Teach Us to Number Our Days

Teach us to number our days, Moses writes.

Those words echo in my heart as I’ve been so overwhelmed by this mix of emotions that motherhood brings. There are days when it is so hard that I have to give myself a pep talk just to get out of bed, let alone smile as I walk out of my bedroom door to face the day. There are nights when I go to bed so completely mentally and emotionally drained that I can’t articulate a thought before I am asleep. There are moments throughout the day when I’m having to discipline a behavior – the same behavior that I thought we had just corrected five minutes ago – when I just wish away the clock.

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Then, then, there are the moments that make me want time to freeze. Ephrem giggling at something that I’ve done, something so ridiculously silly that I would never do in front of my friends. Or watching him accomplish something and seeing the pride light up his little (no longer a toddler) face. This little boy is funny, and sweet, and becoming his own person. How did that happen? Each day I see him more and more as his own person. I see our fingerprints in his personality, for sure, but he is becoming his own version of Ephrem. I can only imagine that continues as he grows. I have these flashbacks of new parenthood with this little toddling boy and I realize that that little toddler is a shadow only found in photos.

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My favorite moment of the day with Ainsley is when she first wakes up. She smiles ear-to-ear as I get her out of the crib. And then I get to hear Ephrem say excitedly, “Ainsley is AWAKE! Ainsley, are you ready to play pat-a-cake with me?” And she smiles even bigger for her brother. I could nestle down and live in that moment forever. She’s giggling. She rolls over and reaches for and can hold onto toys now. And most of all, she loves her silly brother. In just five short months, she has started to emerge with a little personality that was hidden inside of her little newborn self.

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The parenthood equivalent of Moses’ words is the saying, “The days are long but the years are short.”

I can see how quickly time has already gone by with these two little loves of mine. There are exhausting, difficult, did-I-really-lose-my-patience-again moments. In fact, I’ve never experienced exhaustion quite like parenthood. But each of those moments is countered with a beautiful moment where I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

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So, I pray that I learn to number my days so I can present a heart of wisdom. I don’t think that I will always remember not to wish the hard minutes (or hours as it may be some days) away. But I pray that I wish  away fewer moments and embrace those moments because they make the other moments glow even more.

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Ainsley’s Arrival

For anyone who is interested in Ainsley’s birth story, here it is. (No worries – I left out the gory details!)

Miss Ainsley’s entrance into the world wasn’t what I expected. After such a smooth pregnancy (a true blessing!) I was ready for her to come early (like my brothers and I had for my mom). Everything was ready – my pre-baby checklist was complete, the hospital bag was packed, and my birth plan was ready to go. I was so ready for her to come that I think I tried almost every Old Wives’ Tale to get her out – long walks, spicy foods, evening primrose oil, etc. (The midwife wouldn’t let me try castor oil, but I was ready to!)

Evidently, I don’t take after my mother when it comes to pregnancy/labor.

As my due date inched closer and closer and I started to feel more and more ready (and more and more like I was a walking house), it was becoming increasingly clear that this girl was quite comfortable in there and not really interested in coming out. My OB was on vacation so I ended up seeing one of the midwives. I might have been in tears at my last appointment before my due date when the midwife said that there hadn’t been any progress and mentioned the i-word (induction). (I was glad it was a midwife and not my OB, who I’m pretty sure wouldn’t have known what to do with me crying.) We scheduled a scan to make sure she was doing ok for the Monday, with the hope that I would go into labor over the weekend.

Despite wishing and trying to convince her to come out, I didn’t go into labor.

So Monday, we did the scan and she was doing well (strong heartbeat). The midwife said she would schedule the induction for Thursday, April 24, and was still hopeful that I would go into labor on my own before then. I was intimidated by the idea of being induced, but my sister-in-law reassured me that it wasn’t as scary as I had imagined.

I did have contractions for four days, but Ainsley wasn’t budging.

Thursday bright and early, we went to Halifax for the eviction induction. They got me set up – even managed to find a decent vein for the IV lock (I have terribly small veins so IVs aren’t my favorite thing because the nurses often have to stick me a few times – The blood bank won’t even let me donate blood because of my veins, which is sadly because I’m O-, the universal donor.). At some point, the nurse asked what my birth plan was (especially whether I wanted an epidural). “It went out the window when we had to evict this girl. Bring on the epidural!”

The midwife arrived at 8am and broke my water, and at 9am they started the Pitocin. The contractions started about 20 minutes after that. I wanted to go as long as possible without the epidural because I knew it could slow down labor and I really wanted to get through it as quickly as possible. I got out of bed and tried walking around as much as I could tethered to the monitors and the IV lines. (The nurse who did our birth classes was a big proponent of using gravity to help the process along :-).) The hardest thing about the Pitocin was that the contractions were right on top of each other, making it difficult to catch my breath for the next one. When they checked my progress at 10:30, I asked for the epidural, which came around 11:30.

While the epidural definitely made me more comfortable and the contractions more bearable (Evan said my whole body just relaxed when it set in), it did slow things down considerably for hours. We tried shifting me in another position and my BP dropped and so did Ainsley’s heartrate. I knew something was wrong because all of the nurses were incredibly calm and there were many of them. Once they got me back in a position where my BP and Ainsley’s heartrate were both ok, I had to stay that way. Sadly, being in that position didn’t help me progress at all. By 5pm, the on-call obstetrician came in and said that if I didn’t progress in the next hour, she would have the staff prep me for a c-section.

That meant baby girl and mom had to talk. I told Ainsley that she had already stayed in there five days too long and she had to come out, that a c-section wasn’t an option. Not only did I want to meet this little person who was refusing to come, I didn’t want to try to be a mom to a 35-lb toddler for the next six weeks after having a c-section. Period.

Somehow that talk worked and by 9pm I started pushing.

At 9:43pm, Ainsley Grace was born weighing 7lbs 1oz and 20 inches long. Because she had swallowed some meconium in utero, I had to wait to hold her — but the moment I held her, she took my breath away. She was so beautiful and I couldn’t believe that we had lived any part of our lives without her.

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After she was cleaned up

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After her first bath – Both of us were pretty tired

Four and a half weeks later, we are all in love with this little girl.

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Holding his “Ains-a-ley” as he says her name.

She’s pretty frowny, but when she does smile, her whole face lights up. (Also, aren’t baby yawns the sweetest???)

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Ephrem is a fabulous big brother. He loves to hold her, and probably would hold her all the time if we would let him. He loves to make sure her toys play their music for her. I’m learning to be home with both kids and easing into a new routine. It’s getting easier every day, though the days that I get more sleep are definitely more bearable, obviously.

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Cuddling with my two babies

After bringing Ephrem home, I didn’t imagine that I could be more blessed.

Somehow, it was possible.

 

Dear Ephrem (February 2014)

Hey Sweet Boy –

One thing that I’ve learned as a parent is how quickly the year goes by. I meant to capture all of the things you can do or love around your second birthday, and well, it flew by without me doing it! I’m so sorry, Bubs.

But you’re growing and changing so fast that I have to capture things as they happen. Otherwise, I’ll forget. And someday you’ll ask me what you liked to eat or do as a toddler and I’ll have to scrounge the back of my useless brain to try to remember.

So here’s you at 2.5 years old. You are an incredible kid. You smile almost all the time. You just started to do this fake laugh, which makes you really laugh and that makes mommy laugh with you. You love to be chased and tickled (“Mommy get you?” you say). You sing all the time – mostly Veggie Tales songs, but sometimes other songs. You love shapes – octagons and circles tend to be your favorite (and are the first to disappear from your shape puzzles). You love to pretend that your green oval is Larry the Cucumber and your wrist band is Bob the Tomato. You just started like to Thomas the Tank Engine (which mommy finds boring but endures because you do love it). You like the library, but only tolerate Story Time with Ms. Brenda. You wake up waaaaay too early some days, but you’re usually singing so it’s adorable, even before 6am. You would eat pizza or chicken “nugs” [nuggets] for every meal if we would let you. You love to run and are pretty fast! You give the best hugs and kisses a mommy could ever hope for.

Sweet Boy, you’re the kiddo I never knew I’d be lucky enough to call my son. I love you always.

Ephrem2pt5years

PS – Stop growing up so fast! Mommy doesn’t feel like she can keep up!

 

Happenings (February)

Whoops. Got a little busy around here. Sorry for the 1200th time.

We had the opportunity to visit my family in the beginning of January for my mom’s very special birthday. Ephrem was an amazing little traveler. I was a little nervous traveling with Ephrem but without Evan for the first time, but Ephrem was made for traveling. (I suppose that comes from your first flight being an 8-hour international flight.) As soon as he got in the stroller at the airport, he was easy going, despite waiting through many, many long lines. I thought the highlight of his trip would have been flying, but he actually liked taking the MCO shuttle (“train!”) better.

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A very, very long line to drop off baggage and get our boarding passes

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Getting a quick snack before the flight to PHL

I was excited that Ephrem got to spend time with my family and get to know his Delaware cousins. (I didn’t get more photos of Ephrem with everyone…sorry!)

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Dinner with my Dad

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Flying back to FL

 

Beside that, we’ve been enjoying the park, especially when days are sunny here. Ephrem has been getting more independent when he’s been playing. It’s been awesome to see.

 

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Playing outside during a colder day

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Baseball

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Shapes at the park

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Going down the slide with dad

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Our favorite – the swing

We also had the opportunity to do the zoo with some friends a few weeks ago. It was a perfect day for the zoo – slightly overcast and cooler so a lot of the animals were out and about.

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So here’s an update on Baby Girl. I’m currently 31 and a half weeks. It’s crazy how quickly it’s gone by. Forty weeks seems like a long time until you’re almost 32 weeks into it!

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Photo from a friend’s wedding in December – no hiding that bump now.

People have been asking me if I’m pregnant, so I’m hoping that means I look pregnant and not just chubby. 🙂

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Early second trimester photo to late second trimester (It’s funny to see what you think is a bump early in pregnancy and then what is a real bump)

January 28 marked the first day of the third trimester. Holy cow.

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Yikes! Third trimester!

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Third trimester bump

We’re currently taking child birth classes (yikes!). Taking the birth classes as current parents is a little funny. While we didn’t experience child birth with Ephrem, we are parents. So, of course, during the videos, we’re pointing out what will change for folks as their new baby grows. And I start thinking how much less painful it is for a baby to come home on an airplane.

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Part of the child birth class…one that Evan was happy he didn’t have to experience.

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30 week bump

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One thing I didn’t realize until recently is that she’s due Easter weekend. Of course, she could be early or late, but I have a feeling she’ll be close to her actual due date. Nothing scientific…just a feeling, so we’ll see. With Evan being the worship leader at our church and my role as programming director, we have several levels of contingency plans just in case she comes on her due date. (Or a week early.) If she’s late, we’ll be ok. (Well, in terms of responsibilities – I might not be happy…)

So that’s what’s happening here. I have some contract work coming up (probably my last contract until the summer) and then I plan to do some major nesting to make sure we’re fully ready. (Well, as ready as can be!)

The time Ephrem was granted citizenship

So this is a story about Ephrem gaining citizenship. It was all supposed to be straightforward and simple, but, you know, this is me and I like to make this different…

In August, we finally applied to USCIS for Ephrem’s citizenship. It’s not a hard process, I was just trying to figure out what paperwork I needed to submit, get passport photos for a two-year-old (no small feat, really), and submit the fee. Anyway, between parenthood, etc., it just took me a year to get myself together to apply. I applied in August and then the government shutdown happened at the end of September. I figured we’d probably get his certificate of citizenship (COC) by mail like everyone else I know by Christmas.

Well, then I got a letter from USCIS for an appointment on November 21 at 9am at their Orlando office. I thought it was weird, but the letter said to bring Ephrem’s Permanent Resident card and we’d get his COC. So I figured, meh, must need to do this in person.

We got up super early on Thursday to drive the 1.5+ hours to the office. Beside wanting him to be comfortable for the drive, Ephrem is still working on the potty training thing and I didn’t think that this was anything more than just an appointment to pick up papers, so I dressed him in track pants and a tshirt (easier to use the restroom) and I wore a tunic, jeans, and flipflops. You might be wondering why I would describe our attire. You’ll soon understand.

It was a miserable drive – mostly downpours until I about an hour in the drive. But by the time I got to the USCIS office, it was only overcast.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed that they were incredibly busy this day. Everyone getting out of their vehicles was wearing really nice clothes, like nice. I though, huh, I guess people have to dress up for immigration interviews? We went inside and the line to clear security was really long. A USCIS officer comes out and looks at our appointment letters and tells me, Well you can hold him [Ephrem] during the ceremony.

Ceremony?

Oh crap. Oh crap. Oh crap.

I looked at the letter again…nothing about a ceremony – it just said “appointment.”

We cleared security and went to get Ephrem’s COC. I signed for him on all the forms. The person congratulated us and gave me his COC and told me not to remove a sticky note that says “adopted” until I go inside for the ceremony because they have reserved seating for us. Oh crap. Oh crap. Oh crap. I apologized and said I’m not dressed for the ceremony because I didn’t know. (Again, no one that I know had done a ceremony – the COC was just mailed to them…) She smiled and said that they’re doing a ceremony because November is National Adoption Month. And then told me to go “over there.”

We went to the ceremony room and where do they sit us (again, in our incredibly inappropriately casual clothes)? Front row. Wait, not just the front row: front row and center. I was laughing by the time we sat down (mostly to keep from crying). Evan and my in-laws should have been there, but I hadn’t had a clue that this was a ceremony. Of course, as I was thinking about the people who should have come and how inappropriately dressed we are for something like us, the news crews show up. Yes, multiple news crews. Because who doesn’t like to be the person inappropriately dressed sitting in the front row for for a citizenship ceremony that will be on the local news?

Ephrem's first selfie (as we waited for the ceremony to start)

Ephrem’s first selfie (as we waited for the ceremony to start). 

It was a packed house so the ceremony was delayed by an hour. By the time they USCIS director came out to start the ceremony, Ephrem was done. Done from sitting in the car for 1.5+ hours. Done from waiting in lines. Done from sitting. He made it through the Star Spangle Banner, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the swearing-in ceremony before he started “reading” his book to the keynote speaker and then stating loudly that he had to go potty. We ended up “enjoying” most of the ceremony from the hallway.

USCIS director leading the ceremony

USCIS director leading the ceremony

Citizens 14 years and older took the oath for citizenship

Citizens 14 years and older took the oath for citizenship

Keynote speaker talking on adoption for National Adoption Month.

Keynote speaker talking on adoption for National Adoption Month.

And I forgot to get a good photo of us, so this is what we have:

Our little American!

Our little American!

Apparently citizenship is exhausting for a two year-old because this happened 20 minutes after getting back in the car to drive back:

You can't see because the sunglasses, but he's sleeping.

You can’t see because the sunglasses, but he’s sleeping.

If you  have the opportunity, I highly recommend attending a citizenship ceremony. I felt incredibly proud to be an American and to see a whole room full of people who worked hard to join our country and ascribe to the values and principles of our nation. It was something I won’t forget.

So, Ephrem, Mommy is terribly sorry that we don’t have fancy photos of you in a suit with your parents by the American flag. I’m terribly sorry that Daddy, Nana, and Papa (and whomever else would have wanted to be there) weren’t there. But, this whole thing makes a much better story. Always, always remember to laugh at life. And dress as if you’re going to a citizenship ceremony at all times. Because you might not think that anyone you know watches the local news and then you’ll get a message from someone on FB that says, “I saw you and Ephrem becoming a citizen on the news!” 

What to say?

Sorry for the silence. Aside from trying to gain my bearings as I’ve transitioned out of my full-time job, I didn’t post anything because I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep this secret if I blogged:

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Baby Shows 2 due April (I’m 12 weeks in this photo)

Yup, we are having a biological child. I’m due April 19, which feels like it’ll be here before I know it. We found out in August and it was a hard secret to keep.

Obviously, everything feels different this time around. Instead of looking at a photo of child who is growing halfway around the world, I see my ever-growing stomach expanding. Instead of the paper chase and madly fundraising, I see doctors and can rely on health insurance. Instead of a child growing in my heart, I have a sonogram of the child being knitted in my womb. Instead of airplanes and travel to the most amazing continent, we will be driving to a hospital and meeting our new person.

The processes are different, but my prayer is still the same: That this child would grow in grace, love, and faith and know that God loves him/her very much and that I would be equipped to mother both of these children in the way that brings out the best that God has for them.

While the processes are different, both paths have been uniquely beautiful.

However, I can say that I love that God called us to adoption first. I grew significantly in my faith during that process. I learned so much about God’s faithfulness to us. Although the learning curve on parenting a child who has already experienced so much has been high, I am grateful for the opportunity to be Ephrem’s mommy. From the moment I saw his first photo, I saw my son and was determined to do anything to protect him. It made me realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that love makes a family, not DNA. 

Ephrem & Mommy

That’s a lesson that I don’t take for granted. I remember when we first came home and Ephrem was so scared, so insecure. And we were clueless. We have had to learn to be a family. He has learned to trust us. We have learned how to parent in a way that best suits him. We learned to love first and laugh deeply. We learned that love is an action, more than it is that warm fuzzy feeling in our hearts or words from our mouths.

So this next child may not come home on an airplane, but this child will enter the world into a family that has learned to love well.

Wherever You Are

I’m celebrating because one year ago today I got to hold Ephrem for the very first  time. I had studied his little face for nine months and prayed so many wordless prayers for his health, safety, love, and care.

But this day, 365 days ago, I saw his beautiful little smile for the very first time.

This day, 365 days ago, a woman placed Ephrem in my arms in the airport parking lot in Africa, and he was physically a part of our family forever.

This day, 365 days ago, my heart got its second deepest wish: to be a mother.

Ephrem, you are one of the very best gifts I’ve ever received in this life and I cherish May 29 always because it’s the day that we met.

At a restaurant, the first full day together

“I wanted you more than you will ever know, so I sent my love to follow wherever you go…” – Nancy Tillman

Crockpot Meatballs

Before I get to the recipe for this week, I have to tell you the story of the recipe I was going to post.

I had a craving for creamy soup. When you’re dairy-free (DF), creamy isn’t a word you get to use to describe your food very often, if at all. So when I found this recipe for creamy golden potato soup, I was excited.

And then everything conspired to make this soup go wrong…all wrong.

First, I started browning the sweet onion before I had peeled the potatoes. Mistake #1. Then I didn’t dice the potatoes fine enough for the immersion blender and had to correct that mid-course. Mistake #2. Then, I used the blender to make the potatoes creamy with some almond milk. No mistake there….until I realized that I forgot to add the green chilis. By this point, I had runny mashed potatoes but not quite creamy soup. No worries. I figured it would be better the next day when I had had a chance to let it cook in the crockpot (uh, and add bacon).

Wrong.

So.very.wrong.

The soup burned in the crockpot. The chilis gave it a funky after-taste. And the bacon didn’t even help. Overall, not good.

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Evan was kind enough to eat half a bowl. I came home, smelled it, faked a bite and made a sandwich. Win some, lose some.

Okay, so that’s a recipe I will not be posting.

Here’s one for your enjoyment! I love quinoa pasta. I love meatballs. But it’s typically hard to do meatballs because a key ingredient is breadcrumbs. Until I learned that they make GF breadcrumbs. Fortunately, this is a recipe that you can make ahead and freeze for a day when you need a meal.

GF Meatballs
I got this recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking and have adapted it slightly

Ingredients
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1.5 lbs lean ground beef
4 slices smoked bacon (raw), diced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (omit for a DF version – it comes out fine!)
1/4 cup Panko-style breadcrumbs
2 eggs
2 tablespoon dried minced onion flakes (another reason I like this recipe – I don’t have to chop onions!)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup of GF flour (rice, potato, etc.)

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. If you are making these for dinner tonight, spray the inside of your cooker with cooking spray or rub it down with a bit of olive oil. (This is surprisingly important.) Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (I use wax paper because I’m cheap and lazy and it’s what’s in my cabinet.) Pour 1 cup of floor into a shallow dish. Set the cooker, cookie sheet, and shallow dish aside.

In a good sized mixing bowl, combine the parsley, beef, and diced bacon. Add in the cheese (if using), breadcrumbs, eggs, and dried spices. Combine well. (I typically use my hands.)

After the meat is mixed, roll the mixture into golfball-sized balls and then lightly dust each meatball with flour before placing it onto the lined cookie sheet. When all the meat is gone, put the whole cookie sheet into the freezer for one (1) hour, or until completely frozen. If you’re freezing longer than one hour, put into a sealed dish/tupperware.

Once the meatballs are frozen, place them one-by-one (ahem, don’t dump ’em) into the lightly greased slow cooker. It’s okay to stack them. Add sauce.

Cook on low for 5-7 hours, or until the meatballs have browned and are fully cooked. Serve over pasta or in rolls, or however you eat meatballs!

Delish!

Crock Pot Monday…on Tuesday (unofficial part 3)

One thing that you will learn if you ever come to our house for a meal, we are fans of Tex-Mex and Asian-inspired meals. This Tex-Mex recipe is one that we love, love, love.

Slow Cooker Roasted Pork Tenderloin Carnitas

Ingredients
1
lb pork tenderloin, trimmed
2/3 cup salsa
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1/4 grapefruit
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

The original recipe calls for you to brown the pork on all sides over medium high heat. I honestly have never done that and the dish is still delicious.

Add salsa and citrus juices to crock pot. Place pork on top, turning to coat. Cook on low heat for 6-7 hours, till pork is easily shredded. Shred pork with two forks, then stir in beans. (If you have to cook it as long as we do – 10-11 hours – I recommend that you add more liquid.)

Spoon into tortillas (Evan likes soft flour tortillas, I have mine crunchy corn shells). Top with desired toppings (cheese, sour cream, ranch dressing, lettuce, diced tomatoes, etc.). We serve it with yellow rice. Yum!

If you like something a little spicy, you might want to add a can of diced green chilis. I haven’t yet, but I’m planning to for the next time we have this.