Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Moving Day

We're bloggin again. This time as a family of 6!

Keep up with us at our new location:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Power of Praying Feet

I am having a boy! After being blessed with three beautiful and totally healthy girls, God is giving us a boy. Like the figurative cherry on top of my delicious hot fudge sundae life. And I feel completely elated and unbelievably humbled by this blessing.

Here's why.

This pregnancy was a surprise. So was my Little Toothache. Such an unexpected thing after struggling with infertility and ultimately a successful in-vitro procedure to conceive our beautiful twins. It's not that I don't know how this works. It's just that my body does not follow a "traditional" pattern and so there's no predictability for when peak times are, well, peak.

So, to have one surprise pregnancy was such a miracle. In fact, we have an inscription above LT's bed that says "Believe in Miracles". But, a second! I never saw that coming.

When I found out, I was in total shock. A little bit freaked out. But, amazed that after what we had been through the first time, this could happen all on it's own with no planning or intentionality on my end. Again!

In my prayer time, I had been talking to God a lot about having a fourth. Was it going to be His plan for us to conceive easily? Or was it going to get complicated again? If it was difficult, how long would we wait until we talked to a doctor? Or considered adoption? There were many other questions/worries I had about it. So, when it happened this way, I felt like He was just saying, "Relax, Jenni. I'm in charge."

What a relief.

The day I took the pregnancy test, I was overwhelmed. I remember driving home from errands and calling Andy. I started crying on the phone and was glad that he was working from home that day. When I pulled in the garage, I just sat in my car and cried. Andy finally came out to the car and joined me. We talked together and then prayed together. Then Andy said, "I really hope it's a boy."

I know he's always wanted a boy. He loves his girls and is an amazing dad to them. But, when we would see dad's playing ball with their boys or other father/son stuff, I could always sense that he really hoped to have that someday, too.

And that's when my praying feet came into play. I decided to paint my toes blue all summer long, as a silent prayer and reminder to God that I really wanted a boy.

See, when it comes to prayer, I had always had the mentality that God was going to do what he was going to do. That it was my responsibility to submit to his plan. To pray that His will be done, whatever that may be.

But, last year, I heard a teaching on Moses. How God was so fed up with the Israelites that he had delivered from Egypt that he basically said to Moses, "I'm going to kill them!" And Moses pleaded with God. He asked him to please give them another chance. And God CHANGED HIS MIND! (Read the story yourself; Deuteronomy 9)

That was a lightbulb moment for me, when I realized that I can have a say in this. I can pray bold, faith-filled prayers and God could actually have one thing in mind and then hear my fervent prayers and decide to do something else.

So, my prayers for a boy became the first time that I put this into practice. I would say to God, "I'm asking BOLDLY for a boy!" I prayed this prayer a lot. I wanted it bad.

I would see my blue toes throughout the day and say, "hey God! don't forget!"

People would say to me, "don't you think that's already decided?" And my response would be, "my God is big enough to change his mind any time he wants."

If God chose to give us another girl, I knew I could celebrate that, too. That I had prayed so much for a boy that He must have a big plan for this girl. And that His big picture view of our family was better than my view.

But, the day of the ultrasound came. And as my heart raced and as we felt gratitude for every healthy measurement of his head, heart and limbs, she came upon a site I've never seen on an ultrasound screen before. A penis! He spread his legs proud and there was no denying it. God answered me!

I instantly started to cry. My heart so full of gratitude and humility. I said a prayer and the God of the entire universe heard ME and answered ME!

I knew this was nothing short of a gift. It certainly was not something that I deserved. If it was about who deserved things, I can think of plenty of others whose faithfulness to God should add up to a blessing like this. Like our dear friends, the Shelbys.

God's work makes no sense to me. All I could think of was how I had been given something by my creator that I didn't deserve, and all I could say was "thank you, thank you, thank you!"

After the ultrasound, I sat alone waiting for the doctor and could have cried again just amazed at His faithfulness and love for me and my little life. My awe and amazement of our God has been renewed. My prayer life forever changed.

Sometimes we forget that power we have as believers. That the Holy Spirit is with us all the time and we can call on His help any time of day. We can release angels to do good work. We can pray with expectation and have it be met.

Sometimes our job will be to submit to His will, when His answer is different than our request. But, other times, lifting our hands (and feet) in prayer,we are invited to be active participants in His work. His life-altering work.

"The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with."
James 5:16 (The Message)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jesus in Mom Jeans

I want to be like Jesus.

But, sometimes as a mom, I don't act like Jesus. And sometimes not so much because I'm mad, but because I have a hard time determining what type of parental choice Jesus would make, in the heat of the trials and drama of three small girls. And I get frustrated about it.

I want to know Jesus so well. And truly "get" Him so much, that even when my emotions and blood pressure feel like they are about to go through the ceiling, I can confidently answer the question WWJD? And then actually do it.

Jesus, what practical parental choice would you make when your 18mo old is screaming in the high chair covered in applesauce, while one 3 year old just fell on the floor in a pool of tears because you got her a little spoon instead of a big spoon, and another 3 year old is in the bathroom yelling for you to come and wipe her booty?

And please don't misinterpret my tone. I truly believe He has the answer.

My post is about my issue.

I'm staying home full-time now. And in my quiet time with God, I feel like He's asking me to be still. To accept His love for me and define myself simply as His beloved (rereading Abba's Child)(one of my all time faves!) I'm learning so much.

And then my kids wake up. And it's practical application time. I start my day (and my ministry) and pray that all this good stuff that's happening in my heart is ever-present in my day, as I lead my kids.

I think that's the true test of growth. Grace in the hard times. That in the toughest of trials, I could hold up a mirror and still see His reflection. I'm not sure that happens all the time here.

As I read the Bible and read about the life that Jesus' modeled. I'm so inspired. And challenged.

I feel confident that he's asking me to abide in this new season. And I'm learning to carve out times of solitude with Him.

And I think it's so that I can really hear Him in the stillness, when my life is so LOUD. And that as I hear him more, His voice becomes so familiar, so easy to decipher, that when the NOISE is at it's loudest, I can still hear it.

Because, I know He knows how LOUD it can get over here. And that it's not always the kids.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Asian Beef and Noodle Soup

If you're in the mood for some amazing Asian flavor combinations, this is the soup for you. However, if you aren't in the mood to flash back to college, livin on the cheap, eatin ramen for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you might want to skip this one, or find a noodle substitution (which is what I plan to do next time).

I used a few ingredients for the first time in this recipe: fish sauce and Chinese five-spices.

I have to admit, the fish sauce weirded me out. It was a tan color and a water consistency. I pictured someone pulling a fish from the lake and squeezing it over a sieve. I didn't taste it directly, but the bottle said you can use it like soy sauce and it's popular in Thai food.

The Chinese five-spices is an interesting mix of spices, including cinnamon and fennel. Even a little clover. Heck, if you wanted to, you could probably put it in your pumpkin pie. That would be interesting.

The noodles were straight up ramen, although you didn't use the seasoning packet. But, I wasn't fooled and I have too many memories of eating ramen in my dorm room when there was nothing else to eat. So I think next time I'll try some chinese egg noodles instead or even vermicelli.

This recipe also includes flank steak and I was surprised that you cooked it by simply throwing it into the broth and not in a skillet ahead of time. I was pleased since I feel like I usually mess up steak when I try to cook it in a skillet. The broth method made for really tender steak.

All these flavors combined, plus fresh ginger and cilantro, made this soup a party for my taste buds, which is why I'm sharing it with you. Enjoy!

Asian Beef and Noodle Soup

8 c low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs fish sauce
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
4 (3 oz) packages ramen noodles, broken into large pieces, seasoning packets discarded
1 lb flank steak, cut lengthwise into thirds and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices (see note)
1/2 medium head Napa cabbage, sliced thin crosswise (about 4 c)
1/4 c finely chopped fresh cilantro

Bring broth, ginger, garlic, fish sauce and five-spice powder to boil in Dutch oven. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer until flavors meld (about 10 min).

Add noodles to simmering broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until nearly tender (about 2 min). Stir in beef and cabbage and simmer until cabbage is wilted and beef is cooked through (about 2 min). Add cilantro. Serve.

Note: Freeze the steak for 15 min before cutting to ensure thin, even slices.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Potty Training for DumMommies

Fast Track: Results in 3 - 7 days
Not-so-fast Track: Results in 365 days

I have mastered both tracks, having one twin who trained in a week and another who trained over the course of year.

This Christmas break one year ago is when I attempted the whole potty training gig with the girls for the first time. It was a little early (they were 2yrs 2mos.), but with three kids in diapers, I was highly motivated.

I thought it would be Lobaby who would catch on quickly. The truth was they both did. Our first "outing" in big girl panties was all dressed up to the Christmas Eve service at Northview. I was a nervous wreck.

"Please don't potty on your pretty dresses!"

"Do you need to go potty?!"

"Be sure and tell mommy if you feel the potties coming out!"

I whispered in their little ears. And we were successful! I was a potty training rock star! Or so I thought.

About one month in, Lo started to revert. I was so resistant to it. In denial about it. But, I was finally at my wit's and patience' end, and back to diapers she went.

Over the next few months we tried again. I tried my old methods. I tried new methods. But the truth of the matter was, she could care less about big girl panties.

For the months after that, I was mad about it. "She knows what to do! Why won't she do it??" I thought.

It was a battle. And she was beating me. And I hate to lose.

I finally accepted that it had to be her decision. She was going to have to want to do it. To care that her friends weren't in diapers. To care about being a "big girl."

Meanwhile, Jilligirl trained like a champion. Seriously, almost too good to be true. I told her that this is what big girls do and she bought it. I offered her stickers and marshmallows and she ate it up. At 2yrs and 2 mos, she had less than a handful of accidents and has been in her sweet little pink roos ever since.

So, this is yet another example of how my precious twin girls could not be any more opposite.

Around their 3rd birthday, I thought we'd give it another go. No success. But, I did realize something really important. A positive to all my potty-training failures.

At every attempt, I learned something new about my precious Lo. Every time we would try and fail, I would get insight into her personality.

Jilli is just like me. I get her. She is competitive and easily motivated. She embraces change and jumps into new things without fear.

Lo is very different than me. She isn't competitive. She's hard to motivate. She likes to do her own thing and she doesn't usually care what the other kids are doing. She's so quirky and funny. And it makes me nuts and I love it!

The upside to potty training over 12 months, is that I see her differently now and have a better appreciation for her quirks.

I realize this is just the beginning of my tough lessons in mothering, I just hope that they don't all take 365 days to learn.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Baked Manicotti with Meat Sauce

So I'm home full-time now and I find myself with a new energy and excitement in the kitchen. I love to cook and try new recipes, but haven't had the patience (or kids with patience) to bust out a meal like this in some time.

I made my grocery list this week and on it were the ingredients for 3 new recipes from my favorite cooking resource, Cook's Country. I've never made a recipe out of these magazines that wasn't divine.

First on the list was manicotti, made with a few ingredients that made my taste buds happy before I even opened my mouth. With the big girls as helpers and Little Toothache in her high chair with a snack, we tackled this recipe with delicious results.

I hope you enjoy and devour this recipe as happily as my family did.

Baked Manicotti with Meat Sauce

Meat Sauce
1 onion, chopped
6 oz sliced deli pepperoni
1 lb 85% lean ground beef
1 Tbs tomato paste
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 (28oz) cans crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper

3 c ricotta cheese
2 1/2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 c shredded provolone cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
16 no-boil lasagna noodles (see note)

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. pulse onion and pepperoni in food processor until coarsely ground. Add beef and pulse until thoroughly combined.

Transfer beef mixture to large saucepan and cook over medium heat, until no longer pink (about 5 min). Using slotted spoon, transfer 1 cup beef mixture to paper towel-lined plate and reserve. Add tomato paste garlic and pepper flakes to pot w/ remaining meat mixture and cook until fragrant (about 1 min). Stir in tomatoes and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened (about 20 min). Season with salt and pepper.

Combine ricotta, 2 c mozzarella, 1 c provolone, egg, salt, pepper, basil and reserved meat mixture in large bowl. Pour 2 quarts boiling water into 13 x 9-in baking dish. Soak noodles until pliable (about 5 min). Drain noodles on kitchen towel, pour of water and dry baking dish.

Spread half of meat sauce over bottom of baking dish. Top each soaked noodle with 1/4 cup cheese filling, roll and arrange, seam-side down, over sauce in baking dish. Spread remaining sauce over manicotti. Cover with foil and bake until bubbling around edges, about 40 min. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and provolone. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 min. Let cool 15 minutes. Serve.

Note: You need 16 no-boil lasagna noodles. Get the Barilla brand (comes 16 to a box, other brands only have 12). I found these in the dry pasta aisle, even though I started looking for them with the refrigerated and frozen noodles.

My notes: 1) I skipped the red pepper flakes, even though it was just a smidge. I didn't want to risk the heat turning off the little palettes in the house 2) I only have a small food processor, so I only did the onion and pepperoni in the food processor and then mashed it in with the beef by hand.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In Transition: Synopsis

My life is in transition.

There are two experiences I'm having in the transition and some stuff I want to share about both. So before I begin, let me give you the synopsis.

For months, I'd been praying and contemplating the idea of resigning my position at Northview to focus solely on my duties as a wife and mommy.

Some of you may not know that I work at Northview, but I do. I love it and I'm completely passionate about working in the local church. My favorite part of my job as Communications Director has been to help create experiences for our people to engage in relationships with each other and to experience God in new ways. I get an inside look at our leadership and get to contribute to their passion, by offering insight on how to share the heart of their ministries with our attendees.

I've been able to sit in on lead staff meetings and represent my voice as a woman, mother and creative thinker. It's been humbling and so cool.

I'm a such a passionate girl. And during my training for my half marathon (which I'll blog about later), I had a lot of time alone with my thoughts. One thought that I kept having was wondering what God could do if I were able to focus all my passion on my family. And I got really excited.

For the past two years, Northview has been gracious to let me do the job that I love on a very flexible, limited schedule. But, because I love it so much, I always felt frustrated by my limitations. There wasn't enough margin in my life to dream big for Northview in the way that I knew I could.

In the same way, I haven't had the margin to dream big for my family in the way I've wanted to, either.

Now that Andy is settled into his new venture as a self-employed web experience designer and developer (And doing AMAZING, I might add), our family has settled into a new normal, as well. One with many new exciting opportunities and challenges.

Andy has never been more fulfilled professionally. I remember thinking when we dated (and when my dad would bug me about considering my financial future), that this guy is so talented and I won't ever have to worry that he will provide for me and our future family together. I was right. It's almost too good to be true to watch how this whole thing has unfolded.

So, he's super happy. And super fulfilled. But, now running his own company and having the weight of all family provisions based entirely on his ability to seek out and secure projects, he's also super stressed. And in the 10 years that I've known him, I've never seen him stressed.

I've always been the one to have my hands in hundreds of pots. He's always been my easy-going, super-mellow, go-pursue-your-dreams-and-I'll-do-whatever-you-need-me-to-do-to-support-you kinda guy. And he still is, but his new reality has challenged his margin in new ways, too. His "supportive margin".

So, it's my turn to be the cheerleader. It's a new role for me. But, one I'm pretty excited (and also scared) about. I'm afraid and thrilled that God has a lot to teach me. I'm afraid and thrilled to have my margin back. I'm afraid and thrilled to stay home and use my passion to open the door to God to reshape and grow my family.

I think afraid and thrilled pretty much sums it up.