Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Colorful Gluten-free Penne Recipe

I am not a cook that uses recipes regularly.  I kind of do a lot of winging it or recipes from memory. 
Which has been a challenge as we've been getting settled into the gluten-free way of things.  Most of my old default meals are obsolete now.  But little by little I am learning what changes I need make to adapt old recipes and

Colorful Gluten-free Penne
1 16oz box of gluten-free penne (rotini or bowtie would be good too)
1 bunch of asparagus
1-2 bell peppers
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes (mine were from Aldi)
1/4 cup EVOO
1-2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Cut veggies into one inch pieces and saute in a couple of tablespoons of oil until tender.  Set aside.  Cook pasta according to package.  Once the pasta is drained toss vegis and pasta together with seasoning, remaining oil and cheese.  Serve warm or cold as a pasta salad.  You could also change it up and use different veggies: zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, etc - or chicken would also be good in this dish.  This meal was a hit with my family.  Hope it is with yours as well!

If you try it let me know what you think! 

photo source

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wicked Weekend!

I was blessed to spend the weekend with a few of my favorite gals!  We've been talking about seeing Wicked together for a few years now and it just hasn't worked out... until now! 

My girlfriend Julie inherited her grandma's house a couple of years ago and has been working on decluttering (60+ years worth of stuff) and updating it and we finally got to see the fruit of her hard work!  It looks great!  Her guest room looks very much like the room she and I shared in college!
Julie was the perfect hostess.  She had bottles of water and mints on our pillows... she had a list of suggested activities for us...  she even got out her old college photo albums for us to relive the "good old days".  We sure looked young (and skinny) in those pictures!!  ;-)

We had a blast being silly girls together.  Per the activities list we all wore facial masks and we got our groove on with Just Dance on the Wii... I am so glad that there are no hidden cameras in her house... or are there?  ;-)
We had fun getting all dressed up together for the theater.  I did everyone's hair, just like the old days.  I mean, how often do you get to say you're going to the theatre (with a snooty accent)?  This is my girl, Mia... we've been friends since she started homeschooling in middle school.  She is the one who got me connected to the university I ended up attending with the rest of the girls.  Now we're homeschooling our kids together!  Crazy!
Before heading over to the show, we stopped by another friend from college's house for dinner.  Frankly, he's just one of the girls!  ;-)
One of our girls has been obsessed with Wicked for the past couple of years... about as obsessed as you can be without having actually seen the show.  She knows all the songs by heart from listening to her (now scratched from too much use) soundtrack.  She was so giddy throughout the whole show!  

It was a magical performance.  The cast was incredible.  I had heard a few of the songs before, and knew what it was about but I didn't realize just how clever and funny it would be.  I loved the little quips that referenced the Wizard of Oz.  And seeing the relationship develop between Elphaba and Glinda was great.  What an awesome friendship story! 
What a fun time with my girls!!  So thankful for girls weekends!  Its so great to get a chance to get away and just be a silly girl for awhile!  Thanks for being silly with me!  Best friends are the ones who are there: whenever; wherever; however and most importantly: forever.

 “Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?” - C. S. Lewis

Friday, May 17, 2013

Going Gluten-Free

I have toyed with the idea of going gluten-free since the beginning of our special needs journey.  But for awhile it was easy to dismiss because we did not have a recommendation from any of our physicians or a diagnosis that went hand in hand with GF.  But last summer we had one doc suggest trying gluten-free (he actually referred me to this site).  I didn't want to dive head on into a diet change without my husband and I being on the same page about it.  It has taken him a little while to come around but the more he has read about it the more he has realized that we would be negligent if we didn't at least try it out for Joe and Christine's sake.  The surprising thing was that after doing his own research was that he has realized he will probably benefit from going gluten-free also (he suffers from a sleep disorder, acid reflux and OCD...).

So, over the past few weeks I have been gathering resources and talking to friends who are GF and trying to get a plan together for us to transition to gluten-free.  I have a Pinterest board devoted to gluten-free recipes and tips, I bought a Groupon for Emeals meal planning service (they now offer GF, Clean Eating and Paleo Menus - among others) and I have hit the library looking for GF recipe books.  We have come across a myriad of articles that both support and discourage the diet.  I found one interesting post about what the bible says about eating grains.  There are a lot of great resources out there, including apps to help you menu plan or dine out while sticking to your gluten-free diet.

To be honest, the week before we made the switch my husband and I both "binged" on a lot of our favorite gluten-y foods.  And we paid for it.  By the end of the weekend we were both feeling pretty crappy.  Which in a way reinforced our decision to make this change for our family.  

We have designated the summer (through Labor Day) as our trial period for us to determine if gluten-free is a change that is necessary and worthwhile for our family.  We took the time to write down a list of things for us to keep an eye on for each person in our household.  Things that we hope will be helped by going gluten-free.  To give you an idea of what we listed: Isaac: acid reflux, dry skin, OCD...  Wani: stress, digestion, fatigue, depression... Nate: attention, dry skin, focus... Joe: eye contact, balance, communication... Christine: digestion, coordination, communication...  just to name a few.  

So please join with us in saying a prayer that God will make it clear to us if this is His plan for our family.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.-  1 Corinthians 10:31


photo source

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Niece & Nephews...

I post often about my beautiful children but I thought I would devote a post to my awesome nephews and cutie patootie niece.  I am so blessed by these kiddos!

My mom is one of eight kids and my dad is one of ten so I grew up with lots of cousins.  While my kids will never have that many, I am so thankful that they have cousins close to their ages that they can grow up along side and learn about and explore this world together. 
 First are JJ & Gabe - my nephews on my hubs' side.  They are pretty close to my boys' ages, they are 7yr and 5yr.  They are both high energy and very busy boys.  We live across the street from them and while we don't see them daily Everyone Loves Raymond style, we are glad to live close and have the opportunity to spend time with them when we can.

Then comes my buddy Wyatt... he is a cowboy at heart.  He is a few weeks younger than Christine and full of rough and tumble.  He loves to chase and play with Nate when they get together.
And of course there is Aidie.  He is the perfect combination of both of his beautiful parents.  Bright eyed and smiley, he lights up a room with his happy energy.  He lives in Georgia so we don't get to see him nearly enough!  Thank goodness for pix and videos on facebook!

Last but not least is my one and only niece, Belle.  She has the whole world (or at least the family) wrapped around that chubby little finger of hers.  She is the sweetest natured baby I have ever met!  Quite a contrast to her big brother Wyatt who was pretty high maintenance in the beginning.  Belle brightens our day with her beautiful smiles and contagious giggles.

Psalm 127:3-4  Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

More Tidbits About Special Needs Parenting

Life with special needs children can be a wonderful learning experience and also an incredibly challenging one.  I often need to reach out for words of encouragement to help me get through the day (or week, or month).  Here are a few quotes that I can relate to.

“Anyone can give up; it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.” – Christopher Reeves

It is not uncommon for our mealtime to be meltdown time.  Isaac works odd hours and has a 45min drive home so I do dinner with the kids on my own most of the time.  It is a challenge to keep up with both Joe and Christine's not so patient appetites.  I've tried feeding them separately but it doesn't always help.  I think the evening is just the "witching hour" for my kids.  Sometimes all heck breaks loose and I want to run out the door screaming when daddy gets home from work.  But most of the time... I hold it together.  I try to make light of the situation with Nate, who gets so frustrated by the tears (justifiably so).  We will sometimes play music during dinner which sometimes helps calm Joe and Christine, sometimes its just a distraction for Nate and I.

"The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”  - Scott Hamilton

Some times I think I am the one with the disability in our house.  I have times when I am ungrateful, bitter, discouraged and spiteful.  I can't see all the good in my life because I'm so consumed and overwhelmed with the challenges that I feel forced to face on a daily basis.  Sometimes it is really hard to get out of that pit once I'm in it.  Prayer and support from those around me helps a lot.

“Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see further.” -Thomas Carlyle

So much is uncertain with Joe and Christine not having a definitive diagnosis.  I have very little to give me an idea of what their futures (and mine) will look like.  Its scary to think about the possibilities.  So out of necessity, a day at a time is all that we can do. 

"The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears."
-Ellen Goodman

We have many fears about their future... but we do have hopes too.  But frankly its easy for me to lose sight of those hopes at times.  Over the past few years.  Our hopes have changed.  When Isaac prays with the kids at bedtime he goes around the room and prays for each one of us individually.  He used to pray for Joe to "catch up developmentally"... then he started praying that he'd "get stronger and more mobile", after awhile it changed to "he'll learn to crawl and talk", now he prays for Joe to learn to "walk and to communicate". We may not have the same hopes that we once did... but we do hope for their future and for ours.

Linking up at:


Monday, May 06, 2013

Christine's Minnie Mouse Birthday Party

Last week was Christine's 3rd birthday!  I can hardly believe that my baby is three years old.  We gathered some friends and family to celebrate our sweet girl!
I made the Minnie outfit for a friend's daughter last fall and she was kind enough to let me borrow it and the Minnie/Mickey ears that she had made.  ;-)  
At the last minute I made this Minnie decoration using some quilting hoops and fabric that I had on hand.  Everyone kept telling me I should hang it in Christine's bedroom after the party... but I don't think Isaac would be keen on redecorating over one piece of decor.  ;-)

Jess was our game-master and led the kids in a "pin the bow on Minnie".  Christine needed a little help but had a great time being a part of the game.
And my dad was kind enough to bring his train to the party.  Its become a staple at our parties because regardless of the occasion, the kids LOVE the train rides!

I like to keep things simple (I am a lazy baker) so Nate and I used regular and mini Oreos to make little Mickeys on the cupcakes. 
 Christine liked the cupcakes a lot... can you tell?  She didn't want to waste a single crumb!
 We had such a great time and were so blessed by our friends and family.  We are excited to see what this next year has in store for Christine and for our family.

"I praise you
because I am fearfully
and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well."
(Psalm 139:14, NIV)

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Anniversary Cruise!

My husband and I celebrated our ten year anniversary in January.  While we had two nights in Indy to celebrate then but its been four years since we have taken a "real" trip together. We were both eager to set aside some time to devote to one another.  And we felt a milestone like 10 years deserved something big! 

Back in the fall we were given the opportunity to get a "free" cruise plus airfare if we would be willing to listen to a presentation from a timeshare company (they insisted it wasn't a timeshare but it sure seemed like one to us).  Well, we weren't very interested in buying what they were selling (especially at the prices they were offering) but we were interested in the "free" cruise.  So we went and sat through the whole presentation.  It was rather tedious but we stuck it out.  Frankly, by the end of the evening they had lowered their prices enough that we were actually considering it - but it was still a substantial investment and we don't make that kind of financial decision without careful consideration.  They insisted that we had to sign up on the spot or the offer was off the table so we said no.  But we got our certificates for our incentive cruise.

We were not completely surprised to discover that "free" was not exactly accurate.  "Discounted" would have been more truthful.  We had to jump through some hoops and be flexible on our dates of travel, etc.  And we were responsible for some taxes and port fees, etc.  But we do feel that it was worthwhile in the end.

We did end up with a busy itinerary.  Wednesday we took Megabus from Indy to Chicago.  We have some friends who live on the northside of Chicago so took them to dinner at Taste of Peru, this Peruvian restaurant that we found on a Diner, Drive-in and Dives fan site. It was really good food and great company.  Our friends have always lived out of town so we don't get to see them nearly often enough.  It was so nice to get to visit with them.  They were kind enough to let us crash at their place and drive us to the airport at the crack of dawn the next morning.

Thursday we flew to Fort Lauderdale via Newark. When we arrived in FLL we attempted to figure out the public transportation to take us to Miami (where the Norwegian Cruise Line port is located).  Being from the suburbs of Central Indiana we are not adept at public transportation and were easily lured into a shared van ride for a whoppin' $42 (when he quoted us he said $21 and we thought it was total, not per person).  We were the last to be dropped off so we got a somewhat scenic tour of Miami on the way to our hotel.  We enjoyed settling in at our beachfront hotel during the afternoon and took a walk on the beach. That evening we took an overpriced cab ride to Tap Tap, a Haitian restaurant (also from TripleD ).  The decor was lively and the food was memorable.  I had the shrimp in coconut sauce and it was amazing!

The next morning was leisurely and we hailed a taxi to take us to the cruise port around noon.  This cab driver was insane.  I seriously thought we were going to die... or hit a pedestrian or something.  Not our best taxi experience.  But we lived to tell about it so I guess we can't complain too much.  ;-)  We were ushered (or herded like cattle) through registration and customs and onto the Norwegian Sky.  Neither of us having been on a cruise before we were blown away by the size of the ship.  It is huge!

That day we were a little worn out from the traveling and just kind of chilled on the boat.  I took a dip in the pool and we acclimated ourselves with the rest of the ship.  There were several dining rooms that were complimentary, some that were open 24/7.  We were very satisfied with those and did not even venture into the "specialty" dining rooms which all had cover charges.

 The next day was spent at Great Stirrup Cay - a private island owned by Norwegian Cruise Line.  There is no dock on the island so we had to use a tender to get to and from the island.  There was a shopping area on the island as well as some recreational areas and the lunch buffet provided by NCL.  We enjoyed the beach and lunch and did some shopping.  We attempted to explore more of the island but it was under construction so there wasn't much we could see.  The tender ride back to the ship was tumultuous.  First, during the boarding a little girl got her foot smashed in the ramp.  She was attended to promptly by staff but it shook everyone up.  And then the waters were very rocky on our way back and the boarding of the ship took awhile because they had to keep stopping to let the water calm down.  I was a little nervous during all of that.

That night we took in some of the entertainment offered on board the ship.  Throughout our trip we saw the Deal or No Deal live gameshow, a Battle of the Sexes game, a comedian and a Showcase Showdown musical.  Isaac also spent a little time playing blackjack in the onboard casino.  I lost a little money playing slots but Isaac ended up $150 ahead in the end.  Winner winner, chicken dinner!

The next day we were docked at Nassau for the day.  It was kind of amusing to see the cluster of people inside the welcome center madly checking email and such on their laptops and phones in the wifi zone because you had to pay an overpriced amount for internet access on the ship.  Everyone was technology deprived. 

We indulged in the cliche and had lunch at Senor Frog's a few blocks away from the docks.  It was like spring break in there!  Lots of party girls "woo"ing.  Isaac had some tasty wings and I got pretty good chicken tacos.  They would have been great but I accidentally tainted them with what I thought was sour cream but ended up being blue cheese dressing.  Ugh!

After lunch we wandered around the main downtown area a bit and ended up at the beach for awhile.  I will admit that the skinny bikini clad gals I saw throughout our trip did not make me feel any better about myself... but I didn't let it put a damper on our trip.  I had the attention and adoration of the only man that matters to me and that is all I can ask for.  ;-)

We said good-bye to Nassau and the ship headed back to Miami.  We had dinner in our room that evening but ended up walking around the deck late that night looking at the stars and clinging to our last night on the ship.

The next day we were again herded like cattle as we left the ship and returned to the mainland.  We decided not to fork over the dough for the shared van ride to the airport this time and we did manage to navigate the Miami bus system... but it did take its toll on us.  ;-)  It took us a few hours to make what could have been a 40min trip.  But we saved like $30.  So there you go.

We are not in the position to take a trip like this too often... but I think we both realized how much we need to prioritize setting aside time together.  Date nights are great but actually going away together is important too.  We laughed and talked and enjoyed one another's company like we haven't done in a long time.  Frankly, I was more relaxed than I have been in years.  Having more than just a day or two without having to change a diaper or wipe a runny nose or feed someone every tedious bite of their meal... you get the idea... it was nice for the break.

We are so thankful to our friends and family who helped with the kids and transportation so that we could have this trip.  We couldn't have done it without them and I certainly wouldn't have been able to relax well had I not known the kids were in good hands.  Love you guys!

Here is a short slideshow of a few more pix from the trip.  Enjoy!

Try the video maker at Animoto.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 -  Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.