You thought I was going to say "box of chocolates," didn't you? :)
This past week has been kind of weird. It started last Friday, in a simple, unexpected, yet totally unsurprising way. Brian's paycheck bounced. I canceled the mortgage check, rallied our funds, and somehow, we made it work. Somehow, I knew - we knew - that we were going to be just fine. It neither frightened us nor upset us overmuch. Really, it was almost like, "huh. How 'bout that."
I have been praying a lot. Last week before the paycheck bounced, Brian was juggling lots of interviews with potential new employers. I prayed and I knew that the paycheck bouncing was just a simple way to give us a sign. Truly, an answer to prayer: our time at his present employer is done. Well done. Go and find your reward.
3 interviews with one company later, and we're anticipating an offer. An offer for a company Brian is excited about, that is a step-up the engineering ladder, and that would pay us more. Much more. It's a little surreal, honestly, to go from not getting paid one week, to possibly getting paid double the amount you're used to. To suddenly wonder if you can be that person donating money to others on Christmas, rather than hoping to get some instead.
Even if this particular job offer doesn't come our way, we just feel so clearly that a new window has been opened, that we're taking a turn on our little path of life, and that we're somehow getting a Godly pat on the back for giving thanks for the difficulties, for learning the lessons, and for finding our blessings. We are so confident that God has us in His hands, that we know there is no need to worry. We have used all the negatives these past years to build something extraordinary - our life! And we love it! Even at 23,000 a year we love it!
So that's been my week, plus a few other details I won't go into here. Overall, though, that's why I didn't get an update posted. I'm behind. I never even got this week's meal plan posted, let alone the new meal plan I have just completed sitting beside me. No recipes have gone up, and the recipe index has fallen behind. I made a bunch of notes on a few tweaks to do to the cookbook before pronouncing it officially complete and ready for ordering, then never had time to complete them. I am tackling it all today! :)
To do a bit of catch-up, this week's menu has looked like this:
I have made everything but the sweet n sour pork (I used all my pineapple juice making chicken salad. Whoopsie), the pizza, and the chicken corn chowder. I think tonight is the chicken corn chowder because I can put it in the crockpot, which sounds very very appealing at present due to a night of fairly non-existent sleep (Liam. 'Nuff said.) :) Chloe's last ballet class for awhile is tonight and she's putting on a mini-recital, which is super exciting, but ballet takes place at 4pm, then we have to pick Brian up from work and fight through rush hour traffic to get home, so it will be nice to have everything all ready and waiting as soon as I walk in the door.
Tomorrow I was going to prep the pizza because I have a baby shower that afternoon. I would have just had to come home and pop it under the broiler for 5 minutes and ta da! Dinner. :) Alas, we're having Brian's brother over for dinner and I made this pizza for him last time. That just won't do. So, I have a pumpkin sausage lasagna in my freezer that I need to eat, and I'll thaw and do that, instead. That leaves pizza for Sunday, which is perfect because I think we'll probably see my parents and that's easy. Yay!
Then that puts us into next week. Since I'm still on this menu, I haven't written my menu chalkboard yet, but I will list it:
peach honey bbq chicken with mashed potatoes and mushroom green beans (CSA meal!)
butternut squash lasagna (CSA meal!)
pizza caprese (CSA meal!)
sweet potato soup
chicken marsala pasta
family heirloom chili (CSA meal!)
vegetarian fried rice
drunken bean and yellow rice burritos or burrito bowls
If it excitedly lists CSA meal! after an item, then that means I am intending to make those meals into the share meals for those that order the CSA meal program. I try to plan that out in advance, though it doesn't always happen perfectly. Still, though, you have time to order for this coming week and that's the plan! Sounds tasty, right? :)
Lots of vegetarian meals this coming week now that I look at it. That's cool, we had a pretty protein-centered menu this past week. Need to re-balance.
I haven't been very good about photographing meals, either. Shame on me. There are a few, so here we go:
|crockpot salsa chicken with sofrito rice|
|crockpot spicy honey chicken with couscous|
Notice a trend? 'Tis crockpot season once again! :) I joined Pinterest, too, so have been getting inspired. The salsa chicken came out of a recipe that read something like, "open can of cream of chicken soup, dump in crockpot, add 1 jar of salsa, salt and pepper, and chicken....." before continuing on. Well, as we all know, that just won't do for me. :) But the thought is good! And I actually really loved the end result of my recipe! Simple, tasty, fairly healthy. :)
The spicy honey chicken was a hit with the kids and I, but Brian didn't like it. He said it's probably just his mood and that it probably actually is pretty good. OK? :) I mean, it didn't blow me away, but it was insanely easy which is all I was really after yesterday.
Crockpot Salsa Chicken with Sofrito Rice
Yield: about 6 servings
2 chicken breasts
1 recipe my corn and black bean salsa
1 C sour cream
sofrito rice, for serving
Dump the salsa and chicken breasts into the crockpot and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours until it shreds. When it's done, stir in the sour cream and serve over sofrito rice. SIMPLE. This could be easily folded into a burrito, slathered onto a pizza. You could stir cheese into it and it would be really yummy. Make nachos. Truly - multi-tasker, here. :)
Crockpot Spicy Honey Chicken with Couscous
Yield: about 6 servings
2 chicken breasts, frozen
1/2 C honey
1/4 C soy sauce
2 T rice wine vinegar
2 T butter
2 T vegetable or peanut oil
1/4 t ground coriander
1/4 t ground chipotle powder or smoked paprika
1 t crushed red pepper flakes or a fresh red fresno chile pepper, seeded and diced
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large sweet onion, sliced
1 C matchstick carrots
1/2 C to 1 C heavy cream
couscous of choice - plain or flavored
Combine all the ingredients but the carrots and heavy cream in a crockpot and cook on low for 2 to 3 hours. Remove chicken to a cutting board and cut it into pieces. Return it to the crockpot and add the heavy cream and carrots. The heavy cream is to help thicken the sauce. The butter/oil should have helped the honey not to burn, though it will be a dark amber color. Heat through while prepping the couscous according to the package directions. You can stir in some cornstarch if you want it a little thicker, though it's not necessary. You can also stir in any other veggies you'd like, again, I just kept it simple.
One reason I needed a super simple meal yesterday was we had Chloe's best friend (a boy!) over to play. I was so happy I scheduled this because it rained all day. 3 hours of fun time with one's BFF makes for a much happier toddler come afternoon Quiet Time, that's for sure. :) Anyway, it was too cute because her friend has a knight outfit, and we all know Chloe loves pretending to be a princess, so they both got dressed-up. I got my camera, of course, and before I knew what was happening, her friend had knelt down in front of her and was slipping on her princess slippers a la Cinderella. So. Stinkin'. Cute. Then they climbed onto our rocking horse (he in front, naturally, and she holding on to him on the back) and, I suppose, they rode off into the sunset. :) It was just about the cutest thing I've seen.
Chloe also woke-up and decided to potty-train. We'd backed off when she began relapsing and having lots of accidents, which was ok with me. Yesterday, though, she was adamant that she was going to wear her Ariel underwear. I was equally adamant that she wouldn't get to wear them if she couldn't make it to the potty every time. She said she could, and she did. She got 7 check marks yesterday for going pee in the potty, and I am so proud of her!
The check mark chart system I devised works brilliantly. I mean, I didn't expect it to work so well, yet it does. All I did was remove our routine from our naughty corner blackboard (since we've got that under control now, we don't need it posted). I wrote in items that I wanted to introduce to her as a new responsibility plus items that I felt she needed help working on to improve. They read: cleaning-up room, using the potty, (eating) breakfast, lunch, and dinner, changing her own pull-up, and getting herself dressed. When I give her a check mark, she helps me mark it down, then every Sunday evening we count them together, and then count out coins (any denomination - we have a change jar we just let her pick out of), and she places them in her special jar. She's saving up her coins to buy a new Disney Princess (probably Rapunzel if we can't find a Sleeping Beauty). :) It's so simple and she loves it. Loves it!!! Her room stays neater now that I make her clean it by herself, and it isn't just her room. She has to pick-up all her toys - from the house and the yard - to get the check mark. Score for me!
I say all of this because I went to MOPS this past week and we had a speaker about discipline come talk to us. I don't think I have everything figured out. I'm not the perfect mother, and Chloe is not the perfect child, but our simple rules that we've outlined, and our simple discipline system of the naughty chair really works super for us. What the speaker outlined though, was a much stricter system in which spanking was also a part. I tried to listen and glean from her what was good, then frame it in my own philosophy. I did that, and found she had some good metaphors that helped me better vocalize my own disciplinary beliefs. The more I sit and think about it, though, the more upset I am that a room full of Christian women were being told that it's ok to hit their children.
I know proponents of spankers go through the logic: they never spank in anger. It's deliberate, it's counted or whatever, and then followed by a lot of love. Sure - that's how I discipline! But I don't expect my children to listen to me because of the threat of physical violence, but because they know that one of our rules is to treat others nicely by listening to them. They know I respect them, and I expect them to respect me. Empathy is my key ingredient, and that balances perfectly with authority. My kids behave in a store, not because I tell them to walk, "like dead men and ducks," (an actual quote from this expert) but because I engage them as a participant in what I'm doing. They are PEOPLE. They are allowed to get pissy. They are allowed to have a say in what we do. They are allowed to have bad days. And it's my mission to let them know that they are important and valued, and that their feelings can be their feelings. That because I love them, I will help them with their feelings, because that opens the door for reciprocity.
Reciprocity is crucial. When I get upset, my daughter comforts me. When Liam begins to cry, she asks him what's wrong, or asks me to get him his monkey, so he can feel better. So many people ask if you can teach empathy - that intangible emotional response. You can't, really, in the traditional sense. Empathy, is born from understanding the nuances of interpersonal relationships. It is modeled and not taught. It is reciprocity - a mutual exchange in a relationship, the "give and take," we as adults expect from our spouses and friendships.
Reciprocity between children and parents isn't quite the same, at least not until they're much older, and even then I'm still not sure it's ever totally balanced. (And isn't that the point? God charges parents to love their children as He loves us - with Agape love - the love of self-sacrifice). Regardless, though, a reciprocal system is in place. Chloe can make me happy and proud by her actions, which I make a point to fuss over. Those are gifts to me. She can listen to me and oblige my requests to snuggle even if she isn't quite in the mood, because those are important to me. I show her love, respect, kindness, appreciation, and understanding, and in return, I get the same.
In our house now, we have 4 rules instead of 3.
1. we treat others nicely, which means we listen and respect them
2. we say, "please," "thank you," "excuse me," and "I'm sorry."
3. we sit at the table as a family to eat
4. we clean-up after ourselves
And that's it. And that's all there needs to be. Discipline takes place in the moment it happens, because a toddler will associate the disciplinary action then with the immediate naughty behavior. Check marks are never taken away as punishment, because that's not fair - she earned those by doing specific tasks I ask her to do. That just isn't appropriate. She sits in the naughty chair for 3 minutes when she isn't treating others nicely. If she has a tantrum, she goes to her room - not in punishment, but so she can think and get herself under control. I use both of those words and let her know she's free to come out as soon as she feels ready. If she stays in awhile, I don't barge in - I knock. Her room is her safe place.
If we are out in public, and she isn't behaving, I "find the naughty chair" wherever we are. 3 minutes. It's immediate, then it's over, consequences proceed the action, and we move on in love. No waiting to address it over dinner, because that's not fair, either. You can't blind-side a child with something they did wrong hours or even a day ago when they're trying to enjoy their family life, and have probably been behaving since. That creates an atmosphere of unpredictability - that consequences can come at you any time, no matter how you act. It creates fear and dread. That is not the motivation for good behavior.
OK, gang, I'm pretty sure I've rambled on enough. Obviously this speaker rankled me more than I thought, as hard as I tried to focus on the positive. I did - I took notes, I wrote down a synopsis for myself afterwards, and have tried to put it out of my mind. This will hopefully help, having stated my feelings here. This speaker is not evil or mean, she's a mother doing what she feels is right for her children, and that's totally acceptable. It just is not in any way a system that I can ever endorse.
I need to get crackin' on the rest of my to-do list, now. I hope you all are having wonderful weeks, that fall is making you happy, and that you're cooking lots and lots!