Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Everyone!

These are a few of my favorite things:
Multi-color confetti on white frosting

Simple cake and snacks

(the guys were outside with the bigger kids)

(Again, Miss Anna-Kate is six months younger than Miss Kristiana)

Aren’t birthdays grand!

Saturday, November 28, 2009


This is the first year that Alex has helped put the tree together.  He learned a lot of new things while we put it together. 

  • We celebrated Alex’s birthday with a birthday cake, we celebrate Jesus’ birthday with a decorated tree.
  • The branches are pokey.
  • Even though the ornament looks like a cookie, don’t eat it.
  • Round ones break easily.
  • He learned how to hang an ornament with a hook.
  • Don’t play behind the tree.
  • Alex has an ornament with a three on it.


Friday, November 27, 2009

“Ayex is Fwee”

Alexander on his third birthday: he is very good at coloring.  He has very good manual dexterity. Alex is potty trained, but not at night. He said his daddy is his best friend. He get’s jealous when his sister gets attention, especially from mom.  His favorite foods are all sweet—doughnut, cake, ice cream, french toast with syrup. He can sort of say the alphabet (he says “l’s” as “y’s”; he can count to 20; count to five in Spanish. He loves the park. He likes tools and helping with grownup activities. He is not a baby anymore. Lately, I have been surprised at how mature some of the things says. The Jesus Prayer is the only one Alex will say.  He thinks our priest, Father Timothy, is Jesus. 

100_1567 100_1569

100_1575 100_1578


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Glory to God – In the Form of Turkey

100_1600You may think that taking one of God’s creatures in all it’s glory and mutilating it into a shapeless mess is not doing it justice. But the beauty of humans is our ability to create and invent. I feel that after we were done with preparing this fowl for consumption we had infused it with the Good.

This thanksgiving day turkey was an adventure of 100_1601another kind. We, my mother and I, de-boned our turkey following moderately humorous, instructions in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Then we stuffed it with my mom’s classic homemade stuffing. Why did we do this you ask? A couple of reasons—inspiration from the movie Julie and Julia; we thought that it would be extra moist and tasty; we had visions of slicing our turkey in rings; for fun.

The day did not start well. We woke up a little late. I was the first up and I went to pull the turkey out of the refrigerator. It was frozen! Tuesday night the turkey was soft. Today, it was rock solid and frosty. “Don’t panic.” I thought. “Great, dinner will be late.” I put the turkey in the sink with water and salt. Then, I went and glumly woke my mom. She said not to worry and I should add some warm water to the sink. It thawed in an hour and we were in business.

100_1603At first, Julia said, “the first time you try to de-bone poultry it may take 45 minutes due to fright.” It did take a long time. I did not clock it exactly, but about what was suggested. It was interesting—almost intellectual. We stuffed it and sewed it up. Then we cooked it. It was a twelve pound turkey and it took 2 hours to cook.  It came out moist, tender and delicious.  But the best part was how the flavors permeated the stuffing.  We all agreed that it was the best stuffing ever, which is a high compliment in my house because my mom is a gourmand.

100_1607We also made the traditional Clayton sides: sweet potato casserole, peas and asparagus casserole, riced potatoes, and cranberry relish. We all thought a boneless turkey might need to become tradition.

In the end, we gave proper glory to God in this meal. If they serve turkey in heaven, it tastes like this. There is much we give thanks for—too numerous to mention—as infinite as the Lord’s love.



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Grammy Saves the Day

As I cooked dinner tonight Kristiana found a penny on the floor. It wasn’t mine! In any case, Kristiana ate it and began choking.  I was not exactly sure why she was coughing so much and I suspected she was choking. Grammy walked in the room grabbed the baby dumped her upside down and gave her the pediatric Heimlich.  The penny was immediately expelled.  It was quite traumatic for Kristiana. 

This was not the first time my mom has saved a toddler.  She saved me from choking on bacon when I was three and saved my brother when he choked on a hotdog as a baby.

Kristiana and her Savior


Little Miss Sunshine

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fuzzy Reflections

I sit here reflecting, sipping on a “White Mexican.” I had my first “White Russian” on Friday when we celebrated my husband’s 27th birthday.  At this moment I am enjoying libation leftovers, and decided I did not so much enjoy the Russian part of the White Russian, and I learned that Kahlua is from Mexico. Therefore, I am enjoying a White Mexican—sounds racist.

Kristiana has a cold, so she is not sleeping well and letting us know her discomfort, loudly throughout the night.  Last night she woke us up at 3:30 a.m.  She did not go back to sleep until after church at 12:30 p.m. At that point I had to take Alexander to a birthday party. Alex was precious with his friends.  He had lots of fun and birthday cake! He talked about the cake all day. When they opened presents, he stole the gifts trying to claim them for his own.  So I chose to make a quick exit with a sobbing Alex. Of course, we took a piece of cake along with us when we left.

Today was a really good day for Alex.  He woke up early at 6:30 a.m. He ate a big breakfast and played very well by himself.  A little while later I asked Andrew to relieve me while I caught a little shut eye.  Alex painted.  We did not clean up his paints and throughout the day he would periodically paint.  Alex behaved well at church with the incentive that he could only go to the birthday party if he behaved.

100_1561 This weekend I covered our dining chair seats with new fabric.  I had to take the chairs apart to do this. Alex decided he was a handy man.  Surprise, he is very good at it.  He unscrewed and screwed back in the screws all by himself—not bad for scarcely three. We will encourage this newly discovered affinity.

I kept meaning to post all week.  I couldn’t find ways to make what I had to say pertinent.  So, I decided it was best not to say anything at all.  I went to my Mom’s Group Bible study meeting on Thursday night. It was the last section of our book and it was the most difficult for all of the women in my small group. I really wanted to post about suffering, but my mind could not form a coherent thought. None of my thoughts made sense enough to post. I may still post on this topic when my mind straightens out.

It was a fuzzy, roller coaster of a week, but it all ended in on a high note.  Tomorrow, my parents come for Thanksgiving.  My husband taught me true adoration of this holiday like I never had before I met him. I hope this week is punctuated with more high notes than not.  You never can tell what life is going to hand you. You’re faith is all you have—a gift from God—given by grace.

P.S. I have wanted to get a video of Kristiana walking for few weeks now, but I haven’t been able to get it. Here is a dingy version. When I can capture this in the light, I will post it.  Toddling is one of those warm, fuzzy moments.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Nativity Fast Commences

And so it begins...So many of my Roman Catholic and Christian family and friends are often surprised that today, forty days before Christmas, we begin a fast. They are normally surprised that there are meant to be Christian fasts during times other than Lent. My response to them is usually, “Yes. What is a feast without first a fast?” As strange as it may seem, I look forward to these fasts. It is an opportunity and excuse to step back and examine my life and the ways I have ventured into sin. I was raised as a Roman Catholic and I was taught that Advent was a time of alms and being good (i.e., be good and Santa will bring you gifts), therefore there is a celebration of bounty and giving. However, as an adult I do not believe there can be a true appreciation of the bounty without first purgation and purification. Truly, these teachings were there in my Roman Catholic upbringing, but in a different way.

So, what does this fast involve. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are strict fast in which we have 1 ½ meals. We cut out all meat, dairy and eggs, including meat and dairy substitutes. Sundays are always feast days, so we can eat meat.

On this week's fasting dinner menu:
Sunday – Saute Garlic, Spinach, Tomato and Meatballs
Monday – Greek Lentil Soup and Homemade Bread
Tuesday – Elbow Pasta with Marinara and Asparagus
Wednesday – Curry Chickpeas with Mixed Veggies
Thursday – Veggie Pizza (Okay this one has cheese, but it's the night of my Mom's group and I don't have time to cook. The next time this occurs, I will work to prepare something ahead of time.)
Friday – Pan Fried Tilapia and Herb Potatoes 

Saturday – (Happy Birthday Andrew) Orzo Soup

This is our especially designed by Anne, Jesse Tree

My favorite ornament for the tree is this censer, complete with bells on the chains. :-)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mousse-tastrophe Redeemed

Amidst the chaos of this day, I decided to make chocolate mousse with a recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Let me begin with the chaos. I awoke at 5:00 a.m. to a screaming baby. She is the sweetest doll of a child, but if the littlest thing is not right, she screams her adorable little head off in a not so adorable, inconsolable, obnoxious way. I attempted to comfort her as she writhed in my arms. We laid down in my bed and finally after an hour or so later she relented and feel asleep, only after she relieved her bowels. The whole event  was particularly grating, because Andrew and I had been up late entertaining friends.  

I awoke hours later to a ruckus in the next room. Alexander had diarrhea in his bed and he was covered head to toe. My husband was beginning to clean him up. The odor made me want to vomit. I was dizzy and confused. I never sleep this late. It was almost 9:00 a.m. Oh yes, and the baby still had a full stinky diaper. What a morning!

We spent considerable time cleaning and bathing the boy. We thought this event was due to Alexander taking lots of asthma medicine for an episode this week. After we had breakfast, we all went to the store. When we came home, Alexander threw-up. This time he was self-aware enough to not throw-up all over the house, but to do it in a bucket. (We have all had some form of this virus this week. It seems mild.)

Alexander went for a long nap at 1:30 p.m. Even though I had many baskets of laundry waiting to be washed, I decided that it was time to make chocolate mousse. I thought it would be a simple recipe, alas there are no simple french recipes. In the list of ingredients it called for “instant sugar” with a note saying, “very finely granulated.” I used some very finely granulated sugar my mother-in-law had bought for her candy making. This is where my catastrophe began. 

I knew this was all wrong the instant I added the egg yoke. Instead of the yoke and sugar blending liquid it turned to a crunchy mess. After I melted the chocolate, my husband came in the kitchen to check the progress. I asked him if he thought Julia means powdered sugar. That is the only sugar that I could think would melt into egg yolk. I asked if he thought I should start over. He told me to continue. I did. It failed. Therefore, I made him go to the store for more chocolate and butter. I was not about to let this recipe conquer me so easily. I began again, with powdered sugar this time. Success!  

The rest of the recipe seemed to go off without a hitch. By the time I was putting the product into bowls for refrigeration (4 hours of almost continuous cooking with a baby on my hip. And I think that explains the intensity of my catastrophe--hours on my feet in the kitchen; did I mention Kristiana broke a casserole from one of the lower cabinets.), my sister had called. I explained to her my situation with the mousse and that it still didn't seem right. She scoffed and said, “Why do you go to the effort to make these difficult recipes out of THAT book?” I scoffed back, “They are worth it.” However, I was not looking forward to eating this one later. BUT, I am happy to report after it cooled and set in the refrigerator it came out as the perfect mousse—redeemed.

Kitchen Carnage

Number One Biggest Best Birthday Present Ever

This is my super cool new birthday present. It is a HP dv4 pavilion
laptop. No sooner did we setup this laptop did our other laptop that
was gifted to us died a blue screen, error, message death. It's still
sort of working, but it is very unstable. It happens whenever we
leave it on standby too long.

This computer is a gift from my husband for my birthday and Christmas.
Granted, I am getting it a little bit early. Who could wait to enjoy
a new laptop for two whole weeks? I couldn't. Especially after I have
been drooling over the idea of a new laptop just for me for months.
Of course, Andrew has been using the new computer more than I. I am
glad he is enjoying it too. I do not have to feel guilty that this is
for me if he enjoys it too. He is my other half after all.

This gift will be very useful to help me manage our household and
finances. It's also for picture editing, blogging and general goofing
around. Andrew showed me free html software that I can use on my
blog, so I will not have trouble with the font changing on me

I don't think I need anymore gifts for my birthday ever, unless someday
I need another computer. Fifteen years ago, I never thought I would
love computers so much.

Here are some pictures taken with the webcam.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is It My Birthday?

No, not yet. But, my best friend thought enough of me to send me these presents, based on some discussions we had.  She is soooo sweet--the most conscientious person I know.  I am so blessed to have such a holy, caring person as my friend.  Hopefully I can read these books and share insights and inspirations with her.  She already owns both of these books.

Delicious Soups! - My husband says soup is not a meal. Hopefully we can change his mind on that.

Cookie cutters! because no home is complete without cookies.

Alexander building "circle tracks" with dad.
He has been saying he is "almost three," and holding up three fingers.
Then he says something about, "my birthday wish."

Friday, November 6, 2009

In Christ - Putting the Life Back Into Life

“Apart from Christ we can do nothing of lasting value—in our lives, marriages or our children’s live.  With Christ everything we do has lasting value because of his grace, his divine life at work in and through us. When his Word [resides] in us, we also receive life because his words are spirit and life.” –Kimberly Hahn, Graced and Gifted.  This was the “aha” moment for me this week at my Catholic Moms Group. 

When I was a senior in high school I went to visit a convent for their “Come and See” week long retreat.  I had said, no, to this retreat several times and had several very legitimate excuses.  But, a nice young priest went out of his way to make it possible for me to go, and I realized that you can’t say, no, when God calls you. 

My time at the Daughters of Saint Paul was very eye-opening.  One of the moments I was most struck happened in passing.  We were to spend the morning with some of the nuns learning what they do at their jobs.  They are the media nuns and they make all sorts of Christian media, Christian music, books and movies.  I spent the morning helping one nun fix the color for the front cover of a magazine.  As we were taking a tour of their printing facility, the nun turned to us and said almost in passing, “We do it all for Jesus!”  This shocked me.  What was the deficiency in my upbringing that I had NEVER heard anyone say that before?  Of course! How could I be so stupid? Of course it’s all for Christ.  Everything from the littlest thing to the greatest, these nuns did keeping in mind that their work was for Christ.  It only had value because it was for the sake of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

At the end of the retreat, I thanked them and told them I was going to go to college and get an education before I make up my mind about my vocation.  On a personal level, I told one nun that I felt a strong call to be a mother (I was young. I should have said wife and mother, because you cannot have one without the other).  But, what they had shown me had brought me to a place of peace in which I felt that I could be complete if I chose to receive Holy Orders.  After much prayer and contemplation (I cannot express fully what a deep, spiritual journey this “prayer and contemplation” was, but it was like going from being 13 yrs. old to 30. It was a huge maturation), God brought Andrew and I together…in Christ…and the rest is history.  Praise be to God!

This is a picture of Andrew and I shortly after we started courting. 
We're pretty young and cute aren't we? 
That was seven years ago. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Seven Notes - From the Mouths of Babes and Other Stories

1. Filet de Poisson a la Bretonne - I have not done a post on Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a while. I have continued to try recipes. Although, not as frequently. There are just none I felt I needed to share, lately. However, last night I made the above recipe. This involved poached fish, julienne carrots, celery, onion, leeks, and sliced mushrooms, with a creamy white wine sauce. This recipe is as lovely as the rest. The sauce was the best part. In a guilty moment, when I dropped the skillet into the sink for washing, I found myself licking the last little dredges of sauce from the pan and spoon—the shameful things fine food will cause you to do.

There are a host of poached fish and sauce recipes in this cook book and I have to say they are among my favorite recipes. I have always used the same white wine to poach and make my white wine sauces each time, which has given all the dishes the same taste. I can imagine that if I were to use a different wine it would have a different flavor.

Next up Chocolate Mousse.

2. Weaning - We have mostly weaned Kristiana. She did not make a big deal of it. She pretty much did not care as long as she was fed. However, there are moments here and there that she wants to nurse for comfort, so I oblige. She was nursing once a day and is tapering into once every other day. Of course, I miss it, so I am happy to have these little moments with her. But, between being bitten and the open all night wet bar, I am sure that it was time to slow the nursing.

These days I am getting significant amounts of sleep and I am waking up heavy and groggy. It’s a strange sensation.

3. Good Sleepers - Since weaning it has become very easy to put Kristiana to bed in a dark room with a bottle and she goes to sleep after she finishes the bottle. No fuss, no mess. Of course it’s going to be a nightmare to break her of the nighttime bottle habit. But, that is for another day.

4. Not Sasha! - Alexander has informed us that he is, “not Buddy, not Sasha, not Alexander. I am Alex.” It saddens my husband and I, because we love pet names for our kids. We are having trouble adjusting. Alex tells us over and over until we use “his” proper name, “Dad, not buddy…I am not buddy…not buddy, Dad.”

“Okay, okay, you are Alex.” Or “Who are you then?”

“I am Alex.”

I don’t know what suddenly got into him about being called by, “Alex.” I have a feeling it has something to do with preschool.

5. The Twilight Zone - Speaking of things Alex has told me lately. He has been telling me the strangest things lately. I do not know if it is because he is using his imagination, or if he just doesn’t remember correctly, or does not know how to express what he means. I have been trying to get to the bottom of it all by asking more questions, but with little kids you have to ask your questions wisely otherwise you can lead them into making up stuff, or making it up yourself and they will agree with you.

For instance, Alex told me about a dream. At least I think it had to be a dream. It was first thing in the morning and he said. “I go far away. I go out the door and far away. By myself.”

“Where did you go?”

“Ride pony.”

“Was this a dream?” (See how this is leading him.) He thinks a moment. Then nods his head yes. I asked him to tell daddy about the dream. So he starts telling my husband and when we get to the pony part, my husband interjects,

“Oh you rode a pony like at the fair.” This leads Alex to start telling us about the fair, which we do not think was a part of the dream, but what he was remembering about the fair.

Maybe I should start looking at which direction his eyes are looking and if he’s looking left I will know he is making it up and if he looks right I will know he’s just thinking about it…I’ll let you know if that helps.

5. Time to Celebrate  - It’s the Clayton family birthday month! Happy Birthday, Brian, Andrew, Alex, Renee and Kristiana’s not in November, but close. I think we should shoot to have all our kids in November! It’s a great month to be born.

6. A Little Something in My Stocking - For my birthday and Christmas, I am getting a very big present. I will share what it is when it arrives. I am excited! It’s all I can think about. I feel selfish for it, but my husband assured me I deserve it. I like my birthday’s proximity to Christmas and Thanksgiving. It’s in between two fabulous holidays. Further, if I want a big gift—which if I get a gift, I want it to be big and special or nothing at all—I can say it’s for birthday AND Christmas, and that justifies the expenditure.

7. Miracle - I read a blog about a miracle today and it made me tingle. When I had this reaction, my thought was that it touched me so, because it must be true. Check it out Here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

For All The Saints - Pray for Us!

This is the St. Patrick costume I made for Alexander, and even though  he was really excited about it he still would not wear it.
He has been very particular about his clothes lately.
He will not even wear long pants or a jacket when its cold.

 Andrew wore the costume so my feelings wouldn't be hurt.

This is Saint Therese the Little Flower (literally the little flower)

Saint Juan Diego and Saint Francis

Saint Patrick - Part II

Don't Remember the Saint

Saint George

 Saint Nicholas having a swing
I like the little halo on the Saint pushing the swing.

There were others, but I missed them.

Not So Green Thumb Tomato

It seemed the more I cared for my tomato plants the worse they did. So I decided to leave them alone. One plant survived the long dry summer and then enjoyed the spoils of a soggy autumn.  Last weekend the sole surviving plant sprouted this tomato. I am sure it will not be tasty and will never ripen before it gets too cold, but it made me happy nonetheless.