Potpourri; food tricks, sin, and working together

I haven’t posted much about food recently, but among my kitchen concoctions this past week were delicious tuna cakes with a chipotle lime sauce. The following evening I made poor man’s Steak, crazy ranch potatoes, pistachio bundt cake, and coffee pudding for some friends, but made enough for our dinner, too. 

Today for our Cyzick/Sych reunion, I made periogis with sour cream, sautéed onions, and crispy bacon crumbles. Pepperoni rolls, double chocolate bundt cake and caramel pudding. 

The tricks? I bought a bag of frozen periogis at Costco and added the toppings. For the pepperoni rolls, I bought a bag of frozen Rhodes rolls, thawed them on a tray, tore them in half, flattened each piece into a small disc, laid a few slices of pepperoni into each one, rolled them and baked them. The recipe for the “shortcut” bundt cakes are at the bottom of this post. Both puddings were made completely from scratch and required much more attention. These shortcuts still make for delicious “heritage” food without as work. And those are just my contributions. There will be even more deliciousness at the reunion!

I’ve been experiencing increasing intense pain in my left side for two months. Initially I figured it had to do with carrying a twenty-six pound toddler on my left hip all the time. This past week though, the pain became unbearable and spread into my back making it hard to function, so I finally went to the doctor. Turns out, I had a severe infection! After a second dose of antibiotics I’m feeling significantly better.

Although the pain was excruciating, I truly didn’t know just how bad I felt until I started to feel significantly better. Sin can be that way too. One wrong choice here or there, unacknowledged, unrepented of, and justified by any number of reasons, will eventually take us to a place where we must address our pain and issues in order to function in a healthy way. When we repent and ask God for forgiveness, he who is rich in mercy, unfailing in love, and slow to anger, will always hear our cries and respond with heart-healing and soul-reawakening. Once we receive the beautiful gift of forgiveness and healing, only then do we start to glimpse how truly lost and pain-filled we were before. 

This morning, our children were playing “tug-of-war” clean up. They were holding on to opposite ends of the dog leash, pulling each other this way and that and seeing how much they could accomplish by pulling each other in opposite directions. As one might imagine, they accomplished little to nothing. Life is often that way. We are all running in our own directions trying to pull others with us instead of trying to find ways to work together. May we all do our part to work together and be the positive change we want to see in this world. 

As promised, here’s the simple bundt cake recipe. 

Fabulous Bundt Cake

1 cake mix, any flavor

1 (3.4 oz) package instant pudding, any flavor

1/2 cup oil

1 cup hot water

4 eggs

Method: Mix all ingredients together until well blended, then beat hard for two minutes. Pour into greased bundt cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. 

As suggested in the recipe, we LOVE using a yellow cake mix with pistachio pudding for the cake and serving it with homemade coffee pudding.

The cake I made for the reunion was a chocolate cake mix with chocolate pudding. This recipe is so simple, I actually let our 5-year-old daughter make it this morning. 

Let me know if you try any of these tricks or recipes and how you liked them. Have a great weekend. 

“I’ll see you in the sunrise, Mommy”

I wrote those piece more than a month ago, but am just finding the courage to share. Writing has always been my therapy, and this piece brought tremendous healing as I imagined what Sadie might say to me from heaven. 

“I’ll see you in the sunrise, Mommy”

By Regina Cyzick Harlow

April 2, 2017

As my body formed inside of yours, I was nurtured by your love. I knew my frame was not coming together as you expected, but I had to wait until a doctor could verify that for me. I wasn’t upset when you cried the day they told you “something was wrong.” I knew I wasn’t “wrong,” but I understood your tears. Your expectations were shattered. Yet I knew how deeply you loved me.

Daddy’s voice reassured me that through it all, we were going to be okay. You both referred to me as “Chickpea.” I still love that name.

I listened as you consulted with the geneticists and doctors about my diagnosis and was delighted that you chose life, when perhaps death “prepared and scheduled” might have seemed an easier option. I felt your body, tense from weeping, release tears into blankets, your hands, on the shoulders of loved ones, and sometimes even with strangers. I felt the hope you carried that, despite all odds, I was going to remain with you in physical form and not die.

I entered this world blue, without breath. Large hands of doctors and nurses cleared my airways so I could breathe. What was this thing called living, being alive? I went from the security and darkness of your womb into a sterile whirlwind of lights, medical staff, and other babies in the NICU, some alone, others with parents hovered attentively over them.

I wondered where you were, but they told me you had been through some pretty hard times and needed rest. After all, we would get to spend the rest of our lives together. We expected a lifetime of years, not hours.

I was so happy to see you during the day. I was comforted by the scent of your nearness when you were finally allowed to come close. The doctors and nurses were very good to me, but nothing could soothe me like your’s and daddy’s voices floating into my incubator. Those were familiar. Those were mine.

Later that day though, I could feel my little body struggling to breathe. You held me, your tears falling warm on my face. I wish I would have had the strength to wipe them for you. I felt myself slipping into another place, but I was reluctant to go. It was as if I could feel your heart shattering inside as you held me so desperately.

The doctors told you it was time to say good-bye. You gave me permission to move into the next place where I could sense I was being beckoned. You saw my body turn blue again. You heard the monitor switch to a gut-wrenching monotone beep, alerting the medical staff I was dead. You fell into daddy’s arms, weeping uncontrollably.

But mommy, what you saw was only part of the story. When I died I simply left my bars of bone and my house of flesh to transition into eternity. You saw my body stop breathing, but I was more fully alive than ever, breathing in the purest air of love and warmth and light. To go back to my little earthly body would feel clumsy and suffocating. My death certificate says I died because of “respiratory insufficiency,” but that was only earthly air for my earthly body. Here there is no lack of oxygen. Here my lungs breathe deep the air of angels.

The mountains and streams and wildflowers, the sunrises and sunsets and stars that help you feel so connected to me, I’m there, opening your eyes to the beauty beyond the veil of your flesh, the reality that the best is yet to come.

You’re still needed there, mommy. I’m safe and free here, but my brother and sisters and daddy need you, and many others who need to hear your story, our story, to know they’re not alone. I wish you knew how many children I play with here while you meet with their parents and siblings there. We have “Sadie Rose” meetings too, but the tears are absent because God himself has wiped them from our eyes.

Hold on mommy, because yet for a little while we are separated in body. But the day will come when you hold me again, and on that day I will take you to meet the One who has given you the hope and promise of our reunion. Until then, I’ll see you in the sunrise, in the faces of my siblings, and in the hearts and lives of others who know what it’s like to lose a child.  


My Mother’s Day Epiphany

Forbear the depressing parts of this post and ultimately (hopefully) be encouraged. (For mothering hearts everywhere!)

Mother’s Day has long been one of my most dreaded holidays. As a child, all I ever wanted was to get married young and have lots of children (and write.) Beyond my control, was that my Prince Charming took his time building his own life, preparing to meet his damsel in distress. 

I sat through through countless Mother/Daughter banquets at our church with a lump in my throat and an ache in my heart. Would my time ever come? People casually reassured me that it would, patting my arm sympathetically and reminding me to pray. “It would happen in God’s timing,” they said. 

In truth, they were right. I met my future husband at 27, and married at 29. Married more than ten years and I still thank God every day I waited for the right one. 

Most of you know the story from here. Our first-born baby died before living a full day outside of my womb. In fact, it was Mother’s Day week 2007 we found out something was wrong, and although we did not know at the time that our baby’s diagnosis was fatal, that Mother/Daughter banquet overwhelmed me. 

By Mother’s Day 2008 I was pregnant with our son. People said, “Well now you’ll finally get to be a mother,” not understanding how that felt to the already mother of a dead baby. All I could think about that Mother/Daughter banquet was how I wanted to take my plate to the cemetery just outside the church basement walls and eat with my daughter on her grave. Instead, I sat quietly, pushing the tasteless food around on my plate, pretending to be interested in the laughter and conversation, silently willing the whole event to be over. 

Our son and two more daughters have filled my soul with copious amounts of joy and happiness, but I still find the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend to be one of my most difficult days. There have been times I’ve woken up on this Mother’s Day Saturday crying, unable to get out of bed. This morning I woke in a mood so foul our 5-year-old daughter told our son, “Don’t worry, mommy must be under a lot of stress.” 

I never expect it, I don’t plan for it. Most of the time it takes me a while to even figure out why I’m feeling this way.

It is the hardest thing in the world to explain how a bereaved person can be grateful AND grieving. “It’s been ten years,” some say, and I want to scream, “And I’ve missed her every ______ day!” “You have other children,” some say. And I want to ask, “Which of your children would you want to give up?” 

Even my husband said this morning, “I thought this would be a good Mother’s Day. The adoption is finalized,” referring to the eighteen-month adoption process of our youngest daughter. It IS good, it really is, but my heart still aches and our family still feels incomplete without Sadie here. Many people fill our lives in multiple ways, but no one person replaces the other. 

My husband ended up taking the two older children to work with him. I felt guilty because I was so out of sorts, guilty because I was missing time with them, guilty because this is not their fault! I was, however, relieved for time alone (with the baby) to process my thoughts and emotions. 

I decided to mindlessly sort through a box of random pictures I’d found. Staring back at me were children with smiling faces. Children from Zimbabwe, one without legs being pushed in a rusty wheelbarrow to receive rice and beans and prayers. Children from mountain villages in Mexico. Children and orphans in El Salvador, one where I’m holding a set on newborn twins we found contented in a hammock in the yard outside their family’s mountain hut. I recalled, but don’t have pictures of, the baby that had been born eleven days before my second trip to El Salvador and the mother waiting until I arrived so she could name her baby after me. There were smiling children and “earthquake orphans” in Haiti, clamoring for time in my lap. I thought of other women on these trips, some of whom I know still long for children of their own, and marveled at how well they love these children too. 

There were many pictures of children from my years of teaching preschool and working in a special education classroom. Children with wheelchairs and walkers, children laughing with elderly adults when I’d taken them on field trips to the nursing homes. There were Kids Clubs in inner cities, Sunday school children, nieces and nephews hiking, riding horses, enjoying campfires and sleepovers. 

I smiled through tears as the epiphany came. I’ve been a mother all along. 

All these years I’ve loved on children, taught them ABC’s and 123’s, have nurtured my mothering instincts. I still have stuffed bears, hand-drawn pictures, and Christmas tree ornaments from children who came through preschool. I stay in touch with many of their parents and watch with pride as they perform in musicals, play sports, and graduate high school. All these trips loving orphans and children in second and third world countries, all the time invested in nieces and nephews, all little ones of no relation who have called me “Mama Nina or Aunt Nina” throughout the years, have played a role in fulfilling my mothering destiny. 

I have a mothering heart. I was a mother long before I ever had children of my own. Mothering is coded into my DNA. At the very core of my identity, I am and always have been, a mother. Tonight at our annual Mother/Daughter banquet I will celebrate my life of mothering in a new and fresh way. 

If you are the mother whose dreams of having your own children have yet to be realized, I encourage and celebrate you. If your only children are those you hold in your heart instead of your arms, I ache for you and I celebrate you. If you are the Mothering Sunday school or secular school teacher and you return home to a child-less house, I’m amazed by you and I celebrate you. If you have children in heaven and here, I embrace and celebrate you. If you are mothering your own brood, and loving them well, I applaud and celebrate you. If you are the widowed mother or the single mother, I have no words for my admiration of you and I celebrate you. If you are the mother whose given your child up for adoption because you loved them that much, I admire and celebrate you. To those who work on behalf of children everywhere, in the medical field, school systems, volunteer programs, social services, adoptions agencies, orphanages, for all the mothering hearts out there loving children in any capacity, I celebrate YOU this Mother’s Day! 


I use this title repeatedly for posts that contain snippets and snapshots of my life at the moment. 

I tried to take the day off today since I haven’t had one in quite a while. This afternoon the children and I weeded the garden until I broke the hoe. Then we raked and swept the bare dirt under our big maple tree for summer play time. I started a fire in the pit and called a family circle time with the children. (The husband wasn’t home from work yet.) We talked about our day; what we liked and didn’t like and about how we could better support each other. I wondered what the world would be like if we took more time for circles like these. My heart is most at home in the mountains (or even our backyard) around a campfire, so for me it seems such an easy solution for everyone to get along. 🙂

As we were weeding, one of the children exclaimed, “You mean weeds have roots?!” I explained that weeds and good plants all have roots, so we need to be careful what we allow to grow in our garden. I couldn’t help but mentally relate that to our lives. Whatever seeds we allow to take root will be what flourishes. Roots of bitterness can grow deep. So can roots of gratitude. What seeds are we nurturing?

I had other plans for supper, but the baby refused to let me put her down. (A combination of how busy I’ve been and having to come indoors.) Last evening I deboned BBQ chicken from church, added brown rice and corn and cooked it in my new electric pressure cooker. It was fabulous. This evening I simply “creamed” the leftovers with milk and sour cream and added some smoked paprika. I wanted to make Indian Fry Bread, but I couldn’t with one hand so I separated leftover hotdog buns from a party we’d had, spread about a half teaspoon of mayo on each one, sprinkled some garlic powder, topped with shredded cheese and broiled to toast. I felt guilty at first. I’ve never done something like that with hotdog buns before, but it was a huge hit with the children. Certainly not the most nutritious meal to grace our table, but it was tasty, our tummies were sufficiently full, we used a number of leftovers, and the baby didn’t have to cry while I cooked. #simplesupperscore

I posted this photo on my Facebook page earlier, but it bears repeating. Really folks, a little kindness goes a long way. As I said on the post, it is easy to be kind to those who are kind to us. The real test is being kind to those who are not. I’ve prayed for special grace from others as I’ve gone through difficult times and perhaps responded or acted in ways that were less than stellar and I need to remember to extend that same grace to others. We truly seldom know the battles others are facing and a random act of kindness and a simple gesture of grace can give someone a boost when they most need it. 

I’ve been reading lots of books while I write my own. Now that our annual Sadie Rose 5K is behind us for another year, I am devoted to finishing my book. 

Screen free week activities and insights 

From Monday morning to last evening, Friday, our family participated in a mostly screen free week; no TV, iPad, video games, etc, with the exception of what my husband and I had to use for work. While we monitor our children’s screen time to what we feel like is a fair amount, we still felt like going screen free for a week would be a good experiment. 

I couldn’t wait until the end of the week to share with you our warm glowing stories of family domestication perfection. While some of that most definitely occurred, I realized quickly that screen time can also diffuse sibling rivalry. I found myself diffusing them instead, which of course is part of mom’s job description. 🙂

I didn’t take many pictures because I didn’t want my phone in my own hand while reminding the children we were “screen free.” 

Some of our activities this week included newspaper reading, story telling contests that included real-life accounts from mine and Lee’s childhood and hilarious home-spun tales from the littles. Most of the stories were told in our basement with only oil lamps and candles to set the aura. 

We shared multiple kitchen adventures which included two “hit” nights where all five of us absolutely loved the meals! Both were simple and inexpensive. The one was using pancetta I’d bought at Aldi’s (a wonderful discount grocery store) tossed with cooked whole wheat spaghetti, peas, and a cream sauce with half and half and stone ground mustard. 

The second was this copycat Panera Bread broccoli cheese soup. The only things I did differently was decrease the amount of butter significantly and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. We literally devoured this soup!

I’ve been allowing the two older children to help with supervised peeling and chopping, mixing and stirring. Through this, our 5-year-old daughter found that she loves cooked beets! If I would have just put them in her plate and told her to try them, she would have wrinkles her nose. 

The children also made chocolate-dipped goodies all on their own. 

A lot of sugar here, I recognize that, but with limited sweets overall we still allow them to enjoy these treats occasionally. 

Between our two school-aged children, they were recognized in their school for Character Counts, Kids for Kindness, and ten stars on their “caught being good” fish! We don’t always get it right, but those moments sure do encourage us! 

We played instruments and learned new songs and chords on the guitar, mandolin, and ukulele. They drew lots of pictures and folded multiple paper airplanes. We practiced running for our annual Sadie Rose 5K this weekend. 

Unfortunately I’m dealing with some serious heel pain and this run put me out of commission for an entire evening. I went to bed to read about 7:30 and stayed there until 6 the next morning. I don’t know the last time that had happened!

We had delightful clouds for picture imagination. 

Our son took this picture of Papaw’s dog leaping through the air. 🙂

Overall, it was definitely a good decision for our family and something we will do more often perhaps by day or weekend. It’s good to be back in touch, though, too. 

Have a great weekend!

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