Saturday, May 25, 2013

Crockpot chicken and rice


I really like cooking in my crock pot, but let's be honest: 
crockpot meals are hard to come by.  
There are so many out there, but not all of them are good.

I have tried for years to find a crockpot chicken and rice recipe that our family enjoys, but I haven't had any luck.  The primary problem has been the rice - we don't prefer it cooked in the crockpot.  It leaves the texture way more mushy than we like.

The recipe we tried last night was very tasty, and it solved the problem of the mushy rice by adding just one extra step, which I can handle.

Quick, easy, and everyone enjoyed it - this is a recipe we'll be coming back to on busy night!

Ingredients:
2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 2 large ones and it was more than enough chicken.)
1 package cream cheese, 8 oz. (put out on counter the night before to soften)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 package dry Italian dressing seasoning
white rice

Directions:
  1. Put cream cheese, cream of chicken, and dressing into the crockpot on low and let it sit for about 30 minutes while you finish getting ready or folding a load of clothes.  When it's getting kind of melty, stir it all together.
  2. Put the frozen chicken on top of the cream cheese mixture.
  3. Cook on high for 4-6 hours.  (You can cut the chicken into strips after a couple of hours if you want, for easier eating.)
  4. Cook the white rice in your rice cooker (my favorite!) or in a pot on the stove.
  5. Serve the chicken mixture on top of the cooked white rice.
  6. Add a side salad and some bread and you've got a meal! 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Vulnerable. Both of us.


Who was it that said "to have a child is to forever have your heart walking around outside your body?"

I used to think that was kind of silly, but now I think it's pretty accurate.

Looking at that picture above makes my heart cramp up and tears come to my eyes.

You can just see it in her face....what it maybe feels like to be the youngest player on the team and to play with teammates who have played 4 seasons more than you and not to have played even played last season at all because your mom was kind of lazy and to not quite understand the rules and mechanics of the game and to not have quite the coordination the others girls do but to play your heart out anyway.

Sitting on the sidelines is hard, ya'll, when your kid isn't the best one out there.
when she sits on the bench quite a lot but has the best attitude about it, cheering her friends on at the top of her lungs.
when she's the last one to get playing time, and the first one called off.
when she kicks at that ball with all her might but misses.
when she tries her best to "stay in her lane" but gets so excited that she ends up wherever the ball is, even if it's on the opposite side of the field she's supposed to be on.
when she scores the goal or makes the assist and her little eyes light up brighter than any Christmas morning.
when she is so gangly and awkward that she falls down often, and her coaches yell to "stay on your feet!" and she really is trying her best to do that...she really isn't trying to fall down.
when the coach yells "HEY!  DID YOU FALL ASLEEP OUT THERE?!" and you can see the shame on her face and it takes all your self control not to run out there and scoop her up in your arms.
when it takes all your self control not to yell back across the field at that coach who is really quite wonderful and very good with your child most of the time, just not this one time.
when no matter how many times she doesn't get it quite right she still keeps playing with everything she's got, and you realize she has more tenacity than most adults, and you don't even know where that came from.
because if it were you, by this time you would have called it a day and gone home for a hot bath and a good book, but she just keeps at it.
when, at the end of the season, she declares "I think I'll play soccer a few more years.  I'm pretty good at it."

I seriously spent every game wearing sunglasses to hide my tears...usually of pride at how super fabulous she has turned out to be, despite my all-too-often failures and pathetic attempts at mothering.  At how brave and tenacious she is.  At how she sees everything as wonderful.

And here's the truth of it right now:
I know there are some lessons in this soccer season, some deep truths about parenting and letting go and giving them a chance to fail, and thus, to succeed.....but I don't even know what those lessons are right now!  I don't even care!  And my eyes are too puffy to think about it!  All I know is that I didn't know I could love like this.

Tucker's last day of 2 year old preschool

Today was Tucker's last day in Mrs. Laura and Ms. Carla's 2 year old class!

Look at how much he's grown since the first day:

 They celebrated today with some water fun:

He has been loved oh-so-well by these wonderful teachers!
We are thankful beyond words.

Sharks soccer party

First, here are some of my favorite pictures of the season:
click on any picture to enlarge


Tonight their soccer team had their party at Pizza Hut.  Lana was so proud of her trophy.

It was fun to celebrate a great season together!
Her coaches really were excellent,
and as the youngest girl on the team, she made some good friends and had a good experience.  We can't ask for more than that!

Date morning!


Yes, we know we are supposed to "date."
Yes, we know that's ideally once a week.
Yes, we would love that!
There is something special about getting dressed up (you know, beyond yoga pants) and letting the babysitter feed the kids and going out somewhere all alone and actually getting to complete a sentence, sitting somewhere besides our living room.  It's just dreamy.

However, because we've chosen for me to be a stay-at-home mom, lots of financial sacrifices are made, and one of those are babysitters.  It's exceedingly rare for us to find room in the budget for a meal or dessert or movie out and a sitter.  We think outside the box and do in-home date nights quite often, but there's just something about leaving the house!  Such luxury!

Today was Tucker's last day of Mom's Day Out, and while I usually volunteer in Lana's classroom on Thursday mornings, I asked for the morning off so Dan & I sneak in just a bit of time together - it was dreamy.

We dropped Tucker off and spent the morning walking around downtown Pensacola.  It's just really a neat little downtown area, and we haven't had a chance to just wander around without the littles.

We walked and talked and looked in all the neat little shops and sat on the benches in the shade and looked at the water.

My favorite place we found was a little shop where they make all their moisturizers and candles and soaps and body scrubs in-house.  They have a little kitchen in the back and you can watch them "cook."  Dan bought me this amazing body whip.  Smells so, so good.

We even got to enjoy lunch together at Jaco's.  We sat outside to eat - just check out this view:

and this FOOD:
I had the chopped Greek salad with shrimp, and he had the Mahi tacos.  Both were superb!

So thankful for this little window of time that the Lord provided for us to enjoy each other.  

Songwriter?

For the past couple of weeks, Tucker has woken up nearly every morning or naptime and told us that he "learned a song in my bed."  They are songs that he totally makes up - so precious!

video 1
video 2 (the burp at the beginning is the best.)
video 3

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wordless Wednesday


Last game - Spring Soccer 2013

Last night was the last soccer game of the season for Lana's team:
Our sweet girl is the youngest on her team this season - she played up into U8 although she should have been in U6 one last season.  She was playing with and against girls who were older and more skilled than she.  Some of them are almost 9, while Lana is not yet 7.
 It didn't bother her a bit!  Although her skill level and understanding of the game was not quite were theirs was, she didn't let it frustrate her a bit.  I was so proud of her tenacity!  She gave it all she had, all the time.  (That's her on the right in the picture below.)
 I mean just look at her: second from the left below.  She is so precious I could eat her up.
 Lana's personality is just not aggressive in any way, so it's a challenge for her to "attack the ball," as she's often encouraged to do on that soccer field!  There were several times she would step out of the way for an opposing team player to have a turn!  Again, I think some of that just comes with time and experience.
 Her coaches gave her a chance to play goalie last night, and she loved that!

Goalie
More goalie
The only way you could ever tell that she was nervous was that she would start hopping.  You can see it at the beginning of this video.  She just does a bit there, but sometimes she would spend a full minute or two just hopping around the field.  It was so stinking adorable.

 Meanwhile, Tucker was just hanging out on the sidelines, eating a blowpop:
We ask him often if he's going to play soccer when he's older, and every time he resolutely tells us "No, thanks!  I'm going to play basketball."  The boy knows his own mind, that's for sure.

I love this picture and what it says about our daughter and her heart for others.
A major source of frustration for Tucker this soccer season is when the team gets snacks after the game.  They are often special and super yummy treats, and it upsets him that he doesn't get one, too.
Last night, there were slices of watermelon in bags, and as Lana was walking over to us, she said with a big smile on her face: "There are TWO slices in my bag!  One for me and one for Tucker!"

We had to stop by Baskin Robbins on the way home to celebrate with a special treat!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dog days of summer

It's started heating up here in Florida, and dog days are taking on a different meaning for us this year!  Pepper (and the kids!) spend most of the morning outside, when it's still cool...or at least not hot.  But come late morning/early afternoon, in they come:



I love it!  This is one of the reasons we got a dog.

This continues on into the evening hours, just so you know:


Sunday, May 19, 2013

I need thee every hour

I became a believer as a child,
and I can't remember a time when I didn't love Jesus.

When I was a teenager, I think I believed that when I reached the age I am now, I would have reached a certain level of Christian maturity that would render following Christ easier, somehow.

Although I wouldn't have articulated it quite this way,
I suppose I believed that I would somehow be less "sinful."
Isn't that what sanctification is all about, anyway?

That hasn't been the way it's turned out.
At 32, I would tell you that I know now, more than ever, how desperately I need Jesus.
There is always sin to be fighting.
There is always temptation to be resisted.
There is always growth to be pursued and had.

This mama and wife and daughter and friend needs Jesus more than ever.
I fall so often, and every day I think I am more and more aware of how truly desperate I am for a Savior.
I'm learning that it's not about getting "better" or "worse" but just all about loving Jesus and letting Him forgive me and do His thing in me.

In this season of learning to be a minister's wife and mothering young children and balancing all of the demands and resisting the urge to bow at the feet of busy-ness, I've found myself often singing and clinging to a hymn that I learned as a young girl in the pews of Woolmarket Baptist Church:

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice Thine can peace afford.

Refrain:
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art night.

Refrain

I need Thee every hour, in joy or in pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.

Refrain

I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.

Refrain

I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, Thou blessed Son.

Such rich truth in those hymns!  I remember as a preteen thinking that I wish they'd just speed the tempo up some or bring in some drums or sing some of the songs I heard on the local Christian radio station.  I'll tell you, though, as an adult - when singing goodnight songs to my children, when I'm hurting, when I feel confused and lost - those hymns are the ones that come bubbling out of my soul.  So much rich Truth.  They are one of the ways that I can preach the gospel to myself daily.

This one in particular has meant so much to me lately, so when my friend Carrie Pendergrass made this sign for me, I put it right in my kitchen so I can see it all day, every day.  We all know that the kitchen is the heart of the home, where the mama spends the most time, where the family somehow ends up cramming in together.  Perfect spot to put this wonderful reminder of what I actually need: