July 29, 2014

Cold Soba Noodles with Egg and Vegetables

This is one of my favorite meals to prepare during the summer.  It's quick, filling, nutritious, and a great way to get your kids to eat their veggies.  It only takes a few ingredients to whip up this healthy meal for the family.

The essential ingredients are the soba noodles (Japanese for buckwheat) and the soba dipping sauce (available at most Asian supermarkets).   My favorite brand for the soba noodles is from Sukina, and the dipping sauce I use is Danya's Soba Tsuyu.  The sauce is an excellent blend of soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar, and sugar with the slightest hint of bonito (dried tuna flakes) and dried mackerel.

Buckwheat is considered a superfood and has incredible health benefits:  it's gluten-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free and is a good source of nutrients like manganese, iron, zinc, lean protein, and thiamine.  To learn more on the health benefits of buckwheat noodles, you can read about it here.

Simply place the noodles in boiling water for about 6-7 minutes.  Rinse the cooked noodles with cold water and drain well.  Place a serving of noodles in a bowl, add a tablespoon of the dipping sauce (add more to taste), and top with veggies like lettuce, sliced carrots and cucumbers.  I like to add sliced boiled eggs for an additional source of protein.  Then I usually sprinkle a touch of black or roasted sesame seeds on top to complete the dish.

To say my boys love this dish would be an understatement.  They practically inhale it, and that makes me one happy mama.


April 4, 2014

What I Know Now

Nothing prepares you for the realities of parenthood.  Even the best written books, parenting websites, seminars, and advice can only equip you with so much.  Everything in theory sounds doable, manageable, even a breeze!  What's so hard about it?  The truth is parenting is an everyday learning (and humbling!) experience which begins when that little person enters into your life, for the rest of your life.

By no means am I an expert on the subject, but here's what I've learned about parenting thus far:

  • In the early years, it drains every part of your being - physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Some days you're barely just getting by, and some days you do what you gotta do just to get by (i.e. TV makes a great babysitter, microwave dinners every now and then won't kill anyone).

  • But parenting also fills your heart with a love like you've never known on a human level.  Even though many days your children may drive you absolutely bonkers, there is nothing keeping you from going to the ends of the earth for them.

  • If you thought you were a relatively patient person, news flash!  You've probably never experienced the "broken record syndrome" and had to instruct a little person to do something 10 times in the span of 5 minutes ("time to get ready"..."okay, did you brush your teeth yet?"..."it's time to get ready"...."let's get your shoes on"...."come on, let's go!" or "don't touch that"... "I said don't touch that"....repeat and repeat again).  I lost my patience just typing that.

  • Treasure the moments!  It goes by quickly.  Long-time parents told me this all the time, but I just couldn't wait until the next phase when things might be a little easier.  While I was waiting and waiting and eagerly looking ahead, I missed out on being present and enjoying many sweet moments with my children.  And then before you know it, that beautiful, precious baby is off to school, then college, then down the wedding aisle (okay, so I personally still have a number of years before all of these events take place, but I'm sure it will happen in the blink of an eye).

  • Kids are super observant and pick up everything you do!  And I do mean everything.  The way you sigh, the way you wag your fingers, the way you pull your hair in frustration, or the way your voice goes up 5 notches when you're mad.  The way you spend your downtime, the way you greet people, the way you drive.  The way you talk to friends and family or your spouse.  When my older son gets upset, I see a little mini-raged version of myself, and boy, is it humbling!  My children constantly remind me that I need to walk the walk and be a good example for them.

  • Kids are fickle.  One day, they'll love the meal you spent 30 minutes preparing for them.  The next time you prepare it, it's as if that meal caught cooties and they won't go anywhere near it.  One day, they love blue.  The next, red is their favorite color.  Every day is a surprise....which leads me to the next point.

  • Every day is a surprise.  As much as you may set up routines, schedules, structure, there is always something that comes up that throws you a curve ball.  You never know what's in store.  And for people who need to know (like I do), it's a learning experience to be flexible, make the most of the situations that arise, and try to just go with the flow.  Speaking of surprises . . .

  • You build a tolerance for things you never thought you would.  Like poop, explosive diarrhea, vomit, bloody gashes.  I personally hate the sight of blood.  My younger son was quite sick last summer and had to be taken to the hospital, where he vomited a couple pints of blood.  It was the nastiest and most frightening thing I ever saw, and yet God gave me incredible strength to hold it together because I knew I needed to for my little boy.  As for explosive diarrhea, I think I would still scream like a little girl if it happened (thankfully, my boys have outgrown that phase... I think).

  • Who knew there was a Mount Everest of laundry to be done?  Seriously, it seems we do laundry every other day in our house.  Putting the dirty clothes in the washer & dryer isn't too big a deal.  It's folding the clothes and putting them away each time that's a huge chore!  So we usually have baskets of clean clothing lying around.  It seems pretty efficient to me, until it gets mixed in with the dirty ones.  Which may explain why we have so much laundry in the first place.  Hmm.  Something for me to think about.

  • When it comes to parenting, your spouse is your greatest ally but can also be your toughest foe.  You and your spouse may not see eye-to-eye on every issue that comes up in parenting.  So good communication is even more essential now than ever!  Talk things through, make sure you're on the same page, and be a unified front when it comes to raising your children!  Like I said before, kids are extremely observant and they can sense when there's a rift or a gap between the parents.

  • On that note, parenting is not meant to be done alone!  The wise old adage that it takes a village to raise a child is spot on.  If you and your spouse are trying to parent on your own without a good network of other parents, relatives, friends, you're doing yourselves and your children a huge disservice.  We need that support, encouragement, help, and friendship to guide us and help us grow as parents.

  • You will start to sound like your own parents.  Even if you swore you'd never be like your own mother or father, it's crazy when you catch yourself saying something they've said to you.  They were our example of parenting, so it's natural for us to follow their lead.  If it wasn't a positive example for you, then it takes extra work and effort to be conscientious of it and try to do better.

  • Pinterest is an amazing resource but can also be an ego-crushing one.  I won't lie.  I get a ton of fabulous ideas and inspiration from Pinterest.  But at the same time, looking at all those amazing crafts, homes, meals can lead to envy and feelings of inadequacy.  And this is when you have to remind yourself not to compare.  Each person is uniquely gifted, so find what yours is and hone it!   Maybe yours is doing laundry, in which case, call me, maybe?  :)  And if you're not gifted in anything (which I highly doubt), that leads me to the next point . . .

  • Give yourself grace upon grace upon grace.  If you're a perfectionist like me and/or tend to be hard on yourself, you have to give yourself some slack.  Remember every day is a surprise, things don't go the way we plan, the kids are fickle and sometimes out of control, and we are just mere human beings (and broken ones at that).  There is no such thing as "all put together" and "have everything right".  If you do believe such things exist (which my imagination often leads me to), do yourself a favor and throw that notion out the door.   

  • Take advice with a grain of salt, including mine!  Every kid is unique.  Every family is unique.  What works best for one family isn't necessarily what will work best for yours.  And what works for one of your kids may not be as effective with the other one(s).  If an individual is particularly vocal and even pushy about his/her stance on a parenting issue which you may not agree with, you can just kindly say, "Thank you.  I appreciate your viewpoint."  Usually, most people will respect that.  And if they don't, de-friend them on Facebook.  Just kidding!  

I'm sure there's much more to add to the list, but my memory is not what it used to be (I guess that could go on the list, too).  What valuable lessons have you learned?  I'd love to hear them.


January 22, 2014

Learning to Live a Grace-Filled Life

From a very young age, my eldest has always had a love for creating and building things.  I hope he never loses that.  And more than that, I pray I won't be the one responsible for dashing his creativity or dreams.

One of the things I've recognized about my life over the years is that I don't offer myself much grace.  But the more damaging reality is that I don't readily extend it to my children, either.

I realize one of my many jobs as a mom is to encourage my children in developing their gifts and their character.  To help build them up as 1 Thessalonians 5:11 calls us to do:  "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up."  I admit it's often times been easier to criticize and find fault than it is for me to praise my children.  It's the ingrained perfectionist in me - the need to do all things well and now I find myself expecting the same of my children.

But that's not what I want for them. I don't want them to expect perfection nor give up on their dreams when things don't go the way they expect.  I want them to live a grace-filled life; one without the pressure to perform or need to do everything just right.  One built in confidence of who God created them to be with the assurance that they are always loved and accepted no matter what - even if they should royally fail or fall flat on their faces.

But in order to teach that to my children, I have to exemplify that for them.  I have to expect and allow for mistakes and learn to accept them graciously.  I have to offer myself and the children the grace God gives us every day, being reassured no matter how messed up things get, He still loves us beyond measure.

In my head, it's so easy to say "give grace".  But in practice, I find myself struggling in this area every day.  If my kids don't behave the way I expect them to, if they make a mistake in their homework or projects, I find my patience wearing thin.  I expect things to be done a certain way.  And when it doesn't happen, my natural inclination is to point out the flaws, wag my finger in disapproval, and raise my voice in frustration.

But the truth that humbles me and makes me apologize to my children is that God doesn't expect perfection, He doesn't shake His head in disapproval, or make me feel like a great disappointment.  He sees Jesus in me.   He sees the perfect Lamb.  He sees righteousness and goodness that isn't mine but was made mine when Jesus died on the cross for me.  When He looks at me, He sees His child, His creation, His beloved who He would go to the ends of the world for.

And that is what I want my children to know.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Lord, help me to know this truth in my head and in my heart.  Help me to see Jesus in me and my children every day and to love the way You do.


September 4, 2013

First Day of Kindergarten

My oldest son, my firstborn, the child who first made me a mom five years ago, went off to Kindergarten today.  Truth be told, I didn't sleep a wink the night before.  I was obviously much more nervous about it than he was!   I'm so glad my anxiety didn't rub off on him.  After praying in the car this morning and parting goodbye with a kiss and hug, he marched along and didn't even turn back.

He surprised me.  I thought for sure, at the very least, he would tear up and quiver his lips.  But no, he just went in and followed the teacher without even so much as a blink.

It's funny.  I always thought I'd celebrate and dance in the streets the day I could send my children off to school full-time.  But it's actually quite bittersweet.  I want to do everything in my power to protect him, keep him safe, keep him from feeling sad, lonely, or alienated,and falling prey to peer pressure or bullying.  But I realize I need to let go of my own fears instead of imposing them on him.  God is watching over him.  I know that.  And I have to trust that every day.

I did miss him for those few hours.  And I know my little guy missed him, too.

CJ is happiest when he's with his little brother.

And daddy was so proud this morning!

And so was Grandpa.

And we can't forget Grandma and even our dog, Jazz.

All in all, the day could not have been better.

CJ, we are so incredibly proud of you on your first day of Kindergarten!  You usually have such a hard time adjusting to new things.  At the Kindergarten screening back in June, you cried and refused to participate.  The guidance counselor, other teachers, and I had to calm you down and coax you in.  What a difference this morning was from just a couple months ago!  You were so brave and did such an amazing job!  I was worried, because if you had a hard time, I knew I would, too.  If you broke down in tears, so would I!  But if you could be brave, then I could, too.

I praise God for giving you (and me) courage and peace today.

Love you, my big, brave boy!


June 12, 2013

Five and Beyond

[Celebrating the gift of 5 wonder-filled, joy-infused, adventure-never-ending years of life
(pictured here with his brother & sweet cousins)! ]

Dear CJ,

On June 10th, we celebrated your 5th birthday with family.  I know it's so cliche, but I really can't believe how quickly time flies!  You went from a little peanut to this tall exuberant boy in what seems like a matter of minutes.  I remember trying so hard to imagine what you would be like while carrying you in my womb.  I dreamt of the endless possibilities for your future and could not wait to meet and hold you.  Five years later, I still dream of the possibilities and still am eager to see what kind of man you will become.

At five, I can already see the making of a young man with a strong personality.  In fact, you showed that side at 15 months and haven't turned back since.  You know what you want and don't want and aren't afraid to vocalize it.  This can be quite frustrating for a parent, but I believe (and am really, really hoping) it's a quality that will become a positive attribute in the future.  You are quite determined at whatever task is at hand and will get frustrated if it doesn't turn out the way you want.  And God forbid we try to get you to do something you don't want to!  Trying new things can be quite challenging for you, and it takes you a while to adjust (i.e. preschool, catechism club, swimming class).  You are certainly not laid back like your father.  In fact, you are a spitting image of me . . . looks, personality, and all (except, to my dismay, your disdain of spicy food).  Determined, easily frustrated, impatient, bossy . . . not qualities I would boast about.

There are some wonderful attributes though!  What I admire most about you is your curious mind.  You want to know how things work, soaking up everything around you and trying your best to process the information with what you already know.  And you're not afraid to be creative and think outside the box, either.  Anything and everything is possible.  There are no limits to your imagination.

And you still loves your veggies.  Friends told us you'd probably outgrow your love of vegetables at age 5, but it's really the only thing you'll eat.  I don't know too many other parents who have to yell at their kid to "Stop eating just your vegetables!  Have some chicken or meat, too!"

Though there are many days I am easily frustrated with coming head-to-head with this little walking-talking mirror of mine, I love you with all my heart.  I'm being refined and changed every day because of you, and I understand grace in a way I never knew before.  I also see great potential for you to become a man who is loving, compassionate, kind, thoughtful, and giving - just like your father.  It's my prayer you'll continue to grow in character, as I do so as well parenting you and your brother each day.

You are my joy and treasure, CJ.  I love you dearly.  Happy 5th birthday, sweetheart!



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