For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows grace and favor and glory - honor, splendor and heavenly bliss! No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Psalms 84:11

Friday, August 28, 2009

Small Victories!

Brushing the girls' teeth has been a major struggle. So much so that I'm often guilty of just giving up and not even trying. Gross!!

But last night I decided to try a new approach. In the past I've just taken their brushes into the living room and brushed their teeth sans toothpaste. Well I finally got some training toothpaste (the kind that's safe to swallow) and decided to give it a go. I took a chair into the bathroom, got the brushes and toothpaste all ready, and then I went and got Ziva. Took a few minutes to convince her that she should stand on the chair rather than sit. But finally I got her on her two feet and gave her a taste of the toothpaste. Hmmm... this might not be so bad! I told her to look in the mirror, and she did, while she allowed me to brush her teeth with NO struggle!! And then I tried to teach her how to spit, which she thought was hilarious! Then I put some water in my mouth to demonstrate how to swish, she was laughing so hard she could barely stand up! And then we were all done. She started to get upset about being done, but when I assured her that we'd do it again tomorrow she calmed down. Then it was Anya's turn. Anya had a more subdued response, but she was also willing to give it a go and her teeth got cleaned. She was very interested in playing with the water, and was fascinating by my gargling demonstration.

Anyway, it was really fun! It's so exciting to see them learning new things and getting excited about the most basic things that we grown-ups take for granted. :) Certainly a bright spot in what has been an otherwise crummy week.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to Square One

Short version: Dr. appt. was a bust. Hubs test results came back negative, which means he still has no diagnosis. Dr. recommends physical therapy, which sounds scary to me if they don't actually know what's wrong with him. How do they know that won't make things worse?

Sad. Concerned. Prayerful.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Something had to give

Well, I apologize for disappearing off the face of the blogosphere for a while there. Things have been crazy and stressful around here, and I've worked my way into survival mode. Which basically means anything that I don't absolutely HAVE to do pretty much isn't getting done. Including my blogging.

Now Hubs would say that I'm doing plenty of things that don't HAVE to be done and that I'm piling too much on my plate for no reason. But in his mind preserving our garden produce isn't necessary, and in my mind it is. So there you go! And of course my garden is going crazy! I picked 9 cucumbers yesterday, and a couple days before that I picked 11! So needless to say, I'm making a lot of pickles. At least one batch a week and often 2 or 3 batches. And I also made a huge batch of Ina Garten's Fresh Tomato Basil Soup, which I highly recommend if you have a surplus of tomatoes like I do. My tomato plants are now officially 7 feet tall, with many green ones coming along, and I'm coming up with plans for them. Salsa and spaghetti sauce are certainly on the list.

That may not sound stressful to you, and under normal circumstances it wouldn't stress me out either. But we're not living under normal circumstances.

Hubs is still in massive pain with his shoulder. Two weeks ago we went to see a surgeon, and he basically said that Hubs needed physical therapy because his nerve endings had become so sensitive that the surgeon couldn't locate where the pain was coming from. We were both very disappointed with this news. We were hoping that the surgeon would order more imaging so that we would get a definitive answer about what's going on, because up to this point Hubs hasn't received a diagnosis. Yup, it's been 5 months and 4 doctors, and still no diagnosis. So we were pretty bummed out. Thankfully immediately after that appointment we took off for the beach together sans kids, so we were able to console ourselves with alcoholic beverages and no responsibilities for 2 days. It was MUCH needed! While we were gone the girls had a fabulous time with Grandma & Grandpa. So they had a great vacation too!

Then just this last Monday I started having my own shoulder pain. It had been coming on slowly over the past couple months. An old car accident rotator cuff injury. I usually have to see my chiropractor about twice a year to help me out with it. In between I do exercises daily to keep the pain at bay. It's just something I've learned to live with over the years. But doing all the heavy lifting (both literally and figuratively) for the past 5 months has really taken it's toll on my body. I've learned that I really have to stop carrying both my babies at once. They're getting too big, and I'm just not that strong. I've seen my chiropractor twice this past week, and I'll see her once again next week, and hopefully that'll do the trick. Although last time I saw her she said, "Man, you really messed it up this time." So I might have to keep seeing her for a while. I'm thinking we should get a group rate or something for as much as we're seeing her these days! lol

And then Wednesday Hubs had an appointment that he's been dreading for about a month. Workman's comp has required him to be evaluated by 3 of their own doctors: a chiropractor, a neurologist, and a surgeon. All at the same time. It was a marathon appointment that lasted about 4 hours. But God works in mysterious ways let me tell ya!!! Hubs cracked a joke right off the bat and made them all laugh, and then it was smooth sailing from there! He mentioned at one point that we had twins, and it turned out one of the doctors IS a twin. So they were pretty sold on the idea that Hubs is an upstanding fellow and not just some looser faking an injury to get workman's comp benefits. At the end of the appointment one of the doctors told him, "Thank you for being so open and honest with us." Awesome!! And would you believe it? They went ahead and ordered additional imaging for Hubs' shoulder!! They told Hubs that technically they're not supposed to order tests, but that it was in everyone's best interest that he get a proper diagnosis and get the proper treatment. Hallelujah!! Isn't it totally like God to take the thing you're dreading and turn it into the best thing ever??

So yesterday Hubs went in for a very lengthy set of imaging tests. They injected dye into his shoulder for the MRI, and took a whole series of x-rays, some while holding a 10 lbs. weight. And thankfully I had the forethought to call his surgeon back and make an appointment to go over the results, we are getting in to see him on Wednesday.

We are praying like crazy that the source of his injury can be clearly seen on the imaging that was taken, and that the next course of action will be clear and decisive. Our chiropractor is fairly certain that Hubs needs surgery, and as long as I've known her (20+ years) she's never been wrong. We are anxious to have things progress in the right direction because for the past 5 months we feel like that hasn't happened.

In the meantime, Hubs is in a great deal of pain from all the tests they did on Friday. So we're keeping close to home this weekend. I'll probably spend a lot of time coloring with the girls because taking them for a walk has become too painful for me and I feel like a horrible mom when I can't get them out of the house. Thankfully my parents have helped out a lot. And I have great neighbors who are always willing to jump in when there's an emergency. Without them I'd feel very isolated and helpless.

So that's pretty much why I haven't been blogging lately. :) That and the idea of taking pictures of things, resizing them, and posting them, just sounds like a lot of work. So the plan is that I'm going to focus on just writing, nothing more, because frankly I just can't handle more at this point. My posts are probably going to be speratic at best. But be assured that I'm not gone, I'm just trudging along doing the best I can in a tough situation. A couple of you have emailed me to check and see if I'm ok. Thank you SO much!! You are such sweethearts, and I feel so lucky to have people out there who care even if we have never met in person.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Such an Accomplishment!

I have LIVED to tell the tale!!!

Yes, that's right, I took the girls grocery shopping.

Now that may not sound like such a big deal, but it's hard. And something that I don't usually do. Normally I try to time my grocery trips so that Hubs can watch the girls and I can go by myself. But today, well... today I just got a little bit crazy and decided to give it a whirl.

In case you don't have kids or only have one, here's my little breakdown of what such an adventure involves.

First, I folded up my deluxe double stroller and loaded it into the car. I don't have one of those really cool lightweight ones that fold up like an umbrella. No, mine weighs about 35 lbs. and is about as convenient as brushing your teeth without your hands. But I've been living with it for 2 years now and at this point I'm not willing to spend money on a better one.

Next I go get my kids. One has no pants on and the other has a poopy diaper. So it takes a few minutes to get everyone clean and presentable. I grab one kid to load into the car while the other watches TV. I take the first kid and strap her into her car seat, close and lock the door, while I rush to go get the other one. Turn off the TV, thankfully this one still has her pants on, and I take and load her into the car.

I do a mental check to make sure I have everything, including my brain, that's always a good thing. Thankfully I have everything I need including my earth friendly shopping bags. So I put myself in the car, slam the door, and WHEW! Am I sweating already? Just a little bit, hopefully no one will notice.

So off to the store we go! At this point I'm feeling very proud of myself for even considering this. I've taken the girls to the store before, but always to just grab a thing or two. Today I'm doing the big weekly trip, which means I'll have to get a cart while pushing the stroller... man... why am I doing this? Should I turn around and go back home and forget this ever happened? Stay calm, Amy. You can DO this!!!

In addition to the little pep talk I give myself, I also say a little prayer, "Please God, let this go easier than I expect! Let there be nice people who make room for me and my cart + stroller. AMEN!"

What I'm really hoping for is a store employee to come along with me to do my shopping. Why don't they offer that kind of service??? I'm sure there are other people who would use it.

I pull into the parking lot. Get out the stroller. One child has apparently learned how to work her arms out of the straps. Oh great! I tell her no-no while pointing to her straps and then get her out and load her into the stroller. Then I wheel around to the other side of the vehicle and get out the other kid and put her in too. Shut the doors. Oh wait, the bags! Open the doors, get the bags, shut the doors, set the alarm. Am I sweating again? Dang it! Well hopefully it's just a rosey glow.

Into the store we go! At least it's cooler in here. I pick a cart and pray it's fully functional. With one arm I push the stroller, and with the other I pull the cart behind me. Right off the bat an employee says, "Hey, that looks like WORK!" I say, "Psh, it ain't nothin'!" But what I'm really thinking is, "Yeah, it is, wanna give me a hand?!?"

It takes me a while to figure out how to navigate the stroller, which really needs two hands to stay on course. Finally I figure out that if I use my right arm, and push it with my entire forearm I can push with my hand to turn right, and my elbow to turn left. I get lots of strange looks. Oh well.

On my way out another stranger comments, "Wow! You're a pro!" I say, "It takes practice."

At the check out the lady asks if I'd like help out to my car, "YES!!!"

It took me 3 hours, usually it takes me 2 so that's really not too bad. I'm not sure that I'll repeat this event again anytime soon. Not unless I'm bored and have a lot of energy that I need to expend. But it IS possible, and I CAN do it, and that makes me feel like I climbed Mt. Everest today.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Bread - Fresh From My Garden

I know I promised some zucchini recipes a while back, and while I did post this recipe I kinda fell off the band waggon about posting others. So here's a great one I've been using for years now.

It came from this cook book:

I went to the Franciscan Montissori Earth School in Portland, OR when I was in grade school. So when my mom found this at a used book store, and then gave it to me for Christmas, I was VERY excited! Those years at the Earth school were such a magical time in my life. In fact, I seriously considered becoming Catholic just so I could become a Franciscan nun.

But I guess I just liked boys too much.

They live in Bridal Veil, OR which is about a 40-45 minute drive from Portland. And it's such a gorgeous setting it's really no wonder they're willing to commute such a distance. They actually have a water fall in their back yard!! How cool is that?!

Here is the little blurb about them from the book:

The acreage itself provides an environment in which to learn and grow. The land is a classroom for the Franciscan Montessori Earth School in Portland, Oregon, which fosters a creative learning environment for children pre-school through high school. Here the students are awakened to their responsibility to be stewards of the earth. In complement, the land provides a fertile centering for the Sisters' counseling program which incorporates the care of animals, the herb, vegetable and flower gardens as part of the therapeutic process.

Each chapter features a different convent from around the world. It's really pretty amazing to read about each of their missions and how they minister to different segments of society, yet have a common theme that binds them together, their love of Christ.

So onto the bread! I don't ever remember eating Franciscan zucchini bread, but I do remember eating other things that came from their kitchen and seriously, those ladies can COOK! So I knew any recipe that came out of this book would be a hit. This time I tweeked the recipe a bit to make it my own by adding cocoa powder and chocolate chips. I figured that pretty much anything is better with chocolate, and I was right!

First I took my shredded zucchini from the freezer. What? You don't freeze your zucchini?? You're missing out! It's super easy if you use a food processor or salad shooter, and then you can use it in all kinds of recipes year round.

Then you beat 3 eggs.

And add 2 cups of sugar.

And 1 cup of oil.

And 1 T of vanilla. Yup, it's more vanilla than the recipe calls for, but I like most recipes with some extra.

Then you add 1 cup of zucchini. I don't have a picture of that. Oops!

Then you mix up your dry ingredients. Here I have 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour, 1 tsp. of salt, 1 tsp. of baking soda, 1 T of cinnamon, 1/4 t of baking powder.

And then I added 1/4 cup of cocoa powder.

Then I added a little at a time to the wet mixture and combined until smooth.

Then I added a cup of chocolate chips.

You can make 2 loaves with this batter, but I only made one.

And it was good!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Adapted from Franciscan Heritage Cookbook

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup grated zucchini
1 T vanilla
3 cups flour (I used a combo of all purpose and whole wheat)
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 T cinnamon
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup of chocolate chips

Beat eggs. Add sugar and oil, beat for 2 minutes. Add zucchini. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then mix with wet until it has a smooth consistency. Mix in chocolate chips. Pour into well greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour.
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