On Motherhood and Grace

I grew up in Roman Catholic schools and churches, and spent a lot of time in confusing and poorly presented Theology classes.

One thing I do remember learning is that we receive grace through our struggles and tribulations. It didn’t make much sense to me as a 12-year-old, but viewed through the lens of parenthood this teaching becomes much more clear.

As a parent, it is hard to be vain. I barely have time to brush my own hair and swipe on lipstick, let alone spend some quality time with a curling iron. I’m disheveled, but happy. I get more joy out of brushing my girls’ hair than my own.

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As a parent, it is hard to hold grudges. During one particularly good sermon, my pastor said, “Holding grudges doesn’t hurt the person you’re angry with. Grudges hurt the person who is choosing to stay angry.” My kids keep me so busy that I don’t have the energy to hold grudges, even when I am very upset.

As a parent, it is hard to be selfish. As soon as these tiny, wrinkled people came into the world, something changed in my heart. Of course I loved them while I was pregnant, but everything changed when my first baby was laid in my arms. Putting my children first is less of a choice and more of an unconscious instinct. Their needs, desires, and dreams are so much more important than my own selfish desires.

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It is also incredibly difficult to be lazy! I have two kids in diapers and I change an average of 15 diapers per day between the two of them. There are also dishes, laundry, and baths to take care of. Sitting at the computer is a luxury that I can only partake of once all these other things are done.

I do think that parenting has made me a better person, but it hasn’t been conscious decisions so much as just adapting to my life as it changes. Does self-improvement “count” if it is not a conscious change?  I think so. My children help me to spend time wisely, be loving and patient, and to be humble. If that isn’t grace, I don’t know what is.

I’m Baaack!

After an agonizingly long summer without internet, The Mister and I have discovered a new high-speed internet option in our own little corner of the world. Now I can quite thankfully say that I have as much internet access as I desire, which is great because my fall classes have started!

I’m taking three online classes and one traditional in-person class. I’ll be graduating with my degree in Early Childhood Education in the spring! Then I’ll be able to devote all my time and energy to homeschooling. This first year of homeschooling will be rough – I have full time classes and Kid #1 starts Kindergarten. Fortunately, there’s nothing too heavy-duty associated with kindergarten!

I’m hoping to post more regularly again — there’s certainly enough going on around here to post about! We’re starting some major renovations and repairs after a few huge storms collapsed a ceiling and ruined some flooring.

Hearty Homestead Meals: Crispy Tangy Chicken

Yesterday, The Mister discovered a flourishing grape-vine at an unoccupied property near ours. I’m sincerely hoping that the home is still unoccupied this winter when the vine goes dormant, so I can collect a few canes to plant next spring! The Mister thinks it’s some kind of wine grape – they’re small, sweet, and plentiful. I’m already envisioning grapevines as living shade for the chicken run!

Anyway, the task at hand – delicious chicken. Most of the meat we eat around here is chicken, mostly because it’s so cheap. I buy 10-pound bags of leg quarters for $7 at my closest WinCo. The bag usually makes 3-4 meals for us (although that will change as the children and their appetites grow!).

Chicken can get boring quickly, so the key is to have a variety of ways to prepare the same cut of meat. Without further ado, here’s a recipe for crispy, cheesy, tangy chicken that takes 5 minutes to prepare.

Crispy Tangy Chicken

6 servings

6 pieces bone-in chicken, skinned and trimmed

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Arrange chicken pieces in a greased pan. Take the mayonnaise out of the jar and put it into a separate dish so that the entire jar doesn’t get contaminated by the raw chicken.

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Using a knife, spread about 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise onto each piece of chicken. This seems like a lot, but a lot of it will melt off. The purpose of the mayonnaise is to seal the juices into the meat to keep it moist.

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Next, sprinkle shredded Parmesan cheese over the chicken pieces. I don’t really measure, I just make sure there’s a fair amount on each piece of chicken. It’s probably about 2 teaspoons per piece of chicken.

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Last, sprinkle the seasoned bread crumbs over the chicken. The bread crumbs need to be in a fairly thin layer, or they will stay dry and crumbly.

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Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes, or until juices run clear. Enjoy!

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We think this chicken is particularly good when served with rice and a spinach salad.

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Completed Chicken Run Reveal

It has certainly been an eventful few days! A major storm hit only minutes after I finished my post on Friday night. It’s “monsoon season” here in the Mojave, which means we’ll have particularly violent storms on occassion throughout the summer.

The storm on Friday night panicked my poor chickens. They all huddled into one corner of their coop, smothering the three at the bottom of the pile. There was another equally violent storm on Saturday night. We happened to be in the city visiting my parents and celebrating The Mister’s birthday. The storm hit while we were there. After 10 minutes of rain, the flooding was past the curb in many places, including the road we needed to take to get home! We tried to go home, but only made it a few miles before a nail punctured our tire. The spare also had a hole in it, so we were stuck overnight! We filled the punctured tire and limped back to my parents’ house, then got the tire repaired Sunday morning.

Rain continued to fall for much of Sunday, but during the dry times I worked on my chicken coop and run. The run itself is constructed with heavy wire pig panels. It will certainly keep large predators out, but it won’t keep the chickens in! Over the last week I lined the run with deer netting to keep sparrows and crows out, then with heavy poultry wire to keep the chickens in. I mounted a gate to serve as a temporary door, but The Mister is going to build me a better door that will fit the opening properly.

2013-07-21_17-42-44_476The chickens were VERY happy to go out to their new space! It’s about six times larger than the outdoor brooder they’d been living in. They’re running around, stretching their wings, and chasing down ants. Their entire run has a plywood roof, which keeps the entire area about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the yard! Right now they’re using a 4 gallon galvanized waterer, but soon I’ll mount the 5 gallon nipple waterer made from a kitty litter bucket. 

Moving the chickens out of the brooder also meant that the ducklings could move into that brooder! The six ducklings have been living in the house (in a brooder, of course) for the past three weeks and they smell awful. Poultry and waterfowl have a unique talent for stinking up an entire house.

Now all of my birds are safe, have more space, and are out of my dining room!

 

Simple happy things

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Today’s simple happy things included
ugly, but delicious loaves of fresh bread,
Thunderheads rolling in,
The happy sounds of content ducklings,
Blooming sunflowers,
And laughing children.

It’s the simple things that make life beautiful. The smell of rain is on the wind and I’m watching lightning silhouetting the mountains. Life is indeed beautiful.

The summer garden

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Now that the temperatures around here hang out around 110 degrees, the makeup of the garden has changed. In the early spring, my single raised bed was stocked with lettuce, spinach, beans, and peas. None of those are there now.

Now, there are tomato vines, sunflowers, a sweet potato vine, and spearmint. In the late summer I’ll start some pumpkins inside and move them out when it gets cooler. I tried planting pumpkins earlier this year, but that didn’t work out so well. The heat shriveled them right up!

We had a minor tragedy yesterday – our two adolescent ducks escaped their fenced run during the night and were killed by predators (probably coyotes). The real tragedy here is that they were only two weeks away from the dinner table. Those darn coyotes stole my dinner! I still have six 3-week-old ducklings in the house. I’ll have to find the problem in the run before they can go out!

I’m a little slow updating right now because there’s just SO much going on around here. I’m finishing summer classes and preparing for my last semester of school. I’m also considering substitute teaching at our little school out here. Kid #1 will start kindergarten this year – I’ll be homeschooling him. Life never slows down..
Today is The Mister’s birthday, so I’m off to celebrate with him and make his favorite cookies!

Update on the Carpenter One Fire

I’ve been totally absent for a while, but it’s not actually related to the fire which has now burned 43 square miles of the desert. I’ve been completely without Internet access until yesterday.

The fire is still raging, only 40 miles from my home. This is Day 12 and the fire is now 45% contained.

It’s looking like we’ll be fine at this point. The fire is moving away from us, leaving the previously burnt area as a firebreak between us and the active blaze.

It’s not time for a sigh of relief yet, but at least I don’t have to hold my breath any longer.