Beautiful Eyes

Two beautiful blue eyes stare back at me.  Two.  Not two for a few seconds until one drifts away.  But the whole time.  And any time!  I look at her 21 month old face and amazed when I see two bright eyes looking straight at me.  Every time.

I still remember the first time I saw one eye looking out to the side.  MaryAnne was only 2 months old and I panicked.   Outwardly maybe no one noticed my reaction, but I panicked.  My heart started racing, my breathing came in quick spurts. My brain started working as fast as it could – what did I know about a lazy eye? Would it became better or worse over time? Can it be fixed? Would she have to wear a patch on her eye? And why had I not noticed this before? What kind of mother am I that I only just noticed this!?

Before strabismus surgery - you can see the eyes are not pointed the same direction

Before strabismus surgery – you can see the eyes are not pointed the same direction

After MaryAnne’s initial surgery (a year ago!) to correct her craniosynostosis, her eye had improved a lot.  But it still drifted.  This most recent surgery to correct the strabismus (drifting eye) was a completely different experience than the last several surgeries.  Surgery took less than a half an hour compared to the 2-3 hour surgeries previously.  She hadn’t cried when they pulled her away in her little wagon to enter the OR, and when she was wheeled into the recovery room after surgery she was sitting up in bed, drinking out of a sippy cup as if nothing was wrong.  As if she hadn’t just had surgery on her eyes.

Now I wonder.  What does the world look like to her? Can you imagine not having stereo-vision?  Imagine looking at landscape whether it be a city or a hillside or rolling fields.  Now replace that with a picture of that scene, as if now you were looking at a poster of the scene instead. You lose all concept of depth and distance.  Or try walking around with one eye covered.  That is how MaryAnne lived her life.  But she didn’t know anything different.  When looking at things close, her eyes would work together and she had no problem putting toys in small holes and the like.  But when her eyes were drawn to things farther away, there was disconnect.  Only one eye focused.  Now both eyes are working together. Has the world become bigger? Grander?

I am so thankful for the prayer warriors in MaryAnne’s life.  Do you know what the Ophthalmologist said at MaryAnne’s pre-op appointment? He said, “Wow, she is healing really well.”  She has no scar tissue from the surgery.  None!  The doctor can see her eyes start to drift and then pull back in.  Her brain is taking control of that drifting eye!  What a wonderful sign of God’s grace and power to heal MaryAnne in such a way.

 

MaryAnne one week after her cranial vault reconstruction surgery.

MaryAnne one week after her cranial vault reconstruction surgery.

One year after cranial vault reconstruction surgery!

One year after cranial vault reconstruction surgery!

Praise be to God.

~~~
Mindy

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Unexpected surgeries

It was supposed to be an ordinary clinic visit to confirm that MaryAnne had an infection and needed to be on antibiotics.  Oral antibiotics.  Not admitted to the hospital and put on IV antibiotics. Not headed to the operating room.   But that is where we were.  Looking at another stay at the hospital, another surgery.

Let me back up a few days.  MaryAnne had an operation to remove her distractor and was discharged in less than 24 hours.  A week later everything seemed to be healing well.  Then one day soon after MaryAnne pulled her head away when I tried washing her hair.  And Monday morning, only 11 days after the removal surgery I woke up to find a white, swollen abscess under the incision.  The first reaction of the clinic, upon receiving an emailed picture of the abscess was that it was surgical fluid that had collected there.  But soon after the office called me back, as a consultation with another plastic surgeon led them to make an appointment for us the next morning.

Now me, MaryAnne and Abigail (7 years old) are sitting in the clinic waiting room waiting.  Waiting for a hospital room to become available so that MaryAnne could be immediately put on IV antibiotics.  Dr. Jamie did not want to let us go home since it was over a 30 minute drive and getting MaryAnne on antibiotics was critical.  After two hours of waiting, the doctor relented and let us go, allowing me to pack for the several-day hospital stay, and to return Abigail home. We were not even home yet when Jamie called to let me know that a room was ready for us.  I quickly packed and returned with MaryAnne to the hospital.

After the first operation to clean out the abscess it seemed everything was to go through the difficult route, rather than the easier one.  Instead of an IV in MaryAnne’s hand, it was in her foot.  The anesthesiologist tried several times to get one started in her hand, but did not succeed. This meant that she was not allowed to walk.  Instead of being able to keep MaryAnne entertained by carrying her around the hospital floors, we were confined to our room because of the unknown bacteria that caused the infection.  And instead of a reduction in pain from infection removed, the pain seemed more because the area was packed with gauze (to promote healing from the outside in) and the incision left open. This caused pain for MaryAnne, especially as the head wrap started to slip and the incision area was bumped, rubbed, or even touched.

All smiles for the camera!

All smiles for the camera!

And here is where I felt God’s mercy. I had to watch MaryAnne nearly every second to make sure that IV stayed where it was supposed to.  And I also tried to entertain my active 15 month old child in that small hospital room while thwarting her attempts to walk. There was no rest for me. No letting MaryAnne play by herself.  Yet God continually gave me strength to get through every circumstance.

I read a devotional on God’s mercy that really encouraged me.  It was based on the story of the widow who fed Elijah and her son during the three year famine. (1 Kings 17:8-16)  This woman had been prepared to make herself and son their last meal when Elijah appeared asking for food. But Elijah told her she would not run out of flour and oil and she believed.  I imagine that every morning she would measure out the flour needed and see how little was left.  Yet she was not discouraged, nor fearful.  Her flour and oil never ran out. Everyday God supplied her with what she needed.

I felt like my jar of flour was being emptied in those few days.  I would look at the clock and wonder how it could only be 8am?  How would I last the day? I felt that I was near the end of my endurance. Yet God did not allow me to run empty.  He continually gave me what I needed to get through the next minutes and hours.

“You will see the sinner’s hope perish, for he trusts in himself; you will see the proud Pharisee’s confidence crumble, for he builds his hope upon the sand; you will even see your own plans blown apart, but you will discover that your daily needs are amply supplied…You might spend the wealth of the nations, but you can never exhaust the infinite mercies of God.” (Quote from God’s Infinite Mercies. Read the rest here.)

I watched MaryAnne go through so much in the next three days.  The first IV was dislodged, the result was her foot was swollen and sore, along with half her leg as a consequence of the antibiotics going into the tissue instead of the vein.  Next, I held her down while she screamed as another IV was unsuccessfully attempted several times.  In God’s mercy the helicopter team of nurses were available to come and successfully get an IV started. The next day I handed MaryAnne over to an OR nurse yet again and heard her screams as she was carried away from me.  I held her and soothed her when she woke up from yet another surgery.  I consoled her in her frustration and anger at being confined to a small area when all she wanted to do was run around.  And God’s mercies flowed over me.  I know I could never have done it on my own strength.  It was exhausting both physically and emotionally.  And God supplied my needs. Every time. Praise be to God.

~~~~~
Mindy

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Two weeks after being discharged.

 

Today’s Favorite Moment

Being a Mom has so many special moments that I hope I never forget.  Today was no exception.  It was an ordinary day.  As part of an idea organized by a Mom at school, my 2nd grader & I have 2 weeks where we committed to praying daily for her teacher, hoping to provide some encouragement and support.  (I have a feeling this may be more of a blessing to me….)

We were discussing the idea of choosing a Bible verse to pray over her teacher.  My daughter immediately jumped up to grab her Bible.  She opened it to the Index and started running her finger down the page to find the book of John.  Her favorite verse is John 3:16.  As she was going through the books of the Bible, she started singing a song listing the books of the Bible that she must be learning in school.  (She loves to sing!)

With a little guidance, she found the page number the book of John started on, and started flipping through the Bible.  Finding John 3:16, she began reading aloud.

There are few things more precious than listening to my 8-year old read her favorite verse, continuing on through the next several verses before pausing.

As she paused, I looked over at her with such warmth in my heart, and said, “Honey, you have no idea how much I love hearing you read the Bible.”  Her adorable response: “I love reading the Bible!”

What a blessing!!  How my heart sings!

Surgery and Beyond

It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I had to place my precious 9 month old daughter in the arms of the nurse and watch her walk into the operating room. I just wanted to run after the nurse, knowing MaryAnne would probably be scared.  No, she would definitely be scared – she doesn’t even like to go to her grandparents that she sees once a week.  I needed to be there to comfort her, to let her know it was going to be okay.  But I couldn’t. And my heart nearly broke imagining her fear.

All I could do was pray and wait.

MaryAnne was taken into the OR at 7:45am that morning. We spent the two previous hours getting paperwork done, meeting with various medical personnel, and entertaining MaryAnne. The great thing about the surgery being performed at a Children’s hospital, is they accommodate well to little ones. MaryAnne had great fun being pulled around in the little hippo-wagon.

So happy!

So happy!

9:30am rolled around and our neurosurgeon came to find us, since I hadn’t noticed our vibrating beeper had gone off. He told us that the surgery couldn’t be going better, MaryAnne was stable, currently getting a blood transfusion, and his part of the surgery was over. The plastic surgeon was now doing her part. At 10:30 the plastic surgeon let us know that MaryAnne was now in the recovery room. Now we wait some more. We were told that if they didn’t call us back into the recovery room, it meant MaryAnne hadn’t woken up yet.

At this point, I felt such relief. It was over. MaryAnne had done great and we could move forward. And now I sensed my exhaustion creeping in. I felt such peace.  Even knowing that the next days could be anything but peaceful.  Two hours later, at 12:30pm I was finally allowed to see MaryAnne and a half an hour later she was ready to be transferred to a regular room!

Sweet little girl

Sweet little girl

The next several days were a blur. I was so busy trying to keep MaryAnne from tugging on all her cords – she had a drain coming out of the right side of her head, three leads on her chest, catheter, oxygen monitor on her big toe and an IV in each foot. The day after surgery MaryAnne was trying to crawl and stand already and it was a full time job trying to keep cords from tangling and keeping her occupied in the small area that her cords allowed.

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Gradually the various cords were removed and MaryAnne loved being able to get out of her room and take a stroll around the hospital floor. Her eyes did swell shut, but she was amazingly cheerful. Four days after surgery MaryAnne was ready to go home.

The transition to post-surgery has been difficult. Before the surgery things that would have not been an issue, now are a concern. MaryAnne’s head is extremely sensitive and the smallest pressure to her head causes tears.  So tables, chairs, doorways, all those normal things that she could bump into while crawling around become dangers to her head. MaryAnne also wants my constant attention and I end up carrying her around for a large portion the day. And sleeping has been rough. Really rough. We’re talking about waking up every hour and hard to console. But healing is taking place and our post-op appointments with both physicians has been very encouraging.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 was one passage that came to mind during these difficult days:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When I am tired, exhausted, beaten down, who do I run to but the one, true and holy God.  He who can carry all my burdens and be my strength when I have none.  So I continue to thank and praise God even in my hardship.

One week after surgery!

One week after surgery!

And I sing:

“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art –
thou my best thought, by day or by night;
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.”

Surgery is just days away!

6 days before original surgery date:

Click. The phone went silent. I just stood there. Deflated. Like a balloon that had a leak. The air slowly streamed out. And suddenly my brain was racing, trying to think of all the people I had to call, all the appointments I would have to change, schedules that needed rearrangement. Because of one word: rescheduled. I admit, my brain had become a bit fuzzy after the man on the phone told me the surgery was rescheduled. But I managed to take away from the conversation that MaryAnne’s neurosurgeon had an unexpected, mandatory . . . thing, come up. And he’d be gone. For three weeks. So we must wait a few weeks longer.

God designed this for our good. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.  Long before MaryAnne was even born God knew that this surgery would be rescheduled. He planned it. The unexpected mandatory thing that came up, was not unexpected to Him. It was His will. And as I look at the positives and negatives of this change I can see the good God worked.

The original date was not good timing for my husband. We sell Christian homeschool material, and the end of August is the beginning of the school year. It is our busiest time of the entire year. And most stressful. The end of September is much slower, less stressful, and overall better.

It is not a negative to have MaryAnne wait another month for the surgery. The neurosurgeon initially told us he likes to do the surgery between the age of 6 months and a year. MaryAnne will be just days shy of 10 months on the new surgery date. So she is still within that time frame. And MaryAnne does not seem to be in any pain or discomfort. She is a very cheerful and active girl!

Fun at the beach!

Fun at the beach!

As a friend so wisely told me, this just means we have four more weeks to pray for MaryAnne and the surgery. Four more weeks to bring her to the throne of God and ask that He show his power and amaze the doctors with a perfect surgery and rapid recovery. I am reminded of Matthew 7:11 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” So I pray and ask.

As for the negatives. Emotionally I was ready.  I was ready for it to be over. And the only other negative was that my mom had to reschedule her travel plans out here – plane tickets, time off of work, and all that goes along with it.

So now it is quite apparent that God knows better than me. Which shouldn’t surprise me.

Now we are six days away from the new surgery date. And God’s will is being done. I still find tears streaming down my cheeks when I think of what she will endure, but I know the pain she will endure will be far less than living the rest of her life with uncorrected craniosynostosis. The procedure itself fills me with dread, but I know her future will be superior after it is done. A future that will be a normal, healthy life.

I find myself singing one of my kids Sunday School songs:

My God is so great, so strong and so mighty,
There’s nothing my God cannot do!

Who better to trust than the One who can do all things? I feel joy bubbling up knowing that He is watching over my sweet MaryAnne.  Thy will be done.

Some of MaryAnne's support team.

Some of MaryAnne’s support team.

Craniosynostosis

My husband and I waited in the pristine exam room with our sweet 6 month old daughter. The neurosurgeon came in and introduced himself, glancing briefly at MaryAnne just waking in my arms. (He knew what was wrong just by looking at her.) He sat down and asked us if we knew what was going on. I repeated what my pediatrician had told me: that she may have a suture in her skull that had fused early. He had a grimace-type smile on his face “Yeah,” he drew out the word, “that’s what it is.”

Breathe, I told myself. Don’t burst into tears. It isn’t cancer. It isn’t life-threatening. Breathe. Breathe.

Coronal craniosynostosis. The suture from the middle of her skull, down to her left ear had fused, possibly even before she was born. So let’s go back. Three symptoms appeared in the six short months of my daughter’s life.

Symptom #1: Following the first few days of MaryAnne’s birth I noticed her left eye socket was bigger than the other. I thought this was genetic.

Symptom #2: Around 2 months, I noticed MaryAnne’s left eye tended to drift outward. I thought it was just a lazy eye. Now I know it is because the eye was being pulled out as the skull was not growing properly.

Symptom #3: MaryAnne’s left forehead was flat – her eyebrow was not even noticeable. As she grew older, the forehead became indented. It changed so slowly I again thought this was genetic.

So how did we end up seeing a neurosurgeon? I had changed pediatricians because I was dissatisfied with the previous one at MaryAnne’s 2 month check-up. After rescheduling her 4 month check-up because of sickness, she was seen just before she was six months. I mentioned the drifting eye, and the doctor spent a lot of time comparing the eyes and studying them. I then mentioned the indented forehead, and he immediately said she should be seen by a neurosurgeon, that it could be because of a fusion of a skull suture.

And it was.

MaryAnne will have to endure a 3-4 hour surgery, with a 3-5 day hospital stay afterwards. But then she will be able to lead a normal, healthy life, as our neurosurgeon likes to say. Without the surgery, the left side of MaryAnne’s head would not grow appropriately, the right side over-growing to compensate. Developmental delays could occur and her left eye would be stretched outward to look more and more like a slit. I continue to thank God for advanced medical procedures that allow what seems like such a dangerous procedure to seem non-hazardous.

Precious MaryAnne

Precious MaryAnne

Those first few weeks after the diagnosis, I couldn’t even think about it without crying. I would rock MaryAnne to sleep with tears streaming down my cheeks, knowing what she would have to undergo at such a young age. This was a testing time for me. Who was I going to trust? Myself? Would my anxiety and worry help MaryAnne at all?

Luke 12:25, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

God is in control. He knew this would happen with MaryAnne. He knows how it will end. His will, not mine, shall be done. And He did not leave me. He is right beside me, upholding me, comforting me, being my everything.

Philippians 4:6-7 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So I rest in Him, petitioning Him every step of the way. And He has granted me his perfect peace.  The chorus of my favorite song right now accurately describes my feelings:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

The Return Home (Road Trip part 2)

We started our return trip from Iowa in the evening of a Tuesday, hoping to do some driving with sleeping kids since we aimed to be at the family reunion in Northern California on Friday morning.  As we drove through the Black Hills the station wagon died on us a couple times.  We have had problems with our crankshaft position sensor before, and this seemed as if it was the same thing.  The dashboard would read “reduced engine performance” and would slow to under 20 mph, no power steering, etc or just die completely.  But after restarting the car the problem would go away and be fine. Our mechanic did a simple fix on it, but said it may cause problems in the future.  Well, the future arrived.

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Nice cabin in Deadwood, SD

We enjoyed our cabin in Deadwood, SD and checked out a creek nearby.

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Beautiful views!

We drove out of that tourist town to a little town only about a half an hour away to refill our gas tank.  There was a mechanic next door, so Josh asked him about our check engine light that had come on with the “reduced engine performance” reading.  This was a new issue, so we thought it wise to have to looked at before continuing on. The mechanic said it was safe to drive on, concerning ruining the engine.  So we drove to the entrance to the road where we stopped for traffic and the station wagon died yet again.  But this time it did not start back up.  The mechanic we just spoke with was busy so Josh did a search of nearby mechanics and then tow trucks since we couldn’t get it to start.  The kids and I walked down the block to a fast food restaurant to get some food.  A nice local overheard our problem and offered help, so she directed me and the kids to the city park. So the kids and I walked to the park while Josh waited for the tow truck and then rented a car, since it seemed this would not be a quick fix.  Thankfully the problem was located right away and the part was in Denver, so we paid for overnight shipping and prayed it would come the next day, Thursday, since the family reunion was Friday.

After the car stuff was settled, we rented a room at a local hotel that had a nice pool.  We dropped off our stuff in our room and searched for our supper meal.  We saw a storm come in and during our supper the kids witnessed their first hail storm.  Thankfully it was only pea sized hail and our rental car was not damaged.  The next day we went to Bridal Veil Falls and found another little trail to enjoy.

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Bridal Veil Falls (littlest one was sleeping)

When we returned to town, our new sensor had been put in! The mechanic took a test drive and also found a split in our coolant hose, so that had to be fixed yet.  The kids and I spent the rest of the time perusing the local Kmart as rainstorms kept us from enjoying the park.  This was definitely a test of my patience.  Have you gone shopping with small children? How they touch everything? Pick up everything? Ask to buy everything? And we were only there because we had no where else to go.  We bought some drinks and a snack and sat at a nice patio set display by the door to the Kmart.  We saw the storm come in and a middle-aged couple joined us.  They were quite funny, pretending we were grilling some supper up and just sitting around waiting for it to be done.  They talked to the kids and helped us pass some time.

We spent a lot of time in the toys section, checking out all the noisy toys that would occupy them for a while.  And we took several bathroom breaks, which was located at the opposite end of the store.  I got a good work out!  Eventually I felt at my wits end, feeling my frustration rise.  Thankfully, the Lord impressed upon me the realization that relief to these frustrations would only add to the chaos about to errupt.  And the idea of letting the kids literally run free descended upon me.  So I found the back isles, the least occupied and told the kids they could run to such and such a point. The older two kids were much more obedient to the rules than the little one.  So I had to keep up.  So I got more exercise.  When Isaac found some other kids and began roaring at them, my feelings cannot quite be described – a combination of horror, anger, frustration.  And God rescued: Josh had arrived with the station wagon ready to go.  Well almost – we had to put the luggage rack back on, re-pack the vehicle, put the carseats back in, etc.  But at least there were now two of us again.

At around 5:30 that evening on Thursday we left Spearfish, SD and headed on our way.  We ran into a rather large storm with crazy swirling winds, yet we safely found a motel in Wyoming at 3:00am on Friday.  We started out a mere 6 hours later and drove 11 more hours to reach the reunion.  The last 30 miles were the hardest for me – not because it was the last miles, but because we drove curvy roads up into the mountains on roads that had no guard rails.  Imagine 3000 feet drop out your window with nothing in between except some trees.  Rather terrifying for me.

We had made it to the family reunion, yet our adventures did not end there.  Isaac developed large blisters on his feet.  Really, I mean large.  One nearly went 360 around his toe, and the toe next to it developed an almost equally large one. Another one spanned nearly the entire width of his foot.

The remains of the blister - after blistered skin fell off.

The remains of the blister – after blistered skin fell off.

That particular one burst, resealed, became infected, and the infection started to climb his foot.  So we drove the treacherous 30 miles back down the mountain to the ER.  I was so worried about his foot the drive didn’t even bother me.  The blister was drained, antibiotics prescribed.  Providentially the hospital was small but efficient.  The doctor saw Isaac while still in the waiting room since they were so busy, and after we were put in a room to drain his blister the doctor personally saw the prescription called into the pharmacy that closed in 20 minutes.  Our discharge papers were speedily given to us, and as I walked out the doors a nurse was giving me directions to the pharmacy.   What a blessing that it was a small town hospital that gave us such service rather than a large hospital where we would have been just another number. After this our adventures finally came to an end.  We spent a great time camping and an uneventful last day of travel.

I think any road trip after this will be delightfully boring.

~Mindy~

Back to School Shopping

I can’t say I really enjoy back to school shopping.  There are several things that make the trip less fun:

  • the price tag keeps getting bigger
  • I always feel like I’m telling one of the girls we can’t get the really fancy kind, either because the school has specifics or because it’s too expensive
  • I can’t find the specific thing that’s on the school list
  • It takes multiple trips to multiple stores

However, this year, I was finally able to do something a little “fun” with the back-to-school shopping.  My oldest daughter is going into 7th grade, and she needed “heavy-duty” binders in different colors for each grade.  (There were specific colors listed for each grade.)  Well, it’s hard to find green, purple, & yellow heavy-duty binders.  The sheet indicated if we couldn’t find them, we could always insert colored paper to change the color of a white binder, for example,

So, after shopping, I went downstairs to play around with changing white or black binders into the various needed colors.  I thought Ally might like to have “fun” papers inserted, so I sat down at my craft table, and went to work.  (As Ally is a pretty picky kid, I did go to her a few times to get her opinion on the papers.)

I started by changing a black binder into green, white into yellow, and white into purple.  Ally liked them so much, she asked me to “pretty up” the rest.  Here’s how they turned out:

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Here is what the back looked like:

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I couldn’t exactly stop there, though.  🙂  I pulled out my Cricut and typed up the subjects, used my sticker maker, and put them on more of the patterned paper.  Here is a picture of the results:

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It was totally worth all the time when I saw the smile on Ally’s face.  It should hopefully add a little bit of fun to school.  I think we’re ready.  School starts in 1 week already, and I will officially have a 7th grader and Kindergartner.  I took off the day to take my baby to Kindergarten and Ally to Junior High, and I’m going to try to make the best of it!

~D~

A New Milestone

Well sisters, I’m finally growing up.

And no, I’m not pregnant.

Drew & I purchased our first major piece of furniture.  Actually, aside from our TV stand, I don’t think we’ve bought any.  I think that’s quite impressive – over 2 years of marriage and somehow our house is completely furnished 🙂  We got our bedroom set from Mom & Dad, 2 spare beds from an aunt and a grandma, dining table from an aunt… Boy we are good.

Drew taking a study break on our old couch.  This is when we still lived in our basement apartment.

Drew taking a study break on our old couch. This is when we still lived in our basement apartment.

Anyway the couch we had was pretty old.  We had lived in a basement apartment for a while after getting married, and this couch was there when we moved in.  Our very sweet landlady told us if we carried the couch out we could have it.  So guess what we did?

The couch was starting to break though – you were pretty much laying down no matter how you sat on it.  So we finally went shopping and got ourselves a new one!!  Actually we don’t even have the whole couch yet – the end piece is on back order but Drew couldn’t handle the old couch anymore.  (The picture makes it look a little purple-ish… its actually a dark brown.)  So its kinda exciting to have bought something new – something we actually picked out ourselves.  A milestone in our lives 🙂

Our new couch!  Or most of it!

Our new couch! Or most of it!

On top of that, Drew got chosen to be a deacon at church.  Boy does THAT make me feel old!  He was actually nominated a year ago, but didn’t get chosen that time.  I certainly do not feel old enough for him to be a deacon already!  Where has all the time gone?

So, sisters, I’m joining the club: I’m finally old.  (Just kidding!! :D)

~T~

Cheesy Chicken Penne

I’ve been trying a new thing lately.  I think of 5 or so meals and write them down on the refrigerator.  Then I check if I have ingredients for them, or I write myself a grocery list for it.  I do try to take into account leftovers, etc.  For example, one time I had roast and potatoes as a meal idea.  I used the leftover roast to make some beef enchiladas, so I made sure to have the ingredients for that, also.  (The enchiladas I ended up just throwing in the freezer to eat later!)  Then we’ll try our best to eat everything on the list before I will go and buy anything else from the store.  This is our attempt to have better/healthier “family” meals at home and keeping our spending down.

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As I’ve been thinking of meals that we like, I am reminded how much of a beef and potato kind of people we are.  So I’ve decided to try to pick 1 new recipe each time I do this, something a little bit more out of our comfort zone.  I’m not sure how long it will last, but at least I’m getting a good grocery list… and hopefully I’ll remember why it was that I bought 3 packages of taco shells.

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Our newest experiment was a cheesy chicken penne.  I actually bought some penne pasta on an impulse buy – ironic how thats exactly what I’m trying to stop doing – some time ago.  I saw them in the store and decided that I should try it.  I wanted to do some sort of a chicken because we eat a lot of beef.  We also do quite a bit of red sauces, so I ended up Googling some chicken penne recipes.  I’m not going to lie, I was not very happy with what I found.  I did a lot of looking; I guess I’m kinda picky!  A lot of them had weird spices that I probably couldn’t even find in the grocery store, or had yucky vegetables (think spinach.)  So I ended up improvising a little bit and mashed some recipe ideas all together.

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Well it was a pretty good turnout, Drew was a big fan.  I ended up with some alfredo sauce (which I’m actually not very fond of, but my husband is) as opposed to a red sauce.  I chose a plain alfredo – I thought I was being bold enough for one meal already – but I think next time I might try a garlic/cheesy or even a mushroom alfredo sauce.  I made this while Drew was still working and put it in the oven to keep warm until he came home.

~ T ~

Cheesy Chicken Penne
Serves 2-4

Ingredients
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, thawed
Italian salad dressing
penne pasta (I used half the box, it was plenty)
jar of alfredo sauce
bag of shredded Italian cheeses
tomatoes (I actually forgot to do this, I don’t eat them but Drew would have liked it)
garlic (real gloves or garlic salt)

Preparation
Marinate chicken breasts in Italian salad dressing for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.  Cook on a George Foreman or outdoor grill until done.  Cut into slices.  Cook desired amount of pasta according to the directions on the box.  Drain and put into serving pan.  Cover the pasta with Alfredo sauce.  Add diced tomatoes and sliced chicken on top.  Sprinkle the garlic on the chicken.  Cover with cheese.  Warm in microwave or oven until cheeses are melted.