Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hashbrown Casserole (recipe)

Easy hashbrown casserole. Great as a side dish for any event. I'll be honest, I find this recipe a little bland, but it gets rave reviews anywhere I go, so I haven't adjusted it. Yet. Ha!

Easy enough to let the kiddos help.

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Hashbrown Casserole

I forgot to take a picture at home, and it shifted during the trip to the park. Whoopsie!

Ingredients:
- 2 lbs of frozen hash browns (thawed)
- 1 can of cream of chicken soup
- 1 small tub of sour cream (8 oz)
- 1 small bag of shredded cheese (8 oz)
- corn flakes
- 1/2 onion (diced)
- 1 cup butter (melted)
- salt
- pepper

- preheat oven to 350

- use cooking spray to grease inside of 9x13 pan

- set aside the corn flakes and 1/4 c of butter

- mix the rest of it together. Thoroughly.



- dump into a 9x13 pan

- smooth out as best you can

- crumble corn flakes on top, covering entire casserole

- drizzle remaining butter over corn flakes

- bake at 350 for 50 min

Friday, September 27, 2013

I Don't Know What God Has Planned

Nearly one year ago, my husband went on a mission trip to Haiti. He worked on an orphanage / school there, which had sustained significant damage from an earthquake years before.

While he was gone, I had a dream that he & I went to Haiti together. To live. Along with our dog, which looked a lot like Buddy, but I can't say for sure was supposed to actually be him.

A year later, I can still see the scene from my dream vividly. The green grass. The blue ocean in the distance. The white building with columns on the outside. The concrete patio filled with children who seemed to be waiting to meet us. The way a few of the kids ran up to hug our big dog.

I also remember, in my dream, the dream-me having the realization that I was going to get to be a mom to all these kids. And being very happy about that.

Other than Jason, I've never told anyone else about my dream. Until now. It seemed too real. And a little scary.

The past few months, I've thought a lot about that dream. And as I suffered thru first one miscarriage, then another, that experience merged with thinking about this dream to come to a realization. One that I knew in my head, but hadn't really accepted: while I believe our family is incomplete, that there is another child destined to be in our family, there is no reason that it has to be ours biologically.

In fact, I guess there's no reason it has to be one child that is legally ours either.
What if, in God's master plan, the reason there is a hole in my chest is that there are 30 kids in Haiti who are waiting for someone to come work at their orphanage and be their "mom"?

And I accepted that possibility. Wholly. The possibility that our next child(ren) might not be biologically ours, might not ever be technically "ours".

And that idea is good. Really good. And makes me happy.

Listen, if you're waiting for the announcement that we're selling all our earthly possessions and moving our family to Haiti to work at an orphanage, it's not happening.

At least not now.

But what I am saying is that I am open to the idea. More than open. I have accepted it.

I don't know what God has planned for our family, in relation to children or anything else. But I know that I am receptive to it. And for now, that is enough.

As always, thanks for checking in.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Update

So, last week, the day I had my second blood draw, I busted my ankle. Good.

Emergency room good. Off work for 2 days good. On crutches for a week good. Now in an orthopaedic walking boot plus crutches good.

Not broken. They're calling it a "severe sprain".

Hurts like the dickens.

It's made life rough.

Also, my numbers were good.

For the few of you that know me IRL, this is not public info.

More updates later. Just wanted to keep you posted.

Thanks for checking in.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Parental Guidance

If your parents sent you to school... thank them for making sure you got an education.

If your parents helped you learn to read, even if it was simply by making sure you got to school so the teachers could help or reading you a story once in a while... thank them for giving you the gift of reading.

If your parents helped you learn basic mathematics skills, even if it was simply by putting you on the bus to school each morning... thank them for giving you the gift of math.

If your parents checked your homework, punished you for a bad report card, or showed up for a teachers' conference... thank them for showing an interest in your development and education.

If your parents permitted you to participate in school plays, music groups, sports, or any other school activities... thank them for supporting your interests.

If your parents permitted you to participate in church groups, community leagues, scout programs, hunting, fishing, community classes, etc... thank them for supporting your interests.

If your parents made you do chores... thank them for teaching you about work.

If your parents gave you an allowance, or even just trusted you to use your lunch money for lunch... thank them for teaching you about money management.

If your parents insisted you help take care of animals at your house... thank them for teaching you responsibility.

If your parents punished you for wrongdoing... thank them for teaching you discipline.

If your parents worked hard nearly every day... thank them for showing you a strong work ethic.

Friday, September 20, 2013

How Far We've Come

Sometimes it's nice to look back at where we were in the past. It can be amazing how far we've come in a relatively short amount of time:



One Year Ago:
Things were just starting to calm down. After my father-in-law's passing in April, followed by my nephew's overdose in May, plus some major changes at work, last year was rather hectic and stressful. By September things were beginning to resemble something closer to normal. Finally.


Two Years Ago:
I was battling a bevy of health issues: my legs & feet were tingling from my spinal injury, I was struggling with some major digestive issues, and finally met with a pulmonologist about my recurrent cough. As you know, everything turned out okay in the end. This was also Jena's first Summer at preschool.


Three Years Ago:
We were house hunting, struggling in our marriage, and I was fighting major depression. I was busting my butt at the gym & following a strict diet, only to not see any results, as my metabolic disorder was as yet undiagnosed. We were just beginning to realize Jena may be speech delayed, and she was still watched by my parents full-time.


Four Years Ago:
Wow. Four years ago I started my blog. While I struggled with post-partum depression & anxiety, I was blissfully unaware of the marital issues that were lurking around the corner. Jason was getting ready to start medic school, Jena was a toddling machine.


Five Years Ago:
I was hugely pregnant, madly in love, and looking forward to starting our family, as we celebrated with baby showers and 4D ultrasounds. The pregnancy and dreams of our little girl pretty much consumed our lives at this point.


Six Years Ago:
We were engaged and busily planning our upcoming wedding. Invitations would be going out right about now. I had finished my Open Water certification and we did quite a bit of diving that Summer. Fun!


Seven Years Ago:
It was around this time that I knew I wanted to marry Jason. We had been dating only a few short months, but I just knew. We spent the Summer going to festivals, taking walks, and just being in love. I had finally had my back surgery earlier in the year, so was enjoying my first pain-free Summer in what seemed like forever.


Eight Years Ago:
Single and unattached, work was  pretty much my life. I was just beginning to look at apartments closer to work, and I still volunteered with my college marching band. I was also on the Alumni Band Board of Governors. In other words, I kept busy. Post-accident but pre-surgery I was in pain daily, and often walked hunched over.

Nine Years Ago:
Still enthralled with my new job and employer (where I am now), I also struggled with boredom. My previous jobs had been fast-paced and the work endless, but I now was constantly asking for more work. Fresh out of a relationship, I was constantly scouting the engineers at my new workplace (it's true!). I volunteered with my college marching band, which kept me fairly busy.

Ten Years Ago:
Actively searching for work, desperate to leave my job with the bad manager (as it's become to be known). I was miserable with my job, volunteered with my college marching band, and usually took seasonal jobs as a trumpet, marching, or drum major instructor with local high schools. Yes, I was (and still am) a total band nerd, LOL.

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It's amazing how much our lives can change in a relative short amount of time, isn't it? I feel like the past 8 years especially have been a whirlwind.

What about you? How has your life changed in recent years?

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this post inspired by this post


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wish me luck!

Well, the results of my first blood test were good. My hcg was at 141.

Of course, it doesn't really mean anything. Yet. We already knew it was higher than 50, or else I wouldn't have gotten a positive pregnancy test.

The big answer will come tomorrow, after I get the results of the blood draw I'll have done today. For those of you who aren't familiar, up is good, down is bad.

Wish me luck!

Monday, September 16, 2013

I'm scared

Yesterday I took my regular monthly pregnancy test.

It was positive.

I'm scared.

Today I go to have bloodwork done. We'll repeat on Wednesday to make sure the levels are going up.

Did I mention that I'm scared?

I'm trying to be positive, but...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What's a Diet?

Recently my 4-year-old daughter and I had a conversation that was quite eye-opening for me.

It began as she looked over my shoulder while I checked Facebook. As I was scrolling down, she asked me to stop & go back up so she could look at a picture of a very overweight cat.

source
She asked why that picture was on there.

I explained that it was a story about a cat who was rescued and put on a diet.

"What's a diet?"

Crap. I have tried very hard to not let any references to dieting, weight loss, body image, etc. into our home. As much as I have struggled with my weight, I am keenly aware that girls often inherit body image issues from their mothers. And that is something I do not want. So I have consciously avoided the topic, or deflected when it came up.

So now... what to say?

I told her that a diet is what they call it when someone is trying to eat healthier, to put more good, healthy foods into their body. That the cat needed to be healthier, so they put him on a diet.

"People go on diets so they can be big & fat like you?"

Heart. Sinks.

My daughter knows that I am fat. Even though I did not tell her that, and try very hard not to use the word in our home, she came to the revelation herself. It's not a secret. The eye-opening moment here was that she thinks it's a good thing. She thinks people want to be big & fat like Mommy. $@#+!

So I tried gently to explain. No, people don't want to be fat like Mommy, in fact Mommy has too much fat and I'm trying to eat healthier to try to lose some of my fat so I can have a strong and healthy body like Jena.

Oh.

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It's a delicate tightrope, discussing weight with our daughters. We want to inform them, give them a healthy perspective, but we also want them to tolerate differences and love themselves no matter what they look like.

Once, while clothes shopping, Jena asked what size she should be when she grows up, as if she could aspire to be a certain size.

I responded that I didn't know yet, that we won't know until she's older, but that she should be a size that is a good, healthy size for her.

Then we had a little talk about how everyone comes in different shapes and sizes (and skin! and hair!) and that that's okay, it's good even, that we're all different. God made each of us, so it's all beautiful. That everyone should just try to be a size that is good and healthy for their body, and that's going to be different for everyone.

This whole experience just doubles my desire to reach a healthier weight, not just for me, but for her. Because the fact is our daughters are watching us and they want to be like us.

It honestly never occurred to me that my daughter might aspire to be as fat as I am, or that she would think other people would want to be this fat.

Sure, she loves that we both have blonde hair, and we both have blue eyes, will she be as tall as Mommy, etc, etc, etc.

But it never dawned on me that she'd want to be as fat as Mommy as well. My bad.

Mothers, we need to be healthy, have healthy habits, present ourselves in a healthy manner not just for us, but for our kids. We have to realize that as a parent, it's not just about us anymore.

As always, thanks for checking in.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Deviled Eggs (recipe)

A classic picnic or party appetizer, who doesn't love a good deviled egg?

When the chickens first started laying, I knew I'd need to come up with some good egg recipes. And believe it or not, as much as I enjoyed eating them, at that point I had never made deviled eggs. It seemed like a no-brainer that it would be my first egg recipe to try.

My deviled eggs quickly became a favorite at family functions, with several relatives declaring them to be "the best" they've ever had. Well, I don't know about that, and I don't think I do anything super-special, so I'm putting most of the praise back on the chickens.

There's just something about food made from your own backyard that just tastes better, no?

So without farther ado, here's my recipe for deviled eggs.

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Deviled Eggs



Ingredients (brands that I prefer listed in parentheses):
eggs (from my chickens)
mayonnaise (Hellman's)
mustard (French's or Grey Poupon)
relish (Vlasic)
salt
pepper

- get eggs
for the best peeling, use eggs that are 10-12 days old. If you are using fresh-from-the-chicken eggs, let them sit in the refrigerator for at least 7-10 days. If you are buying from the grocery store, they are probably already that old (or older), so no need to wait

- boil eggs
I suggest boiling a few extras, in case you run into some peeling difficulties
how I boil my eggs:
    * put eggs in pot
    * add water till water level is 3/4 of the way to the top
    * put on stove
    * turn stove (
ie. burner) on high
    * wait
(if you're better at this than I am, you will stir them occasionally during the boil - keeps them from becoming flat on one end)
    * once a rolling boil is achieved, turn stove off
    * wait 20 minutes
    * using a slatted spoon, move eggs to a bowl of ice
    * place bowl of iced eggs in refrigerator for a few hours to cool completely


- peel eggs




- slice eggs in half long-ways

- dig out yolks and put in bowl

- place whites (minus the yolks) on your serving tray

- mix up your schtuff
Here's how I do it:
    * use a fork to mush up your boiled egg yolks
    * add in a glop of mayo
    * add in a squeeze of mustard
    * add in a glop of relish
    * sprinkle some salt on top
    * sprinkle some pepper on top
    * stir
    * repeat all but the first step as necessary to achieve the desired consistency





- put your yolk-y schtuff into your icing gun (Pampered Chef)
I highly recommend using the largest opening tip that you have to prevent pickle chunks from the relish from clogging the whole thing up. Not that I know from experience or anything ;)

- use the icing gun to fill the yolk-holes left in your egg whites


- enjoy your yummy deviled eggs!

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 As you can see from my pics, this is also an easy recipe for kiddos to get involved with. Just not the boiling part. But you knew that, right?

Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It seemed nonsensical

** warning: this post contains images from 9/11 that some readers may find difficult to view**



I was working as a medical receptionist in a busy dermatology practice.

One of our patients came in and said "a plane just crashed into the twin towers".

We just stared at him. What an odd thing to say. It seemed nonsensical.

He stared at us blankly as we began to process his intake. Looking back he was probably wondering why we weren't more interested in his announcement.

source
A few minutes later our head nurse informed us that we were under attack. Her husband was retired Secret Service, and still did some consulting for the government. His phone had started ringing off the hook, and he stopped long enough to call his wife and let her know what was going on.

One of the medical assistants headed to the basement to turn on the one television in the building.

The lead doctor came out and informed us that his wife, a State Representative, had been told to leave the city.

He made it very clear. They weren't told to evacuate the building (being a government building), but to leave the city, to be out of the metropolitan area.

source
We finished work, probably a little quieter than normal. Took turns going to the basement for a few minutes at a time to catch updates. Got updates from patients as they came in.

The President was in the air. The Vice President was in a bunker. Fighter jets were scrambled over the Capitol. We had been attacked. We were being attacked.

**********************************************
The next morning I remember watching the news as I was getting ready for work. Instead of showing the latest from the New York Stock Exchange, they were reporting on the Nikkei. A sign of what had happened, of how it affected our world.

source
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I lived near a major international airport at the time. The "no fly" rule put in place from border-to-border immediately changed our skies. You don't realize how much planes are a part of the background of your daily life until you don't see them.

And I distinctly remember days later, the first time I saw a plane back up in the sky, and how eerie it felt.

source
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The weeks and months that followed sealed the fact that our lives were changed forever. My generation had never been thru anything even remotely close to this.

We would receive faxes from the CDC and other government agencies regarding the latest bio-hazard threats. We were trained on how to triage patients who suspected they may have cutaneous anthrax.

source
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Friends went to war. Came home. Went back. Rinse. Repeat. Care packages got sent.

One is there. Again. Fourth tour.

source
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There's no doubt about it, our lives changed forever in the blink of an eye. As much as we have, 12 years later, settled into "normal", you cannot dispute that the normal of today is much different than the normal prior to 9/11. In addition, the acts of that day have, and will continue to change the way our country approaches a multitude of subjects.

So, dear readers.... where were you when our country changed?

source
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this post inspired by this post

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Accidental Pumpkins

This year we planted a garden.

First time ever as a family. Or me as an adult. Or Jason as an adult. Or Jena ever.

Our simple little garden, just beans and corn, didn't yield one good vegetable.

Well, I take that back. The beans did really well, we saw that they were almost ready, didn't check for a couple of days, and by the time we got back to them most of them were already bad. Bad gardeners.

We do not have a green thumb.

For some reason the corn never grew bigger than about 3 - 4 feet, at the tallest. No real ears to speak of. Not sure what happened there.

But... last fall our neighbors had a pumpkin they had used as Autumn decor begin to rot. They decided to discard it by throwing it into the woods on the border of our two properties.

This year, this happened:



It's kinda hard to tell from the picture, but this thing starts about 3 - 4 feet into the woods, and extends 20+ feet out onto the grassy area of our front property. It's the largest pumpkin vine I've ever seen outside of an actual pumpkin patch. The deer have eaten most of the baby pumpkins, but they missed one, and we've got a big one growing. Jena's excited about having her very own jack o'lantern from our own pumpkin vine this year.

So the lesson I've learned is this: don't plan your garden or attempt to tend to it. Just throw some seeds out and see what happens. Ha!

As always, thanks for checking in!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Modesty

Recently I discovered the blog Feminine Modesty, and it has me doing a lot of thinking on the subject. I think especially being the mother of a little girl, the thoughts just keep tumbling around in my head. So here goes my attempt to write them down.

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I think we need to teach our children how to dress and behave modestly. Our boys too, yes, but in our society parents of daughters need to make it a point to teach our girls how to dress properly.

I think what "modesty" means varies from person to person. It's affected by your spiritual beliefs, your upbringing, and the society & community you live in, but if you think about it, it's there somewhere.

I think as parents we need to define what it means to dress modestly for our family, and stick to it.

More specifically, we can't dress up little girls in adult clothing and think it's cute, then lament when they grow into teenagers that dress the same way.
For example, if you don't want your 16-year-old going to the pool in a string bikini, then don't put your 4-year-old in one. If you don't want your 14-year-old daughter shaking her booty for everyone to see, then you can't giggle when you're 5-year-old does it because it's "so cute".

Basically, we have to think of these things now, set the standards now, while our daughters are young & cute & innocent. If we wait until they hit puberty, their bodies are developing, and they want to test the waters, then it's too late.

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My own views of what it means to dress modestly have changed throughout the years.

In my younger years, I was raised in a home where girls did not wear pants and no one wore shorts. As girls/women we wore long skirts (knee length or longer) or coulottes. If it was really cold out, we put long johns, tights, or sweat pants under them. Nothing we wore was tight, but it could be fitted.

My parents made exceptions for gym class / athletic activities (sweat pants, no shorts) and participating in sports (softball uniform = pants). Most families in the church did not.

Somewhere in there, my parents changed the rules. I'm not 100% sure why, but I can tell you I remember getting my first pair of jeans from the thrift store when I was 13 years old. I specifically remember shopping for them, as it was a momentous occasion.

And at some point I was permitted to wear shorts.

My parents never had to worry about me wearing anything too low cut, as I have a scar on my chest that is above the cleavage line that I was very self-conscious about. I used to sew panels or trim into my shirts / dresses to make the neckline higher to hide the scar. I could have cared less how my cleavage looked.

Because we were very active in our church, who (now) had a much stricter view of modesty than we did, much of my wardrobe remained in long skirts & coulottes. I remember going to college at 18 years old, and still wearing coulottes. I wore them until they wore out.

Through my experiences, I've learned a few things.

If you set standards when your kids are young:

- most kids won't feel deprived. I cannot tell you how many people have made comments about how difficult it must have been for me to grow up in such a strict home. Nope. Wrong. As a young person, your "normal" is what you live, you don't know it's different until someone tells you. And life is much easier for kids (well, everyone really) when standards and rules are set in place and enforced. It's clear. There's no confusion, there's no second-guessing. You know what is expected of you and you do it.

- performance will almost always be below expectation at some point. Yes, teenagers & young adults have a habit of testing boundaries when it comes to modesty & behavior. If you set your standard at long skirts, your daughter may test you by wearing something tighter than you would prefer. If you set your standard at mini skirts are okay, your daughter may test you by wearing a micro-mini that she can't bend over in without risking an arrest for indecent exposure. Both of those examples are extremes, yes, but the fact is the higher your standard, the higher your child's performance.

- the standards you set for your children will follow them thru life. Yes, the truth is that I now wear things I would never have been allowed to wear growing up. I sometimes wear things that for me are right on the limits of what my modesty permits me to wear: my "sexy" clothes, per se. But I've had other people call these same items of clothing my "old lady clothes". My point is that what is revealing to me, others consider overly modest. Since the people who make these comments are friends of mine, we can talk about it. It comes down to our upbringing, in regards to our clothing. What was acceptable to them growing up was completely unacceptable to my family. So while I feel like I'm pushing boundaries, they see me as being dressed conservatively. Feel sexy, but the world sees me as modest? Yes, please.

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Listen, I'm not saying everyone has to be raised how I was raised to be able to dress modestly. I am fully aware that everyone has different ideas of what it means to be dressed / behave appropriately. And I will tell you that we are not raising our daughter in as strict of a home as I was raised.

What I am saying is that it has to be taught, there has to be a standard lived out in your home. Your kids are watching you and following the standard you have set for them. The question is: what is that standard? Because if you haven't made a conscious decision about it, then are you really sure you're okay with it?

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As always, thanks for checking in.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

About My Daughter (as told by herself)

Remember the post where I interviewed Jena about me? Now it's time to hear what she has to say about herself.

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- What is the meaning of life?
If you have a sad life, then you do. And if you have a mad life, then you do. But if you have a happy life, then you do. Profound.

- What is the meaning of love?
You love somebody and you like to hug them and kiss them. Yep, you do.

- What do you want to be when you grow up?
A firefighter and a cowgirl. Firefighter obviously from Daddy. Cowgirl comes directly from us attending the local fair. This year we got to see a bit of barrel racing. She's been talking about being a cowgirl every since. Love it!

- What brings you the most happiness?
Stuffed animals and Mommy. Awwwwww....

- When do you feel the most loved?
When Mommy is around. When she said this, there was a part of me that said I've done my job, my daughter feels loved.

- What are you afraid of?
Scary stuff like if it's deep and looks scary. Huh. I agree with her, but I have no idea if there's something specific she's thinking of.

- If you had one wish, what would you wish for?
To love Mommy forever and ever. Awwwwwww....

- What is the funniest word?

Jokes. I love the literalness of this one.

- What is the hardest thing to do?
Take a nap. Oh, yes. The dreaded nap. Required at her preschool until they start kindergarten. But with Jena ready to drop her nap for oh, the past year or so, she's basically been forced to lie still on a cot without making a sound until she (maybe) drifts off to sleep or until naptime is over (2.5 hours). That would be hard for me too.

- What is the easiest thing to do?
Play or read a story. How quickly she forgets the days of stressing over not being able to read yet...

- What is the best thing in the world?
To love on Flopsy. Yay for puppies!

- What is the worst thing in the world?
To ride a bike, fall down and hurt yourself. Yeah, this happened a few days ago. Apparently it's fresh in her mind.

- What makes you angry?
Whatever I don't want to do. Me too, baby. Me too.

- If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?
Keep it and buy stuff from yard sales. Good girl.

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this post inspired by this post
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