Friday, November 21, 2014

Hazel Update

For those of you asking how Hazel's appointments went last week:
1. Thank you all for your prayers and words of encouragement. It is easy to feel alone as a "special needs" mom. It means so much to me to know that so many people care about and love my girls so much.
2. Annabelle's behavior and patience through the morning was amazing! After a long car ride, late dinner, early morning, unfamiliar meals, and being away from home, we were prepared for the worst. But she gave us her best. We were in appointments from 8:30-11:30. Not once did she whine or complain. In fact, she was very curious, and excited to see Hazel's x-rays. Maybe we have a future x-ray technician on our hands?
3. I cannot say enough about the Ronald McDonald House! There was a moment when we thought they wouldn't have a room available for us, but they offered a room voucher for a nearby hotel since we had booked our room ahead of time. (Because they never know for sure how long a family will need a room, they cannot guarantee room availability). However, they called us back a few hours later, and reconfirmed that we would indeed have a room in the House. While there, the girls were able to enjoy the play rooms, and we were able to enjoy having hot meals provided for us.
4. Hazel's doctors are very happy with what they saw. Hazel's spine looks wonderful, and she is showing no signs of hydrocephalus or other complications related to her Achondroplasia. Yay! They want to see her again in 6 months for another followup.
5. She slept enough during her sleep study to get sufficient data. After screaming, and pulling at the nasal cannula  (used for monitoring oxygen flow) for a full 2 hours, she finally exhausted herself, and slept until 5am, only waking 2 or 3 times when she lost her pacifier. This time around, I personally slept better than her last sleep study, as I knew more of what to expect.

All that being said, we had a very wonderful trip to Delaware. We even got to meet with another LP family for a playground play-date.
Used with permission from

Friday, November 7, 2014

8 Reasons To Garden

When I go grocery shopping, I rarely buy produce. I might buy a bunch or two of bananas each week, but I pass by the shining bell peppers, and glowing carrots. I skip right to the cereals, pastas, and canned goodness.  But my family eats plenty of fresh produce everyday. In fact, I recently made a carrot-top pesto along with fresh green beans in a homemade tomato sauce for dinner. It was divine.
No, I don't like paying for fruits and vegetables that have been doused in poisonous chemicals, irradiated, and covered in a shiny wax, just so it looks good and doesn't go bad in the week-long trek to the store. No thank you.
This Summer, our family joined two other families on a new and exciting adventure of gardening. It's a lot of work, and is a major time commitment. But it is worth it. Here are a few reasons we choose to garden, and will continue to do so in future years.
1. It's better than going to the grocery store.
I dread going to the grocery store with the kids in tow each week. We walk in, and immediately I forget what I came for. My coupons are a mess, and already Annabelle is asking for a snack, a drink, and a potty break all while Hazel is attempting to Houdini her way out of the Mei Tai wrap. I reach for my list, just to realize I left it in the car. Do I hike all the way back through the parking lot, wasting precious minutes of patience from the girls, or do I just wing it? I'm not going back out. I wrote the list. I studied the list. I know what's on the list. Wait. Were Cheerios on sale here, or at the other store?
After navigating the aisles for what feels like an eternity, I realize I forgot to get the chicken breasts for tonight's dinner. Backtrack. Past the ice cream. Past the donuts. Past the candy aisle. Again.
Finally, we are done shopping. And then there are the lines. Twenty checkout stations, and only two are open. Seriously? Annabelle squirms in the cart, eye level with the chocolate bars and $1 impulse items, as the shopper in front of us empties her purse in search for that 15 cent coupon that expired last month anyway.
2. Save money
Our grocery bill this Summer has been well below budget most weeks. Unfortunately toilet bowl cleaner and fruit snacks don't grow in a garden. We have still purchased some produce from the store: bananas, avocados, bagged salad. But that has been minimal. With that being said, we have been frequenting the grocery store less. It's easier to stock up on non-perishables on a semi-weekly basis.
3. Kids are interested in eating something they helped grow
Allowing children to help in the kitchen has been a tactic against picky eating for years. When a child helps with dinner, she is likely to be proud of her work, and eat whatever she made. This rings true for the garden as well. We have had a few dinners this Summer that were almost entirely from the garden. One in particular, was Italian seasoned zucchini cakes with homemade tomato sauce. One little reminder to Annabelle that our dinner came from the garden, and she dug right in.
4. You control the use of pesticides
I have a problem with eating "USDA certified organic". Yes, organic does have its advantages of lacking harmful pesticides. But, that label comes at a hefty cost. Companies pay big bucks to have their facilities inspected by government workers to ensure pesticides were not used.
It's much easier (and cheaper) to maintain pest control yourself. I would be amiss to say that we have not used any pesticides at all in the garden. We had to use a very mild pesticide on one type of plant to avoid losing the entire crop to bugs. The way I see it, is that pesticides do not need to be an all-or-nothing deal. We chose not to spray the entire garden and surrounding area with toxins, but we also chose to save our crop when necessary.
Are we USDA certified organic? No.
But we are doing our best.
5. Educate children
One evening, as we were harvesting tomatoes as a family, I had to chuckle to myself. Annabelle was picking tomatoes in red, orange, and purple.Yes. Purple. We also have purple basil. What's going to happen when Annabelle is in school, and is given a coloring page of a tomato, and reaches for a purple crayon? Children are taught that tomatoes are red, and leaves are green. While that is not false, it's also not entirely true. Annabelle and Hazel will hopefully have a better understanding about how plants grow, and that tomatoes, peppers, and onions come in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors.
6. A true appreciation and thanksgiving at the table
One Saturday afternoon, after a long morning of gardening, we loaded up the van with our harvest. We worked hard for that food. The lettuce, and tomatoes were still warm from the morning sun. And as we gathered to pray before eating, our words carried so much more weight: "Thank You, Lord for this bounty. Thank You for allowing this to grow from seed. Thank you for protecting our crop from excessive heat, drought, or animals"
That was a big moment for me. We planted the seed. But He allowed it to grow. And protected it. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:7 "So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."
7. Family bonding
Gardening is not a one man job. It takes a lot of teamwork and man-hours (woman-hours? child-hours?). Evenings when we get to go to the garden are magical. Annabelle prances through the field, begging Tad to cut her some pretty flowers; Hazel crawls on a blanket laid across the grass; Tad finds the perfect eggplants, cucumbers, and lettuces for the week's meals; all while I take it all in. We talk, laugh, and enjoy the uninterrupted company of one another. There is no television beckoning at us, no computers vying for our attention. Just us and the garden.
8. Pay it forward
God has been so good to us. This has been one of the mildest Summers I remember in my life. Evenings have been cool, no higher than 70F, accompanied by weekly rainshowers. This has allowed our garden to thrive, and multiply fruitfully. We can't keep up with it all. Eating all of it has been nearly impossible for the three families.
We are commanded throughout the Bible to give our first-fruits to the Lord. We have been encouraged by these passages to bless a local ministry with boxes upon boxes of produce. I do not say this to pat ourselves on the back, but to give glory back to God. Because He made our garden plentiful, that He may provide for us, as well as others.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Apple Sauce

The wonderful part of starting our own family, is starting our own family traditions. With Autumn being my favorite time of year, my favorite new tradition takes place during these crisp, cozy months.
It all begins when Tad comes home with a beautiful arrangement of flowers a decadent box of chocolates a bushel of apples.

Yes, I said apples.

But not just any apples.
Empire apples.
Mahogany red, crunchy, sweet, aromatic Empire apples.
I eagerly rinse each piece of fruit, and lay them all out on a towel to dry. A few apples always seem to go missing before being quartered and sliced.

It takes me three pots to keep the apples simmering until soft. In the end, I have just two pots of the soft, pink perfume.

Tad then sets up the strainer, as I call Annabelle into the kitchen to help. Her golden locks bounce behind her, as she sings and skips into the kitchen.
It's apple sauce time.
Apple soup goes in the plastic white funnel to be turned and pressed through the mesh holes, and down the aluminum slide.
Apple sauce.
Bright pink, and still warm from the stove-top, the sauce is now scooped into individual bowls for each of us to enjoy the sweet goodness that is homemade apple sauce.

We have plenty to freeze for later, but it never lasts very long before being consumed.