September 30, 2012

Daddy Daughter Date

McKlayne is a great date. If you're ever around McKlayne it wouldn't take much of your imagination to understand this. The girl is never at loss for words. The questions are endless ... which is great for a daddy who is a bit below average on the conversational spectrum. But I did have plenty of questions for my girl on our overdue date. And I did have to wait occasionally to fit in those questions.

We had dinner with the family and then set out for the mall. I wanted to allow for some major talking time with my girl as we walked around. I also love McKlayne's imagination. I think it's one of her greatest assets and I'm not sure that I've seen anyone use theirs as much as she does. I wanted to see it take off as we wandered around. 

The mall didn't disappoint. The somewhat unsightly construction left us with my many X's (designating broken tiles) on the floor that marked all of the mall's buried treasure. We stopped at kiosks and stores and tried on glasses, masks and more. We squeezed into a kids' ride and went on a rollercoaster together. I'm telling you — the girl is F-U-N. 

Our first scheduled stop was the pet store. It's really the puppy store as that's all that they sell. But, it's where we take our kids to get their pet-fix as we are a "No Pet Zone." And McKlayne — the little mommy and animal lover — lights up when you mention going. She could spend hours there holding those creatures. I let her stay as long as I can stand the smell and the gushing pet lovers' "goo goo" talk and then give her an additional 10 minutes. 

McKlayne holding "Adelae"
She told me what she'd name the pup and then what Mommy, Daddy and Asher might name it. And when I asked, she quickly informed me that Oliver couldn't name pets yet — like it was a crazy question. I didn't ask about L. She told me about what she'd do, where they'd go and the tricks that she'd teach it. And then we switched out dogs and repeated. 

We walked back through the mall to pick up a cookie for Asher both lamenting the removal of the giant playplace in the food court. We split a peanut butter cookie (one of her favorites) and were off to Spoons. 

A few stops at the mall

If you ask McKlayne where she wants to go on a date, you may get a few different places or ideas, but "Spoons" is always the first one. We tried a few flavors with our stack of sample cups and then got our usuals. McKlayne mixed her gummy bears, yellow mystery gusher balls, chocoate chips and sprinkles into her strawberry-cheesecake swirl yogurt. Yumm, right? We had a lot more to talk about and then she dared me to take a bite of her concoction. Well ... she sweetly and generously asked me if I wanted to try hers. But, it felt like a dare. Either way I ate that stuff ... and lied to her face and said it was delicious. 

I scooted around next to her in order to hold out the camera and snap a pic of our date. After we got a good one that included both of our heads, two smiles and our yogurts in the same shot, I decided to stay close and do some "same side sitting." She politely asked me to move back across the table. I proceeded to let her know how Mommy and I would sit close on our dates while we talked. She nodded and pointed to the other side of the table. I chuckled and compliantly scooted my chair back around. McKlayne, may you always be so firm and keep all of your future dates honest.

We love Spoons!

And that was it. McKlayne was such a treat. The way I laughed with her, gushed over her and just stared from time-to-time at her beauty reminded me of other dates with a girl that actually shares a resemblance (and a lot of personality) with my Klayney. So we headed back home, delivered our cookie and wondered what the phrase "awkward silence" even meant. 

Here's to many more dates with you McKlayne. Love, Daddy.

Chicken Fajita Wraps

with oven-roasted okra.

Our friends, Joe and Melissa, made Fajita Wraps with all the fixings for us when we were over for dinner one night. It was a hit with my family, so I knew I had to add this to the rotation!  (Now I think of you wonderful Terry's every time we eat this meal and for all the ways we're thankful for how God has used you two to shape us.)

I based my marinade off of this recipe.

Fajita Marinade

1/4 cup lime juice
 1/3 cup water
 2 tablespoons olive oil
 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
 2 teaspoons salt
 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

I usually let the marinade sit for 1-2 nights in the fridge, but it can marinate for just a few hours if you need to eat them sooner. The longer, the better, though.

Grill or cook on stovetop in skillet.  Serve in lettuce wraps with grilled mushrooms and onions, salsa and guacamole.

September 13, 2012

Roasted Veggie Medley

This recipe originated with my friend, Rachel. I may have made a few changes over the years, I really can't remember.  I like making this at the beginning of the week and eating off of it for a few meals or making it when we need to contribute to some sort of large-group meal.  It makes a very large portion, so you may need to, at least, half it.

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
1 red onion, cut into large slices
1 whole red, orange, or yellow bell pepper (or 1/2 of each), sliced
a few handfuls of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1-2 zucchini, cut into bite size pieces
4-6 cups of broccoli
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
salt and pepper
(and sometimes a couple dashes of Tony's seasoning)

Mix veggies in a huge bowl. Add oil and seasonings. Toss to coat. Roast in the oven at 400 for 20-25 minutes.

You can also grill them: Heat grill over high heat. Toss veggies into a grill basket (or an aluminum pan with holes poked in the bottom) and grill for 8-12 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

September 4, 2012

Book-nook, baby.

Lately, after one of those panicked moments of realizing that Oliver has been quiet for way too long, and  nervous about where and what I may find him doing...I've found him here:

He'll skillfully pull the box of board books off the third shelf on careful tippytoes...

And quietly sit, reading to himself in his booknook.  This has become his favorite place of retreat.  He's proud that he can pull himself up on the ottoman all by himself (high enough up and away from L who can't quite get up on her own) so he can have some alone time.

He'll sit here for up to 20 minutes at a time...getting lost in the illustrations and reciting animal sounds to himself.

And after he's done with each one, he tosses them on the floor.

September 3, 2012

Mercy Project

Hello?! Is anyone even out there? This has become a sleepy little blog to the public...behind the scenes I've still be blogging away. I actually have quite a few posts that I haven't published since February when we were placed with our foster daughter who is just 7 weeks younger than Oliver (more on that to come) but I'm an all-or-nothing kinda gal. Oliver is now 1 1/2 years old and according to my blog header, he didn't (and still doesn't) exist.  So, since I'd didn't have time to update my blog, I quit publishing posts.  Silly, I know. 

But, today, I have something very important to share with you. Heather asked me, along with 99 other bloggers, to be a part of getting the word out about Mercy Project, which was started by a sweet couple in our church that many in our body our involved in. Mercy Project is currently working in Ghana to help end child slavery and trafficking. Go read for yourselves about how you may get involved:
There’s an estimated 7,000 children who work in the Ghana fishing industry. Some of
these children are as young as 5 and 6 years old.  All of these children are slaves.

Today many in our country will take a day off from our jobs to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers.  No matter if we’re celebrating at home or at the beach, we’re entering into a tradition that has largely been shaped by Labor Unions - organizations that are dedicated to protecting workers’ interests and improving their wages, hours, and working conditions.  Today as we lounge around or hang out with friends and family, we’re not only celebrating hard work, we’re honoring fair, ethical working practices and the laws that prevent discrimination, abuse, and child labor in our country.  Without these laws in place (and enforced), the most vulnerable members of society suffer.  Who are the most vulnerable? Children. 

"God does not want us to merely give the poor perfunctory help, but to ponder long and hard about how to improve their entire situation." -- Tim Keller in Generous Justice  

Today as we’re celebrating the systems in our own country that strive to prevent injustices like child trafficking and child labor, we’re mindful of the many child slaves around the world who are unprotected and the organizations, like Mercy Project, who are working to free them.

"If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong." -- Abraham Lincoln

As a mother, it’s difficult for me to imagine my children working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I’m unable to wrap my brain around the thought of my children engaged in long, hard days of physical labor, eating one meal a day, and then falling asleep at night on a dirt floor filled with other slave children.  Yet this is the daily reality for kids who have been trafficked into the fishing industry in Ghana, Africa.  As with much of Africa, there is a great deal of poverty in Ghana. Unfortunately, this leaves many mothers in an unimaginable position: sell their children to someone who can take better care of them or watch them starve to death. Most of the mothers are told their children will be given food, housing, and an education. Instead, the kids are often taken to Lake Volta where they become child slaves and their mothers never see them again.  Thankfully, Mercy Project is working to break the cycles of trafficking around Lake Volta by providing alternate, more efficient, sustainable, fishing methods for villagers – ultimately eliminating the need for child slaves.  Because of the work Mercy Project is doing in Ghana, the first group of children will be freed this month from Lake Volta.

We invite you to watch this moving, 10 minute documentary about the issues surrounding child labor and trafficking in Ghana and most importantly the hope Mercy Project is bringing to children and entire communities in Africa.  Mercy Project is the only NGO working on Lake Volta addressing the injustice of child labor and child trafficking at its root - by strengthening the Ghanaian economy and eliminating the structures that cause the demand for trafficked children.

Whether these ideas of child labor, child trafficking, and modern-day slavery are new to you or you’re aware of these injustices, but need to hear some good news every once in awhile, we invite you to become a part of what Mercy Project is doing in Ghana.  When Mercy Project frees their first group of children this month, we can all celebrate together.

Learn more and get involved by:

Watching Mercy Project’s short documentary. 

Following Mercy Project on Facebook.

Connecting with Mercy Project via Twitter.  [link provided below]

• Spending some time on Mercy Project’s website.  [link provided below]

• Sharing about Mercy Project’s work in Ghana with your friends. 

Although child trafficking, child labor, and the unstable economies that result in these injustices are a tragedy, we’re grateful for what Mercy Project is doing to protect the vulnerable and for allowing us to be a part of this story.   While we’re commemorating labor laws and ethical work in our own country today, we invite you to follow along on this journey with Mercy Project to protect and free children in Ghana.