Friday, March 22, 2013

Jamie's Latest Project

Hello everyone!  

Jamie has been very busy working on her latest project, and we wanted to give you a peek:

Can you believe how gorgeous she is after JUST giving birth?!?  I wish I looked like that when I had my babies...

 He's just precious.  His three older sisters ADORE him, and I think we can all see whyCongratulations Jamie and family!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How A New Mother Battled Cancer and Won: Guest Post

A guest post from Heather Von St James: a mesothelioma survivor and a guest blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Her story is one of hope and inspiration and she hopes to spread her message to anyone who may be going through similar situations to her own. Check out Heather’s story on the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog

People are surprised to hear my daughter state that she saved my life. She doesn’t try to make herself a hero when she says it. She’s just sharing a piece of information in the same way she would tell you that her favorite sandwich is peanut butter with strawberry jelly. This can seem odd to people who don’t know the entire story, but it’s just part of our family life. She knows about cancer because she saved me from the deadly disease.

While my friends were having babies in their twenties, I was content to wait. My husband Cameron and I were happy with things the way they were, and we were not in a rush to add a child to the mix. We were in our thirties before the urge to have a child really hit us, and I was 35 when we finally made the decision to take the leap and complete our family with a baby. We were very fortunate in our efforts. While other women struggle to conceive at that age, we were thrilled to see a positive pregnancy test after only three months. Two more pregnancy tests confirmed the news that we would be parents. Soon, my thoughts were occupied with questions about what kind of mother I would be. I didn’t know if I would be just like my own mother or more like the hip mothers some of my friends had, but I know that I wanted to be a good mom who loved my child and did the best I could.

Our lives continued to be blessed during the pregnancy. I had no problems with morning sickness, diabetes or any of the other potential difficulties. Our child grew and was healthy. When it was time for me to deliver, the little bundle of joy was breech. While I had looked forward to a natural delivery, I was not upset by the news that I would have an emergency C-section. Cameron was there with me, and I just wanted the baby to arrive safe and healthy. The type of person to always see the cup half-full, I even joked that our baby would have a perfectly shaped head since she wouldn’t have to go through the birth canal. When Lily was born, I stared at her in awe of how incredibly perfect she was. Amazing and beautiful, she had ten perfect fingers and ten little toes. Alert and magnificent, she was everything Cameron and I had dreamed of. My life was all about her at that moment, and I never dreamed that it would change so drastically in just a few months.

Lily was just over three months when I went to the doctor and heard the news that would change my life. The diagnosis was malignant pleural mesothelioma, and my prognosis was poor. Without treatment, I only had 15 months to live. Thank God that my husband was with me at that moment. While I was lost in shock and wondering if my daughter would even remember me, my husband was getting important information from the doctor. While I was focusing on the fact that I could die, my husband was gathering the information needed to save my life. Mesothelioma is fatal for 95 percent of the people who have it, but I didn’t have to be part of that statistic. There was hope, but it meant traveling to Boston for surgery. The world’s best mesothelioma doctors are there, and they could save my life. On February 2, 2006 I underwent a surgery to remove my left lung, along with part of my heart and chest lining and diaphragm. I was in the hospital for 18 days and after another 2 months of recovery I began radiation and chemotherapy treatment.

During my time in Boston, Lily stayed with my parents in South Dakota. I spent the sixth month of her life away from her, but it’s a sacrifice I gladly made to be with her for so many more years to come. It hurt me to lose that month, but it meant that I could be there for her other milestones. I wanted to be there for her first crush on a boy, her first date and her first day at college. That desire to watch her grow and be with her is what gave me the strength to fight and survive.

I look back on that time in my life and I know that I was fortunate and incredibly blessed. I might have  surrendered to the disease, but I couldn’t stop fighting knowing that Lily needed me. That’s why I say that my baby girl saved my life, and that’s why my daughter is so matter-of-fact about her role in my battle against cancer.

Thank you Heather, for sharing your inspiring story with us!  I hope I never have to find out if I could be as strong as you were.  Your family is beautiful, and we hope everything continues to go well for you!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Confessions of a Black Thumb Gardener

I've had various success at gardening. Mostly un-success, I'm afraid. Gardening takes constant, unwavering care and faithfulness. I don't do well with constant. I'm too A.D.D. for that kind of focus. I bounce around from project to project, eager to start a brand new idea, then loosing focus and getting fired up about my next project--before I ever finish the first. My husband and my craft table can attest to this.

My heart sings with the desire to have a beautiful garden--every spring.   I would love to have riots of blooms surrounding me in my yard, which I could then bring inside to beautify my home.  Growing my own organic vegetables would be exciting on so many levels: more excuses to experiment with vegetables on my children, the satisfaction of growing my own food and living off the land, and the lessons available to my children as they work along side me, full of eager smiles...

{cue record scratching and abrupt end of misty dream sequence}

Then I remember that the only fruit-bearing plant I have successfully grown was the bean plant named "Guess Who" I nurtured in college because we planted magenta beans in a class and I really wanted to grow more.  Plus, Guess Who was an excellent conversation piece-and he made me look more domestic to the gentlemen (it was all in my head).

Alas, when I moved home for the summer, Guess Who died of neglect--before he ever produced offspring.  There's an excellent parable here, people!

My past is riddled with other dead plants who never even fared that well.  Such as the spaghetti squash starts I bought last year, that never even got planted--they just sat in the spot I was going to plant them until they scorched, withered, and turned to dust.

None of that begins to touch how overwhelmed I feel when I start to research gardening--how I need to work on a compost heap, and work it into my garden last fall, which is impossible to do retroactively, therefore I can't start until this fall, when my motivation to garden has completely fizzled out anyways.  I need to fertilize, but there are a million different kinds to choose and if I choose wrong everything will die die die!  And there's bugs, and there's weeds, and there's diseases...

Am I conveying the distress I feel before I give up and move on to safer, well trodden projects?

Nevertheless, although there have been days of deep failure in the past, this is not that day. There have been years where all good intentions have turned to anxiety and apathy, but this. is. not. that year!!!

I am proud to report that I have cleaned out more of my flower/vegetable beds so far this year than ever in years past.  I have even involved one of my children, who loves to "dig in the dirt and look for wiggly worms."

We started our peas growing inside as well.  I'm going to eat something from my garden this year, dangit!  Peas are easy, which I obviously need, and short lived, so they should grow, produce happily, and die before I lose my motivation to garden again (not like last year)!

We planted our peas in old paper egg cartons, which are biodegradable--we can plant the carton right in the garden too!  We will keep these inside until it's a tiny bit warmer--but starting them inside means we'll get peas that much sooner!
First, we poked drainage holes with a skewer, then we moistened some soil.  In the time it took me to take the picture, we (they) SOAKED the soil, so we (I) stirred the dirt around until we got some nice, moist, not soaking wet soil.  After filling the egg cartons with our soil and placing them on a cookie sheet, we poked pea seeds down in each section, and covered them with more dirt.

And now, we watch and wait.  I've read that plastic wrap can keep all the water in so you don't have to add more.  Alas, I am plastic wrap impaired.  Worse than gardening impaired!  So I can't keep it tight enough.  Instead, I put some soggy paper towels underneath the cartons, to keep the seeds watered without (hopefully) drowning them.  I just water the paper towels when the dirt is getting dry. 

Also, everything I've read about growing plants inside says to keep them by a south-facing window.   I don't own a single one!  SO, when I remember, I put our cookie sheet outside in the sun when it is warm, and bring them back inside for the evening.  I'm terrified I will forget and leave those poor peas out in the cold.

I am excited to update you as our seeds grow--hopefully it works out AMAZINGLY and I can put my past behind me!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Luck of the Irish to Us!

**Please, please, please imagine my voice saying all of this in an Irish accent. Because that is how I'm writing it.**

We made a "garlic." It's a garland, really--but my kiddos can't wrap their lips around that word. So it's our "St. Patrick's Garlic."

It was fun and easy. I just cut a million shamrocks out of green paper using my Silhouette. Getting the buggers off without tearing them was really the hardest part of this project! Then the lads helped me tape them on to baker's twine (so the shamrocks keep falling off, but whatever, right?) and we tied some ribbons in between. I love that it was fast, easy, and imperfect, but it makes me smile every time I see it.

Yeah, there's pink ribbon. Sometimes, as the only lass in a house full o' lads, I just HAVE to rebel. And it matched my other ribbon, so there.

I think we may start a new tradition, where I stand under the shamrock "garlic" and my husband comes and kisses me...even though I'm not Irish ;)

Are you doing anything to decorate for and/or celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

**Okay, stop the accent now...I can't keep this up!**

Here's a sneak peak into my current project!  My fabulous neighbors nailed up some new crown molding for us!!!  Now it's our job to finish the cracks and holes, and paint 'er good!  I'm so excited!  Stay tuned for the whole story.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Taking Back My Early Mornings.

**Please note: This is not a sponsored post. I am simply sharing a product I found that has worked for me!**

Let me introduce you to my two adorable girls. 

Here's Sydney. 
She's almost two.

She is a rockstar sleeper. 
Most mornings she will sleep at least as late as 8:30... often later. Don't hate.

Here's Emily. She's nearly three-and-a-half. Clearly very fashion conscious.

She's a bit of a wild card.
Not only does her wake-up time vary from 5:30am to 9am (usually in the early end of the spectrum), but most nights she comes into our room at least twice, trying to get into bed with us. For a while we would send her back to bed, unless it was just an hour or two until we got up. The problem was that she had no way to distinguish how early she was coming in. So if she came in "too early" and we turned her away, she would throw a royal fit, which would often end with Sydney waking up, too. 


I remembered my friend mention a Mickey Mouse clock they got for her boy that had a feature that would let him know when it was okay to leave his room in the morning. 

In sheer desperation that only a sleep deprived parent can understand, I scoured and came upon THIS .

 Here's the *basic* scoop. The clock face is always on. You set a time for the nightlight to come on, and turn off. 
For us, 7:30pm-9am.
Then you also get to set the time that the yellow nightlight turns green--the time before which you, as the parent, wish not to be disturbed. 
For us, well... that depends on the day now. Initially, we tried 7:15, I think. A time that we felt we could handle, but that wouldn't be too much of a challenge for her. On the weekends we set it a bit later. Aaaand I may have forgotten to change it after this weekend was over. 

I showed Emily the clock on the computer after I bought it, and she was SOOO excited to have a special clock in her room. She would ask when her clock was going to come multiple times a day. Naturally, when it arrived she needed to help open it. 

Have I mentioned how much I love amazon's new "hassle free" packaging option?
Inside of their box was this box:

And inside that cute little box was this beauty...

The clock has a pink, blue, and yellow ring you can choose from for the front. 

**Sidenote: This clock has a "little sister" version you can find HERE:
We opted to go with the more expensive one because it also has a feature that teaches children how to read clocks. Plus it came with a wall adapter, and we didn't want to have to be changing batteries.**

So how effective was it?
Pretty effective for our lil' munchkin.

The first morning, not so much. We explained the concept to her the night before, and she was so excited to see the clock turn green. Somehow the whole "stay in your room until it turns green" part didn't seem to sink in. As it got closer to the "changing time", I took her in to show her how it changes, and it totally blew her mind.

This shot was from this morning, when the girls slept WAAAY late. Granted, they were up past 10 (Emily past 11, as we later learned) the night before, being goofy little hooligans in their room.

From that morning on, she has gotten the concept. There has been one or two mornings where she has come in saying, "My clock is green! But... I don't want you to go check..."
Yeah. Right.
As though I can't roll over and check what time it is myself.

 But the last week or so has been AWESOME. The last couple days she has even voluntarily gone potty before coming in to announce the changing of the clock.

Do I feel this was $40 well spent?
Absolutely I do.

No more 3am visits from our girlie asking for breakfast.

Happy Pi Day!

Oooh, I just got really excited for 3/14/15...if today is Pi day, that will be SUPER Pi day...

Nerd much?  Meh.  Only half.

But someone at my husband's office IS either nerdy or REALLY loves pie--they celebrated with pizza and pie for everyone (jealous!!)

I wanted to join in the fun, so we had chicken pot pie (gluten free!!) for dinner.  And I wanted to share, but I am hesitant.

1. My crust crimping skills leave a little (okay, LOTS) to be desired.  Don't judge.
2. My serving skills...might be even worse.

On the other hand, everyone LOVED it--we ate the whole thing (and wanted more, darn it!)  So, forgive the presentation and give it a try--it's deliciousness!

For those dear readers who are also gluten free, I used a flour mix from Art of Gluten Free Baking (check out her recipes!  They amaze me). 
1 1/4 C (170g) brown rice flour
1 1/4 C (205g) white rice flour
1 C (120g) tapioca flour
1 C (165g) sweet rice flour (also known as Mochiko)
2 scant tsp. xanthan gum

I keep this on hand, so I just substituted it straight up for the flour in the crust, and it turned out--THOUGH, I would add a little extra flour mix (1/4 or 1/3 c.) because it's super sticky.  Still be generous with flour when rolling it out--but you can use plain rice flour for that part.  I also used the plain brown rice flour in the gravy.  This time my gravy needed a little corn starch n' cold water mixed in to help thicken it--probably because I used bouillon.  It has thickened fine in the past though.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

To the Parents of the Children In My Son's Preschool Class...

A 7:30 a.m. eye doctor appointment is bad enough, but I was smart enough to schedule mine the day after daylight savings...

Needless to say, I was not quite awake as I got in my van, drove across town, and started getting dilated, blinded, and tested.

'Twas in the middle of this that I remembered two separate conversations that revolved around my taking my HUSBAND'S car instead of my own, just in case I wasn't home in time to take the kiddos to school--the latter of which conversations occurred moments before I slid into my own carseat-laden vehicle and took off.  Oops.  Can you guess who wasn't home on time to get the kiddos to school?  Luckily Mr. Amazing pulled it off.  He's good like that.

As I was leaving the Doctor's office, I got a call from the preschool teacher.  Today was the day we had scheduled for my son's un-birthday (he was born in the summer), but he had missed the last several days of school (ah, the pukes)--did I want to reschedule?

"Uh...I don't know.  I don't even know how he is doing this morning, I left before he woke up.  But he didn't throw up last night, so maybe he'll be okay to come..."

I was less than helpful.  "Okay," that sweet woman said, "We'll play it by ear..."

In my head, I'm like, "Yeah, and I forgot to buy him treats, because all three kids were vomitting ALL. WEEK. and we never left the house...I counted yesterday and I have TEN packaged rice crispy treats but I need THIRTEEN (why did I eat all of those?!?  Curses.) can I buy treats and teleport myself there in the next five minutes?!?"

Call from the hubs after they got to school, "Mrs. Super-impressed-with-your-mothering-skills says you can bring the treats a few minutes before school ends, since she won't pass them out until then anyways."

Huzzah!  Saved! 

I managed to make it through the shopping trip with only one forgotten coupon...  Hooray.

But I'd forgotten my checkbook, and I needed it to pay tuition at the preschool, which was already late, because all three of my kids had the pukes for a whole week.  This meant I couldn't go straight to the school from the store and pick up my child all in one fell swoop.  I also had to go to the bathroom so so so so so so SO...


And I'd had to go for the whole shopping trip, but I wasn't about to take my purse, my coupon binder, and my one-year-old-who-puts-everything-in-his-mouth into a public restroom.

Naturally, I booked it home.  I had frozens, so I hurriedly stashed them, meanwhile grabbing the extra rice crispies to put in the front with me so I didn't have to unload them from the back in the midst of picking-kids-up-from-school-chaos.  What is it about school parking lots that turn mothers into CRAZY PEOPLE? I took care of my potty problem, grabbed the check book, and dashed to the car, frantically hoping the baby hadn't started hollering yet.

I got to the school just at the perfect time to drop off the treats.  Score!

I didn't have the treats...

Oh, right...somewhere between the freezer and the potty, they'd gotten lost.  Hopefully closer to the freezer. 

Ah, but there, tucked in the corner, were two boxes of Gogurts. Which should have made it into the fridge in between the freezer and the potty, but hadn't.  SAVED again.

With no time to deliberate on the "allowed-ness" of Gogurt for a birthday treat, I stuck my chin out, and delivered my birthday treats to my adoring son and his intrigued classmates as though I'd gotten them on purpose.

Yeah, that's right, I'm making a statement.  Healthy un-birthday treats.  Eat up the deliciousness.

And that's why your kids got Gogurt yesterday.  You are welcome-slash-I'm sorry.

Edit 4/19/2013: Today was the preschool teacher's birthday--guess what she brought for treats?!? GOGURT! I'm simply tickled pink.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How To Get Your Kids To Eat Veggies

Almost always happily.

I have been amazed at how well this little sneaky idea has worked in my life! It's pretty easy too. Are you ready for this?

{cue super intense secret sharing music}

I give them the choice: "You can choose one thing on your plate to not eat tonight."

It sounds like an automatic fail, right? Of COURSE they are going to choose their veggie! But here's the kicker--I try to make sure we have more than one veggie on our plates. Since I know my kids and what they will choose (green beans or tomatoes. Every. Time.), I can plan accordingly. Sometimes I'm adventurous and choose two that aren't their favorite--just to see which one wins. It is AMAZING how easily they eat their second least favorite vegetable when they get to choose not to eat the one they hate.

 We're putting the power in our children's hands but making sure the outcome is acceptable for us parents. That's what I call a WIN WIN!!

*Disclaimer: Results will not be immediate. Tantrums commonly occur for the first few meals, but are temporary. Hold strong!

**Disclaimer part 2: we still occasionally fight over veggie consumption. But the ratio of fights to dinnertimes has drastically decreased in the months that we have implemented this plan. 

***Disclaimer part 3: side effects may include, but are not limited to, less contention, increased health, slightly increased planning and meal preparation time (generally temporary), dramatically decreased sitting-at-the-table-whining-"I-don't-want-to-eat-this", and greater willingness to try new foods (provided you include an additional, less desired food).

Friday, March 1, 2013

Reigning in the School Clutter

When my baby started Preschool, waaaay back in 2010, I was unprepared for the inundation of papers.  Worksheets, projects, art, report cards, name cards, and sweeter-than-chocolate Mother's Day cards. What's a Mommy to do?  Especially when my sweet budding scholar couldn't part with anything.

Put everything in a drawer to "sort through when he's asleep," of course! And then let it build up for approximately three years.

The best part is when he'd remember something in there and go searching for it.  School paraphernalia everywhere.  And then he and his brother would dance in it (not the baby--he just tried to eat it all).  It was time to stop the madness.

"Save me!  Someone save me!"


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