Monday, November 15, 2010

Cheddar Bacon Penne

Cheddar Bacon Penne is one of our family's favorite meals. I passed the recipe along to my mother and it quickly became one of their favorites as well. The recipe below serves 2 but the recipe can easily be doubled. I occasionally double it when it's just us eating. If I'm good, I put half of the doubled recipe into a second container and into the freezer. If I'm not so good, we eat it all ourselves.... sometimes that night, sometimes as leftovers the next day. Yum!

Cheddar Bacon Penne
recipe modified from Taste of Home's Cooking for 2
Serves 2

1 cup uncooked whole wheat penne pasta
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp butter
4.5 tsp flour
1 cup skim milk
1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
Cooked and crumbled bacon strips, to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small nonstick skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, sauté onion and garlic until tender; set aside. (If I'm feeling lazy, I sometimes skip the onion and garlic.)

In a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in 1 cup cheese until melted.

Drain pasta. Add pasta, bacon and onion mixture to the sauce; stir to coat. Taste. :)

Transfer to a baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted. We like to put ours under the broiler for a few minutes so the cheese is nice and brown.

Feta Shrimp Skillet

I found this recipe in the October/November 2010 issue of Taste of Home's Healthy Cooking magazine and we are in love! (Unfortunately, I don't have a photo.) It's a quick, light (healthy) meal and yet it's so hearty and filling at the same time - it's best with some crusty bread to sop up the remaining sauce in your bowl. We're not really tomato fans (I decided to try the recipe because I had feta in the fridge to use up) and yet we love this recipe.

Another benefit is that it's a skillet meal so there's little to clean up and it's something I can put together with ingredients in my pantry - I almost always have cans of diced tomatoes in my cupboard and I buy large resealable bags of precooked frozen shrimp and thaw slightly by running under cold water before I'm ready to use them. I've also started buying frozen chopped onion - all too often I don't need an entire onion for a recipe and the leftovers sit and end up going bad. With the frozen onions, I can just sprinkle whatever I want right into my pan and throw the bag back into the freezer.

Feta Shrimp Skillet
modified from Taste of Home's Healthy Cooking
Serves 4 (halves easily)

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 lb medium shrimp
1 tsp parsley
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

In a large nonstick skillet, saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic, cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the tomatoes, wine (if desired), oregano, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Stir in shrimp and parsley. Cook and stir over medium heat until shrimp are heated through. Remove from the heat; sprinkle with cheese. Cover and let stand for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is softened.

Meal Plan 11/15-11/21

Meal planning for two weeks at a time has been working out pretty well for me. I do one big shopping trip and then the next week, I only have to pick up milk or any other necessities we may be out of and I save myself hours of planning on Sunday night.

Luckily, for some unknown reason, I quite enjoyed the four or so hours of meal planning and grocery list making I did last night. Why did it take me so long? I have no stinking clue. Thankfully, I was in a good mood, and hopefully, some good meals will come out of it.

And I can't believe Thanksgiving is next week already!!! Yikes!

L: Leftovers
D: Feta Shrimp Skillet (will post recipe this week), French Bread

L: Leftovers
D: Cheddar Bacon Penne (family favorite), Salad

L: Leftovers
D: Cornflake Chicken (family favorite), Curly Cheese Potatoes, Green Beans

L: Turkey Sandwiches
D: Corn Chowder (family favorite crockpot meal)

L: Leftovers
D: Homemade Pizza before heading out for Girls' Night!!! Woohoo!!!

L: Leftovers
D: Whatever we can scrounge up - I don't want to cook. :)

L: Soups
D: Homemade Pasta, Homemade Sauce, Salad, Cheesy Garlic Rolls

For more meal planning inspiration, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Meal Plan 11/8-11/14

I didn't post this meal plan last week, but we had some pretty good meals, so I wanted to get it up now. Better late than never!

From last week's menu, we finally made the Pork Dumplings and Broccoli & Cashew Stir-Fry served with basmati rice and it was absolutely AMAZING!

L: Leftovers
D: Feta Shrimp Skillet, Bread from Trader Joe's (took my first TJ trip that day - fun!)

L: Leftovers
D: Meatball Subs (homemade meatballs in homemade sauce)

L: Leftovers
D: Easy Italian Stew (family favorite)

L: Leftovers
D: Bacon, Cheese & Potato Chowder (yum!)

L: Leftovers
D: Cheddar Chicken & Rice Skillet (failure - I threw the recipe away; I'm not sure if it was really that bad or if it was partially because I wasn't in the mood for it, but it was a blah meal)

We spent the day in Boston - took the commuter rail in, went to Faneuil Hall for lunch, spent the afternoon at the Aquarium, had dinner at Cheers Restaurant and got dessert at Mike's Pastries. Wonderful, absolutely amazing day!

L: Leftovers were planned, but we didn't really eat lunch
D: Pot Roast with Fall Veggies

Some Days You Know I Wanna Just Give Up

I've been lax in my posting lately and I suppose I should be honest. I've said it out loud to a few family members and friends, but to put it in writing makes it a bit more real and I find that frightening. I have a hard time asking others for help and this is a pretty big shout out for me.

I've been having a hard time lately. I've had bouts of depression in the past and I'm dealing with it again. I have wonderful days and I have horrible days. I have days where I don't want to get out of bed, and if I didn't have two little ones to drag me out, I'd probably stay there all day. Some days, it's all I can do to get my day-to-day chores and activities done, and my blog falls by the wayside. Master Charles has been more than a handful lately, too, and I can't say that's been making life any easier. :)

I have starting doing things that have helped me battle my depression in the past, but I'm at a different stage in life right now, so it's not always easy to put myself at the top of my priorities list. I know that exercise is one of my major mood enhancers and I'm trying to make a daily workout part of my normal routine. I can't go to bed without tidying the kitchen or going through my getting-ready-for-bed routine and I want to get to the point where I feel like something is missing when I don't work out. The beginning of the week is great; I just need to keep it going past Wednesday night.

I have also starting meditating again. I starting meditating junior year of college; in my senior year, I was the leader of the Zen Meditation Club at my school. Back then, it was pretty easy to find time for myself; my life consisted of classes and homework. Now, I'm a wife and mother to two boys, so my free time is pretty limited, especially since the oldest rarely naps (today is one of those rare days - woohoo!). Once the boys are in bed, I have about three hours to squeeze in a workout, do some paying work, spend time with my hubby, maybe catch a tv show, prep for the next day, meditate, read, blog. I know that a 20-minute meditation session focuses me so that I am able to accomplish more, but there are times I feel so pressed for time, I just can't force myself to do sit; I know that these are the times I would benefit the most. I also have a 9-month-old with a knack for fussing when I'm 17 minutes into a 20-minute sit and dad's not home. *sigh*

Looking at all of the major events our family has gone through since last September (Charlie's broken leg, Isaac's birth, Isaac's 8-day stint at DHMC for RSV & pneumonia, my decision to be a stay-at-home mom instead of going back to work, our fridge dying shortly after this decision, discovering ants in the floor of our front steps, did I forget anything? *sigh* again), I'm surprised my depression didn't pop up sooner than it did.... unless it did and I just didn't realize it. I think part of what helped me was spending so much time with friends at playdates and such over the summer. I know that the more isolated I am here at home, the more down I feel. I have a few friends that are great at extending invitations for dates and playdates and that has been a major help. I don't want to stay at home all the time, but I don't want to push myself on my friends either.

The thing I'm most looking forward to in fighting my depression is starting a yoga class again. Before I was pregnant with Charlie and during the first few months of my pregnancy, I was doing three yoga classes a week! I loved it! I have plans to find a local class with a friend and I can't wait to start up again. I occasionally do some yoga at home, but the atmosphere of a class is something you can't recreate on your own. What a mood booster that is!

So, that explains where I've been when I disappear for days (weeks) at a time. I'm having a really awesome day (and week) this week so I'm going to write and post while I have it in me. :)

Family Photos

A good friend of ours, Molly Viglione, of Molly Viglione Photography, did our family photos yesterday. Check them out! They are beautiful and I can't wait to see the rest.

Thank you, Molly!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Meal Plan 11/1-11/7

We have a few meals from the past two weeks that we didn't make so they've been worked into this week's menu. We've got a few new meals as well as some family favorites. I'm still waiting to try Pork Dumplings - this meal just keeps getting pushed off! I've got my fingers crossed for this week! :)

L: English Muffin Pizzas, Red Pepper Strips
D: Grilled Cheese, Tomato Soup, Apple Slices

L: Turkey & Cheese Sandwiches, Grapes, Chips
D: Chicken Sauteed with Apples, Brown Rice, Honey-Glazed Carrots

L: Leftovers
D: Spinach & Cheese Quiche (new recipe)

L: Leftovers
D: Teriyaki Chicken Stew (new recipe - crock pot meal)

L: Leftovers
D: Homemade Pizza

L: Leftovers
D: Corn Chowder (family favorite)

L: Leftovers
D: Pork Dumplings, Broccoli & Cashew Stir-Fry

For more meal planning inspiration, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Potty-Training Update

Master Charles has been doing an AMAZING job with the potty-training and has not worn a diaper during the day for about three weeks now. He hasn't really had many pee accidents (He had one on the way to the camp, but it was really our fault not his - We forgot to have him go before we left and we drove up at bedtime. He fell asleep and peed (in Chris' truck - hahahaha). Ooops.) He's had one or two poo accidents but it was mostly because he was distracted (playing in the sandbox at camp).

My biggest worry had been leaving the house, but my girlfriend Jen gave me the wonderful idea of bringing the potty seat with us anytime we leave the house. (Thanks, Jen!) This had been a life-saver. Charlie goes potty before we leave, we pop the potty seat into a Market Basket bag and it goes right into my purse (luckily, I am currently using a large LL Bean bag as my "purse"). It's not the easiest thing to tote around and Chris was pretty embarrassed to carry it into Dunkin' Donuts the other day, but it's WORKING! Woohoo!

We brought the seat with us when we attended the Keene Pumpkin Festival this past weekend and used it in the porta-potties. We also used it (several times!) at Friendly's. Charlie kept telling us, "I have to poop. Really fast." So, we'd run to the bathroom only to have him pee. He did eventually go and announced to the restaurant when he and Chris returned to the table, "Mimi, I POOPED!" We got quite a few giggles and the woman sitting behind us gave Charlie a high-five. LOL

We learned this past Sunday while hiking Pack Monadnock that if Charlie is forced to pee outside, it's easiest if he kneels on the ground. This saves his pants from getting soaked and it saves us from having to make three to four trips to a tree for him to attempt to go. Stage fright? Cold?

I am also getting very familiar with bathrooms in all of our local stores. I've discovered that Charlie may not really have to pee when we get somewhere, but he likes to check out the bathrooms, so we often end up making a stop before we start shopping. I was happy to see that our local grocery store has redone their bathroom - I was dreading having to use it because it used to be DISGUSTING and I avoided it like the plague. Charlie also likes to tell me he has to go if we are anywhere near Grammy's house so that we have to stop and he is able to play. Clever boy!

We haven't started going diaper-less at night yet, but we have stopped allowing Charlie to bring water to bed with him. Baby steps! He's doing a great job!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cranberry-Bulgur Stuffed Peppers

I try to do at least one meatless meal per week. Not only does it save us money not having to buy meat, but it typically forces us to eat more veggies. One of our favorite meatless meals is Cranberry-Bulgur Stuffed Peppers.

Cranberry-Bulgur Stuffed Peppers
from Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book

14 oz vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup shredded carrot (1 medium)
1/4 cup chopped onion (1 small)
3/4 cup bulgur
1/3 cup dried cranberries, cherries or raisins
2 large or 4 small sweet peppers
3/4 cup shredded Muenster, brick or mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp sliced almonds or chopped pecans, toasted

In a large skillet, stir together the broth, carrot and onion. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in bulgur and cranberries. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain off excess liquid.

Meanwhile, remove the tops from the sweet peppers and remove the seeds and membranes. (I had some cutting issues last time I made these (see pictures below). The stems on two peppers ended up falling out, but it actually worked out pretty well because they were easier to eat!)

Stir shredded cheese into bulgur mixture; spoon into sweet pepper bottoms, dividing evenly. Place sweet peppers (and their tops) in skillet. Add the 1/3 cup water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes or until peppers are crisp-tender and bulgur mixture is heated through. Sprinkle with nuts.


Linked up at The King's Court IV: What's Cooking Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Peanut Butter Dip

I always tear out interesting-looking recipes from magazines (I have quite a magazine addiction and my recipe book is FULL of magazine pages) and this fall's back-to-school issues have been full of snack recipes. Charlie and I tried one out yesterday afternoon and I think we're both in love. We had Chris taste it when he got home from work and even my hubby who despises yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, you name it... liked it. And it has yogurt in it!!!

I was shocked that Charlie was so eager to try the recipe, but super-excited. Now I can't wait to try out a few more recipes from a little 50 After-School Snacks booklet from Food Network Magazine.

Peanut Butter Dip
from Family Circle Magazine September 2010

3/4 cup vanilla yogurt (1 6-oz container)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon

In a small serving bowl, stir together yogurt, peanut butter, raisins and cinnamon. Serve with apples, celery and pretzels.

We had apples and pretzels, but skipped the celery (I've never liked celery - I have a horrible memory that goes back to Kindergarten of someone (I still remember who!) bringing Ants on a Log in for a snack... I couldn't bring myself to eat the celery but just licked out the peanut butter and raisins). I actually had to cut up a second apple for Master Charles because he liked this dip so much. It's so quick and easy to make and so yummy! It may become my new go-to appetizer recipe!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Meal Plan 10/25-10/31

We've got a bunch of new meals planned again this week and a few that have been rescheduled from last week. Chris ended up going to the camp with my stepdad this past weekend to take the boat out of the water and there wasn't much sense in cooking what I had planned for just myself, so I rescheduled them for this week instead.

L: Leftover Stuffed Peppers
D: Pineapple Pork Tacos (new recipe)

L: Leftover Rice
D: Out for Anniversary

L: Leftover Tacos
D: Oriental-Glazed Chicken (new recipe)

Thursday - My Brother's 18th Birthday and Our 4th Anniversary
L: Leftover Oriental-Glazed Chicken
D: Teriyaki Chicken Stew (new recipe - crock pot meal)

L: Leftover Teriyaki Chicken Stew
D: Pork Dumplings, Broccoli & Cashew Stir-Fry (new recipes)

L: Triple Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup (new recipe)
D: Homemade Pizza

Sunday - Halloween!
L: Corn Chowder (family favorite crock pot meal)
D: Out at Halloween Party

For other meal planning ideas, hop on over and visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Meal Plan 10/18-10/24

So far (I don't want to jinx myself), this week seems to be back on track. I did my meal planning last night and planned for two weeks of meals rather than just the one. We'll see how this change works for us.

Last week, I didn't do a meal plan because the boys and I spent an extra day at the camp on Monday rather than returning on Sunday. I cooked meals I had in the freezer for the majority of the week.

For this week, we've got a lot of new meals!

L: Leftover Fettuccine Alfredo (from Sunday dinner with Grammy D & Grampy K - yum!)
D: Cheesy Ham & Pasta Bake, Broccoli

L: English Muffin Pizzas
D: Pot Roast with Fall Veggies (2nd time I've rescheduled this meal... I'm starting to wonder if it's just not meant to be!)

L: Leftover Cheesy Ham & Pasta Bake
D: Cranberry Bulgur Stuffed Peppers (family favorite)

L: Leftover Pot Roast
D: Chicken Sauteed with Apples (new recipe), Brown Rice, Honey-Glazed Carrots

L: Nachos
D: Thai Pineapple Shrimp Fried Rice (new recipe)

L: Leftovers
D: Pineapple Pork Tacos (new recipe)

L: Leftovers
D: Pork Dumplings, Broccoli & Cashew Stir-Fry (new recipes)

For other meal planning ideas, hop on over and visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Homemade Pizza

We love ourselves some pizza around here (it's one of the few (only?) meals we all enjoy) and we almost always have the ingredients on hand to be able to whip some up. Instead of purchasing pre-made crusts, we prefer to make own our crust in the bread machine. It tastes better and is cheaper. The dough also freezes well, so if I'm thinking ahead, I double the batch and freeze whatever dough we won't be using that night. When we want to use it, I transfer it from the freezer to fridge in the morning so the thawing process can begin; a few hours before we're ready to cook, we transfer it to pizza pans so it can warm up more and start to rise.

I use the pizza crust recipe from the recipe book that came with my first bread machine (which died on me this summer) and I recently discovered that the same book has a whole wheat pizza crust recipe! I was so excited to try it! I'm always looking for ways to "healthify" our diet and we prefer whole wheat, so I decided to give it a go. It got a seal of approval from the entire family - we loved it. It's got great flavor but it's not so overwhelming that those who don't enjoy whole wheat will be turned off by it.

I am normally the main cook in our house, but when it comes to grilling and pizza, Chris takes over the kitchen (and I'm happy to step back for a bit). I help with toppings, but he handles the baking (or grilling - grilled pizza is AMAZING and so easy if you haven't tried it). He loves to use the pizza stone and pizza paddle you see in the photos.

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust Dough (makes 2 thin crusts)
from Breadman The Corner Bakery Bread & Dessert Maker Cookbook

1 cup water
2 tbsp oil (we use olive oil)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 tsp yeast

Add ingredients to bread machine pan in the order listed. Run bread machine on dough cycle. When cycle is complete, remove the dough from the machine and place on a lightly floured surface. Divide in half and press dough into pizza pans. Top as desired (the picture at the top is topped with chicken nuggets, a Master Charles favorite; one of my favorites is spinach and ricotta) and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbly.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Asian Beef & Noodles

I love skillet meals and casseroles because they tend to be somewhat easy to make and the clean-up is pretty quick! Asian Beef & Noodles is a recipe I found in Family Circle magazine (December 2008) and it quickly became a family favorite. I tend to go light on the ginger, as Chris isn't a huge fan, but I would not leave it out. He made the meal without the ginger once when I was working late one night, and I kept telling him throughout dinner that it tasted great, but something was missing. He finally fessed up that he skipped out on the ginger!

Asian Beef & Noodles

1 pound ground beef
1 small pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp stir-fry sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
8 oz whole wheat thin spaghetti

Cook pasta following package directions.

In a large skillet, cook beef until no longer pink.

Add pepper, scallions, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes & sugar to skillet; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and stir in stir-fry sauce and lime juice.

Drain pasta and add to skillet with beef mixture. Toss to combine.


Meal Plan 10/4-10/8

Apart from skipping the pot roast I had planned for last week, the rest of the menu went as planned. Hopefully this week's will, too!

We have decided to make Sunday night dinners a "special" event from now on. The majority of the time, it will just be our family enjoying a more elaborate meal than normal. Occasionally, we would like to invite friends or family members to join us. This Sunday, we had an herb-roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, honey-glazed carrots, corn muffins and apple crisp. This was my first time roasting a chicken, and even though I didn't read the recipe's directions very carefully (ooops), it was AMAZING. There will be more roasted chickens in my future. :) And there are so many things I can do with the leftovers!

Now, for this week...

L: Leftovers
D: Chicken Pot Pie (made with leftovers from last night's Herb-Roasted Chicken) - recipe below

L: Leftover Penne (from last week)
D: Cheeseburger Zucchini Boats (still have zucchini to use up!!!)

L: Leftover Pot Pie
D: Feta Shrimp Skillet (new recipe from Healthy Cooking Magazine)

L: Leftovers (if we still have some) or PB&J, chips, grapes
D: ABC Beef & Veggie Soup (freezer meal)

Plans are up in the air - Chris will be going out for his best friend's birthday, but we're not sure what night yet. We will be heading up to the camp (and hopefully attending both an Apple Fest and a Garlic Fest on Saturday) for the weekend.

Wicked Easy Chicken Pot Pie

2 pie crusts (homemade or refrigerated)
Frozen/canned veggies (whatever kind you like)
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 can of cream of potato soup (if you can find it - I used 2 cream of chicken)
1/2 cup milk
Leftover chicken

Press 1 pie crust into an ungreased pie plate. Mix veggies, soups, milk and chicken in a medium bowl. Pour into pie crust. Top with 2nd pie crust, slicing holes for steam. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

For other meal planning ideas, hop on over and visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


We have been working on potty-training this week. I'll be honest. We first attempted potty-training with Charlie at the camp over Labor Day weekend. It did not go well. He didn't care when he wet his pants and in the matter of a very short period of time, we went through the few pairs of underwear he had very quickly. I was not ready for it and was not inclined to begin the process in full.

I don't know if it was having two in diapers or if it was just how often Charlie goes to the bathroom, but I am now ready to be done changing Charlie's diapers. We started potty-training in full mid-week last week and I am happily surprised with how well it's gone. Charlie's potty chart has gone from 3 stickers to almost full and we took him out to dinner tonight because he filled his bean jar (reward system) to the point required to get dinner and ice cream at "The Kimball's" (as Charlie likes to call it). He's done so well! He's been letting me know when he has to go, has had few accidents, and he gets so excited when he goes on the potty!

So far, he's been in undies whenever we're at home. We usually do errands/storytime/playdate in the mornings and we spend the afternoon at home, so it's a good chunk of time for him to be in undies. When we go out, I've been putting him in a diaper and when he has "quiet" time (my hope for a nap) in the afternoon, he's in a diaper. We're taking baby steps. I don't want to overwhelm either one of us.

Our trip to Kimball's tonight was Charlie's first time out of the house in undies. I felt like I was pestering him all night asking if he had to pee, but when it came time for ice cream, he told us he had to go and we went rushing into the bathroom. I think the different bathrooms and unfamiliar toilets frightened him because once we got in there and on the potty, he decided he didn't have to go. Pops took him once and I took him once (I also wonder if the different bathrooms, urinal versus toilet was an issue). Shortly after trying, while running around in the rocks, he had an accident. :( Only the first of many, I'm sure. I took him to the car, changed him into the spare undies and pants I brought and we went back to ice cream and he was fine until bedtime.

There are so many things I hadn't though of in terms of potty-training and I think this will definitely be a learning experience for all of us. We're going to work on getting comfortable going at home all day first. The next step will probably be working on going when we're out in public and I think the last step will be night-time. If anyone has any pointers or suggestions, I will gladly take them!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Meal Plan 9/27-10/1

This week's meal planning was pretty easy as we missed Friday and Saturday's meals from last week's menu. We ended up going to the Big E all day Friday with Nana and on Saturday, I HAD A LAST-MINUTE DATE WITH MY HUBBY thanks to my wonderful mom, step-dad and sister! It was wonderful and much-needed.... I think it was our second time out alone since February. haha

The lunch planning worked well last week, so I will continue to include lunches in my menus. Most of the time we eat leftovers, but it helps me to have it written down.

Last week's meals were great, except for my crock pot failure on Thursday night. We were supposed to have Lemony Garlic Chicken Breasts. The chicken was horribly dry (Chris tried to improve it with BBQ sauce and it didn't help) and the spinach sauce was brown and did not look appetizing. Chris ate some of the angel hair that was leftover with Charlie's chicken nuggets and I pigged out on junk (cheese, chips, 5 (yes 5!) packs of fruit snacks....). Gotta love Thursdays! *sigh*

For this week, I have planned the following:

L: Leftover Pulled Pork Sandwiches
D: Asian Beef & Noodles (quick & easy family favorite)

L: Leftover Asian Beef & Noodles
D: Pork Chops with Cider Sauce, Ginger-and-Orange Sweet Potato Mash, Broccoli

L: PB&J, Chips, Grapes
D: Penne with Vodka Sauce & Pancetta

L: Leftover Penne
D: Pot Roast with Fall Veggies

L: Leftover Pot Roast
D: Lia Sophia party at my aunt's house; we are supposed to bring a pumpkin treat, so I am making Pumpkin-Maple Mousse Parfaits

For other meal planning ideas, hop on over and visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Muffin Tin Meals

I think I'm becoming a muffin tin meal convert.

I started following Muffin Tin Mom a few weeks ago, thinking that the meals were very cute, but nothing I would ever have time (or be creative enough!) to do.


As I mentioned the other night, Charlie is a very picky eater. He might be happy eating chicken nuggets, PB&J or mac & cheese all the time, but I get bored feeding it to him! I've been trying to come up with other creative lunches (any suggestions are welcome!) and I was also looking for something that might entice him to take a nap (an ongoing battle for about 2 months now). One afternoon, in hopes of getting him to stay in bed, I promised that I would have a special lunch ready for him when he woke up. When he did wake up that afternoon (woohoo!), I had a muffin tin meal ready to go and he was so excited!

I've been making Charlie a muffin tin meal once a week or so now. (It does take some time and creativity to put together and those are two things that I don't often have.) I've put together a few breakfasts and a few lunches and if Charlie has any leftovers, they end up as snacks later that day. I don't have any special tins, nor do I use special liners or toothpicks. I've been using a regular 6-muffin tin and Charlie loves it. He lights up when he sees his meal and he requests them often. He's even dug in my cupboard for the tin while I was still in bed and carried it into me with his breakfast request. My first tin was nothing special - just different items in the different holes. In putting together my past few tins, I've forced myself to get creative and it's been fun.

Last week, our theme of the week for school was stars so Charlie had a MTM with a large star PB&J, several small PB&J stars, cheese stars, apple stars, some yogurt with sprinkles and some of Isaac's puffs that were shaped liked stars.

This week, our shape of the week is stars (our theme is the sun), so I dug out my large star cookie cutter, my mini star cutter and a mini crescent moon cutter (to spice things up a bit). Today's MTM consisted of a large star turkey, cheese and hummus sandwich (he ate the WHOLE THING!), star and moon cucumbers (he tried them), star and moon cantaloupe pieces (ate almost all of them), blueberry yogurt (too full at lunch, so it became this afternoon's snack), one moon and one star brownie, and some goldfish (didn't want to give up any more of Isaac's puffs - they're expensive!).

It's been fun to come up with different foods to cut up and it's been nice using my cookie cutters for something other than sugar cookies! I can't wait to do a Halloween tin! I've been forcing myself to get creative and I'm enjoying it. Unfortunately, I was in a such a hurry to get lunch on the table for Chris and myself that I didn't get a chance to take any pictures today before Charlie started digging in (and it's too bad 'cause it was pretty cute!). I plan to with the next meal. :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

We all have our guilty pleasures. For some, it's chocolate or a trashy romance novel; for others, it's a hidden love of Britney Spears.

At the moment, my guilty pleasure is the FOX TV show Glee and I am so excited about the new season. It NEVER fails to make me laugh out loud and this is not an easy feat (I have a very odd sense of humor). The stereotypes are a riot, the songs are amazing, and Sue Sylvester kills me! The show also touches upon some pretty serious issues, and in my opinion, does it well. The writers are great. I also like that although Chris won't admit to enjoying the show, he will sit and watch it with me. (I think he harbors a secret liking for it. :)) If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend you watch it.

To make it even better, Britney Spears is guest-starring next week. You know where I'll be at 8pm. Woohoo!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Second Time Around

Honestly, I blame Charlie's pickiness when it comes to food on myself. He is giving me what I gave my parents. I was a horribly picky eater growing up. I lived off Spaghetti O's for years and didn't touch a salad until I went off to college. In a similar fashion, Master Charles' diet consists of chicken nuggets, PB&J and macaroni and cheese with an occasional grilled cheese thrown in for variety. I've attempted to introduce new foods, but he will Not Even Try Them. I can't even get him to keep the new foods on his plate, let alone into his mouth!

I'm learning to pick my battles with Charlie. I want meal-time to be an enjoyable time, not a fight to get food into his mouth. Charlie is small, but healthy. He eats fruit, an occasional slice of bell pepper and he gets his protein in the form of cheese, peanut butter and those damn chicken nuggets. He gets a daily multivitamin, as well, in an attempt to cover all of the bases. I occasionally try to trick him into trying a new food and was able to do so successfully today. Chris and I had turkey and cheese sandwiches for lunch; Charlie asked for a cheese sandwich with hummus (an odd food for such a picky eater to like, but hey, it's protein). While making Charlie's sandwich, I ripped up some turkey, hid it among the cheese slices and gave him his lunch. He devoured it and was shocked when I told him! Woohoo! I tried to pass some fish off as chicken nuggets at dinner tonight, but he didn't fall for that one.

When Charlie was a baby, he ate everything we fed him. But, we only fed him baby food. And, because he didn't have teeth until he was around 8 months old, I didn't start him on the chunkier baby foods, thinking that he couldn't eat it without teeth. I think the lack of chunky foods (and a HORRID gag reflex) factors in to his pickiness as well. He tends to not like different textures.

This time around, as with Charlie, I had planned to breastfeed. Because of Isaac's battle with RSV and pneumonia at 12 days old, I decided to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months to give him the full benefits of my milk and to hopefully give him a bit more of my immunity. I am so excited that I was (and still am) able to do so because I was devastated when my milk started to dry up when Charlie was around 4 months old. I cried when I had to give Charlie formula!**

I was nervous that delaying the introduction of solids would lead us down the same road as Charlie, but our doctor agreed with me and so far, so good. When I took Isaac in for his 6-month check-up, I was given the go-ahead to start solids. Our doctor told us only honey was off-limits and we could/should give him table food instead of baby food. She literally said to me, "Things are different the second time around."

And they have been different! Isaac is like a vulture every time we put food on his tray. It doesn't matter what the food is as long as he can get it into his hands and mouth as fast as he can. He's had peanut butter and jelly, toast, bagels, English muffins, eggs, fish, hamburger, buffalo!, chicken, turkey and cheese, frozen peas, bananas, melons.... anything we're eating, I give to him. And it's so much fun! It's amazing to watch how quickly his hand-to-mouth coordination is improving and to watch him learn to deal with the different textures of foods. That boy loves his food and is eating more than Charlie! Pretty soon, Isaac's going to be Charlie's "younger" brother, not his "little" brother!

**On a side note, I have nothing wrong with formula; it's just not what I wanted to do for my babies. When my milk dried up, I felt like I had failed my child. I wanted to breastfeed exclusively. Growing up, I watched my mother breastfeed my younger siblings and my best friend's mom was a lactation consultant, so I had breastfeeding pounded into my brain. I think breastfeeding is a wonderful and beautiful thing! Formula is expensive and what else can I use these things for?! :) Breastfeeding versus formula-feeding is a very hot topic. Everyone tends to think their own way is the only way, but really, whatever works for you and your family is the best way. I do feel that everyone should give breastfeeding a chance, but if it doesn't work for you, then find something else that does. What's important is that you find what makes you and your baby healthy and happy!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Meal Plan 9/20-9/26

Last week's meal plan went pretty much as planned, apart from Chris picking up a pizza on Thursday night after working late. We also didn't get around to the Linguine with Butternut, Spinach & Pancetta so that has been scheduled into this week's plan.

This week, I'm trying something new in my planning - planning lunches. We usually eat leftovers, but there's often a day or two when we don't have leftovers and it can be hard to find something creative and tasty to eat.

I also have two special meals to make for friends with life-changing events in the past week. One is to welcome a new arrival to the family. The other is to help a friend and her four kids who are saying good-bye to their husband/father who is being deployed for the next year.

Lunch: Turkey Sandwiches, Sliced Bell Peppers, Chips
Dinner: Lemon-Pepper Haddock, Smashed Red Potatoes, Honey-Glazed Carrots

Lunch: English Muffin Pizzas
Dinner: Linguine with Butternut, Spinach & Pancetta, Wheat Dinner Rolls

Lunch: Leftover Linguine
Dinner: Baked Ravioli with Homemade Meat Sauce, Cucumber Ribbon Salad, Wheat Dinner Rolls

Lunch: Leftover Ravioli
Dinner: Lemony Garlic Chicken Breasts (crock pot meal), Wheat Dinner Rolls

Lunch: TBD depending on Chris' work schedule
Dinner: Pork Chops with Cider Sauce, Ginger-and-Orange Sweet Potato Mash, Broccoli

Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Penne with Vodka Sauce & Pancetta

Lunch: Leftover Penne
Dinner: Pulled Pork with Root Beer Sauce

Meal to Welcome Baby
Zucchini Pizza
Andies Candies Brownies

Meal to Help a Friend
Chicken & Cheese Rice Bake

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday Bloody Thursday

I've mentioned before my dislike of Thursdays.

Today, however, was different from the norm. Maybe it was only having to get up with Isaac once last night. Maybe it was looking forward to the playdate we had tentatively scheduled for this morning.

Whatever it was, I'm happy for it.

Although I did enjoy my day, nothing went as I had planned it. As I normally do before going to bed, I wrote out my to-do list for today. I also prepared the diaper bag, my purse and Isaac's carseat in hopes of being on time for our tentative (we weren't sure where we were going to go or if we would go anywhere depending on the weather) early morning playdate.

We were able to get ourselves ready for that playdate, but because it was a bit chilly this morning, we did not have it. (On a side note, I really need to learn to not say anything to Charlie until I am absolutely, positively sure things will go as planned. He doesn't throw a tantrum or anything, but his nonstop questions about what we supposed to be doing tend to be a bit much.)

Not having our playdate threw a little wrench into my plans as I had marked off the whole morning for that event. Instead of falling to pieces, as can be my typical reaction when things don't go as planned, especially on a Thursday, I decided to take care of my afternoon to-do's early as we had the possibility of rescheduling our playdate for the afternoon. So, I paid the bills while Isaac napped and Charlie played, I dusted the bedrooms while Charlie built towers nearby, and we did some schoolwork. We had a nice lunch of leftovers with Chris, Isaac went down for a nap and Charlie went into his room for quiet time.

Our playdate did not happen this afternoon, either, but has been rescheduled for next week when we'll have more time, and hopefully, better weather. And, because the majority of my to-do's were completed in the morning, I was left with some FREE TIME this afternoon. I promptly made myself a cup of tea, grabbed Jamie and Claire and plopped myself on the couch. Contentment!

Charlie didn't nap as I hoped he would, but he read books in his room for a bit and then sat and watched a movie. I lucked out and was able to sit with my book for a good 90 minutes! Isaac, thankfully, took a good, long nap, something that hasn't happened in the past week because of the cold we've both been suffering from. Peace!

After our relaxing time this afternoon, we all headed outside for a bit to enjoy the sunshine before the rain came. Isaac and I sat on a blanket while Charlie and Peanut played in the sandbox.

Chris called just as I was about to start dinner to say he was going to work late and that he would bring a pizza home. Once he arrived home, the four of us, with Peanut hovering nearby, sat on the living room floor and enjoyed pizza with Oreos and milk for dessert. It was a very informal, enjoyable family dinner. No cooking for me and I love it when everyone eats the same thing!

Not all of my afternoon to-do's were completed, the most important being working out. Chris didn't get home with dinner until 7 and the boys weren't in bed until 8; I won't work out after 8 or I won't fall asleep at night. But, I did post a few real estate listings on craigslist and here I am blogging! Tomorrow is a new day and I'll be sure to fit in my workout.

I'm learning to go with the flow and to be able to improvise. Today's good experience will make me more likely to do so again, and will hopefully reduce my distaste for Thursdays.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Baby Steps

I have a tendency to want life to be perfect.

In my perfect world, I would be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5am. I would be able to hop right out of bed, do some yoga, meditate and enjoy a cup of tea and the news all before the kids are awake! I would keep our lunches healthy and varied and be able to cook an entirely healthy dinner for my family every night. I would have a spotless, well-decorated house, clean clothes and beautiful gardens while still being able to spend a huge portion of my day playing with my kids. I would go on regular playdates, arriving on time!, and be home in time to ensure that my kids get restful naps every afternoon. I would workout for a good chunk of time every night and be at a perfect weight so I could wear clothes that look pulled together. I would do a little side work every day to make some extra spending money, read a book a week, enjoy time with my girlfriends every week and enjoy quality time with my husband every night.

In reality, there are only so many hours in a day and some things are more important than others. I know that life is not perfect, but I still do what I can to get as close to my vision as possible. However, I tend to get in the mode of trying too many new things at once to make improvements. I am slowly learning that it's best - and easiest - to add one new thing to my plate at a time. Once that new thing has become routine, I can add another.

I am a perfectionist at heart. I know this and I'm okay with this. I've always been this way. I have a report card from second grade on which my teacher noted that I often erased holes in my papers trying to ensure perfection.

In addition to being a perfectionist, I am also a very routine-oriented person. I do things the same way every time I do them. It's routine for me to make the bed as soon as I get out of it and to get a load of laundry started first thing in the morning. In the shower, I wash up in the same order every day and before bed, I have an order in which I need to get ready. These are things I no longer have to think about. It's also routine for me to read before I go to bed at night... no matter how tired I am, I can't fall asleep without reading something!

Since I began staying home, I've added quite a few new routines to my life. The biggest was school for Charlie. We've become quite comfortable with this addition to our day, although we have a few off weeks, and it's amazing to see what Charlie's learned in a few short months. I think homeschooling him is also good for me because it's forcing me to be a bit more creative and spontaneous than I naturally am.

My most recent addition was my house-cleaning schedule and although it still needs some work, I am LOVING it, and I was happy to find out that Chris has actually noticed. It's preventing me from having to spend hours at a time cleaning the house and it's making me happy to have an organized space at the end of the day. However, the beginning of my week goes well, but by Thursday, I tend to be too tired to do that day's chore (luckily, I've scheduled cleaning the bedrooms for Thursday - they aren't a high traffic area, so it's not a big deal if they're skipped for a week). I'm working on this. :)

Another new addition was scheduling "work" into my day. Last night, I was actually able to get caught up, so from here on out, it should be much easier to maintain. I'll schedule a small task per night and and it will soon become a routine for me.

My next addition will be making working out part of my regular routine. I was an athlete throughout high school (not so much college), and I enjoy exercise. More often than not, I feel on top of the world once I've completed a workout; however, I fall in and out of working out too easily. I think part of the issue, again, is trying to do too much at once. I need to implement taking small steps with working out, just as I have done elsewhere.

It's hard to fit in a workout with two little ones running around, and it can be hard to find the energy at the end of a long day. I've scheduled my workouts for the end of my day as soon as the kids are in bed. My goal is to reacquaint myself with a cardio workout and stretching. Once that's become a routine, I'll begin strength training again. Eventually, I'd like to squeeze some yoga into my day. But, maybe when the boys are a little older and I'm actually able to sleep through the night again..... I need something to look forward to.

The title of my blog, Tryin' to Be Everything, comes from a lyric in the song "American Honey" by Lady Antebellum: "Get caught in the race of this crazy life, tryin' to be everything can make you lose your mind." I often sing this song and try to keep in mind that I can't be and do everything.... But it doesn't stop me from trying. :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Apple-Glazed Pork Chops

I love fall.


I love the crisp air, the brilliant colors, the smell of the air. I love the warm colors and being able to wear jeans and a comfy sweater all day. I love apples freshly picked from the tree and Halloween candy. Almost everything about fall makes me happy. Especially the food!

We had one of our family's favorite recipes tonight - Apple-Glazed Pork Chops. When I was in Edinburgh for my junior year of college, my friend Emily and I shared a flat. We planned and ate meals together (sometimes with Veronika, our Austrian flatmate) and had a wonderful arrangement: one of us would cook, the other would clean. Some of my favorite memories from my time in Scotland include meals with Emily. Apple-Glazed Pork Chops is a recipe from Emily's mother and it is one of my favorite fall meals.

Apple-Glazed Pork Chops
serves 4


1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
4 tbsp butter, divided
2 lbs pork chops
2 tbsp brown sugar
1.5 cups apple juice
2 apples, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup raisins

Combine the flour, salt and dry mustard in a plastic bag. Add chops and toss to coat. Melt 2 tbsp butter in large pan. Brown chops.

Once browned, remove chops from pan. Melt remaining 2 tbsp butter and stir in 2 tbsp flour mixture and brown sugar.

Gradually stir in apple juice. Cook until thickened.

Place chops in foil-lined baking pan. Arrange apples (You might notice that I did not peel my apples... I recommend peeling them. I didn't mind the peel, but caught Chris pulling it out of his mouth on a few bites.) and raisins over chops. Cover with apple juice mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Meal Plan 9/13-9/18

Life doesn't always go as planned, but it is nice to plan, right?

Chris did indeed head up to the camp with Brucey this weekend and he came back home to Maple Leaf Cookies (kind of a pain to make between freezing the rolled dough, cutting the cookies and then freezing the cookies again before they cook, but SO WORTH IT) fresh out of the oven and a homemade apple pie about to go in.

Making that apple pie and having fun are the only things I was able to cross off my list of ideas for this weekend. In reality, I suppose those were the most important things. :)

We had quite a busy weekend. On Friday, we went shopping with Nana and attended Auntie's soccer game; on Saturday, we ran errands, went apple picking and enjoyed Chinese food; today, we hit up the fair. This afternoon, while Charlie relaxed with a movie, I baked the aforementioned cookies and pie before Daddy returned from his boys' weekend away. I also spent a few too many hours with Jamie and Claire when I should have been sleeping. I highly recommend Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series if you haven't already read it. (I won't tell you how many times I've read them now - it's embarrassing.) Love it!

I did not do any of the so-called "important" ideas on my list. No work, no cleaning my desk, no meal planning (saved that for the last minute tonight. Ooops.). But, we had a great weekend and everything will get done eventually.

On to the meal plan for this week....

Monday - Chris' first night back at volleyball, so quick and easy supper
Grilled Cheese & Apple Sandwiches
Leftover Tomato Soup (for me)

Apple-Glazed Pork Chops
Brown Rice

Cheeseburger Zucchini Boats

Honey-Garlic Chicken
Rice Pilaf
Green Beans

Linguine with Butternut Squash, Spinach & Pancetta

Mimi's Night Away!!!!!!!! Woohoo!!!! Men in kilts, here I come? *wink*

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Single Parent Weekend

This weekend, it's just me and these two:

I will be a single mom this weekend and I'm both dreading and anticipating this at the same time. I have total respect for those moms I know who do this on an everyday basis; I could NOT do it on my own.

Now that I am a stay-at-home mom, I REALLY look forward to the time that my hubby is home with us. I love my boys, but it's very nice to have a second set of hands to help out. Chris usually works a half-day on Fridays and I anticipate having him home in the afternoons so that we can do something fun as a family or just hang out around the house and get stuff done. When I find out at the last minute that Chris has to work later than expected, sometimes, no make that most of the time, I get very angry. I don't mean to get angry.... For me, it's like working a full-time job and expecting to have a day off only to find out at the last minute that you have to work overtime and won't be getting compensated for it. It's not a fun equation. Also, I'm a planner and I don't like it when things don't go as planned. Sometimes I'm short with Chris on the phone, which makes him angry (it's a vicious circle!), but by the time he returns home at the end of the day, I apologize and we're both happy again.

As much as I look forward to the time that Chris is home with me and the boys, I also love the time we spend away from each other. It allows us to be individuals as well as a couple and in my opinion, it strengthens our relationship.

In the fall, Chris plays volleyball in a league in a nearby town. This means that for one night a week, I have the house (and the TV remote) to myself. I know some women who HATE to be alone. I am NOT one of them. When Chris is away, Mimi gets to play.

Well, most people wouldn't consider what I do play. However, I enjoy myself and I get stuff done around the house. It can't really be true, but on those nights that I have the house to myself, I feel more productive. Dinner tends to get cleaned up faster, the boys are in bed a bit earlier (sometimes with two books read before bed instead of one!), and I'm ready for bed earlier than normal. Usually, I fit in an elliptical workout once the boys are in bed (sometimes going longer than normal since I don't feel guilty about not spending time with my hubby since he's not home). Sometimes, I do a little pampering - I give myself facial and sit with a cup of tea and a book. More often than not, by the time Chris arrives back home, (if I'm awake!) I'm in bed with my book or magazine, feeling very relaxed.

This weekend, I'm planning on using my free nights to do some organizing and some work. I know, you're probably thinking, with a heavy dose of sarcasm, "Oh, what FUN!" But I am looking forward to a blissful Sunday night once I see what I was able to accomplish in a few short days.

Here are a few of my ideas:

Meal Planning - The idea of planning my meals for a month at a time instead of a week popped into my head this afternoon when I was trying to decide what to make for dinner. I love having my meals planned out, but I'm not such a fan of taking the time to do that plan, especially on a Sunday night when I just want to relax before the upcoming week. My thinking is, if I planned my meals out once a month, all I would have to do is create my grocery list once a week. That makes me happy.

Organizing and Cleaning My Desk - For about two months now, I've been dreaming about cleaning out my desk downstairs in the basement. I haven't used the desk since we moved into our house three years ago. First, it's in the basement. Second, it's a huge mess! Organizing and de-cluttering are a great relaxer for me and it might be nice to have a workspace apart from the kitchen counter.

Work - Last week, my plan for work actually did work. This week, after a weekend away at the camp, I haven't had a plan at all and let me tell you, this week has not been a pleasant one. I've totally abandoned my list notebook, didn't do a meal plan and school has gone by the wayside. I have been a tired wreck and I believe it's because of my lack of organization (well, that and staying up a bit later than I planned because I've totally gotten absorbed in Jamie and Claire again - love them!). It hasn't been a total wash of a week - the house has been tidy, we've eaten some great meals, had some play dates and read some books for school. However, when I'm organized, the weeks are so much more accomplished. I like accomplishment.

Fun - In addition to my organization, I'm planning on squeezing some fun in, too. Hopefully, we'll be attending the Fair with Grammy and Auntie, and I bet I can convince someone to go apple picking with us one day. How happy would Daddy and Grampy Bruce be to come home to homemade apple pies? ;) And maybe we'll squeeze in a walk on the bike path, too?

I'm sure that once Chris returns home on Sunday night, not only will he be refreshed from his Boys' Weekend Away, but I will be a much more organized, happy wifey.

So, this weekend, after I tire them out with some fun daytime activities, I plan to use the boys' sleeping hours to catch up on work and create a "schedule" for the coming week to ensure that I don't fall behind again.

And, I might just enjoy one or two of these while I'm at it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Little Things

It's so easy to forget the little things. Those little moments throughout your day that never fail to make you smile, no matter how many things have gone wrong in your day. I thought I'd share some of my favorites so I have something to reference when I need a pick-me-up. :)

The smell and feel of opening a new book
The smooth, creamy, minty bite of a Peppermint Patty
A warm cup of Sleepytime tea with the perfect amount of milk and honey
An ice cold glass of lemonade
My herb garden in the spring

Playing a game of Scrabble with my hubby
Crossing items off my to-do list
Cleaning my house from top to bottom (it rarely happens, but oh, it feels so good!)
Rolling out bread dough

Reading a book to the boys at bedtime
Rubbing Peanut's belly
Mixing up dough for chocolate chip cookies

A warm cup of milk and honey in my favorite sunflower mug at bedtime
Gerbera daisies
Hanging clothes to dry on the clothesline
Spending a morning or afternoon hiking with my family

The spicy smell of my baking cabinet when I open its doors
Beef & Barley Soup in the crock pot on a fall day
Watching Charlie tell a story

Warm Chai tea with milk
The smells of Christmas
Apple picking!
Eating a freshly picked apple

Going for a walk on a crisp autumn day
French Toast with Orange Syrup
Isaac's smile

Getting a hug from Charlie
Days that Charlie actually takes a nap (so rare!)

Mystery rides with the family
Skinny dipping in the pool! (sorry, no pictures :))
Isaac and his binky

Spending time laughing and talking with old friends
Hearing Charlie say, "I love you, Mi"

What makes you happy?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Something More

Lately, I've been wrestling with a feeling of wanting more in my life. I want to be something more than a mother and a wife. I want to be something. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't see anything wrong with my current role. It's working very well for me and my family right now. However, I've always envisioned more for myself. Even when I was working, I wanted more. I'm a smart woman and I don't think I'm living up to my full capabilities. Growing up and playing with friends, I pretended I was a lawyer or doctor. I went through phases of wanting to be an archaeologist, a vulcanologist, a heart surgeon, a lawyer, a teacher, and so many more things. I love to learn and there is so much in life that I want to do.

Now, it's not really possible for me to continue my schooling at this point in time, but I can always dream, right? We don't have the money for more school, nor do I have the time for classes or homework. I do dream about it often (especially in September when school is starting up again), although I can't decide what exactly I'd like to do next. I'm toying with a few ideas but I don't know if anything will materialize from it.

My newest dream is getting a Master's in library science. I giggle at the vision of myself as a librarian (I picture glasses and a bun in my hair), but I also think it'd be perfect for me. Organization is one of my strong points and I don't leave the house without some sort of reading material - libraries are a mecca of organization and books. It'd be a perfect combination for me.

For me, the sensation of opening a brand-new book - the smell, the feel of the crisp pages turning in my hands, the anticipation of making a new friend with the characters within - brings an immediate sense of happiness. I'm learning to enjoy the sensations of used books, too. They have their own antique-y smells and a history outside of their pages. Imagine all of the people who enjoyed (or despised) the story you're holding in your hands!

I've come to realize that reading is the perfect escape. For just a little while, I can have that something more that I'm wanting in life. I can experience a life that I wouldn't normally be able to experience. I always return to reality, sometimes reluctantly, but I was able to experience something outside of my world for the time the pages were open before me.

Sharing the new worlds within books with someone else is a wonderful feeling, and I'm enjoying making little readers out of my boys. For school, Charlie and I read at least two books together every day. He enjoys listening to the stories and it makes me so proud to find him sitting with a book and working his way through the story - either remembering what I've previously read or creating his own story from the pictures. Isaac is also quite interested in reading material. He enjoys listening to me read, but at the moment, I think his tastes lean more towards eating. Every time he's near me when I have a magazine, I end up tearing out a page for him to munch on!

When I'm relaxing, it's hard to find me without some sort of reading material in my hands or at least nearby. I love language and seeing the different ways that letters and words can combine to create a great story. I enjoy sharing my literary finds with other people, especially those who aren't normally readers, and I'm always on the lookout for new material. Who knows? Maybe in time, I'll make this my dream my reality.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September 3, 2009

One year ago today, September 3, 2009, was a day our family (and a really good friend) will always remember.

I had dropped Charlie off at Crystal's house and then headed into work to get ready for that month's business meeting, scheduled to start at 9am. I got to the office shortly before 8:30 and started my normal routine. I was able to begin checking my email, say hello to a few agents who arrived early for the meeting and answer a few phone calls before my cell phone rang. I saw it was Crystal calling, answered to have her say, "Can you call me back from your office?" as she knew I wasn't supposed to use my cell phone during office hours.

I hung up and called her back right away to hear her very calmly say, "Charlie fell, something's wrong with his leg, you need to come right away." We hung up, I quickly called a co-worker to cover the phones, and I then interrupted my boss in a meeting to tell him that we thought Charlie broke his leg (thinking I was exaggerating as I had absolutely no idea at this point what was really wrong) and I had to go. I could hear in my voice just how jittery and nervous I was about what I was going to find when I arrived at Crystal's.

As I got to my car, I attempted to call my husband at work to let him know what was going on. I called and got a busy signal. I called again. Same thing. I'm starting to panic now. I call my mother. Answering machine. Call my husband again. Busy signal. Panic.

I called Crystal back to see how Charlie was doing and to see what she thought we should do: call the doctor, call an ambulance (not the best idea out where we live), who knows? Luckily, I was able to reach her. She said she tried to have Charlie stand, he won't put any pressure on the leg and is crying uncontrollably. We were expecting to discover that he had dislocated his knee because his lower leg was very wobbly and almost seemed like it was disconnected at the knee.

We decided I should try the doctor's office to see what their suggestion was. I did, and as I hadn't seen Charlie yet, they wanted me to call back once I arrived at Crystal's house so I could more accurately describe what his leg looked like and go from there. I proceeded to call Crystal back to let her know and he was still crying.

By now, my mother noticed that I called and called me back. She knew I was supposed to be at work and thought it was odd for me to be calling at that time of day. I told her what was going on and told her I would keep her updated. I hung up and tried Chris again. This time I got through and filled him in as I reached Crystal's house.

When I arrived, Charlie was cuddling with Papa, Crystal's grandfather, who often visited during the day. He wasn't full-out crying, but was pretty teary. Once he saw me, tears began again and Crystal attempted to fill me in a bit more over the noise. Charlie was wearing socks and they had a hardwood floor. He was playing peek-a-boo in a doorway and slipped, landing on his knees. I called the doctor's office back, explained that he was in a lot of pain and they told me to bring him to the ER at the hospital and they would inform the ER that we were coming in.

Crystal drove to the hospital with us (Papa stayed with her kids who she had been able to put down for naps while I was driving from work), sitting in the backseat with Charlie in order to (attempt to) stabilize his leg. She was holding his knee and could feel it grind with every bump. We carefully rushed him into the ER and they saw us right away.

Once there, we had to fill them in on what happened while getting Charlie checked out. Now, because we were in the ER with an injured child, we weren't really treated very nicely, I guess you could say. Instead, we were treated as the cause of that injury... child abusers. I was holding Charlie on the exam table and he was starting to calm down a bit. Because he wasn't crying and the leg looked normal, the nurse wasn't taking us too seriously. As horrible as it is, I actually had to jiggle him when she wasn't looking to make him cry so she would understand the seriousness of the situation. When we got his shorts off, we realized that his knee wasn't the problem. His thigh was swollen to 2 or 3 times its normal size.

Charlie was taken in for an x-ray and we followed. Thankfully, Crystal was there to remind me and the x-ray tech that I was 5-months pregnant! I had to stand behind the door while poor Crystal had to help the tech position Charlie for his scans, including straightening out that injured leg.

After x-rays, we were taken to a bed in the ER. I think Charlie was given pain medication, but the doctors and nurses actually didn't fill us in on much, no, make that ANYTHING, of what was going on with my child, so I honestly don't know. When the doctor finally came to talk to us, he was addressing Crystal rather than me and we had to inform him that I was the mother! The doctor informed us that we would be transferred up to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center because Monadnock wasn't equipped to handle pediatrics. At this point, Crystal and I had no idea what was wrong with Charlie's leg! I had to ask! When I did, they informed me that he had a spiral fracture in his left femur - a broken leg.

Next, we had to wait for the ambulance to arrive to transfer us to Dartmouth. I called Chris, informed him of the situation and he left work to come with us. I called my mother to let her know what was going on and she came over to the hospital to be with us while we waited.

Once my mom arrived and was able to stay with Charlie, Crystal was able to return to her kids. As she didn't have a vehicle, she took mine home. On our way to the car, we stopped at the pediatrician's office to see Charlie's doctor and let her know what was going on. The receptionist wasn't going to let us in, but the doctor's assistant (thank you, Tiana!) saw us and waved us in. This was where I lost it. Charlie's doctor was my doctor so I've know her for years. Charlie was (is) a small child and I was peppering her with questions. Did this happen because he's so small? Will it cause any problems for him later? Will he be able to walk normally once he's healed? He'd only been walking for 5 months at this point! Was this somehow MY fault?! She calmed me down, told me what would probably happen and informed me that she knew the Pediatric Orthopedic doctor we would most likely see and that she was wonderful.

After I settled down, Crystal and I walked to my car so I could get a few things and she could head home. I returned to the ER to discover we still had a bit of a wait for the ambulance. While waiting, a volunteer brought in a blanket for Charlie - a wonderful Cheerios blanket that was the only good thing that came out of that ER visit. This volunteer also had paperwork for me to fill out before the ambulance ride. While filling out the paperwork, I wanted to ensure that I would be able to ride in the ambulance with my son. She wasn't sure and asked one of the nurses. The nurse informed me that she wasn't sure, but was guessing no. I promptly informed her that my 22-month-old son who was in a lot of pain from his broken leg would NOT be riding in an ambulance with people he did not know without his mother. She said she would talk to the EMTs when they arrived.

Luckily, we had 2 wonderful female EMTs who told the nurses I could ride with them, up in the front. Once we walked outside, they told me I could ride in the back with Charlie. Big sigh of relief!

My mom and Chris followed the Ambulance up to Dartmouth. To get a sense of our day, Crystal's call came to me shortly before 9am. I had at least a 20 minute ride to her house, time to call the doctor once there, another 20 minute ride to Monadnock, time waiting before x-rays, time for x-rays, time waiting for ambulance. By the time we headed up to Dartmouth, it was around 1pm and it was about a 90-minute ride. Once at Dartmouth, we had to go through the whole ER thing again. At least Dartmouth had a special pediatric ER and each room had its own bathroom (with 2 toilets, too - an adult-sized one and a child-sized one - the coolest thing!) - a wonderful blessing with me being pregnant!

The nurses and doctors at Dartmouth were friendlier than those at Monadnock, but because we were suspects in our child's injury, they weren't that friendly. We were questioned about what happened, informed that because of the injury, Charlie would have to go through a whole body scan to check for other possible abuse, etc. We were fine with this. Eventually, because of our story, the nurses/doctors decided that the full body scan wasn't necessary and the tone of things got a bit nicer. Charlie had to go for another x-ray of the injury and we had to wait.

The staff at Dartmouth was also wonderful enough to inform us of everything they were doing to our son. After x-rays, we were informed that, unfortunately, they wouldn't be able to cast his leg that night, but the next morning. That night, they would splint his leg and send us up to CHAD to spend the night.

I left the room for the splinting. It involved drugging Charlie briefly (with a short-acting drug that wouldn't knock Charlie out, but would give him an out-of-body experience so he would be awake but not be able to feel the pain of them straightening out his leg) and they informed me that it can be traumatic for parents to see their child like that, so my mom and I left while Chris stayed with him. I called Crystal to let her know what was going on while we waited.

After the splinting, we returned to the room and waited some more. Have you noticed a theme here yet? We had to wait for a special transfer technician to come transfer us up to CHAD. Once up there, the nurses gave 11am as a time for Charlie's casting the next morning. We settled in for the night and my mom headed back home.

Normally, CHAD only allows one parent to spend the night at a time. Because we were so far from home and not a long-term stay, they allowed us both to stay and we curled up on a pull-out chair for the night. VERY cozy - keep in mind that I'm 5-months pregnant. LOL I'm very glad I was prepared to go to the gym after work that day because I had a gym bag packed with sneakers and gym clothes and wasn't forced to spend our entire hospital stay in work clothes and high heels.

The next morning, breakfast arrived for Charlie and we waited some more. Charlie's injury occurred right before Labor Day weekend, so not too many doctors were around. My mom came back up on Friday to give us a little moral support. We waited and waited and the 11am casting ended up happening around 2pm. By the time the casting was over, it was close to 4pm and the nurses had to make sure we were able to handle the cast at home so we had to stay ANOTHER night.

Because of the nature of Charlie's break, he was to be in a SPICA cast for the next 5 weeks. The cast went around his waist and down his entire left leg. At 22 months, he was still in diapers so diapering required a newborn diaper in the open area under the cast and a size-5 diaper wrapped around the entire cast to keep the smaller diaper in place.

Because the cast went the full length of Charlie's leg, he was quite awkward and we had to learn to move him as well as diaper him. Another thing to worry about was whether or not his car seat would accommodate the cast. Luckily, it did and we didn't have to borrow a special one from the hospital.

Amazingly, Charlie did very well during this whole ordeal. For an active little boy, he was quite calm and under control, not even too teary about being in any pain. Once that cast was on, he didn't complain once about his leg hurting and when we returned home with him, we didn't feel the need to keep him on pain medication past the first day. He rolled with the situation very well; he knew something serious was wrong and that he couldn't move around as he normally did, even though he didn't understand exactly what had happened to him.

Once we knew we had to spend Friday night at the hospital again, Chris and my mom drove back home so that Chris could get our vehicle and some necessities. While Charlie and I were waiting for Dad, we did some walking around the hospital hallways with me pulling Charlie in a Radio Flyer wagon. He was very bossy telling me to keep walking him around and I was extremely compliant. :)

We were finally able to head home late afternoon on Saturday and start acclimating ourselves to dealing with a small child in a huge cast. Charlie did very well and we even took him to the Hopkinton Fair while in his cast! Labor Day was Monday and I ended up taking the rest of the week off from work. I think Chris returned to work on Thursday. I was nervous to send Charlie back to Crystal's right away because that cast was SUCH a pain to deal with.

After that first week, the cast was a bit easier to deal with. We were so afraid that moving would hurt him, but it didn't bother him at all. Once the cast was on, he was a pretty happy boy.... at least in terms of pain. :) The cast made him weigh quite a bit - probably more than he weighs now at almost 3 - but it also made propping him on your hip a bit easier because the bend in the cast fit just right. I will say that a parent doesn't fully understand a "poop-tastrophe" until they have a child in a SPICA cast and the poop ends up underneath the back of the cast when you can't fully get up there to clean it! YUCK!

The 5 weeks went by pretty quickly, apart from having to add weekly doctor's appointments for Charlie (first at Dartmouth, then later at the Dartmouth Clinic in Manchester - which I hated by the way; the staff there was horrible) to my monthly pregnancy appointments. In addition to hospital bills not covered by insurance, it all added up to a lot of time taken off from work!

By the 3rd week, Charlie was crawling around in his cast.

By the 4th, he was walking in it. Very comical!

It was amazing to see the x-rays progress each week. Children heal so fast! I can remember thinking there is no way 5 weeks will be long enough for him to heal and I was prepared to have the doctors keep it on longer to be safe, but by the 5th week's x-ray, you could only see a bump of new bone where the break had healed. The cast was sawed off and the back half of it was made into a splint to support muscles that might be weak from lack of use. We Ace-bandaged the splint to his leg for the first day or two, but thereafter, life was pretty much back to normal.

Cold weather occasionally bothers his bone and for the unsuspecting person (Auntie!), Charlie will say his leg hurts so he can be carried, but for the most part, you would never suspect that anything had happened to Charlie just one year ago.

Well, apart from his parents being deathly afraid of the combination of socks and hardwood floors. :)