Sunday, September 23, 2007

menu plan monday

Here's a recent yummy experiment:

You can find the recipe here. My husband really liked the sauce, but I personally thought the shrimp was the best part and (oh the shame) enjoyed more the plain shrimp I snatched from the colander before I added them to the dish (no worries, I was using precooked, not raw).

And here's what we're planning on having this next week:

Monday: Sesame Brown Rice Salad with Shredded Chicken and Peanuts
Tuesday: freezer meal
Wednesday: Pumpkin-Bean Soup (double for freezer)
Thursday: Creamy Chicken and Noodles (crockpot meal)
Friday: dinner at folks'
Saturday: Garlic Salmon Linguine

And here's the recipe for Garlic Salmon Linguine, which I received as part of a bridal shower gift from a lady at my church. If you don't like fish or garlic, DO NOT MAKE THIS. If you do like fish and garlic, you'll love this.

-1 (16 oz.) package linguine
-3-6 garlic cloves, minced
-1/3 c. olive oil
-1 can (14 3/4 oz.) salmon, drained (skin and bones removed, if desired)
-3/4 c. chicken broth
-1/4 c. minced fresh parsley
-1/2 t. salt
-1/8 t. chili powder

1) Cook linguine per package directions.
2) Meanwhile, in large skillet, saute garlic in oil. Stir in salmon, broth, parsley, salt and chili powder. Cook until heated through.
3) Drain linguine and add to the salmon mixture and toss to coat. Enjoy.

It's a really tasty, quick weekend sort of supper.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

2nd Trimester Blues

I had about one week of delightful bliss, of it not being 108 degrees outside and me not being exhausted from being in the first trimester. I thought: wow, the second trimester ROCKS.

And then I got sick. Ick, ick, ick. I miss the days when Sudafed was considered safe for pregnancy (it's recently been discovered that use of Sudafed can be correlated with certain birth defects. Not a huge risk, but not one I want to take.).

But this evening, after saying goodbye to my husband and son as they went off for their regular Sunday night guy time (my husband and his friends have a weekly Nintendo date, and there are usually toddlers who tag along, 'cause we're some of those odd twenty-somethings who actually have kids), my daughter came over to me, where I was lying on the couch feeling sick and sorry for myself, and brought me "Time of Wonder" by Robert McCloskey, asking me to read it to her. She climbed up on the couch with me and snuggled up. So I started to read it to her.

A few pages in she said, "Don't read it, let's just look at the pictures." So we did. We went through the whole book twice, looking at McCloskey's beautiful paintings of Maine, talking about trees and rocks and boats and storms and rain and little Sal and her sister Jane. And we talked about the next baby that's coming to our family, and whether it's going to be a boy or a girl.

And after two times through the book and about a half hour of cuddling with my little girl, I got up with my headache gone, my heart cheered, and an actual APPETITE.

Which leads me to just one conclusion: the combination of Robert McCloskey and my daughter is better even than the dynamic duo of Sudafed and Tylenol.

Who knew?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

weaker vessels

I remember, in college, struggling with the ideas set forth in 1 Peter 3, the famous "weaker vessel" passage. I struggled because I didn't like the idea of women being weak, but I also was determined to submit myself to the truth of God's word. If I'd either liked the idea or if I hadn't cared about the veracity of the Bible, well, I wouldn't've had a problem. It ended up being one of those "Okay, I'm sure this is true somehow, but I really don't get it." You know, one of those "I'll take it on faith" passages. Because, as Peter said, "Lord, to whom else should we go?" I was willing to stick with the hard passages because I knew I had no other recourse but Jesus.

Well, I think the past few years, full as they have been of child-bearing and rearing, have helped me understand Peter's words a little better. I'm not sure I completely understand the passage, but I feel like I have more insight into it now.

First, it's talking not to women in general, but to wives. That is, to those who are likely to bear children. Even the word "vessel" implies someone who holds or contains something. And the truth is, when it comes to child-bearing years, I am weaker than my husband. Some writer in Touchstone (Anthony Escolen, maybe?) pointed out awhile ago, when talking about the sacrificial nature of parenting, that every child born into the world necessitated at the very least the sacrifice of its mother's body being broken.

And that's true. Pregnancy and childbirth, and even the whole menstrual cycle, weaken women's bodies amazingly. Even if you aren't bearing children, your body is either suffering from an excess or a dearth of hormones, from puberty through menopause.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I used to try to find some airy-fairy, abstract meaning behind St. Peter's words, and now I'm tending to take them more at face value, more literally. Literally, physically, I am weaker than my husband. I am more at the mercy of my body than he is, especially when my body is serving as the staging ground for a new life, when someone else is taking up residence inside of me and literally sucking its lifeblood from my own and pushing and shaping my very bones and sinews to its own purposes. St. Peter urges husbands to dwell with their wives "according to knowledge" or "with understanding". According to the knowledge, I think, that wives need care that husbands don't, as well as the knowledge that they are "fellow heirs of salvation".

So, for me, what that verse means (I know, I know, evangelical subjective Bible application, forgive me) is: Adam takes care of me so I can take care of our children. And that makes sense. Even to my slightly feminist-leaning self.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, September 6, 2007

What comes after SAHM'ing?

This is a question I've just begun to ponder. First, some happen news that relates to my pondering: we're expecting a new baby in March! We're pretty excited, even though we expect to be pretty tired with three under four. (Though, honestly, I don't know if newborn tired really beats early pregnancy tired - ick.) But, it means that I have, theoretically, at least six more years of full-time child care ahead of me, before our youngest is in school.

So what happens after that? Assuming, of course, that there aren't more kiddoes by that point. I'm beginning to realize that going back to a 40-hour-a-week job isn't that appealing to me. I've been trying to figure out why that is, and what exactly it is I want to do instead.

Part of the reason - a big part - is that I want to be available to my kids should they need me, even though they'll be in school. If they're sick, I want to be able to come and pick them up. When I was in school, my parents both worked or went to school, but a lot of their work was from home, and we knew we could always get a hold of them if we needed to, which was very reassuring. Also, one of them was always home when we got home, which really made home home.

I'm not really pondering doing no work, but I'm beginning to think about doing something from home or with flexible hours, for the purpose of being available to my kids, and being home when they get home.

Then there's the second reason that a traditional 40-hour-a-week job doesn't sound attractive: because what I really want to do for money is to write. Preferably novels, but I like doing freelance articles too (and they're easier to get published).

So my current plan is to take these next six years as a time to slowly (during kids' naps, in the morning before they get up) write and submit and write and submit and work on becoming successful enough in my chosen field that when the kids go to school, I can legitimately take the extra time to write, knowing that I have the ability to make (at least a part-time) living from it.

At least, that's the plan I've come up with as I've tossing the title question around in my head. It also seems to have in its favor the fact that if working at it an hour or two a day for six years finds me largely unsuccessful, well, I'll know I need another plan. Seriously, being a SAHM seems an almost perfect proving ground for a writer. If I can do that while doing this, it means that I really want it. (And any success in the meantime sure helps the family budget. Though I took the profits from the articles I sold so far and used them to buy MS Word - the better to write and sell more articles, my dear.)

Of course, I'm sure that my plan isn't the only one out there, and I'm guessing there are other SAHM's out there looking at the same question. What's your take on the question? What are your ideas, your plans, your dreams? Are there things you're doing now to prepare for when the kids are gone for larger amounts of time? I bet there are a lot of people whose answer is: "I'm going to homeschool", but even then, what happens when they go off to college? Are you planning on taking some extra classes yourself while you teach your kids? Anyone gunning for a part-time masters degree?

Since I've only recently started thinking about this, I'm really interested in what other people think. In fact, if you have some great thoughts and want to write a guest blog, just let me know. :) Or just fill up the comments with great idea. :)

Thanks for your input!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Civil Campaign

I just finished rereading (for maybe the seventh time) the excellent A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold (not Christian, but oh-such-good-fiction - it includes in its merits the one scene in literature that makes me laugh out loud, no matter where I happen to be when I read it, and the most poignant fictional letter I've ever read), and I've been thinking for awhile about something one of the characters says.

Lord Miles Vorkosigan, the main character, is ordered by his emperor to ask his father to give him "that lecture on honor versus reputation he gave me that time." Miles obeys, and what his father ends up telling him is this:

" 'I wouldn't have called it a lecture. Just a useful distinction, to clarify thought.' He spread his hand, palm up, in a gesture of balance. 'Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.' "

I've been thinking about this quotation - this definition, if you will - more than I had before, because I feel like it speaks to something I've been noticing in my life. There is a weird way in which the very physical life of a mother of toddlers (cleaning, playing, changing diapers, carrying, cleaning some more, etc.) forces all of the most important parts of my life to be inward things. When I've had conversations with people recently, I've found myself struggling for things to say. How do you say, "My life is largely made up of menial tasks, but I know more about myself and about God now than I ever have before" without sounding bizarre? And how do you explain that pouring yourself out into a schedule of potty-training, legos, diapers and meal preparation is a path to holiness like none you'd ever before conceived of? What do you do when the changes inside you are so momentous and yet so slow - like the irreparable moving of tectonic plates, the landscape's different but you wouldn't notice unless you could watch it in stop-motion film - that there isn't something new to tell your friends each time you see them?

On the one hand there are the weekly changes in my children ("Look, Gamgee can say "where's Dad?" now!") to point to, or the new, clever housekeeping thing I figured out ("I now know Clorox wipes are great for cleaning out little potties."), but those are only the surface things of my life, and I haven't yet figured out how to talk properly about the bigger things. About how a year ago I was less patient than I am now, but how now I can see how much more patient I'm going to have to become. About how I can better tell when I'm wasting time now, but how the time-wasters that still tempt me are harder to resist? About how Morning Prayer has been a blessing I embrace but somehow when I'm out of my home and at mass, I have trouble praying? About how much I've grown to care about the spiritual development of my children, and how inept I feel in aiding that development along? And that just scratches the surface of the work that I feel my life is about right now.

So I come back to Bujold's definition of honor versus reputation. My reputation right now is small. I'm a stay-at-home mom, and that's most of what most people know about my life. It wouldn't look that impressive in an alumni magazine. (And am I the only one who gets antsy when reading her alumni magazine?) But what I know about myself is that I'm following the vocation the Lord has laid upon me, and I am learning the riches of the love of Christ in my daily work. And, even though it's a harder choice than I ever would have guessed, like Miles and his father, I would choose honor over reputation every time.

But I still want to learn how to talk about big things properly. Writing about them is much, much easier.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. to whet your appetite, here's what Miles' father says a little bit later in that conversation:

" The Count studied his fingernails. 'It could be worse. There is no more hollow feeling than to stand with your honor shattered at your feet while soaring public reputation wraps you in rewards. That's soul-destroying. The other way around is merely very, very irritating."