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Dear Family and Friends

School is out for the year!  Taylor isn't officially out till next Friday but since he is home anyway, we can say that summer is officially here.  And there is a rumor that the summer temperatures will finally start coming our way this week.  Rain and cold with the periodic gifts of sunshine and warmth are getting old.  My kids are ready to break out swimsuits.

Friday evening Robyn had her preschool graduation.  It was cute and short - the best kind.  Their teacher had little graduation gowns and caps for them to wear and to receive the 'diploma' in.  Robyn woke up the next day quite concerned that she needed to go to kindergarten that day.

After rain-outs last week Allison finally had her first soft ball game.  She is loving playing catch in the backyard and hanging out with friends.  Her first time at bat she had three strikes and took it a bit hard but kept her stiff upper lip on.
Allison and two of her friends on her team - Breanne and Andra

Not much learning took place at school this week.  Spencer is quite pink all over from their 6th grade graduation - a field trip and BBQ at a part and from having a field day.  And he learned all about the TV show wipe-out which he will gladly tell you all the details about - in detail, over and over - since that is what math and science time are for this week.  He was quite happy with his 3 A's and 2 B's.  Since one of those B's was in math we were happy too.  He is going to repeat this math class next year which means he will be on grade level instead of ahead.  He had to do a lot of extra work these last few months in math to get his grade up.  Not for lack of trying, just didn't quite click.  So next year should be much easier for him.  Allison had parties in every class it seemed like too.  One day she needs to bring her swimsuit and a towel for water games, another day hotdogs for a BBQ, another day their teacher has a crepe party for breakfast.  School is so hard.  And Allison is quite proud about getting straights A's in every subject especially in math as they jumped her ahead to be with the 5th graders this year.
Allison lost another tooth.  The tooth fairy was a little late but left her a good note.  She had Jeremy write out his name so she could compare handwriting just to be sure.

I posted summer jobs on the fridge and was expecting some loud groans.  But kids actually seemed eager for their summer routine to start and got up Saturday ready to start summer jobs.  Spencer hit the lawn mower and Robyn started her first piano lesson with me.  (I personally was planning to take the weekend off but who can argue with enthusiasm like that!)
Allison was our photographer.  She was insistent that Robyn's first lesson was a huge milestone that needed a picture.

Taylor is doing a bit better.  He started eating a little bit again and Jeremy can force the issue a bit to get some bites in him now.  Tuesday is when we see the surgeon and we really hope he can take the abductor pillow off because it is driving us ALL nuts.  He keeps rolling everywhere in an effort to move and ends up crammed in very uncomfortable positions.  One of his side bandages came all the way off and he has a big shiny 10 inch scar there now.

Jeremy had a quite a few photo events this week which he is enjoying while at the same time feeling the pressure to process them.  He had to cancel and re-schedule a few shoots because of weather.  He even got to go golfing with his work one very cold and blustery day.  Right now he is teaching the 5th Sunday lesson for another ward in our stake - a repeat of his Stake Women's conference talk on the internet.

I have been puttering a lot this week getting things done in the garden and house.  Put together the class gift baskets for teachers and TAs at school.  We finally fixed our swing in the back yard.  One more thing to cross off our infamous list on our fridge.  I started painting the playhouse but only got the shutters done.  I need to wait for the warmth and sun to come back.  Ran my first three a day this weekend and realized I need to do more of those before Ragnar hits in a month.  My body was done afterwards. 

Had a few moments this week where you realize where your kids are actually at and where they should be at - or rather where you want them to be at.  It either makes you cry or pull your hair out but hopefully will give us some motivation to make some needed changes.

No beach or pool for us this Memorial Day with the cold weather.  We are hitting the stores to get new pants for Spencer (he has grown another two inches!) and having some neighbors over for a BBQ.  Its been nice to just hang out this weekend and relax.

Love to you all, Heather
Robyn had her last gymnastics class this week.  Summer session starts in two weeks.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Chicken Crepes

This is recipe is from my friend Kate from when we did a dinner group exchange together.  I always thoughts crepes were really hard but it turns out that they are pretty easy and if you make any extra kids love them with peanut butter or jelly or if you are in a really good mood, break out the nutella.  I usually make two batches at the same time and then freeze one 9x13 pan.

Chicken Crepes 
Makes a 9 x 13 pan and serves 6

1 1/4 c flour
1 c milk
1/4 c water
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp melted butter

2 c chopped, cooked chicken
1 can drained mushrooms or 1/2 package cooked broccoli chopped up (my favorite)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2-3 chopped green onions
salt & pepper

1 can cream of chicken soup
1 c sour cream
1/2 c cheddar cheese, shredded
curry powder or Mrs Dash or salt & pepper

1. Measure flour into bowl.  Whisk in water and milk until well blended. Whisk in eggs, salt and butter.  Refrigerate one hour.
2. Heat an omelet skillet on the stove (a 6 inch flat, curved and short sided pan) over medium heat.  Spray with Pam.
3. Pour about 1/4 c batter in center of skillet and tilt in all directions to coat pan evenly.  Lightly brown and turn it over.  Remove from pan.  Cool crepes singly on rack before stacking.  They will keep 2-3 days in the refrigerator.  Makes 12 crepes.
4. Combine chicken, mushroom soup, and vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper.  Wrap up 2 Tbsp of filling in each crepe.  Place in a sprayed 9 x 13 pan.
5. Combine chicken soup and sour cream.  If you like a curry taste, stir in 1 tsp curry powder.  Spread over tops of crepes.  Sprinkle with Mrs Dash or salt & pepper if desired.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake uncovered in 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes till cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ogden, rain and sleepless nights

Me, Jen and Brenda the running trio
Dear Family & Friends,

Robyn asked me very sadly this week when will the rain and snow ever stop so spring can come!  And that is how it is feeling lately.  We have had a week of 40 degrees during the day, snow on the mountains and in the canyons and lots of rain.  I am amazed that our tomato plants haven't given up the ghost yet.  But on the plus side we aren't having to weed anything.

This week made me realize how much my parents did while they were here.  It is taking me forever to get things done.  But I have just been hanging out at home with Taylor.  He is now officially off narcotics so his pill schedule has changed to every 6 hours which is much easier on my sleep schedule or at least I hope it will be as we just started the new schedule.  But for most of this week everyone understood that mom needed a daily nap or life would not be very happy.

Taylor was doing better than started doing worse.  He didn't want to eat or drink and was just constantly wiggling around trying to bear weight and cross his legs etc.  So we have had lots of times of pinning him down or trickling fluids down his throat.  But this morning he woke up and drank a cup of milk so I am hoping for better things today.  He is just on Motrin and Tylenol now and some Valium to take the edge off so although he isn't in pain he does seem to be pretty uncomfortable and just not happy with is life right now.  He has gotten really thin so we are pushing all things high caloric.  Next Tuesday if the x-rays look good we can unstrap his legs so we just have to keep hanging in there.

Because Taylor isn't comfortable being taken places he is still almost exclusively at home.  So neighbors have been doing a lot of kid driving for me and I have been going out at night to grab things.  Working pretty good so far - I have a really nice neighbors and an amazing husband to make it all possible.
Neighbor taking the kids for a spin before it rains AGAIN

I am looking forward to tonight because none of us have to go anyplace.  Even with softball practice and Allison's game cancelled this week the nights still felt awfully busy.  Jeremy had a video shoot, the girls and I went to a school concert, Spencer and I hit the grocery store and I was able to go out to the temple.  And then I took off for Friday night and most of Saturday to the Ogden Marathon.

I only ran the half at Ogden but it was a beautiful race.  Didn't beat my PR but I was OK with that as the race wasn't as downhill and I have really had to taper back running with my knee and Taylor.  But my knee didn't hurt while I ran although it is beyond stiff now.  And the best part was that I did the race with two of my friends so I had a great time.  And it was fun to run through places that I remembered from growing up - the reservoir I went out on the canoe with my grandpa, the waterfall/pipes we would walk to every Thanskgiving, the restaurant my grandma took me to for Mormon muffins, the park my cousin Adam got married in.  And it was the prettiest most well organized race I have ever done.  Think I will have to do it again.  We were so worried about it being cold and wet but the sun started coming out just as the race started and we enjoyed a beautiful day Saturday.

While I was off playing Jeremy was playing the role of super dad at home.  Spencer went off with the youth for baptisms for the dead Friday night and then they all watched as Robyn calls it the "Justin Beaver" movie.  And Saturday after doing pills through the night he sent Spencer off to work on his fitness merit badge and then later taught him how to mow the lawn.  (I am so excited to NEVER have to mow the lawn this summer.  We are officially passing the responsibility along to Spencer.)  And then he did Robyn's hair and took her off to her gymnastics recital.  What a guy.
Robyn loves her trophy and sparkly new leotard from her recital

Allison and Robyn both had field trips this week to the zoo.  This is the last week of school for all but Taylor (who is done with school for the year anyway).  So school time is full of fun this week and for most of last week.  We did have a learning experience with Spencer.  He has had a big project assigned for the last two weeks.  When we asked him about it he said he had been working on research at school and just needed to type it all out.  Then Wednesday morning he comes down to breakfast with his face all scrunched up realizing that this big project was due that day and he hadn't done it.  So lots of tears and drama.  Spent all day Wednesday at school and then all afternoon and evening working on it so he could turn it in Thursday for a late grade.  I really hope we don't have a repeat of that experience as our girls are just shaking their heads saying they will never put off their homework like that.  Sometimes it stinks being the first to go through experiences.

So this week we have all the parties, teacher appreciation week and all the other end of the year excitement.  I am really hoping for sunshine and shorts soon.

Love to you all, Heather
Mom - the pots are looking good!

Friday, May 20, 2011

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

These are best served on steak rolls - slightly firm white sandwich rolls.  The best and cheapest ones I have found at Walmart (I know, who would have thought!).  These are great for a busy day.

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

3-5 lbs boneless pork butt shoulder
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c water
Bottle of favorite BBQ sauce
12 - 20 sandwich rolls (depending on the size of your pork butt)

1. Put roast in crockpot.  Sprinkle seasonings all over pork.  Add water.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours or until pork is very tender and easy to shred.
2. Shred pork in crockpot with a knife and fork.
3. Pour on BBQ sauce.  Put lid back on crockpot and let sit for an hour.
4. Serve on toasted rolls.  Add a slice of provolone or pepper jack cheese if desired.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cream of Tomato Soup

Allison and Robyn eat this soup while pinching their noses but the rest of us gobble it down.  Especially if there is homemade bread or a warm toasted cheese sandwich - nothing tastes better on a cold rainy day.  Jeremy and I used to go for a cheap date to a local restaurant and order their tomato soup and eat their free bread basket.  One of the best meals around.

Cream of Tomato Soup

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
2 onions, chopped into thin slices and then quartered
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can pureed tomatoes
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp flour
1 3/4 c chicken broth
1/2 c whipping cream
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper

1. Melt the butter in a large soup pot.  Add the chopped onions and cook over medium high heat until the onions are a dark golden color, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and brown sugar and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
4. Add the broth and cook until bubbling.
5. Reduce heat to low and bring to a simmer.  Stir in cream, salt and pepper and cayenne pepper.  I season to taste which is usually a half teaspoon of each spice.

Serves 10 or 8 generously

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Caramel Candy Bars

I first had these cookies at a cookie exchange several years ago at my friend Gretchen's.  They are rot your teeth good.  Perfect for the day after parents leave, when everyone is in the doldrums a little bit.  And I wonder why I always have a few pounds to loose...

Caramel Candy Bars

1 package (14 oz) caramels
1/2 c milk
2 c flour
2 c quick or regular oats
1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup butter, softened
1 package (6 oz) chocolate chips
1 c chopped walnuts or dry roasted peanuts

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat caramels in milk in a 2-quart sauce pan over low hear, stirring frequently, until smooth.
2. Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and egg.  Stir in butter with fork until mixture is crumbly.
3. Grease a 13x9x2 pan.  Press half of the crumbly mixture into pan.  Bake 10 minutes.
4. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts.  Drizzle with caramel mixture.  Sprinkle remaining crumbly mixture over top.
5. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool 30 minutes.  Run knife around edge of pan to loosen sides.  Cool completely.  Cut into bars, about 2 x 1 inch.  Makes 54 bars.

Dear Family and Friends,

One week down and 2 weeks and 2 days left to go before Taylor can move his legs again.  To celebrate he decided to move past passive resistance to his abductor pillow that his legs are strapped to and go on a full offensive.  This involves spending any waking moment trying very hard to get his legs free so he can curl into a fetal position (I have been told that groin wounds tend to make a guy want to do that).  So last night he tried so hard that he rocked himself out of bed, over all his pillows we use to change his position to prevent bed sores and fell to the floor.  He was quite proud of himself.  We were just worried he injured something.  But besides needing a 6 hour nap today, he seems OK.  He is sleeping on his floor mattress from now on.  (My parents for his birthday gave him a mattress that we can move around so he doesn't have to stay in his bed).

It was great to come home last week and be with our family.  Taylor seemed quite happy.  He was a bit up and down during the week.  Some days he was asleep almost the whole day, refusing to eat or drink and just miserable.  Other days he would be up for longer periods and be quite alert.  We are starting the process of weaning him off of narcotics and that actually seems like it has helped.  We are getting used to moving him and giving him bed baths etc.  The pill schedule since one set of pills are every 4 hours and one set in every 6 hours is a bit much.  But it should only be like that for another week or so and then we move to every 6 hours.

My parents stayed here till Saturday morning.  It was literally a miracle to have them here.  They did more than any grandparent should be asked to do.  Made it possible for me to take a nap every day, loved our kids and helped me with taking care of Taylor.  Doing diaper changes right now or getting him dressed is super tough as you can't lift his legs or hips.  Think about the process for a moment.  Plus I swear that my parents decided my list of spring jobs we needed to do was a challenge to be met.  It seemed like every day my dad checked out our honey do list to see what was left to cross off.  Spencer pointed out you could tell Grandma and Grandpa have been there as everything looks better.  To celebrate their last night with us the sun came out, we ate outside and my parents took everyone out for milk shakes.  Could not have asked for a better end to their stay - unless they had decided to stay longer.

Jeremy saw the ENT this week.  No tubes, just different medication.  One ear is looking much better.  The other ear is slightly better but has a long way to go.  Hopefully something will work soon as it is not much fun for him.

Spencer had a court of honor this week and received 4 merit badges.  He finished up the requirement of one of those badges tonight for an early FHE and taught us some Primary songs.  He did a great job.  Early today I took the three mobile kids on a walk on a nearby trail.  Spencer was a pill the whole way.  Somedays you just shake your head and think of how far each kid has to go to be the person they can be.  And other times you just beam with pride.  I think every parent feels that way.  Sometimes I wonder though if it is even more so with a bi-polar child.

One of our Family picture is done.  I think this needs to go up on our dresser, as it just makes me smile.

Planted our vegetables this week.  Watched my parents do a ton of yard work and fix everything that has been broken.  And took care of Taylor.  Really that summed up my week.  And it was a good week.
Love, Heather
I love my girls!

 Dear Family and Friends,

Today is hopefully the last day we are in the hospital.  One of Taylor's incisions started bleeding today. I think its from us moving him in and out of his chair.  So the surgeon has to check it out first and re-bandage things.  But Taylor's pain is under control and I can sort of move him by myself although to reposition him, change him etc requires two or three people.  They offered to have Taylor stay a few more days so I can practice moving him more. But he is stable so I think he will sleep better at home.

Everything this week went far better than anyone anticipated.  I truly believe that all the prayers and fasting on Taylor's behalf are what made this possible.  They ended up not having to open up the joints or do a bone graft both of which they had planned on doing.  He has a plate and four screws on each femur holding it into place in his hip socket.  He has a big incision on each hip, a little incision mid-thigh and then incisions all along the groin area where they cut his groin muscles.  He has to keep an abductor pillow between his legs for the next 4 weeks and cannot bear any weight or bring his legs together or above a 90 degree angle.  It makes moving him a little hard.

They were able to do an epidural as the lower part of his back was straight which was wonderful.  They left the epidural in for 2 days where he couldn't feel anything below his waist.  Seizures and muscles spasms were bad the first day and he has been through a wide cocktail of medications, antibiotics etc.  But now he is going on on oxycodone, motrin, tylenol and valium.  So I am not sure how much he is sleeping to recover and how much he is sleeping from being high.  But he wakes up for an hour, has a drink, eats a little and then crashes again.  But he is comfortable and relaxed and his heart rate is staying low now.  Every 2 hours we have to reposition him to ward off bed sores and usually give him some type of pain killer.  Starting Wednesday we start weaning down the oxycodone over a two week period.  Usually by a month when he can start moving again he will just be on regular tylenol.

My parents have been here since Tuesday evening and have just been a life saver.  They have been doing all the kid duties with Jeremy and from what I have heard going to town on our yard.  It has really been such a privilege for me to stay with Taylor this week.  I haven't worried about trying to run home or whether babysitters have shown up.  I just get to stay and hold Taylor.  Primary's hospital is really an amazing place.  I was able to go to their branch sacrament meeting this morning.  Its 30 minutes with nurses in scrubs, patients with equipment and tired looking parents.  If that meeting didn't bring tears to your eyes, I don't know what would.

I have been so touched by everyone's love and care they have shown towards Taylor and our family.  It has been overwhelming.  The next four weeks Taylor won't be going anywhere and will be living on a couch, bed or for a few hours a day his wheelchair. 

Kids sound like they have been having a great time at home.  And I have missed them and look forward to seeing them in person later today.  Taylor really wasn't up for visitors till yesterday.  I didn't want them to see him with a catheter, epidural, monitors everywhere and not looking very happy.  But yesterday he came a long way.

Love to you all and thank you for your prayers,  Heather

Taylor had his moments of happiness towards the end of his stay

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day

 Dear Family and Friends,

After 2 days of snow this week, spring decided to poke its head up this morning a sunny but cold and windy day.  We were supposed to do family pictures Saturday morning but woke up to 3 inches of snow.  Luckily everyone was flexible and able to move it back to Saturday night instead.  Although when we arrived it was snowing, the sun came out and everyone tried to hide their goose bumps and think warm thoughts.  We could have waited for warmer weather but I didn't want to put off pictures till after Taylor's surgery just in case.  Jeremy's friend Suzanne took our pictures again and she is always amazing.  Kids were bribed with BYU ice cream and suitably gorged afterward.  I decided that having ice cream as dinner once in a while won't kill them.

Jeremy saw an ENT on Monday and is suitably drugged up now.  The doctor couldn't get his left ear drum to move at all and his right only moved a little bit.  Despite massive doses of steroids, decongestants, painkillers etc his hearing is not back yet.  Very frustrating for him.  He doesn't feel so miserable anymore though and can periodically hear cracklings in his ear as fluid shifts around.  If he was a kid the doctor said they would just do tubes but since he is an adult they are trying medication first.  He has till mid-week this week to see some improvement and then he will have to go in again.

Taylor's surgery is still set for Wednesday.  He was home sick with a cold for two days last week but it seems to be clearing up except for the occasional messy sneeze.  Spencer and Allison were able to fast much more cheerfully today, knowing that they were praying for their brother.

Lots of odds and ends this week to tie up loose ends of things.  Allison had her first Activity Days this week and was a bit nervous about all the new girls.  But called up her friends on the block she knew to all walk down together and they had a great time.  On Friday, Jeremy and a friend Brooke, graciously with a lot of work on their part, made it so I could go to Woman's conference for the day.  It was wonderful and over way too fast.  I got to spend half the day with Griselda my sister-in-law who was also there and catch up a bit between classes.  I do think the female half of my family should think of getting together for Woman's Conference and staying in the dorms perhaps.

I will let everyone know Wednesday how Taylor's surgery goes.  Keep him in your prayer please!  His surgery is 6 hours so he won't be done till mid-afternoon.

Love to you all,