Friday, April 29, 2011

Food For Thought

My mom just returned from a whirl-wind trip to Italy, Greece and Croatia.  In just a mere 12 days, she saw such sights as Lago Maggiore in Italy, the site of the Olympic Games in Greece, and the "Pearl of the Adriatic" in Croatia ... and enjoyed a gondola ride in Venice, visited the conical, trullo homes in Bari and enjoyed 7 nights on a cruise ship.  Hence the whirl-windiness of her trip!

I am very excited to see pictures and hear about her many excursions and adventures ... and only wish that she had been able to bring back some of that authentic and delectable food.  Ah well ... I guess I need to start saving my pennies for my own Italian trip.  I figure I have about 25 years to starting planning!

In honor of my mom's world-traveling escapades, I am featuring three meals that she didn't eat while she was there.  But she might have!  I'm not claiming any ethnic authenticity here ... but they are tasty, easy, involve some sort of pasta and you can listen to the "Traditional Italian" station on Pandora and pretend you're in Milan. :)

Ravioli & Peas
(This recipe is from Food Network, March 2011 ... and modified beyond recognition.)

Ingredients:
7 slices of bacon, chopped
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 T. tomato paste
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 cup frozen peas, cooked
Parmesan cheese, grated
1 pound frozen ravioli

Prepare the ravioli according to the package directions.  When finished, reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid before draining.

In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp.  Drain most of the fat off and add the garlic and tomato paste.  Cook for about 1 minute.  Add the cup of pasta cooking liquid to the skillet and let cook for about 5 minutes until the mixture is reduced by half.  Add the evaporated milk and simmer for about 3 minutes until it starts to thicken.  Add this sauce to the pot with the ravioli and add the peas.  Toss well until the noodles are well coated and then top with grated parmesan.

Little cheesy pillows of creamy goodness!


Lemon Alfredo
(This recipe is from Food Network, March 2011 ... and adjusted a bit.)

Ingredients:
1 medium shallot, minced
1 T. butter
1 1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 egg yolk
2 t. lemon zest
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Salt & Pepper
16 oz. fettuccine noodles

Prepare the fettuccine noodles according to the package directions.  When finished, reserve about 1 cup of the cooking liquid before draining.

In a skillet, cook the shallot in the butter until golden brown.  In a small bowl, whisk in the evaporated milk, egg yolk, lemon zest and parmesan cheese.  Reduce the heat of the skillet and slowly add the creamy mixture.  Whisk in the skillet until it thickens up, about 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the sauce to the pot of fettuccine and use tongs to mix well.  Top with more parmesan cheese.

Norah loves the creamy-lemony deliciousness!


Greek Pastitsio
(This recipe is from Taste of Home, Jan 2011.  I made a few changes.)

Ingredients:
16 oz elbo macaroni
2 lb. ground beef (or lamb)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic clove, minced
2 - 8 oz cans tomato sauce
2 t. salt
1/2 t. oregano
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
6 T butter
6 T flour
3 cups milk
2 eggs, beaten (in a small bowl)

Cook the macaroni according to package instructions.  Set aside when finished.

In a large skillet, cook the meat, onion and garlic.  When no longer pink, add the tomato sauce, 1 t. salt, oregano, pepper and cinnamon.  Heat through.

Grease a 9x13 pan (or 2 9x9 if you want to freeze one).  Spread 1/2 of the macaroni in the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle 1/2 the parmesan cheese over the noodles and then add the meat mixture.  Top with the remaining macaroni and set aside.

Noodles and Meat ...
And more noodles!

In the same pot you cooked the noodles, melt butter.  Stir in the flour and 1 t. salt.  Stir and cook until smooth.  Gradually add the milk and whisk well.  Bring this mixture to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes until it's thickened.  Remove this from the heat and ladle out a small amount into the bowl with the eggs.  Stir this well and then add it back into the creamy mixture.  Bring to a gentle boil again and let cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese.

Simmering, Scrumptious Sauce :)

Pour this mixture over the macaroni.  (If making 2 9x9 pans, freeze one now and bake the other.)

A bit of a messy meal to prepare ...

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


But, oh so worth it!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring Has Sprung!

If you were to step out my front door today, here are a few of the splendid signs of Spring that you might enjoy ...

First, you would hear the sweet "tweet-tweet-tweeting" of the birds that live in the tree by our front window.  The little sparrows that dart in and out of the evergreen have built a number of nests over the years and we enjoy hearing their little babies squeaking excitedly as Mom and Dad return home with a morsel to share.

Next, you might spot our vinca vine poking up in the front flower-bed.  The tiny violet blooms that are peeking their heads up from among the bark and leaves are a delightful surprise!  How they have managed to wriggle their way up and out from the mass of strawberry plants that surround them is proof of their tenacity and determination!

Precious, Purple Posies

A few steps out into our lawn, and you will find clusters of little, golden dandelions.  Here and there across the grass you will find these little bundles of sunshine.  My husband isn't thrilled about them, but Petey is delighted!  Also, my girls are rather exuberant about plucking the little flowers to bring in to Mommy:  inexpensive, little bouquets of love.

Dandy, Delicious Dandelions

If you head to the backyard, you will encounter our raised beds - ready and waiting for planting.  In one corner of a planter you might find this delicious explosion of green!  Truly delicious because these are our garlic and chive plants.  I am beside myself with excitement to begin using fresh herbs and home-grown vegetables in my cooking again ... an explosion of green on our dinner plates, too!

Heaven-sent, Hardy Herbs

In the back flower bed, you might find these little fellows.  This is our first year planting snap-peas and we are excited to watch our little sweetie-peas climb up the trellis and produce a bushel of tender little bites of sweetness.  I can picture our kids outside grazing this summer ... hand, mouths and bellies full of those splendid little green guys!  Hope they save a few for me. :)

Scrumptiously Snack-able Sweet-peas

If you look to the sky, there are a few possible spring delights for you to see.  On any given spring day here in Colorado, the weather will range from ...
"crystal clear, it hurts your eyes it's so bright" blue sky to
"cotton-ball clouds" puttering across a crisp blue sky to
"rainclouds gathering, grey and menacing from the west" sky to
"no blue to be found" slate sky with glimpses of skittering snowflakes.
And if you don't particularly like the sky you see right now ... come back out in 15 minutes and you'll see something different.

Dark & Drippy

Crisp & Clear

The final sign that spring has finally come to the Grand Valley would be ...

Spring Clean-up!

Rounded-up Rejected Rubbish

Every year at this time junk, branches, furniture and building materials begin appearing on the streets.  If you live within the city limits, you can drag out anything and everything (including your kitchen sink) and have it hauled away for free.  This is the season to purge your house, yard, shed and garage of unwanted garbage and not feel bad about it.  In this picture you can't see the dried-up Christmas tree (that would be ours), the tree stump, the TV cabinet (also ours), the bundle of branches or the BBQ (ours, again).  Actually, you can't see the BBQ because somebody took it home ...

And that leads me to the truly amazing aspect of Spring Clean-Up:  the number of people who drive around town and claim someone else's trash as their treasure!  Most of the items that we put out in the pile actually get loaded up and carted away by someone other than the city trucks.  In fact, as I was taking these snapshots, I caught this last one:

TV cabinet Tied-up in a Truck

Yep ... Spring has sprung!

Anybody need a dried-up Christmas tree?  Only used once.

_____________________________
Prompt #4 ~ "Photo Story: Take a walk through your neighborhood this week and share some pictures of what Spring looks like where you live."

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Time-Warp Wednesday

My mom has a saying that she uses a lot.  "A singing child is a happy child."  So true.  I love to hear my babies sing, in part because I am almost guaranteed that the child who is singing, is not singing the Blues. :)

No ... in most cases the serenading kid is in his or her own happy, little world - humming quietly or belting out their favorite tune.  And that happy child is not an "I need you" child or a "help me now" child or a "give me your undivided attention" child.  For those few golden minutes, that kiddo is content and peaceful ... and that is music to Mommy's ears!

Right now, Ashley is on a "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "ABC" kick.  Which is rather funny considering they are actually the same tune.  As is "Baa-Baa Black Sheep" ... so, I guess that's next.

Lydia doesn't say much, but she does like to sing/hum a bit.  I have found her several times in her room, reading books to her babies and singing her own wordless version of "Jesus Loves Me".  Super sweet!

Norah doesn't sing on her own much, unless there is music on and then she will happily sing along.  Or if she's "playing" High School Musical on the Wii.  Then she'll belt out the songs.  Right on key, I might add.  

We caught Aaron singing in the shower the other day and it brought a smile to Mommy & Daddy's faces ... I think it was Dynamite. :)  He also has discovered 80's music via Pandora ... nothing quite like a 9 year old singing Erasure's "Victim of Love". :)

But, then again, I knew my kids would be singers from the very beginning.  Partly because their Daddy is a wonderful vocalist and partly because we bought them a little-person guitar.  That's when the musicality of our family really took off!


Note that Norah is accompanying her big brother on the bongo/plastic cup.  And he seems to be hitting a high note ... maybe the chorus to "I Will Make You Fishers of Men".  What a sweet little duet!

We still have that little guitar, by the way.  
It's missing all five strings, but the kids still "play" it.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lydia, The Truth-Teller

We all know that kids have the wonderful knack for "telling it like it is".  Right out of their sweet little mouths come all the thoughts that we adults keep tucked away in our minds.  We have a filter to help us to choose what is appropriate/helpful/respectful/suitable to say.  The kids, on the other hand, are missing that all important "colander" for their thoughts ... and so, out tumble wonderful things like:

"Mommy?  Why is that lady dressed like that?  Her dress is weird."
"Eww ... that guy smelled.  Yuck."
"Mom, that lady sings really bad.  It's like a scratching sound."
"When I shook his hand, it was sweaty.  Gross."

(Just a reminder that all these observations have been made in the presence of the person being described.  Awesome.)


"Mommy ... I think he was a clown.  Yeah ... 'cause he had big ugly shoes."
"She wasn't very nice.  I think she needs a nap."
and ...
"I think that man was really old.  Like 199 years old.  I think he's gonna die."

Those are the wonderful moments when you smile, turn your cart around and head for the nearest exit.

But, there are other times when your kids speak the truth and it sheds a whole new light on a situation ... in a good way.  And it either makes you smile, makes you adjust, or makes your day.  I had a little something like that happen recently ...

The kids were out of school and we had an entire day ahead of us.  We also had an extra buddy along ... just to keep things lively.  After about 30 minutes of no one knowing "what they wanted to do today", I decided that there was no way that I was going to just hang out at home with the five kids and listen to them be bored.  I gave the kids a "five-minute-warning" and started loading up the car.  We were going geocaching!  (For those of you not familiar with this activity, it's kind of like a treasure hunt.  We use GPS coordinates to find containers through out the city ... for more details, click the link.)

I had six caches loaded up on our GPS.  They were all in the same general area of town and I figured that we probably wouldn't get to them all ... but at least we wouldn't be bored.

We set out with our map and coordinates and arrived at the first location.  After several minutes of poking around, we decided that the plastic lid we saw in the bottom of the ditch probably belonged to the cache.  Bummer.  0-1.

We checked the coordinates for the next nearest cache and set off.  This was a successful find!  Boo-yeah!  1-2.  The kids were psyched up a bit and willing to move on to the third cache.  As long as we could have a quick snack and run around the playground a bit. :)

The third cache was also successful.  Tricky, but we found it.  2-3.  Not bad at all.  Of course, I should mention that Ashley and Lydia chose to stay in the car for this one.  They had lost some of their motivation, but the big kids were on a roll and wanted to keep going.

We headed to another neighborhood and after trumping around in the mud, weeds, shrubbery and "pokey bushes" we found the coffee can wedged under a branch.  Awesome.  3-4.  Unfortunately, there had been some extra bickering and whining on this hunt.  Lydia resisted walking, Ashley complained about the scratchy grass and the big kids grumbled about who should be holding the GPS.  So it was a victory with a bit of a shadow cast over it.

After a brief pow-wow, it was decided that we would do one more cache.  Then we would head home for lunch.  Following this brief attitude adjustment, we set off for the last one.

Which we found about 3.6 seconds after getting out of the car.  You could almost see it from the curb ... hiding there under the rock.  4-5.  But a bit of a lousy way to end our day.  We wanted a little more of a challenge than that.  Norah even went so far as to insult the cache ... something about, "not even being worth it."  Well ... we can't have that be our last cache!  We need one more!  We need to end the morning on a high-note!

I checked the GPS and found the last one I had logged that morning.  We headed over to a dirt lot behind a hotel just off the interstate.  The morale among the cachers was a bit low due to hunger, fatigue and general grumpiness.  Before unloading from the van, I double-checked that we wanted to look for this one.

"Yeah."

"Yes ... just one more."

"Yeah ... I guess so."

(Note the lack of enthusiasm ... that should have been a clue for me.)

Okey-doke.  We stepped out into the parking lot and followed the beeping GPS toward the dirt lot.  There was an electrical pole.  There was a pile of landscaping rocks.  There were random blocks of cement dumped here and there.  And there was a lot of trash.  Not the loveliest place to hang-out.

I started walking back and forth between the electrical pole, the van and the rocks; scanning the ground and looking for anything that might be a "nano cache".  (Translated: tiny, itty-bitty, un-findable)
I heard a few complaints about "not being able to find anything" and being "too tired to walk".  I assured the kids that I just wanted to look a few more minutes.  I re-traced my steps.

Ashely announced that she was going to wait in the car.  Norah plopped down on the curb and propped her head on her knees with a "humph".  Lydia pummeled my leg and shouted, "Peas!  Peas!".  The boys were jumping from concrete pile to concrete pile.

"Just a few more minutes ... it's gotta be here somewhere."  I don't want to just quit yet.  I picked up Lydia and walked back towards the rocks.

Norah mumbled something about, "it's too hot ... I don't feel good," and joined Ashley in the van.  Lydia started fussing in my ear.  I checked the GPS again.

Lydia finally had enough and started yelling, "Dum!  Dum!  Ah duummmm!"  That's when I stopped.

Ashley and Norah were hollering from the van that they were, "Thhhiiiiirstyyyy!"  Aaron and his buddy had found a stick and were poking at a rotten, swollen container of mandarin oranges.

Lydia was right.  It was dumb.  And we were done.  Mommy had tried to push the kids too far ... and this is what our troop had turned into:  A worn-out, worn-thin, worn-ragged band of kids that were "ah dum".

Thanks, Lydia ... Mommy needed to hear the truth.

We went home, had lunch, took naps.

And now we look back on that day as the time we found "all those caches!"  We were 4-6, after all. :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

It's a Short-Cut ... Sorta

If being a mom has taught me anything, it's that evolution is complete and utter nonsense!  If evolution were true, then I would have six arms, a set of eyes in the back of my head and the ability to cognitively listen to my four kids with four different ears.  But as of last check ... I'm just a regular, old, two-armed, two-eared, two-eyed mom.  Bummer ...

In light of my normal body configuration, I am required on a regular basis to compensate for these short-comings.  Often with unfortunate results.  While attempting to complete several normal tasks around the house more quickly or more efficiently, I frequently find myself with more work to do, due to goofs and gaffes.  Let me elaborate ...

While bringing in the groceries one afternoon, I ended up with an huge mess, just because I was going to be stronger and quicker.  Little Aaron was about a year old and I was preggo with Norah.  It was summer-time and we were living in a little duplex on a lonely street.  It was hot, Aaron needed to take a nap and I had three grocery bags to lug inside quickly.  In my mad dash attempt to get-er-done, I grabbed the three plastic sacks in own hand, Aaron and my purse in the other and, kicking the car door shut with my foot, headed for the front door.  About three staggering steps from the threshold, I felt my grocery-bag-hand slipping.  One bag fell open and crash! the jar of spaghetti sauce fell to the concrete and shattered.  Oh-no.  I plopped Aaron on the couch and the bags on the kitchen table.  I walked back to the front door.  Rubbing my temples with one hand and my aching back with the other, I stood there a moment and looked at the devastation.  What a mess.  Then I shut the door, scooped the tired boy in my arms and we went and took a nap.  I don't really remember cleaning up the mess (maybe Brett does!), but I do remember taking an extra trip the next time I unloaded the groceries.

Another time I was loading the washing machine with a load of laundry.  I had tossed all the dirty clothes in only to discover a couple of socks had escaped the basket ... probably with a little "help" from Lydia.  I leaned down to scoop up the socks and tossed them back toward the washing machine.  The washing machine that had the lid closed.  The socks slid across the top of the washing machine and down the side to the dark murky crevasse below.  Grrrrr ...  Our washer and dryer are snugged up against the wall which means that unless I have Elastic Girl's arms, I have a job ahead of me.  While the washing machine waited patiently for its last two items, I squeezed my left arm down the wall with a ruler trying to flick the wayward socks back to the light.  Eventually I was successful, but not before I made a mental note to place the clothes in the washer instead of flinging them.

Finally, I had a rude awakening of the need to not try and take a short-cut when I tried to cram two hours worth of errands into 45 minutes.  It didn't go well.  It was the middle of a really crazy week.  We were celebrating a birthday, doing the usual school & gymnastic routines, volunteering in the kids' classrooms and trying to support our kids by attending an open house at their school.  And that was in the midst of just the regular life stuff ... you know:  feeding people, kissing boo-boos and keeping some sort of peacefulness in our home.  Suddenly Wednesday rolled around and I found myself with about 45 minutes and more than enough to fill it up.  Off to Target we ran, literally, to fill the cart with birthday items, toiletries and last minute gifty things.  With one agreeable child and one who wasn't.  Forty-three minutes later, we bundled back into the car and one-third of us were smiling.  I had yet another reminder that when I stretch myself too thin ... it hurts.  This short-cut of getting something done quickly ... something that would be impossible to actually do in the time allotted makes for one tired mommy.

When, oh when, am I going to learn that short-cuts and quick-tricks typically cost me more than they are worth?!?  In each episode above, if I had slowed down and taken a breather, I would have seen the logic in going back for an extra trip, looking before tossing and shopping when I actually have time.  And my kids would have enjoyed a less crazy, less frantic, less stressed mom.  Here's to hopping I've learned my lesson ... but don't count on it! :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Food For Thought

We are off playing this weekend!  We took a trip to Denver to see Brett's parents and Auntie Stephanie, who's visiting from Spain.  We don't have a lot planned, but I'm looking forward to some family down-time ... and some good laughter.  I'm sure I'll have a few snapshots and a story or two to share with you next week.

In honor of Easter weekend, I thought I would share with you a few of our favorite French toast recipes.  Fancy enough for Sunday brunch ... but easy enough for you to make for a week morning, too.  So, if you don't have time to shop for these tasty dishes before Sunday, you can put the ingredients on your shopping list for next week and surprise your family with a new delightful dish!  Or two!

Raisin Bread French Toast
(This is how I've always made French toast ... it must be something genetic.)

Ingredients:
Loaf of raisin bread (I found a hearty loaf in the "day old"rack.)
4 eggs
Milk (Measure your eggs and add the same amount of milk.)
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. nutmeg

Heat your griddle to medium-high heat.  Slice the loaf of raisin bread, about 1/2 inch slices.

Day old bread is thirsty bread ... perfect for French toast!

In a bread loaf pan, beat eggs until they are light yellow.  Add the milk, vanilla and nutmeg and mix well.

Dip each piece of bread in the egg batter and let soak for a few seconds.  Place on griddle and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Turn over and let cook for 3-4 minutes on the other side, or until toasty brown.

You can either serve them hot off the griddle or place them on a cookie sheet and pop them in your oven, set at 200 degrees.  This is an easy way keep them hot until you are ready to serve everyone at the same time.

We enjoyed our Raisin Bread French Toast with a drizzle of syrup and some fresh blackberries.


Sweet, steamy, syrupy goodness!

Stuffed French Toast
(This recipe is from my mom ... a family favorite!)

Ingredients:
Loaf of French bread, sliced 1/4 inch (I found a loaf in the "day old" rack.)
4 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup evap. milk
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. nutmeg
8 oz. fresh blueberries

Filling:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature (I used Neufchatel ... 1/3 less fat.)
1/4 t. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

FYI - You can make this dish the night before and keep it in the refrigerator until ready.  Take the dish out and let it sit for 30 minutes before baking.
  
Preheat your oven to 275 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 casserole dish.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs, milk, vanilla and nutmeg.  Set this aside.

Prepare the filling by combining all the ingredients and mixing well.

Spread a few tablespoons of cream cheese mixture on a piece of bread and then sandwich a second piece on top.  Finish with the rest of the loaf and then place them in the prepared casserole dish.  You will have to snug the pieces together.  In other words, cram them in.


The layering process.

Pour the egg mixture over the slices and then sprinkle the blueberries over the top.  I nestled the berries around the edges of the slices trying to make sure that everyone would be served a few berries with their toast.

All snuggled in and ready to bake.

Bake for one hour, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  The dish will poof up quite a bit upon baking and then will settle/sink after you pull it out of the oven ... and that is okay.

We served our Stuffed French Toast with a little syrup and some Cutie Clementines ... yum!

Cute and delectable!
This is similar to a recipe my sister-in-law posted recently ... equally delicious!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Roller-Coaster Ride

When I was about nine weeks along with our first baby, I started having cramps.  Not a good sign.  Rather quickly it began to look as though I was going to miscarry.  I remember sitting with my old, faithful book, What to Expect When You're Expecting, and reading the list of "Signs you are Miscarrying".  With each description - bleeding, cramping, back pain - it became more and more clear that we were going to lose our little "Munchkin".

At our "worked-in" appointment, our doctor gently said, "Go home and rest ... there's nothing you can do right now."  Before sending us home, my OB ordered a blood test to check my HCG levels.  If my levels had dropped dramatically, it would be a sure sign that we wouldn't be seeing this pregnancy progress.

Brett headed back to work and I headed home to put my feet up.  And wait.  While waiting, it was crushing to think about all the plans that were in limbo.  As soon as we found out I was pregnant, my mind had begun to dream that little dream about being a mom.  Buying onesies and baby blankets.  Snuggling with my baby in the wee hours of the morning.  Walking around the park with my little one tucked in the stroller.  In just a few short weeks, my mind and heart had filled with the anticipated joys of being a Mommy.  And now ... maybe not.

When the phone rang, I think I already knew what he would say.  My doctor explained that my HCG levels had significantly decreased and he needed me to go to the hospital for a high-tech ultra-sound that would tell us how far along I was in my miscarriage and whether or not a D&C would be necessary.

Devastating words.

I remember being a bit numb as I hung up.  I shed a few tears.  But more than anything, I experienced this strange sense of losing something I never really had.

I scribbled a quick note for Brett (these were our pre-cell phone years) and headed to the hospital.

I vividly remember sitting alone at the admission desk and fumbling around for my insurance card, filling out a lengthly form about my health history and wondering if the lady across the counter knew how my heart was broken.  She was very nice ... but she had no idea how crushing it was to to fill out:  "miscarriage" as my reason for my appointment.  One word ... a little death of my dreams.

As I sat by myself in the waiting room, I tried to steer my mind away from the reason why I was here.  Anything to distract my heart and mind from the reality.  Finally, the nurse called my name and I followed her to the exam room.

As I lay on the exam table, the phone rang in the room.  The technician answered it and said, "Okay, we'll wait."  Great ... more waiting.  In just a few moments, however, the door opened and in walked Brett!

What?!

Somehow, he had come home early, found my note, raced over to the hospital and was directed right to where I needed him.  Holding his hand at that moment was the greatest comfort to me.  It was just what God knew I needed most.  Now I wasn't alone in this terrible loss.

As the technician started the ultra-sound, I looked away from the screen.  Brett held my hand tightly.

And the technician said, "See ... that's your baby's heart beat.  He looks great."

His first snapshot

That's truly when the weeping started.  Huge, body wrenching sobs.

Deep, Mommy tears.

As Brett and I left the ultra-sound office, the secretary handed me the phone.  It was my doctor.

"Wow.  What a roller-coaster ride, huh?  Go home, rest and I'll see you on Monday."

I still don't know what happened or why I had such heavy bleeding ... but God does.  He put His hands around my little "Munchkin" and protected him.  And I'm so grateful that He did.

Me and my Munchkin
_________________________________
Prompt # 3 ... "A phone call you will never forget"
Or in my case ... three phone calls. :)

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Time-Warp Wednesday

For this week's Time-Warp Wednesday, I went hunting for some Easter pictures from when I was growing up.  And it turned out that this picture hunt was very much like the Easter egg hunts of my youth.  My basket came up a bit empty!

I was hoping to find a picture of the three of us kids sitting on "the bench" by the blue spruce ... looking spruced up in our Easter best.  Unfortunately, it would appear that particular snapshot only exists in my memory!

Oh well ... I did find these three ... and they are precious in their own way:


I absolutely love Joshua in his Easter tux ... bow-tie, vest and all.  Allison and I are wearing our Easter dresses that our Nana made for us.  Our blondie curls and freshly scrubbed faces are all smiles.

It wasn't until I saw the snapshots of us girls in our dresses that I realized why there wasn't a picture by the tree ... it was probably freezing outside!  Springtime in the Rockies, of course.  We would have had to wear our winter coats over our pretty little pastel frocks!  (In the same way, all our Halloween costumes had to accommodate our parkas!)

That explains the indoor shots ... less chance of catching a cold that way!

Happy Easter 
... I hope you enjoy celebrating Jesus this week!  

The truth of His life, death, resurrection and His offer of redemption are certainly worth hunting for!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Just Vacuuming? Nope.

Last Friday, we had a full schedule.  And not just a "I have a couple of things to do today" day, but a "when exactly is all that going to get done?" day.  A "well, if there were four of me this would be do-able" day.  A "what was I thinking?" day.  You get the picture.

At one point in the morning, I lugged out the vacuum for my weekly "get the Gimli mats off the floor" job. The added perk to this week's vacuuming was that Gimli was currently at "The Foxy Hound" getting his summer do'.  That meant that when he got home, there would be significantly less of him to shed on the floor and it would stay cleaner longer.  At least, that's the theory.

As I started up the vacuum, my two stay-at-home girls ran in opposite directions in search of their own vacuums.  One is a Shark and works while the other is purple, has googly eyes and says things like, "oooh-hooo ... I love cleaning up!"  Unfortunately the one that actually sucks up stuff actually has to be plugged in to be charged.  And since that didn't happen, no one wanted it.  And so ensued the battle for the happy vacuum.

As this mini-war waged on, I ... turned on my real, working, roaring vacuum.  Aaahhh ... the sweet bliss of a noisy chore.  :)  Unfortunately, while I couldn't hear them, I could see them:  grasping, crying and flailing.  Being the responsible mom, I stepped in and we started sharing; back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  Peace ensued for a bit.

I got back to sucking up pounds of dog hair and the girls happily shared for about 3 minutes.  This is when it dawned on me:  As a mom, I don't ever just do anything.  I don't just wash dishes - I also pour milk, blow noses and hand out animal crackers.  I don't just clean bathrooms - protect little hands from "ouchy chemicals", wipe bottoms and hand out Kleenex.   I don't just vacuum - I prevent WWIII.  And if you're a parent, it's the same for you.  Let's take a peak at just what we do, shall we?

Since my vacuuming tango is still rather fresh in my mind, we'll use this scenario:

You plug in the vacuum and your child runs screaming and crying from the room and hides her face in the pillows of the couch.  You give warm reassuring pats until she comes out and then you resume your task.  


Once you're back to vacuuming, you enlist your little people to pick up the toys from the floor as you approach.  Most of them make their way into toy basket.  With a little encouragement from you, the last remaining doll and random toy screwdriver find their way to the toy bin.  You continue with your vacuuming of the living room.  


A small fight breaks out over the play vacuum. (See? This scenario is based in my reality.  Scary, huh?)  While continuing to vacuum, you watch over your shoulder to see if they can work it out.  Nope.  The littler one chucks the happy vacuum ("Whee! I love doing chores!") at the older one, who proceeds to burst into understandable tears.  You turn off the vacuum, scoop the little stinker up and plop her in time-out.  You snatch a tissue for the slippery-nosed older child, check for wounds, snuggle her onto the couch and get back to work.  


You manage to vacuum half the living room before the calls from the corner, "Maaaaaammmaaaa!  Maaaammmmaaa!" become too loud to ignore.  Off again.  You head over to the culprit, have a brief discussion regarding sharing and "having nice hands".  The littlest one gives sweet "sawry" hugs to the older sniffler and then they are back to squealing and sharing and cleaning.  ...sigh... 


Back to vacuuming for you.  As soon as you finish with the downstairs, your oldest is tugging at your leg.  


"Remember, Mommy ... you said I could do the stairs." 

"Yep ... okay, here's how you do it."  


So ensues a quick tutorial on vacuuming stairs:  suck up the cracks, the use the brush on the carpet.


"Okay ... I'm a helper."  


Unfortunately, the little one isn't.  As the vacuuming begins again, the littlest one starts pestering by turning the vacuum off and on, and off and on ... and off.  Little eruptions of, "Mommmmm!  She's turning it off!" fill the air.  You are standing right there, so you know that already.  thankyouverymuch.  You proceed to have a few discussions with the turkey about "no touch" and "be a helper".  She offers a mumbled, "Ya, Mama" and heads off to find the perky vacuum, which you are surprised to find up on the dining room table.  Upon handing it to the little one, the older one pipes up, "I was using that!"  So ensues a discussion about ... you guessed it, "sharing".  After the stairs are de-haired, you proceed to vacuum the living room.  (And begin wondering ... "Why do we have so many rooms to vacuum?")


As the vacuuming continues you find yourself in the following situations:

  • Asking the youngest child to climb off the vacuum so you can move it.  (repeat 12 times)
  • Asking the older child to climb off the vacuum so you can move it. (repeat 8 times)
  • Asking the older child to finish the job she started and put the cleaning wipes away.  Completely.
  • Asking the younger child to sit down with her snack at the table.
  • Wiping several bottoms.
  • Washing several hands.
  • Helping two little girls find homes for their Disney Princesses so they don't get sucked up in the vacuum.
... and ...
  • Reinforcing the, "don't touch the plug" rule.  (repeat 6 times)

Eventually, you finally finish vacuuming the house.  And it only took you 1 hour and 22 minutes.

Now at the end of the day, you might be tempted to look back over your day and think, "Here's my list of things to do ... and all I got done was just vacuuming".  But I would say that you did more than just vacuum.   A lot more.

In the midst of your vacuuming ...
  • You brought comfort to a scared child.
  • You showed a child how to be brave.
  • You taught the importance of sharing.
  • You reinforced the value of being a servant.
  • You gave instructions on how to vacuum.
  • You taught how to clean up, 100%.
  • You reinforced the importance of gentle, loving hands.
  • You showed the importance of asking for forgiveness.
  • You revealed the importance of offering forgiveness.
  • You instructed in the safety of sitting while eating.
  • You required obedience and reinforced the value of respecting authority.
  • You reinforced the importance of good personal hygiene.
  • You taught the worthiness of being responsible with your belongings.
  • You gave practical instructions regarding the dangers of electricity.
  • You showed your children, first-hand, the importance of perseverance and the value of seeing a job through to its end.
See ... you did a lot!

And that, my dear .... is why you are exhausted! :)

It's not the housework that is tough ... it's the all-important child-training that goes on during the housework that makes us tired.  The training, actually, is what is essential, though.  And the cleaning?  Well ... that falls more under the "facts of life" category.

Just don't ever forget that you aren't just keeping house ... you're loving & training your kids, too!

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Be sure to pop over to the side bar and read through "What's For Dinner?" and "Trekking Thru the Bible" ... all new this week! :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'm Just So Proud!

I hope that you will forgive me a post that is purely a "Proud Mama Moment"!  I promise that tomorrow's post will be more about you and less about me.  :)

This past Saturday, Norah had her first competitive gymnastic meet.  She has enjoyed participating in several fun meets, but this weekend was her first experience with actual judges, awards and the added hype that comes along with it.  And I am supery-dupery excited to say that she did great!

It was so amazing for me to watch her not only do very well in each of her routines, but also to show such confidence, poise and maturity.  If we had sent her out into that gymnastic fray two years ago, I can only imagine that upon arriving at the gym, I would have had to pry her off my leg, then "force" her to be brave while I walked away from her and given her lots of, "You can do it!" thumbs-ups throughout the competition from across the room.  In contrast, I watched her run off toward her coach for warm-ups with a gigantic smile on her face, march out with her team with her chin held proud, tackle each routine with focus and determination and wrap up the meet with a smile, a medal and a team trophy!  What a day!

If you are so inclined, I have included in your post today (at no extra cost!) a condensed version of Norah's meet.  Here are the highlights of the event, the actual routines and all the smiley snapshots we could get ... and instead of sitting on a hard bleacher, keeping three other kids happy and peering over the tops of other people's heads, you can sit back on your comfy seat and see our girl in action. :)

Enjoy!



Oh ... and as an added bonus, Norah also qualified to compete at the State level for her age group!  So this appears to be just the beginning for our little gymnast.  You, go girl!  

Friday, April 15, 2011

Food For Thought

Do you have a food item that you love?  That you would eat on a daily basis?  That you scan the grocery weekly flyers to see if it's on sale?  That you do a little happy dance when you see that they have a 2/$1 sign next to them?  Yes, you do?  Me, too.

When I go to the grocery and see the giant mounds of avocados sitting in their bins, I can barely resist myself.  I love to chop them up to add to salads, mash them up to make guacamole, slice them for sandwiches (B.L.A.T., anyone?) and even just eat them with a spoon.  I have a friend who makes avocado toast for her kids in the morning ... and I want to go live with her.

So, upon browsing a recent Food Network Magazine, I spotted a recipe by Emeril with a picture of little avocado boats stuffed with chicken salad.  (insert lip-smacking sounds and drooling here)  Chicken salad AND avocados?  Yum!  Immediately, I dog-eared the page and set it aside to add to my weekly dinner menu.

After writing up my grocery list, I headed off to do my shopping.  Only to discover once I arrived in the produce department that the avocados were hard little black rocks for a terrifying $1.99 each.  Phooey.  No avocados this week.  Fortunately, as it turned out the chicken salad was rather delicious outside of the avocado boat.  And so, we enjoyed our meal anyway ... nestled between two slices of home-made bread, instead.

In reality, the two chicken salad recipes I am sharing this week have refreshed and rejuvenated my "tried-n-true" chicken salad ... much to the relief of my family.  So, even if you can't find an avocado out of which to eat your chicken salad, you might still enjoy a fresh take on an old favorite.  Or in this case, TWO fresh takes. :)

(For these two recipes, I cooked my chicken the day before, shredded it and popped it in the fridge for later use.  My cooking process of choice was boiling, but you could bake or grill ... or buy it from the deli!)

Emeril's Chicken Salad
(This recipe is tweaked from one found in the Food Network Magazine, April 2011.)


Ingredients:
2 lbs chicken, cooked and shredded
3 avocados ... if your lucky!

1 cup mayo (you can also you 1/2 mayo and 1/2 sour cream)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 t. dijon mustard
3 celery stocks, finely chopped - including leaves
1/3 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 t celery seeds
1/4 t cayenne pepper


Combine the last seven ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  Toss with chicken and mix well.  Add a little more mayo, if the salad seems too dry.  Serve in avocado halves or on a slice of your favorite home-made bread.  I made Peasant Bread and it was divine.

Lots of lovely green there ... even if it's avocado-free.

Aarti's Chicken Salad
(This recipe is tweaked from one found in the Food Network Magazine, April 2011.)

Ingredients:
2 lbs chicken, cooked and shredded
3 T. orange marmalade
1 medium shallot, minced
1 green apple, diced
1 cup red grapes, halved
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt (two small containers)
1 T. oil
1 t. mustard seeds
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 t. curry powder
Fresh cilantro leaves

Toss together the shallot, apple. grapes, lime juice, yogurt 1/2 t. salt and marmalade.  Mix well and set this aside.  

In a small pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Carefully add the mustard seeds and garlic.  Quickly cover the pan so that those little seeds don't jump out and shoot all over your kitchen. :)  Not that I would know anything about that.  Carefully add the curry powder and then cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Pour this mixture over the yogurt mixture and stir well.

Add the shredded chicken to the creamy mixture and fold it together.  We served this salad topped with cilantro and with pitas on the side for scooping.

In all honesty, the kids were less-than-thrilled about this sandwich.  But who could blame them?  It wasn't until I was an adult that grew accustomed to having grapes and chicken in the same bite.  I, however, thought it was delish!


Creamy goodness with a hint of orange.


Emeril's Chicken Salad

Aarti's Chicken Salad

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Glass is Half-Full

Imagine with me for a minute that you walk into a room and spy a glass on a table that contains some milk in it.  Actually the glass contains half the required amount of milk to bring it to the brim.  Traditionally, this image will lead you to describe the glass in one of two ways.  Either the glass is half-full or the glass is half-empty.  That is, unless you are my sweet husband, then you would say, "Who drank half my milk and where are my cookies?"  I, on the other hand, would say, "The glass is half-full ... and isn't that nice that you get to have any milk at all?"  I am an optimist through and through.  (Or at least 98.9% of the time ... we all have those days ...)

So, when I think about the phrase, "What I lack...", I am brought face to face with my Polly-Anna perspective, again.  Along with my enduring sense of humor.  God has hot-wired me in such a way that when I see a situation, you can almost count on me to put a positive spin on the situation.  Or at least have a good laugh about it later!  I'm a girl that prefers to take my walks, "on the sunny side of the street".  In light of this perky and positive personality, as I pondered the question about "what I lack", I couldn't help but see this through my "rose colored glasses", too.  Did I mention that they are also clown glasses?  I guess I just can't help myself!

What I lack ...
  • Boredom ~ With our houseful of kids and pets, you can bet that I don't wander around looking for something to do.  It used to be that I would watch the clock and wonder, "When, oh when, will it be five?  When will Brett get home?  I'm so bored!"  Not so much anymore.  Now I blaze through my day and am often surprised that it's the end of the day ... where did the afternoon go?!  But then, Brett's home ... so I'm happy!
  • Time ~ This is a bit related to the entry above.  I don't know where the time goes, but wherever it goes, it goes super-duper fast!  I often find myself with several items on my "To Do" list still left to do at the end of the day.  I'm sure that if I stopped running long enough to look at a clock, it would be a scene out of Loony Tunes with the hands on the face speeding around the numbers!  I figure  I enjoy quite a lot of job security ... I have plenty of work to accomplish and no one else really wants this job!
  • Space ~ I frequently find myself surrounded by my children.  Actually, not so much "surrounded by" as "encroached upon".  In any given moment, I will have all four of my children within toe's reach and I can almost guaranteed that one will actually be sitting on me.  Let me give you an example ... the other day I was working on the computer and all my kids were there.  Ashley and Lydia were actually sitting under the desk (on my feet) waiting for the paper to come out of the printer.  And they weren't necessarily waiting happily.  There was a little tussling in that one foot by two foot space, each of them jockeying for printer-position.  Norah was hanging over the bannister to my left trying to get a good view of the computer screen and blocking my view about 78% ... because I didn't need to see what I was doing.  Aaron was standing on the back of my chair and grabbed my shoulders a few times when he lost his balance.  Needless to say, I sent them away to do some jobs and to give me some space.  I got parts of my house clean and a chance to breath my own air.  Lovely.
  • Monotony ~ Life here at the circus guarantees a high level of entertainment at all hours of the day. Or night.  As you know, kids say and do some funny things!  As a result of having four of these clowns living under our roof, we are frequently laughing about something someone said or did.  Most recently, we got a good chuckle about Lydia and her "I'll roll my eyes up into my head and look at you through my bangs" face.  When she's in trouble, she is supposed to "look me in the eye".  I'd like to see you try to not laugh when she points her nose to the ground and attempts to look at you through her own forehead.  Or Ashley and her excitement in sharing with Daddy what she had learned that day, "We had to figure out the number that came at the first and the number that came at the end."  "Oh, you were doing math?"  "No.  We were spelling words!"  "Aahhh ... letters ... completely different."  Chalk one up for Mommy the Teacher. :)
  • The Dusting Gene ~ This is one aspect of house-keeping that eludes me.  I have the supplies, but I just don't have the drive!  Only when the kids start drawing pictures in the dust do I feel the need to get busy.  There are so many other demands on my time ... this one just doesn't make the list.  I could also add to this, "The Ironing Gene" ... also completely lacking from my DNA.
  • Svelteness ~ I inherited my body type from "my people", as my mother would say.  And "my people" were apparently short, round and a little bit squishy.  When I looked up the definition of svelte, here is what Merriam-Webster had to say:   slenderslimgracefulelegantwillowysylphlike.  Yep ... lacking.  I am okay with being petite.  I have come to (better) terms with my curves.  But, I would still like to be a little less smooshy.  I fear it might be a bit of my vanity coming into play, but I also would love to know that all those lunges, pliĆ©s, squats, pushups and crunches were worth the burn!
  • Purge-ability ~ Recently we celebrated both Ashley and Aaron's birthdays.  In the days that followed their celebrations, we were faced with new toys and gizmos and gadgets to find homes for. While it makes perfect sense that need to cycle out some of our old toys to make room for the new ones, the actual act of purging is a challenge.  I am fully able to toss out things that have no value for me (i.e. half-made crafts, semi-demolished mementos, headless Disney princesses), but I have more trouble parting with items of sentimental value (i.e favorite stuffies, much-read board books and well-loved toys).  Then, seeing as the kids want to hang on to all the "lovely" items I mentioned previously, and I don't want to get rid of my favorite kid things ... we're left with finding homes for everything.  This also goes for the kids papers that come home from school.  I can usually narrow down their tree-worth of papers to just a few, but multiply that by 12 years and 4 kids and suddenly you have a lot of papers to store.  Periodically, I go through my frantic purge-a-rama stage and I get rid of tons.  Just a few weeks ago I moved five bags of toys, books, and gadgets out of the house ... liberating!  Those are the days Brett wonders what I trashed that he might actually need.  If only we could maintain that constant order, organization and purge-ness ... sigh ...
  • Hours to Write ~ Even as I look over this post ... the post I intended to be more list-like and less paragraphy ... I find my mind full of words, but I have a limited amount of time to process them and get them on paper.  Just yesterday on our way home from school I had two different ideas pop into my head and I would have loved to come home and put my fingers to the keyboard.  But, alas.  Writing is only allowed to occupy a few minutes of my day for right now.  Someday, maybe I'll have an opportunity to actually write for a living.  Until then, I'll take advantage of the moments I have to write ... and keep my notebook handy for jotting down thoughts and inspirations.  
And now ... if you'll excuse me.  My writing time is up.  And the kids are calling for me.  Actually ... they are smooshed up against me trying to get in my lap and talking as if they had my full attention.  That's one think I don't lack in ... being needed (and loved) by someone! :)

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Prompt #3

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Time-Warp Wednesday

We are in the midst of that pesky part of Spring. The "Today is so toasty, I could wear shorts ... oh, no ... wait ... now it's cold.  Where is my sweatshirt?  Whew ... I'm feeling a bit hot ... where's my ice tea?" season where we layer our clothes not to stay warm, but to have a variety of options depending on the current temperature.

Yesterday, we walked up the hill to pick up the kids from school and I was a tad bit glisten-y on our trip back down.  (interpretation:  in need of a little body spritz!)  Today, I'm looking out the window and the clouds are completely hiding the sun.  Also the trees seem to be a bit busy out there and so we probably won't be walking.  ...sigh...  And I'm drinking hot tea.  Again.

In my continuing efforts to woo Spring and her warmer weather to stay and play awhile, I have a snapshot for you for Time-Warp Wednesday that brings back vivid, summery Spring memories ...

Little Nuna
This is one favorite pictures of my girly girl.  I'm sure you also have those photos that are lodged in you memory ... the ones that come to your mind with great clarity when they are jostled around by other recollections.  That's how this one is for me.

I love her ginormous eyes, her pinky cheeks, that silly hat that was two sizes too big and that funny little "finger in my mouth" smirk.  I can hear her little giggle just by looking at her sweet face.

This snapshot was taken in May of 2006 at the old "blue" house.  Ashley was just two months old and was probably napping.  The big kids, however, were anxious to be outside ... and wet.  I'm quite certain that this was one of our earliest sprinkler days, or perhaps it was an unseasonably warm day.  Either way, our two silly goofs set up their beach chairs and towels; changed into their swimsuits and spent, ohhhh, about 15 minutes leaping over the sprinkler.  The rest of the time, they spent wrapped in their towels, snuggled in their beach chairs and shivering.  So that makes it our earliest and shortest sprinkler day! :)

For this particular picture, Norah shivered her way to my chair, plopped down on my lap and proceeded to dry herself off on my pants.  That's what mommies are for:  snuggles, warm-ups and pictures.

I'm looking forward to warmer weather, longer sprinkler days and more silly grins!

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Alternative NameSomething a little fun and different today ... Melissa from Melomomma invited me to be a guest blogger on her site.  What a treat!  Head on over to her blog ... she has lots of kid-friendly crafts, yummy recipes and mommy stories ... enough to keep you busy for a bit!