When Mom Needs a Timeout {MomAdvice}

When Mom Needs a Timeout

“Mom? What’s for lunch? Mom? MOM! Hey! MOMMMMMMMMMMM! What. Are. WE. Doing. FOR. Lunch?!”

Before she could ask – or say my name – One. More. Time, I said, carefully and through gritted teeth, “I can’t talk to you right now. I do not have anything nice to say.”

We were driving home after church, after a week full of fighting and talking back and directly disobeying every big and little thing. We were headed home (by way of Taco Bell), after a morning full of arguing and interrupting the grown-up talk and smarting off in front of the pastor.

Though my newborn has started sleeping for a few more hours in a row overnight, I still feel like a stiff wind could knock me over – or at least lull me into a nap – most days. So fighting against a strong-willed six-year-old had worn me down.

This mama needed a time-out!

Join me over at Mom Advice as I share some ideas for taking a timeout
- and share your own ideas, too!

Monday Morning Mmmm: Southern Green Beans

Southern Green Beans recipe

Thank you all for welcoming my brother to the blog so warmly the other week! You all are sweet – but you’ll really, REALLY love him if you actually try that corn casserole. Personally, I’m looking forward to eating it again at Easter.

But – and I hate to bring it up, but I figure you might need to know – I have a really good side dish recipe that would be great at your Easter dinner, too.

No! I’m not competing with my little brother! I’m NOT. I’m JUST SAYING that he’s not the only one with a good family dinner type of recipe on his hands. And mine has bacon AND brown sugar. So. There you have it. That’s all.

Really.
Okay?
Okay.
Moving on.

I pin a lot of recipes, but – and this is going to really shock you – not a whole lot of them feature vegetables. I just looked. I have 45 pins in my “Fruits and Veggies” board, but 160 pins in my “Dessert Should be Eaten First” board. I even have more breakfast pins than fruits and veggies. Breakfast! That’s just one meal, not even a food group!

Crazy.

And irrelevant, now that I think about it. Because despite my sometimes aversion to vegetables or anything healthy, I pinned a recipe for “Southern” green beans. Actually, it was a recipe for “quick, Southern” green beans.

I’m using those quotes because a) I’m pretty sure anyone in any state or region could eat these green beans and agree that they are delicious, and b) it’s possible the original cook and I have different definitions of the word, “quick.”

Still, quick or not, Southern or not, this recipe from Mary over at Chattavore has become one of my favorite things to cook for family dinners.

Except, well, I don’t really follow the recipe exactly. Since I’m making it for my whole family, I double or triple it. {You might be thinking that’s why it’s not a “quick” process. And, yup. You might be right.}

Still, it’s worth the time. (And it doesn’t take THAT much time, okay? Don’t worry, fellow procrastinators and overwhelmed-by-to-do-lists-and-lifers!)

Southern Green Beans

Southern Green Beans

4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup brown sugar
salt and pepper

Cook bacon over medium heat until almost crisp. Whatever you do, don’t drain it! The bacon grease – I’m sorry, DRIPPINGS – are what make these beans Southern, after all. Add onions and cook until soft-ish. Add the green beans and chicken stock to the pan. Once it’s simmering, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes more. When the green beans are almost as soft (or firm) as you want, remove the lid and crank up the heat. After most of the liquid is gone, add the brown sugar, season with salt and pepper, stir and serve.

My next goal is to make these in the slow cooker. I’m pretty sure it would work great. I just need to remember this goal more than an hour or two before I’m scheduled to be at a family dinner with green beans in hand.

What’s your favorite veggie side dish?

HIMYM Finale: Major Disappointment?

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All right, you guys. We have to talk about this. We’re a week two weeks past the series finale of How I Met Your Mother. General consensus has been NOT GREAT. Even after critics have panned the past several seasons and this final, gimmicky one in particular, almost every recap and review I read screamed disappointment.

Major disappointment! {Major Disappointment! *salute!*}

Much as I love TV critics (because, HELLO, DREAM JOB!), I don’t completely agree. I didn’t hate the HIMYM finale, and I actually loved parts of it.

Now, angry fans, don’t start throwing popcorn at me (or, you know, your screens)! OBVIOUSLY the show and its ending had a ton o’problems. But like Lily said to Robin at the beginning of the finale, “Once you’re in [our gang], you’re in for life!”

I’ve quit shows before, I have. Not many, but a few. (So sorry, Grey’s Anatomy. It’s not me, it’s you.) But for the most part, once I start watching a show, I’m in for life. Through the ups and downs, the Emmys and the internet hate-watching. Once I declare a show “mine,” there’s no separating us.

Unlike Barney and Robin, apparently. We’ll get THERE in a minute.

So I love my shows, and I will watch Every. Single. Episode. to the very bitter or sweet end. Then add to that the fact that I LOVE FINALES? As in, I will start – or re-start – watching a show when I hear it’s on its last legs? Well, despite all the foreshadowing and predictions and low, low expectations? I was ALL IN for this final episode with Ted, Marshal, Lily, Barney and Robin.

HIMYM finale cast

I’ve been trying to write this for several days now and I’m actually watching the finale again as I write now. And while my feelings about the show and its finale run deep, my thoughts are so scattered I think I’d better just stick to bullet points. Here goes…

The things I loved:

  • All the callbacks to past seasons – the cockamouse, the Halloween party and Ted’s hanging chad costume, robot wrestling, “Murder Train” playing during robot wrestling, the blue French horn (NOT the circumstances, just the fact that it was brought back), Marshall paying Lily for their bet over whether Ted and Robin would end up together.
  • Ted’s salt and pepper hair (Although, it’s weird. Usually as men and women age – especially on TV – the men get better looking while the women get older looking. Not so much in the case of, well, Marshall. Sorry, Judge Fudge, but time was not kind! Robin, on the other hand? Looked AMAZING – and so did Lily and The Mother.)
  • Ted wanting to get married in a castle, but doing it in the courthouse instead. [Edited to add: Okay, I remember on a second watch that it wasn't technically the courthouse. But it was short notice and basically the same concept. So the bullet point stays.]
  • The tired new parents! (Of course.)
  • Barney meeting his baby (Barney may be totally gross, but NPH nailed this scene.)
  • The Mother convincing Robin to come to their wedding
  • Not dwelling on The Mother’s disease and death. Those details weren’t the point, and I was fine with it being vague.
  • Remembering the episode where Ted breaks down about how he wished he would have met The Mother just 45 days sooner. It killed me then, even when I was unsure what it meant for The Mother’s future (and lifespan). It kills me even more now.
  • Ted finishing the story with, “And that, kids, is how I met your mother.” (If only it had ended there…)

What totally killed me:

  • “We have to be here for the Big Moments!” THIS. Lily’s increasingly desperate attempts to keep the gang together rang true to me. These characters who I’ve watched nearly every week (and certainly every episode and sometimes multiple times a night once reruns began airing) for the past nine years, they were so different than me – and yet, not so different. They are almost the exact same age I am, and they faced a whole lot of the same things I have in those same past nine years: job frustrations, weddings, new babies, dealing with friends who breakup, loss of loved ones, home-buying woes. I may never set foot in an Irish bar in Manhattan, but still, HIMYM got me and my life. Still, nothing lasts forever. So…
  • “It’s never going to be how it was. It can’t be.” Shut up, Robin. I know, but I like to pretend it’s not true.
  • “It’s great…great….great…great…” Who hasn’t tried to convince themselves and their friends that their marriage, their job, their LIFE is just GREAT when it’s not-so-much?
  • “Much of what I do does not make me cry.” Oh, Marshall. I have been there, and it sucks. So glad your phone finally rang!
  • “It’s not a business, Barney. It’s a blog!” Hmph. Whatevs.

What I hated:

ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THAT ENDING??? After we forced ourselves to be okay with the BIZARRO way Ted let go of Balloon Robin just a few weeks ago? After we swallowed the last-minute jitters that made Robin temporarily decide she should be with Ted after all – and TED SAID NO THANKS? After all the back and forth, after you convinced us Barney had changed, after you made us fall in love (SO MUCH LOVE!!!) with the adorable, funny, killer musician and Renaissance faire fan Mother?

No. No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. [Cue flashback to the episode where Robin and Ted break up after the not-real proposal makes them realize they have an expiration date.]

I don’t mind that The Mother died. Sometimes these things happen, even though we wish they wouldn’t. And while I typically want all happy endings, all the time, this is one show that presented the hard realities of life in such a beautiful way that I didn’t hate it.

But to give us such severe emotional whiplash — first with the season-long build-up to Robin and Barney’s wedding leading to a marriage that ended just minutes into this last episode and then, THEN! with the series-long journey of Ted getting over Robin and finding The Mother ending in the kids and Ted blowing off any sense of grief to run back to Robin (who, BY THE WAY, totally blew off the gang for journalistic fame)?

Unacceptable.

So, I’m choosing to forget those last few minutes (I didn’t watch them the second time around) and remember all the other many, MANY great episodes of one of my favorite shows.

What made it worth it:

  • Every moment of Ted and The Mother together, especially this one:

HIMYM finale


Okay, your turn!
What did YOU think of the HIMYM series finale?


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(And in case you want to read what other people thought of the finale [in case you hated the whole thing and need more validation for those feelings than I gave you...], here are a TON of links to articles:

And, finally, Bradley Cooper just wanted a happy ending, you guys.
[Language warning.] {But it’s funny because it’s true.}

The Difference Orange Makes

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We got to church early that summer morning, though not quite as early as we wanted to. As usual. We parked and speed-walked through the parking lot, snapping at Annalyn to HURRY UP. As soon as we walked into the building, we all headed to Kids City – Mark to serve as security, me to lead the student volunteers in Praise Parkway, and Annalyn to bounce between the two of us.

At one point Mark sent Annalyn to me so he could take attendance of all the classrooms and tally the total number of kids attending first service. She didn’t want to. She wanted to stay with her dad.

As I tried to finish setting up the room and talk with my students, make a few last-minute changes to our slides and run a quick sound check, my sweet, strong-willed daughter was climbing on chairs, complaining about my instructions to be quiet and sit still, and begging to go find her dad. No amount of explanation or reasoning calmed her down – neither did threats or bribery, in case you’re wondering. Her whining escalated alarmingly fast into a full-blown meltdown.

The whole thing reached its peak when I picked her up – not an easy task for a pregnant mom to do with her tall and oh-so-angry five-year-old – and dragged her down the hall into the bathroom. Where her screams – and my own yelling – proceeded to echo off the cinderblock walls.

Awesome. I was HOPING everyone in the church could hear this absolute MESS of a situation.

Because it WAS a mess. My daughter was a disobedient, irrational, out-of-control mess. I was an angry, frustrated, short-tempered mess. After yelling, threatening and lecturing, after totally losing my cool and any control I still had left, I caught my reflection in the mirror. Immediately, I looked away, pretending not to see how ugly my own behavior was, and I marched my still-crying daughter out of the bathroom.

As we headed back toward the classrooms, we ran into my friend and the director of Kids City. I looked at her helplessly and admitted, “I don’t know what to do.” She offered to talk with Annalyn, and I said, “Have at it.”

My friend talked to my daughter – and miraculously, my baby girl finally calmed down. She even went to her classroom without much of a fuss, standing stubbornly at the door only until her teachers noticed her and shouted, “Come in, Annalyn! We’re playing a game! Do you want to play?”

Feeling heavy and exhausted – and extremely embarrassed – I walked back to Praise Parkway. As I was wiping tears of my own and preparing for second service, my friend Erich walked in the room.

“Hey, are you going to the baptism service after church?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I was going to, but this has been a terrible morning,” I said. “Probably not.”

“Oh. Well, okay. I was just going to tell you that Parker is being baptized . . . and he mentions you in his testimony.”

What?!

Parker is Erich’s son and one of my student volunteers, and I had no idea he was planning to be baptized that day. I certainly didn’t realize he would want to talk about me when he did it!

Even after sitting through church, I felt lousy. And that’s saying a lot, since worship and a sermon almost always makes me feel better, no matter what baggage I carry into service. But this morning had been one of the very worst in my parenting career, and I was just So. Very. Tired.

Still, I couldn’t very well let Parker down. We’d only been serving together in Kids City for about six months, but like all the kids I worked with, he was important to me. I wanted to be there for him, so I picked up Annalyn from her classroom and headed outside. (This baptism service was part of our summer picnic and held beside the playground of the elementary school we met in.)

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Parker was the first one to climb into the round tub of water, along with his parents. I was still chewing my [third] hot dog when our pastor began reading a statement Parker had written. He talked about how he loved Jesus and fully believed because of the influence and example of several people. Of course he listed his parents, small group leaders and family friends, but then he said my name.

He said my name.

Until that moment I had not thought I was doing anything special at all. Sure, I got to church a little bit early and hung out with the kids serving in Praise Parkway. We hooked up the speakers and fiddled with the cords connecting the laptop to the sound board. Sometimes they told me about their week, what was going on at school or at home. Sometimes we just joked about how many peppermints they could snitch from the snack table up front and whose turn it was to get drinks for the team.

But I never once imagined I was making any kind of eternal impact on those kids. I just thought I was filling a need, completing a task. If anything, I thought my service was making a difference for the younger kids who came into Praise Parkway to sing songs and hear a story. But the middle schoolers I worked beside? Sure, I was leading them, but I had no idea I was serving them, too.

Until the moment I watched Parker climb in the water, and he said my name.

That Sunday was one of the worst days of my parenting life – and one of the best days of my ministry life.

It was also the perfect illustration of parents and church working together for the good of the children.

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My church uses Orange curriculum for our children’s ministry, and its main strategy is to create a partnership between parents and the church to influence the hearts and lives and children. Orange refutes the idea that spiritual formation is the “job” of the church and encourages parents to be active in teaching their kids about God’s love.

On that Sunday morning last summer, the truth of Orange’s philosophy could not have been clearer to me. When I failed my own kiddo, my friend and her teachers were there to help out. And even though I didn’t realize it, I was making the same kind of difference in my friend’s son just by showing up every week and serving with him in Praise Parkway.

I’m incredibly grateful for our church family – both for the privilege of serving and leading, and for being served and led. And when it comes to my work in Kids City and my daughter’s experience of church, it’s strongly influenced by Orange. Which is why I’m super excited to attend the Orange Conference in Atlanta later this month!

[The chance to see the Sisterchicks doesn't hurt either, but that's a completely separate post!]

If you serve in children’s ministry at your church (or at home), I highly recommend the Orange Conference. It’s not too late to register, and it will be well worth your investment. For more information about Orange, visit the website here.

Disclosure: I have received a ticket to the Orange Conference, but all opinions here are my own. Photo sources here.

Family Recipe: Corn Casserole with Bacon

My brother not only made dinner for me after I had Adrienne, but he also wrote a guest post for my blog about it. And to top it all off, he reads my blog and knows me well enough to say this with his email: “I took lots of pictures and took out all my extra spaces after periods.” Is he good, or is he good?

Welcome, James – and thank you for both a meal that included bacon-y goodness AND a blog post about it!

Creamed Corn Casserole with Bacon | recipe via GivingUpOnPerfect.com

A few weeks back, my sister had a baby, and although her 6-year-old daughter is quite brilliant, she’s not quite the chef of the family yet. As a good brother, I volunteered to make dinner for one of our weekly, Thursday night family dinners. I thought I’d do something impressive (read: a deliciously lit and photographed recipe for double-dipped, buttermilk fried chicken I found on Pinterest).

Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out, which ended in a very grumpy, unplanned trip to KFC. Luckily, I had made all the sides from scratch: mashed potatoes, homemade biscuits, and creamed corn with bacon. I had made the mashed potatoes before. I had made the biscuits. But I had never made this creamed corn (with bacon).

Bacon. I knew my audience. I knew how to hook ‘em. More importantly, the creamed bacon with corn (I mean…creamed corn with bacon) was a huge hit! I made enough so there was plenty for another meal, and my sister texted later that she would have to arm wrestle my brother-in-law for the leftovers. So, here we are, much later and with my own Pinterest-worthy pictures, learning how to jazz up corn with everything good in the world.

CREAMED CORN WITH BACON

Preheat your oven to 400F. While the oven preheats, line a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Then (are you ready?) lay a pound…yes, the whole pound…of bacon in a single layer onto the foil. Bake the bacon for 18 to 20 minutes, or until it’s quite brown and crispy.

As the bacon bakes, get out a big Dutch oven and start to melt a quarter pound of butter (that’s a whole stick for those of you who are counting). You’ll need half of a medium onion, diced finely. Don’t shed too many tears. You’ll want to save those for when you break down crying, asking yourself why you haven’t made this before.

Uncooked Onion 1

Add the diced onion to the butter and sauté just until the onion is translucent. I like my onions brown and sweet, which means I probably go a bit further than “translucent,” but to each their own.

Cooked Onion 3

Once the onion is just how you like it, add the cream cheese a little at a time. Use the 1/3 less fat kind if you’d like, but why waste everyone’s time?

Cream Cheese 4

After cutting the cream cheese into 1-inch cubes, add it to the pan, stirring after each addition. The cream cheese melts and mixes with the butter and onion. If you’re faint of heart, have someone else do this step. The onion/cream cheese/butter combination is not the prettiest sight to behold.

Onion Cream Cheese 5

Cue the stabbing, shower scene music from “Psycho.” It’s pretty dreadful, but never fear, the bacon is probably finished in the oven by now. Deep breaths. Oh…bacon. Sweet, sweet bacon. Bacon always saves the day. You’ll need to take it out of the oven so it has time to cool a bit.

Cooked Bacon on Tray 6

If you didn’t have a Homer Simpson moment and immediately start drooling, then you may want to check your pulse. Mmmm….bacon….

Let’s see more of that bacon.

Cooked Bacon on board 7

If you aren’t sitting down already, feel free to get a little weak in the knees and take a seat…but not really, because there’s work to do! While the bacon is cooling, and the cream cheese is melting in the pot, open up 4 cans of low- or no-sodium, whole-kernel corn.

{Full disclosure: I cut myself on one of these lids. Safety first!}

Cans of Corn 8

Four cans seems like a lot of corn, and this is coming from someone who lived in Iowa for 11 years! But you’re planning on feeding a small army, right? After opening the corn, toss it in a colander for quick draining. Or be brave and use the lid to drain off all the liquid. I’m not that talented, and usually lose half the corn down the drain.

Corn in Collander 9

After draining the corn, return to the pan and give the cream cheese and onion mixture a stir. Add some parmesan cheese to the pot, and sprinkle in some pepper. Then in goes the corn. No need to work out today, your arms will be pumped up after stirring this big pot of goodness.

Corn in cream cheese 10

Does it seem like we might have forgotten something? Of course not! Now is the time to chop up your cooled bacon. All of it (minus the little piece you pulled off to try…just to make sure it was crispy enough, of course).

Chopped bacon 11

After chopping up the bacon (and trying another piece) add it to the pot with the corn, cream cheese, and onions. Stir it all together, then put the mixture into a 9×9 inch pan. Add a little more parmesan cheese to the top, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Because really, what could make cheese and bacon more appealing than some melted butter?

Corn in casserole 12

Put the casserole in the already preheated oven and cook 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly and brown around the edges. You will need to let it cool for a bit, but good luck with that. This stuff is tasty, and has now been added to my recipe box as a “complete success,” which will be made over and over and over. Enjoy!

Cooked casserole 13

CREAMED CORN WITH BACON

Ingredients:
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 medium white onion, diced
- 1 pound bacon, cooked and chopped
- 2 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese + more for the top
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 4 cans no- or low-sodium whole-kernel corn, drained
- 2 tbsp melted butter

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 400F. On a foil-lined, rimmed sheet pan, bake 1 pound of bacon for 18-20 minutes, or until crispy. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
2. In a Dutch oven, cook onion in 1/4 pound (4 tbsp) of butter until translucent.
3. Add the cream cheese to the pan a little at a time, stirring continuously, until the cream cheese is smooth.
4. Add the parmesan cheese and black pepper.
5. Stir in the drained corn.
6. Chop the cooled bacon, and add it to the pan.
7. Pour the corn mixture into a 9×9 oven-safe dish. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with additional parmesan cheese, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted butter.
8. Bake the casserole for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are bubbling and browned. Let cool for at least 10 minutes and serve.

You guys, I can’t even tell you how good this corn was – and I’m not just saying that because it was a meal I didn’t have to cook myself. It was DELISH, and I have demanded requested it become an official staple at all of our family gatherings. (Not the weekly ones. That would be overkill. We’re not animals.)

So, the moral of this story? Make this corn. You’re welcome.