Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Day in the Life of Her

Just wanted to let you all know that I am over at Blissful and Domestic today!  I'm so excited to be part of Danielle's work.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Feeding Four Under Four: Dinner in 5

A mother of 8 recently sent out a Facebook request for quick and easy dinner recipes for those nights when schedules are hectic and you have to magically create something to be consumed in less than ten minutes.  Here are a couple of my favorites!

Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
Do you own a Foreman Grill?  I am not one who likes a lot of appliances in her kitchen, but this is one of my essentials.  It looks like a type of panini maker, and we use it to grill up meats, burgers, and quesadillas.  It takes about 5 minutes to heat up, the fat from the meat flows right into a dishwasher-safe drip tray, and the non-stick surface is easy to clean.  

You can fill your quesadillas with whatever you like, as long as there is cheese in it.  We sometimes cook  up some ground turkey, but if time is really short, we make them vegetarian and just use black beans.  

4 Easy Steps:
1.  Lay a whole wheat tortilla on the grill.
2.  Spoon on your fillings and cheese.
3.  Lay a second tortilla on top.
4.  Close the grill for a few minutes until the quesadilla turns crispy! 

Depending on the size of your grill or panini maker, you can only make one tortilla at a time, but the advantage to this is while everyone is munching on a quesadilla wedge, you can put together another whole and serve it before they have even finished the first one.  They are not super gooey either, so they can be taken into the car if you have to jet.

Parmesean Crusted Chicken
OK, so this is a dish I shamelessly stole from the website for Hellman's mayonaise. It takes a little longer than the quesadillas, but it is so tasty it will eliminate the those cursed food negotiations with picky eaters
that delay a quick eat-and-run.  While the chicken is in the oven, you can cook up some vegetables or another side.

4 Easy Steps:
1.  Preheat oven to 425.
2.  While the oven is preheating, prepare the chicken breasts.
3.  Cook chicken for 20 minutes.
4.  While the chicken is in the oven, prepare your sides.

Et voila!  Bon appetit!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

daily (mis)adventures vol. 2

I am writing a guest post for the blog Blissful and Domestic, and I'm realizing that I have too much material for a concise submission, so I have decided to share the spillover here.  Danielle from Blissful and Domestic is hosting a series called "A Day in the Life of Her" and she asked bloggers to simply document their day with pictures and share the ups and downs of the daily routine.  I guess I went a little crazy with the documenting, hence the spillover.  Nevertheless, there are plenty of humorous moments to share!

July 21, 2014

Mornings are early at our house, but this particular day was painfully early.  I had just snuggled the baby back to sleep at 5:00AM when I hear Gregory in his crib crying “Bus!” in between sobs.  This boy loves his toy cars.  He has named them his “Vrooms”, and he sleeps with them at night.  The missing bus is a special one he found all by himself at a gift shop at the Cape Cod Children’s Museum.  I go into his room (because I know he will not stop whining until we solve this bus issue), hand him the bus that had slipped through the slats of the crib and fallen onto the floor, and pick him up to snuggle in my bed.  I was hoping that he would fall asleep again, for at least another hour.

He was calm and quiet, and I felt myself dozing off.  Until 5:40, when the husband wakes up and gathers his things for an early morning swim.  Sigh.
I do manage to doze off briefly nestled in between my two sons until 6:30.  By this time Gregory is pulling my hand and saying “’Mon!” (Translation: Come on!)  He is pointing to his mouth, which means he has to eat!  Now!  Before I head to the kitchen, I take a moment to pause in front of the crucifix in our bedroom and pray a prayer of Morning Offering.  This prayer has become necessity for me to start the day.  No matter what this day will throw at me, good or bad, I am already offering it up to Our Lord.  In my most frustrated moments as well as my most peaceful, I remind myself of this Offering and acknowledge the moment as one that is already consecrated to God. 

Gregory and I enjoy breakfast together while I bounce Joseph on my leg and wait for the coffee to finish brewing.  I am most definitely both a coffee addict and a coffee snob.  I have discovered a fantastic product through Equal Exchange, and we buy the whole beans.  I highly recommend it.  Living by faith and good coffee!

Even though I wish it was not so early, I do appreciate any moment where I can have one-on-one time with one of my children.  They don’t get that too often.  Gregory is sweetly eating his “Cha-cho’s” (Cheerios) and naming some of the objects on the table with a darling baby accent and a hint of a lisp.  Such a cutie!

I hear something from the baby monitor and go upstairs to find Elisabeth in my bed.  She smiles even though she still has her two middle fingers in her mouth.  She has sucked those two fingers since the day she was born. 

My mother-in-law calls at 7:20 (she is driving to work) to remind us that we had left some clothes at her place when we were visiting…over 2 weeks ago.  We are still unpacking, and I haven’t noticed the missing clothes yet. 

By 8:00 Margaret is finally awake and comes down the stairs with a very cute sky blue dress and a light shrug sweater.  I praise her for getting dressed on her own and choosing such a lovely outfit, but she and I exchange a look that shows we both know the truth: she had an accident in her bed and she has soaked her pajama’s .  I make a mental note to change her sheets.

By 8:15 Joseph is already ready for his morning snooze.  It always amazes me how some babies can sleep through anything.  Joseph is comfortably resting in his swing while Gregory is imitating a dinosaur by roaring and  running back and forth from the kitchen to the living room.  The girls are loudly demanding orange juice, and pointing out that Gregory is a “si-yee” (i.e. silly) boy.  Somewhere in this craziness a child managed to sneak Baby Jaguar into Joseph's swing.  

Fortunately my husband returns from his swim and provides a very welcome distraction.  I sneak upstairs to change Margaret’s sheets and load them in the washer.  I come back down to the kitchen and observe this:

They are watching German children’s songs on YouTube with the I-Pad.  This is what you get for having two language teachers as parents!

Since the baby is napping, and the hubby seems to have things under control with the other three children, I take advantage of the time to go to his school’s track for a short workout.  Getting to exercise by myself doesn't happen all that often, so I am very grateful for the opportunity. 

By the time I head out for my workout, it is only 9:30.  Do you see what I mean when I said that I may have too much material?  

Danielle will be featuring my story (the complete day!) on her blog on August 31st.  It is an honor to be a part of her series, and I encourage you to visit her site for great homemaking tips!

Friday, August 15, 2014

A few thoughts on honoring Mary as a part of our Sacred Tradition

As this is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, I thought I would share how I came to understand and accept the Church’s teachings of the Mother of God’s role in our faith.  Honoring and praying to the Saints was probably the biggest jump for me crossing the stepping stones to get to Catholicism.  If Christ was central to our faith, then why does praying to Mary matter?  And would praying to Mary detract from Christ being our number one?  I am not a theologian, nor am I attempting to write anything that hasn’t been stated or explained before.  I am simply explaining how this stubborn Protestant finally wrapped her head around this concept of revering the Mother of God.  It may be short and basic to the learned theologian, but it is nonetheless personal.  For cradle Catholics, hopefully I can shed some light as to why Protestants balk at this aspect of faith.  As for non-Catholics, perhaps my explanation will, in the very least, point to a window that leads to a whole other dimension of Christianity. 

The first obstacle I had to negotiate was terminology.  I had to understand the meaning of “praying to Mary”, and that prayer does not equal worship.  As with praying to any of the Saints, we are ultimately asking Mary to pray for us, as opposed to presuming she is a divine being.  The Hail Mary, for example, concludes with “pray for us”.  Whereas Christ was both human and divine in nature, Mary is only human in nature.  I’ve heard some Protestants scoff, “Mary never proclaimed herself to be a goddess.”  I agree 100%, and she would too.  Remember the wedding at Cana?  All she said to the servants was "Do whatever He tells you."  

We ask for Mary to pray for us because we believe she is alive.  If we believe that God saves His people after their life on this earth is over, than surely Mary is alive in heaven.  In asking for her prayers, I am essentially asking a trusted friend to intercede on my behalf.  And since she is in heaven with Christ, I can assume that she is closer to Him in both the spiritual and physical sense.  I can still pray directly to Christ, and asking Mary to pray does not detract at all from Him being the essence of my being.  Quite the contrary: praying to someone whom I believe to be alive with Him confirms my belief that Christ rose from the dead.  He conquered death not only for Himself, but for us all.

The Assumption of Mary and the Immaculate Conception are two traditions that were not as simple for me to unpack, but to understand one I had to grapple with the other.  At first glance it would seem that Mary being conceived without original sin, and then to skip death altogether put her into a category of divinity.  In a different perspective, however, the profundity of both the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption supports more fully the divinity of Christ. 

The Incarnation was a mysterious combination of natural and supernatural forces, because Christ was fully man and fully God.  Catholics and Protestants agree that Mary was a Virgin when she bore Christ; both sides of the Reformation agree that this was miraculous.  God created Mary for the purpose of bearing His only Son.  He formed her knowing that she would be the Mother of the Savior of the World.  Mary was the pure vessel in which Christ was carried and nurtured.  Just as a mother can pass both nutrients and toxins to an unborn baby, Mary had to have been created without original sin so as not to pass anything on to her son.  She was “full of grace”, not just "a really good person".   (As a Francophile, I have to point out that the French translation of the Hail Mary is pleine de grace, and the word pleine can mean  both “full” as well as “pregnant”.  The language nerd in me found that thoroughly fascinating.) 

Christ was born of a woman (natural), but the woman was without original sin (supernatural).  If Mary was indeed without original sin, then her manner of death would also be different than the rest of mankind, for Adam and Eve’s original sin (passed down to us) brought natural death.  The history of Christianity supports this tradition.  Eastern Orthodox Christians, for example, believe Mary fell asleep.  It was only post-Reformation, i.e. after 1500 years of Christianity, that Christians abandoned the idea.      

I will admit that having a prayerful relationship to Mary was awkward at first.  I could not fully appreciate why devotion to her was important, or even necessary.  I am slowly learning that this beautifully humble and gracious soul is the very reflection of Christ himself, like the moon is to the sun.  She is not the source of light and energy, but reflects the radiance of the Son.  Since she is closer to Him than any human to have walked this earth, it would be wise to walk close to her, in order that I may get closer to Christ Himself.  Ad Jesum per Mariam.  To Christ through Mary. 

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

7 Quick Takes: On Being Grateful for Dinosaurs and Bunk Beds

Have I mentioned that the hubby is enrolled in a Master’s degree program online?  He has been steadily working towards a theology degree from Holy Apostles Seminary.  This summer he is finishing up the work for his final three courses (yay!) and in a few weeks he will be taking his exams.  Please pray for him!  Considering the intensity of his teaching duties during the regular school year, the amount of reading and writing required for his graduate classes, and oh yes, the craziness of our home with four under four….life has been a tad busy for us.  But the end is in sight!  Prayers are greatly appreciated.  Thanks!

Swim lesson update (short version): Elisabeth went in the water on her own this week, and no screaming!  I was so relieved/proud/happy for her.  No child in that pool had a bigger smile.  I am not sure where her sudden courage came from, but thank God! 
Here is the longer version: Elisabeth has a plastic dinosaur that she received from the town library during one of the weekly story hours, and she had asked if she could take it along to the pool.  She wanted to show her dinosaur how she can kick, since her dinosaur is apparently a terrific swimmer.  Anyway, there I sat on the bleachers at the pool, plastic dinosaur in hand, while Elisabeth splashed with her classmates, practiced her flutter kicks at the wall, and even floated on her back for a few seconds.  She often checked in to make sure the dinosaur was watching, and of course she had to remind me more than a couple times that the dinosaur is a she, Mama.  Hey, whatever works to get her comfortable in the water.  Mrs. T Rex, I salute you.

Even though my husband is completely stressed out diligently plugging away at his grad school work, he has taken some time to add on to our homemade swing set. 

He has really proven himself as a skilled handyman and carpenter the past couple of years.  Where did he learn?  Many years in the Boy Scouts, but also YouTube.  There are plenty of tutorials there, folks.

Can I take a minute to complain about bunk beds?  More precisely, changing the sheets on bunk beds?  The twins have one in their room (it’s actually the same one my sister had when we were kids), and it has been great for them.  When our boys are big enough, we will most likely have a similar set-up in their room.  The problem is, the twins occasionally have accidents at night (part of the learning process, I know), which means beaucoup de laundry for moi, and a crazy balancing maneuver to get the fitted sheet over that darn mattress on the top bunk.   Total pain in the neck.  And of course, I usually remember that the mattress is bare right in the middle of our bedtime routine. 
Then I read this little gem this week: Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt
 It was a great reminder to simply be grateful that all my kids have beds and sheets to sleep in. 

Our son Gregory’s (just turned 2) vocabulary is exploding.  His mispronunciations and the effort he puts forth in forming a multi-syllabic word is so precious.  There are times, however, when I wish I had a toddler interpreter. 
Tonight, for example.  I had just put him in his crib despite his protests, when he started sobbing “Taxi, bus.”  I should point out that Gregory sleeps with matchbox cars.  No soft, cuddly teddy bear for him.  Nope, he prefers small, metallic models of anything that has wheels.  In any case, I went searching for his little yellow taxi and  a school bus.  When I brought the items to him, he waved his hand at me and protested even louder, “NOOO!  BUS!!!!!”  as I confusedly stared at the yellow school bus in my hand.  Eventually I figured out that “BUS” did not refer to the big yellow school bus, but the blue airport shuttle bus.  I mean, that’s obvious, right?

Our homebrewing hobby is back in action.  We got a batch of pale ale fermenting.  This is our first attempt at something other than Hefeweizen.  We’ll have to see how it turns out in a few weeks.  Fortunately, beer brewing is relatively foolproof.  This is where we acquired our supplies and the ingredients, if anyone is interested:

On a serious note, the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Iraq has been in the forefront of my mind this week.  A former colleague of mine posted this startling video on Facebook of Iraqis being rescued from Mt. Sinjar, and the images of young families scrambling onto the helicopter constantly interrupts my petty worries and frustrations.
My husband interviewed Mother Olga, a nun originally from Ninevah and now serving in the Boston area for his own blog post at Dead Philosophers' Society.  Take some time to read it.  She is a beautiful person whom I have had the pleasure of hearing speak, and her story is captivating. 

Keep praying.  Keep raising awareness.  Shove it in everyone’s face.  And keep praying.

Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting 7 Quick Takes at

Friday, August 8, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Culinary Experiments, Swim Lessons, and Fighting Potions

My kids recently acquired a whole bunch of sidewalk chalk.  Earlier this week they scurried outside after breakfast and got busy (still in their pajama’s, mind you).  I cleaned up the breakfast dishes and then peeked out.  A small puddle from last night’s rain had crept into their artwork, and now they were experimenting with the mixture.  It seemed pretty harmless.  I went back inside to do whatever it is I was doing, and not two minutes pass by when I witnessed this:

Go directly to the tub.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.  Cute and terrifying at the same time.

After a couple of spats and consequent time-outs, my daughter Elisabeth announced she had created a “fighting potion”, which according to her is a vaccine against squabbles with her twin sister Margaret.  Apparently it is purple…no, pink and purple, she says….and she’s made a reserve of it in the freezer.  I think she should sell it on Amazon to married couples everywhere.

In our area of Pennsylvania the corn is high, high, high right now.  A local farmer is selling some of his sweet corn for a good price, and it is deeelicious.  So I got the bright idea to buy a whole bunch, as in 50 ears.  Fresh produce + locally grown = hero mama.  I excitedly said to myself, “Yay!  I can cut the kernels off the cobs, and store them in the freezer.  This is what 50 ears looks like in my small kitchen:

And then I said, “Oh my goodness, I have to cut the kernels off the cobs, and store them in the freezer.”  Because I have so much time during my day to tediously collect kernels from 50 ears of corn.  I’ll do that in between hosing off the chalk/water paste off my kids.

Culinary adventures at the Lynch household:
1) Kale chips.  Yes, kale!  They were crispy, salty, with only a hint of leafy green vegetable flavor.  And they are SO easy to make.  Not convinced?  One of the twins ate half the bowl.   
2) Homemade cheese.  We have a cheese making kit, but I’ve only used it once before.  It is a bit of a process (for when I am not cutting corn from 50 cobs or washing chalky paste from my kids), so I hesitated to do it again (the instructions say 30 minutes, but it’s a flat out lie).  But one of my girls REALLY wanted to help Mama in the kitchen.  So I pulled out the kit, and we started together.  By the second step she was already off and playing with her toys, leaving me to change my curds and whey into mozzarella.  I’d say the presentation was a bit off (it looked like silly putty), but it actually tasted pretty good.  I mixed it with some fresh garden tomatoes and a little bit of olive oil and vinegar, and the silly putty glop was actually presentable.  I probably won’t be making any cheese anytime soon, though.

The twins have been taking swim lessons for a few weeks now.  Margaret has been progressing really well, but Elisabeth has yet to let go of her death grip on the pool wall.  It’s been frustrating to say the least, and mostly for Elisabeth.  She knows what she has to do, but she is paralyzed by her own fear.  As we pulled into the parking lot for her most recent lesson, I sent up a quick prayer through the intercession of St. Sebastian, patron saint of athletes, that she would have the courage to make it into the water and let go of the wall.  Well, she ended up screaming for 15 minutes straight, and I’m pretty sure most of the parents were secretly judging.  And then suddenly in the last 5 minutes of the lesson, it was as if someone had flipped the switch.  She joined her class and with a big smile, and announced “I’m going to jump in!”  And she did (with a little help from the instructor)!  Twice!!  We’ve got four more lessons left, so if you could offer up a prayer for the little darling, we would all appreciate it…

I’m going to go ahead and brag about my kids for a minute.  As a true New Englander, I’ll say my kids are wicked smaaaht.  I’ve started to read the Chronicles of Narnia to the twins while their younger brothers are napping in the afternoons, and they are really getting into it.  A chapter book, as in no pictures!  At first I was just proud that they had the attention span to sit and listen, and I was tickled that at the end of a chapter they would say “Keep reading!”  But what really made me beam with pride was the immediate connection that Elisabeth made between Aslan and Jesus Christ. 
E: “Is Aslan good?”
Me: Yes.
E: Does he know everything?
Me: Yes.
E: Like Jesus?
Me: (Totally impressed) YES!!!! 
Of course, as my husband pointed out, perhaps Elisabeth’s connection says more about the simplicity of the Gospel than it does her intellect.  (She’s still wicked smaaht though.)

The twins are starting preschool this year.  Even though it will only be for two days a week, they are pumped.  We got the welcome packet in the mail today with the orientation schedule and arrival procedures, and then it hit me: school starts in three weeks.  The start of school means seeing much less of my teacher husband, and our game of 2 on 4 will change to 1 on 4.  Gulp. 

Thanks to Jen for hosting 7 Quick Takes at!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Feeding Four Under Four: Kale Chips

In this part of my blog, I’d love to share some quick tricks and ideas I've gained from cooking for our family of four little ones.  Feeding my family nutritious food and teaching them good eating habits is a priority, but I also want my meals to made quickly and efficiently.  I am not an expert in the kitchen by any means (that would be my dad, the professional chef), but I do hope to inspire your own cooking and perhaps give you some quick fixes.  I know I love new meal ideas!

Dinner tonight featured a new menu item: kale chips.  Admittedly, I was skeptical to try the recipe from a friend at a recent potluck BBQ.  Yes, I’ve heard that kale is apparently the newest wonder food (like spinach, only better), and I’ve even cooked with it before in a simple sauté of olive oil and garlic.  But let’s face it: it’s a leafy vegetable.  How much different can it taste from spinach or lettuce? 

Prepared the right way, it can be downright tasty!  It was super easy too.

Kale Chips: (prep 5 min, cooking time 10-12)
Rinse the kale and cut the leafy part from the thick stem in the middle.
Place the kale on a baking sheet, sprinkle a little salt (I used sea salt) and drizzle some olive oil on top.
Bake for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Lightly toss the kale on the baking sheet, and sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top.
Bake for 1-2 more minutes.

And that’s it!  The texture of the kale turns dry and crispy, and the salt flavor does resemble a chip or a cracker.  There is still a vegetable-like flavor, but it is certainly not overpowering like some greens can be.  Crispy, light, salty, and all from a leafy green!  Bon appetit!