Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Beauty



I'd like to take a moment to thank, from the bottom of my heart, my family, friends and readers of this blog (many who have become friends) for the texts, calls, emails, recipes, doctor/nutritionist recommendations, encouragement and general good feelings that you have sent this way concerning Harris' EE.  I so appreciate each and every one for making us feel so loved and held.  Community is a beautiful thing and we have an abundance in you.  Thank you.

a pink sunset!

A while ago, Gretchen and I decided to embark on a "year of beauty."  It started with us discussing how we'd like to get into a little bit better shape, finding a beauty routine/products that feel good and work consistently, and generally taking the time to take care of ourselves as we've realized we are most certainly not getting any younger!


However, I've realized that just as important, or maybe more so, is recognizing the beauty of what surrounds us everyday.  It seems to me that this appreciation and gratitude can help to lead to a more beautiful inside which, of course, leads to a more beautiful outside.

Grace made a love potion out of rose petals, lavender and thyme- she didn't say who it was for!

I'm going to become a hanky person just to use little beauties such as this

As our world gets scarier and scarier (the headlines lately make me despair for our children and ourselves) and our own lives take twisty and divergent turns from what we imagined, I'm going to chase beauty in all its forms.  It's all around me if only I look up!


Friday, September 26, 2014

Carrots + Hummus



Over the past couple of weeks, we have immensely enjoyed our carrots from the garden.  When we are in need of a carrot, or two, or three we simply go out to the garden and pluck one up!  They are so delicious!   My carrots are wonderful in their quirky looks- some are short and fat and some are crooked, long and skinny!  To be honest, I'm looking at food a lot more critically of late (see last post) and I have to wonder what makes our food so "perfect" looking.  It worries me, but it also makes me more determined to grow more vegetables!


I think the perfect compliment to carrots is hummus.  I love it and can't get enough.  Years ago, I made this hummus for one of Bryce's work events and his boss loved it and declared it "perfect," which was a huge compliment since his boss certainly knew his way around hummus.   The recipe is from an Ina Garten cookbook and the only change I've ever made is to not add as much garlic as she calls for.  However, I think it's purely dependent on the garlic you use and pure preference.  Of note, this hummus isn't particularly smooth or thin like what I've bought in the store, rather it's thick and substantial.  If you make it, I sure hope you love it as much as we do!


Hummus

2 cups canned chickpeas, drained and liquid reserved
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup tahini
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoon liquid from the chickpeas (if you forget to save the liquid like I always seem to do, water works just fine)
8 dashes Tabasco sauce (or to taste)

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until the hummus is coarsely pureed.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Update on Harris' Eosinophilic Esophagitis


When Harris was a little younger his doctor said to me, "For a little boy who is so healthy, he sure does have a thick file."

This is a tough post to write, especially as I've been all over the map in my feelings about it.  One minute I'm crying and the next minute I'm determined and confident that we can do this and then the next minute I dissolve back into tears, guilt and fear.  Five years ago, Harris was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis, or EE.  It's a food allergy that occurs on the inside of the body and damages the esophagus tissue.  The simplest explanation is that the body recognizes food as the enemy and sends white blood cells (eosinophils) to fight, but those eosinophils due significant damage to the esophageal tissue as they build up.  This is a separate allergy from his tree nut/peanut allergy which is an anaphylactic reaction.

For the past two years, we have been confident that his EE was under control.  His last biopsy showed his eosinophil count at 14, which is just at the point where his doctors's were moderately comfortable (you and I probably have 0 eosinophils in our esophagus).  He has been off of any and all corn for two years since we thought that was the culprit.  Last week, he had a check up endoscopy where his Dr. was very concerned with what he saw.  Harris has significant furrowing, plaque and striations on his esophagus.  The long term concern is that this tissue will scar which will then make eating and swallowing permanently more difficult (that's how we first became aware of an issue- food gets stuck!).

Once we got the numbers back of eosinophils present, the doctors were very concerned as he is currently at 65; which is really high and really not good.  Therefore, he will immediately go to a dairy, corn, gluten, and nut free diet.  Which is hard.  Doable, but hard.

From here we will stay with this elimination diet and then re-scope in 2 to 3 months.  Also, we will immediately see his allergist and most likely start from scratch.  Literally, we will probably start all over with the 3 day allergy scratch test.  I'll be sure to post how those appointments go.

There are several things that I feel so blessed about when it comes to Harris' condition.  First, we believe that this is manageable.  We thank God we aren't fighting something much bigger here and I'm working hard to keep it in perspective.  Secondly, we have the means to be able to feed Harris on such a specialized diet.  Gluten free bread, crackers, etc. are ridiculously expensive and I'm so thankful that we are able to shop for those items.  Also, as a stay at home Mom I have the time to meal plan and to make the specialized food for him as most processed food is off the table for now.

Most of all I feel so blessed that Harris is so amazingly good about these diet restrictions.  There were some tears as he realized that some of his favorite foods were going to be gone but all in all he's been really wonderful and made it easier than it could be.  After seeing Harris' esophagus his Doctor couldn't believe that Harris didn't complain every single day and I'm so thankful that Harris is mostly a happy, healthy child!  Even if his file is too thick for our liking.


Monday, September 22, 2014

The End of Summer and a Few Thoughts on Picture Taking



It's hard to believe that the summer drew to a close this past weekend.  We had such a wonderful summer and as much as I've always loved fall, I'm sad to see summer go.  In looking back at blog posts over the summer, I see that there is so much I didn't post about.


Of course, our big trips were blogged about and a few other small things, but in general our day to day summer didn't make it to the blog.  We had beach trips, day trips, adventures with friends, movies on the lawn, a lovely wedding, pool days, popsicles, bike rides, visits from far away friends and even visitors from another country who were strangers when they arrived but certainly not when they left.


It certainly wasn't intentional to leave things out, but I think it's indicative of my efforts to not miss out on what's around me due to the camera.  Let me explain.  I've noticed that when I'm constantly asking the children to "look this way, or smile that way" it starts to cut into that moment in time and alter their experience and mine as well.  It can be annoying too to those that are just trying to enjoy themselves to be asked to pose all the time.  A friend recently put it into words when she said, "life is not a photo-shoot."  It's so simple but true!



As I've started enjoying taking photos more and more, I've also realized that what I really enjoy is capturing the details of the moment, event, etc. and I think that gives everyone a little bit more room to breath and enjoy the moment instead of posing for a picture.  It's easy enough for me to take more candids instead of posing and even easier to not lug my big camera around all the time.


This doesn't mean that I don't want a picture of all of us or the children smiling at the camera, but it does mean that sometimes as much as I might want to call to everyone to wait and "let me get a picture" that sometimes, certainly not all the time, but sometimes I'm going to stop myself.  Some things need to be savored in just our memories anyway.

(these are the Norwegian girls who stayed with us for 4 nights through our church-it was a wonderful experience)

*Each picture here was taken with my phone.  The irony that this post is about non-posing pictures and yet almost each picture here is smiling and looking at the camera is not lost on me.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

In Honor of the BLT




This time of year some unusual things start to happen around our household.  Even though we haven't used paper towels regularly for years, we start to keep them on hand (to soak up bacon grease), our cast iron skillet doesn't even get put away but rather stays out on the burner (that skillet fries up bacon like no other!) and white bread is regularly bought along side our regular wheat bread.  It's BLT season and we can't get enough!

This year, it's thrilling to be able to use our own homegrown Brandywine tomatoes on our BLT's! They are so, so good.


In order to make the most of our BLT experience I've made our own mayonnaise, which for the record is easy and really, really good,  and sought out local bacon.  The bacon was a bit of a disappointment as both Bryce and I thought it tasted like fried ham rather than bacon.  Or is that what bacon is actually supposed to taste like?  We are unsure and on the fence about it.  But there is no denying that we love a good BLT and have enjoyed them immensely this season! What are you enjoying this season?




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dinner and a Movie- Rudy



 Oftentimes, when we decide to watch a movie as a family, Harris will say some off hand comment to the effect of, "Mom, go whip up some themed food and we will have dinner and movie night."  This is usually a mere thirty to 15 minutes before it's dinnertime or when we actually want to watch the movie.  All I can do is just look at him in a puzzled way and explain that some planning is actually involved to have a dinner themed to our movie of choice.  All this to say that this past weekend we did indeed have a dinner and a movie night.  We are all in a football sort of mood as fall is approaching and our Bulldogs are playing on Saturdays (we won't talk of their loss this past weekend) so Rudy was a perfect choice.  I'm a little embarrassed to say that I'd never seen it.  It was a great family movie and one that we all enjoyed.


Dinner was simple with Stadium Brats and chips and dip.  I made a 7 layer dip but put the guacamole on the top to resemble a football stadium.  It was easy peasy.  I also served some veggies to eat with or without the dip.


I put medical tape on the children's drinking glasses to look like football laces.  True confession: I only did the childrens.  It didn't take long but by the time the second one was done I was ready to move on.  Chocolate milk was the beverage of choice.


Dessert was ice cream sandwiches with laces piped on (I just mixed a little confectioners sugar and milk until the consistency was right) and a wooden handle with "plays" sharpied on.



Monday, September 15, 2014

Adventuring Grace




As I've mentioned before, Grace does not yet have an official phone.  However, this summer Bryce and I decided that we thought she could start dipping her toes in the social media pool with Instagram (she uses her Dad's old itouch!).  There have been a few moments where I questioned our wisdom over this decision, but overall it's been a positive experience.  She feels like she's a little more in touch with things and I'm finding it fascinating what she choices to post or write about.  This past weekend she wrote about her longing to be adventuring again.  And I might just be a proud parent but I thought what she wrote was beautiful!

Also, we have a lot of discussions about etiquette on Instagram and what's appropriate and what's not.  I had her read this article about selfies and I think it was helpful and is important for all of our children to realize that what they post makes a difference in how they are viewed by others.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Life with Children



This week has been all about getting back in a routine; homework, bedtimes, baseball, ballet, making lunches, setting alarms, etc.  The children have settled right in but I'm having a hard time with the fact that the children are getting so old (do I say that every year?).  There is so much I want to do with the children, both experiences and character development- but sometimes I get to the end of the day and wonder what I did that made a difference.  


Decisions now seem to be rife with long term implications!  Should Grace be allowed to text? Should Harris go to manners school since he still sometimes uses his fingers to eat and why hasn't our effort to eat at the table together every single night made a difference in that?    How should the children earn money- allowance or chores?  Have we worked hard enough to instill a really good work ethic in them (probably, no)?  Have we worked enough to combat entitlement and should we have bought that bike for Harris even though there was no special occasion except that he needed a bigger bike?   Do I fight this battle or wait for the next?  Which one is more important, cause they all feel important? The world is a big place and we haven't exposed the children to other cultures and ways of life enough, how do we do that?  And how do we fit in volunteer time?  Should we be pushing more or less in academics?  If Waldorf is so amazing for Grace why haven't we moved Harris?  Are the children going to be good, kind, considerate citizens of this world?  I could go on and on and on....


Please tell me I'm not the only one who sometimes feels that I'm running out of time to get it together and that everyone around me already has it together.

P.S.  These are just random photos that show up on my phone- selfies I suppose!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Garden Fence



Several weeks into our vegetable gardening venture, it became apparent that we would most certainly have to put a fence around the garden.  Both deer and bunnies had found our garden tasty enough to eat everything in sight!  Knowing that the fence we chose for our garden wasn't tall enough to keep deer out, Bryce installed a deer fence along the back of our property line since that's where they usually wander in.  The hope is that if one does venture in the fence will at least be a deterrent!  One can dream!


After debating the merits of an old wrought iron fence vs. a cedar fence, we went with cedar because we felt that it matched the overall feel of our home/yard better and it was much less expensive.  Also, I love the aged look of cedar!  I asked the fence company to build the fence very similarly to one I found online and overall I'm happy with it. The one change I would make would be to not have the edges of the wire showing.  I believe that would have involved more work to sandwich it between the pieces of wood, but I think it would have looked more finished.


My favorite thing about the whole fence is the gate handle that Bryce installed for me.  Years ago, I saw a gate handle that was a garden implement and it's stayed catalogued in the back of my mind until I had a place to have one too.  I love it and it's actually helpful to grab the handle when opening or closing the gate.  We have two gates opposite each other so that we have easy access from the shed and to the compost as well.


Monday, September 8, 2014

A New Bike



Sometime in the middle of summer, I got a new bike!  I love it and am so happy that I can now come closer to keeping up with the rest of my gang on their mountain bikes!



Two of my "must haves" were fenders that would keep mud, sand, etc. from flying up onto my clothes and a chain guard so that I wouldn't get grease on my clothes.


I'm still using my beautiful green basket that my in-laws gave me years ago and now I can also add stuff to the back using the rack.  In fact, Harris and I recently rode to play tennis together and we fashioned the rackets on the back of my bike easy peasy.  Also, I have been using a bungee cord to attach a basket that I've had forever and am so glad to find another use for!  Plus, it's super cute.


We are fortunate that we live in a town that has extensive bike trails that we are able to take advantage of.  We've even gone on a nighttime ride during the SuperMoon!  It was thrilling, scary and beautiful all at the same time.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Two Back to School Ideas


One of the things both children look forward to at the start of another school year is receiving their school cones.  We started this tradition when Grace entered kindergarten and it's always fun for the children.  In fact, Grace recently mentioned that she was definitely continuing this tradition when she has children!


This year, in addition to a few other things, I had fun putting together a little bag of candy.  We don't have a ton of candy so it's always a treat.  I found all of these candies in one place at our local Market.  I added a little note to go with each candy:
Remember:

To be a Smartie
To always be your Charming self and not a shrinking Violet.
Nerds are cool, Airheads are not!


Also, I made these school book sandwiches for the children's lunch.  Full disclosure: I checked with both children to see if they wanted a "themed" lunch or not.  I think they are at an age where I really want to be conscious and respectful of of their feelings in relation to their peers; I don't want to embarrass them!  They both chose to have the themed lunch.







Thursday, September 4, 2014

Back to School



Both of the children are now back in school full time (Grace started a day before Harris but it was a half-day) and I sort of can't believe that just like that, the summer is over.  I now have a 7th grader and a 4th grader!  Boy, that makes me feel old considering that when I started this blog Grace was going into 1st grade!  What a difference from then and now in how big they look and how they handle getting their stuff together and bags packed by themselves instead of me doing it all for them!



We had our traditional "back to school dinner" of alphabet soup and alphabet breadsticks.  I asked the children if they would like to mix it up and have different food since they are well past the alphabet stage but they chose to stay with our old tradition!


This year I made a pencil cake which I thought turned out very cute.  It's clearly not even close to perfect but no one seemed to care.  I literally decorated the cake while the soup was simmering and while making breadsticks- it was that easy (my Mom place the points on each pencil!).


Grace started off dinner by making a very cute and funny speech that she had prepared and typed up.



And this happened.  Bryce took matters into his own hands and cut Harris' fro hair.  I waited till the last minute to schedule a haircut and there were no appointments before school started.  Harris really wanted a trim so Bryce went for it.  I must say, he did a great job!


P.S.  Please note that Grace wore a dress to school!

 
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