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: http://www.accessexcellence.org/AE/AEC/CC/polio.php 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!