Bring us a meal.

"Cranberry Pie Eating Champ"

1948 — Six-year-old Richard Baranski caresses a full belly after being crowned Cranberry Pie Eating Champion, upon eating a 10-inch cranberry pie in 15 seconds flat.. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

It may seem a bit old-fashioned, and in the past I haven’t been great at it, but from this day forward I resolve to be ready. When a friend or acquaintance experiences a major life event or a time of stress, I will take that family a meal.

Having dinners delivered has been muy, mucho helpful to us during the last several weeks. We set up a calendar on mealtrain.com (takethemameal.com is a similar option) so that when friends expressed interest in helping out, Israel could easily send the link, where they could claim a date and find our address and other pertinent information.

Meal planning remains one of my . . . areas for improvement, shall we say. When faced with the upcoming week’s menu and shopping list, I inevitably develop mental paralysis. So not thinking about dinner has been a special, sweet gift enhancing the flavor of all the food we’ve received.

Based on our experience in the past month or so, I’ll try to remember a few things when I make dinner for someone in the future:

  • Breakfast items instead of or in addition to dinner are wonderful. One friend brought quiche. Nice touch.
  • Skip the salad greens. After the first couple days, we had several bags languishing in the fridge. I’ll have to think of an easy alternative side dish.
  • YES to disposable plates, napkins, utensils; which are also useful as props and costumes.
  • Related: use disposable pans or tupperware you don’t want back. Unless you’re a pretty close friend and willing to swing by to pick up your dishes. And possibly clean them yourself.
  • Take-out is more than FINE, and likely delicious. I won’t feel guilty if I don’t have time to whip up something homemade. When our friend brought Peruvian chicken with all the sides, it was one of the best meals we got. (Even if it wasn’t, bottom line, I didn’t have to think about dinner!)
  • Tell the recipient: No thank you note. Though I love thank you notes, friends, I’ve made peace with texting a heartfelt thank you that includes a picture of Jack. Note writing somewhat defeats the purpose of taking something off the mama’s plate. (Taking something off her plate by putting something on her plate! Get it? Nice.)
  • Several weeks after the event? Never too late. We are still in receive-every-form-and-offer-of-help mode. (Sarah brought us dinner tonight, which allows me to finish this post. The internet groans a hearty thank you, I’m sure!)
  • Bottle of wine? Absolutely.

What else would you add?

Really, the above are side issues. To state the main problem, I need a go-to dinner I can pull out of my back pocket that’s relatively easy and universally yummy.

And we may have a winner. My friend Katherine brought a crock pot dish using a recipe she got from our friend Megan. I might’ve been especially hungry that night, but it hit the spot, like whoa. Here’s the recipe, direct from Megan’s email:

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Just throw some boneless chx breasts, a jar of salsa, a package of taco seasoning, lime juice and cilantro into a slow cooker for 6 hours. It’s amazing. You can shred and put on tortillas or serve over rice.

Ease McCheese. Katherine served this over a mixture of rice and black beans, along with a yummy salad (that she’d premixed instead of leaving in the bag, which made a difference). Ugh. So good. And so were the chocolate chip cookies that we—literally—devoured.

What’s your best dinner to deliver? I’d love to know.

Newborn Prayers and Pictures

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John Jacob Ortega—“Jack”—joined us October 12! We’re doing well, and thanks to Mama Rote, Israel, and other family, I’ve been enjoying a kind of maternity leave from my regular job. Even so, newborn life is quite a thrill ride. Yesterday I was thinking to myself that Jack is really starting to even out, really maturing; the next thing I know he decided to party hard all through the night. So nothing’s predictable at this point, which I should know very well.

Two or three days after he was born, one of our pastors came over and did a short blessing for Jack and our family. (The mini-service is in the Book of Common Prayer, page 439: “A Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child”). It was beautiful! I’ve loved being part of a more liturgical church here in Nashville, one that uses these time-tested resources. First of all, I tend to like anything that’s old. Secondly, in this stage of life, I don’t have much excess energy to speak of, so I like having prayers written for me, a church with a Bible reading plan already in place. I find it restful; and I feel no need to re-invent the wheel or to show off by getting really creative. Finally, the prayers are so beautifully expressed:

O God, you have taught us through your blessed Son that whoever receives a little child in the name of Christ receives Christ himself: We give you thanks for the blessing you have bestowed upon this family in giving them a child. Confirm their joy by a lively sense of your presence with them, and give them calm strength and patient wisdom as they seek to bring this child to love all that is true and noble, just and pure, lovable and gracious, excellent and admirable, following the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Calm strength! Patient wisdom! Yes, exactly. That’s what I crave as a parent.

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“Confirm their joy by a lively sense of your presence . . .”

And if anyone’s having a difficult time remember their work at home matters:

May God the Father, who by Baptism adopts us as his children, grant you grace.

May God the Son, who sanctified a home at Nazareth, fill you with love.

May God the Holy Spirit, who has made the Church one family, keep you in peace. Amen.

 photo 9E9741D6-D578-44BD-98FF-7868757419D5_zpskkizfw9j.jpgAnd as I flipped around more in the ol’ BCP, several of the prayers “for use by a Sick Person” (p. 461) felt appropriate for me and this postpartum time. (I don’t think we should treat pregnancy and childbirth as a sickness, by the way. Still, a body needs to heal, plus anyone can use the prayers!)

For Trust in God

O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 photo 88C1CF0C-028D-4E79-993D-2C42BB19CA54_zps6wbsywb7.jpg For Sleep (hahaha)

O heavenly Father, you give your children sleep for the refreshing of soul and body: Grant me this gift, I pray; keep me in that perfect peace which you have promised to those whose minds are fixed on you; and give me such a sense of your presence, that in the hours of silence I may enjoy the blessed assurance of your love; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

In the Morning

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

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Hope you’re well, internet friends. If you need me, I’ll be here, endeavoring to lie low, to gallantly do nothing!

P.S. For fun! Three weeks with Mary Tobin (we were all babies!), and Oh, Man. (six weeks after adding #2 into the mix!). I’m posting earlier in a baby’s life than I ever have before. That’s a good sign, right?

Oh, Man.

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Hey there, internet! I hardly know what to tell you since last I wrote. It’s safe to say that if I haven’t posted in awhile, my life has either been so wonderful, or so awful, that I haven’t found energy to give the ol’ blog. Which is it this time? I’d like to maintain an aura of mystery . . . but probably some of both.

Since last we met, beautiful Inez (aka Bebe Dos) came to join us! She was born two days before Christmas, and what a lovely holiday we had. Her full name is Sara Inez: Sara is Israel’s mom, and Inez is for his great aunt Inés. Name background: Inés/Inez is the Spanish/Italian/Portuguese variant of Agnes, and it means pure. We are pronouncing it in the more Spanish/Mexican way—ee ness or ee nez—rather than the Southern way—eye nez. :) I hope to write more about the name, the birth, etc. at a later date TBD.

As I’d hoped, figuring out a newborn this time around is not so scary since we’ve already been through it . . . not that it’s easy or not exhausting, but at least we can know some of those difficult things are normal and temporary. The new territory is how on earth to handle two little girls—logistically and emotionally! Mary Tobin is doing well with baby sister, but understandably is working to get more of our attention in both positive and negative ways. (Please do help a mama out with any free advice!) MT’s verbal ability is climbing and climbing, which is fun to watch. One cute example: after we’ve been laughing together, she releases a sigh and says, “oh, man.” Evidently I say that.

Oh, man. What a packed month six weeks (is it possible?). Overall things are fine, but life with a newborn is a bit of rollercoaster, isn’t it? There are ups and downs, of course, and nice smooth sections where you can gaze at the scenery, and then once in a while a free fall where you scream “I’m going to die!” Once you’re through it, you think, “I guess I didn’t die. But I don’t know if I can do that again.”

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Oh, man. Serenity now!

Three Weeks with Mary Tobin

Mary Tobin arrived three weeks ago today (on our anniversary!). What a gift!

It’s been three weeks of cuddling, crying (hers and mine), sleeping and being awake at odd times, tiny clothes, family and friends keeping us sane. Walking to the coffee shop or Mancini’s for brunch, or taking a bath, has become our exciting adventure for the day. There’s a stack of parenting books, blowing my mind.

Mary Tobin’s an angel. She makes the best faces; her sneezes are miraculous.

Aside from staring at our daughter, I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls (thanks to Mandy who loaned me the complete set!), and watching Israel settle in to being a papa.

[Bonus: 50 Rules for Dads of Daughters, hat tip Eliza Joy. My favorite: “Somewhere between the time she turns three and her sixth birthday, the odds are good that she will ask you to marry her. Let her down gently.”]

Despite the minor upheaval in our lives, Israel insists on Christmas as usual (a war time slogan from An Avonlea Christmas: Support our Boys; Christmas as Usual).

So let me know your Christmas movie recommendations for our queue. We’ve been getting desperate and watched an ABC Family original last night from the DVR. I won’t tell you the title because it’s too embarrassing.

Lots of love from all three Ortegas!