Yes, it is!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Penne with Chicken, Green Beans, and Cashew Butter

This is another one of my favorite meals to make.  It's easy, quick, and delicious. 

1/2 cup roasted cashews
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon cooking oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/3 pounds)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound penne
12 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths

Combine the cashews and the butter in a food processor.  Pulse to a smooth paste. Or, finely chop the cashews and combine with the butter. (I do the latter)
In a medium nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over moderate heat.  Season the chicken breasts with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and add them to the pan.  Cook until browned and just done, 4-5 minutes per side.  Remove the chicken from the pan and let it cool for 5 minutes.  Cut into small pieces.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the penne until just done.  Add the beans during the last 5 minutes of cooking the pasta.  Drain the pasta and beans and toss with the cashew butter, chicken, and the remaining salt and pepper. 

*** I cheat by using the Tyson frozen chicken breast strips.  We like the rotisserie chicken from Sam's club.  I will often use the leftover chicken on the following day for this recipe.  If you choose to do this, then you may need to adjust the amount of salt that you use. 
*** Another note, I use the mini penne since we have a couple of little mouths in our family.  Also, you do not have to use cashews.  You can use almost any nut you choose including almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans. 
Enjoy!  Here is a picture of the finished product.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jackie Lost Her First Tooth

Jackie was so excited about her loose tooth for the past few weeks.  She was excited to finally have a loose tooth after all of her friends already started to lose teeth.  Every day, she asked me to feel how much looser it was. The last few days, Jackie was starting to look a little snaggle-toothed.  And this morning was no different when I sent Jackie off to school. When I picked up Jackie at school this afternoon, Jackie immediately showed me her tooth.  It was barely hanging on.  During the drive to Jackie's OT appointment, Jackie was acting a little distressed about the placement of her loose tooth.  So, when we arrived at her appointment, I grabbed the tooth with a napkin and gently pulled at it.  I was surprised at how little effort it took as it came right out.  Jackie's excitement about losing a tooth soon turned to fear, especially after she noticed a little bit of blood oozing out of the now empty space. And I?  Well, I had to hold back the tears.  My baby lost her first tooth.  She's just growing up so quickly. 
I never really talked about the tooth fairy, yet, with Jackie but somebody must have because Jackie has been so excited about the money the tooth fairy is going to leave her.  Does anybody know the going rate for teeth these days?  I honestly have no clue.  Well, I guess I better go scrounge up some cash. 
Here is a picture of my beautiful little girl after losing her first tooth. 

Lover Dogs

Dugan, my mini Aussie enjoys grooming Lucy aka Dumb Dog.  And Lucy seems to really enjoy it.  They usually lay on the floor while Dugan lovingly grooms Lucy.  And they've been know to go at it for at least a half hour.  I finally got a sample of them loving on each other last night.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Grumpy Am I?

Hubby called me grumpy today. Hmm, well, I haven't been able to work out since Friday because of the back pain.  The kids had no school and the hubby had the day off today. Day off number 4 for hubby and day off number 3 for children.  Yes, I am grumpy.  In fact, I am downright cantankerous.  And I don't like it when somebody doesn't put my kitchen cleaner back in the right place.  I'm sure hubby can't wait for me to hit the gym again.
I like it when school and work are in session.  Before I have to pick Ben up, I really, really enjoy those couple of hours free of fighting, clawing, screeching, punching, spitting, screaming, everything kids.  A little bit of solitude.  That's what I like.
But all's well that ends well.  It was a pleasant evening with my children after dinner and baths.  The kids picked up their toys and straightened their rooms with just a little bit of prodding.  And they went to bed without a fight.  Awesome!  I love my children. I really do.
And tomorrow, I am going to the gym, back pain or no back pain. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Another "What's Wrong With this Picture"

So yesterday was my and Tim's anniversary.  Since it fell on a busy day, we will celebrate tomorrow night (Friday).  We have reservations at PF Chang's and my friend, K, is going to watch the kids for us. Even though our celebration would be delayed by a couple of days, we still remembered each other with cards and small gifts.  See Tim's card to me:

Poor guy!  When I started to read, I didn't get beyond the first line on the front of the card before I was doubled over in laughter.  Tim asked me what was wrong but I couldn't speak for the laughter.  He finally looked at it and when he finally realized what the problem was, he just took it in stride and tossed it.  Thankfully, he was a good sport about it.  Now if only he would so something about the ADD.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Anniversary Day

Today is my and Tim's 9th anniversary.  And it's been an adventure indeed.
I remember when I first met Tim.  I thought he was a nice enough guy but definitely not my type.  He had three strikes against him right away.  He was in the military, he owned a motorcycle, and he was follicularly impaired.  Our first date was at Carrabba's in Tampa.  That was the only thing I had planned to do with him.  Then I was going to go home and forget him.  But we ended up going for a drive and we even tried to go bowling but there were no lanes available at the bowling ally that we went to.  After our date, I still was not impressed.  It was the three strikes above.  No way was I going to marry a military man after having grown up in the military.  And I hated motorcycles.  I thought they were too loud and obnoxious.  And I just was not attracted to bald men.
Imagine my surprise when Tim called me the next day.  I was a little annoyed, actually.  But I decided to be polite and be a friend to him.  I caught myself by surprise when after several weeks of Tim pursuing me, I was starting to like him.  I'll never forget the moment when something inside me prodded me to allow myself to get to know Tim better and vice versa.  Tim had come over to my place with his bicycle to go riding around my little community of Safety Harbor.  I remember I kept riding ahead of him trying to subtly give him the hint that I was NOT interested in a relationship.  But it didn't work.  Thankfully. He left soon after we finished riding our bikes.  Moments later is when that moment occurred.
Just a couple of months after we met, Tim broke the news to me that he was preparing to be deployed for a few months.  Oh good, this was my chance to bail out.  But I don't know what happened. I didn't hear the words until they were already out of my mouth.  I had told him that I would wait.  I saw the look of relief on Tim's face and I knew I couldn't let him down.
After Tim came back from overseas, we continued to see each other.  Almost a year after we first met, Tim asked me to marry him.  He was so nervous.  And he was far from romantic.  In fact, he was downright romantically challenged.  But I loved him anyway.  Several weeks after we were engaged, Tim was deployed again, this time to Egypt.  I will never forget because he left the day before the 9/11 tragedy occurred.  I remember waiting anxiously to hear from Tim.  It took a couple of days and everyone there was allowed only 4 minutes to call just one person.  I was so happy to hear that he was okay.
Tim arrived back home just a couple of months before our wedding day.  We were a little nervous that Tim could be deployed again at any moment which would force a change in our wedding plans.  We even discussed the possibility of going to the courthouse to get married and having a ceremony later in the event that he should be deployed.  Thankfully, that did not occur and we were able to have our wedding at the base chapel.  With the potential for Tim's squadron to be deployed for the war, Tim was on a travel restriction which meant that he was not permitted to travel beyond two hours from base.  So, we were not able to go on a honeymoon.  However, we got a beautiful hotel room at the Don Cesar on St. Pete beach.  We spent a couple of nights there and enjoyed being on the beach.
The wedding day was overcast but otherwise, a beautiful day.  We held our wedding ceremony at the chapel on base.  Our chaplain was awesome.  Our reception was held at the officer's club which sort of overlooked Tampa Bay.  My cake was not a traditional white cake.  My aunt made the wedding cake and since I like to be different, I asked her to match the color to my bridesmaids dresses.  She was unable to get a good match to the color and the cake ended up being a very light teal.  It was still so beautiful.  And delicious.
Since Tim and I were unable to go on a honeymoon, I had hoped to plan a surprise get-away for our first anniversary.  Unfortunately, Tim was on standby for another deployment right before our first anniversary.  And unfortunately, the date kept getting pushed back.  And it was even more frustrating when Tim was not able to tell me where he was supposed to go because it was classified information.  Finally, I gave up on planning a trip.  And then soon after, the deployment was canceled altogether.  For awhile, I felt gipped that Tim and I were never able to celebrate with a honeymoon or anniversary trip but such is the life of a military wife.
I still sometimes cannot believe my life.  It's incredible because I was one of those girls who never aspired to be married or have children.  I always said that I would never get married and I was never giving birth to children.  Those things scared me.  But here I am; married with children.  And it isn't so bad, after all. So, never say never.
Oh, and Tim is now retired from the military, he now has 1 motorcycle and 2 dirt bikes, and he's still bald.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Today Is a Day For Love

Yes, it is as I was sternly reminded this morning by my precious daughter. The morning started out as usual. I woke Jackie up and told her to get dressed for school and then come eat breakfast.  I was surprised at how quickly Jackie got dressed.  She is the pokiest kid.  After Jackie ate breakfast, I followed her into her room to see how she was progressing at finishing getting ready for school.  I noticed right away that Jackie had not obeyed me when I told her earlier to throw something away.  It was still sitting on her bedroom floor.  So, I reprimanded Jackie for her disobedience.  There was absolutely no yelling involved.  At. all.  I was stern and to the point.  Jackie then slowly looked up at me and slowly said to me "Mommy, you need to LOVE me.  It's a day for love.  Today is Valentine's Day."  Jackie is 6 years old.  Where does she get this?  Of course, my heart melted and I was laughing inside. 
After sending Jackie off to school, it was time to get Ben ready for school.  I got him dressed and fed.  Then I got myself ready to go to the gym after dropping Ben off at school.  After I brushed my hair, I noticed Ben grab the brush and brush his own hair.  Even though I had already combed Ben's hair, I didn't think anything of him brushing his hair again.  So then I went to insert my contacts.  I noticed Ben imitating my movements, from dipping his finger into the lens case to pretending that he was putting a contact into his eye.  Then he giggled.  Of course, that made me laugh.  Then I put on a little make-up and Ben imitated me again.  And giggled. What a little parrot.  Of course, I laughed again which made Ben laugh even more.  He is such a little cutie.  So far, this day was going great and it was a beautiful day on top.
As I was getting me and Ben ready to go out the door to school, I noticed something that made me a little sad.  Last night, after Tim went to bed, I placed his gifts and card in front of his coffee maker.  Surely he would notice them right away when he brews his morning coffee.  But today of all days, Tim did not make his coffee before work.  The gifts were untouched.  And I was really hoping that he would see them because one of the gifts is a framed photo of our family to put on his desk at work.  He's been wanting pictures to put on his desk.  After I dropped Ben off at school, I called Tim while I drove to the gym.  It turns out that Tim saw the stuff sitting there, after all, but for some reason he thought that I wanted him to wait until he came home from work.  Hmm, okay.  It was sitting in front of the coffee maker where he makes his morning coffee for a reason. 
This afternoon, I helped in Jackie's classroom during their Valentine party.  It was fun.  The kids enjoyed a couple of games, face painting, a couple of simple but cute crafts, cupcakes, and ice cream sundaes.  I really enjoy helping in Jackie's classroom on special occasions.  And I was very pleased that the teachers require the kids to pass out Valentine card (if they choose to do Valentines) to each student in the classroom instead of just whoever they choose.  I remember receiving very few Valentines because I was not a popular kid.  I remember the pain of rejection and it pleases me that the teachers today take measures to avoid that. 
So now I sit and wait for my Valentine to come home so he can open his gifts from me.  And here is a cute song dedicated to him.  I just think it's a cute song.  Don't know why except perhaps it reminds me of the boat that I rarely ride in.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Teetering on the Edge

I got a talking to tonight.  A real talking to. I feel such a tug of war in my soul.  One part of me is not sure about this heaven and hell stuff and the the other part of me wants to go back to my roots in faith.  I'm right in the middle of this tug of war and I'm not sure which side will win.
I have to admit that I did call out to God very early this morning.  It was around 3:30 this morning and I woke up struggling to breath.  Another apnea episode.  And then I panicked because I couldn't breath and I felt like I was dying.  I must have made a lot of movement when I got out of bed because it woke Tim up out of a sound sleep.  He asked if I was okay.  I told him that I couldn't breathe.  When I finally sat on the side of the bed, he asked if I was going to be okay.  I don't even remember answering that question.  I do know that I felt extreme fear and I was afraid to go back to sleep.  Of course, Tim rolled over and immediately resumed his snore-fest.  I continued to lie there and wonder if drinking that Coke (occasional treat) and then cleaning the house until 2 a.m. led to this.  My eyes felt so heavy and I fought the slumber.  I even asked that if God was real, then to please help me relax and to take the anxiety away.  All this while Tim continued his snore-fest and I continued to poke him to quiet his snoring (to no avail).  I eventually did fall back to sleep.
I was forced to wake up earlier than I felt like it this morning after the kids woke up and Jackie started her daily whining routine.  I tried to sleep through it and let Tim take care of it all but it just was not working.  So I got up, very tired still.
I was asked to meet somebody this evening at the church when I took Jackie to choir practice and Awana club.  I wasn't sure what to expect except that I would probably get a lashing because I was upset about an incident this past week. Thankfully no lashing was involved.  And it ended up that I was meeting two people, not one person.  These two people talked to me (in a very nice way).  I know I've been more guarded in the past few years but I didn't know just how obvious it was.  I have a difficult time letting others get to know the real me. And I guess I make it difficult for them to reach out to me.    I know I have walls around me but gee, I didn't realize just how thick those walls were.  I have such a distrust, especially with church people and I get suspicious of motivations.  But I want more than anything to be accepted by church people but I'm so afraid to let them get too close to me.  Plus, I really didn't think anybody cared anyway.
 I think these people really do care about the status of my faith.  They seem very concerned about me going to hell one day if I don't get salvation.  My best friend, L, told me previously that she knows I'm searching.  And she's probably right because these two people tonight said the same thing.  But what am I searching for really?   I have to admit that I've been feeling so "lost" for a long time.  I've had people question my faith in recent months but instead of receiving encouragement, I was pretty much chastised and quoted scripture.  I didn't need that. That only pushed me away further.  A couple of my closest friends (Kat & Lisa), I know really cared and would occasionally talk to me about it.  They never judged me and didn't preach at me. In fact, Kat was often brought to tears when she would share how her God saved her life in so many ways.  She definitely has an inspiring story.  Hearing all of these stories about "what God has done" does make me ponder faith again.
Before meeting these two people tonight, I was stressed because I did not know what was going to happen.  Were they going to lash out at me about this upsetting incident, were they going to preach at me, or were they going to apologize to me?  I was a bit tense.  I was not too pleased with how the meeting initially began but after it was over, I have to admit that I felt relief.  Relief that I was not criticized, relief that these people seemed to genuinely care.  The hell talk was a little intimidating but that's always been the case for me.  These people tried to reassure me that if I didn't have these walls around me, other people at the church would accept me.  I don't know about that, but I want to try.  And I'm afraid to do so.  I'm afraid of rejection.  I now realize these dumb walls are putting me on the defense.  I'm sure I've ruined any chance, though, of making good friends at the church.  Funny, those two people know me better than I ever realized.  I didn't realize so many people from that church were reading (or were they spying? Just had to add that) my blog.  (HELLO!)
So, these two people want to see me commit to God again and they were very passionate about it.  I didn't agree with everything that they said but who knows, they might win. Eventually. And I may just take up J on her offer to call her at 2 a.m. sometime to talk about God. Hehe (insert sinister face).  And she promised me a free gift. ; )'

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mystery Solved

Make that plural.
Last evening, Tim wanted to go to a fish fry at the VFW.  We all went as a family even though I was not sure if the kids would eat anything there.  Jackie gags on fish so I was very pleased when I saw that the menu also offered spaghetti.  Score. So the kids got spaghetti.  The volunteers at the VFW were very friendly and one of the volunteers brought 2 cupcakes over for Jackie and Ben and told them that it was their treat after they finish eating their dinner.  Very friendly.
After Jackie and Ben ate a good portion of their spaghetti, I allowed them to have their cupcakes.  Ben ate his fairly quickly.  Jackie?  Well, she's just a pokey girl.  She was sitting there gingerly licking the frosting.  Then she would sit it down and just stare.  Finally, Tim and I had enough with it and gave her a choice to either throw it away or take it home.  I was hoping she would just throw it away but alas, my children hate to see sugar stuff go to waste.  So, I put the cupcake in one of those little paper trays (you know, the kind that can hold really greasy stuff), and I carried it out with us to the SUV.  We got to the SUV and when I opened my door, I noticed the cupcake was missing out of that paper tray.  Oooohh, Jackie was not going to be happy.  And in my quest to not be a litterbug, I looked around where I was standing for the elusive cupcake to no avail.  Oh well, it wasn't as if I was intentionally littering.  When Tim got into the driver's seat, I whispered to him what had happened and we both agreed that we hoped Jackie would not remember that darn cupcake.  After all, she had already dropped it onto it's top inside the VFW and in our quest to keep the peace, we were forced to slice off the top that had touched the floor instead of throwing it away.  Poor cupcake just didn't want to be eaten.  We got home and Jackie didn't say anything about her cupcake.  Whew!  Dodged that bullet.
I thought all was forgotten this morning as Jackie never asked for her beloved cupcake.  That is, until I backed my Honda out of the garage and glanced over at the SUV and lo and behold, what do I see?!  You got it, that elusive cupcake.  It was sitting on the running board of the SUV. I just burst out laughing.  How it stayed there during the drive home from the VFW is beyond me.  That cupcake was determined to live.  Laughing hysterically, I ran inside the house to tell Tim where the cupcake was.  We both had a good laugh before I went on my way to the gym.

I must also share the mystery of my missing socks.  It seems like I am having to replace my gym socks quite often because they go missing.  I couldn't figure out why my white gym socks kept going missing.  I just figured the washing machine was eating them, they were accidentally being thrown away, or the kids did something with them.  I think I have figured out the mystery.  One guess; Dumb Dog.  Yep, I caught her with my sock in her mouth and the sock already had a hole in the heel.  The dumb dog has been eating my socks!  Now I don't just have socks lying around all over the place but I do have a box that I immediately put my running/gym shoes and sometimes my socks into when I get home from the gym.  So, Lucy either swipes my socks out of there or she gets them out of my laundry folding pile.  I seriously think she does have pica.  She is known for eating non-food substances, especially paper and tissues, clean or dirty.  Here is proof from this morning after I discovered that Lucy had pulled my box of tissues off of the end table and started chowing down on tissues. Crazy dog!  But we love her anyway.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Zuppa di Lentils & Pastina

I may have posted this previously and if I have, this recipe is worth re-posting.  I made this a couple of nights ago and it is one of our favorite recipes.  I usually make this recipe vegetarian without the pancetta.  But on this particular night, I added 2 slices of chopped bacon and it added a nice, smoky flavor.  Here goes:

1/2 cup pastina
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
3 ounces pancetta, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (can be substituted with 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 quarts water
1 bag (16 ounce) dried lentils, rinsed
2 medium carrots, chopped or sliced
1 cup chopped (or sliced) celery
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat oil in 8-quart stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion, pancetta, rosemary, and garlic; saute for 2 minutes.
Add water and lentils.  Bring to a boil; cover.  Cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Place 1/4 cup of lentil mixture in a blender or food processor; puree.  Add mixture back to pot and return to a boil.  Add carrots, celery, pastina, salt, and pepper.  Cover; cook an additional 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve sprinkled with fresh parsley.  Makes 8 servings.

Good Day

Today is my birthday and I was really hoping the kids would repeat the awesome birthday gift they gave me last year which was a day free of fighting, whining, etc.  And guess what?  They came very close to repeating it this year.  It was an ordinary but wonderful day for the most part.  Jackie went to school and I took Ben to preschool.  After I took Ben to preschool, I went to try a Bible study at a church.  Eh, interesting but I don't think it's for me. I just don't belong there.  After that, I got Ben from preschool and headed to the mall to meet up for lunch.  It was nice although it provided more proof of why I don't belong in religious settings anymore.
I had to get Jackie from school an hour early to take her to her Occupational therapy appointment.  Ben fell asleep so it was relatively quiet on the drive into St. Louis.  Ben woke up when we got to the hospital and he was grumpy.  But we got through it and after Jackie's therapy was over, we headed back home.
After we got home, we went out to Red Robin where I believe they have the best turkey burgers.  And I got myself a strawberry lemonade cupcake.  Yes, even though Tim got me an ice-cream cake.
Well, after enjoying a delicious meal, I had to go get my Zumba fix, so off to Zumba I went.  I promised the kids that they could stay up until I got home to enjoy the ice-cream cake.  After Zumba was over, I noticed that I missed a phone call from home.  I called home and Jackie answered.  In her cute, sweet voice, she asked when I was coming home.  I told her very soon.  Jackie told me to come home "now" because she wanted ice-cream cake.  Ha.  I got home and Jackie had tied her pink and purple lavender balloons on the chair.  Jackie told me that I needed to sit in the birthday chair.  So, I gave the Ben and Jackie each a piece of cake and I joined them at the table to enjoy my own piece of cake.  Jackie and Ben were so cute and so sweet.
Since it was way past their bedtime, after the kids finished their cake, they were so sweet and obedient when it came to brushing their teeth and getting into bed.  I couldn't believe it.  No poking around, no last minute potty, no whining, no fighting, no begging to watch Sprout, etc.  It was nothing but smiles and giggles.  And I loved it.  Even though it was much later than usual, I really enjoyed doing their bedtime routine tonight. The kids even stayed in their beds once I got them tucked in.  Thankfully, Tim had already gotten the kids bathed and dressed for bed before I got home from Zumba so that was one less hassle for me. 
Thank you, Ben and Jackie, for helping to make my day brighter.  I love you both with all my heart.  And thank you Tim for putting up with me for yet another year.  I love you, too.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, Tim let the kids pick out a pink IPod for me (my other, fairly new, Mp3 got messed up somehow).  And I'm getting a new gold chain for a couple of my gold pendants. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Explaining Death

This past weekend was a difficult one.  A very special girl named Abby died and her services were held on Sunday and Monday.  Jackie knew Abby and I went back and forth as to whether I should take Jackie with me to the services.  Jackie is just 6 years old and I just didn't know what was appropriate.  She knew Abby and her therapist, Julie, often talked about Abby.  I knew I would eventually have to explain to Jackie that Abby had passed away.  So, I finally told Jackie on Saturday night.  First I asked her what she remembered about Abby.  Jackie replied that she remembered that Abby didn't walk or talk and that she had to use a wheelchair.  I went on to explain to her that Abby had gotten really sick but this time, her body just could not recover and she died.  Jackie started to cry and said "but, I liked her."  The tears welled up in my eyes as I quickly tried to think of a way to comfort Jackie.  So, even though I am not sure where I stand in my faith at the moment, I asked Jackie if she believes in Jesus.  Of course,she nodded her head.  Then I explained that Abby was now in Heaven and she was now healed and whole.  And guess, she can walk and run and talk now.  Jackie looked back up at me and then smiled.  Then she ran off to play with her brother.  I felt like a hypocrite because here I am explaining Heaven to my little girl when I don't even know what the truth is right now.  But what matters is that my little girl is comforted by her own faith that Abby is okay now. 
On Sunday evening, I attended the viewing of precious Abby.  It was not as difficult as I expected it to be. And I was amazed at the number of people who came to pay their respects.  Abby was truly remarkable, indeed.  She touched so many lives in her short time on earth.
The funeral was yesterday (Monday) and I attended that as well.  I remember the day before listening to a song by MercyMe and thinking how appropriate that would be for Abby's funeral. The funeral started with a few words from the minister and then some hymns were sung.  After the music, the minister came back up and shared a couple of letters that were written by Abby's sisters, Caitlyn and Emma.  I don't believe there was a dry eye in that chapel after those letters were read.  The minister then went on to give a very touching message.  He talked about Abby's disability and her legacy.  It was very moving.  After he finished, a song started to play and I recognized it immediately as the song from the day before that I had thought would be so appropriate for the funeral.  And again, many tears flowed around that chapel.  Then it was time for the final goodbye and the procession to the cemetery.  It has been a very long time since I had attended a funeral.  It was a difficult one but it was a very moving one.  I am so glad that I had to privilege to get to know Abby.  As I said before, I loved to share her story with others and I will continue to do so whenever the opportunity arises. 
I am so thankful that I have gotten to be good friends with Abby's mother, Julie.  Julie started treating Jackie for physical therapy when Jackie was just an infant.  I will never forget the first time I met Julie,  I was a mess.  I had post-partum issues, Jackie was colicky, I was scared for my baby after receiving her diagnosis, I was angry.  I was just not doing good.  Julie has been a rock and even when she had to get tough with me (and Jackie), I never resented her for doing so.  She was (and still is) one of my biggest support systems.  I never thought that we would become good friends over the years but I am so grateful that we have.  Julie is a very special, very strong woman.  But my heart aches very deeply for her.  I know how much Julie loved her Abby. Abby was very much a part of the family and Julie made sure that nobody treated Abby otherwise. To Julie, Abby was perfect the way she was. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jackie Won the Character Award

That's right.  Remember this?
Last Monday afternoon, I received a phone call from the school social worker letting me know that Jackie was to receive the award on Friday (yesterday).  I had to ask her to clarify just to make sure that I heard her correctly.  I was stunned.  My Jackie won the big award.  Wow!  I was invited to attend the school assembly on Friday.  I was so excited for and so proud of Jackie.  Jackie had no clue what was about to occur.  Having no school for 3 days due to inclement weather starting Tuesday, I was getting a little worried that the award presentation would be delayed.    Fortunately, there was school on Friday because I don't know if I could have held the secret in much longer. 
Jackie was chosen based on several things including behavior, attitude, and perseverance.

Jackie received a certificate, a plaque, and a cool saving bank.  Isn't that bank the coolest gift? 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In Memory of a Very Special Girl

I just received a phone call from my friend Julie (who is also Jackie's physical therapist) with the sad news of her daughter, Abby's, passing.  I am sad, very sad.  Abby was a very special 17 girl.  I am so glad that I had the privilege of getting to know Abby.  And I'll never forget her huge 16th birthday party where Abby was treated like a princess.  It was quite obvious to me how special Abby was to her family and friends.  She touched many lives, including mine.  Abby proved so many medical professionals wrong over the course of her short life.  When Abby was a newborn, her parents were told to expect Abby to die before she turned a year old.  Abby fought several illnesses over the years and each time, she fought back like the survivor that she was.  She surprised so many doctors.  But this time was different.  Unfortunately, Abby contracted Influenza A and just could not fight it.  Her family realized that this time was different from any other time and reassured Abby that it was okay to let go.  She was so tired. I'm not a religious person but I like the idea that Abby was 'ushered into the arms of Jesus'.  It just seems so peaceful and beautiful.  And Abby deserves that peace. 
I can't help but think that if Julie had opted not to carry out her pregnancy with Abby or if Abby had not defied doctors predictions that she would die before she was a year old, Julie would not only be grieving the loss of Abby but also, very possibly, of her youngest daughter Emma.  As you will see from my post below from a year ago, Abby is leaving quite a legacy.  Because of Abby, Julie and her husband have the beauty of two surviving children, instead of one. 
Dear sweet, precious girl Abby, you are very much loved.  You were such an inspiration and I count it a privilege to be able to know you.  May you rest in peace now. 

Keep in mind that the post below is nearly a year old so some of the age information is dated.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This is Just a Glimpse of Life in the Stewart Home

Snow day part 2, thus allowing Jackie's friend, T, to spend the night.  Do the kids sleep in after being up very late?  Noooo. 
Do I get to sleep uninterrupted?  NO! Ben joined me and Tim in bed sometime in the middle of the night.  And because I was tired from trying to sleep comfortably on the sliver of mattress that I was allotted, I finally kicked myself into Ben's bed sometime this morning.  I didn't get the best sleep but surprisingly, it didn't cause me to be more cantankerous than usual. 
The kids did enjoy playing this morning which made my day much easier as I did not have to break up as many fights.  Whew!
But, this is just a glimpse of how quickly things can go downhill here.  After I gave the kids lunch, Ben came to me to let me know that he had wet his pants.  In the kitchen.  On the tile floor, thankfully.  So, we went into the bathroom to get cleaned up and to get some clean underwear on.  As I was walking back toward the kitchen to clean up where Ben peed, I walked past the hall area where the dogs are confined and got a whiff.  A bad whiff. An unmistakable odor.  Oh no! Don't tell me.  Those dogs don't crap in the house!  I glanced over and sure enough, one of the dogs crapped in their area.  Gee, why does everything have to happen at once to cause me such crisis?  This all happened in a span of 2 minutes.  I just shook my head, held my nose, and proceeded to clean up Ben's pee.  While I was doing so, it suddenly struck me that the dogs had not been outside in several hours, at least not since Tim let them out after he woke up early this morning.  And since they were so quiet during their confinement, I honestly forgot they were there.  Poor dogs. And thankfully, everything happened on the tile floor, Ben's pee and all. 
So that's just a minute glimpse of our crazy family life, except that it usually doesn't involve dogs crapping in my house. 
It's another snow day tomorrow.  Gah!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ice Storm!

We are in the midst of a Winter Storm that started with light  freezing precipitation yesterday afternoon.  Before evening, our deck, grass, un-garaged vehicles, and trees were encased in a thin layer of ice.  The precipitation became heavier overnight.  Scott Air Force Base closed down to all but mission essential personnel.  If the base closes down, then this is a serious situation.  Of course, the schools are closed, too.  As well as most businesses.  The local mall closed early yesterday evening at 5 pm.  That's unheard of to close early except on a holiday.  I've been watching the news and I cannot believe the number of people who must brave the roads in these dangerous conditions. 
Our back door leading to the deck is frozen shut now.  So the dogs now have to go through the garage door to go outside. 
The sleet has already started and the forecast is calling for snow later on.  I am hoping that we do not lose our power but if we do, it won't be the first time.  I can't help but flashback to November/December 2006 when we experienced an ice storm that caused us to be without power from Thursday through Saturday.  There were no available hotel rooms unless we drove at least an hour east of us. 
Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure:
 View from living room
 View from living room
 Iced mailbox
 Tim's motorcycles are taking up valuable space.  No room for the SUV.  Thankfully, my Honda is safe and warm in the garage.

View from bedroom.

 Along the fence.