Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trusting in Jesus

If there were one prayer that I could wear out it would have to be the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  I try  faithfully say it every day.  It may not be exactly at 3pm...but hey, the way I look at it, somewhere in the world it is 3pm.

So many times, in so many forms, the devil has tried to pitch David and I into the deepest trenches  of despair, fear, doubt.  I truly believe the harder we pray at times, the darker the situation grows.  A gift from the devil himself.  And when in the midst of that is such a struggle not to cave, not to give into that fear. 

In hindsight, everything always clears and the sunshine comes dancing back into our lives with the brightest of long as we pick ourselves back up after each fall, shake the dust from our feet, and move on down the path of faith and prayer.

I love our country!   I am proud to be an American!  I do not like seeing our nation torn and in so much pain.  There is so much unrest, anger, hurt, and despair.  With this storm that has stalled over our great nation, I see people holding onto their faith or coming back to it.  And there is hope.  We must always have hope because we do not have the right to give up on it.  At times, that is so difficult to do.

As of July 1, David will no longer be employed by the corporate world.  And that is a huge leap.  It is one decision that you wish you wouldn't have to make, but when you come to the fork in the road and a decision needs to be have to take that leap of faith and trust in God. 

David has been working with wood for 23 years.  He started in his teens as a cabinet/furniture maker, and he does beautiful work!  Gradually, he went on to sell manufactured cabinetry opening his own business up in Illinois (where we are from)  and successfully ran it for 12 years. 

A little more than 3 years ago, the economy really started to tank in Illinois,  quicker than other parts of the country. We saw it coming and decided to make the move to corporate world.  That is how we ended up in Texas.

With his knowledge and skill, this particular company hired him to their Dallas district.  The first year was fantastic.  Then the real- estate issue slowly crashed its' wave of problems upon the south and the home builders took a terrible hit. 

Many cabinet companies pulled out of the market down here.  Many home builders went belly up, including David's largest accounts.   About 19 months ago, David could see the writing on the wall and started to initiate plan B. 

What is a man to do when you are in your 40's and your entire life has been spent in the home industry?  An industry where 40-50% of its economy was wiped out.  At that age, with more mouths to feed, where do you go and make the same kind of money?  I'm not talking wealth...but only enough for your wife to stay home and home school your children...

He turned around and created Kitchens Alive

God-willing, we will make this company successful.  Not successful in monetary wealth but something that will keep the roof over our heads, food on our table, clothes on our backs.  I'm just praying for the simple things in life.

We pray a lot!  We pray for continued trust in Jesus because that devil loves to worm his way into our thoughts and plant countless seeds of fear and doubt.  To say this journey over the past 19 months has been stressful is a total understatement! 

We trust in Jesus and have faith that He will continue to guide us.  We know this story  reverberates with so many  others out there.  Each of you reading  must know at least one or two families that have been hit hard in this economy.  Families whose faith is tested day in and day out.

So I ask that when you finish reading, pause for a moment, and pray for each of those families that you know who have been dealt a terrible financial blow. 

Jesus I trust in you!

As I finish typing this, David is doing his exit interview.  I gave him a huge hug as he walked out the door.  I'm anxiously waiting for his return...I'm so proud of that man!

Prayer to St. Joseph for Employment
Dear Saint Joseph, you were yourself once faced with the responsibility of providing the necessities of life for Jesus and Mary. Look down with fatherly compassion upon me in my anxiety over my present inability to support my family. Please help me to find gainful employment very soon, so that this heavy burden of concern will be lifted from my heart and that I am soon able to provide for those whom God has entrusted to my care. Help us to guard against bitterness and discouragement, so that we may emerge from this trial spiritually enriched and with even greater blessings from God. Amen.

A Prayer for Workers
O glorious Joseph! Who concealed your incomparable and regal dignity of custodian of Jesus and of the Virgin Mary under the humble appearance of a craftsman and provided for them with your work, protect with loving power your sons, especially entrusted to you.

You know their anxieties and sufferings, because you yourself experienced them at the side of Jesus and of His Mother. Do not allow them, oppressed by so many worries, to forget the purpose for which they were created by God. Do not allow the seeds of distrust to take hold of their immortal souls. Remind all the workers that in the fields, in factories, in mines, and in scientific laboratories, they are not working, rejoicing, or suffering alone, but at their side is Jesus, with Mary, His Mother and ours, to sustain them, to dry the sweat of their brow, giving value to their toil. Teach them to turn work into a very high instrument of sanctification as you did. Amen.

~And may God bless each and every one of you!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

S'more Things To Post About we were missing like a major prop here....a campground?!....but who says that you can't have fun with these in your own backyard?

So, she started freaking out  a little when the marshmallow oozed across her face.  She's my neat freak.


Our Crepe Myrtles are in full bloom now....had to share what it looks like at our community swimming pool.

Aren't they absolutely gorgeous?  Just another thing that I love about the South...the really neat vegetation.

We also found this cute little praying mantis...I don't recall ever finding a baby one....

When we arrived back home after swimming, we found these....

... I instantly had a lump in my throat and my heart skipped a beat.  We are definitely looking forward to this weekend for many reasons.  The picture above is an obvious one, but we also will be leaving for our trip "back home".   With both David and I coming from large families, I can guarantee great posts will be inspired! 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Burying Ben

Mabel's beloved pet frog, Ben, passed away some time in the middle of the night.  It broke her heart.  She's doing okay now that we've memorialized him.  I think she will recover just fine.  It's that initial shock...and it was her first pet.

So, here is our tribute to Ben:

Ben was adopted into our family on September 15, 2009 when Mabel turned six years old.  While he was with us, he made a wonderful house guest.  There were no noise complaints to be made.  Food...didn't break the bank.  Just two frog pellets once a week.  Ben was not messy nor smelly.  His tank only needed to be wiped down on the inside about once every five months.  He will be sadly missed by his owner, Mabel.  Fortunately, he is survived by his twin brother, Bill.

Sally found Ben this morning, upside down, with a severe case of froggy-rigamortis. Daddy fished him out and placed him in the morgue, a.k.a. freezer, until after swimming lessons.  I went to Michael's for some supplies and picked up a nice little box that would make a coffin fit for an amphibious king.  After it was neatly decorated, we went out into the back and laid poor Ben to rest.

Now...normally, when the pet fish come to permanently rest on their back fin, they just go down the toilet ...all pipes lead to the ocean, right?  According to Nemo they do.  But... it is a little bit harder to do that to a pet frog.  So, I'm not sure if Frog Heaven is different than Fish Heaven, but no sooner did we bury Ben and walk into the house, but there came a huge crack of thunder and the wind kicked up mightily.  I went outside to find this....

I'm thinkin' that Ben made a grand entrance into Frog Heaven! 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tough Lovin'

It must be the full moon. 

Lots of squabbling in our house lately.  Friday, the volcano erupted...and it was a  huge blow!

There are those moments in life when it is actually almost unbearable to be a good parent.  I'm talkin'...the pain in your heart that makes you want to cry and give in...

....the kind that wants you to play the "good cop" and graciously allow your husband to play the "bad cop"...

...the kind that you hear the "specialists" always talking about on Catholic radio....always making it sound so easy.  In reality, it is so toughMmmmHmmm...that kind of tough love.  You may know what I'm talking about.

This smilin' face made her mama earn a gold star in that mama didn't really care to take any enjoyment in.

We had been planning for and talking about going to the movies to see Toy Story 3.  Going to the movies is a really special treat in our house.  We do not go that often and so we prepared by watching Toy Story and Toy Story 2 the night before and had watched the movie trailer over and over filling ourselves with anticipation.  And then the volcano erupted..., small, tiny fist unfurled its' fury and landed squarely on an older sister's bottom lip...and there was blood.  And that, my friends, has never, ever happened in our house before!  We were horrified to say the I'm laughing typing this. 

It happened hours before we were to go to the movies.  She was sent to her room.  She could only come down for lunch...and boy! was she quiet at lunchtime.  Before we were to leave for the show, I went up to her and told her how disappointed I was, etc, etc...and then reminded her how much I love here. 

The chin quivered.  I reached in for a hug half expecting her to push away in anger.  Instead, she hugged me back and I could feel her little body silently spasming.  I pulled back to look at her face and she had tears just flooding down her cheeks.

And I knew she was sorry.

She tearfully, fearfully asked if she could still go to the movie.  I lovingly said no.  And that is when both of our hearts broke.  It was so painful to stick to my guns. 

David insisted that she learn her lesson.  I agreed in my head...but that darned heart of mine....

As I pulled out of the driveway I saw her little hand on the window, sticking through the blinds, all five fingers spread open...and I wanted to just cry my eyes out because I know that is what she was doing..  I phoned David to tell him that she'd need some extra lovins'.  He was already on it.  That big tough guy...he has such a soft heart. 

That, is tough love'! 

Then there was yesterday...another full moon...another smaller eruption.

Looking at this face... find it hard to imagine that he could be any trouble at all.  Right? Wrong.  Being all boy, he could not NOT get into trouble yesterday.  It was a little more serious than normal.   I told him that our planned trip to the public swimming pool was not going to include him.  I could not stand seeing the look of utter disappointment in his face.

Isn't it difficult to stop what you are really feeling inside from appearing on your face?

 Right after the crushing blow was delivered, David phoned to tell me he'd be a couple of more hours with a customer. 

When I told Stan we'd have to come up with another could just see the flames of excitement whipping up behind his dark-colored pupils.  He really want to shove his fist in the air and give a loud, "Yahoo," but you knew it was taking everything in him not to do that.    They do know what they are doing!

I mentioned how much Stan just loves Root Beer.  Well, last night after Mass and dinner, we made awesome Root Beer floats.

 Stan's punishment...and this is one taken directly out of Dr. Ray's playbook...Stan had to stay at the table and watch us eat our dessert.  He didn't get any. 

Ugh!  As I type this morning, my heart is nothing but mush!  Mabel and Stan have both recovered and fairing quite well compared to me.  Tough lovin' is so hard

P.S.  Mabel stayed home from the movies and hung out with David on the front porch playing hangman with sidewalk chalk.  I told Stan I'll make Root Beer floats again some night.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Swim Lessons

The week in review at swimming class...

Mabel is mastering the front crawl and back stroke~

Stan is learning his Super Man arm position, the correct kicking position,  and floating on his back~

Poor little man loves going under the water so much...I think he scared his instructor and she made him sit out 5 minutes till he "learned" to keep one hand on the wall while waiting his turn!  (*grin*)

Little Miss Ester is working on breast and butterfly strokes and kicks~

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Carrying the Cross of Infertility I begin typing this.... I  contemplate starting with the dictionary....I'm not sure exactly how Webster defines infertility, but I decide against using it  since Webster (the book) has never experienced infertility first hand on a personal basis. 

I could ask my niece, Dr. Phoebe, who is a specialist on the subject up at Mayo Clinic in MN.  Even though Phoebe has lovingly worked with countless women who suffer from infertility, she is newly engaged and has not yet experienced pregnancy herself.

What I do know is that infertility takes on many definitions.  There are those women who are never able to conceive or carry full term.  There are those who miscarry time and time again before they are finally able to carry full term.  Some women may have one or two pregnancies in a row that seem flawless only to find that they cannot conceive after that.  Whatever the case, infertility is a heavy cross to carry.

David and I have had to carry that cross on and off throughout the years, and since this is my blog, a place where I feel safe in writing, I will share some of our story in hopes to shed some light on the subject or to help another person in anguish. 

Purposely, many parts are left unwritten...they are too personal and sacred for us to share.  They are moments, talks, tears, and laughs that we keep between the two of us...locked away...a part in time that has helped shape our identity,  a couple united in the vow of a Christ-centered marriage.  Yes, they are sacred to us.

But, there is so much we can share.

So I'll rewind 15 years...

When we married almost 15 years ago, our insurance wouldn't pick up the maternity for 12 months.  Being newlyweds and just starting out, we had decided to postpone starting a family by means of Natural Family Planning. 

Since I was soooo excited to start trying, and had always wanted be a mommy, waiting was difficult.

I had all the names of our children picked out since I had six years old!  For Pete's sake, I even knew what our babies would look like!  I had been dreaming about my growing tummy and how stylish I would appear in maternity clothes.  I could hardly wait to see David, as a father, helping me in the delivery room, embracing a new son or daughter so gently for the first time, imaging what expressions would ooze across his face.

After 12 long months, the insurance FINALLY picked me up... and... nothing happened .  Nothing in the baby department.  Not for us that is.  It was happening all over the place with friends and family.  But not us.  As I tried to remain so happy for our friends, I found my heart sinking further and further.  The discouragement, frustration, sadness weighed so heavily.  I began to sink. 

Our charting had been a masterpiece of unwavering dedication...and it showed with all of those dots that I had drawn in... page after page after page.  It all appeared okay on paper so I couldn't figure out what was going on. 

About six months into trying, I went in for a regular check-up with my gynecologist.  It was pointed out that my thyroid glands appeared large.  A little bit of blood work...and bingo!  I was placed on Synthroid for an under-active thyroid.  (hypo-thyroid) The thyroid controls the functioning of many hormones in the body and can reek havoc on the reproductive cycle.

One month later, to our delight, I found that I was pregnant!  We were over the moon!

After two weeks, I grew a bit alarmed when I didn't feel nausea.  I felt nothing.  And then I saw it...the beginning of the end. 

Our joy was short lived.

The emotional pain was incredible.  The death of an unborn child ...the death of one you have loved before you even the moon and back... is heartbreaking.   All dreams and hopes are dashed away instantly and you are left with this empty black hole. 

I didn't know anyone who suffered from a miscarriage while trying to start a family.  Writing from personal experience, there is a  difference between miscarrying while try to begin a family and miscarrying in the midst of a family.  Please don't misunderstand me.   Both are terribly heart wrenching, but they are very different from one another at the same time.

While starting a family, miscarriage is a double-edge sword.  In a sense, you go through two different types of loss.  And pain comes with both.   There is the  pain of losing the child through miscarriage, which alone, is horrible.  Then there is the pain of losing the whole experience of knowing parenthood.  The hopes and dreams of parenthood that were within your reach are ripped away from you, and you suffer a loss because of that.

Up to that point, it had taken 19 months to conceive only to miscarry.    I was aching from the loss, from the unfairness of nothing going easy, and I had started to fall into a dark place in my faith. I had focused on what I didn't receive...what was "my right"...what was supposed to be.  And I blamed God.  With that anger came only deeper sorrow and unhappiness. 

My original due date rolled around.  Only my husband and I remembered that date.  My sister-in-law gave birth and we had shared the same due date.  That was a tough pill to take that day.  My friend gave birth at that time as well.  The sorrow I was trying to overcome just kicked up ten fold. 

*A piece of advice for any of you that may know someone who has recently experienced a miscarriage: pencil in on the calendar when the due date was.  Call that friend on that day and let them know you remember, you care, and that you will pray for them.  It will mean the world!  A little bit of sorrow will be lifted if you do that.

It took us one year to conceive again.  It seemed like an eternity.  We were excited and scared...but mostly scared.  The naivety of it all was gone for us. 

To assist my hormone levels, the doctors put me on progesterone.  I went in for weekly blood drawings which only added to our already present stress.  In hindsight, I wish I would have not gone and just enjoyed the time I had with that pregnancy instead of living in a weekly state of anxiety. 

I had been "showing", even in maternity clothes, and I was sicker than a dog...throwing up all day long.  The day came when we had another regular scheduled sono that showed abnormal growth and we were told that mostly likely we would lose the baby. 

We heard the words, "It doesn't look good." 

In our determination, we thought we'd defy the doctor's opinion and beat the odds.  We tried to remain hopeful but we were frightened none-the-less.

It was the day we were to drive up and attend my brother's pre-wedding reception.  This was a big event that we were to attend.  The wedding was to take place out in California, so the reception was for my side of the family, in Illinois.    In order to not darken their special evening, we didn't tell anyone our sad news.  For every "congratulations on the impending birth of your child" we received, a sword silently stabbed our hearts. 

And then two weeks later...I started to miscarry.  We lost our baby girl at almost 14 weeks.  To make a nightmare even worse...the miscarriage wasn't a "normal" one.  It took a failed surgical procedure, a type of chemotherapeutic treatment shot (weekly in the buttocks), and 3 1/2 months of waiting till my body finally went into a small labor to finalize the miscarriage. 

We were devastated.  I had been a Catholic school teacher at the time and can recall one moment in was after school and I was sitting on the steps by the hall crying. I had just dismissed my students and couldn't keep a brave face on any longer.   The principle, a nun, came to me and said, "Oh.  It's not too bad.  Just look at Mrs. So and So...she 's had  6 miscarriages."  It took everything in me not to yank her veil off and pull her hair.  I know how terrible that sounds.  But what she said...oh! so insensitive!  A miscarriage is a miscarriage...because I didn't exceed Mrs. So and So's amount of miscarriages doesn't mean I should feel less pain and sorrow.

The sorrow I carried inside took me to a very dark place...I became very angry with God.   He wasn't giving me my chance at motherhood.  He was being mean and cruel.  So I thought...

...until I heard a beautiful prayer about miscarriage.  In there, I read the following words:

"....You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty—he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.”

And for the first time in almost two years I started to feel comfort and peace.  There appeared a crack in the wall that surrounded me and light started to filter in.  I heard God speak to my soul through those words which were lovingly written by Mother Angelica. 

My prayers started to slowly shift.  The realization slowly sunk in...that these children were a gift to me not a guarantee or right.  How my body responded was not God's fault.  How I responded was what God was waiting for. 

I asked for guidance and healing.  I received both...but not right away. 

It is customary, I was told, that you usually don't "look into things" until you lose three pregnancies in a row.  Unimaginable for us!  I would even use the term horrific.  It isn't like waiting 30 minutes till the cake is done baking....or waiting another week until vacation time kicks in....or waiting one month till your birthday is here....or waiting nine months to give birth for that matter.  If you haven't walked in those shoes, know that it is much longer and more painstaking than anyone could imagine.   For me...we were talking possibly another year at least. 

This fiery, passionate woman was not going to wait for another loss before seeing a specialist.  So we forged ahead with our plans.

Our main priority was to stay steadfast in faith and allow the Church to guide us.  We discovered what would make us happy...and what would bring us harm.  Following the teachings of our faith would keep us happy and safe from harm. 

We weren't guaranteed the happiness we had longed for here on earth, parenthood, but we realized that our happiness with God in Heaven had to remain the focal point throughout.  Peace started to seep into every inch of our bodies once we came to that realization...and accepted it. 

We exhausted every acceptable test within the Church's teachings and guidelines.  Patiently waiting, trusting in God, and focusing on our faith brought us so many answers. 

The many tests and  a needed corrective surgery were only mere tools that God had given us to stay the path. Through these tools, we had received anwers that were uplifting.  To have an answer was amazing even if it didn't produce a new life...the answers to our questions were healing in themselves. 

Many couples baptize their unborn infants in spirit.  They name them while doing so.  We named our lost daughter Gabrielle.   For that matter, both infants were named Gabrielle.  It took losing them to find the the answers, the message that we were looking for.  Our little messengers...our St. Gabriels.

After another long year, completed tests and the corrective surgery, we took the last acceptable measure.  I was placed on a medication, the highest dosage, and still wasn't producing what I should have been.  During the last month that I was allowed on it and running out of money, we had gone back to the beginning point, when we first dated and spoke about the possibility of not bearing children naturally. 

We agreed that we might be at the end, at least for now, and we ...(big breathe)... would be okay

We also decided that after a much needed break we would look into adoption.  Adoption was something we had discussed while engaged.  I am eternally grateful that we had talked about such things before we were married.  I never thought that it would play such a pivotal role in our married life. 

We had completely given it all up to God, with no attachments, and I truly believe at that point we were blessed abundantly for trying to be good and faithful servants.  We conceived our Sally!

That is when a new set of difficulties set in....

In summary, my pregnancy with Sally was difficult from the start.  And I'm talking beyond the constant vomiting.  Countless times my body produced symptoms that it was trying to miscarry.  Countless times we made emergency trips to the doctors to look for that heartbeat.  On top of that, I had to have a surgical procedure performed when it was "safe".  The procedure and a small amount of bedrest was needed to help keep the baby in the womb for the duration.  By week 16 all the frightening episodes finally came to a halt and we were finally able to enjoy the pregnancy. 

Through a complication and c-section, Sally was born so healthy and robust.
Through the first weeks of Sally's life, I started again.  I started asking God if I could be blest with just one more.  All of the "bargaining" that I had attempted during the first year of trying to conceive started to form in my mind once more.  It was always a battle between accepting and wanting. 

To our complete and utter surprise, we accepted the news of pregnancy again and our two children were to be only 16 1/2 months apart! 

Assuming things would be a little hairy again, we mentally tried to brace ourselves. Oh, the vomiting was there.  So was the roller coaster ride through the constant signs of miscarriage, fear, distress, hope, anxiety, and many, many prayers.  Again, I had that surgical procedure done when I was in my second trimester.  Again, a little bit of bedrest.

Via c-section, Ester was born with a heart defect which has nothing to do with infertility.  It was just par for the course for us.  She had open heart surgery when she was 5 months old and continues to thrive to this day.  Looking at her pictures you'd never know.  And we are so grateful to God for that!

With all of my previous problems and Ester's heart defect, needless to say I was petrified to even try to conceive.  I couldn't entertain the thought...until God had allowed the seed He planted to take root.  He had a plan for us that we never imagined or entertained.

On the reverse, it had become another struggle of fear and acceptance.  How strange to not be praying for another child, but rather to be praying for assurance and wisdom to overcome fear of loss, complications, or health.   A year in adoration and listening to Kimberly Hahn talk about her miscarriages, I learned that thriving on fear was sinning against God.  I was not trusting in God but allowing the devil to control my thoughts and actions. 

Mabel was conceived when Ester was almost two years old.  I am so happy to write that my pregnancy with Mabel was the easiest, smoothest, most uncomplicated out of all. (Not saying there weren't any...just the easiest!)  Yes, I had the normal  vomiting and that awful surgical procedure in the second trimester, but placing all of that aside, it went splendidly.

With Mabel's c-section, I was even home in 48 hours!  I had recovered so quickly that it still amazes me to this day.

We wanted more children but my body had grown physically tired and there had been one complicated glitch from the last surgical procedure I had while pregnant with Mabel. 

That is when our story really grew full circle...along came Stan through the beautiful gift of adoption.

Since then we have suffered yet another loss  through miscarriage.  The pain was immense.  It is so sad to miscarry.  My eyes tear thinking about it.  It has been over two years now and I have yet to conceive.  My body continues to throw those curve balls at me.  I have not had any normal cycles in at least six months.  My system has always been like a teeter-totter...usually going the way I do not want it to go.

I have battled the feelings of anxiety, wondering when my "time" for conceiving would be up...knowing it was nearing.  I have had to mourn the fact that I may not give birth again, at least naturally. 

I have had to give it back to God.  It is a constant battle... that wanting vs accepting.  But, I have found peace...that is...until my children remind me how much they desire another brother or sister.  And then my heart aches a little bit more than usual for the moment. 

Yet, another reason I write.  It has forced me to keep my eyes open, always looking for the joy that my children bring...during the good times and the bad.  I find such happiness watching them live.  It is as though God has given me the tools (my children) to get past the dull ache that tugs at my heart every once in awhile. 

I pray every day for the repose of the souls of my children in Heaven.  I pray that they watch over us, their parents.

I can now look back on our journey and see that the cross we have had to carry has formed us into the people that we are.  Our faith remains our beacon of light to this day.  And some day, my family will be united in Heaven.

Crock Pot Potato Soup

******************************************* I'm looking at the pictures of my dishes and am, they aren't dirty.  I've been having problems with my dishwasher detergent.  I've switched it twice now but I'm thinking when I accidentally purchased and used detergent with bleach in permanently marked the black on my dishes.  (The dishes are only 18months old...darn!)

But...back to the soup. 

I think it may be for a more mature crowd.  It was delicious, but only David, Sally and I loved it.  The younger three...well...let's just say no seconds.  It was still so good that there was only enough left over for one bowl. 

David mentioned that chopped up ham in it would be a mighty fine addition.  I'm thinkin' muy bien!

Crock Pot Potato Soup
5 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 (14 ounces) cans ready to serve chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (13 ounce) can evaporated milk
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
2 tbsp. dried snipped chives *I didn't use this
1/8 teaspoon celery salt  *I didn't use this

Combine prepared potatoes with onions, garlic, broth, salt, and pepper in 4-5 quart crock pot.  Cover and cook on low heat until potatoes are tender, 6-8 hours.

When potatoes are tender, coarsely mash with large spoon or potato masher.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl combine evaporated milk and 2 Tbsp. flour and mix well.  Add to crockpot, stir well, and cook on high for 20-30 minutes to thicken.

Place sour cream in small bowl and mix with 1 Tbsp. flour; add some of the hot soup liquid; stir well with wire whisk to blend.  Gently stir into crockpot along with remaining ingredients and cook on high for 20 minutes longer.  Serves 8-10.

Bon Apetite!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Baked Spaghetti

Baked Spaghetti....and it was delicious!

I baked cheesy garlic bread to serve with it.  The kids had I know it was good.

Reynold's Wrap
1 (8oz) package of cooked spaghetti
2 tablespoons of butter OR margarine
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 (24oz) carton ricotta cheese
1 lb ground beef
1 jar of preferred spaghetti sauce
1 (8oz) package shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a 13x9x2 inch baking pan with Reynolds Wrap.

2.  Combine hot cooked spaghetti with butter; stir until butter melts and coats spaghetti.  Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese; stir to coat.

3.  Arrange spaghetti in an even layer on bottom of baking dish.

4.  Spread ricotta cheese over spaghetti.  (I use my fingers to spread the cheese.  It's so much easier.)

5.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

6.  **I usually prepare my ground beef and spaghetti sauce the day before as a time saver.**   Brown ground beef, drain;  add pasta sauce.  Mix.  Spoon over cheeses.

7.  Top with mozzarella cheese and remaining Parmesan cheese.

8.  Cover with non-stick foil.  Bake 30 minutes.  Remove foil cover and continue baking 15 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers Day ~Part 1

He knows that love and faith is the core to every it spousal, fatherly, or as a son...which includes a relationship with our Father in Heaven. 

Oh...he doesn't perfect these relationships by any means.  Who does?

What he does perfect is the ability to recognize God's infinite mercy, love, and forgiveness. 

When it comes to the infinite mercy that the sacrament of reconciliation brings, he is an excellent witness to our little people.   And for that...I'm eternally grateful that he is the father of our children.

And what can smoke the pants off of the best Hallmark Gold Crown out there? 

Something that has "Home Made" written all over it!

~I had to work a trade show today for our company.  You can view it here

Triple dogs are barkin'!

I wanted to share a couple more things but will blog about them tomorrow since I'm too tired at the moment. 

~To all of my brothers, father-in-law, brothers-in-law,  and friends....Happy Fathers Day to you!  May God continue to shine His face upon you!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Those Hazy, Lazy Days of Summer...

...remember as a kid, how the summer days seemed to endlessly drag on and on?

Counting down the days till our family vacation and waiting for the 4th of July celebrations to roll around all seemed to take forever

There was nothing to do but wake up to Mr. Sunshine streaming through the bedroom window, the smell of bacon teasing your nose.  You'd soon be rolling lazily out of bed and running downstairs, finding your place at the table ...nothing to worry about except filling your tummy with one of Mom's big breakfasts. 

That's how I started my summer mornings....until I was old enough to earn money! 

Since there were nine of us, I know that summertime wasn't always a grand season for Mom.  Summertime meant school was out which begged the question: what was a woman supposed to do with nine children?

We lived in the city.  No farmland to run around on.  We had "elderly" neighbors.  Time for those daily scoldings from the little old ladies across the fence when a ball accidentally ended up in her flowerbed. 

Five sons alone would be enough to drive any woman crazy.  Boys and boredom are a lethal combination. 

Those were the days when you would leave after breakfast and didn't come home until dinner....except to grab a quick sandwich at lunchtime.  There was ALWAYS some kid in the neighborhood that you could play with...ride a bike with...go to the park with.  All without an adult to watch over your safe keeping.

Where we grew up, having a pool was something only the Rich and Famous of Hollywood had...there were few families that had them.  And we didn't know any of those families.   The city, on the other hand, had a public pool.  It was the place to a kid. 

During the last month of school, we could find Mom scrambling around to have all of our activities lined up.  Back really meant softball for the girls and baseball for the boys topped with a fistful of season passes to the city pool. 

I mentioned way back that my Ester loves to use the word, ginormous.  As a kid, I remember everything appeared as though it was ginormous.  The distance (in walk) to or from the public pool seemed ginormous and we acted as though it would kill us.  And it was only nine blocks.  When I go back for visits now, it all seems so much smaller than what it did way back then.  By the way... those were "small" city blocks, not the "big" city blocks.  

Mom didn't care.  She knew that the exercise was great for us and that added "alone" time for her was even better.  (How wise!) 

She usually gave us a ride there.  Those who were old enough to go alone (or met a buddy there), were piled into the old, brown suburban...ticket in one hand...towel thrown over shoulders...and away we went with just flip-flops on our feet.  She'd drop us off and at the last minute...and after some serious pleading on our end...we each received 25 cents for a snack for afterward. 

Back then you could get some serious snacking in for 25 cents!

It was all perfectly orchestrated.  Mom made sure we were there before it opened, (1pm), so that we had plenty of time to swim...enough time for baby brother or sister to nap...and enough time for her to enjoy a little bit of peace and quiet.

We always had to leave at 3:00pm ~ rest period.  It was like clockwork...she knew approximately how long it would take us to shuffle out...purchase the snacks...and walk home, in packs, with all the neighborhood friends that we had. 

Standing in line, waiting for the pool to open, was a splendid event all in itself.   For every car that pulled up with doors opening, kids tumbling out, (no care seats back then),  was a moment that created a lull...a hush in the crowd of waiting kids in line.   The gibber-jabber would come to an abrupt halt so as to witness "who" was arriving next .

You always hoped not to get dropped off right in front of everyone.  Oh!  How uncool!

Now if you were a little munchkin', you didn't even have a clue that all of this activity was taking place.  It was just background noise for all you cared. 

If you were a munchkin', most likely you remained quiet and just stuck like glue to your older brother or sister, dreaming about swimming your laps and wondering to yourself if  the blessed event finally take place that day?

Dreaming about swimming your laps so you could go past the ropes into....the.deep.end. be able to swim in the deep end....aaawwwweeesome!

There were two lines: boys line...girls line.   Prior to the 1pm bell sounding, the life guards usually came out to grab a snack and would have to walk through the lines.  When the lady life guards appeared...the boys would all stop talking and just drool! 

The girls, on the other hand, had a totally different thoughts running through their heads.  I, in particular,  would imagine how cool it would be to walk in her have that little whistle on a string...the one that they would spin ever-so- tightly around their index finger, faster than the speed of light....and then masterfully  have it rewind in the opposite direction...just as quickly. 

 I pictured myself one of those lifeguards.  Sitting high up on my perch and blowing that whistle at all the boys who use to dunk me...splash me...torment me...motioning them to get out of the pool and to take "five". 

...and then I'd get a shove...waking up to reality...having somebody behind me yelling, "Move! Move!  The line is moving." 

The afternoon would come to an end too quickly.  We'd have such  blood shot eyes from the chlorinated water.  After wearing our swim caps, our hair would be a mangled mess.  Each kid would have some sweet snack they were sucking on...and we always shared our money with those who forgot theirs.  We would be dragging our wet towels behind us as we walked in our flip flops the long trek home.  Our only concerns amounted to what would be on the table for dinner that night.

The scenario would repeat itself the next day...and the next...and next.  

Totally hazy, lazy days of summer.  They were just awesome!

P.S.  For those of you who are old enough to remember...these two songs are from the Bay City Rollers...rock on!


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