Monday, December 30, 2013

High Five for 2013!

I know a lot of people do High Five for Friday posts...and I actually genuinely enjoy reading a few. It is nice to accentuate the positive. We've had a rough, rollercoaster of a year, and I want to be able to look back and think that it was awesome instead of frustrating...because there really were lots of awesome things about 2013 when I sit down to think about it, and the awesome really does trump the crappy, stressful unemployed parts...LOL So, here we go! High Five for 2013! If I could figure out how to set up a link party, I would totally love to read some of your High Fives....I will see if I can figure that out. :)

1. Number one was a frustrating journey, but a necessary one and one that has ended up being a HUGE relief and blessing. I still have my moments of grief and despair, but that is a post for another day (and that day is coming soon, as writing about my frustrations often helps me to find clarity) What is No. 1? We are almost to the end of the diagnosis journey for figuring out what is causing Faith's delays. This journey started in a very frustrating place, and Jeff's unemployment, in an odd way, actually ended up helping to end that frustration and lead us to better help. I am grateful for Early Intervention programs, but the way that Idaho has it set up is kind of a joke, and led to many of my frustrations in the beginning. Here they were, telling me that they agreed with me, and their assessments said that something was wrong, but I wasn't getting the help I needed. Instead of one on one attention with a trained professional in all the areas she needed help, I was given a coach who had an early education degree, who met once a week with a trained professional. Our meetings were often frustrating as I felt like we weren't getting any useful information and it felt like a waste of 1 to 2 hours of my time every week... Jeff's unemployment led us to Rock Springs, WY...and the Wyoming Early Intervention program was leaps and bounds better. We were blessed to work with an AMAZING speech therapist who had been working in the field for 20 years. I felt like I'd learned something at the end of every therapy session, and while Faith's progress wasn't easily coming, the little victories were always celebrated and she did an excellent job of helping me to see the small successes we'd had.  We were on our way to working with an Occupational Therapist when life threw us another curve ball and we ended up back in Cache Valley again, but this time in Logan, UT. The Utah Early Intervention program is every bit as wonderful as the program we left in Wyoming, with the added benefit of an Autism Specialist who really knows her stuff. After going through another month of assessments, we've been able to come to the conclusion that we really, most likely, are dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder..and the best part is that they are trying to do everything they can to encourage a diagnosis and get it done quickly so we can better understand her needs and find therapies that are targeted for whatever disorder she is diagnosed with on the Autism spectrum. We will soon meet with Audiologists at the university to completely rule out hearing loss as the cause of her issues (and we've pretty much established that she can hear through other assessments. Even after she failed her first OAE exam, she passed the next we have a fairly good idea that she isn't having any issues with hearing).  We will be starting Autism classes in conjunction with therapy that will help us help her to cope in public situations with her sensory issues.  We will start speech therapy again soon, and, hopefully, a diagnosis will give us some better ideas for how to target her therapies.  I know this is not the ending of a journey, but the very beginning of a very long one...but it is the ending of this chapter of the journey and I am grateful for it. If we'd stayed in Idaho, we wouldn't have been able to get her in for a diagnosis until she was three years old!  I can't even imagine how horrible that would have been, and how frustrating. It would have meant she would have had to start preschool with no targeted education plan in place to help her and she would have ended up light years behind the other kids her age...ugh.  We are fortunate that God led us on such a roller coaster this year... the more I think about it, the more I realize that the roller coaster really was a means to finding a HUGE blessing for Faith. Here's to hoping that 2014 leads us to a definitive diagnosis and more marked progress. So far, we've learned the sign for milk, and a modified sign for juice. We are working on thank you and water...I will let you know how that works out...since it took me 6 months to teach her the sign for milk and she still doesn't get the sign for juice right 75% of the time..

2.  We got to spend an awesome year discovering "Silly Phillie"...seriously, the kid is a card! We started the year with "the Hulk"...she was perfectly sweet and wonderful...until you made her wouldn't like her when she's angry...LOL  but she has morphed into the sweetest little cherub chub with the sweetest mischievous smile on the planet.  We started to meet "Silly Phillie" around her 6 months old mark when daddy decided, for a laugh, to put both girls in the same crib to see how they would react...she responded with an emphatic "GET OUT!" and has been surprising us with her charm and silliness, non- stop ever since. She has since become a master at "The Cosby", a new dance craze that will sweep the nation (anyone who has watched the opening sequence of "The Cosby Show" as a kid will get that reference, if you don't, look it up on Youtube... she dances like Bill Cosby and its HI-larious!)  She has also become a polite little thief. If you have anything that she wants, she has become a master of smiling her little mischievous grin, sweetly saying "Tankooo (thank you)" and ripping it out of your hands...Her new favorite game is also to hand you something, have you ask if she wants it back, and then she says "Tankooo" as she takes it away...then she repeats it....for 45 minutes...she thinks its great...mommy thinks she never thought she would be sick of hearing someone say thank you...LOL.    She also says the most random phrases at the most random times and shocks us with her ability to grasp language...for example she randomly as "Where we goin'?"  as we're walking out to the car...she has learned how to say "no" (something I know I will regret in the coming months), and "hungee (hungry)".   She also loves anything fluffy, cuddly and sparkly. Jeff looks at her and thinks that she will be a tom boy...but the girl loves sequins and sparkles more than anything on the planet...she is also a GREAT shopping buddy. Nothing makes her happier than pulling things she likes into the cart and saying how "pitty (pretty)" they are.   Good luck parting her from her "pitty" things...she still hulks out better than the best of them... 2014 will be the year of changes for our "Silly Phillie"...we have started to see that she really is kind of spoiled. For example, she didn't start walking until a month ago, but not because she couldn't, she refused to walk because, like the princess she is, she prefers to be carried.  Jeff finally cured her of her inability to walk by forcing her to hold his hand and walk almost every time we went somewhere as a family...she quickly decided she would rather be able to walk on her own than have dad drag her everywhere.  Fortunately, in spite of being kind of spoiled, she has started to want to be a little helper...and hopefully this will come in handy come June/July...which leads us to No. 3...

3.  We found out that baby #3, lovingly deemed "gummy bear", is on his/her way.  I will share that there were months of wondering if we'd be able to have a #3.  I shared a few years ago that I was diagnosed in high school with PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) and had been told that I would likely never have children, and if I did, it would be a miracle.  Around Phillie's 5-6 month mark, I started feeling like someone was missing...I know...its crazy. I still had an infant in the house... but I couldn't help the feeling...and every time I tried to push it away, it only got stronger. After talking to Jeff, I found he'd been feeling similarly. When we coupled that with the issues I'd been experiencing with birth control pills (they were making me super sick, moody, and tired, and I was on a low dose pill) we decided we would just stop preventing and let God lead us.  Well...after 9 months of "not preventing", 3 months in a row where we thought I was pregnant, only to have negative tests, the missed period finally showing up 3-4 weeks late, and tears...I was beginning to fear and think that perhaps this was PCOS rearing its ugly head and that the two girls would be it for us biologically. This broke my heart because I truly felt (and still feel) that there were more children that were meant for our family. I had consigned myself to the fact that it just wasn't going to happen...and still cried about it daily when I was alone behind closed doors. In early October, my period was late again, and I was certain it was going to be another false alarm, so I refused to take a test for weeks. I couldn't handle the heartbreak of another negative test, and I just didn't want to go there...Finally, at the end of the month, we were preparing for the move back to Logan and I realized that if I was pregnant, I didn't want to do something stupid like try to lift a super heavy box on my own and hurt the baby, so I relented and took the test. Because I'd had such a rocky road getting pregnant, I was even more paranoid about telling anyone until we had been to the doctor and were close to the 12 week mark. I couldn't bear the thought of announcing it and having something go wrong. I finally announced it at the 11 week mark after we'd had several meetings with the doctor (because we found out that I was diabetic early on, he's been monitoring me closely), and I'd been reassured a TON that everything was fine. I am hopeful that 2014 will bring us another healthy, sweet baby to join the Nielson clan.

4. We got to move back to Cache Valley.  I was so bummed when we had to leave Preston to move to Rock Springs, but I was even more torn when we were leaving Rock Springs to come back to Cache Valley. I had my "safety net" there. I had lots of friendships that I'd developed, I also had therapies in place for Faith along with referrals to see specialists to get her diagnoses was a tough, tough call.  While I do miss my friends in Rock Springs terribly, and still kind of feel like a hermit here in Logan, I am glad to be back close to family again, and back in the beautiful valley that I love so much. While Logan is getting bigger, there is still a magic that surrounds this place. The mountains that surround it constantly amaze me with their beauty. Beyond that, my husband is FINALLY once again happy with his job.  He was so bummed and lost when he was laid off at Boomerang. Even though he wasn't doing what he was hired to do (yet) he liked waking up to go to work every morning. While I loved Rock Springs, I didn't love that my husband was cranky, and miserable every day. He hated getting up for work, he hated going to work, and he didn't have enough time to rest in between shifts to let the day wear off and be geared up to go back again. It was the last straw when they continued to refuse to put him on payroll, and the offer for his current job came at just the right time. He now is excited to go to work. He loves his bosses and the people he works with. He loves his job. He has time for the family (even though he is usually gone 3-5 days a week, he has time to relax and unwind when he gets home and really be present with us.) While I don't feel I've found my "niche" yet here in Logan, I definitely am more at peace knowing that my husband is happy and content. To hear him come home and say that he sees himself keeping this job for a long time is music to my ears.

5. We got to put an offer in on a house!  While we're still working out the details, and not everything is set in stone yet, we have been reassured that, barring extraordinary circumstances, we should be able to buy the house we've put an offer on and be closed by as early as January 31.  Since things aren't set in stone, I don't have pictures to show you (sorry, darlings).  I will show you pictures if and when we are closing on the house and have a set day to move in. Keep your fingers crossed for us, and, if you're the praying type, keep us in your prayers. All forms of good vibes are appreciated. It will be nice to be building equity instead of throwing our money away on rent, and it will be even nicer to have ROOM.  Our current apartment, while I'm very grateful for it, is very small for our needs (to be perfectly honest, when you consider we're a family of 4, soon to be 5, its downright teeny!)  It will be so nice to be in a place that we can spread out in, decorate however we like, and most importantly- get a dog to help with Faith's therapy goals. She really responds to animals and we've been wanting to get a dog to help her work on socialization skills and communication skills for quite some time, but we haven't  been able to because we've been renting. It will be a really big blessing to have a place of our own. We are trying to be frugal and prudent with our money, so we've opted for our first home to be a townhouse that fits WELL beneath our priceline. There is enough room for it to be a good 5-7 year home with a very low mortgage that will allow us to pay down debt and save up so that we can buy something bigger when we are more ready. It will also be a great investment property so, if we should choose to do so, we can put it up for rent and continue to have our money working for us and not for someone else.  We are really praying that everything continues to move forward like it has been. This property, and its owners, are truly an answer to our prayers. We found it, a for sale by owner situation, on a whim after being VERY unhappy with the realtor we'd been working with. I was really starting to wonder if we would find anything that we would be happy with that would fit in our price range...and the sellers were worried they would have to post the property with a realtor if they didn't start getting any notice soon. We actually contacted them and came to look at the house THE DAY they had decided that they would contact a realtor. As soon as we came, and a few hours after our visit texted them to let them know we were definitely very interested, they decided to hold off until we'd heard back from them. Here's to hoping that this really is a situation where God has guided us to one seems like it is so far, but who knows what the future will bring. For now, I am looking at it as a HUGE positive for us and have had my prayers answered as I've seen sign after sign that we're doing the right thing.

Here's to was quite the year...there were downs, but there were so many more ups! I'm excited for 2014. I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions, so I guess I'm lame and don't have anything to share with you.  I do want to pick a family theme for the year from the scriptures, so I've been working on that, and I'm hoping I can either get my own Cricut or access to one so I can make a vinyl cut out of the scripture to put on the wall in our living room in the new house. We will see how that hope plays out...LOL... More than anything, my goal for 2014 is to remain positive and do my best to encourage the rest of my family to be positive as well.  While the Lord may throw us curve balls, if 2013 has taught me anything, its that the curve balls, while crappy at the time, really do have blessings attached. You just have to be willing to bear the burden well until the blessings manifest.  If any of my hopes for the next year (Faith's diagnosis, the new house, etc.) don't work out, it is my prayer that I will continue to have faith in and find joy in the journey. Every black cloud TRULY does have a silver lining.

Hugs and loves until next time, darlings.

P.S. My morning sickness has FINALLY tapered off enough that I feel like I can start making meal plans again! (YAY!) As we need to go grocery shopping this weekend, expect a new one on Monday at the latest.  Don't expect it to include ANY crock pot meals, as I still am having MAJOR issues with using it (major issues that involve being sick all day as I smell stuff cooking in it...sad day.) but we shall find a way to eat tasty meals that don't involve a lot of demanding prep time...I have 2 toddlers and a rapidly forming baby bump..ain't nobody got time for time consuming dinners.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Today has been one of THOSE days. My girls decided to wake up shortly after daddy left for work. I am currently fighting the cold from HADES, and I really, REALLY wanted to sleep in...

Normally, I would have just left them to play in their room, but today they decided that it would be way more fun to bang on the door screaming and babbling loudly until I opened it for them. I found a familiar scene...the freshly folded clothes I'd JUST gotten back into their drawers strewn about the floor and the two of them had taken up a post sitting on top of one of the drawer bins turning on and off the lights...

TGIF!!!! That is all I can say...and with a beginning like that, you can guess that so far its been QUITE the day.

We had a meeting with an Occupational Therapist this morning to have Faith evaluated for sensory issues. She ended up watching her for about 30 minutes and how she interacted and asked me a few questions....the ones that I feel like I've answered a million times...but I also know that unless they hear it directly, it didn't necessarily get heard at all.  I do feel like she gave me some successful pointers to help Faith in the interum until she is able to complete her official evaluation.

Faith does have issues functioning in large group scenarios. She clings tightly to my legs and screams and cries until I take her out of the "scary" situation, she tries to hide somewhere quiet, or she tries to escape...and the problem with that last one is that when she escapes, because she doesn't answer to her name when she is called, it is quite difficult to locate her. She escaped nursery at church one Sunday and  I had 4 sweet sisters and a few bretheren trying to help me find her...After about 30 minutes of heart attack, she was found crouching under the water fountains... I was seriously so afraid she'd gotten out of the building, everyone was calm and reassured me that they didn't believe ANYONE in their right mind would open the door for a 2 year old to run away unattended...thank heavens for calm people because I was anything but! ...Fast forward though to the OT's suggestion. 

I had mentioned that when things seem to get loud in the house, Faith has a tendency to take her favorite toy and hide under the table until the sound dies down. She also did this at my sister's house over Thanksgiving, or, if the front door wasn't closed all the way because of kids going in and out of the house, she would try to run away out the front door. The OT suggested purchasing an indoor play tent to be used as Faith's "quiet space". She said that she would wager that if Faith had a place to escape to when she was feeling overwhelmed, she would be able to cope better in large group scenarios and that she would be less inclined to try to escape out an open door. She said we could set it up in a high traffic area, and watch to see if she has gone in or out of it. So...we're in the market for a kids' tent...2 weeks from Christmas...all the shopping is done, and we now have one more thing to buy! Oh well...I think it will be well worth the money it costs to bring us some peace of mind. 

Next week, we meet with our team of evaluators to discuss the services Faith will be receiving here in Utah. The Speech Therapist and Autism Specialist weren't around the bush and said quite frankly after their visits that I would likely be seeing much more of them. Faith does have some sensory issues, but I wonder if its enough to warrant Occupational Therapy, time and our meeting next Friday will give me a more clear answer. We also have a nurse coming before that meeting to assess Faith's health and to do a vision and hearing next week will be all craziness (but then again, its the week before wouldn't be the week before Christmas without a little bit of crazy.)  

The good news is that we will FOR SURE have insurance starting January 1...which means I can call the pediatrician and make an appointment to not only get Faith's vaccinations updated (they couldn't update them at her last well child exam because they couldn't reach the doctor's office to get an updated list of vaccinations she'd already had.) and I can ask him for a referral to see a pediatric development specialist or developmental psychologist that is here in town (I know there is one...I've been referred to them before, but we'd JUST lost our insurance at the time, so I couldn't follow through with the appointment.) There is a clinic here in town that is ALL out of pocket expenses, but considering what I've heard from friends about the clinic, it will be much more than my family can afford. Waiting until we have insurance to cover the visit with us making a co-pay is going to be the best scenario option for us.

The initial visit for this out of pocket clinic that apparently has sliding scale fees is $200...and they don't even see your child the first visit...I can't even imagine how much the rest of the testing doctor runs it and the rest of the staff are people working towards a DMD...don't get me wrong, I know people studying medicine have to learn somewhere, but if I'm going to spend that kind of money out of pocket, I'd rather spend it at a clinic with an actual doctor on the case and have a chance of my insurance covering the bulk of it...Hopefully, we can get all of this figure out soon. I know I have several family members that are frustrated with me for waiting, but you can only do so much with what you have...and right now, though I wish we did have it, we DON'T have that kind of money to spend out of pocket all at once... 

In other life news, Jeff goes out of town next weekend, and may have to work until Christmas Eve...providing his plane back doesn't get delayed, we should have him back Christmas Eve night, but if his plane gets delayed...Well, lets just say I'm REALLY worried about it... Jeff was kind enough to remind me that he'd be getting paid double time for returning home on Christmas Eve...which will help cover a lot of bills we have coming our way, but it still is nerve wracking to not be sure if he will be home for Christmas or not...however, considering that his last employer didn't give two pennies about Christmas or ANY holidays for that matter, I should just be counting my blessings and feel fortunate that he has an employer that cares and is trying to make sure he can be home.

Also, other earth shattering events (well, to me anyway)...I gave myself my first insulin shot last night. There were tears, there was a near panic attack at the thought of sticking myself with a needle...but I got through it...I can do this! These injections mean a healthier me and a healthier baby, and I can't balk at either of those two options.

Also...when I was putting her down for a nap this morning at 10 AM, Phillie actually thanked me...I laid her on the bed, she looked up at me and said, "Tankooo", and rolled over to go to sleep...I guess that's what happens when you wake up at the butt crack of dawn and realize that you are so sleepy that you can't see straight when you're one year thank your mom for naptime. (I was very grateful for her little smile as she rolled over. She was VERY happy to be safe in her bed and able to take a nap.) 

All in all, life is life...

I am learning how to navigate the world of diabetic eating. As soon as I feel like I've got more of a handle on it, I promise that there will be meal plans coming again (because I know that is why most of you bother to read my word vomit. LOL) 

As always, hugs and loves until next time, darlings.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Onward and Upward

Hello, darlings!

I am so sorry I have been silent for the last few weeks, but I have had good reason.

I have been SICK AS A DOG!

However, its the good kind of sick...the growing a tiny human being kind of sick... because of the onset of waves of nausea, I had to post-pone meal planning blogs because, lets face it, in the early stages of growing a tiny human, the last thing you want to think about is cooking...or food...or about doing anything but laying on the couch and trying not to want to die because you feel so sick.

The announcement was made Facebook official right after Thanksgiving, but I realize that I do have readers that I'm not friends with yet on Facebook (why is that again?)

I'm trying to remain upbeat and positive. Please bear with me as I get through the "yucky" part of this pregnancy and into the fun part. I promise, I will start posting meal plans again soon, its just that right now, the thought of food makes me super sick still. Since my husband has been travelling a lot for work (every week he's in a new state and home for the weekend), my girls have been living on a steady diet of mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, green beans, various fruit, and other quick fix things that I can imagine being able to stomach at the time.

My super cooking, diva goddess self shall just may take a little while longer.

There will also be some changes to the meal plans as they return, and the changes may cause me to have to return to making them sooner than I would like... The short version, my meal plans will now go to being 100% diabetic friendly. Here's why:

My blood sugar levels have been CRAZY. I had a physical in October right after I found out that I was expecting again and my A1C1 levels were on the high side of normal...high enough that the physician advised me to be checking my sugars NOW in case Gestational Diabetes set in again. Early detection means a much more comfortable pregnancy, and as I have a history with GD, I took it as sound advice and began checking immediately...only to find that my sugars were far from normal.

I finally saw my new OB here in Logan on November 26 to confirm my pregnancy and told him about my sugars being weird. He asked me to keep a chart for 2 weeks and come back and we would assess where to go from there.

Well...I did as he asked, and in spite of my best efforts to change my diet, my fasting blood sugars were never normal and I had one or two high values during the day.  At my appointment today, the doc dropped a bomb...

Since I'm not into the second trimester yet (about a week and a half shy of that 12 week mark...) chances are slim that my sugars being out of whack because of GD...based on what he's seen, he thinks I may just be straight up diabetic...and since my doctor with Phillie never did a check at 6 weeks post partum to see if my sugar levels had returned to normal (patients who are Insulin Resistant and develop GD have a 50-70% chance of remaining diabetic after pregnancy) there is a good chance that I have been diabetic since my pregnancy with Phillie and it has gone untreated.

That being said, if that is the case, I have done a lot of things intuitively to keep my sugars in check in the meantime, but, once you're growing another tiny human, all bets are off and it throws everything out of whack.

I will be starting on Insulin this week, as my dose of Metformin is already as high as they will let it be....

I am TERRIFIED of having to give myself shots, but I am working on remaining positive, and I have been reminding myself that the outcome will be a healthier me and a healthy baby. I think that outcome is worth 1 shot of insulin at night, don't you?

In other news, Jeff is LOVING his job and I am down to 5 boxes that need to be unpacked, in one more month I can start working towards getting Faith into a pediatric developmental psychologist to figure out where she is on the Autism spectrum and how to best help her, and Phillie is being her usual silly self, and talking up a storm... yes, I have a little chink in my chain of happiness called diabetes, but life is great other than that. I am truly blessed.

Thank you darlings for your positive vibes, prayers and thoughts throughout this year. They have been felt and appreciated. I love you all.

Hugs and loves until next time, darlings.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November Freezer Meal Post

Hey friends,

Here is the freezer meal post. Sorry its so late. I have been super busy trying to get everything settled in here and Jeff has been out of town the last two weeks in a row so I've been kicking it by myself and haven't really had a lot of "me" time.

It won't be my prettiest post, as I don't have time to embed the links, but you can copy and paste the links from the list I'm posting.

Happy meal planning!

Honey Lime Enchiladas

Friday, November 8, 2013

Moved In and Moving On...


Sorry I've been incommunicado the last week or so. We ended up moving sooner than expected (like 5 days sooner), and didn't have internet for a good chunk of time. To my faithful readers that love my meal plans, never fear. I have one coming. I just need to finalize a few things. We've not been feeling too well in our house for the last few weeks, so I decided that this next group of meals will be freezer meals. Should be pretty exciting (if meal planning excites you like it does me...I'm such a nerd...*sigh*)

We're now residents of Logan, UT. Jeff is loving his new job. Next week, he will be headed to the bible belt to work on billboards in Georgia and Tennessee. There are possible plans for him to go to Russia since they just sold a new billboard in Moscow, so he is in the process of getting his passport all together (and I'm in the process of being totally jealous if he gets to go without me...LOL). Yes, this job requires a lot of travel; however, his other job would have required him to be gone for 2 weeks at a time with little to no contact, and the most he will ever be gone with this job (unless its an international job) is 5 days. He is ALWAYS guaranteed to have his weekends, and when he's here in Logan working, we're guaranteed that the latest he would ever be home is 5:30 or 6 (and that's if he's working overtime. His shift is supposed to be over at 3:30 in the afternoon.)

I knew what I married into when I married my smarty pants electronics technician. Jeff isn't the kind of guy who would be content with a factory job doing the same thing day in and day out...and so, the only other jobs that he would be able to get that aren't him doing the same thing every day are travelling jobs, going where the malfunctions are, and troubleshooting like a boss.

The girls seem to have adjusted well. The first night here in our new place, they both woke up at one point or another terrified because they didn't recognize where they were, but they have figured it out.

They are loving our new backyard (we share it with the people who live on the main floor of the house, we have the basement).  Faith is particularly in love with the swing set. We have a hard time convincing her to come in any time we go outside for anything.  They are also loving the new found freedom. With the set up of this particular basement apartment, putting up baby gates where we normally had them is impossible or doesn't make sense...they like to sit at my feet while I'm cooking in the kitchen, which makes Jeff really nervous, and they like to open and close drawers and cabinets...this has led to several unfortunate pinched finger incidents in the last week...we're hoping they learn their lesson. (Don't worry, I have made sure that all of my chemicals and cleaning supplies are on the top shelf in the bathroom. The worst the kidlets can do is open the cupboard under the sink and smash one of my glass vases...since that was the only place they'd fit. I've been good about catching them when they have opened that cupboard though. We haven't had any incidents of them trying to open those cupboards for 3 or so maybe we've made progress?)

As far as getting help to have therapies in place for Faith is concerned, I was shocked to have my email to the local infant/toddler early intervention program answered within 10 minutes.  I should have a phone call between Tuesday and Friday next week to schedule a first meeting to gather the information they need and to figure out what services she needs and who will be giving them.  I have been pleasantly surprised by how easy the transition is's hoping it remains fairly straight forward and easy and there aren't many hoops to jump through. life this last week has been all about unpacking and fighting being sick...once all the boxes are gone, things will be fairly normal.

As I sign off darlings, here is your daily dose of cute. Who doesn't want to look at pictures of my girls playing in the backyard?

And of course, you need pictures of Halloween. We had a Tinkerbell, a Minnie Mouse and everyone raved about an appearance from Mario and Luigi...(seriously, we had random little kids giving us high fives on the street. They thought we were SUPER cool).
We crashed my friend's trunk or treat since we didn't know what our ward would be up to (Thanks again, Meikjn!) We had a lot of fun and the girls' candy buckets were overflowing by the end. We opted not to do any more trick or treating afterwards, we just walked back to Meikjn's house and took off because it was FREEZING cold...and with good reason, since we woke up to snow the next morning.  Faith started to get what we were doing, and contentedly held Jeff's hand as we walked up to the different cars to say "trick or treat". She even shocked us by starting to reach into bowls for candy when people offered to let her pick (we didn't think she would do something like that at it was a nice surprise). Overall it was a fun night and Jeff and I have discussed the idea of Mario and Luigi being our traditional costume because everyone thought we were so cool...LOL We shall see...

Hugs and loves until next time, darlings!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Moving Forward

Its 1:30...

I am in desperate need of a shower, but I have two little monsters in the room next to the bathroom that are fighting sleep... I could be packing...but I just want a break after a morning of scrubbing the kitchen and packing the last of our dishes.  I still need to resweep and mop, but I figure that can wait until I've scrubbed myself down.

Its been a VERY busy last few weeks.

Jeff got a call about a job in Logan, UT...a job he apparently applied for over a YEAR ago, and they were JUST getting around to hiring for the position...It came at a time of kismet. Jeff had been unhappy for a while at Schlumberger, but hadn't been mentioning much because he didn't want to worry me...but it all came out as we discussed whether or not he should take a final interview in Logan.

After listening to his heart and concerns, we added going to a job interview in Logan to our weekend plans.

After a quick jaunt to Logan, an interview and a verbal job offer, we stopped in Logan Canyon to take some family pictures and headed back to Rock Springs with a lot to think about.

On Monday, Jeff received and accepted the official offer and moving became a reality.

I'm seriously bummed about leaving Rock Springs. I know I haven't blogged much about life here, but I will say that the people here are the friendliest people you'll meet (similar to Missoula, MT where I did my Master's degree).  The town is big enough that you can get everything you need, but small enough that people still reach out and try to be kind to everyone they know. Its the type of town where you can have a complete conversation to with strangers in line behind you at the grocery store. A bigger town with a small town feel...and I have loved every minute of it. I've been content here...

However, after some of the experiences and conversations Jeff has had with management since we made the decision, I am feeling very much at peace about this decision to head back to Logan.

I was surprised when we were back in Logan, how easy it was to slip back into routine and feel at home. I know that I will be okay starting over again. I know it will be work, don't get me wrong, but if my nomadic childhood (From 4th grade on I pretty much went to 2 to 3 schools for every grade with the exception of 9-11 grade when we were in Blackfoot) has taught me anything, its how to pack, be organized and start over with a smile and new hope that things will be better.

The Lord has surely drawn us back to Logan. The timing of the call, the age of the resume that they were using, the fact that Jeff's brother just happened to have a 2 bedroom rental in our price range open, and that the company is going to pay our moving expenses, all point to this fact.

The move here to Rock Springs did some very important things for us: 1) It allowed us to get out of the financial hole we'd fallen into when Jeff was unemployed. 2)It allowed us to save some money and pay off debts that had mounted after an ER visit for me while we were uninsured and 3) Most importantly, we were able to get access to the services we needed to find a direction to travel to help Faith.

As far as what is going to happen with Faith, I really don't know.

She failed one hearing test, and then 2 weeks later she passed it.

Our speech therapist (who has been AMAZING) feels really bad that she doesn't have a better idea of what is going on at this point. Some days she says Faith looks like a classic case of Asperger's or another low grade Autism Spectrum Disorder and other days it seems like she is completely deaf. She thought  that by now she would have been able to have given us a referral and we would have found the answers.

At this point, this is what we know: We will likely follow up with an audiologist to check and see if she has a malfunctioning cochlear nerve (ie some days it allows her to hear and some days it shuts off like she is deaf) This is a real thing, in fact, our speech therapist has another patient that is dealing with it and it was easily fixed with hearing aids....having said that, she also said that Faith's speech delay is FAR MORE severe than the speech delay that this other patient was dealing with. The other possibility is that there is fluid build up that comes and goes behind her ears causing there to be days when the ear drum cannot vibrate and days where it can, this problem would be fixed with surgical placement of tubes.  We will have to put off a visit with an audiologist until we are on new insurance in January, but our speech therapist said that shouldn't be a big deal.

We also still need to see a developmental psychologist, but were assured that the infant toddler program in Utah should be able to refer us to one free of charge or at a discounted cost for services through their program.  We just need to be sure if we can rule out any Autism Spectrum Disorder, and considering that some days she seems to show all the classic signs and others she doesn't, this assessment could be tricky.

We have had some encouraging developments in the last few days. Faith has most definitely learned the sign for milk. She will bring me her sippy and I will ask if she wants juice or water or milk and make all the signs as I say them and she without skipping a beat has been able to sign milk. She does sign water, but generally she doesn't want water and after I bring her water, she hands the sippy right back because she is unhappy with the contents. I'm hoping she will eventually catch on with the sign for water like she has for the sign for milk.

It isn't much progress, but its progress. I definitely feel like I'm beating my head against a brick wall some days, but when we do make baby steps it makes it all worth it--even if its a fleeting moment.

For now, we will transfer her paperwork to Utah's program and try to continue with services there. Our speech therapist said she would give me some exercises to work on with her in the meantime.

Phillie has been talking up a storm.

The other day we were trying to get her to give us kisses and she would shake her head no and then bury her face in a pillow or blanket. Finally, I said, "Fine, if you won't give me kisses, I'm going to steal them." She emphatically shook her head and said, "You can't get 'em" before hiding her face again... Jeff and I laughed about it for the next 20 or so minutes.  She also asks "Where we going?" when we leave the house, says, "Let's go", "Love you."...and plenty more. She doesn't talk all the time, but the random outbursts of perfectly understandable phrases are always a source of a little chuckle. This kid is definitely a comedienne!

Packing with them around has been interesting. We've had several flips and konked noggins after the girls have decided its a good idea to crawl up on boxes to reach things they've never been able to reach before. I particularly have to watch them around the piano because they situate the boxes like stairs and try to crawl on top of it. Phillie has several "battle wounds" from her futile attempts to be "king of the piano" (kind of like that grade school game "king of the hill" only the winner is the last one sitting on the piano?)

All in all, I may not know where we're ultimately going to end up, but there is comfort in knowing we are headed that way together. I am so grateful for my husband who works so hard so that I can be home with my girls.  This new job will definitely stink because he will be required to travel weekly, but at least he will be home every weekend and he has a boss that fights for (and usually succeeds in winning) holidays off so he can be with us.  We also will be closer to family (his family is in Logan and the surrounding area), and that means a lot too. When he's gone, I will have their support and that means a lot.

Well darlings, onward and upward. I think I may actually be able to take a shower now...but while I'm scrubbing away how about you take a gander at the decent family picture shots we managed to get last weekend...and you're welcome...

I LOVE Phillie's face in this one...its probably the best one we got.
I was testing lighting and had Phillie on my hip...I figured, WHY NOT? LOL
I wish Faith had been looking at the camera in this one because I actually really like the composition of it.
Hugs and loves until next time, darlings...

Monday, October 21, 2013

2 Weeks Dinner Meal Plan- Bringing Crock-tober to a close

Its that time again...Meal Planning Time...

I apologize in advance...this is a really beef and pork heavy meal plan...mostly because my husband informed me that we're moving back to Logan, UT in 2 weeks and I needed to use what I have so we don't end up throwing it away...I went through my freezer and I am quite literally using EVERYTHING that is left...hence the current meal plan.  I had taken advantage of a beef sale a few weeks ago, so I have to clear out a couple of packages of steak and roasts. I apologize if this meal plan is a little more pricey than my others...Hopefully, you can find some good sales.  The next meal plan will be MUCH better and far more varied...I promise.

I also learned, after a week from Hades where we ended up eating more Hamburger Helper than I care to admit, that I need to have a few meals that could be cooked either in the crock pot, or on the stove...I try as hard as I can to get the meals into the crock pot during the girls' naptime, but last week we had several appointments that prevented me from being home to do so.

So...onward and upward. Here is the meal plan with links! Happy cooking and shopping, darlings!

1. Cream Cheese Spaghetti Casserole (I'm going to try this in the crock pot, preparing as directed but putting everything in the crock pot on high for 2 hours or low for 4...Hopefully, I will be in a position to tell you how it goes!)
2. Slow Cooker Tamale Pie
3. Ground Beef Stroganoff
4. Fall off the Bone BBQ Ribs (I'll be honest, the ribs never got made during the last meal plan. It always seemed like on the days I was planning on making them I was out of the house ALL DAY and had no time to put them in...hence the repeat.)
5. Amish Chicken (going to try this in the crock pot on low for 4-6 hours...we will see how it goes.)
6. Slow Cooker Meat and Veggie Stew
7. French Dip Sammies
8. Mongolian Beef
9. Carne Asada Tacos
10. Pork Chops and Scalloped Potatoes
11. Pork Tenderloin Roast
12. Polish Sausage Pasta (not a crock pot meal, but you need a few for days you just forget.)
13. Crock Pot Sausage Gravy over Biscuits
14. Butternut Squash Alfredo (another non-crock pot meal...decided that I need at least 1 meal a week that is not cooked in the crock pot because, let's face it, we run out of time or forget)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happy Birthday, Faith!

Oh my goodness, Princess!

Where has the time gone? It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that the nurses were taking you out of your warming bed in the NICU to put you in my arms for the first time and now you are 2!

We've definitely had our ups and downs over the last 2 years, but you have been a trooper through all of it.

I am one lucky mamma. You are so sweet, loving, and kind and you rarely ever get grumpy or complain.  I'm still waiting for your "terrible twos" to set in, but maybe they never will because you're just so darn agreeable! You are such a good big sister and you make everyone feel so loved.

Thank you for choosing to come to our family. Thank you for choosing us to be your parents. I don't know if I could picture my life without you and I don't remember what it was like before you came. You just fit. Thank you for all the lessons you have been teaching me about patience and for giving me reassurance along the way that I am doing the right thing as your mommy.

You have turned into such a frilly, girlie girl. You love to wear your tutus around the house and you love necklaces and looking "pretty".  You still love books and reading, and I am grateful for that. You are always content to do your own thing, so when you bring a book and crawl into my lap it always does my heart some good. You have also started to become our tiny dancer. You love to watch musicals and shows with dancers and try to mimic them. Our ottoman has become your ballet barre and it makes me melt every time I see you dancing and practicing there. I think, if you could stomach it, you would constantly be twirling, you love it so much.

You don't say much with words, but you say so much with your actions. None of us have to doubt that you are happy and feel loved. Thank you for being so wonderful. We love you. It has been the most amazing two years that any of us could have imagined.

Mommy and Daddy

P.S. Here is YOUR slide show of the pictures we took of you this year. You have grown from a chubby little baby face to a little girl before our eyes. It has gone so fast!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Me" Time...

Life is hard.

I know what you're all thinking..."Thanks for that observation, Captain Obvious."

I've been really struggling lately to find balance.

Faith's therapy has been intensive and I feel guilty if I'm not devoting time to her when she is awake, working to help her overcome her difficulties with communication...then I feel guilty because Phillie is awake and here too and needs my attention just as much as Faith does...then Jeff gets home and needs voice students come over at sporadic points throughout the day diverting my attention from where I want it to be, then I need to get things ready for the Young Women (did I mention I was called to be the YW President last month at the end of the month?), and have my outside commitments like community choir...In short, I feel like Bilbo Baggins at the beginning of the Lord of the Rings, like too little butter scraped over too much bread...

Yesterday, we finally got some news that we'd been waiting for...Faith failed her hearing screening.

We're not sure how much she IS hearing, as the OAE only tests whether or not the sensations sent up the nerve in the ear come back out...Faith failed on both ears. The next step is either to continue with the Infant Toddler Program's path and have one more screening done at the local elementary school (can't remember what they called it, but it isn't 100% accurate as it asks a very small, very wiggly toddler to sit on my lap facing forward while sounds play behind her, to her side, etc. and they watch to see if she responds to the sounds that are playing around her...) and THEN if she fails that being referred to an audiologist (likely at Primary Children's in SLC) to see how much hearing loss we're talking about OR I can just talk to her pediatrician at her well child exam on Tuesday next week to see if she will use the failed OAE screening as proof enough that she can just refer us directly on to an audiologist for testing... We will see what the pediatrician says on Tuesday, but our speech therapist said that given Faith's symptoms (not speaking, preferring to babble mostly vowel sounds, not responding to her name, spinning at random times (if its hearing loss, she is likely doing this to stimulate her otic nerve), not responding to sound stimuli around her (i.e. people snapping or clapping next to her head to get her to turn around), and her newfound penchant for using her soft palate to babble instead of her lips (again, likely to stimulate the otic nerve because that is probably how she can hear the sounds that she makes the best)), she would wager that the failed OAE is correct and we're dealing with hearing loss and that she wouldn't blame me in the least for wanting to skip the second test with the audiologist at the elementary school and move right to the more drastic testing to measure how much she DOES hear in order to get her the help she needs...speech therapist is wagering that since oto-toxic antibiotics are involved, we may be looking at hearing aids, but said there are any number of reasons why the hearing loss has happened.

Well...with this news, and the knowledge that I am likely going to be spending some more time in SLC and travelling there, I knew something had to give.  I'd been debating for a little while, as I've been struggling with balancing everything since we started therapies, quitting the community choir. I'd held off because it was the ONE thing I was doing for myself...but at the end of the day, SOMETHING has to give...and unfortunately, as much as I love it, its the easiest thing to cut out at this point...I've debated dropping voice students, but I want to wait to see what happens with the pediatrician, audiologist, and Faith's diagnoses before I do something that drastic, but that may end up happening too...

My family will ALWAYS come first before anything I do for myself.  I've decided that if I want "me" time, I will just ask Jeff if I can go get a massage or something when I'm feeling tense, and I will take time when the girls are napping to practice my music more and maybe even start composing  and arranging music again (haven't composed/arranged music in a while and that could be a fun way to relieve stress.)  Faith, Phillie, Jeff and time with them are more valuable than 2 hours at choir during the week.

I will say that, even though it killed me to write the director, I felt 100,000 times lighter after it was done. I knew I made the right decision.

Right now, I need to focus on being a wife, mom, therapist, chauffer, housekeeper, and historian...

The director was lovely about accepting my resignation from the choir and told me I was welcome back whenever I felt like things had slowed down a bit.

I am content. I know that some of you may be thinking that this isn't really a "healthy" way to look at things...that I should have dropped something else before dropping my "me" time, but sometimes the easiest thing to do, is the right thing to dropping choir, I've freed up 2 hours of time...time to be able to be there to put my babies to bed at night and enjoy their snuggles, time to cuddle up with my husband and talk about my stresses and what I've done during the day and listen to his stresses, and time to SLEEP!

In the end, I am a wife and a mother. I chose this path.  Its not a sacrifice to quit the choir... it would be more of a sacrifice to look back and regret that I wasn't able to be fully present because I was preoccupied elsewhere and I MISSED something vital and important. That is something I could never forgive myself for...

photo credit ME! Yep! I took and edited this, I'm pretty proud of myself. I'm doing a bomb diggity job as family historian, right?
Besides, who wouldn't want to be hopelessly devoted to THIS awesomeness?  Every smile, every giggle, every hug, every tantrum, or tiff over a toy is precious...and I will miss it can't get a minute back once its gone or I choose not to waste them...I choose to be present...this IS my "me" time.

Hugs and Loves until next time, darlings.
 ( want more cuteness? Here you go...and you're welcome.)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Welcome to Crock-tober. 2 Weeks of Slow Cooker Meals

Its my a favorite time of year. The leaves are turning colors, the air is getting crisp and cool (or it did here in WY!)  and EVERYONE feels the need to bust out the best comfort foods they can think of....Well, at least I do. I decided to challenge myself this month to do a 100% slow cooker meal plan. I'm hoping this plan will divert me from curling up into a ball and crying "McDonalds! Pizza Hut!" on rough days where I just feel like I can't do another thing. I can pop the meal into the crock pot during the girls' first naptime and dinner will be ready by 5:30 or 6:00 that evening.

I hope I'm not alienating anyone by planning a month of meals for your slow cooker, but who doesn't love to come home, or sit and enjoy the smell of food slowly wafting from the kitchen?

Here's to challenging ourselves! (Well, or atleast to me challenging myself).

1. Spaghetti with crock pot Meatballs and sauce (You can look in the search query at the top of the screen for my crock pot spaghetti sauce recipe...however, if I have time, I will post a tutorial for the meatballs and sauce. :) )
2. Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese with Ham (* I'm going to be adding ham to this recipe and adapting it)
3. Baby Back Ribs
4.Garlic Lime Chicken
5. Slow Cooker Chicken Gyros
6. Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes
7. Crock Pot Chicken and Stuffing
8. Bacon Wrapped Apple Barbecue Chicken
9. Slow Cooker Tacos
10. Slow Cooker Bacon and Cheese Potatoes
11. Slow Cooker Chicken Tortellini
12. Slow Cooker Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sammies
13. Slow Cooker German Pancakes (ie breakfast for dinner)
14. Slow Cooker cheesy chicken and potatoes

Happy crockin', darlings!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Another 2 weeks of meals

I'm on the ball this go round! Had the meal plan done on Friday. Just didn't get it posted until now.

I did a really good job again of keeping the price down...I guess I'm just learning to anticipate when things are going to be on sale at the grocery store we shop at. The total cost for this meal plan came to $147 (rounded up, it was $146 and some change)...and that was with buying extra meat because it was on sale a few extra things for lunches that were on depending on where you shop, this meal plan should be relatively low in cost for 2 weeks. (P.S. I know you may be thinking- Well, she has 2 little kids...but I generally make anywhere from 4-6 servings when I cook (sometimes more) so it really is like shopping for a bigger family. My husband gets REALLY frustrated that we don't eat all the leftovers but I would rather cook it and have it available as leftovers than have meat getting freezer burnt because I'm not getting to it in time and cooking it in too small of portions. I tried for a while to only make enough just to feed us for only one meal, but that got frustrating because there wasn't enough for seconds if someone wanted more...)

Now...onto the meal plan and the beginning of Crock-tober...Yep, I'm going to do it. I'm going to try to do a month of crock pot meals...that being said, I am going to have 2 "break" meals in each meal plan for those days when you just can't get things into the crock pot in time.

So...let's finish out September and welcome a wonderful, crisp, chilly, lovely Crock-tober!

1. Skillet Lasagna (Made this last night. My husband LOVED it! It was so easy... gotta love 20 minute meals that turn out to be tasty!)
2. Zuppa Toscana (Olive Garden Copycat) *I'm likely going to adapt this because I don't necessarily 100% agree with the ingredients or methods, but I've made this before and its super tasty! I'm also going to cook it in my crock pot...I've seen a couple of pins on Pinterest with a "how to" for timing for it. Should be tasty.
3. Crispy Onion Chicken
4. Hobo Tin Foil Dinners
5. Winger's Sticky Fingers (I will  be breading my chicken using the same method that I do for my sweet and sour chicken...I, in general, do not purchase breaded, pre-cooked chicken. Its too salty for my taste. My husband LOVES these, he actually thinks this recipe tastes better than the ones you get at Winger's.)
6. Crock Pot Sweet Barbecue Pork Steaks 
7. Cheesy Chicken, Bacon, and Tater Tot Crock Pot Bake (I'm excited to try this one!)
8. Crock Pot Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken
9. Disneyland Loaded Potato Soup
10. Pizza Soup * I will be adapting this recipe and using the crock pot
11. Pizza Rolls ( I posted this recipe on my blog earlier this year. I will find the link and post it here, but in the meantime, if you want it, I'm pretty sure there is a search function on my blog that will make it possible for you to search for it.)
12. Homemade Copycat Big Mac and french fries *P.S. you can just use Thousand Island dressing for the secret sauce as opposed to making the sauce listed in the recipe. It tastes exactly the same.
13. Lemon Chicken Carbonara
14. Homemade Chicken Pot Pie * I'll be adapting this recipe. Hoping I have the time to post a picture tutorial for you all! No reason to ingest tons of preservatives from a pre-made pot pie when you can make a nutritious and far more delicious version at home!

Happy cooking, darlings!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Dinner...A.K.A. Thanksgiving Practice

I know we have a few months before Thanksgiving rolls around, but I always am excited this time of year to get a little practice in for "The BIG day" in any way I can...

Last year, I discovered that you can roast a chicken in your Crock Pot (thanks, Pinterest).  I've done it a few times since then, and, while I know you may find several recipes or ways to do it online (believe me, I am just as confused as you many different ways to do many different lengths of time that it should cook...) I've just come to decide that the way I normally do things when I roast a bird in the oven or an electric roaster works much better than any of the confusing recipes.

Let me simplify this statement even more...because THIS is the ONLY way you're ever going to want to roast a bird of any type ever again, no matter if you're doing it in a roaster, crock pot, or your oven.

I like to think of myself as a bird roasting guru. I have prepared a full Thanksgiving Dinner for my family  almost every year since I was 13 (I was down and out one year with the stomach flu *yuck!* and the year I got married we weren't sure where we were going to spend Thanksgiving, so my family planned without me and we surprised them.)  Along the way, I have learned lots of tips and tricks of the trade from cooking magazines, Food Network, online recipes, word of mouth...and I have devised the most delicious, succulent way to roast a bird. Its so delicious that my grandfather (may he rest in peace) said I outdid HIS mother and MY GRANDMOTHER when it came to Thanksgiving birds.... 

Thanksgiving IS my superbowl...the Superbowl of COOKING! of course, like any "athlete", I have to get my practice in...

So...onto the recipe for my Crock Pot Roasted Chicken. (P.S> these techniques are the very same that you would use to roast a bird another way...yep, I'm giving up my secrets...use them well my young Paduans.)

First, you're going to let your chicken sit in the fridge to thaw for 2-3 days, this is VERY important. You don't want it to be frozen solid when you're trying to put it in because it won't cook, or if it does it will be a soggy mess, and the more defrosted it is, the more uniformly it will cook. (For a turkey, you'll want to let it sit in the fridge for 2-3 days and then soak overnight in a cold water bath)

Once its defrosted, you're going to take that baby out of the package and rinse it in cold water...Unless that puppy is fresh off of memaw's farm, its been sitting in its own "juices" for a while and you're going to want to rinse that off to allow it to taste a little more fresh... So, clean out and disinfect one half of your sink so that baby can have a clean bathtub to start its journey to tasty in.

Now the part, that most people're going to stick your hand up into the cavity to pull out the giblets. Depending on the brand, you may find they are in a neat little package, OR you may find that you have 4 little circular-ish red things that you have to pull out...since its a chicken, there should be a heart, liver, and two kidneys. Go to the top, and lift up the neck to be sure they didn't decide to leave you any other giblets (sometimes they get stuffed up in the neck area)...You're then going to rinse out the cavity until the water runs clear.  Take your hand and you will find that there should be a little hole inside the neck cavity that connects to the inner cavity...make sure that's clear so that the chicken can cook uniformly on the inside and then rinse through the neck cavity until the water runs clear. You'll be left with something like this:

Notice those yellow spots? Sometimes the bird hasn't been plucked all the way...squeeze the skin to be sure that you get all the ends of the feathers that may be left...its kind of like popping a zit...I know...that's gross...but trust me, you'll be so glad you did it.

Go ahead and let that puppy sit in your sink for a while so you can get your crock pot ready...

You're going to make 7  one and a half inch aluminum foil balls (you wouldn't do this for an oven roasted bird or a roaster roasted bird...this part is strictly for the crock pot and keeps the chicken from swimming in its own juices and getting soupy.)  You're going to arrange six of them in a circle on the outer edge of the crock pot, and then put the seventh, smack dab in the middle.  

Then you're going to cut up a small or medium onion into 1/4 to 1/2 inch chunks and lay those chunks in between the aluminum foil balls (you will put onion on the bottom of a roasting pan or in the pan your using to roast in the oven beneath the bird too...for added measure, if you like onion, you can stuff a few of the chunks into the bird's cavities...) You'll end up with a crock pot that looks like this.

Next, add 3/4 to 1 cup of water to the bottom. If you've got 'em...add 1 to 2 chicken boullion cubes for enhanced flavor (*note* if you're doing a turkey in a roaster or in your oven, you'll want to add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water, but you'd pour it over the turkey...I will tell you where in a later note. This will shrink the skin and keep the juices in. I like to heat it in the microwave with 2-3 boullion cubes until its boiling hot and then pour it over....but the timing is don't get antsy, I'll tell you when and where to pour.)

Now...put your chicken on top of the loveliness... Now, you're going to stick your fingers under the skin and pull it up to lift it from the meat... you'll do this all the way down to those lovely legs.

Now...for the seasoning. You're gonna want a small bowl or a measuring cup to mix it in... you're gonna need:

1 tsp salt
1 tsp seasoning salt
2 tsp garlic powder 
1 tsp herbed poultry seasoning
(I normally also use 1 tsps of Paprika, but I'm out of Paprika...good thing I decided to have a practice day, we'll need some before Thanksgiving)

Now, you're going to take the seasoning and rub it up underneath the skin, make sure you get under the skin of the legs too! (*Note* You can omit the garlic powder and cut 4 cloves of garlic into quarters, being sure to place 4 quarters on each breast and drumstick...also, if you're doing a turkey, you're going to want to double the seasoning recipe) Give that bird a GOOD, tenderizing massage!

Now...use the rest of the seasoning for the top (Note...if you're oven roasting...WAIT! Don't season the top until after the next step because after the next step is when you're going to pour your hot water on top.)

Try to spread it around as evenly as possibly...If you think that its too much for the top, then go back into the cavity and massage a little more onto the meat. Trust me, you want to use it all!

This next step is my BIGGEST secret...this is the way that you get juicy, moist delicious roasted meat EVERY TIME... You're gonna want to cut up 4 Tbs of butter...
 Peel the wrapper off, and then break those 4 tbs of butter in half...then you're going to place 2 halves (ie 1 tbs) of butter on each breast and leg...
 And voila! (Don't worry, the skin will shrink back down in the heat...
(For friends roasting in the oven or a roaster, this is the place where you'll dump your hot water over the top and THEN top with the rest of your seasoning...don't want to wash all the seasoning away!)

I know what you're thinking..."BRITTANY! You just took what would have been a healthy dinner and added a ton of unnecessary cholesterol..." But it IS necessary, VERY NECESSARY...That butter is going to melt in the heat, and you know what its going to do? Its going to melt into that meat and it is going to make it the most moist, delicious succulent roasted meat you've ever eaten!!!!  Fine...leave the butter off, see if I care...but the butter, my darlings, is what separates a good turkey or chicken from the MOST AMAZING TURKEY OR CHICKEN YOU'VE EVER EATEN IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE! OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now...if you're using the crock pot to cook this deliciousness, put your lid back on and don't lift it up for 4-8 hours (obviously, the smaller the bird you have, the less time it will take to cook. My bird is almost 4 pounds, so I'm going to wager that it will be in the 5-6 hour range.)  Let your nose be your guide. If it "smells" done, take your lid off and either test it with a meat thermometer, or cut a slice down the top of a breast to see if any pink juices flow out...if its pink, it probably needs another 30-45 min.

If  you're using my tips for your Thanksgiving're going to want to roast it according to the time on a roasting will either have come with your roaster, or you can find one online. If you're using an oven, you can find your roasting time using this roasting chart:
DON'T rely on the timer that's in your turkey! By the time that puppy pops up, its usually OVER done. Use and trust the roasting chart and invest in a meat thermometer to be sure...

Oven Roasters will either cover with the lid included with their oven roasting pan or foil (shiny side down!!! Bring that delicious heat inside!)  

Electric Roaster and Oven Roasted Turkey/Chicken Tip: You're going to use a spoon or baster to dump some of the juicy deliciousness falling into the pan on top of the bird and into the cavity of the bird every hour or so...don't worry if you fall behind..the important thing is that if you're cooking your bird for 4 hours, it should basted 3 times. 

This step is unnecessary in a crock pot.

So...what do you do now if you're using a Crock Pot? You don't have to baste anything...well, you set it, and let your house fill with delicious smells....

Oh...and here's a couple of pics for the naysayers that are worried the skin won't shrink back down after you've lifted it for the butter...

See...its been in my crock pot for about 45 minutes and its almost completely normal again. :)

I bet you're waiting for the finished product...well...Here ya go! TADA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Of course, this wouldn't be Thanksgiving practice without homemade mashed potatoes and a swoon worthy gravy made from the drippings...

Let the bird rest for about 10 minutes when you've removed it from the heat before you carve it. It will allow it to bring all that lovely juice that sitting under the skin back into the meat.

(Note, if you want to make giblet gravy...when you have 2 to 3 hours left, you're going to take your giblets and simmer them with some onions a little salt,  and, if you prefer, some boullion on the stove. Put the lid on the sauce pan and ONLY take it off to stir the stock every hour or so. You want a rolling simmer, but not a boil so that the pan doesn't boil over. This works best with turkey giblets because you have MORE of have the neck and larger pieces of meat. You can cut up the giblets if you'd like to add them to the gravy, but my family was never big fans of that. The best part is that the neck meat will start to come off and you'll have some chunks of that deliciousness in me, its glorious. I don't tend to make giblet gravy when I do chicken. The giblets are so small that there really just isn't a lot of flavor to draw from them to make a decent stock, so I just use the drippings from the bottom of my pan or crock pot. Just carefully remove the chicken to a plate -its GOING to fall apart- then use some tongs or a fork to try to remove the majority of the onions and all the aluminum foil ball, and pour the drippings into a sauce pan and proceed with your favorite gravy preparation technique.)

In short, you will end with a delicious dinner that will make you WISH it was Thanksgiving already... but don't wish too hard...I still need some more practice before my Superbowl of cooking...

Hugs and Loves until next time, darlings!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Being Productive

I often feel like I'm not doing enough as a wife, as a mother, for myself...

There are lots of things to juggle.

I'm not going to lie, my house is a complete disaster area 95% of the time...with two kids under 2, messes are an inevitability of life and, to be honest, I get so sick of cleaning up a mess and having to turn around to clean it up again, that often, unless its a hazard, I just leave it and clean it up when the kids are finally in bed for the night...only to have the mess made AGAIN.

On top of the constant mess, my kids are running around in a diaper and no clothes, or last night's pajamas, with orphan child hair...

And my poor husband comes home to it...and I always feel so bad when he pitches in to help and does SO MUCH WORK because he's just gotten home from a 12-16 hour shift at work...I know he just wants to rest.

I've struggled lately more than usual. Feeling very insecure about my abilities to handle everything...I know what you're going to say...Don't worry about the messes, make the memories instead...this too shall pass...don't be influenced by the moms that have it all together on Pinterest...

But, lets be honest- if we have kids we ALL want to be THAT mom...the one that makes cute Bento lunch boxes, the one that has a pristine, sparkly house at least 50 % of the time, the one whose kids are always seasonably dressed with perfectly coiffed hair...its something we aspire to...

I've been pondering on a General Conference talk about Good, Better, and Best by Elder Oaks. (Find it HERE.  If you have NO IDEA what General Conference is and you'd like to know you can find out HERE.)

I guess my biggest struggle is wondering if I'm spending my time wisely...

I spend a lot of time with my girls, in the trenches (a.k.a on the floor) and doing everything I can to help them grow and develop...but when I look at the mess, I want to cry...but then I get up to clean, and I feel SO GUILTY as little voices call out in tears to me from the baby gate or when accidents happen that I'm not there to help prevent...Case in point: On Wednesday, Faith decided it would be a good idea to put her bean bag chair on top of the ottoman and try to sit on it...I was busily trying to wash the dishes that had piled up over the last few was a necessary task. I had NO counter space left and they were starting to pile up on the stove for lack of space. If I wanted my family to eat, I needed to wash dishes. (For the record, we DON'T have an electric dishwasher...I have 2 manual ones, they are known as my hands, and it can be difficult to get to dishes when my hands are otherwise engaged.)  Well, when Faith sat down in her chair, it of course having slippery material, slid on the ottoman and she toppled off of it and on top of her baby sister...

I heard a loud thud, and then screams of bloody murder from two baby girls...

I ran out, and my initial reaction, seeing the position their bodies were in, was that Faith had broken her sister...Phillie was on the bottom of what seemed to be a pile of tangled limbs...I untangled them as gently and quickly as I could and hurriedly stood Faith up and grabbed Phillie... She was fine, more scared than anything. I sat her down and turned to look at Faith. To my horror, there was blood pouring down her face from her nose... I grabbed her, an ice pack, and snuggled her until the bleeding and crying had stopped, checking carefully to make sure that we didn't have a broken nose on our hands...

and the struggle continues...I can't be in two places at once. Of course, I felt guilty about the accident, but I felt frustrated...I can't be in two places at kids needed to eat dinner, I had to do the what would have been the better or best decision in that situation?

In the end, I know I did all I could...

The only productive time I have is when my girls nap. Unfortunately, I'm so tired from keeping them out of mischief that I often just want to take a nap myself...but I do my best to wash a load of dishes, put in a load of laundry, clean up BIG messes...all the while wishing I had about 2 more hours of naptime so I could just get it ALL done.

As if I wasn't already struggling enough, I joined with my friend in a challenge to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover before General the time the challenge started 3 or 4 days ago, it was read 21 pages a day for 26 days and you would be done...yeah, I'm STILL only 10 pages in and feeling COMPLETELY like a failure because every day I get notifications from the Facebook group for the challenge where all these lovely women are writing about all their awesome experiences and all that they are learning and how much better it has made them feel...and I sit, dumbfounded, feeling worse and worse because its just NOT happening. I can't read when the girls are awake because they pull the book out of my hands and want to look at it...I can't read when they nap because there are 15 bajillion other things that NEED to be done so my house can function...and by the time Jeff gets home, I pretty much just want to sit down, snuggle with him, and forget about EVERYTHING ELSE that I STILL need to do...

Today, it all came to a head. During the girls morning nap today, I looked at my house and the front yard...had a good cry...and then went out with a scrub brush and disinfectant spray to clean out and take down the beloved splash pool. There was sediment and debris because of all the rainstorms we've had lately...About an hour later, it was completed, and I came inside...I was prepared to sit and take a quick 20 minute break and then tackle the massive pile of dishes in the sink, but the girls had other plans...I pulled them out of bed and put on a movie...and then decided that the dishes HAD to be done...if I wanted to be able to make lunch, I needed pots and pans to cook in. I washed until I couldn't put anything more into the dish drainer...and the girls screamed and screamed at the baby gate because mom wasn't in the room keeping them entertained.

I made lunch and decided to make it up to them by making Bento Box hot dogs. It took more time than I thought it would, and of course, they aren't really old enough to appreciate it, but it made me feel a little was something creative to get my mind off of how stressed I was that EVERYTHING was a disaster in my house.

The girls were fed, Jeff came home for lunch and left, I tore out the girls' Autumn clothes and went through them and put their summer clothes back in storage (Faith took this as an opportunity to play dress up and Phillie crawled in and out of boxes, I decided that as long as no one was screaming, I was GOING to get it done.), and after a few rousing games of build the tower and repeat the words "up" and "down" as it came crashing down, to work on Faith's speech therapy goals, it was finally naptime again.

I put the girls down, and then decided to get on with a project I've been meaning to do since Monday.

I ordered a small toy organizer in hopes that it would help with my efforts to keep the living room a little cleaner. We live in a small house, and I DON'T have the luxury of a playroom for the girls. I had contemplated putting the toys in the girls' room, but I also know that Faith has been fighting her nap/naps recently, and toys would just give her a reason to be out of bed creating havoc.

I set up the toy organizer on Monday and cleaned out the giant tupperware tote that we'd been using as a toy box, dejunking and trying to organize things as best as I could (because the girls were awake while all this was happening).  I decided I'd spend this week watching what stuffed animals REALLY get played with, so that the rest could go to Goodwill (because we don't have a Deseret Industries here).  

Well, today was the day...but I decided to take it one step further. The toy organizer seemed to be working at keeping the mess down because the girls can find what they want without having to tear EVERYTHING out of the toy organizer, but the problem was the placement. We'd moved the toys to a corner next to the couch, but everything that was being strewn about was going under the couch, in between the couch and ottoman, and under the ottoman because the girls didn't want to pull things out and take it to an open area to play... I was DONE stepping on toys when all I wanted was to put my feet up for a few measly minutes..

So...I spent the next 2 hours reorganizing the furniture in my living room. I moved the couch to a different wall, moved the piano to a better location and centralized the toys in front of a large, open, LOVELY playing area on the carpet...

So far, it has seemed to work.  Faith even decided that the space under her art easel where I had stacked the stuffed animals neatly is her new retreat. She spent the better part of an hour underneath the easel, laying on the giant stuffed alligator and playing with the stuffed animals and dolls...Hopefully it continues to work, because it will make my life MUCH easier. I got the pool cleaned and taken down, did about 1/4 of the dishes (SO MANY MORE TO DO...) got the girls' Autumn wardrobe out and in drawers ready for use, and organized my living room space...

I was "productive"...but at what cost? I'm now kicking myself because I KNOW I didn't do enough of the speech therapy exercises with Faith today, and poor Phillie had about had it by the time bedtime rolled around...if I wasn't RIGHT NEXT TO HER, her world was going to come crashing down... Let's just say, I spent the evening pretty much attached to a mamma deprived one year old who was going to lose it if I did anything other than hold her...Oh, and I yet again didn't read anymore of the Book of Mormon...Yay! More stories of success from EVERYONE ELSE while I quietly sit and shame myself for not making it more of a priority...(yes, I know I could be reading instead of typing this Blog, but I really just need to vent...)

I guess the whole Good, Better, Best thing will always be a struggle...I guess, today has just been a not so great day where I have really struggled to be positive.

I guess, when it all comes down to it, I need to remind myself to be grateful for little victories... So, here they are:

1) I got the pool cleaned, taken down and dried before a MAJOR rainstorm hit this afternoon...we're talking 50 mph wind, pouring rain, and thunder and lightning that pretty much terrified me for an hour because it was shaking my house. If I hadn't spent the short naptime this morning taking care of the pool, it may have blown away or would have been an even bigger disaster to clean out later. Yay me.

2) I made an adorable, balanced lunch for my girls and got to see some of the funniest and sweetest little faces...Faith picked up one of the hot dog octopuses and made an excited noise, but then gave the funniest confused look when she tried to eat it, she had NO CLUE how to get it into her mouth...Phillie just outright didn't even recognize them as hot dogs. I finally had to stop her from picking around them to eat her pears and mac and cheese, and put one of the tentacles of her hot dog squid on her tongue so she could taste it (something I often have to do when its a new food she's never tried before.) Her eyes got really wide, she smiled and yelled out "This is GOOD!" and proceeded to eat her hot was so funny to watch her realize that it really was one of her favorite foods.

3) My living room is now organized.  It was nice to sit and play with the girls and not feel the urge to vacuum least there is one room in the house that I can be at ease in... ay yi yi...

4) The girls now have seasonably appropriate clothes to wear (when they are dressed)...I was very worried the other day when we ran to the store in a freezing rainstorm and I didn't have long pants, long sleeves, or jackets for them to wear...I will feel much better now when we leave the house that we can keep them healthy and happy and prevent them from catching their death of cold as the weather starts to cool down.

5) While I didn't get ALL the dishes done, I was able to do enough that I could make lunch and dinner in my kitchen without wanting to just sit down and cry...

Don't get me wrong, I walk into my kitchen and I want to cry...but once some of the dishes are done, it doesn't seem so bad.

I also need to count other victories...I may not be 84 pages into the Book of Mormon, but I'm 10 pages in...I guess I just need to work at my own pace. A challenge is nice, but I'm seriously going to tear my hair out if I try to catch up, and, let's be honest, am I REALLY going to get that much out of it if I'm just skimming to catch up with everyone else?  I will read at my own pace...even if that means I only get a chapter or a few verses in a day...there is no shame in not being done before conference, and I shouldn't let the other sweet sisters' stories of success at the challenge make me feel bad... we are all at different places in our lives...we all define what is good, better and best for our family, and for ourselves.

Right now...the BEST choice I can make is to spend the time that my daughters are awake with them as MUCH as I possibly can, to be as PRESENT as I possibly can be...Faith needs me more than ever, and that awake time is time I can spend with her doing the exercise that the speech therapist asked me to complete...if today has taught me anything, its that Phillie needs me around. She doesn't necessarily need all the attention (and believe me, when she wants attention, she knows what to do to get it), but she needs to SEE that I'm there and I will help her and give her what she needs when she needs it.

My house will probably be a disaster most of the time...but I'm going to do my best to shoot for 75% of the time...I will get there. I just need to be patient with myself and try to remind that OCD part of myself that there are more important things than a perfectly pristine kitchen...

In the end, perhaps the most productive stuff I do isn't really going to be considered productive from people on the outside looking in, and sometimes it may be. In the end, I just have to be patient and remember that I'm learning how to balance it all, and that is okay. There CAN be joy in learning, I just have to laugh and remember that its okay to not have it all together all the time...its okay to continue to aspire to be better, but I need to STOP obsessing about it, because its only making me less available to the people I love.

Hugs and loves until next time, Darlings. :)

P.S. I promise, I really am feeling a little bit better right now. I think I just needed to vent to think clearly about why it was bothering me so much. Bless you for reading this whole thing! LOL