Sunday, August 31, 2008

Annika's Birth Story

At the request of my mom, I'm posting Annika's birth story. I guess it's fitting, since we'll be celebrating her first birthday next Saturday.

Annika was due on August 28, 2007. Mom flew out to Virginia on August 21…..we had her come a week early because Marissa had been born six days early and we were just sure that Annika would follow suit. I was so relieved when Mom arrived and I wasn’t in labor yet, and I was sure it would happen any day. I had been 2 cm dilated at my previous 2 appointments and was having Braxton Hicks frequently.

Two weeks later, the situation hadn’t changed at all, except that now Mom only had a week left with us and Dad and my inlaws were arriving in two days. Still 2 cm dilated, still no true labor and in fact, despite having my membranes stripped twice, I was having fewer contractions than ever. We decided to induce. I was so nervous and anxious about it….but so ready to not be pregnant anymore!

September 6, 2007. I was up at 3:45 to shower and get ready….we had to be at the hospital by 5:00 am. It took an hour to get the initial blood work run, paperwork filled out, and all the normal stuff done. I finally got the pitocin and my antibiotics for GBS running in the IV at 6:15. The nurses were very accommodating about finding the very unused telemetry unit and trying to figure out how to work it. Turns out hardly anyone requests it and they just never pull it out. I was probably the last one to use it with my labor with Marissa! Anyways, it finally started working and I was free to roam around, towing the IV with me. Our main nurse for the day was Martha. Very nice lady.

So at about 9:15, Dr. Hill showed up and checked me, saying I was still only 2.5 cm dilated and 50% effaced. Argh! No progress. He broke my water, which wasn’t particularly pleasant. He figured things would hop right along. So I puttered around the room more.

There were two nursing students (both 30-40 something moms) on the unit that morning, and since I was the only patient who had agreed to let students observe the birth, they hovered around my room, popping in and out at regular intervals. It was sort of nice for a distraction, but eventually I got tired of trying to smile and have a conversation with them while I was focusing on labor. They really wanted me to deliver before their shift was up around 2:00. Believe me, I was more anxious for delivery than they were!

Around noon, I was really focusing hard on relaxing during the contractions and was ready to get checked. Only 4 cm. WHAT? I thought surely we were further along than that. After Martha suggested that Dr. Hill come back and re-break my water and possibly increase the Pitocen, I began to panic. I didn’t think I could handle these intense contractions for a whole lot longer. Grant and I decided to go for the epidural, so Martha called for the anesthesiologist. We waited and waited.

I eventually shifted from my semi-lying position to my left side (Bradley position) and felt the contractions intensify further. I was leaking a lot more, I guess Annika’s head had been blocking the water from coming out when I was upright.

By the time the anesthesiologist arrived, around 1:00, I was dilated to 5 cm and was entering transition. I had to sit on the edge of the bed and hold completely still while he did his work, and that was the hardest part of the whole thing. I was in such pain in that position and I KNEW I couldn’t move a centimeter. I had already heard that he was unable to give an epidural to another patient that morning because she wouldn’t hold still enough.

Everything was in by around 1:30. I was feeling significantly better, but still in some pain. My midwife, Lois, arrived and checked me….oh, I was already almost fully dilated. They immediately began to prep the room for delivery. Before I knew it, I was feeling the urge to push. What? The epidural hadn’t even kicked in completely and here I was about to deliver. Go figure.

Lois was telling me not to push yet (I’m still not sure why) and Martha whispered in my ear, “If you feel like pushing, you just go ahead and push!!”. So I did. I really couldn’t help it anyways. Annika was born in just about 3 pushes. 1:55 pm. If I had known I would go from 5 cm to delivery in less than an hour, I never would have gotten that epidural! Well, the nursing students got to witness their first delivery and were in tears. They said it was one of the happiest days of their lives. It was for me too!

Annika was perfect. Tons of dark hair and dark blue eyes. One of the nurses commented that she had never seen a newborn with such long eyelashes. She nursed beautifully from the get-go. After I got a stitch or two, and basic clean-up was finished, we were left alone to bond with her for over an hour. It was so precious. Then they took her to be measured and have first shots, etc. while I was doing final clean-up. She was 8 lb, 13 oz, and measured at 19.5 in. long, but we knew they were off, which was confirmed a week later at a check-up when she was 21.5 in long.

Then I got to go see the first bath (hospital regulations prevented Grant from getting to bathe her...they changed something because just 22 months ago, he got to give Marissa her first bath) and we got settled into our room. We were so glad everything was over, so relieved that it went so smoothly and we had our gorgeous baby girl. God is so good to us.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Turkey and Black Bean Soup

I discovered the original recipe (Beef and Black Bean Soup) last year on Allrecipes and made a few changes to it.... and my family gobbles it up. The kids have never once complained about it....and so that makes for a relaxing dinner. I also like that it's economical and very healthy. But best of all, it's just plain delicious.


Recipe

1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 t. garlic salt
2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth (I just use water with bouillon stirred in)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
8 green onions, thinly sliced (OR 1 yellow onion, chopped)
5 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen corn
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 t. salt
1 t. dried oregano
1 heaping t. chili powder
1 heaping t. cumin
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I use brown)

Brown the ground turkey until done, sprinkling with the garlic salt while cooking. Drain.
Transfer to a slow cooker. Add everything else, except the rice. Stir to combine and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-6 hours, depending on when you need it done. Add the rice about 1 hour before you want to eat.
Serve with a little grated cheese and some corn chips.

Yield: Enough for my family of 2 adults, 3 kids under 5 to have 2 full dinners and a little leftover. Hey, we like leftovers! And this soup is just as good, if not better, a couple of days later.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Corban's Birth Story

So Grant was hoping I would post "his" birth story, or rather, his account of Corban's birth. I never did write my version, so we'll have to rely on his for accuracy. :) He did a great job...he actually wrote it the day Corban was born and surprised me with it.

Well Everyone, Corban David Mora is here! Our son was born at 1:31 am on October 20, 2003. He weighed 8 lbs, 1 oz; and was 23 inches long! Very LONG AND LEAN! Apparently the pain Rebekah was feeling under her collar bone really was Corban kicking (ok so it was only her lower lung…) He currently has a LOT of brown hair, and very deep baby blue eyes… lets hope he keeps those colors!

As some of you know, Rebekah and I strongly support and desire natural child birth, but were not opposed to Medical Intervention if either her or our child were threatened. Here is the short version of our labor story written by me, alone, with out Rebekah’s review, VERY quickly, while checking on the dog before returning to her and Corban at the hospital… for a more accurate and complete version you will have to ask Rebekah… Oh, for those of you who think to be concerned about Corban’s vitals through the Labor, rest assured he has a fantastically strong heart and was never in any stress… in fact it appeared as though he enjoyed the stimulation!

Rebekah went into labor on Saturday morning at 9:30ish, and was admitted to Labor and Delivery at 7:00 pm (Dilated at 3 cm, 80% effaced). We arrived with more gear than you could shake a stick at, one nurse didn’t even know what our birthing ball was, and all were impressed by Rebekah’s ‘Birth Plan’, foresight to have a medical power of attorney for me, and her overall knowledge, and preparation.—My wife is remarkable and I AM SO PROUD OF HER!

Back to the story,
Rebekah remained in Active 1st stage labor until early Sunday morning. At 10:00 pm we had only progressed to 4 cm but were 100% effaced. By midnight Saturday night, after 2 more hours of even harder contractions we were disappointed to be informed that she was only at 5 cm. The rest of the night and early morning Rebekah labored hard, REALLY HARD. We thought for sure we would have that baby soon! Alas, that was not what God had in store for us.

We think Transition Stage (where you go from 7-10 cm, and is typically the hardest and shortest Stage of Labor lasting between 10 minutes and an hour) began at about 5:00 on Sunday Morning, however, we know that by 8:00 am when her midwife checked her she was at 8 cm, there she remained for the next 7 agonizing hours (though she spent a total of 12 hours at 8 cm). At about 12:30 pm she was checked again and it was discovered there had been no forward progress, we decided to intensify her contractions with natural methods to no avail, that is, the contractions came faster and harder but when she was checked again at 2:30 pm we were again told we were still at 8 cm.


At this point While I was very tired, I hadn’t been laboring for 30 hours like Rebekah… she was exhausted both because of the labor and because of sleep deprivation and food deprivation… hey guys, you try eating when you can’t even walk from an intense muscular contraction you can’t stop or rest from…. Let’s put it in perspective… do you exercise? Try doing bench press, pushups, incline press, decline press and every variation there of to totally smoke one muscle group… FOR 30 HOURS STRAIGHT… and see if you have the heart to do what Rebekah then did…

As Rebekah’s Coach, I knew my Athlete really wanted a natural delivery, and I truly believed that we were close, really close, to the magic 10 cm mark. I gave her a good pep talk after discussing some not so fun options with our midwife and doctor, which included the mention of a Cesarean Section. We then did our best to intensify contractions again with natural techniques, and by 3:00pm things were REALLY moving. Doing her best to relax through her contractions, and focus on surrendering to the labor, allowing her uterus to do the work it was designed to do, Rebekah fought through another hour of what was some of the most amazingly intense contractions you could imagine.


When the agreed upon time came for our midwife to check her again, Rebekah was still only dilated at 8 cm. – I could not bring myself to coach her though another hour like that, not at the exhausted state she was at… we needed a break, Rebekah needed some rest or she would never be able to push Corban out. Fortunately both of us felt that an Epidural was the way to go, followed by the breaking of her waters. We did not break her waters previously because the Bag of Waters serves as a great natural cushion to keep the intensity of uterine contractions from overwhelming a laboring mother…

At 5:10 pm on Sunday, Rebekah received an Epidural and at about 5:35 her waters were broken. Two hours later she was still at 8 cm… despite these two interventions. Again the Doctor brought up the subject of a Cesarean Section, and again we wanted to avoid it, an internal monitor was fed into her uterus in order to be ‘squeezed’ and therefore get a very accurate reading on the strength of her contractions. We discovered that because of the extremely long labor, her uterus was no long able to give contractions powerful enough to finish dilating the Cervix, let alone be able to birth our son. We opted for Pitocen, a medication that stimulates uterine contractions, in order to finish the labor.

Finally at Midnight on Sunday night Rebekah had reached 10 cm, but still had no overwhelming urge to push. After another hour of contractions Rebekah had an urge to push… and at 1:00 am on Monday she began pushing.

Second Stage Labor… Rebekah originally intended to give birth to Corban in the squatting position using a squatting bar. However, the Epidural made this an impossibility. The next best position, which was our alternate planned position, should Rebekah’s knee give out, was the Assisted Classic Position. In this position, the Labor Coach sits behind the Athlete and acts as a backrest while pulling back on the Athlete’s thighs ‘simulating’ a squat from a seated position. All the Labor and Delivery Staff were amazed to see this… I guess they don’t see to many couple that do their homework or train for this like Rebekah and I did.


After only a half hour of pushing Corban came screaming into this world and was immediately placed on Rebekah’s chest for bonding. With digital cameral in hand I snapped our first family photo, minus our dog.

Third stage labor we won’t discuss, as most people leave during the credits of a movie anyway…

Well there you have it, the story of the birth of our little boy, Corban David. A total of 40 hours of labor, 12 of which she spent at 8 cm dilated… my hat is off to my wife, she has more than proven my claim that she is capable of anything. Our little boy is a strong little tike with lots of hair, and fantastic leg muscle definition, I am sure his Uncle Eric is already dreaming of the Mountain Bike races he will one day coach his Nephew to destroy his opponents in.




Grant stopped by a bakery and got this adorable ice cream cake for us to celebrate. We ended up giving most of it to the nurses, because we certainly couldn't eat it all!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Marissa's Birth Story

Fish Mama over at LifeAsMom just had a darling baby girl and is hosting a birth story swap today. I thought I'd join in with my favorite birth thusfar, Marissa's. (Note: I wrote this just a few days after she was born.)

The date was October 28, 2005. Marissa was due in 6 days, and my mom was arriving on the 31st. I felt like I had a lot of deep cleaning to do before everything went crazy, and I had started scrubbing our downstairs vinyl floor by hand the previous day and had more than half left to go. I worked all morning on the floor, despite the remembrance that just the previous night I had commented to Grant that I should probably take it easy and not work too hard, since the baby could come at any time and I didn’t want to be too exhausted when labor began.

Grant and I had arranged with a neighbor girl, Laura, to baby sit for us that night while we went on one last date before Marissa’s arrival, to the movies. After lunch, Corban and I headed out to the movie theater to buy tickets for the new Zorro movie. Then we stopped by the grocery store to pick up some frozen pizzas, then home to get Corban down for a nap. I called Laura’s mom to inform her of the ticket times and when we needed Laura to be there. She asked how I was feeling and I replied, “No baby yet!” and laughed.

I headed downstairs to finish my Suduko puzzle from the newspaper before taking a little snooze myself. As I reclined on the couch, I felt a sharp little pain in my cervix area, as though Marissa had punched me a good one. Suddenly, I began to feel a little wet. Instantly the thought crossed my mind that my water had broken, but I was in complete denial and just kept working my puzzle. I kept feeling wetter, but continued ignoring it for several minutes, thinking, “This just can’t be happening right now”. It became impossible to ignore and I headed to the bathroom, realizing that no, I had not peed on myself and yes, this was a serious situation. Fortunately, the liquid was clear, so no worries about meconium. My heart pounding with the realization that this baby was inevitably coming, I headed upstairs to the master bathroom, in which there was a phone.

It was about 2:45 pm. I called Grant, who was driving back to work from some errands. I said, “Honey, we’re not going to make it to that movie”, to which he replied, “Are you in labor?!” very excitedly….when I said “Yes”, he wasn’t disappointed about the movie at all. He said he would be home very soon and that he would call the doctor’s office for me (he had the number more available than I did). He called me back a few minutes later and informed me that Lois, my midwife, was out of town (as he was told by the receptionist at the office) and that we were instructed to head to the hospital as soon as possible.

I couldn’t believe it, she had told me she would be around and was planning on being at my labor and delivery. Well, nothing could be done and I had to proceed anyways! I called Laura’s mom back and made arrangements for her to come over and watch Corban for the night, then jumped into the shower. I knew I had a long night ahead of me and wasn’t about to have those post-baby pictures taken with greasy hair!

Then I got to start packing. We hadn’t done any of that yet! I was so convinced that she would be late that I hadn’t made it a priority. I was having mild contractions, nothing major at all, but still leaking a lot of fluid. Grant got home, the babysitters arrived, we finally finished packing and saying goodbyes to Corban (who had gotten very clingy and obviously knew something big was happening), and headed out the door. I was so nervous about leaving Corban. He had never spent a night away from me, so I guess I was anxious for both of us! I could hardly believe that when I came back home, I would have a new baby. Life would really never be the same.

We stopped at Walgreen’s on the way, mainly to get some bottled water. Grant ended up buying a load of candy, too (great for celebrating once she was born). Once at the hospital, Grant was uploading some CDs to his MP3 player so we could have music without the boom box in the hospital room. I was uncomfortable, but still not in significant pain. We got into the hospital around 6:00.

The unit was quiet, I was instructed to change into a gown, and basically we were left alone. A nurse finally came in to start the processing paperwork, and she told us there would be a shift change at 7:00. The contractions were picking up in intensity, about every 4-5 minutes, but I was coping very well. Our nurse for the evening, Judy Lassiter, came in to meet me, and she continued with the paperwork, questions, etc. I told them I would need an IV for the antibiotics for Strep B, but it was not a rush for them. Dr. Hill showed up in the room around 8:00, examined me and said I was 3 cm dilated, 70% effaced. He told me he’d give me till morning to see if I needed Pitocin.

Finally I got the monitors off and the IV in and was able to get out of the bed to move around. I headed immediately to the bathroom, and the contractions picked up as soon as I was standing. By 9:30, I was really concentrating on breathing and relaxing through contractions and was in a lot of pain, wondering if I could really do this natural childbirth thing. I told Grant I wanted to get checked, and that if I wasn’t making GOOD progress, I was seriously considering an epidural. He summoned Judy and she checked me immediately. I think we were all surprised when she announced 6 cm! Whew, I WAS making progress. At that point, I knew I could hang in there awhile longer.

I had decided that sitting on the bed was the most comfortable position for me. Grant sat behind me so I could lean on him during contractions and between them he rubbed my back with this heavenly lavender vanilla massage oil from Bath and Bodyworks. As the contractions swept over me, I put every ounce of concentration I could muster into relaxing all the muscles in my body and visualizing my cervix opening like a flower. Transition seemed like it lasted forever…..I was shaking and sweaty and convinced that I couldn’t stand another minute of pain, and at 10:30 I demanded to be checked again.

Whoa, 8-9 cm! I was almost there!!! The nurse kicked it into high gear at that point, saying she was calling Lois right away. I was confused…Lois???? I thought she was out of town. Oh, she was back and was planning on attending my birth. Thank God!! Why didn’t anyone tell me this earlier? (I later found out that Lois was not informed of how fast I was progressing and was extremely sorry that she wasn’t there to help out. She loves attending natural births and I was one of her few patients having one).

I had another urgent need to use the bathroom and managed to make it there in the few seconds between contractions. As I sat on the toilet, I could feel my body starting to push. I wasn’t doing it on purpose, and I really couldn’t stop it! It was the strangest feeling. I made it back out to the bed and told Grant we’d better get Judy in there fast.

She came in to check me again (about 10:40) and said I was fully dilated! She told me to try not to push and to pant through contractions. Lois should be there soon! Boy, that was the hardest thing ever…..to keep from pushing. My body rebelled against me and I just could not control it, panting though I was. Judy was preparing the room for delivery because she could tell I wasn’t gonna last much longer. Another nurse, Martha, came to assist. I think it was a few minutes till 11:00 when Judy determined that baby was coming NOW and I might as well push with all my might.

So I did. My goodness, the intensity of those few moments. I thought I couldn’t bear the pain, but it was exhilarating to know that I was delivering a precious baby and that my body was doing exactly what it was made to do. Marissa’s head came out and unbeknownst to me, the cord was wrapped around her neck. Grant could tell something was wrong because the color of her head was not normal; it was quite purple. Despite his immediate concern, he managed to stay completely calm and just followed Judy’s example in urging me to push.

Judy swiped the cord off Marissa’s neck with one finger and just stated firmly, “Push now, get that baby out.” I had no idea anything could be wrong, but I pushed as hard as I could and she slid out. At that very instant, Lois arrived. Marissa was handed up to my chest for a few seconds…It barely registered in my mind that she wasn’t the right color or crying….she was gurgling and wet and had so much hair and all I could think was “I did it! I did it! Thank God it’s over!”

Then I realized that Grant wasn’t cutting the cord, that Judy did it and then took Marissa away. After turning her upside down and patting her, she started crying. They got her under a warmer for a few minutes while Lois checked me out. I had a minor tear which required a few stitches (my goodness, the shots to make me numb were so painful!) and thankfully that was over quickly.

Marissa was doing fine and was brought over to me to nurse. Lois and Judy, after insuring everybody was okay, left us in peace to have some bonding time with our precious new daughter. She took to nursing right away and Grant and I just looked at her and marveled at how perfect she was. We were both still in a bit of shock at how fast the labor progressed…..we knew it would be faster than Corban’s, but we truly had no idea the total time would be just 8 hours 20 minutes. Praise GOD!!!



Monday, August 25, 2008

Weekend Fun

We started out the weekend by going to Fort Monroe for their free pool/beach evening, complete with live music. This was our second time going this summer, and it truly is a lot of fun.

We took along some friends from church (who brought a great dinner for us to share, Thanks Lyndsay!) and splashed around in the pool awhile before heading to the beach. It was a cool evening, and the pool was quite chilly, so Corban didn't get to practice his swimming as much as he wanted, but the beach was a nice diversion.


Annika has discovered that she does actually enjoy the sand!


Corban loved climbing on the dragon and jumping off.


Saturday we got to go to a birthday party for a neighbor boy at the Virginia Living Musuem (one of the kids' favorite places), during which they got to pet a screech owl and a corn snake. Very cool.
And Sunday was perhaps best of all, for Corban, anyways. In the afternoon, he and Grant had made an excursion to Wal-Mart to pick up some modeling glue for a little dinosaur skeleton model Corban got at the birthday party Sat., and they ended up coming home with a new bike!

Corban has been WAY too big for his first bike for a long time now, and he's still too short to ride the cool black bike that Grandpa fixed up for him (without training wheels, anyways, and he will NOT go back to those), so he really needed an in-between bike. He is more than delighted with his new wheels and wants to ride nonstop.



Of course, since he now has no use for the old bike, he and Grant immediately decided that Marissa needed to learn how to ride a bike. Mind you, she's still two months away from turning three and just mastered the tricycle in the past few months, but nevertheless, out came those old training wheels and she was hooked up within minutes.


Check this out.



Getting started....


Getting that extra help from Daddy up to the driveway...



One proud little girl.

We've let her bring the bike inside to get some practice. Seems like it wasn't that long ago that Corban was riding it in the house. Was it just last year? I think it was. We took the training wheels off for him last August and then the bike became just an outside activity.

Corban is determined to teach Marissa all he knows about bike riding and takes the role of teacher very seriously. It's pretty funny to listen to their conversations.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blueberry muffins

Grant travels for work fairly often, and when he's spending evenings in a hotel room with not much to do, he ends up watching television, channels we don't get here at home. For months, he managed to see this infomercial about an exercise program called P90X. It's an extreme fitness regime for people who are already in considerably good shape to whip their bodies into the physiques of Greek gods over a period of 90 days, doing at least an hour of workouts six days a week. He finally caved and purchased it a few weeks ago.

And it's extreme, let me tell you. Good grief. (I am getting to the muffin recipe, bear with me here!) I didn't take the pre-fitness test (which takes a good 40 minutes and involves pull-ups, push-ups, leaps, jumping jacks, bicep curls, etc) and I certainly didn't take the "before" photos (no need to see that, now). But I have attempted to complete a couple of the cardio videos.

In the easier, only 43 minute one, I can complete nearly all of the exercises. However, the "mother of all workouts", Plyometrics, is a doozy. It's an hour of jumping, leaping, squatting, lunging, leg burning that has both Grant and I panting and wobbly-legged at the end of the warm-up. We have managed to finish it and still be able to walk, barely. And there are several exercises in there in which we have terrible form and can't really claim to have accomplished. But we're trying and giving it a darn good effort. And we'll get better. Really.

Anyways, the program also came with a nutrition guide (which I can tell you right now will NOT be followed by me....swordfish, anyone?) and a bonus little healthy recipe book. I have made a few of the recipes from the bonus book and they were all really good. Our definite favorite is this blueberry muffin. (Note: I have modified it a tiny bit, just because I can. And I hate to waste egg yolks, okay? So instead of using 1 egg and 2 egg whites, I just use 2 whole eggs. You can do whatever you want.)


Recipe
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup flax seed meal
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 apples, peeled, cored, shredded
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup blueberries (more if desired...1/2 cup isn't very much)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients together, including apples.

  • Combine eggs, milk, and vanilla and beat for 30 seconds

  • Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir and fold in blueberries.

  • Fill each (greased or nonstick) muffin tin 3/4 of the way full. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

I make 12 full size muffins and 9 miniature muffins.

We ate these for breakfast this morning. Here are some photos of the kids stuffing their faces. I'm glad no-one got a picture of me!


Annika (11 months)

Marissa (2.5 years)

Corban (4.5 years)

Plate of delicious muffins. Of which there were none left over. Make some!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Funny Girls

A few days ago, Marissa started making Annika laugh as we were finishing dinner and it lasted for quite awhile. I managed to get some of it on camera. At the end, Corban was not to be outdone and swooped to try to get some giggles of his own. Although usually his antics are quite successful, this time Annika was not amused.


video

Hint of Berry Bon Bons


This past weekend, we had the pleasure of hosting Grant's Aunt Marily, cousin Jessica, and brother Eric for dinner. Since I knew I would be far too busy during the weekend to make stuff, I made a few things ahead, including this wonderful treat. I discovered this recipe from Taste of Home magazine a few years ago and have loved it ever since.


Recipe

1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened (light is fine)
3/4 cup crushed vanilla wafers (works out to be about 30 for me)
1/4 cup fruit preserves (this time I used all fruit seedless raspberry; strawberry is also delicious)
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (OR you can use chocolate candy coating and omit shortening)
1 t. shortening
3 T. white chocolate chips (Or white candy coating - 1 to 2 squares)


    • Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave. Let cool a few minutes
    • In a mixer, whip cream cheese until no lumps remain.
    • Add melted chocolate to cream cheese and mix well.
    • Stir in the crushed vanilla wafers and preserves, combining thoroughly.
    • Stick in the fridge for a couple of hours, until easy to handle
    • Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and roll the mixture into balls, whatever size you like. I usually make them about the size of a pecan. But round.
    • Melt the 12 oz chocolate chips with the shortening (OR the chocolate candy coating) and stir until smooth.
    • Dip the bon bons in the chocolate and cover completely. I use a fork to do this.
    • Refrigerate to set up; then melt the white chocolate and spoon into a little sandwich bag into one corner. Cut off the very end of the corner and drizzle the bon bons to look all cute.
    • Store in the Refrigerator or Freezer! These keep well for months in the Freezer, and barely have to thaw at all to be eaten. Not that I would know that from personal experience. HA!

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Being Healthy

    I mentioned recently that I've been attempting to modify our diet to eliminate harmful substances and be as healthy as we can stand to be. I've been thinking along these lines for awhile, but thanks to some posts by Laura over at HeavenlyHomemakers, I've been inspired to make more dramatic changes.

    Some of her recommendations included avoiding the following: high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colors/dyes, MSG, and basically anything you read in the ingredient list that isn't real food. There are numerous websites out there with information about how these things are made and why they're destructive to your body.....needless to say, I'm convinced that she's right and that making good decisions about the food I put the bodies of myself and my family is imperative to our long term health.

    Now, I've been pretty diligent about avoiding MSG for years, thanks to my mom, and in the past couple of years I've tried to avoid trans fats (except for needing Oreos for a cheesecake crust once in a great while), but those other things were completely off my radar.

    Being aware makes food choices more complicated, I'm discovering. Nearly everything you buy in a box, bottle or package at the grocery store has one or more of those things in it. Almost all crackers, cookies, pre-packaged doughs, etc. have hydrogenated oils in them. Most cereals, peanut butter, ketchup, salad dressings, spaghetti sauces, and even ice cream have high fructose corn syrup polluting them. Many of those things have more than one bad ingredient.

    My food shopping is taking a bit longer these days, as I scour ingredient lists for offending items and then look for reasonably priced alternatives. For all of those things I listed above, the only way you're gonna get them "pure" is to buy organic (or sometimes "all natural") or to make them yourself. No more canned spaghetti sauce for me. I can't make cereal, but I can at least make that!

    My kids love cereal for breakfast, so I am continuing that for 1 day a week, but it must be a cereal with no junk.....so that leaves us with few choices. Corn Chex and Cherrios seem to be okay, and of course the Kashi whole grain stuff, but only Grant will eat that.

    Kinda funny how life comes full circle.....I remember vividly as a child being upset that my mom refused to let us buy/eat sugary cereal (ahhh, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, how I adore thee!) and thinking that when I became a mom, I would let my kids eat whatever cereal their little hearts desired. Now look at me. I won't even buy them Raisin Bran anymore.

    One thing I'm really not wanting to give up is regular peanut butter. I grew up eating the all- natural stuff, and I do have a jar of it in my fridge, but I just hate the thought of giving up my soft, easily spreadable and incredibly smooth peanut butter. I don't know if I can do it.

    And what are you supposed to use for a crust for cheesecake if you can't use graham crackers or vanilla wafers? Don't even suggest leaving the crust out....not an option. I Love crust.

    All that to say, we're on a journey here. We're not remotely close to being the most healthy eaters out there, but I'm taking steps to make positive changes and hopefully create lifelong habits of good quality eating for my family.

    Friday, August 8, 2008

    Happy Birthday, Monty

    Today is the 7th birthday of our good and loyal lab/boxer, Montana. This picture is more than a year old and he now has many more gray whiskers around his face, but he's still a cutie.

    Cheers for Sarah

    My sister Sarah has done it again. Cooking creativity specialist that she is, as well as frequent contest enterer, she has won the Grand Prize in a Kraft contest and will be awarded $5,000 cash and a $5,200 gift card to Publix, her local grocery store!!! How do you like that?
    I'm pretty proud, myself. And more than a little inspired to get my own creative juices flowing and enter some contests also! What have I got to lose? I better get to the kitchen right away. Time's a-wastin'!

    Overheard at the Dinner Table

    We've been doing family Bible reading after dinner for a few weeks now and it's always interesting to see how the kids will respond or what they understand.
    Last night Corban stopped Grant while he was reading and said, "Something that you just read was good and bad".
    Wanting to explore his thoughts further, I probed, "What did you think was good, and what was bad?"
    Marissa got a devious grin on her face and immediately pointed to herself, saying, "This is good...." then pointed at Corban....."This is bad."

    Grant and I did a lousy job of disguising our amusement, I'm afraid, and Marissa positively cackled in response. What do you do with that?

    Tuesday, August 5, 2008

    Homemade Chili Seasoning

    My tip for the day is a recipe I just found last week for homemade chili seasoning. I'm making a genuine effort to clean up our diet and eliminate certain preservatives, sweeteners, etc (more in another post later), plus it's just cheaper to make your own seasoning mixes. I found this on Allrecipes (called Chili Seasoning Mix II), but modified it based on what I had. This is my version.

    Recipe:
    2 T. flour (I used whole wheat)
    2 T. chili powder
    1 T. crushed red pepper
    1 T. dried minced onion
    1 t. garlic powder
    2 t. white sugar
    2 t. ground cumin
    2 t. dried parsley
    2 t. salt
    1 t. dried basil
    1/4 t. ground black pepper

    Stir all together. Store in an airtight container. I used 2 T. of the mix to season 1 lb of meat for our chili. (quick chili recipe: 1 lb ground turkey, browned with a chopped onion, add seasoning and 2 cans of chili beans and 2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes or chili-ready diced tomatoes. Add a little water or a small can of tomato sauce if you want it thinner. Simmer as long as you want!)

    I was very pleased with how tasty it was and will definitely keep it on hand.

    Monday, August 4, 2008

    Happy Birthday, Dad!

    Today is the 60th birthday of my Dad, officially known around here as Grandaddy. (He caught up with ya again, Mom!) The kids have been very excited that today is Grandaddy's birthday and even told strangers about it at Wal-Mart this morning.

    Marissa is especially fond of my dad, which is touching for me to watch because I was very attached to my Grandad (mom's dad) as a child. In fact, I remember as a 3 or 4 year old very proudly declaring, "Grandad is my BEST FRIEND". And I really meant it. But I digress.

    Marissa will say things like "Grandaddy's CUTE!" and "I love Grandaddy so much" whenever we talk about him and Nonny (my mom).

    This picture was taken of the two of them last Thanksgiving, at my sister's house in Tennessee. That's the last time we saw my family. We just can't wait for their visit in just a month!

    So back to my dad. He's an amazing father and grandfather (even with his almost disturbing attachment to Buicks - Ha!) and has such a gentle and kind spirit. I can't imagine anyone not liking him, and truthfully, he likes just about everybody too. He's always looking for the good in people and focusing on that. He's a peacemaker, a prayer warrior, an excellent preacher (when he gets the chance), and an enthusiastic player of games with the family.

    Oh, and I have to mention that he adores holding his grandbabies.
    This is him with Annika (and the glasses he's owned for the last 30 years) when she was just a couple of days old. And believe me, he wanted to cuddle her every single chance he could.
    She looks so tiny on him....probably because he's about 6'4". Yeah, I get my height from him....unfortunately I didn't inherit the perpetual thinness also. Ya can't have everything, I suppose.

    I hate to cut it short, but the kids are up from naps now and it's impossible to get much typing done when they're awake....so I'll just end with saying, "I LOVE YOU, DAD!"

    Happy Birthday!

    First Day of School

    Today was Corban's first day of kindergarten. Whew, let's take a moment and let that sink in a little. This little guy who really was "just born yesterday" is officially in school. (Not according to the state, mind you, because we don't have to actually let the state know anything about his schooling until August 2010! Ahhh, the benefits of having an October birthday. Not to worry, next year I do plan on declaring him homeschooled...but for kindergarten, it doesn't matter anyways.) It's hard to wrap my mind around the fact that he's growing up so fast.

    I've been trying to get him excited about it, but not too successfully. He's not thrilled about reading or sitting still for much. And since he is still only four, after all, I don't feel it necessary to force him into long periods of arduous study. But he is very smart and definitely ready to learn.

    We cracked open his new workbooks this morning and he was delighted to see that it was extremely easy.....much easier than what he was doing at the end of his PreK curriculum.
    Having a brand new box of crayons helped the situation as well.

    The only problem was little Annika, who was determined to crawl over to his desk and pester him no matter how I tried to distract her. I'm thinking we might have to employ the use of the good old Pack and Play to contain her for awhile during school time.

    Marissa is also thrilled to have her own workbooks, a three-year-old curriculum by Abeka that is very cute. She'll be learning the letters and numbers 1-15 this year.

    We started school early because I wanted to get into a good routine before we got into the busyness of the coming year, including MOPS every other week, field trips with other homeschoolers, visits from family, gymnastics classes, hopefully swim lessons, and who knows what else! Plus, when kids are this young, I think that year-round schooling is best anyways, because they forget stuff so quickly.
    I'm ashamed to admit that I was neglectful about keeping Corban practicing reading this summer. We did a few things, but not nearly often enough. I can tell he's forgotten a bit. I'm hoping he'll pick it up again quickly.

    I think it will be a fun year, and certainly a very busy year.
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