Friday, September 19, 2014

Spoon Rolls

Okay, I've talked about them enough.  I have to share.  When Teacher Man and I were on our honeymoon, we stopped at the Harrow Road Cafe in middle of historic Rugby, Tennessee.  It seemed like it would be good lunch until they brought out the bread basket, and then... it was an amazing lunch.  We gorged ourselves on these rolls that tasted like a delightful cross between a yeast roll and a buttery muffin with just a hint of cornmeal.  When we were leaving the restaurant, I spotted a cookbook with the recipe for those incredible spoon rolls.  Thus began a beautiful obsession for our family as we've adapted the recipe over the years.

I serve these with soup or just because.  They also have been a great snack for Bible study.  I pull out all my spreads: jams, pear butter, apple butter, dulce de leche, and peanut butter.  Then everyone can eat them plain (my favorite way) or doctored up.  If you eat these cold, they are yummy.  If you eat them warm, they are divine!

Here's my recipe that I've adapted for our family of dairy-free, egg-free eaters:

4 cups of whole wheat flour (I like Wheat Montana's Prairie Gold, which is a similar texture to white flour.  Feel free to use white flour.  I won't judge.)
2 T baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt (or 2 tsp. salt)
2 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup coconut oil or butter if you're able (melted)
2 T cornmeal
1 egg, beaten (or I use 1 T ground flaxmeal mixed with 3 T hot water and leave the mixture to sit for 5 minutes.)
1 T dried yeast

1. Add yeast to warm water in small bowl and stir.
2. Mix egg (or egg substitute), sugar, and melted coconut oil (or butter) in another small bowl.
3. Whisk together baking powder, flour, salt, and cornmeal in large bowl.
4. Add wet ingredients to large bowl and stir with wire whisk.  Do NOT use a mixer.  Trust me.  Resist the urge.
5. Spoon into greased muffin tins (3/4 full) and bake at 400 degrees for 10-14 minutes.

Makes 24 rolls (if you're lucky).

But here's the hint, if you make this dough in the morning and cover it with foil in the refrigerator, it gets SO much yummier.  Then just pull it out, put it in the muffin tins and bake right before supper to have hot rolls.

Go. Make these for supper.  And if you aren't dairy-free, feel free to substitute butter for the coconut oil.  I know I would if I could!  Lovely, lovely salted butter.  Then try to wait to eat one until it cools down... on second thought, don't try.  Some battles just aren't worth the effort.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

It would have been enough...

Seder is big in my family.  No, we're not Jewish.  Evangelical Christians, in fact.  But about twenty years ago, my dad was doing research on the feasts of the Old Testament and ended up creating a Seder service that combined Old Testament and New Testament readings.  At first, it was supposed to be just a small Sunday School gathering, but it quickly evolved into an all-church feast.  And even though a job transfer moved my family away from that church, we continued the tradition in our own family until my parent's new church heard about it.  So Thursday my parents helped to serve the Passover feast to a group from their church in addition to sharing the feast with my Bible study group here on Tuesday.

It's a beautiful time of remembering the grace and power of God to His people and now to us as believers through the Lamb of God, His Son Jesus Christ.  One of the most beautiful parts of the ceremony is a litany in which the leader reads a list of miracles that God did to free the Israelites and provide for them in the desert for forty years.  After each miracle, those sitting around the table repeat the phrase, "It would have been enough for us."  What a powerful reminder of the magnitude of miracles God did for the Israelites!  How amazing to think that they needed each and every one of these miracles to survive their journey through the desert!  And what a practical, humbling experience it is to think that any one of those miracles would have been... should have been... could have been enough for them.  Because God was enough.

Which brings me to Saturday.  It wasn't a very significant day... other than the fact that God woke me up at 7 a.m. and told me that I would really like to go to the grocery store. right. then.  If you know me very well, you know that's pretty supernatural, especially on a Saturday morning.  And He would NOT let me go back to sleep... so to the store I went with an inexplicable joy to be awake and buying food for my family.  I restocked all of our cupboards, and then we all went outside as a family to work in the garden and play in the sunshine.  It was pretty perfect.  Then we got the call at noon that my mom and dad were planning to come and help us out in the garden after lunch. Yay!

My parents are master gardeners, and you'd be hard pressed to find a garden in our city that doesn't have at least one of their perennials in it.  They love to give away their plants and help others enjoy gardening.  Plus, when they come to my house, they get to pass that love on to their three grandchildren.  What could be better?

We trimmed and hauled sticks and branches from trees, bushes, and plants all afternoon together.  It was a beautiful day of good conversation, sunshine, and really happy children. But when I went to take a basket of twigs out to the brush pile, I found my dad lying on the ground.  Thinking he was just examining my lawn for moles because he's the "lawn guy" in the family, I didn't think to much of it until I talked to him and he wouldn't respond to me.  Quickly my mom ran over and my husband came, not knowing why we were all gathered around the ground.

Within seconds, I was dialing 911, my husband was clearing my dad's airway, and my mother was talking to Dad trying to get him to wake up and respond.  But he wouldn't.  And he stopped breathing.  And as I talked to the emergency responder on the phone, I truly thought I was watching my mother say goodbye to my father for the last time.  Teacher Man checked for a pulse.  Praise God it was there!  Then he gave Dad a breath, and by some miracle Daddy started gasping for air.  Snoring actually.  Not regularly.  But every so often, he would snore or gasp for air.  There was life in his body, and his color started to come back.

The EMTs were amazing.  They got here in minutes, and by the time they had wheeled their gurney back to Dad, he uttered his first words after they asked him what happened: "I have no idea."  I can't tell you how good it was to hear those words.  The next few hours were a blur of spending time at our local ER where Dad was gasping for breath and confused, watching Daddy be airlifted to a larger hospital, driving to my parents' home to get things for my mother, and heading to the larger ER to find my dad awake and talking.

It's been a whirlwind.  Test after test has come back negative.  No problems. Dad's heart is fine.  His brain is fine.  Everything is fine.  We're frustrated to not know what happened, but so incredibly blessed to know all of the things it was not.  And through all these tests, we as a family have reflected on the immeasurable grace of God in every detail of this awful event.

This Easter we celebrated the resurrection in a whole new light.  We watched my dad breathe new life with no human explanation.  We watched him recover total ability after only a few hours.  We know this didn't have to be the way that God wrote our story.  But it is.  And as we reflect on this last week and prepare for the future, we can do nothing but give glory to God.  For His grace.  For His goodness.  For His presence in even the tiniest detail.  Because even if everything had not turned out this way, God would still be God.  He would have been enough for us. It would have been enough for us.  It would have.

If the test results had not come back so well... It would have been enough for us.

If Dad had not had one of the best medical teams in the state... It would have been enough for us.

If the Body of Christ hadn't surrounded us in a cloud of prayer... It would have been enough for us.

If he had not been airlifted to a wonderful hospital... It would have been enough for us.

If the paramedics hadn't come so very quickly to give him oxygen... It would have been enough for us.

If Teacher Man hadn't been trained in CPR and able to help Dad start breathing... It would have been enough for us.

If Dad had passed out at home and not here where Teacher Man and I could help Mom... It would have been enough for us.

And if Saturday had been our last day with Daddy...our last day of gardening in the sunshine and laughing together while the children played...his first day of standing in the presence of His Savior... It would have been enough for us. But, oh, how grateful I am though that Dad has been given the gift of another day.

God was and is and will always be enough for us.  Amen.  And amen.

Monday, February 10, 2014

30 years

Yep.  The rumors are true.  Today is my 30th birthday.  As crazy as it seems to have arrived at that birthday, it really doesn't feel crazy at all.  It feels right.

I've spent this month looking back at the last 10 years...

Living and teaching in Argentina for a year

Coming home and falling in love with a man who quickly became my best friend

Student teaching in Bolivia

Graduating from college

Marrying my best friend

Greeting our firstborn

Watching Teacher Man graduate

And figuring out life with a child

Right before we discovered that we'd be figuring out life with childREN

And then falling even more in love with these guys who shower me with a crazy amount of grace

 Before welcoming their sister into the world

And watching my boys become the BIG brothers

To a very adventurous little girl

Not to mention 7 moves, 5 jobs, and 3 mortgages.

All that said, I'm ready to call it a decade.  As I look at these pictures, I remember hundreds of life lessons learned and relearned; dozens of faces of mentors, role models, and teachers who invested their time in my soul; and too many precious and irreplaceable people to count.  I could not be more grateful for the way my Savior has led me and the people I have had the privilege of walking (and sometimes running) alongside in this journey. It's been a privilege and an honor.  So goodbye 20's!  Thanks for the great ride!  We'll see what the 30's hold.... starting.... NOW!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Not a morning person

To say I'm not a morning person is an understatement.  Motherhood and the introduction of multiple sleep interruptions each night has brought this to a whole new level.  Last night was pretty mild though.  One kid with a bad dream.  Two texts messages from Caleb's preschool.  Some excited talking from the boys' room at an ungodly hour of the morning.  Not too bad for our home.

However, I realized halfway through breakfast how foggy I really was.  I had made myself a grilled cheese.  Call me crazy, but I really never feel like oatmeal or cereal in the morning.  And most mornings I am way too groggy to whip up pancakes.  So grilled cheese it was.  I even have a goofy song I sing about eating lunch foods for breakfast.  Ask my boys to sing it for you.  I don't sing it in public.  I've gotta preserve some dignity...says the woman who does the "raise the roof" move to get her baby to eat green beans.  Hey... ya gotta do whatcha gotta do.

I sat down at the table for some time in the Word while I drank my first cup of coffee and enjoyed my deliciously crunchy grilled cheese sandwich.  First bite... good.  Second bite... soo good.  Third bite... what is this hard thing in my mouth?  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I had cooked the twist tie from the bread into my grilled cheese sandwich.  Hold your applause.  Seriously.

This would seem pretty funny if I hadn't accidentally put a piece of cardboard from the cereal box in my cereal yesterday... and chewed it for a second before realizing how not cinnamon crunchy it was.  Now you know why Teacher Man is in charge of making the coffee.  And why my children almost never get a hot breakfast (besides oatmeal out of the microwave, toaster waffles, and, of course, grilled cheese sandwiches).

I'd love to be that mom... you know... the one who serves a three-course hot breakfast that it perfectly balanced and makes you want to get out of bed in the morning singing showtunes, but having three beautiful and very real children has made me realize that it's better for me to catch 30 more minutes of sleep and sanity than it is to have a hot breakfast.  I'd rather my kids had cold cereal and a kindly speaking momma than a three-cheese omelet and a tired, angry mom.  Amen.

So for the rest of you non-morning moms, way to get out of bed today and smile!  You have done a great thing!  And for those morning mothers who love to get up and make hot breakfast, feel free to come over any time!  I like my bacon extra crispy and my grilled cheese sandwiches without twist ties.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


For the last month, I have lived within the four walls of our home with only a few outings.  I have to say... I would be a very good hermit... for a while.

Certain things about being home are amazing.  Having unlimited time to read with my kiddos.  Making giant pots of soup to keep everyone warm.  Making cup after cup of tea to drink.  Taking nap times to read books that have been on my nightstand for far too long.  Hanging pictures in this crazy house (FINALLY!).  Talking with Teacher Man about life, our kids' hearts, and the struggles of my heart.

I feel healed in so many ways by the solitude.  And the time to actually reflect and talk has changed our family... for good.  Here's where we settled:

1. We decided to take a month-long break from having Caleb in preschool.  After having a few weeks off for Christmas, I realized how much getting everyone up and out the door by 7:50 a.m. was draining us.  Caleb LOVED his time with his teacher and friends, but the stress of dragging two half-sleeping little siblings into their car seats in the cold was really getting to me.  REALLY getting to me.  So for the month, Caleb is doing some handwriting, phonics, and math with me (per his choice).  He has also been promised at least one day a week to play with a friend.  So far, so good.

2. Do you ever feel like you are just running on empty?  It's scary, but I feel like I've been in a desperation cycle for the last six months of my life. My apologies to the friends and family who have lived with me! This is what happens when you try to move your household and raise three kids in your own strength for the approval of man.  So a new boundary has been put in place.  No screens until the Bread of Life has been eaten, the only food that satisfies.  It may not be much, but I take a few minutes to do Word of Life's daily passage, reflecting on what the passage says and how it applies to my life.  And then I pull out my list.  My Thousand Gifts.  And I count.  Starting the day with giving thanks back to the Giver of Life.  It keeps me seeing His gifts, and it's filling me up.  Feeling stronger by the day.

3. I'm moving.  Not houses (PTL!) but myself.  Rather than seeing physical activity as something to be avoided, I am embracing the stairs as my friend, the laundry baskets as my fitness helpers, and my children as my workout buddies.  Current workout routines include cleaning floors, doing massive amounts of laundry, and playing very competitive hide 'n seek tournaments.  I have never run so fast in 15 seconds or had more fun with my children.  I still walk/run with a friend a couple of evenings a week, but I want to embrace being active as a part of our family's daily life.  Teacher Man has been biking to work as long as the ice has been cleared off the road.  Bless him.  I hate cold.

4. We're learning.  I want my children to actually see my love for learning, both about the Lord and about the world that He made.  This means we're reading together (something we've always done), but I'm also reading books for my own personal enjoyment and enrichment in front of them.  I want them to know that we have not arrived as adults.  Teacher Man and I are still reading to learn and to have fun.  And, frankly, modeling this learner's spirit is just downright delightful.  These last few weeks have reminded me how much I love the written word.

5. Our dinner table looks very different due to Ben's allergy needs.  Much to my oldest child's dismay, we're eating a dairy-free, egg-free diet.  No cheese.  No milk.  No yogurt.  No cream.  No butter.  Thanks to having Teacher Man home for an extra week, I had time to do more research into making kid-friendly, DF (dairy-free) food now that macaroni and cheese is no longer standard fare.  I've also discovered the beauty of my dutch oven in the process.  OH MY GOODNESS!  Where has this thing been all my life?  I had a dutch oven that I didn't season (easy process!) for two years.  What was I thinking??  So easy to clean.  Goes from stove top to oven.  I could hug that thing (when it's cold, of course).  And it's cobalt blue.  Sigh.  So while I say goodbye to cream of chicken soup, it's nice to say hello to a new friend.

6. We're opening our doors.  There's something about feeling unrested and over-scheduled that makes you want to lock your doors when you actually are at home.  The retreat of the last few weeks and a more relaxed schedule is really motivating , and we're trying to reach out to moms, to families, to old friends, to college students with a renewed focus.

So I'm in the middle of a life that needs tweaking.  Yep, T-W-E-A-K-I-N-G tweaking.  (Name that movie.)  It took me far too long to wake up to the fact that what we were doing just wasn't working for our family and was even hindering us from showing grace to others and to one another.  So there's another gift to add to the list.

145: Waking up to what was holding me back
146: God doesn't give up on us but continues to work in our lives.
147: A change of pace that has been oh-so-healing.
148: Being snowbound.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Dear Grandma Laura & Grandpa Robert,

I cannot tell you how many times that I have thought of one or both of you in the last month.  Even though this isn't the first Christmas you have been gone, I am feeling the loss of your presence most this Christmas.

A thousand little and big things remind me of you.  Starting out the day with a piece of hot buttered toast, just like you used to make for me, Grandpa, after you came in from milking the cows in the morning.  Taking a shower and smelling well water.  That smell will forever take me back to your farm.  Tucking my daughter, your namesake, under one of your afghans, Grandma.  And saying her name... Laura.  You are everywhere.

Our home is full of reminders of tangible reminders of you.  Your nativity rests on top of my piano this year.  All set up and waiting for the Christ child.  Your books (and the notes you made in them) reside on my bookshelves.  Your china served my family at Thanksgiving.

Your traditions have made their mark on the next generation.  Mom is carefully making sure every child and grandchild has gifts that delight each of them in a personal way.  And just so you know, she buys socks every year for my husband now just like you used to for Dad.  No one is allowed to open a single present until the obligatory "kids under the Christmas tree" picture is taken.  The youngest children still pass out the gifts.  And Mom has made at least six kinds of cookies... just. like. you.

One more thing.  We worship the Lord you love.  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The God Who meets with people at camp meeting and at the kitchen sink.  It's in Him that I take hope tonight.  That the love that I received from you was just a tiny taste of the love God has for me.  That the longing that I feel to talk to you, laugh with you, wrap my arms around you is a small reflection of a deeper longing for Heaven.  The land of no more goodbyes.  Home.

And as I put the Baby Jesus in the Nativity tonight to celebrate His coming, it just seems so right.  God with us.  Emmanuel.  He came down to us.  And you both are now with Him.  Whole. They say we will all sing together in Heaven, but something in me wonders, Grandma, if you'll be playing the piano.

Your granddaughter,

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Meeting Ben

This is my son, Ben.  Smiley. Sweet. Sneaky. So darn squishy and huggable. And if you look closely, you'll see the tear in his eye. Ben has always been my weapy child, never too far from a frustrated meltdown of tears.  He bounces back quickly (as this photo demonstrates), but his tears are never far from the surface... until recently.

Almost exactly a year ago, we were referred to an allergist.  Ben had frequent facial rashes around his mouth, which I just assumed were eczema.  He can thank me someday for the sensitive skin.  The allergist recommended removing eggs from his diet, which was a bigger deal than you might think.  Custard, baked goods, salad dressings... they all have eggs or an egg by-product in them.  We faithfully removed the eggs and would know when we slipped up by the rash that would immediately form around Benjamin's mouth.  

However, even when we had gotten really good at weeding out the eggs, Ben was still getting the awful rashes around his mouth.  I trekked back to the allergist (who is an hour away from our home) to see what else we should be avoiding, and he immediately suggested taking Ben off of milk and ALL milk products.  

Doesn't sound so bad until you remember how many things have milk in them.  Like EVERYTHING.  Let's just review the basics: cheese (oh my word, do I love cheese), yogurt (a staple in our home), ice cream, sour cream, and butter.  Oh wait... butter is in every baked good known to man.  AND whey is in far too many breakfast cereals, crackers, breads, and boxed mixes.  While I initially looked at this milk allergy as a cooking-everything-from-scratch death sentence, I wanted to give it a try.

Just as an aside, the allergist told me that I might notice a difference in personality if Ben were really allergic to milk.  You see, the body of an allergic person reacts to the allergy-inducing foods as it would to a drug.  Kids with milk allergies often are described sleepy, dazed, foggy-brained, or lazy; but, in reality, they are living in a drugged state 24/7 due to the whey, cheese, yogurt, and milk that the food pyramid tells us we are supposed to be feeding them.

We came home and cleaned out the cupboards, putting all the foods containing whey aside so we could help Ben make good snack choices.  I changed our menu to more a whole-foods diet since we were going to need to know exactly what had been put into everything.  Might as well keep it simple and just have meats, veggies, fruits, and homemade breads.  Besides, no one feels like they are being deprived when they are eating a good spoon roll.  Amen??  In fact, just writing this sentence has caused me to get up and get myself a spoon roll.  Oh. so. good.

Two weeks went by.  Teacher Man and I were both eager to debunk this allergy because... well... we missed cheese.  And Ben cried at lunch when he couldn't have yogurt.  Poor little guy.  

After about three and a half weeks, I was out doing errands with Ben and little Laura, when I noticed something was different.  Ben was talking.  Like non-stop, just like his mama, talking.  And it made sense.  And it was directed at me.  And he was waiting for me to answer him.  And when I did, he listened.  And when I gave instructions, he obeyed.  And when we had to leave the playplace, he was cool about it, understanding that we would come back another day.  Hmmm...

Every night at supper, everyone in our family shares his favorite part of the day.  Ben always wants to go first, but often says, "I forget," when we ask him and then he copies his brother's favorite part.  Every. night. That night, Ben would. not. be. quiet.  He shared all about his morning out with Mama in great detail.  I had never heard him retain information like that.  Poor Caleb. He had never had to share the airwaves at the dinner table before.  It took forever for Ben to share all of the details and for us to get to Caleb's favorite part of the day; but by that time, I was in tears.  I had just met my son.

I hadn't even realized the toll that Ben's spacey behavior had taken on me until that moment.  Suddenly I had a fully coherent child.  And it wasn't just his speech that changed. 

The next day, Benjamin stepped on me.  If you know Ben, you know that he often uses his limbs in ways that are painful.  He's not being malicious.  He just flops around and really never notices when he's causing pain.  I cried out, "Ouch!  Ben, you hurt Mommy!" which normally would not even phase him, but immediately he looked right into my eyes with sadness and said, "I sorry, Mommy.  Are you okay?"  And then, he started moving more carefully and even sat in my lap gently to be sure he wouldn't hurt me again.  Never before had we been able to get through to him the need for gentleness and caution.  Suddenly, he got it.

The next day, he played with the same toy for over two hours.  Ben had always struggled to full engage with anything besides the television.  Board games were over for him after a couple of turns.  Not so any more.  He finished a board game with my Mom yesterday.  I cannot tell you how huge that is.

There have been WAY fewer tears.  WAY fewer tantrums.  And no wonder.  He's living with a lot less frustration.  He can think clearly.  Hear us clearly.  Wake up feeling rested.

It makes me think of when I am on cold medicine.  I feel fuzzy-brained, and I'm not being thoughtful of the needs of others.  I'm just trying to put one foot in front of the other.  I also eat more because I feel tired (this is totally Ben!).  And I'm more clumsy (totally Ben too!).  That's how it seems he felt when his body had dairy.  

Our family loves Jesus.  That's who we are.  My kids are pumped about going to church any time the doors are open because of all the people there who show Christ's love to them so well.  Last Sunday evening I decided to do something brave.  Go to evening church.  There is no children's program during evening church, but it was the choir's Christmas program so I thought we'd give it a try.  Ben normally flops around in the pew, can't sit still, chews on things incessantly (including the pews), and cries.  It's a trying experience every time.  Halfway through the cantata that night, I started to cry.  Ben was sitting on the edge of the pew with perfect posture (he NEVER engages his abdominal muscles if he can help it), listening to every word.  He sat like that for forty-five minutes, hardly moving a muscle except to look up at us and smile because he loved the music.

This is not a scientific study.  It's just our family's experience, but it makes me wonder how many other children are out there, feeling dopey all the time because their bodies are reacting to milk products like normal peoples' bodies react to a strong drug.  I feel immeasurably blessed to have met my son.  To finally truly know the spunky, energetic, hilariously funny boy he was created to be.  It would be easy to beat myself up for not having figured this out earlier, but when I watch Ben (right now he's outside building a snowman with Teacher Man) all I feel is joy and excitement for the new world that has opened up to him.  And if I am ever having a pity party about my cheese-less existence, I only need to watch my son for a moment to realize that it is worth every extra step I take to keep him plugged in, alert, and whole.

(photo courtesy of Nathan Holloway Photography)