Monday, July 8, 2013

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

This recipe started years ago with a recipe that my grandmother was given by her maid in Italy while she and my grandfather were stationed there when my father and his twin sister were babies. In the years since she gave it to me, I have loved it, but have made a few changes here and there to suit my own preferences. Keep in mind that I feed 7 people, so you probably want to have a jar or two handy for leftover sauce.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
6-8 cloves of garlic, dependant on their size, diced
1 medium onion, diced
12oz tomato paste
28oz Italian Style diced tomatoes
6 cups hot water
3/4 tsp oregano
3 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp basil
1 1/2 tsp parsley
Note: Because we have several people in the house (including myself) who don't like certain textures, I use a small Ninja to chop my onion, garlic, and diced tomatoes until they are almost pureed.

Saute onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil. Add them, along with all other ingredients, to a pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least two hours, stirring occassionally. The longer you allow this to simmer, the better it will taste. I also brown 3lbs of ground beef and add in at the end of cooking to turn this into a meat sauce. We also eat our spaghetti with mushrooms (canned pieces & stems, sauteed in tons of butter with garlic salt) and mozzarella. Even feeding 7, we still have some leftovers, which are normally gone within a couple of days.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer Reading

Item #9 on our summer bucket list was to go to the library. The more I thought about it, the more I felt like we should make it a weekly thing to break the monotony of summer. So, I put Keenan and Will in the summer reading program. It's a four week program and this year the theme is Dig Into Reading. Of course, there's the normal reading log and goals, and prizes for whoever reads the most. And then the weekly program focuses on reading - a week about gardens, one about dinosaurs ancient Egypt and mummies, one about animals that live underground, and then one about caves. So, yesterday we went to the library for that... It was Paige's first visit to the library ever. I think she's going to be a book lover too, because she already has one particular book she loves, so I was excited to check out some new board books for her. Will and Keenan got their first library cards. Have I ever mentioned how much Will loves books and learning? He checked out THIRTEEN books, most of them from a non-fiction collection about animals. In typical boy fashion, he checked out one titled "Boobies" (it's about the Booby BIRD, people). Keenan checked out a few short books. He really hates reading, so I'm hoping this summer program and being able to read on his own time instead of having to read what and when the school wants him to will encourage him. I also got to introduce Jake to the world of Stephen King, and Savanna checked out seven books, even though she claims reading is boring and already has three at home that she has to read and write reports on before mid-August. All in all, I would consider it to be a pretty successful library trip!

Your bathroom will never be the same

On the giant list of the things that you should know before deciding to become a parent, there is one very important fact that everyone should know.

Your bathroom will never ever EVER be the same again.

ESPECIALLY if you let your nine year old son dye his hair blue for the summer and then have a momentary lapse in judgement and send him to rinse after the dye job unattended. While there is still blue dye spattered all over the place until I buy a new gallon of bleach and scrub brush, we've discovered that hydrogen peroxide works great for years of build up in grout from previous residents. lol

Of popsicles and water balloons

The kids were so excited last Tuesday when we made popsicles and they had a water balloon fight! We did the Sprite & gummy bears popsicles that were so easy and summery - they had a very tropical taste to them. You just fill the popsicle mold 3/4 with Sprite, drop in gummy bears, add the popsicle stick, and freeze. It was interesting trying to get the kids to stop checking on them long enough for them to freeze, but we all enjoyed them once they were done.

I wasn't sure how many water balloons would actually connect since Jake is the only kid with any real coordination... But, they all came inside soaked and seemed to have plenty of fun. It kept the arguing and boredom comments at bay for an afternoon! 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Summer Things For When All Else Fails..,

With a three month old to care for as well as two nine year old boys, a twelve year old girl, and a fifteen year old boy home for the summer, I know that things are going to get crazy. This is my first summer home A.) since Will was 4, and B.) with more than one kid. So, in order to save my sanity, I'm compiling a list of activity ideas to break the monotony (and maybe keep them from breaking each other). I'm getting a lot of help from Pinterest for this, lol.

I reserve the right to add to this list as I find more ideas! ;)

1. Visit the zoo
2. Water gun fight
3. Water balloon fight
4. Visit the Riverquarium
5. Picnic (Riverfront Park in Albany, park, lake, river, with Mark on his lunch break)
6. Go to the park
7. Walk the trail at the lake
8. Feed the ducks at the lake
9. Go to the library
10. Interview each kid
11. Do photo shoots
12. Make smores/banana boats/etc
13. Roast weinies for dinner
14. Bake cupcakes and let them decorate
15. Set up an ice cream sundae bar
16. Let them play in the waterhose
17. Go to the pool
18. Visit state parks
19. Play board games
20. Learn card games together
21. Get them Twister
22. Play in the rain
23. Blow bubbles
24. Sidewalk chalk
25. Sidewalk chalk paint - recipe here
26. Make bouncy balls
27. Make popsicles - Mango Kiwi Raspberry Pops or Whipped Pineapple Pops or Sprite & Gummy Bears or 100 More
28. Tie Dye something
29. Watch clouds
30. Do a puzzle
31. Play I Spy
32. Watch the stars
33. Discover uses for food coloring
34. Make a Naked Egg
35. Make homemade bubbles
36. Make a target to throw water balloons at
37. Have a glow in the dark bowling tournament (glow sticks in bottles of water)
38. Make jellyfish in bottles
39. Make homemade watercolors and paint
40. Make an Angry Birds game
41. Make no-flour playdough or magic playdough
42. Play sidewalk chalk games
43. Find and make pet rocks
44. Experiment with balloons
45. Make water bottle fountains
46. Make sun tea
47. Have a treasure hunt
48. Paper airplane races
49. Potato stamp art
50. Have a Wii Championship
51. Wash the cars
52. Go see fireworks
53. Play with sparklers
54. Visit a historical site
55. Each pick a country and learn about it - obscure facts!
 56. Make bleach t-shirts
57. Make pinecone bird feeders
58. Make a photo booth
59. Make a time capsule of the summer to open next summer
60. Put together a family joke book
61. Make sponge balls and FIGHT
62. Do marble paintings
63. Go to the Botanical Gardens
64. Do a photo scavenger hunt
65. Watch the sunrise
66. Make bookmarks from pressed flowers/leaves and packing tape
67. Make ice boats
68. Cook a solar powered lunch
69. Mega bubbles!
70. Make lemonade from scratch
71. Go puddle jumping
72. Make a video of everyone making funny faces
73. Make tape word paintings

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ten Things I Don't Hate About Me

My dear friend, Nik, was having a tough day yesterday. Being a SAHM to two little boys under the age of 3 ain't always easy, y'all. She spent her morning struggling, until later in the day, she realized that a bad day with Spenk & Ollie isn't a reflection of her parenting skills. It honestly is JUST a bad day. She realized in that moment that she's good at a lot of things. And I have to agree with her. Paige has a gorgeous cloud mobile and several super cute pairs of baby legwarmers in her room as proof positive! If you need homemade baby legwarmers, custom cloud or moon mobiles, custom pennant banners, or a custom rag quilt, Spenk & Ollie Creations is the place to go, no doubt about it.

Anyway, after Nik listed her ten things, she invited her readers to do the same. I'm always up for a good blog prompt, and the way the past few days have gone, this one certainly appealed to me.

1. Giving birth. Whether it be my son, who weighed 8lbs 14.5oz and was birthed with the assisstance of a "vacuum" and epidural or my tiny 7lb daughter who needed no more help than perineal massage and a couple of doses of Stadol (and okay, some Phenergan for the nausea caused by birthing without an epidural), I did what had to be done. I gave birth to my babies.

2. Ignoring the parenting judgement. I know that around here, the things I do are not the norm. We live in the south, where people do as their grandparents tell them - meaning a lot raise their children as their grandparents raised their parents. I'm not that person - we do what works for us and damn everyone else. When needed, we co-sleep and we share our room still on the nights we don't share our bed. We babywear, we don't take the doctor's (nurse's/lab tech's) word as golden simply because they're trained in their field. We research and make educated choices. We don't circumcise, we probably won't pierce ears before kindergarten unless we find a local pediatrician who pierces, we cloth diaper (that was the big one that people around here were shocked by). We don't give our baby a pork chop at three months old - though we ARE planning to skip purees entirely and try babyled weaning (which has absolutely nothing to do with breastfeeding). We consider ourselves lucky our daughter sleeps through the night and wouldn't have given her rice cereal to make her. We DO give her rice cereal for her reflux. Etc etc etc. And we don't judge other parents for making different decisions than us.

3. Photography... I'm good at this, not great. I am definitely an amateur and probably always will be. But the photos I take are very precious to me. And hopefully I won't even wind up on You Are Not A Photographer

4. Calming a hurting baby... Becoming good at this comes with the territory of being the mother of a reflux baby. People ask me if Paige is fussy... During the first reflux flare up, oh my stars, yes, she was. For almost two weeks straight. And then I began to realize the positions and techniques that helped her feel better. I know it's luck, not every mother is as lucky to be able to calm their refluxer. I think it has saved my sanity.

5. Patience. On the rare occassion that she is truly inconsolable and screams for hours on end, I can hold her and snuggle her and rock her and sing to her and talk to her. And even if, on the inside, I'm pulling my hair out? All she knows is that I'm loving her.

6. The Sims. This one is amusing. I've been playing since my 17th birthday, so for over 11 years now (shhh). My son would tell you I'm awesome at it, because I've had a family worth over a million dollars with no cheat codes used. I also apparently was good at unintentionally getting him addicted.

7. Making the kids laugh. Whether I'm making funny faces or tickling them or dancing like a fool or singing any words that come to mind to my daughter in a ridiculous tune... ALL of the kids get a kick out of it.

8. Not spending money. Other than all of these stupid bills, I can go a week without spending a dime most of the time if I really, really need to. And when things are really tight, I normally only buy necessities - gas to get to the grocery store and doctor appointments, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, dog & cat food, toilet paper...

9. Organizing and downsizing. When I set my mind to something, I can really cut down on the household clutter. Now, finding that motivation to do these things? That's a different story.

10. Cooking. My husband brags on me constantly, and I've even recently been told that my nephew does. My husband won't eat bbq pork from anywhere else anymore, and my nephew bragged about it to his friends. I don't know how you get much easier than cooking a boneless pork shoulder picnic roast in root beer on low in the crock pot all day, draining the root beer, adding bbq sauce (Jack Daniels honey bbq or hickory brown sugar here, thanks), and shredding the meat... But they sure do love it. My husband also brags about my spaghetti a lot - apparently the homemade sauce made with a recipe my grandmother was given while living in Italy was the way to his heart, and the man who hates mushrooms loves the ones I cook to put on the spaghetti. Who knew?

I could probably keep going if Nik had given some number other than ten... Because, I am a pretty talented person, I guess, even if I do feel like a failure when my infant is screaming inconsolably or my son forgets to take a shower or the 12 year old niece I'm raising cops an attitude (for the ten millionth time (in one day (or maybe one hour...))). All in all, despite the struggles, I guess I have this life thing pretty well figured out.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bittersweet Mother's Day

As Mother's Day approaches, I'm struggling with the fact that I no longer have a mother figure to shower with love. We lost my mom five months ago. Most days I'm okay - content in the knowledge that she is no longer hurting, physically or emotionally. Even though it makes me feel guilty to want her back in this place where she felt so much anguish, there are still days that I want her back. The days leading up to the birth of my first daughter take the cake... This first Mother's Day without her is pulling in a close second. My mother was the kind of mother who gave her daughters Mother's Day cards. She always made sure that there was something for us, that we knew we were loved and appreciated and good Mommas, on the years that our childrens' Daddies weren't around to help our babies celebrate us. She was the kind of woman who picked me flowers the day after my 13th birthday because I was disappointed that I didn't feel older and more mature, who led my Girl Scout troop for years and just shook her head when we ran her undies up a flagpole at a citywide campout, the kind of woman who took two 14 year old girls and their boyfriends to the beach for the day one summer. She was the kind of woman who slapped me across my face when I backtalked her and held me when my heart was broken. She will be forever missed...

My sister, nine years my senior, would be my second choice to celebrate on this day. She spent a lot of time as a single mother, raising her babies alone. She spent a lot of time helping turn me into the woman I am. She was my best friend and my enemy, my teasing sister and my teacher, my confidant and my cheerleader and my coach.

And this is the second year that we celebrate Mother's Day without her...

I struggle this year, because I have a hard time giving myself credit where it's due. But, there's no one left to celebrate this year, except for me.

This year, my son has stayed on the A/B honor roll. He began with the Talented & Gifted program at school and he loves it. He's asked me a million questions, and if I didn't know the answer, he looked it up on Google on his prized Kindle Fire that he begged to have for a year and still cherishes more than six months later. He has become a big brother and he is an amazing one, never showing an ounce of jealousy, only love and concern and compassion for her.

This year, I conceived my daughter, and did everything I knew to grow her safely in my belly. This year, I watched my tiny gummy bear on an ultrasound screen and listened to her heart beat, and I cried. I looked at my tiny little alien being and found out she was a girl, and I cried. With not only my husband, but my son, my nephews, and my niece, I watched a 4D ultrasound on my son's birthday of his baby sister moving around in my womb, and I cried. This year, I proved my strength to myself more than anyone else, as I birthed my daughter without an epidural... And I cried. I looked across the room as they weighed her, saw my sister's foot on my daughter's body sticking up out of the tiny bed... And I cried. My daughter was rehospitalized for jaundice, and I cried and cried. And then I fought a lab tech for my right to hold and comfort her as they took blood, and I was a warrior. She failed to gain weight and I had to give up breastfeeding, and I cried. SHE cried for days on end, completely unlike her, and I took her to her doctor and I was a warrior. I took her to the hospital and fed her a bottle of barium and watched on a screen as her body refluxed it, and I was a warrior. I've been a warrior through medicine changes and new suggestions, and as nothing seems to help my constantly happy little girl with her symptoms, I've remained a warrior... The day after Mother's Day, I will load her up, drive an hour and a half, and see a specialist, and hopefully he will make things better. But I will be a warrior until SOMEONE makes her all better. She is my daughter, and maybe I will be the mother to her that my mother was, and maybe one day she will be that kind of mother too.

This year, three kids without a Mom have begun to bloom from their grief under my watch. They have pulled grades up and taken part in band and JROTC and won awards and learned the value of a dollar and so much more... They have begun to call me Mom and my heart swells and clenches all at once. If I could bring back their real mother, I would, in a split second... But, to know that I have filled even a fraction of her shoes...

I am not the mother who birthed them, but if they HAD to lose her, I am proud to have earned the right to the name.

I have no mother to celebrate this year. Except myself. And this year, I have learned through tears and joys, that I am a mother worth celebrating. So are you, and if you don't know it already... You should learn it over the next year.

CaringBridge Mother's Day Blog Party!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Oh, baby, I'm amazed by you

Guess what beautiful little girl started laughing in response to stimuli night before last and trying to imitate Mommy sticking her tongue out and rolling from belly to back yesterday? She'll be two months old on Sunday, she isn't supposed to be rolling over yet! Such a strong, smart girl...

Friday, March 22, 2013

And suddenly, country music makes me cry.

It's been a while since I've written. Everything has been crazy, beautiful, amazing, stressful, and perfect. Six weeks and one day ago, my daughter was born.

On February 7, 2013 at 5:11 PM a beautiful little girl named JamieLynn Paige Beasley joined the world.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Today, I am eleven days or less from holding my daughter in my arms. That is an amazing feeling. I wasn't sure that I would ever have another child, and now I'm two weeks away from bringing a newborn daughter home. I am so grateful. So grateful, in fact, that as tired as I am of being pregnant, Mark and I are already discussing trying for another baby soon after Ms. Paige's birth. I know that Mark doesn't want to wait long if we are having another, because he wants to be able to play with his children and grandchildren, not just watch them play. And I think it makes sense to go for it soon - the sooner we have our babies, the sooner they will be school-age (ugggh) and I can go back to work and contribute monetarily again. So we will  probably just go with no birth control and let what happens happen until Paige is six months to a year old or so, and if we're not pregnant by then, start actively trying. I think that one more after this current miracle growing in my tummy will complete our already large and confusing family. :)

But, back to my Paige. We had an ultrasound at 36 weeks, showing a perfect, healthy baby girl estimated at 6lbs and 6oz and in position for delivery. Friday, at our 37 week appointment, everything looked fantastic again. Healthy heartbeat, belly growing right on track. I'm also already 1cm dilated. We discussed my blood pressure a bit. It's been being higher than I like (after an average of 120/60 for most of this pregnancy, we're suddenly seeing readings between 120/80-140/100 in the last month). Monday night it jumped to 141/92. I managed to get it back down quickly, but it's still making me nervous. We had discussed the possibility of induction at the beginning of the pregnancy, when we discussed Will's birth. He came early at 38 weeks 5 days and was still a whopping 8lbs 14.6oz. The doctor had to use the vacuum because he got stuck, and I believe if he had been even a few ounces larger, I would have had to have a c-section. We can't afford for Mark to be out of work long enough for me to recover properly from a surgery right now, so between that and my blood pressure, when my doctor offered to schedule an induction at 39 weeks 2 days, I accepted. So I have another appointment tomorrow, where we will discuss it further. I hope to find out my Bishop score and see if he would be will to sweep my membranes at the beginning of next week in hopes of an easier induction. But, if Paige does not make her grand entrance into the world by February 7th, we will be going in that morning for an induction.

I honestly don't know that she's going to wait that long! I've been having contractions, cramps, lower back pain, and a ton of pelvic pressure, along with other signs of early labor since Wednesday. But, it comforts me to know that if we do have to induce, she's already preparing, so maybe it won't be such a long process. I'm hoping that if we do induce, she will actually be born the same day we go into the hospital. My active labor with Will was fairly short for a first time mom (somewhere around 8-9 hours). I'm hoping to have a short, fairly easy labor with this little munchkin, too. Time will tell...

It's so hard to explain how I'm feeling, approaching the birth of my second baby, my first born 9 years earlier. I feel like a first time mom all over again, while at the same time, feeling like I've "been there, done that" and I know what to expect. Who am I kidding?! I'm clueless! I'm excited and happy that we'll be bringing her home soon, and at the same time, I'm an absolute nervous wreck! I'm also sad. I was supposed to have all my babies by now, my mom and sister were supposed to have been along for the ride... So, even though I have an amazing, supportive husband... I still feel very alone in this? Even saying that makes me feel like I'm betraying him, because he really is great. But women just want their close female relatives around when they have new babies! I want them to turn to when I need help, I want to share this experience with them. My sister never got a niece. My mom only got one granddaughter. Neither of them got to see Will very much when he was little because his father was military and we lived out of state. I feel like I took that opportunity away from them, and now that I'm home and having a baby, they've been taken from me. And my daughter... Mark has no contact with his family (and they don't seem like the kind of people I would want around my children, anyway). My daughter will never know a grandmother or an aunt or uncle. She will have one grandfather and her cousins in her "extended" family (although, truly we are more of an immediate family than most "normal" immediate families). That's it. I feel terrible that I can't provide her with the loving aunt that Will knew for 8 years, and the amazing grandmother he had for 9. I feel helpless that there's absolutely nothing I can do to change that situation for her. She'll never know what they were like, and that leaves an ache in my chest that will never go away. I know that we'll be all she ever knows, so that will be enough for her, she won't miss people that weren't there... But, it's still hard to come to terms with.

I'm trying not focus on those things though, because this a special, amazing time. I'm going to have a daughter...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fragile and Precious - How We Got This Far

I am LARGE. I mean, really, really, large. I feel like my body cannot stretch anymore. And so, the last few days, it's really been hitting me. I'm about to give birth to and bring home a tiny, fragile, perfect little being for the second time in my life.