Monday, October 31, 2011


Halloween was tons of fun.  We went trick-or-treating with our friends, the TD Family.  They live in a very cool, kid-friendly neighborhood so we knew we would have enjoy the holiday with them.  I decided to do a little thumbs up, gig 'em picture to get the kids excited for the evening.

Here's the cowboys with the bumblebee and the Jedi.  The weather was perfect for trick-or-treating.

After I took the previous pictures, Justin began shedding his costume.  A neighbor's (tiny, but admittedly very excited) dog came out to join the fun and the boys jumped into the back of the truck.  Okay, so I helped Justin a little.  Travis is afraid of dogs and he is passing on his phobia to Justin.  They both survived.  Phew!

Justin only lasted a few houses.  We ran into another (small harmless) dog and I couldn't protect both children.  There was screaming.  It wasn't pretty.  They both survived.  Phew!   He helped Mr. TD and Daddy hand out candy.

Travis loved feeling his bag get heavier and heavier.  He really enjoyed the night.  He was ready to go for more and more.  I ended up carrying the bag by the time it was all over.  That was okay.  Then I could help make it lighter!  (Wink!)  I like Halloween too!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Patch

It was Pumpkin Patch at our church this weekend and while I had to work, the boys' schedule was wide open so they moseyed on over to check it out.  I found some great cowboy vests on Etsy to go along with the other cowboy gear we already have so we turned out some fine lookin' dudes for Halloween.  They rustled up some excitement and some candy too!

They had a little trunk-or-treat row with the cars all decorated and filled with candy.  They visited all the cars, except for the Texas Longhorn one.  It's football season, for goodness sakes!  We need to be loyal to our team!

There were some games too.  Justin enjoyed the Dino Dig and we might have a budding archaeologist here.  He uncovered lots of artifacts.

Travis tried his hand at the ring toss, without much success I heard.  The rings weren't much bigger than the bottles, but he tried.

Justin and Travis both liked the basketball game.  This is the best picture of Justin trying to get the ball in.  Randy said he did pretty good.  He doesn't lack for enthusiasm!

And of course Justin got to spend a little time with Mr. Rick.  He's an elder at our church and every week he comes and whisks Justin away for a little giggle time.  They have some big fun!

There was a bounce house, petting zoo, pony rides, and a hay ride too.  It was a busy place so they didn't stop to see the animals.  You know, they have plenty of horses and cattle back at the ranch...

Fall Cooking

It started feeling like fall this week so I decided that it was time for some fall foods:  We made caramel apples and pumpkin muffins.  And my very favorite cool weather food - soup!  I love winter squash and it's just coming into season.  Butternut and spaghetti are my favorite.  And the boys really like them too so it works well.  I am not typically a recipe blogger, but I thought some of you might enjoy these recipes as much as I do.

Black Bean-Pumpkin Soup (From Healthy Cooking)
2 cans (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
3 cups vegetable broth
1 can (15 oz) solid pack pumpkin
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. bourbon, optional
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup roasted salted pumpkin seeds

1. Place beans and tomatoes in a food processor; cover and process until blended. Set aside.
2. In a Dutch oven, saute onions in oil until tender. Add garlic and cumin; saute one minute longer. Stir in broth, pumpkin, vinegar, pepper, and bean mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Stir in bourbon if desired. Garnish each serving with sour cream, green onions, and pumpkin seeds.

My notes: I use chicken broth instead of veggie broth. I don't add bourbon. I garnish with shredded cheese for the kids and they eat it up. I garnish with plain greek yogurt for me and Randy. I have never garnished with onion or pumpkin seeds because I never have them on hand, but they would probably taste good.  The pumpkin taste is barely perceptible but it makes it healthy!  Being pureed means I can get away with adding tomatoes (not a Travis favorite) and the kids don't even know!  Thick soups like this I give my kids crackers to scoop up the soup and that helps them get started eating it.  They always end up finishing with a spoon because they like it!

Very tasty soup! Makes about 8 (1-cup) servings.
Sausage and Bean Ragout (from
2 T vegetable oil
1 pound ground beef
1 pound hot italian pork sausage (casing removed)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 chopped fresh basil leaves
2 (14.5 pounce) cans diced tomatoes seasoned with garlic, oregano, and basil
1 (16 ounce) can white kidney beans (cannelini), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup uncooked elbow pasta
1 (6 ounce) package fresh baby spinach leaves, washed
1/3 cup grated Romano cheese
1.  Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.  Add beef, sausage, and onion and cook until meats browned, stirring to separate meat.  Add garlic, cook 30 seconds more.
2.  Add broth, basil, tomatoes, and beans.  Heat to boil.  Cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add pasta and cook until pasta is done.
3.  Add spinach and cook just until spinach is wilted, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese.  Serve with additional cheese.
My notes:  I don't use oil to cook the meat; I use mild italian sausage; I use dried instead of fresh basil; I use regular tomatoes and add the oregano and extra garlic and basil as desired; I use Parmesan instead of Romano cheese.  This soup is very tasty!  The kids eat it all up!  I don't give Justin very much broth so he can eat it with a fork.  The sausage makes it a little bit sweet and the spinach is a healthy and good addition of a different texture.
Makes about 6 servings.
Soups are easy and go with anything!  Do you have any good soups to share?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Leaf Peeping, Coal Mining, and a Wedding

When my brother announced his engagement earlier this year and told us the wedding place and date, I got really excited since I LOVE fall in the north!  October in Pennsylvania sounded great and besides a little rain, it was perfect!

My mom rented some awesome homes in the Pocono Mountains and out whole family and some friends had a little vacation before the wedding.  We had two houses just down the street from each other so one was designated the main eating house and all 17 of us managed meals around the mish-mash of tables that we assembled.  Both houses had pool tables and one had videos games and air hockey so the boys had lots of fun.  We got there on Tuesday and most of the gang was already there.  We spent Wednesday sleeping and hanging out at the houses since it was raining, but Thursday we ventured out and took a coal mine tour since the rain wasn't a problem 250 feet underground! 

This was the coal mine we visited.  Travis really wanted to go see the mine and of course, by the end of the tour he was ready to sign on and be a coal miner.  It's been closed for a few years though (after operating for more than 100 years!) so he'll have to find another location.  He decided he would open the first mine in Texas and I had to break the news that you have to mine where the coal actually is.  Slight problem...

The yellow train/trolley is what we used to descend into the mine.  This is Justin's new "smile" face.  I am anxious to see the wedding photos with this expression.

Most of the pictures in the mine turned out well, dark, so they're not worth reporting.  Here's a 1,300 pound chunk of coal that was pulled from another mine nearby (I think).  It was starting to drizzle by this time so we didn't last very much longer outside.  That plus our tummies were growling.  Meals were a little off since the people in the meal house were not early risers!

And finally the next day Ami, Uncle Jerry and Thatcher arrived.  Travis took our picture.  And Ami and Uncle Jerry learned that it's all about Thatcher! 

And the boys love Uncle Jerry too!

Travis was so anxious to meet Thatcher.  And he wanted to hold him too.  And so he did.  A lot.

Since our camera is acting up, this is the best group shot I could get.  Travis looks a little buried!

And then there was the wedding.  It was Uncle Jon and Olivia and it was beautiful.  Travis was the "ring bringer" so he wore a tuxedo along with Randy (a groomsman) and I borrowed a suit for Justin.  My three guys looked so very handsome so we took some family pictures.  (You might see them on a Christmas card coming your way later this year...)  Here's one of the little guys.  They were so cute.  Justin didn't last very long in the whole ensemble, but at least as long as the pictures.

Olivia looked gorgeous and Jon, well, handsome and all.  Travis was a ham coming down the aisle looking each way and flashing big smiles.  Check out Uncle Jerry as the best man!

The flower girls were antsy and tipped over their baskets of petals.  So of course they had to recollect them.  Twice.

All the groomsmen and ring bringer:  Isn't Travis the cutest ring bringer ever?

Praying during the ceremony:  Travis was so serious!  My heart was melting.

The reception was so fun.  Travis discovered his love of dancing.  He wanted to dance with me every chance we got, but he got a little upset when the dance floor got crowded.  He told Randy, "Daddy, this wedding changed me.  Before, I didn't know I liked to dance.  But now I love it!"  Justin enjoyed the dancing too.  He was more into the dinner than dancing though.

Sunday morning after the wedding we all got together at the meal house and had a little church service.  Travis led singing and did a bit of interpretive dance.  Residual from the night before maybe? :)  My aunt is learning to play the clarinet and she played Amazing Grace for us, after only three lessons.  My mom shared some thoughts from the book The Blessing, which I just bought to read.  My uncle shared some awesome stories about his experiences of God's protection.  Travis recited one of his Bible verses and Randy shared some thoughts about the verse.  I have been reading the book Pagan Christianity which describes how a lot of our church traditions actually have pagan beginnings and roots.  One of the traditions it describes is the worship service.  In my opinion, the small home gathering that we had that Sunday was the ideal embodiment of what Christ envisioned.  Everyone sharing and learning from each other, asking questions and being spontaneous.  It was beautiful.  It clarified what is lacking in traditional services and how much richer small, give-and-take experiences can be.

One of the very cool things about the week was getting to meet my brother Ben's new wife, Iris.  They got married the weekend after Randy cut his thumb so we couldn't go to the wedding.  Because it was out first family get-together with the almost the whole new family, we took some pictures.  Of course, Jon and Olivia weren't there so we'll have to photoshop them in later!  The clan (L-R): Randy, me, Travis in front, Justin, Mom, Mireille (holding Thatcher), Jerry, Iris, and Ben.  Whew! 

I love my family, everyone who was there.  Staying in the houses gave us lots of time for talking and being together.  And the houses were far from town and the wedding so we got to see lots of beautiful fall foliage during the drives.  I wish I could have gotten better pictures with everyone I love so much.  (We are so buying a new camera the day after Thanksgiving!)  Times like that are so special and we will cherish them forever.

A fun bonus was that we got to fly back to Chicago with our great friend Mary.  She used to live in our house in Madison a few years ago when she was in college.  (I think I was 6 when she lived with us.)  Both boys love her and we enjoyed the extra time together on the plane.  We even discovered one fun fact during our trip:  She just celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary the week before Jon's wedding and all of my siblings and I were in her wedding!  In fact, Jon was the "ring bringer" in her wedding! 

Sorry this is so long in coming.  After the trip, both boys were severely sleep deprived and so we have been taking family naps in an effort to catch up on sleep.  Now I am slightly addicted to naptime and I am forcing myself to stay awake today during nap to do some long overdue computer work!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pin Removal

The moment Randy has been waiting for since surgery finally arrived - time to remove the pin!

The appointment began with another x-ray to check the location of the pin.  A good idea since Randy has been hammering it in with various hard surfaces throughout the past 6 weeks.  Looks kind of freaky, doesn't it?

Then while we were waiting, Dr. Travis did a little doctoring.  Assistant Justin stood watching.  It was quite the scene!

Next the real nurse came to set the area for the real doctor.  You can see the assortment of  pin removal devices in the sterile kits up on the table.  Travis picked the one he thought the doctor would use, and he ended up being right!  Poor nurse got lots of questions!

Randy got shot up with some numbing medicine to make the process less painful.  From the look on his face, thee should have been some other numbing medicine before this numbing medicine!  It was painful, but before he stopped writhing the doctor had already yanked that puppy out!  It's a good two and a half inches long!  (We got to keep it!)

Justin and Travis both went with us since it was a late appointment.  Justin was upset when everything started getting set up, so we had to reassure him that nothing was for him!  The doctor misunderstood Justin's concern, thinking that he didn't like what was happening to Randy.  It's hard to explain to someone in a few words all of Justin's idiosyncrasies!  Travis, on the other hand, might be slightly traumatized.  Nah, he just thought it was cool!

One thing we have learned about this doctor is that he loves big dressings!  Randy always walks away with several layers of protection, for which he he is very grateful!  This one was only necessary for the night and now he is a a free man!  Well, almost.  He is supposed to keep from moving it for another week and then he can try out his new thumb.  But no more doctor unless he wants to go for OT or unless the graft doesn't hold and his thumb starts drooping again.

So he only has a band-aid on the top of his thumb where the pin was removed and that's it!  I still have to button his shirt cuffs, but he's good with everything else.  He went back to his regular keyboard at work.  (He was using the angled one because his thumbs kept hitting each other.)  The pile of medical supplies on our bathroom counter is slowly diminishing.  The one funny thing he noticed about his thumb is that the little hairs on the back of his finger (between the joints) are not in the right spot anymore because of being "readjusted".  There is one dark one left that looks mighty out of place!  I guess you take what you can get!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Post-Op Visit with the ENT

I know!  I am so far behind.  I have several "catch-up" posts, so please be patient with me.  They are coming.

Last week we went back to the ENT for Justin's appointment post-surgery.  Like every other appointment, after the nurse calls Justin's name, Travis is quick to point out that it's not him, it's the little guy.  Always thankful for the clarification!  After quite a bit of cajoling I got Justin to open his mouth just wide enough for the doctor to see in without a stick.  She declared him healed!  Justin told her that she needed to listen to his heart (like every other doctor) but she didn't even have a stethoscope with her!  (Lungs aren't her area of expertise!)  I asked about the size of the tonsils since she had mentioned after surgery that they weren't as large as she had seen in the office.  She checked her notes and confirmed that they weren't as large, but that with them being glands they can grow and shrink with or without cause.  So that could explain why Justin is more tired some days than others.

Then she asked about sleeping.  Randy and I agree that there has not been a significant improvement.  I wasn't sure what the next step would be and she said to move ahead with the CPAP sleep study.  Given the DS, he likely has complicating issues that make the CPAP an obvious next step.  (Large tongue and low muscle tone.)  She said she would send a note to the sleep clinic to see if his appointment could be moved up (it's currently set for March).

So we are waiting for a call from the sleep clinic and things are pretty much back to routine.  And everyone is healthy!  Whoo hoo!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Since Then

So the boys got sick last Tuesday and I went to work last Thursday night.  I have been dying to go to work and have a nice, long, relaxing layover.  I did!  Whoo hoo!  I went to Argentina and I didn't make any plans.  I just went strolling and people watched and read Gone with the Wind (for book club).


I sat in the park and watched the clouds float by and a flag flapping in the breeze and smelled the spring flowers blooming.  (You know, opposite seasons and all...)  I even grabbed a Mc Donalds coffee with dulce de leche and sipped it casually as I did absolutely nothing.  For a whole hour!  It actually went by quicker than I thought.  I was refreshed and excited to come back.  I took mental pictures of the park and decided that could be my "happy place" when I needed a break. 

I arrived home and found Randy on the floor with a bandanna tied around his face.  After the usual flurry of greetings and demands for presents I asked him if they were playing cowboy or if he was trying to keep germs from spreading.  He said the germs thing.  Apparently he had gotten sick the night before and so he spent the whole night throwing up.

Great.  Are you kidding me?

See, I hadn't slept the night before either and I was counting on Randy to help me survive until nap time after lunch.  Instead, I took a quick shower and fed and dressed the boys and we left for church super early so we could avoid the "sick den" as long as possible.  The boys didn't go to Bible class, they had to stay with me while I helped greet for the Children's check in station.  Then we hurried home before we infected any children at church.  I fed the boys at home while they watched more TV.  I am pretty sure I fell asleep while they ate/watched.  Randy slept the whole time.  I had to cancel our small group Bible study at our house since I wasn't sure if we would all be throwing up by that evening.

I was so glad to be able to fall into bed for my nap while the kids napped.  Randy was finally awake and he entertained the boys while I finished my way-too-short rest period.  After not sleeping all night, three hours just doesn't cut it!

In the end, Randy had some 24-hour thing and so far, no one else has gotten it.  I spent the evening cleaning out the bathroom and the trash can and changing the sheets on our bed.  It has taken me naps nearly every day this week to catch up.  I think I am good now.  But nothing else more for a while.