Saturday, December 26, 2009

Weekly menu: December 27-January 2

Sunday, December 27
Oatmeal & raisins
Turkey enchiladas

Monday, December 28
Leftover enchiladas
Pork fajitas

Tuesday, December 29
Cheese quesadillas
Chili & cinnamon rolls

Wednesday, December 30
Cinnamon rolls
Frito pie

Thursday, December 31
Scrambled eggs & bacon
Appetizers and party!

Friday, January 1, 2011 HAPPY NEW YEAR
Leftovers, or frozen pizza

Saturday, January 2
Chocolate pancakes
Ham sandwiches and chips
Pork roast and potatoes

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Easy desserts

My mom loves holiday baking. Growing up, Christmas memories always include heaping stacks of goodies filling the countertop. Cookies, divinity, peanut brittle, peanut clusters, 7-layer bars, melted circle candies, hard candy, oyster crackers, chocolate covered everything...Yum! And that's just the desserts! Even for someone who doesn't like chocolate or peanut butter, my mom's kitchen was and still is the place to be for Christmas.

Well, now I have my own kitchen and my own brood to pass on the Christmas baking traditions. I prefer to make things that the girls can help me make, and it's a little more challenging, what with Maggie's sucrose and lactose intolerance. But, my countertop is getting more and more loaded. Here are two of the favorites from tonight:

Thin Mints

1 cup Nestle dark chocolate and mint chips
1 sleeve Ritz crackers

  1. Melt the mint chocolate chips in the microwave, following the directions on the bag.
  2. Drop a cracker into the melted chocolate, completely coating the cracker.
  3. Place the coated cracker on a sheet of waxed paper. Let cool and set up completely.

Forgotten Cookies (Thanks, Alison, for the recipe)

1 egg white
1 pinch of salt
1/3 cup Splenda or sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  1. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites and salt until foamy.
  3. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until whites form stiff peaks.
  4. Fold in the vanilla and chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon onto the prepared cookie sheets.
  6. Place the cookies into the preheated oven, shut the door and turn off the oven immediately.
  7. Let cookies sit in the turned off oven for 5 to 6 hours or overnight.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weekly menu: December 20-26

Sunday, December 20
Pancakes and eggs
Pizza rolls

Monday, December 21
Breakfast burritos
Cranberry salad
Sweet and sour meatballs

Tuesday, December 22

Wednesday, December 23
Oven puff pancakes with apple pie jam
Leftovers aka clear out the fridge
Fast food

Thursday, December 24 CHRISTMAS EVE
Broccoli cheese soup and chili

Friday, December 25 CHRISTMAS DAY
Happy Face Pancakes
Potluck lunch
Leftover supper

Saturday, December 26 JAY'S BIRTHDAY
whatever Jay wants to eat :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Holidays 2009

And Lainie, going solo:

Want a comparison? Here's last year's song

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Apple Pie Oatmeal Bars

One word: delicious! Jay found this recipe on one of his garden forums and adapted it to use his own jam.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
3/4 cup butter
2 cups Jay's Apple Pie Jam

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Mix together flour, baking powder, brown sugar, and quick cooking oatmeal in a medium bowl. Cut in 3/4 cup butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Pat two-thirds into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
  4. Spoon apple pie jam evenly on top.
  5. Sprinkle the top with the remaining crumb mixture.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, or until crispy brown on top. Cool before cutting into bars.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Natalie's accomplishments

Natalie has had a big couple of weeks. She finally started sleeping through the night; unfortunately for my ego, it coincided with the addition of a bedtime formula bottle. We both need the sleep, I ration, and there was no way I could continue nursing her 100 percent while I was recovering from surgery. I am happy, though, that she is still nursing before she gets that bottle. It's important to me that she get any and all health boosts I can give her, especially through this flu season.

We went to her well-child appointment on Tuesday, even though she wasn't very well. The night before, she spiked a personal-record high of 103.5 fever. Her nose is a little runny, and she was wiped out, but no other symptoms appeared. Looks like a virus, or we could blame that new tooth.

Yep, little missy is getting her second tooth, the bottom right one. Nothing is cuter than a baby's grin, when she only has a handful of teeth to show. :)

Back to the well-child exam: all was well! Developmentally, she's just fine. Talking slower than Katie, Maggie, or Lainie did, but moving months sooner than any of her big sisters. EDITED to add: last night, she said Mama, and tonight she said Dadda. Yay! She is a runt, but a well-proportioned runt. At 27 inches and 16 pounds 13 ounces, she is at the 21st percentile for height and 9th percentile for weight. Unlike Lainie's runt status, Natalie's isn't concerning, because she is staying on the same growth line. Just looking at her, you can see the difference. Whereas Lainie looked emancipated, Natalie looks just right. :)

What else did she do this week? Today, she climbed the stairs to her bedroom (with me behind her) and she walked across the living room, with the help of a push toy. She is saying "Hi" or some version of it and waving, and then waiting for a response. You can tell she is grasping the concept of conversation. She's eating more and more table food, and deflecting more and more baby food.

"I do it myself" is definitely a dominant trait in her personality; independence and determination are already apparent.

She's also learning cause-and-effect. "If I drop the washcloth in the bathwater, I can suck more water out of it. If I take off my bib, I will illicit a response from the parental unit, albeit a negative one." I absolutely love watching her learn and develop, even when the new skills mean more challenges for us.

Natalie has a hilarious laugh. It's some sort of snicker-snort that sounds somewhat like Rosco from Dukes of Hazard. It's super contagious and definitely a top 5 sound to my ears.

Oh, and I dropped her on her head on the ice. Mama of the year, eh? I was carrying her to the car and fell on a patch of ice. It was slow motion, and my only thought was "catch the baby!" I caught most of her; unfortunately, her head bounced on the ground. While it terrified me at the moment, it didn't seem to be a problem for her. She stopped crying within a minute and acted normal the rest of the night. I guess the big squishy coat she was wearing provided some padding. Let's not test it with a repeat, though.

She is just so beautiful! (Come on; a mom can think her child is perfect!) Her hair is a golden blonde and is showing curl, especially in the back. Her eyes are a stunning blue, the kind of blue eyes that I always dreamed of having when I was a little girl. And, she has a little dimple to go with that immense smile.

I love that the girls don't look alike, despite the definite resemblance. I mean, they each have a trait to set them apart. Katie has dark blonde, straight hair and deep brown, wide eyes and skin that tans so nicely. Lainie is most like Katie, with round brown eyes and straight blonde hair, but her hair is a lighter, near-white color and her skin much lighter. While Maggie has those same brown eyes, hers are more elongated, her skin is a much lighter, pink shade, and her hair is brown with white highlights and curl. She is so proud of those curls! And then comes Natalie, with the lightest blonde hair, curl, and blue eyes. We should be studied in a genetics class; can you think of a better representative family for recessive genes? :)

Oh, Lord, I love my girls!

Homemade Chinese Food: Jay's Broccoli and Beef

I give up. Round steak and I don't get along. No matter how I make it, it chews like beef jerky. Then, Jay decided to try a new recipe, just for kicks. And, WOWZA. Yum. Tender, and fast.

Beef and Broccoli

3 Tablespoons corn starch, divided
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 pound boneless round steak, cut into 3-inch strips
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups broccoli florets
1 small onion, cut into wedges
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
hot cooked rice

  1. In a bowl, combine 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, 2 Tablespoons water, and garlic powder until smooth.
  2. Add beef and toss.
  3. In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, stir-fry beef in 1 Tablespoon oil until beef reaches desired doneness. Remove and keep warm.
  4. Add remaining Tablespoon of oil to the skillet or wok. Stir-fry broccoli and onion in oil for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Return beef to pan.
  6. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and remaining cornstarch and water until smooth. Add to the pan.
  7. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Five random thoughts for today

  1. No matter how much you've slept the past week, 3 hours is not enough sleep to get through a day.
  2. Why is that a child can pee all the time while potty training, but when you stick a urine sample cup in the same room, nothing. nada. zip. TWO HOURS waiting for a teeny tiny bit of urine from Miss Lainie, just to get an "inconclusive" result. Doc thinks she either has a UTI or Strep, but both tests looked fine and were sent off for the 24 hour culture.
  3. What is the magic of Dora the Explorer, and how can we bottle it? How is that a child who doesn't like to speak in public and who is intelligible maybe 20 percent of the time, answers Dora's every question with robust clarity?
  4. Why does chili always need cinnamon rolls with it? Or is it just my family that feels that way? Too bad we can't have them. It's not fair to put cinnamon rolls on the table and then tell Maggie, no, you can't have them, remember?
  5. If you ever need to make sugar-free cookies, don't use the Splenda recipe on their Web site. I'm guessing that "4 cups of flour" is a typo and should read "3 cups". Maggie still loved her guilt-free, eczema-free, tummy-problem-free cookies.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Switching focus

I got to focus on getting me better for about 5 days. The girls decided that was long enough. Katie broke out in hives today, and Lainie surprised us with a 102.7 fever. I was planning to take off work tomorrow for one more day of rest; that's still the plan, but I'll have at least one little buddy with me on the basement couches.

Onto brighter news, I am officially a student again. I am enrolled in two online classes at CCCC, with one more pending, and one evening class at MATC. I'm also pre-enrolled at NCKTC for the fall semester, and need to schedule my NET exam time. WOW. And I thought ag had a lot of acronyms! :) I had all the forms and lists and course numbers and financial aid ready and waiting for the official "benign" report. And now, full-speed ahead! I am just so excited!

I hope the excitement can carry me through the next few months of studying. It'll be toughest between now and March. That will be the only time I'll be working full-time and going to school full-time. Also, my face-to-face class is done in March; the online classes will be easier on our family. I can even start working on one of the classes now, which means I could get one done over Christmas break, before the face-to-face class even starts.

Did I mention I'm excited!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Weekly menu: December 13-19

Sunday, December 13
Ham & sweet potatoes
Ham fried rice

Monday, December 14
Scrambled eggs
Leftover rice
Ham pockets

Tuesday, December 15
Apple-Almond Salad

Wednesday, December 16
Toast & fruit
Leftover spaghetti
Pork Stir Fry & rice

Thursday, December 17
Leftover stir fry
Pizza Roll

Friday, December 18
Pizza rolls
Beef enchiladas

Saturday, December 19
Pork burgers & chips & salad

Breakfast with some love

I love this recipe. It's easy, it gets oohs and aahs from the girls, and it gives them protein. This recipe can be down-sized, or up-sized, for any family. For us, it means 6 servings.

6 pieces of sandwich bread
6 eggs
Aluminum foil
Cooking spray
Shredded cheese, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  3. Using a cookie cutter, cut a shape out of each slice of bread. We use hearts, but then again, we are a house full of little girls.
  4. Spray the aluminum foil with cooking spray.
  5. Place the bread on the foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  6. Crack an egg into each slice of bread.
  7. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes, or until egg is set.
  8. If desired, sprinkle cheese on hot egg-in-toast and let melt.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Home is the best medicine

When ever one of the kids come down with some new-to-us illness -- like epilepsy, epiglottitis, asthma, apraxia, intolerance to sugar, croup -- I'll hit up Dr Google to decide whether it warrants a trip to the doctor, find any home remedies, and look for some hint that my child, for once, is NOT in the 3rd percentile. That is to say, "97 percent of children will do this" and my 3rd-ers will be the oddballs and warrant a doc visit.

Anywho. for anyone planning to have a thyroidectomy any time soon and hitting up Dr Google for some experiential data, here's my unsolicited advice to you.

1. Don't do it on the day a super winter storm hits. While the drive to the hospital at 4 a.m. in the midst of a 12-inch snow was exciting and distracting, it wasn't exactly safe and foolproof, either. And, it meant sending Jay home as soon as I woke up from surgery. After all, it's not fair to reward your mom for coming up to lend a hand by snowing her in with 4 kids for two days by herself.
2. Enjoy the rest while you can. I slept, basically, 24 hours straight, less an hour to sit up and eat some supper at 9 p.m.
3. Stay on top of your pain medicine. If you don't, you'll end up on the computer blogging at 3 a.m. while you wait for the latest pill to kick in.
4. Don't look in the mirror. It looks worse than it feels, but I think I look like a CSI victim:

And now, I need your advice. Once this heals a bit more, I'm sure a turtleneck will cover the slash. And, I'm even confidant the surgeon's work will leave a tiny scar by the time it's too warm for a turtleneck. But, right now it hurts to wear a turtleneck; the seam hits at just the wrong spot. If I had an inkling of fashion sense, or half the craving for accessories that Katie has, I would have a stash of beautiful scarves in my closet and would actually know how to tie a snazzy little loopy-thing and cover it just right. But I'm me, more partial to faded t-shirt, flannel button-ups* and wore out jeans. So, help me. Send me a picture or link or youtube video on how to cover this thing up for the next week or so. I don't want to scare any little kids, besides my own 4 gawkers.

*And speaking of flannel shirts, we had a garage sale last summer, and I clearly remember holding my favorite red-and-black check "lumberjack" flannel long-sleeve button-down shirt, my ode-to-the-grunge shirt. It is not Jay's favorite, to say the least. He makes fun of it, calling me Paul and looking for my big blue ox every time I wear it. I don't care; I love it. Still, based on my shirt rule of, if you haven't worn it in 3 years and you will never make it into a cutesy t-shirt quilt, it's probably time to sell, I might have sold it in the garage sale. I hope I didn't, because the exact same shirt was in 3 trendy college-bopper stores this holiday season. Damn. My clothes are so old, they're cool again.

Maybe I do have an inkling of fashion after all. Old fashion.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hello, Winter.

14 hours post-surgery. Finally awake enough to eat. Sore, my voice is rough, but I'm fine.

12-13 inches of snow at home and 7 inches here. I wonder if Jay will be able to bring me home tomorrow. And I'm glad I shooed him out of here early afternoon. I'd hate for Mom to be snowed in with the girls solo.

My ear doesn't hurt anymore, and I haven't had the spiky headache yet today, so I'm hopeful the lump was causing those things. Still waiting for the swelling to go down so I can swallow with ease.

I miss my girls! I wanna go home!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Weekly menu: December 6-12

Sunday, December 6
Sausage gravy & biscuits
Leftover soup
Homemade pizza & salad

Monday, December 7
Leftover pizza

Tuesday, December 8
Cheese quesadillas
Broccoli Cheese Soup

Wednesday, December 9
Breakfast burritos
Leftover soup

Thursday, December 10
Tuna casserole

Friday, December 11
Tortilla roll-ups

Saturday, December 12
Donuts from Tasty Pastry
Hot dogs and Mac-N-cheese
Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mama said there'd be days like this

This morning, Lainie threw up at daycare, after I was headed to Manhattan to work. I turned around to get her from daycare and screwed up, didn't realize the school zone time had kicked in, got a 30-in-a-20-in-a-school-zone, $85 ticket. Got yelled at by Jay, not because of the ticket, but just because of his frustration of having to take another sub day. (He had to take off work this time, because I had to get to work by 9 to finish my first aid/cpr class, so I can take the classes I want to in the spring. If it took it this morning, it was $22. If I had to wait, it'd be $50 or more.) And, then I had to get to our bank and deposit money before we had an overdraft, and call the electrician to come out because our furnace didn't work on the coldest morning yet this year.


The way I see it, all my prayer-vibes got exhausted on the "please-no-cancer" wish. That, and Lainie threw up but didn't have a seizure. I got a ticket but didn't hit a deer. The bank needed money, but we had the cash to deposit. The furnace was broken, but it got fixed and was only $65 instead of replacing the entire unit. And Jay? Well, he got to stay home with Lainie, hopefully get a nap and get some things accomplished at home. Lainie didn't throw up again, so we're still going out with friends tonight. And it can only get better from here.

I wonder if any stores still sell Calgon?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Getting ready

In my freezer, I have:
  • lasagne
  • meatballs
  • turkey casserole
  • turkey enchiladas
  • beef enchiladas
  • taco meat
  • cooked sausage for pizza
  • fajita in a bag
  • 2 pizza rolls (bread stuffed with pizza filling)
  • meatloaf
  • pork stir fry
In my kitchen, I also have ingredients for:
  • Chili
  • Broccoli cheese coup
  • Cream of tomato soup
  • Tuna sandwiches
  • Tuna casserole
  • Waffles & pancakes
  • Corndogs and hotdogs
As far as Christmas shopping, I have three more gifts to get and wrap, plus pushing Jay to get the two he is responsible for. Then, Christmas obligations should be done. Well, that is except for the probable school and daycare gift exchanges and other last minute "ooops-i-forgots".

My mom's coming up to take care of the girls and get them where they need to be, so Jay can go with me to the hospital. Then a wonderful network of friends and family are in place to help shuttle to and from school or religion or speech and all that.

I feel better already! At least emotionally, that is.

Chocolate popcorn, mixed reviews

I came up with a new snack; the girls love it, but Jay says eh. :) Since Maggie can't handle table sugar but still has a sweet tooth, this is way to let her have chocolate flavor with very little sugar. Let me know what you think of it, or ways to improve it:

Chocolate popcorn

1 bag microwave popcorn
1 individual packet instant hot cocoa mix

Pop one bag of microwave popcorn. Carefully open it at one end. While it's still hot, pour one packet of hot cocoa mix. Shake well for about a minute, to make sure the chocolate mix is evenly distributed. Enjoy!

Monday, November 30, 2009


My lasagne is also not anything fancy. It's based on the recipe on any lasagne pasta box, but I embellish it here and there.

Linda's Lasagne

1 pound ground beef
1 jar Best Choice spaghetti sauce, any flavor
1 large container of cottage cheese, small curd, low fat
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic
1 box lasagne noodles

  • Brown the ground beef until cooked through. Drain.
  • Stir spaghetti sauce into ground beef. Let simmer for a few minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook the lasagne noodles as directed on the box.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, mozzarella, and spices.
  • Spray a 13x9 casserole dish.
  • Scoop 2-3 large spoonfuls of the meat mixture into the casserole dish. Spread evenly.
  • Scoop 2-3 large spoonfuls of the cheese mixture onto the meat mixture in the dish. Spread evenly.
  • Lay lasagne noodles over the cheese mixture.
  • Repeat layers two more times.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Lasagne hints I've recently learned:
Let the lasagne set a few minutes before serving.
Substitute Italian sausage for the beef, for extra flavor
Skip boiling the noodles and put the casserole in the fridge for at least 8 hours before baking.

How do you spice up your lasagne?

How do you spell relief? B-E-N-I-G-N

My good news, my very excellent news, my happy-happy-joy-joy news is that the thyroid nodule is benign. I'll still have surgery, probably next Tuesday, to remove the lump and half the thyroid. But no radiation or follow-up needed. Can you hear the exhale?

So, now to prepare the family for "the mama" being unavailable for a day or two, and recovering after that.

But first, celebrate with me!

Mom's Meatloaf

A high school classmate of mine just posted that she made her first meatloaf. I was amazed; we eat it probably twice a month. The comments that followed were mostly listing how gross meatloaf is...I was stunned. Apparently, the rest of the world was not as fortunate as my family is, growing up with my mom's amazing meatloaf. Not only does it taste awesome, it's so very fool-proof to make. I've tried to list quantities for the ketchup, mustard, cheese, and sauce, but it is truly an estimation. A couple squirts of this, a dash or two of that, and a handful of this...ta da!

Mom's Meatloaf
1 pound ground beef
1 pound pork sausage
1/3 cup crushed saltine crackers
1 egg
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped onion
3-4 tablespoons of mustard (or 3 big squirts)
2/3 cup ketchup, divided
2 tablespoons A1 sauce (or two big dollups)

  • With cooking spray, spray either 2 loaf pans or 1 9X9 pan.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the meat, egg, saltines, cheese, mustard, A1 sauce, salt, pepper, and about 4-5 big squirts of ketchup.
  • Roll up your sleeves, and mix it all together with your hands.
  • Form two equal-sized loaves with the meat mixture, either one in each loaf pan or two side-by-side in the 9x9 dish. *Hint from Alton Brown: don't pound down the meat to make evenly shaped loaves. By just plopping the meat into the pan, the meatloaf will be juicier and less dense.
  • Cover both loaves with ketchup, about 3 squirts per loaf. Again, use your hands to smear it so that the loaves are completely covered.
  • Cover with foil.
  • Bake at 375 for 1 hour 25 minutes, removing the foil for the last 20 minutes.
  • Let the meatloaf set for 5 minutes before cutting into it.

And, to make it an extra-easy meal, throw a few baked potatoes in with the meat loaf. They'll be ready about the same time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Weekly menu: November 29 - December 5

Sunday, November 29
Waffles (make extra and freeze)
BLTs and broccoli salad
Omelets & toast with apple pie jam

Monday, November 30
Waffles in the toaster
Ham sandwiches and chips
Meatloaf and baked potatoes

Tuesday, December 1
Grilled cheese & ham
Turkey casserole

Wednesday, December 2
Leftover casserole
BBQ Roast Beef

Thursday, December 3
Oatmeal & raisins
BBQ Beef Sandwiches
Leftovers (clear the fridge)

Friday, December 4
Baked corn dogs & french fries

Saturday, December 5
Pancakes & bacon
Leftovers, or sandwiches
Vegetable soup and french bread

Plans, schplans

Oh, I had big plans for last week. I had a list of 12 recipes to post, great uses for leftover turkey and my mom's best thanksgiving dishes. And then, well, life got in the way.

But, I made up for that today. I have a menu planned out for December, the grocery list for making all the meals, and recipes on how to make them ahead of time and put in the freezer. In fact, I spent 45 minutes shopping and 3 hours preparing food today, and now have 6 meals in the freezer.

I'll split the meals by weeks, but for now, here's the meal list:
  • Sandwiches
  • Tuna salad
  • Tuna casserole
  • Pizza roll
  • Pork stir fry
  • Meatballs
  • Meatloaf
  • Pizza
  • Omelets
  • Tacos
  • Turkey casserole
  • Turkey enchiladas
  • Beef enchiladas
  • Fajitas
  • Tomato soup
  • Broccoli cheese soup
  • Chili
  • Potato soup
  • BBQ beef
  • Baked corn dogs
  • Ham and beans

And here's the shopping list for the month:
  • Milk
  • Cereal
  • Bread
  • Tuna (3 cans)
  • Beans
  • Enchilada sauce
  • Frozen bread dough
  • Pepperoni, 4 oz
  • Deli ham, 1 pound
  • Saltines
  • Egg noodles
  • Lasagne noodles
  • Mozzarella (2)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheddar (6)
  • Corn tortillas (2)
  • Flour tortillas (4)
  • Hot dogs (2)
  • Eggs
  • Olive oil
  • Foil containers (6 square)
  • Fritos
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • ground beef (2)
  • ground sausage (1)
  • pork steak (pkg of 3)
  • ham hocks (1 or 2)
  • Bell peppers (3-4)
  • Frozen broccoli
  • Carrots
I know it seems like a lot, but this will feed your family of 5 for a month! Hopefully, life will allow me to post recipes and weekly menus tonight or tomorrow. Until then, I'm off to help wrap presents!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Second verse, same as the first (we hope)

In November 2007, I had an ultrasound-guided needle aspiration, aka biopsy, done on a thyroid nodule. Immediately after the appointment, we drove to Wichita to spend Thanksgiving with my family. Unfortunately, we did the same thing this year.

I have a lump/nodule/tumor on the left side of my thyroid. Three weeks ago, it measured 3 cm by 2 cm by about a cm. It looks like an adam's apple when I swallow. If I lay on my right side to sleep, it pushes against my throat and makes it hard to breathe. The rest of the time, it just feels like someone is pushing against my throat. It's also compressing a nerve to my ear and into my head; at least, we hope that's the cause of that pain.

The biopsy was to check for cancer. If it's malignant, I will have my entire thyroid removed and probably radiation. I'm assuming that is NOT the case. If it's benign, which I think it is, I will have surgery before Christmas to have it removed as well as the left side of my thyroid. It will be at least an overnight hospital stay. I'm hoping the recovery is simplistic, and I hope the surgery doesn't cause me become hypothyroid. I mean, who has time to be totally wiped out exhausted? At Christmas? With four kids?

So, I'm preparing the house for it. I plan to spend this weekend putting away a handful of meals. My mom said she'll come stay to give Jay a hand with the kids for a few days. (That, and she yelled at me for not telling her about the lump in the two months since I first noticed it.) I'm trying to finish all my Christmas shopping and get everything wrapped before Friday. And Friday, I have the second half of my First Aid/CPR class, so I don't want the schedule the surgery until the following week.

What am I forgetting? What else can I do/should I do before I'm down for the count for at least a few days?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Weekly menu for November 15

Sunday, November 15
Pancakes and bacon
Church potluck

Monday, November 16
Breakfast pizza
Ham & Swiss Pita
Hot dogs & MacNCheese

Tuesday, November 17
Blueberry muffins
Leftover pizza
Smothered steak & mashed potatoes

Wednesday, November 18
Crock pot roast pork

Thursday, November 19
Pork sandwiches
Chicken-spinach casserole

Friday, November 20
Leftovers, or frozen pizza

Saturday, November 21
Breakfast burritos
Cheese quesadillas and chips
Broccoli, pasta & white sauce

Difference of opinion

Dear Natalie:
While you may feel that 8 months of being the "happiest baby in the world" entitles you to a spell of grouchiness, we feel that you are taking this entitlement to the extreme levels. We do understand that the potential of new teeth can be irritating, however we ask that you find a way to manage this irritation a little quieter. If you fuss while being held or being laid down, please be advised that you will be laid down at some point in the evening. Also, we suggest any future nights-of-screeching be reserved for evenings when both parental units are in the vicinity.


Dear Natalie's Teeth:

Come through already. Or leave her alone. In the words of Dr. Seuss, "I do not like this, Sam I Am."

The Mom

Edited to add:

Dear Hyland Teething Tablets:
You are my superhero.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Patience is a I don't have

I wish I could be more patient.

I'm sitting here, waiting for an important call. I keep turning up my cellphone, as if by making it louder, it will make the person on the other end call me sooner. I want to know now!

I'm waiting on an email about a class that I want to take next spring. I want to know NOW!

I'm also waiting on a phone call about another class I want to take next spring. Also, wanting to know NOW!

My meetings are done, my tasks complete, I have kids waiting at daycare, but it's not yet 4 p.m. I want to GO now. but.

I want to know NOW, I want to go NOW, but I need to slow down. everything.

I recorded Lainie's speech a few times the past month, for her teachers' benefits. I learned a lot from watching those videos. The most important message I absorbed was, I don't give her enough time to answer. I'm a go-go-GO kind of person, and I need to slow down for her. I talk fast, Katie talks faster, Maggie talks fastest...and then comes Lainie. She needs to be given the time to develop her answer, and given time to correct it if she wants to. I need to slow down and have down time.

And it's not only Lainie. Natalie needs down time to get to free play, to just hang out, to move around, to crawl on me. Maggie needs down time to decompress, to relax, to go her own more-natural, slow pace. Katie needs down time to express herself, to talk about things that concern her, to know she has my attention. Jay needs my down time so we can actually talk to each other about important and trivial things. I need down time to stay healthier than I am right now and to feed my introvert-ical needs.

So, if you ever come to house and notice the pile of unfolded laundry and stack of mail not put away, think to yourself, "Good for Linda! She made down time. And slowed down. If only for a few minutes."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Speech update

Lainie's been going to K-State Speech and Hearing Center for six months now. For six months, two days a week, we spend nearly 2 1/2 hours (1 hour session, 45 minutes there, 45 minutes home) dedicated to her speech. That doesn't include the hours working on "homework", practicing the word lists for the week and incorporating them into our conversations, making her say the words to get what she wants, having her repeat us to clarify what she wanted to communicate. It's exhausting. Some days, I'm asking, "Is it worth it?" Thankfully, I have Jay and my mom to be our cheerleaders, to remind me of progress made, to help me forget, if only temporarily, the long road she has ahead.

What does apraxia mean to us? Here's a sample of a good day:

On good days, we can understand her most of the day. On good days, she might try to communicate at school and daycare. On good days, she can find the word she's looking for, at least until supper time. By supper, she's so tired for the effort of talking that it's rare for her communicate clearly.

On bad days, I think I'd understand Lassie more than my own daughter. On bad days, she goes to the playroom and plays by herself, because she gets frustrated at not being able to express her thoughts and emotions.

But on good days, her smile shines bright and her pride is clear with every word she says.

Monday, November 9, 2009

TV Dinner

Sometimes my cooking is Chopped meets Macgyver. "Your ingredients are: ground beef or pork, tortilla chips, fresh tomatoes, and eggs, and maybe some old Velveeta cheese. Invent something that five will eat." In fact, I'd like Dinner: Impossible to try to succeed at this challenge: "You have 30 minutes to prepare a meal for six while simultaneously caring for a 3-year-old and 8-month-old, finishing homework with an 6-year-old and 8-year-old, setting the table, and make it nutrition, delicious, and safe. GO!"

At least, that's how tomorrow's challenge feels. We used up (nearly) all our cheddar cheese tonight, and just about all the taco meat. What can I say? The tacos were delicious! So, now I'm improvising. I have two bags of tortilla chips and if I serve chips with dinner, the battle-of-clean-plates is non-existent, so I really want to use chips. I have lots of ground beef, pork, and sausage. So, I think I'll make a sausage con queso with velveeta and serve it with fresh chopped tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, sour cream, the remaining fresh cheddar, and (for the adults) jalapenos.

Take THAT, Chef Robert!

p.s. Gotta give credit where credit is due. Jay the Man made tacos tonight, serving the chopped vegetables he's growing in his high tunnels. He's a good man. He even threw together an apple dessert...mostly because he wanted to use his new apple peeler.

Bierocks Casserole

Growing up, I had the best lunch ladies EVER. They were four seemingly-old German ladies in our very German community. VERY German. In the middle of Kansas, probably 90 percent of my community was German and many had grandparents who still spoke German in the home. My high school offered Spanish and German as your language choices, and I'm just now realizing how odd that was. Anyway, back to lunch ladies. These fabulous women would make homemade bierocks for my school of 100 or so students. We are talking about fresh, made-from-scratch dough with beef, cabbage and cheese inside. YUM!

This is no where near as good, but is also thousands of times faster.

2 cans crescent roll dough
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 bag cole slaw mix
2 cups shredded cheese, cheddar or mozzarella

  1. Brown the beef and pork in a large skillet. Drain.
  2. Stir in the cole slaw mix. Cover and let steam until cabbage is softened.
  3. Line a 13x9 dish with one of the crescent roll dough, pinching the seams to make a crust.
  4. Spoon in the cabbage and meat mixture.
  5. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the meat.
  6. Top with the second crescent roll dough, again pinching the seams to make one big rectangle.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until dough turns golden brown.

Other variations of this recipe include adding a cream-of soup, but I stick to the basics, in honor of those great St. Mark's lunch ladies.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tuna cakes

... YUM!

Once each week, I try out a new recipe. It keeps me from being bored in the kitchen and, hopefully, exposes my kids to new tastes. This week's new recipe was a hit:

Tuna Cakes
Even if you don't like tuna, it tastes good. At least, that's what my husband claims.

2 cans (6 oz. each) light tuna in water, drained, flaked
1 pkg. (6 oz.) STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix for Chicken
1 cup KRAFT Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese
3/4 cup water
1 carrot, shredded
1/3 cup KRAFT Real Mayo Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. CLAUSSEN Sweet Pickle Relish

  1. Mix all the ingredients.
  2. Put in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  3. Heat a skillet to medium.
  4. Put a 1/3 cup ball of the mixture on the skillet. Flatten with a spatula.
  5. Heat the tuna cake for 3 minutes. Flip them over, and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

Super easy. super yummy.


I'm grateful to hear no coughing right now. HA! Just as I post that, Lainie started another coughing attack. So, I'm grateful to hear mostly no coughing. Truly, she is doing a lot better. And Natalie's not rubbing her ear raw any more and her coughing stopped completely. For the first time, I am dealing with antibiotic diarrhea with one of my girls, so Natalie got to start eating yogurt yesterday. She stook it like a champ, and hasn't blown out an outfit in 12 hours. The grief for Nadine, the worry of money and medical issues, the feeling of being overwelmed is still there. But I don't feel like I'm doing it alone.

I have a challenge for you this week. Each night, at least once, think, "what if this was my last night with my family? What would I do differently?" And then do it. Your family will thank you, and you will benefit too.

WIth that mindset, we stayed home Friday night and walked outside all around the property. We stayed home Saturday and played with friends, baked an Easy Bake Oven cake, took long naps, cleaned the house, watched a movie together, and made homemade pizza. Sunday will be equally relaxed: church in a half hour, then home for lunch, naps, a folding-laundry marathon, and getting everything set for the school week ahead. All of that...together. Relaxed. At our pace. As it should be.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Favorite appetizers

Nothing is better than appetizers and football. Our three favorites are:

Cheesy Triscuits
2 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped onion

Mix bacon, cheese, mayo, and onion together. Top each triscuit with about a teaspoon of the mixture. Broil on low for about 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and triscuits start to turn golden brown.

Little Smokies

1 package little smokies (we prefer Farmland brand)
1 jar Heinz chili sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar

Mix chili sauce and brown sugar. Pour over little smokies and either warm in a crock pot for 3-4 hours, or warm in a microwave about 3-4 minutes on medium heat.

Cream-cheese and jelly

1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1 jar jalapeno jelly, any flavor

Place the cream cheese block on a plate. Pour the jalapeno jelly over the cream cheese. Serve with Triscuits.

Weekly menu: Nov 8-14

Scrambled eggs and toast
Tuna cakes and Mac-n-cheese
Reuben casserole

Breakfast burrito
Leftover casserole
Tacos (make extra taco meat)


PB Toast, banana
Clam chowder (yes, from a can!)
Ravioli and Salad

Toast with Apple Pie Jam
Leftover ravioli and salad
Beef Enchiladas

Leftover enchiladas
Empty-the-fridge OR, if you don't have many leftovers, frozen pizza
(Come on! It's Friday! Take the night off!)

Pancakes and fruit
Apple Walnut Salad
Pork ribs & baked sweet potatoes

In case there was every any doubt about my spoiled-ness, to cook all the food on this menu, here are the ingredients I need to buy from the store:
enchilada sauce
sour cream
canned soup
crescent rolls
cole slaw mix

Everything else we have stocked, in our deep freeze, or still growing in the high tunnels. Not bad, eh?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Loaded Rice

My menu called for spanish rice, but I ended up improvising and created a pretty tasty meal.

3 cups cooked rice (I used the bag rice; it's much cheaper!)
1 small onion, diced
4 tomatoes, diced (keep the juices) or 1 can Ro-Tel
2 bell peppers, diced
1 pound ground sausage
3-4 tablespoons taco seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the sausage, onion, and pepper in a large skillet. Cook until the sausage in browned and the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and seasonings. Stir, and cook until warmed through. Add the rice. Stir, and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.

My husband and I added Tabasco sauce to our servings, but kept the dish mild so the kids would eat it.

Beef Pot Pie

I love it when I come across a recipe that uses all my leftovers and allows me to create a completely different meal. This week's find is pot pie. I will modify it, though, because the crust is the best part. I plan on making a crust for the bottom and top of the pie. Enjoy!

Beef Pot Pie
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 3 cups cubed leftover beef
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen green peas and carrots, cooked and drained
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • pie pastry for 1-crust pie
  • evaporated milk or regular milk
  1. In a medium saucepan, cook onion in butter until onion is tender.
  2. Stir in flour and salt until smooth and bubbly.
  3. Stir in beef broth. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until thick and bubbly.
  4. Add leftover beef, peas and carrots, and parsley; heat through.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if necessary.
  6. Pour beef mixture into a 2-quart casserole.
  7. Prepare pastry; roll out to about 1/2-inch larger than casserole top.
  8. Place over hot beef mixture. Cut several slits in the top for steam escape, turn edge under and crimp all around.
  9. Brush lightly with milk.
  10. Bake beef pot pie at 450° for 20 to 25 minutes.
This beef pot pie with leftover beef serves 6.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pikes Peak Roast

Pikes Peak Roast is not a very tender cut of meat, unless you cook it long and low. It's perfect for a crock-pot meal, especially if you are like me and are gone from the house for 10 hours on workdays.

I make up the roast recipes every time, changing it up a little bit here and there based on what I have on hand. This week's roast turned out yummy, so if you'd like to replicate it, here's the info:

1 pike's peak roast (3-4 pounds), thawed
1 can golden mushroom soup
1 can mushroom stems and pieces
1 cup beef broth (or boiling water and beef bouillon cube)
about 2 tablespoons salt
about 2 teaspoons dry mustard
about 2 teaspoons dried sage
1 garlic clove

  1. Mix the salt, mustard, and sage together. Rub it over the roast.
  2. Place the roast in the crock pot.
  3. Mix in a separate bowl the beef broth, mushroom soup, mushrooms, and garlic. Beat until smooth.
  4. Pour soup mixture over roast.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours.
  6. Remove from the crock pot and let set for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Weekly menu

What did we eat this past week?

Chef Salad
Waffles and Bacon (make a double-batch of waffles and freeze leftovers)

Waffles (leftovers, in the toaster)

Crock pot beef roast

Roast beef sandwiches, new potatoes, salad

Waffles (from frozen leftovers)
Beef pot pie (using leftover beef and potatoes, and frozen veggie mix)

Spanish rice and quesadillas

Sausage gravy & biscuits (brown extra sausage and set aside)
Appetizer lunch (K-State vs KU football!)
Homemade pizza

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Just sad

Do you ever just feel sad? Melancholy, but maybe a bit more? It's not like I don't know why I feel this way...

Dear friends of ours said goodbye to their mom yesterday. She died of leukemia, less than a week after being diagnosed. She was only 61. There is something heart-wrenching about seeing grown men sob.

Illnesses continue. I realized yesterday that Lainie's been coughing for more than 2 months now. And Natalie woke up with her cough intensified and a rattle in her chest. It's not like we haven't been here before. Katie and Maggie educated us on the different kinds of coughs and cough remedies. But I'm sad for my girls, sad that they don't feel well, sad that Lainie is out of breath after walking the stairs.

Money problems. Hell, who doesn't have money problems nowadays. We're better than we were, we still see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I'm tired of being broke. And sad about it.

Work. I'm sad that another project has failed, because higher-ups couldn't or wouldn't make decisions in time and co-workers wouldn't do their part. Why try?

I'm sure tomorrow will be better. Tonight I'll spend some extra snuggly time, reading time, playing time, silly time, with my quartet.

But today, I'm just sad.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Magic of Music

I have an uncomfortable commute to work. I'd call it bad or icky or horrid, but I know others have it worse than I do. My commute is 45 minutes -- 37 miles -- into the sun, morning and night. I usually pass the time talking to my mom or catching up with DH without the interruption of kids, but occasionally, I just groove to the music.

Today, the radio brought back all sorts of memories. Like a slide show of my past, song after song brought new images to mind.

"Party like it's 1999"... dude, I DID party like it's 1999 in 1999. We had been married about 6 months, out of college for about 7 months. Friends of ours were getting married the next day, and we all hit Aggieville for THE New Year's Party of Our LIVES! I remember dancing and dancing and drinking from a 2-foot-tall beer...which we still have in our basement. It was one of those moments that, even as it was happening, you knew it would be unforgettable.

"Like a Candle in the Wind." Ah, Elton John. And Ryan White. Ryan had AIDS. He was one of the first people, definitely first kid, to go public with his battle with AIDS. He taught us so much about the disease and defined grace, all before he reached 15.

"Zoot Suit Riot"...Jay and I won a silly dance contest with that song. Back in the day, we could really cut a rug. Now I sound 80 years old, but it's true. We'd dance every night we went to the bar, and while we were dating, that was usually 3 nights a week. No, we weren't alcoholics...well, he wasn't. We were in college, living blocks from Aggieville, and living life to its fullest.

It makes me smile to think about it.

Now, my song memories are "Brown-eyed girl" and "Good morning beautiful", "You are my sunshine" and "You Belong With Me" and the memories are just as sweet.

I love how life transitions from one phase to another without you even noticing, each phase with its own highlights. I feel melancholy when I think of the speed with which it is passing. But you can't stop life, so you might as well enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Roasted pumpkin seeds

A traditional favorite, and great low-sugar Halloween snack

  1. Scoop the seeds and pulp out of a pumpkin.
  2. Separate the seeds from the pulp.
  3. Rinse out the seeds at least twice.
  4. Put the seeds in a large bowl and add enough water to make the seeds float.
  5. Add 2-3 tablespoons of salt.
  6. Let soak overnight or longer.
  7. Drain the water from the seeds.
  8. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  9. Pour the drained seeds on the baking sheet.
  10. Thoroughly sprinkle with salt.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees, checking every 10 minutes for doneness.
  12. Seeds are done when they just start to turn golden brown and are crisp when you bite into them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Back to normal

It feels good, but exhausting, to get back to normal. I was so relieved yesterday when we had outfits selected for the girls for the week and all the laundry put away. Granted, that's nearly all I achieved this weekend, but it did get done. Today, it's back to school, daycare, dance, and 4-H. I'm already feeling wore out, so I hope I make it the entire day.

We did achieve one other thing, thanks to Daddy Jay. We got the pumpkins carved. Lainie and Natalie got pumpkins from Browndale Farm from a field trip, and Grandpa Ron sent three huge pumpkins up for our benefit. Here's the result:

And one last hurray for the week: Natalie is pulling herself to stand. She's even starting to cruise a little. It blows my mind, for two reasons: she months ahead of her sisters' developmental schedule and she's so stinkin' short! But yet, she's on the move, ready or not!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy Halloween! Popcorn Balls with a twist

Best popcorn balls I've had

12 cups popped popcorn
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 pkg. (4 serving size) JELL-O Brand Gelatin, any flavor
1 1/2 cups PLANTERS COCKTAIL Peanuts, coarsely chopped

  1. Place popcorn in large bowl.
  2. Mix syrup and sugar in saucepan; bring to boil.
  3. Remove from heat. Add gelatin; stir until dissolved.
  4. Add peanuts.
  5. Pour over popcorn; mix well.
  6. Cool about 5 minutes.
  7. Shape into 18 balls, each about 3 inches in diameter.

Happy Halloween! Witches Hats

This is my girls' favorite treat for school parties this time of year.

Witches Hat

Self-sealing plastic bag
1 can chocolate frosting
20 chocolate ice cream cones
Candy corn or assorted small candies
20 2- to 3-inch chocolate cookies

  1. Fill plastic bag with some chocolate frosting. Seal bag and cut a very small end off one corner of the bag and set aside.
  2. For each hat, invert one ice cream cone and fill with about 2 tablespoons candy corn or small candies.
  3. Pipe some frosting from bag along bottom edge of cone.
  4. Press a cookie against frosting. Carefully invert right side up onto waxed paper-lined cookie sheet. Decorate outside of cone with small candies, using additional frosting as necessary.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sad sad recipe

I have a fridge full of fresh, home-grown peppers, spinach, and lettuce. I have a shelf full of fresh, home-grown tomatoes.

And tonight we're eating frozen pizza and breadsticks.

Next week will be better.

Flu, round 1, done?

I think we've got the flu nipped in the bud, and hope we have the secondary infections covered, too.

In the end, Maggie and Jay didn't get it at all...or not enough to keep them down. They were a little tired, maybe, but that's it.

Katie -- who got Tamiflu on day 2 -- recovered by day 4 with no problems. The rest of us didn't get Tamiflu, because Lainie and Natalie's pediatrican's office was against giving it and, when I called our family doctor's office, they said they weren't giving it either. I'm just glad Katie got it and it worked for her.

Natalie has a nasty cough that I was afraid was turning into bronchitis or pneumonia, but her lungs are still clear. She does have an ear infection and started antibiotic for that. Hopefully that antibiotic will cover/prevent any other infections from setting it.

I ended up with self-diagnosed bronchitis. After you've had bronchitis 6 or 7 times, you know what it sounds like, tastes like, feels like. I also happened to have a z-pack (zithromax) from a convenient mistake earlier this summer when I was sent home with two instead of one. I started the z-pack on Wednesday and feel a lot better today. Still tired, out of breath, and need tylenol every 4 hours...but better. Functioning.

Lainie got hit the worst. Big surprise, eh? She ended up with pneumonia in her left lung, the same one that collapsed when she was intubated. She's doing a lot better, wanting to play, happy, laughing, barely coughing. She's out of breath from walking up or down the stairs, and the stridor is still there at night, but her fever is gone and she's just going to need a couple weeks to kick the rest of the infection.

So, today the girls are going to daycare for an hour or so, so i can go to Lainie's parent-teacher conference this morning. Then, we'll come home and rest, and I'll try to do an hour or two of work for work. (I've been gone from the office for two weeks now- YIKES!) But mostly, we are going to take it easy, try to rest and recoup, so that we can all be healthy again.

And I can be terrified of the next round of flu out there.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Maggie!

Margaret Claire turns 6 today. My exuberant, boisterous, smart, beautiful, crazy, fun, on-the-go, determined, full-of-life, fabulous Maggie May is 6. She brings light into any room...light, and noise. That girl is LOUD! She's determined, stubborn, passionate, happy, fun. I love her to pieces and am so thankful for every day we have her!

Monday, October 19, 2009

One step forward, two steps back

The good news is, Katie is better, Natalie's cough is just upper respiratory and her fever is gone, and Jay and Maggie are still healthy.

Bad news is, Lainie is in the hospital for the second night tonight. I brought her in, thinking she was having another croup attack, but the crackling/rattle was from her lungs this time. Well, lung anyway. She has pneumonia in her left lung, the same one that collapsed and (warning: made up word alert) pneumonia-ized back in January 2008. They gave her fluids and IV antibiotics, starting about 9 p.m. Sunday. As of 4:30 p.m. Monday, she hasn't improved. Her fever still spikes on hour 5 after ibuprofen; tylenol versus this fever is like a kindergartener going up against a high school bully...ain't touchin' it. She's apparently dehydrated, considering her 24-hour output is measured in the single-digit ounces. BUT, her oxygen stats are still fine and she isn't getting any worse.

So, another 24 hours of antibiotics and fluids. Jay got her to eat her lunch today, so that was progress. I'm hanging out here, and he went home to take care of K, M, and N. Nothing critical going on, but we'd all like to see Lainie back to her spunky self a.s.a.p. At this point, I think a little whining would be appreciated over the monosyllable responses...well, maybe a little whining, at least.

Friday, October 16, 2009

On the downhill slide, I hope.

Katie's better. I think the tamiflu really did help her.

Lainie's not coughing. The ibuprofen keeps her fever down. She's eating lots and resting some, so hopefully she'll get stronger and not get the full flu/virus.

Natalie spiked a fever last night, around 3 a.m. Tylenol alone wasn't enough to lick her fever, but with ibuprofen, it finally came down. She's eating and droopy today, with those telltale red cheeks. But, after a big nap and lots of mama milk, she's playing on the floor right now. Here's hoping....

Maggie. What can I say, Maggie is an ox...or at least healthy as one, just like her daddy! Thank goodness!

I'm wore out but not really sick.

And still hopeful for a healthy weekend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cherry ham and butternut squash

That whole menu thing? Totally out the window this week. I'm trying to make due with ingredients in our house and avoid going to the grocery store. So, tonight's supper is cherry ham and butternut squash.

For the cherry ham, just pour a can of cherry pie filling on top of a 1-2 pound cured ham. Bake at 325 until ham reaches 140 degrees, about an hour for a 2 pound ham, 90 minutes for a 3-4 pound ham.

For the butternut squash, wash the outside of the squash and cut it in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and fibers from the middle of the squash. Place the halves, cut sides up, in a baking dish. Salt and pepper, if desired. Dot with margarine or butter; I use about 3 tablespoons for each half. Pour 1/4 inch of water into the baking dish. Cover and bake for about 45 minutes at 325 degrees.

So, if I manage to get the squash in the oven 45 minutes after the ham goes in, it should all be ready at about the same time. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taco Soup, improvised and improved

There are thousands of variations of taco soup out there, but the one we made tonight was fantabulous. It's a thicker soup, with a chili consistency but without the spice.

1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
2 cups (or 1 can) cooked beans (We used a combination of pinto and black beans. Kidney beans would work too.)
1 can kernel corn, UNdrained
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 bell peppers, diced
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 packet Taco Bell taco seasoning
2 tomatoes, diced

sour cream
cheddar cheese, shredded
tortilla chips

Cook the ground beef in a large skillet or saucepan. Drain. Add corn, canned tomatoes, peppers, dressing mix, taco seasoning, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low to medium-low (4 on a scale to 9). Let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and tortilla chips. Enjoy!

No guilt allowed

Well, all that debating and second guessing myself on whether or not the girls should have the flu shot or H1N1 shot was a waste of time. Because they got the flu before they could have had the shot, anyway.

Katie woke up Monday morning with a terrible headache and just looking like crapola. This morning, the crappy feeling came with a 102+ fever. Diagnosis without being seen at the doctor: flu, maybe H1N1, either way STAY HOME.

Meanwhile, Lainie's been fighting a cough for weeks. On Sunday night, she started having that crackly sound with every breath, but it was better Monday...until noon. By noon, daycare called and I went to pick her up, with a low fever and a nasty cough. So I finally made an appointment with the pediatrician to talk about that nagging cough.

But, Lainie decided to add a fever of 102+ this morning, too. My guess was/is some sort of virus causing the cough, with a little bit of flu sprinkled on top. Doc said it's a virus is still hitting her trachea, causing the stridor. She pulled out the big guns, prednisone, to try to get the reaction stopped and help her stop coughing and start breathing better. The problem, though, is that prednisone stops your immune response. So, the doc sent us home with instructions to give a drug that will weaken her ability to fight a flu that she may or may not have? Doc said that Lainie will be more able to fight off the influenza if she can breathe correctly, so we need to fix the trachea issue first. It makes sense, and I appreciate that Doc taking the time to explain it to me, but I'm still not convinced it's the right course of action. Then again, she has years of schooling and years of experience behind her decision. I think the other part that makes me second guess is that she said the ER doctor's prescription for croup a month ago was the wrong one. Who's right? Who's wrong? No one is infallible. Sometimes it's hard to follow doctor's orders.

Then, the pièce de résistance, is that I forgot to take the ibuprofen with us to the doctor's office this afternoon. By the time I got home, Lainie was without tylenol or ibuprofen in her system, and by the time I realized my screw-up, her fever was 103.2 and she was all stiff, shivering, with glazed eyes and gray skin. Tylenol, Ibuprofen, one bath, 2 cups of cool juice, and 30 minutes later -- 30 minutes of me holding her and Lainie's eyes rolling back then pulling forward and Lainie snuggling into me -- and she's better. She ate some, drank some, rested some, and is now raiding the bookcase.

In between the doctor's office and scary fever, I dropped the girls off at home with Jay and headed to the pharmacy for the prednisone for Lainie and Tamiflu for Katie. I also picked up a couple movies, and hit the grocery store sans kids this morning. So, we are all prepared for a 3 day hole-up for K, L, N, and I.

Daycare says onery kids don't get sick. Guess who's feeling fit as a fiddle? Miss Maggie. Let's hope she's onery enough to stay that way.

And just between you and me, I'm scared. I'm mostly scared for Lainie. Kick her immune system, expose her to the flu, while her seizure medicine is questionable about its strength, knowing illnesses trigger the seizures, and oh-by-the-way her throat is trying to close off? Sincerely, pray for her.

Friday, October 9, 2009

About H1N1

I swore I wouldn't give unsolicited advice anymore (or, apparently, any less), but this is a topic that is important to me, a topic I want to know the facts. This will mostly list negatives, I'll admit it. Consume it with the pro-vaccinations messages you are hearing from the media, and somewhere in the middle lies reality.

I did some research on the H1N1 vaccine, based on one specific concern I heard this week. The vaccines that are being distributed widely contain thimerosal. That's the additive that was removed from vaccines because of the fear of an autism link. The experts say there is no direct connect from thimerosal (aka mercury) and autism; the experts also said in 1980 that all the kids dying or nearly dying after a DPT shot was just a coincident, until 1983 when they said, "Oops. We were wrong. It was the vaccine. We'll change it now. Sorry about that." There is a no or low thimerosal vaccine available; it just may not be available everywhere. It's worth asking for, because...what if they are wrong about the safety of thimerosal?

The other option, a nasal spray, contains a modified-live vaccine. The problem with modified-live is that it actually gives you a version of the illness. They just hope that your immune system is strong enough to beat off the weakened level of the illness. So, if someone gets it who already has a cold or infection brewing, it'll be doubly tough to fight off the illnesses. Also, once one person in your family has had the nasal spray, there is some chance they can spread the illness to anyone around them for a few days. So, please, if you do go this route, let us know so we can avoid you. :)

The third point I want to bring to your attention is that "an earlier type of swine flu vaccine was associated with cases of a severe paralytic illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) at a rate of approximately 1 case of GBS per 100,000 persons vaccinated." They think they've solved the problem that caused GBS before, but it is a concern. This vaccine has only been tested since the first of August.

So, what if you get the flu? Well, some doctors could give your children Tamiflu or an antiviral, if you come down with the flu first. An antiviral like Tamiflu can prevent flu symptoms or minimize them, but its use will be limited to high-risk groups exposed to the flu or someone who has the flu who is diagnosed with 48 hours of symptoms starting. The pediatrician in Manhattan said he wouldn't; a family practitioner in Clay Center did last year. I'm hoping for the Clay Center response, especially with our four "high-risk" children.

And a little history of the polio vaccine, to compare: Apparently, they tested it for a year before releasing to the public. Even then, the vaccine actually induced 260 cases of poliomyelitis, including 10 deaths. We've come a long way, yes, but I still think it's best to move forward cautiously.

So, that's my soapbox. As one person told me, getting a flu vaccine is more of an emotional decision than a fact-based one, so its nearly impossible to change someone's opinion about what is the right thing to do. I agree with that statement; I just thought I'd make it easier for you to find the facts.

Want to do your own research?
Or post the sources you've found -- credible sources only, please -- so I can broaden my knowledge base.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

That was GREAT!

I think I underestimated the yumminess of tonight's menu.

Acorn squash

Bacon-spinach quiche, made with our own eggs, bacon, and spinach

Fresh spinach salad with boiled egg, cheese, and bacon bits


What to cook...

I've been so busy keeping my head above water that I haven't had a chance to sit down and post anything. It's been difficult enough just to make and keep the weekly menu with our family, much less take the 5 minutes to share it with cyberspace.

I was proud last night. Wendy's called with a vengeance, but instead I made mashed potatoes, corn, and chicken nuggets at home.

Tonight I think I'm going to make a bacon-spinach quiche, with fresh spinach from our garden and bacon from my in-laws. Jay also picked up an acorn squash from Wednesday's market, so I'm going to make that. I found an easy Paula Deen recipe and since she and I share a passion for butter, her recipes always suit our family.

Friday breakfast, banana muffins or breakfast burrito
Friday lunch, hopefully leftovers from Thursday's supper
Friday night, I'm going to reheat a pizza roll from the freezer. After working all day, I doubt I'll have the gumption or desire to cook.

Saturday morning, oatmeal. That will warm us up before we head out to watch my nephew's football game.
Saturday lunch, tomato-basil soup and homemade french bread.
Saturday night, bruschetta and something else. I've never made bruschetta, so I'm on a recipe hunt between now and then.

Sunday morning, waffles
Sunday lunch, leftovers or chili.

and Sunday morning, reset the menu for the coming week.

If you're out there listening and know any good bruschetta recipes, please post them!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Which to write about

There's so much going on, it's impossible to know WHAT to write about. Should I tell you that Natalie is crawling, sitting and now pulling herself up to a stand...all within a week? Should I mention I decided not to take the second job, after much consideration and sole searching? After all, if I had been working this past weekend, I would have missed the crawling and the sitting. Should I go on and on about Lainie's ability but refusal to talk, especially at preschool, and the insinuations that there is more wrong with her than just her speech delay? How about Maggie bringing how the hair-bound creepy crawlies and my disgust and instinctive scalp-scratching? Or that Jay's garden is getting to a manageable state now and we are seeing more of him every night? Or Katie's run-in with mean girls today and the struggle I had to be a Christian in my thoughts and actions and in the words I used with her?

I heard or read this week about a parent trying to spend just 15 minutes a day playing with his child. I thought it was a great idea and attempted to instigate it. It doesn't sound like much, but it is tough for me to do, especially with four girls craving attention. I walked past the 3 laundry baskets of clean clothes needing folded, ignored the dishwasher of clean dishes and the few stragglers in the sink that needed washed, stepped over the toys that needed put away and pick up Natalie for her one-on-one time. Well, my timing sucked. Natalie spent most of her 15 minutes fussing and wanting to be left alone. After I put her to sleep, I rolled out the Twister mat. I thought, "I'm a great mother! We'll play, build lifelong bonds, teach good sportsmanship and how to follow rules, AND work with Lainie on her color recognition." Instead, it was 20 minutes of craziness, laughing, tackling, and absolutely no rules, ending with one mommy tackled and tickled by my three girls. That was the best 20 minutes of my week, probably my month. I thought the 15 minutes of play were for the benefit of the kids; I was wrong. I highly recommend it!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thankful for every morning

I love mornings.

Don't get me wrong; I'd like to sleep until noon every day, if I could. Instead, I wake up between 5:30 and 6 a.m. and spend 15-20 minutes getting myself ready for the day. Then, I get to wake up our household, one beautiful face at a time. Jay, then Katie, then Maggie & Lainie, and Natalie is usually last. And with each child, I say a little prayer of thanks to God that we get another day with these exquisite creatures.

I will never forget that drive to Kansas City, while Lainie was being flown there. We had no idea if she'd survive the flight or, if she did survive, what we'd find when we got there. I spent a good part of the drive praying, begging, pleading God to save my baby, to please not take her away from us. I promised that we'd take her however we could get her, knowing, expecting that she would have severe brain damage. (After all, her oxygen stats were in the 70s for a long long time.) I think, every 3rd or 4th beg, I would add "thy will be done but please oh please let thy will be to keep her on earth."

I remember arriving at Children's Mercy, meeting my uncle in the PICU, waiting to get back to see her, shaking with fear and exhaustion, gowning up as we entered the strange room, and THANK GOD, seeing Lainie start fighting the machines as soon as we started to talk. It gave us hope that she was still okay in there, that she recognized our voices, even in her coma.

And we've been thanking God ever since. For every word spoken, sign learned, progress made, step taken...and for every morning we've been gifted.

I still get scared, worried about what health curveball Natalie's going to throw us, worried about how Lainie will manage this flu season. I've talked with another mom, whose daughter is equally fragile. And I've adopted her words:
We can't know what the future will hold; we can only enjoy each and every day we've been given.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not so neurotic

So, I guess there was something up with Lainie. Last night, we put her to bed at 9 and she was fine. At 10, I heard a strange, strained cough on the monitor. I ran upstairs and she was doing this weak, tight cough and not breathing well. She'd cough twice, wheeze in an inhale, cry, and repeat. It took me all of 2 minutes to say that it wasn't normal and wasn't something we could treat at home. So, off the ER we went.

I'm glad we did. Her oxygen stats weren't great when we got there. After two breathing treatments, some cough syrup, and an x-ray to rule out pneumonia, we went home. Officially, it's something viral, resulting in croup. She feels better once she gets the breathing treatments, but is still needing them every 4 hours or so. And no seizures...that's the good news!

I can't imagine how scary croup must have been in the pioneer days, when they didn't have medicine to treat it, when croup meant a night in a steam tent with boiled onions. Thank goodness we don't have to experience that.

And again, no seizures!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What's normal?

I kept hedging on posting this, but finally decided my own personal blog is the perfect place to be neurotic.

Lainie had a headache this morning...I think. She was crying, sobbing with a little scream in it, starting at 5 a.m. I thought she was just having a bad dream, so I brought her to bed with me. But, she kept crying every 15 minutes or so, and when I got up at 5:45 to feed N, she started just schreeching-sobbing, even though Jay was with her. Finally, at 6, I got her to respond to my questions, and she signalled that her head hurt. 20 minutes after some motrin and she was up and about.

For normal kids, this would just be a headache and a bad morning. For us, it means I'm on edge all day, waiting for that call that she's had a seizure. It means Jay teaches today with his cellphone in his pocket, because he's half the distance to L that I am. It means I called the school to let them know she wasn't feeling great this morning. It means I start wondering if the different generic medicine is causing problems.

It's just a headache!

But, normal for us has been different for a long time. A normal cough in someone else's child meant two weeks of nebulizer treatments for Katie. A normal earache in someone else's meant a blown eardrum for Maggie. And now, a normal illness in someone else's means to be on guard for a seizure. And even Lainie's seizures aren't normal. A tonic-clonic aka grand mal seizure lasts a minute, on average. Her shortest was 5 minutes, longest was 90.


Sometimes being abnormal is a great thing. Katie is abnormally kind and respectful. Maggie is abnormally smart. Lainie is abnormally capable. (Considering how long she was in a state of status epilepticus, she should have much more brain damage than she does. Thank you, God.) And Natalie, just so she's not left out, is abnormally smile-y and social.

We'll take our abnormalities and relish them!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tough love

Being a mom is hard. Being a mom disciplining your kids is harder. Being a disciplining mom of a child with a severe speech delay, well, it just sucks more than average.

I don't know if I'm being too hard on Lainie. I don't think I'm expecting too much out of her. I am expecting just a little less from her at this age, than I expected from Katie and Maggie at this age. I am trying to give her a little leeway, knowing she's really getting frustrated with the speech problem, lack of intelligible words, stuttering, comments from strangers (PEOPLE, she is mute, NOT DEAF. Stop breaking my little girl's spirit!)


...when she looks me in the eye, bats her little eyelashes, smiles a little smile, and completely ignores my directions...well, she needs to be disciplined some way. I think. Or not. I don't know.

I don't know if this is the terrible threes or manifestation of her frustration or a result of changing manufacturers of her anti-seizure medication or exhaustion from the preschool/speech/preschool/speech/daycare schedule. I do know we do not allow our kids to run in the parking lot, no matter how much you scream. I do know we do not allow tantrums, especially not in the aisle of a store because I said no to a purchase. I do know we do not allow you to screech at your sister until she gives you what rightfully does NOT belong to you. I do know we expect you to, at minimum, learn to STOP when we say STOP. And don't close your eyes when I'm signing to you.

And I know we need this to be a short-lived stage.

Because, the secret is, I hate being the mean mommy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Weekly menu

This week I'm trying out a few money-savers but not necessarily time-savers. I'm going to see how hard it is to make rice that isn't minute rice, and baked beans that aren't from a can. Beans and rice in a bag are really cheap, so if we can substitute some of the canned stuff with the bagged stuff, that should save some moola. I'll let you know how it goes.


Ham and cheesy potatoes
Fried rice

Monday (Labor Day)
Scrambled eggs
Ham sandwiches, chips
Grilled steaks, potatoes, corn on the cob

Blueberry muffins
Beef stroganoff

Grilled cheese with ham

Cheesy quesadillas
Baked corndogs

Breakfast burritos
Out (I'm required; it's a work lunch!)
Hamburgers and fries

PBJ toast

Friday, September 4, 2009

No fork allowed

Ah, my secret tool, the trick to get kids to eat anything you want...make it crazy. For us, "crazy" can be as easy as no forks allowed. They get a kick out of it when I tell them, "whatever you do, do NOT use a fork. NO, NO FORKS! You MUST eat with your hands! You MUST, I say!"

Our No-Fork-Fridays usually consist of cherry tomatoes, cut up broccoli and cauliflower, sliced apples or peaches, grapes, crackers, cubed cheese, homemade fries and oven-baked chicken nuggets. I put it all on fancy serving trays in the middle of the table and let the kids make their own plates, with the requirement that they take at least one of each item. Then add salad dressing, ketchup, and barbecue sauce for dipping.

The other part of this secret: I like it as much as they do!

Beef Stew

I feel like a slacker, or out of the loop, either one. This week was the first time I made beef stew that wasn't in a crockpot...and it was delicious! Give it a try; it's perfect for a cool fall day. I think mine was even better because I used our home-raised beef, our homegrown potatoes, carrots, and onions, and Jay's mom's homemade ketchup.

1-2 tablespoon oil
1 pound beef stew meat, chopped (or get a cheap cut of beef and cut into pieces)
3/4 cup flour
salt, pepper to taste
2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
2 beef bouillon cubes
5 medium potatoes, diced
3 carrots, chopped
1 tablespoon A1 sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup water

Heat the oil in a large pot. Meanwhile, mix flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Roll the beef in the flour mixture. Add the onions, garlic, and beef to the pot and cook until the beef is just browned, stirring often. Add the water, bouillon cubes, A1 sauce, and ketchup. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then reduce heat to simmer.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours. Add the potatoes and carrots. Simmer for another 30 minutes, or until potatoes and carrots are tender.

Increase heat to boiling. Mix 2 tablespoons flour in cold water. Stir flour mixture into the boiling stew, and boil for 2 minutes.

Serve and enjoy. (Makes FABULOUS leftovers!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Firsts

Today is Lainie's first day of school for this year, and she is excited. She came down the stairs this morning, proclaiming, "I wake up! I wake up! Go to school!" She looked adorable in her Dora the Explorer shirt and Dora backpack. Right now, I'm guessing she's listening to a story or making a craft. I'm confidant she's having fun and getting that fabulous interaction.

I have so much faith in our school district! At her daycare, there are 3 kids who need transportation to school, and one of them is in a wheelchair. So, the district sends a van just for that one stop. Then, they had another guy come from the bus barn to help get the wheelchair in the van and make sure it all worked well. AND, because of Lainie's history of seizures, they require a paraprofessional ride in the van, too, in case she would have a seizure on the way to school. So, for three kids, this morning, there were 3 adults to help. How's THAT for a ratio!

And the other first? Natalie's started rocking on all fours. She was getting in the plank position last week, but last night she continually got on all fours and rocked back and forth. This is extra exciting to us because it shows her Gumby foot doesn't hurt her mobility and it's months earlier than her sisters did it. Way to go, Natalie!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nightly ritual

Yesterday was Lainie's follow-up appointment at Children's Mercy, and our first chance to talk to the neurologist about her diagnosis. He explained that the abnormal activity on the EEG was in the frontal lobe, and that she has generalized epilepsy. (I guess there are different kinds.) Optimistically, he said that she has all the check marks to hope that she'll outgrow this. We'll continue as-is for three years, as long as she doesn't have any seizures. After three seizure-free years, she'll get a repeat EEG and maybe start weaning off the medicine. That was good news to us!

A lot of people ask how we get her take those pills every night. She's so fabulous, it's no work at all:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Twist and shout

We call her gumby and it's not normal, but it's also not hip dysplasia. YAY!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Taco potatoes

It's starting to look like we eat a lot of mexican-style dishes around here. It's gotten to the point that, when I make taco meat, I make a double-batch to carry over a few meals. Here's one of my 2nd-meal uses.

Bake 4-5 potatoes. (I just use the microwave setting, but make sure you stab the potatoes first.)
Warm up the taco meat.
Split the baked potatoes, spoon taco meat over it, then sprinkle cheddar cheese, tomatoes, olives, sour cream, and whatever other toppings your family enjoys.

Easy, huh? Because some nights, who has time for complicated?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tamale casserole

Sometimes it's fun to just throw things together and see what you come up with. Last night's invention was tamale casserole

5 sweet banana peppers (or hot, if you like things spicy)
1 pound sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can cream-style corn
salt and pepper, to taste
1 box Jiffy mix cornbread (and the stuff to mix it)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Cut tops off of peppers and remove seeds. Cut in half lengthwise and boil in water for 5 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, brown sausage and onions together, until cooked through. Drain off any grease.
  3. Add cream-style corn, salt, pepper, and stir. Pour into a casserole dish.
  4. Sprinkle with half of the cheese.
  5. Place banana peppers on top of sausage mixture.
  6. Sprinkle remaining cheese.
  7. Prepare cornbread mix according the instructions on the box. Spoon over the peppers.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until cornbread is baked through.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

8 years ago

Eight years ago, I was vomiting.

Pleasant thought, eh? But I know, those last few days leading up to Katie's birth were full of throwing up. I remember telling her in utero, you better be a great baby, because this pregnancy sucks.

Well, she wasn't THAT easy of a baby. Not hard, I think, looking back, but not easy. She was sick from about 4 months on, which led to lots and lots of nebulizer breathing treatments. Then around 9 months, she started throwing tantrums so hard that she'd pop the blood vessels in her face. She didn't crawl until 11 months, didn't walk until 15 months, adding to our worry. And my SIL recalls her screaming and screaming any time she babysat for us.

But, what I remember more, is sitting on the floor with a baby Katie, in front of the bookcase, reading book after book. I remember dancing to whatever video was on CMT every morning while we were getting ready. I remember her big brown eyes looking up at us, melting my heart. I remember Jay doing homework with Katie in the crook of his arm. I remember the "mama" and "dada" and the time she turned "walk" into a bad bad cuss word. I remember her laughing so hard that she'd vomit, and I'd think, "That's fair." :)

Now my little Katie is turning 8. She's just such a GOOD kid. She's one of those kids teachers love. Yes, she still has her sassy moments here, but a quick reminder to show us respect, and we get an apology and an attempt to do better. She helps out her sisters, probably too much. She wants to help everything and everyone. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and gets her feelings hurt often. She's so much like me in so many ways, which is bad in that we argue more but good in that I really do know how she feels. I love her with all my heart and soul, and thank God every day for giving me my Katie-bug.

Happy Birthday, Katherine!