Monday, April 30, 2012

Which Season Are You Better At Mothering? Newborns, Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, etc.

Were you the perfect mom for a newborn?  Are you finding yourself with a knack for the testing toddlers? Maybe your crafty and playful side is a grand match with preschoolers versus your awkward days with infants. Who knows, you may be the meticulous, superstar soccer mom balancing school schedules, practices, recitals, dinner and bedtime. Or maybe you remember your wild teenage days which will keep you one step ahead of your raging teen.

Today, with my 3 1/2-year-old pushing the envelope at every waking moment, I'm starting to think this isn't my best inning in this game of parenthood. If this were Survivor , I'm pretty sure he's on the verge of outwitting, outplaying and outlasting me...even making a fool of me twice as I chased this naked little boy down in our neighborhood - and that was just today!

It wasn't long ago, though, I felt like a pro. Or maybe in hindsight I feel that way, though I probably didn't at the time. Keeping steady, I'd study my hand and play the right cards. I read all the books on raising happy babies and toddlers and kids. I could redirect rather than raise my voice. And he listened, brilliantly.

And then he turned two. He started testing me, but was a child of respect and "no" meant no and "don't" meant don't. Sure, he'd try all the crazy things boys like to do. He'd climb too high at the playground. He'd make me crazy trying to get him strapped in his car seat. He couldn't resist grabbing anything in his reach.

And now...he's 3.

And he's calling my bluff.

The book 1-2-3 Magic used to work like a charm for me. Now he counts to three for me. When we get to three, he laughs. I take him to his room for time out and he repeatedly opens his door - taunting me to give in or give up.  When I say "stay here" -he goes there. When I say "stop" -he runs.

The wildest part of this ride is that when he's not testing me, he's an angel.  The most polite, sweet little boy I've ever met. He thanks me for taking him to the park. He gives me many hugs throughout the day expressing "Mom, I just love you sooo much, I'm going to give you a great big hug now!" And he does.  And its wonderful. He likes to snuggle and he loves to read with me. But lest I leave just a moment of time for him to get bored or on!

I've started reading more books on discipline and am trying to dedicate my every day to being consistent with my discipline and establishing a routine.  I know our big move has heightened sensitivities in our home and we've all been adapting.  This may not be my strongest season of motherhood, but I know overall I'm a great mom and there will always be moments like these test our whole soul.  And drive us just a little bit mad. So whether you're in your strongest quarter of your game or struggling to get through to the next period, remember that beyond everything you are a fantastic mom...otherwise you wouldn't care enough to worry about it!   At least that's my mom told me! ;)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - McCormick® Slow Cooker BBQ Pork Sandwiches

Buy a packet of McCormick® Slow Cookers BBQ Pulled Pork Seasoning, throw it in your crock pot with a pork tenderloin and 3 other ingredients - Voila! You have a zesty pulled pork sandwich the whole family will enjoy!  A shout out to my high school BFF, Sue, who told me all about it and has been talking about this recipe forever.  I finally gave it a try last night.  Easy, to say the least.  Yummy, totally!  The hubs AND kids enjoyed it immensely!  Thank you Sue...and McCormick®!

McCormick® Slow Cooker BBQ Pork Sandwiches
Makes 10 servings.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed (I used a pork tenderloin)
1 package McCormick® Slow Cookers BBQ Pulled Pork Seasoning
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1. Place pork in slow cooker.

2. Mix Seasoning Mix, ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar until blended. Pour over pork. Cover.

3. Cook 8 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH. Remove pork from slow cooker.

4. Shred pork, using 2 forks. Return pork to slow cooker. Mix and heat with sauce before serving. Serve on sandwich rolls, if desired.

Buon Appetito!


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Parent Teacher Conference

Your child is a very strong leader.

When I went to meet with Callie's preschool teacher, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect.  Her being my first child, I was ready for anything.

With love and guidance, her spunk for life is going to take her far.

I can't exactly speak for other parents, but I know for me, there's nothing I want more than for my child to be a leader.

She has a way of negotiating with the other children, it's a give and take, and while she does know how to get her way- she also knows how to correspond and share, building friendships and communicating in a positive way.

It's important to me that she cares for other children, and doesn't use her leadership skills to be the mean girl, but more to care for others and teach others how to be caring.  While I was popular in school and also a leader, I've always cared about how other people felt and what they thought.  Being a strong and determined person doesn't mean you have to be in charge all the time or bossy.  The best leaders in my opinion are the ones who want to not only help themselves, but see other people happy as well and have a means of getting their way without anyone even knowing it.

Callie is unique in that most children begin writing with capital letters because they are easy. Small letters are harder to write as they take more control.  Callie writes her name with a capitol C, and the remaining letters lowercase, which shows me she's going to be ahead of the game in kindergarten.  As she shows interest in things, that's the best time to teach them.  

I thought about all the times I'd felt guilty for not working with her for hours on end, or pushed education to the point we both hated it.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  Our children will be just fine, and we're likely wonderful mothers who do plenty, and our kids will thrive.

It's important to do things with your child other than stick a work book in front of her.  Cook in the morning, let her crack the eggs and mix the pancakes.  Check.  Read to her everyday. Check.  Love her.  Double check.  I'm not completely inept as a parent!  Hooray!

I see very few children like Callie.  She's not only going to be a leader, she's got a zest for life that infects everyone around her.  She amazes me everyday.

We ended the meeting with the teacher telling me about her daughter, also a very strong-willed, determined little girl.  She said she'd spanked her nearly every day of her life until she was four (which, made me feel better because she seems like super-mom and the type not to spank.  Callie doesn't respond to time-out like she does to spanking).  She said she kept setting guidelines, and her daughter was stubborn enough to test them every time.  But eventually, she grew up to be a very successful young woman who loves and honors her mother.  Coincidentally, she stopped by while I was there to bring her mom coffee.  I smiled in glee, what a fabulous young woman she was.  And their relationship was clearly admirable...

I walked to my car with a gigantic smile on my face.  The meeting was a success. I know we'll hit hurdles and road bumps...but I know I've done one thing right.  Thus far, I've raised a confident, exuberant little girl who's going to take on this world like it's nobody's business.  Callie, I'm proud of you my love!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Loving Yourself First

What does that mean exactly?  Me being the positive, the glass-is-half-full kinda girl - I'm drawn to sayings such as this one: love yourself first, and everything else will follow.  Okay, I get it...however more recently when I read this advice it was in a parenting article.

I thought to myself, okay; they must mean that by portraying love for myself, my child will be more apt to display similar habits and be more confident in general.  But, then I started thinking, as I often do. What about by loving myself, I'll then be more forgiving of my children, therefore more patient, kind....loving.  You get the point.

Or...what about this; love yourself first meaning, giving yourself enough time, whatever amount that is, to rejuvenate.  To be a better mother because you have real you time.  Allowing yourself to get back into that hobby, whether it be writing, drawing, painting...scrapbooking- even if it's just 30 minutes a day, an hour a week, whatever.  If you have more time for you, you'll make sure the time you have with your kids is quality time.  And overall, your family is a healthier, happier unit as a whole.

Or, what about taking care of yourself?  If you love yourself enough to say, I care about how I look, period.  I'm not going to let myself go as so many moms do.  I'm going to eat well, I'm going to excersice.  I'm going to wear makeup or do my hair, or whatever it is that I consider pretty.  I don't know about you, but I always feel better when I'm in better shape, when I've had time to shave my legs...dye those grays...etc.  Doesn't that make me a better mom?  Doesn't that teach my children to take care of themselves as well?

Or is loving yourself just simply saying, I'm good with where I'm at.  I've morphed into this wonderful woman, this great mother.  Yes, I'm not what I was in my 20's.  I'm frumpy some days, I'm carrying around an extra ten pounds, I don't have enough me time, and I don't really care if I have hair long enough on my legs to braid; hey, I'm just lucky if I get in a shower these days. 

I've determined I do love myself.  Maybe not first, but somewhere in the middle.  I'm also my biggest critic, which I'm painfully aware could pass down to my offspring, so while I'm working on this, it is a work in progress.  I think at the end of the day I believe loving yourself is more than just being confident.  It's knowing your flaws, and embracing the ones you can't or aren't willing to change; and working on the others.  It's also knowing your strengths, and while you don't have to flaunt them (yes, we all know a few too many self back-patters) you should use them to your advantage.  Acknowledge them.  Appreciate them more than you focus on the flaws.

For me, loving myself entails much of the above.  It's taking the time I need for me, to be a better mom.  It's having my own life, no matter how little time I actually get to spend enjoying it.  It's feeling love toward my children, and never resentment because I've found a true balance.  It's feeling good about how I look because I take pride in looking good.  I'm just not okay with frumpy, period.  Loving yourself first isn't about being selfish, it's about figuring out what makes you happy, and what makes you, you.  While it's different for everybody, it's much more than simply being confident.    ~ Trina

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement ~ Whole Wheat Beef & Bean Burritos

Okay, so this was thrown together because it was time to go to the grocery store if you know what I mean...not a whole lot left to make a meal out of.  But, it turned out great, and the kids loved it too (with ketchup- hey, gotta do what works).

1-Pd Lean Ground Beef
6-Whole wheat tortillas
1-Small onion, diced
Tony's Seasoning Salt to taste
1-Can black beans
1-Can kidney beans
1/4-Cup light sour cream (more if you like it on the side)
1/2-Cup light cheddar cheese mixture or 2% (divided into two 1/4 cups)
1/4 to 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa
Jalepenos- Optional (I used the jar kind, already sliced)
1 Roma Tomato-Optional - I diced this up for the top

Brown hamburger seasoned w/Tony's or your favorite seasoning & onion (use a little olive oil if needed) together.  Heat oven to 350. Once cooked through & onion is soft, add all the remaining ingredients except tortillas, tomato & jalepenos & 1/4 cup of cheese.  Cook and stir until blended well and cheese is melted.  Pour a few spoonfuls of mixture onto open tortilla, sprinkle w/cheese, and roll up.  I had left over mixture which I froze for a future lunch or something.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until heated through, serve w/tomatoes, onions, and anything else you like w/your burritos!

I was lazy so I didn't even do salad this time, but everyone seemed happy anyway!  ~ Happy eating friends! Trina

Monday, April 23, 2012

Transitioning Your Child? Just Do It!

In an act of desperation, I posted this message on a private Facebook group page seeking advice from my bestest mommy girlfriends (my inspiration for all that is right in motherhood).

March 18: I need advice!! I've been lying down with my boys in their bed at night since a couple of weeks before our move. We slept in the same bed for two weeks in our hotel. And I'm lying in their bed now in our new home. We're starting week 3 here and I'm still lying down with them at night. It's agonizing now! Any time I try to get away before they fall asleep, they scream "no!" like I'm leaving them with a pack of wolves. I need to stop this madness, but I'm not sure the best way. What would you ladies do? Would you just stop it now, tonight, say good night and let them scream until they fall asleep? Or ease into it by sitting in a chair in their room and each day moving farther and farther from their bed. Advice pleeeeeeease!

Can you feel my fear here?  I just knew that if I just kissed them goodnight after their bedtime stories, they’d throw a huge fit that I wasn’t sure I was mentally ready for. I also knew that they’d wake in the middle of the night screaming for me to lay with them and nobody would get any sleep for days and days.  With the stress of the move and organizing everything in my life, I didn’t think I could take this big change.  But I also knew I couldn’t let this continue.  I was losing all of my “me” time by laying down with them.  I wouldn’t leave their room until about 9:00 p.m. and by then I was ready to just jump into my own bed.  But wasn’t that easier than having to hear them cry for an hour?  I’ll admit it, I was looking for easy! 

I had read about the Sleep Lady and her method gentle sleep training.  You ease into it.  You start out by sitting in a chair next to their bed and you can comfort them and reassure them until they fall asleep.  Then a few nights later, or the next night, you move your chair farther from the bed.  Eventually, you’ll be chilling in the hallway instead of their room.  I tried this for a few nights and though I'm sure it works brilliantly for some moms, I thought to myself that I’d never break free from the chair-so, why not just do this in one fell swoop?

COLD TURKEY – like a few of my friends suggested.

And so I woke that next morning knowing tonight I will end this bedtime madness.  I was nervous all day and I had my armor on-the I know I’m going to fight a battle until the wee hours of morning and not get any sleep tonight game play in my mind.  I coached my boys all day long, “mommy isn’t sleeping with you tonight. I’m going to tell you three stories and then I’m going to kiss you and say good night and I love you, then I’m going to go to sleep in my room.”  I even had Luke repeat that back to me mid-day.  “You’re going to tell us three stories then go sleep in your room. Why?”  Finally, it was time.  It was 7:30 p.m. and we had just finished our third story.  Game on!  “Okay, boys. I love you so much and I hope you have sweet dreams. I’m going to go sleep in my room now.” I kissed them both.  Zealand squirmed and suggested, “no mama, lay here.”  Here we go.  “No Z, mama is going to her room.  I’ll check on you when you fall asleep.” And I headed to the door.  “Good night my loves,” I said. In position, ready for the next move. “Good night mommy,” Luke said as he pulled his doggie close to his chest.  And I shut the door behind me.  I stood there for a few minutes waiting for the screaming and the begging.  All I got was an indulgent quiet.

You won’t believe what happened next…

Absolutely nothing!  They slept like angels through the night in what may have been the most peaceful stretch of sleep I’d gotten in years.  It’s been about a month now, and aside from the occasional “will you please lay with us until we fall asleep” to which I answer “mommy has to sleep in her room, but I will check on you in a little bit”…and of course, the “I need a sip of water” or “one more kiss please”…there hasn’t been any more bedtime battles.

I could’ve let fear override many of my decisions as a mother and I’d still be sleeping with  my boys and not having any time to write or watch Dance Moms Miami. The lesson I learned is so beautiful. 

Whether you’re about to get rid of the bottle, change up your bedtime routine, or attempt some other change that seems impossible or scary – JUST DO IT.  Maybe it will be a little challenging, but it probably won’t be as bad as you’re thinking.  Plus, the sooner the better.  And you know you’ll get through it.  As we all know, kids are resilient. They can handle change.  You just have to take the lead and show them who is boss.

And remember, YOU are the boss! ;)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement ~ Homemade Beef Stew with Rice

Well, the weather (until Saturday) this week had been rainy and gloomy, so I decided to buy some stew meat to throw in the crockpot for some homemade beef and rice stew.  It turned out delicious, substituting rice for potatoes really does something for this soup.  The leftovers are better, as the rice has soaked up all the juices.  My little boy lapped up every bite...

1-pd of beef stew meat (already cut up)
1-package of frozen carrots, peas and green beans (or fresh)
2-cups uncooked (4 servings cooked) brown rice
3- Celery sticks cut up
6-Cups of Beef Broth
Garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste

Pour beef broth into crockpot and turn on to low heat.
Add beef, frozen veggies, celery sticks, and garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste.  Leave for 6-8 hours on low heat, then cook rice according to directions.  Add to stew, stir, and serve with your choice of bread and/or salad.  Happy eating friends! ~Trina

Saturday, April 21, 2012

New Home Projects...

There's nothing that can bring out the fangs like home projects.  Shannon and I learned long ago that anytime we move, put together a new toy, or simply put up some's likely we wind up yelling at one another and our toes aren't exactly touching in bed that night.  It's just how it is.

I've been nagging him for months to plant grass seed.  I wanted to plant it prior to winter, as I'd heard it came up nice after the snow melted.  Shannon likes to really think things out; he's a planner while I'm more impulsive. So rather than give in to my demands, he thoughtfully came up with (and didn't communicate of course-he is a man) a backyard plan even I couldn't have imagined coming to fruition.

I generally hate to admit when I'm wrong, but this time, I nearly knelt to my knees and bowed down to him when I saw what he'd put together.  He spent an entire weekend this spring adding a border around our new rock retaining wall-that way there will be less weed eating when we do have grass to mow.  He talked to some guys at work and got both the wood and wood chips that will align between the rocks and the wood border, for free.  He then went on to build me two beautiful flower beds; and I didn't even ask.

If we would have planted the grass like I'd pushed and pushed for, we wouldn't have this new, beautiful border or flower beds.  If he would have gave in; his creative juices wouldn't have been flowing and he wouldn't have been as driven to be outside, working every weekend, like he has been.

I've learned from this project (not after seven years of marriage), that I need to simply shut up and let him do his thing, at his own pace.  He's quite the handy man and if I let him just do it his way, it always ends up better.

As difficult as is for me to shut up at all, you can picture me this time silently on the sidelines as he puts together the huge wooden playset we purchased for the kids, even though I think we should have put the sand down first, rather than after it's put together.  Hey, I'm keeping that opinion to myself!


Friday, April 20, 2012

Where's the Beef? Rather...Where's the Good Beef?

Any time anyone has ever broached the subject of vegetarianism to me, I'd ponder the benefits for about a minute before remembering I could never give up my filets, cheeseburgers or meatballs. Ever.

So since at least 1/3 of the meals I make at home for my family contain some type of beef, I thought I'd educate myself on what there is to know about the subject. This handy dandy graphic (below) is a one-stop shop of beef knowledge. For instance, I think hmmm, I sure would like to make a roast this Sunday. Then when I get to the grocery store, I stare at the cooler of beef thinking what exactly do I roast to make a roast? (See "Breaking Down the Cow") To learn how tell which rib eyes would make the best steak, see "Sizing Up a Cut".

I hope you gain as much from this chart o' beef from Frugal Dad as I did!

Beef Infographic
Source: FrugalDad

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Day I Never Thought Would Come

I think we'd all agree we picture our babies staying babies, forever. We picture helping them get dressed, feeding them, brushing their teeth, with little glee and maybe even a bit of annoyance more often times than though these days will never end. We think, as much as we love these little beings, they will depend on us forever.

So today, at kindergarten registration, I found myself staring at the concrete block walls inside the huge elementary school just a few blocks from our house.  I pictured my daughter running and playing there, meeting new friends and learning to read.  I knew in that moment that before long, she'd be rushing away when I dropped her off before school, no longer begging for a kiss or a hug as she does now.  She'd be more stubborn about wearing what she wanted, mismatched clothes or a dress on a snowy morning.  She'll likely come home with tears because a little boy broke her heart, or the mean girl at school ridiculed her.

I know I no longer can protect her the way I have. The home daycare with a woman that loves her nearly as much as I do.  Or the wonderful preschool teachers that think she's the sweetest little girl that's full of spunk and life, and encourage her in that.  It's just one step in this huge, gigantic world for her, and I'm scared to death.  I realize I have to let her go, and be excited for her...and I am in some ways.  I'm ready to help her with homework and assist in her class from time to time.  I'm ready for sports and new friends...and for her to get to experience this next new phase in life.

The real fear is deep rooted because I know that from here, it's only going to fly by faster.  Pretty soon I'm going to have to explain boys, the "mean" girls in school, sex, drugs, alcohol, peer pressure.  These are all things as mothers of young children we simply don't anticipate to come so quickly.  One moment we are complaining about diaper and bottle duty...the next, dropping them off for their first real day of school.

Mommies, soak in all the moments with those kiddos while you can...because as many times as I've heard it will fly by and be gone before you know it, I still wasn't ready for this day.  Imagine what a mess I'll be the first day of school!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Shrimp Salad

I just recently started eating shrimp on a regular basis and I'm starting to love it! I took this recipe and made a few healthy changes to it and it turned out glorious.  Even the hubs enjoyed it!  I was going to serve it on rolls, but decided on brown rice, green beans, and biscuits.

Shrimp Salad (Yields 12 servings)
original recipe here

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lime cut into quarters
4 pounds large shrimp in the shell (16 to 20 shrimp per pound)
2 cups dijoinnaise
2 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 cup minced red onion (1 onion)


Bring 5 quarts of water, 3 tablespoons salt, and the lime to a boil in a large saucepan. Add half the shrimp and reduce the heat to medium. Cook uncovered for only 3 minutes or until the shrimp are barely cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water. Bring the water back to a boil and repeat with the remaining shrimp. Let cool; then peel, and devein the shrimp.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dijonnaise, wine, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and dill. Combine with the peeled shrimp. Add the red onion and check the seasonings. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Buon Appetito!


Monday, April 16, 2012

Motherhood is Our Hunger Games

I was Katniss shivering, exhausted in a foreign arena. Borderline hopeless. Torn between throwing my hands up in defeat and summoning the energy to realign my strategy. I had no idea how I was going to meet the latest challenge the Gamemakers had thrown my way. It’s at that very moment it occurred to me; this is our Hunger Games. Motherhood is our Hunger Games.

Our children are the Gamemakers. I think that’s obvious. They dictate how much or how little sleep we’ll get. Whether or not we will get to enjoy any given feast. They even have a hand in if we find time to feed ourselves properly some days.  And thanks to some of their decisions and actions, we find ourselves in the final round sparring with another tribute-ironically, the same person we married before the Gamemakers even existed.

Just when you get used to the latest phase, the game takes a turn. Your baby is sleeping through the night at three months?  How wonderful, but hold that thought! Feeling mighty proud that your toddler listens when you say “no” or “don’t”? Something tells me it won’t last! All you can do is work your strengths and be prepared for an imminent change.

As you huddle alone thinking of your next gameplay, random bits of advice from your mentor go through your head. The pearls of wisdom you held dear appear first. Remember, you can’t say “I love you” enough! Or Never let them see you sweat.  When you’ve reflected on all of the good advice, you the tidbits you weren’t too crazy about start looking pretty good. Just let him cry it out-crying never hurt anyone. You ultimately conclude that she must’ve known what she was talking about; after all, she raised you.

You’ve got to think of something!  So, you beg quietly to the sky: where is my silver parachute? Your hopes are high but almost anything will do. A manual that will walk you through each new puzzle that is sprung on you. An all-expense paid two-night stay in a cozy hotel room anywhere just to give you a couple of nights of solid, restful, worry-free sleep after a day or two of laying by a pool sitting margaritas with your girlfriends. A pint of ice cream would even work magic at this point! Nothing appears. Damn my sponsors, you can’t help but think!

With each new twist, we invent tricks to help us maneuver one step ahead of the Gamemakers. Katniss pulled out the berries as a solution to a desperate moment. You whip up one of Jessica Seinfeld’s hidden-veggies-in-a-meal recipes and your non-vegetable-eating toddler magically devours two full servings of cauliflower.

Does this mean we are Katniss?  A spirited woman who often found her hair in a messy frame around her face as she constantly moved around most of her day, fighting to survive with a piece of her own  identity and maybe a nap in a world where the rules keep changing.  Seems pretty clear to me.  But what say you?  Are we the Katniss and is this our Hunger Games?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement~Pasta Pie

 This is one of my oldies, but goodies.  Pasta has always been one of my favorite comfort dishes, and usually is pretty easy to convince the kids to eat as they love spaghetti.  Enjoy!

7 oz of whole spaghetti noodles
1 egg
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

2 cloves fresh minced garlic
1 pd lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1-14 oz jar of pasta sauce\

1/4 or 8oz cup light cream cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

  1. Cook and drain noodles as directed on package.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350°F. Spray 9 1/2-inch glass deep-dish pie plate with cooking spray.
  3. In large bowl, beat egg. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Add cooked noodles; toss to coat. Spoon mixture evenly into pie pan, pushing mixture up sides of pan to form crust.
  4. In 12-inch skillet, cook ground beef with garlic, bell pepper and onion over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until beef is thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in pasta sauce. Spoon evenly into noodle-lined pie pan.
  5. Drop cream cheese by rounded teaspoons over filling, then top with mozz cheese.
  6. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until pie is thoroughly heated and crust is light golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes. To serve, cut into wedges.
Happy Eating Friends! ~Trina

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why Write?

Okay, so while I'm researching for a few other articles (there's so much to write about out there that makes me stay up at night, I just wish I had more time to write), I thought I'd address a question I often times get asked.  Why write?  Why write about subjects that are so emotional?  Why write about subjects "I", or actually, the person reading, doesn't care about?  Why write about dark things that we can't change in the world?   Why not write about happy subjects that make everyone smile and giggle?  Don't we have enough stress in our lives?  Why not focus on all the good things and leave out the bad?

Let me start by saying, we are obviously all different.  Use Leah and I as an example; while people refer to me as super mom, I am definitely not super mom.  Leah is super mom.  My sister, she's super mom.  I've never seen more devoted moms, more loving parents.  While I am a devoted and loving parent, I also attempt to balance working 40 hours a week, keeping up my schedule with the blog, twitter, writing to agents on our book, cooking every night so my family lives a longer, healthier life.  Researching articles, meeting up with friends (a must have for my insanity).  So my willingness to try to take on that much naturally sacrifices time with my family (this balance isn't one I can do forever, and I know this).  It makes me sound pretty selfish, but I've convinced myself I'm doing it for the better of my family.  I tell myself daily big successes do not come without hard work (if I don't go insane first).

When you read Leah's articles, you see this reflected.  You see a mother struggling with sleep time, eating new foods, etc.  A mother who wants nothing more than the best for her children and her family. She's constantly analyzing her children's schedules, making sure they don't get too much TV time, making sure they are eating healthy...making sure she's teaching them enough.  If my sister were a writer-it would be the same thing. She's a mom who's mastered many things and has also sacrificed a successful career for the time-being to raise two smart and amazing children.

In my articles you see a plagued mind;  a mind desperate to be changing something, anything in our obliterated world.  Why do I write about things I can't change?  Because to me, the glass is always half full.  I can and will change it, somehow.  Even if it's by awareness, even if it's by getting through to one person, and one person alone...I've succeeded.  Hey, I pray nearly every night for every child to go unharmed.  Do you think I can reach every child?  No, but I will try!  I realize I am a tiny person in this huge world.  I realize, I am not even famous (not a famous writer, yet!) or rich...or successful enough to impact lives like Angelina Jolie can.  But, if I sat around and did nothing, I'd be like many others in the world and then...if we aren't trying to do something-no matter how small, we never will accomplish anything.

I had a friend in Oklahoma who was a foster mom.  She took in children who'd been abused in many ways, and watched them have to go back to the abusing parents time and time again.  She's discuss her frustrations with me in a failed system.  You can have a caring and aggressive social worker with all the right intentions, but if you don't have backing from the courts the child is likely going back.  The decision often rests with a judge, and unfortunately, he's governed by laws which sometimes aren't applicable (at least fairly) to the situation.  As another friend told me the other day, the abusive parent has all the rights, the baby has none.  How disgusting is that?

In every news piece I picture my child, I picture my family.  I want to reach out and save the baby, as I would if it were my own.  I wonder how everyone can't feel that way, and if they do, how they can ignore it as I can't!  I can't forget the hope, I can't let go of the fact that maybe, just maybe...writing about it can change something.  Even if it only makes me feel better doing so for the time being; someday, someone somewhere will be changed.  Or a situation will be changed.  If I'm lucky enough; a life changed.  I will never give up, nor will I give up hope.  ~Trina

*I have to thank Leah for dealing with this crazed passion of mine.  While often times I veer off the beaten path (our book isn't filled with stories of beaten and abused children), I try to always write from a mother's perspective.  She not only accepts this, but encourages me by sending me articles she knows will get me fired up.  A true partner revels in one another's strengths and supports that.  A successful partner goes a step further- they feed that strength.  I'm often telling her "you need to write about that!" when she's filling me in on trying to move with two toddlers, or trying a new sleep routine. By the end I'm often laughing so hard I'm about to pee my pants.  Leah is quite the comedian and can bring a funny light to just about anything.  

While it sounds so simple, it is indeed not easy to thank you Leah!  Together we will do many great and amazing things!

Friday, April 13, 2012


1. THE GREAT ESCAPE - Grab a glass of wine and escape the chaos of today with a trip back to the days of doo-wop and drive-in movies!

2. You just read FIFTY SHADES OF GREY Trilology and you're jonesing for your next fix of lovin'.

3. Can a baby save a TURBULENT MARRIAGE?  I think we all know the answer to this, but read this book to find out if it saves Lily!

4. Quench your thirst for beauty and history of small town KENTUCKY in this tantalizing book.

5. The author of this book is my beautiful and talented mother, CAROLE BELLACERA

 In 1952 Kentucky, 18-year-old Lily Foster, the daughter of strict Southern Baptist parents, becomes pregnant by the town “bad boy”—and just like that, she finds herself married to a man who doesn’t want to be a husband. Jake has no intention of letting the inconvenience of marriage stop him from what he believes is his due. In actuality, Lily is the one who is trapped. She loves Jake—always has, since they were children playing in the woods on adjoining properties--and she’s convinced she can eventually make him love her. All it will take is desire and patience. Once the baby arrives, they will be the perfect little family.

From Lily’s home on Opal Springs Ridge to a four-year stint at an army base in New Boston, Texas, and finally, to life on their own in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Lily struggles to maintain a rocky marriage with a moody, immature husband while raising two daughters. Set during the “American Dream” period of the ‘50s and into the turbulent ‘60’s, LILY OF THE SPRINGS is a story of a woman’s indomitable spirit and her fight for independence and identity in an “Ozzie & Harriet” society.



Carole with grandson Luke
About the Author - Carole Bellacera

Carole Bellacera's work has appeared in magazines such as Woman's World, The Star, Endless Vacation and The Washington Post. Her new romantic suspense novel, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, was released in hardcover by Forge Books in August 2000.

Her first novel, Border Crossings, a hardcover published by Forge Books in May of 1999, was a 2000 RITA Award nominee for Best Romantic Suspense and Best First Book, a nominee for the 2000 Virginia Literary Award in Fiction. It was also a 2000 finalist in the Golden Quill award and in the Aspen Gold Award and won 1st Place in the Volusia County 2000 Laurel Wreath Award**. Her work has appeared in various anthologies such as Kay Allenbaugh's Chocolate for a Woman's Heart, Chocolate for a Couples' Heart and Chicken Soup for Couples. Carole (nee Foley) grew up in Pittsboro, Indiana, and graduated from high school in 1971 at Pittsboro High.

Although she had dreams of becoming a novelist, she joined the United States Air Force to see the world and became a medical technician, serving assignments at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois and in Crete, Greece. It was in Crete that she met her Italian- American husband, Frank Bellacera. In 1985, after a chance meeting with Princess Di and Prince Charles at Andrews Air Force Base, Carole rediscovered her love affair with the written word. Her first published story, "The Day Princess Di Spoke to Me," appeared in the military magazine, Family. From that time on, she never looked back. It took eleven years, but finally, with Border Crossings, her dream of becoming a published novelist was realized.

Now a resident of Northern Virginia, Carole has been married to Frank, a retired Air Force man, for twenty-six years, and is the proud mother of two grown children and grandmother of two handsome boys, Luke and Zealand. As a military wife, she has had the privilege of living in some wonderful places, including Hawaii, Greece, Colorado and North Carolina. In addition to her writing career, she has worked as a medical technician, a librarian, an executive secretary and a receptionist for a member of Congress on Capitol Hill. When she's not writing, her most favorite thing to do in the world is downhill skiing.

SPOTLIGHT, her second novel, was a 2000 RIO Nominee in the Dorothy Parker Award for Excellence in Fiction (Best Romantic Suspense), a 2001 Holt Medallion Finalist for Best Mainstream Novel and a 2001 Booksellers' Best Awards Finalist.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to Make Your Child’s Birthday Party Easy for You ~ Guest Blogger

Birthday parties are a lot of fun for kids, but they’re not always a blast for parents. Parents have to make sure the birthday boy or girl stays happy and all of the other little party guests stay safe and relatively well behaved. So, there’s little time for parents to sit back, relax, and enjoy the company of like-minded individuals at a children’s birthday party. Once it’s all said and done, though, few parents regret throwing their children birthday parties year after year. The smile on your child’s face after he or she finishes blowing out the birthday candles makes all the effort worth it. Still, you might be wondering how to make things easier on yourself when you’re planning and throwing your child’s party. Here are a some tips to help you do that:

Don’t procrastinate

It is sometimes difficult to fit planning a party into your busy schedule, especially if you work full-time and have a whole list of other responsibilities to take care of on a daily basis. However, it’s essential that you set aside some time for planning and prepping for your child’s party. If you wait until the last minute to order the party supplies, bake the cake, prepare the party snacks, and plan the party activities, you’re almost certainly going to have a tough, stressful time. If you take care of all of this in advance, however, you won’t have to scramble.

Remember that busy children are happy children

There’s nothing worse than having a bunch of bored children over at your house for a few hours. So, plan out some fun activities for the kids to play throughout the party, or consider throwing the shindig at a party play center like an indoor moon bounce arena. Just keep the kids occupied, so they stay out of trouble and don’t get in any tiffs.

Make sure you have some helpers

Make sure your older children and spouse are at the party to help you out. Additionally, you may want to ask other family members to come or ask some of the parents of the party guests to come. If there are a good amount of adults and older children at the party, you won’t have to worry as much about supervising the kids at all times, all by yourself. 

Don’t expect perfection

A party for kids is not going to be perfect. One of the party guests may spill punch on your white sofa, and your child may end up getting in a fight with his or her best friend. Additionally, one of the children at the party will inevitably trip, fall, and scrape a knee. Make sure you have a first aid kit on hand, phone numbers that will allow you to reach all the parents of the party guests, and a “go with the flow” attitude. Expecting everything to go as planned is unrealistic, and you’ll feel a lot less frustrated when things do go wrong if you adjust your expectations.

About the Author: Melissa is a guest blogger who writes about being a mom, ways to handle stress as a parent, and where to find Mario party supplies.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Spicy Cuban Mojo Chicken with Mango-Avocado Salsa

Feeling the air of spring might get you thinking of an escape to the Islands. This blend of orange and lime with cilantro brings you one step closer to that dream...if only in your palate. Depending on how your kiddos feel about spicy, add more or half what this recipe calls for.  Serve with whipped sweet potatoes and fresh green asparagus...and enjoy it on your patio table in the fresh air!

Spicy Cuban Mojo Chicken with Mango-Avocado SalsaOriginal Recipe

1 teaspoon cumin seed
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 fresh red chile pepper, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 teaspoons orange juice
5 teaspoons lemon juice
2 (8 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon sweet soy sauce
1/4 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup diced mango
1/2 avocado
chopped fresh cilantro to taste
chopped fresh parsley to taste


Toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Place the cumin seeds, garlic, chile pepper, salt, olive oil, orange juice, and lemon juice into the bowl of a blender; grind to a coarse paste. Toss the chicken with the marinade, then place into the refrigerator, and allow to marinate for about 2 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until browned. Place into the oven, and cook until the juices run clear, about 8 minutes. When the chicken is done, remove, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 3 to 5 minutes.

While the chicken is in the oven, whisk together the olive oil, orange juice, lime zest, honey, and soy sauce in a skillet over medium-high heat. Simmer until the orange juice has reduced to 1/3 of original volume and is beginning to get thick and syrupy. Once thick, remove from heat, and whisk in the butter pieces one at a time until melted; set aside.

To serve, place chicken on the plate and sprinkle with mango and avocado. Drizzle with the sauce, and garnish with cilantro and parsley.

Buon Appetito!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mommy-Rexia....ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Let me begin I go again.  Thanks Leah for sending me this article:

Of course, as usual, I got fired up, mad....and had to lash out once again on my poor keyboard.  I wonder when I will have to replace this thing?

The article is called "Pregnant Dieters Make Obese Kids."  The title alone makes me cringe, let alone the content.  Once I started reading, I immediately saw the usual trend; the article blamed the media for displaying super thin pregnant celebrities, which in turn starts a new fad.  Normal women believe it is natural to be thin while pregnant, therefore cutting calories-which in turn, starves their baby.

The entire idea appalls me.  Ask any one of my friends, I struggle with my own weight and body image issues.  I have always been a bit on the thicker side until more recently in my adult years.  It's a constant struggle that started when I was very young.  However, when I was pregnant...while I tried to eat healthy for the most part, I most definitely didn't starve my child.  Who on earth does that?  Well, I guess I could ask the same question to the people that shoot heroin or smoke crack while they are pregnant.

The research studies they refer to suggest that starving yourself while pregnant actually may change your babies DNA functions, causing them to become obese later in life.  They may have done the studies on sheep-but who cares?  The results were astonishing.  Here's the result of the experiment and what they found:
When the researchers examined the brains of developing lambs, they found evidence that the lambs’ DNA had been methylated, or chemically-altered, in ways that changed the functioning of genes. In particular, the genes that influence food intake and glucose levels were modified so that the lambs could be expected to face a greater lifetime risk of developing obesity and diabetes.

The article goes on to quote that skinny pregnancies pave the way for fat offspring.  I don't know about you, but I would take the rest of my life covered in acne and fat as a cow if it meant Callie had to go through only a fraction of the body image and insecurity issues young girls must face.  I hope that articles like this become awareness for the women out there who would sacrifice the health of their baby for a few less pounds.  Honestly, why even have a child?

If you think about it, the research makes sense, and they point out that an underfed fetus, when food finally becomes available, will over feed and thus become overweight rather than eat a normal feeding.  When you do encounter food, make the most of it, and develop a metabolism that is very efficient.  Aka...load up on them calories and store fat cells.

However, we also have to look at the flip side of things.  Studies also show that mommies who indulge in way too much fat, salt, sugar...and junk food in general also could have overweight children.  

Just eat healthy!  You won't get fat if you are eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.  Will you gain weight?  Sure!  Will you get stretch marks? thing I've learned from those stretch marks and that saggy, loose skin-they are my battle scars; it's proof I've survived two successful pregnancies.  How else can I look I can it?  The most important thing is that we take care of ourselves and reproduce and bear healthy children.  Mommy Rexia shouldn't even be a term in our society!  ~ Trina

Monday, April 9, 2012

Settling In Our New Home In Sandestin Florida

I think we’re finally settling in here in sunny, gorgeous Sandestin, Florida! To say moving with two young, very active boys is stressful is an understatement. I am finally starting to relax and feel at home.  We survived!  Really, how can you not survive when you find yourself planted in a beach resort people pay $1k a week to vacation at.  The sugary white sand beach is just a 10 minute walk from us-water warm enough to swim in late March. A mini putt-putt course and tennis courts are a hop, skip and jump from us. And our pool is even closer! 

We’re falling into our new daily routine. A half hour walk to a giant playground usually starts our day. A requirement in my world…not only does it give me a little exercise, but the kids relax in their double stroller and just watch for birds, geckos, frogs and blue herons that we so often pass by. A huge difference from them running around the house screaming and wrestling as I try to get anything done!  We get to the playground and they get to run off some of their energy.  Then I stroll them home crossing my fingers Zealand doesn’t fall asleep yet! 

Most evenings, Zac takes the boys out to ride their bikes while I get dinner ready, even after dinner while I clean up.  We’ve even found ourselves tossing a football on the golf course hoping it’s late enough we won’t here a “Fore!”.  On the nights we want to venture out to dinner with the boys, there is a Beef O’ Bradys literally right behind us and offers a booth right next to their arcade room.  Zac and I can semi-relax while the boys play.  And, yes, we do make them sit down to eat when dinner arrives!  And if the boys go down for bed easy, Zac and I can enjoy a glass of wine (or beer) gazing at the beautiful view from our back porch. 

In many ways it feels like we’re on an endless vacation, I guess until Zac goes back to work or when I remember I can’t just take them to the beach all day-I should actually clean or do laundry.  We don’t know how long we’re going to be here, but for now it is home.  And like I mentioned in yesterday’s Easter post…visitors welcome!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Does Easter Mean to You?

Easter. I remember as a kid, Easter seemed to always be spent at my grandparent’s apartment in the Bronx.  Tons of family in a quaint apartment, eating together, laughing together- and us kids going crazy over our baskets!  I remember wearing dresses mirroring the color of Easter eggs and at least twice, a spry hat!  I really don’t remember any egg hunts, but I do remember loving every moment of being around family.

Flash forward to Easter 2009, Luke had a taste of what I always knew of Easter.  Though instead of the Bronx, we were in suburban Eastern Pennsylvania in my aunt’s beautiful, spacious house.  And though my incredible Italian grandparents are no longer with us, we celebrated with their spirits in our hearts-and in our blood- the entire time.  Everyone was able to make it to my aunt’s house that year.  My parents, all of my cousins, aunts and uncles.  Even my very busy, account executive/student/photographer/pilot-in-training brother was able to make it!  And we soooo love it when we get to see him!  So there we were, my husband by my side as we celebrated Easter gleefully showing off our bright-eyed 5-month-old son. 

Family.  It’s what Easter means to me. I wasn’t able to make it happen this year with our crazy move, and though my boys and I had a blast today (Zac had to work) at the beach, ice cream parlor and Easter egg hunt in Seaside (the most incredible little town you’ll ever see!)-I vow to bring back the old school Easters I once knew.  Family. Family. More family.  Maybe a few friends. And food.  And laughter. And togetherness.  And, of  course, Easter baskets that actually have a little chocolate bunny in it.*

Easter at the little athlete!
So friends and family – near and far – let this be your open invitation to the Speer Home on Easter Sunday from now until forever.  Call ahead, drop on in unannounced…mi casa es su casa!  Happy Easter everyone!!! With love, Leah

And speaking of family and Easter…I have to give a little shout out to my favorite uncle.  Charley Bellacera…we love you!  Thanks for remembering us on the holidays! 

*I forgot the chocolate bunny this year!  The main part of any basket!  I was shopping over a week ago right before going into work.  I knew I wouldn’t be home for a few hours and whatever chocolate I bought then would definitely melt.  So I just got the baskets, grass, jelly beans, and gifts.  I was supposed to get the bunnies the day before Easter.  I even went to Walmart, thinking I had already bought them so I didn’t look at them twice.  It wasn’t until midnight last night I was putting their baskets together and….no bunny!  Who doesn’t get a bunny on Easter?!  Well, I decided they really don’t know better and will make it up to them next year.  And Easter morning, the two boys couldn’t have been more excited about their baskets and candy…no questions of any missing bunnies!


I know we all get excited as moms to sit at the table and watch our little ones paint their Easter eggs in glee every year for Easter weekend.  We coax them with pride to get as many eggs as possible; the more, always the better.  However in this annual tradition are we forgetting what this holiday is truly about?  You see, if you celebrate Easter, you are celebrating a much deeper and more important meaning than simply the Easter bunny.  To me, Easter sunday is a day we go to church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 28:1-10
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." 

To me, Easter is definitely a day to celebrate.  Religious or not, Easter is a day beyond a day just to fellowship and spend together.  I hope to remember that myself today.  Happy Easter to all!

Easter Egg Hunt - Who Is The Real Hunter...You or Your Baby???

As seen in post from 10/2011
On a 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.

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement ~ Garlic Chicken Lasagna

Okay, my hubby - who prefers beef over chicken and potatoes over pasta had two helpings. Enough said!

2 cups roasted chicken, shredded
2 bulbs of garlic
1/4 sweet yellow onion, diced finely
6-7 fresh basil leaves, chopped (I used dried)
Dried oregano, to taste
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
1 (32 ounce) container ricotta cheese (I used part skim fat for 1/2 of it & didn't have enough so used FF greek yogurt for the other half)
1 egg
5-6 fresh basil leaves, chopped (dried again)
Dried oregano, to taste
Fresh nutmeg, grated, to taste
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp of Parmesan cheese (divided)
9 whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked per instructions
mozzarella cheese, shredded
1-Cup Marinara sauce

Place the shredded chicken, roasted garlic, diced onion, diced bell peppers, chopped basil leaves, oregano, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste in a medium sized bowl. 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a large 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, add ricotta, egg, 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, fresh chopped basil, nutmeg, oregano, marinara, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Combine until mixed thoroughly. Meanwhile, cook the lasagna noodles per instructions then drain.
Layer a 9 × 13 inch baking pan with just enough sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. Lay three lasagna noodles in the pan. Spread some of the ricotta mixture on the noodles, then spoon some of the chicken mixture on top and sprinkle with a bit of mozzarella; spoon some sauce over the cheese; repeat layering. Finish with a layer of noodles and remaining sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, remaining 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of basil or oregano. Bake covered in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing. Enjoy.  ~ Happy Eating Friends! Trina