Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Struggling

 

I don’t usually write about personal issues…

but there is one thing that I have been struggling with lately.

I find it so hard to talk about with anyone, because I don’t want sympathy (or an argument), I just want understanding. I guess what I am looking for is empathy…someone who understands what I am feeling.

First, if you are unfamiliar with me and my blog, our son has a genetic disorder and is also autistic. This is also not something I have felt completely comfortable writing a lot about. I don’t want to sound like a victim. It is a part of life…a part that 1 in 88 families is dealing with. I am NOT special.

After Gabe was born, I was unable to return to my fulltime job. Actually, I was advised not to put him in a daycare setting at all until they could figure out what was wrong with him. That was fine by me…after spending weeks in the hospital holding my gravely ill little boy, I wanted to be home with him. We eventually found out that he has 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome…but not until he was almost two! Long story short…he was born without an immune system…or at least not enough of an immune system to keep a tiny baby healthy. He also had some feeding issues, but again, long story.

On with my issue…

I had not worked a fulltime job in ten years, until last summer. I did not work at all until Gabe was two. I went back to college for 3 1/2 years, and my mom and mother-in-law watched Gabe. I also had a few very part-time jobs…because I had to. My husband is a carpenter…so we aren’t rich…HA! Then, Lily came along when Gabe was six. At that time I was working as a part-time receptionist/secretary for my dad’s construction company (my husband is also employed by my dad).

I am going to back track a bit now…

I NEVER intended to be a stay-at-home mom. I did not want anything to do with that. Then, I had Gabe, and I had to stay home. Again, that was fine by me, at that point I had changed my mind…I wanted to stay home. I do want to reiterate…I HAD TO STAY HOME. This is where some people start become all judgy. They do not understand that it was not an option for me to work. We wanted our son to be alive and healthy. For 3 years we had one vehicle, we did not go out to eat, we did not see movies, we did not buy any new furniture…we had NOTHING extra. And…we did it all without government assistance (do NOT email/comment to me about this…I understand that in some cases it is a necessary thing). I am throwing that out there so it is clear that our choice in no way affected any tax paying citizens financially…so you can see why it is unacceptable for ANYONE to have a negative opinion that they need to share with me about OUR choice. It is NONE of their business. I know…I am getting really defensive…but I have felt and heard the mean (and sometimes backhanded) comments for eleven years.

Am I talking in circles??? Sorry!

 

 

Kids 5

 

These are my sweet kiddos. I LOVE them more than anything in this world. I would do anything for them…including give my own life. If you are a parent you know what I mean.

 

 

Kids 3

 

 

Kids 7

 

 

Last year, I was unable to continue to work for my dad’s company. Nothing dramatic. Just a rearranging of the business, and I wasn’t needed. So, that left me without a job.

This is where people start to get all judgy again. I can’t just go find any old job. I needed to find a job that allows me to leave on a moment’s notice because Gabe is sick or is having a problem, and for numerous appointments with teachers, therapists, doctors, etc. It is also hard to find daycare in my area for kid’s with disabilities, and also doesn’t cost more than I would be making.  But…most of all…I did NOT want my kids in daycare. And, if I am being honest with you, and myself…I LOVE being able to pick my kids up from school and talk with their teachers. I need that firsthand account of what is going on. Especially with Gabe, as he is so inconsistent. I have to know how he ate, any behavioral issues, and his academic progress (which is very inconsistent).

Well…after six months of unemployment (which I did NOT collect unemployment for…in case you are wondering)…we blew through our small savings. We had been looking for our first house, and that obviously had to come to a halt.

Then, by chance, a job opportunity fell into my lap. It was a seasonal, summer job…but fulltime for three months out of the year. I interviewed, not really thinking I would get the job…or knowing if I would even take it if offered to me. Well…I got the job. And the more I thought about it…it could be the perfect solution to some of my problems. During the summer Gabe was not in school, so there were no meetings with teachers and therapists. He wasn’t being exposed to an onslaught of germs, so the likelihood of him getting sick (which he was A LOT) was smallI would also get a day or two off during the week, and since my mom was available to watch them two days, I only needed daycare one or two days a week. So…I found a daycare willing to take on Gabe, and accepted the job.

 

 

Kids 2

 

 

 

 

Kids

 

The summer flew by. I worked a lot of overtime. I found my self weepy at times…tired, and missing my kids and husband TERRIBLY. But, I liked my job, and LOVE the people I work for. Plus, I get a break from autism (not Gabe, mind you), which I feel guilty writing.

And it is only for three months out of the year…

 

Kids 12

 

 

Kids 4

 

When the kids went back to school (Lily started preschool), I was offered another very part-time job working for a company that is closely tied to my place of summer employment. And I could make my own schedule! Perfect. Kind of…

Now I am going to tell you what I do…which I actually wasn’t going to do when I started writing this post.

My summer job is as the assistant manager of a yacht club…my fall/winter job…cleaning boats (or more appropriately…yachts) and offices.

If you have ever cleaned a boat/yacht before (which I am sure all of you have, right?  Haha!),you know it is grueling, dirty, wet (and in the fall…COLD) work. I would literally get in my car and cry some afternoons. My fingers would be so frozen they did not move…which caused me to drop numerous cleaning instruments in the lake..oops…I would have big, fat spiders crawling all over me, and, since I am NOT coordinated at all, I fell down a bit…okay..a lot. So, I was bruised, achy and cranky when I got home. I did NOT complain (to anyone I worked for or with…to my mom…maybe;))though. I was given a job, and I am grateful. I will admit…it is the WORST job I have ever had. EVER. I was so glad when all the boats had been put into storage for the winter! At that point I was lucky enough to be asked to clean the marina offices a few days a week. Which kept a little extra money coming in…and involved little pain.

 

Kids 11

 

 

Kids 9

 

So…that leads me to now (kind of). I have found new daycare for my kiddos (another story), and am working fulltime again.

But…this year is difficult. I still LOVE the people I work for. But…I REALLY miss my kids. Lily cries when I drop her off at grandma’s in the mornings (even though I KNOW she is fine after I leave, and my mom does all sorts of projects and fun things with her…who do you think taught her to crack an egg so beautifully). Gabe doesn’t want to go to daycare at all…the kids do not understand his disability like his classmates do. He has been told he has a disease, and that he is “the devil”. NOT awesome. These kids are properly reprimanded…but still...it hurts my heart.

 

Kids 6

 

We have been lucky enough to have Gabe selected to receive a scholarship for occupational and speech therapy twice a week for the ENTIRE summer! That is an hour and a half EACH per week!!!! But he has missed a couple appointments due to scheduling conflicts where I can’t leave work to pick him up from daycare and take him to his appointment. My parents help a lot with this, but sometimes it can’t be helped. So, I feel horrible that he missed an appointment. He LOVES his therapy! He actually begs to go! So…I feel like a real jerk when I can’t make it possible.

I am sure some of you are rolling your eyes at me…but that is how I feel.

 

Therapy

(Gabe waiting for therapy)

I want to be with my kids more than anything I this world. I do not want to worry about them. I do all the time. So much so, that I can’t sleep at night anymore. I find myself anxious and edgy. Sad.

And nobody gets it.

“Everybody has to work. That’s life.”

“That’s your issue. You are going to have to deal with it.”

“They’re fine.”

These kinds of comments do NOT help!

Another wonderful (sarcasm) issue I am having…my diet and exercise. I eat horribly…sometimes not at all…other times junk, because it is there, and offered to me. I have not had time to walk AT ALL this summer. It was my release, and unless I steal time away from my kids, I can’t do it. And NO, I can’t walk at night…I would be so keyed up I would NEVER fall asleep! Actually, the diet and exercise (or lack of) is likely making my emotional state worse. I am also gaining weight…not much…only 4 or 5 pounds…but STILL! Stress hormones are killer!

 

So…

Here’s where I am going with this…

I need to make some decisions. Hard decisions.

What am I going to do after this summer is through???

Both of my kids will be in school all day (which is making my throat tight and achy as I type), and I am now feeling the pressure. Do I have to go back to work fulltime? I am sure it is expected of me. But…we’re back to the being available to my kids thing. Remember, I have a child with special needs…which means increased needs. I do not want him riding the school bus! We have had issues with that in the past year. So, I have to drop and pick them up…but if I have a fulltime job…I can’t. I also can’t speak with his special education teacher each day to find out his new challenges and triumphs. The same goes for Lily, who I have kid of left out of this I feel, but she is JUST as IMPORTANT!

Again, I know a lot of you are thinking I am being dramatic…most parents have to work, and I am making it sound like you are bad parents. I am not trying to do that.

But…

These are MY kids. And this is My life. We do sacrifice a lot of things that some families feel they can’t live without.

That brings me to the other dilemma I am finding myself in…if I don’t bring in a substantial amount more…we will NEVER own our own house. We won’t be able to take our kids on dream vacations. And, I will always have a nagging feeling of inadequacy.

Sorry this is such a long post! Even in this mass amount of words, I still feel like I haven’t been able to convey the depth of this struggle. I think I could write a book.

 

Kids 8

 

Am I alone? Does anyone else feel the same?

I will be writing more on this subject, but I need a break (and I am sure you do too…HA!).

 

Thanks for listening.

 

Jessie

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

1 Chicken…2 Healthy Dinners


A great way to ensure that you and your family have wholesome, healthy meals during the week, especially if you work, is to do a little prep work on Sunday. I work during the summer, and have Wednesdays and Sundays off, so I use these days to prep at least two additional meals.
This past Sunday evening I roasted a chicken. It requires very little time…and tastes delicious!
I have my go-to Rapid Roast Recipe, but lately I have just been coating my bird with olive oil, stuffing a lemon (cut in half) into the cavity, and seasoning with sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and garlic powder (about 1 1/2 teaspoons of each). I bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 and finish roasting. This 3 1/2 pound organic bird was done 65 minutes after decreasing the heat. When I pulled it out of my oven I tented it with foil and let it set on my butcher block for an additional 15-20 minutes to finish cooking and get all juicy and yummy. After it had cooled a bit, I pulled the lemons out, wrapped it in foil, and stuck it in the fridge. So. Simple.

bbq chicken quinoa 10

Last night I tried a new chicken recipe. I got the ideas from a few Pinterest pins (here and here).

Tex/Mex Chicken Quinoa
1 cup cooked quinoa
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (dark meat, skin off)
2 avocadoes, chopped
1 seeded Roma tomato, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
4 oz. aged cheddar (I used raw, white cheddar from our natural foods market…YUM.)
1/2 cup of ALL NATURAL or Organic BBQ sauce
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt


BBQ Chicken Quinoa 1r
Always rinse your quinoa with cold water before cooking. It is covered with a bitter coating and will taste AWFUL if it is not rinsed off. (Trust me…I’ve made that mistake!)
I place my quinoa in a saucepan with 1 1/4- 1 1/3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, the cover and simmer over low for 15 minutes. I then remove it from the heat and fluff with a fork.  Let it cool while you shred your chicken and chop veggies.

BBQ chicken quinoa 2

You could also chop everything, but the avocado, beforehand if you want to save time.
Heating the chicken is not required, as the heat from the quinoa with bring everything to a nice, warm, but not too warm (this is not a served hot dish).

BBQ Chicken Quinoa
Scoop some quinoa into a bowl, top with shredded chicken, pour on your bbq sauce, top with veggies, then finish off with a scoop of Greek yogurt (or sour cream).
Mmmmmm!
It turned out better than I expected…I LOVE it when that happens!

This made 2 adult sized portions, 2 kiddos sized portions, and enough for leftovers for my husband’s lunch.

BBQ Chicken Quinoa 5


BBQ chicken quinoa 7


Meal number 2…
Salad greens with garden fresh veggies, chicken breast, Swiss, and honey mustard vinaigrette…
This is my new FAVORITE salad!
I fell in LOVE with this dressing the first time I tried it…
it is available on numerous websites, so I am not giving credit to one site/person in particular, as I haven’t a clue where it originated.


Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup organic Dijon mustard
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tso fresh ground pepper
Wisk all ingredients together in a small bowl or measuring glass. Enjoy!

I topped my mixed organic greens with sliced chicken breast, shredded carrots, sliced radishes, copped cucumber, thinly sliced red onion and some shredded Swiss cheese…but you can use whichever veggies you have available. Dried cherries and sliced almond also go well with this salad. Experiment!


salad

I hope I have given you a few more ideas for creating fast, delicious, and most of all HEALTHY, suppers (or lunches)!

Have a WONDERFUL mid-summer week!

I am linking up with Tasty Tuesdays , Mandy's Recipe Box and Sugar Bee Crafts!

Jessie

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The MOST Delicious Zucchini Bread


Holy cow…

zucchini bread 1
Look at all of our zucchini!! And this is only from ONE of our gardens!
My favorite thing to do with zucchini is make zucchini bread…
so this morning I went out and picked a few.

zucchini bread 2

I don’t remember where I got the original recipe for this bread, but I have tweaked it a few times to make it super moist, and the MOST delicious zucchini bread I have ever eaten.

zucchini bread 3


The MOST Delicious Zucchini Bread

3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour (my ULTIMATE favorite is King Arthur)
1 teaspoon baking powder (aluminum free is healthiest)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup non-GMO canola oil
2 1/4 cups organic evaporated cane juice (I LOVE Florida Crystals)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups fresh grated/shredded zucchini (2 small/medium zucchini)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

zucchini bread 4

Wash and chop zucchini into medium-side chunks. (You could also just grate it all with a cheese grater if you like.)

Place the zucchini in a food processor.

zucchini bread 5

Pulse 20-30 times. Check to see if the zucchini is grated to the desired size. I pick out any big chunks, spoon all of my grated zucchini into a measuring glass, then place the larger chunks back into my processor, and give them a few more pulses.
Set aside.

zucchini bread 6

Combine the dry ingredients into a medium size bowl.

zucchin bread 8


Stir with a fork until the dry ingredients are well mixed (or, if you are particular about that sort of thing, sift them together).
Set that bowl aside.

Now…


egg cracking

this is my expert egg cracker. She is better at it than I am! This girl NEVER gets a single shell in the bowl.
Pretty good for a five-year-old! (And she is awful cute…hehe.)


zucchini bread 14


Combine eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla into the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl, if you are using as hand mixer).


zucchini bread 15


zucchin bread 16

Beat on medium speed until thickened and creamy.

zucchini bread 17

Add the dry mixture in 3 or 4 batches, mixing on low, until barely moistened.

zucchin bread 18

I finish by folding in the last batch of dry mixture by hand.

zucchin bread 19

Gently fold in the shredded zucchini.


zucchini bread 20

Now, you can either spray your loaf pans with organic cooking spray, or butter and flour them. I usually butter/flou them…but this was easier today.  (DON"’T use Pam, Mazzola, store brand spray…it is NASTY and full of C*#@!)


zucchin bread 21

Pour batter evenly into your loaf pans.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (I jiggle my pan in the oven, if it wiggles, it isn’t done…I don’t mess around with toothpicks…ha!)

Your house will smell A-MA-ZING while these are baking…so much so that your kids will stop fighting and find there way into the kitchen to see when it is going to be done…(true story).

zucchin bread 22

Let loaves cool in their pans for ten minutes, then transfer to a baking rack to finish cooling.


zucchini bread 23

Mouth watering yet?


zucchin bread 24


zucchini bread 26

I was having WAAAY too much fun taking pictures…


zucchin bread 28



zucchini bread 31



zucchini bread 32


I had to take a few slices to my handsome farmer…


zucchini bread 34

He definitely approved…I think he polished them of in half a minute…NO lie!

Do any of you grow your own veggies?


Linking up with Sugar Bee!

Jessie

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ticklin’ and Bubblin’

 

 

 

c and d 21

 

The first time I made this, Lily was about two years old. As I was getting the chicken into the pot, she asked me what I was making. I replied “chicken and dumplings”.

A few hours later she came into the kitchen asking, “When is that ticklin’ and bubblin’ gonna be ready?” 

So, ever since, this has been known as “Ticklin’ and Bubblin’”

I usually make this in the fall and winter…

but when that silly little girl, in her sweet little voice, asked me to make “Ticklin’ and Bubblin’”, I couldn’t say “no”!

 

 

 

Ticklin’ and Bubblin’

The Ticklin’

1-21/2 to 3 lbs. whole organic chicken

2-3 cloves garlic

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme

2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. fresh ground pepper

3-4 carrots, chopped

2-3 celery stalks

1 medium yellow onion

1 tsp. dried basil

1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

3/4 cup cold water

 

The Bubblin’

2 cups Flour

4 tsp. Aluminum free baking powder

1 tsp. Sea salt

2 Tbsp. Cold butter

1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 cup whole or 2% milk

 

 

IMG_1468

 

Place your chicken in a large stock pot and cover (or almost cover) with water. Add peeled, and lightly smashed, cloves of garlic, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper to the pot. You can use any herbs you would like, these are what my family enjoys. A little rosemary might be a nice touch.

Bring the chicken to a boil over medium heat, then cover and reduce heat to low-medium/low. Allow to simmer for about an hour, or until chicken just starts to fall apart.

 

chicken and dumplings 7

 

Remove the chicken from the stock, and allow to cool on a platter for about 30 minutes.

Pull the meat off the bones and set aside.

 

chicken and dumplings 2

 

Next, skim the fat off of the top of the stock (if you are so inclined).

 

chicken and dumplings 3

 

Chop the carrots, celery and onions.

 

chicken and dumplings 4

 

Add to the stock.

 

chicken and dumplings 6

 

Increase heat to medium, bringing to a boil once more. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for an hour.

 

chicken and dumplings 8

 

Add the chicken.

 

chicken and dumplings 11

 

In a glass measuring cup (or a bowl) whisk together the flour and cold water.

 

chicken and dumplings 12

 

Slowly add the mixture to the soup, increasing the heat once again, and gently stirring until slightly thickened.

Reduce heat to low and cover.

 

Now for the “Bubblin”!

 

c and d collage 1

 

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.

2. Cut butter into small pieces, add to flour mixture.

3. Using a pastry cutter (if you don’t have one…go buy one…they are a kitchen necessity), cut in butter until pea sized crumbs appear (similar to that of pie crust…only there will be less of them).

4. Add cold milk, and lightly stir with a fork until JUST mixed.

 

 

c and d collage 2

 

Increase the heat on your soup to medium. Add dumpling mixture in tablespoon sized chunks to the pot, covering the top of the soup. (side note: you will have left over dumpling mixture…this recipe makes a lot…I am a freak and like to eat the rest raw)

Here is where I do things differently…I am not a southern cook…I am a Midwestern chick, so, sorry if I am committing a dumpling atrocity…I kind of break them apart at this point with a large spoon, and flip them over. Then, I turn off the heat and cover them for ten minutes.  As you can see in the picture above, they fluff up nicely!

 

 

Now you are ready to dive in!

 

 

c and d 22

 

This is true comfort food…

 

 

ticklin

 

Rich in protein and nutrients…with a hint of not-so-good-but-still-better-than-KFC.

 

 

Remember…you can find me everyday on Facebook!

 

Jessie