Monday, December 9, 2013

Sickness: Avoid It Like the Plague

My poor little three-year-old has had croup.  After crawling into bed with me this morning and pulling my face close to his, he would cough.  I kept trying to shield myself by turning my head, but his sweet little arm would wrap around my neck and force my face right in front of his.  And he would cough again.  This went on for a few minutes before he said matter-of-factly, "Mami, I not sick anymore."

I pondered briefly about what he was trying to say to me with this little statement of his.  It was true that his cough no longer sounded like a barking seal, he hadn't had trouble breathing at all the day before, and his voice finally sounded only congested instead of quiet and raspy.  His fever had been gone for two days as well.  So could he sense that he was on the mend? Perhaps.  But when I questioned him further, he alluded to the many times that he would get close to or touch his older brother who would then push him away saying, "stop!  You're getting me sick!"  His comment combined with our brief interaction of coughing and pushing away and him pulling me back, helped me see just exactly what he was trying to tell me.  Had he the ability, perhaps he would have said it more like this, "Mami, I am tired of not being able to touch people or be near the ones I love.  I don't like people pushing me away.  I want to be all better so I can be close to you and to my brothers and sister.  I don't like being treated like I am the disease."  I understood what he was saying and I pulled him close.

I, too, have felt the pushing away of others at times when I have been under the weather, but more often I have felt it when my kids are sick.  In our desire to protect our families, do we inadvertently alienate others in a time of need? Is a little cough or runny nose enough to send us running the other way? Surely there are safe ways to show love and concern to those who are unwell.  Have someone else watch your well kids while you bring over some already-made soup and visit. Or watch the sick kid so mom can do errands that can't be done with a sick child at home.  Maybe offer to take the well kids for a while so the sick one can get the attention he or she needs as well as giving the siblings some space to keep them from catching the bug as well.  Or just make a brief door visit to avoid contamination.  Do whatever you can to support and show love.

Let's face it, we will probably get sick somehow anyway.  He who has no germs, cast the first stone.  You can embrace the ill-one without embracing the illness.  As my little guy reminded me this morning, pushing away never made anyone feel better.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Breakfast! It's What's for Dinner

One day this week I was particularly exhausted and was desperate for a simple dinner idea.  Someone on Facebook posted a recipe for Cinnamon Roll Pancakes.  Maybe my blood sugar was especially low (hence the lack of energy as well), but that sounded heavenly!  Yes, it involved dairy, but I could substitute.  When I began telling my husband of my plans, I suddenly had a flashback to lunch time.  My son had asked for cinnamon on his applesauce and I couldn't find it!  Scratch that plan; we were out of cinnamon!  My husband said we could just do regular pancakes, but I'd still have to make them from scratch if I wanted to eat since the mix has dairy.  Somehow, I just wasn't as excited. But, in the cooking process, I had some ideas that made them almost as exciting as Cinnamon Roll Pancakes...almost.

My Dad's Pancake Recipe
4 cups flour
4 Tbs sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
4 cups milk

1. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
2. Beat eggs in separate bowl, combine with oil, stir in milk, add to dry ingredients.

My changes (on purpose or accidental)

1. Half the recipe

2. Don't like having an extra bowl to wash, so I beat the egg in a bowl and added 1/4 cup of oil.

3. Realized that wasn't the 1/4 cup, but the 1/3 cup.  Oops.  Oh well.

4. Added sugar, baking powder, and salt (correctly halved amounts as far as I am currently aware).

5. After mixing well, I added the flour and then Almond milk.  Not sure if Almond milk cooks the same as regular cows milk.  Guess we'll find out.

6. Mixed just until moist, only to discover it was super thick (and I probably should have used a bigger bowl). Added more milk and tried not to stir too much since that ruins pancakes (don't ask me how I know that...).

7. At some point in the above process, a picture of our peach juice that we had recently steam-juiced came into my mind.  I haven't been sure what exactly to do with this juice and I had the sudden idea to make a syrup with it!  I quickly searched for a recipe online and discovered I needed just equal parts of juice and sugar for the most basic recipe.  I quickly threw 2 cups of each in a pot on the stove and stirred it until it boiled, turned down the temp a bit and had a helper stir it until the pancakes were made and everything else was ready to go (including a fruit smoothie consisting of frozen fruit, orange juice, and a banana).

Pancakes were served with at least one covered in peanut butter, sliced peaches on the side or on top, optional banana slices, and drowning in freshly made peach syrup!  It was a hit!  Turns out I maybe shouldn't have halved the recipe.  We had to resort to some older, left-over pancakes to fill the hungry little tummies. The only complaint was that I didn't make them in shapes like Grandpa does (Mickey Mouse, soccer ball, football, etc.).  Maybe next time I'll be more creative ;)

*Chef's Notes: Texture was a little off. Most likely the extra mixing when more milk was needed, maybe it was the extra oil, and maybe it was the use of Almond milk.  Still good though.  Also note the expensive dinnerware.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Real-life Mommy Chef: Breaded Shrimp and Pasta

Extremely long preface: 
Nobody told me that being a mom would mean I'd spend most of my time in the kitchen.  I think I would enjoy cooking if I understood the process better and didn't have to rely on recipes all the time.  I often experiment, but only in tweaking recipes simply because I don't have all of the actual ingredients.  It's fun to invent my own substitutions.  Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.  I have learned not to tell my husband that I experimented with his meal until after he has tried it...I guess it hasn't worked more than it has.

The other day I had a vision.  I was laying in bed trying desperately to catch a quick nap while my 4 kids were locked in their rooms supposedly taking naps as well.  My head was slightly aching, perhaps due to tiredness and perhaps due to hunger, but I couldn't risk taking time to eat or I might lose my chance at a little rest.  So I was just laying there, possibly thinking about what the heck I was going to cook for dinner yet again, when all of the sudden, breaded shrimp danced through my thoughts.  Yum.  Yes, that would make a great meal.  I knew I had a little bit of shrimp in my freezer and it's something even my kids love.  Why has it never occurred to me to bread it?  I bread chicken all the time, why not the shrimp?  But it wouldn't be enough.  It would need noodles.  My kids love noodles.  But what in the world can I put on the noodles??  I can't have dairy currently (seriously upsets my newborn), and I have a mouth full of canker sores so a marinara sauce won't due.  What about a garlic lemon butter sauce?  And then it came to me how I might go about creating my own garlic lemon butter sauce.  Veggies?  Why a green salad with bright red tomatoes would be the perfect touch!  I was in love and knew that I just had to try it!  If it failed, there's always take-out.

I found myself almost giddy with excitement to cook dinner (that never happens!).  My 6 year old daughter was my little chef helper and proved herself most worthy.  In case you would like to replicate my meal, below are step-by-step instructions exactly as they occurred (or as I remember them occurring anyway).

Breaded Lemon-pepper Shrimp with Quasi-Garlic-Lemon/Lime-Butter Sauce/Gravy and Angel Hair (Plus Peas)
Didn't think to take a picture until
I had eaten most of the shrimp.

1. Put water in pot and turned up heat for it to boil.

2. Meanwhile, I defrosted the shrimp under cool running water.

3. I threw together some flour and lemon-pepper seasoning in a bag and cracked an egg in a small bowl.

4. I tossed some butter (margarine, actually...less dairy) in a frying pan and began de-tailing the shrimp while the butter began melting (it's the already-cooked kind of shrimp).

5. My little chef helper proved most helpful as the melting butter began sizzling and I was still pulling tails off the shrimp!  She pulled off the tails, patted them dry, and plopped them in the egg bowl while I took them from the egg, shook them up in the flour bag, and placed them in the sizzling butter.

6. At some point the water boiled and I threw in about half a package of Angel Hair pasta with some oil and turned down the heat, admittedly proud of myself for remembering to turn down the heat and avoiding another boil-over.

7. I had to add more butter to the pan because the shrimp was sucking it all up too fast! After flipping the shrimp so both sides were browned, I removed them to a plate and stuck it in the microwave on the setting "hold warm."

8. I threw in more butter to the pan to start the sauce, but it began browning too quickly and was sizzling like crazy and I was afraid it was going to burn and ruin everything!  I panicked and threw in some water.  The plan was to mix in the flour from the bag first...oops.

9. I decided I would just mix the flour in with the lemon juice....until I realized we were out of lemon juice.  Luckily we had some limes.  Lemon...lime...both sour.  I squeezed a single lime in a cup and poured in all the flour from the breading bag.  Way too much flour.  Squeezed another lime.  Still too much flour.  So I added more water and poured it into the butter/water mixture in the pan while stirring not-so-gently with a whisk.

10. I tossed in a buillon cube or two as well.

11. I threw in some seasonings: Basil and meant to do Oregano, but couldn't find it so I just did Italian Seasoning (I have since found my Oregano).

12.  The sauce started to get really thick and seemed more like gravy.  Definitely too much flour.  I just added more water.

13.  Oh, don't forget to drain the noodles.  I did.  Yes, they were a little soggy.  Insert this step a little earlier when you make it.

14.  Kids were going crazy, husband was home, I was now exhausted from cooking and didn't have energy to prepare a simple salad, but we needed a vegetable.  Then another vision came to me.  Peas.  Peas mixed with the noodles and sauce.  Perfect and even easier than preparing a salad.

15. And then I saw the garlic sitting there unused.  Oh yeah.  I sprinkled in some garlic powder.

So there you have it.  My masterpiece.  The sauce on its own had more than a hint of lime flavor, but actually was very good mixed with the noodles.  My husband even gave the meal two thumbs up!  (Yes, I waited until he had eaten it to tell him the whole thing was completely from my own brain and not one bit of it from a recipe).

We'll call this meal a success.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Coping With Unkindness

Often times rudeness begets rudeness.  A friend of mine taught me a way to not fall into that trap.  Essentially she would make up a reason to explain why a person would behave the way they did.  For example, if a driver was weaving through traffic and cut her off in the process, she would simply explain that his wife must be in labor or that his son was dying and he desperately had to get where he was going.  Sometimes the excuses she made up for others rude or inconsiderate words and actions were quite possible, sometimes  they were humorous, and sometimes they really were a stretch.  Regardless, this exercise allowed her to explore the situation from outside her own vantage point and gave the other person the benefit of the doubt.  Isn't it better to assume the best of someone?  Isn't it better to try to understand where they are coming from before reacting without thinking and possibly saying or doing things that we later regret?

The essence behind what she did lies in the truth that people do things for a reason and we just don't have all the pieces to the puzzle.  I'm sure if we did, we could better understand their actions and perhaps have more patience, sympathy, and love for them, regardless of their behavior.  One time when my daughter was a toddler, she was really acting up and was eventually sent to time-out.  I remember being very upset with her and frustrated with her behavior.  Suddenly, she was throwing up.  Immediately my eyes were opened as I understood the cause: she was sick!  I felt horrible for being upset with her instead of recognizing that something was wrong, that there was a reason behind her actions and not just that she was trying to ruin my day.  This new knowledge immediately brought compassion and love to my heart and my own behavior towards her changed.

So maybe we can't change the world and make everyone be nice, but we can do our part to stop it from being passed around like an infectious disease. Whether we make up reasons for others unkindness or we take the time to learn the real ones, understanding is a key element to kindness.  "He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly" (Proverbs 14:29).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Taming Unkindness

"And then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb; and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling, together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (2 Nephi 30:12-15).

Whether this is literal or simply referring to the beasts within each of us that sometimes lash out in unkindness and hurt others, the cure is clear. Knowledge of the Lord inspires love and kindness among all His creations.

"Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me" (Doctrine and Covenants 19:23).

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Where Has all the Kindness Gone?

Have you ever read the comments that follow an online article?  I have been completely blown away by the rampant rudeness of commentators.  It doesn't even seem to matter if the subject matter of the article is controversial or not, a battle tends to ensue full of insults and childish name calling.  Are these really mature adults or have their children taken over the computer?  Why is it that people are prone to behave so disrespectfully in faceless communication? Is it so hard to remember that there are actual people with actual feelings typing those words?  Or is it possible people truly would say such horrible things to another's face?  While I would hope not, I do believe that kindness is not as prevalent as it should be, both online as well as in person.

Why is this the case?  Has it always been this way or is there a decline?  Am I the only one that is bothered by it?  What can be done about it?  All these questions and more have been running through my mind for some time now.  I would love others insights, experiences, and perceptions to help me in this exploration, so please leave your comments on this and any other post that follows on this topic (but remember to be nice!).  Maybe together we can find a cure for this infectious epidemic.