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Sunday, March 27, 2011

The photos say it all...

Dear Family and Friends,

This week we went from this picture taken right after doing baptisms for the dead with Spencer and my parents:

To this:
It was a great week, wonderful to have my parents here and then sad to see them go.

Monday my mom showed me how to prune our trees.  I felt like I was butchering them but they look so much better now.  And despite my mom having a cough that would not quit she pressed forward showing me and doing a bunch to fix the cushions for our family room bench.  Almost done, so pictures next week hopefully.

The good news Monday was that Taylor saw the neurologist and we went over his MRI.  He has no new brain damage, just lots of old damage.  Which means he was not having mini-strokes this fall and that all of his rapid decline in skills, ability etc can be attributed to hips rather than brain damage.  Which is good in that hopefully if we can fix the hips he will be able to regain those skills and quality of life he did have last year.  Have a plan to try to decrease one of his meds and introduce a new one to help with seizure control but we are waiting on that till after his surgery.

Tuesday Robyn and I had a free day so we went with my parents to tour the Carl Bloch exhibit at BYU and then go to lunch at Kneaders.  Robyn was so very serious about carrying around her ipad at the exhibit and learning all about the paintings.

Spencer has had a lot of firsts this week.  On Tuesday evening we all went to the temple to do baptisms for the dead with him.  He was quite nervous about going into the temple for the first time so I was so grateful that Jeremy was there to hold his hand the whole way.  I haven't done baptisms for years as they won't let adults do them unless its for family names.  My dad had a few names for me so I was able to be baptized by Jeremy.  A neat experience for everyone and it was wonderful that my parents were there.  Then today Spencer passed the sacrament for the first time.  He was very nervous again and moved very slowly, afraid the would spill.  He did great though.  And now is out collecting fast offerings with Jeremy for the first time.  Add in 2 scout service projects this week and 2 time going to the church to set up chairs and 1 time cleaning the church and he has been a busy kid.

Allison has been super involved in her play this week.  Lots of rehearsals have left her pretty tuckered out.  She came home sick from school Thursday morning but after taking a long nap and eating a bunch she was ready to go back for play practice.  Think she just got over tired with everything going on.  Good thing the play is almost over!  Saturday was the dress rehearsal - all day long.  Jeremy was there taking pictures for most of it.  Allison was excited to dye her hair black and put on all her stage make-up.  Pictures to come!

Super sad to say good-bye to my parents Wednesday morning.  Luckily the sun came out and we caught up on some of the things I meant to do before they came.  Like fertilize the lawn, scoop the poop etc.  Nothing like sunshine and catching up on some to-dos to chase the blues away.  We had a snowstorm Friday that coincided with my long run for the week.  That was just plain miserable.  I was by myself and it was cold and then by half-way through it was really cold and snowing hard and I was soaked.  I was just glad to get the one over with.  Thursday night a few of my friends and I went to a running workshop that talked about form.  So I tried really hard to run with better form and realized how far I have to go.  Friday night was cousin pizza and movie night.  Jeremy was gone to a photo event so I was happy to curl up and watch movies with everyone for a few hours.

Tonight our stake gets new ward boundaries so church today was a little bitter sweet with the realization that some of us at least are getting split up.  Our kids aren't really understanding what is happening so they aren't too worried about it.

Jeremy has been working on a couple of photography projects this week.  He was able to go to a photography workshop Wednesday evening which he really enjoyed.  And of course March Madness basketball.  Not as much as he would have liked to seen but whenever he could.

Robyn is just Robyn - a ball of sunshine and energy with occasional bursts of thunder and lightening, tears and whining.  My mom told her that she needed to go to her room one day to find her sweet voice.  We have liked that expression so much we have used it often since.  Hearing Robyn tell Spencer to "go find his sweet voice" still makes me laugh.  As does Spencer telling Robyn while cleaning the office bathrooms "that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should".  I knew if we said things a few hundred times, something would eventually stick!

Love to you all, Heather

Friday, March 25, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

This has been Spencer's requested birthday cake several times now.  Peanut butter and doesn't get much better.  Definitely requires a glass of cold milk.  You can half the recipe and make a smaller 2 layer cake but I like the look of a taller 3 layer cake instead. 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

1/2 c cocoa powder
3 1/2 c flour
3tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
2 c buttermilk
4 tsp vanilla
8 oz unsweetened chocolate blocks, broken up
1 c hot water
3 1/2 c sugar
8 eggs
4 egg yolks
3 sticks butter, softened

3-4 peanut butter cups, broken in half for decoration
Peanut Butter Frosting
Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease 3 8- or 9- inch round cake pans.  Line the bottoms with parchment paper and then grease again.
3. Mix the flour, baking soda and salt together in a bowl.
4. In a separate bowl combine the chocolate and cocoa powder and hot water.  Stir until melted.  When smooth stir in 1 c sugar and stir until thick and smooth.
5. In mixer beat the eggs and yolks till fluffy and add the remaining 2 1/2 c sugar.  Whip until thick, 4 to 8 minutes.
6. Beat into the egg mixture, the chocolate mixture, then the butter.  When smooth, add in 1/2 of the flour mixture then half of the buttermilk, beat.  Repeat.
7. Pour batter into pans.  Tap the pans on the counter to settle the batter and help get rid of any air bubbles.
8. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, with just a few crumbs attatched.
9. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges of the pan and flip the cakes onto a wire rack.  Peel off the parchment paper.  Let cool for a few hours before frosting.
10. Assemble cake layers with a dollop of peanut butter frosting.  Lay one layer down.  Top layer with peanut butter frosting.  Put another layer down.  Top with peanut butter frosting.  Put last layer down.  Frost top and sides very skimpily with a rough coating of peanut butter chocolate frosting.  Let set for 30 minutes.  This will seal in all the crumbs and make the top layer look much better.  Then when set, do a second layer of frosting on the sides and top doing it thick and making swirls on it with a spoon till it looks good.  Decorate the top with peanut butter cups.

Peanut Butter Frosting:
1 c creamy peanut butter
1/2 c butter
1 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 pinch of salt
Beat till smooth and then add milk 1 Tbsp at a time until frosting is desired consistency. Usually 1 to 2 Tbsp.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Frosting:
1 1/4 c butter, softened
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 c creamy peanut butter
pinch of salt
1 c cocoa powder
2 c powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk
Beat butter, vanilla and peanut butter together.  Add rest.  If too thick add more milk.  If too thin add more powdered sugar.

This is one of Allison's favorite meals.  She made it with friends for her birthday party this year.  If you don't mind the mess, it is an easy meal for kids to make.  I prefer the spinach version. This freezes well, cooked or uncooked.

Stuffed Shells

1 pkg (12 oz) jumbo shells, cooked according to package directions and cooled
4 c (2 lb) ricotta cheese
2 c (8 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

(can add 2 c frozen, chopped spinach thawed and drained plus 1 tsp nutmeg to cheese mixture)

3 c marinara sauce (can use 28 oz jar of spaghetti sauce)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a 13 x 9 inch pan pour 3/4 c marinara sauce.  Mix the cheeses, eggs and seasonings plus spinach and nutmeg if desired.  Fill each cooked shell with 2 Tbsp of cheese mixture.  Put each shell in the pan.  Pour marina sauce on top.  Top with additional shredded parmesan or mozzarella cheese.  Cook for 35 minutes.  Makes 8-10 servings.

*If freezing this cover with foil and bake frozen at 350 degrees for 2 hours.  If refrigerated, cook covered with foil 40-50 minutes.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Meal in a Muffin

This recipe is courtesy of my neighbor Martha who got it from Connie Cook.  I am typing it the way I make it but you can leave the nuts out or use oil instead of applesauce if you want them to keep longer.  These stay moist and delicious for a few days or they freeze wonderfully.

Meal in a Muffin

2 large carrots, shredded (1 c)
2 apples, unpeeled, cored and shredded (2 c)
4 eggs
2/3 c sugar
1 c applesauce
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp vanilla
1 c shredded coconut
2/3 c craisens or raisens (I do half and half - or any other dried fruit)
1 1/2 c oatmeal
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
2/3 c chopped walnuts or pecans

Mix all ingredients and pour into 18 sprayed muffin tins.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  Let cool in pans for 5 minutes and then put on cooling trays.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Family time

Dear Friends and Family,

Family left last Saturday and then reappeared in the shape of my parents Thursday night.  Wish everyone lived close but can't beat the Christmas morning feeling of having family show up on your doorstep!

Monday was a day off of school for kids.  So we spent the day cleaning up from a week of fun and organizing/cleaning out drawers and closets.  Robyn was in heaven getting down a box of Allison's old clothes to refill her drawers with and has been wearing new to her shorts ever since regardless of the temperature.  Allison had a little eye opening moment when she realized that Robyn is wearing the clothes Allison wore LAST summer.  I am waiting for Robyn to be bigger than Allison and then hand me downs will work in the opposite direction.  I am sure that will help the sisterly love in our house!

Spencer for his birthday lunch this year was initiated into Tucanos, Monday with Jeremy.  They have a birthday club where you get a free meal in your birthday month.  Spencer thought it was the best thing ever.  He had his 12 year old physical Thursday compete with the last of his shots.  I had the nurse weigh him twice because in the last 6 months he has gained 14 pounds and grown an inch and a half.  So now he is a proud 127 pounds and 5'4 1/2" (same height as his mom!).  He said it was all due to Tucanos and the unlimited supply of meat.

Spencer had a great rest of his birthday taking BYU brownies to share with his class (thanks Daniel) and attending a court of honor.  Lots of 12 year old happenings this week with the Deacons and the Bishop visiting one night to tell him about being a Deacon.  Saturday he went to a BYU pow-wow to work on his 3 citizenship badges.  Friday night he lost is a little bit when he looked at his merit badge homework and realized some of the requirements would take several hours.  So he still has a lot of hours to put in for citizenship in the community.  One lucky parent gets to go to a town meeting with him (Jeremy and I are still flipping a coin on who gets that honor).

Today Spencer was confirmed a Deacon by Jeremy.  He was sitting on the stand at the beginning of sacrament meeting, looking like a deer in the headlights.  Jeremy went up to tell him to smile a little bit and loosen up.  So when they brought him up to the stand to ask for a sustaining vote he kept looking around trying to do this little smile on his face and coming off as very nervous and excited.  It was pretty cute.  Jason's family was able to join us so Jeremy, my dad, Jason and our bishop were able to confirm him.  Still can't believe that next week he passes the sacrament.  And I am so glad he has all these good leaders surrounding him.

For his birthday we gave him the game Risk- Halo version.  My mom and I have been playing it with Spencer every night.  We are just now starting to get it.
 Allison decorated cakes for Activity Days this week.  The ponytail on top of her head is her own invention.  I have been biting my tongue about it and trying to just be glad she has the self esteem to do it.  She is still busy with her play most days as they perform in two weeks.  On Saturday evening she and Spencer had their piano recitals.  With my parents here they had a big audience to cheer for them.  Then we all went out to dinner at Costa Vida (Taylor LOVES Horchata - his first time drinking it).  Then we all grabbed milk shakes at JCW's and headed home to watch BYU win a spot in the sweet 16.  Jeremy has been enjoying having my parents here as there is even more justification to have the basketball games on whenever possible.

This Saturday was our Stake Relief Society Woman's Conference.  Jeremy and I both taught a class at it.  Him on internet safety and me on family dinner.  Think they both went well but am glad its over.  I have decided I get more nervous speaking in front of people I know than strangers, because I care more about their opinions.

Off to enjoy some down time with my folks - check out the pictures below.  love, Heather

Spencer trying to pretend he is studying his music during the recital - with his book hidden behind it, so subtle
Jeremy had a photo shoot with the little girlies last week
Jeremy tried really hard to get all 3 girls into a picture but my niece Sam was having none of that

Black Bean & Acacado Salsa

My friend Diane showed me how to do these fun won-ton cups and the salad is from several different friends who have let me try theirs.  I like the salad just plain on top of shredded lettuce as a salad.  My husband likes it wrapped in tortillas as a wrap or as a topping for burritos.  These appetizer cups though are what my kids prefer.  Anyway you do it, its a easy, relatively healthy salad.

2 avacados cup up and tossed with 1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 package Italian salad dressing mix made according to directions with oil and water or use 2 cups of Italian salad dressing
1 bunch of green onions chopped up
1 15 oz can corn, drained
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

Toss all the ingredients together and let sit for at least one hour

As an appetizer:

A package of wonton wrappers
Sour cream

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Put a won ton wrapper into the cups of a mini-muffin pan to form little cups.  Cook for 7 minutes or until lightly golden.  Let cool.  Fill with salad and top with a small scoop of sour cream.

This is the first recipe I ever posted.  And my original pictures of this cake were the motivation for Jeremy to take over the recipe photos!  So now with a much better picture:

Carrot Cake

2 c flour
2 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
3 c finely shredded carrot
3/4 c cooking oil
3/4 c mixed dried fruit bits (I used tropical mix)
3/4 tsp ground ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour or line with parchments two 9 x 1 1/2 inch round cake pans.
2. Stir together all dry ingredients.
3. Beat eggs. Stir in carrot, oil, dried fruit and ginger. Combine with flour mixture. Pour into pans.
4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Then cool on racks.
5. Make frosting. Beat 6 oz cream cheese with 1/2 c butter and 1 Tbsp orange juice till smooth. Add 2 to 2 1/2 c powdered sugar till smooth. Stir in 1 c cool whip if desired.
6. Frost and cool. Can top with pecans if you want.

Dear Family and Friends,

This week we played hard and had fun with my brother Daniel, my sister-in-law Mimi and my nieces Claire and Samantha, visiting us from Phoenix.  Today everyone is a little sad and tired out as we said good-bye to them last night.  Combination of daylight savings time, emotions of saying good-bye and worn-out from playing so hard has caught up with kids today.

I asked Robyn what her favorite thing we did this week (cause we did a LOT) and she said it was sitting in the hot tub with Claire.  Claire was a big fan of the hot tub and said the words with gusto that can't be replicated in writing.  Monday I was able to play with Claire and Samantha while Daniel and Mimi were able to go up to the SLC temple.  I forget how busy little girlies can keep you!  But I loved it.  And after that day Samantha would come give me snuggles periodically which I ate up.  When kids all got home from school we headed over to an indoor pool with a playground to spend the afternoon.  If I needed to locate my kids I just had to look for Mimi as she was surrounded by a pack at all times.  Taylor enjoyed the hot tub and turned into a warm noodle like body, just completely relaxed.  Then with everyone tired out and ready for warm baths we drove home in the small snow flurry much to Caire's delight for dinner, FHE, and Mimi and Daniel's yummy treats from Kneaders.

Tuesday we spent the day at the Children's museum in SLC.  That place is perfect for Robyn's age but we don't go very often as Spencer and Allison are getting past it.  But Robyn ate it up.  Then we grabbed older kids and went to their school's roller skating night at the local rink.  Disco light, loud Justin Berber music blaring and little kids screaming and carousing in abandon.  Before we left I told the kids I could handle one hour.  It was a lot of fun though and Taylor seemed to enjoy doing laps around the rink the music.  Jeremy had a big photo class that evening that Mimi was able to join up with and the rest of us went home to collapse and eat leftover brownies to replenish our strength.

Wednesday was our typical busy day of everyone running everywhere - will tell you the details of that at the end.  That was the bad medicine we had to swallow.  But that night Claire was able to join with Robyn and Allison and me for Allison's book group at the library.  They were discussing Bridge to Terabithia which didn't hold much interest for the little girls.  But the treats and making crowns were a big hit.

Thursday Daniel was off to BYU so the girlies spent the day at Gardner village.  Claire was a trooper as she had been up all night throwing up but still wanted to go see the shops, feed the ducks and go to the big candy store.  That place is just fun to poke around in and explore.  It is definitely a girly place to go.  Thursday evening Mimi and kids joined up with Daniel and my kids were at a loss.  They kept asking where everyone was and seemed very disappointed to eat dinner with just their regular family.

Friday was filled with a little shopping and a little girl photo shoot.  The photo shoot was chaos in the making but it was hilarious as Sam really, really, really did NOT want to have her picture taken.  That night we headed off to the Mayan with everyone to eat some good food and watch the show.  All of our kids just think it is the coolest place ever.

Saturday was Spencer's birthday party.  He invited Jason's family over for lunch along with a friend.  So we had his yearly hamburger and tator tot lunch with a big chocolate cake.  Then Jeremy took Spencer, his cousin Garion and his friend Brenner out to go rock climbing for the afternoon.  Jeremy had an Elder's quorum party to host that evening and then a talk to write for today so he is enjoying a well deserved nap right now.

So we had an amazingly fun week but I agree with Robyn.  The best part was just being together and visiting with family.

So back to Wednesday.  We met with Taylor's orthopedic doctor then who checked his spine last year.  His spine has curved more from 22 to 34 degrees now.  But the part we were most concerned with were his hips.  A month ago when we stood him up we heard this loud cracking sound and every time he moved his leg, it cracked some more.  He seemed fine the next morning though.  So they x-rayed his hips and found out that his hips were displaced.  His left femur bone is an inch away from his hip socket and is actually up and past the hole where it is supposed to snap into place in.  His right femur bone is out but still touching the illiac crest with the tip of the bone.  Since Taylor's bad late summer and fall his skill have dropped dramatically.  We were thinking of brain damage and that perhaps he was having mini-strokes.  In fact in a week I meet with the neurologist to discuss the MRI (it took them a long time to evaluate it this time and then for me to get in).  But now we know that his hip problem at least on the left side has been for several months.  It explains why he has a hard time sitting, why he can't walk very well now, why mobility is doing so badly.  He has been in pain.  I honestly don't know how he has been walking everywhere.  What I feel worse about is that we thought he was loosing his mobility skills due to brain damage so we have been really pushing him to walk more at home and at school.

So the orthopedic doctor wants his partner to do the surgery to fix Taylor's hips as he has more experience with them and think he will do a better job.  He is actually on vacation right now so I will see him on the 29th and then schedule the surgery.  This is what they are going to do:  They are going to go in through the left side, grind out a new hip socket, grind away growths on the femur, get the left femur back into the socket and plate it into place - not sure if pins/screws will be needed as well.  Then they will go in on the right side and grind out a little and hopefully  be able just to pop that side back into place without a plate.  They do not think he will need a body cast.  He will be in the hospital for at least a week, then home with limited weight bearing for a month and then 6 months to a year of therapy and work.  On the plus side, these surgeries are very successful and should help his quality of life a lot.  On the down-side it sounds extremely painful and it will be hard for Taylor to get back to wanting to walk and move again. 

So we will see how it goes and I will let you know more details when I learn them in 2 weeks.  I just feel so bad for Taylor.  To add on a little more pain for him, he developed pressure sores on his feet (like bed sores) from his braces so he is without his daffos right now too.  But he is still his usually happy self and loved going to the Mayan on Friday night.  He was chirping away, looking around and eating as much mexican food as we could give him.  But needless to say I ate quite a few Trader Joe chocolates and commiserated with family this week quite a bit.  But really it doesn't change anything, we just now know why he has been acting the way he has and know that we can do something about it.

love to you all, Heather

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Reality can wait

Dear Family and Friends,

What makes up for not still being here:
 Is this:

 I have loved the chaos and bedlam of being back home again with our kids.  My body didn't quite agree with that statement as it stubbornly thought I should be back on Spain time for several days.  But now my sleep schedule is back in synch and the icing on the cake is that Friday my brother Daniel and his family arrived to visit for a week.

We have just had wonderful weekend of hanging out and visiting.  Claire, my niece has decided that the hot tub should be a nightly ritual and my girls agree with her.  Saturday afternoon, Taylor enjoyed one last day with Meredith - watching a movie and cuddling and enjoying the hot tub in peace and quiet.  The rest of us headed up to Soldier Hollow for tubing and playing in the snow.  Our snow fall at our house this year has been not up to snuff - just super cold and drizzly.  So our kids were in heaven to be surrounded by the white stuff.  A small break for cookies and hot chocolate and they were able to last a little longer to make a snowman despite soaking wet under clothes.  Its amazing how snow and slush can find their way into boots and through snow pants.

This week has been a bit slow as Robyn and Allison were home sick for a few days and then they generously shared their cough with me.  So its been a week of errands, cleaning, laundry, bills and catching up with life again.  Spencer went to a pow-wow at BYU where he is working on citizenship of the world, nation and community.  I am so grateful for scout leaders who drive him to these activities so we don't have to!

Jeremy and I went to see Hairspray this week (on a school night - it felt quite illicit!).  I have never been interested in seeing more than the bits and pieces of the movie I have caught at the dentist office.  But the musical was really funny - a couple behind us said it was quite different than the movie.  For the rest of the week we are going to just play and visit as much as possible and enjoy having family around.

Love, Heather