Tuesday, April 15, 2014

T'was the Night Before Easter Cookies and Devotional

Long ago in my MOPS group we got a newsletter that had a recipe for resurrection cookies in it. I tried the recipe and kept it. I loved the idea, but there were a few things I didn't like about the cookie. Like the nuts. And that there was no chocolate. Nice idea, blah cookie.

I can't be the only person with candy canes left.
In our house we try to emphasize Easter as much as Christmas. Birth, death and resurrection of the same Jesus. We do have an in-house egg hunt and give a bigger gift in our yearly recycled Easter baskets. Easter, much like Christmas, has been ridiculously commercialized. Ridiculous. It's easy to be sucked in. I've already put away a fun sized bag of Reese's Eggs. This recipe/devotional is a good reminder of what Easter is about, and if you forgot to start the Resurrection Eggs on the right day you can still cram it in the night before or even during the week.

My adaptation has a Christmas twist. It's good to read the "Legend of the Candy Cane" too while they are eating them on Easter Sunday. The recipe begins Saturday night.


1/2 cup of mints - or leftover candy canes
1/2 chocolate bar
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
zipper baggie (freezer)
wooden spoon/meat tenderizer/hammer
masking tape

Directions and Devotion

1.Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Place the mints and the chocolate bar in the zipper baggie. Let children break them apart using spoon or tenderizer into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested he was beaten by Roman Soldiers and read John 19: 1-3.
In bag pre-meat tenderizer
Delish chocolate and peppermint
3. Let you children smell the vinegar. Put a teaspoon of vinegar into a large mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given vinegar to drink and read John 19: 28-30.

4. Add the egg whites to the vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life and read John 10: 10-11.

5. Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand and let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus's followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.

Salty sweet hands
6. So for the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add the sugar to the bowl and explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him, and then read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.

7. Beat with mixer on high speed for 12-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3: 1-3. This is a good time to have them get read for bed, clean up or read the Legend of the Candy Cane. The egg whites have to be stiff.

Whip it.

Whip it good.
8. Fold in the chocolate and mint pieces.

9. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheets. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus's body was laid and read Matthew 27: 57-60.

10. Put cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus's tomb was sealed and read Matthew 27: 65-66.

11. Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb were sealed and read John 16: 20, 22. Send the kids off to bed and eat the other half of the chocolate bar as you prepare for the rest of the possible chaos on Easter Sunday.

12. On Easter morning, open the oven door and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies should be hollow. He has risen! On the first Easter morning, Jesus's followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matthew 28: 1-9.

A Christmas Easter cookie

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring Roll, Sweet Chariot

I can't help it. As soon as I say "Spring Roll," I want to sing..

Spring roll,
Sweet chariot
Coming forth to carry me home...

Tasty bundles. Easy to make and made to order. As a gluten free gal these days, I've been looking for more meals everybody in the house can and will eat. Making multiple meals is a hassle.

I ate way more than this. This is just the pretty picture.
I bought circular and square spring rolls wraps. After looking at a few recipes, I decided to use some of the vegetables I had in the house. We didn't have Thai basil or lime. We'll try those another day.

Our ingredients:
 -strips of carrots
 -strips of cucumber
 -strips of orange pepper
 -romaine lettuce strips
 -an egg omelet cut into strips
 -rings of green onion
 -leaves of cilantro
 -brown rice vermicelli soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes and drained. A tablespoon of hoisin sauce added and cut up to fit easily into the rolls
 -cut up cooked chicken (We added this tonight)

It took some prep, but it was worth it.
Really, add whatever you want and will eat. I made the sauce in a pan whisking on a low heat until smooth.

The Sauce:
 -a tablespoon of peanut butter
 -two tablespoons of hoisin sauce
 -a tablespoon of soy sauce
 -water to thin

Easy for little hands
With clean hands the kids can make them to order. Soak the wraps in warm water for 5 seconds or so. We had to replace the water every once in a while because it got cold. Place wrap on a plate and working quickly add your filling. The wrap will get soft on the plate. Fold, wrap and roll. Eat, dip and enjoy. Repeat until everything is gone or everybody is full.

Soaking, eating and enjoying

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Standing at the end of my longest run of the year

I finished a 5K today. Not a race, a distance and a hurdle.

Last weekend was the Shamrock Shuffle. This week was the Lincoln Half Marathon. The South Shore Half Marathon was today. The Cary Half is over. Four weeks until the Wisconsin Half. I won't be able to run the Wisconsin Half like I wanted. It's coming too soon and I am recovering too slowly. I normally gauge my year on the race calendar. I've been a little taken aback about how fast it has passed me by. I found myself sad about it.

This winter I have been in PT, and I needed to be there. How I was running was not sustainable. Weaknesses in some places were showing up in others. My feet and ankles were locking. Tight calves. Painful tendons. Picking up marbles with my toes was difficult and painful. Little muscles I willed to work did not move.

And as I've seen friends post training, races and successes, I felt left behind. I'm not looking for pity. I'm just emoting. This winter has been a winter I really needed running. It is one thing to do a litany of exercises in your living room and another thing to run outside under the open sky. I do have some degree of SAD and running through the winter has always helped. The snow-cold-snow sandwich all winter long took its toll.

We've also been in the process of an adoption. The flurry of paperwork, the hurry up and wait, and the bureaucracy is numbing. I can't tell you all the details at the moment, but we are on the roller coaster portion, and I don't think I'm strapped in tight enough. Off balance and queasy. I've needed the run.

There is other paperwork from classes to grants to applications to more classes that have bogged me down. I go to bed thinking about what I still have to do and wake up with a list in hand. A run has typically cleared my head. This post came together on my run. I work through stuff on my run.

Our homeschool group temporarily dissolved this Spring. We no longer meet three times a month. I miss my running friends. I can't run with them. I work most nights, and I hate the phone. It's been a lonely winter. I see friends, but not with the same regularity. It takes more effort, and I'm already tired.

Somewhere along the way, I've also lost trust in myself as a runner. I feel weak and soft. I gave up gluten this year too. Then I went back on and discovered I should probably stay off. On the plus side I have a lot of new recipes and can drink coffee for the first time in my life. I haven't gained much weight, but I've lost muscle and endurance. Doing my large muscle exercises now after working on my small muscles shows me how much I've lost.

I sound depressed. It was depressing at times. For so long, running, not just physical exercise, has been my body's balance. Being physically tired as well as mentally tired helps me sleep. Being truly hungry rather than emotionally hungry helps me distinguish between the two. The outdoors reminds me that the world is bigger than the one I've constructed inside my head. Starting back at the beginning of anything is humbling, and if it teeters on humiliating it is even harder to begin again.

I've been encouraged along the way too. Matt Long's book, The Long Run, is so very inspirational. The president of our running club, Lupe, was nice enough to get me his autograph when she was at the Boston Marathon a few years ago.I keep it by my bed. It says, "Long May You Run." Matt was one of the first responders at 911, and he was also was in a horrible horrible accident. He scars are real, and his journey to a new normal was raw. I love it when people chose to be amazing.

During another point where I was throwing myself a pity party for healing so slowly I read about Sally Kipyego, the 2012 Olympian, and her slow but steady recovery. She won the Silver medal in the 10,000 meter and when she started back from her foot fracture she ran one minute and walked 10 minutes. Like in Chutes and Ladders, she went down the big slide and had to start the long slow steady journey back. Her quote. "You let your body tell you. It will let you know exactly what's happening" encouraged me to listen and lay low until the time was right. To be a better listener.

Running is different now. I can't relax and enjoy it. I pay attention to my foot fall, almost every strike. My feet have to roll differently now. It takes time to build muscle memory, to break old habits and to build new ones. How about my calves? Are they too tight? What are my ankles doing? Knees? Quads? Back? Push off? I realized I couldn't run very long because I can't hold my form properly for any more than a short distance. I am constantly listening.

Next week may be my last week of PT and my physical therapist, who is great, told me I could do three miles. I wasn't sure I could do it. What if I couldn't? One step forward and two steps back. Sometimes the fear of success has to be overcome. I texted two friends to see if they would run with me. Running with other runners would be another victory on the journey. However, they were unavailable. I had to put my shoes on and prove myself to myself.

It was a beautiful day. The sun. The wind. My focus on my stride. Occasionally forgetting about my stride. Focusing again on my stride.Wondering about my stubbornness to do some exercises. My tunes. Enjoying Beck's "Loser" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believing". Skipping Pink's "Let's Get This Party Started." This run was no party. Around mile two I heard fatigue getting closer and had to work on keeping proper stride. Katy Perry's "Roar." A friend on a walk tried to start a conversation with a quarter mile to go, and I had to wave her off. This run was important, and it was important for me to finish. I've been contemplating signing up for a 5K, but I had to prove to myself that I could run that distance. A comeback race. This was a comeback run.

I finished my 5K in about 34 minutes, and I cried. I cried in my cool-down walk. I have to do those now as well as a warm-up walk. I must have looked like a hot mess walking home. I was a hot mess with my chin up. It was a cry that bubbled up from a place that was healing too. A victory. A renewed trust.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Would you consider...?

In looking at our homestudy date this week, I noticed that I've (we've) been paper pregnant for a year. Being paper pregnant has been different than being biologically pregnant. I feel quite honored to have had the opportunity to be both. One of the things that is noticeably different is the ability to make decisions about the child you would like to adopt. My bio girlios just came out and, boom, I get what I get and I don't throw a fit. When adopting, there are some hard questions to answer. And working to decide is difficult. Here are some thing to consider:

  • Would you consider adopting a child?
  • Would you consider sharing your life, your family and your resources?
  • Would you consider the time, perhaps years or more, to create attachment?
  • Would you consider adopting an older child?
  • Would you consider adopting a younger child?
  • Would you consider adopting out of birth order?
  • Would you consider a child with a heart problem when you're not sure about the severity of the condition?
  • Would you consider a child who is deaf or blind?
  • Would you consider a child who has mobility issues?
  • Would you consider a child with a genetic disorder?
  • Would you consider a boy instead a girl or a girl instead a boy?
  • Would you consider a child who has been in institutional care for some time and is delayed?
  • Would you consider a child who has mental difficulties?
  • Would you consider that your adoptive child may have issues that will not be manifested for years?
  • Would you consider different parenting tactics to build attachment?
  • Would you consider changing your mind?
  • Would you consider being flexible?
  • Would you consider changing your plans or putting your life on hold since you don't know when your child is coming or how old he/she is or what his/her issues are?
  • Would you consider how much you have to open your heart and your life?
These are just a handful of the tough questions surrounding adoption. Decisions have to be made. It's almost too much control, or too much of a false sense of control, in a situation that has so many variables. We are thankful for all the people who have gone before us because our journey isn't over yet. Even after all the questions, we still feel that adoption is something to consider. Seriously consider.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

3.14 Ways to Improve Your Mathematical Intuition

When I went back to school to get my math endorsement, my teachers in several classes asked us to use our 'mathematical intuition'. The term caused me to furrow my brow. What is mathematical intuition?

I knew of intuition. Merrill-Webster defines it as a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without proof or evidence, a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why or something that is known or understood without proof or evidence. Going with your gut. Your first instinct. You have a feeling. A sixth sense. Back when I was in the pre-married world and dating, people would tell me, "When you know, you know."* People trust their intuition.

The part of definition that says "without proof or evidence" seems like a contradiction to mathematics. However, after taking a few courses, I understood better what mathematical intuition is. It's building a trust in your own mathematical abilities. In the past we've used words like 'reason' or 'common sense,' but those do not encompass the feeling of confidence that people should have in math and their ability to do math. "That answer feels wrong." "Something doesn't add up." "Something has gone awry." Having good mathematical intuition helps you see when the math isn't right. And with math all around us - life is a story problem- being able to trust your mathematical intuition is important.

So here are 3.14 ways to improve your mathematical intuition:

1. Recognize Patterns: A key part of mathematics and the applied mathematics all around you is recognizing patterns. I'm one of those people who looks at how gas prices move and wonders what was going on in the geopolitical world that caused the movement. I look at big patterns. When are milk prices the lowest during the year? When are certain vegetables in season? How much is packaging and product shrinking? There are also small patterns. How fast do my girlios grow through shoes? How many times does my dog have to bark before someone let's him out? How many calories am I eating daily? We recognize patterns in people's and animal's behavior. Start recognizing patterns in numerical behavior. There is no need to obsess in the patterns. Just recognize them and their anomalies.

2. Estimate: In order to guess better guess often. On the days that we go grocery shopping together, my husband and I over/under the bill. Guess on how much gasoline will fill the tank. Guess on how many steps to the mailbox. Guess on how long it will take you to get to work or school. Guess how much that new phone will cost with its down payment and installments. Make those numbers real. When I was in my science education classes in college I read about the Nobel Prize physicist Richard Feynman.** After Richard and his father read about T-Rex's height in the encyclopedia Richard's father explained to Richard that the dinosaur's head would fit through their second story window. I loved that. Richard's father was making the numbers real. Estimating not only can be used for guessing answers. It can also be used to show ratios, to equate values, to make numbers tangible and to build mathematical intuition.

3. Try and Err: To build some trust in your mathematical intuition, you have to test your mathematical intuition. Just like your regular intuition builds off of what you have already experienced, your mathematical intuition needs some experience. Positive experience. I do a lot of math tutoring on white boards. Why? Because white boards are forgiving. Easy to erase. People have a hard time making mistakes and getting past them. In math, you may have to make a lot of mistakes before getting it right. And when you get it right, you probably won't trust yourself until you have done it enough to feel comfortable with it. This may take some time. Just like breaking bad habits and replacing them with good habits takes repetition so does building your mathematical intuition.

0.14...Don't Fear Fractions: Fractions may not become your friends, but they are necessary. We use them in money without a second thought. A quarter really is a quarter of a dollar, 1/4. Cents are one hundredths. Decimals, which seem to make people much more comfortable, are really fractions in disguise. Decimals are fractions hiding in a base ten system. You often buy things in fractions without knowing it. Milk is sold by the gallon. Meat and vegetables are sold by the pound. Gasoline is sold by the gallon. Those are all fractions. Yes, the word 'denominator' seems like it has the word 'demon' in it, but it doesn't.

Good luck improving your mathematical intuition. Have your pi and eat it too.

*That always caused me to furrow my brow too. 50% of marriages end in divorce. Should I trust my 'know'? Statistically, intuition didn't seem very trustworthy, and yet people often trust it wholeheartedly. There are times when my normal intuition and mathematical intuition collide.

** Richard Feynman's books are fantastic. He's writes well and is very down to earth.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Mom, can I have cuddle time?"

I got up early this morning, and there were things on my mind. When things weight heavily, I don't sleep well, and it is just easier to get up and get on with it. I had fallen behind on a few things. The list was growing and registration for grad classes where seats are very competitive started today.

When I walk down the stairs in the morning, I am keenly aware that this is not only my home, but it is also where I work. I can't really escape it. Since I consider myself a poor homemaker, I often feel the burden to organize and tidy without the real motivation. This morning I felt some motivation, and I wanted to run with it. I was in task mode.

Unfortunately, my girlios got an early morning wake-up call too. Getting things done early was slow. I wanted to move from task to task trying to check off 'to do' items. The girlios didn't get the same agenda or the same motivation. My frustration was mounting. It wasn't going the way I had hoped.

My littlest began getting clingy, holding on to my leg. Quietly, she said, "Mom, can I have cuddle time?" I looked around my cluttered house. I could see everything that had to get done. Surrounded by a 'to do' list. I live where I work. I work where I live. "Mom, when is cuddle time?"

It's now.


The urgent was done. The rest can wait. I surrender my list. I live here. This is my most important work.

Monday, March 10, 2014

10 things I didn't miss about not running this winter

Tomorrow I get to take my running gear to PT and run my first mile since Jan 1. I am so excited. Yesterday, I went to the store with my lists from the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine and tried on neutral shoes with my new inserts. I found a New Balance pair I like. Shh. Don't tell my Asics. The weather is beautiful here today, and I'm ready to go.

Since it looks like Spring will actually come I thought I would run down the list of 10 things I didn't miss about being sidelined this winter.

1. Getting out of my warm bed. My bed and I have been very friendly this winter. It has been there for me in my grief. Love my bed.

2. Getting ready in the dark. After getting out of a warm bed, trying to get my clothes together for the right temperature because I didn't plan properly and trying to be quiet all in the dark is a bummer.

3. Running in the dark. Headlights are cool for a while, but I long for the sun. I love watching the sunrise on a morning run. That doesn't really happen in the winter at the times I can run.

4. The first 15 minutes of winter running. It's cold out there. I always give myself 15 minutes in the winter to warm up. Run at least 15 minutes. I normally run longer, but the first 15 minutes have been awful at times.

5Doing cold weather laundry. There is a lot of cold weather running clothes, and since they are all soaked there is a lot of laundry to do if I run about three times a week. Those clothes have to be cleaned fast too. They are stinky.

6. Coming back from my run and making a meal in my dirty running clothes before I shower. This happens more than I'd like to admit. I fit in my running before my husband goes to work or after he gets home before dinner. Since I am the meal planner, I often am cooking while "cooling down." Less than ideal, but got the run in.

7. My hands turning white and being so painful after my run. It's a circulation problem. I get that. Trying to figure out the right gloves and keeping my hands at the right temperature has been a constant winter struggle.

8. Overeating the calories I just burned. A few years ago when I did Weight Watchers between girlios, I realized that I had to run for 30 minutes to burn off two Girl Scout cookies. After running, I become a ravenous beast. Granted, I feel like my bum has expanded with the winter, but I have also been more aware of calories in and calories out.

9. Drinking really cold water on my run. Brain freeze. I drink room temperature water on a daily basis. Super brain freeze.

10. Sweaty hair-sicles. It's my signature winter running look. I produce sweat. It drips down my hair. It freezes. Eeww.

Honestly, this list was hard to come up with. There are so many more things I miss about running, even winter running, that I can't wait. I don't run for speed or distance. I run because I love it. It makes me feel strong and healthy. And it takes me outside. Wish me luck tomorrow.

To many more miles...
New Shoes!