Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Chicken Croquettes Stuffed With Fontina Cheese

I went to Chicago with the kids in the summer of 2012 and did what most tourist do, enjoy the sights and great food. I had the pleasure of staying in the Magnificent Mile, where down the street and around the corner was The Hancock Center and out my hotel window was The Navy Pier. I had heard so much about The Cheesecake Factory that it ended up being my first choice of places to eat after a 10 hr. drive. The decor was awesome and the ambiance relaxing, and after seeing nothing but tree lines, cars, and windmills for miles it was great to hear the din of chatter. Well, one of the appetizers on the menu was Chicken Croquettes stuffed with Fontina Cheese, and it was awesome. So after moving into the Atlanta metro area, I was sorely disappointed that none of the local Cheesecake Factories offered this scrumptious item on any of the menus. Being the experimental great chef I am, I decided to try my hand at making my own version of the recipe and it came out awesome.

4 Chicken Breast (depending on the size, if they are not huge then go for 6)
1/2 of an Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic or 2 Tbsp. of Minced Garlic
5 Eggs
1/4 c. of Chicken Stock (you'll have this after poaching the chicken)
1 1/2c. of Panko Bread Crumbs
1/2 a pack of Fontina Cheese sliced
1/4 c. of Lawry's Rotisserie Seasoning
2 Tbsp. of Celery Salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. of Onion Powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. of Garlic Powder
2 Tbsp. of Canola Oil

Preheat oven to 375.Oil a cookie sheet with the 2 Tbsp. of Canola Oil and place in the oven for 5 min. then remove. Place the chicken breast in a pot and cover the chicken with cold water then bring to a boil until no longer pink. While the chicken is poaching, slice the brick of Fontina Cheese; cut the onion in half and place in the food processor with the garlic and pulse; and scramble 3 of the eggs, place to the side. Place the cooled chicken in the processor on pulse resulting in shredded chicken drizzling the chicken stock over the shredded chicken. In a bowl combine the shredded chicken, minced onion and garlic, the Rotisserie Seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, celery salt, and scrambled eggs mixing thoroughly with your hands. Once thoroughly mixed start forming halves of the croquettes placing them on wax or parchment paper. Once the halves are formed, start placing the slices of Fontina cheese on one side covering with the other half of the croquette. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with panko bread crumbs on both sides place on the oiled cookie sheet. Cook for 25 min. being sure to turn over half way through cooking.

Bon appetit, mes amis.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Behind The Smile

"One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is...give up something you love while trusting God for better."- Pastor Jamal Bryant

You're having a pity party and you call up your besties for a night of  "misery loves company" talk. You've cooked or ordered in and your pals have brought the libations for the night. You've made your face pretty and removed all traces of the tear-stained face with the puffy, red eyes; you've gotten out of the comfy clothes and put on some clothes worthy of leaving the house; you've finally opened the windows to let some natural light in, and lit some incense to rid the house of the order of despair. Your pals come over and you begin your night of good food, great friends, and much needed therapy. So, you all are taking turns telling jokes and relationship tribulations when you finally spill the beans about your latest misery. being your inner circle, they're supportive with their "Aww's" and "Chile, please," when the friend you come to think of as the voice of reason among your group states, "Girl, I wouldn't put up with that." She goes down the list of should have, could have, would have and all the things she wouldn't stand for while you nod your head to everything she just said and feel a tad bit better about your situation. The night ends with hugs and "call me later's" and you close the door on the camaraderie feeling thankful for your pals. Your eyes scan the four walls you call a home but has felt like your prison. You glance longingly at the pictures of a happier time and notice the sadness that has been hiding in your eyes the entire time. You feel the tears welling up and you're feeling emotionally drained and ready to crumble. You clean up the glasses and containers, loading the dishwasher and putting leftovers in the fridge, wipe down the counters and turn off the lights. You head to your bedroom then into the bathroom, you wash your face free of make-up and take a long hard look at yourself. You look at yourself everyday, but failed to notice the unhappy person staring back at you. Those closest to you have complimented you on how strong and confident you are, how you're one of the smartest person they've known, and all the while you accepted the graciousness and been slowly dying inside.

No one knows the turmoil you've lived through and every person you know likes to tell you what they will and won't put up with. All the while never actually knowing what you will accept until something happens to you. I can say I was one of those people that would say that especially when I was unattached, but now as a parent and wife I can tell you that you will tolerate much more when other people depend on you. Before I married, I was an independent, working, single mother, and loving and living life to the fullest. After marriage, I was still happy and swimming the murky waters of being a wife and a mother. Somewhere along the way, I lost my spark and my identity, I became a trophy and a title, lost my confidence, my self-esteem, and the value of my worth. I put on a smile and a happy face whenever I left the house; no one but me knew my pain. There were days when all I could do was cry, but my brave face would be back in place by the time I picked up the kids and faced the public. I've taken compliments with silence, a smile, and a nod, because I didn't feel that I was worthy of any accolades or pleasantries. The less I said the less I was spoken to and it was what I preferred because I didn't have to prove myself.

"It's time to LET GO of everything that no longer serves you. You DESERVE to be HAPPY and FREE"
Now as I set myself along this path to regain some sense of self-worth and self-love, bursting with pride and confidence, I have to release the hurts, anger, and resentment. I now know that only I can be the author of my happiness and I must release those things that hinder me on my journey.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Parents: Are You Present or Are You A Presence?

Let me get this off my chest and shout from my soapbox, "Your genetic contribution and your financial donations, DOES NOT make you a parent."

Being a parent doesn't necessarily qualify you as mom and dad, because there are some egg donors and sperm donors out there making it hard for those parents that want to do right by their child. We live in a time where electronics play such a major role in our lives that we are disconnected from each other. Media outlets and our gadgets are bringing up kids to not value the very people that gave them life and we let them rule our homes. We want our kids to aim high, but they are influenced by some of the piss poor behavior and attitudes of people on television; and therein lies the problem.  Kids are a gift in your life and as far as I know none have asked to leave the spirit realm to get here. We as parents take our kids for granted and vice versa. We tend to shower them with things they want more than the things they need and that's the breakdown. There are some parents that don't have their priorities in order, such as getting your hair done but your lights getting turned off, by the newest shoes and you can't put food in the house, hanging out at the club and leaving your kids home alone, etc... I'm all about self care and self love, but don't get it twisted I provide for my family first and run on exhaustion and fumes, that's just me, but kids know when I have to take care of me and they tend to make wise decisions without my involvement. They are so many parents that want to be their child(s)'s friend and that is not your job. Your job(s) is to be a parent and role model, you have to put in the time and effort to earn mutual respect as they grow and mature.You should have friends your own age without making your child one of them. How is your child to learn to be a responsible adult and future parent if they're your friend, they really cannot. You have to lay down standards from the beginning and realize that those standards have to be adaptable with time and circumstances. You are accountable for the first 16-21 years (depending on your stance) of life and hopefully you've consistently steered them in the right direction and let them taste some failure.
Present or Presence:
My husband has been in and out the home for most of our marriage. First there was military obligations that kept him gone, then he went to work overseas, and once he finally got back in the states we were almost a thousand miles apart. In September, he moved back into the house and he's here. What do mean by he's here, well he's present and accounted for but there is no real interaction amongst us as a family unit. He is a participant in the obligatory school functions, he walks the dogs when asked, and he takes care of the outside of the house, but for the most part he's present. Me on the other hand, I'm a presence, a force to be reckoned with if you will. My kids are aware of the love and emotion that I emit without saying a word when I enter any room that they occupy. There are times when I've been thinking about them and they're nowhere near by, but they claim they feel me watching them or they just feel my love. That's being a presence, my kids know that I'm there for them and they can bombard me at anytime because I'm an open book. I don't want to live a life where I'm scrutinized by my kids because I'm not putting my everything into them, I show them that I will give my all to them even when it hurts me. When we're sitting in the family room, watching a movie my kids will just randomly say, "I love you, too," just from me looking at them or sitting next to them. I am actively involved in everything they are doing, from chores to homework, from the happenings at school to TV time, it's nothing they can do that I don't take notice of or informed of. As a matter of fact, when it comes to school they get upset about how much their teachers and I communicate via a voice call and email. I'm like Lion-O from the Thundercats, "Give me sight beyond sight," when it comes to my kids and while they don't like it they will deal and learn to appreciate my all seeing eye.

The Open Door To Your voice:
I grew up in the 80s and 90s, both of my parents worked and were gone most of the time before I even got on the bus. My mom got me up with an I love you and was out the door on her way to work, my dad was home when I got off the bus and he always asked how my day was. When do we take the time to talk to our children? Well, I'm busy, I'm tired, I need to cook dinner, I need to do laundry, I need to run to the grocery store, I need to get the boy child to practice, I need to get the girl child to the hair dresser, I need to have some time to myself, I just want to relax - do all of these excuses sound familiar? Where does your child fit in? Going by your schedule, it's when you're taking the kids somewhere and picking them back up, but that's not the only time. Are you eating dinner as a family, if not, then you missed some prime time for conversation. I converse with my kids constantly even if it's a one-sided conversation and I'm getting eye rolls, and once I'm done saying what I have to say I end the conversation with, "You know my door is open whenever you want to talk unless it's bedtime." I can't always make them talk to me when I want to talk, because they are there own person, but they know whenever they want to talk I will stop what I'm doing to make time to listen to them. You have to be a willing participant even when you don't want to, but that's what parenting is all about.

Quality Time Is Priority:
There are times when you don't have the financial means to do what you want to do or go where you want to go, but you have an abundance of entertainment right at home. Spending quality time is not about giving them what they want, it's about spending and giving time to the ones you love unconditionally. My kids have a Wii with about 30 games, 4 cabinets full of DVDs (that's cartoons and family movies), and we have some board and card games. My kids are into art, so I, also, keep an abundance of construction paper, sketch pads, glue sticks, colored pencils, and yarn around the house. They hate when I do it, but I declare a few hours of electronic shut down no Nooks, computers, or cell (that's me with the phone) in order to spend time together. We have to disconnect from the electronics and connect as a family, my kids are allotted to me for so long before they move on and become adults with their own families. Make time to spend time with your kids more than you make the time to spend doing what you want.

Be A Role Model:
From 2006 until 2008, I was in school full time earning my Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice and at the age of 32 I earned it. I had some easy classes and some challenging classes, my kids saw my struggle because we would sometimes sit at the table together and do home work. I made sure that they saw me working hard and being determined to finish with good grades. They saw I made the Dean's List a couple of times and times where I had to retake a class, but they saw my struggle and it made them want to work harder too. Our kids are bombarded with images of athletes and celebrities having big money and making poor decisions. That's good to aspire to be great but our kids do not need and should not need to be just like them. We don't know back stories and how they got there, we just focus on their public persona when they are in the spotlight for whatever reason. My kids have great aspirations and I push them to the point where they're tired of hearing me talk, but they know I want them to succeed in everything they want to do with their life. They see the only way to succeed is to focus on their dreams and pursue it with hard work, determination, and diligence and I'll be their biggest cheerleader because they were mine.

Give Unconditional Love:
We all have days where we are in a bad mood, and whatever the reason sometimes are kids get the backlash. I know I'm not the only parent guilty of this, which is why I called you out. I'm apologetic afterwards because they weren't the cause of it, and I ensure that they know that I love them. Those three simple words can mean so much to your attention-starved child. Peer-pressure is still rampant, but now we have to deal with blatant bullying in so many forms that we never know what are child is succumbing to or falling victim to. It is so important to listen to your kids even when they're not talking to you, you never know what is going on until you hear it from another child's parent. My kids have me, grandparents, and so many other relatives to talk to that they we all get the "I don't feel like talking right now" often, but they know the door is open to communicate. My oldest child is 16, he stands 6'4", and he has Asperger's Syndrome which is a form of Autism, he's unable to read social cues and to empathize. Most days he walks around in an angry defensive shell, but in order to break through to him I have to give him your time and let him know that I love him. I get one of the best smiles and a lot of love, and the days he cherish most is when he can lay his head in my lap and not say anything but feel my love for him radiating out. Then my daughter comes over and we have to scoot down the couch so she can put her head on the other side and she too feels my love for her and the both of them. When you have more than one child you love them individually and as the joint unit they are (my kids are 4yrs apart and very close, just as me and my brother are). I always do my best to make sure that they know I love them flaws and all.

Monday, December 30, 2013

When you know better, Do better.

     For women that grew up in unfavorable circumstances (e.g., poverty, victim of rape or molestation, sold into prostitution, death of a parent, divorce, etc.), it is extremely challenging to get past those issues even during the years of child rearing.  Bitterness is a common root of the heart when trying to heal from these issues and it has the ability to block love from being demonstrated to your child.  With that being said, we as women have a responsibility to our children.  That responsibility is allowing yourself to overcome your fears, deep rooted issues, or past failures to better assist your kids in learning how to live this life as great citizens in this earth.  That includes all issues whether past, present, or future.  Our children need to see a cyclical movement of mistakes which breaks us down, learning from mistakes which builds us up, and overcoming and becoming a better you....which makes us triumphant. They need to see this over and over again. Once God is finished with dealing with one issue, there's always something else for us to make progress in.....welcome to human nature.
     I am appalled at mothers who kill their children, allow them to be molested or raped by their boyfriends, neglect or abuse them, or abandon them because I have a different viewpoint as to why these circumstances shouldn't prevent a mother from caring for her child. I am wondering what is going through their heads?  What brought you to this conclusion?  Why do you feel your child(ren) deserves your absolute worst? I am shocked when I see a mother dressed to impress and her child dressed like monkeys in the wild. I am even more disgusted when mother's allow their children to run around with green snot hanging from their noses and they are patted down with Mac makeup.  Last example (before i get on the roll), when the mother has on fresh panties and the baby has on a 3 hour loaded piss diaper. Ok. Last one for real, taking your child's life. Come now....Really!?
    On the contrary, I have learned that you only know what you know.  If you haven't been exposed to an environment that exemplifies unconditional love, then how will you know to give it?  Sometimes someone has to show you what you're missing before you can demonstrate it.  For example, if you're not an affectionate mother to your child and someone gives you a hug when you're at your lowest, you begin to realize that it's what  you needed all along and then you will want your children to feel loved in that manner as well. As a result, you begin to take baby steps in learning how to let this become manifest in your actions. I feel you are only held accountable for what  you know; however, when you know better, do better. My mother had many reasons to give up on me because of my sickly nature as a baby born with gastroschisis along with being a single mother who had to struggle to make ends meet with a Master's Degree.  She told me she didn't want children, but I changed her life.  She had no problem giving me the raw truth.  For that, I am grateful because she saw the truth in herself and wanted to do better and become better so that I could excel past her.  "I want you to be better than me."  That's the speech of a mother who faces her issues and decides to want more for herself because her child is watching.
      So for the mothers who allow ignorance to grip wisdom and good knowledge like a shark biting into flesh after you know better, I hope you all know that you can be someone  (the real you), so that you can love your kids without question in your minds and theirs.  Tell your children the truth about life and about your shortcomings (when appropriate). If you're seeking to change, be patient with yourself and know that change comes one step at a time with forgiveness and determination to make it right.  If you're simply not willing to change for the sake of your children, I pray you come to realize that you are a great parent and a great mother and you do have the ability, with God's help, to become a better you.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I'm Not Good Enough For Me

When will you make yourself a priority? When will you take charge of the life you desire? Are you willing to let go of of the negativity and the hindrances that weigh you down? When will you put your best self forward? These are questions that tumble through my mind on occasion when I'm not feeling like I'm doing all I can do. It's when I'm feeling stagnant and full of doubt as my capabilities to be a positive and effective parent but a person in general.

I've always struggled with my self-esteem and my weight, which is part of the reason that I don't care much for heading to the  gym or participating in class exercises. I was at home working out to an exercise DVD when the instructor asked the question, "Who deserves the very best of you more than you do?" She paused to allow the question to sink in and then answered, "NO ONE!!!" It was something about that question and answer that set kindling to a spark and that spark is slowly becoming a flame. It resounded in my sub-consciousness to the point that it constantly repeated itself day in and day out, and realization finally hit me like a solid punch to the gut. For so long, I've let people dictate my level of worth. I've fallen victim to my circumstances and turmoil. I've allowed issues to become the excuses of why I can't do better and keep me awake at night. I've let stagnation get the best of me and drag me through moments of doubts and worthlessness. All of these things I've allowed to be beat me down and I've willingly waved the white flag in defeat. What was once a brightly burning star has slowly diminished to a sporadic twinkle.

When can you expose the depths of who you am ? How can you expect someone to value the whole you, when the unfiltered and completer version of you has yet to be revealed? I've only allowed parts of me to be exposed and I haven't truly revealed my full potential. I have to stop pressuring myself, limiting myself and allowing anyone other than me to define who I truly am. I am worthy and qualified on so many levels but no one will never know until I tap into my gifts and talents. Most days I live like I have no purpose, I live like I won't be forgiven, I live like I won't forgive, there are days when I'm wallowing in my desperation, pity, anger, depression, unworthiness, and sickness. I can't expose the real me until I drop the facade of neutrality and nonchalance and an "I'm fine." When in all actuality, I would like nothing more than to shout to the world, "Here I am, a force to be reckoned with." There are things in my distant and immediate past that hasn't released me and quite truthfully I haven't willingly let them go. I cannot continue to let my trials and tribulations continue to dictate and mold me. I cannot continue to allow societal standards to sway my self-worth. But here's the thing, when those days arise and I feel as if I'm overwhelmed and defeated I look inside to find the glimmer of light that's brightest above all brightness, the light that gives hope, the light that negates all of the negative, the light that fills me with peace beyond understanding, the light that fills me with purpose, the light that encompasses all, but most importantly that light will guide my life to being the best version of me.

When will you ask yourself, "Who deserves the best version of you more than you do?" For me, the answer will come when I can honestly say from the depths of my being "NO ONE!!!"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The invisible parent

We all know the positive effects of living in a two parent household.  We also know the effects of children being raised in a single parent home but I want to draw attention to the two parent household where one parent is visible and the other chooses to be invisible. This set of circumstances causes children to withdraw developing anger problems leading to frustration, a sense of low self esteem, and a need to prove to everyone they care for that they have purpose.

Every problem and issue that we have as adults stems from our childhood.  How we cope with these issues depends on how we approach our future.  As a child raised in a single parent household, I could say the two parent household where only one parent is active on all levels of parenthood is somewhat similar to the single parent household which can have the same results.  I truly admire both forms of the single parent because their children has someone to pour back into them.

If you are a married single parent, whether separated, cohabitating, or whatever, how do you help your children to overcome the negatives with the parent that chooses be invisible.  At a certain age, their minds are made up about you and the other parent and they will definitely voice their concerns whether it's verbal or nonverbal.  How do you as the most active parent deal with the significant other or spouse that chooses to be invisible? What words of wisdom do you give your children about your spouse who is present but not present?

Here is one word of advice I learned from a movie....which one I can't but the mother told someone that she has never spoken negative of her children's father to them regardless of how she felt.  I agree with this. Now don't get it twisted.  I think your children should know the absolute truth about their other parent and let them form their own opinion because eventually they will see for themselves if the information told is proven to be true.

I learned from experience that the active parent can cause you to view your inactive parent in a different light that isn't exactly true.  That parent can be so bitter that they want their children to feel what they are feeling and I don't think that's fair.  Anyway, after meeting my father at a young age I forgave him before I met him, even though I didn't have the whole story. I gave myself the opportunity to know him for myself and didn't allow my mother's negative comments about him to warped my view of him without him showing me who he really was.

Another way to help your children cope is to allow them to have their feelings about the other parent without pressuring them to talk to them.  Children are people with real feelings and need healing just as any adult. Time heals.  Allow them to approach the other parent in their own time.

As the lion says in the food lion commercial, "That's just my two cents." LOL.  If you have any other words of wisdom for children living with an invisible parent, feel free to post or comment! Take care!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Do You Have the Time????

As a Stay-At-Home-Parent (SAHP), we have a tendency to give unconditionally to everyone but ourselves. Our kids, "Mom/Dad, can I do this?" "Mom/Dad, can I have this?" "Mom/Dad, I need money for this."; or our spouses or significant others, "Honey, will you do this?", "Honey, I know you made plans but I really need us to do that.", "Honey, could you help me do this?" We do a lot of things for everybody else, but where do we fit in to this puzzle? Where are we on the totem pole in our own life? For many years, I know I've been on the bottom and no where near the middle or the top. I put my family at the top and my needs last, and that's where we as SAHP's fall short.

Last week, I was sick with itchy& burning eyes, runny nose, chest congestion, and going hoarse, but guess what everybody in my household depended on me to get everything done. Get the kids up, get them on the bus, walk the dogs, clean house, do laundry, and cook dinner-all of that and I can barely see my hand in front of my face with those itchy & burning eyes, but I pressed on and got my house in order. When I finally laid down, my kids were coming in from school and of course I had to help get homework done (believe it or not, my kids have correct answers more often than not). Attempted to lay down again, and it was time for us to eat dinner as a family. This is the time, I willingly give my time and attention so that we can have communication with each other. So, after I have to ask if someone will load up the dishwasher, I make an attempt to shower and get into bed, only to be disturbed by the yelping of my dogs needing to go outside. However, since I am the dog whisperer and I'm the only one that understands what there yelps and cries mean, they waited until I finished my shower to address their needs.

Finally, I attempt to lay down again only for my daughter to pick this time to have some mommy-daughter conversation time. Of course, being the only adult she cares to talk to I acquiesce and permit her into my bed to have the conversation she suddenly needs. I let her ramble on as my eyes start to close, when she finally decides to say "Mom, you look like you're getting sick, I'll let you rest." Even when I'm sick, my time is not my own, so when do I get the time to focus on being the best me possible?

We're too busy being everything to everybody, that we can't focus on what we need. My S.O. says, "You're home by yourself all day, that should be more than enough time for you to spend time by yourself." See, that's the biggest mistake and conclusion people tend to jump to when they hear that you're a SAHP. We're classroom volunteers or classroom parents, I have a child that has Asperger's, so I spend a great deal of time at his school in meetings with his teachers and counselors and that's just me checking in on him. Did I, also, mention I have dogs? Yes dogs, two loving beagles, that I'm going to probably let be someone else's happiness, because I just don't have the time anymore. But, they're both overweight which means walking them, since I no longer have a huge backyard, and one has the audacity to be allergic to grass so he is supposed to get weekly allergy shots like my child (I say supposedly, because times are hard and my concern and dollars are for those I share DNA with and not mere animals). Time to do with as I please is something that happens as often as a blue moon and a leap year, it's a rarity.

And now, in the next few weeks, I won't be a SAHP for awhile, but an income earner (getting an opportunity to work in the field I will be in the pursuit of obtaining either a second Bachelor's or Master's in  and paying those student loans back). With me becoming an income earner, I can afford that time to relax away from home and be pampered by the strangers at the spa, being as they are paid to pay me attention. I can take that time to runaway from home for a weekend and spend time with my like-minded sisters. Better yet, I can stretch my natural hair so I can let it down to it's actual length and not it's shrinkage length, eat my favorite foods, and toast the life that I can't wait to live on my own terms. Right now, I only have the time to be one of the many hats that we SAHP's wear and hope that soon I'll get that much need time off.