Thursday, February 28, 2013

Parenting 101: Really, This is On-the-Job Training

We welcomed our first child into the world at 2:08 A.M. on a snowy February night in 2007.  Before that my husband and I had only been a married couple for 15 months, but in an instant we became parents.  We knew our lives would forever be changed, but I don't think we realized just how much at the time.  In fact, I feel like we still can't fully comprehend how much our lives will continue to change as we face new joys and challenges with our kiddos.  Being a parent is a lifetime commitment and a 24/7 job filled with ups and downs, but it is not a title that I will ever regret having.

When I think of the roles we play in our children's lives, these are some words that come to mind:  nurse, teacher, coach, mentor, advocate, guide, protector, and cheerleader.  Our most important job is to make sure all of their basic needs are being met and that they feel safe and loved.  This alone can be a daunting task, depending on what phase they're going through.  Now, let's pile on some of our other duties and see how much success we have!  

It seems like those first years we spend a lot of time teaching, cheering, protecting, and nursing.  There is so much to learn in those first few years and so many milestones are met early in their lives.  We do our best to cheer them on and provide opportunities for them to learn new skills and thrive.  We are lucky enough to be rewarded for our hard work with big grins and giggles when they succeed.  There are also the difficult times trying to diagnose what ailments are bothering our kiddos:  teeth, ears, foods that disagree, all comes with the territory and after awhile we get pretty good about figuring it all out.  

As time goes on, though, in addition to those roles already mentioned, we begin to touch more on coaching, mentoring, guiding, and advocating.  Our kids move on from needing us by their sides to assist to craving independence and being able to do things on their own.  We get to spend some time on the sidelines coaching and cheering for them, but still take the time to work together, too.  We do our best to teach them to be kind, caring, responsible, and respectful.  There are many life lessons to be learned over the years and we try our best to provide our kiddos with ways to cope and work their way through issues, but sometimes no matter how hard we've tried, a roadblock presents itself.

Our roadblock has been the beginning of the school-age years.  Preschool was great, but elementary school has not been so kind.  I'll be honest, it was very hard for me to send my oldest out into the "real world."  For me it seemed that the innocence of childhood was coming to an end.  He would be exposed to more things, not all good, and come in contact with people who may not be so kind.  Initially we spent some time advocating for his safety regarding his peanut allergy.  While these are necessary measures, they can be a bit isolating at times for him.  Most of the time he is very understanding and accepts that these measures keep him safe, but there are days that sitting at a lunch table without any choice of who you get to sit by stinks.  

As is typically the norm in schools, there are a few kids in his class that are not so kind.  By his assessment, he has become a target of their teasing and gets picked on a lot.  We've tried to guide him in how to handle these situations, but it doesn't seem to be very successful in this case.  It has been disappointing for us, to say the least, that kindergarten has not been the fun and positive first-year school experience that we had hoped it would be.  It has been a struggle and I hope that we see some improvement next year.  If not, we may have to re-evaluate our options.  He is a bright kid with a kind heart and great imagination and we want him to be happy and enjoy learning.  It is heartbreaking to see the emotions that come flooding out some days.  Our instinct to protect our child is quite strong and we just pray that things improve and we get through these next few months with as few problems as possible.

I completely understand that school can be tough on many kids, it's just hard when it's your own child.  What I didn't realize, though, was how hard it would also be on me.  I just want my little guy to feel good about himself, feel safe and welcome at school, and to not fear silly things like his shoe coming untied (they won't tie their shoes for them;  he can tie his own, just not quickly or tight enough to keep them tied all day) or making a mistake when doing his work.  This mama bear is emotionally exhausted as well and looking forward to wrapping up this year.  Maybe things will change in the next few months, but maybe they'll stay the same.  Whatever the case, we will continue to support and listen to our little guy and help him navigate his way through his troubles as best we can!

I think we all need to remember that in a culture where we are pushing our children to grow up too quickly, there really is no changing human biology.  Kids develop at different rates and at times we may expect certain behaviors or skills that they are simply not ready for.  We all need to encourage our children and really consider if our expectations are appropriate.  I know that at times, since he is our oldest, we've expected too much from him emotionally and behaviorally, but this has been a great lesson in recognizing those mistakes.  He is a little boy who needs to be able to express his feelings and desires and we really need to listen to and accept them.  This doesn't mean he will always get his way, but sometimes our kids are simply telling us what they need and we need to respect that.  A friend shared this on Facebook one day and I want to share it with you as well.  I have printed it off and plan to frame it and put it up in our home.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

March Book LIst

March is just around the corner, so it's time to make the book list!  I'm a little behind on my February reading, so my list this month is a bit shorter than normal.  I am hoping I can sneak in one more book before month's end (or close to it), but time has not been on my side this month.  Too much going on and my planned vacation reading was a bust!

This month I'm picking three fiction books.  While I really enjoy non-fiction, I am up for some light-hearted reading this last month before the new little one makes his or her arrival!  My books left over from February are non-fiction, so I will still get my fill.  These are my choices this month and they are all authors that I have been reading the past few months and come to really enjoy:

The Bungalow by Sarah Jio
Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah
Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

I am looking forward to reading these books!  I just finished Violets of March by Sarah Jio over the weekend and have really taken to her writing.  They are romance books with some mystery to them and I find myself having a hard time putting them down.  If you haven't checked her books out yet, I would highly recommend them.  They are a quick read!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Getting Some Work Done...Only to be Interrupted by a Cookie Craving!

Yesterday I spent the day prepping for baby #4 (finally!) and was pleased to cross some things off of my list.  We took a trip to Home Depot in the morning to pick out a paint color for the nursery and I hope that it will be painted by next weekend.  Since we do a gender-neutral nursery, we were thinking about yellow or green (our nursery in our old house was bright green), but after some discussion, we decided to go with gray.  It may seem like a strange color choice for a nursery, but we checked out some photos on Pinterest and loved that we can use purple and pink for a girl or blue and green for a boy.  

While we still have some work to do, the basics are taken care of.  I ordered diapers online last night from and Target, as well as some other necessities on my list.  Big sigh of relief here!  As the day went on, though, I started to have a little craving for some homemade cookies.  I searched the pantry, only to find that we had no chocolate chips, so I opted to try to find a new cookie to make with oatmeal.  After a quick internet search, I found a recipe that looked good, and whipped up a batch.  They were delicious!  Soft and chewy and a little snickerdoodle-like.  Here's the recipe!

Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Cookies (found on

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
3 cups quick cooking oats

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugars.  Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla.  Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; stir into the creamed mixture.  Mix in oats.  Cover and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place parchment paper on cookie sheets.  Roll dough into walnut-sized balls.  Place on cookie sheet and flatten with a fork dipped in sugar.  Bake for 8-10 minutes (mine went about 10) and let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes.  Place on cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 22, 2013

No Meat Fridays? Shrimp Boil!

I'm not going to lie...we should not be eating meat on Fridays, but we have gotten pretty bad about this since we've had kids.  Generally, I like to just make one meal for everyone and our kids are not big fans of fish (except for fish sticks!) and now we have a possible shellfish allergy to add to it.  It's definitely a Mom and Dad meal, but we eat early these days.  I could just serve cheese quesadillas, tomato soup and grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, or cheese pizza, but I don't.  Maybe I'll make it a goal for next year!

I will share with you, though, my favorite shrimp boil recipe.  We eat this every year with my parents for our Christmas celebration.  I could sure go for some tonight!

Shrimp Boil

6 cups water
2 T. salt
2 T. vinegar
2 bay leaves
2 stalks celery
Fresh shrimp with the shell on, however many pounds you plan to eat!

Combine all ingredients except shrimp.  Bring to boil.  Add 1/2 pound to 1 pound of shrimp at a time.  Cook until pink (about 2-3 minutes generally).  Remove shrimp with slotted spoon.  Repeat as necessary, bringing water to a boil each time.

Serve with warm butter and cocktail sauce if desired.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Creamy Swiss Steak

My blog has been so neglected.  Now that the big birthday and vacation are over, I'm hoping I can get back to posting more regularly before our next big life change in April (or earlier if I'm lucky!).  We had a great vacation, but not without some hitches along the way.  The weather was not great most days, we had a child who kept randomly vomiting (at very inopportune times might I add), and of course, some sleep trouble, but we survived and everyone had fun.  That's what counts in the end!

Today I had to spend my morning out running errands before the snow comes and now we will be hunkered down for a few days at home.  I am looking forward to three days of nothing to do (my oldest doesn't have school tomorrow regardless of the snow totals due to kindergarten round-up)!  Tonight we are going to have creamy swiss steak.  This is a pretty simple recipe and our local grocery store had a pretty good deal on cube steaks, so we're going to make it work!

Creamy Swiss Steak (from

4 minute steaks (we are substituting cube tonight)
oil, for frying
flour, for dredging
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 10 oz. can milk (I just use what's in our refrigerator)
1 4 oz. can of mushrooms or 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter

Slice mushrooms (if fresh) and saute in butter.  If using a can, drain well and set aside.  In a large skillet, heat oil.  Salt minute steaks and dredge in flour.  Fry until brown.  Make sure when you are frying you leave the meat on long enough for the breading to fry until sets, as it will fall off if not fried long enough.  When the meat is fried, place on paper towels to drain excess oil.  Place in 2 quart casserole dish to keep warm.  Leave 2 tablespoons oil in the frying pan and remove the rest.  Add cream of mushroom soup, milk, and mushrooms, stirring constantly.  Let soup simmer on medium-low heat until heated through.  Pour over warm meat and serve.  We eat it with mashed potatoes.  Yum!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Life After a Loss

I am having a hard time keeping up with the blog these days!  We have been dealing with a lot of illness and I, quite frankly, am exhausted.  Sleep is not easy to come by these days and I am praying that I do not become the next victim of the strep throat bug that is making its way around the house.  I have to get ready for the big birthday party this weekend and then turn right around and get organized for our vacation.  I am looking forward to warmer weather and few extra sets of hands for a week!  Maybe, just maybe, the kids will be so worn out from running around outside that they'll sleep well (fingers crossed!).

The end of last week marked the five year anniversary of when we found out we had lost our second baby.  I got pregnant when our oldest son was nine months old and had an uncomplicated pregnancy up to that point.  A few days before our twelve week appointment, I began spotting and knew something was wrong.  I can recall the night it happened.  We were watching American Idol on a Wednesday night and my husband was preparing to fly out of town at the end of the week for a job interview.  We called the doctor, were told to come in the next morning, and an ultrasound confirmed what I already knew.  Our little Peanut was gone.

When we first found out, I think I just shut off my emotions.  I don't recall crying at the doctor's office and maybe not even on the long drive home.  They gave me the option to have a procedure or wait it out.  We opted to wait it out for a few days to see if nature would take it's course.  The next day, things began to happen, and in the wee hours of the night our little one was "born."  I know that sounds like a strange term to use, but to me that's what happened.  It was awfully painful and then it was over.  God graced us with a snowstorm and delayed my husband's flight, so I at least got to see him once it was over.

I recall the next few days being terribly painful physically and emotionally.  My mother-in-law came out to help with our little guy and I rested in bed for a few days.  I was still nursing and remember crying each time I would feed him, both for the baby we would never know and the sweet little boy we were lucky to have.  Those next few months were terribly difficult and a lot of tears were shed.  I thought for sure we would get pregnant again right away, but my levels took forever to drop off and it took longer than I had anticipated.  After five months of not-so-patiently waiting, we were blessed with positive pregnancy test, and our little Princess began growing away.

Needless to say, we've been very blessed since then with our Princess, the little guy and the baby on the way.  Having a miscarriage is a very painful and difficult time for both the mother and the father, though I feel  the mother struggles more.  Naturally you look to yourself and try to think if there's anything you could have possibly done to harm your child.  It's very sad when you realize that you are no longer growing a little one inside.  If you are like us, you had shared the news with everyone never thinking that anything could go wrong, and then you have to break the bad news.  It's a very hard thing to do and seems to make many people very uncomfortable.    

But then something happens.  Once you become a member of the miscarriage "club," people begin to open up about their own experiences.  You soon realize that there seem to be more people who have had a miscarriage than haven't.  It was my experience that many people who shared their own experience with me seemed to have lost their second pregnancy.  As odd as it sounds, it was quite comforting to know that I wasn't alone and see that most of these women had gone on to have successful pregnancies.

For me, healing took a long time.  I continued to think in terms of how many weeks I should have been all the way up to the due date.  I then moved onto how many weeks or months old the baby would be.  Over time, the raw pain subsided, but the thoughts of our Peanut have never gone away.  I like to think that the grandparents we had lost wanted a baby of their own to love.  It brings me some comfort and I hope that it's true.

Miscarriages happen.  As our wonderful doctor explained to us then, having a healthy baby truly is a miracle.  There are so many things that have to line up just perfectly for that baby to make it here safely.  When you have a big family, like ours, I suppose it's bound to happen.  It doesn't change the fact, though, that it is a terribly painful time in one's life.  I am happy to say, that with time the pain has softened and I finally feel like I am at peace with it all.  I do not shy away from talking about it, because I think it's healthy not to.  I want to acknowledge that he or she existed, if only for a few months.  So, here's to our little Peanut!  I hope you're having fun up there with your great-grandparents!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Comfort Food Monday

Happy Monday!  We're getting ready to head off to school, but I wanted to share a macaroni and cheese recipe with you on this cold Monday!  I have served this at birthday parties before and it was a hit!

Macaroni and Cheese

1 8 oz. package elbow macaroni
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
12 oz. small curd cottage cheese
8 oz. sour cream
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
salt/pepper to taste

1 c. dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted

Cook pasta and drain.  Stir together noodles, cheese, cottage, cheese, sour cream, parmesan cheese, and salt/pepper.  Mix melted butter and breadcrumbs and place on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until bubbly.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Spaghetti Meatballs

It's Friday!  It's freezing!  Today my sweet little girl has her surgery and Daddy will be taking her in while I stay at home with my boys.  This is going to be a hard morning for this mama, but it's what has to be done.  I've packed a fun little bag for her of books, favorite little stuffed animals, and a new My Little Pony she's been begging for.  I hope all goes smoothly and she isn't too afraid!

One of our favorite meals is spaghetti.  We make it often and though we haven't done it in awhile, it is fun to switch it up at times by omitting the meat from the sauce and making meatballs instead!  I haven't made these in such a long time that I think it's time to add it to the menu next week.  While I have always made these with ground beef, I'm sure you could substitute ground turkey.


1 lb. ground beef
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c. Italian bread crumbs
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1 1/2 t. salt
1/8-1/4 t. pepper
1/3 c. water

Mix all ingredients together and form into balls.  Cook on stovetop in a pan with hot oil until brown and cooked through.  Serve over top of cooked noodles and top with spaghetti sauce.