Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yoplait Get Active Prize Pack Winner #2

Congratulations to Stacy, our second winner!

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2009-04-29 12:23:08 UTC

Asked what kind of snack helps keep her active kiddos fueled, Stacy answered:

"Crackers and apple slices are easy to pack up and so portable."

You can toss those apple slices (and your free yogurt!) in your new little cooler if you'd like, Stacy!

Thanks so much to all of you who entered. If you didn't win this time, we still have one more prize pack to give away. That post will be up soon... keep a look out!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Apples On My Mind...

Two things got my wheels turning this week...

One, my apple trees are in full bloom. Aren't they pretty? It will be quite some time before they bear fruit this year, but they sure look pretty and Spring-y right now!

Two, Amy wrote about buying eighteen pounds of apples for a steal. She came up with lots of yummy uses for them and I was reminded of my Apple Strudel Muffins. What I love most about this recipe is that it uses six full apples to make a dozen muffins. You do the math- this means you actually get a fair bit of fruit in each serving! Always a nice bonus and particularly great for small children. I made dozens and dozens of these last fall and we ate them from our freezer throughout the winter. Yum!

These are fantastic for popping in lunch boxes or in the backpack for preschool snacks. They look "cupcake-y", but pack a lot of fruit per bite!

Apple Strudel Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour (I sometimes use half whole-wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
6 small-medium apples, chopped very fine

1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter


  1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and eggs until smooth. Mix in vanilla. Stir in apples, and gradually blend in the flour mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pan.
  4. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture is like coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over tops of mixture in muffin pan.
  5. Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to sit 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan. Cool on a cooking rack.
This post is linked to:
Ultimate Recipe Swap, hosted at Life as MOM

Monday, April 27, 2009

Anti-Abortion Voters Mobilize

Obama’s first 84 days in office have been like an extended recruiting drive for the anti-abortion movement, reinvigorating a constituency he sought to neutralize during the campaign. Activists report a noticeable spike in activity as Obama moves to defend and expand a woman’s right to choose an abortion – causing anti-abortion voters to mobilize in ways never needed during the Bush administration. So far this year:

— The Susan B. Anthony List says its supporters sent more anti-abortion-related letters, e-mails and faxes to Obama and lawmakers in the first quarter alone than during each of the last two years.

— The American Life League reported a 30 percent uptick in donations over last year.

— Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr., an anti-abortion Democrat who campaigned vigorously for Obama, has received more mail on abortion than on any other issue in 2009, spokesman Larry Smar said... read more of this article, please see Politico here.

Does this make me happy? Not really. I think it's shame that we who are pro-life have to fight so very hard to defend... BABIES. I mean, really. It's not like we're advocating for something questionable. We're trying to stand up for the innocents. To defend the greatest gift any of us have been given... life.

But the good news? We're prepared to fight. We're prepared to speak up and take action. We're prepared to lend our hundreds and thousands of voices to the unborn who are never given the chance to speak up for themselves.

I know I am.

(On a related note, some of you may recall that I wrote about the Freedom of Choice Act here and here. I sent out postcards to my senators and representative on January 24, 2009. I've yet to hear anything back... I live in a conservative state, so that's especially disheartening to me. Have any of you had more luck??)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Life...

I suppose I should confess that I tend to have a black, or at the very least, brown thumb.

My gardening successes have been few and far between...

I couldn't even manage to keep potted plants alive when I was younger. Well, with the notable exception of a 99 cent supermarket plant that I coined "P.D." in honor of its polka-dotted leaves... I'll tell you of P.D.'s demise on another occasion... it's too sad for right now.

Between the fact that I couldn't seem to keep (already growing!) plants alive and my indoor-loving nature, I am not a natural gardener.

But last year, for Mother's Day, I asked for a few vegetable plants from the local nursery. And you know what? I managed to harvest some of my own tomatoes, spinach, and broccoli. I cannot begin to tell you the joy and pride I felt.

Armed with that small success, I decided to attempt to start my own plants from seeds this year. I confess that I used seeds I bought on clearance at the end of last season. My TOTAL investment in materials was less than five dollars. I figured... honestly? If ONE thing turns out, it will have been worth it.

I carefully planted those seeds with my 4-year old assistant. We faithfully watered and watched. He delighted in keeping me updated on what was growing and what wasn't... truly, we've gotten our five dollars' worth just in the experiences we have shared together thus-far.

Today? We have lots of baby plants... tomatoes, corn, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, parsley, carrots, and the peas pictured above. When we saw our pea plants growing ever taller, growing tendrils, and- just recently- bursting into flower... well, there was much celebrating.

Having a part in creating new life... even if it's just from pea seeds... well, that's one of the great joys of life.
This post is linked to Amy's Finer Things Friday.

13 Specialists We Saw The First Year

It goes without saying that my extremely premature daughter had innumerable neonatologists, nurses, and respiratory therapists on top of a "regular" pediatrician. But, just for more background, here are thirteen ADDITIONAL specialists we had to meet with during her first year of life:
  1. Pulmonologist- Our daughter came home on oxygen and had to be monitored for any apnea episodes. We reviewed her progress and underwent additional sleep studies with this doctor.
  2. Pediatric Ophthalmologist- She still sees this doctor to monitor her retinas (since she had Retinopathy of Prematurity) and to update her prescription (because she's very nearsighted).
  3. Radiologist- We brought C. home on an NG-tube (a tube that threaded through one nostril down into her stomach through which we fed her expressed breastmilk). It wasn't safe for her to eat by mouth because she showed signs of aspiration. I took her back to radiology every month to see if her swallowing had improved until we could finally "graduate" to thickened and, eventually, thin liquids.
  4. Neonatal Audiologist- Our little girl failed her newborn hearing screening while in the hospital. Honestly? While I'm sure this would ordinarily be traumatic news to receive, in the grand scheme of things, it was very minor to us. She was re-tested at five months of age and passed.
  5. Pediatric Neurosurgeon- It was discovered that our little girl has a cyst on her brain. It doesn't appear to cause any issues whatsoever and, apparently, lots of us have them. Who knew? Anyway, we go back periodically to make sure it's still asymptomatic.
  6. Orthopedic Surgeon- At ten months old, C. broke her right femur. She had to be in a hip-spika cast and this had to be put on by a surgeon at the children's hospital.
  7. Infectious Disease Specialist- Our daughter tested MRSA- positive and this was the only person who could explain what this "meant" to me...
  8. Pediatric Developmental Psychiatrist- At around two years of age, we met with this psychiatrist to evaluate how C. was doing in terms of interration and problem-solving skills.
  9. Nutritionist- For the first year or so, I would have to periodically log every morsel of food or drink that our little girl consumed to make sure it measured up to the high standards they set for her. When your baby starts out SO far below the charts, it takes some work to even get ON there...
  10. Retinal Surgeon- As I mentioned above, C. had Retinopathy of Prematurity which meant her retinas were starting to detach. This would ultimately have left her blind. An excellent neonatal retinal surgeon in Chicago (one of only three in the nation) performed the surgery to repair the situation.
  11. Feeding Specialist studying extremely low birth weight babies- We agreed to participate in a study geared toward better determining the caloric needs of these teeny little babies (all weighing in at less than 2 lb 2 oz at birth). It was non-invasive, but time-consuming. We were happy to be able to possibly help other small babies in the future.
  12. Swallowing Specialist- When C. started on solids (kind of a misnomer, in my opinion, since that refers to baby food and cereal, but I digress...), she had a severe tongue thrust issue that resulted in basically NO food making it into her stomach. An occupational therapist with special training in feeding issues helped us work with our daughter to overcome this.
  13. Developmental Evaluation Team- From the time she was four months old (and, really, zero months old if you "corrected" her age to when she should have been born), the early intervention team would come out to our house to evaluate how C. was doing. We've definitely had therapists involved in our lives over the years but, again, our girl actually needed far less support and intervention than many preemies.
So there you go. A snapshot of my life in that first year. And you want to know the truth? We got off SO easy...

Having a preemie changes everything.
This post is linked to Thursday {Thirteen} .

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Time to "Get Active" Again With Yoplait Kids!

We saw flurries a couple days ago and the heat has been running... hard to think of playing outside with that going on!

But the weatherman promises... we should see the 80's this weekend. So we're looking forward to getting back outside with our Yoplait Get Active Prize Pack from My BlogSpark.

My kids absolutely adore yogurt and I love the convenience and health benefits of it. It appears somewhere on their menu at least five days a week. And that's great news! Because you know what? Research has shown that fewer than half of all kids ages two to 12 get the calcium they need each day. And calcium and Vitamin D are both essential nutrients for building strong bones. Yogurt is a great source of both nutrients!

So I was thrilled to receive a coupon* for a free 6-pack of any of the Yoplait for Kids yogurt products (Go-Gurt, Trix, Yoplait Kids). These yogurts are available in a wide variety of flavors and none of them have any "chunks"- handy, since many kids are opposed to chunks in their yogurt! My two preschoolers like all the flavors of Yoplait Kids... seems that while they appeal to tons of others, the bright colors of the Trix yogurt turn my kids off. (I should also note that my kids refuse to eat applesauce that is any color other than "apple colored"!)

Along with the yogurt coupon, we received a Yoplait Get Active Prize Pack. Perfect for a fun-filled day for active children, it includes:

  • A travel cooler (to take the yogurt on the road!)
  • A jump rope.
  • A water bottle.
  • An outdoor game set that includes a beach ball, paddle ball, Jai-Ali, and a Frisbee
And it's all neatly packaged in a drawstring net bag. Can I tell you how much I appreciate that fact? Much less clutter sitting next to my door!

There's nothing like new outdoor toys to help get you busy and moving out there. It had been awhile since I'd had the opportunity to show off my mad Frisbee skills...

Since I truly feel strongly about the importance of good nutrition and staying active for our kids, I am absolutely delighted to be able to offer two more of these prize packs (each including a coupon* for a free 6-pack of yogurt) to my readers. I 'll be giving one away each week for the next two weeks.

This is the second week (of three) and the giveaway will run through next Tuesday evening, April 28st.

To enter, simply leave a comment answering the following question:

What kinds of healthy snacks do you pack to help energize your active kids?

We like to combine whole grains and protein around here... cereal and drinkable yogurt or cheese and wheat crackers help fuel my on-the-go kiddos!

(*Important: This coupon offer for a free six pack of Yoplait for Kids yogurt is not valid in some states, including Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota and Tennessee.)

Good luck! I just know the winners are going to have a blast with this prize.

Yoplait Get Active Prize Pack Winner!

Big congrats to Amy, the winner of the first Yoplait Get Active Prize Pack!

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2009-04-22 12:12:53 UTC

In response to how she stays active with her family, Amy responded:

"We walk around town, play in the yard and go for bike rides. Oh, and tag on the park playground. Sheeeesh -- why is mommy the favorite target?!"

Sounds like they're having lots of fun!

Would the rest of you like to get in on it? Stay tuned... I'll have week two of this giveaway posted very soon!

Sleeping Through the Night... For Five Dollars??

My first-born was one of those babies. You know... the GOOD SLEEPERS. He was big and thriving- a good eater and a good sleeper. The first night we had him home from the hospital, we had to wake him after five hours to eat. By four months old, he would sleep from 8:30 pm until about 8:00 am. (Is it starting to make more sense how it came to pass that I was pregnant with our second child by the time he was five months old? ;)) Did we have occasional sleepless nights? Of course. But, for the most part, he slept well and consistently.

I write all this not to brag, but to provide background. Because, you see, given his history, it came as an utter surprise to me when my beloved son- now a preschooler- became a (gasp!) BAD SLEEPER. It's true.

Sometime within the past year, my darling boy lapsed into the (bad) habit of getting up at least once, often more, during the night and wandering into Mama and Daddy's room. One of us would walk him back into his room, put him back in bed, and sit in a chair in his room until he fell back asleep. Because, if we didn't wait until he was asleep, he'd follow us right back out. Now, just to clarify. he was never crying, he never asked for anything, he would just show up in our room. After awhile, this just became such a standard pattern in our lives that I didn't think much about it. And, if I'm totally honest, I could always find stories of people with MUCH worse bedtime issues going on, so I kind of brushed it off as just "one of those things" or "a phase".

But it had been months. Probably close to a year. And it was still happening. After several sleepless nights in a row- one of which had me up for six hours and sleeping for less than three (and I'm pregnant, in case you didn't know)- my husband and I knew we had to do something. Here's where I tell you that I'm not a "cry-it-out" kind of mama. I'm not judging- it's just not something I feel I can do. I'm also not a "co-sleeping" kind of mama. Sick, feverish child? Okay. That's fine. I don't mind snuggling up for the night. But every single night? Not my thing. I prefer my kiddos in their own beds. So those options were out the window.

"We should buy him a nightstand and a clock," I told my husband. "Then we can just tell him what time he's allowed to come in our room. Maybe he just doesn't know..."

I think he thought I was slightly crazy. And, after all, I was massively sleep-deprived. But, to his credit, he went right along with it. I think he was a little desperate too.

Turns out we couldn't find an affordable nightstand that we liked, so I re-purposed a small shelf from our playroom. We picked up a five dollar alarm clock from Walmart and let him choose the color.

I set it all up while my son ate supper and then we took him in to see it. We made a huge deal over the clock and what it meant-

"When the first number is a six, then you can come into Mama and Daddy's room."

Before we tucked him in, we asked, "What time is it?" "7:31" "What time can you come into Mama and Daddy's room?" "6:00." "What if it's 11:15?" "Nope." "3:30?" "No...." "How about 6:20?" "YES!"
We decided he got it. We kissed him good night and hoped for the best, while not expecting a whole lot...

That was three weeks ago and I am happy to report that our little guy has only come into our room TWICE in the middle of the night... once that first night (and he settled right back down as soon as we reminded him about the clock) and once when he had a bad dream.

Five dollar clock = Everyone sleeping right through the night?

Works for me.

(By the way... see that water bottle on the nightstand? We received that as part of our Yoplait Kids Get Active Prize Pack from My BlogSpark. Want a chance to win one (along with a bunch of other cool stuff)? Just go here!)
This post is linked to:

Works For Me Wednesday

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Seafood Crepes

I mentioned making these crepes last week and wondered if anyone would be interested in the recipe... since I had a few takers, here it is!

This is a recipe that comes from my mom.... I'm not sure of her source, so I'll just give her credit. :)

Seafood Crepes


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon
  • salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup (or even less) oil

Put flour in mixing bowl. Add salt, egg, and half of milk. Beat. Add remaining milk and one tablespoon oil. Beat again. Heat a tiny bit of oil in pan over med-high heat, just enough to barely coat. (Note: non-stick cooking spray actually worked better for me for this step... you're shooting for a VERY thin and uniform coat, so use whatever method works best for you!) Pour in a small amount of batter and tip to cover the pan. Cook for 30-60 seconds then flip to other side. Repeat with remaining batter. This might seem putzy, but it goes pretty quickly. Makes 8-10 crepes.


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 pint fresh cream (or half-n-half... or whole or 2% milk... use what you've got, I say!)
  • 3/4 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced (more or less, depending on your love of mushrooms)
  • 8 oz. processed cheese (Velveeta or processed American)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (confession? I didn't have this last time and we didn't notice... so don't run to the store if you're out...)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound assorted seafood, fresh, frozen, or canned (I used 1/2 lb imitation crab meat and 1/2 lb frozen shrimp)

Saute mushrooms and garlic in butter in large pan. Add cheese and melt over low heat. Add lemon juice. Add seafood and, when cooked (lots of seafood is already cooked when you buy it, so this may not take long), begin adding cream. Amount varies- get a smooth consistency, not too thick.

Put a small amount of filling in each crepe. Roll and put in baking dishes (putting two crepes in each of four oblong dishes makes for an elegant presentation, putting all of them in one baking dish makes for easier clean-up!). Drizzle leftover filling over top. Heat in 400 degree oven until bubbly and hot (about 15 minutes).


Sadly, I didn't think to take any pictures when I was making this... at the time, I wasn't sure if I'd be posting the recipe or not.

Our kids both like this meal. I think a lot of children probably would... I mean, it's all dripping with cheese sauce if you think about it! That being said, it makes a fantastic "date night in" meal too. And that's how we enjoyed it. My timing was slightly off for getting the meal pulled together before 6 pm. Since our kids go to bed between 7:15 and 7:30, I feel it's essential that I have their suppers done by then... preferably a little earlier. So I revised the plan, made them a quick "breakfast for supper" pancake dinner and saved the crepes to heat in the oven while we tucked the littles in...

When my husband left our daughter's room and I left our son's and we met in the living room... well, our meal was waiting for us. I served it up and we enjoyed a "fancy pants" meal for two. Probably a good thing the kids were asleep, because my hubby went back for THIRDS! We have a winner!
This post is linked to:
Kitchen Tip Tuesdays
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Tasty Tuesday

Monday, April 20, 2009

Some Of My Thoughts On Gender...

It started when I was pregnant with my first child...

"What are you hoping for???"

The question kind of threw me for a loop because, in reality, since I had been trying to get pregnant for fifteen months, all I'd ever been hoping for was, well, a baby. But I got used to hearing it and I got used to answering, "Oh, just a healthy baby. That's all I could ask for." And the reply I heard most often was-

"Well, since it's your first, it doesn't really matter, right?"

And that confused me even more.

Fast-forward to a whopping six months after my son was born and I found out I was expecting again. All of a sudden, this is what I heard-

"Trying for a girl this time, eh?" or "Bet you're hoping for a girl!" or "Thinking pink, right?"

And to be blatantly honest? All I could really think was, "What changed? Why does it matter now? Do they not think I adore having a little boy?"

But I had a girl.

And so then this is what I heard-

"Oh! You're all done then, right? Since you have one of each?"

Pardon? What does that have to do with a darn thing? Why would having one boy and one girl suddenly mean that my family was complete? And why would someone assume that a family with children of all one gender is somehow INcomplete? I didn't even really have a response for that one...

And now I'm seven months pregnant with my third child. And people ask me all the time-

"Do you know what you're having?"

No. I do not. My husband and I have elected to let that announcement take place in the delivery room all three times. There are several reasons for that. The one I give people is, "I'm just so afraid that I'd be that one in a million that they get wrong and that would just mess with my head!" That is true. And people accept that answer. But the bigger, more honest reason? I don't want to hear people's take on it. I don't want to have a discussion about if I'm "happy" about it or if it's "what I wanted".

Maybe I'm the wrong person to write about this since I, admittedly, already have one child of each gender. So maybe I just don't get it. On the other hand, maybe I'm the perfect person to write about it because I've seen both sides of the coin. Take your pick. I'm writing anyway... :)

There are some statements that get under my skin when it comes to baby gender...

"Oh, you have one of each, so it doesn't matter this time!"

"Bet you're hoping for a ..."

"I'm so DESPERATE for a...."

"We'll keep trying until we have a ..."

Here's the deal...

As far as I'm concerned, gender either NEVER matters or it ALWAYS matters. How many girls or boys you already have has nothing to do it. The simple fact is that boys and girls are different. Thus, it matters. Each and every time. Because it makes a difference! At the same time, is one "better" than the other? If I already had three girls, would a boy then be so far superior to having a fourth girl? I don't think so. That fourth girl would be no less precious and individual than the first. And, under no circumstances, should those "subsesquent" girls be just filler-children on the quest to have the boy.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with thinking it would be nice to experience parenting both a girl and a boy, to have the desire to see both sides of it. Just as there's nothing wrong with hoping for twins or thinking it would be fun to have two little boys close in age. We all have our own ideas of what is "ideal" in terms of family size, sibling spacing, and- yes- child gender. Do I understand or know what motivates some people or shapes their ideals? Nope. And that's okay... I don't need to know that.

But here's what I do know...

God doesn't make mistakes.

It's that simple. I am blessed to be sister to one man and sister-in-law to another who are the fathers of all girls. And you know what I see? They're fantastic at it. So at ease with fathering these precious little ladies and secure in their "manliness" at the same time. They can straighten hair bows without feeling a dip in testosterone. And that makes me proud. I'm honored to witness the strength they show their daughters and the pride they take in them. Would they have enjoyed boys? No doubt. But God knew they were needed for these girls. And they're serving out that role in admirable ways.

I also have a sister with only boys. Do I think she wouldn't make a good mom to girls? Absolutely not. I believe from the bottom of my heart that she would make an excellent mother to ANY child. But what I KNOW is that she's a fantastic mom to her boys. And she's never once indicated any kind of "disappointment" about having her guys all around her. She smiled as she frosted cupcakes pink for my daughter's first birthday that she hosted. But does she complain about a "lack of pink" in her everyday life? No. She adores her boys and they are steadily growing into secure, confident young men as a result.

God knows what He's doing. Trust in that.

And so, in response to what I hear all the time...

I'm not hoping for either gender this time. Nor was I last time. Or the time before. It absolutely matters. I have different daydreams depending on which I end up having. But it's not my call. And I know my family will be perfect for me... it will be God's design.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter Finery

I've mentioned it a couple of times already-- I always host Easter. We live in the same state as all my husband's family, so we usually have a pretty good-sized gathering. Not surprisingly, we have a number of ongoing traditions... don't most families? One that started the Easter right after we brought our baby daughter (the sixth grandchild) home is dressing the cousins alike for the holiday. Easter is the only time of year we do it, but my mother-in-law just adores those pictures off all the grandkids (eight of them now) coordinated and piled together.

Finding matching dresses for five girls was usually not much of a challenge. (Getting their three moms to agree on them? Well, that's a different issue altogether... ;)) Finding matching dress clothes for three boys ranging in age from one to thirteen? A whole 'nother story. They most often ended up in polos and khaki pants. Cute? You better believe it. But this year my four-year old caught on that that just wasn't "fancy". And so when we spotted the Dockers sets in Sears with cute pin-striped vests and elastic-waist dress pants (perfect for one recently potty-trained!), we were all over them...

I don't spend a lot of time getting my kids all "gussied up". My usual preference tends much more toward comfy play clothes because, well, they are KIDS after all. But my little ones all dolled up for the holiday? Well, that's one of the Finer Things in this mama's life...
This post is linked to Finer Things Friday, hosted at The Finer Things In Life.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

13 Ways I Shall Not Waste

I host Easter. Every year. I really enjoy it... for a number of reasons. But that's not what this is all about. This is about the veritable feast of leftovers I am left with every year. Sure, my sisters-in-law each take a few bites of this and that but, no doubt, the bulk of it is left to be crammed in my refrigerator. And if you think anyone learns from year-to-year that we're all making too. much. food. .... well, you'd be mistaken. And so, this plethora of leftovers is my blessing and my burden.

Here are thirteen ways we're using up the bounty... because part of being frugal is knowing how to avoid waste! But part of being me is, well, not much liking leftovers...

  1. I refuse to thaw out any bread. We have two kinds of leftover rolls and they will fill the void until they're gone. My children enjoyed peanut and jelly on theirs for lunch on Monday.
  2. I am using up "cheese tray" cheese for anything that requires cheese. Even though the little bits and pieces are sometimes a tad annoying.
  3. I am topping scrambled eggs with broccoli with cheese sauce. Alongside toasted rolls. ;)
  4. When I made the crepes for our Seafood Crepes (is anyone interested in that recipe, by the way?) on Monday night, I made extra to be filled with diced ham, broccoli, and cheese for a quick lunch.
  5. Even though I'd rather have something else, I'm chopping up deviled eggs to make some quickie egg salad.
  6. The baby carrots from the crudite tray were chopped and tossed in a beef stew.
  7. I'm subbing cracker crumbs (again, from that cheese tray) for bread crumbs in my meatballs this upcoming weekend. And melting leftover mozzarella over them.
  8. I often serve pumpkin muffins and scrambled eggs for breakfast. This week? Pumpkin roll and hard-boiled eggs. A little odd, yes... but it will get the job done.
  9. I have soda coming out of my ears. Hubby and I rarely have it in the house anymore and, thus, rarely drink it. But he's happy to substitute the cold caffeine for his usual caffeinated coffee-- one less thing for me to brew (since I brew my decaf separately!) and handy since we just ran out of the regular stuff.
  10. Diced ham packs are already in my freezer. We all really, truly like ham... and we'll be delighted to have it later on. But who wants to eat ham every single day for a week or two???
  11. The few spoonfuls of strawberry shortcake topping left after the shortcakes were gone found their way onto my kids' plain oatmeal. Fun!
  12. I won't lie... I'm hoarding jelly beans. Bizarre as it is, the only time I like them is when I'm pregnant.
  13. And the REAL leftovers? The broccoli stalks, carrot ends, ham bone, etc? They're all set to get put to work making a delicious stock...
Maybe the reason I wind up with all the leftovers really comes down to what my mother-in-law told me as she pushed more food into my arms...

"Because I know you won't waste it."
For more Thursday {Thirteen}, be sure to visit Happy To Be At Home!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Raising Healthy Kids When You're An Indoor Sport

I get it from my maternal grandmother.

I prefer the indoors. Really. I adore air conditioning and I'm happy as a lark walking on my treadmill. It's not that I don't like the outdoors... well, it kind of is. I don't really like dirt. And I can't stand bugs. I turn up my nose at bird droppings and such. I hate having to walk through mud or muck. Don't even get me started on spiders...

I'm just kind of prissy, it's true. There are a few lovely Spring and Fall days where I flourish outdoors and truly enjoy every moment. But the rest of the time? I would honestly rather clean my bathrooms than go outside to play in the dead of summer. And it makes me sad to admit that. If I don't put it on my to-do list, it's likely not getting done.

And so I DO put it on my list. Because it is crucial that my little ones get that fresh air and time to run around! My desire to be inside where it's cool and bug-free pales in comparison to their need to play outside. Do I sometimes wish I were one of those mommies who couldn't wait to get out in the yard? Yep. But I'm not. And that's just the way it is.

Here are a few things that help me make sure my kids get enough outdoor playtime, even with an "indoor sport" Mommy:

  1. I plan picnics. This gives me a solid plan and makes me feel as though I'm "multi-tasking". They think it's super cool and I admit I appreciate the lack of mess being outside means!
  2. I do little chores while outside. Again, this is about multi-tasking. I love to fold my laundry outside, for example. It's a mindless job that I can easily do while monitoring my preschoolers.
  3. I reward myself. Pathetic, isn't it? But since I pretty much drink only water all day long, if I tell myself I can have a glass of lemonade or soda after playing outside, it can be a nice little motivator.
  4. I let Daddy do it. What a cop-out! But I readily admit that my husband is better at outside play. I'm creative and crafty and great at keeping little hands busy inside. And so, when he's around, my husband is usually very willing to spend some quality outdoor time with the kids. He also comes up with cool jobs for them, e.g. being his "mulch assistants".
  5. I bring "props". It goes without saying- there are some toys that can only be played with outdoors. Keeping them neat and corralled in a net sack by the door makes it quick and easy to have something fun to do in a flash. Some of my favorites? The jai alai set and jump rope that came with my Yoplait Kids outdoor fun set. Win one of your own here.
And there you have it.

I'm not proud of it, but I do have to force myself to play outside. At least I've found a few things that DO work for me!

How about you? Do you like to play outside? Are there any things you know are good for your kids, but you kind of have to force yourself to do them?
This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday, hosted at We Are THAT Family.

Win A Yoplait Get Active Prize Pack!

No doubt about it, the warmer weather is moving on in and with it comes the perfect opportunity to get outside and get active!

Need a little motivation? Yeah, me too. So this Yoplait Get Active Prize Pack from My BlogSpark arrived at just the right time.

My kids absolutely adore yogurt and I love the convenience and health benefits of it. It appears somewhere on their menu at least five days a week. And that's great news! Because you know what? Research has shown that fewer than half of all kids ages two to 12 get the calcium they need each day. And calcium and Vitamin D are both essential nutrients for building strong bones. Yogurt is a great source of both nutrients!

So I was thrilled to receive a coupon* for a free 6-pack of any of the Yoplait for Kids yogurt products (Go-Gurt, Trix, Yoplait Kids). These yogurts are available in a wide variety of flavors and none of them have any "chunks"- handy, since many kids are opposed to chunks in their yogurt! My two preschoolers like all the flavors of Yoplait Kids... seems that while they appeal to tons of others, the bright colors of the Trix yogurt turn my kids off. (I should also note that my kids refuse to eat applesauce that is any color other than "apple colored"!)

Along with the yogurt coupon, we received a Yoplait Get Active Prize Pack. Perfect for a fun-filled day for active children, it includes:

  • A travel cooler (to take the yogurt on the road!)
  • A jump rope.
  • A water bottle.
  • An outdoor game set that includes a beach ball, paddle ball, Jai-Ali, and a Frisbee
And it's all neatly packaged in a drawstring net bag. Can I tell you how much I appreciate that fact? Much less clutter sitting next to my door!

It was a shame that our package arrived on a drizzly, 30-something degree day because my kids were raring to go! We've since had the chance to go outside and "get active" together and we've had such fun. There's nothing like new outdoor toys to help get you busy and moving out there. It had been awhile since I'd had the opportunity to show off my mad Frisbee skills...

Since I truly feel strongly about the importance of good nutrition and staying active for our kids, I am absolutely delighted to be able to offer THREE of these prize packs (each including a coupon* for a free 6-pack of yogurt) to my readers. I 'll be giving one away each week for the next three weeks.

This first giveaway will run through next Tuesday evening, April 21st.

To enter, simply leave a comment answering the following question:

What types of activities do you do as a family to stay healthy and active?

(*Important: This coupon offer for a free six pack of Yoplait for Kids yogurt is not valid in some states, including Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota and Tennessee.)

Good luck! I just know the winners are going to have a blast with this prize.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Portrait Of A Pregnancy After A Preemie: Part 6

So there I am! Seven months pregnant and wearing my most "pregnant-looking" top. I have a most definite bump now and my husband and I are both very aware of it. The rest of the world? Not so much, apparently. Yesterday I dropped my son off at preschool and ran into someone I hadn't seen since January. She exclaimed, "Oh! And you obviously had your baby!" Um, no. Still seven months pregnant here. And very happy to be so!

I'm doing another little dance of joy now that I've passed the 28-week mark. Twenty-eight weeks was my "big goal" to hit when I went into labor so early with my second child. As you all know, I only made it to just barely 24-weeks. But I've never forgotten all the statistics they threw at me that went with these weekly milestones. I take nothing for granted.

As delighted as I am to be this far along, I am even more thrilled at the prospect of two more months of carrying this precious life. While I tend to have rough first trimesters (I usually end up hospitalized at some point because I just get so sick), I seem to have very comfortable third trimesters. I don't retain water or have issues with swelling. I don't suffer significant back pain. I sleep very well at night. As a result, I really have nothing to complain about and get to just enjoy every moment of letting this baby grow and thrive.

I had my last "monthly" OB check-up today. From here on out, I go in every two weeks. My blood pressure was down a bit, which is more typical for me (and good!). I did manage to gain a few pounds, so I'm at a net gain of 14 pounds right now. I won't lie-- I think our Easter feast helped nudge me along in that area! ;)

I got the results of my gestational diabetes test and the doctor was thrilled with my levels. To be truthful, I really never had any concerns about those results, but it's still always nice to hear that things are as they should be.

Baby's heart-rate is in the 140's and strong. I measure spot on. My OB laughed because she could watch the baby move all around my belly while she took the measurements. And that's how things always are with this little one! All three of my babies have been very busy in utero... but this one? This one takes the cake. Even through a fleece pull-over, this child's acrobatics are perfectly visible to the outside world. I love it!

In case you can't tell... everything's great. I still get told I look small. People remain unimpressed with my bump. But knowing that baby is growing and thriving is all I need to know....

Grow, baby, grow!

Looking Beyond the Ketchup...

I adore ketchup. I really do. I'm one of those people. You know the ones... I like it on my scrambled eggs. I like it on roast beef. And you better believe, I like it on my burger. I like a huge variety of burgers... all manner of flavor combos and just about anything you can think of for a topping. About my only rule is that I insist on is cheese. Can you believe I've made it 32 years without EVER eating a burger without cheese? It's true.

Anyway, while I'm a stickler on the cheese issue, I'm decidedly more lenient about how I top and/or dip my burger. I love ketchup, as I said, but I also love salsa, hot sauce, grainy mustards, horseradish, chili, and on and on. My latest fave? This quick and easy recipe:

1/2 cup sour cream (I use reduced fat, but any variety will do...)
1/4 cup ketchup (of course!)

2 heaping tablespoons dill pickle relish

Mix in a small bowl and allow to sit in fridge for at least fifteen minutes and up to a few hours- it tastes better if the flavors have a chance to combine!

This topping is like a fresh take on Thousand Island dressing... and it tastes fabulous on a fresh-from-the-grill burger. Warmer temps are on the way... bust out the charcoal!
This recipe is linked to:
Kitchen Tip Tuesdays and
Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Virtual Great American Bake Sale is Here!

Did you know?

The Virtual Great American Bake Sale is here! Click here to learn more about this fantastic opportunity to pick up some great new recipes AND help a wonderful cause.

My great-grandma's Sour Cream Cookie recipe is in there.

I just made another batch of these for Easter and, well, out of the 6+ dozen that I made, only two cookies remain on the tray!

Welcome to the Virtual Great American Bake Sale. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of these ebooks will go toward Share Our Strength's Great American Bake Sale program. Funds raised through Great American Bake Sale are donated to after-school and summer feeding programs--food programs that many kids depend on when school is not in session. Great American Bake Sale is a program of Share Our Strength, a national organization working to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry.

The ebooks are a compilation of recipes from submitters across the blogosphere and beyond. The ebooks are available for purchase based on any donation amount of the buyer's choosing.

The Complete 2009 VGABS Recipes Ebookrsz_berrymarscaponecupcakes4

Features all 170 of the submitted recipes. Many of the recipes include pictures.

On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
Add to Cart

Shopping cart courtesy of E-Junkie.

Because we know file size may be an issue for some, the below ebooks have split the 170 recipes into 4 categorized ebooks so that you can choose just 1 or 2 of your favorites, if you'd prefer. Just like for the Complete ebook, many of these recipes include pictures. And again, they are available for purchase based on any donation amount of the buyer's choosing.

Muffins & Breads

Features 24 recipes.

On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
Add to Cart

Cookies, Candy, Cakes, Bars & Brownies


Features 50 recipes.

On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
Add to Cart


Features 49 recipes.

On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
Add to Cart


Beyond Baked Goods (Appetizers, Breakfast, Main Dishes, etc.)

Features 47 recipes.

On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
Add to Cart

Please consider purchasing this fantastic ebook with a donation today. Thanks!

Getting My Head Above Water

I spent most of last week trying to get through the days with a cold that kicked my tail (which, blessedly, is almost gone now) while attempting to potty-train two children (more on that in a post at a later date) and preparing to host my husband's entire side of the family for Easter...

Needless to say, I wasn't around the bloggy world very much!

But I'm back now, and I've just about got my head above water again. Here are a few things I've got planned for this week:

  • I've got summer cook-outs on the brain and a great burger topper recipe for tomorrow.
  • Playing outside with the kiddos and a great giveaway to make summer playtime even more fun! Giveaway starts Wednesday.
  • The Virtual Great American Bake Sale has arrived!
  • Stretching a ham throughout the week.
  • A 7-month pregnancy update... has the bump finally become impressive???
So please stop by and see me as I embark on a more regular writing schedule again! It's so good to be back.

Fiber One Choclate Mocha Spa Basket Winner #3!

Congratulations, Annette!

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2009-04-13 13:46:35 UTC

Annette is the winner of our third and final Fiber One Chocolate Mocha Spa Basket. When asked what fiber-enhanced or fiber-rich food she was afraid to try or had tried and didn't like, Annette wrote:

"Grapenuts Cereal--I was afraid I might break a tooth."

Another commenter, Heather, helpfully offered...

"...Annette you MUST heat your grape nuts in the milk so it soaks in good (and of course add a bit of sweetness) and then it's YUMMY!!"

Good to know!

Congrats to you, Annette, and I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks to all of you who entered. I have to say that I really loved reading all your responses to my question this week!

I'll be offering up another fantastic giveaway from My BlogSpark starting on Wednesday... be sure to come back and check it out!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cutting Raw Meat Easily

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm a tad under-the-weather. So here's my super quick tip of the day...

Just in case there is anyone out there who does not already know this-

If you need to chop, slice, or cut meat neatly, it is much, much easier to do it while the meat is still partially frozen. This is especially true for chicken, but works well for beef and pork as well. Use a sharp knife and partially frozen meat and you'll get neat strips or cubes every time.
For more Kitchen Tips, please visit Tammy's Recipes every Tuesday.
For more recipes and advice, be sure to check out Tasty Tuesday at Forever, Wherever.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Asking My Wise Readers...

Just a quick note to say I may be a tad scarce today and tomorrow. For the first time EVER for me during a pregnancy, I have caught a whopper of a cold. I'll be the first to admit that I am usually (blessedly) healthy and only catch a cold every other year or so. But when I do? It usually progresses to either RSV or pneumonia. I'm an "all or nothing" kind of person when it comes to illness!

If you didn't know this about me already, let me just tell you that I tend to avoid ALL medications when pregnant, even Tylenol. I treat headaches with ice packs and sore throats with peppermint tea. That being said, this little bug is wiping the floor with me. Any suggestions for ways to conquer this cough? Or at least keep it at bay long enough to sleep a bit? I sure appreciate the help!

And I'll try to be back on track very, very soon...

Did Someone Order a Triple-Shot?

I absolutely love giving away these Fiber One Chocolate Mocha Spa Baskets! I truly hope my winners are able to enjoy theirs as much as I've been able to enjoy mine. Happily, I still have one more to give away this week.

To read more about what's in the basket, please check out this post.

If you've been along for the ride and already know, just answer this simple question to be entered in the giveaway:

For fun, what "fiber-enhanced" product have you been afraid to try or have tried and it flopped?
For my family, that would be whole wheat pasta. We just can't adapt. But we do love the enriched white kind! (e.g. Ronzoni Smart Taste)

Fiber One Spa Basket Week 2 Winner!

Congratulations to Marie R., the winner of the second Fiber One Spa Basket!

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2009-04-05 23:12:21 UTC

Marie writes, "I eat a bowl of oatmeal everyday. I love the fiber one granola bars and I eat alot of beans." Those are great ways to get more fiber! Seems a lot of you just eat lots of veggies and whole grains (the straight-forward way) but quite a few of you like the sneaky fiber too. Sounds about right- I know our family relies on both methods!

I've already emailed Marie, but make sure the rest of you enter this week for our final basket giveaway.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Having A Friend You Can Count On

Meet Mr. Penguin.

Yep, that's his name.

And that's my now 4-year old son shortly after his second birthday, on the day Mr. Penguin first arrived to our home.

Mr. Penguin lives on A's bed, but he does make occasional forays into the living room or play room... especially during times of injury or illness.

Mr. Penguin is an important part of the bedtime routine.

Mr. Penguin has been to Connecticut, Niagara Falls, and all the states in between.

I'm not sure how long Mr. Penguin will be such an important part of our lives, but for now?

I just know it's awfully nice for my little guy to have a friend he can count on.
For more Finer Things, please visit Amy's place every Friday!

Buying Baby Shoes

My pediatrician has said it over and over...

And, actually, my sister's pediatrician has too...

Assuming your child does not have special podiatry-related circumstances, it is more important that you buy shoes that FIT your child than it is that you buy "name-brand", high-end shoes. In other words, he'd much rather you pick up your baby's or toddler's shoes at KMart and change sizes as often as needed as opposed to buying those fancy-pants Nikes and trying to eke more use out of them.

Fair enough.

My only issue with this idea comes from the fact that in KMart (or Walmart or Target), I'M the one expected to fit my child. That's not so bad now that they're 3 and 4, walking, and talking. But... as one-year olds? It was a challenge.

My advice?

Go to a specialty store, e.g. Stride Rite, and have a professional fit your child. By all means, check out the sales and clearance racks while you're there! But if you can't find shoes to fit your budget, don't feel guilty giong to a less expensive store armed with the knowledge of exactly what size your little one needs. There is no rule, written or otherwise, that says you have to buy your shoes there just because a sales associate sized your baby's foot. As long as I'm patient and polite, I've never caught any attitude for this.

Getting a perfect fit for a minimum price? Always helpful when you're raising kids in a tough economy!
For more money saving tips, visit Frugal Friday hosted at Life as MOM.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sacrificial Hospitality Week 6: The Final Project!

So this will be my last week of Sacrificial Hospitality challenges. At least, it will be my last week of coming up with and posting an idea on my blog here and then following up with all of you on how it went! I definitely have enjoyed making this a part of my life and I think it would be a shame to stop. I have been so touched and blessed by these experiences and, to be honest, it's been very painless. I wonder if more people knew it could be painless if there would be more kind gestures? But I digress...

Yesterday afternoon, I had the absolute pleasure of receiving a phone call from my husband's grandma. She is his only living grandparent and very sweet. Turns out she's already busy at work making Christmas presents for all of her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. Let me just tell you... that is a LOT of people. Apparently, she had been trying to reach my sisters-in-law for awhile now to find out the ages of all the children in our "branch" of the family. She wasn't able to reach them, but she caught me! And I was so glad. It was lovely to chat with her and catch up a little bit. Turns out she wasn't aware yet that we're expecting a baby in June, so that was fun to share!

My "Grandma-in-law", if you will, lives in an assisted living facility. When my husband and I first moved here to Indiana, close to all his family, my father-in-law once suggested that I go there sometime and play the piano for the residents. I smiled and agreed it was a nice idea... and promptly forgot about it. I've never done it. We've lived here for almost four years now, and I've just never taken the time to make it happen. The facility is less than 15 miles from me; it would be no real hardship.

The reason I haven't gone? Well, there are a few. Mostly, it boils down to laziness. I just haven't bothered. There's also the "nerves" factor. We don't actually have a piano in our home so I don't really get to practice and I fear I'll be rather rusty. And you know what? It's just easier to stay at home. I can certainly make myself busy here. I can absolutely convince myself that I am best serving my family and the Lord by staying right where I am and cleaning and baking and singing to my children. Those are all noble pursuits and important roles for me to fill, but the truth of the matter is that I could most definitely find an hour to share some music with the elderly.... Really? We all could. The simple truth is that we MAKE time for what matters...

And so I will. I will make it a mission to contact the assisted living facility and set up a time when I can play the piano, maybe sing a bit, and just visit with these amazing people who could teach me so much...

Honestly? I'm starting to really look forward to it.
Is there a nursing home, hospital, or assisted living facility in your area? Could you spare an hour to share music, read aloud, or even just to chat with some of the seniors in your community?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sacrificial Hospitality: Week 5 RESULTS

This week was a successful- and fun!- one. I love how quickly these teeny, tiny hats work up. I made a few different sizes (since all baby heads are a little different!) and worked with yellow yarn to keep it "gender neutral". That little sweater was already partially done- I just decided to finish it off this week and donate that as well. It is a tiny sweater, much more suited to a rather skinny preemie than a full-term infant. Lord-willing, none of my friends or family members will need it...

I had no reason to drive to Indianapolis this week, so I chose to just call the NICU and let them know I'd be paying them a visit later this month. My daughter has a follow-up appointment with her eye doctor, so I'll already be at the children's hospital. We'll be out of "RSV season" by then, so it'll be a great time to pay our beloved nurses a visit! On that same trip, I plan to stop off at the Ronald McDonald House to drop off another box of food/toiletries that I've gathered over the past few months for them. Even though she's still quite young, it will be good for my daughter to be with me on these trips- to witness giving in action and to learn to view it as just a part of who we are. This is one of my wishes for my children... that giving and hospitality will become so second-nature that it does not feel like a "project", per se, but just a normal, everyday part of life.

As I worked on those little hats this past week, I was reminded of how caliming and cathartic crocheting can be for me. I truly adore handwork and I simply must thank my Grandma Jane for teaching me how to do it when I was only six years old. I also enjoyed how the process took me back in time to when my daughter was so teeny tiny and still in the NICU. When she was a couple weeks old, this was the hat that would have fit her little head:

It pays to remember that.
To read more about this Lenten journey and why I'm doing it, please go here.
Be sure to stop by later today to find out what my sixth and final project will be!