Archive for June, 2014

Summer with Trader Joe’s is Here.

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Summer is in full effect, and that means so are the kids. Which is G R E A T (mostly). It just means I have to put on my conflict manager hat super tight and pray A LOT.

I consider myself to be pretty self- aware, which means: “Self, with kids running around all summer, you will not have time to write anything substantial or profound.”

But, that’s okay. Because a great idea popped into my pea-sized brain.

Back story: A few months ago, I created a sandwich out of ingredients (mostly from Trader Joe’s) I had in my fridge, which I almost never do. I’m a good recipe-follower, not so much a recipe-creator. But THIS came out SO good. I served it to my husband and he loved it, and then to a friend of mine, and she also loved it. Score!

That’s when it came to me–rare brilliance in the form of a summer blog series featuring recipes from everyone’s first love in grocery stores, Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe's, summer

I shared this idea with a blogger-friend of mine, Ashely at Sweetpea-lifestyle.com, and she wanted to be part of it. Then we asked more blogging friends to join. They said yes.

I’m happy to report that Summer with Trader Joe’s will be featured across 5 different blogs. Wahoo.

Here is a list of the participating blogs:

Moi: www.onneutralground.com / Instagram / Twitter / FB
Ashley: www.sweetpea-lifestyle.com / Instagram / Twitter / FB
Lizanne: www.theblawgyall.com/ Instagram /Twitter / FB
Kristi: www.andbabiesdontkeep.com / Instagram / Twitter / FB
Susanna: www.revisionarylife.com / Instagram / Twitter / FB

We decided to host a link up each week, beginning Tuesday, July 1st, to display recipes that use at least 2 Trader Joe’s ingredients or items. Our team of bloggers will post a featured recipe each week from the following categories:

Week #1 Sandwich
Week #2 Salad
Week #3 Cocktail
Week #4 Mexican
Week #5 Indian
Week #6 Best Party Snacks

Then, you can link up your recipe (using at least 2 TJs ingredients or items), too, and it will appear on all of our blogs. The following week we’ll feature the recipe that got the most views.

Link Up Rules:

1. Please display the following Link Up button somewhere in your post.

summer with trader joe's

2. Your recipe must use at least 2 Trader Joe’s ingredients or items.

3. Your recipe must fit with the featured category.

4. Please comment on at least 2 other recipes. That’s what a Link Up is for!

5. If you link up a photo (and we hope you will), we have the right to use it if it’s the following week’s featured recipe.

Please check back on Tuesday, July 1st for the first Summer with Trader Joe’s Link Up.

We look forward to hearing from you.

The Other Side of Thirty

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

birthday, balloons, 30

Yesterday, I turned 36. It was different than turning 35. I realized that I am now on the other side of my thirties, plunging head first into the big 4-0.

I remember the exact day when my mom turned 40. Early in the morning, before she woke up, I blew up a bunch of gold balloons with big black letters and numbers on them that said: Over the Hill and 40! From a child’s perspective, I wanted to do something nice for my mom on her birthday. From a 36 year old’s perspective, maybe that’s not the first thing she wanted to see when she woke up. (Thanks, Mom, for receiving my “surprise” with a smile.)

While it continues to be a somewhat strange and existential experience to grow older and see crow’s feet forming around my eyes, I love this side of THIRTY.

Here are 5 reasons why (in no particular order):

#1- Friendship. It’s so much easier than it used to be. Maybe because I’m more comfortable in my own skin (though I still have a long way to go) or maybe it’s because me and the women I’m around are able to overlook minor offenses and petty comparisons. Not so easy to do in 4th grade.

#2- Friends. Not a repeat of #1, but an added benefit of being on the other side of thirty, is that age is beginning to mean less. I have friends who are in their 20s and friends in their 60s. That’s a beautiful thing. Generation gaps can sometimes cause confusion, but they can also open the door to enlightening conversations and much-needed paradigm shifts.

#3- Marriage. As I grow older, it means my marriage is growing older, too, which is quite frankly the BEST thing about being on the other side of thirty. How did we get through that first year(s)? I was an emotional basket case.

After 13 years of marriage, I can truly say we really KNOW each other. We’ve grown so much in taking ourselves less seriously, but taking our marriage very seriously. Even this morning, we were laughing about our less-than-helpful patterns of communication (his) and our relentless insecurities (mine).

#4- Kids. Seriously, one of the greatest things about my birthdays now are the enthusiastic responses of my children. They love picking out and giving gifts. Of course, I don’t need anything from them, but it’s a joy to watch them G I V E.
I got a dollar from Stephen (from his own money), wrapped in a handwritten note. Abby picked out a very HIP color of nail polish. And Aidan gave me what every teenager dreams of–an iTunes card (not sure what that says about me).

#5 Parents. It’s true that as we get older, we appreciate our parents more. For me, it’s because enough time has passed that I understand how hard parenting can be. There’s more GRACE for weakness, because I am weak myself.

* * * * * *

And then you realize that this life is passing by really, R E A L L Y fast, which makes you want to hold on tight to everyone. Parents. Kids. Friends. Spouses. But you can’t. And so, you do the best thing you know how: enjoy THE STORY now, with open hands, trusting that there is grace to laugh at the future, because THE STORYTELLER is the one who’s writing it.

Know Your Kids

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

parenting

 

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.” -Debra Ginsberg

 

kids, parenting, children

 

My son Stephen and I went for an evening walk last night. At first, I envisioned a leisurely walk by myself with only my camera for company–the glow of the evening summer sky  is perfect for taking pictures.

 

But, when me and my camera were only halfway down the driveway, Stephen yelled from the screen door, “Mom, can I come with you?”

 

“Sure, Stephen. C’mon. “

 

“Put your shoes on first.”

 

“No, you can’t ride your scooter. We’re taking a W A L K.”

 

roses, natural light, sun flare

 

So, my eight-year-old walking companion, my camera and I set out at a slow pace, holding tightly to the solid white line of the country road. Few cars travel down this street, but when they come, it’s fast and furious. I walked on the outside with Stephen in the grass,  just like my dad used to do with me. He would take me for long walks but never let me walk on the outside.

 

country, road, wildflowers, dandelions

 

We stopped along the way to capture wildflowers and tall grass, especially where the light hit them just right. Stephen patiently endured all my stopping for photos, while I listened to his ongoing monologue about what animals he would buy if he had a million dollars (a parrot, a monkey, and a bald eagle, by the way). I encouraged him to maybe look into being a zookeeper.

{Tangent: We have a long standing agreement in our house that we are not going to own pets. The last thing I want to spend my spare time doing is vacuuming dog hair. Cleaning up after 4 kids is enough. But, how can I not get this kid a pet??? He talks about animals 24-7!}

 

Daisies Unhinged

 

Stephen is a wonderfully zany kid. For example, he’s been wearing the same 7 rubber bracelets–the ones with the different slogans on them like “Follow your Dreams” and “Jesus for Japan” (just to name a few) — on his right arm for two years straight. He never takes them off; he wears them with pride. He lost one swimming once and responded with heartbreak: “That was my favorite one. It said Never Give Up.”  Me: <Gulp. Heart in throat.>

 

slogan bracelets

 

 

 

Last night, he wanted me to photograph his superhero poses (he was wearing his Spiderman pajama shirt after all)  and he especially wanted me to capture him in midair, like Superman.

 

I did. We giggled. For a brief moment, when he saw the picture, I think he thought he could really fly. His chest swelled, his eyes beamed–just like they do when someone asks him about his bracelets.

 

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superman

Yesssss!

 

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The thing about last night is that Stephen and I were getting to know each other, not just as a mom and a son, but as people. This little boy is  wonderfully made in the image of God, with all sorts of dreams and interests and aspirations. I want to know about them.

This wasn’t a time of correction or discussing his “issues”. There’s a time for that. It was a time for being interested, to listen, to engage.

Soon his identity will transcend being our son, and really  does already. He belongs to Jesus.

And one day, he’ll go and be a zookeeper and have his own friends and be a neighbor, parent, husband to someone else. He’ll become the person God created him to be and I’ve got a front row seat (for now).

So, for my final Parenting in Weakness post, I encourage you to know your children as the people God has created them to be. Guide them, discipline them, and make them do chores. Those are good things. But make sure you KNOW them, too.

Take time to listen to their longings.

Know their particular gifts  and encourage them to use them.

Don’t just chide them in their weakness, help them; because you know that you are weak, too.

Give your children enough space to let God speak to their hearts rather than your endless lecturing (so, so, so hard).

Finally, chill out. You’re not the Writer of the Story, you’re  a supporting actor at best. You have an important job for sure, but ultimately, the Author is up to things you can’t control, see, or even imagine.  That’s hard because it doesn’t feel safe when we’re not in control.

But we cling to the promise that He is good, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
― C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Rest in that truth.

 

light, arrow, road sign

 

And Babies Don't Keep
onNeutralGround