Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mom...a Poem about Her

Her favorite color
Brightened her wedding
And the afghans she
Crocheted until
Pain stilled her fingers

Spring tulips
Summer daisies
Autumn mums now
Soften her headstone

The fire of the sun
Bright and hot
In my heart, and
In my tears
When I am missing her

This post was inspired by a weekly prompt at Studio 30 Plus, a home for bloggers over 30!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Menu Planning Monday Week 39

Join us every Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie! for great meal ideas.
In fact, a few of my recipes for this week came from this linky party!

Breakfast for Dinner- pancakes and bacon

leftovers (soup and meatloaf from last week)

Tortilla chips and guacamole (I like McCormick's guac seasoning mix w/ sour cream)

mashed potatoes
Broccoli and Onion AuGratin (see below)

dressed-up frozen pizza

Chicken Tortilla Soup (using leftover chips and salsa from Wednesday)

garlic bread
Bacon and Onion Au Gratin
2 cup broccoli florets
1 onion, roughly chopped

2 Tb butter
2 Tb flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
2 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Heat oven to 350. In saucepan melt butter, stir in flour, salt, rosemary and pepper. Cook about 30 seconds, then stir in milk. Stir constantly until boiling. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until smooth. Set aside. Layer broccoli and onion in greased baking dish. Stir in cheese sauce. Mix topping in a small bowl and sprinkle on top. Bake 25-35 minutes.

We are in a rut with our Monday Breakfast-for-Dinner routine.
The kids love pancakes and bacon every week, but I am tired of it! Please share your go-to "breakfast anytime" ideas!  

Check out these other menu and recipe posts!
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Project 365: Week 38

Sunday- Morgan having a tea party after dinner at my grandparents'.

Monday- The girls couldn't wait to start decorating. These cute little guys hang out in the bathroom.

Tuesday- The dreaded task of switching the seasonal clothes.

Wednesday- The girls' favorite! Not mine- he dances and sings (loudly).

Thursday- Ready for the school skating party!

Friday- Had enough energy today to make a mess at my craft table!

Saturday- Morning cartoon zoning!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thankful Thursday- Nostalgic Recipes

Today's post is inspired by the weekly writing prompts by Mama Kat- 
Share a favorite childhood recipe.

My mom was a baker. Especially at Christmas. I would help her bake dozens and dozens of cookies- sugar cookie cut-outs, Buckeye Balls, Russian Tea Cookies, gingersnaps, Peanut Blossoms...oh my, yum! The baking would go on for weeks, and we would freeze as we went.

I am lucky enough to be in possession of several of my mother's handwritten recipes. The baked goods themselves may not be extraordinary, but I simply LOVE that they are in her handwriting. Seeing her neat script instantly warms my heart, and reminds me of all the "I love you's"  in birthday cards, letters she sent my when I was in college, and the notes in my baby book.

Pure nostalgia.

So thankful for these old, stained pieces of her.

Every holiday season I bring out these treasured recipe cards and bake with my own children. I hope they are building the same kind of strong memories that I have!

Do you still use a recipe from your childhood?
Tell us about it in the comments!!

Other recipes you may enjoy:

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Big Earthquakes: Art Journal Page

Inspired by this post at Away We Go.

overwhelmed...the road to improvement...dream...future perfect...the rest of your, tomorrow and always...getting a better grip...worry often gives a small thing a big underestimate...ready to rethink...make it right

 old magazines
glue stick
Sharpie marker

Thanks for visiting today! I would love for you to share my artwork via Twitter, Facebook, or other media! 

Other Art Journal Pages:
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Invisible Illness Awareness Meme: 30 Things

Last week marked "Invisible Illness Awareness" week. Here is my contribution to the information bloggers around the world have been sharing:

1. The illness I live with is: Relapsing Polychondritis, Meniere's Disease, fibromyalgia, IBS, Migraines, undiagnosed Central Nervous System disorder (tremors and muscle spasms)

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: RP and Meniere's (2000); fibromyalgia and IBS (2009)

3. But I had symptoms since: Maybe childhood? I have had ear and sinus problems since I was very young. Obvious RP symptoms began mid-1999.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is:  Not being able to participate in my children's activities as much as I would like. I try to make it a point to find fun, low-key things we can do together to make up for it.

5. Most people assume: I think some people assume that when you take a bunch of medications and go to the doctor frequently, that the only option is to get better. Unfortunately, not true. The symptoms of RP and Meniere's can perseverate, even with treatment.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: Not knowing how I will feel each day. Every day is a crap shoot, health-wise, regardless of any plans I have made.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: House! I find it fascinating.

9. The hardest part about nights is: Pain, racing thoughts, night sweats, and medication side effects often keep me from sleeping.

10. Each day I take __ pills and  vitamins: 12 pills; 7 vitamins and supplements (all doctor recommended); PRN prescriptions for pain, dizziness, and muscle spasms

11. Regarding alternative treatments: The only one I have tried is massage- I used to love it, but now find it painful. Cost prohibits me from trying other treatments.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: Neither! I don't see how one is "better" than the other.

13. Regarding working and career: I have had periods when I could not work. My doctor told me to stop working again last month. I am an educated and driven person, so this is so hard! And financial difficulties from not working just add to stress.

14. People would be surprised to know: Some days something as simple as taking a shower can totally wear me out.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: Being "forced" to quit working.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Get my Master's degree.

17. The commercials about my illness: Well, RP and Meniere's are very rare, so there aren't any commercials!

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Going to my monthly scrapbook get-togethers. I usually don't have the stamina for a 6 hour crop, and transportation is an issue (see #19).

19. It was really hard to have to give up: Driving. I am dizzy most of the time, so this is not a safe activity! The loss of independence can be very depressing.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is:  I wouldn't say I have any new hobbies- I have been a scrapbooker and blogger for a while now. But I certainly have more time to devote to them now!

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: Do something active- go camping with my family, take a hike, try Zumba.

22. My illness has taught me: Asking for help is ok, and not a sign of weakness.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: "Just hang in there". Really? What do you think I'm doing?? I know people mean well and usually just don't know what to say, but...this one is really annoying to me, especially when a doctor says it!

24. But I love it when people: Just help me without me asking. I have a group of close friends and co-workers who regularly drop off meals, send me restaurant gift cards, or do other random things that really help.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: "That which does not kill me makes me stronger". I know I am going through this for a reason, and that somehow I am a better person for it.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Read everything you can, join a support group, and be prepared to advocate for yourself.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: I have made new friends because of my illness, not just in spite of it.

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Buy 2 air conditioners for me and my family during the worst of the summer heat. A cool house helped my fatigue and overall well-being!

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: There is strength in numbers.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Empowered and hopeful.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Project 365: Week 37

I actually got out of the house a couple of times last week- it was nice! Here's a few picks of our comings and goings:

Sunday- dinner at my dad's- my brother and his family were there

Monday- the kids had fun running around in the yard after dinner- it ended up being a nice evening

Tuesday- med checkup for Morgan

Wednesday- the kids' favorite catty came- Oriental Trading Co. Halloween edition!
Thursday- dinner at dad's again
Friday- computer game time- Pet Pet Park and Barbie are faves right now

Saturday- next week's project is to declutter and organize the fridge

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Faves 9/16/11

Welcome! Hope you find something to inspire you today...

Beautiful and detailed explosion box.

Love this different take on making a wreath for your front door or home dec using felt circles.

Cute little star-shaped pin cushion. Easy hand-sewing. There's a link within this post for star-shaped pillows, as well.

Making bracelets out of Popsicle sticks.

Rainy day activities for kids.

Home-made Oxy Clean.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thankful Thursday 9/15/11

Having trouble maintaining my "gratitude attitude" lately. A little Thankful Thursday should fix that!

I am thankful for my wonderful little brother, who took me to a doctor's appointment and a couple of stores this past Tuesday.

I am thankful for co-workers who are still sending support in the form of sweet notes and gift cards.

I am thankful we worked out a way for my girls to be able to participate in their chosen fall activities- Drama for Morgan and Dance for Vivian.

I am thankful for two whole days without vomiting this week! (It's the little things, people! This medicine I'm on is almost as bad as the disease!)

I am thankful for the opportunity to be a guest blogger for the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association tomorrow. I wrote about parenting while having a chronic illness. I'd love for you to come check it out!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Living with Chronic Disease: My Mom was Chronically Ill

Me and Mom, Summer 1996, less than a year before she died.
I was in 5th grade when my mom was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. A few years after that came lupus.  She was often in pain and had low stamina. As the oldest child of four, I picked up a lot of the slack at home.

Dishes, vacuuming, taking my younger siblings to their activities- I felt like I was constantly doing "mom stuff", and often felt resentful. And there were scarey times, too.

I remember being 16, calling my mom from a friend's house to see if I could stay out later. On the phone, she was out of breath and I could hear the pain in her voice. She told me she was lying on the couch and was in too much pain to get up. I raced home to help her, my night out ruined. We spent the evening at the ER; she had broken a rib by coughing.

There were sad times, too. The summer before I entered high school her health had deteriorated so badly that my siblings and I moved in with our dad because mom was moving to Florida so her mother could care for her.

1994, High School football game
There are so many more good memories, however... She attended each and every football game I performed at as a Drill Team dancer.  She stayed up late one night typing my poetry book assignment in Junior High. Baking dozens of Christmas cookies every year. Her teaching me to crochet. Hearing her play the organ at church. The wedding dress fashion show she organized for my Girl Scout troupe. Her absolute devotion to the TV show "Dallas", but no other soap opera. She wouldn't drink coffee, only Constant Comment tea; but she still bought me a coffee pot for Christmas when I was 16.

My mother was very ill for many years before she died, yet looking back, I don't remember feeling cheated or that she wasn't a part of my life. Did I have extra chores in order to help her? Yes, so do my kids. Did I often have to stay home when she didn't feel well enough to take me to the mall? Yes, so do my kids. Was I raised to be responsible, independent, caring, and empathetic, in part because of my mother's illnesses? Yes, and so are my kids. For I am chronically ill, too.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Another Post About 9/11 (Talking to Your Kids About Death)

Ten years ago I was at work when the towers went down. We huddled around the television in the conference room, work all but forgotten. My doctor's office called to reschedule my appointment because the doctor was too upset and had gone home.

The 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks have generated lots of news coverage, bringing the topic of death up and front and center around here. Even more personal, my deteriorating health condition has recently prompted my kids to ask if I'm dying. (For the record, my condition is serious, but I'm not planning on going anywhere for a while).

At any rate, professionals seem to agree that when death for a loved one is imminent, or your kids are just at that age where they start to ask about dying, the best thing to do is talk. Keep it age appropriate, use clear terms (no "going to sleep" or "God called them to Heaven"), and reassure them about the practical stuff. Let them ask questions, and admit when you don't have the answers.

The following websites have some great information to help you with your conversations.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Faves 9/9/11 (Organize It!)

I have always been into organizing stuff. From an early age, I have been addicted to calendars, highlighters, file folders... all manner of office supply flotsam.

As the years have gone by, I admit to slipping a little. I have (more than) a little of my mother's piling habits. If you're a piler, you know what I mean! Piles of bills on the hutch, piles of kids' papers on the coffee table, piles of recipes in a shoebox. 

I have a lot of time at home right now, so I thought it was a good opportunity to revamp some of my household systems and getting a better hold on CALM.  I started by compiling a list of the main areas I wanted to focus on:

medical information
kids' papers
I could really go on and on, and probably will at some point, but as with any large project, you will be more successful if you break it down into small steps and prevent yourself from being overwhelmed.

The internet is such a vast resource for all things organizational. Ideas for organizing anything abound, and if you look in the right places, the information can be had for free! I've listed some of my favorite resources that pertain to the above categories, and some brief ideas on where I'm headed with my particular systems.
Home Management Notebook
Organizing Your Way has a great post on supplies, categories, and uses for a home management notebook. I am definitely creating one of these. I am in the beginning planning stages, and still deciding on my categories. So far I think it will include sections for bill paying/budget, one for each kid (activity schedules, school menu, etc.), information for babysitters, websites and passwords, and contacts.This is a great post because it has free printables for your binder.

Medical Information

As a lot of you know, my health problems have been especially troublesome lately. Making the rounds to several new specialists, and having to recount my history and tests results to each of them is simply exhausting, and often an incomplete endeavor. I had read a magazine article a while back about organizing medical records digitally, and it appealed to me at the time. I really wish I had ripped out that article! But, it was sitting in a doctor's waiting room, so I left it for the next patient. But I did start snooping around the internet, and will be exploring these options:

Organizing Life has downloadable forms that can be put into a binder for general information, or they may be good if you don't have any complex issues. I may use a few of these in my Home Management Notebook.

Paper Doll reviews some digital options, including flash drives and on-line services. I had intended to check out GoogleHealth, but when I checked out the link, I discovered this service will be discontinued in January 2012. Bummer. I may end up just creating files on my hard drive and scanning test results, etc.

Kids' Papers
 "I'm an Organizing Junkie" is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs for all things organizing. This post has some great links from elsewhere in blogland.

Here are some good tips from
For younger children’s artwork and papers, consider creating a Weekly Wall of Fame from a bulletin board in their room or study areas. Every week or so, tack up some of the work they bring home from school. Papers can then be sorted to what needs to be filed and what can safely be tossed.
Keep only the important cards. Birthday cards, invitations, and thank you cards can quickly overwhelm your storage places. Try to keep only the cards that really mean something special to you.

Some papers my girls bring home will go into my Home Management Notebook, but things like artwork and daily worksheets really overwhelm me.  Some tips I employ include:
Take photos of large or special art projects and keep the pics in a scrapbook or other photo-storage system. I keep a "School Days" album for each of my girls, and each school year has a 2-page spread dedicated to pictures of them with their art projects.

I keep only a few worksheets per year for the kids' scrapbooks. They get three report cards per year, which of course I save. Getting those report cards is a good reminder for me to choose a paper or two to keep- this way I get samples from the beginning, middle, and end of the school year.

A majority of the papers the kids bring home are one-sided. Instead of throwing out all that paper, I use the blank side for household computer printing or for the kids to color on. Saves money and natural resources!

I have long used menu planning to organize my grocery shopping and dinners. My recipes, on the other hand, are out of control! I have them stashed in a recipe box and binders. I have stacks of cookbooks and magazines. In addition, I have recipes saved on my computer and on Pinterest.  I am still debating what system to use, but I am leaning towards a large 3-ring binder. I really need to spend some time paring down before I commit, though.  Again, I'm an Organizing Junkie has tons of ideas and resources for this project.

I recently read a blog post that mentioned Springpad. I haven't done anything more than bookmark the site to check into later, but apparently you can save and organize recipes (among tons of other things) on it, and access it from your smart phone. I can see how this would come in handy at the grocery store!

I will keep you updated on my organizing efforts... Please share any tips or organizing projects you are working on!
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The MagiciansThe Magicians by Lev Grossman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I began this book thinking it was a Harry Potter rip-off. Kids are mysteriously summoned to a secret school for magic. They are "sorted" into groups by specific talents. There are exams and a school game, much like Quiddich. As the pages turned, I realized it is a more grown-up version of the Potter series (if not as fully developed- it's only one book!), and more focused on relationships and the inner transformation of Quintin, the main character. The author references Potter and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, both of which are clearly influences. But the references serve to show the distinction between the novels, not heighten or cheapen their similarity.

Don't look for a lot of magic words or specific spells in this book- they are few and far between. What you do get is a sometimes heartbreaking story of longing, fear, love and loss. A plot that hinges on decisions made and re-made. A cautionary tale of what can happen when you really do obtain your heart's desire. A book that makes you examine the true meaning of happiness.

Highly recommended for Potter lovers, as well as anyone who has ever felt like an outsider, special, or just downright unhappy with their lot in life. Not a quick read, but I will definitely be looking for more books by this author.

View all my reviews
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Menu Planning Week 36

Menu planning is a great organizational tool and really helps beats the "What's for dinner?" rush. 
I find it almost essential to my daily quest towards CALM.

Join us at "I'm an Organizing Junkie" for Menu Plan Monday!

Monday- Happy Labor Day!
Cookout with my family.

  • chicken pot pie
  • mashed potatoes
  • leftover
  • Frozen pizza (Mama Cozzi's brand from Aldi's- about $2.50 each!) 
  • Diet Coke Chicken (Recipe from "The Crock Pot Girls" on FaceBook, see below)
  • rice 
  • asparagus
  •  Frito Texas Meatloaf  (this was on last week's menu, but we were invited to my dad's instead. So on to this week's menu!)
  • Mixed vegetables
Diet Coke Chicken

4 chicken breasts 
one cup diet coke
one cup salsa 

Poor everything over chicken; set to low and cook til dinner time (8 hours). The chicken shreds and is tender and yummy.
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