Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Today's Parenting

I'm a bit proud of how today turned out. I knew we had a lot of cleaning and sorting that needed to be done, and I knew that Katie and Maggie were not going to be happy about doing them, especially with all the new toys and gadgets to play with. So, I decided to make it a game.

I made a list of easy chores, cut them out and put them in one bowl. Then I made a list of the hard chores (clean play-room, clean out Sadie's pen, sort socks, sort puzzles) and cut them out and put them in another bowl. Then I started a list of fun things to do.

Katie and Maggie had to draw one chore at a time from the easy chores and get them all done before moving onto the hard chores. If they got through both bowls without whining or screaming, then we would do the stuff on the fun list. And, while they were working on their lists, I had to do my own mega-list, try to keep Natalie safe*, and give Lainie manageable chores, too.

So what did they get done? Laundry washed, dried, and sorted; dishwasher unloaded three times today; books picked up from all bedrooms, living room, playroom, and foyer; all beds made; both K and M/L's bedrooms picked up; bathrooms cleaned; and trashed picked up. They also played with Sadie, cleaned the poo out of her pen, sorted a huge stack of puzzles, and helped sort socks. Lainie helped me clean up and organize the play room, and helped with the dishes. And I got all the laundry put away, the laundry room cleaned, the kitchen cleaned, Christmas decorations (except tree) put away, and playroom really cleaned. No screaming and no whining, too! So, we made a Sonic run during Happy Hour, two girls got rainbow baths, and I painted everyone's fingernails tonight. Tomorrow, we will make some shrinky-dinks and do a Wii tourney, maybe even paint a picture or two. Best of all, our house is all ready for a New Years shindig.

*but the failure of the day was keeping Natalie safe. She tried to stand on the footstool that goes with our glider rocker, and hit the floor face-first. By her scream, I knew something was wrong so I picked her up and took her to the kitchen for inspection. (This is the part that makes me laugh.) She was snuggled into my shoulder, so I turned backwards and asked Jay if there was any blood. He said, "No, not yet anyway." So I turned her around and pulled her off my shoulder, only to see my shirt, her shirt, and her face covered with blood. So much for asking for Daddy's input! (In his defense, she was snuggled into my shoulder and hiding her mouth.) Long story short, she bit through her tongue in four spots, all pretty deep, but all stopped bleeding after a couple minutes. She didn't want to eat supper, but loved that slushy from Sonic.

No permanent damage, thankfully, unlike Lainie's nose-slam on Sunday. Did I mention that it's possible she broke her nose on a Sunday morning fall? It's not crooked enough to worry about a doc visit and it's not affecting her breathing or anything, but it is a lovely shade of purple.

So, yes, we earned 1 Parenting Point for getting the girls to do chores without whining, but we lose 2 Parenting Points for battle scars from the week. Maybe tomorrow's goal should be to pad the living room for the week.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Speak Up!

Natalie doesn’t say a lot; at least, she doesn’t say much that we can understand. But tonight she made herself perfectly clear.

We drove around town tonight to look at Christmas lights, and the big girls (Katie, Maggie, Lainie) were singing Christmas carols the entire way. If you know anything about kids and carols, you know that there is only one volume at which they sing: LOUD. Throughout the singing, Natalie sat silently in her seat, to the point that I thought she was asleep. But, after about 15 minutes, Natalie yelled at the top of her lungs, as clear as can be, “HUSH!” only it was more like


I laughed so hard, I had tears in my eyes. I guess she wanted a Silent Night after all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What a difference

I know it's a cliche, but what a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, I was recovering from thyroid surgery, working at K-State. Now, I'm healthy, still not needing thyroid supplement (the half left is carrying the load), and halfway done with my LPN degree. I miss many aspects of K-State, but I also believe if I had stayed, the job would have drained me and I would have drained those around me. I am happy and scared with my career change, and hoping the next year and a half go quickly and smoothly.

It was a big year for our family. Last spring, Jay was laid up with osteomyelitis. His foot doesn't hurt him now, which I think is amazing, considering how significant the surgery and infection was. I just think how grateful I am for my cousin, who convinced us to get it check out. The "what if's" if we had waiting another week or two or three..... I shudder to think.

Lainie continues to make big progress. When she started speech at K-State, she was 2 years 10 months and her expressive language was assessed at 1 year 10  months. Now, she at 4 years 7 months, her expressive language is at 4 years 2 months. She's worked hard to get to where she's at; we all have. Her articulation is still in the 6th percentile and will be the focus for the next few years. But, she's doing well and can now communicate with us, when she wants to.

Maggie has matured so much this year. She is still boisterous, exuberant Maggie, but she has learned how to control herself in most situations. She is still naturally loud, but can be quiet if need be. Her speech, too, has made incredible bounds. She can now make the s and sh and ch and th sounds on command, even though she still slips up in conversation. I continue to be amazed at the power of speech therapy!!

Natalie-new is almost two. She is onery, to say the least. She came in the kitchen the other day, mad at her sisters, with her little arms crossed and her lip out. She stomped her little foot and pointed. Maybe I'm grateful she's not talking, because she had nothing nice to say that day! She is talking, when she wants to. She skipped saying individual words and jumped right now 2 and 3 word phrases. I'm not sure if it's 4th-child-itis or a speech delay, but I think we have enough IEPs to carry us for now. Besides, as the story above shows, she communicates her wants and needs in her own way.

And Katie...my little girl is becoming a pre-teen. Someone told me that adolescent girls where high-heels in the daytime and cuddle their teddy bear at night. That pretty much sums up what stage she's in, half-little girl, half-grown. It scares me to realize how quickly she's grown. SLOW DOWN, I want to scream. But time doesn't slow, so I best make the most of the time I get with her. It feels like if I blink, she'll be too old to bother with annoying mom anymore.

What else happened this year? Buster, our chocolate lab, died. A few months later, we got Sadie. She has been a really good dog. She still jumps, but that's to be expected out of any 5-month-old dog with lab and weimaraner in her. We also finally managed to keep some cats around, with four yellow cats taking up residents near Sadie's pen.

The garden business continues to grow, literally and figuratively. Jay bought a greenhouse and has it mostly installed; it's just lacking one more set of supports and plastic. That brings the total to 1 greenhouse, 3 high tunnels, and 2 mobile high tunnels.

And I'd say that about wraps up my version of a Christmas letter this year. Some day this week, I hope to get the girls to sing a Christmas song, but since I lost my camera, that might be a bit trickier than usual. You might have to settle for their picture, instead.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good year!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Roberta's Sloppy Joes

Since I got to do homage to my Grandma Pete in the last post, I thought I'd honor someone else's mom in this one. No, it's not my grandmother-in-law, Roberta, although she's sent me some fabulous recipes. This recipe comes from my August-Mom friend Sue, straight from her mom's recipe cards. And every time I make it, someone asks for the recipe. Super easy, super yummy, super sloppy. :)

Roberta's Sloppy Joes

1 1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 cup ketchup
4 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dry yellow mustard
1 bag frozen corn (that's my mom's addition...gotta have corn in sloppy joes)
Hamburger buns

Brown the beef and drain off any grease.
Add all other ingredients and bring to a simmer.
Simmer for 20 minutes and serve -- OR -- spoon the meat mixture into a crockpot and cook on low for 2-4 hours.
Serve on hamburger buns.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Broccoli Soup

Well, after that last post, there was a fight in our fridge. Seems that broccoli felt a bit bent out of shape and cauliflower getting all the attention. And so, to make peace within the cruciferous family, here is my absolutely favorite broccoli recipe, via my never-forgotten Grandma Pete:

Grandma Pete's Broccoli Cheese Soup 
(makes enough for 8-10 people)
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons onion, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 12-oz package frozen broccoli OR 1 head fresh broccoli, chopped and steamed (I use the Ziploc steam bags)
  • 8-oz package wavy wide egg noodles
  • 6 cup milk
  • pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound Velveeta, chopped
  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan.
  2. Add onions and saute until translucent.
  3. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the noodles and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the broccoli:
    • If using frozen broccoli, add it and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. 
    • If using fresh broccoli, steam it in the microwave.  Add it to the saucepan and immediately go to the next step.
  6. Add the milk, pepper, and garlic powder. Reduce heat to low.
  7. Add the Velveeta and cook until cheese is melted, stirring occasionally.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cauliflower Soup

I'm borrowing this from Pioneer Woman. I haven't tried many of her recipes, but if all are as good as this one, then I'm game!

FYI, if you want some fresh, locally grown cauliflower, carrots and bok choy, you can order it through our CSA at http://www.rvp.locallygrown.net/

Cauliflower Soup
  • 1-2 heads cauliflower, chunked
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks bok choy or celery, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 tablepoons dried or fresh parsley
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 4 (more) tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter or margarine.
  2. Add the onion and stir until translucent.
  3. Add the carrots and bok choy. Stir for 2-3 minutes, until they start to soften.
  4. Add the cauliflower and stir together.
  5. Add the parsley and (again) stir.
  6. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Add 2 quarts of chicken broth. Increase heat to medium and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to simmer.
  8. In a separate saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter.
  9. While that is melting, in a separate bowl, whisk together milk and flour. (I used my salad dressing mixer and it worked great! Just don't forget to relieve the pressure after mixing it; otherwise the lid pops off the top and across the room. It was pretty cool, but... back to the recipe)
  10. Add the milk/flour mixture to the melted butter, making a white sauce. Stir constantly while it thickens.
  11. Add half-and-half to the white sauce.
  12. Pour the white sauce into the cauliflower pan and stir until well combined.
  13. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Two meals in one

With our crazy schedule and limited income, we are all about re-using leftovers in some creative way. Some of them don't work and end up being dumped. Others, like these three recipes, are definite repeats.

Day 1: Pork and Beans
  • 1 pound ham hocks
  • 1 16-oz bag pinto beans
  • 6 cups water
  1. Add all three ingredients to a very large crock pot. (Keep in mind the beans will more than double in size while they cook.)
  2. Turn on high for 8-10 hours, until beans are soft.
  3. Serve with warm cornbread... at least that's how we do it in our house.

Simple, right? Now, expect leftovers and use them in this recipe:

Day 2: Taco Soup
  • 1-2 cup leftover pinto beans with ham pieces (be sure to remove any bone)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 package Taco Bell taco seasoning
  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips, optional
  1. Cook the ground beef thoroughly.
  2. Mix together, in a large saucepan, the beef, beans/ham, taco seasoning, corn, and bell pepper. Cook on medium heat until the corn in cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  3. Serve topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Egg Drop Soup

Hey, did I mention I'm in school full-time this year? Ya... doesn't leave much time for posting. But, I've found so many new recipes in the past month that I really want to share them. First on the list, Egg Drop Soup. If you've only ever had Egg Drop Soup at a buffet restaurant, then give this a try. It's the real deal and SO much better.

Egg Drop Soup
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Boil the water in a medium saucepan. Add the bouillon cubes and boil until dissolved.
  2. Remove 2 tablespoons of the chicken bouillon broth and put in a small bowl.
  3. Add ginger and soy sauce to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
  4. To the 2 tablespoons broth, add 1 tablespoon corn starch. Stir until dissolved.
  5. Slowly add the corn starch mixture to the saucepan, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  6. In a separate bowl, slightly beat the two eggs.
  7. Reduce the heat on the saucepan to simmer. Gently pour in the eggs, stirring constantly in one direction for two minutes.
  8. Add the green onions. Let simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  9. Serve warm with wonton strips.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nice compliment!

On the way to town tonight, the idea of mom swapping came up. Specifically, Maggie thought two boys in her grade should swap moms so that "the mom's hair matched the boy's hair." Then the conversation morphed into swapping me with another mom:

"Would you want to swap me for someone else's mom?"
"NO WAY!!"
"Not even for one that yelled less?"
"Oh, mom, you don't yell at us."
"I don't yell at you?! Really?!?"
"Well, it doesn't seem like much. Maybe a little, but only when we need it."

And that made me happy. I feel like I yell ALL the stinkin' time, usually to be heard over the chaotic conversations. It made my heart smile to know that how I feel isn't how they hear it.

And, they'll keep me... for now. :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

October update

I knew school would change how I did things; I probably underestimated how much less I would be able to do. My house is not clean. I miss my friends. I miss my husband. I make the kids a priority, because I think they need mommy time. And I study. A lot.

It's paying off. I got my first 100 percent last week and have a high A in my classes. I've learned so much information in such a short amount of time, but am really retaining it all. And enjoying it. It's easy to study when you are interested in what you are studying.

Katie is doing great in 4th grade. She is enjoying the lessons and loves any praise she gets for her academic success. Art club and dance make her the happiest 4th grader ever, except for those days when she's tired and a drama queen. I am getting little previews of what the teen years are going to look like, and I quiver with fear.

Maggie's gotten her behavior under control and has been a lot of fun lately. We had her 7th birthday party today at the bowling alley, and she proudly bowled the 2nd highest score. :) She is so creative and imaginative and I love hearing her vocab flourish. We are really hearing the benefit of her speech therapy, too, as she can now clearly say Rs and S's...still working on sh- and ch-.

Lainie too is doing great with speech. We hear lots of sentences and arguments and tattle taling. Even when I don't want to hear what she's saying, I'm just so darn grateful to be able to hear what she's saying. At this point, we are focusing on articulation, since her vocab and receptive communication is doing great, age appropriate. With the addition of speech we do get to see a bit of her argumentative side and I try very hard to treat her the same way I treated her sisters at the same age. I'm probably failing, but I am trying!

And Natalie! Oh, my, Natalie. Most days I call her Evil Kneivel. She still has no fears and loves to climb and jump and investigate and dig and did I mention climb? She has a fabulous belly laugh that's almost a growl and loves to give kisses. She's finally saying mama and, no, I am not tired of it yet. :)

We are a busy busy family with our eyes set on June. Just push through. We can do it. It'll be worth it. Please let it be worth it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Maggie's Punishment

Maggie had a bad, bad behavior weekend, and I was out of ideas for punishing her. And so, I made her write. She really, really, really hates to write, so it was a punishment of sorts. I don't know if it will help in the long wrong, but at least it made her uncomfortable tonight.

On the top of one paper, I wrote "What Maggie Did Wrong" and on the other I wrote "What Maggie Did Right." I helped her with some spelling, but I bet you can tell where she did it on her own. And so, for your viewing pleasure and so I can save it for prosperity, here are her answers.

What Maggie Did Wrong

I threw sand at Lainie eyes
I did not tak a nap.
I kept natilie up at nap time.
I liyed and sineeked. (I lied and sneaked.)
I wassth tv wene i wesetto night. (I watched TV when I wasn't supposed to.)

What Maggie Did Right
I heplded Dad with the garen. (I helped Dad with the garden.)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Baked Pigs in a Blanket

I have a confession. Hotdogs are my go-to meal with the kids. They are easy, ready quickly, and cheap. Nutritious? eh... probably not so much.

Still, even hotdogs need spruced up every once in a while. This recipe takes about 25 minutes, start to finish, and the end result is yummy enough for even the adults to enjoy.

Baked Pigs In A Blanket

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted cold butter cut into small pieces
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
3/4 cup buttermilk
8 long hot dogs

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degree F and grease a large baking sheet.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a bowl.
  3. Add the butter and and rub it in until the dough becomes crumbly.
  4. Stir the cheese in the dough and make sure it is evenly distributed.
  5. Create a crater in the dough and add the buttermilk. Using a wooden spoon, stir well and let it stay for around 3 minutes.
  6. Turn the dough on floured surface.
  7. Pat the dough in a rectangle that is about 15 inches by 7 inches.
  8. Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough into 8 rectangles.
  9. Roll the rectangles around the hotdogs and seal edges. Place seam-side down on baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bi-monthly post

I'm a pathetic blogger, I admit it. But, really, there is so much going on that I don't have time to maintain everything, and this is the lowest priority. Even now, I should be studying and instead I'm blogging.

There's lots new to share!

First, I'm a CNA. I got my certificate in the mail on Saturday. I've started my LPN classes. It's going to be a tough year, but it's only for 31 weeks. I have a LOT to learn but am really impressed with my teachers. We are all adjusting to the new lifestyle, the 5-days-a-week of daycare, the stricter budgeting. It will be worth it. I hope it is worth it.

K & M started school last week and are both doing fine. They are excited about their teachers, their classes, and all the new "now that I'm bigger" things they get to do. Lainie starts preschool on Wednesday and speech on Thursday, and is a little put-out that it's taken so long for her turn.

Somehow, Jay is still managing to go to two markets a week, while teaching his 5 preps and assist with the grade school math. He's had to pick up a lot of the duties I had to let go. The most complicated is getting Lainie to speech once a week. But, we're making do. One week down, 31 to go.

Sadie the puppy has turned out to be one of the best decisions we've made. She is a great little dog, soon to be a big dog. Already, she can sit and fetch. When we hollar "BABY!" she lays down flat, like a bear rug. That command is in direct reference to her future size; bull mastiffs are not small dogs. She's gained weight nicely, barks only when necessary, and is a sweet pup. 

What else is going on? Well, go to www.jaysjellies.com to read about the garden, or go to kscook.blogspot.com to see what's been cooking.

And so, don't be surprised if it takes two more weeks before I post again. We're fine; just insanely busy.

Crockpot Breakfast Casserole

For years, I have looked for a breakfast that I could put in the crock pot the night before. It had to be something the kids would eat but not too loaded with sugar. And, I didn't want bread pudding. After many failed attempts, I found this one. It's simple and tasty.

Breakfast Casserole

12 eggs, beaten
14 slices bread
2 1/4 cups milk
2 1/2 cups Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 pound sausage, cooked and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
  1. Grease the sides of the crock pot with butter.
  2. Spread mustard on one side of the bread and cut bread into fourths.
  3. Make layers in the crock pot of bread, followed by sausage, followed by cheese, ending with a cheese layer.
  4. Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper together. Pour over crock pot mixture.
  5. Cover and cook on LOW heat setting for 8 to 12 hours.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To-Do Lists

Years from now, I will wonder how we accomplished everything that we did and still live to tell about it. For prosperity's sake, here is my to-do list for Monday through Wednesday:
  1. Start roast for supper
  2. Mail Grill-Off publicity for grant
  3. Submit salsa competition expenses for grant
  4. Pick up pork from meat locker
  5. Pick up freezer cups for sand plum and elderberry juice
  6. Reserve Piotique booth
  7. Pay property taxes (early!)
  8. Call HealthWave to check status of app
  9. Call Hotels.com to fix billing error
  10. Check credit card transactions for any other errors
  11. Sort 5 bags of sandplums
  12. Process (boil, mash, juice sandplums)
  13. Chop peppers, onions, and pork for frozen fajita-in-a-bag mixes
  14. Call NCKTC to check scholarships
  15. Deposit Katie's check from the fair
  16. Sort elderberrires
  17. Monday 2:15 pediatrician appointment
  18. Pick up contacts from eye doc
  19. Outside play with girls
  20. Set up auto bill pay on new bank account
  21. Check on life insurance policy status
  22. Laundry
  23. Exercise puppy
  24. Deliver squash and tomatoes
  25. Make elderberry juice
  26. Pick green beans
  27. Check girls' vaccination records
  28. Ask S. to babysit girls
  29. Write an 1,100 word article
  30. Edit an 1,800 word article
  31. Judge a Canadian Web site contest
  32. Call girls' schools
  33. Visit girls' schools
  34. Check class rosters for K&M
  35. More laundry
  36. Clean kitchen
  37. Load for Manhattan Farmers Market
  38. Call Extension office about 4-H
  39. Work on puzzle with girls
  40. Drive to and set up for Manhattan market
  41. Get girls ready for first day of school on Thursday
  42. Contact N about carpooling next week 
  43. Paint everyone's toe nails... well, except Jay
  44. Wednesday 10:45 doctor appointment
And, apparently, update blog!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tortilla Roll-Ups

Easy Roll-Ups

The girls wanted roll-ups for supper tonight, so I made my usual pickle roll-ups. Knowing Natalie doesn’t like things too spicy, I made a second kind of roll-up with turkey meat. While I love the pickle ones, the turkey roll-ups were delicious!

Corned beef lunchmeat
Deli turkey, extra thin
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup miracle whip
2 tablespoons Ranch dip mix
shredded cheddar cheese
7 tortilla wraps

  1. Mix together the cream cheese, miracle whip, and ranch dressing.
  2. Spread cream cheese mix over tortillas.
  3. For pickle roll-ups, place corned beef on cream cheese mix and spread pickle relish on corned beef.
  4. For turkey roll-ups, place turkey on cream cheese mix and sprinkle shredded cheese on turkey.
  5. Roll tortillas, jelly-roll style.
  6. Place in refrigerator for at least one hour.
  7. After an hour, cut tortilla roll-ups into 1-inch pieces. Serve cold.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ten Bits of Randomness

  1. I took my CNA test yesterday and was thankful for the advice, "when in doubt, chose 'ask a nurse'." Results in 3-4 weeks.
  2. Lainie broke out in hives yesterday, quite suddenly. At one point, she was one huge welt from her head to below her waist. Doc says treat with Benadryl. The Benadryl wore off last night, so she woke up with her eye swollen shut and her nose twice it's normal size, and a headache. I'm hoping this ends soon. Oh, and she has swimmers ear in both ears.
  3. Natalie proved her toughness. Her cranky, evil ways are probably due to swimmers ear and tonsilitis. After just one dose of antibiotic, she was already cheerier. I heard the first laugh in two weeks from her.
  4. It's 10:30ish and all four kids are sleeping. Probably doesn't bode well for our plans to go to the rodeo tonight.
  5. I made watermelon rind pickles two nights ago. They are just sitting on the counter, calling my name. But, alas, I will wait until after the dentist appointment.
  6. The Clay Center Farmers Market is sponsoring a salsa competition on Saturday. They are sponsoring it, I'm coordinating it. Here's hoping it goes smoothly!
  7. The garden is starting to slow down but Jay's still pulling in double the income from last summer. We don't know why but we are grateful!
  8. I took the girls shopping yesterday to get school supplies, restock socks and undies, and use a huge pile of coupons for Target. I ended up saving $93, $50 of which is a gift card I received for doing a health assessment for my insurance company. That's probably the most I've saved using coupons and discounts, ever.
  9. I think I'm ready for school, supply-wise. I have 3 scrub pants, 2 scrub tops, a lab jacket, and a couple shirts to wear under the scrubs. I also have a stethescope, thanks to my going away gift from my co-workers. And, I bought a medical dictionary yesterday. I would like/need one more scrub top, but then should be set. This is getting real, fast.
  10. I am off to the dentist, and then the grocery store. Man, these girls go through the food! But, thanks to the garden and the meat in the fridge, I'm still feeding our family of 6 for about $75 per week. I will get it down to $60 or less, once they are in school. I can only imagine how expensive it will be when they reach the teen years. Lordy, I'd better go to school and get a higher paying job, or something. :)

Friday, July 30, 2010


It's official. I am unemployed.

I sat down tonight and reviewed our one-income budget. And then nearly hyperventilated. How is this going to work again?

But, then I remembered all the times I doubted before, the times when God did provide. I have to have faith that He will provide, that things will be okay. I need to stop looking at 3 months down the road and just focus on today, tomorrow.

Of course, I can try to help make His job easier, too. I applied for two scholarships yesterday and three more today. It can't hurt and might help, right?

I feel like I'm going through one of those trusting exercises, where you are blindfolded and your friend guides you through an obstacle course. Or, where you close your eyes and fall back, trusting your partner to catch you. I just need to remember to not tense up, to truly let go, and know in my heart that we will not be dropped.

Easier said than done, but I'm trying.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Since we last chatted

Since my last post, I've had a birthday, planned a Grill-Off, finished my CNA class, guided Katie to finish up her 4-H projects, went to eight different doctors appointments (with a different kid each time), got to go to ONE of the girls' swimming lessons, sold at a market or two or three, picked some veggies, cleaned some house, did LOTS of laundry, attended a family reunion and made plans for a second family reunion (different side of the fam) for soon.


In chatting with my carpool buddy this morning, I realized that I drink more cans of pop in a day than I get hours of sleep. HUH? In other words, I was drinking (at my worst) 6 cans of pop in a day but getting less than 6 hours sleep. I haven't made time for running or any type of exercise. We've ate out more than I care to admit.

It's time to get healthy again.

By the time I start school in August, I plan to kick my caffeine habit and add an exercise habit. I hope to find out more about the local jogging group. I don't think I'll have it in me (or in my schedule) to do the mini-triathalon in August, especially since K & M will have a soccer clinic that day. But, I would like to try the 10K in September at Piotique. I need to get back to my meal menu and see how much prep work I can do in my days off in August.

Consider this a reset button, activated.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Celebrating with food

I love the Fourth of July! Not only do you get to make things explode and spend as much time outside as possible, but you get the celebrate with friends, family, and food!

Our holiday menu includes Stuffed Hamburgers, red and blue potato chips, lots of cherry tomatoes, and frozen bananas with chocolate shell over them.

How about you?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

My favorite holiday!!!

Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Heard in our house

It's never a quiet moment in our house o' girls, and most of the conversations crack me up.

Maggie and Katie are earning pennies for doing chores or for good behavior and losing them for fits or whining. Their goal is 50 pennies for $5 to spend at the July 4th celebration; more than 50 pennies will earn them $10. (I figure we'd spend that on them anyway.)

Last night Maggie went to bed without a fit, without sneaking a book, and without waking her sister, which earned her 2 pennies. When I was giving her the pennies this morning, Lainie asked for one also and then started to put it in Maggie's jar. Maggie screamed at her to not do it, so I gave her Katie's jar and Lainie put it in there. Then and only then did Maggie realize her mistake. Not only did she miss out on a free penny, but she made it harder to beat Katie to 50. And so she mumbed as she walked away, "Hmmmpf. I won't make THAT mistake again."


Natalie has been battling us at meal time for about a week. If she doesn't want to eat it, she's sent it flying. We've tried many different tactics to get it to stop and have it mostly under control. (And now that I've written that, come see us this weekend, while Miss N throws her food across the room!) So, yesterday afternoon, I gave her a chocolate chip granola bar for snack. Halfway through, she decided she didn't want it, but I told her she needed to finish her snack before she could get down. Little Miss methodically placed the granola bar pieces down her shirt and then turned to me and signed/said, "All done!" sneaky sneaky number four!


Lainie made a princess hat at speech a couple weeks ago, and was wearing it around the house last week, using a blanket as a cape. I said, "what a pretty princess." Her response: "I not a princess! I a QUEEN!" as she turned with a flounce of dismissal.


Katie cracks me up with her mis-spoken words, probably because I do it all the time, too. A few weeks ago, when the river was flooding, a lot of cars were crossing the river bridge just to gawk at the flooding. Instead of rubber-necking, Katie said, "Look at all those river-neckers!"


They come by it naturally. We heard a (sad) story about an elderly man who disappeared near the water at a nudist colony. Jay's immediate reaction? "Maybe he was out noodling." teehee


These are all such normal, everyday conversations but they are what make our life so fun. Yes, we have fits and screaming and tantrums and whining. But it is stories like these that make my life so full of giggles, as long as I take the time to enjoy them and not try to push on through to the next activity or deadline.

Maybe that's what they mean by stop and smell the roses?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cheese-Stuffed Zucchini Squash

It's that time of year, when zucchini is almost as plentiful as mosquitoes... almost. I try to find as many creative uses for zucchini as possible, for ourselves and for those who are buying the produce at our farmers markets. This one was DEEE-licious!

Stuffed Zucchini Squash

4 large-ish zucchini, about 3 inches in diameter
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2-3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sour cream
3 oz cream cheese
3/4 cup mozerella cheese

  1. Boil zucchini, whole, for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let cool to the touch.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Cut zucchini lengthwise and scoop out all the pulp. Save the pulp for later! Place zucchini in a casserole dish. (I needed to use two because I had such large zucchini halves.)
  4. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add onions and carrot and cook until onions are translucent. 
  5. Meanwhile, mush the zucchini pulp with a potato masher or fork.
  6. Stir the zucchini pulp into the skillet with the onions and carrots. Add the bread crumbs, sour cream, cream cheese, 1/2 cup cheese, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir over low heat until cheeses are melted. 
  7. Spoon the cheese-zucchini stuffing into the zucchini halves.
  8. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup mozerella cheese on top of the zucchini. Broil for 3-4 minutes, until cheese is melted and stuffing starts to golden.

Summer Garden Casserole

We picked a Napa cabbage this week and, it was so huge, I stretched it out into three meals. The first meal, we made a Napa cabbage salad. The second, we had cole slaw. And the third, I intended to make cabbage rolls. But, the leaves remaining weren't big enough to roll around the meat. So, I put together this summer garden casserole from a few different recipes.

Summer Garden Casserole
2-3 cups of cabbage leaves
4-5 carrots, cut matchstick-style
4-5 small onions, diced
2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cup cooked steamed rice
10-12 small new potatoes, cut in half
1 pound ground beef, thawed
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Sweet and Sour Tomato Sauce
1 can pureed tomatoes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
  1. Sauted diced onion in olive oil until translucent. Set aside to cool.
  2. Mix together ground beef, onion, minced garlic, rice, salt, and pepper.
  3. Place cabbage leaves in a microwave-safe bowl with 3-4 tablespoons of water.
  4. Microwave cabbage leaves in covered dish for two minutes.
  5. Make sauce by combining tomatoes, garlic powder, white vinegar and sugar in a saucepan. Heat to a simmer.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. In a dutch pan, place carrot matchsticks.
  8. Layer steamed cabbage leaves on top of carrots.
  9. Place new potatoes on top of cabbage leaves.
  10. Mix meat mixture with 1/4 cup (or so) of tomato sauce. Mix well and form into 1-inch balls. Place meat balls on top of cabbage leaves.
  11. Pour remaining sauce over meat balls.
  12. Cover the casserole and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
  13. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese for the last 5 minutes, if desired. And we desire it, because we are a cheese kind of family.

    Saturday, June 19, 2010

    And the results...

    Spectator award for Maggie

    1st place for her age division for Katie, with a time of 9.27.

    3rd place overall (for female milers) for me with a time of 8.11... and my first trophy for running!

    Minimal hail damage for the drive home. :)

    I am proud of my girls, and of me. It was a good day.

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Rockin' the moment

    I have many doubts about my mothering ability, but I try hard, read a lot, go on instinct, learn from mistakes, and hope that some day my kids will grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults. In the meantime, it is just plain hard to remember to do the right thing (let's talk it out... how do you feel... why do you feel that way?) and not resort to instinct (stop. whining. now.) My mom-goal is to have a nice mix of both, because some times it's not worth the explanation and other times the discussion makes all the difference in the world.

    K and I are planning to run a 1 mile road race next week. It's just a mile, nothing uber-competitive, and M said she wanted to run, too. I was doubtful, very doubtful, that she would enjoy running a mile at all, being as how she hates to have to go All The Way Up Stairs. But, we gave it the good college try. K, M, & I set off down our road to run. Maggie loved it... for about 1/4 mile. Then she hated it. Every step. Hated it. Verbally, vocally HATED IT! It was comical to hear her: "My arms hurt, my legs hurt, it's too far, this is NO fun, I don't want to go anymore, go get the car and pick me up."

    So, after the experimental run, I told her she couldn't run at the road race. Her face made that heartbreaking expression, the subtle change that means, "I'm hurt but I'm not going to give you the satisfaction of knowing it." And that's when a "Stop. Whining" moment became a "why do you feel that way?" moment.

    It seems Miss Mags is a bit jealous of the little award Katie got the last time we ran the race, and she wants a trophy of her own. And, it just so happens this particular road race has a Spectator Competition, for the spectator who does the best, most creative job of cheering on the runners. Miss Maggie is nothing if not LOUD. The girl was BORN to be a creative spectator.

    And so, four of us are headed off to the races on Saturday: K and I running, N riding in the jogging stroller (I think), and M decked out in her best spectator outfit, which I am certain will include her new duck call, a pink cowgirl hat, and a glittery scarf. I can't wait!

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Weekly menu, June 13-19

    Sorry I haven't been posting many recipes. We've been on rerun mode, as far as cooking. Most of what I've made lately are things I've already posted or are old standbys. But, I do still have our menu to share, and this week has some new items on it. I'm just hoping Sunday night is a bit cooler, so I won't mind heating up the oven for baked potatoes and yummy chicken! The good news is that, despite our go-go-going and K&M home from school, our grocery bill has dropped considerably. That is due in large part to our garden veggies.

    Sunday, June13
    Chef salad
    Twice baked potatoes, parmesean chicken

    Monday, June14
    Dipping lunch

    Tuesday, June 15
    Taco salad
    Vegetable stir-fry

    Wednesday, June 16
    Hot dogs, Mac-N-Cheese salad
    Picnic supper

    Thursday, June 17
    Fish sticks, mac-n-cheese

    Friday, June 18
    Cheesy tacos
    Tater tot casserole

    Saturday, June 19
    Stuffed pasta shells

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    Deal making

    The blogging community is awesome, IMO. Why? Because so many shares their stories, their hearts, their souls. Just glancing through my favorite blogs, I read 5 stories so sad, so heartbreaking, so devastating. A dose of perspective is always a good thing. Jay and I, we have it easy, we have it good... no, we have it GREAT! How blest we are!

    Doc said Natalie probably has a virus causing the cough/choke/gasp and upset tummy, and it will need to run its course. Daycare called and said Miss N had another 2 dirties, which means it's not as done as I had hoped it was yesterday. I just hope it doesn't continue, because I'm stringing parallels between N & L. Do you remember Lainie's months of diarrhea? That's what I'm afraid of.

    Doc also said, with sad eyes, that what I described sounded like a seizure, and with big sis's medical history, not unlikely. She offered to schedule tests, an EEG, all that stuff, but was more than willing to wait and see. I don't want to put Natalie through all that for a one-time maybe occurence. And, even if she is epileptic too, so what? Knowing definitively isn't going to change it. I just wanted to know from Doc what the game plan should be, if N does throw a major seizure.

    Then I heard myself think, actually say to God, "As long as she doesn't have a damaging seizure, I can handle it." What? Like I get to make the rules here? As if I get to decide what we will or won't cope with? That is laugh-out-loud ridiculous.

    We will deal with what we are given, and that's that.

    In the meantime, I will enjoy a few more thousand smile and giggles.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Natalie's turn?

    Lainie's seizures etc didn't just affect how we react toward Lainie. It affected how we parent all the girls. I appreciate every day a bit more and am grateful when they wake up, even if it is 6 a.m., because it means they DID wake up. Even when it's loud and chaotic with all the chatter, I am thankful for the chatter. And, there is an absolutely no eye-rolling rule, strictly enforced.

    That said, Natalie's freaking me out. I worry that she had an absentee seizure on Sunday morning, maybe a second Sunday evening. She has been sick with something minor, and no fever. But, as I was changing her diaper Sunday morning, she jerked and then stared off to the side. I couldn't get her eyes to move, dilate, or change focus, even with waving, calling her name, snapping my fingers. Then, a few (maybe 20-30 seconds) later, she looked at me and smiled. Would that have even been noticed, if not for the seizure history in our family? Is that something you would wonder about as a parent?

    Between that weirdness and the fact that she's gasped/choked awake Saturday, Sunday, and last night means we're headed to the doctor this afternoon, just in case. I'm hoping for tonsilitis... at least it would explain the gagging. As far as the other stuff, what can you! We just have to put it in God's hands and truly let go. Well, and hope. A lot.

    French Toast Casserole, aka Hot Dog Bun Breakfast

    Hot dog buns were on sale for 68 cents for a pack of 8. At that price, I had to pick up a bag, even if we don't eat buns with our hot dogs. Since we are big breakfast eaters around here, I decided to make it into a breakfast.

    6 hot dog buns, cubed
    6 eggs
    1/2 cup milk
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon alspice
    1/2 teaspoon cloves
    1/3 cup Splenda or sugar
    1/2 cup raisins
    2-3 Tablespoons butter or margarine
    Syrup or powdered sugar

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x9 dish with Pam.
    2. Beat together eggs, milk, sugar and spices. 
    3. Add the buns (cubed) and raisins until the bread is covered.
    4. Pour egg/bread mixture into the dish.
    5. Bake 40 minutes.
    6. Add butter and about 3 tablespoons of syrup to the casserole. Bake 5-10 more minutes.
    7. Serve with syrup or powdered sugar.

      Katie added, "If you don't have a sugar allergy in your family, you could top it with a dusting of confectioner's sugar to make it fancy." I think she's watched too much Food Network.

      Sunday, May 30, 2010

      Weekly menu, May 30-June 5

      Sunday, May 30
      Ham sandwiches
      Pasta and grilled chicken

      Monday, May 31
      Hot dogs, chips

      Tuesday, June 1
      Cheesy tacos
      BBQ ribs

      Wednesday, June 2
      Grilled cheese
      Homemade pizza

      Thursday, June 3
      Chef salad
      Zucchini lasagne

      Friday, June 4
      Hot dogs

      Saturday, June 5
      Kid kabobs

      Friday, May 28, 2010

      Humbled... again

      When I got to daycare tonight to pick up L and N, there was a box waiting for me. Walleta said that it was left there the day before, while the crew was at the zoo. It had our name on it, and inside were new swimsuits for the girls. Not only did whoever bought these get the sizes right, they also found a rainbow one for Maggie and a two-piece for Katie. And, they included two sizes for Natalie, plus a dress and a new pair of shoes for Miss N. The girls were so excited! They had been asking for new suits but I was pulling the mom routine of "the suits you have fit and are fine." They were SO excited, in fact, that Lainie wore hers during supper and most of the night. I don't know who did it, but I thank you, whoever you are!

      Then, when I listened to the messages on our answering machine, I learned that I was awarded another scholarship, this one for $1100! It is from a women's group in Abilene, a group I would never have heard of, were it not for Jay's parents' neighbor. She not only told me about the scholarship, but also made sure I had all the necessary information submitted and helped push it through the application process. I am so very thankful! That means that we now have the fall semester of daycare paid for through scholarships!

      Some days, God's blessings are so evident, you can't help but trip over them.

      Tuesday, May 25, 2010

      Squash Blossoms

      Some meals are just sustenance. Others are good, repeatable, respectable. Then there are the 'Oh-my-goodness-I-get-the-last-one-can-we-make-it-again-tomorrow" meals. These fried squash blossoms fall into the third category. YUM! Trust me...they are delicious. This recipe is a combination of three different recipes and makes a creamy filling with an Italian flare.

      Fried Squash Blossoms
      12 squash blossoms
      Oil for frying

      3 oz cream cheese, softened
      1 Tablespoon sour cream
      1 egg yolk
      1/3 cup shredded cheddar
      1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
      1/2 teaspoon oregano
      1/4 teaspoon dried basil
      1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

      1/2 cup flour
      4 Tablespoons corn starch
      1/2 cup cold water
      1/4 teaspoon salt

      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
      2. Prepare the filling by mixing all the filling ingredients until well blended. Put it in the fridge to set up, while you prepare the batter and squash blossoms.
      3. Mix together the flour, corn starch, and salt. Whisk in the water until smooth. Place it in the fridge while you prepare the squash blossoms.
      4. Prepare squash blossoms by gently washing them to remove any dirt or bugs. Remove the stamen from the inside of each petal. Spin gently, one at a time, to remove any excess water. Set on a paper towel while you prepare the remaining blossoms.
      5. Pour 1-inch of vegetable oil into a pan. Heat on medium-high heat until the oil sizzles if you add water to it.
      6. While the oil heats, construct the blossoms. Pick up one blossom and add about 2 teaspoons of filling to it. Gently twist the pedals to close. Dredge the blossom through the batter until coated on both side. Set on a plate while you prepare the remaining blossoms.
      7. Turn off the preheated oven and place a cookie sheet in it. 
      8. Once the oil is heated, gently place the filled blossoms in the oil and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning halfway through, until the batter turns golden. Once the blossoms are fried, place them on the cookie sheet in the oven to stay warm while you fry the remaining blossoms.
      How to construct the blossoms

      Best Hamburger Ever!

      My menu, which I made back in December, said "inside out hamburgers." And so, I bought some hamburger buns, thawed some ground beef, and got creative.

      The Best Burgers EVER

      1 pound hamburger, thawed
      1/3 cup barbecue sauce
      salt and pepper, to taste
      1/3 cup cream cheese
      5 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
      5 teaspoons bacon bits
      1/3 cup shredded cheese
      5 hamburger buns
      miracle whip

      1. Preheat the grill.
      2. Mix the hamburger, barbecue sauce, salt and pepper. Divide the hamburger in half.
      3. Using half the hamburger, make five very thin patties and place on a plate.
      4. On each patty, add a cube of cream cheese, a teaspoon of relish, teaspoon of bacon bits, and a sprinkle of cheese.
      5. Make 5 thin patties with the remaining hamburger. Place the patties on top of the cream-cheesed patties. Seal the edges.
      6. Grill the hamburgers. (Here's a how-to for the novice grillers.)
      7. For extra pizzazz, toast the hamburger buns lightly on the grill.
      8. Put a litte miracle whip on each top bun. Place the cooked hamburgers on the buns and serve.

      Monday, May 24, 2010

      Maggie Allergy Update

      The big girls (K and M) and I headed to Topeka today to meet with Allergy Doc at Cotton O'Neill Clinic, to try to get some answers or confirmation or denials about Maggie's food allergies. Well, I say food allergy, but it is actually a food intolerance for lactose (dairy) and sucrose (table sugar), and an allergy to cinnamon. Doc said that we're doing the right thing, that she could most likely outgrow both the intolerances, that it sounds like she's a bit hypoglycemic, just like her mama. They also did a lung capacity test that she more-or-less failed. After a breathing treatment, her lung capacity improved nearly 20 percent. So, Miss Mags is back on advair and a steroid for awhile. The improved breathing should help her get a more restful sleep and in turn improve the behaviors we've seen lately.

      Now, I'm not blaming her bad behavior totally on her health. But, when she knows it's wrong and just can't control her body, when she is acting so un-Maggie-like that our friends' jaws drop, then something must be going on. It's nice to hear that maybe there is a relatively simple fix.

      And while we were in the big town of Topeka, we shopped for Katie's 4-H buymanship outfit. The buymanship project did its job today. We talked about price, value, fabric, wear-and-tear, versatility, why not to buy white shorts, what makes a good fit, and all that good stuff. We found an outfit that will probably be returned now, and we definitely got sticker shock. When 98 percent of the girls' clothes come from garage sales, hand-me-downs, or ultra-clearance sales, buying stuff full-price seems insane. $18.50 for a shirt!?!? That's how much I paid for 15 pairs of jeans earlier this spring. Katie said more than once, "Oh, that's why we buy our clothes at garage sales!"

      All in all, a good, full day to start the summer.

      Sunday, May 23, 2010

      Weekly menu: May 23-29

      Sunday, May 23
      Inside out hamburgers

      Monday, May 24
      Ham sandwiches
      Stuffed peppers

      Tuesday, May 25
      Chef salad

      Wednesday, May 26
      Frozen lunch/cheese quesadillas
      Crockpot round steak

      Thursday, May 27
      Dipping supper

      Friday, May 28
      PBandJ, fruit salad
      Meatballs and fried rice

      Saturday, May 29
      Spinach-stuffed squash
      Round steak roll-ups

      Saturday, May 22, 2010

      Snack mixes

      A friend of mine introduced me to the greatness of snack mix, especially when you have little kids in the house and lots of activities to run to. We have a few favorite mixes, but I'd love to hear what other ideas you have.

      Cheerios (honey nut or chocolate)
      Teddy grahams

      Shredded wheat cereal
      Goldfish crackers
      Cheese nips or Cheez-its
      Cheesy popcorn
      Pretzel sticks

      Fruit loops
      Banana chips
      Teddy grahams
      White chocolate chips

      Saturday, May 15, 2010

      Weekly Menu: May 16-22

      Sunday, May 16
      Hot dogs/Brats and salad
      Chicken nuggets

      Monday, May 17
      Spinach salad and leftover chicken
      Grilled chops and salad

      Tuesday, May 18
      Cheese quesadillas

      Wednesday, May 19
      Frozen lunch
      Peach jalapeno ham and potatoes

      Thursday, May 20
      Picnic lunch

      Friday, May 21
      Ham sandwich
      Taco Salad

      Saturday, May 22
      Grilled kabobs and orange spinach salad
      Grilled steak and potatoes

      Pork Meatballs

      It's 4:30 p.m. The kids are starting to ask what's for supper, even though we all had a big lunch. I have very little in the fridge (need to go grocery shopping) but plenty of meat to chose from. The answer: Meatballs and Rice

      2-3 Tablespoons oil
      1 pound ground pork
      1 teaspoon ground ginger
      1 1/2 cup Stove Top
      1 egg
      2/3 cup Kraft Asian Sesame Dressing

      1. Heat oil in a skillet at medium-high heat.
      2. Combine first four ingredients and form into 1-inch meatballs.
      3. Place sausage in skillet. Cook on medium-high heat with the cover on.
      4. Turn after 3-5 minutes, once they start to brown. Cook 3-5 minutes more, until cooked through.
      5. Add Asian Sesame dressing. Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, let it boil for 3-5 minutes, until thickened.
      Serve over rice.

      Wednesday, May 12, 2010

      Hello, again!

      Let's just say, something had to give, and this blog was it. Now that the insanity has passed, it's time for me to get back on the wagon of eating at home, saving money, and finding creative new recipes...just in time for the garden to start producing in bulk.

      We had some lettuce volunteer very early this year and let it grow, just to see if it would taste good. Lettuce wraps seemed the ideal recipe to try, with leaves that look like this:

      My sister-in-law had mentioned making Lettuce Chicken Wraps from PF Chang's recipe, but after looking at it, I didn't have most of the key ingredients. A little more searching found this recipe, but again, I didn't have all the essentials. So, I improvised. I substituted white radish and turnip for the water chestnut -- YUM! And, the sauce wasn't exactly how they said to make it but it was delicious. From start to eating, including picking the veggies from outside, this meal took about 35 minutes.

      8 large lettuce leaves
      2-3 Tablespoons canola oil
      3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, thawed
      3-4 white radishes
      1 small turnip
      1 small onion
      6 baby carrots, or one big carrot
      1/4 cup almond slivers
      1/2 teaspoon pepper
      1/2 teaspoon ginger
      1 teaspoon garlic powder
      1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
      2 Tablespoon soy sauce
      4 Tablespoons white vinegar
      3 teaspoons EVOO

      1. Wash the lettuce and lay flat.

      2. Prep work: Cut thawed boneless skinless chicken breasts into thin strips. Dice carrots into matchsticks. Dice 1 small onion. Peel and slice 3 white radishes and 1 small turnip.

      3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. Stir fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes until cooked through. Drain.

      4. Return skillet to heat. Add garlic, turnip, radishes, onions, carrots, almonds, pepper and ginger to the chicken. Stir fry for about 5 minutes, until radishes and onions soften and almonds start to turn golden brown.

      5. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the garlic powder, red pepper flakes, vinegar, olive oil and soy sauce.

      6. To serve,  lay a lettuce leaf on each plate. Top with a spoon full of the chicken mixture. Spoon the sauce over the chicken mixture. Roll up, burrito style.

      My girls don't like anything spicy, so their lettuce wraps had Western dressing on them instead of the red pepper sauce. Also for the girls' sake, they had asked for oven-baked french fries. That's not what I would normally serve with this, but a peaceful dinner is a beautiful thing. 

      The only bad part about this meal: no leftovers for lunch today.

      Ways to improve: Add 2 tablespoons teryaki sauce to the sauce mixture. Add fresh ginger instead of ginger "powder". Add more almonds.

      Picture update

      The spring semester is done for me, almost done for the girls and Jay. Farmers Market started last weekend, but this year it is much more of a family activity, rather than something to pull Jay away. It helps a lot that Natalie is old enough (and LOVES) to be outside. That means we are all outside pulling weeds or planting or picking, instead of Jay trying to do it all while I stay in the house with the little ones.

      Soo... check out how big my babies are getting!

      Tuesday, May 4, 2010


      This morning started like any typical day in our house, with the six of us running (or toddling) around like a pack of rats on a field trial for Monster drink. Get everyone dressed, fed, shoed. Get Jay's meds done. Load up kids, backpacks, diaper bag, purse, lunches, work bags, and everything else for the morning. Drop the kids off at school, do some stuff for Teacher Appreciation Week (have you thanked your teacher today?!). Then, load Natalie up and head home.

      Then something funny happened. I didn't have to be anywhere, didn't have to do anything. Natalie fell asleep on the way home, and I carried her up to her room. Instead of laying her down and running down stairs to tackle the next meeting or activity, I rocked her. I held her tiny tot self on my shoulder and rocked, listening to her breathing and the sound of the birds coming in through the open window. She snuggled up into the nook of my neck, and we just enjoyed it.

      At least I know I did.

      Monday, April 26, 2010

      Happy Birthday, Lainie!

      It's one crazy week, one of those weeks where I'll look back and say, "how did we make it through?" Briefly, I have 5 tests, Katie 4-H presentation, Maggie IEP, Jay farmers market meeting and garden tour, Lainie's speech and of course Jay's IVs twice a day. But, the most important event is by far Lainie's birthday!!!

      We celebrated on Saturday with family, Sunday a little bit more, and she gets a party at preschool and at daycare today (her actual birthday). I'm bummed I can't be at her preschool party, but I really need to be at work today. She didn't seem to care, as long as I sent the ice cream cone cupcakes with her. In fact, I offered to take her to school this morning and get to work late, but she kept telling me she wanted to ride the bus. And so, I sent her off, with at least one of us disappointed.

      But enough with the disappointment! She had a fabulous birthday weekend. As Jay put it, "I don't think she stopped smiling all day Saturday!"

      She got Dora balloons and cake, lots of L's on the window (her request), a picnic supper outside with friends and family, and ice cream. Uncle Derek surprised us with all the power wheels, which were a HUGE hit!

      So, with that, Lainie is 4. Lainie is my determined one, independent, driven. She finds way to get/do what she wants to do, without hurting anyone in the process. She would rather back down than battle, with everyone but Maggie. She loves to snuggle in and listen to books, play Barbies or baby dolls, or be outside playing. Lainie is a mama's girl, almost always preferring me over anyone else. She loves Dora the Explorer and princesses. She sings all the time; even if you can't understand the words, you can recognize the tune. She is patient, (usually) sweet, quiet, and petite. She changed my life in so many ways, and I'm so grateful for every day with her!

      Happy Birthday to my sweet #3, Elaine Suzanne, Lainie Sue!

      Wednesday, April 21, 2010

      I thumb my nose at you, fate!

      Fate must be a cat, and we are nothing but a ball of yarn to batt at. Add a round of stomach flu for me and two flat tires to the week. Major illnesses, surgery, and storm damage we can handle, but a flat tire on a hectic morning and a day and a half down-and-out just seems too much.

      But it's better now. Tires fixed, stomach almost better, an afternoon to study, Maggie's glasses on order, the mobile high tunnels relocated, and things are as stable as they can get in our house...for now.

      Really, it can always be worse. I can see that now. They are already better, and they could always be worse.

      The big excitement for the week was Katie's program Monday night. (And I'm thankful I didn't get sick until after the program.) Not only did she have a speaking part, but she had a speaking part BECAUSE she asked for one from the teacher (the "screaming teacher" as Maggie calls her) at the beginning of this semester. As Katie retold it, "I told Mrs. XXX, 'I really want to have a speaking part in the fine arts program this year. What can I do to get one?" That took some serious cahoonas, from my easily-intimidated daughter.

      And she did great!

      Sunday, April 18, 2010

      Lainie's Progress: 4 years old

      These make me proud, happy, and sad, all at the same time.

      I'm so proud of how hard Lainie is working to get back her words. She asked me this week why she had to go "play with Naomi" and I told her it was so it would be easier for her to say the words she wants to say, so that everyone can understand them. That answer seemed to satisfy her, and the fact that she asked the question impressed me. In fact, every time she shows us what's going on behind those big brown eyes, I smile a big smile.

      I'm so happy that she is making progress and is ABLE to make progress. We could be traveling down a much harder path, if not for the grace of God.

      And I'm still a little sad, every time some one looks to me to interpret, every time she gives up trying to tell us something, and especially every time her eyes well up with big crocodile tears because someone close to her didn't understand what she is trying to tell her/him. I hurt for her, but I hope for her, too. The two can go hand in hand.

      But today, we celebrate progress made!
      ABCs...the hand waving is her signing "now I know" and "sing with me":

      Bedtime prayer:

      Saturday, April 17, 2010


      That’s it. I cry, “Uncle.”

      I’m tired, to the point that I’m making stupid, dangerous mistakes. I am just so tired. I can’t take anything else on my plate, anything else to worry about. I’m maxxed out.

      I feel like a runner who can see the finish line but physically feels out of juice, like you can’t go one more step. But then, you see the crowd, you hear the cheers, you can smell the success, and from somewhere deep inside comes a burst of energy that gets you over the finish line with a smile. I can see the finish line, it’s only about 5 more weeks, 8 more night class sessions, 1 paper and 3 more chapters for nutrition, 3 more weeks of Jay’s IVs. Now, I’m just looking for that burst of energy to get me through.

      But, if you asked me tonight, I’d admit I’d rather lay down on the race course and take a 3-day nap. If only that was an option!

      Wednesday, April 14, 2010

      What I think is wrong with the country.

      Common sense is gone. It is replaced with
      • laws that make it illegal to put gestating sows in farrowing crates... because letting them squash-and-kill and eat their young is a much better alternative?
      • regulations that require all restaurants to post the nutritional information for all menu items... because someone who thinks Freddy's frozen custard is low in fat is actually going to be able to comprehend the dietary guidelines?
      • lawsuits from school districts suing the state to give them more money...because the state actually has any more to give?
      • an education testing system that requires all students meet average standards... because everyone is equally intelligent?
      • ...there are so many more, but I've probably made enough people mad.

      There are too many people without common sense running things. It's as if everyone with a lick of sense just got tired of the fight and became apathetic. Instead of fighting for the reasonable approach, they now just sit back and say, "ah, forget it. Do what you want. I don't care anymore." And those without common sense make up for their ignorance with determination. They are so convinced they are right, that they are unwilling to listen to the other side of the argument or broaden their knowledge base, in fear that they may be proven wrong.

      I don't think I'm right all the time. Far from it. But I am willing to listen to your reasons and make an informed decision. All I ask is for the mutual respect, and that you return the favor. Talk to me...maybe we can work something out.

      And as I type this, I realize I'm guilty of being the dominating ignorant one, when it comes to parenting. Maybe as a Mom I'm supposed to be in charge, but I also could take time, more often, to listen to the "why" they don't think they should do something. If the reason why is a, well, reasonable one, then maybe we can negotiate. If it's something as substantial as Maggie's standard, "Because it's BOR-RING!", then I can return to my alpha female role.

      Your thoughts?

      Wednesday, April 7, 2010

      April Menu, better late than never

      April 2010

      Green eggs and toast
      Ham sandwiches
      April Fools meal: faux chicken nuggets, potato cupcakes
      Donut day
      Frozen meal
      Tuna hoagies
      Toast and jam
      Pork lo mein and egg rolls
      4-Easter Sunday
      Ham and sweet potatoes
      Deviled eggs, leftovers
      Egg burrito
      Frozen lunch
      PBJ sandwiches, chips
      Bierocks casserole
      PB toast
      Crockpot chicken
      Toast and fruit
      Grilled kabobs and rice
      Donut day
      Cheese quesadillas and nachos

      Scrambled eggs
      Chicken pasta, breadsticks
      Baked pigs-in-a-blanket
      Crockpot Roast
      Toast and jam
      Frozen meal
      BBQ beef, cole slaw
      Grilled pork chops, pasta salad
      Fried Chicken meal
      Fried chicken salad

      Donut day
      Kid kabobs
      17-5-Star Pig Sale
      Picnic lunch
      Sloppy joes and chips
      Breakfast supper
      Egg sandwich
      Frozen lunch
      Crockpot lasagne
      Toast and jam
      PB toast
      Hot dogs and mac-n-cheese
      French fries and baked nuggets
      Orange chicken rice bowl
      Donut day
      Leftover lunch
      Homemade pizza
      Cereal and fruit
      Grilled burgers, baked beans
      Grilled pork chops, salad
      26-Lainie’s birthday
      PB toast
      Lainie’s choice
      Stuffed pasta
      Egg sandwich
      Pork stir fry
      Toast and fruit
      Grilled kabobs

      Quesadillas, super nachos