Saturday, January 31, 2015

Girls and Pearls, January Edition

Honestly, this month has been so crazy that I'm surprised we managed to squeeze in a hot chocolate date. But, we did.

At the last possible minute.

We just grabbed some hot chocolate and I had a salad, which was my first complete meal of the day. (I told you, it's been busy)

A few days ago, I saw the cutest dragonfly infinity scarf on sale at Rose's. I bought two today, one for me and one for Ella.

We're pretty cute, I think :)
Yes, we're both wearing pearls. She's wearing a pearly headband and I'm wearing pearl earrings.

We some hot chocolate and talked about life today. It's not often that we don't have something to do, or someplace to go. Sometimes, the simple stuff is just the best :) Happy meals, fries, and time together :)

Ella loves our matching scarves. She says it's a way for us to honor her big sis :)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Grieving Mom Guilt/Surviving the first 10 years

On May 17, it will be ten years since my first daughter went to heaven.

I am outstanding at denial. In fact, I am so great at it that I managed to push everything about May 17, 2005 out of my head until about November 2006 when everything exploded in one horrific fight with Gabe.

When I got pregnant with Ella, and the fear abated enough for me to be excited about the pregnancy, I sent out an email to family and friends.

"Gabe and I are overjoyed to announce that we are expecting OUR FIRST CHILD, due in late June."

Ya'll know what? I never thought one single thing about that email until tonight, on my run. I haven't used that email address in years. I can't even get into it now because I don't remember the security question. But I remembered that stupid email, sometime between mile 2 and 3.


I know Riley Grace is in heaven. I know she doesn't care about a stupid email that I sent while I was in the throes of denial. I know Ella is quick to point out that she is my SECOND child because she honors her sis every single day. I know all of that.

But...guilt. I swear, things like that make me feel two inches tall. Once, when Ella was two or so, we were at the drugstore, buying pretty nail polish. A woman asked me, "Is she your only one?" and I stupidly replied, "yes."


Grief sucks. First it hurts. Then, it REALLY hurts. Then, it makes you feel guilty.
Somewhere along the way, it just is. And you accept it, without really accepting it...because it still hurts.


I will always be Riley's Mom. She will always be my FIRST child. I will always miss her, until the day I don't have to anymore. This doesn't mean I love Ella any less.

I will always be Ella's Mom. She will always be my SECOND child. I am so eternally grateful that God let her stay, despite my nightmare of a pregnancy, despite all of the negative things I was told by the doctors. She will always be my biggest miracle. This doesn't mean she will ever replace Riley.

People have said all sorts of "helpful" things to me over the past 10 years, such as "you should be grateful you have a living child." Yup, I am grateful. You have no idea. But, as I've said before, the fact that I have a "living child", also means that I have one who is not living. I've also been told to "get over it" (one of my favorites) and that "talking about it will scar your living kid for life." Guess what? There is no "getting over it" and Ella is one of the most amazing, caring, beautiful people I have ever met, and I have no doubt it is because she knows about her sister and knows how to comfort the grieving (and she has never told anybody to "get over it.")

Nearly ten years later, I still grieve. I will bet that ten years from now, I still will.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Meal Plan Monday

I figured I had better get this out of the way now before the "snowstorm" hits (4 inches of snow is hardly a storm in my book, but hey, people around here are probably buying up all the bread and milk as we speak)

Well, maybe I shouldn't say anything. It rained ICE on Friday, after all, and I didn't leave the house at all that day...well, except to take pictures.

Since I have zero interest in grocery shopping this week (and possibly next, winter weather usually puts me in a cozy-let's-hunker-down-and-not-leave kind of mood), I am going to aim to use up what I have and possibly trade and barter with Grandma, because I would rather go to her house than the grocery ;) This week should be interesting.

Monday: I'm going to attempt fried rice.
Tuesday: It's going to be cold, so Potato Soup it is
Wednesday:  Mexican Chicken Bake (don't ask what it entails, I'm winging it!)
Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner
Friday: Mushroom Beef Bake
Saturday: Spicy Chicken Soup
Sunday: Spaghetti

Sunday, January 25, 2015


4/52: We spent quite a bit of time at Grandma's house this week. :)

4/52, Sunday: Look, bangs! And her hair is finally long enough to pull all of it back. Yay!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Inspired by a Book: Harriet the Spy's Chocolate Egg Cream

Ella and I are currently reading Harriet the Spy. In yesterday's reading, Harriet went to the store and ordered a Chocolate Egg Cream. I remember wondering what one was way way way back when I first read it, but then I forgot about it. Yesterday, Ella and I researched and found out what an egg cream is....and there are NO eggs in it. I read that it's made in a "tall soda glass" and whipped with a "malt spoon" and if you're wondering "who the heck has those things in their kitchen?" the answer is: me.

We got our recipe right here and it was seriously good!!!!

So, here we go :)

Chocolate Egg Cream

Here's what you need:

*1/2 cup of cold whole milk (skim won't foam up as well)
*cup of seltzer water or club soda
*2 Tablespoons of chocolate syrup
*Tall glass and long handled spoon

Here's what you do

*Pour your milk into your glass

*Add your seltzer/club soda. It will foam up!

*very, very carefully pour chocolate syrup in down the side of the glass

*stir only the bottom where the chocolate milk is...if you do it right, it will look like this


Something New: Reading Through The Year

So many people I know have made the New Year's Resolution to read more. I read a ton as it is (when I have time!), and I don't make New Year's Resolutions, but I have decided I want to read more with Ella.'s what we're doing. We'll be keeping track of which books we've read together. (She reads with her Dad too, and they are making their way through The Boxcar Children series)

Here's what we have read and are reading so far (I will update the list as we go) We are aiming for 50 books this year!!!!

1) "Wait Til Helen Comes" by Mary Downing Hahn (Done)
2) Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (Done)
3) Missing Grace, A Kit Kittredge Mystery by Elizabeth McDavid Jones (Done)
4) The Boxcar Children; Blue Bay Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner (Done)
5) The Boxcar Children: Mike's Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner (Done)
6) The Boxcar Children: Lighthouse Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner (Done)
7) Backyard Angel by Judy Delton (Done)
8) The Boxcar Children: The Woodshed Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner (Done)
9) The Boxcar Children: The Mystery Behind the Wall by Gertrude Chandler Warner (Done)
10) The Mystery of Smuggler's Cove by Paul Moxham (Done)
11) Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar (Done)
12) Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar (Done)
13) Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger by Louis Sachar (Done)
14) Howliday Inn by James Howe (Done)
15) Nighty Nightmare by James Howe (Done)
16) Return to Howliday Inn by James Howe (Done)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Desperation in the Kitchen: Lo Mein

Have you ever wondered "What the heck am I going to do with all of this leftover fettucine?"
Because that was me this morning. I made fettucine alfredo the other day and I'm not a fan of mixing noodles and sauce together. Call it kitchen OCD (because I have kitchen OCD) or just plain craziness (because, well, I've got that too). So, after my husband was done eating, I had zero sauce left and a bunch of noodles.

And sometime, somewhere, I saw a recipe for lo mein (which I loooooove) using leftover fettucine. Trying to find it, though frustrated the everloving life of out me because 1) everything I found called for stuff I had never heard of and 2) a trip to the grocery to find stuff that I have never heard of gave me a headache and kind of made me want to cry. I take my cooking very seriously, ya'll.

I did go to the grocery and I bought the only thing that sounded good. Sun-bird beef and broccoli seasoning. Yup. And then I decided I was going to totally wing it.

So, here we go. Chicken Lo Mein

Here's what you need:

*chicken, cut into strips
*rice vinegar
*soy sauce
*worcestershire sauce
*sun-bird beef and broccoli seasoning
*various veggies (I had mushrooms, cabbage, onions and red peppers)
*leftover fettucine

Here's what you do

*make a marinade from the garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce and worcestershire sauce, and water. Cut your chicken into small pieces and throw into a ziploc bag with the marinade.

Let that mess marinate for at least an hour.

After an hour....
Warm up some olive oil. Drain most of the marinade, and dump the chicken and a bit of the marinade into your skillet. Let your chicken brown.

Chop up your various veggies.

Throw them in with the chicken, and give everything a mix to combine.

Combine your sun-bird seasoning, some worcestershire sauce, some soy sauce, some rice vinegar and water. (I don't do precise measurement so you'll have to eyeball it) . Whisk everything together and pour in the pan.

Heat through, and you are done! the sauce thickens up nicely :)


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Some Randomness and that Weightloss Thing, too

Not much has happened in our little household for the past week. The last three days, I've been at Grandma's house, as Gabe has had the crud, and I don't really want to catch it. Well, I'm afraid Ella has caught it anyway. SIGH. I hope I can bypass it completely.

Speaking of Grandma's, we've had lots of fun there. I think in light of the fact that I know we are leaving eventually, I want to spend as much time as I can there.

Another cat has shown up on my doorstep. She had been abused, but has found a safe place at our house. We are calling her Star.

Star had her first full meal in I don't know how long last night. So far, I'm the only one she will willingly approach, and I got to hold and pet her for a short time. I'm thinking she needs a little time before she lets other people get close to her.

And that weight loss thing....remember how I told ya'll I got a scale? Well, I've been frustrated because while the number on that scale is going down, it's not doing so fast enough for me. I read online the other day, it's not about the number on the scale it's about the fit of your clothes. So, today, I put on the same top and jeans from last week, and I was immensely more comfortable in them. Progress!!!!

and i think my face looks slimmer. Gotta love all that water I'm drinking.

Will update on the weightloss thing next week!

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Heartbreaking Sort of Beauty: The Story of a Marriage, Grandparents, and Other Unrelated Things

Today, I spent the day with Grandma and I began to think.

I've been in North Carolina for almost 4.5 years. It's actually the first place that there has been stability in my life since I left my Dad's.

In Chicago, from 2006-2009 certain parts were stable. Motherhood, for instance. I loved Ella with all of my heart, a fierce, intense love. I still do. Mentally, though, I wasn't doing so hot. Still reeling from the loss of my first child, I was anything but o.k. An argument with my husband comes to mind, in November of 2006. I can't tell you what we were fighting about, but I do remember screaming, "It's YOUR fault she died!" and storming out the door into the cold night, leaving a bewildered Gabe in charge of a sleeping Ella. I don't remember how long I was gone for. Maybe an hour, but probably less. In addition to my not-so-hot mental state, my marriage suffered terribly during that period. I worked a ton of hours, while my husband barely worked at all. We never talked, and when we did, it wasn't nice. I had a very me-and-Ella-against-the-world mentality. She was my rock during that time.

The summer of 2009, I discovered the Bible and began reading it. My marriage improved, but quickly plummeted when we moved to Texas. There's not a day that goes by that I don't regret that decision. My father-in-law and I fought like cats and dogs. I won't say any more about that period of time because it was awful. Awful. I made sure Ella made some good memories there, but if I had it to do over again, we wouldn't have gone to Texas.

In 2010, I returned to Chicago, and honestly, didn't care whether my husband joined me there or not. The 5 year anniversary of the day I lost Riley was approaching, and I was grieving and reckless. I made some terrible decisions that almost led to the demise of my already-failing marriage. My husband's solution was to come to North Carolina of all places, a place where we thought we knew people (turns out we didn't know them nearly as well as we thought).

The last thing I wanted to do was leave my hometown. And truthfully, the last person I wanted to leave my hometown with was my husband. I was already referring to him as my "evil ex." July of 2010, we left. Together. I spent most of the next two years hating him for it. I didn't KNOW anyone in North Carolina, and those I knew it turns out I was better off not knowing.

One day, while taking Ella to the grocery store, I was approached by an elderly man who informed me that Ella could play on his swingset anytime she wanted to. That man turned out to be Grandpa Bruce, and he turned out to be part of the turning point in my life. Eventually, I took Bruce up on his offer of using the swingset and I fell into an easy conversation with him and his wife, over green ice pops. Ella played to her heart's content, and Bruce and Jean (aka Grandpa and Grandma) talked and listened.

When I told Grandma I wanted a divorce, she laughed and told me, "I got divorced. It didn't work well for me." but she didn't try to talk me out of it. When Gabe and I had a huge screaming fight and I ran off to Grandma's, she served me scrambled eggs and listened to my list of grievance against Gabe. When God miraculously intervened and pieced my broken marriage back together, she welcomed Gabe with open arms. When I desperately needed a babysitter so I could go to work on an unexpected day, she and Grandpa watched Ella for me, no questions asked.

I live on Grandpa's tomatoes every summer. Ella absolutely adores Grandma and Grandpa, and Gabe loves them, too. I was raised by my grandparents, and I felt terrible that Ella didn't get to see hers on a regular basis. My Dad is a saint, but sadly, he is in Wisconsin, and my Mom...ugh. Let's not go there. Gabe's parents are in Texas, and I am just not ready to go back there. Maybe I won't ever be.

Coming to North Carolina seemed like the biggest mistake ever. But God used it for so much good. For the first time in my LIFE, I enjoyed being a stay at home Mom. I learned to cook. I learned that my husband is not the guy I thought I married. I learned that he is one million times better than that.

I learned that there are good people in the world.

Today, on my way to Grandma's house, I looked around me and my heart broke a little. Eventually, we will leave, and it will be for the best. I miss the north. I need to be closer to my Dad. But part of me will always love these mountains. Part of me will miss the flowers on Grandma's porch. Part of me will miss watching the stars twinkle over the hills.

Part of me will miss the place where I discovered the joy of being a wife. Where I sat on a porch with a lovely woman who understood everything I was going through. Where I got the slightest touch of a southern accent. Where I flew down hills in Grandma's black PT Cruiser with my daughter in the backseat, laughter bubbling through the car.

I am so blessed that God guided this journey, that He led us to this place, to these people, to these mountains. It's so beautiful. All of it.

Meal (Un)Planning Monday

I'm currently at Grandma's house, and honestly, meal planning is kind of the furthest thing on my mind right now. At some point tomorrow, I will have someone trying to make the dinosaur stove in my house work. I'm not upset about it, but the prospect of cooking while I have somebody sawing and doing electrical work in my kitchen doesn't appeal to me in the least.

That, and Gabe is sick. He is not a good's just the common cold but it really is sucky to see him sick. Sparrow is keeping watch over him right now, and he has slept on and off all day.

I don't know how she sleeps like that, ya'll.

So, I foresee lots of chicken soup in my future, but besides that, I honestly don't know. I'll be making stuff up on the fly.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 18, 2015


3/52: Chalk up another one for the Bad Mommy files. I make Ella do her own ironing

3/52, Sunday: This is probably the most photographed of all of her church dresses. And you can definitely see how much her hair has grown.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Desperation in the Kitchen: Creamy Burrito Casserole

Warning and Disclaimer: it's messy. But ohhhhhhhhhhhh so good!

What you need:

*1 pound ground beef
*1/2 onion, chopped
*1 package taco seasoning
*6 large tortillas
*1 can refried beans
*2-3 cups shredded taco cheese
*1 can cream of mushroom soup
*4 oz. sour cream
*1 can diced tomatoes, because I put tomatoes in every.flippin.thing

What you do:

*Brown your ground beef with onion, drain

*Mix sour cream and cream soup in a bowl

*Add taco seasoning, refried beans, and tomatoes, with juice. And water. I added water.

*Cook until everything is pretty well blended together.

*In a casserole, spread half the soup/sour cream mixture

*Tear up half the tortillas

*Top with half the meat mixture

*Top with cheese

*Repeat the layers, top the whole thing with cheese and bake uncovered at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

*Eat, and try to say no to your cat when it begs like this....

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Meal Plan Monday (on a Wednesday) And Some Other Randomness

Yup, I'm two days late with my post. I apologize. It's been insane here (when isn't it?) and I've been so, so, so busy! 
I've been doing the somewhat decaffeinated thing and I'm back on the weight loss train. I didn't ever really mean to get off that train, but we ended up having to do a sudden move and all that stress makes it oh so easy to stop paying attention to what you are eating. Bleh.

I've been drinking lots of water, and I think my skin is better for it. I actually looked in the mirror today and thought "oh, yay!"

To keep myself accountable, I am going to take a picture of myself every Monday in the same outfit. 
Here are the shots from this Monday.

The shirt isn't something I usually (or nearly ever) wear. Hoping to see results! I'm down 2 pounds since last week. Yes, I actually bought a scale, which is a big step for me considering all of the body image issues I had in high school. 

Oh! The weather here has been all over this place. Last week it was insanely COLD...this week it reached nearly 50 degrees. What gives?

But, I managed to get this shot of the waterfall near the house.

and a cute kid near the waterfall

And this week's meal plan

Monday: We had pulled pork. It was delish!
Tuesday: We actually had leftovers!
Wednesday: Ramen Stir-fry
Thursday: Creamy Burrito Casserole
Friday: Either beef pot pie or pizza, not sure yet
Saturday: Winter Soup
Sunday: Chicken Fettucine Alfredo