Rice Resolution

I will never forget the most valuable commodity we packed in our suitcases when Dan and I went on a 6 week trip to India for Dan’s work in 2008.  It wasn’t long skirts, toiletries, or even our camera… It was peanut butter.

Dan and I ate– or at least took a few bites– of every food that was offered to us while we were in India.  But even the breakfast food was so spicy that tears would stream down our faces.  Our Indian friends and meal-mates at the research center kindly reached for the water pitcher and refilled our glasses.  To Indians, spicy food is not only delicious—it also tells a story.  Each region of India is known for its particular flavors, and people we met from different areas of India loved to share their food.  We had a wonderful time getting to know students, professors, and families in the farming villages.  And after each day out in the fields, we returned to our dorm room at the research center, and I savored my peanut-butter-banana-sandwich.

When children who are adopted internationally come home to their new country, there is so much transition.  Adapting to new language, sights, sounds, smells, expectations, social norms, and even time zones can be exhausting.  One of many things we have read about in our adoption training that can help children cope with such a huge adjustment is “comfort food.”  What do you think of when you hear “comfort food?”  What comes to mind is probably something familiar and warm, that will remind you of a time when you felt safe and loved and cared for.  We want our child to have those cozy feelings when he/she comes home.  If food is one way we can connect with our child, and help him/her find comfort and familiarity in the midst of everything new, then we commit to learning all we can about the food of our child’s birth country.

As we researched the typical diet of people in East Africa, we were reminded of something we learned when we traveled to India—most societies in the world live on just a few staple foods in their diet.  The main staple (often a grain or root vegetable) of a society may be part of one meal a day, or part of every meal, or the sole food in the only meal someone eats in a day.

We were inspired by the thought of cooking food our child will find comforting.  So last fall when Dan and I were brainstorming ways to reduce our grocery budget, we thought “Why not start cooking differently now?”  Since October 2013, our family has been eating rice for dinner once a week.  During that time, our idea grew…  Each time we ate rice, we thought about the people in the world who live on rice.  At mealtimes, we began talking with our kids about people who live and eat differently, and how grateful we are for the food we have.  This weekly meal is growing into a time of prayer and learning, a time of gratitude, and now a time of sharing.

We would like to invite you to come alongside us in our RICE “fast” – to learn more visit our RICE page here.

love, Natalie

Christmas Memories

We have had a really lovely Christmas this year.  One of Aubrey’s favorite things was pretending to be Mary, and taking care of baby Jesus.  She actually has a baby doll whom she named “Baby Jesus” two years ago when she received it as a Christmas gift.  This year she especially loved tucking him into bed (I would often walk into Aubrey’s room and hear “the ocean” playing on the sound machine, presumably soothing Baby Jesus in his sleep.).

We also went to see Christmas lights, baked cookies, took lots of walks, and went to our friends’ pre-school Christmas programs.  Aubrey was thrilled to see one of her best friends Ansley as “Mary” and her cousin Carver as a “Wise Man.”  Observing her friends bravely performing on stage gave Aubrey courage for singing Christmas carols at church in the Children’s Choir.  On Christmas Eve, our church created an entire “town of Bethlehem” with artisans, live animals, and a nativity.  Aubrey and Thatcher loved seeing the donkey, goat, and sheep!  I felt especially blessed this year to be able to sit with– practically surrounded by– wonderful friends who also attend our church.  What an indescribable blessing it is to feel so at home in the sanctuary.

Last year was the first time Dan and I were home for Christmas.  I love traditions, but traditional food (Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas ham, all the trimmings) is not my favorite.  I was so excited to celebrate Christmas in our own special way, and Dan loves a cooking challenge, so we decided to create new traditions for our family.  We planned to have our big “special” meal on Christmas Eve, and just relax with left-overs on Christmas day.  I wanted our Christmas Eve dinner to be meaningful, kid-friendly, delicious, and simple enough to allow for lots of quality family time.

We got to brainstorming, and ended up wondering what Mary and Joseph would have eaten that first Christmas night.  Our research led us to Shepherd’s Pie: root veggies and local meat (usually lamb), grapes, and pine nuts.  Perfect!  (Lamb did not seem like the fitting choice (per taste and also the symbolism), so we substituted chicken, and call our chicken-pot-pie “Shepherds’s Pie” anyway.)  Dan made a seriously delicious pot pie, and the kids and I made pine nut cookies.  Everything was really yummy!

Half way through our meal I realized I forgot to serve dinner on our Christmas china, and I forgot to put grapes on the plate when I took our picture (at least they made it to the table).  But that’s part of the goodness of Christmas, I think.  All of our details don’t have to be just right.  Of all places Jesus could have been born, it was a stable.  I can’t imagine how “not according to plan” that was for Mary, but God came to be with us, right in the midst of our imperfections and forgetfulness, right when we need Him most.

My favorite moments of Christmas this year have been the quiet ones…  Reading Song of the Stars with Aubrey and Thatcher by the glow of Christmas lights on Christmas Eve night…  Seeing the kids play so contentedly with new toys Christmas morning…  Snuggling on the couch with Dan, watching “the fireplace…”  I am treasuring these moments of peace, and hoping you are making some really special memories too.  Merry Christmas!

Love, Natalie