Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dear Lord

 Every evening, after bath and story time—we have prayer time.  I would pray for our family’s safety, prosperity, my thankfulness to God, and whatever else moved me that day.  Then, it would be Callie’s turn to pray.  It was a consistent trend we tried to weave in to our nightly routine, and it would always be neat to see what Callie would pray for each evening.
     The tricky part was keeping her in her own bed after the prayers were done and the lights went out.  She would sneak out of her room as soon as she heard us get in bed…begging to be able to sleep with us.  When she turned about 2 years-old, she started having nightmares and was fearful of monsters.  So, the new battle of getting her to sleep in her own bed begun, and we did everything from bribing with toys, to punishment, to even the dreaded putting her back in her own bed kicking and screaming (ten times).  It was a fight, but we kept at it and started to see some improvement.
     One particular night I was praising Callie on how well she’d done.  For an entire week, she’d slept soundly in her bed, with few middle of the night stirrings.  We read our book of the night, “The Elephants Child” and then started our prayers for the evening.
  “Dear Lord, I thank you for our many blessings you’ve given us…” I began as Callie squeezed her eyes shut and listened intently.  I finished with, “And I thank you for us all sleeping soundly and peacefully in our own beds, Amen.”    
     Then it was her turn, which was the part we both anticipated the most.
    “Dear Lord.  I thank you for my baby brother.  And I thank you for me sleeping in my mommy’s and daddy’s bed tonight.  Amen.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement

Sour Cream Enchiladas ~
I got this recipe from my friend Iryna, she's an avid blog follower & has cooked many of our recipes, so I decided to steal one of hers!  YUMMY!!

1-Pint of light sour cream
2-Cans light or reduced fat cream of chicken soup
1-Can diced green chilis
2-Cups Grated Cheese (I used a mexican blend)
1-Lg Onion Chopped
1-Pd of Lean Ground Beef
1-Dash of Garlic Salt
1-Package of soft corn tortillas

Mix together sour cream, cream of chicken soup & chilis.  Set aside.  Brown ground beef and season w/garlic salt.  Place 1/3 of sour cream mixture at bottom of long baking pan to cover bottom.  Put about 1 TBL of ground beef, a sprinkle of cheese & scoop of onion in a tortilla, roll up and put seam side down in pan.  Repeat until hamburger mixture is gone.  Pour remaining sour cream mixture on top of rolled enchiladas.  Sprinkle with cheese & bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

I tried serving with scallions on top after pulling out of oven.  Iryna swears her husband even runs to the store at the last minute to get any missing ingredients so she'll make this meal, and her son Dominick always asks for seconds.  I second that!!

Happy eating my friend!  *Trina

Monday, September 26, 2011

Moms Raising Boys and Their Endless Energy...The Boys; Not So Much The Moms

One of the things I dreamt about most when I dreamed of having children was reading to them in bed, all snuggled beneath the covers, with their heads resting on me. 
   They are 2 ½ and 1 ½ and I’m still waiting for this particular dream of mine to unfold.  You see, I have two boys.  I started reading to each of them when they were in my belly.  Now, the readings have become a part of our bedtime ritual.  It was getting pretty exciting when Luke started to learn words and we’d slowly browse through a book – I’d point to a picture and he’d holler out the matching word.  As Luke learned the alphabet, we’d search the pages for letters he recognized.  That was the extent of our readings.  I knew that any day now, with excitement, he’d want to start reading the stories along with me. 
   This summer, we got him a sturdy, Cars toddler bed (within the first hour the Cars sticker was ripped off).  That night, I climbed into his red bed adorned with Toy Story sheets and he hopped in right next to me.  This is it, I thought, anticipating the big moment.  I pulled the sheets up over us, opened the book and began to read the first page of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Little brother Zealand—hearing me reading, decided to climb up, too.  How exciting!  He crawled over me, his knees poking my shin; toenails scraping over my thigh.  But he found a spot, and there we were.  I pulled the sheet up over us and reread the first page so Zealand wouldn’t miss a thing. 
   On page three, the hungry little blonde comes across the porridge.  Luke had turned his body 90 degrees with his feet propped on his bedside table.  He was revving his engine apparently, ‘brrrm brrrrm’ as he announced he was a car and going really, really fast.  Zealand was tugging and bending and shoving the page I was trying to read.  He had a mission to destroy the page, not read it.  I swiftly pulled the book from his grip as if I were a three-year-old on the playground, rightfully grabbing back my toy.  He pulled himself to his feet and began to bounce away.  Then, Luke flipped over in a millisecond and jumped out of bed, his elbow flailing into my chest, his other hand smashing my stomach flat, and snatched the book. 
   “No more book, Mommy!” he announced. 
   I was heartbroken!  My cozy little dream.  Then just frustrated… 
   I yanked the book back and said in my stern mommy voice, “We are going to sit here and read this book, right now, or I am going to leave this room!”  That voice is usually saved for moments when he hits his brother or when Zealand tries to scale the entertainment center.  I quickly realized it would take more than a new toddler bed to sway these boys from their inherent verve. 
   Defeated, I looked at them, opened my arms out to the room, inviting them to run and play, and pulled myself up on the bed.  I made a comfy spot and read the familiar story of a broken chair and a little girl fast asleep.  In the background, I heard car noises—helicopter noises, a basketball bouncing off the wall,  the sound of Zealand climbing up the outside of his crib, the click of the fan being turned on and off, then on again, and their loud, boyish laughter.  
   I remembered some of the many conversations I’d had with my friends who had daughters.  The majority of them will cuddle up for book after book after book.   As I glance up, I wish that at least one of them would want to sit still and read with me…but seeing the joy on their faces as they play with one another into the wee moments before bed, well, I'll be darned if that doesn't delight me! 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Slow-Cooker/Kid Friendly Chili

Slow-Cooker/Kid Friendly Chili

My friend Megan suggested this recipe for the blog.  I know I just did a chili-pasta skillet but I couldn't pass up another yummy chili recipe to try on a relaxed fall day.  Especially a slow-cooker recipe, they are the best for any mom!!!
2-lbs ground lean beef
1-lg onion diced
4-cloves garlic
3-Tbs chili powder
1/8-tsp cayenne pepper
2-tsp cumin (I skip it, not a fan)
3/4-tsp salt
1-can kidney beans
1-can black beans
1-can "hot" chili beans
2- 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1-tsp Mrs Dash-Spicy

-Brown beef,drain. Mix everything together in slow cooker for 8-10 hours on low. Serve with diced onions and cheese. 
Megan suggested Cornbread as a great side dish - since I served cornbread with my last chili-pasta skillet recipe I tried it with shredded cheddar cheese, light sour cream & a few Fritos.  Delish!
Happy eating my friends!! ~Trina

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Vintage Girls – Moms Need Their Best Girlfriends

vin·tage girls [vin-tij gurlz] noun
1.      girlfriends representing the high quality of a past time.
“Don't forget your sisters. They'll be more important as you get older. No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you love the children you may have, you are still going to need sisters.”
One of my vintage girls sent that to me (as part of a longer email) exactly when I needed to read it; as if she had it stored in a folder marked “For Leah’s Next Crisis.” 
I get so swept up in the manic day-to-day life with two toddlers running from playdate to store to potty to doctor and finally home again that the only time I can seem to find time to call my vintage girls is when I’m in the car for that 15- to 25-minute drive to wherever I am headed.  Even when I’m at home, a phone call is pretty much me telling my kids “no, not now” and “here you go” and “don’t do that to your brother” while trying to listen to my friend.  I care.  I really,  really do!  In fact, I’d give just about anything to drop my kids off at the best preschool in town and meet up with that old friend for a cup of coffee and maybe split a vanilla bean cheesecake while we dish about our adorable little ones.  As many women experience in today’s transient world, it’s not always easy to do, especially when your vintage girls live in other states, across the country or even abroad.       
Memories of these girls rush in as random tidbits in the crazy hours of my every day.  They are my rock.  They knew me best before my husband met me.  They know all of my quirks and are often the only ones who can tell me what I’m thinking or open my eyes to my mistakes or let me know how close I am getting to my life goals, even if I’m too close to see it. 
They are the ones who were there for me. 
Vintage girls call you out when you moved to a new city and tried out a new, brass attitude.  Vintage girls stand in line with you at 6:00 a.m. in 22 degree weather for a chance to get free tickets to your favorite Broadway show.  Vintage girls drive cross-country with you when you move out west with all of your belongings shoved into a Cavalier because you read “White Oleander” in the midst of a cold New York City winter.  Vintage girls still believed in you even when you made mistakes.  Vintage girls cheer you on when you are found success. Vintage girls keep in touch with you no matter how far away you move from them.  
They are the ones who are there for me.
Vintage girls are the ones who will tell you it is okay to be exhausted and feel like you can’t do everything once you’re a mommy.  Vintage girls will tell you not to believe a word from that book about sleep schedules and your happy baby.  Vintage girls will tell you, I’ve been there. Vintage girls will identify with your situation with your toddler and share a relatable story about their preschooler.  Vintage girls will make time for you when you really need it.  Vintage girls will reach out.  Vintage girls have a story about their husbands that make you feel better about living with yours.  Vintage girls will let you cry.  Vintage girls get it.
They are the ones who will be there for me.
When my kids start kindergarten, I know my vintage girls will be the ones to remind me to cherish the memories of their younger years and to embrace the challenges and excitement of the rest of our lives.  When I get a call from a teacher or a coach, I know my vintage girls will stand by me to remind me that we all make mistakes and our kids will work it out for themselves and still be great people.  When my kids go off to college, I know my vintage girls will be there to fill the empty space and time – even if it means an all-expense paid trip to Turks and Caicos.  <wink><wink> When I’m in my retirement years and need a reminder of who I was and who I still want to be, I will turn to my vintage girls.
My vintage girls. The girlfriends I cherish, trust and love with all of my heart.  Drinking a little wine tonight?  Raise a glass to that, sisters!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Going From Firm to Sweet in a Millisecond - The Emotional Switches in Motherhood

A state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements; one sign being a rapidly changing mood- from happy to sad to angry for no apparent reason.  Schizophrenia.  If my sons were aware of medical terms-and doctors-this is no doubt what they’d diagnose me as.

At least that’s how I feel many times in our day.
Last night, for example. It’s bedtime.  We had woken up at 5:00 a.m. followed by zero naps.  I wore them out at the playground with a group of 10+ kiddos under the age of 5 for a solid hour at the very minimum. They ate a hearty meal of SpaghettiOs with extra meatballs at dinner; bath; books; brush; the usual. At 7:45 p.m., I kissed their precious foreheads and bid them a good night and sweet dreams.  I closed the door behind me and sat on the couch before realizing I hadn’t poured that glass of wine yet.  A few minutes went by.  Silence.  Ah!  I stood up to pour that satiny red into my glassy best friend.  Ultimate relaxation imminent in just minutes.
“Mommy, I’m thirsty.” I hear my oldest calling from behind his door.  At least, he wasn’t opening it (that means he is aware there are rules).
Thoughts dart in my mind.  Stand firm and say no.  He’ll get the idea and know you are not a pushover.  The other voice says, just give him a cup of water and maybe that’s all he really needs and that will be the end of it tonight.
I give him a cup of water.
“Good night, mommy.” He disappears back into his room like the good little almost-three-year-old that he is. 
Ten minutes later, following a potty break, a sip of water and a clean diaper for my youngest, and a tuck in for both; I find myself standing in between their beds.  “Mommy, sing one more song.” A voice in my head explains that the boys shall get no more songs otherwise I am a pushover and this will happen every night until they’re sixteen.  The other voice says to sing one more song just in hopes that this will be the last call of the night. 
In the firmest, most non-pushover voice I can muster, “Okay, I’ll sing one more song.  But THAT IS IT!  NO MORE GAMES!”
[Enter sweet tender mommy voice]
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy…”  Who in normal society actually does that?  There is rarely an instance that you will be talking so firm to someone and switch into sweet sing-songy mode so rapidly.  This is the schizophrenia I’m talking about.  I mean, can you imagine talking to your boss at work…
[Firmly] Leah, I’m really disappointed in your performance on the analytics report.  You’ve miscalculated the numbers and your writing is quite illegible. [Softly] But have I ever told you how nice your hair smells.  Every time you walk past me in the hallway I just think to myself I am so glad I hired you and that I really like you a lot.”
And this isn’t the only instance.  This happens when we’re having a great time playing and laughing and in his excitement, Luke jumps up and knocks his brother to the floor.  My friendly aura is jolted and I’m forced to work up a tough love lesson I’m not quite fond of.  Or when he climbs on my lap and tells me, “mommy, I love you.”  Delighted, I go in for a kiss and notice he’s chewing.  I ask, “What’s in your mouth?”  He spits out black rubber into my hand.  I quickly scan the room spying my lone flip flop in the corner.  A chunk savagely torn from it.  I’m too relaxed to turn work up the energy to be mad, but I don’t want him to ruin any more of my shoes.  Or when we had a fun outing at the park and we chase eachother to the car, giggling all the while, and then he sneakily jumps into the front of the car while I’m buckling in his brother and refuses to climb into his seat-thus making me chase him from side to side-resulting in an I’m-over-it “you better get in your seat or… (or what-think fast!) or you won’t get that treat when we get home.” What treat?  Now I need to get him a treat if he gets in his seat.  Why am I going to treat him for finally obeying me after a few minutes of craziness?  Ah, the word craziness.  Maybe this isn’t a coincidence. 
Honestly, I’d rather be the sweet and happy mommy 24/7.   But I’m savvy enough to know that doesn’t work out too well for the kiddos in the long run.  I guess for me, who has always been pretty agreeable and the last person to ever start a fight, it’s hard to be that assertive and firm person I know I need to be. 
Or maybe I just over think it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement – Burritos Delicioso

Another oldie-but-goodie from my husband’s childhood.  These burritos are so easy to make and so very delicious.  If your kids aren’t fans of spicy, then set aside some pork for them after you brown.  When you go to make the burritos, just mark the kid burritos with a pirate “x” or something equally groovy like that. 
Burritos Delicioso
·         Burrito-size tortillas
·         2 cans rotelle (we use 1 mild and 1 original)
·         Ground pork
·         Cheddar
·         1 can refried beans (prefer Ortega)
Brown pork.  Drain pork and simmer in pot with rotelle for one hour.  Heat oven to 300.  Layer beans, pork mixture and cheese in each tortilla (making 7 ½).  Bake for 10 min.  Sprinkle more cheese to top.  Bake another 10 min.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

For Reality in Parenting Try NBC's "Up All Night" - New Fall Lineup

You had me at “Up All Night”.  
Finally, a show that refreshingly highlights REAL life after baby.  You’ve been there.  In the midst of changing a messy diaper, you’ve grabbed for a couple of wipes just to have a seemingly endless string of wipes ribbon out like some amateur magic trick.  You’ve foreshadowed fifteen years into the future envisioning the effects of your parenting on your free-spirited teen.  You’ve felt guilty for wishing for the good ol’ pre-baby days.
Admittedly, the biggest Saturday Night Live fan EVER (this fact has not yet actually been documented), so it’s not much of a surprise that I’m digging this show.  I identified with almost every scenario in the “Up All Night” pilot while LMAO.  You’ve got Maya Rudolph (Ava) who has been cracking me up since 2000.  She plays what I believe to be a pseudo-Oprah, though that may be my reliving her SNL Oprah days.  Of course, I’m a fan of Will Arnett’s (Chris) through association of marriage to his baby mama, SNL’s Amy Poehler.  Mix in a little Christina Applegate (Reagan) - well, a lot…she is the mom we’re all relating with - an actress I’ve admired since she starred in “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead” (yeah, I went there) and you’ve got yourself an inspiringly real and hilarious cast.  Also, all three are new-ish parents; they know all too well what really goes down between the routine diaper changes and feedings.
Mix this dynamic cast with real life parenting situations including feelings of resentment, arguments over who slept the least last night, returning to work, and even savoring the bliss between moments of pure insanity.  Just this one half-hour (maybe 22 minutes) episode gave me the most relaxing and fun TV moment I’ve had since “Lost” bid adieu to my world last spring.
They score bonus points with the peeps up in the Northeast with using the phrase “wicked hot” a couple of times.  Applegate’s character will make every mom feel okay that she thinks Matt Lauer is talking to her every morning through the television.  And the all-too-familiar hubby’s tattered t-shirt (accompanied by him reciting overplayed memories of him in that shirt) is a brilliant reflection of just about every dad out there and the stories their women have to endure.  The episode ties up as neatly as a layette gift set with the new family daydreaming of the future with their precious little one.
If you’re a mom (or dad) craving “relatable” in form of a television comedy, you’ve found it in “Up All Night”.  Wednesday night on NBC, watch the pilot here, or maybe you’ll randomly catch an episode on BRAVO, like I did. 

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Chili-Pasta Skillet

Sunday, September 18th ~ Chili-Pasta Skillet

I love, love, love any and all versions of chili in the fall.  I am trying a pal's kids-friendly chili recipe this week I'm excited about and will likely share next week.  I'm a huge fan of skillet recipes as well (I posted a skillet lasagna recipe in one of our earlier posts)  because they are easy- and less messy then the original dishes.  I went ahead and splurged on full-on cheddar cheese rather than the less fat version...but I think this recipe totally calls for it.  It's perfect for a wonderful cool Sunday afternoon or evening.  You can use less or more chili powder depending on your family's kids are used to eating spicy and this dish wasn't too hot at all.  I got thumbs up from the entire family, including  my 1 1/2-year-old who insisted on eating it himself with a spoon and was covered in it.  If only I'd gotten a picture of that!!!

1-pd lean ground beef
1/2-of med onion chopped
1-15 oz can of kidney beans, rinsed & drained
1-14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes undrained
1/2-cup wheat elbow macaroni
1-4 oz can diced  green chile peppers, drained
2 or 3-tablespoons of chili powder (depending on your liking)
1/2-teaspoon garlic salt
1/2-cup or 2 oz monterey jack or cheddar cheese (as you can see, I used more!!)

In a large skillet cook meat & onion until meat is brown and onions are tender.  Drain off any excess fat.  Stir in beans, undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, uncooked macaroni, chili peppers, chili powder, and garlic salt.  Bring to boiling, reduce heat.  Simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until macaroni is tender, stirring often.  Remove skillet from heat, sprinkle mixture with cheese.  Cover & let stand a few minutes for cheese to melt.

I suggest serving with corn bread.

Happy Eating My Friends!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Princess, Poop and the Game of Soccer

I’m so that mom at soccer games.  I’m the one yelling for Callie to get the ball; cheering like one of those crazed mad women we used to hate at all of our own sporting events.  Yep, that’s me!
     So, you can also imagine my disappointment when my four-year-old showed zero interest at her first practice.  Oh wait, she showed interest alright—it just wasn’t in the ball.  It was in the boys, the net…the sky, I mean—anything but soccer.
     Rather than have a complete meltdown, I went to a woman I work with that has an amazing relationship with her daughter.  She of course told me the obvious, “She’s only four Trina, and she’s not supposed to be interested yet.  She’s only out there to have fun.  Please don’t turn out to be one of those moms!”
     So at the next practices and games I watched the parents next to me closely.  When they cheered or gave out pointers, I saw an appropriate opening and chimed in too.  I even ignored Callie adjusting her pretty pink bow and practicing dance moves on the field.  I was so proud of myself!  A future sports momma in the works!
     It was Wednesday, time for practice again right before our big Friday night game.  We had pictures that day, so I had Callie’s hair all fixed in cute little pigtails.  As soon as we walked on the field, I saw a problem.  Goose poop everywhere!  And my little princess does not like to step in poop!  I looked around, trying to figure out a game-plan, none coming to mind.  It was everywhere.  It only took moments for her to notice.   “Mommy, there’s dog poop everywhere!  I don’t want to play!”
     I reassured her we just had to get through pictures and then we’d see where we were.  My little girl would barely bend down on the field to join her team for a group photo.  I’m also pretty sure the photos will come back with her nose all scrunched up and a nasty look on her face.
     Once photos were done, I sighed in relief—now we just had to get through practice.  Callie took one more look around the field.  “Mommy, I don’t feel good!”  She said, grabbing her throat.  Both of her coaches approached her, feeling her head and rubbing her back.
     “I don’t think she feels good, she feels pretty hot.” One of them told me, bringing her over.
      I grabbed her hand and started walking her to the car.  “Callie, are you sure you don’t feel good?”
     “No mom, my throat hurts.” She paused for a moment.  “Do you think they will have the dog poop cleaned up by the game?” 
     I smiled.  I knew it!  Playing hooky to avoid stomping around in poop.  Only my four-year-old!  I tried to explain that it was actually goose poop and then left it alone, hoping she’d forget by Friday.
     Friday morning my little princess awoke in a terrible mood.  She was moving slow, and was surely going to make me late.  “Callie Jo, you need to speed it up.  We have to hurry.”  I rushed both kids in the car and we were off.  As I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw Callie’s arms crossed across her chest and a defiant look on her face.  “What’s wrong honey?”
     “I’m just telling you right now momma, if they haven’t cleaned up that dog poop I’m not playing!”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Unreasonable Expectations

How did I picture preschool for my child?  Just like everything else I imagine.  All happy-go-lucky, with roses and sugar-coated cherries on top. 
     Don’t we all picture our children’s lives this way?  Perfect?  We are going to be the best parents, have the smartest children, the greatest home-lives.  And then when reality hits we don’t know what went wrong.
     I dropped Callie off for her first day of preschool with a grin on my face and a tear in my eye.  How did we get here already I wondered?  That afternoon I got a follow-up letter when I picked her up telling me how wonderful my little girl was and how much happiness and enthusiasm she contributed to the group.  A mental check mark in my brain as an early parenting success scored. 
     It wasn’t until mere weeks later I learned that Callie was having a few issues.  Her pretty blonde teacher met me at the door with an optimistic smile on her face that could only mean trouble.  The way she started was classic: “Callie is such an addition to our group; so charming and full of life…but…you should know there are some things we are working on.”
     She proceeded to tell me in a no less bubbly manner that my daughter was having some trouble listening, and had been caught telling a lie as well as stealing.  Yes, a young criminal I had on my hands already
     I drove home in tears.  My terrible parenting had surely led to a future drug-abuser, jail-bird, schizophrenic, and possibly even worse.  What was I to do?
     After sifting through my self-pity filled loathing party, my dear friend convinced me that stealing a sea shell and lying by saying she hadn’t hit a boy didn’t deem my daughter a future sociopath or drug dealer.  She was simply like all other typical four-year-olds…she was finding herself and learning about the do’s and don’ts of toddlerhood.  Just because I’d let her watch too many episodes of SpongeBob, and  even Jurassic Park in her dinosaur-loving days…didn’t mean I was a terrible parent.
    I think the dreams we let ourselves strive towards as parents are what sets us up for failure.  When we don’t reach our impossible goals we’ve set for ourselves when raising our little ones-we automatically are plagued by guilt and assume every small failure our children face is that of our own mistakes and parenting mishaps. 
   Let’s stop being so hard on ourselves as mommies.  Callie is beyond smart; to the point it scares me sometimes.  I will do my best to guide her and love her…and know that while neither of us is perfect and we will make mistakes, we are doing our best.  And…the best is simply all we can do! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Parmesan-Dijon Chicken

Served for the very first time to my boyfriend of 2 years on July 8, 2002.  We had just moved in together in a cute two bedroom house in Myrtle Beach after living in San Diego for a couple of years.  From the cookbook, “Betty Crocker’s Cooking Basics: Learning to Cook with Confidence” – no doubt a gift from my mom, my first official welcome into my future domesticity.  I knew this guy would one day be my husband and thought it savvy to try each and every recipe and document the date and our thoughts of said dish on each page.  We, or very well I, branded this recipe – “great!”  And it is, we have had it numerous times over the last 9 years (has it been that long!).  Easy to prepare, fairly healthy and quite tasty…it goes fabulously with potatoes and broccoli or peas. 

Parmesan-Dijon Chicken
·         6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about ¼ pound each)
·         ¼ cup (1/2 stick) margarine or butter
·         ¾ cup dry bread crumbs
·         ¼ cup grated parmesan
·         2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Heat the oven to 375.  Melt the margarine in a microwavable dish (about 15 seconds). Mix the bread crumbs and cheese in a large plastic bag.  Stir the mustard into the melted margarine until well mixed. 
Dip the chicken, one piece at a time, into the margarine mixture, coating all sides.  Then place in the bag of crumbs, seal the bag and shake to coat with crumb mixture.  Place the chicken in a single layer in an ungreased rectangular pan.
Bake uncovered 20 to 30 minutes, turning chicken over once with tongs.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Just Breathe - Lessons Learned on the Anniversary of 9/11

Just after 9:03 a.m. yesterday, I stifled a sob as I watched NBC's coverage of the anniversary of the September 11th tragedy. My family busied around me. At our cottage by the beach...our vacation mom and husband cooked breakfast.  My dad sipped coffee on the balcony.  My two sons raced circles around the kitchen island.  I was engrossed in this telecast straight from Ground Zero.

It hit deep in my soul when a 12-year-old sweet girl was telling her daddy that he was the best ever and will always be in her heart. This daddy left her world when she was just 2.  My boys are about that age. It was at that moment that I truly accepted what my husband had said to me just the night before.

After he had watched a 9/11 documentary, he came to bed and said to me, "We need to be so grateful. We have one another. We have healthy children. We have our lives."  Half asleep, I agreed...mostly wanting to be grateful for lots of sleep.

I often feel like I can be swept up in the challenges of life and that it's hard to find things to be grateful for.  The nights that I remember to thank God for what I have, I am blessed for my family, friends and our health.  I always find a way to go back to...but if I could just make a little more money...or if we could just sell that house...or whatever material wants I can think of a that moment.

Yet, I see it now.  So what if times are tough and the timing is off to sell our house.  We get to watch the joy in our sons' faces as they float on top of wave after salty wave as we vacation at the sea.  Sure, we wish we had a little extra cash so we can afford to redo our kitchen.  But we are able to enjoy a few nice dinners out with the family this week.  Yet again, another fantastic illustration of gratefulness bestowed....we are able to be with our kids, no matter how restless our 21-month-old gets when we go out to eat.  And sure, we hope and pray we can send our boys to the best schools.  But, right now, we are there with him the moment he figures out something challenging and that proud smile emerges on his little face. 

We are lucky.  We are blessed.

Through every tantrum, every cup of spilled crystal light on a clean floor, every exhausted 2am wake up call.  Every single moment you wish you could have just a little space to just breathe.  Just be so grateful for all that you have.  And breathe.

You can.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Sante Fe Casserole Bake

Sunday 9/11/11  ~Sante Fe Casserole Bake

Santa Fe Chicken Casserole. Photo by Jaye Anna

Okay...I say this dish is perfect for Sunday night football, or any other day of the week for fall.  It's a yummy mix between a casserole dish and nachos.  The hubby has always loved this meal...and the kiddos really enjoy it too.  Callie usually has two helpings, which is always a sign that it's a fav.

1- Pd lean ground beef
1- Pkg of Taco Seasoning
2-Cups of Chicken Broth
1/4- Cup of Flour or Cornstarch
1-Cup low fat Sour Cream
1- 7 oz can of diced green chiles
1- bag Whole Grain Tortilla chips (recipe does call for corn or regular tortilla)
2- Cups Monterey Jack or Cheddar Cheese
1/2-Cup Sliced green onions w/tops

In medium skillet, brown meat and stir until crumbly; drain fat.  Add taco seasonings, blend well.  in bowl, combine broth & flour.  Add to meat mixture, bring to a boil to slightly thicken liquid.  Stir in sour cream & chiles; blend well.  In 13x9x2 inch lightly greased baking dish, place 1/2 of chips, top with 1/2 of meat mixture, 1/2 of cheese & 1/2 of green onions.  Layer all remaining ingredients ending with green onions.  Bake uncovered at 375 for 20 minutes.

You can serve alone, with corn, black beans, or even spanish rice.

Enjoy~ and happy eating friends!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Are We Seriously Already Having This Conversation?

One day I was getting ready to leave the house to go get my hair done.  My three-year-old says to me as I’m leaving: “Mommy, I want to go get my hair done too!”
  “Sweetie, someday you will be old enough to get your hair done.”
  “Mommy, when will I be old enough?”
  “Oh honey, you will be old enough before you know it!”
My little princess with beautiful, naturally sandy-brown hair replies, “Mommy, can I do purple?  Brown is so not my favorite.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Rocky Mountain Enchiladas & Chili Rellenos

Rocky Mountain Enchiladas & Chili Rellenos
Please note: our rellenos busted open...but still delicioso!
This is one of those recipes that has been handed down only through experience.  My husband learned from his mother, watching her make this since he was about 8 yo; years later he taught me.  I finally took the time to write it down.  When Zac first made it for me, it was probably in our first month of dating.  I remember asking him for sour cream and he looked at me as if I had asked for ketchup for a steak dinner.  He explained that it simply didn’t need it.  That night I realized he was right, and ten years later I haven’t found the need to supplement this recipe.  You may, however. 
It’s a little bit of work, but once you get used to it, you get a system down.  Let me tell you, it is well worth it.  This meal is far more delicious than many enchilada/chili relleno meals I’ve had at some Mexican restaurants.  It is fried, but you know what’s going into it.  There really isn’t making the rellenos healthier, but I would imagine you’d do just fine without frying the tortillas for the enchiladas. 
Bon appetite!
J Leah

Rocky Mountain Enchiladas & Chili Rellenos
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 20 oz. enchilada sauce (medium)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • Green onions
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese
  • 4.25 oz. can whole green chiles
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 egg
  • 8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese
  • Shortening
Heat oven to 350.  Spray cooking sheet with cooking spray.  Brown ground beef.  Chop scallions and add to ground beef.  In an 8” skillet, melt ½ - 1 cup of Crisco until it is about 1” deep.  On medium-high heat, fry each corn tortilla for about 15 seconds on each side until golden but still pliable enough to roll.  Place on a paper towel to absorb grease.   Shred cheese.  Take one tortilla, layer a spoonful of beef and sprinkle cheese on top of beef.  Roll tortilla tightly and place on baking sheet.  Chop green onions and reserve on side with remainder of shredded cheddar cheese.  Simmer enchilada sauce in small pot on stovetop.
While enchiladas are baking, slice Monterey Jack cheese into ½” slices.  Carefully take chiles out of can (they tear easily) and chop tip off of each chili.  Slide one slice of cheese into each chili.  In an 8” skillet, melt ½ - 1 cup of shortening until it is about 1” deep.  Beat one egg in a small bowl.  Pour flour in another.  Dip each chili in egg, then coat with flour.  Place in grease until fried golden, turning once to fry evenly.
Sprinkle enchiladas with green onions and shredded cheese; spoon enchilada sauce on top.  Serve with chili rellenos.

p.s. It makes for serious leftovers for your husband to take to work the following day (a.k.a. his coworkers will have yet another illustration of just how fabulous you really are!)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Magnetic Legs - The Ever-Clingy Toddler

My boys have left me on the couch to play with a truck or dunk a basketball.  I see my “out” and sneak four feet away to the computer which sits on our breakfast bar; I stand and type away.  Most of the time, not even 60 seconds goes by and my youngest toddler is poking me.  “Up, Mama!” 
   I give in and pick him up, thinking I can hold him on my hip like he were still 10 months old and he’ll be content.  No.  He wants to type or rather, bang on the keyboard.  Or press a button.  Or reach… reach for my Cherry Coke Zero.  Or feed the fish.  So down he goes, and runs off to chase his older brother.  I try to refocus on the task at hand.  Was I checking my bank statement or writing a post on Facebook?  I have seven open windows on my laptop and this is typical. 
   I feel a pinch on my butt.  He’s back.  Of course I can’t ever get anything done!  So I participate in a new trick that occupies him for a good two minutes.  I lift my right leg up in some sort of ballet pose and rest it on the arm of our toddlerized couch.  This allows my left leg to act as a pole upon which my little boy holds onto and circles around and around and around, thoroughly entertained.  Alright!  I finished an e-mail.  Score!  His older brother sees this fun from across the room and joins in. Before it ends with the two knocking heads, I’ve balanced my budget.  I’m excited I’m taking care of biz-niss!  This is the longest stretch of time I’ve had since last night when they went to bed. 
   My two-and-a-half year old is now tugging at my pants, the drawstring coming loose and the waist band is way past my behind. 
   My son laughs. “I see your bootie!”
   I pull them up and corral them into the living room for some dancing.  With Madonna or the Black Eyed Peas on the TV, we have fun, twirling and laughing.  They soon get distracted and move on to their Jeep.  I’m quick to take advantage and jump up to get some writing done. 
   As though my legs are some sort of magnetic force that neither of them can stay away from for too long, my oldest decides to use his latest technique to get my attention as he rams his whole body into my leg and pushes me like I’m a tackling sled on some football field (if this is the sport he ends up excelling in, I’ll retract my annoyance with it).  I hold onto the counter top with one hand, while I continue to use the mouse with my right.  I’m leaning in what I’m sure is some great yoga pose, before hearing him tell me he did something sweet to his brother and thus deserves candy as a treat – I made the mistake of giving him some M&Ms one day when I saw him unexpectedly share a toy with his little bro.  Since then, he’ll do something sweet and then come to me for his prize.  I look down at him and say, “I think what you did was really awesome, but you’re not going to get candy this time.”
    No!” he shouts at me in the deepest voice he can muster at two-and-a-half.  He stomps off. 
   Just as I’m about to finish typing my sentence, my little man is right below me, both arms wrapped around my knee, “Jooss,” he says with adorable, needy eyes.  I decide to call it a day (at least until naptime) and grab his juice and join him and his brother in the living room for some snuggling and cartoons.
   This back and forth is what I used to do.  I finally figured out the best balance is when I focus on them for an extended period of time, then move on to my projects.  This gives me the chance to provide them with undivided attention and by the time we’re through, they are ready to play with just one another or at least on their own. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Creamy Meat & Potato Casserole

I just made this recipe and froze it for my brother and sister-in-law, who just came home from the hospital with a brand new baby girl (who is adorable might I add, and almost makes me want to start working on #3.  Almost).  My husband LOVES it because its potatoes and beef, and the kids love it because its creamy and cheesy.  The cream of celery is surprising...I always like something new that I rarely use.  There's always left overs for lunches, which at our house is a big deal.

Sunday 9/4/11 Recipe ~ Creamy Meat & Potato Casserole (Trina's version- I've changed it a few times)


  • 1.25-pounds lean ground beef  (I usually get three pounds and use the remaining meat in another casserole or dish) 
  • 3-cups peeled and thinly sliced potatoes (or enough to cover the bottom of the baking pan if you are measuring)
  • 2-(10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup 
  • 1- small onion chopped
  • 1- cup of frozen corn
  • 3/4-cup 2% milk or fat free 1/2 & 1/2
  • 1/4- cup of water
  • salt to taste, garlic powder or garlic salt
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (you can use any cheese you like, or light cheddar- cheddar's the best)


  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef; drain fat.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream of celery soup, onion, corn, milk, water, salt and pepper
  4. Alternately layer the potatoes, soup mixture and meat in a 11x7 inch (2 quart) baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until potatoes are tender. Top with Cheddar cheese, and continue baking until cheese is melted.

Happy Labor Day weekend & happy eating my friends!  Enjoy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Has Your Doc Ever Tried To Smooch You?

This is how my doctor appointment went today…
This was my second official visit with this browned-haired Charleston-area doc.   Luckily, I didn’t have to disrobe or even put on a gown.  I thought it was strange that he laid me on the floor, though he did offer a pillow.  He proceeded to inspect my head, neck and arms.  A very kind soul, he kept rubbing my forehead and telling me it’d all be alright.  Honestly, I didn’t know anything was wrong.
“Does your penis hurt?” he asks.
“I don’t have a penis.  I’m a girl.”
“You do.  You have a little penis.”  He says, matter-of-factly.
“No, girls don’t have penises.”
“It’s okay,” he assures.  “You’ll feel better soon.  There’s a machine right here.”  He then covers me with a blanket and pulls it up under my chin.  He reaches across me to pull up the blanket, inadvertently choking me with his elbow several times. 
He instructs, “You need to cooperate.”  I thought I was.  Then I wondered where he learned that word.  Cooperate.
He gently touches my cheek.  “Awww.  You’ll feel better soon.  I’m a doctor.”  I’m holding back my hysterics now, with a few chuckles slipping out.
“Don’t cry, you will be okay.”  He kisses my cheek and then one eyelid, “I love you, mommy.  I’ll be your doctor everytime.”