Friday, February 29, 2008

Visit with the Cardiologist
Today we had our twice-yearly visit with DD's cardiologist at PCMC. First of all we register with the front desk. Then we wait in the uber-kid friendly playroom where DD heads for her favorite activity....
Then it is off to get weighed and measured. DD knows the routine and stands tall while this gets done. She usually remarks to the nurse "I'm growing!"
We're escorted into a dark cold room for the Echo. DD is one of the few kids who will hold still for this and thus does not need sedation (thank goodness!) She requested "Meet The Robinsons" for her movie and was watching when this pic was taken. The Echo took twice as long as normal as the cardiologist kept requesting extra pictures. DD was able to finish the entire movie while on the table and still had to stick around. She patiently held all the positions she was asked to do so the echo tech could finish his job.

After the Echo we had to wait in xray for awhile until they were ready for us. DD found a way to occupy her time.....she terrorized all the nurses and xray techs in the hall with her wild driving.

It was time to wait in the examination room until the cardiologist came in. DD had been given tokens for prizes. Instead of one or two tokens she was given six tokens between echo, xray, and EKG. DD used her tokens to buy six bouncy balls and had Mr. Wonderful scrambling for them.
Finally the cardiologist came in to give us the news. He is recommending DD for surgery now. The idea is to perform surgery before she shows symptoms and possibly has permanent heart damage . The original plan was a Mitral valve replacement. Our dr now thinks that the mitral valve can be repaired without replacement and in only one surgery rather than the multiple surgeries that we were previously told.
I was brave and did not cry until I got to the truck. Then I called one of my Cookies and the tears came for two seconds. She prayed the most beautiful prayer with me which helped me immensely. I am now starting to see all the blessings that have come from this:
1. The surgery will be open heart surgery but it will be one surgery. The valve can be fixed without replacement which means no anti-rejection drugs, no pacemaker, and no more surgeries as she grows. She would be in the hospital for a week if things go well, of which our cardiologist was optimistic.
2. Our cardiologist is the third one we've had since DD was born. The other two have moved on to Spanish speaking practices or positions in other hospitals. While we were grateful to have them, our current surgeon has a great bedside manner. He has taken the time to answer our questions rather than having his nurse explain things. DD especially loves him because he is bald and wears glasses. I personally do not care what he looks like. (Sorry I couldn't resist throwing that in.)
3. This surgery will be done while we are still on our current insurance. Its a good insurance. We were worried about having to shop for new insurance with the promise of a future surgery making that difficult. That this is all happening now is such a blessing and shows us that God indeed knows are needs and His plan is so much better than ours.
4. At this time in our lives we have a great support system in Utah with our families, and in Idaho with some family and our great neighbors and ward members. We have people all over the country who pray for us, think good thoughts for us, put our names on the temple prayer roll, and genuinely love us. That love goes a long way in helping me get through this. I'll need that help if surgery happens during the school year and I have to leave my boys. I have friends in my Ds community in Utah whose children have been through heart surgery whom I know will hold my hand through this. Mr. Wonderful is my rock.
I'm a bit emotional about all this right now. I certainly did not expect this result today. DD was such a trooper but she did hit her limit after three and a half hours in the hospital. She got to the point where she refused to take her shirt off anymore. Not even bribery would work.
We were told that a surgery date would be mailed to us. There is a backlog of surgeries due to RSV season and the the hospital beds were filled. We have no idea if this means surgery in April, May, or June.
Thanks for keeping us in your prayers. In behalf of my family, we greatly appreciate it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Happy Habit Day
The Scriptures

Today marks the official Habit Day in our family. I feel like we need to celebrate.

We've been trying to study scriptures as a family for years. While our scripture stuydy has been far from nonexistent, it has not been consistent either. We usually would read in the evening before the kids went to bed. But as the kids have gotten older things have gotten in the way. Scouts, Young Men activities for church, and other stuff just kept popping up.

Mr. Wonderful and I agreed to start getting the kids up for 6 am scriptures study. I was raised with this schedule. It isn't easy. I remember full well trying to sleep in at times. It was not a good thing to hear my daddy's footsteps coming down the stairs to the basement bedroom I shared with my twin sis as that meant that I was late to scripture study and the family was waiting. I wasn't the only child to be late at times, but had more than my fair share of 2nd invitations to "Get out of bed and come join the famiy for scriptures".

The first week was hard. The younger kids especially weren't used to rising that early. Everyone tromped down stairs with thei quilts wrapped around them. We passed out the scriptures and started. I think half of the reading was spoken with yawning mouths. DD fell asleep on Mr. Wonderful's shoulder. She didn't even wake when we knelt for family prayer.

30 days later......the kids are getting up and tromping downstairs with their quilts wrapped around them. Some of the readers yawn in mid sentence and have to start that verse over when they lose their place. But the REALLY GREAT news is that we have had regular scriptures reading. No one has complained of the new schedule. Funny enough, the mornings are not rushed. Everyone has time to get dressed, get their lunches packed, and we are getting out the door with plenty of time to spare. No yelling. No fighting.

Ah, the peacefulness.

I'm holding fast to the promises made by the prophets about regular family scripture study. We need all the blessings we can get. Now if scripture study would just solve the problem of my dear children telling me in the morning that they need 1) 3 dozen cupcakes for class, 2) a poster of their most recent school project, or 3) oodles of cash for the latest school sports signups. I usually do not keep 3 dozen cupcakes or fabulous arty school posters on hand for emergencies such as these, nor do I carry oodles of cash.

Now, how shall we celebrate Habit day? I'm sure we can come up with something......

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Haircut pics

Due to a few requests, I decided to take these on my own with the computer cam. IT only proves that it is easier to look better when someone else is handling the camera and tells me what to do. But, now you get an idea.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Gratitudes

First of all, I am extremely grateful that no one was hurt at my house this weekend, that international relations were not strained and our Lebanese guests still like us enough to hang out with us. We spent yesterday morning at the zoo, had lunch at the Spaghetti Factory, and then I took our guests shopping for the rest of the afternoon. Today, we are having a leisurely lunch with the athletes, playing games, and one of the athletes will be teaching us a native dance from Lebanon.

I'm also grateful that, because of our Lebanese guests, my world has opened up a bit more. Learning about other cultures has always been fascinating to me. But this is the first time that I have learned how other cultures treat their citizens with intellectual disabilities. I am so grateful that our country allows DD to mainstream with her kindergarten class, that speech and occupational therapies are provided, and for all the extras she has in her school day that astounds my new friend from Lebanon.

One of the athletes from Lebanon has Down syndrome. He skis on snow and water, and wants to compete in all events that Special Olympics recognizes. He speaks Arabic, French, and English (something that I never knew was possible). He is also a teacher, working with younger kids with Down syndrome. He has been so cute to DD. I am anxious for my sons to meet him today.

I'm grateful for a sweet husband who insisted on taking me to a movie last night even though he was sick. When I told him that we should stay home he insisted he wanted alone time with me. We saw Jumper (not that great but not bad) and shared a dark chocolate macadamia caramel 'Bear Claw' and a dark chocolate covered 'Sea Foam' that I picked up at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. My favorite part of the night? Eating dark chocolate covered anything and holding hands.

I'm grateful that DS#2 had his first experience snowboarding yesterday. The school provided the opportunity for a snowboard lessons and free time so we dropped him off at the school to take a bus with his classmates to the ski resort. Initially, he did not want to go. I pulled Mom-power on him and told him he didn't have a choice. DS came home sore and laughing and I did hear the melodious sounds of "You were right, Mom."

I'm grateful for all the support I've received from my family, my Cookies, and my dear friends over the past few weeks. Each of you have been a source of strength for me. I have appreciated hearing that you are still praying, putting our names on the temple prayer roll, and receiving phone calls and emails to check up on my family and me.

I'm going to be selfishly grateful next. Our realtors here gave me a heads up on a great stylist. I never thought I'd find one right off the bat. She is the kind of person that I can give her free reign to do what she thinks is best and it looks great. I spent 30 minutes in her chair this past week and got a huge shot or self-esteem. On top of that, she suggested no hair color this time as she didn't think I needed it. (Someone who gives you straight advice instead of trying to increase their bill is a breath of fresh air.) I'll post pics later today.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Welcome To America

With great anticipation, I went to pick up the Lebanese athlete and coach today at the Special Olympic Welcome Center. When they showed up, there were two athletes that needed to remain with the coach and a family with 4 yr old twin girls. It was decided that the two athletes and coach would go to the other house (owned by a counselor in my stake presidency) and the mom and daughters would come with me.

It looked like the twins and DD would get along famously. One twin was trying to teach DD Arabic while the other was trying to teach her French. We left their dad at the hotel (where he had work to do) and finally got the girls to my house.

It turns out that one twin was seriously afraid of dogs. I brought Dear Doggie Girl out on a leash but 'T' was too scared. I crated our dog and we set about making messes in the kitchen, all three little girls helping me make Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. While the cookies were baking the girls went upstairs to play in DD's room. I took advantage of the time to take Dear Doggie Girl outside for a potty break and to catch the ball for a little bit. When we came back inside with DDG on a leash, one of the twins came around the corner and screamed. Poor kid was so scared! So back in the crate went Dear Doggie Girl.

The crate happens to be near the stairs on the second landing. That same twin came back to the landing and before coming down stairs, peeked around the corner where the crate was. Dear Doggie Girl barked once, thinking she was going to be let out. It scare the little girl so bad she fell down the entire length of the stairs.

I think my heart quit beating. I ran over there to check her out. She was okay so I picked her up and took her to her mom. Her mom determined that it just wouldn't work - her daughter was so scared and kept repeating that she wanted to go back to the hotel. Her mom felt bad for imposing and wanted to call a cab. I wouldn't hear of it. So we packed the suitcases back in the car and I drove them back to the hotel. The twins fell asleep on the way. DD fell asleep on the way home. Lebanese guests at our house this weekend. We are meeting them tomorrow morning to go to a local attraction. I'm not sure if we will do anything else.

I feel so bad about the whole thing. What a welcome to America. I hope the little girl will not have nightmares tonight. Poor Doggie Girl was so sick of being crated. As soon as I came back, DS#2 took her for a walk. I will be getting up early tomorrow to do the same thing. I could use the time and exercise to clear my head.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Check out my parents blog Barlows in the DR Congo under the Kindred Spirits links on the right. Their newest post is up and all about a Wheelchair project. I dare you to look at the pics and NOT cry!

Last night I taught a class on soups and stews and demonstrated how to make biscuits: plain, cheese, and sweet. There was a good turnout and everyone like the food.

I made up a recipe for an Asian-Inspired Beef Barley soup that was really tasty. Now I need to figure out measurements (why, oh why did I not write that down as I was doing it?) As soon as I figure that one out I will either post it or find a contest to submit it to.

Now its the crunch time to get ready for our Lebanese guests. I have a few things to get done and Mr. Wonderful has some honey-do's (mainly hanging blinds and artwork).\

Please pray for my Cookie friend at The Country Mouse (link under Cookies On The Net at right). She needs some extra love and strength right now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I snagged this pic from my twin sis' blog. Mom on the right (holding Twin Sis, I think) and Grandma on the left (holding me). In the middle is my Great Grandma E. This had to be sometime in January '69. Twin sis and I were born 3 months premature and the hospital kept us for 3 months.

I absolutely adore family photos, don't you?

Guests from Lebanon


We have been chosen to be part of Host Town for the Special Olympics invitational this weekend. We will be hosting an athlete and coach from Lebanon.

Last night our Family Home Evening was all about Lebanese customs. I hope we do not offend our guests. There is quite a list. The kids are all excited to share our home and our life for a weekend. There is talk of taking them to the local ski resort or the gym. "Would they like a trip to the grocery store to get things they forgot? Mom, do you have to learn to cook Lebanon food?"

We plan on inviting the only other family hosting an athlete and coach from Lebanon for Sunday dinner. Along with whatever American menu we plan, I plan on making a tabouli salad and having hummus and pita chips. Other than that, we'll be providing a compltely American experience.

Our only concern is if they will mind being picked up by me (being a woman) and having me drive them around to the two events that are provided by the Olympic committee this weekend. I dearly hope not. I know only one person in Lebanon but I haven't heard from her in awhile. Hopefully I can find her soon and get some of my questions answered.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday Gratitudes

I have to admit to feeling tired and emotionally drained. Its a bit harder to ponder for what I am grateful shen I feel like this. Doesn't that mean that this is when I need most to make my gratitude list?

Accentuate the positive;
Eliminate the negative.
Latch on to the affirmative;
Don’t mess with Mr. In-between.
( lyrics by Johnny Mercer, ASCAP, 1945.)

I sang a solo today. My ward choir women sang Beebe's arrangement of "O My Father" for a special musical number. I was supposed to sing the third verse with two other women. But one called in with the flu and another called and had laryngitis. So I sang a solo. I prayed before it happened. I haven't been able to sing solos since college (another story for another time) without crying and really doing bad. This time I definitely sounded nervous....but I made it through. One of the women standing next to me put her arm on my back, I am not sure if it was to give me courage or to make sure I didn't fall backwards and pass out (which would have been embarrassing since it would have meant landing in the lap of one of the stake presidency). I guess I should express gratitude for doing it. I really do want my courage back, to sing solo with no problem. This is how I get it back, by trying. I need to express gratitude for the opportunity to try. They are coming more and more. I was supposed to sing solo in RS next week. That has been put off to March (thanks goodnes, I think I need more time to practice after today!)

Its easy to express gratitude for my family's and friend's blogs. I feel connected with them. I love reading about what is going on in their lives and seeing the pictures of their families.

I'm grateful I got to talk to my parents on Skype phone this week. The connection wasn't great but it was cheering to see their faces and find out how their two weeks in the middle of Africa were with no electricity or running water. They will posting a blog all about it soon.

I just found out this week that we get to host a Special Olympic athlete and coach from Lebanon this coming weekend. We are excited to be chosen, and more than a little nervous at possibly offending our guest since the cultures are so different. I just received a packet of info tonight to study before we pick up our guests on Friday. Family Night lesson will be all about Lebanon. I need to find a recipe for a Lebanese treat.....

I'm grateful for Mr. Wonderful's calming influence. Throughout all the turmoil of the past few weeks, he has been my rock. He will listen to me as long as I need him to, solve the problems I need help solving, and just be there when I need to vent. This past week he offered to be my punching bag if I would give him some time to prep his stomach with situps so it would withstand the onslaught. (Of course I did NOT take him up on that!)

I'm grateful for my Brother #2. Not only is he a great lawyer (who knew that would come in handy?!) but he is a fellow foodie who introduces me to great recipes. He is the one who gave me the heads up on the Pan-Seared Ribeye that I made for Valentines menu. It was so good, we made it for Sunday dinner tonight. Mmmmm. This is also the same boy, who, when I was in high school, knew that I did not have the money to go on a drama conference weekend and gave me the money. I found out later that he gave me the money he set aside for a wrestling warmup suit that was to be part of his uniform. I don't think I ever paid him back. How often do you see a super-generous boy in jr. high? (Can you tell I've been missing him?)

I'm grateful for Michael Buble music. It makes me want to dance with Mr. Wonderful.

Yesterday we took the kids to see Spiderwick Chronicles. It was a little too intense for the younger kids (who ended up on our laps) but the whole activity made for good family time. I'm grateful for that family time. I was thinking that we do not have too many years left and kids will start leaving home. Family Time will become a rare thing, definitely not as easy as packing up the kids on a Saturday for Costco polish dogs (chicken salad for me, I was being good) and a flick with popcorn.

I'm grateful for Dear Doggie Girl. It sure brightens my attitude to come home to hear her tags jingling and get a greeting with her tail wagging so hard it hurts when she whaps me with it. She makes everyone feel loved.

I'm grateful for dear sisters in my ward. Not only were they supportive (literally!) during my solo today, but another dear sister sat with me as I was subbing in Primary, talking about how I felt and letting me know that she truely understood. Methinks she is a kindred spirit and I truly look forward to getting to know her more.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mama Bear with the Boxing Gloves

I can't shake this feeling that I haven't done enough for DD when it comes to this aide problem at school. After talking about it with O's mom, we've decided to take the problem to higher sources. There is obviously some kind of secrecy going on at the district level and Iwant it blown wide open. I am tired of hearing the always vague "for the good of all the children reason" that does not answer the question of WHY.

DD's problems at home are getting worse. She is more aggressive and controlling to our Dear Doggie Girl. Her temper is worse. She is saying things she has never said before (Don't look at me! Get away from me!) She has started hiding at home and not answering when I call which puts me in dread as I search for her. I am frantic that she will try to run away from the new aide and I do not want to risk that. I worry that she will either lose precious skills or that she will refuse to learn or test further with someone she doesn't know.

I have prayed for peace that did not come until I made this decision to go further. I hate confrontation and avoid it if at all possible. But when it comes to my children, I become brave. I become the Mama Bear with the Boxing Gloves on.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Guess what I got?! Sweeeet!


I had the potatoes on the stove and trying to prep everything else (since the steak ad scallops are really quick from start to finish)when Mr. Wonderful ccame home with a dozen long-stemmed roses, kissed me, and then disappeared. Later he came downstair and asked me to come to the bedroom. I arched my eyebrow at him and said I hadn't made him dinner yet. But I noticed the kids were by him, jumping-up-and-down and grinning from ear-to-ear while emitting exclamations of "Sweeeet!" so I figured it must not be what I thought. I was escorted upstairs and into the bedroom to see.... a flat screen TV Mr. Wonderful installed near my elliptical in the dead space of our room. He had heard me comment that I missed being able to watch news and movies to keep my mind off of exercising. Say it with me now: "Awwwwwwwww, sweeeeeet!"

The 14 Days of Valentines are over. The Pan-Seared Ribeye recipe that my brother suggested was amazing, especially paired with the Seared Scallops. I never did get to the creme brulee but the strawberries were sweet and really tasted good. I have enough ribeye and scallops in the fridge to recreate the meal on Saturday for the family (good thing since the older boys were grumbling about pizza when we had steak.) The only bad thing about yesterday: I forgot to take pictures of the meal!

I've received word from a few people that their spouses loved the 14 Days of Valentines. I loved hearing about all the creative ideas and have stored a few away to copy for next year.

Today the kids have the day off from school. DS#1 is off snowboarding with friends. Mr. Wonderful has to work. I'm thinking it is a great day for a movie date with the younger kids. I might call Mr. Wonderful to see if he can take off early from work.

Let me leave you with the two great recipes:

Pan Seared Rib Eye
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

1 boneless rib eye steak, 1 1/2-inch thick
Canola oil to coat
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Place 10 to 12-inch cast iron skillet in oven and heat oven to 500 degrees. Bring steak(s) to room temperature.
When oven reaches temperature, remove pan and place on range over high heat. Coat steak lightly with oil and season both sides with a generous pinch of salt. Grind on black pepper to taste.

Immediately place steak in the middle of hot, dry pan. Cook 30 seconds without moving. Turn with tongs and cook another 30 seconds, then put the pan straight into the oven for 2 minutes. Flip steak and cook for another 2 minutes. (This time is for medium rare steaks. If you prefer medium, add a minute to both of the oven turns.)

Remove steak from pan, cover loosely with foil, and rest for 2 minutes. Serve whole or slice thin and fan onto plate.

Seared Scallops
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2005

1 to 1 1/4 pounds dry sea scallops, approximately 16
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper

Remove the small side muscle from the scallops, rinse with cold water and thoroughly pat dry.

Add the butter and oil to a 12 to 14-inch saute pan on high heat. Salt and pepper the scallops. Once the fat begins to smoke, gently add the scallops, making sure they are not touching each other. Sear the scallops for 1 1/2 minutes on each side. The scallops should have a 1/4-inch golden crust on each side while still being translucent in the center. Serve immediately.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Found this on a link from Anna's blog. Since I am a huge P&P fan, I couldn't resist!
The 14th Day of Valentines

Give Her Flowers

Aaaaaaand she's off! Ladeees and Gennnnntlemennnn, she's fast down the track, now around the corner and to the home stretch..............

Tons to do today. Two V-Day parties at school, meet DD's new aide (hopefully, I am not sure if she is coming today). I've changed my menu a bit to make things easier for me. Instead of the hot crab and artichoke dip, I have decided to try the Fromagerie for a few cool cheeses and the Patisserie next door to that for a dessert. Rather excited to peruse both establishments as they are next door to one of my fave restaurants here and I love looking in the windows.

The recipe for Alton's Browns pan-seared steak will stay the same. I have a favorite butcher who raises their own meat that I plan on visiting today. Not sure where to pick up the scallops yet, although Costco has their seafood show going on so I might have to go there.

The kids will get pizza and then head upstairs for a movie (or bedtime for the younger kids). I asked Mr. Wonderful if we should postpone until the weekend, given his uber busy schedule. He told me that he was looking forward to getting off early. I'm looking forward to it, too.

Rather strange how differently I'm doing things this year. I am not cooking as much (last year we were full before the main course was done. I am hoping to avoid groaning tummies this year). I am almost 2 sizes smaller (hooray!) due to WW and exercise. My goal is to cook healthier, with the exception of dessert (of which I will only buy one slice of a torte or cheesecake to share).

I'll report tomorrow with pictures of dinner.....

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The meeting did not go as I hoped. There was a conflict on whether I would be allowed in the room which resolved with the caveat that I not speak. I kept silent for 40 minutes while I watched the drama play out: we were not getting our beloved aide back. The district refused to budge.

There was an alternative suggested with a new aide. We reluctantly are willing to try. I am emotionally drained, in sore need of a punching bag, and really would prefer to put on my jammies now and curl up with either some really soft yarn and work on a project, or curl up in a quilt and find a good movie on TV.

But there are chores to do, mouths to feed, Valentine cards to address (three classes worth), Valentine sugar cookies to make (one class worth), and a Court of Honor to go to.

Dear Son #1, sensing my mood and hearing the story of events today, came up to me and put a small 1" red metal button with white chinese characters on my shirt. When I asked him what it said he pointed to the characters and read them. "It says 'Somebody Loves Me'." He then gave me a hug before heading upstairs to put his school stuff away.

I made it through the day without getting teary until now.
Got the Boxing Gloves On...
Rocky Balboa
This morning I woke up with the "Rocky" fight theme song running over and over in my head. I've got my boxing gloves on.
Today it the day I have a meeting with the district special ed. head. The principal, DD's teacher, the other mom who is fighthing with me, her mom, and the resource head will all be in the same room. O's mom is fighting mad. She told me that she hoped I wouldn't be offended by the idea that she was not going to be calm or nice in that room.
I'm not offended at all.
DD's stress, frustration, and behavior have gotten worse. This one decision of the district head has thrown two little girls, their families into chaos. It has disrupted a kindergarten class. I have a bunch of people on my side and I plan on praying on my knees before I go to ask for strength and wisdom.
Along with praying that my Utah house will sell, will you please pray for me today that a resolution will happen soon? I really appreciate it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What's For Dinner

Greek Chicken & Vegetable Ragout
Makes 6 servings, about 1 1/3 cups each
Slow Cooker, Kid Friendly

from Eating Well Magazine, Feb/2008

My notes: This satisfied my craving for Greek flavors. My kids really liked the sauce. I liked how easy this was and that I usually have all the ingredients on hand. Do not skimp on the dill.

1 pound carrots, cut into 1 ¼-inch pieces, or 3 cups baby carrots
1 pound (3-4 medium) yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1 ¼-inch-wide wedges
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
½ cup dry white wine (I used extra chicken broth)
4 cloves garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon salt
1 15-ounce can artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered if large
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Spread carrots and potatoes over the bottom and up the sides of a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Arrange chicken on top of the vegetables. Bring broth, wine, garlic and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour over the chicken and vegetables. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours on high or 4 to 4 1/2 hours on low.

2. Add artichokes to the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk egg, egg yolks and lemon juice in a medium bowl.

3. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a serving bowl using a slotted spoon. Cover and keep warm. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid into the egg mixture. Whisk until smooth. Whisk the egg mixture into the remaining cooking liquid in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, whisking 2 or 3 times, until slightly thickened and sauce reaches 160°F on an instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in dill and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables and serve.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Freezing is not recommended.

Prep ahead: Peel and cut potatoes; cover with water. Trim chicken thighs. Combine broth, wine and minced garlic. Refrigerate in separate covered containers for up to 1 day.

Per serving: 355 calories; 11 g fat (3 g sat, 4 g mono); 199 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrate; 34 g protein; 4 g fiber; 629 mg sodium; 531 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (174% daily value), Vitamin C (36% dv), Potassium (15% dv).1 1/2 Carbohydrate ServingsExchanges: 1 starch, 1 vegetable, 3 1/2 lean meat

The 11th Day of Valentines

For the 11th Day of Valentines, the kids and I pulled a sneaky on Mr. Wonderful. He thought our Family Night lesson was going to be on The Family: A Proclamation To The World. Instead we prepared a Family Night theme of "Why Our Dad and Husband is Important to our Family: 11 Reasons".

The boys each stood and talked about how grateful they were that Mr. Wonderful taught them sports, helped with homework, and worked hard so we could have a home the things we enjoy. DS#3 added that he was grateful Mr. Wonderful took us to Disney World last summer.

Then it was DD's turn and she did not want any help. DD stood and told Mr. Wonderful "Happy Birthday" (his birthday is in October) and then waxed eloquent about all the presents she was going to give to him. The only part we understood was about the birthday presents at the beginning and the resounding "A-MEN!" at the end. We are not sure if she was sharing her testimony or saying a prayer. It must have been her testimony because she didn't pitch a fit when we gathered in a circle for family prayer.

The rest of the evening was finishing projects for "100 Day" at school. Next Family Night will truly be about the Family Proclamation.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Gratitudes
Next morning, the sun hits the ice and we get a lightshow, it was lovely!

This was a rollercoaster week, revolving around two mtgs: one for DS#3 and one for DD. I was trying not to feel like a Mama Bear with her boxing gloves on.

Our mtg for DS#3 went very well and Mr. Wonderful and I were thrilled that DS is improving. I am so grateful to report that this week DS got all 5 words right on his spelling test. We made a goal to work towards this with a reward of going to the local ice cream place. DS was so proud and excited. His brothers have been patting him on the back for earning an ice cream trip for Family Night. Our next goal is to work on his spelling sentence in the same way with a goal of 100%.

My second gratitude is for the mtg about DD. Two weeks ago, her aide was changed w/out telling me, and done in a way that was completely unfair. DD has suffered as a result. This mtg was with the principal to air grievances and hopefully restore all as it was before. The principal (who was out of town when this originally happend) couldn't change things yet, but she did listen to my concerns and wrote everything down. One thing I did get changed was how communication happens between the parents and the school. The best part of this meeting was actually a huge accomplishment for me: I did not cry, I did not get loud, I had spoke with grace and dignity. It helped that I knelt down to pray for strength before I left and during the meeting I dutifully pictured my Cookies behind me, all wearing red Borg shirts (the shirts are a private joke that I am sure they will laugh at.) The principal is meeting with the district head of special ed. soon and I hope things will be resolved quickly.

Due to the scheduling changes in our family with kids growing up, we have changed our family scripture reading from evening to 6 :00 in the morning. This isn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be, mainly due the the home in which I grew up. Mom and Daddy would wake us up before 6am every weekday morning for scripture study. Sometimes we made it hard on them by trying to sleep in. They were persistent and consistent. Now that I am facing the same challenges in my family, I need to express gratitude to them and apologize for and grief I gave them about early morning scripture reading while I was growing up. It's not easy to get the kids up, and make sure they follow along. But we have had some great conversations about what we are reading. The early morning is starting to be a habit. Gotta love good habits.

I am grateful for good books. This month, my book club is reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen. I love uplifting books. I am amazed at the human spirit and what can be accomplished by one person. I am in awe at the sacrifices families will make just to ensure that an education is provided for their children. This book is also a history lesson in the start of the Taliban which is chilling, I am learning new things with ever chapter I read. While I am here, I need to express gratitude for book clubs. Through them, I read books I might never have opened on my own.

I am grateful for the Sabbath. My family keeps it holy the way our parents taught us. Our Sabbath is for family. We do not work. We try not to make others work for us (the exception being emergency trips to drs which, thankfully, is rare.) Not going out to eat, play, or run errands. Dinner is simple, most of it in the slow cooker which means dinner is ready when we come home. This day is a day of rest that we sorely need. We write letters to grandmas and spend time with family. We go to church. My kids have never complained about church. They look forward to seeing teachers and friends. I look forward to singing hymns, learning in Sunday School, and the cameraderie of Relief Society. This is the day that fuels me for the rest of the week.

I"m grateful for the sun. After all the snow storm (the worst in this area in the past 10 years), we have had 2 days of sun and 40 degree weather which feels like 50. I have walked to the mailbox in short sleeves and with bare feet. I love to feel the sun on my face. This weather lifts my spirits.

8th, 9th,and 10th Days of Valentines
On the 8th Days of Valentines I posed our wedding day picture on Mr. Wonderful's nightstand with a letter about the day I promised to love him for eternity. This was the most simple of all the days I planned for these two weeks, but also one I considered the best. We work hard at our marriage and do not take lightly the covenants we made in the Salt Lake Temple.
On the 9th Day I had planned to make a brunch. When I got home from my early morning mtg, the kids had already pulled frozen sweet rolls out, baked them for breakfast, and no one was hungry. So I told Mr. Wonderful that he would have to get his special breakfast the next day.
Day #10 - Today I got up and fixed a 3 egg omelet (actuall 1 egg and 2 egg whites) with dill, sweet peppers, fresh spinach, and feta cheese, bacon, and whole grain toast. Mr. Wonderful and the kids were quite happy (or as my Cookies say "Man noises were heard!" Later today, I will make a list of 10 Things I Love About You to prop on his pillow tonight. Every year I come up with different things. He saves every one.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


On the 7th Day of Valentines

my morning wakeup did not sound.

The planned orange rolls were not baked

since I was not around.

My second plan of homemade treats

fortune cookies of large size -

Stuck to the pan - they didn't work

I could not believe my eyes.

My reputation would be ruined.

My kitchen cred, it would be shot.

I knew I had to do something

Lest Mr. Wonderful thought I forgot.

Time was running out

soon Mr. Wonderful would be home.

I have sunk down the depths

to puchased cookies and cheesy poem.

On a plain paper plate, even!

Witness my shame, dear reader.

Rest assured this will not be

a Valentine day repeater.
Yesterday was the official mtg about DS#3. Mr. Wonderful and I met with his teacher, principal, assts, school counselor, and a few people who weren't introduced so I have no idea of their positions.

DS is still behind in all subjects at school. But, there has been some kind of awakening resulting in a huge surge of improvement the last 4 weeks. The most dramatic being that DS has gone from not writing at all on his own to writing stories and Valentine Cards (he didn't quite understand the purpose of V-Day cards and had written many to stuff in his own V-day box at school. His teacher said he was very surprised when she told him that everyone in the class would be putting a V-day card in his box. Now he has been making many cards for his cousins, Mr. Wonderful, and me.)

His teacher showed us a story he wrote. We couldn't understand half of it but is was a FULL PAGE of written word! After the mtg we went to her class where she asked DS to read it to us (she said he knew exactly what it said and was consistent every time to he understands his writing). DS read us his story about a pet lizard that escaped from his pocket to eat a classmate's lunch while hiding under the desks (that classmate happens to be very cute and DS talks about her a lot. Hmmmmmm.)

He is also improving in math and spelling. Since we started having him sign while he practices his spelling, he has gone from missing all but one of the words to missing just one of the words. I told him last night that the day he gets all of the words right, I will be taking him to an ice cream shop for a treat - gotta love incentives.

It was decided that since his problems seemed to be in understanding concrete ideas, and he is improving, to continue with the course we are on rather than testing to see if he qualifies for special education. Mr. Wonderful and I were both ameniable to that. It was such a relief to see improvement. He still loves school. This week he was excited to read in his reading group. He has been learning about authors. His particpation and his behavior in class has changed for the better.

Prayers are answered.

Friday I have a mtg with the principal about DD. Her aide was changed and it has been hard for her. I hope that mtg goes as well as this one did.
The 6th and 7th Day of Valentines

On the 6th day of Valentines, Mr.Wonderful received 5 candybars and 1 bag of pink/red/white peanut M&Ms all morphed into a poster taped to the laundry room door so it would be the first thing he saw when he came home.

Unfortunately the kids saw it, too, and have been pestering him nonstop for the treats.

Today was supposed to be 7 orange rolls, but our alarms did not go off (a rare occurence, usually a result of DS#3 or DD playing with Mr. Wonderful's clock). I am adaptable, so tonight I will figure out something else to present to him alongside dinner. I do have heart shaped mini cake pans. maybe 7 heart shaped brownies with a cute saying? I have to think on this one.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Thursday is Chinese New Year. This is a food holiday for my family, one that we love to celebrate. Our dishes this year will be:

Scallop & Shrimp Dumplings with Ginger-Garlic Dipping Sauce
Lionhead Meatballs
Long Life Noodles
gingered broccoli

and a recipe for you to try:

Lion's Head Meatballs
Makes 10 meatballs, for 5 main-dish or 10 appetizer servings

Ingredients 1 cup light coconut milk
2 ½ tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 pound lean ground pork or beef
½ cup chopped scallions
¼ cup minced leek, white and pale green part only
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons seeded and minced fresh chile pepper
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium head Boston or iceberg lettuce
¼ cup chopped fresh basil or Thai basil
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

1. Combine coconut milk, soy sauce and curry powder in a large saucepan. Set aside.

2. Place pork (or beef), scallions, leek, cornstarch, flour, sesame oil, ginger, chile, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Knead by hand until thoroughly combined and the mixture becomes sticky. Divide into 10 equal portions, about 1/4 cup each. Roll each portion into a ball.

3. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, swirling to coat the sides. Add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
4. Bring the coconut-milk mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs; cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 8 minutes.

5. Line a serving bowl with lettuce leaves. Arrange the meatballs on top. Garnish with basil and lemon zest. Serve hot with the coconut-milk sauce drizzled over the top or on the side for dipping.

Per meatball: 115 calories; 7 g fat (3 g sat, 1 g mono); 26 mg cholesterol; 5 g carbohydrate; 10 g protein; 1 g fiber; 297 mg sodium; 83 mg potassium.

The 5th and 6th Days of Valentines

Last night, Me. Wonderful received a bottle of massage oil from Bath & Body in the only non-girly scent that they carry. Today it will be a poster candy-gram with 6 different bars of chocolate.

As soon as the kids know what the gift is today, I am sure they will be clamoring to share their favorites with him.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

DD has been tagged for the love/hat meme by Brady at Brady's Bunch!

DD loves:

Gamapapa Africa
GamaPapa Utah
Signing Time
anyone's birthday
all Disney Princesses
ta-toes an' gwavy
soft clothing
hair pretties
pink cowgirl boots
cheeseburgers and fries
hats and gloves

DD hates:

being bossed around
loud concerts or noises
going away from routine
any frilly dress with satin, lace, or anything remotely slippery or scratchy
cold stethoscopes

DD tags her cousins at Comings and Goings, Morgan at The Seal Bark, and Claire at The Fabulous Faldmos.

Monday, February 04, 2008

On the 4th Day of Valentines

I put the picture of Four Beautiful Children (And One Cute Wife)(and One Cute Dog) on the seat of Mr. Wonderful's truck. I saw the red sparkly heart on the passenger seat and was tempted to hang it back up.

Mr. Wonderful liked the picture. He was amazed that everyone was looking in the same direction, with no closed eyes, and no boys pulling silly faces. Even Dear Doggie Girl was perfect. How did we do it? he wanted to know......

I couldn't keep it a secret. I told him about the photographers use of Photoshop. But I did not tell him that she also used photo shop to erase some of my wrinkles.

He hasn't noticed any difference yet. What he doesn't know won't hurt him.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

On the Third Day of Valentines
Mr. Wonderful found, propped against his mirror, two movie tix and a box of Red Vines. He answered me with a kiss on my neck as I was brushing my teeth, thanking me for the date invite and told me to pick a movie. I tried to answer back that it was up to him to pick the movie but it is hard to speak with a Colgate-foamed mouth. I also had velcro rollers in my hair and no makeup. I didn't exactly look beautiful.
Ah, true love is loving your wife even when she doesn't look her best.
Sunday Gratitudes
Happy 15th Birthday, Firstborn!

While most of you throwing a Superbowl party, we're celebrating my Firstborn's 15th birthday. So my Sunday gratitudes are all about the man he is growing up to be:

1. Last year the Firstborn was an inch shorter than me. This year he is two inches taller than me. The kid keeps eating and growing.

2. He has registered for peer tutoring at school. It has been fun to listen to his stories about getting close to these kids with special needs. It takes a certain kind of guy to find coolness in working with kids with moderate to severe disabilities.

3. He has told his friends more than once that he doesn't watch R rated movies. This thrills me to no end since it would be easy for him to sneak into a R-rated movie and not tell me about it. Instead I find out from his friends that they went to see something PG-13 or milder because he insisted on it.

4. This is the year he gets his Eagle. He has been working hard towards that goal and I am immensely proud of him.

5. He has a testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I don't hear it often but it blows me away when I do.

6. He likes memorizing the scriptures assigned in seminary and often recites them to us ro quizzes us to see if we know them.

7. He can be so kind to his siblings. I have witnessed him give them high fives over a good spelling grade. He helps DD with her nighttime meds in a way that makes her happy to take them. They idolize their big brother and drink up any praise he gives them.

8. He is respectful of the priesthood he holds.

9. He has made a goal of completing life guard training this spring so he can get a job at either the local YMCA or the water park. (Mr. Wonderful did the same in his teen years.)

10. I am so grateful for a happy, healthy, well adjusted son. He is polite, has great table manners, and knows how to treat a girl. He can cook and he knows how to do laundry (his future wife will thank me for that.)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

President Gordon B. and Marjorie Pay Hinkley
Together Again

They loved each other so much. I like to think that their reunion in heaven was the sweetest thing. President Hinkley often referred to his wife, Marjorie, as his Beloved Eternal Companion. Theirs is the kind of marriage that should be the goal of every couple.

"I could wish for you nothing better than a good marriage, a happy marriage, a marriage fruitful in the sweet and satisfying things of life. Your marriage will not be excellent if it is marred with argument, if it is filled with disrespect one for another, if there is any lack of loyalty or devotion to one another. Cherish your spouse as the greatest possession of your life and treat him or her accordingly. Make it your constant goal to add to the happiness and comfort of your companion. Never permit yourself to let down in your affection, or your respect, or your faith in one another. Be excellent in every way." Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Quest for Excellence,” Ensign, Sep 1999, 2
On The Second Day of Valentines

Today I wrote a poem (quite cheesy, I'll be the first to admit it) and printed it out in caligraphy on white cardstock. It invites Mr. Wonderful to a supper for just the Two of us. The letter instucts him to bring the non-alcoholic wine and the candles. I also told him out menu: hot crab and artichoke dip, seared steak and scallops with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus with balsamic brown butter sauce, and creme brulee with chocolate dipped strawberries.
It is waiting for him on our bed. Right now, Mr. Wonderful has taken our children out sledding.
If you want to see some other great ideas, check out my sis-in-loves blog Heartstrings. You'll find the link on the right under Kindred Spirits.

Friday, February 01, 2008

I just got word from some other women who have decided to do their own 14 Days of Valentines. One woman bought a smoked turkey and a bottle of her husband's favorite hot sauce. She presented them to him with a card that said "You are ONE smokin' hot man!"

Another gave her husband ONE day off. She is doing the dishes (usually his job) and fixing dinner (he usually helps) and is taking him a bowl of his favorite ice cream while he watches his favorite TV shows tonight.

Keep the creative ideas coming! I have no scruples about stealing them for my own next year.

On The First Day Of Valentines

Late last night I snuck into DH's truck. I hung the red sparkly scrolled heart from Target ($1) on his rear view mirror. On his seat I put a red/pink/white striped japanese style takeout box (Target, $1) on his seat filled with Dove chocolate covered caramels (Target, $1.99) on his seat with a note (free) saying "On The first Day of Valentines I give you my ONE heart".

Total: $3.99

Knowing I made him smile: priceless