to the post.) GRACE in real life-- "GIRL". Yeah, that's what this girl is after.

The grace and mercy that God offers, from ultimate salvation to the countless mercies bestowed upon us in love each day, are amazing. But his grace is also meant to flow through us, splashing refreshment, and inviting others to see and know God . What does that look like? What sometimes blocks both its reception and flow through me? What does it look like in perfect balance with discipline and justice? In parenting? In marriage? How do I receive and release grace in the midst of the roller coaster ride that is MY life? Ultimately it is God's spirit that produces and teaches me this, but he's long been in the practice of using object lessons, including ones sometimes found in others' blog posts. I recognize his teaching in the midst of them.

Beyond that, what drew me to the merging of "grace in real life" and the word "girl" is something I can't even articulate very well for myself. It has to do with the life journey I've been on. It's deep and meaningful, I tell you! But unraveling all of that might require a major online therapy session and far too many run-on sentences, even for me. I'll spare you, and stick with the half-baked explanation, ok?

So, GIRL. Grace in Real Life. Now, MY blog, instead of exhibiting the grace of God in full flow as Katherine's does, may be more likely to reveal God's merciful grace, as in, "If God can extend mercy and grace to THAT train wreck, surely He'll persevere with me."

Either way. May it be real and somehow show the real Him.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What in the world?

So... something has been bubbling in my mind and spirit in recent months. Despite a busy time and other plans for blogging when I did finally find the time, these past few days I have felt strongly compelled that I need to write what I'm hearing from the Lord. I have prayed, lost sleep, and resisted, but tonight I finally sat down to wrestle it all into words. I've never spent such time, thought, and effort on a post. After three (!) hours of work, with a conclusion finally in sight, something suddenly went "ding," and the whole post draft disappeared from the window.

Does this happen regularly on Blogger? Did I hit some mystery key I've never seen before or do something dumb? Is it ever retrievable?

Can someone more experienced in blogging please explain to me what may have just happened here on a technical front? On a spiritual front, I know you're not the ones to ask!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

WFMW: Out of the Kitchen in Five Ingredients or Less

It's Wednesday already? Time flies!

Speaking of time, one place I do not like to spend much time in the summer is the kitchen. This week's edition of "Works For Me Wednesday", hosted by Rocks In My Dryer, tells me that I'm not alone in that. We've been asked to share recipes with five ingredients or less. Finding one that actually has five ingredients or less was tough... unless you count cereal, which none of YOU would ever serve for dinner, right? Or fruit smoothies, or eggs, or leftovers...

One easy thing I do: Throw some boneless, skinless chicken breasts into a crock pot with pre-made barbecue sauce in the morning. If you have an extra moment, browning the chicken with a bit of flour first can help the chicken to stay moist and flavorful. Serve on buns as chicken sandwiches with fruit, salad, chips, or whatever you have on hand.

But I'll bet you've thought of that one already.

Here's one we fall back on a lot, year-round. There are technically seven ingredients, but I promise that it's easy because it's a recipe for which measuring is totally optional. It's forgiving.

Lasagna Soup

The name comes from the pasta used: mafalda, found in the dried pasta section of most grocery stores. It looks like mini lasagna noodles. It’s not crucial to have that exact shape of pasta, but, of course, the name of the recipe won’t make sense without them!

One recipe is not enough for the 6 of us if I serve it as dinner by itself, but it is fine if served with bread, salad, etc. I generally double these days-- those boys are growing!

For just one recipe:

–Brown a pound of ground beef.

–Sprinkle generously with some form of quick onions (onion powder, dried minced onions, whatever you have) and a quick shake of salt.

– Throw in a little dried basil, maybe 1/2 teaspoon.

– Add a can (14.5 oz size) of *Italian seasoned* diced tomatoes.

– Add somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 cups of beef broth.

– Add mafalda. You choose how much. If you add a smaller amount of the pasta, it will truly be soup. If you add a lot of pasta, it will absorb much of the broth and be more of a noodle dish.

–Boil about 10 minutes, until pasta is cooked.

– Serve with a generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese (for those not casein free at our house!).

It's very quick. Like many pasta dishes, it's even betterthe next day, too!

Everyone likes this at my house, which is a miracle. I don’t feel the need to serve anything else with this if it's "one of those days" and I don’t have the energy. Ya got yer' vegetable (They say that tomatoes are a fruit, but they seem quite vegetable-y to me.) meat, starch, and dairy. By the old food group guidelines, you’re covered in one bowl!