Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mocha Brownies

The other evening, my MOPS group had a MOPS and POPS night.  For those of you who know me well, you know I am a homebody who isn't good at being social so it's hard sometimes to convince myself to go to events like these.  I know I should need to go though and I usually do have fun. So when Alexa was feeling better and I heard a nurse was available for Parker I really didn't have an excuse.  Then I had the task of convincing Paul WE should go because he's just as bad at those sorts of things as I am.  I got him to agree.

The next problem was that I had to make something to bring (it was a soup and dessert challenge).  Since, we decided last minute, I tried to find a recipe where I had most of the ingredients.  My mom had given me a cookbook for Christmas entitled "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" by Ree Drummond.  She also has a blog at and it's one of my new obsessions.  I found that most of her recipes call for ingredients that I usually have on hand which is nice for a change.

Anyway, I decided on "Mocha Brownies".  I had everything except the coffee because neither Paul or I are coffee drinkers (I know, go ahead and gasp).  So....Paul brought me home some McDonalds brewed coffee on his way home for lunch and I had everything I needed.  To my surprise, they turned out pretty good (although I didn't win the dessert challenge) and I thought I'd share.  Please ignore the fact that this recipe calls for 4 sticks of butter.


For Brownies:

  •  Four 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 11/4 cups all-purpose flour 

For Mae's Mocha Icing:
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature

    Cooking Directions:

    Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray an 8 inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray (NOTE:  I used a 9X13 pan instead and it worked just fine and made more that way).

    To make the brownie batter, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second increments, being careful not to let it burn. Set it aside to cool slightly. In a medium mixing bowl, cream, the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. With the mixer on low speed, drizzle in the melted chocolate. Add the vanilla extract and mix.  Add the flour to the bowl and mix just until combined; do not over mix.Pour the batter into the baking pan. Spread it to even out the surface. Bake at 325°F for 45 to 50 minutes, until the center is no longer soft. Set the brownies aside to cool completely before icing.

    To make the icing, in a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla. Mix until slightly combined, then add 1/2 cup of the coffee. Whip until the icing is the desired consistency. If the icing is overly thick, add 1/4 cup more coffee. It should be very light and fluffy.  Ice the cooled brownies, spreading the icing on thick. Refrigerate until the icing is firm, then slice the brownies into squares.

    Here are a couple pics of Paul and I playing MOPS' version of "Minute to Win it" which I've decided makes for pretty good party games.

    Yes, that is Paul and 3 other fellows stacking Little Debbie Snack Cakes on their head.  Come on....I know you want to try it!

    Not a great pic, but proof that I did in fact participate!

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    "Red Bird Momma"

    Meet Fred:  

    Meet Ethel:

    Meet Fred & Ethel (or is that Ethel & Fred?)

    Then there's Mr. Red Bird :

    And then there's more of Fred & Ethel (because I think they're cute and it's my blog so I can do what I want)

    We also have Mr. Hoppity who apparently doesn't want his picture taken because I've been trying to catch that little guy for weeks now.  But, I believe these belong to him. 

    I guess the one good thing about living in Nebraska vs. Arizona in the winter is that we have many more friends to look at in the backyard now and Alexa likes them very much.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    Peanut Butter M&M's

    I just have to say one thing about these mouth watering delights...

    I LOVE them!

    I could tell you how many I've eaten today but I won't.

    That's my little secret.

    I can tell you that today would me much harder without them.  Alexa woke up this morning with some sort of stomach flu and I have her confined in our bedroom.  I'm trying my darndest to make sure she doesn't come within 10 feet of Parker because goodness knows what Parker and the flu would be like.  And....he is scheduled to have 5 surgical procedures next Tuesday at Children's hospital and I want him at his best for general anesthesia.  None of the procedures are that big of a deal on their own but adding them together adds time to him being under and that's the part that makes me nervous.  Since I often ask for prayers on this blog, my big prayer right now is that Alexa would get better....FAST....and that Parker won't catch whatever this is and that the procedures next Tuesday will go smoothly and he will handle the anesthesia without difficultly.   Gee, that was a bit of a run on sentence, huh?

    OK...I better go.  I think they are both waking up from their naps and I have much more to lysol and I'm going for a world record in laundry today.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    More fun in the snow

    Isn't this the worst, I mean best looking snow man you've ever seen?

    Alexa and Daddy had more good times yesterday in the snow...

    She's my little pink snow princess. 

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Work, mini-vans, cousins, etc.

    I went back to working on-call this weekend for the first time since I was put on bedrest with Parker which was more than 6 months ago.  I was looking forward to it all week and guess what, I liked it.  Is that bad?  Normal people don't like going to work, right?  Well for me it was a much needed break from the everyday normal.  It was nice to get out of the house, have some "adult time", and chat with the older folks (I work as an admissions coordinator at a nursing and rehab facility).   Some things have changed since I worked there last so I hope I didn't mess up too bad but it was a nice change of pace.  Of course, it was also nice to come home to Alexa who gave me a big hug and got really hyper and happy once she saw me.  It was also nice for Paul to say that Alexa kept asking about me throughout the day.  I don't know if she really did or not but it was nice to hear anyway.  And Paul told me he couldn't stay home with the kids all day everyday and I think he realizes why it's hard to get everything on my daily to-do list done.  I'm going to resume my one weekend a month at work and I think it will be good for all of us.

    In other news, apparently Alexa thinks she's a rock star, her new fashion line is soon to hit the stores:

    And something happened this weekend that I swore would never, never happen.  I told Paul it's OK to start looking at minivans as a new means of transportation for our family.  I know, gasp!!  You dream vehicle has always been to have a big, black pick-up truck.  Well, this is going to have to be put on hold because let's face it big, black trucks are not very practical.   I always thought I'd rather die than drive a mini-van but times have changed a bit.  My choices are to either lose 20 pounds so I can comfortably sit in the back seat of our car between Alexa & Parker's car seat and all of Parker's equipment or to take the plunge and get a bigger vehicle.  If you're wondering, I have to sit in the back seat in case Parker needs to be suctioned.  So in the end I think the mini-van is more realistic because let's face it I like chocolate too much. Paul wanted to take some mini-vans for test drives yesterday but for some reason car dealerships are closed on Sundays.  I tried to take this as a sign from God that maybe minivans aren't meant to be but maybe I was reading in to things a bit more than I should. 

    Alexa won't quit talking.  That's not where I intended to end that sentence but that in and of itself is very true these days.  Anyway, Alexa won't quit talking about Foster.  Paul's sister, Taryne, and her family came to visit recently and Alexa got to play with her cousins, Foster and Loghen.  She had a grand time of course and wishes they were here to play all the time. 
     Alexa and Foster - Not the best pic of the two of them so we'll have to get a better one next time

    Alexa and Loghen

    Last Thursday, we went to Omaha and saw 4 separate Doctors.  Nothing too exciting really came up and they seem pleased with how Parker is doing.  When we saw the surgeon for Parker's follow up, he did the first g-button change and then had me do it so that I can change it in the future.  OK in all actuality, he said he likes the "parents" to know how but Paul wouldn't have anything to do with it so I was elected to learn.  I won't go into detail which you should appreciate but it was yucky and didn't go very smoothly for the surgeon or for me (mostly since Parker was crying so hard).  But, he said this should be the most difficult change and I survived it so there's one more item crossed off on my way to becoming a nurse (which I never thought I could or wanted to be).   

    We have 2 Occupational therapists and a physical therapist that come to our home to do therapy with Parker.  Tummy time has been a real challenge because of the trach and we have all tried numerous ways to help Parker be on his tummy while being able to breathe so he can strengthen his muscles but all of them seem very awkward and uncomfortable.  So...this is what I've been doing and Parker seems to love it.  He's also been regaining some of his strength so he can pick his head up on his own once again.   We look funny but it's actually kind of fun.

    Here are some other random pictures of my sweet peas from this last week:

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    No matter what

    My little guy may have one of these

    and one of these

    and happens to be missing part of one of these.

    But he still has ten tiny

    a perfect little

    such sweet

    and is as precious as can be and I love him to pieces no matter what.

    I've been reflecting lately on a response I often get when people hear about Parker. They say, "I'm so sorry for you".  One of our NICU Doctor's shared an excerpt from the book, "You Will Dream New Dreams" in which Sandra Assimotos-McElwee (who has a child that has Down's syndrome) says the following, 

    "Please do not apologize; we aren't sorry.....He sleeps, eats, cries, and dirties diapers--like every other baby.  He's just got an extra chromosome."

    In our case, Parker doesn't have an extra chromosome but a missing part of his chromosome but the idea is still the same.  I don't want people to pity me or feel sorry for me.  You see, I feel blessed to have Parker in my life, I wish the best for him and I want to be the best Mom I can be for him.  This would be the same no matter what his abilities or disabilities are and I want to never lose sight of this.  So there's no need to be sorry.  Parker was made the way he was for a reason and I will always and forever love him for just who he is. 

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Snow Day

    Winters in Nebraska *sigh*.  For those of you who live here, enough said.  For those of you that don't, well lucky you.  This year has actually been very mild so I really can't complain....yet.  I promise we'll make up for it.  But today we got lots of snow and although I wasn't thrilled, my little Alexa was in heaven.

    All day she asked if she could "play inna snow", "play inna snow", "momma play inna snow....pleeeeeesssee".  I guess she figured if she used longer sentences it would help her case.  She even slipped on her hat and boots all by herself to see if that would help.

    I kept telling her that she had to wait until Daddy came home and of course by the time Daddy came home it was dark outside but that didn't stop her.  Daddy did play along for a bit but wanted to stop playing way before Alexa.  We finally had to explain to the rosy faced child that she did have to come inside and get warm, much to her dismay.

    I'm not really sure where she even got the idea that playing in the snow is fun.  Last year we tried taking her in the snow and she just cried.  What a difference a year makes I guess.  

     Feb 2010
     I'm sure the outfit didn't help any

    But one good thing about snow days are, it's an excuse to make soup.  Mmmmmmm!!  Paul's favorite soup is Baked Potato so that's what was on the menu tonight.  If you're looking for a good potato soup recipe, I'd recommend giving this a shot:

    Baked Potato Soup
    5 Potatoes
    2/3 c. margarine
    2/3 c. flour
    3/4 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. pepper
    7 c. milk (skim is fine)
    8 oz. sour cream
    1/4 c. green onion, sliced
    10-12 strips bacon, cooked & crumbled
    1 c. medium or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

    Bake potatoes at 350 degrees until tender.  Cool, peel, and cut up.  Set aside.  In large sauce pan, melt margarine; stir in flour, salt, and pepper until smooth.  Gradually add milk (heating the milk a bit before adding it helps).  Bring to a boil, stirring out lumps.  Continue to let it boil and stir constantly for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from heat; whisk in sour cream.  Add potatoes; stir well.  Stir in green onions, bacon, and cheese.  Save some to garnish.  ENJOY!

    Hope you had a nice snow day too!

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    The O's in my life

    In a perfect world, the Doctors would have answers, not more questions.  We would know everything that Parker’s genetic disorder is messing with and how to fix it.  Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world.  So…for now at least, I’m stuck with the Doctor’s saying, “Only time will tell" OR "We'll have to wait and see" OR "Parker will let us know on his time" which is usually followed by, "We have no one to compare him to" OR "He's just unique" OR "You know what he needs more than any of us Doctor's do".

    I have to say, I’m pretty tired of hearing these things.  I guess I get it though. Since there is no one in the world (that they know of) with Parker's exact deletion (missing genetic material) they just can't tell us what to expect.  So...they aren't able to offer predictions for Parker's future, tell us what decisions are in his best interest, or know what to look for regarding his medical issues.  The doctors are also hardly ever willing to make decisions about Parker as a whole person by themselves.  That is why we have so many specialists involved.  Each specialist gives us their opinion about what Parker's needs are and it is our job to compile all of that and then prioritize what we feel are his greatest needs and greatest concerns.

    It's hard.

    It's harder than anything I've ever had to do.

    I don't feel qualified.

    I don't want to make the wrong decisions.

    I’m learning to realize how comforting it is that I’m not in control of this situation.  It is beyond me.  I can’t see the big picture and if I were in control, I’d surely mess things up.  I know that but don’t remember that I know that all the time.  I can’t and won’t be able to fix things and must give the control over to God.  I pray that I will do this and I know other people are praying for this as well.  The prayers mean the world to me!  Truly.

    I don’t think I can put in to words how wonderful it is to have so many people in our corner.  So many people praying for us and wishing the best for us and for loving us unconditionally.  Thank you!  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

    I also can’t even begin to explain how ecstatic I am about all the progress Parker has made.  Regretfully, I must admit that I forget to think about the positives sometimes and just get caught up with all the other stuff.  But looking at how far he’s come over the past few months, it’s nothing short of miraculous.

    He was born at 4 pounds, 10 ounces and is now over 12 pounds.  This is remarkable especially considering he has spent half his life in a hospital, initially wasn’t even able to digest food, had to work hard to breathe, let alone eat, has gone through major surgery, and was not allowed to eat anything, I repeat, anything for almost a week.  Wow!

    He can breathe!  And to top that off, he can breathe without supplemental oxygen.  I was told they didn’t know why he wasn't able to keep his oxygen levels up on his own and therefore we were told it’s possible he may not come off oxygen…ever.  Well, they were wrong.  Parker has not needed supplemental oxygen since coming home from the hospital this last time.  And the trach has helped him so much.  He’s more comfortable now and not working nearly as hard to breathe.  We take breathing for granted but it wasn’t so easy for Parker before now.

    He can hear!  At least he can hear more than he could before.  The ear tubes have helped a lot and it’s so fun to see Parker respond to sound.

    His kidney/reflux issues have not gotten worse.  They repeated some tests at Children’s and found that his issues in this area are stable.  They haven’t really gotten better but aren’t worse either.  So we are thrilled!  We are hoping these issues will correct themselves over time and he won’t need surgery.

    Historically I’ve been a closed book.  I don’t like to talk about my feelings, my fears, my struggles, my inadequacies.  Truthfully, I’m sure I would have a hard time doing this face to face with someone still.  This blog lets me open up a bit though and I think it’s freeing, necessary, and extremely therapeutic.  I’m learning to ask for help more.  I’m learning that I’m not in control.  I’m learning to let God set the course.  I’m learning but I haven’t gotten there yet.  This is a journey.  Please bare with me as I try to become more of an “open book” and share my emotions as they are at present no matter how raw, intense, or insane they may be. 

    So since I’m being open, let me share my present concerns/prayer requests with you.

    Parker's vision and/or ability to see.  Parker had started visually tracking and focusing prior to his major surgeries.  However, after coming out of surgery and anesthesia and having terrible withdrawls from the pain meds he was on, he is no longer doing this.  Parker was supposed to have another procedure this week that would've required general anesthesia but the pediatrician agreed that we needed to put this on hold until we got some answers about Parker's eye troubles.  We did see an opthamologist this week and were told Parker has quite a few minor issues with his eyes but none of which should have caused the apparent sudden vision loss.  It's probable that the brain is not interpreting what the eyes are seeing and there could be different reasons for that.  So once again, time will tell.  We see a neurologist at the end of this month and I'm hoping he can shed more light on this situation.  We just hope we can make the correct decision about how to move forward without doing more damage to Parker's vision.

    Parker's airway. The procedure that required general anesthesia this week was primarily to do a bronchoscopy.    Essentially, this is where the Dr inserts a tiny microscope into Parker's airway to assess what is going on and how things are looking.  He was so swelled at the time of surgery that the Dr couldn't really get a good look at what was going on so she needs to go back in to get a clearer picture.  We hope we didn't jeopardize anything by putting this procedure on hold.  We hope Parker's airway is regaining strength and that there are no underlying issues that caused his airway collapse that we don't know about.  We hope that as Parker gets bigger and stronger that the trach can be removed and that he will be able to breath once again all on his own.

    The other thing they were going to do while Parker was under is an ABR (hearing screen) to see more accurately how well Parker’s hearing is.  If hearing aids are going to be necessary we need to get them sooner than later so hoping we can get this test done again soon and that the results will be accurate. 

    Parker's spine and muscle tone.  We know there are issues here but we don't know how extensive.  We hope the Dr's will be able to find out more and that we will know how to treat if necessary.  We are doing therapy with Parker and we hope that since we're doing these things very early on that it will make a positive impact on his tone and ability to be as independent as possible later.  This is another area that may need surgery so we of course are hoping that is not necessary.

    Parker's oral skills and aspiration concerns.  Now that Parker has a g-button and is not allowed to eat anything by mouth it is likely for him to lose the desire to take anything orally which makes trying foods later on a struggle.  Luckily, Parker LOVES his pacifier so we hope this will keep his oral skills up and make it so he doesn't have an aversion to things in his mouth.  We also hope that as Parker gets bigger and stronger he will no longer be such an aspiration risk and may get to try experimenting with both liquids and solids again.  Taking away his ability to eat by mouth was by far and away the hardest of all for me.  I just want my little guy to have the best quality of life possible and getting to try foods orally is a huge wish for me.

    Well, those are my 3 O’s for the day.  Thanks again for letting me ramble.