Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Six More Places to Find Me

I have been a guest postin' fool lately. :)

In case you don't get enough of me here or in case you missed the wisdom I've shared elsewhere (ha!), here are few more articles I've written:

Monday, November 29, 2010

10 (Easy) Steps to Helping Military Families This Christmas

  1. Check to see if there is a Dollar Tree near you. Go here to do so. Assuming there is, proceed to step 2...
  2. Find some cash. Then find your little ones. Ideally, you want to have denominations that you can divide equally among your little helpers.
  3. Drive, jog, ride a bike, walk, whatever floats your boat to Dollar Tree. The good news is you will NOT be schlepping a bunch of bags home with you! On the trip there, take a moment to explain to your children that you have a very important job for them... that you need them to pick out special gifts for the children of soldiers.
  4. Hand out dollar bills (if your helpers are old enough to hold on to it for a few minutes- if not, you be the keeper of the cash) and head into the store.
  5. Head to the toy aisles.
  6. Try not to cry as your children carefully select the "perfect" toys for these unknown children and share the reasons why they chose them. ("I give her a magic wand so she can make wishes whenever she feels lonely without her daddy!" *sniff*)
  7. Let them fill the cart with as many items as they have dollars.
  8. Head to the check-out and-- and this is important-- let each child put his or her selections on the conveyor belt. It MATTERS. Ask me how I know.
  9. Tell the new guy- the holiday help with the funky earrings and shaggy hair- that you won't be needing any bags. It's all going in the donation box. Then watch "tough college guy" get all goofy and excited and grinny as he tells the more seasoned cashier next to him that he just got a monster donation "for the kids".
  10. Let your children put the toys in the box. Make sure each child puts in his or her own choices. It MATTERS. Ask me how I know.

Finally, leave the store with empty hands and full hearts.

This post is linked to Top Ten (Tuesday).

Third Annual Bloggy Progressive Dinner is Coming!

It's that time of year again!

Amy, Kate, Toni, Jen, Jeff, and I are busy planning for the delicious Bloggy Progressive Dinner we'll be serving up from December 6-11, 2010.

Do you remember how it works? Each day, one of us will host that day's course (appetizers/drinks, soups/salads, main course, bread, side dishes/veggies, dessert) and YOU, my friends, will stop by and link up your best recipe for that particular course. The host of each day will have a linky up so we can all share our best recipes during this fun, festive time of year!

Are you ready? Excited? Yay!

Need a little inspiration? Check out some posts from the Bloggy Progressive Dinners we've held in years past:

  • Bloggy Progressive Dinner 2008 (Those of you who "knew me then" may recall that I was pregnant with G at this time and got horribly sick during this week... so sick I was hospitalized. Blessedly, my wonderful progressive dinner teammates helped keep things rolling!)
  • Bloggy Progressive Dinner 2009 (Healthy and full participant- lots more posts from me to peruse in this one!)

"My Story..." Monday: The Hospital Calls

It had been close to a year since we had had much to do with the children's hospital. Yes, we had a few follow-up outpatient appointments, but those were all housed in a different section of the building and didn't really stir up any angst or resentment despite the hellish ride we had been on.

While I would, of course, never forget Riley- both for our amazing NICU team and our horrible broken leg adventure- I certainly didn't think about the hospital on a daily, or even weekly, basis. And I definitely had stopped worrying about being in any kind of "trouble"...

One day in August of 2007, when my former micropreemie was about 20 months old, my phone rang.


"Hi, this is Maureen. I work with Riley Children's Foundation."

"Oh... hi. How are you?" (I swear, I've been known to even ask telemarketers how they are... these things are so ingrained in my head. Tell me I'm not alone.)

She went on to tell me that she had gotten my name from the hospital...

And my heart stopped for a moment.

For just a brief second, I wondered if something had come up and they were going to open up a whole new series of investigations about me. While I still really didn't care if they wanted to check in on me, I was terrified that they were going to put my sweet little girl through more unnecessary tests. I forced myself to keep listening through the buzzing in my ears...

"Dr. L. gave me your name. He told me that I simply must talk to your family."

I relaxed a bit. If she had gotten my name from Dr. L, the odds were good that it wasn't anything bad.

"I'm calling because Riley is launching a new series of commercials. Our campaign is 'Hope Happens Here'. We're wondering if you'd be willing to share your story."

"As part of a collection? Did you want some quotes from us or some statements about why we loved Riley?"

"We want to do a commercial about your family. How do you feel about that?"

Thinking of the NICU team that saved our tiny baby girl... Dr. L. who stood by our sides when the going got tough... our amazing pediatric ophthalmologist who is the reason my daughter is not blind...

I did not hesitate.

"Sure. We'll do it."

to be cont.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Menu Plan: 11/28- SO Many of My Favorites!!!

Thanksgiving is O-VAH! Hooray! Just kidding. ;) We had an absolutely lovely holiday and I hope you and your families did as well. Still, our eyes are now firmly fixed on Christmas preparations and, for me, this is an even more joyful and exciting time.


B-Cereal, Applesauce, Milk (The kids had Froot Loops for breakfast because our dear friends tucked a box in our Christmas basket and we decided they could be an Advent treat.)

D-Monte Cristos, Chicken Soup (Didn't happen on Saturday evening and I REFUSE to give up my Monte Cristos!!)


B-Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal, Milk
L-P,B,&J, Apples, Milk


B-PB Toast, Apples, Milk
L-Tostadas w/ homemade salsa, Milk


B-Egg Sandwiches, Juice
L-Cheese Quesadilla, Tangerines, Milk


B-Cereal, Craisins, Milk
L-Tuna Sandwiches, Pretzels, Juice


B-Smoothies, Toast
L-Cheesy Beans & Rice, Milk
D-Multi-Pepper, Tomato, & Chicken Pizza (Ah, finally! My choice this week. I'm pretty much always the last week out of each menu plan...)

L-PB&J, Applesauce, Milk

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Sanctity of Life: Convicts vs. Babies

A month or so ago, I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with my childhood best friend, her wonderful husband, and their beautiful baby girl. Once our four collective kiddos were all tucked in for the night, we settled down in the living room for some music, chatting, and laughter. It was delightful... so delightful, in fact, that it was nearly 2 AM before we all stumbled up to our own beds!

One thing I really like about my friend's hubby- I'll call him Joe- is that he's not afraid to debate and discuss. He and I have strikingly different viewpoints- I'm traditional and conservative, he's liberal and permissive (<-- I don't mean that word in a negative way-- he just has a very open view that allows for a whole lot of things that are not really okay to my way of thinking). We both feel strongly about our beliefs and we each have great respect for the other.

Joe and I are not afraid to dig into some nitty gritty topics.

Because of this, our conversation covered all manner of things regarding religion and politics and, particularly, the subjects of the death penalty and abortion.

I was shocked to learn that, while vehemently opposed to the death penalty, Joe is in favor of abortion. And he is definitely not alone in that.

His argument against the death penalty, you see, was this- if there is even a shadow of a doubt that the convicted might be innocent, it would be a travesty to put such a person to death.


To be honest, I'm a little shaky about my feelings regarding the death penalty. In some ways, I feel there really are crimes that are, deservedly, punishable by death. It's not even so much that I'm afraid we might find an innocent man guilty... I'm just not sure that we flawed humans are really capable of being judge and jury. I don't believe that we can ever have the "full picture" and I'm not convinced it is our right or responsibility to determine when someone's life should be over. In short, I don't think it's our place to decide.

But I know my feelings about abortion. I know why I am pro-life, no matter what. My feelings aren't shaky at all on that one.

And this is what confuses me...

If Joe's reasoning for not killing one single man on death row is that there could be one small chance, however improbable or unlikely, of innocence...

Why is it ok to kill unborn babies who are, arguably, the most innocent among us?

Why do we shrug our shoulders at the idea of a "fetus" being condemned to death for no greater crime than being unwanted? Why would we worry more about harming someone we truly believe to be a violent, twisted individual than a child we know to be pure and blameless? How is this possibly ok???

They are real questions. Questions I would love to have answered in a clear fashion that might make even a lick of sense to me.

Joe couldn't answer them. In the end, it came down to the fact that he valued the woman's right to choose above the child's right to life...

But he was such a defender of the convict's life.

I don't get it.

If we are to be advocates for the sanctity of life... shouldn't this, at the very least, include the most innocent among us?

It's just something I'm thinking about.

Your thoughts?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Menu Plan: 11/21- I Don't Like Thanksgiving

Guess what? I don't like Thanksgiving. Well, that's not true. I love going to Mass with my little family on Thanksgiving morning... I love the MEANING of the holiday... I love sitting around a big dining room table with extended family and laughing... I love watching the Christmas decorations start to peep out in the days following it... But I do NOT like the food. It's true. Turkey? Potatoes? Yams? Cranberry sauce? Pies? None of it strikes my fancy. No, I don't go hungry and YES, I am very thankful for the bounty. But for me? I look forward to our Italian feast every Christmas Eve or the ham on Easter! Anyhow, I still have cinnamon rolls, monte cristos, and peanut noodles to look forward to this week... ;)


B-Cereal, Yogurt, Juice
L-Toast, Egg, & Bacon Cups (Baked)

D-Hot & Sour Peanut Noodles w/ Shrimp and Broccoli (this didn't happen last week on our anniversary... we ended up going out to dinner with our kiddos!)


B-Vanilla & Banana Oatmeal, Milk
L-P,B,&J, Pretzels, Juice
D-Sweet & Sour Chicken, Rice, Mixed Veggies


B-PB Toast, Grapes, Milk
L-Chicken, Rice, Veggies, Water


B-Yogurt Muffins, Apples, Milk
D-Salmon, Rice, Carrots

Thursday: (Thankgiving!)

B-Oatmeal, Raisins, Milk
L & D- Traditional Turkey w/ all the fixin's... supplemented with snacky stuff. I, for one, will be hungry. As I said... I'm not a fan of the food on Thanksgiving. Not. At. All.


B-Smoothies, Fruit
L-Cheesy Beans & Rice, Milk
D-Ham & Black Olive Pizza (the hubby picked this one- one of his fave combos!)


B-Cinnamon Rolls, Sausage Links
L-Yogurt Muffins, Scrambled Eggs, Tangerines
D-Monte Cristos, Chicken Soup

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Irish Twins

My first two children are less than eleven months apart. There are some people who think that's crazy.

Maybe it is.

But, every day, I am thankful for that closeness. Because, if I'm crazy, it's more than made up for by how crazy they are about each other...

Their love for each other is a Finer Thing to be sure!

(They're pretty crazy about that little one between them though, too.)

Helping Families of Hospitalized Children

When I went into labor less than 24 weeks into my pregnancy, I was lucky- my OB sent me to a large university hospital with an adjacent level III NICU. As a result, when my precious little girl was born almost four months early, she was right where she needed to be. I, on the other hand, was two hours from home. So was my husband. And, oh yes, so was our then ten-month old son...

Read more about the impact the Ronald McDonald house had on our lives and how to help over here at Keeping the Kingdom First, where I am honored to guest post for Alyssa. I just love her heart for giving... and the fact that she and I share similar parenting styles and a distaste for sweet tea!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prematurity Has No Prejudice

My name is JessieLeigh.

I was raised in a comfortable, upper middle-class home.

I have a college degree.

I am happily married.

I have always been healthy.

I do not use drugs, drink heavily, or participate in "risky" behaviors.

I sought prenatal care at the start of my pregnancies.

My blood pressure, sugar levels, and weight have never wavered.

Prematurity can affect anyone. It has no prejudice. And its consequences can be devastating. I am one of the lucky ones... my little girl's story is one of great triumph. Still, that came with a world of worry and challenges.

No one knows the reason I went into labor at only 23 weeks gestation. No one could ever find a single cause for C's prematurity. I was blessed to have a full-term birth prior to that one and even more blessed to have had one since. But my life will forever be changed and touched by the premature baby I brought into the world...

Today I'm joining forces with other bloggers to Fight for Preemies. Won't you please take just a couple minutes and visit the March of Dimes website? There is a wealth of information there... from what causes premature birth to statistical rates to how your state ranks to how you can help.

Today, November 17, bloggers unite to Fight for Preemies. Won't you join us?

(In an ironic twist, today is also my sister's- a preemie herself!- birthday... Happy Birthday, JB!)

Standing up and fighting for these precious, tiny lives works for me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Because of THIS moment on Feb 18, 2001...

Because I said "Yes"...

Because we vowed to be together 'til death do us part...

Because I love him more today than I did on that day...

... it is our wedding anniversary today.

Nine years. Three children. More tears than I can count. But more laughter than tears. More joy than sorrow. And, above all, more love than I ever even guessed I would find. Funny how teenage fantasies pale next to the love of a real man. How blessed I am to know that...

And you? Are you so blessed too? How long have you been married? Do share!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Stuffed Meatball Sandwiches

I've mentioned these sandwiches in a couple of menu plans now... and I kept promising you the recipe. Something you should know about me- I'm good at cooking. I'm bad at taking pictures. But I actually remembered last week! So here you go...

makes 4 large stuffed sandwiches

(*note: You can make these as easy or complicated as you would like. Homemade sauce and homemade meatballs would be delish. Regular mozzarella cut into strips or chunks would work fine. I'm listing the ingredients that make this dish super simple... I figure if you make your own bread dough, you oughta be able to catch a break on the rest, right? ;))

  • 1 batch breadstick dough*
  • 1/2 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 20 frozen meatballs
  • 4 string cheese

(*Breadstick Dough-

1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
approx. 2 1/2 cups flour

Pour water in mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast and sugar on top. Allow to get foamy. Add oil, salt, seasoning, and flour. Mix together using dough hook for about five minutes- dough should be soft, but not sticky. Add flour as needed. Place dough, covered, in oiled bowl in warm place for 30-45 minutes. Punch down and proceed with recipe.)

Here's what you'll have at this point:

Roll dough on lightly floured surface into a large oblong shape, just under 1/4" thick I'd say. Let rest for a few minutes.:

Cut into four equal "rectangles". I use a pizza cutter for this:

Spread a couple tablespoons of sauce on each. Top with one string cheese.

Line 5 meatballs along each string cheese.

Brush a little water along the edges- this will make it seal better.

Fold short ends in toward middle.

Fold long sides.

This is what it should look like:

Line up your stuffed sandwiches on a greased cookie sheet.
Cover and let rise for at least 30 minutes in a warm place or, alternatively, up to a few hours in a coolish place (like my kitchen counter this time of year!) They'll look kind of like this:
Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes. And voila:

Yum! We love these sandwiches. The "hands on" time is really minimal and they don't cost much at all to make. Maybe your family could enjoy them too!

This post is linked to:

"My Story..." Monday: Rotovirus in a Cast

(If you missed the beginning of this story, you can find parts 1-6 here:

C. was doing alright in her massive pink cast. She was angry that she couldn't roll from back to tummy and that she couldn't sit up. It was difficult to sponge-bath around the cast and it made our arms ache to hold her for very long... while our little girl was a tiny little thing, the cast was amazingly heavy. But we were ok. Things just took a little more planning.

And then... the rotovirus arrived.

I'm not sure if you've ever had a child with rotovirus, but it is essentially the nastiest stomach bug you'll ever deal with in your life. My first child had also had it (while we were living in the Ronald McDonald House after C. was born) and it was terrible then too. But he wasn't in a cast...

I knew we had a problem when C. woke up crying one morning (not typical) and I rushed into her bedroom. I was immediately assaulted by a horrible smell. Rotovirus diapers do NOT smell like normal messy diapers. I am absolutely serious when I say I think I could diagnose a baby with rotovirus using only my nose... it is THAT distinctive to me.

I removed the way-too-big sleeper we had put over both baby and cast and surveyed the scene. She had leaked, but just a little. I attacked it with wipes and felt like I did a pretty good job. Once she was all cleaned up, I didn't notice any lingering stench.

The day went on.

I gave her Pedialyte in a bottle and, though she would eagerly drink it, I could literally hear it go straight through her body. Sometimes I would have to stop her mid-bottle to change her pants. I would diligently try to make sure her diaper was perfectly tucked into the cast opening but, alas, every time she would leak, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

We battled sickness for almost four days. By the time it was done, the cotton around the edges of her cast was stained and reeking. To be frank, it was difficult to be in the same room as our precious baby girl, let alone hold her. The stench was overwhelming.

I called the casting clinic and spoke to a nurse. "Please," I begged her, "tell me there's something I can do to help this situation!"

She advised rubbing the cast all over with dryer sheets. Not a bad idea. It helped... a little bit. I still can't smell Snuggle Emerald Isle fabric softener without going back in time...

C. had had her cast on for just over two weeks. The doctor had suggested that one month would be when we would look at getting it removed. We had about two more weeks of horrible, nasty stinkiness to endure. We could do it.

And then I noticed the rash. Getting C. dressed one day, I saw the edge of her back under the gap between the cast and her skin. It was covered with dime-sized angry red sores. I flinched when I saw them- they were that painful looking.

I called the casting clinic again and they asked that I bring her in the next day... if it was really that bad, they said, she may need to have her cast replaced.


So we did. We drove her the two hours back to the children's hospital and, upon examining what skin they could see, the nurses knew the cast had to come off. Before removing it, they took an x-ray and forwarded it to the orthopedic surgeon who had casted her weeks before. (He was in surgery at the time, but they sent it to a computer in the room there- isn't that wild?)

While we waited for his response, the cast came off...

C's entire backside- from the top of her thighs to her lower back- was covered in large red open sores. Some of them were weeping. Others had crusted over.

I wept when I saw her. I had never- and have not since- seen a worse rash on a baby. Even the nurses cringed a little.

The phone rang. It was the orthopedic surgeon...

Her leg had healed. Completely. She didn't need another cast. She didn't need anything. Somehow, some way, our baby girl's broken femur had been healed in only two weeks. We would be heading home with a free-legged baby. Hallelujah!

Still, the nurses joined us in eyeing that nasty rash. The more experienced of them told us, "It's a yeast infection. We'll give you prescription strength anti-fungal cream. It'll look better by tomorrow. It'll be gone in five days."

Hard to believe.

It was gone in three. And life went on.

C. has not broken a bone since. And I have never been under any kind of investigation.

The End.

(Would you like to hear another story starting next week? I have lots of them. :))

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Menu Plan: 11/14- Birthday and Anniversary Week

This is one busy week! My ninth anniversary is on Tuesday, sandwiched right between my father's birthday and my sister's birthday. Sunday night, we celebrated the whole lot of occasions together!


B-Cereal, Applesauce, Milk
L-Scrambled Eggs w/ Cheese, Cinnamon & Sugar Toast, Bananas
D-Family Supper at Bama & Papa's


B-Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, Juice
L-P,B,&J, Grapes, Milk

D-The three kiddos and I are going to a Family Supper event up where my Grandma lives- I'll have some homemade pigs in blankets here for hubby.


B-PB Toast, Yogurt, Juice
L-Pigs in Blankets, Corn, Water
D-Hot & Sour Peanut Noodles w/ Shrimp and Broccoli (Hubby's already looking forward to this one...)


D-Pizza Paninis


B-Cereal, Cheese, Juice
L-Tuna Sandwiches, Pretzels, Milk
D-PB&J Triangles, Veggie Soup


B-Smoothies, Toast
L-Cheesy Beans & Rice, Milk
D-Cheese, Tomato, & Ground Beef Pizza (the 4yo picked this one- she actually requested "brown meat", so I'm interpreting that as beef...)


B-Pancakes & Apples
L-Breaded Chicken Sandwiches, Fruit

And guess what? I actually remembered to take pictures of my stuffed meatball sandwiches as I was making them last week... so I'll be sharing those on Tuesday!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Smoothies

When I served this newest concoction up this morning, my kids devoured it lickety split...

"Mama, this tastes JUST LIKE a pumpkin pie!!" the five year old declared.

Want to try it for yourself?

Add the following to blender:

1/2 cup ice cubes
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (actually, a tiny bit less-- just a few drops will do!)
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Blend it up until smoothie consistency!

Makes 2 good-sized smoothies.

*You could likely substitute vanilla yogurt for the plain yogurt, vanilla, and honey if that's what you have on hand.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Children's Non-Fiction

When my nine-month old baby girl was in the emergency room with a spiral fracture of the right femur, we were also struggling with how to entertain our nineteen-month old son. As it got later and later in the night, I pushed a sleepy toddler in a stroller up and down the hospital corridors. We happened to stumble upon a cart of free books. Most of them were geared toward older children and adolescents... Baby Sitters Club series and such.

But I saw one slim paperback that looked like something I could, perhaps, read to my one year old. It was called Glaciers.

I had never read anything like it to my babies. We read all the time. But we read things more along the lines of Goodnight, Moon; The Runaway Bunny; Time for Bed; You Are Special, Little One; etc. This... this was... non-fiction.

And you know what? He adored it. He loved the simple text and real photographs. We read that book until it was tattered. (We still own the tattered copy, by the way.) We have since added eight more books by the same authors (Melvin and Gilda Berger).

Reading non-fiction with your children is just another way to embrace the joy and discovery of reading! Seeing their fascination as they learn new facts and formulate more questions about their world is a beautiful thing... every bit as beautiful as seeing them soothed by the gentle rhythms of bedtime stories or giggling at silly nursery rhymes.

Non-fiction for young children? Definitely works for me.

How about you? What are your favorite types of books to read with your children?


"She's a feisty one," they told us in the NICU. "That's good news. The feisty ones do better- we love a good fighter. Of course... just remember that you're the ones who are going to have to live with her."

How right they were.

I attended my almost 5 year old's annual review at the school last Thursday.

"Sweet", "friendly", "social", "loving", and "enthusiastic" were all used to describe my girl. Oh, and a few more things...

"Fiercely independent", "stubborn", "refuses help from others"...

Oh yeah.

And "feisty".

The trait that doctors say contributed to my daughter's amazing triumphs is also the one that teachers and therapists say makes it tough to help her progress.

But, at the end of the day...

Dear Lord, we are so glad we have to "live with her". We are so undeservedly blessed.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Menu Plan: 11/7- Keeping the Chill Off

Brrr... it's finally starting to feel pretty chilly around here. I refused to turn the heat on in my house until November 1st. (Okay, that's not entirely true- I turned the heat on in the baby's bedroom at night because she doesn't sleep with a blanket yet...) I am S.T.U.B.B.O.R.N. It's true. I still only turn the kitchen and living room heats on for a short period in the early morning to "take the chill off". So how do we warm up? Hearty pastas, tummy-warming soups, and rich cheese sauces. Mmmm... bring it on:


B-Cereal, Yogurt, Juice
L-Sausage, Egg, & Cheese Biscuits
D-Ravioli & Meatballs, Green Beans


B-Peanut Butter Oatmeal w/ a couple chocolate chips just to make 'em smile, Milk
L-P,B,&J, Pretzels, Juice
D-Batter Dipped Chicken Nuggets, Oven Fries from Fingerlings, Corn


B-Toast w/ Homemade Black Raspberry Jam, Applesauce, Milk
L-Oven Fries, Broccoli w/ Ranch Dip, Water
D-French Onion Soup (w/ the requisite toasted French bread and Swiss cheese! Actually, I think Gruyere is probably more authentic, but I digress...)


B-Banana Choc Chip Mini Muffins, Yogurt, Juice
L-Grilled Cheese, Tangerines, Milk
D-Stuffed Meatball Breadstick Sandwiches, Salad (My plan is to actually take a picture of these this time so I can share the recipe... someone please remind me on Wednesday, will you? ;) )


B-Oatmeal, Apple Slices, Milk
L-Buttered Noodles, Yogurt, Juice
D-Seafood Crepes (My kids are off school and my hubby is off work in honor of Veteran's Day... so we'll enjoy a yummy, fancy meal together!)


B-Pumpkin Pie Smoothies, Fruit
L-Cheesy Beans & Rice, Milk
D-Pepperoni & Jalapeno Pizza (the 5yo picked this one!)


B-Ham Steak, Tater Tots, Fruit
L-Souped-Up Tomato Soup, Cheese Bread
D-Laura's Macaroni & Cheese, Peas (My two girls LOVE peas. I do not. But that's not going to stop me from serving them up!)

My Poor Man's Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwiches last night were an all-around hit. Well, the baby ate the ham and cheese off and abandoned the bread, but that's just how she rolls. ;) I was very pleased with how they turned out. Would anyone be interested in that recipe?

I am SO excited to be having French Onion Soup this week for supper. My dad makes a rockstar French Onion Soup, but I enjoy almost any version. I think soup that involves melty cheese just has a special place in my heart...

What's your favorite soup to warm up with on a chilly Fall night?

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"My Story..." Monday: Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

(If you missed the beginning of this story, you can find parts 1-5 here:

I made my way back to C's hospital room. My husband still held her in the rocking chair.

"Did you find her?" he asked.

I shook my head.

"I ran into some of the people from the NICU snack hours I used to go to. Remember those? They were really sweet, but I don't think there's anything they can do over here in Pediatrics..."

I took over the rocking of C. and we sat and waited some more. Not too much time passed before yet another doctor came in. We looked up quickly, anticipating results.


He had just come in to tell us that they wanted us to schedule an appointment with a neurosurgeon in a few months. They had spotted a cyst in C's brain and, while they weren't particularly concerned about it, they thought we should have a follow-up just to see.


"Have they read the results from the bone scan yet?"

"No. They may not get to that until Monday."

He left.

I cried. Again.

A couple minutes later, someone else was walking through our door. It was the family support coordinator, Susan.

"JessieLeigh?" she said.

I turned and saw not only her friendly face but also the face of a man I adored- the head of neonatology, Dr. L.

Susan continued, "I ran into Dr. L. in the hallway and I was telling him your story and he said he just had to come down here..."

I turned to him and he smiled, then said, "I was just wondering who I need to tell how wonderful you are."

I burst into tears again and explained that, really, we just wanted to find out the results of her tests. That, if they didn't need to do any more things, we wanted to be discharged to go home as a family. I blubbered around and asserted, as I had numerous times throughout the week, that they were welcome to nanny-cam my house or pay me surprise visits. I had nothing to hide.

Dr. L. touched my arm and, in a quiet voice, said, "I'll be right back."

Less than two minutes later, a nurse hustled into our room and declared, none too kindly, "They're filling out your discharge paperwork right now. You can start packing up if you'd like."

Immediately behind her was the doctor we had seen before Dr. L. arrived. "Um, her bone density tests were fine," he told us. "There is no sign of Brittle Bone Disease."

And right behind him? The doctor in charge of investigating suspected abuse cases. Remember her?

"Mrs. S., you and your family are free to go. We have elected to not file any report with child protective services as there is no evidence that you caused your child deliberate harm. We had to run all the tests to keep on record should we ever be questioned as to why we did not report the incident."

Okay. Did you follow all that? All those tests? They weren't necessarily done because anyone ever suspected they'd find anything... they were done so the hospital could cover their tail if it turned out I DID do something to hurt C. in the future. They needed to have the documentation that showed why they had decided I did not seem to be an abuser. While I was, of course, grateful that they realized I had not hurt my own child, I was angry that they had let us believe that they truly thought our daughter may have a terrible disease. We had fretted needlessly.

But... we were free to go. A one minute conversation with the department head of neonatology and things got moving oh-so-fast.

Have you ever heard the expression, "Speak softly and carry a big stick"? Well, Dr. L. is the embodiment of that. He is a small, slim, quiet, white-haired man. He is gentle. Kind. Humble. Understanding. And highly, highly respected. I think so very highly of him and I am blessed that that feeling is mutual.

We thanked our beloved Dr. L. and Susan. We gathered the various items that end up strewn around a room that you live in for a few days. We loaded up our baby girl in her bulky pink cast and the special car seat we would have to use to accommodate it. We drove the two hours home.

We settled in to a new "normal". It wasn't easy, juggling errands and activities with a baby in a cast... but we figured it out. It wasn't easy, doing sponge baths and changing diapers with a spica cast... but we figured it out. We figured it all out...

Until the rotovirus.

to be cont.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Three Things I Could Not Have Lived Without After Giving Birth at 24 Weeks

Let me be very clear, first of all... this is not an exhaustive list. Nor is it a list of the things that TRULY got me through those early days- things like prayer, support, education, lodging near my baby, etc. No, this is a list of three things that I wouldn't necessarily have known I would need... but it turned out that I did:

  1. Vicodin. Maybe it seems kind of silly for me to list a narcotic here, but I'm being very truthful. I do NOT have a low pain threshold. I do NOT take medication for every (or even most) ache(s) or pain(s). The side-effects of most drugs bother me far more than the symptoms I must endure. I declined medication over and over and over again following my son's birth. But after my classic c-section with C? I embraced the Vicodin. The simple fact is that I would not have been able to walk the many blocks and endless corridors that I was required to in order to see my daughter without that medication. Trust me. I tried it on just ibuprofen one night and collapsed in a hallway. And so... Vicodin makes my list.
  2. Maternity pants. Don't throw things at me, but I never needed maternity pants after my son was born. No, I couldn't hop right back into my "skinny jeans", but I was absolutely back in normal clothing just as soon as I got home. With C. being born four months early and given the fact that I carry my babies small, I never wore maternity pants during that pregnancy. It's true. But, ooh boy, did I ever need them after that classic c-section. Sore and swollen with a tender incision across my lower abdomen, maternity pants were the only thing I could wear comfortably. I suppose dresses would have worked, but then I would have had the inconvenience of trying to pump every couple hours in them...
  3. My cell phone. Maybe this seems comical to some of you who couldn't live without your phones under the best of circumstances, but, me? I made it many, many years without one while the rest of the world became more and more dependent on the suckers. I never had any reason to feel like people should be able to reach me "anytime, anywhere". I didn't even LIKE that idea. Once I had a baby in the NICU? I was ever-so-grateful that the nurses could summon me at a moment's notice, that the pediatric ophthalmologist could reach me right away with bad news, and that I had a way to stay in touch when we found ourselves, very suddenly, transferred to Chicago for surgery. (By the way, I do like having a cell phone still, but- pssst- I've still never sent nor received a text message. ;))
If anyone had told me five years ago that someday I'd sing the praises of narcotics, cell phones, and wearing maternity pants while not pregnant, I would have called them crazy. But, well, I've been through a lot in five years... and I've learned a lot along the way.

Have you ever ended up really needing something that you never would have foreseen?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Homemade Peppermint Patties

Take that, York! I can now replicate my very, very favorite "purchased" candy at home. In fact, over coffee and a few indulgent patties last week, my sister declared the homemade version tastier than the store-bought kind. Better, thicker chocolate and a slightly smoother filling make them superior in her opinion. You be the judge, but go ahead and make up a batch!

(Disclaimer: This recipe is from the Nov 2010 issue of Family Fun Magazine. You can find it right here online. I'm also writing it out here for you so I can share the methods I used to make certain steps easier.)


2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon cold water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (I happened to have a real lemon on hand and I used a teaspoon of juice from it- I don't think it would have a significant negative impact to use the bottled kind)
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 1-lb box powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 cups)
1 tablespoon shortening
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips (I definitely needed the full bag and, in truth, my last couple of patties weren't super well-coated. If you want them all to be uniform and pretty, you may want an extra couple of ounces!)
6 starlight peppermint candies, crushed (totally optional, but pretty!)


1. Using electric mixer, beat together 2 tablespoons water, corn syrup, lemon juice, and peppermint extract. Add half of the powdered sugar. Add shortening. Beat on medium and slowly ad the remaining powdered sugar until well combined. If mixture seems too stiff or crumbly, add additional teaspoon of water (<--I did.)

2. Form into ball and place between sheets of waxed paper. I used a rolling pin to roll into a disk about 9" in diameter and 1/4" thick. Lay disk on cookie sheet and put in freezer for about 15 min.

3. Place disk on flat surface and cut out circles. They recommend a small cookie cutter and, if you have one, that's great. I did not, so I used the rim of a very small cordial glass and that worked splendidly! Look around your house before you go out buying things, that's my motto. Anywho, cut out as many circles as you can and lay them on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Gather the scraps into a ball (just like you would cookie dough) and re-roll. Cut out more circles. Repeat this process until all the filling is gone. Put circles in freezer.

4. Melt your chocolate. I do mine in the microwave, on medium, stirring every 30 seconds or so. Using a fork, dip each patty and let the excess chocolate run off. Place on waxed paper. (While "ball" candies like peanut butter balls or coconut balls will just "roll off" the fork, patties will not. You may find it helpful to use a butter knife to gently push it off onto the waxed paper.) Sprinkle each patty with a bit of crushed mint candy- you'll want to do this after every 5 or so that you dip so the chocolate doesn't set up too much on you...

5. Harden the finished patties in the refrigerator for at least an hour. It's best to store them airtight in the fridge, layered with waxed paper or parchment. These will keep up to a month but, really, I highly doubt this is going to be an issue! ;)

Yield: 5 dozen, according to Family Fun... 52 for me.

  • I was amazed how quickly and easily I was able to put these together... I made them with my three "5 & under" kiddos with me. I love that you don't have to cook it to some specific temperature.
  • Try not to get all bent out of shape about the corn syrup and shortening in these... it's really pretty minimal and, let's face it, we're not making health food here. If, like me, you haven't purchased shortening in five or so years and find yourself struggling to find it in the store... it's with the oils, not the baking supplies.
  • Also, yes, I'm perfectly aware that, technically, it's "wax paper", but I've never been able to say or type that... just sounds wrong to me. So, for now and forever more, you'll get "waxed paper" from me. ;)

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