Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"My Story..." Monday: Her Name

I always think it's odd when parents don't have a name picked out for their child. Yes, I realize it's a major decision and it takes time to pick "just the right one". And, yes, I also realize that sometimes mom and dad just can't seem to agree on the best name. I'm also well aware that some people like to "wait and see their baby" to decide. (For the record, this is a little odd to me just because brand-new newborns bear precious little resemblance to the babies they will become but, whatever...)

Anyway, it has always seemed to me that you should have a name ready when your baby comes. I can't remember at what exact point we settled on our "girl's name" and "boy's name" for our first child, but I know for a fact that that entire last month of my pregnancy I knew exactly what we would name our baby as soon as we found out the gender at birth.

With this baby who just arrived in the wee hours of Christmas Eve? It was a tad different. Born almost four months early, she shocked us both with her early arrival. Who truly thinks they have to have a name all settled upon by 24 weeks into the pregnancy? We sure didn't. Yeah, yeah, we had definitely "talked names" and kicked around some ideas. There were some true front-runners. As I mentioned earlier, I had also declared upon realizing our baby would arrive on Christmas Eve that, should we have a girl, I wanted her middle name to be Noelle. And it is. My husband did not deny me that...

What's interesting is that, while I was being asked, "Do you have a name for her?" in the OR, my husband was being asked the exact same question en route to the NICU.

Even more interesting? We both answered the question without hesitation. And we both gave the exact same name.

We hadn't discussed it. Truly, we had had scarier and more pressing things on our minds the last couple of days. But, somehow, we both just knew that this little girl was to be our C. (Side note- Want to know something odd and kind of eerie? The NICU nurses at our particular hospital reported to us that, in their opinion, the worst name to give your micropreemie daughter is "Miracle"... none of them had ever had a baby given that name survive... strange, eh?)

And thus began our journey as the parents of a micropreemie. The roller coaster was just getting started.

**I only use initials throughout my blog, but if you're particularly curious about C's name, I will tell you this much.... we shot a commercial and her name is in it. You can see some of the extra footage from that commercial in my right side-bar. In it, I say her name. ;)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Saving A Fetus

What bothers me the most about this whole situation is how everyone keeps calling it a baby... that's a fetus,. not a baby, and we're talking about a miscarriage, not a premature birth. The doctors who resuscitated that thing should be sued...

--anonymous comment left on a post about the Duggar's 19th child (the page has since been removed so I cannot properly link to it- my apologies)

Whether you look upon the Duggar family with morbid fascination, as a source of inspiration, or simply as an example of what NOT to do, this is not the time to pass judgement. A fragile baby girl's life hangs in the balance... a little girl no less precious to God for having arrived too soon. I confess- I almost threw up when I read the above comment... it goes so very against what I believe, but I was also staggered by the lack of compassion being shown.

I encourage you to take a moment to pray for Josie... pray that she has the fighting spirit she'll need to be triumphant. Pray that God looks over her on this, her first Christmas season. And, just for a moment, pray for those so misguided they would write the above...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My First Christmas As "Mommy"

Please take a moment to hop over and read my guest post here at Vanderbilt Wife. Jessie asked me to reflect on my first Christmas as a mommy. Boy, was mine a doozy...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mr. Knows-All-Tells-All

My oldest child, and only son, is a bright child. Scratch that. He's actually a "gifted" child. I'll be writing more about what it's like to parent a gifted child at a later date because, trust me, it's not all about just "having a smart kid"...

Anyway, for now, suffice it to say that he's a pretty sharp little cookie with an outstanding memory.


Sometimes that's kind of annoying.

Like when I tell my neighbor that we were at Walmart a couple days ago and he points out, "Actually, it was THREE days, Mama... that's not a couple, that's a few..."

Or when I fix supper and he feels the need to share, "This is NOT what you had on your menu plan" (because, yes, he can read it... in cursive...)

Or when he needs to fill in every.last.detail of my watered-down accounts to my in-laws...

But that's just him.

Yesterday, I made a big deal out of letting him hold on to the gift bag of homemade granola we had made for his bus driver. And, admittedly, I was enjoying his skills as I said, "What does the tag say, Sweetie?"

He read it aloud:

"Miss Erin- Merry Christmas! Love, A."

I was proud!

"Yep!" I said, "Won't Miss Erin be happy?"

He nodded.

Two minutes later, he said, "This granola is for Guy's bus driver."

Hmmm? Come again?

"Sweetie, this is for YOUR bus driver, for Miss Er..."


Karen! KAREN is his driver's name! And I'd written "Erin" in nice bold Sharpie on the pretty, vintage-looking tag I'd attached. Shoot!

I ran down to my car for scissors and a pen and, well, did my best.

Karen was, indeed, happy.

Guy's bus driver? Well, unfortunately, she's out of luck.
I'm very grateful for my know-it-all son who saved me some embarrassment! This post is linked to Gratituesday, hosted by Heavenly Homemakers.

Giving Away a BJ's Giftcard!

How far can I stretch $25 at a warehouse club? How far could you? Want a chance to find out? Head on over here!

"My Story..." Monday: "It's a ...?"

When the OR went eerily silent, I panicked. After all, there were eighteen people (nineteen now that the baby was born!) in that room. It had been noisy as all get-out. Suddenly, the only person making any noise at all was the very tiniest... our newborn.

"What's happening? What's wrong?" I asked, turning from my husband to the anesthesiologist and back again, "Why isn't anyone saying anything???"

My husband just shook his head.

The anesthesiologist leaned down and said in my ear, "It's because she's crying; 24-weekers never cry."

But cry she did... all the way down the hallway where they took her to stabilize her before making the trek to the adjoining children's hospital.*

I smiled as I heard that cry then and clung to my husband's hand. Suddenly I looked up at him...

"We don't know if we had a boy or girl!"

"Nope," he replied and gave me a little half-smile. Mostly we were both just so incredibly grateful that our child had made it through the birth!

The anesthesiologist heard this conversation and asked the OB's. They had no idea what gender the baby was-- their focus had been solely on a safe delivery and transfer of the child over to the neonatal team. The fellow called down the hall, "Can we get the gender for the parents?"

I heard a woman's voice echo back...

"It's a girl!"

And that's when we knew. We had a little girl. A precious tiny daughter who had such a fight ahead of her.

When you have a baby, you feel a rush of endorphins that flood your body with a kind of super-hero feeling. There is a kind of victory and triumph and sense of achievement that- for me, at least- goes along with giving birth that is unmatched by any other accomplishment. Every woman is different, of course, but- for me- I still had that feeling. Those early hours were ones of joy and wonder and celebration. I was never ignorant about the peril of her situation... it just wasn't at the forefront. And, for that, I am wonderfully thankful...

A few moments later, when our baby girl was stabilized, they invited my husband to accompany them on the transport over to the children's hospital. The doctors continued their work on putting me back together.

As they stitched and repaired, the head OB asked me...

"So... do you have a name for her?"

to be cont...

*Foot-note: I was extremely blessed to give birth in a city hospital connected to the children's hospital. It took mere minutes, by foot, to get my daughter to the NICU. The hospital has since further improved this by establishing a high-risk OB wing right in the children's hospital. The less travel the better for these teeny-tiny babies!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Taking The Christmas Card Photo

In retrospect, it probably would have been easier to just pick one of those cards with the three separate photo spots...

But where's the challenge in that?


Mama! Move over here so they stop looking at you!

Um... Mama? THIS way! All three are looking at YOU!

Aw, that's kind of cute but... hey, C! Look at the camera please!

C. might be thinking too hard about this...

Oh, for Heaven's sake, what's happening HERE???

G. is done- DONE, I tell you!

A. and C. apparently didn't get the memo that G. was done, because they look sweet as pie...

In the end, we settled for this...

... Merry Christmas.

This post is linked to Amy's Finer Things Friday.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Small Pan Big Taste Brownies

As I tweeted around about all the action going on in my kitchen, I realized I had never shared my brownie recipe on here. Given the fact that I probably make these once a week (it's a wonder I'm not big as a house), I figured it's about time I shared it with all of you.

Small Pan Big Taste Brownies

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 T (a splash) milk or heavy cream if you have it handy
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • heaping 1/3 (or scant 1/2- whichever you prefer) cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chopped candy pieces (Heath are my absolute favorite, but Reeses peanut butter cup, York peppermint pattie, Snickers, and others work well too!)

Melt butter and and milk together over low heat in large, heat-safe bowl. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Add egg, followed by baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Stir in cocoa and, finally, the flour. If using choc chips, stir these into your batter and pour into greased 8" or 9" square pan. If using candy bits, go ahead and dump your brownie batter in a greased 8" or 9" square pan and sprinkle the candies on top. Bake for 20-22 minutes at 350.

Additional notes:
  • These are the rich, fudgy kind of brownie- nothing cake-like about these at all.
  • I've tried to double this recipe and bake in a 9x13 pan- it did NOT work for me. If you figure it out, please let me know! I HAVE had success with doubling the recipe and baking two pans of it at once- the bonus there is that I can do two different candy types at the same time.
  • I've baked these in a 9" round pan before too. They're very pretty and look super rich if topped with ganache and cut into triangles.
  • The type of milk you use does not matter one bit in this recipe- there's not enough of it to amount to anything, but I do notice if I leave it out.
  • Sifting the dry ingredients together first is the BEST way to go but, in the interest of transparency, I'm letting you know that I very rarely do that. I dearly love the "one bowl, one spoon" nature of this recipe...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our Advent Wreath

I love Advent wreaths.

I always have.

As a little girl, one of the days I most looked forward to throughout the year was- not Christmas or Easter- but the week when they would light the pink candle at church. For me, this was a momentous occasion, a true celebration, year after year.

That pink candle still makes me smile. Part of it is that I'm a sucker for anticipation!

This is the very first year that our family has our own Advent wreath. When they announced that there would be a family Advent wreath-making celebration at our church, I made sure to get our family on the list right away.

Making the wreath together? So much fun. And such a special experience for my children! We gathered with more than a dozen other families to craft our wreaths and sing Christmas carols. Our priest spoke of the meaning and significance of the wreath and we all prayed together before enjoying homemade treats (each family brought one!) and cocoa or cider.

Had that been the end of it, it would have been worthwhile.

Even better? Every night before supper, Daddy lights the appropriate number of candles. I read the corresponding prayer and my 3- and 4-year olds sit in wonder. It is a tradition they already look forward to... they won't let us forget. :)

Having an Advent wreath- and praying with my family as we await the birth of our Lord- works for me.
This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday, hosted at We Are THAT Family. If you are not a regular reader at We Are THAT Family, please be sure to pop over there and see what amazing things happened this past week when dozens and dozens of people rose to the challenge of giving...

A Child's Priorities

"C'mon, C... speed up a little, Baby. We've got to GO."

It's the same drill every school morning. My middle child is not the speediest child in the morning. Like her daddy, she takes a little while to "wake up" and, no matter how long I give her (sometimes up to an hour!), she never can seem to finish her breakfast with more than five minutes to spare to rush out the door.

I'm a morning person. And I tend to be early. Needless to say, this routine wreaks havoc on my nerves.

This morning was the same ol' story...

"C... c'mon please, Sweetie, we have to go NOW! I told you to head on downstairs- I'll catch up, I promise."

She hesitated on the top step. I felt my anxiety levels go up as I glanced at the "8:28" illuminated on the clock- the bus comes at 8:30. Then I heard her soft, breathy voice...

"Bye, bye, A. I love you!"

"Bye C, I love you too! I'll see you this afternoon."

She may not always be on time, but she has her priorities straight. She'd stopped to say goodbye to her brother. Her thoughtfulness and unconditional love is a far greater gift than my punctuality.

How grateful I am when God helps me re-prioritize through the wisdom of my children.
This post is linked to Gratituesday, hosted at Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"My Story..." Monday: She Cried

I last left off telling "My story..." here...

It took less than thirty seconds for the medical team to rush me into the operating room. I didn't think much of that at the time but, having had a subsequent NON-emergency c-section (where I did not commence the journey in the OB ICU), I now realize just how ridiculously fast that really was.

There was already a large team in place there. In addition to the seven people who came with me were nine others. Sixteen doctors and nurses would be on hand to attempt to bring my way-too-early-baby into the world safely.

When we had discussed whether or not I wanted to attempt the c-section I had asked a couple of questions. One of them was this- and this is exactly what I said-

"So I do have one really selfish thing to ask... I know this all needs to happen really fast and all but I'm just kind of curious... will you all be giving me anything for the pain? I mean during the surgery?"

Looking back, it was an absurd question. I mean- I was having major surgery. This wasn't the same as electing to have a natural birth. The fellow nearly laughed at me, I think, but maintained a straight face as he replied, "Heavens, yes. In all honesty, they'll likely have to give you general anesthesia and put you out. You can't sit up for a spinal- you're completely dilated and the baby could slide right out."

The anesthesiologist was already there when I arrived in the OR. He had all sorts of things on hand, including a ventilator should I need to be intubated. He took one look at me and said, "You're awfully skinny for a pregnant lady," (I had gained all of 4 1/2 pounds in that nearly 24 weeks), "I think you might just be able to curl up on your side and I'll do the spinal- then you could be awake for your baby's birth."

That anesthesiologist became my best buddy throughout that whole surgery- you'll learn more about that later on.

With his help and the help of the fellow, I was able to curl up and he administered the spinal. I don't remember feeling anything when he did it, though I'm sure there was some kind of discomfort. They quickly rolled me back onto my back and he started pricking me to determine where (i.e. "how high up") I was numb. Once I could feel nothing up to my shoulders, they knew they were good to go. Of course, as sensitive as I am and always have been to anesthesia, I also started to vomit. The anesthesiologist deftly wiped me up and suctioned out what I didn't have the strength to spit. He also administered an anti-nausea/anti-emetic cocktail that helped me get past that phase.

While the numbing was spreading, they taped my arms and legs, both splayed wide, onto the table. As they wiped my belly down with iodine they realized the table was much too high. The position resulted in the doctors having to "reach up" at an unnatural angle. When they tried to adjust it, they realized it was broken. One of the nurses called to see about getting a replacement. She yelled across the room- "They say they can have it here in three minutes!"

The head OB shook her head, "That's too long. We'll stand on stools."

And that's just exactly what they did.

As the fellow started to cut, the anesthesiologist asked, "Is there supposed to be a father here?" and the nurse who had promised not to forget him cursed quietly as she rushed out the door. They both returned about 30 seconds later. My husband has since recalled that it felt like he was stuck back in that room forever...

With the anesthesiologist at the left side of my head and my husband at the right, I tried to focus and pray for my precious baby whose life surely hung in the balance...

"Please, God. Please, God. Oh, please, God..." It was all I could come up with. I didn't make any promises or utter any fancy words. Just "Please, God" over and over.

Other than that repeated litany, I remember two big things happening during the surgery:

Number one, my nose itched. The anesthesiologist told me that that was a rare side-effect of the anti-nausea medicine. Wouldn't have been a big deal except for the fact that my arms were taped down. As a result, I spent much of the surgery begging my husband to "Scratch my nose, please... please, can you scratch my nose again?" Sounds silly, but it was remarkably irritating at the time. He obliged.

Number two, I saw, clear as day, an image of a tiny headstone with the name we had chosen should we have a baby girl flash through my mind. It chilled me to the bone and I remember rationally trying to accept the reality of what we may be facing while simultaneously rejecting the vision as simply unacceptable. I hate to talk about that (and I don't often), but it's the truth.

I don't actually know how long the surgery took, but I know it was far shorter than the c-section I had this past June. I remember seeing the neonatal team leap forward and spring into action as they passed my baby- still intact with the bag of waters- over to them. They actually delivered her from there OUTSIDE my body, which is a little odd.

When they did, at 12:32 in wee hours of Christmas Eve...

She cried.

And the room went silent.
to be cont.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Cookie

I was going to share MY brownie recipe today with you all because, well, I make them all the time (if you follow me on Twitter, you already know this well!) and I think they're really darn tasty.

But, the more I thought about it, I felt like since we hold this wonderful Bloggy Progressive Dinner event during the holiday season, I'd really like to share my favorite Christmas cookie recipe with you all.

I should tell you that, for the most part, I don't have the most "simple, basic" tastes when it comes to food. I definitely prefer spicy over mild and I'm not a much a fan of "down-home country cookin' meat and taters" kind of meals. Give me a zippy seafood dish or a tangy marinated chicken any day over roast beef and mashed potatoes. When it comes to these cookies, however, simple hits the spot with me. I adore these oh-so-basic butter cookies served up with a hot cup of black coffee...

Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup butter (I try hard not to be judgmental about other people's food choices but if you try to substitute margarine here for any reason other than a food allergy, I will just have to hunt you down- it simply won't be the same.)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • plain and colored sugar

Cream butter; add sugar gradually; beat in egg and vanilla. Blend in salt and flour. Chill. Shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten cookies with tines of fork, dipped in plain sugar and then sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. Makes about 6 dozen or so.

For more wonderful dessert recipes, be sure to stop by The Finer Things In Life and check out three decadent choices from Amy!

If you missed any of this week's Second Annual Bloggy Progressive Dinner, you can catch up by clicking through the links Amy has kindly left along with her post.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Introducing Cereal!

It's a bittersweet day here today.

This little one is growing up a bit.

Just recently, Baby G has started showing an interest in our food. She has always been a part of our mealtimes, joining us at the table. But it is only in the last little while that she has been aware of what WE'RE eating and showing some signs of readiness.

At her four month check-up, we were given the go-ahead to introduce solids. I was in no hurry. Neither was she. In all honesty, I kind of like being her only source of nourishment. Maybe that's selfish or self-serving or some other less-than-attractive trait, but I had no problem with my baby continuing right along just exclusively breastfeeding and thriving.

All that being said, when she showed those first signs of readiness, I also knew it was time to act.

So this morning I mixed a teaspoon or two of rice cereal in a 1/2 ounce of expressed breast milk.

I started by offering her just a tiny bit on a clean fingertip. She happily sucked that off. After trying that a few times, I offered her a spoon.

She opened her mouth. She tried it.

She likes it.

Not as much as straight milk, mind you, but she likes it. ;)

We're moving on to another phase here in the Parenting Miracles household. Am I a little sad to have her "growing up" on me? You betcha. Am I delighted to see how well she's doing with this next stage? Oh, yes, I'm proud as punch! And I'm just so glad that I think we waited until she was ready, but capitalized on the moment when it arrived.

Bon appetit, sweet baby girl.

(Just in case you were wondering who she looks like... ;))

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Main Event: Chicken Marsala

It's been such a pleasure sharing some of our family's favorite festive drinks and appetizers with you so far this week. Today, the Bloggy Progressive Dinner has moved on to Kate's and she's serving up the entree!

Here at the Parenting Miracles house, a sure hit is my Chicken Marsala. I posted this recipe originally back here, but I've recopied it to this post for the sake of convenience...

Chicken Marsala

  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in strips or bite-sized pieces (strips are prettier, little pieces are easier for little children!)
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups asst. mushrooms, sliced (I like a combination of button and baby bella)
  • 3/4 cup Marsala cooking wine OR 3/4 cup marsala wine + 1/4 tsp salt (Cooking wine has salt added already; I actually prefer to use drinking wine and add the salt myself because I think it has better flavor. You can find Marsala in with the dessert wines, usually, or in with the Italian or Spanish wines)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary or poultry seasoning
  • 1 lb. pasta


Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in large skillet over medium heat. Saute mushrooms until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove and set aside. Melt another 1 Tbsp. butter. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Add chicken to skillet and cook through. Remove. Melt remaining 2 Tbsp butter and add flour. Stir constantly with wooden spoon or small whisk until the flour and butter are incorporated and lightly browned, about one minute. Stir in wine, water, parsley, and rosemary. Bring to a quick boil, then immediately reduce heat. Sauce will thicken as it simmers. Add mushrooms and chicken to sauce and warm through, about 2-3 minutes. Serve over pasta. (We prefer linguine or angelhair.)


(If you're like Amy and married to a man who isn't a big pasta fan- seriously? who doesn't like pasta?? ;) -- you can absolutely serve this dish on the plate right alongside a baked potato. That was one of the options at the Italian restaurant where I waitressed and quite a few people went that route!)

Serves: 4 hungry people

Now head on over to Cooking During Stolen Moments to see what Kate is serving up and what dozens of other bloggers have to contribute through the links!

For the rest of the week's Bloggy Progressive Dinner menu, click on the button at the top of this post.

Winter Fruit Salad

This salad is a Thanksgiving staple in my family. As a child who was a super picky eater, I pretty much made my feast out of it and and a roll or two. Seriously. I've since greatly expanded my repertoire, but I still love this salad!

(I took several lovely pictures of the salad making process- they're stuck on the "internal memory" of my camera as I forgot to put the memory card back in. Until I figure out how to do that, I regret that this will be a "text only" post. Check back sometime tomorrow if you have a chance and I should have the photos up!)


chopped fresh fruit (traditionally, apples, bananas, and seedless grapes)

mini marshmallows

heavy cream

Whip cream until soft peaks form. Sweeten to taste with white sugar. You want it to be lightly sweet but not cloying like some purchased whipped toppings can be. Fold in fruit and mini marshmallows. Serve in pretty glass bowl- bonus points if it came from generations back.

There you go! That's truly it. The beauty of this is how forgiving it is. Don't have grapes? Skip 'em! Prefer extra marshmallows? Go for it! Want to toss in some pears? Well, why not? I loved it then and I love it now. I hope you might enjoy it some day too!

Head on over to The Happy Housewife to see what Toni's serving up for a side-dish during our Second Annual Bloggy Progressive Dinner. For the full line-up, click on the button at the top of this post.