Chase Fireflies


Running into Love

I ran the other day. 

Every step, like the other.  Moving forward.  Measured, strong.  It felt so good, right, perfect.
And I sang.  In my heart, I sang. 

It was the loudest song of praise that noone else could hear. 

I emptied a lot of junk on the track that day, which is maybe why the run felt so good.  My failures, inconsistencies, burdens, fears.  I needed a forgiveness.  Trashing all that seeks its own way to exalt me.  The sweat mingled with sin and it fell till I was soaked.  And I ran. 

I ran into shocking grace.  I ran into freedom.  I ran into pleasure.  It’s not often that I feel the absolute delight of God.   I felt it in this moment.  His words echoed to me over time.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;  I have drawn you with loving-kindness. 
I have loved you with an everlasting love;  I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;  I have drawn you with loving-kindness. 

There in a ratty old T-shirt and grey sweatpants.  Hair in ponytail.   Surrounded by cinderblock walls.  Running around in circles.  I felt the love of God, as an artist with his prized piece of work. 

His design.  Every detail, purposed.  Every fault, a tribute to His perfect grace.  Every strength, a dim reflection of a greater beauty.   I was His. 

Soaked and reeking in love,  His.


Classic Baked Ziti

baked ziti

If you’re looking for a new dish to add to your menu, this one should be it.  Cheesy, comforting, perfect.  I’m slightly addicted to this stuff, which is why I’ve made it a lot

The great thing is that you can probably get two complete dishes out of this, which makes  the time it takes worthwhile.  I usually make it with garlic bread and something green… steamed broccoli or green beans.  The heaping amount of green on my plate cancels out all of the cheese, cream, and pasta.  Plus, the colors make  me smile.  

The frozen dish is just as good as the first one.  And there’s nothing better than popping the frozen sidekick in the oven when the only thing you’re set to accomplish is getting out of bed. 

Anyway, here’s the recipe (Adapted from MyKitchenCafe)

1 pound 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces grated parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 pound ziti or other similar pasta (like penne)
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, finely minced (about 5 teaspoons)
1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
Black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream (or substitute whole milk but increase the amount of cornstarch to 2 teaspoons and the cooking time in step 3 by 1 to 2 minutes)
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup of the parmesan cheese together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, about 7 minutes (the pasta will finish cooking in the oven). Drain pasta and leave in colander. Do not wash the large pot.

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, sugar, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Take off heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stir cornstarch into heavy cream and transfer mixture to the now-empty large pot the pasta cooked in. Set the pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce, and 3/4 cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.

Transfer mixture to a 9X13-inch baking dish (or two round glass dishes)  and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the baking dish with foil that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve.

*Freezable Meal: Prepare recipe right up until the baking step and then cover with a double layer of aluminum foil. Freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. To bake, increase baking time to about 1 hour. If baking from frozen, bake covered for 1 hour and 30 minutes, uncover and bake 30 minutes longer.


Valentine Card Heart Bouquet


Valentine Card Bouquet

These were Selah’s handmade Valentine cards to her friends this year.  We found the idea from the Family Fun magazine and loved it immediately!  It was such a nice project to work on together.  I made patterns for each of the hearts and leaves.  She traced and cut.  I hole punched.  She assembled.  What a team:) 

The Proud Artist

Here is the proud artist, herself, eating paper and dazed from her hard work.

Little Man, Happy

Here is the proud sneaky brother, who managed to secure himself one too many pops on the sly.  We were in the same room and every time I looked over, he was playing with cars, reading books, and slamming baskets.  Little did I know…

Remnants of Little Man

He was sneaking these away while we were working.  He had his back turned for a reason, that Little Man!  Those little teeth are so going to rot over these Valentines!

But they are so cute and unique.  Maybe it’s worth a cavity or two:)


Dinky Cards & Dark Chocolate

For Valentine’s Day, I’ll take the gift of a hot date with the Hubs.  Flowers make me smile.  And mmm… dark chocolate is good for the heart. 

But gifts don’t get my attention. 

Years ago, living in Korea, I got these enormous packages from this guy named Paul.  They were packed to the brim with CD’s, clothes, American food, and whatever else could get crammed into a box.  They were sweet.

But I didn’t think twice about them.

My friends would say, “I really think this guy has a thing for you.”  And I would say no.  He’s just a nice guy who sends big packages to far-away places.  I’m pretty sure he does it for everyone he knows who lives far away.  I meant it too.

The thing is, Paul is a gift giver.  It’s his expression of love.   Mine is words.  So I didn’t really get clued in to the big box of stuff deal.

There’s this other time that this Paul guy sent me a card.  And I think it said that I was jammin.  So I hung it next to my teacher desk and I looked at it everyday.  And it made me smile.  And I really started to think that I jammed.  And I wondered if maybe this guy did have a thing for me after all. 

It’s my understanding of love. 

Sometimes, expressions of love get buried, like wires falling down because the snow is piled too high.  One person’s expression isn’t another’s.  Perceptions differ.  Communication gets crossed.

There’s a verse that I kind of don’t get, even though I’ve seen it a million times.  The words say, “Love does not seek its own.”  I’m really bad with this verse.  I can be pitifully selfish.

But I want to learn.  I really do. 

I suppose that verse means a lot of things.  One of which is plowing out to find the just right gift for that guy named Paul – not just signing my name to a dinky card.  Though, as we all now know, he can certainly do that for me. 

Just as long as the dinky card still says, “I think you jam,” of course.


So Worth It Tears

Can any of my girl peeps relate to this?  This is great. 
I’m not this weepy, but okay maybe I am.  Sometimes. 

What makes you cry?
  For me, it’s..

 having babies, God
 worship, honest stories, people who are not valued
 and things THAT I REALIZE I don’t deserve.   

Finding home plate, that three point shot
my Daddy’s kindness, the laughter of friends
lives well lived, and – on occasion – napkins. 

Anyway, watch the clip.  And smile:)

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Penguin Activities for Preschoolers

We are finishing up our Penguin week ’round here.  As some of you know, I am mildly infatuated with thematic planning (teacher genes).   I like it so much that I’ve decided to incorporate more themes around our home. 

We did these activities over the course of a week and a half.  A couple every day and in some cases (Freeze Dance) tons of repeats. 

The biggest thing that I’m learning is to be intentional about time with our kids.  I know all of this stuff seems overboard/ridiculous, but if I don’t plan activities, I’ll spend my time with them organizing drawers and scrubbing spots out of the much neglected carpet.  I’d rather play.  Plus, they are growing out of their jeans, which makes me want to cry. 

Here are some art projects, games, food, and science projects you can do with preschoolers – whether in a classroom or with your own little tykes at home.  Whatever you do or don’t do, just be intentional:)


Penguin Waddle Race:  Have kids hold a ball between their knees and race each other.  Balancing the ball is a riot and will make them waddle. 

The Penguin Freeze Dance:  Put a winter hat on with some music and dance!  When the music starts, dance!  When it stops, freeze!  Of course, you’ll have to join in and show them how to move!
Adaptation:  Have floating pieces of ice scattered around the room (pillows).  When the music stops, have the penguins find a piece of ice to stand on.

Emperor Penguin Says:  Play the traditional game Simon Says, substituting “Emperor Penguin” for “Simon.”

Penguin Sledding:  If snow is available, have your penguins slide on their bellies down small inclines on sleds. 


Heart Penguin:  Make a penguin out of various sizes of hearts.  (See photograph below.) 

Recycled Art – Penguins:  Use whatever you have in your recycling bin to make a penguin.  You will need a bottle, black and white paper, orange foam (or paper works too), glue or tape, and google eyes.

Penguin Pointillism:  Draw an outline of a penguin or the letter “P.”  With a Q-tip and some black, white, and orange paint, have your little ones color the penguin or “P” with paint dots.


Freeze water in a pan.  Have children predict what will slide on the ice:  cotton balls, dry beans, balls, whatever you have on hand.  Test out your predictions.


Fish Sticks and Macaroni (for the Macaroni Penguin of course!)


Preschoolers have a hard time with one to one correspondence.  The more counting activities you can do the better!  We had bowls of goldfish and estimated how many were in our bowl.  (Preschool estimates are the best – 145 and 482.  There were about 10-20 some!) 


There are plenty of penguin books at the library.  Our favorite was Augustine.  So cute!  As in our Snow Day, we threw a white sheet over the table and read books underneath, creating an igloo. 


Big Ticket Winner

So far in the history of me I have won 4 tickets to Kennywood, a couple of cheeseburgers, a frosty, and a small Pampered Chef recipe book. 

I am a sucker for all things free, so I sign up to win everything.  And I always think I’m going to win.  This week I dropped my name in to win a free night at the orchestra and 10 days with a personal trainer.  Wouldn’t spot the crazy cash for either, but if it’s free…

Because of said tendency to register for everything, my name is on every mailing list.  You should see our mailbox. 

I always wonder if the mail carrier wants to hunt me down or if he relishes the challenge of stuffing all the junk into that little box. 

Anyway, I shall not complain about junk, nor about the hundreds of times I haven’t won.  Instead, I shall freak out that I won a 3 Month Family Membership to the Y!  Such a win calls for excessive screaming and jumping and scaring the small children.  AHHHHHHH!!!!!!

On Tuesday, we officially paraded in with our prize.  I’ve logged in miles since then, swam with the kiddos in the pool, and am still freaked out by the free weights. 

One day I will brave the mass of buff people and figure things out, or at least look like a skinny fool. 

Till then, I’m enjoying lapping everyone on the track.  I am so not competitive on the treadmill in our basement, but tracks are another story.  I’ve already bragged to Paul that I’m the fastest human on that thing.  (I’m also the youngest by about 20 years – this fastest human thing won’t last long.) 

Anyway, I am very excited.   This is the best win ever! 

Here’s to free stuff, three months of burning legs, and playing with the kiddos!  Yeah!

What is the best thing you’ve ever won?