Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer of Service...Simple Acts of Kindness

When teaching my children this summer about honoring God and serving others in need, I also wanted them to know that serving doesn't always have to be for a social cause or big organization.  I want to train them to look for needs right under their noses.  To be aware of those close to us and to actively seek out opportunities every day to love and serve others and be a reflection of Christ.  One way I try to do this myself  is to also look for those who do not have a relationship with God and try and find ways that I can show them His love without pushing my idea of faith on them with words.  The greatest way to teach someone about God and His love is through our actions and how we live out His truth, and I really want my children to learn this.

Our last few projects have not been large enough to write an entire story about them.  And I like that.  I like that looking back, I can create one larger story about several small ones.  I kind of feel like that is part of the point of this summer serving project as teach the kids that serving doesn't always end in a production, a reward, or a story about how great they did.  Some of the greatest acts of service often go unnoticed.  We can never know how any one action we choose to make will impact another person.  I hope that I have begun to teach my children this concept.

Our neighbors went out of town for a few days.  She asked the kids to gather her mail and newspapers each day they were gone and she would pay them.  All the kids took turns checking the mail, picking up the papers, and keeping an eye on their house while they were gone.  They all did it as an act of kindness and did not accept any payment for their effort.  This was an important job, in my perspective, and an important lesson for the kids.  I never want my children to expect anything in return for helping a neighbor with anything.  We also talked about how we should always let our neighbors know before there is a need that we are available to them.  We accomplish this by interacting with them, developing a relationship, and communicate with actions, behavior, and words that we can be trusted.  Developing relationships and investing in others is an act of service in and of itself.

I caught wind at a party that one of my husband's employees was going to be having a root canal.  Not a huge deal.  Except when you put together the facts that he and his wife have 3 very young children and his appointment was scheduled for early afternoon, you can figure that this young mother will have her hands very full caring for a husband just home from the dentist and trying to get dinner on the table for her little ones.  That time of day is a challenge for any family with young kids, and take away the help of the other parent and it can be stressful!  We have been there many times!  So the kids and I spent the day of his appointment chopping vegetables, baking bread, and preparing a comforting, wholesome, and easy to serve meal for his family and delivered it right at dinner time for them to enjoy.  This was a lesson in learning to listen to the people you are talking with and identifying needs they may not even be thinking of at the time.  I also showed them how to think about those they would be feeding and what their taste preferences might be.  We made them vegetable soup, chicken pot pie, zucchini bread and a salad with homemade salad dressing.  Lots of young kids can be picky eaters and not like blended flavors, so to be safe, and to ensure that everyone would be happy and their mom would not have to still create a separate meal, we came up with a "kids meal" for the little ones.  I asked our kids what they thought we should do and we came up with the "deconstructed chicken pot pie" for the toddlers...Emma was the creative one who came up with using saltine crackers to represent the pie crust!

We were so busy working on the preparation that I forgot to take pictures of the kids in action helping prepare the meal.  Here's a picture of the end result, though, before we took it over to them to eat, with everything labeled with what it was and how to heat it up...

My husband stopped home between meetings and took the girls with him to deliver the meal.  They visited for a few minutes and the girls played with the kids after showing them what they made for them...

We received a very kind thank you note from the family a short time later which was nice for the kids to see, and it reinforced to them that small steps and efforts can reap huge rewards for someone else.  That made them feel good about how hard and long we worked on this meal.

As for other small service projects, the kids have done a lot individually as the summer progressed.  Cameron spent an entire day at school helping teachers prepare for the beginning of the school year.  He pulled out and prepared laptops for the classrooms and helped teachers get their technology needs up and running and in order.  We had close family friends move to the area recently and we have put a lot of focus on them as a family helping them get settled and oriented.  My husband has spent a lot of time helping them get their housing situated, coaching them through moving logistics, and giving up his time to listen and help his friend through some of the more stressful times of coordinating the move.  We have invited the kids swimming with us, given up one of our cars for a day when theirs wouldn't start so they could get their errands finished, and will be having them over for dinner and s'mores around the campfire tonight.  We are so happy to have them here and want them to know they are loved, welcomed, and cared for during this stressful and chaotic time!!  We know all to well how hard it is to move to a new city and not know anything and have very little help.  We hope this helps them transition a little bit easier!

I could go on with a few more things but it feels like gloating and that defeats the purpose of serving for me.  If I could choose one thing I want the kids to take away from this summer, it's to serve silently, with a willing and kind heart, and a with smile.  I think I have accomplished that for the most part.  I know there will be times when I call them to act and they will grumble...but I think we have learned enough that it will only take a gentle reminder for them to remember how much our serving is welcomed and loved by our Lord...which is why we do bless others and shine His love on the world while we are here.

Summer ends for us here in two days as school begins on Wednesday.  We beat our goal of serving at least once a week.  There were several weeks where we served many times in large and small ways.  It was refreshing to put others first. To plan around projects instead of trying to fit things in and plan around our schedule.  The kids had great experiences in everything they did and there is a unanamous excitement for one particular project which we will do over again many times as a family...including again in a couple weeks...the Kids Against Hunger pack-a-thon .  We also talked about doing things again next summer, like the Special Olympics, and how we can get more friends and families involved with us.  Now that school is starting I don't want to forget this focus.  We will continue to serve as often as we can and whenever we see a need and can take action.  I am excited to see my children put this into practice throughout the year and see how much they notice on their own and decide to do something about it, no matter how big or small.

"Remember that you are not called to be well-served, but to serve Him well."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Farm Meals...

We've flown through week eight and nine of our CSA season.  Our house has been filled with guests, which has given me plenty of opportunities to show off our farm box produce in the meals that I have made for them.  Here's a peak at what we received in our boxes...

Week 8 - Corn, sweet onion, yellow squash, zucchini, carrots, garlic, banana peppers, cucumbers, thyme, broccoli, nappa cabbage, sungold tomatoes, eggplant, and kale.

Week 9 - sungold tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, patty pan squash, zucchini, yellow squash, green pepper, beets, eggplant, heirloom tomato, garlic, cucumbers, carrots, sweet onion, and sage

One of the things I was looking forward to making was zucchini bread.  I was hoping for a big huge pile of them as was character of our farm boxes back in MI this time of the season.  But when we only received one more in last week's box, I was bummed.  I had enough zucchini to make one loaf but I wanted to make two.  So I got creative and made one of the loaves with one zucchini and the one lonely patty pan squash we received.  It turned out fantastic and the kids gobbled it up...we gave the first loaf to a family we were making dinner for.  Here's a picture of the loaf made with zucchini and patty pan squash...we ate it with strawberries and a dollop of homemade almond whipped cream...

The abundance of cabbage and cucumbers has been awesome!  My kids love cucumbers so we mostly just sliced them up to eat as snacks with the carrots, peppers, and cauliflower we also received.  But, I also made a wonderful cucumber salad w/ fresh dill to eat for lunch one reminded me of a salad my mother used to make when I was younger...

Cucumber Salad
I was struggling with the amount of cabbage we've been getting.  I wanted to make a coleslaw with some but my husband has a negative attitude towards coleslaw based on childhood experiences of it always being loaded with mayonnaise, which he hates.  With that in mind, I tried a Carrot and Cabbage Slaw recipe I found online that had a dressing made out of white wine vinegar to pair with pulled pork sandwiches.  I served it up and put some on my sandwich, and he followed suit.  Turns out he LOVED it and used the leftovers in a sandwich wrap with the leftover pork the next day!  Hooray for adding new veggies into his diet!

Cabbage and Carrot Slaw

In keeping with my motto of "cook once, eat twice," the pulled pork sandwiches were made from a leftover pork tenderloin we grilled a couple nights before.  In the preparation, I used the banana peppers, scallions, garlic, and cilantro from the farm to flavor the pork while simmering.  I then made a homemade BBQ sauce, pulled the pork and continued simmering for a little while longer in the BBQ sauce...they were so good!

I also made a Chinese Nappa Cabbage Salad with peanuts, chow mien noodles, and black sesame seeds topped with a homemade vinaigrette dressing.  This was a great summer salad too that lasted us a couple days because the cabbage was so huge!

Chinese Nappa Cabbage Salad

I also made a huge pot of Autumn Vegetable favorite soup recipe ever from my favorite cookbook Simply in Season!  It was made almost exclusively from ingredients from our farm box...we used the corn, cabbage, kale, green pepper, onion, tomatoes, garlic and parsley.  This is a great recipe for using up those veggies!!

Autumn Vegetable Soup

Another staple meal I ususally make when visitors are in the house is my "famous" burritos.  It's a great dish that serves a lot of people and I have never had anyone who has not liked them!  This time I was able to use the rest of the banana peppers from the farm in this recipe.  I chopped them up small, sauteed them, and then added to the meat and bean mixture and also simmered them into the tomato sauce that I pour over the top before adding cheese and baking.  We topped them with the shredded lettuce and the rest of the sungold tomatoes from the farm, which were a perfect sweet compliment to the light spice of the peppers throughout!

Burrito prep - sungold tomatoes and banana peppers from the farm, plus lettuce

Burrito Dinner w/ Spanish rice
After all the meals I was able to use cabbage in, I now only have two small heads left which will likely go in another batch of Autumn Vegetable Soup soon to freeze for later in the fall.  The last of the visitors are gone for the summer and school starts next week.  I am looking forward to getting into an even healthier meal and eating routine, minus the sweets, and including things like purple carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and peppers in the kids school lunches.  What a great example they can be to their friends eating fresh veggies from the farm instead of chips, crackers, or empty calorie foods. 

Thanks for all the great feedback, emails, and comments.  As always, if there is a recipe I didn't include that you would like to try, just let me know!  I would be more than happy to share it. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer of Sevice - 363 days...

As summer rolls on we continue to learn and grow from serving the Lord and those around us.  In keeping with our previous theme of helping to fight hunger, we chose a project that would directly affect our own community.  While researching ideas for our Summer of Service, I stumbled upon an organization called 363 Days

Each year, various organizations put together programs for Thanksgiving and Christmas to help feed, clothe and take care of those less fortunate. There is a remarkable amount of time, energy and money that goes into these programs. An honest question, pondered by those who participate is, "What happens the other 363 days of the year?"  363 Days was established with the other days in mind. Their starting goal was to help feed 150 homeless people in Minneapolis as many times a year as possible, with the ultimate goal of doing it every day of the year. Today, they are feeding about 2,000 people per day!

Volunteering for this organization is pretty simple, and perfect for children.  All you need is a commitment to purchase the supplies and find the time and place to make many as you want to assemble.  I loved the idea of being able to do something so easy that could impact someone we might just see regularly near our home in the city.  The whole family was once again able to serve in some capacity for this project...and we even timed this one around a visit we would be having with my 4 yr old niece so we (especially the kids) could begin teaching and sharing with someone else the value of serving others.

We as a family had committed to supply 300 sandwiches to this organization.  I wanted a challenging number so it wasn't so short the kids didn't have time to process what they were doing.  Since my husband would be working the next day, he and I went shopping for the supplies (so he could participate in some capacity).  We bought 15 loaves of bread,  4 big packages of cheese, 12 packages of turkey slices and 2 boxes of ziploc baggies.  In the morning, I moved all the chairs away from the dining room table and set the kids up in an assembly line.  I let them come up with their own rhythm of working together and just helped ease some of the hiccups along the way.

As you can see, they managed just fine!

The three younger kids mostly assembled the sandwiches and the older two mostly packed them up and prepared them for delivery.

The kids also had fun trying to keep their little cousin on task.  They learned quickly that she needed to rotate her job often to stay interested, but she did a great job!!  We think her favorite thing to do was to line the sandwiches up in rows and count them!

Once every sandwich was sealed, packed and stacked we bagged them up and took a ride to a delivery location, which for us happened to be a small business that put a chest freezer in their office to store the sandwiches that come in.

363 Days then sends a truck around once a week to all the drop off locations throughout the city to pick up sandwich donations and stores them in their main freezer, which has the capacity to hold 50,000 sandwiches on any given day until they are ready to be taken out into the community to feed those in need.
It took us a little over an hour to make 312 sandwiches!!  That's 312 times someone will get a light meal because of our family.  A sandwich doesn't seem like much to most of us but I know many people are incredibly grateful to receive one if they are hungry and have trouble affording a meal.  Not only does the sandwich nourish their body, but I'd also like to believe that some of those people are touched by more than just getting food...maybe they learn about the love of God through others?  Or they receive a boost of self esteem and worth if they notice people take the time to make sure they are fed?  That's my hope.  It's pretty incredible the impact you can make in such a short amount of time...

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Day In The Life Of A Happy Husband...

Last week seemed to be a tough one for my husband.  He came home flippy, stressed, and on some days, down right grumpy.  He was busy during the days and staying up late at night.  When he finally did go to sleep, he was restless, tossing, and turning.  By the time Friday evening rolled around I had a problem on my overtired, impatient, antsy, overloaded...well, you get the picture...

All week long I was noticing the build up.  I was wishing there was something I could do to help him out and lighten his load.  He works so hard for our family.  He's incredibly ambitious, creative, and selfless.  He takes time out of his day to help his new employees move into their new homes or to talk a friend through a life transition.  He'll coach up-and-coming professionals who look to him for advice, and even makes time for me...filling in the gaps by running and errand, or doing a kid pick-up to lighten the load of my day and responsibilities of running our home, despite his already full schedule.

There are things I can do to ease his day, like making sure he always has clean, pressed clothes in the morning, a comforting, healthy meal on the table when he arrives in the evening, and managing our home flawlessly (that's the goal at least!) so he doesn't have to worry about anything extra while at work during the day, and most importantly, greet him at the door with a smile on my face.  Friday was a different story, though.  None of those things seemed to be helping him, and I knew he needed a time-out away from work, away from the kids, and away from home to reset and recharge his batteries.  I enlisted (aka "bribed") the help of our oldest daughter for babysitting the younger ones, and before we went to bed, planned a "day date" beginning first thing in the morning.

I was determined for this to be a great day for him.  He needed it!  Upon waking, I spiffed myself up...I needed to look my best for him and he needed something sweet to look no jeans or the typical "Saturday uniform."  Nope, it was a "nice summer dress, combed hair, and make-up" kind of day.  While the kids woke up one by one and settled in with pancakes (and doughnuts for a treat...again, bribery!) we sat out in our screened porch in the warm breeze for a chat.  I let him run the conversation, for once, to let him unload a bit, and once everyone was awake, we took off for our own breakfast.  Here's where we ate...

Longfellow Grill
The Longfellow Grill is a small restaurant we discovered last fall right along the Mississippi River near the kids' school.  David loves eating outside when he can so we chose a table out on their patio in the shade.  It was a beautiful morning, with plenty of sunshine and a warm summer breeze, and the area was active with bikers and walkers so the people watching was great!  He was content and began to relax...we were off to a good start.

After breakfast we drove across the river to St. Paul and through some of the neighborhoods to kill some time.  Then we toured the Town and Country Club, an urban golf and country club, as we are looking to find a place for David to be able to entertain and socialize with colleagues and clients and us to have a place to "play" as a family without the crowds and hassles of some of the big city amenities we currently our gym, pool, and places to eat.  These can be "problematic"or "a hike" to get to occasionally, depending on time of day, traffic, or other things going on in the city.  This club is also right across the river from the kids' school so it could work nicely for me as a "landing pad" after school with any combination of kids while the other ones are at activities in the same general area, avoiding driving back and forth across town!  Needless to say, it was gorgeous.  And the golf course was amazing.  And David LOVES to golf.  I would love for him to have a place to go to unwind whenever he wanted to, to play golf, socialize with other professionals, and/or relax!  Here are some of the sights we took in while there...

I mean seriously...what guy wouldn't want to spend time in that scenery?  Or this...later in the fall...

Or this pool, to play in with his kids, never having to worry about whether there will be a chair available to sit in the sun or dry off after a swim...

The tour was great.  David was in his element and loved talking to the golf pro and the clubhouse manager about all sorts of things.  It definitely beat out some of the other clubs we had viewed and I think he left feeling happy and content about creating a new community for himself and our family definitely gave him something fun and different to think about!

Back home we went for lunch.  I made one of his favorites, Pulled Pork Sandwiches with a homemade BBQ sauce and Cabbage and Carrot slaw, which he raved about...yes!

After lunch, he was a new man.  He played catch outside with one of the boy's while I watered the flowers.  We took a short walk around the neighborhood, he sat with his feet up and watched golf...and the biggest accomplishment I noticed...???  He never once took out his phone to check his email, respond to emails or texts, or get himself sucked into work by even looking at it...huge positive!

After dinner was the best part of the day (for me).  We went here...

Again, what guy doesn't love hanging out in the Apple store?  We looked at computers, phones, iPads, iPods...played with them all...talked about upgrading stuff we've had for awhile, etc...and the best part?  I finally decided to get my new computer.  Which made him smile, because it made me smile, and he got to help me get it all set up before we went to bed.

Days like this are so important.  Everyone should take the time to step away from daily routines and stressors to recharge and relax, to not think about work, and think about caring for and nourishing themselves.  I love my husband A TON.  I am so happy that we were able to have this time together, even if it did mean bribing the kids, setting aside typical Saturday chores, and pushing off running errands for another day.  We don't get to do things like this very often and it was a blessing.  I feel like I got my husband back...the happy, witty, easy going, generous and fun loving man that he is.  I need to remember to plan these kind of days with him more often...days about HIM...with, or sometimes without, he never gets overloaded and stressed like that again.  It's important to not only have balance in our lives as wives, but to help our husbands create balance in their lives as well.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Farm Meals...

I have really been enjoying our CSA this summer.  The variety has been amazing and the flavor of the organic produce we are getting is unbelievable!!  The color is amazing and each week we are introduced to something new grown this season on our farm.  It's been several weeks since I have shown pictures of our weekly bounty so to catch you up, here are some snapshots of what we have been receiving.

Week 4 - Broccoli, green beans, purple cabbage, snow peas, cauliflower, yellow squash, celery, red leaf lettuce, fennel, red and white scallions, green garlic, dinosaur kale, and mint.
Week 5 - red leaf lettuce, salad greens, broccoli, snow peas, green beans, carrots, golden beets, yellow squash, zucchini, garlic, scallions, cauliflower, parsley, and basil.
Week 6 - corn, cabbage, cauliflower, green beans, broccoli, sweet onion, garlic, carrots, yellow squash, cucumber, salad greens, zucchini, parsley, and cilantro.
Week 7 - green beans, carrots, broccoli, nappa cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, banana peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, sweet onion, corn, golden tomatoes, and thyme.

I have been able to make some fabulous meals out of this produce!  For the most part, I have been able to come up with uses for everything...except the cabbage...I'm having a hard time keeping up with the cabbage!!

Here's some of the many dishes we have been eating.  Some are basic meals we all make from time to time but are kicked up a notch by adding fresh herbs, like Naan Pizza and Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs, where I used the basil in the sauce and as a fresh topping!  I love basil.  It is by far my favorite herb. 

I also made Lemon Chicken Pasta and tossed in 1/2 cup of chopped flat leaf parsley.  This was a perfect summer recipe.  It's a very light, refreshing, and flavorful dish for a warm night that can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold the next day for lunch.  For our dinner, we ate it at room temperature.

I also made a basic meatloaf for dinner one night a couple weeks ago when it wasn't too terribly hot out.   This is one of the few meals I make, surprisingly (since it's such an "old school" dish), that the entire family will eat and lick their plates clean.  This time, though, I  used A TON of fresh herbs...basically, everything that was left in the fridge...parsley, basil, rosemary, and thyme...all from the farm (except the thyme).  It was by far the best meatloaf I have ever made...and everyone else agreed.  My oldest daughter kept trying to figure out what was different! 

This isn't the most attractive picture of a meatloaf since it isn't cooked...I forgot to take a picture after it was plated...but you can really see the fresh herbs throughout. I served this with purple potatoes and broccoli (also from the farm!)...

Once we got digging into the greens and veggies things really started to get interesting!  One of our favorite "farm meals" yet this summer has been Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps w/ Peanut Sauce and Curried Cauliflower and Snow Peas served over warm basmati rice.  OH. MY. GOODNESS.  This was such a flavorful dish!!  And there were enough components to it that the kids could customize their lettuce wraps to their liking!  In this one meal I used our red leaf lettuce, cauliflower, snow peas, cilantro, garlic, and scallions...and it was so filling...and healthy!

I'm also a huge advocate for cooking once and having enough to change up and use for future meals.  Not only does this save time for future meal preps, it creates creativity when cooking.  I don't always have an idea of what I'll do with extra food, but if I don't want it to go to waste...then I need to come up with something!  Last week I made a HUGE salad out of our remaining spinach, kohlrabi, and purple cabbage.  A couple of nights later, when we still had half a bowl of salad left, I sauteed the whole thing in a little olive oil, added some apples, maple syrup, and a touch of apple cider vinegar and served it as a side with grilled pork tenderloin.  We also used corn and salad greens from the farm for this meal as well!

I still have pork tenderloin and sauteed cabbage leftover, so to give it a third life I am going to make pulled pork sandwiches with homemade BBQ sauce and top them with the remaining purple cabbage slaw tomorrow.  That will be a perfect Saturday lunch for my hubby!

And last but not least, I made a beautiful pasta salad the other day to put a dent into some of the single veggies that have come in over the past couple weeks.  In this salad is zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, golden tomatoes, broccoli, yellow peppers, and fresh mozzarella.  I tossed it w/ a Sunflower Salad Vinaigrette using the sunflower oil produced by our farm as well.  This has been an awesome lunch filler and light late night snack.

So as you can see, it seems like A TON of produce.  But it doesn't take much to create a delicious meal using fresh foods or even transform recipes that our mothers and grandmothers have passed down to us that they used to make!  If any of these meals look good to you, or you would like to try one of the recipes I used, send me an email or leave a comment and I will email it to you right away.  And I would love to be inspired by you and what you've been cooking up in your kitchen this summer.  The best way to be successful in nourishing our families with whole foods is to share our success and encourage one another!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Intentional Living...

One of the challenges I give myself spiritually, and as a wife and mother, is to choose the way I live my life as intentionally as I can.  It's easy to go through your days like a robot.  Or to follow the ways of the world and immerse yourself into what culture, community, or media dictates as "normal" or "ok."  I like to be different. Go against the grain. Challenge myself to be better. To have a reason for everything I do and to be sure that my reasons are in line with what my beliefs are.  I don't often give myself a head check to see how I'm doing with my intentions, though.

I'm a perfectionist.  I hate that about myself.  I crave order, demand it, actually.  And it can be crippling sometimes.  I haven't figured out why I am like this or why it's so hard for me to compromise.  I have some ideas, but I won't get into that.  That could be a whole other conversation.  But the craving, and exhausting clamor,  for perfect, order, glitch free, or whatever it is I'm trying to accomplish is getting in the way of me following through on my intentions.

When I decide to tackle an area of my life, whether it's exercise, healthy eating and cooking, home care, spirituality, serving my spouse or children, cleaning, jumping back into my career, whatever...I do it with amazing force and power.  I knock it out of the park...for a little while...until I, predictably, get burned out and somewhat frustrated that everything else in that list has been completely ignored and left behind.  And I end up with an amazing amount of catching up to do in those other areas in my life that I am responsible for.  And even though I am doing beyond great in one category of life, I end up feeling a little bit like a failure because everything else was left in the dust.  It's a ridiculous cycle I go through over and over that needs to be balanced.  Please tell me that I am not the only person who does this?!!

Yesterday, my husband called me on his way home from work after getting a text from one of our kids asking him to pick something up on his way because we couldn't figure out what to make.  The afternoon had gotten away from me and nothing was prepared.  He started the conversation by saying, "So I guess this isn't one of those days where I come home to an awesome dinner waiting for me on the table?"  Although it was totally lighthearted with no negative intentions, the guilt that welled up inside of me was pretty intense.  He was totally right, although he didn't know it.  That act of service...having an amazing home cooked meal on the table when he gets one of my intentions.  It may sound old fashioned, but the results that come from it relationally within our family, and our marriage, are very sweet.  That statement from my husband let me know that action on that intention is important to him as well, for whatever reason it is for him.  Being an attentive wife and mother is so important.  I know this.  It's one of my most important jobs that God has bestowed upon me.  Getting caught up in other things, our unusual and unpredictable summer schedule, trying to find some semblance of a routine, and spending too much time thinking about how I can be a better person, and planning my perfection, has caused a lacking in my attentiveness. 

Today I am thankful for my husband and his witty remark about a lack of dinner on the table last night.  It unintentionally reopened my eyes to that list of intentions that I have and desire so greatly to balance throughout my life so I can be a blessing to those around me, and, be a reflection of God to others who watch me.  Thanks for the "head check" my love, you make me a better person!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer of Service - Kids Against Hunger

It's been a few weeks since I have updated on our summer of service but the lack of writing does not reflect a lack of service!  We are an incredibly blessed family.  We have everything we need and then some.  We never lack food on our table, and always have the ability to eat fresh, local, organic, in season, and variety at every meal.  We all take this for granted and we need to refocus ourselves back to the world around us and remember that not everybody has this.  It's easy to forget about others who may be suffering when you never seem to. 

Consider this…
  • One billion people around the world live in chronic poverty and hunger.
  • 40,000 children die each day from starvation and illnesses related to malnutrition.
  • One-half of all deaths of children under age five are associated with hunger.
  • And yet, the world produces enough food to feed every man, woman and child a healthy diet every day.
So with these facts in mind, we have been busy helping fight hunger near us and far away.

Our church sponsors an awesome program called Kids Against Hunger that was founded right here in the Twin Cities area.  The mission of Kids Against Hunger, a humanitarian food-aid organization, is to significantly reduce the number of hungry children in the USA and to feed starving children throughout the world.  The organization’s approach to achieving its goal - the eradication of world hunger - includes the packaging of a highly nutritious, vitamin-fortified soy-rice casserole by volunteers at numerous locations within the USA and Canada, and the distribution of those meals to starving children and their families in over 60 countries through partnerships with humanitarian organizations worldwide.  That's where we came in...we participated in a food "pack-a-thon" hosted by our church.

During our packing session we packaged Kids Against Hunger’s specially formulated rice-soy casserole into serving size portions to send to schools in Haiti.  The story behind why our church helps these schools was just heartbreaking.  Can you imagine having to choose to give your child up just so they can survive?  Neither can I.  There are so many families in Haiti that are so poor they cannot adequately feed their children.  When the children are old enough to attend school many parents are faced with a very difficult choice.  Send them to school to learn for their future, but likely end up malnourished or starved, or sell them off as slaves so they can work for food and adequate shelter and survive.  The meals we packed allow these children to be fed while they are at school...and the parents no longer have to choose to give them up for their survival.  Sometimes it is their only meal for the day, but it is enough to sustain them.

I particularly liked this day because the pack-a-thon was on a Saturday afternoon and we were able to serve together as an entire family.  My husband is a busy guy.  It's hard to nail him down sometimes, so he doesn't always get to serve with us because of his schedule!  But he was a trooper for sure on this particular day as his flight home, after being gone for 7 days, literally landed 25 minutes before we started packing food!  It was fun to walk into church and see him waiting for us with a big smile on his face, see the kids jump all over him, and then hop right in to something meaningful together as a family.  Loved it!

The kids thought this was a great activity.  The organizers did a great job making it a fun, casual environment.  They played music for the volunteers and intermittently educated us with facts about hunger and the children in Haiti that we were packing for.  This was also another great teamwork activity where everyone had to work together in a certain way to be efficient, fast, but also careful!

We talked a lot about the food we were packaging while we were working.  Of course being the label reader I am, and teaching the kids to do the same, we were all reading the nutrition labels of the food package.  For the most part we were OK with what we were packing, although, we might have been known to add an extra large scoop of the dehydrated veggies as well...see my partners in crime below...who me??!

We also talked a lot about how blessed we are to be able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables all day long and how that would be hard to only have grains and dehydrated foods as our only meal.  Although, Sarah thought the grains we were packing still smelled good and continued to sniff everything all afternoon.

Having such a large family, we took over an entire packing station as well, which allowed everyone to rotate jobs which helped keep them from getting bored but also learn the entire process of food packaging as well.

There were about 60 volunteers there packing together, including us.  Together we were able to scoop, sort, seal, box, and prepare for shipment just over 20,000 meals in 2 hrs!!