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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cora Saves Lives

Izzy and I wore our pink today but we never did get a good picture because poor Iz has a wretched cold and I will spare you the leaky nose pics.

But she had on her pink hearts and I had bright pink in honor of a beautiful little girl named Cora who was born four years ago today. A simple, non-invasive, and inexpensive test called a pulse ox would have picked up Cora's critical congenital heart defect and given her a chance at life. Instead, in just five short days, Cora's mum will be facing the fourth anniversary of the death of her sweet girl.

But Cora's mum has devoted herself to making sure Cora's Story is never forgotten and has been instrumental in getting pulse ox screening added in many states as part of the standard newborn screening panel. There are many moms and dads and advocates out there fighting to bring pulse ox to all states but today, I wish to say thank you to Kristine for sharing her beautiful girl with us and making sure other babies get the chance Cora didn't.

If your state hasn't passed a law to add pulse ox screening to newborn screening, write your representatives and ask them to support it. If you know someone who is pregnant, tell them about pulse ox. If you are pregnant, make sure your baby gets a pulse ox after birth. Congenital Heart Defects affect 1 in 100. While a pulse ox does not pick up all heart defects, it does catch many of the most critical and can ensure a baby gets much needed intervention soon after birth.

‪#‎CoraSavesLives‬


Cora's Story 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Today was just peachy

My oldest is off school all week for Thanksgiving break and my middle child doesn't get on the bus until a bit after 11am so today was a chance to sleep in just a little bit.  Everyone stayed up a little later so they would sleep later and it worked!  Almost.  Iz's internal clock is precise and so she was up at the usual time :p  She did, however, agree to lay and cuddle for a bit so while I was awake, at least I wasn't up up.

B's bus was a bit later than normal so we were running behind schedule but not too badly--we would still have plenty of time to drop off Iz and make S's appointment.  We take Iz to PawPaw's house, get her settled in and off we went!  S was both excited and nervous--he worried that the EEG was going to read his mind and he wasn't sure he wanted them to know what he was thinking :p

And then, as we are driving along, BANG.  Out goes our tire :\  We wait nearly an hour for roadside assistance (I cannot get the lug nuts off a tire to change it.  The tow truck driver had trouble getting them off as well and even commented on how tight they were.  No way would I have been able to get them off).  I call up the lab and they say no one is scheduled after S so if we don't mind going in late, they don't mind.  So we get there 40 minutes late, it takes forever to get S hooked up to all the leads and stuff for the EEG......and the equipment isn't working properly.  The two guys in the lab are doing everything they can think of to get stuff working but it just isn't happening.  So the EEG hasn't been done and poor S never got to see his brain waves on the screen.  If they can get the equipment up and running, they will call to reschedule so maybe S will still get to see it :p

In which I vent a bit.....feel free to skip :p

This path we are on, trying to get our kids set up with doctors, and services, and therapies, and such that will help them, can be so very frustrating.  Dealing with red tape, insurance companies, scheduling, normal everyday stuff on top of it, people with egos, people with ulterior motives, people who are busy, people who think they and only they are right, the crazy busyness of the schedule we have right now.  I often hear "I don't know how you do it.  No, really, I can't believe you can handle all this" and yet I also hear how I don't do enough.  Right now, S's special ed teacher is giving me a rough time, claiming that I am not reinforcing her teaching at home and its so important that I do.  And yet I do--I work with him nearly every day, despite the fact that he hates it, that he feels the stuff she sends home for reading is too "babyish".  He tells me she doesn't use this stuff at school so we don't need to at home, he tells her we don't do it at home.  I don't let him get away with it and remind him she wouldn't send them home if they weren't still using it so we will do it anyway.  She was totally played by him and ate it up and I get the condescending email accusing me of not doing enough.  UGH.  I waited several days to reply because my initial reaction may have made her cry and while she rose to the number one spot on my List of People I Dislike, who knows how long she will be S's special ed teacher.  He could be working with her for years so I should try to maintain some peace and need to think through how to respond. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Research Study

S was invited to participate in a research study at a university not too far away and he is so excited about it :)  He has completed the first part--a four hour evaluation with one of the psychologists--and Monday he goes in for an EEG.  He is really hoping they let him see part of it when it is all done so he can see what his brain wave patterns look like :p 

When I first asked him if he wanted to participate, he was adamant that yes, of course he wanted to do it because it would help the researchers understand kids like him and maybe they could come up with better ways to help kids.  Then he found out he would also be compensated for it and he saw Legos dancing in his head ;)  I am pleased with the fact that we get a thorough workup and already the psychologist he saw has given us some information to work with and take back to his pediatrician that we haven't gotten through insurance channels!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Goonies and Adventures in Babysitting save the Day

I had the strangest dream last night.

I was with a group of people, the Goonies and the Adventures in Babysitting family.  I was a Goonie and the group was a mixture of the actors and people from my life, some of us adults (like me), some children.  We were in a skyscraper and up on the 300th floor when we discovered that a group of assassin ninjas had infiltrated the building.  Their goal?  To kill Gordon Ramsay, who was hosting Masterchef down on the first floor of the building.  This was also the night he was announcing his retirement so he could become the mayor of New York and the assassin ninjas were trying to get to him before he made the announcement.

So the Goonies and Adventures in Babysitting set out on a mission to stop the assassin ninjas in a fast-paced adventure filled with antics befitting Home Alone and the Three Stooges.  Around the 150th floor, we found a little girl in desperate need of Open Heart Surgery so the Adventures in Babysitting crew continued on the mission to Save Gordon and the Goonies headed back for the roof to steal the Ninjas helicopter so we could lifeflight the little girl to Boston Children's Hospital for her surgery.  Since I flew a helicopter in a video game once, it was my job to get us there (hello, Chuck, didn't we just see this in an episode over the weekend?).

It was so very odd.......

Btw, I woke up before I found out if we had saved the little girl or Gordon.  I'm choosing to believe dream us could overcome highly trained assassin ninjas and save the day ;)

Cheeseburger Soup


Someone passed along a recipe for cheeseburger soup and we tried it and it was 'okay'.  S assured me that I could make it better so we should try again ;)  My version of it is a hit with the kids but instead of shuffling around in my recipe box to make sure I don't forget anything, I figured I'd post it.  My recipe box is a mess so it is much easier for me to find a post :p

2 Large carrots, grated
3 stalks celery, diced
1 small red onion, sliced
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon butter

Melt butter in soup pot, pour in veggies and herbs and cook until veggies are tender.



Next, add in:

3 cups beef broth (or chicken or veggie, if you prefer, but the flavor of the soup will be milder)
1 pound of fully cooked beef (my kids absolutely LOVE it if I use meatballs, preferably mini-meatballs.  If they are flavored with Italian seasonings and garlic, they love it even more.  If I have any on hand, I do; otherwise, I just cook up some ground beef into crumbles with a little garlic, onion, cumin, salt & pepper).
3 large potatoes, cubed into bite size chunks

Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about twenty minutes (depending on how big your potato chunks are).

While you are simmering the soup, its time to prepare your cheese sauce :)  I have no pictures of this portion because if I stop to take a picture, I will burn it and no one wants that ;)  It isn't hard to make, it just is time sensitive so I suggest you measure everything out and have it ready to go.  This sauce is also excellent in homemade mac & cheese or on top of steamed veggies (if I slather cheese sauce on california blend veggies, my kids will actually eat them :p).

I usually use a small skillet instead of a saucepan--I find I get better results with the larger surface area of a skillet. 

cheese almost melted!  






Warm the skillet up, just enough that a drop of water sizzles but not so hot you would burn yourself if you touch it.  I usually use a low-med size flame on my stove.  Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the pan--the butter should get bubbly and remain a light yellow color.  Stir in 3 tablespoons of flower and keep stirring.  The flour/butter mixture should get smooth and bubbly.  You want to keep stirring for a few minutes to let the flour and butter cook together.  Stir stir stir to keep it a smooth consistency--when the bubbles start to disappear and its mostly a smooth paste, stir in a cup and a half of milk.  Keep stirring!  As the milk heats up and you mix in the roux, it will turn a golden color and begin to thicken.  If you aren't stirring as this happens, you might end up with chunks.  When it thickens enough that it is the consistency of watery gravy (sorry, that's the best descriptor I can think of), add in two cups of shredded cheese and stir until melted and smooth.  If you want the sauce to have an extra creamy consistency, replace some of the shredded cheese with cream cheese--takes a little longer to melt in but worth it if you like the creamier texture.  It is also a good substitution if you realize you don't have enough shredded cheese ;)

By this time, the potatoes should be cooked.  I usually add in about of cup of sweet corn here--the kids love it.  I think it reminds them of corn on the cob as their favorite side dish to a cheeseburger in the summertime :) 





Now pour your cheese sauce in and stir it up.  I continue to simmer for a bit just to meld the flavors together.  Salt and pepper to taste (we usually don't need any but it mostly depends on how flavorful the beef is) and you are ready to eat :)  My kids normally eat two to three bowls apiece so I am lucky if I get leftovers for lunch the next day!




Delicious bowl of soup!








Monday, November 11, 2013

Parmesan and herb crusted chicken

The kids want me to do this with colby jack cheese next time :p  I rather like the parmesan so I may have to do two kinds so we all get what we want.  

We took some grated Parmesan and mixed it up with some dried basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, and rosemary.  I sliced boneless skinless chicken breast into tenders and we rolled it around in the cheese and herbs and baked in the oven at 350 for about half an hour.  S is VERY excited about this because it is so simple and easy that he can do it by himself :)  We took whatever cheese and herbs was left in our bowl and pressed it into the tops of the chicken for a little extra "crust"
When it came out of the oven, all the juices and cheese made what S calls a "cheese gravy" in the pan and he declared that to be the best part:

We plated some up and took another picture because S declared the "gravy" picture doesn't show how there are also crispy edges and those were the second best part:


I think the very best part of S's love for Masterchef is that he has gotten much less picky when it comes to trying new things.  This recipe is so simple--just cheese and herbs--but a year ago he would have refused to try it.  Now, he helps to make it, eats all of it, and devotes attention to the ways we can make it better next time. 



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Crockpot apple crumble

I love my crockpot :)  With all of our appointments and school drop-offs and pickups and playgroups and therapy and whatever else, we spend a lot of time out and about.  It is really nice to toss something in and come home to a ready to eat meal, side, or dessert :)  Yesterday I decided I really needed to use up the rest of the apples from the orchard--they were starting to get a bit wrinkly.  Still good, just not as crisp and fresh as they were when we picked them :p  Perfect for cooking!

S helped me prepare this--he loves to help cook (he is hoping to become a good enough cook to tryout and get on Masterchef.  He really wants to meet Gordon Ramsay).

First, we sprayed the inside of our crock with a bit of olive oil.  We peeled and sliced a couple of pounds of apples (we have a big crockpot so we made a big batch).  We have one of those slicer-thingies that cores and slices the apples at the same time so it made things go a lot faster--peel, press our thingie through the apple, toss slices in crock.

Next step was to add in a half cup of sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon (this is very light on the cinnamon--I am very sensitive to it and if there is too much, I get ill.  A touch of cinnamon gives the flavor without bothering me.  I think normal people would probably use a tablespoon or two of cinnamon?), and a half teaspoon of nutmeg.  We mixed it all together and then prepared our crumble topping.  

One and a quarter cup of oat flour, one cup of whole oats, a cup of brown sugar, and about three fourths a cup of chopped nuts (we used walnuts).  Mix it up and spread evenly across the top of the apples.  Slice up a stick of butter and place pats in crumble topping.  Put on the top and cook for three and a half hours on high.  After three and a half hours, take the lid off but let it continue cooking until the topping gets to the crispness you like (we went about another half hour for ours).
This was a huge hit and S wants to know if we can go apple picking again right away so we can make more LOL

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Crockpot Roast with Onion Gravy

One of my favorite meals to make is a roast in the crockpot because it is simple and quick and I can throw it together in under ten minutes and then let it cook all day until it is fall-apart tender.  I have been tweaking my seasoning mix for a while now and I have landed on one that is the current favorite :)  I'm sure eventually I'll start tinkering with it again because its what I do but for now, this is the one we are sticking with!

I usually spray the inside of my crock with some olive oil--makes it much easier to clean at the end :)  I slice up a large red onion (could by any kind, really, but I prefer red and I usually have them on hand)
Next up comes some potatoes--the kids' favorites are baby red and golden potatoes and if they are on sale, I'll pick them up and make sure I plan a roast on the menu so the kids can have their favorite :)  They are small so I can just wash and wedge :)
Iz's favorite part of crock pot roast is carrots but only if I am using those little baby carrots (which aren't really baby carrots).  If I am slicing up regular carrots, she pushes them all to the side of her plate.  She will, however, eat a regular carrot raw but the boys will only eat the baby carrots raw.  Odd ones, they are ;-)  On this particular day, the giant back of baby carrots had been on sale and was half the price per ounce of regular carrots so Iz lucked out and I put extra carrots in for her :)  If we have things like sweet potato or winter squashes on hand, we will throw some in as well.

Next up comes the seasoning mix.  About 1/2 tablespoon of beef paste (I'm not a big fan of the bouillon cubes for broth because they always seem to have some rather odd ingredients.  Many of the pastes do as well but I'm a big label reader and found one that I'm ok with so that's what we go with).  2 tablespoons corn starch (or whatever your preferred thickener is), 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (optional--the change in flavor is subtle and we put it in about half the time because we like it either way), 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon black pepper.  Mix with one cup of water and pour over veg in crock.  

Next, lay your roast on top, fattiest side up (will help keep your meat moist and tender) and sprinkle it with a light dusting of powdered onion, garlic, cumin, thyme, black pepper, salt, and cardamom (optional).  Basically whatever flavors you put in the gravy mix, put on top of your roast :)  Put the lid on, turn it on low, and wait about 8 hours :)

(PS, these last two pictures are from two different occasions.  S couldn't decide which one was better and wanted me to include both :p  And of course, we have craft supplies sitting on the table in one picture and the laptop in another!)





Monday, November 4, 2013

Thanks, Universe

My front windshield really needed the decoration :/
I wasn't even near any trucks :-|