Thankful Thursday – A New Year

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I haven’t posted a Thankful Thursday in a while. I also cannot believe we are three weeks into 2016. And yet, I’m already planning for spring, and summer, and fall, and I’m not even sure what happened to Christmas except that it was, in surprising ways, quiet, lovely and crazy, relaxing and somehow just what we needed.

I’m thankful.

I am always thankful for our small NorCal town, and the beauties of small-town living.

I am thankful for a Dear One who invited us to our small town Awesome College basketball game on New Year’s Eve – for fun, friends and family cheering together as we encouraged the team and welcomed a new year. And then the goofiness of allowing Tween to stay up until midnight, drinking too much apple cider while snuggling pooch and watching Ryan Seacrest’s (lacking) NYE show.NYEQI
I am thankful for my beloved Guy, and his birthday, and a family excursion to Marin to walk a beautiful wintry beach with my loves.marin dog marin shell marin
I am thankful for opportunities to buy and cook beautiful California in-season produce in enticing ways, to savor flavors and feed my family healthy food.broccoli
I am thankful for new creative projects that challenge, excite, and sometimes scare me just enough.

I am thankful for new books that fulfill my craving to learn through story.Jan16 bks
I am thankful for our moms’ group at church, for the leadership team who pray and lead with love; for the larger group who share their struggles and joys in prayer so we can hope and be encouraged together; and especially for my table group of women with whom we cry and laugh and share in life as we grow in faith and friendship.

I am thankful for snuggly pets.phoebe
I am thankful for my gals who take me as I am, even when I arrive with wet hair because I showered last-minute because I just wasn’t sure I was up to a night out. And yet our friendships light up my life and I need them more than they know.jan gals
I am thankful Finals Week = Almost Over for Teen. I am thankful Teen allowed Guy and me to participate in a coloring project with him (coloring = one of the “school tasks” I’m always willing to do, since no one should truly be graded on coloring), reminiscent of my own mom working on high school projects late into the night with me, cherished memories I hope my son will also have of his mom.C color

Being thankful makes me happy. What are you thankful for so far in 2016?

Panic Attack

I arrived home from work mid-afternoon and found Teen seated on his yoga ball hunched over a stack of papers in front of the family room computer, his study spot. I came up behind him and while I was yet two feet away, he abruptly stiffened and threw his hands in a “Don’t Shoot!” position. Without looking at me he shouted, DON’T touch me!”

I recoiled, slapped by his words. Without a sound, I tip-toed a wide berth and gingerly reached to remove the bowls containing crumbs and residue of his chips and salsa snack.

An hour later Tween and I had flopped on his bed to read aloud a book we’re enjoying together when Teen poured himself in alongside us. He said, “Mom, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have shouted at you. I was in the middle of a full-blown panic attack and I just couldn’t handle it. I needed to be alone, and couldn’t deal with interruption.” He explained that he’d been trying to figure out his current GPA and what he would need to score on various final exams to keep or raise various grades. He had felt utter despair of being accepted to any college he’d want to attend – the list of which has gotten both shorter and longer as we’ve accepted a realistic assessment of his high school academic performance.jeremiah-29-11

We have prayed this verse over our child since the day we knew we were pregnant, about eighteen years ago. He knows it by heart, and he prays it for himself. And so we talked about the hard fact that God’s plans might not look like ours. As much as he wants to attend a four year college straight out of high school, and he might, perhaps that’s not his only or best option. Maybe taking classes at a community college, getting out of the way classes that would be more difficult at a four-year school, getting a part-time job and a super-cool internship, maybe all that takes some stress off. Maybe it’s okay to not live the Lamorinda norm. YES, it is okay not to live the cultural norm.

Wise beyond his age, Tween understood his presence wasn’t helpful so he slipped off his bed and out of his room while Teen and I talked. I mostly listened as Teen poured out his heart and mind – classes he likes and doesn’t, teachers he loves, teachers he likes but wishes they put more love into their classes, teachers he feels don’t give a damn… None of it an excuse because it’s still up to him to be responsible, work hard, and do his best, but easier done if you feel like the Teacher has invested in both subject and students.

The conversation ended as it was time to move on to sports practice. He trudged to his room to gear up and I followed him. I said aloud his name, and wordlessly my Big Kid poured himself into my arms for a hug. My Teen, generally touch averse, needed a Mom Hug as much as I needed to hold my child for a moment. “Thanks, Mom,” he whispered into my hair.

This weekend he’s out of town for a huge college/high school sports tournament, a high school recruiting event and the only one like it he will attend. Next week he has finals, bad timing. Meanwhile I hope he plays aggressive and safe, and leaves behind some of that stress on the field so that he returns home tired but energized, ready to sleep and then study. He’ll be fine even if the path winds in unexpected directions. We have faith.

Meatless Monday – (Almost Healthy) Treats!

Last week our high schooler had finals. Fortunately it wasn’t too bad this time around as he had a nice balance of academic and electives each testing day, and none of his grades were at a tipping point one direction or the other. He studied well, and it wasn’t stressful.

A year ago we had a whole different situation. He had suffered a severe concussion playing freshman football. Some of his teachers ignored doctor’s requests to modify his coursework to accommodate his injured brain and he was seriously in danger of failing at least one class, which would mean summer school and we had plans to be out of the country all summer. It was a horrible week, longer really as we helped him prep for weeks in advance and tried to negotiate with a teacher and the school who might as well have had their hands over their ears as they sing-songed, “Nah, nah, nah, nah!”

I had promised Teen I’d make one of his favorite treats, our neighbor’s pumpkin bread, the one she makes for all the neighbors each Christmas, the whole loaf of which Teen claims and won’t share.

But by the end of the week we were all thrashed and, though we got the recipe, we never made it. So I made it this year, to celebrate what a difference a year makes.

And, as my neighbor had predicted I would, I took her completely decadent recipe and make it healthier. You know what? My kid, who tends to have a fairly discerning palate never suspected. Hooray!

This recipe makes a lot – three generous loaves, or in my case, a loaf, a small cake, and at least 16 muffins (I wanted variety – good for quick breakfasts, snacks, lunch boxes). I put the loaf and half of the muffins straight into the freezer so we have some for this week as well. But it’s an easy recipe and if you’re gonna make it, you might as well have some in the freezer.

And just for fun, I’ll throw in one of my new favorite smoothie recipes, my take on Bon Apetit’s “The Greenest Smoothie” (from January 2015). It is indeed a funky green, and I will admit that I was skeptical about this particular combination of ingredients, but I swear it tastes more like a treat than healthy. Just put it in a colored cup with a lid and straw and you can enjoy its delicious flavor without distraction.

Pumpkin Bread
Makes 3 medium bread loaves

1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
1/2 c quick oats
1 c whole wheat flour
2 c organic sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 c unsweetened applesauce
4 “eggs” (I used EnerG Egg Replacer)
1 c cold water
1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
1/2 c agave syrup or your favorite natural sweetener (e.g., brown rice syrup or honey)

Sift and mix all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well. Grease and flour 3 medium bread pans. Pour mixture into pans, fill half full, and bake at 350 for 1 hour or until done.

Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

The Greenest Smoothie
Serves 1

1 c almond milk + more if you need it to blend smoothly
1 Tbsp flax oil
1/2 tsp grated peeled ginger
1/2 c frozen pineapple pieces
1/2 frozen banana
1 large handful spinach leaves
1 tsp Trader Joe’s Super Green Drink powder (or matcha, but I couldn’t find any matcha)
1 Tbsp almond butter

Puree ingredients in a blender. Add more almond milk as needed.

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