Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Andy's Birthday Party

Two weeks ago we celebrated Andy's first birthday with a Mexican inspired party since his actual birthday is on Cinco De Mayo. We ate taco's, Mexican rice, and Fiesta beans. Chris made some great salsamole that is so good it is destined to be famous.

The kids had a great time busting open the pinata. Josh ended up being the one to get it open but it was made so poorly that some others didn't get a chance to get a swing at it before it opened. There was a whole half of it that was still intact though so those kids were able to play too. Uncle Matt even got in on the action!

Andy really enjoyed tearing into his gifts which included books, a personalized puzzle, a tricycle, Leap Frog's Fridge Phonics, a teaching Teddy Bear, some sand toys, a set of car keys and cell phone,and a "gumball machine" among other things. We gave Andy a Beanie Buddy Frog and a Five Little Monkeys book. Some of the other kids enjoyed his gifts too!

Andy really took to heart the song "It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To!" He was getting tired by this point and overwhelmed with all the attention. We all crowded around him and sang "Happy Birthday" while he kept reaching for the candle. After I blew it out he savored every last bite. Well, maybe he missed a few.

The birthday boy with his grandma. They seem to be deep in conversation by the way Andy is looking at her.

The birthday boy and his daddy. Aren't they cute?

The kids pretty much spent the entire evening outside even though it was a bit chilly. They played in the light..

and in the dark.


Easy Mexican Rice

1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
3 cups water
1 (1 ounce) package taco seasoning mix
1 (15.25 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded lettuce

In a saucepan bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
Stir in taco seasoning, kidney beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and lettuce.
Cook over medium heat until heated through.

Easy Fiesta Beans

1 can(s) fat-free re-fried beans, preferably spicy
1 can(s) no-salt-added pinto beans, rinsed
1/2 cup(s) prepared salsa
2/3 cup(s) grated sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
4 scallions, sliced

Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.
Combine re-fried beans, pinto beans, salsa and 1/3 cup cheese in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture is hot and the cheese is melted, 6 to 8 minutes.
Spoon the bean mixture into a 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup cheese and scallions. Broil until the cheese is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Tomato-Avocado Salsamole

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1tsp minced jalapeno
1tbs lime juice
1tbs cider vinegar
1tsp minced garlic
1/4tsp salt
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and coarsely mashed
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/4 chopped cilantro

Combine onion, jalapeno, lime juice, vinegar, garlic, and salt in bowl. Add avocado, tomato, and cilantro; stir well. Serve immediately, or, to store, reserve avocado pit, add to mixture to prevent browning, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Serve with lightly toasted whole-wheat pita cut into triangles.

A New Addition To Our Family

For the better part of a week we had been waiting on pins and needles to find out if Josh was going to win a lizard from school that the kids were studying in science class. Actually, I was hoping that he would not have his name drawn. I even half-joked to his teacher to try not to draw his name. Of course Josh was hoping that he would hear the sweet sound of his name being called so that he could become the proud new owner of a lizard. When I picked Josh up from school, the tell-tale sign of a boy gingerly carrying an ice-cream bucket told me all I needed to know.

It turns out that this lizard is actually an anole, which was so rudely explained to me from the mouth of a nerdy, pimply teenager at the pet store when I went to get the anole some nummy crickets. The clerk told us that the anole will not eat for a few days since it is very easily stressed. I wish I could say the same. However, I eat like the dickens when I am stressed...or bored...or happy...or whenever I see food. I was definitely in need of a package of double-stuffed Oreo's after my lecture from Mr. Animal Know-it-all.

Anyway, we left the small pet store empty-handed and discussed the name of our new little critter on the way home.

Me: What are we going to call the new little critter?

Josh: I don't know.

Me: What about Bugger?

Josh: Yeah! No, I don't like that.

Me: What about Geronimo?

Josh: Yeah! Geromino! No, I can't pronounce it! What were some of the names you were going to name Andy?

Me: Alexander, Lucas, Ryan...

Josh: Ryan! That's what we'll name him!

So Ryan had to spend the night in his bucket with some freshly cut branches but no dinner. The next day we went to a larger pet store and bought all the things that would keep Ryan happy, comfortable, and green.

Ryan's last moments in the dreaded bucket. Can you spot him?

Josh poured the coconut husk bedding on the bottom of the terrarium.

I hung a net and Josh placed a climbing/hiding log in just the right place.

Then it was time to hang the branches for Ryan to climb and catch some rays.

Josh misted Ryan's home for proper humidity.

Because Josh is a bit afraid of Ryan and I am just grossed out, Chris and his manly hands carefully introduced Ryan to his new home. O.K. I'm a little afraid of him too. Ryan, not Chris.

Chris dumped a few crickets in the terrarium and Ryan ate immediately even though Mr. Animal Know-it-all explained that he would not because he would be too stressed out. Apparently we have another stress eater on our hands.

In fact, he was so stressed out he chowed down six crickets in a matter of minutes. At least I don't have to cook for him. Cricket stew. Yum.

There's Ryan all happy and brilliantly green in his new home.
Except when Josh looks at him.
Then he turns brown.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Souper Saturday Again

With today being a chilly spring day, we made another hot soup. I got the recipe from a colleague of Chris's after he had eaten some of hers and really liked it. I made it a few weeks ago with one or two tweaks but today I made it true to the recipe using ground turkey. It is super easy and kid friendly. I made cornbread(from a package) in a cast iron skillet to go with the soup. Yummm.

(I am still trying to figure out my camera!)

Taco Soup

1lb lean ground turkey or beef
1 large pkg Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1 pkg taco seasoning mix
1 can black beans
1 can white beans
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can green beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes (Mexican chile or spicy)

Brown meat and drain
Add Ranch and taco seasoning mix to meat and mix well
Add all the other ingredients without draining
Simmer for one hour

Serves 12 1cup servings

Friday, May 15, 2009

May 1st & 15th Scripture Memorization

I didn't post my May 1st verse on the 1st so I will combine the 1st and the 15th today. It works out well because verses 9&10 of Psalm 139 go together and would have looked and sounded funny broken up. They just need to be memorized together.

Psalm 139:9&10

9 If I rise on the wings of dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In Our News

A Nephew Is Born

Sunday, May 10 (Mother's Day) Calin was born to Matt and Amy. He is my first nephew and he will probably be my only nephew. He is very cute with dark blue eyes and lots of dark hair. If he is anything like his older sister though, his eyes will turn a lighter shade of blue and his hair will turn blonde. He is very loved and I look forward to watching him grow up and witnessing him and Andy form a cousin bond being that they are only one year apart. I have to admit when I was holding Calin I had a small wave of baby fever intrude upon my heart. Not enough to make me want a baby at this very moment but the thought has, uninvited, crept into my mind. We will have to really think and pray hard about adding another child to our family. We can hardly keep up with the small child in our home as it is. I would like to have a girl but that is up to God.
Another thought I had while I was holding Calin is how I remember wanting time to stop for just a little while after both my boys were born. There was so much controlled chaos going on during the births that I just wanted some time afterwards to soak up the monumental gift that I had just been given. Time to study their little faces and count their fingers and toes. But the seconds kept ticking into minutes and their little lives began the growing process independently from my body. Hours passed then days and now years have gone by with something new to learn at each moment. And time just seems to be going by much faster.

Gramps Well Despite Chemotherapy And Radiation Treatment

Gramps finished his daily Radiation treatment late last week and has persevered through it with grit and stamina. He has two more Chemotherapy treatments left, one coming up next Monday and the last one in mid-June. Gramps will have more scans to determine how much of the cancer has been eradicated and I do believe his oncologists and surgeons will then decide if and when surgery will be performed. He has maintained nutrition and hydration so well that he is only required to have blood drawn once a week and some weeks he doesn't have to have it drawn at all. My mom has gone to Illinois to be with him when he receives his Chemotherapy and next week will be no exception.
I remember my grandma's last Christmas when she was dying from cancer. I had no idea what to say or how to act so I ended up ignoring her, but watching in morbid fascination at what was happening to her. It was just too out of the ordinary for me. I felt like she was a stranger. It wasn't obvious that I was ignoring her and I didn't even realize that's what I was doing at the time. I didn't recognize the feelings that I was experiencing. I just wanted her to be back to normal with her notorious energy and not dragging around an oxygen tank to help her breathe. I find myself fighting the same stupid behavior with Gramps. I have to force myself to call him and acknowledge the brevity of the situation. I don't want to dwell on it but I need him to know that I am aware that he is fighting for his life. I need him to know that he has my support. So instead of pretending nothing is wrong I will pray for him and reach out to him with sympathy and compassion.
Anyway, Gramps so misses his beloved Cubs that he is planning on trekking to Wrigley Field to see a game next weekend before his Chemotherapy treatment. My mom will move Heaven and Earth to go with him. I wish I could too. My Gramps is full of understated stubborn tenacity. He is my hero and I love him dearly.

Soldier Mick In Iraq

Back in February when I tearfully watched from my desk at work the troops ride away on buses to begin their tour of duty, I committed to step out of my own little world and get to know someone who is serving our country in Iraq. Little did I know that commitment would be in the form of my third cousin Mick. As I was doing some research as to how to get in touch with someone in Iraq, forming a pen-pal situation of sorts, Mick found me on Facebook. I read a comment on his page that he wished that he would get letters from home which got me thinking and praying. I wasn't expecting God to choose someone I already knew to send encouraging words and thoughts to but I do know that God is chiseling away at my hard, judgemental heart so I wasn't surprised by His plan. I began a letter and three pages later signed it and sent it off. It wasn't long before I got a letter in the mail from Mick. He answered all my questions and told me some things about Iraq. Even though it has been weeks since I received his letter, I still haven't written him back. I will take the time soon though because it is important to me. And I suspect it is important to him to know that somebody cares.

Hostess Cupcake Really Is Russell Tradition!

This past weekend Chris's parents, Barb and Bob, came up from Wisconsin to celebrate Andy's first birthday. Barb brought along Chris's baby books in which I read that he joyfully devoured a Hostess Cupcake on his own first birthday. Ok, the whole 'joyfully devoured' part wasn't really in the book but he did have a Hostess Cupcake.
Also in the book was a picture of Chris when he was one and, I must say, Andy looks an awful lot like his daddy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cupcake Tradition

Apparently there is a first birthday tradition among the Russell family that I was not aware of until last night when Chris came home and declared that he had stopped by the gas station to get Andy something for his birthday. Need I say more?

Oh, I need to say more. There is nothing like instilling the love of Hostess Cupcakes early on in life. Chris has pictures of himself eating a Hostess Cupcake on his first birthday. I have not seen these pictures so, quite frankly, I'm not sure if the tradition lived before he did or if this is just something that he wants to continue for the second generation. I mean, how long has Hostess been making cupcakes anyway? As you can tell, Andy did seem to enjoy the treat and that's all that matters!

We are having a birthday party on Saturday where there will be even more cupcake fun and even more pictures taken to capture the celebration of Andy's birthday. This boy must be loved!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Andy!

Today is Andy's 1st birthday! I am so excited despite the fact that there is what seems like a monsoon outside. Never mind the fact that we live in an entirely different part of the world where monsoons don't actually occur. The day I went into labor with Andy was a beautiful, warm spring day...

Saturday May 3rd

I had to work an insanely busy Saturday morning shift at Anchor Bank. By the time the four hours were over I was ready for a long nap and a relaxing day. But instead, I threw a baby shower for my friend Stefani who was due in June. So I trudged my large belly and swollen feet over to the party host's home and began to prepare the food and games for all the guests. I threw a successfully fun baby shower and waddled my way home, but there was no time for relaxing. We had relatives (maybe it was just Dan and Gramps) in town and dinner was planned at my parent's home for any of us that could make it, which was pretty much all of us, Dennis included. After an evening of eating, talking, joking, and laughing hysterically Chris and Josh took my weary body home where we all (ok, maybe it was just me) fell into bed since it was late and we wanted to get up for church the next morning.

Sunday May 4th

After spending many months attending different churches and deciding that our family's best "fit" was at Five Oaks, Chris and I signed up to take the Discovery class which happened to fall on that Sunday. He had already been a member of Five Oaks in the past but he attended the class with me so that I could get the information I needed about the church. We enjoyed the class and the lunch following and discussed what we should do with the rest of the day. I was in need of a little weight relief so we decided to head to the pool at the community center and it felt wonderful to let the water take some of the pressure off my body. As I was floating around the edge of the pool Chris asked if I would be able to feel if my water broke while I was in the water. I answered that I wasn't sure but that it would be really crazy if it did. We may have mentioned that it would be kind of gross and possibly laughed about it.
I was soon ready to get out of the water so I watched Josh play as I dried off. Chris took off for the men's room to sit in the sauna. I hadn't even dried off completely when I felt a small gush. I stopped and thought to myself, "Is that what I think it is or did I just pee on myself?" I began walking back to our chairs when I felt that telltale gush again. And again. I quickly gathered our towels and toys, called Josh, and told him to go into the men's room and ask Chris to come out. As soon as Chris appeared I explained to him that my water had broken adding, "Ironic, huh?"
His response was, "We've gotta go!" That was at around 6pm.
We went home and as I packed up my suitcase, Chris packed up the refrigerator. We had just prepared some meals and didn't want to waste them. Soon we were on our way to the hospital after dropping Josh off at my parents. The IV was inserted to deliver antibiotics for Group B Strep and we waited for the contractions to get harder and closer together. It didn't take long before I became very uncomfortable.

Monday May 5

I decided to take a warm bath but I wasn't in there long before Andy decided he was ready to come out. And if you ask Chris, there is a discrepancy in our stories that I treated him poorly when he couldn't understand my whispering that I didn't want any more water and I shoved the shower head out of his hand. He also freaked out when I squeezed his thumb and groaned that I needed help. He thought I was dying but I just wanted drugs.
Anyway, I made it to the delivery bed but let's just say Andy was close to being born in the bathtub. At least I was at the hospital and not at home!
Andy was born at 12:48am weighing 7lb 4oz and 19 1/4 inches long. We found out he was a boy at that moment but we didn't have a name picked out for him yet. In fact, we didn't choose his name for at least 12 hours or longer. There were too many to choose from. We liked Alexander, Lucas, and Ryan as well but we gave him the name Andrew John.
If you go back to this post, you will notice that there seems to be a common denominator that sends me into labor every time (well, only twice, but still!). Dan and Dennis inducing fits of hysterical laughter mere hours before I go into labor. Coincidence? I think not! I think it's all part of God's humor.

Andy has redefined my role as a mom since he became another "firstborn" in my life. Andy is very active and doesn't sit still for anything. He is full of joy and laughter and loves music and singing. He sings with Daddy and sings with the radio in my car when I pick him up from Grandma's. He loves throwing his toys on the floor and saying, "Uh-Oh."
This first year has been a challenge but also a joy as we have watched his little personality emerge and and as he starts the journey to become the person God created him to be.

Lord, thank you for the sweet blessing of Andy. Thank you for making me his mommy. Help me to be a light that leads him to You. Thank You for all you have done for Andy and for all the plans and blessings You have stored up for him. My most earnest prayer is that he chooses to follow You for the rest of his days. Please watch over him and make Yourself real to him. Thank You Lord.

Andy shares a birthday with his Great-Uncle Dennis and his second cousin Isaiah who was born on the exact same day. Happy Birthday Dennis and Isaiah! Happy Birthday Andy!