Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! ~ Leah & Family

“So the first time you hear the concept of Halloween, when you're a kid, remember the first time you even heard about it, it's like... your brain can't even... "what is this ?! Who's giving out candy, someone's giving out candy?! Who is giving out this candy?! Everyone that we know is just giving out candy?!!! I gotta be a part of this, take me with you, I wanna do it, I'll do anything that they want...! I can wear that.” –Jerry Seinfeld

This year, leading up to the big day, my boys (at least Luke, who will be three years old one week from today) seemed to be getting the concept.  We dress up.  We go knock on doors.  And strangers-yes, the same strangers we are not supposed to talk to-are gonna give us candy.  And, of course, we say thank you.  Pretty straightforward.  Very exciting!
We were invited to the home of my son’s best girlfriend on the ever-enchanting Daniel Island.  The two preschoolers seem to be the boy-girl version of BFFs these days, so we wouldn’t have passed on the invite to hang out with her and her older sis on this most bewitching night of the year.  They all play nice, even with little Zealand in tow.  I’d be remised if I didn’t mention that my friend Allie, the girls’ mommy, offered to make dinner and I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t pass that up.
For days the weather channel predicted rain (gasp!) for Monday evening.  My husband pointed out a day or two ago that it doesn’t rain on Daniel Island…a.k.a. Pleasantville.  Sure enough, 6:30 p.m. rolled around and the few clouds parted to sunny skies-not a damp street or sidewalk to be found.  Following an amazing mea006C by Allie…feta salad, gourmet turkey burgers complete with avocado and red tomato slices, and potatoes that were the essence of delectability, we set out for our trick or treating adventure. 
Including a friend of Allie’s daughter, the Queen of Halloween (she created the name and designed her stylish costume), we set out for our candy hunt with a doctor, witch, princess and Anaken Skywalker from Star Wars. 
This outing was a dream come true for me.  Watching my sons in costume run up ahead of my husband and I, shrieking with excitement as they grabbed the hands of their little friends, made my entire year! In this pristine tree-lined neighborhood, I smiled from ear to ear as I balanced the camera while making sure they weren’t running off into the streets.  At door #1, they already had it down.  Luke, my extravert, had no qualms about marching up the steps to the front door, knocking and facing the creature/mommy/retiree behind each door.  “Trick or treat?” He watched wide-eyed as candy dropped one by one into his bucket.  “Thank you!”  Of course, my boy made me proud!  And it didn’t take Zealand long to figure out the game. 
Butterflies, zombies, Super Mario and even a jellyfish swarmed past us.  As it got darker, the big kids were coming out and costumes, scarier.  My husband and I were now taking turns carrying our 22-month-old up the stairs.  Until…we got to the house all of the kids in the whole neighborhood had been buzzing about…the spooky house.  It was beautiful.  Lit up in orange and white lights, cobwebs, massive spiders, giant snakes, and a skeleton who spoke in a spooky tongue inciting a laugh just from his lunatic laugh.  I held my boys’ hands as we made our way down their long path of doom.  Wouldn’t you know it?  A nice young lady, sweet as pie, handing out more candy.  Spooky isn’t so bad, after all!  We hit a few more houses on the trek back to Allie’s.  This being our third Halloween since Luke was born, and so perfect.  I am looking forward to many more!  Now that they’re in bed, I’m going to find all the blue tootsie rolls!!   ~ Leah

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement ~ Healthy & Hearty Pasta

Okay, so the other night I was getting ready to make beef strog, and realized I didn't have enough sour cream.  Soo...I proceeded to pull everything out of the cabinets I had and just "made up" this dish.  It turned out pretty dang tasty too!  Also, I included how I makde the ranch dressing that I use for our salads.  Yes, it's made from a packet, but usually the dressing mix calls for mayo & sour cream, which I hate.  I don't like most pre-made dressings either, unless they are at a restaurant, so I make my own.

1-Pd Lean Ground Beef
1/2-Pd Lean Pork Sausage (use the other 1/2 pd for breakfast in an egg omelet!)
6-oz of noodles (I'm guessing here-cook more if you like more noodles, and then only add to the dish as much as you prefer)
3-14.5 oz cans of Diced Tomatoes
2-Tsp Italian Seasoning
3-Cloves of Fresh Garlic, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
1-small can of mushrooms, or a handful of fresh mushrooms diced

1-Packet Ranch Dressing powder mix (not the dip!)
16-oz of light Sour Cream
3-Tbl of milk (or enough so that the dressing has a creamy consistency
Any kind of mixed greens & tomatoes, onions or whatever type of veggies you like with your salad

Brown the hamburger & the sausage together, adding the onion and garlic to cook once nearly browned.  Cook until the onion is tender.  Cook the noodles separately according to package directions.  Add the mushrooms to the meat mixture, along with and Italian seasoning, and salt & pepper.  Add the diced tomatoes, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let the juices & seasonings simmer, covered for up to 20 minutes.  Add the drained noodles to the meat mixture, to your desired mix of the two.

Mix the dressing mix, sour cream, and milk to the right consistency, and serve with the salad.

Happy Eating Friends! ~Trina

Friday, October 28, 2011

Working Mommies: It's Time to Let Go of The Guilt!

Why do working moms always feel guilty?  As a working mom myself, I've always felt bad about returning to my job after my daughter was born.  At the time, I didn't have a choice, and when I dropped my three-week-old baby off at daycare that first day, I thought I might die from the heartache.  Those first few months were horrible.  No sleep, no time to myself or for my marriage.  But, I survived.  And with time, I even learned to enjoy life.  I no longer thought about lazy Saturdays, or how it felt to once again eat dinner in peace.  Forty hours at the job- and then every other spare minute living for my family.  That's just how life worked.

The true key is finding a happy-medium that works for you, no matter what that is.  I believe the guilt we feel as working mommas comes mostly from lack of time.  There's only twenty-four hours in a day, and eight of them, we're supposed to be sleeping (ha!).  Then with a career on top of that, we simply can't do it all.  We can't cook, clean, workout, spend time with our spouses, and grocery shop...all the while having and eight-to-five and a needy child or two vying for your attention.  I often wondered how I'd do it all.  For the first few months after my little girl was born, I didn't cook.  Period.   We ate sandwiches or take-out.  I wanted to spend every second with by baby girl, not wasting time over a stove.  That also went for cleaning and everything else, too.

It wasn't long before I got back in the groove, into a schedule that fit my life.  When my son was born, that really added to the equation.  Finding time for everything, plus another child, was tricky.  However once again, the abilities of a mother are amazing; we persevere in times of need.

Here are a few simple tips that have helped me:

1)  A lot of people told me to cook meals on Sundays and then freeze them for a week.  I never liked that idea because Sunday was one of my two days off.  Who wanted to cook all day?  Instead, I searched online and found a wealth of healthy, quick recipes that I could cook in less than thirty minutes.  I'm not saying hamburger helper wasn't a life-saver at times, but I wanted to get into a habit of eating healthy so my kids would do the same.  My favorite thing to make now are casseroles; I cook enough so my husband and I both have a lunch for the next day.  If you follow our blog, you'll have a ton of free, awesome and healthy recipes at your fingertips.

2)   You've got to know your limits.  I've got some friends with two or three kids that work full-time, cook extravagant meals every night, and who up every day to work looking polished and rested.  For me, this is not the case!  If you can find time to do it all and still be sane (I'm not these women are sane!), good for you!  But if you're normal like the rest of us, know that it's okay to have your own limits; there are some things you just can't do.  With my second child, I've found at least thirty minutes to work out, three times a week or so.  With my first child, it just wasn't there.  Am I healthier this time around?  Yes.  Did it kill me to miss out on a year of treadmills and yoga?  No.  You'll be a better mom is you don't over do it.

3)  I need a clean house.  You want to see a crazy lady?  Put some lint on my newly vacuumed carpet and watch me unravel.  I know what you are thinking...two kiddos?  There will be lint, and plenty of it! I've had to really work on accepting the fact that my house will not always be clean, and obsessing over it is wasting precious time.  Ask for help ladies!  Yes, your hubby is just as capable as you are of whipping that vacuum or mop out.  Rather than loathe him every time he walks in from a lazy day of fishing (while you are holding a crying infant, mentally making a checklist of all the things you have left to cram into the day and all the things you hate him for), communicate!  Ask for his help.  My husband always gets frustrated if I don't ask him for and then I give him the silent treatment because I'm pissed off.  One more helpful hint: let him do it his way.  If you try to boss him around and control the situation, he's less likely to help next time.  Yes, you do know how to to laundry better, that's a given.  But practice makes perfect!  Do little bits of anything, every day.  One load of laundry is better than seven on Sunday!  Have the kids help you.  On my days off, it's nice to know that when I'm cooking, or mopping, or cleaning, my four-year-old is right by my side, hindering more than helping, but it's okay!  I feel like it's time well spent.

A wise woman once told me, "You feel guilty no matter what.  You feel guilty when you work, you feel guilty if you stay home.  As a mom, you'll always feel guilty; it's part of life."  Those words stick in my mind whenever I start feeling like I haven't done enough, or that my children have suffered by me working full time. Lets let go of the guilt and just enjoy being a mom, working or not!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement – Kathy’s Classic Roman Pasta with Lemon Chicken

The pasta portion of this recipe came from my Aunt Kathy (click this link to check out her products with Avon).  I immediately fell in love with the lightness of the dish, with the kick from the red pepper flakes and the crunch from the nuts.  To make it a meal, we compliment it with this delightful lemon chicken recipe.  For the kiddos who aren’t into spicy, separate a portion of the pasta before adding the red pepper flakes.

Kathy’s Classic Roman Pasta with Lemon Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 lb. pasta (I like to use thin spaghetti)
½ teaspoon (generous) fresh ground pepper
½ teaspoon (generous) red pepper flakes
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
½ cup pine nuts
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper chicken breasts.  In a skillet, cook the chicken in 2 tablespoons of butter until juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Add remaining butter to skillet; stir in lemon juice; heat through. Simmer.
Prepare pasta.  In last five minutes of pasta’s cooking, heat oil and pine nuts.  Mix together Romano cheese and peppers.  Drain pasta.  Quickly add nuts & oil mixture and cheese mixture.  Toss and serve with chicken. 
 (The biggest challenge with this simple dish is to keep the pasta hot between draining and getting to table.  It cools quickly.) 
Buon appetito!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is it Colic, Acid Reflux, or Cow's Milk Protein Allergy?

Colic: It's the easy diagnosis for every unknown infant ailment.  Depending on where you research, it's said that anywhere from 25% to 70% of babies have colic.  Why such a vast range?  I believe because there's no cause, no cure, and a really long list of symptoms.

  Oh, your baby cries a lot?  Colic.  Has severe gas?  Colic.  Fussy? Could be colic.  The real question we need to ask-is it truly colic?  I can't tell you how many times I've heard babies who were misdiagnosed with colic, then later were found to have some other issue, such as acid reflux, or a formula allergy.  

  My own daughter was diagnosed with colic at three weeks, the "known" age colic is said to start inflicting the young.  After several weeks for constant crying at night, we switched her formula for Nutramigen, a formula for babies with sensitivity to the protein in cow's milk.  After three days, she was a totally new child.  Was it colic, or a formula allergy?  It's funny, because to this day I still refer to her sickness as "colic" when I'm nearly sure she just couldn't handle the protein from the formula she was ingesting.

  What is colic?  The word itself comes from the Greek Kolikos meaning "suffering from the colin".  Doctors believe that pain in the gut leads to a constant hurting and crying infant.  It's interesting because most babies who are believed to have colic start crying around three to four weeks old and usually in the evenings, right around dinner time.  The inconsolable crying can go on for hours and hours.

  Could there be another answer to this puzzling phenomenon?  Acid reflux in babies is the regurgitation or spitting up of the stomach contents into painful acids from an immature muscle connecting the stomach to the esophagus.  Unlike colic, it can being at any time and can be present at birth.  However, due to the fact acid reflux can also cause extended periods of crying and can be hard to diagnose, it can easily be mistaken for colic.  One very distinct thing to look for other than frequent spitting up is if your baby is crying and arching their back right after eating.

  Unfortunately, a baby may not actually spit up when they have the acid reflux.  There's such thing as "silent reflux".  This is found to be more mistaken with colic because there are no obvious symptoms.  Silent reflux can be more painful to your baby as the acid burns on the way up and the way down, causing twice as much discomfort.  Untreated, severe baby acid reflux can lead to long term damage to the esophagus, stomach and throat which lead to other health problems.

  Cow's mil protein allergy is the most common food allergy in young children and most babies outgrow this allergy by the age of two or three.  It causes stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea and extensive crying.  Sometimes, babies can have both acid reflux and an allergy to the protein in cow's milk, which is even harder to diagnose.

  My friend Lindi, a young mother of her son Kesel, knows all too well about having a child with these issues. Kesel was born with both acid reflux and cow's milk protein allergy.  Unfortunately, it took several trips to the doctor before they could figure out he indeed had acid reflux.  Lindi, being a new mother, had no clue of the difference between spitting up and vomiting with a young infant.  Those with little ones know how true this is; sometimes a child may spit up what seems like an entire bottle and it's actually not vomiting.  Their doctor finally was able to figure out that Kesel had acid reflux when the nurse learned that he arched his back and cried after he ate.  After a few weeks on liquid Zantac, Lindi finally started to notice a change.

  The weird thing was, Kesel was still crying often, not sleeping well, and he wasn't gaining weight.  When Lindi voiced her concerns, her doctor mentioned the possibility of colic.  Already on the verge of a breakdown, Lindi kept pushing.  She continued to take Kesel in to the doc, calling to discuss her worries as well.  At his two month appointment, her nurse pratictioner suggested trying a new formula, Nutramigen AA (amino acid), which is for babies with an allergy to cow's milk protein.

  Lindi, ready to try anything to help her baby, did some research into the formula.  Unlike regular Nutramigen you can buy in stores, the formula they suggested with amino acid had to be subscribed by a doctor, with a cost of $96 per 14.5 oz can.  A baby Kesel's age can goes through two to three of those cans a week, a significant amount of money.  And no, insurance doesn't cover it!  Luckily, the nurse suggested she try looking online on Ebay, as they had clients that purchased the formula at a lower price from people who were overstocked or no longer using it, at a price of $25-$35 per can.

  Within a few weeks of being on the new milk, Kesel was a brand new baby, sleeping and eating better, as well as gaining weight.  With time, the doctors say he will out grow the acid reflux as well as the milk allergy.  As the child gets older, the muscle connecting the esophagus becomes more developed and as they eat more solids, the food tend to stay down better.

  So, the moral to the story is-before you panic that your child has the infamous and well dreaded colic, do your research.  Is your child spitting up more milk at a time and more frequently then you feel is normal?  Are they arching their back and crying every time after they eat?  Do they have constant diarrhea?  Colic may have no cure, but acid reflux and cow's milk protein allergy do.  I got lucky when someone suggested I try Nutramigen (I was just lucky mine was at the store!), otherwise I would've just assumed Callie had colic and she would've continued to suffer when such an easy fix was out there and available.  

  Doctors are so important, and I'd never down-play their role in our world.  Quite frankly, we couldn't live without them.  However, until infants can talk and actually tell use what's bothering them, their symptoms can be hard to read, and therefore, any related illnesses even harder to diagnose.  With so many different diseases and sicknesses out there and even more being discovered, we can't always assume a diagnosis of colic is accurate.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Give It Up Ladies-No Mom is Perfect!

It's funny, thinking back on the misconceptions I'd had about parenting prior to giving birth to my daughter, Callie.  There were several ideas I'd had in my head about how my life as a parent would go, and actually, many of which were wrong.  By the time I had my son Clayton, I had it all figured out.  Don't judge, don't assume (we all know what happens when you ass-u-me) and definitely don't think you are going to be perfect.  Seriously, you will be eating your words.

   My kids were never going to eat too much sugar.  They were never going to watch SpongeBob.  They would be in bed by 8pm every night and they darn sure wouldn't be sleeping in any bed but their own!  By the time they were one-year-old, they'd be off the bottle, and if they had a pacifier, guess what peeps...that would be gone too.  My kids would never be the ones throwing food at the fancy restaurant, or talking back, or being a brat in public.  We'd spend evenings similar to the Brady Bunch or the Cleavers, eating dinner together and chatting about our day, followed up by a puzzle or some other family-fun, learning-type activity.  Ha!  How ignorant I was!

   Can I give you sound advice from a real-life mommy of two kiddos?  Shut your mouth.  Seriously!! When you want to give unsolicited advice to another parent, or when you think for two seconds you know more than someone else about being a mommy...don't go there.  There's nothing that pisses me off more than a person who a) has no kids or b) has less kids or a younger child than me telling me that Callie or Clayton shouldn't do this, or shouldn't do that.  Unless you are my mom, or I ask for your advice...please keep it to yourself.  I'm not an idiot! I watched other parents and said the same exact me. And guess what friends, Karma is a real you know what.  It was my kids (both of them) throwing food at the restaurant, or talking back in front of company.  Or going to bed super late after watching SpongeBob.  Both my kiddos have slept in our bed off and on, and I'm just thankful to be able to use the word functional when I describe my family.  We are who we are, and we are far from flawless.

   I love the mother I have become, and I love the children I have made and taught and loved.  However, I know that I was just like all the other moms out there, I wanted to be perfect, I wanted to be the best...I judged others thinking I'd do better.  This race of motherhood isn't a competition of who can finish last with the fastest time on the clock, it's a silent war we must conquer in order to come out whole and sane when we cross that finish line.  It's just getting there that is the true victory.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement- Healthy & Hearty Pizza

I love me some good pizza, that's just all there is to it.  However, if I eat crap, I gain weight...and lets face it is full of crap.  So... I decided to come up with my own recipe where my family and I could still enjoy the popular entree.

4- Whole Wheat Pitas or 2- whole wheat pre-made pizza crusts (sometimes Walmart has the pre-made)
1- Jar pizza sauce (I get Walmart Great Value brand, less sugar then most of the others)
1- Pd Lean Ground Beef
8-White mushrooms, sliced
1-Can of Artichoke hearts, the hearts pulled into smaller chunks
4- Roma Tomatos or a few cherry tomatoes, sliced
1-small onion, diced
1/2-Cups of Cheddar Cheese
1/2-Cup Mozzarella Cheese
(any other veggies your family may enjoy, go ahead and substitute.  I wouldn't suggest not using the tomatoes though, they are amazing baked on this pizza)

Preheat oven to 375, and brown the ground beef.  If your family doesn't like onions unless they are cooked, go ahead and throw them in with the beef.  I like them a bit crisp tender, so I add them later.  Smother the pittas or pizza crust with the pizza sauce, then add the ground beef, to cover.  Add all the vegetables, spread out.  Then, slather with the cheese....and bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese and veggies are cooked, and the crust is cooked to your liking.

My entire family LOVES this dish.  Because I just started really serving it with the artichoke hearts, Callie still picks them off...but I still cook it with them, hoping eventually she'll just eat it :)
Happy Eating Friends!!  ~ Trina

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement ~ Swiss Steak

This recipe was a huge hit in our house-of course!  Meat & Potatoes Ya'll!  WARNING: This takes 2 hours of baking time, so it's totally perfect for a Saturday or Sunday, or a weekday if you are well prepared.  The hubby had two helpings and the kids did all but lick the scraps from their plate.  You think I'm kidding!!

Swiss Steak~
1/4- cup all purpose flour
1-tsp mustard powder
1-tsp salt
1/14 or 1 1/2 pds boneless been top round steak (fat trimmed)
1-tsp olive oil
1-pd plum tomatoes (or any small tomato) chopped
1 -medium onion, chopped
2-carrots, chopped
1-Tbl worcestershire sauce

Red Mashed Potatoes~
6 to 8-Red Potatoes, sliced but  NOT peeled
1/4 or 1/2-cup of fat free 1/2 & 1/2 or milk
3 -Tbl of butter
Salt & Pepper to Taste
**This all depends on how you like mashed potatoes, if you like creamer, add more milk, if you like them buttery, add more butter...or all the above!

Swiss Steak~
Preheat oven to 325. In a small bowl, combine flour, mustard & salt.  Rub the mixture on both sides of steak. Discard remaining flour mixture.  In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over med-high heat.  Add the steak and cook, turning once, until browned.  Transfer steak into 13X9 baking dish & top with tomatoes, onions and carrots.  Drizzle w/worcestershire.   Cover w/foil & bake for 2 hours, or until steak is fork-tender.  Cut the steak into four pieces & serve w/veggies & pan juices.

Red Mashed Potatoes~
Boil sliced potatoes until fork-tender, then drain water.  Add 1/2 & 1/2 or milk, butter, & salt & pepper.  Then with an electric mixer, mix until completely mashed.  Serve alongside the Swiss Steak when done.

Yummy!  I serve w/whole wheat rolls.  Nothing else needed!
Happy Eating Friends! ~ Trina

Monday, October 17, 2011

Please Promise To - What We Provide Them With Today May Brighten The Path To Our Promises

Mother - I promise to give you all the love and care you will ever need and more. 
Age 2
Mother - I promise you’ll have a great big grassy yard to play in.
Child – Please promise to spend quality time with me, whether it’s inside at home or outside at the park.    
Age 3 
Mother - I promise I’ll give you a little sister or brother.
Child – Please promise to have me socialize with other children my age and not just sit me in front of the television all day.      
Age 5
Mother - I promise you I’ll send you to the best school.
Child – Please promise to spend one-on-one time with me after school helping me with my homework and teaching me all that you know.
Age 10
Mother - I promise I’ll take you to Disney World.
Child – Please promise to really listen to me, support my interests and let me explore my independence.
Age 13
Mother - I promise I’ll buy you all the right clothes.
Child – Please promise to teach me to be confident in myself, no matter what I’m wearing.
Age 16
Mother - I promise I’ll buy you a car.
Child – Please promise to teach me how to save money and earn the things that I want to have.
Age 18
Mother - I promise I’ll send you to the University of your choosing.
Child – Please promise to carve a path for me to do well in school so I may earn scholarships to get me through college.
Mothers make a simple promise to their newborn - to love them and care for them, no matter what it takes.  It doesn’t take long, however, for more complicated hopes and dreams to take focus in our mind.  Yet, with unexpected economic heartbreak, career detours, and everyday challenges that life is sure to deliver-and does; some of the promises we make to our children may feel like illusions.
It is through our disappointments we must realize that if we’re providing our kids with the essentials of love and security, they will survive.  More than likely, if we are the type of mothers that even have these worries; these children will thrive.  Isn’t it true that what we’re already providing them is all they really need?
We can get so hung up on giving them all the bells and whistles- the best schools, mind-blowing vacations and the trendiest clothes, but what really matters are the simple times you spend with them and enjoying each moment in our today.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement ~Chicken Paella

Trina's Chicken Paella is my version of the original dish.  The hubs and kids really enjoyed it, even though it's chicken and not beef...not a single thing is deep fried, and there's no potatoes. Yes folks, it's not even a southern dish and it was a winner at our house!! So, you know it must be good.

3-Chicken Breasts, fat trimmed & cut into 1/4 or 1/2 inch pieces
3- Teaspoons Olive Oil
1- Onion Chopped
1-Green Bell Pepper Chopped
1 1/4- Teaspoon Chicken Bouillon mix (I use Maggi Brand now courtesy of a friend.  It's SOOO much better than the original cubes.  It's in the hispanic food aisle of the grocery store and is in a yellow plastic container)
1-Cup Brown Rice
1 1/4- Cup Water

Heat 1 tsp oil in a large skillet, then brown chicken, till cooked through.  Remove chicken, then put in two teaspoons oil, and cook the onion and green bell pepper until crisp tender.  Mix the water & bouillon together, then pour in with the vegetables.  Add the rice and chicken back into the mixture, bring to boil, then reduce heat to low, simmer covered for 25 minutes or until rice is completely tender.

This meal is very easy, and it's great with a loaf of sour dough bread and/or your favorite salad.  Happy Eating Friends!

Friday, October 14, 2011

There's No Such Thing as a Modest Mother

I’m sure someone warned me that upon the birth of your child, all modesty flies out the window.  First of all, on the delivery table, they have you essentially naked—with a small gown and legs spread eagled for all to see.  Then they have nurses coming to look around in there, to poke and prod and supposedly diagnose progress.  If I knew how many people would’ve been staring at my hoo-haw, I may never have had the guts to give birth! 
   So, at least you’re warmed up when it comes to breastfeeding, right?  Immediately after the doctor pulls this huge being (okay, maybe not so huge, but it sure feels like it!) out of my body, I don’t even have a second to recoup before the nurses are grabbing my breasts, trying to get the perfect position for my young boy to feed.  We spend the next hour of his life letting him suck, let go, and then latch back on.  It’s apparent that hardly anything is coming out and my poor son is getting frustrated, crying in between feedings. 
   The next few days aren’t much better in the hospital.  Every time a nurse comes in, she’s plopping out one of my breasts like it’s one of her medical tools, and pressing my son to me.  She doesn’t hesitate to stick her hands in there to help re-adjust as needed; we have to get the right position or I’ll be sorry later, she keeps reminding me.
   My milk still hasn’t come in, but when it does…that’s enough to make someone want to lose it.  My boobs inflate as big as balloons; my poor nipples are stretched beyond belief and leaking.  I’m so sore, I just want to have a hot bath and forget about this entire ruckus.  My son has a different agenda.
   By the time I leave the hospital, I vow if anyone ever touches my boobs again, I may punch their lights out.  But, within an hour, I’m sitting at home—doing…guess what?  You got it—breast-feeding!  I can’t go anywhere because my precious angel has quite the appetite and is basically attached to my chest 24/7.  Didn’t somebody say this was supposed to be a time of bonding?  If masquerading as an open-all-night 24-hour cafeteria equals “bonding,” I guess that’s what’s happening.
   Within a few days of being home, my breasts are still sore; blisters surround my nipples. He’s obviously been latching on wrong.  That damn nurse was right!  So off to the hospital I go for one more poor woman to grope my boobs and show me what I’m doing wrong. 
   It’s amazing what mothers’ can endure…it truly is.  Eventually, my son and I got the breast-feeding thing down.  We’d feed at the same times pretty much so I was free to do things as needed in between.  Hey, when the time called for it, nobody said feeding in the car, pulled over on the side of the road, was a bad thing.  Desperate times call for desperate measures. 
   At three months, when I had to return to work, I decided to let the breastfeeding go and buy bottles and formula.  Rather than be elated as I’d been expecting, I was depressed.  I went back and forth on the decision probably a hundred times, driving both myself and my husband crazy.  Deep down, I’d become attached to those moments alone, rocking and feeding my son.  I was giving him something no one else could, and although those first few months were tough—I knew I didn’t want to let it go. 
   It’s amazing how with time, I learned how to let go of the modesty, and embrace the open and raw parts of being a mother—even when it included having to give every part of myself.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Monster in Pink

Callie had just started taking steps, and she was only nine-months-old.  This changed everything, of course, so we had to baby-proof our house, including moving her crib up to the highest notch.  Rather than realize what this truly meant for me, I was a proud mama. I mean, whose children really start taking steps at nine months?  I already had an over-achiever!
   One evening after her daddy and I’d put her to bed, I talked him into watching a scary movie with me.  Scary movies had always been my thing…but not so much my husband’s.  It usually took a little probing, but he often gave in.
   So, there we were in the dark, huddled up under the blanket—me oftentimes hiding my face in his shoulder.  It had just gotten to the scary part, the monster was about to come out of the closet when we heard a soft knock, knock, knock coming from Callie’s bedroom door.  We turned our heads and we saw two large shadows underneath her door that appeared to be feet, illuminated in the darkness from her nightlight.
   I’m quite embarrassed to say, rather than my brave motherly instinct kicking in and me running in to save my daughter from the intruder, I shrank away in terror, pushing my husband off the couch to go investigate.  I could tell he was scared too, but he jumped up and headed to her door, opening it slowly.
   On the other side of the door was, in fact, not a monster, but my precious little daughter in her pink pajamas.  She smiled as if she’d won the baby jackpot.  And…she had.  She’d learned how to get out of her crib at nine months, forcing us to get her a big-girl bed.  Which then in turn, led to our next battle of parenthood–keeping her in her bed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Coconut Curried Pumpkin Soup

If you’re looking for a dish to compliment the autumn crisp, you’ve found it in this warm and cozy soup.  This savory brew of pumpkin and coconut milk, with a zest of curry, will bewitch.  Serve this with a warm fresh loaf of French bread for the indulgence you deserve!  For the youngsters, try it in a soup sippy. 

Coconut Curried Pumpkin Soup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can lower sodium chicken broth, plus 1 can water
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk


Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion until softened, 5 minutes. Add garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute more.

Add broth, water and pure; mix well. Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Stir in coconut milk.

Pure soup in blender in several batches until smooth. Return to saucepan. Reheat and serve.

Buon appetito!

**I discovered this recipe last year right here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another Embarrassing Pediatrician Story

It was that time of year, and I was at the office for my four-year-old’s well-baby visit.  The questions were the same thing they’d always been, so I was used to them.  The doctors always wanted to know how my kids were sleeping, eating, drinking and pooping. 
   “Make sure she’s getting enough fiber and fruits and grains,” Callie’s new pediatrician told me in a serious voice, as though this was my first time.
   I was almost too quick to respond. “Oh, you don’t have to worry about that,” I said proudly.  “We eat a lean protein, whole grain and veggie with nearly every meal.  My family eats extremely healthy.”
   It was something I could honestly brag about; even my husband complained about the consistent health-friendly dishes on the menu at our house.
      “That’s great news! I love to hear it.  Callie, what is your favorite food?”  The doctor pressed my daughter, an all-knowing smile on her face.
   Without even hesitating, Callie responded enthusiastically, “Cheetos and marshmallows!”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement ~ Chicken Cacciatore Pasta

I've always loved Chicken Cacciatore, so when I found a healthy recipe that I tweaked a bit to fit my families's a regular favorite at our house.   Because I cook such diverse dishes...with a lot of veggies and lean kiddos will eat mostly anything.  I am hoping this pays off later in life!!!!!

1.5-lbs boneless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size chunks
2-Tbl olive oil
1-Lg green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1-Small Onion chopped
3- cloves (I suggest fresh) garlic, minced
3/4- Tsp dried oregano
1/4-Tsp red pepper flakes
Salt- desired amount
Ground black pepper-desired amount
1/2 of a box of sliced mushrooms, or a full box of baby portobello mushrooms quartered
2-Tbl dry white wine or chicken broth
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2-pd whole wheat spiral, elbow, or whatever small type of noodles you prefer

In large, deep nonstick skillet warm oil over med-high heat, add chicken, onion and bell pepper, sprinkle with garlic, oregano & crushed black pepper.  Be sure to not burn garlic.  Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.   Season with salt & pepper.  Chicken should be lightly browned.  Begin cooking noodles separately according to package directions.
Add the mushrooms & wine or broth.  Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.  Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes while sauce thickens.  Drain noodles & transfer to skillet.

I usually will accompany with either sour dough or whole wheat bread.  You can serve with salad, or another vegetable such as green beans as well.

Happy Eating Friends!!! *Trina

Saturday, October 8, 2011

It’s All in the Aim - A Potty Training Success Story

I was proud of my son who’d gotten the hang of potty training at 18 months.  By 22 months, he was a pro!  We were even leaving the house in our undies, taking the extra time to stop in the public bathrooms (or the secluded tree at the park) so he could go when he had to.  Now he’s two years old, and one day I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I turned the corner into the kitchen and saw my little boy standing there, naked from the waist-down, with slightly bent knees, precisely peeing into the Mega Blok toy he held out in front of him.
   I laughed and told him he shouldn’t do that, that we only pee in the potty…but secretly, I was proud.  Until the next day, that is, when I caught him aiming for his beach pail he’d purposely placed on the floor.  This time, I had to act stern and guide him to the potty.  Over the course of the next week, probably no thanks to my initial reaction, I caught him aiming for all sorts of toys with a look of pride on his face.  Funny as it was to me the first couple of times, it was starting to grow old.  I had a serious talk with him, as serious as a talk can be at 24 months, and in just a few days, he was focused on the potty again.  Almost three now, he still occasionally pulls down his pants and smile…waiting for a reaction. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Valentine's Broken Heart

I had no doubt my heart would be broken that Valentine’s Day in 2007.  You see, I’d given birth to my baby girl on January 21st.  Just over three weeks passed and I was standing on the doorstep of a woman I’d barely even spoken with, ready to hand over my precious newborn. 
   I stood there for what seemed like eternity, staring at the door.  It was a beige door, framed by a pretty, upscale brick house.  I guess that should’ve made me feel better, in some weird, only in today’s-society kind of way.  She had a nice house, so surely—she was a good person?  That’s the way it works, right?
   I kept staring, holding my sleeping infant close to my chest.  I’d dressed her special that day, in cute little jeans with a heart on them and a matching heart onesie.  Being a new mother, I didn’t know the obvious…that jeans were uncomfortable and that babies actually preferred to be in soft clothing.  Well, at least she festively matched for the holiday on her first day of daycare.
   I reached my hand up to knock, but then I heard Callie whimper and quickly pulled away.  I patted her soft head of dark, messy hair.  Why was I dropping her off only after three weeks I again asked myself?   Oh yes…that’s right.  I had to.  I’d been working in an insurance agency for about two years.  I only had three weeks of time to take off, and with my husband and me struggling to make ends meet …that’s all I could take.  Besides, I was lucky—wasn’t I?  Most of the other ladies in my office with children had taken only two weeks off…
   Abruptly, a short, beautiful Puerto Rican woman opened the door.  I wondered if I’d even knocked?  Her eyes filled with confusion as she waved me inside.  “Come on in, Trina. How long have you been out here?”
   She seemed to sense my fears, or at least knew of them due to past experience, and gestured for me to sit on her couch.  Her white carpet looked impeccable, not a spot anywhere.  I looked around at the five other young children playing with toys, wondering how on earth she kept her house so perfect.  Not a spec of dust anywhere on her expensive furniture.  Was this a good sign?
   I didn’t think so.
   We chatted for a few minutes, mostly me reminding Aurea of Callie’s schedule. I laugh now at this notion—schedule?  At three weeks?  There was no schedule!  And the gleam in Aurea’s eyes said she knew this, too.
   I hugged my tiny little baby girl close to my chest, and then passed her away for the first time.  Aurea immediately set her in a bouncy chair and bustled off into the kitchen, which made me only want to stay longer.  She should be held!  All the time!  I tried to stay strong and forced myself to leave.  I drove away, crying.  And not just a tear or two…real tears.  A veritable deluge washing down my face.  What kind of terrible mother leaves her baby at such a young age?  What kind of life was I already setting her up for?  Little did I know, it was only the beginning of the long list of failures I’d blame myself for as a mother.
   I did call to check on Callie about four times that day; thankfully, Aurea was patient and friendly.  Although I was concerned about my leaving my daughter, I knew deep down, she was in great hands.  I’d specially picked Aurea, who had a huge list of references.  There is about three or four ladies who did daycare in the town where I worked.  They worked together and were friends—all coming with high recommendations and all typically full and taking no more kids.  I still think Aurea was a huge blessing.
   Sometimes, as mothers, we have to know what’s best for our children…even if it’s tough.  I believe that Aurea brought something to, not only my child, but my family, that I couldn’t.  She was patient, loving, smart, and incredibly experienced in the area of child-rearing and care-taking.  By the time Callie was two, she was taking naps at the same time every day.  She was cleaning up and putting all her toys back where they belonged.  She was eating a well-balanced lunch and not complaining a lick about it.  She was reading books and singing songs I never thought a two-year-old could sing.  And she had a heart of gold and a giving nature that I believe only partly could’ve been born in her and partly taught to her.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Cilantro Lime Chicken

This is one of my favorite recipes!  Something about the combination of lime and cilantro...along with an ice cold beer...can make any stressful day seem like a day at the beach.   

Cilantro Lime Chicken

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
¾ cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1 lime, juiced
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 tsp parmesan
2 tsp red pepper flakes

1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Slice a chicken breast in half lengthwise, leaving the halves attached on one side. Open and pound flat to 1/8-in. thickness; sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.
2.      Sprinkle one side of chicken breast evenly with 1 tablespoon of cilantro. At one end of each breast, place 2 tablespoons shredded cheese. Roll each breast up, starting on the side with the cheese. Insert a toothpick in each roll to prevent unrolling. Combine lime juice and olive oil and brush evenly over each chicken roll. Sprinkle each roll with 1 teaspoon parmesan cheese and a ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Place in baking dish. Cover.
3.      Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of shredded cheese over each roll and bake for 10 minutes more or until chicken juices run clear. Discard toothpicks.
4.      With the vibrant taste of cilantro and a hint of lime, this dish is a refreshingly healthy way to cure your craving for a taste of Mexico. Plus, the red pepper flakes add that little special zing.

Buon appetito!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Competitive Mom In Each Of Us

I love this time of year!  The crisp warmth of the sun lets us know autumn is soon to arrive. We’re shuttling our kiddos to their after-school sports.  Maybe this is your first sports season as the proud mom.  Beware.  The competitive mom lives inside of each of us.  It’s what you do with her that counts.  Here is how I found that person inside of me. 
On this particularly sweltering Easter Sunday in South Carolina, my parents and I, along with my two toddlers ventured out to our first-ever Easter egg hunt.  Jump castles, face painting and games galore were scattered across a great, green lawn behind a church right in town.  Thankfully, ice water stations were abundant and I didn’t have to worry as much about my father or my boys. 
The jumpy house for toddlers had the fewest in line.  It always seems awkward–you throw your little tyke into an enclosure of mesh so he can bounce into a mess of strange, random little kids.  We smile at them from the outside; patiently watching them go up and down, side to side, even get a little trample or two. Before long they’re bored and they slide out. 
My 15-month old was too young to participate in the egg hunt, which I soon would realize why—so he stayed with my parents in the shade of some pines.  I found our designated spot and prepared for the hunt.  As we lined up, a various mixture of moms and dads with one or more children, I realized we still had time to wait before the ribbon was cut. 
Under the hot sun, 20 minutes ticks by, seemingly longer than it does at the while you’re waiting in the doctor’s office wearing a paper dress.  How do you explain the time issue to an excitable toddler who can see hundreds of colorful eggs lying just in front of us?   As we stand, beads of sweat forming on my brow, a direct order from the sun; adults readied, closing in tighter and tighter at the ribbon, waiting for the volunteers to cut it already.  I wanted my boy to get a lot of eggs.  But I worried about the other parents.  Did they have a plan?  So…quickly I devised one.  We will book it, Ninja-Warrior style, to the middle and I’d kick eggs to my boy who will swiftly scoop them into our basket.  I told my two-year-old of our master plan.
Finally, we see a chopper nearing us.  The draw to this particular egg hunt was the promise of a helicopter flying direct and low over our field of eggs.  Sure enough, they followed through as promised.  This moment elated me as I saw my son’s eyes fill with wonder as his hair wisped a dance of excitement; the little bunny nose they’d hand painted on his cheek now smudging down his smiling little face.  We cheered as the helicopter dropped those colorful plastic eggs into the roped-off hunt zone that beckoned us to begin!  As it flew off, I was suddenly aware of butterflies in my stomach.  What was this feeling?  I just wanted to make darned sure my happy little boy stayed this way and grabbed his worth in eggs.
This was the moment, folks; the birth of my parental competitiveness.  I’d seen it on TV with pageant moms and baseball dads.  I didn’t know I had it in me.  But suddenly, with my legs poised for the race, I had one mission.  GET. LOTS. OF. EGGS.  In my imagination, I held my son like an NFL running back with a football, heading for the end zone. I don’t remember the ribbon coming down; I just remember blocking and ducking and kicking and scooping.  With about 30 eggs in my basket, I felt triumph!  We won!  I cheered with my son who could’ve cared less if we had gotten 10 eggs.  I was proud.  Oh, the glory!
Almost immediately, the guilt kicked in.  Was that poor sportsmanship or was I defending my little son against those rascally four-year-olds?   I decided I needed to redeem myself, so I kneeled down to my son’s level and told him to look for a little girl who didn’t have any eggs–or very few eggs–and to give her some of ours…what’s wrong with me???  I’m even calling these eggs ours, instead of his. 
Ultimately, the arrival of this competitive mom surprised me and I’m intrigued to learn more about her.  I know she will come in handy when it comes to my children’s grades and their utmost success.  Though I also know I need to keep it in check and not become one of those moms!
Go on out there!  Proudly shout out your child’s name!  Encourage them.  Ultimately, just remember to be gracious and respect the other kids and parents out there.  Even if it means giving up a few eggs.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Speer Family Chili

This has officially become our Speer Family Chili recipe...after about 7 years of perfecting it.  I found the original recipe from Jeanne Allen of Rye, CO in the cookbook Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook - click here for the revised and updated version of the book.  A comfort food typically enjoyed on Sundays after we've cried over another lost Denver Broncos game, it has become a favorite autumn and winter dish in our home.  Yesterday, we enjoyed it for the first time probably since March as we experienced a chilly low-of-64 degree day in South Carolina.  We serve it with cornbread muffins-with a can of diced green chilies mixed in (per my husband's request, and it's quite good).  You can also serve it up Petro's-style - my Tennessee peeps, I'm talkin' to you!

Speer Family Chili

2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, diced
28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
16 oz can tomato puree
1 can light kidney beans, undrained
1 can dark kidney beans, undrained
4-oz can diced green chilies
1/2 cup water
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. pepper
3/4 tsp. cayenne
cilantro, chopped
cheddar cheese
sour cream


Brown beef and onion in skillet.  Drain.

Mix chili powder, salt, cumin, pepper, and cayenne into 1/2 cup of water.  Pour into slow cooker.  Stir in remaining ingredients (except for cilantro, cheddar cheese and sour cream).  Stir in beef mixture.  Cook on High 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to Low.  Cook 4-6 hours.

Top with cilantro, cheese and sour cream.

Buon appetito!