Nothing to do but write…and cheer

We once again find ourselves on the cold, hard, silver bleachers at a new church, preparing to watch Hannah’s volleyball games. Well…I’m here, while the rest of the family stayed behind in Lexington. It’s probably just as well: for the games that aren’t at our church, the drive is long, the bleachers are few, and the ability to do anything else but sit and watch is almost nil. That’s fine for me, but I’m sure the other kids would be bored in a very short period of time. And as long as they are able to stay home, I know they would rather. They’ll get enough volleyball at the home games.

Having never really paid much attention to volleyball before this year, it has been a tutorial in several ways. Sure, I had played it in gym class, but truth be told, I took my PE credits in summer school so I wouldn’t miss the AP classes I wanted to take during the school year. I think we played volleyball for a week or two that summer–between walking 5 miles a day and bowling on Fridays–and with my lack of depth perception, I can assure you that as volleyball players go, I didn’t. (We can just leave it at that.)

But Hannah has really enjoyed learning the sport, and shows real promise. She has become familiar with the terminology and the strategy and has a strong serve that surprised us all. I, on the other hand, despite watching most if not all of the games, still know very little other than the basics of the basics. I have learned a few things, however, in my observations. For example, girls need to come together after almost every point and clap hands and offer well wishes to each other. (The team tonight had a mini dance to celebrate an ace.) Important note: no slapping backsides. They are also extremely forgiving–at least outwardly so–towards any girl who misses a play or gives up a point. This is definitely not Bobby Knight’s league. (In retrospect, since young and impressionable ears are listening, this is probably a really good thing!) Lastly, because we play in a Christian league, the uniform rules dictate modest dress at all times, including culottes which harken back to the times of MC Hammer. I kind of expect the girls to break out in a rousing rendition of “Can’t Touch This” during halftime. Alas, it hasn’t happened yet, but the season isn’t over yet.

All in all, though, I think it’s been a fabulous experience for us all thus far. Here’s to “killing it!”

I’ve been set free!

Today I had a follow-up appointment with the neurosurgeon who performed my microdiscectomy just over seven weeks ago.  (If you want to go through that process again, feel free to click here for the sordid details.)  For a frightening procedure that I was very hesitant to even accept, now that I’m on the other side, I have a totally different view.   Not that I would ever consider approaching a complete stranger who I noticed walking hunched over in the grocery store to share the wonders and benefits of the minimally invasive lumbar microdiscectomy, but I must say I felt slightly tempted to tell someone in the waiting room this morning.   As I scanned the group sitting in the chairs around me, waiting to see one of the neurosurgeons in the practice, I wondered what each of them was going through, and where they were in their journey through injury, chronic pain, or recovery.

I thought that if nothing else, this group would be a captive audience.   Of course, realizing that every situation is different, and surgery isn’t the best choice for everyone (not to mention humans have a lot of vertebrae that can incur issues), I resisted my urge to strike up a conversation with the guy next to me obviously filling out new patient paperwork, and tell him that maybe, just maybe this surgery was exactly what he needed.

Four short months ago, I was that newbie filling out sheet after sheet, warily peering around, wondering how I had gotten to this place (and also wondering how I was going to stand up without shrieking out in pain when they called my name).  No one likes the thought of having something wrong with them, and I am no exception.   I was despairing that I had a herniated disc, but on the other hand, the pain was at times so unbearable that I no longer cared what came next as long as it brought relief.  Thankfully,  I was not in that place of debilitating pain when we made the decision to go ahead with the surgery, though it was still fresh in my memory.

But today, as I sat there, I once again (as I have had repeatedly over the past several weeks since the recovery period of surgery passed) had the realization that I FEEL GOOD.  I FEEL GREAT!! I cannot overemphasize how much better my back feels.  It feels different in the morning, and at night after a long day.  I just do not hurt all the time anymore.  What a delightful, liberating feeling!  Every so often I am still just struck by the difference pre- and post-op in my overall well-being.   I am so incredibly thankful for such a stark transformation.   I do realize that I have been quite conservative in the weeks since the surgery, only lifting a gallon of milk or less and trying to lay off any activity that once used to set off my pain.  Todd and the kids have been so gracious to take over those chores, such as laundry, vacuuming, and floor cleaning.   I think it’s been good for those youngsters to know what goes into running a house.

I had a meeting with the surgeon and he checked my incision and asked how I was feeling.  Based on my responses and his impression of how straightforward the surgery had gone, he felt confident releasing me from his care.   Over the next six weeks, he instructed, as I feel able, I’m allowed to increase activity until I am back to all activities I had been doing before surgery (and even before that, pre-herniation).   Good news all around.

As I left the office this morning, I couldn’t help but be grateful for how everything had worked out.  But just to be safe, I am thinking I may just hold off on resuming my vacuuming and laundry duties for a wee bit longer….

Just to be safe.

Don’t change the recipe the first time you try it!

It’s November 28…Technically there are three more posts before I could take a break from daily blogging. What to write about today? How about a new recipe I’ve been meaning to try for a while? Sure, great idea. It has all the makings of a good–no, unhealthy–and quick dish: sour cream, cheese, and starches. What could go wrong? Plenty. If you don’t have the list of ingredients the recipe calls for, strange things start happening, in the form of substitutions. From there on out, all bets are off.

To my credit, Meijer, my grocery store of choice had a special offer running today on all groceries with their online coupon program called Mperks. For the past few days, I had planned on making a massive grocery run this afternoon, and our fridge and pantry echoed as much–as well as the kids. “MoooOOOOooom!! Do we have any more tortillas?!?” and my perennial favorite, as heard from inside the bathroom: “WE’RE OUT OF TOILET PAPER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Seriously. I am really falling down on the job. This has been the sixth Toilet Paper Crisis of 2012, at least! Hopefully 2013 will be better.)

Of course, despite my planning and list-making, the afternoon turned out much less productive than successfully procuring food and TP for my family. Earlier in the morning, as Ben and I were on our way to his monthly orthodontic appointment, I received a phone call from the kids’ pediatrician. We had just seen her two days earlier after Patrick–awesome bike rider that he is–took off on Ben’s new bike and promptly landed himself at full speed on his shoulder and elbow. Good NIGHT, can we not have an injury for more than 2 weeks? In any case, we iced and motrin-ed it and even so, by Monday, his arm was swollen and he was having trouble raising it. Of course the doc wanted to see him, and once we were there, of course she sent him to an orthopedic doc. Just another day in the life, I guess. Problem was that it wasn’t until today that we could get in. Thankfully, by this afternoon when we went, Patrick’s arm looked and felt much better, and we were all hopeful that it was just a matter of time before Patrick would be back on some other moving object so he could fall off of it. As tempted as I was to cancel the appointment, Todd and I agreed that it would be better to have the orthopedic doc look him over and confirm what we suspected: the guy can be a harmless klutz.

A 2:45 appointment at an office 20 minutes from our house all but guaranteed that I wouldn’t get any other thing done for the afternoon. And I was right. Between the time It took to complete the 469 pieces of paperwork every new patient has to fill out and the time it took to see the doc, the afternoon was shot. No groceries could be had this afternoon. I was grateful when Todd offered to go shopping with me after dinner. Woohoo!

This offer for help, however, did not solve my dinner problems. So I came up with a new idea: What We Have on Hand Wednesdays. Actually, by early morning I knew all this was going down with the appointment and the lost afternoon, so I went ahead and threw it together before we left for Patrick’s doc. It was a recipe from another blog called Plain Chicken. While I don’t have an account on Pinterest, every so often I’ll see one of my recipes pinned on there, and it leads me to peruse someone’s food board. Without going into the reasons I don’t “Pinterest,” I came across this dip recipe that caught my eye because of the name: Crack Dip. HA! If you know me, you probably know my Christmas Crack obsession. (If not, click here to get yourself hooked.) As I read her post about it, I saw that she also made them into Crack Potatoes. Hmmm, I thought to myself, I could make those. And if I changed a few things, maybe I could make it a dinner instead of a side dish. I suppose it was worth a try. If it didn’t turn out, we could always have sammiches or cereal. Sure.

The original recipe calls for shredded hash browns, but I didn’t have those. I did, however, have southern hash browns, so I used those instead. I also somehow had roughly 13 leftover frozen french fries from something else, so I threw those in. Hate to waste anything, right? Besides, if nothing else, it would keep the kids guessing as we ate dinner. “Did I just see a FRENCH FRY in this casserole?!” It’s the little things.

I also left out the bacon and substituted turkey ham chunks, thinking that would make it more of a casserole that could somehow qualify as dinner. Chop, chop, chop. In went the ham. Mixing up, it smelled really good. I think if I make it again, though, I would let the potatoes thaw more. It was very difficult trying to stir it up because the frozen hash browns really slowed everything down. Otherwise, it looked promising.

Here’s the before picture when I slid it in the oven for later baking. Can you spot a french fry??

It smelled lovely as it baked this afternoon, and I was hopeful that it would live up to its name. Honestly, I was also a teeny bit scared that it would live up to its name. I really don’t need another food addiction at this point.

Everyone seemed favorable to try the new dish–except one. But this one usually turns his nose up at new things, so I wasn’t surprised. When he was a younger lad, he once said “I’ll try it before I hate it,” in reference to a dinner he thought he wouldn’t like, and I’ve always remembered that. I have often had to remind him to “try it before you hate it.” What a great expression! As he gets older, he has learned to appreciate that if he doesn’t eat what’s for dinner, it’s a long time until breakfast and therefore can usually muscle down even the most unappealing-to-him meals. That is a definite step forward, in my opinion. In any case, tonight he was about the only one unimpressed with the name Crack Potatoes.

When it was finally time to eat, the finished product looked fab. Here’s a picture for you to see for yourself:

#

You know, cheese, and potatoes, and ham, and sour cream. It really doesn’t magically change once it goes in the oven; it just melts.
After all that jibber jabber, here’s the bottom line: the reviews from my family were very mixed. Very mixed indeed, and honestly, a little surprising. “Two thumbs up! Well…they are two small thumbs….” from the little redhead. while #4 commented that they would have been better with less Ranch powder. “Less potatoes,” was the most hilarious criticism, but I really wanted to hear what they thought. And from the speaker of the house, who was almost wholly unimpressed, “This would make a better side dish.” Fair enough. Lesson learned. I have no control to compare it to, though. If I had made it according to the recipe at first before tweaking it eight ways from Sunday, perhaps we’d know better if we really liked it. As for now, I don’t think there is any danger of any of us becoming addicted to these potatoes. Prepared in the way that the original blogger intended, however, I believe they could at least become a gateway dish to bigger and more dangerous crack-like grub.

As a final wrap-up, I’d like to share the best shot of the meal: Gateway Potatoes with Andrew and Ben photobombing.

Bonus material: I just went to paste the original recipe on here and only now discovered that I read the recipe wrong. It said 2 16oz sour cream containers, but I only used one. BIG FAT OOPS!! Nothing like misreading the ingredients! Am I fired?! I’m not sure if that helped or hurt me in the long run. 🙂 In any case, I don’t know that I’d go all 32 oz for this dish.

OK, enough editorializing. Here’s the recipe:

Crack Potatoes

2 16 oz sour cream containers

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 3 oz bags of real bacon pieces

2 packages of Ranch dressing mix

1 large bag frozen shredded hash brown potatoes

Combine first four ingredients; mix in hash browns. Spread in greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 400 for 45-60 minutes.

Encouragement comes to this tottering fence

This past Sunday one of the pastors at church preached a powerful message.  It was a simple premise, but not without profound truths that I really needed to hear at that particular time.  He spoke on ways to refresh your prayer life.  I’m paraphrasing, but he asked if we were tired of praying the same old things because they were the same old things…  Does it get old to say ‘thanks for today, thank you for my life, please bless my kids, keep us healthy, and please oh please help me not to go crazy over the mess in the kitchen’ day after day?  I’m definitely not advocating anything less than an attitude of gratitude when it comes to everything God has lavished upon us in our lives, and I believe the best way to keep that attitude is to constantly say “thank you.”  But sometimes it becomes monotonous.  Just going through the motions.   I totally get that.   I don’t want my prayer life to be like that, however: stale, flat, or dare I say, meaningless.   Prayer is too great of an honor for us to allow it to be anything less than the amazing ability to talk with the same God who made the universe, yet still cares to have a relationship with us.

Out of the four points Pastor Steve shared with us, the first one stuck with me the most.  He suggested praying the Scriptures.  What a fabulous and fresh idea.   Many of us read the Bible, we learn certain verses, chapters, or even books, but how often do we pray the truths therein?

While I had a quiet moment to myself in the car tonight, driving to the Redbox to return the “it’s never overdue movie,”  I considered what I was going to write on Day 27.  The words “pray the Scriptures” kept coming back to me as I went through the mental list of possibilities.    As I settled on this topic, the question remained as to where to start.   The Bible is a rather large body of work, and although there are logical places to begin (John 3:16, Psalm 23, etc.),  I wanted to be led to where I should start.  So, duh, I asked.  “God, what should I pray?”  Immediately Psalm 62 came to mind.   I was still driving, so it wasn’t until I got back home that I could look it up to see what it said, as I wasn’t familiar with it.   Amazingly, this is what I read:

1Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.

2Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
3How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?

4Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.
5Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
6Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

7My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

9Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
10Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.

11One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
12and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”

What an excellent place to start!  If you read my post last night, it wasn’t all that encouraging or uplifting.  Some days are just better than others, which means some days just stink.   Everything seems like a battle–with myself, with others, with my circumstances.   To have this Scripture put into my thoughts was a gift from God Himself.  He does care about the tiniest details in each of our lives, and He does wish to bless us when we ask.   So this is where I will start.   I will pray for the rest that my soul finds only in God, and will declare that power which belongs to Him alone.
Tonight I’m going to bed thankful for the message from Pastor Steve, for ears that were willing to hear, and most of all for a savior who cares about what others may call “the small stuff.”   And now, I feel as though I have new words with which to say so.

Back to the daily grind…

The first Monday after a holiday weekend is rough.  As in, “is that my alarm I hear alREADY?!” rough.  The kids even tried to overthrow me and get at least another day of laziness out of the deal, but it was not to be.   If we’re going to take an honest Christmas break, we need to work hard until that time.   I can’t say I’m not severely tempted to just throw in the towel as well and call it a year, but alas, I have to be the adult.   Adults have to oftentimes do things they don’t really care to do.

Like laundry.

Or cleaning baseboards.

And grocery shopping.

Because….among other things, we do have to eat.

So, even though maybe none of us wanted to get back into the swing of things, we did after a sleepy breakfast and slow moving start.   I guess we ended our day better than we started.  Hey, they all can’t be days to write home about, right?

In semi-related news, when I first woke up this morning, I was thinking about blogging, and got the bright idea to continue writing daily for the month of December.  When else do I get somewhat of a break from school?  There would probably be no better opportunity (except for the summer, but that’s when we spend a lot of time outside and at the pool! Who needs to blog about that every day?!) that I could think of than now.

Then my mind promptly went blank.  As in vacant, empty, vacuous.   There’s nothing to talk about today; what makes me think there’ll be something to share tomorrow?  I haven’t made any new and exciting recipes (although I did go looking in my cookbooks in a flash of bad judgement, thinking I could just post something and pass it off as something I’ve tried).   No such luck.

So as we close this Monday night, perhaps the kids will have a restful night’s sleep, and we will as well.  Perhaps we’ll all wake up early tomorrow, ready to tackle our day with motivation and direction!  Weather permitting, I’ll get a writing idea as well.

Thank goodness the coffeemaker timer is already set and ready to go…. I think I’m going to need all the help I can get!

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s our Christmas tree!!!

Amid all the fun of constructing a sugar house with sugar icing and sugar decorations, there was some “work” that had to be done.  We had a naked tree in our living/school room that needed to be dressed for the season.  Knowing full well that our schedule for the week would be full with school, volleyball, and work, I realized that if we didn’t manage to get to it today, it very well might go undecorated until next weekend.  That did not sound too acceptable to me, especially since we had the time and the inclination (a combination that sometimes doesn’t ever meet up).  The boys dutifully brought up the boxes that I think we’ve used since 1999, and we embarked upon Tighe Tree Trimming 2012.   This year was more pleasant than some in recent memory:  ornaments were passed out with little extra grabby hands, and although there’s always a bit of “How come Hannah has so many ornaments with her name on them?!” whining (which makes sense, especially since she’s been collecting ornaments for up to ten years longer than her youngest sibling.  As if we could amassed ornaments before we knew you’d be joining our family?  But try to explain that to a five year old.  I dare you.)  The tree had the usual clumpy look to it, as it is the way of the child to try and cram at least 27 bulbs and decorations on one branch.  Not to worry, though.  Hannah’s job this year was to walk around the tree and move anything necessary to even out the overall look.   She did a fantastic job.  Our tree is definitely an eclectic mix of old and new decorations that would probably send Martha Stewart into cardiac arrest.  You know what, though, I don’t care what Martha Stewart would think of our tree.  Every bell, every homemade star, and every ornament (from the Veggie Tales train to the creepy Santa heads) makes up a memory of our lives together.  It’s a wonderful trip down memory lane when we open each box every year.

Patrick took pictures for a while, and he’s responsible for many of the shots, but at some point Brendan took over and I’ve included many of his pictures as well.   I figured the best way to capture the evening would be to just include them all.  This year, I do believe Andrew wins the award for silliest portraits!

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My guess is that it will be quite difficult to get back into the swing of school tomorrow morning….

 

 

By wisdom a house is built, but our gingerbread house is constructed with sugar…lots of sugar!

It’s been a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I must say.  The weather was nice until Thanksgiving night, so the kids got to play outside and run around before the cold front passed through.   We enjoyed a relaxed holiday watching football, hanging out, and eating delicious food.  The kids got to have a sleepover with their cousins.  Black Friday was relatively painless and rather productive with some timely purchases without long lines.  It was a heavenly change to take a break from school and all the rigors therein.

Today we decided to begin the process of Christmasing the house, on the last day before we get back to work and school tomorrow.  Because he loves a good deal (and a good deal of turkey), Todd had snagged a 20lb turkey for a steal a couple weeks ago, and it had been thawing for the appropriate amount of days in the fridge.  After church, we made a quick stop at the grocery store to get a few items and rent a movie, before coming home.  Todd immediately started his prep on the turkey.   He has all but perfected his technique for cooking the fowl, and today was no exception.  It did not take long for the aroma of turkey to permeate the house.  While that was working away, we also brought bins and boxes upstairs from the Christmas closet in preparation for decoration.  There was even a bit of time in there for a walk in the mild afternoon while the kids entertained themselves.

One of the activities on our agenda today was something we’ve never done here as a family: a gingerbread house.   How have we missed that?  Most years, the kids fashioned one at their Nonnie Tighe’s house during one of their afternoon trips, but this year, Todd wanted to do one of our own.  It turned out to be a delightful project.  Everyone got in on the action and everyone enjoyed adding their own personal touches.  Although we somehow missed the VERY important “allow icing 15 minutes to dry before decorating house” instruction which resulted in a bit of decoration droop, we were able to successfully repair the facade of the house with little lasting damage.  And somehow we managed to use all the candy on the house with none being eaten….yet.

Here are an assortment of pictures from the assembly:

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After the completion of the gingerbread house, the turkey was done.   We didn’t plan to have a huge Thanksgiving-esque meal, but instead enjoyed delicious turkey sandwiches while beginning our family movie night.  Everyone gave Todd’s creation rave reviews.   I don’t predict leftovers lasting long.

I’m also anxious to see how many of us stay awake to the end of the movie, what with our full bellies and all….

Let the Christmas season begin!

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