Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Baked Penne

This is a simple baked pasta dish we all love. Aunt Cathy and Uncle Tim made it for us once, and I tweaked the recipe a bit to suit our tastes. It's warm and gooey and yummy, and not at all healthy! Using jars of spaghetti sauce makes this an easy meal that feeds a crowd. Oh, and the leftovers are fabulous!

Baked Penne (or Pizza Noodles, as we call it for Evie)
1 lb dry penne pasta
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.25 lb lean ground beef
2 (26 oz) jars spaghetti sauce
1 c shredded provel cheese (can substitute 8 oz sliced provolone)
1 c sour cream
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook penne according to package directions. Drain.

In a large pot (I use the same one I cooked the pasta in,) brown onion, garlic, and ground beef over medium heat. Add spaghetti sauce and simmer 15 minutes. Add cooked pasta and stir well to combine.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9X13 inch baking dish. Layer as follows: half of the penne and sauce mixture, provel (or provolone) cheese, sour cream, remaining penne and sauce and top with mozzarella cheese.

Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes in preheated oven. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Hog Heaven

The women of my family are quite adventurous.

My grandmother had a pilot's license as a young woman. Can you imagine being an unmarried woman in the nineteen thirties, telling your immigrant parents you want to fly airplanes? It was unheard of, but she did it. And she loved every second. Even in her last years, she loved those precious memories of flying. I recently held that pilot's license in my hands, and it brought me to tears.

GaGa, my mother, has always dreamed of her own motorcycle. To be exact, she's dreamed of her own Harley Davidson. This Saturday, she made that dream come true when she purchased a brand-spanking-new 2009 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Low. It even has silver and light blue pinstripes. And a windshield so she won't get bugs in her teeth. (She's still a girl, after all.)

We went to dinner Saturday night to celebrate. During dinner, my sister and I were discussing the brave women of our family. I mentioned that, in my case, the proverbial apple fell far from the tree. I am not brave.

I. am. scared. of. everything.

But Rachel imparted a little wisdom to me Saturday. Being brave and being strong are not mutually exclusive. I've been strong in my life. I've overcome a very humble beginning, and made a success of my life. I've left comfortable jobs to start new careers. I'm strong in my faith when the world does not always agree with me. I've survived infertility and IVF. I gave birth! I work hard to be a good mother and a good wife. I try to put my all into everything.

I've done many things when I was scared to death, but I persevered. And I guess being terrified, but pushing ahead anyway, is brave in its own right. At thirty-two years old, I've just had an awakening. I AM another in a long line of strong women. BRAVE, strong women.

Thanks to the women who came before me for paving the way. I love you all. Ride on, Mom!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Evie and I were just sitting on the couch together. She was eating her homemade trail mix of mini marshmallows, baby goldfish crackers, and chocolate chips. (And I resisted. Oh, to be a kid!)

As I watched her eat, I thought she seemed so dainty. She is a tiny girl, and she was eating with great elegance for a toddler. She brought bite after bite to her delicate little mouth. What a perfect and sweet daughter I have!

And she drew her gaze to me and looked me in the eyes. She proclaimed "Evie toot!" with a wicked grin.

The sweet part is from me. This farting part is all her father...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Quick & Easy Pizza Dough

Chris has been bugging me for awhile to make our own pizza. He loves pizza of any kind, but especially homemade pizza. Plus, we both thought it would be fun for Evie to add her own toppings.

I made this dough Saturday, and I have to say I will never buy Boboli again. This takes less than 5 minutes from start to finish and it is y-u-m-m-y! You don't even have to let the dough rise - you just plop it on the pan once it's mixed together.

Pizza Dough
3 c all-purpose flour
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
2 T olive oil
1 t salt
1 T sugar
1 c warm water (100-110 degrees F)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in oil and warm water. Spread out on a large pizza pan or pizza stone. Top as desired.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

I will warn you this dough is pretty sticky, but it turns out fine. You may want to oil your hands a bit when you're spreading it onto your cookie sheet. Also, I found that it stuck a bit to the bottom of the pan, although it was easy to get off with a spatula. Next time, I might add a sprinkle of cornmeal to prevent sticking.

This dough is so flavorful, and just the right thickness. We topped it with mozzarella and provel cheese and pepperoni. Evie also used chopped black olives. She had such a good time topping the pizza... and I've never seen her eat so much at dinner. Tonight, she specifically asked for pizza at dinner! That's a rave review if I've ever heard it!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tutu Easy!

Recently, I read a post on MomDot about making your own tutus. Then Prasti sent me an email with instructions. So yesterday, I tried it out.

It was easy and I think they turned out really cute! The only sewing I did was connecting the two ends of the elastic to make a waistband. I used about three yards of tulle for each tutu, and I cut the tulle into strips about 28 inches long and 6 inches wide. Then I just tied it to the elastic. Tada! Each tutu took less than half an hour to make, and I spent about $12 total.

Wanna try it? Here are a few links you can check out for instructions:

Tutu Instructions 1
Tutu Instructions 2
Tutu Instructions 3
Tutu Instructions 4
Tutu Instructions 5

Let me know if you make one! I'd love to see pictures!

Oh, wait until you see Evie's Halloween costume! I'm not going to spoil the surprise, but Aunt Rachel made something that required lots of sewing, and it is "tutu cute!"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Proud to Be an American

Friday, Uncle Joe became a United States Citizen. He, along with more than 1000 others from 108 countries, took part in the largest naturalization ceremony in Missouri history. And Evie and I were there to congratulate him.

Although the ceremony was held in an arena, it was an official court proceeding. The Honorable Mary Ann L. Medler administered the oath, and we watched with tears in our eyes. Afterward, Uncle Joe waved an American flag with true excitement.

I wanted to share with you the Oath of Allegiance these new citizens recited:

I hereby declare on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform non-combatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion: So help me God.

Jyoti, wave that American flag, YOUR new flag, proudly.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Twenty Months

Sweet Evie,

Yesterday was your twenty-month birthday. Right now you are sleeping peacefully in your bed, hopefully dreaming sweet dreams. You fell asleep minutes ago while I was holding you, and I deposited you safely into bed. I stood there an extra moment, just admiring your sleeping face. You are such a treasure.

Earlier today, you were prancing around in a new pair of shoes. They are actually boots, and you were excited to have them. You danced around exclaiming "Boots!" and then shook your feet through the banister. As I was watching this, I just couldn't believe Daddy and I made you. A little piece of me and a little piece of Daddy made this perfect little person who now lives in our house. Life is such a miracle.

Of course, you had two big changes this past month. You no longer nurse and you sleep in a big girl bed. Both of these were big events in our house, but they've long since faded away. It's amazing how quickly we settle into new routines. Instead of nursing, you and I cuddle a lot. I love when you wake up in the morning or from a nap and ask "Cuddle?" Oh, my heart just melts right away!

Your bed was a challenge, but you've accepted it now. Each night, I hold you until you fall asleep and put you in your bed. If we're lucky, you'll make it until early morning before you cry to come into our bed. Last night, you didn't come in at all - you slept by yourself the entire night. I've learned that one night does not make a pattern, so we'll see what the future holds. I can say I absolutely love putting you to sleep this way. I sit on the couch and hold you. You lay your sweet head on my shoulder, wiggle a bit, and drift off. It's a beautiful time for the two of us.

You are speaking so much and so clearly! I can't even keep track of how many words you say. My favorite right now is "milk," which you pronounce as "mewt." It cracks me up every time. You love Mermaid Lullaby, and sing a few parts with me, like "hush, hush." Your voice is very sweet, and I love to hear it. You can count to three - "Von, two, free!" and you know your colors. You correctly identify blue, yellow, orange, and pink. When I ask how old you are, you lift up one finger and say "Von!"

You really enjoy doing "projects." We've made play dough and get it out often. Daddy made a turtle from it once, and you've never forgotten. Now you ask for a turtle each time. You have a sweater box full of dried lentils and you love to pour them into cups and pitchers, and stir them with a wooden spoon. Today I walked away for a minute and you were sitting in the box when I returned! You like to color and paint and draw with chalk. Sometimes, we fill little bowls with water and food coloring, and you use a medicine dropper to drop the colored water onto paper towels. You make beautiful designs this way!

You always want to help me when I'm in the kitchen. You'll pull a chair over to the counter and climb up. You yell "Help!" so I know you're ready and willing to pitch in. You often are able to help a bit, by emptying a measuring cup of flour into a bowl or stirring something. Sometimes I give you a fake chore, like washing dishes, to keep you busy while I work.

Oh, your favorite food by far is "Candy!" I am probably doing something bad here, but I often use sweets as a bribe. It keeps you in the cart at the grocery store and usually gets you to eat that last bite of meat at dinner.

You still like turtles, but you are obsessed with anything Backyardigans. You have a guitar, book, bubble blower, See and Say, and sippy cups. Sometimes when we leave the house, you try to lug all of them with you! I'll look over and see a little pile you've started by the door, and you'll be dragging some other Backyardigans item over.

You're learning to ride a tricycle. I really can't believe it. Right in front of me, you're growing up. I know in a few months I'll read this and think about how little you were. But right now, you seem so big to me.

I love you, sweet girl. You are all the best things about me. You are my best gift from God, and I love you with all my heart.

Love, Mommy

Thursday, September 18, 2008

In Sickness and Health

Evie woke up with a fever Friday night.

It ended up being a mild illness. She ran a moderate temperature for a day or so, and was a bit irritable. Then yesterday, I noticed a fine pink rash on her torso and back. After consulting a handbook from our pediatrician, I diagnosed (all on my own) Roseola. The rash has already disappeared.

She is just fine - healthy and beautiful.

But every time I feel her hot skin, I think about the time Evie was hospitalized. And it kicks my Mother-Worry-Skills into high gear.

It was April 23rd, and she was just three months old. I had only been back to work for a week. Evie had run a fever for a couple of days, and Monday morning we took her to the pediatrician. He knew she had an infection, but couldn't diagnose the cause. The doctor sent us to the emergency room so they could run tests and treat her.

Oh, the ER! We waited and waited and waited! We were there all morning and into the afternoon. She was finally examined by a doctor who told us her RSV test was negative and ordered a breathing treatment.

While we were waiting, Evie's breathing became extremely labored. Her whole body moved with the effort to get oxygen to her lungs. The doctors talked about admitting her to the hospital, then to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. She got worse and worse. She was so dehydrated they had to put an IV in her little head and she needed to wear an oxygen mask.

That night was terrible. The house pediatrician at the hospital prepared us in case they had to intubate her. She was hooked to so many monitors that we couldn't hold her. We huddled over the sterile metal crib and tried our best to comfort her. Monitors beeped warnings all night. I was scared to death.

She recovered faster than anyone anticipated, and was home by the end of the week. Mickey and Minnie Mouse even had a chance to visit on our last day. But the experience has stuck with me. I have a little too much fear when she's sick, worrying the fever will escalate into something more.

Most of all, though, I appreciate my healthy child. When we were in the hospital, there were so many other children in the PICU who wouldn't have such a happy ending. So much suffering in such tiny bodies...

When little, unimportant things disrupt my world, I have to remember how blessed we truly are. We have our health. And we have each other.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Love this Post...

You should read this. Oh, we have a wonderful God!

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Taco Cupcakes

Here's a fun and yummy treat your kids (and husband!) are sure to love!

Taco Cupcakes
1 lb lean ground beef
1 c chopped onion
1 c frozen corn kernels
1 (12 oz) can refrigerated biscuit dough
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 package taco seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the cups of a muffin pan.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook beef and onion until brown. Drain excess fat. Stir in taco seasoning, cheese, and corn. Remove from heat.

Flatten each biscuit and press into cups of prepared muffin pan. Make sure the dough comes to the top of the pan. Spoon a portion of the meat mixture into each dough cup.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.

I deviate from the recipe a bit by using a can of Grands Buttermilk Biscuits. I think it's 16 ounces. I cut the biscuits in half and then flatten them. It makes 16 taco cupcakes.

You can also try the cups made with BBQ sauce instead of taco seasoning, or tuna and cheese, or spaghetti sauce and mozzarella.

Can't get enough recipes? Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays, so check it out!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Noodleboro Review & Contest

Remember all the fun you had playing games as a child? I loved Candy Land and Clue and Life (as long as I was the banker!)

As an adult, I still love to play games. Did you know Chris and I have NEVER lost at Trivial Pursuit? When we get together with the Hubmeiers, we have great fun playing rowdy games of Balderdash, Cranium, and Guesstures. And we L-O-V-E card games! Hearts, anyone???

I recently had the opportunity to review a new game from Playskool Games. It's called Learning to... Listen Pizza Palace Game, and it's part of their new Noodleboro series. This line of games focuses on teaching children important social skills like listening, manners, and sharing. And they do it in a fun way!

The game is for players age four and up, so Evie hasn't had a chance to play yet! But the game also includes a book and audio CD that she's been enjoying.

The game itself is super-cute. Basically, the parent is the customer who orders a pizza. The child has to listen to the order and build the pizza with the correct toppings. Once enough pizzas are built, the chef hat reaches the giant hat and everyone wins! There are also teamwork and timed versions for variety.

Now that the weather has turned cooler, I can't wait to have friends over for a game night. This game will certainly be on the agenda for children!

Want a chance to WIN your own Noodleboro game? Mom Central is raffling off 200 games. Visit this link to enter.

Crisis Averted

This afternoon, Evie and I were putting clothes away. When I say "Evie and I," I am exaggerating a bit. I mean to say, I was folding clothes a little faster than she was unfolding them. Laundry takes a long time when you have a one-year-old assistant.

Anyway, I left her in my bedroom for a second to hang a few dresses in her closet. Coming back down the hall, I heard my door slam closed. When I tried to open it, I panicked. It was locked, from the inside. Evie was on the inside and I was on the outside. See the problem?

I freaked out a little more than was warranted. The first thing that ran through my mind was that the door to my bathroom was open. For a split second, I worried she would drown in the toilet. She doesn't really play in the toilet, so I calmed myself. Then I worried that I would never get the door open and the fire department would have to come and get her out. And I wasn't wearing a bra.

I decided to take control of the situation. I've never picked a lock before, but how hard can it be? I grabbed a metal skewer from a kitchen drawer and rammed it into the door handle. I jiggled it around. Nothing.

So I swallowed my pride and called my husband.

Chris: Hello?
Me: I have some bad news.
Evie: (From the other side of the door) Mommy?
Chris: What?
Me: Evie has locked herself in our bedroom, and I can't get the door unlocked.
Evie: (From the other side of the door) Mommy?
Chris: She keeps closing the doors all the time. We knew this was going to happen.
Evie: (From the other side of the door) Mommy?
Chris: I'm not blaming you. Now, listen. Get the little blue screwdriver case from the bottom drawer in the kitchen desk.
Me: Okay.
Chris: You should do it now, while we're on the phone.
Me: Okay. I have them now.
Chris: Take the smallest flat-head screwdriver and put it in the lock.
Evie: (From the other side of the door) Mommy?
Me: Okay.
Chris: Now, just twist it. The lock should turn.
Me: Oh, thank God! It's open!

I love my cool-as-a-cucumber husband. And when the door opened, Evie was playing by the bed, completely unaware of my almost-meltdown.

Thanks, Chris.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Whole World

We're all tired.

Last night, we attended the wedding of a dear friend. She was beautiful and we all had a great time. Evie particularly liked watching the Irish Dance Troupe perform!

So we arrived home late, put Evie to bed, and stayed up way too long watching Hurricane Ike coverage. In the middle of the night, poor Evie woke up with a fever. It's been a long day.

But I wanted to share a rare family picture that was taken last night. It seems one of us is always behind the camera, so we don't have too many photos of the three of us.

My whole entire world is right in this shot. Perfect, huh?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Let Freedom Ring!

On this, the seventh anniversary of a terrible tragedy, I have hope.

Each year, as the calendar flips to September, I start counting down the days. I remember what I was doing when I first heard the planes hit, when I heard the towers fell, when I heard the Pentagon was under attack, when I heard yet another plane went down in a field. I remember the sun shining so brightly that day, in contrast to the pain in my heart. I remember falling into Chris' arms when I arrived home in the evening, and falling to my knees in prayer.

The world changed on that awful day. I was oblivious to much of the danger and hate in our world. But now we are ALL painfully aware of messy politics and religion and humanity. My daughter will forever grow up in this, thinking it is normal. As American citizens, it's now normal to worry about security at the Super Bowl, normal to see soldiers at the airport, normal to glance with wariness at an airplane in the sky which seems just a little too close.

However, a citizen is about to be added to our ranks. My brother-in-law, Muhammad Mashiur Rahman, also known as Jyoti and Uncle Joe, passed a test yesterday to allow him to become a United States citizen. Jyoti was born and grew up in poverty-stricken Bangladesh. His parents were educators, and understood the great value of knowledge. As a child he read about America, listened to our music, and studied our language. From an uncle, he heard about the great opportunities in the United States. Jyoti yearned to make a life here.

But it wasn't simple. Everyone in the world wants to live in the USA. Jyoti had to take an English-proficency test (the TOEFL) for admission to college. He had to borrow money from his family, to show he could support himself here. He had to apply and interview for a visa. And he had quite a bit of luck to be accepted into our country.

So he arrived, attended college, met my sister at a fraternity party, graduated, moved to New York and California and now Missouri to be with Rachel. They just celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary. And all the while, he has been in LOVE with America. He loves the people, the democratic process, the hope and opportunity. He has built a wonderful life with my sister here, complete with a house and a dog and tickets to Cardinals games.

And our Uncle Joe is a Muslim. He was raised in a Muslim family by loving parents. (I've met them, so I know how great they really are. They still send me Christmas cards, all the way across the world, each year.) Religion is an important part of who he is, which is why I even mention it. But he's not a fanatic, just a normal man like most Muslims. He celebrates Christian religious holidays and has even attended church with us on occasion.

Next Friday, I will have the honor of watching Jyoti as he is sworn in as a United States Citizen. For the first time, he will have an American passport. He will vote in his very first Presidential election. He will have all of the freedoms that come with citizenship, but I assure you he will not take them for granted.

On an anniversary when intolerant and hateful people tried to change our nation, I can sincerely say they haven't. Fellow Americans, Jyoti feels blessed to be a part of our great country. But I think we are the lucky ones. We are welcoming a freedom-loving, flag-waving man into our ranks. He's as American as the baseball games he loves so much.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sleepless in St. Louis

Evie's will is stronger than mine, at least when it comes to sleep.

Several weeks ago, I was fighting the battle to get her to sleep, and I just wanted to SHAKE HER! Um, that's a bad sign. So then and there, I gave up. I have spent way too much time over the past year and a half trying to make Evie fall asleep in her own bed, and stay there during the night.

Under the "New Sleep Plan," Evie takes her bath, we brush her teeth, we have a sip of water, and I hold her on the couch until she conks out. (This has allowed me to get all caught up on The OC, much to my embarrassment. DID YOU KNOW MARISSA DIES? HOLY COW!) Then I carry her into her room and lay her in bed.

At first, this worked well. She would fall asleep quickly and sleep in her own bed until two or three in the morning, when she would cry and I would bring her into our bed. Do-able, right?

But she began waking up when I put her into her own bed. She would cry, and I would take her back to the living room, and finish my The OC episode. When I finally got her down, she would wake up between ten and eleven o'clock, and I would have to put her in our bed to get her back to sleep. I felt like I was losing all of my Alone Time with Chris. (Plus, it was seriously cutting into my nightime Bloggy Time!)

So last night, I implemented the "New New Sleep Plan." We followed the same routine, but when Evie woke up as I was putting her in her bed, I didn't take her back into the living room. I waited it out through a couple minutes of crying (that was all!) until she layed down in her bed. I played her new favorite song Mermaid Lullaby, and sat with her until she fell asleep. Then I snuck out! It took about twenty minutes, but it was pretty painless. And she was in HER BED!

I expected her to wake up by eleven, but she kept sleeping. She didn't wake up until 5:30 AM!

Now, you would expect that I slept well? Nope. I missed Evie. I like watching her sleep, knowing she is safe and sound. I like her warm little body next to mine. I don't like when her chubby fist punches me in the eye while she's sleeping, or the way her tiny feet dig into my back. Still, I woke up a million times last night, almost willing her to call for me! I am one seriously messed up mother.

But I brought her in at 5:30, snuggled up to my baby, and slept well for the first time all night.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Summer Brew & Little Stars

I thought I'd share two recipes today, one for you and one for the kiddos!

We first had Summer Brew when we were in Ohio this summer. I was skeptical when I heard the ingredients, but I ended up drinking it all weekend! It is refreshing and delicious. Beware, though -- the alcohol packs a punch and can sneak up on you! Serve this in a pretty pitcher when you have a crowd.

The Little Stars recipe is one of Evie's favorites. It works as a quick and easy main dish for her, and a good side for us. It's very simple, but very tasty!

Summer Brew
12 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate
12 oz. vodka
4 beers

Mix frozen lemonade and vodka in pitcher until combined. Add beer and stir. Serve over ice. (A tip -- to measure the 12 ounces of vodka, just pour vodka into the empty lemonade can.)

Guys seem to prefer a light lager like Bud Light, but I think a wheat beer like Shock Top Belgian White or Michelob Dunkel Wiess makes the Summer Brew sweeter. (What can I say? Even though I don't work there anymore, I'm still a loyal A-B girl!)


Little Stars
1 c. stelline pasta (or other small shapes like alphabet or riso)
4 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 T butter, softened

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until tender, but still al dente, about five minutes. Stir often to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Drain.

In a large bowl, toss the hot pasta with 2 T of the cheese and stir until the cheese coats the pasta completely. Add the butter, and stir until melted. Toss with the remaining cheese. Season to taste with salt and serve immediately.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Kids Say the Darndest Things

So I was going to write a post about all the cute things Evie says lately. For instance, she has been saying "Hoe-dyou," for so long, and yesterday I just figured out what it means. "Hold you." As in, "Hold me, please, Mommy." And this one is gross, but she picks her nose and holds her finger in the air, saying "Got it!" (I have no idea how she learned this!)

But after dinner tonight, our neighbor Mia trumped all of Evie's sayings. Mia came bounding up to us, yelling "My mouth is on fire! Please, someone spit in it!"

Mia turns five tomorrow. It cracks me up to think of what Evie might be saying when she is Mia's age...

What's the funniest thing your child has said? I can't wait to read the comments on this one!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Circus is Coming to Town!

The Greatest Show on Earth is coming to St. Louis! And we are going to see it!

I know I went to the circus as a child, but I don't have a clear memory of the Big Top. I only vaguely remember some kind of glow-in-the-dark toy I got. But I'd like Evie to experience the magic of the circus. I can already imagine the acrobats and elephants and clowns.

So when I heard Ringling Bros. and Barnam & Bailey is bringing their show to St. Louis in November, I decided to purchase tickets. Grandpa will be in town, too, so we'll make it a family affair! I hope this is the start of a new tradition!

I wish I had known a year ago about the Baby's First Circus program. If I had, this very special "first" for Evie would be FREE! But I do know about a discount code (MCC - pass this on!) that gives you a 20% discount on tickets for the following shows:

Indianapolis, IN - Sept. 4-7, 2008
Kansas City, MO - Sept. 10-14, 2008
Grand Rapids, MI - Sept. 18-21, 2008
Denver, CO - Oct. 2-13, 2008
Boston, MA - Oct. 8-13, 2008
Cleveland, OH - Oct. 24 - Nov. 2
Chicago, IL - Nov. 6 - 30, 2008
St. Louis, MO - Nov. 6-9, 2008
Auburn Hills, MI - Nov. 12 - 16, 2008
Highland Heights, KY - Feb 27 - Mar. 1, 2009
Cincinnati, OH - Mar. 4 - 8, 2008

Stay tuned in November - I'm sure we'll have a story and lots of pictures!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Growing Like a Weed

This is Evie about a year ago.

I admit I've been pretty melancholy lately about how fast Evie is growing up. These precious days are slipping right through my fingers.

I've been reading some journal entries from last year. A year ago today, I wrote:
You and Daddy have "pillow fights" now. Basically, he just drops a pillow on your face. You think it's absolutely hilarious and break into giggles! (Daddy just asked me to write that he always wins these pillow fights.)
You are growing up so fast! You're pulling up on everything - always standing. You move around the house by crawling, or by holding onto things and "cruising."
Oh, you are so sweet! I love you so much, Precious One!

I realized something when I read these entries. Life was good a year ago. Chris and I were so happy with our miracle daughter. She was sweet and beautiful. We cherished every minute.

But the same holds true today. While I have these wonderful memories, we continue to make more. I'm not losing my baby - each day is simply adding more and more to the fantastic Story of Evie.

Oh, we prayed hard for God to send us a baby. We prayed, and everyone around us prayed. And God sent this beautiful gift to us. I am so grateful we have a healthy, darling, and yes, GROWING daughter.

There's much more to the treasured Story of Evie, and I'm excited to see what the next chapter brings.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Baked Teriyaki Chicken

I made this the other night, and it's one of the best dinners I have ever prepared. Plus, it's easy and healthy!

Baked Teriyaki Chicken
2 T cornstarch
2 T cold water
1 c white sugar
1 c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 c cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground black pepper
12 skinless chicken thighs

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine all ingredients except the chicken thighs. Let simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and bubbles.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place chicken pieces in a foil-lined 9X13 inch baking dish. Brush with sauce on both sides.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Turn pieces over and bake for another 30 minutes. Brush with sauce every 10 minutes during cooking.

I almost didn't make this because you have to brush the chicken with sauce every 10 minutes. But that ended up being pretty easy, and well worth the minimal effort. I didn't brush the sauce on, though, I just spooned a little over each piece.

I couldn't find skinless chicken thighs with the bone still in. (I think the bone helps keep the meat nice and moist.) I ended up buying regular thighs and asking Chris to remove the skin. (I heart my husband!)

Serve this over white or brown rice with veggies on the side. This would also be tasty on salmon or shrimp.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Bye Bye, Summertime!

We spent the afternoon at The Bucket Pool.

Today was the last day our pool was open. We've spent several days each week at the pool since Memorial Day, and it's become part of the story of our summer.

I was struck, of course, by how much Evie has grown in a few short months. First of all, she's several inches taller than she was at the end of May. She can stand in parts of the water that used to be too deep for her. Even her hair is different - if I spray sunscreen on her shoulders, it gets in the hair curling past the nape of her neck. It's grown so long!

At the beginning of summer, we spent most of our time in the Spray Pool. It is ultra-shallow and Evie had tons of fun playing in the fountains and bubblers. She filled up cups of water and dumped them on my feet. She had little toy boats and fish and watering cans that kept her busy.

But she's outgrown the "Baby Pool." Now we head right to the regular kid pool. She L-O-V-E-S playing in the big pool with Daddy. Evie splashes and jumps and "swims" on her noodle. She couldn't do any of these things (except the splashing) when we first came to the pool.

As things were winding down this afternoon, The Girls showed up at the pool. It was a perfect way to end the day. Evie played with them, and I couldn't help but think how lucky we all are. A man kept shouting "Life is good!" to his little son. I wanted to yell back "Yes, it is!"

We took one last ride on the Lazy River. My dare-devil daughter loves going under the waterfalls, so we went around a couple of times. Each time we went under a bridge, we sang out "Nine dogs on a moonlit night - Aoooooooo!" And Evie was finally able to touch the waterfall spilling out from under the water slides. She's been dying to do that all summer.

Bye bye, Baby Pool. Bye bye, Lazy River. Bye bye, Bucket Pool.

Bye bye, Summertime. Bye bye, Baby Evie. Next year when we come back you'll be a real girl. But remember, you'll always be my baby.