Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Spinach Applesauce Muffins

Before I had my children, I imagined raising offspring that would be able to tell the difference between curry and garam marsala. They would beg for unusual ethnic food, request truffle oil on their mac and cheese, toasted edamame and Sriracha added to their broccoli. They would enjoy a variety of flavors, textures, and colors of the wonderful world of food. I adore food and I hoped my children would as well.

Early on, I read Jessica Seinfeld's book Deceptively Delicious. At the time, I scoffed. I wouldn't need to sneak vegetables on my children's unsuspecting palates. They would clamor for vegetables. For their birthdays, no less.

As my mom says, raising children is always a good opportunity to cultivate humility. Turns out my son does love food, but only certain kinds at certain times under certain conditions. And that's iffy at best. I'm okay with it.

Today, I enjoy trying to prepare new foods with creativity, keeping in mind the cutie pies who will hopefully enjoy the meal. We always eat at least one vegetable or fruit with our meal. This is a delicious snack with a little extra nutrient kick. (I'm so sorry I ever scoffed, Jessica Seinfeld!). Somehow cupcake-shaped foods are usually a hit in our household no matter the color. My kids really do love these cupcakes and think the green color is fun. I accidentally added too many chocolate chips to this batch. No one complained.

Spinach Applesauce Muffins

About 1/2-3/4 C frozen (preferably organic) chopped spinach
3/4C unsweetened applesauce (if using sweetened, cut back on sugar)
1 C Unbleached white flour
1 C White brown flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 - 3/4 C sugar to taste (lessen amount if using sweetened apple sauce)
sprinkle of salt
1/4 C of milk
2 eggs
a generous handful of chocolate chips (to taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. prepare cupcake tin with liners or spray oil. Makes approximately 14 muffins.

Add applesauce and spinach to a microwavable bowl with measurements (can also use measure and put on stovetop on low). Combined, the spinach and applesauce should equal about 8 oz. The more spinach you use, the more "green" the muffin will taste. More applesauce will taste more traditional. Microwave spinach mixed in applesauce until spinach is tender. Use immersion blender (I love this one my mom bought me for Christmas one year. The attachments make it so easy to whip up, blend, chop without much mess or hassle. Plus dishwasher safe!) or blender to make spinach uniformly blended with applesauce. The mixture should be quite green.

Mix dry ingredients then add to spinach-applesause mixture. Add milk and eggs and mix. Add chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Our Lady of Fatima, Tantrums, and My Missionary Field

© José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro via Wikipedia
Today, I had planned on prayerfully reflecting on Our Lady of Fatima and my continuing journey to Jesus through his Blessed Mother. I had intended on taking my children to a peaceful daily mass this AM, maybe saying the rosary as a family later if we got ambitious. But as they say: Moms make plans and kids laugh (or loose their freaking minds and cause absolute chaos)

This feast day is special to me. I learned about Our Lady of Fatima 16 years ago in RCIA. The adults were talking and my sister and I were watching this old video of the story of Fatima. And we were eating cake. Why, I have no idea. My memories are a little fuzzy on the why and big on the cake. And Mary.

I was particularly struck by the story of Fatima. The three peasant kids. The sun swirling in the sky. The fact that Lucia was still alive at that point and that the third secret had not yet been disclosed. The retired priest, Fr. Hannon, overheard my enthusiasm and offered to lend me some books. I arrived at the rectory the next week to find a huge bag of books and DVD's on the Blessed Mother and St. Therese. I credit Fr. Hannon for providing me the tools and encouragement to start my journey of loving the Blessed Mother and finding Jesus through Mary.

Back to this morning. Loving offspring #1 was having a challenging time focusing on finding his socks, putting on his shoes, actually everything that was not Legos. After ten minutes of much gritting of teeth (on my part) and running around talking about Legos (on his), he finally put on his shoes while singing me a ditty on controlling my anger from Daniel Tiger. Le sigh.

The morning truly crescendoed when he discovered which church we were attending mass at (our usual church) and he just started flailing, screaming, with a few tigerish roars thrown in for good measure (I guess Daniel Tiger was still on his mind). A lady in front of us angrily shushed us. I ended up bursting into tears before the penitential rite when we ungracefully departed.

I wasn't quite expecting a scene such as this picture 

But I also was not quite expecting an apocalyptic tantrum.

I angrily blasted marian hymns on the way to our next errand. Cause that's how angry Catholic mamas roll. I was embarrassed, frustrated, and angry. I was saddened that I could not share my faith in the way I wanted with my children. 

Then I thought of what Mary had communicated to the children of Fatima. She appeared to the children and taught them over time, not in one big chunk. Mary begged the children to offer everything as a sacrifice. She asked them to say the rosary. As far as I've read, the Blessed Mother did not angrily stomp around when the Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia prayed a short-cut rosary only naming the prayers and not saying the whole thing. She is gentle and kind, slow to anger. Sound familiar?

In the end, the message of Fatima is a story of a mother gently loving and instructing her children. And my job as a mother is to be a little missionary to my brood, to follow the Blessed Mother's footsteps. Mary is not famous for spreading the Gospel to the ends of the Earth, but "simply" for mothering, raising our Savior and for always pointing us back to Jesus. To spread the message of Fatima means not to force-feed it to my children, but offer it gently and beautifully. Most of the apparitions of Mary make mention of how beautiful she is, how viewers can not look away. I want to offer truth, discipline, and love gently like our Blessed Mother. 

So after that very gentle reminder from Mary on teaching my children, we bought a tree, planted it, got very muddy from watering every living thing in the garden (including each other), and took a bubble bath. Now we are watching The Day the Sun Danced by CCC of America. A short, sweet cartoon about Our Lady of Fatima. My son may have even mentioned how he wants to see the Blessed Mother. 

The Pardon Prayer (given to the children by the Angel of Peace):

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee! I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee.

And we hope and pray we can share this belief and love with our children with love.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Thoughts on "All the Light We Cannot See" and Today's Political Climate

I am not going to give a synopsis of this book. This post is not a review, but more a meditation on the book and our current political situation. 

If you're curious about the plot, I urge you to read the book. It's a simply gorgeous novel. Otherwise, Bishop Barron does his usual superb job of explaining the complicated in his beautiful simplicity. Actually, don't read that link after all. There's not much to say after Bishop Barron is finished writing.

Doerr tickled my brain with this book, writing beautiful prose that managed to not be overwrought. Interesting without overwhelming the reader with too many descriptions, flowery verses, or philsophizing (all of which I enjoy, but in good measure). 

The book has several themes, some of the most obvious are the contrasts between light and darkness, sight and blindness. Marie-Laure is blind, but understands human nature better than most. Werner has no such handicaps, but often chooses to overlook darkness in others, refusing to judge lest he be judged (by the school? by the Nazis? by himself?) and found unfit.

Perhaps due to their adolescence or the process of growing up in wartime, but both Marie-Laure and Werner repeat urgent mantras as young adults such as:
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever” 
“Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” 
I've been thinking of these mantras, turning them over and over in my head, just as Marie-Laure turned over the wooden puzzle boxes in her hands. I want desperately to respond appropriately to what is going on in our country today. I don't want to be left with regrets like Werner. 

I am tempted at times to feeling it doesn't matter what I do, that I am only one piece of a huge puzzle, with more working parts than I can imagine. I think if this book communicates anything, then it's message of that individuals matter, have incredible worth. We truly have so much light inside that we cannot see. Just as Werner finds hope and redemption in the beauty of Marie-Laure, I look to my children and see good news for the world. The beauty of their light inside, the hope and wonder they display so naively to the world, give me light and courage for my path today. 

I am just one person, but I am a lamp to my children and they are watching me. They may be the ones to change the world when it is their time. So I must do my part now.
“All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?”

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Chiaroscuro in Motherhood

Entombment of Christ, Caravaggio
Chiaroscuro. In Italian, the word means "light dark." I first learned this word while studying Caravaggio. While I studied in Italy, I tried to see every Caravaggio in the city of Rome (and I almost managed - I saw every painting except one. The very last day I was in Roma, I tried to visit and the church was closed for siesta. Because churches take naps. That's Roma for you). Chiaroscuro is a technique of contrasting a dark background with figures emblazoned in light in the foreground. The effect is striking, dramatic.

How does art history play into my vocation in motherhood? It's been one of those weeks here that the house, my appearance, my disposition all appear to be shell-shocked. The baby is teething and would prefer to be as close by as possible, preferably held or nursing at all times. My son has a stomach bug. This week has been a bit dark feeling, a little overwhelming.

And then the sun comes out from behind the cloud. My son spontaneously reads a word without prompting (surprising himself as much as us!), gets exciting about making a handmade rosary for his nana's birthday, giggles uncontrollably when the baby wants to hold his hand the whole car ride. My daughter finally stops touching me to go build with duplos and proceeds to wave "Hi" with the tiniest little voice to every bird, squirrel, cat, and dog to walk past the house. My heart melts.

The interesting thing about chiaroscuro is the background is easily forgettable in contrast to the well-lit action in the forefront. Without the light, the darkness would overwhelm the painting in shadows and incoherent details. The darkness acts as a foil to highlight the beauty of the light. I'm not saying that I would not be able to recognize the grace of the everyday without the chaos, but it certainly makes me appreciate the laughter, smiles, hugs, and snuggles more. The beauty of childhood shines in contrast to the hard nights of teething, sickness, and silent prayers for sleep. Today maybe a study in chiaroscuro, but tomorrow will be something different. Maybe we will enter the neoclassicism era. My kids do enjoy being naked.