Photo by Rachel Dolores

Husband and I suffer from anniversary fatigue. I’m not sure I can even keep track of the number of anniversaries we have. There are the obvious ones – our wedding anniversary and the anniversary of the first day we met (and got engaged, a year later – we did not get engaged on the first day we met) – but there are the other ones, the lunch at his place, our first date, our second date, the day I left Geneva the second time around and he took me to the airport, the day we found out we were expecting Small One, Small One’s birthday. So many anniversaries, and as much as I remember or try to remember, it is almost wearying to think about celebrating it all, and we lose the special ones in the shuffle of it all.

Yesterday was another one of our anniversaries, the anniversary of our civil wedding. Growing up a girl doesn’t day dream of her civil wedding day, but of course I was also never expecting to be in a long-distance relationship with a German who lived in Switzerland, which would therefore require me to have a Swiss visa to live with him as his wife. So we decided to have a civil wedding in Geneva right before I left to return to Australia so that we could speed up the application process for my Swiss visa. Our real wedding day was in July, three months later. (The civil wedding is the legal part of the marriage process; in the US and Australia, it’s combined with the church service, but in Switzerland the civil ceremony and the religious – or non religious – part are completely separate. Everyone has to have a civil ceremony as it is the only way to have your marriage legally recognized if you are getting married in Switzerland.)

Neither of us consider April 16 to be the beginning of our marriage – the Swiss government does not determine who is married and who is not married, at least for me it does not. Marriage is a covenant made between a man, a woman and God, but for what it’s worth, April 16 was the point at which Husband and I were legally bound to each other and to no one else, so it is still significant. I also can’t complain about having two wedding dresses, two wedding days, two receptions. Yes, that part was awesome.

Photo by Rachel Dolores

What was also special about that day was that we spent it with our community of friends here in Geneva, and the reception was at the café where we had our first date. That evening a big group of us went to the home of friends in France where we all cooked tacos together, played games and hung out for the night and the next day. Lots of special memories.

Husband and I talked about what we wanted to do yesterday, and the conversation went something like this. Please let’s not do anything, I said. I don’t have a gift, said Husband. Neither do I! said I. I don’t even have a card, he said. I don’t either! I said. Then Husband came up with the idea of making April 16 a night where we make tacos together in honour of the wonderful evening we spent with our friends. I loved it, and honestly, the tacos we made last night were the tastiest tacos we’ve ever had (in my opinion, Husband liked them but didn’t necessarily think they were the best).

February 15 is our Bolognese Day, in honour of the second time that Husband and I met, so now we add Taco Day to the list of annual family events. Mince meat clearly occupies a special place in our life.

  • Tacos      I am trying to remember what I put in the meat this time around – I rarely do the same thing twice. But it was so tasty for last night’s tacos. (Here’s an old recipe I’ve used.)  I think I browned the mince with cumin and Sri Lankan curry powder (Larich brand). At the end I added lots of salt and a Jaffna curry powder that is hot.
  • Pico de Gallo     Nothing but chopped cherry tomatoes, coriander, red onion and lime juice
  • Guacamole    Avocados, garlic, red onion, coriander, lime juice and salt

Our trusty blender is getting a work out these days thanks to Small One’s appetite, and don’t even get me started on his consumption of natural yoghurt. My son’s favourite food is without a doubt natural yoghurt. I don’t keep track of how much he eats, but after the general feeling that I was picking up lots of tubs of yoghurt on a regular basis, I  payed attention last week. He ate almost one kilogram of yoghurt. That’s just over two pounds. It was a bit overwhelming, and I sincerely hope that this is going to be good for him. Send me an email if you think otherwise. I’m serious.

When I last wrote about baby food, we were still doing basic purees, and I had not introduced any meat into Small One’s diet. What followed was a weekend fever that knocked out his appetite, and all he ate for about two weeks after that was fruit puree out of a jar. So we went the bought baby food route for a while, and it was great. That was also during the time of Papa’s death and funeral with some travel involved for all of us, and it made life that much easier to feed Small One bought baby food. It also gave me lots of jars to use for our baby food at home.

When we were home and settled, I finally bought Superfoods for Babies by Annabel Karmel, and that’s where I got the bulk of my meat recipes from. The first one we tried was a braised beef one with onions, garlic, beef, sweet potato, carrots, water, bay leaf and parsley, cooked on the stove for over an hour. It was so delicious, I wanted to eat it.

Now I’ve started making Small One unsalted versions of our food and also supplementing with some baby food that’s just for him. For example, I made a taco soup for us a few weeks ago, and before I added the salt, I took some out, pureed it, and he loved it. The chicken dish in the photo was also eaten by Husband and I – I pan fried the chicken, took it out, then sauteed onions and garlic, added mushrooms to it and put some white wine in, then I added the chicken back and let it cook for a while. At the end I put in a two blocks of frozen spinach. After a minute in the blender, it was lunch for a few days. He was a fan. (We were, too.)

He nurses four times a day, and I’ve started giving him some water. Here’s what his meals look like most of the time:

  • Breakfast      Super porridge + greens + fruit    The porridge sounds complicated, but is so so so easy to make. I take a cup of brown rice, a cup of quinoa, two tablespoons of amaranth and a 1/4 or 1/2 cup of lentils and grind it in the blender for a minute. Then I add two to four tablespoons of brown millet flour to it, mix it all together in an IKEA jar and put away. To make the porridge, I boil water on the stove and add 1/2 a cup of the mixture to it and cook for about 10 minutes. The taste is great, except for the one time when I used brown (puy?) lentils instead of the red lentils. That was not so great. The greens has been a mix of asparagus and peas for the last little while, but that will change to probably broccoli, spinach and peas as asparagus goes out of season. Avocado is usually thrown in there, and he has just started egg yolks in the morning as well.
  • Lunch        Meat puree + fruit      I was giving him yoghurt for his lunch meal until I realized that combining calcium and iron will inhibit his body’s ability to absorb the iron, but vitamin C enhances iron absorption, so I try to give him a fruit puree that is high in vitamin C with his meat (right now it’s strawberries and blueberries). I’ve made him some meat purees now that have Sri Lankan curry powder in it with a tomato sauce base, so it’s a bit like a tame beef curry. His meat purees usually have two or three veggies in it.
  • Dinner      Super porridge + veggie  + yoghurt  Right now he’s been eating a tame dhal that I made with onions, curry leaves, a bit of curry powder, lentils, zucchini and coconut milk.

As previously mentioned, natural yoghurt is basically his favourite thing. I think I could get him to eat anything if it was covered in natural yoghurt. He has not rejected any food completely, but he definitely shows a preference for his meat dishes and fruit purees. Small One usually happily eats half of his meal, and the second half requires a bit of entertainment.

He has started eating wholewheat pasta as a finger food, and I will probably switch his dinner carbs from the porridge to regular carbs like brown rice, wholewheat pasta, cous cous, quinoa and whatever else we are eating.

I want to get to the point – sooner rather than later – where all of us are eating the same food, and also hopefully start introducing him to the nuts and seeds group of foods in the next month.

Babies are unpredictable, and I am still unconvinced that he likes his food because he genuinely likes his food (because, honestly, what is so tasty about natural yoghurt? Or does lactose turn into liquid sugar in their mouths?). I suspect that a lot of it is texture and colour related. So that’s the baby food update for now. We’ll see what happens next.

It was an unexpected January in the Australian summer. Melbourne was colder than normal, disappointment and pain was among us. February came, Europe froze and we held hospital vigils and put the ashes of a father in the ground. And then there was March. Exhaustion, physically spent, emotionally drained, every day moving forward as Geneva warmed, bloomed and flowered. The year’s first trimester knocked us over, took my breath away and robbed me of the certainty and promise 2012 was supposed to hold.

Prophecies and dreams, I used to be full of them, the fuel for my life, for my faith, for my future. Can any of us survive in life without words of life and Word of Life adorning us? Clothing us? Filing our minds, reminding, telling, teaching, preaching to our soul this is Truth, this is Life, this is the Way? Life drains out of me when I am not filled with Life, and I lose my way when I am not walking in the Way, and all falls apart when the Truth is absent from my fragile mind.

Let me speak plainly, I am talking about Jesus who said to any who want him and want to believe him that he came so that we may have life and have it abundantly.

As March neared its end, whispers of prophecies and dreams stirred in my heart, There is more to come. I came that you may have life and have it to the full. I am doing a new thing. Look for it. Look for the new life. So Word becomes flesh again more than 2,000 years later as I say yes to Jesus, yes to his promise of life and new life and turn my heart and mind to face his truth and to let it transform me.

He is speaking to all of us as we walk to our classes, wipe snotty noses, type on computers, unlock iPhones, eat dinner and turn off windshield wipers. Jesus is talking to us, now, today in our tears and our laughter, in our fears and our futures, in our heart and our soul and our spirit, he is here and he is saying something about him, about us, about our future. Will we listen?

For all of my complaining about Switzerland – and I blame culture shock for this entirely – you would think that there are no benefits to my life in the land that flows with milk and money. You would be wrong. There are many benefits, and number one on that list is our mighty fine, plentiful, decadent, amazing, better-than-Belgian, absolutely-everywhere, cheap Swiss chocolate. Did I mention that it’s amazing?

I suspect that there isn’t a need for me to elaborate as Swiss chocolate’s reputation around the world for excellence and tastiness certainly does not need my explanations. You could close your eyes in the chocolate aisle and whatever you picked would be wonderful. Even the bars of store brand cooking chocolate are fantastic to nibble on in the evenings for those long evenings with a cup of tea and a book.

I found this recipe for pots de crème at Aarti Paarti, and loved it immediately because it looked delicious, chocolatey and easy. Easter lunch seemed like the perfect opportunity to make these, and it was. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again – my favourite recipes are for food that will taste great (you can usually tell based on the kinds of ingredients included) but require very little effort. Health is also important, and this recipe gets some points in that department. Calcium in the cream! Calcium in the milk! Vitamins and minerals in the chocolate! Nuts and protein in the nutella!

Moving on. These puddings are a win in the first two categories, and trust me, it really is easy. It probably took me between 15 and 20 minutes from start to finish, and it requires almost no cooking skills whatsoever. The finished product is rich, creamy and cold, full of wonderful chocolate flavours with a kick of chili at the end. You could cut the serving size in half and “double” the quantity in that way; because as tasty as it is, this dessert is quite heavy. (I still downed my teacup with no problems.)

  • Hey Hey Hot Stuff Pots de Crème   (from Aarti Paarti)   Go to her site for the full recipe, here are a few notes from me:
  • I used a special pot to combine the milk, creme, sugar, salt and eggs on the stove – it’s an old German thing from Husband’s grandmother, and I have no idea what it is or where to get one, so my guess is most people will not have it. Making this custard is only tricky if you are trying to do other things at the same time. Devote the eight to 10 minutes to standing there and stirring, keep it on a medium heat and it really will work out just fine. I followed her advice and coated the back of a plastic spoon with the custard, drew a line through it and when it didn’t dribble back into the line, I knew I was done.
  • I didn’t have Sriracha, so I just spooned in some Sri Lankan chili powder and it worked just fine, and I don’t have vanilla essence, so I skipped that. My guess is that this could be very tasty with some booze in it, but I will have to try that the next time I make it.
  • I topped it with fresh raspberries, but I think technically the pairing should be some sort of hazelnut and cream thing to compliment the Nutella, I did find that the fresh fruit provided a nice lightness in the face of the dessert’s richness.

lamb

This is one of those posts that has sat around in my heart for months, and I am hoping that it will come out in the way that I want it to. I wrestle with how to write this because it connects several things that are close to my heart and important to me – God, parenting, culture and Christianity. I would be remiss not to point to Ann Voskamp, whose thoughts on parenting and family have so shaped my own, this essay in particular had the single greatest impact on my thoughts on parenting out of all the resources I’ve read so far.

 Several months ago Husband and I were sitting on our couches, both of us reading, when I burst out to him, I want our children to hear the word ‘Yes’ from us, I want them to know that they can do things, that it’s not about ‘No, no no,’ and I want them to know that God is a ‘YES’ God, that what he says first and foremost to all of us is ‘YES, YES, YES.’ 

Then, as is often the case in these kinds of outbursts, I started crying.

This topic – of parental discipline and God’s character – weighs on me; it weighs on me deeply because I think the evangelical subculture I grew up in so missed the mark and continues to miss it still. I grew up with a deep understanding of what God did not want me to do. As a child, it was no lying, no stealing, no selfishness, no being mean to sisters, no being mean in general and so on. As a teenager, it was no drinking (alcohol), no dating, no pre-marital sex, no bad TV, and no dancing. By the time I reached university, most of these “no’s” were a part of my own belief system, so no one imposed it on me, they were no’s I chose to embrace for myself with no complaints.

The problem was when I thought about other things – what I wanted to do with my life, career options, how to spend the weekend, how to spend my money – what I heard in my head from God was still the word, “No.” If you asked me then to make a list of everything God said, “No” to, I would have given you a long list. If you asked me to write a list of the “yes’,” it would have been a significantly shorter list, of that I am certain. It’s no one’s fault, and I am certainly not blaming my parents for this. In a lot of ways, the God of No that I knew growing up was more communicated through the Christian school system I was a part of most of my life and through evangelical media.

There was forever a negative voice in my head telling me my desires were untrustworthy, my plans ungodly, and my instincts unreliable. 

The “No” obsession evangelicals have with God is endemic to our (sad) subculture, and it spills over into what my generation of evangelicals are taught about parenting. Husband and I have read a few books, but more importantly I’ve been influenced significantly by people who are great and whom I love dearly, but whose parenting philosophies are centered around raising children who will not screw up, will not do bad things (and these things are usually centered around a tiny list of so-called “big” sins) and who will be model citizens and church members. I still remember being around a couple and the wife telling me about a conversation she had with a friend of hers, and it went something like this:

Wife: My friend was telling me about how she’s afraid that her son will _______. And I told her that I’m not afraid of that because our children will not do those things because I’m teaching our children now about how to walk in God’s ways so that they will not do those things in the future. 

I wanted to laugh at her first, and then I just felt sad. Parents cannot control the behavior of their children.  Oh sure, we can do some things to influence them, and yes, we can try to get them to act a certain way sometimes, but ultimately our children are not our little puppets who jump when we pull a string and calm down when we say so. Even if we were able to exert such consistent control over them, that doesn’t grow children who know how to think for themselves and most importantly, it does not grow children who are able to respond to God in love for themselves. 

Control breeds slavery. Slaves do not love. Slaves do what they are told. 

I was in my late 20s when I first read and absorbed these words from the Bible:

As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of god, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you…was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. 

 Yes. Yes. Yes. God says Yes. He has said, “Yes” from the very beginning, from the dawn of creation, it has always been YES. How had my heart been so apart from this narrative of God’s? It was one of my significant faith light bulb moments, and I started to see how in every “no” that I had ever heard, there was a much bigger, much more significant chorus of “YES” from God. Yes, I made you for a purpose. Yes, I gave you gifts and talents. Yes, you need to use your abilities. Yes, I will lead you to the right man. Yes, I have good things in store for you. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. 

With each day that I live out with my crawling, pulling up, adventurous, inquisitive and push-the-limits Small One, I am trying to say yes more than I say no. Obviously, I have to say no, and he hears it when he touches an electrical outlet or a plug, and he will hear it if he ever tries to run across the street without me, if he screams to get my attention and if he throws food or hits other children. But I am trying to keep the no list short and the yes list long.

There are many instances daily when I could say no but I make the choice to say yes. Yes, you can pull up on our standing mirror even though it could be dangerous, but I will stop what I am doing, go over there, hold the mirror so that you can exercise your innate desire to push the limits, use your muscles and grow in your realization of what you are able to do. Yes, you can pull up on the fireplace guard, but I will watch you and tell you to be careful when you put your fingers in the joint that could end up pinching you. Yes, we will go to the park and I will push you in the swing because I can see that you are bored by our 100 square meter apartment and love to go outside.

Every yes I say to my son involves a sacrifice on my part, and I wonder if that is why it is such a hard word to utter.  It would be much easier to leave him alone to play in a play pen. Saying yes to babies, and I expect that saying yes to children is no different, involves giving up my time, my convenience, and the ease of my life.

And I think again about Jesus – the Yes of God – and how when he gave his life for every person who would have him it cost him everything, it cost God everything he had. He says yes – God says yes. He says yes to you, he says yes to me. The echo of his voice throughout eternity has always been YES.

I hear it in my heart, everything in me responds to it because I know that I was created for a life of yes – saying yes to God, saying yes to love, saying yes to life. So today I will say yes to my son, and I will walk this terrifying road of parenting each day daring to find the yes because Jesus said yes to me.

  •  Easter Lamb Roast (we eat this lamb for Christmas and Easter, our way of tying the two celebrations together at our table and hopefully in our hearts – I use this recipe)   For the marinade – combine 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup honey, 2 TBSP dijon mustard, chopped rosemary, salt, pepper, crushed garlic and marinate the leg of lamb for at least 24 hours. I roasted it covered in a baking tray with olive oil, covered with foil on 350 F/ 170 C/ gas mark 4 for one-and-a-half hours and turned it up to gas mark 5 for the last 30 minutes. Then we turned off the oven, took it out and went to church for two hours, came back and heated it up for 10 minutes. It was perfect.