“We’ve moved”

Just a heads-up, I will now be blogging at sustainableprincess.wordpress.com
My husband tells me it’s kind of a thing on the internet to post and say ‘We’ve moved’ just, you know, for people’s information. Even though it’s not a ‘we’ it’s really just a ‘me’. But anyway, there you have it.
See you there, if you like.

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Assume the Best, Expect the Best

When you become a parent, it’s hard. You’re in over your head. You have a new person living with you and they’ve never lived with…well, anyone; they don’t know how to be a good roommate. They puke all over you and your stuff and you keep having to clean up their poop. They even invade the sacred space of your sleep, which can feel like torture. If you’ve never felt any of these ways, then congratulations. You’re a better person than I am.
What I’m getting at is that I get why people complain about their kids. It’s an easy way to bond with people by pointing out your children’s flaws so they can agree with you and complain and point out what’s wrong or annoying about their kids too. See? We can be good friends because we can laugh together about how our kids are ridiculous.
And on the surface, that makes sense. We bond over a shared experience.
But I’ve found that the problem with that is how it colors our perception of our children at other times too. We begin to look for things to complain about rather than ways to help problem-solve. We abandon our children in the places where they need us to stay engaged and be with them inside their emotions and even their tantrums. When they need us the most, we throw our hands up and say, ‘Gah! Kids!’ Like Pilate we wash our hands and blame the fact that they are an infant, a three year old, or a teenager.
You know what? I don’t want the easy out. If E. does something rude at someone’s house, I will apologize (and encourage her to do the same) even if it seems that rudeness is expected solely based on the fact that she’s three.
This doesn’t mean that I plan on punishing her severely for every social infraction. There is some truth to the idea that 3 year olds know less than older people about how to be in the world. They are also not likely to stumble on this easily by themselves. But we can teach them, by reacting in gracious ways to let them know what is or is not acceptable. My kids aren’t perfect, and neither am I. But that doesn’t mean that as a rule I should disengage from a crucial teachable moment because it’s too hard.
I know this is the difficult path, but I think it’s the one worth taking. As a parent I have a lot of power to affect changes in the culture of my family. And with great power comes great….well you know what Spiderman teaches us.

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Crockpot Carrot Ginger Soup

It’s the time of year when the common cold abounds. And the flu. And seasonal allergies. It’s a tough time of year for the respiratory and immune systems.

Not being the cold-medicine type, I usually stock up on fresh ginger root, raw cider vinegar, raw honey and eucalyptus, and look for recipes that use those ingredients.

This soup is delicious with crusty bread and has many ingredients that make it very good for what ails you. I found the recipe somewhere a long time ago, and have gradually tweaked and adapted it for the crockpot because, as I mentioned before, crockpot cooking is lovely.

So if you’ve got a cold, or you live where it’s cold, or even if you don’t, here you go.

Kate’s Crockpot Carrot Ginger Soup

The ingredients:

2-3 pounds carrots

3-4 medium or smallish onions, to taste

some fresh ginger root (to taste…this is a make-you-feel-better ingredient), peeled and roughly chopped

2-5 cloves garlic (depending on size…to taste)

1-2 tsp salt (to taste)

a dash chipotle or other chili powder or 1 small hot pepper (make it spicy in whatever way seems appropriate to you)

water, vegetable stock, or chicken stock to cover

raw apple cider vinegar or thieves’ vinegar*

The method:

Peel and roughly chop the ginger. Peel the garlic. No need to peel the carrots (especially if they are organic). Just cut off the top and cut them into pieces about 3-4 inches long. Peel the onions and quarter them. Cut them a little smaller if you like. They’ll cook faster. Or not. Whatever.

Put all ingredients except the cider vinegar in the crockpot, cover with your cooking liquid of choice. Cook on High for 4 hours or so, until veggies are fork-tender.

I use a wand (or “immersion”) blender because it takes under a minute and I don’t have to transfer hot soup. If you don’t have one of those, you could do it in batches in a blender or food processor.

Add the vinegar to taste, and adjust the salt and chili powder as needed.

And that’s it.

The ginger, cider vinegar, and heat of this recipe make it great for a cold.

I wish you good health this season.


* thieves’ vinegar is a concoction with legendary origins…the story goes that these four guys were robbing plague victims. When they were eventually caught and sentenced to death, they were told they could have their sentence suspended if they shared the secret of how they were able to go into plague-ridden house after house without catching the disease. They then shared the combination of herbs they used to stave off the sickness. There’s lots of disagreement over what exactly the formula was, but the recipe I used called for packing a mason jar with equal parts thyme, lavender, rosemary and sage. Then you cover those with raw cider vinegar, put the lid on and let it sit in a dark place for 6 weeks. From what I understand, thyme contains thymerosol, which is a key ingredient in vapo-rubs and things. Thieves’ vinegar can be used in soups or salads or taken straight for a sore throat. But be warned it has a very strong taste. So go easy, at least until you know what it tastes like.

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False modesty

I have a navel ring now. I got it yesterday.

But don’t worry. I still love Jesus.

I wasn’t sure if I should talk about this or not. I have been very concerned with modesty and how it plays out in my family, especially since I am raising a girl. Lately the whole idea of discussing anything that could be even remotely construed as immodest feels like a landmine. I spend an inappropriate amount of time wondering if I am going to screw up ‘the talk’ when it rears its ugly head  (“Mommy, why don’t I show everyone my private body??” gulp…where to step…). It feels a bit like any answer I give her will give her some sort of weird hangup and she’ll need therapy someday. I don’t know how to raise children that are truly modest.

See, I don’t think modesty truly consists of just wearing your skirts down to “there” or your shirt a size too big, or whatever. Certainly I think that I am instructed to not put myself on display for the purpose of making everyone think about How Great I Art (am?). But pursuing modesty in appearance can become a trap too.

A few days ago, J and I were discussing navel piercing. I don’t remember why, I just remember that it happened. He said, “That’s hot.”

I said in surprise, “Why didn’t you ever say so before? I might’ve….”

“Well, I knew you wouldn’t do that, so I never bothered to bring it up.”

I am having a little of what I’m calling a third-life crisis (I’m too old for a quarter-life and too young for a mid-life crisis). It’s not as dramatic as it sounds. Basically I cut off all my hair, bought a few new clothes (new to me, anyway, and a couple brand new fair trade items), and now with this new dare, as I took it, I set out to find a place to have my belly button pierced.

So before J’s drum class last night, I told him we needed to make a stop first. We went to the piercing shop, all four of us. J helped pick out the ring. It felt like a reclaiming of my abdomen. After having a surgical birth, then a completely unmedicated one, I wanted to celebrate that I have made peace with my midsection in some really important ways. I think this could have been accomplished without a VBAC (or a navel ring, for that matter), but that’s how it happened for me.

Also, my husband thinks it is hot.

The deed accomplished, we proceeded to drum class. I was holding the baby and chatting with one of the teachers. He wiggled just so that my tender act of celebration and a hint of rebellion stung, so I told C (or “the beautiful Miss C” as E sometimes calls her) that I had just gotten my navel pierced. She was being very encouraging and sweet and said it was beautiful. I said that I didn’t plan on showing it off much, but that I was excited to have it. She said something like, “You could, you know…there’s nothing wrong with your belly.” “I know.” I said. “I think I look fine, it’s just…well you know, modesty…” Internally I cringed. That’s not what I meant. I meant that I primarily got it for myself and my husband.

I think sometimes people might feel unwelcome at Sunday Services because people inside it look at them and judge them as immodest, whatever the condition of their heart is. As I said before, I think modesty has to go deeper than wearing enough clothes. It is so much more than being embarrassed about your body. It means recognizing your body for what it is, and realizing what it is not. I am for my husband (navel ring and all), and not for everyone else to look at in certain ways. But I am also not in charge of what everyone else thinks about. I am, in all things, to strive to bring attention not to myself, but to God’s goodness, beautiful creativity, and redemptive power.

Like I said, I wasn’t sure if I was going to share the fact that I had pierced myself. But then I started thinking about it, probably too much as usual, and it started to feel like false modesty not to. So there you go. I’m almost 30 and now I have a navel ring. And most people probably won’t ever see it. And I’m fine with that. And lots of other people have navel rings and everyone can see them all the time. And I’m fine with that too.

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Once Upon a Time…Later…

So…Gandalf comes back and he’s all cool and powerful and wise. And…they all lived happily ever after?


That’s when the action of the story really gets going. See, Gandalf needed to become the white wizard because he would need all that power to deal with the increasingly overwhelming circumstances that would come.

One thing I have learned from J’s video games, board games and rpg’s is that you don’t want to go after the big bad until you’ve had a chance to level up.

So what does this have to do with me?

Well, I feel like I’ve leveled up. This doesn’t have anything to do with me being on some level that other people have to get to. Or with me wanting to get to some level that other people seem to have reached. That’s not what I’m talking about. But when S was born, some things were forever redeemed for me. God proved certain things to me, to the point where I no longer feel justified in my doubts about what He thinks about me or if I will be given the resource necessary to handle the challenges that arise.

So, when I think about having leveled up, it doesn’t mean that my life has suddenly become crazy in ways that it wasn’t before. I mean sure, I have two kids now. “Two is more than one,” as a friend is fond of saying when asked what it’s like having another child. That’s true. But really, I think I expect more from myself than I did before. Certainly more than I did when E. was this age. When she was 3 months old, I was a post-traumatic puddle on the floor. I think the main thing that saved me from sliding unchecked into depression was Phoenix Coffee, my great husband, and a few close friends.

But that’s where I was. I’m not there now. And I want to live in a way that honors the progress that I’ve made. It feels disingenuous to live as though I don’t know more about myself than depressed-puddle-on-the-floor Katie.

I’ve had some glimpses of this new power. Last week I took the kids and went to visit a friend L.  We had many, many opportunities to fall into old patterns of being stressed by each other. But we didn’t. There were a lot of factors that could have added up to a terrible time…I was only there for 24 hours. We had harvesting, canning, shopping, cooking and eating to do. We had 3 kids to take care of. We had differing opinions about recipes. We had fundamentally different understandings of why I was even there (teaching someone how to can is NOT the same as canning all their produce for them). Really any one of these things would have been enough to ruin a visit in the past. But you know what? I think it was the best visit we’ve ever had. And not just because of the tomato marmalade. We were able to assume the best of each other and respond to each other without our relational insecurities looming large and eclipsing the fact that we were there to have fun and encourage each other in our distinct yet symbiotic (someone who knows canning but can’t farm goes really well with a farmer who doesn’t have a canner) paths. We communicated honestly and without spite or hidden subtext (which I’m bad at hiding in my own speech and even worse at detecting in other people’s). She pointed out that “10 years’ll do that to you,” which I think is true. But I also think that insecurity will block a person from responding in love. But this time it didn’t, because I didn’t let it.

See what I mean? Leveled up.

And I’m hopeful that it’s just the beginning. I want to react graciously when E. is pushing boundaries. I want to not feel the need to fight to be heard just because deep down I am afraid I don’t have anything valuable to say. I want to be a better wife by having more of myself to offer J. I don’t know yet what else I want. I don’t know what the big bad is, but I want to be able to meet it head on.

Posted in depression, Intermutuality, Parenting, Spirituality | 3 Comments

Princess Lessons

I am tired of the disney-ization of princesses. I mean, I grew up watching Disney movies and I think it is possible to watch them as a kid and not grow up to be a woman who hates herself or is un-empowered or whatever. But the thing that bothers me is that it could mean so much more.

When I was a little girl, my granny would teach me ‘princess lessons.’ This was not when I learned how to let  a man come and save me, or how to sulk and get what I wanted. This was not a time when I learned how I was the center of the world and everyone should give me what I want (which seems to be the common working definition used when people use ‘princess’ in a sneering manner if you are acting spoiled or selfish). This was a time when I would learn to sit up straight. To say “please” and “thank you.” To be kind. To care about the people around me, and to be helpful. The idea was, if I was going to be my parents’ little princess, I needed to act like it.

So I am reclaiming that title for myself. I reject all of the bad behavior and lack of self-examination that typically defines what a princess is. I want to act as though I am deeply loved and cared about and have the capacity to do great things. I want to create the culture in my home. I want to cook. A lot. I want to affect change in the world. I want to raise passionate and diligent children. I want to waste less. I want to spend my time well. I want to spend and assert myself on behalf of other people. I want to remember that my Father is the King and that even in this odd country I don’t need to assert my own Somebody as that is all to be sorted out in the end.

This is, apparently, my princess manifesto.

Posted in Intermutuality, Spirituality | 2 Comments

Crockpot Ratatouille

I’m a fan of my slow cooker. It’s not that it’s actually less work. It’s just that there’s such a long gap between when you do the prep work and when you get to eat it that you sort of…forget. Also dinner tends to be a sort of busier time for lots of people so it’s nice to be able to do the work during a calmer part of the day.

J. doesn’t like squash. Also, he doesn’t like eggplant. So, for several weeks in summer, he is very sad (though he doesn’t complain) to see how much of these things end up in our csa bag. He’s very flexible by nature and had a very good mother so he will eat something even if he isn’t a huge fan. But still, I look for ways to hide the taste of things that I know he doesn’t prefer.

This is the second recipe that I’ve attempted. I made Ratatouille’s Ratataouille first, with a couple of little adjustments based on what I had in my kitchen. While we were eating this time, he told me, “I liked that last one, even though it was Ratatouille. But this…this is really good!”  Since I don’t have a problem with squash or eggplant, I really liked both of them, but my recipe is pretty different from hers.

So here’s my recipe for Crockpot Ratatouille.

The ingredients:

about a quart of peeled diced tomatoes, fresh or canned or whatever

1 large or several small onions, finely chopped

several cloves of garlic, depending on your taste

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

2 or 3 summer squash or zucchini, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

a red bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces

a green pepper, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces

a few carrots, peeled if you like (or just washed) and thinly sliced

some red wine, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

fresh herbs–I used parsley, oregano and thyme

shredded basil and some strong hard cheese to grate over top. I used a pecorino and it was delicious.

The method:

Put the tomatoes on to boil. As they are heating up, use whatever method you choose to make tiny pieces of onion and garlic. I used a food processor because I usually find using a knife to mince things tedious. But that’s just me. You can cook the onion and garlic in some oil for a bit, but I just tossed it in with the tomatoes and let it all boil down a little (with some water added until it looked saucy enough for me) while I cooked everything else. Just keep an eye on it.

Saute the eggplant, squashes, bell peppers and carrots separately over medium-high heat. I used some olive oil in a cast iron skillet, but a wok might be really nice too. The point of this is to seal in those flavors individually a bit before throwing them all together in the  final dish. A little browning is okay, but don’t feel like you have to cook them all the way.

As you finish sauteing something, toss it in the crockpot to make room for the next thing. After you finish all of that, add the herbs and the tomato mixture. Pour in as much wine as you’re using (I think I used about 1/2 cup or so). Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Cook in the slow cooker on low for 3-4 hours.

Serve over brown rice, quinoa (E’s favorite!), couscous, or whatever grain catches your eye.

Either serve with shredded basil and grated cheese on top if you’re fancy, or put it out on the table if you’re not. This is also a flexible dish to serve for gluten free (just make sure your grainy side dish is gf) or vegan friends (just leave the cheese off or get some sort of vegan not-cheese…although be careful because those are NOT all created equal…and some of them have casein, which is a vegan no-no as it is a dairy protein.)

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Watermelon Rind Preserves…oops, I mean jam…

UPDATE: It turns out after a little research that what I like is actually watermelon rind JAM, not preserves. I didn’t want to preserve the shape of the fruit….I wanted it to be all smeary on my toast and only later realized that it’s actually jam.

These taste much better than they sound. Really. I tried them out of sheer curiosity, and because I really like the idea of using something that I would otherwise compost. And you know what? They aren’t bad. I mean, they aren’t my favorite preserves (ahem…jam), but I tried them in a sandwich with some goat cheese and they were pretty good.

So in case you are feeling adventurous too, here’s the recipe. Please note that I am not a canning expert and you should do your own research on how to safely can. Canning safety is NOT the point of this post.

There. That’s out of the way. Here’s the recipe. I started with the Ball Blue Book (a great resource for all things food preservation) and made some modifications.


1 1/2 – 2 quarts watermelon rind

4 tbsp salt

water to cover

1 tbsp ginger

4 c sugar

1/4 c lemon juice

1 1/2  quarts water

1 medium very thinly sliced and seeded lemon


Trim green peel and flesh from the white watermelon rind. Cut rind into approximately 1 inch pieces. Dissolve the salt in 1 quart of water and pour it over the rind, then add more water as needed to cover. Mine looked like this:

Let it stand for 5-6 hours. If you forget about it, say, overnight…that would be fine too.  😉

Drain. Rinse. Drain again. Cover with cold water and let stand 30 minutes. Drain. Sprinkle ginger over rind (if you forget about this part, you can also just add some ginger to the cooking preserves later). Cover with water. Cook until tender. Drain.

Combine sugar, lemon juice and 1 1/2 quarts water in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil. Add rind (UPDATE: you can put the rind in the food processor after this initial cooking instead of waiting until the end…it’s less sticky that way). Boil gently until rind is transparent (this takes a long time-make this on a day when you have the whole afternoon free). Add lemon slices. At this point, you can use an immersion blender to make the texture more spreadable if you want to. I did. Here is what it looked like before:

I didn’t want to spread that on my bagel; thus the immersion blender (I highly recommend this particular kitchen gadget–like love, it covers a multitude of sins). I suppose you could also just chop the rind and lemon up very small using a knife or a food processor before you added them to the syrup.

But I digress.

As I was saying: add lemon slices, use the immersion blender if you want to. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust 2-piece caps. Process 20 minutes in a boiling water canner. Give to people who invite you to dinner parties if you think they’d care about it. Or give as holiday gifts. Or eat it yourself and enjoy the fact that you prevented something from being wasted. 🙂

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Lesson 1 from George MacDonald

I have recently started reading “The Lost Princess” (aka “The Wise Woman”, “A Double Story” and several other titles) by George MacDonald out loud to my daughter. Usually over tea or a snack.

The pertinent quote:

“As she grew up, everybody about her did his best to convince her that she was Somebody; and the girl herself was so easily persuaded of it that she quite forgot that anybody had ever told her so, and took it for a fundamental, innate, primary, first-born, self-evident, necessary, and incontrovertible idea and principle that SHE WAS SOMEBODY. And far be it from me to deny it. I will even go so far as to assert that in this odd country there was a huge number of Somebodies. Indeed, it was one of its oddities that every boy and girl in it, was rather too ready to think he or she was Somebody; and the worst of it was that the princess never thought of there being more than one Somebody—and that was herself.”

As we finished the chapter, E. looked up at me and said, “I am Somebody!”

“Yeah?” I said, then held my breath to keep from dictating what would come next. I wanted to know what she would do with that information of her own volition. Will she get it?

“You’re Somebody! My dad is Somebody!”

Then later, when a younger and more wild friend hit her repeatedly in the head, she wisely said, “He’s Somebody. But he forgot I’m Somebody.”

I like my kid.

Posted in Intermutuality, Parenting | 1 Comment

Africa, Culture Shock and Integrating the Second Child

My friend Kate came to visit us this week. She gets a whole name mention because she is a Kate…one of the ones who has helped me find my own Kateness over the years. When we first became friends we were “the Kates” and I have some really great memories of that time in high school and college. She moved to Tanzania a few years ago because God told her to (soon after I had a kid and became a stay-at-home mom because God told me to. It’s a funny old world). Now she’s back for a year for a medical leave because her back is all messed up and she can get better care here.

The thing about Kate is that she sinks deeply into a role, or a culture, or really whatever she’s doing. So when she comes back here it’s hard for her to reintegrate, and it takes a long while. We spend a lot of time having conversations like this:

“E.’s little dress is really beautiful. Did you make it yourself? Oh wait…do people ask about that in America? Is that a thing?”

“Yes, that’s a thing. I don’t know if everyone would like that, but I do. Thank you.”

The “Is that a thing–yes that’s a thing” dynamic didn’t truly strike me until I saw my daughter and my friend together the past couple of days. They I realized that they are both having almost the same issue. And without even realizing it, I’ve started treating E. as though she has been in Africa for a significant part of her life. Because kids can go through culture shock too. Only, their cultures are smaller so it doesn’t take moving to a new continent, or even a new house. Receiving a baby is quite enough to send kids into a tailspin of confusion around what the culture of the home and family are going to be.

To be honest, the culture of our family has changed quite a bit since S. I sleep differently which means I am differently awake during the day (coffee can only help so much, you know?? And anyway I’ve limited my intake as I’m caffeinating my son too which could eventually make him more wakeful; though it hasn’t been a problem thus far). I can’t always just go with her right when I want to because there is someone else to bring along or to stay with. And mostly, she’s come along beautifully. But we have our issues. So I have begun attempting to just respond to them as though she’s trying to learn a now unfamiliar culture.

She screams. I say, “I still don’t like it when you scream right next to me. That’s still a thing.”

She throws things inside the house. I say, “It wasn’t safe to throw that in here before you had a brother, and it’s still not safe now. It’s still a thing.”

She pees on the floor. I say, “We still make our pee go in the toilet, or we wear diapers. I still don’t enjoy cleaning pee off the floor. That’s still a thing.”

I ask her to get in the car. She runs to the back of the yard. I say, “Before you had a brother, did I tell you things just to be mean to you?”

“Ughhh. No, Mom.”

“Why do I tell you things?”

“To help me. Or to keep me safe.”

“Well, that’s still what we do. That’s still a thing. So please get in the car.”

And it seems to actually work. Amazingly well. We’ve had some stressful times in the past month (you know what? It really isn’t fun to clean pee off the floor). But we are reserving sweeping judgment of her based on her behavior until…well, hopefully until never but certainly until after we’ve had time to set up a culture. But setting up a family culture without letting its structure be determined by the selfishness and insecurity that is all around us and wants to creep in like a poisoned gas our lungs appear to want is really, really hard. But it’s worth the fight. Because I love my family. And that’s still a thing.

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