Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Food, Family, Fun & Fashion ~ My Picks for This Year's Football Season

Happy September everyone!  I absolutely love this time of year for so many reasons, one of them being that it's football season! As we were walking out of church on Sunday, George closed his eyes, took a deep breath of the evening air, and said to me,


"Do you know what that is, Mom? That's the smell of football season!"

I thought it was pizza and beer, but whatever.

Actually, all of the boys have heard me say those exact words so many times, that I'm pretty sure they'll say the same thing to their kids one day.  Benedict plays in his first freshman game on Thursday, our favorite college team kicks off their season this weekend, and next weekend Andrew's football team takes the field.  I. am. pumped.
This photo and quote is from a few years back, but it truly speaks of our family's love for the game and for each other, and it's one of my favorites!

{Over the years I've received quite a few messages asking about youth sports and how our family manages all of that.  This page is probably due for some fresh thoughts on the topic, but for now you can check out what I've already shared here, here, and here. }

For the kids, football season is all about the game, stats, highlights, chest bumps, grunting, and food. For the football mom, it's much simpler: family, food, fashion, and fun.

A couple of years ago, I started browsing Pinterest for recipes and realistically achievable ideas that will really make the season special. And, every September, I look forward to adding new finds to the list. {Check out my "Game Day" board for more goodies!}

Here are my top picks for this year :
(all links conveniently compiled at the end of the post)
This is a one pan wonder.  Can you go wrong with ooey-gooey hot ham and cheese?
Okay, so this isn't a typical game day recipe, but don't these wraps look yummy? I'm not sure if my boys will eat them, but that just means more for me!
Dips!! Need I say more?
Steve and I really are big fans of hot wings. I'm giving this slow-cooker version a try, hopefully it'll be a winner in my man's book!
Game day is not the same without your favorite brew iced up nice and cold. But sometimes it's nice to run the option play.This recipe is from Red Robin's summer beer menu, and it's quite tasty!
Spiked apple cider? Yes, please!
Ya gotta have a little something on the buffet for your half-time sweet tooth.
Bonus: These can be made days in advance, which is a nice game day time saver.
I'm so glad there are more creative people on this earth than me, because they come up with all of these fun ideas, and I get to enjoy them! Virtual hug to the one responsible for turning an ice cream sandwich into a post game masterpiece.
This website has so many fantastic ideas for custom shirts.  Both Ben and Andrew's team colors are green and gold, and they share the same number (their daddy's), so I've got this one on order in green with #24 on the helmet.
The chances of you seeing this beauty on my wrist this fall are about as promising as Tom Brady bringing an air pump to the game.  


And this, this is a game day outfit that you might find in my imaginary closet, and I would wear it to the imaginary game where my husband and I have imaginary box seats, only the sweater would be grey, the shirt purple check and the shoes black and grey leopard print.
These are my imaginary nails that go with my imaginary outfit above.

Got any game day goodies to share with me??
I'd love to hear about 'em!

LINKS:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Race Day Bag Check - 8 Pre-Race & Post Race Essentials to Take With You

The Chicago Marathon is just a few weeks away, and I'm already thinking about what to pack for race day.  Yesterday, George and Henry joined me at the track for my speed workout, and to keep my mind off of how tired my legs felt, I tried making a mental list of the items I want to be sure to bring with me to Chicago.
Running is so much more fun with these two!

One of the best tips I was given before running my first marathon was to bring a bag of pre and post-run essentials to the race.  Most races greater than 10k in distance will offer a bag check near the starting line.  You can ask whether one is offered when you go to pick up your race packet.

If a bag check is offered, I highly recommend that you pack a few necessities.  If they don't offer a bag check, and you're running a half-marathon or full-marathon, kindly ask a family member or friend, who plans on watching you run, to bring your bag to the finish line for you.

Here's a list of what's in my bag:
:1: Nuun Electrolyte Tabs & Nutrition Bar
If you've been here before, you know that I'm a big fan of Nuun electrolyte tabs. Besides being easier on my stomach than Gatorade, they're also portable and the containers are the perfect sized waterproof storage for little things that can easily get lost in the bottom of your bag (see #2, #4, & #7).  Since electrolyte replacement is important after you run, I like to pop a tab into the water bottle that is usually offered at the finish line.  

As for the nutrition bar, it's important to begin consuming protein and carbs after the run not only to restore your energy but also for muscle recovery. I've been to plenty of races where either the finish line food (pizza!) is too rich for me to eat after a long race, or the food had run out before I could get to it, so I always keep something with me just in case the finish line fare is a flop. If you need some suggestions on what kind to try, here's a list of goodies for you.

:2: 1st Aid
Most well-run races offer first-aid stations along the route and at the finish line for anyone who is in need of medical attention.  I hate to get in line ahead of someone who really needs help just for a blister, so bringing a few 1st aid items with me is just seems easier.  A few blister band-aids, some ibuprofen, and Deep Blue essential oil or Biofreeze will usually cover any mild post-race ailments. I keep everything in a Nuun tube!

:3: Anti-Chaffing Stick
Chaffing is a serious thing.  I'm telling you, it hurts! I keep a tube of Glide with me at all times.  Key areas to cover are bra lines, inner arms and inner legs, and any place else your clothing might rub. P.S. Ladies, you don't need the Body Glide for women.  Just use the original - it's the exact same stuff - and it's cheaper.

:4: Safety Pins
When you receive your bib at packet pick-up, safety pins are either included in your packet or offered at the pick-up table in a box.  There have been times when the pins were not included in my packet, and I failed to grab some at the table.  So, having a few extra in your bag ensures you'll never be scrambling at the last minute to find a way to keep your bib in place.

:5: Baby Wipes
The only thing that sounds better than food after logging twenty six miles is a nice long shower.  But sometimes it can take a while to get back home or to your hotel after the race.  Having some type of wet wipe on hand to freshen up with after the race can feel really good.  There's probably some sort of super-fancy wipe out there that guaranteed to make you feel like you just left the spa, but baby wipes tackle the salty sweat without leaving a sticky residue, and they're cheap. Win win!

:6: Flip Flops & Extra Shirt
Because most long distance races take place on pavement, your feet really take a pounding.  And, if you happen to have suffered a blister or loss of a toe nail(s) along the route, a pair of flip-flops can feel heavenly after the race.  I've recently become a big fan of this brand.  They offer both comfort and support to tired aching feet.

The minute you stop running, your body moves into cool-down mode.  It's not uncommon to feel chilly yet be dripping with sweat at the same time. Changing into a dry t-shirt can help keep the chills at bay as your body works to regulate back to a normal temperature.

:7: Extra Hair Ties or Hat
Girls, you know that nothing is worse than having your hair tie snap right before a race.  Keep a couple of extras on hand just in case (again, Nuun tube!).  And, it's also a good idea to throw a dri-fit hat into your bag in case it's raining at the starting line, or you have a sunglasses mishap.  

:8: Rain Poncho
If you're a seasoned runner, you probably watch the weather report days before the race even takes place.  And, if showers are in the forecast, you know that nothing feels worse than standing around in the rain waiting for the race to start. Keep an inexpensive poncho in your bag, one that can be taken of right before the race and thrown away. You'll be so glad you did!

Do you have some tips for me? 
What do you keep in your race day bag?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Our Last Day of Summer's Over Denial In Which We Take Our Monkeys to the Zoo

Hello there, fellow moms of high-schoolers and/or middle-schoolers who, like me, might also be wondering who stole their adorable little babies and replaced them with growing-up-too-fast-teenagers.
Would someone please bring me my walker and bag of bingo daubers?

Because, honestly, when life decides to speed along at this pace, I might as well face the music and realize that, in a snap, I'm going to be pushing eighty.  {Should my boys let me live that long.}

You know how I know this? I know it, because I FEEL it.
Just this morning, when I was trying not to let tears self-pity drip down onto the boys' waffles as I watched their big blurry figures stumble into the kitchen half asleep, I wondered what happened to my babies, the ones whose mornings once consisted of Bob the Builder, snacks, and nap time.

I know I'm on a permanent soapbox with this issue, but MOMS OF LITTLES, hear this (again):
Savor the time you have with your babies.  Slow down.  Put the phone down.  Step away from the computer.  Play with them, snuggle, go for walks, read a lot of books then read some more, climb trees, go exploring, take naps, visit their land of make-believe, let them get messy - make a mess too, and hug them over and over and over again.

I realize it's not easy - being a mom to little ones takes insane amounts of patience and energy. They can suck the life out of you, those offspring of ours. Sometimes I look at the spectrum of ages in our home from one to fourteen and consider all that is required of me just to keep them fed, clothed and educated, and I think it's a miracle that I'm still alive.

Thank you, Jesus.

But, I'm telling you, even in the heat of the battle, you have to find a way to embrace the beauty, or you'll miss it.  And, once it's gone, you can't get it back.

Do you know what I'm saying? I say it with love.

Moving on...

The Husband family has had a very intense summer, a mix of good and not so good, and because it has been such a busy summer, I feel that we haven't had a moment to exhale. And now it's time for school to begin again.

The feeling kind of reminds me of my high school days of playing sports when we'd finish running a bunch of sprints and, just when we thought the agony was over and we could catch our breathe, the coach would blow his whistle and yell at us to run 'em again.

With no time to squeeze in a vacation - even a staycation - before school, I decided to scrape together what was left of summer and make something grand out of it.  So, on Sunday evening, we had a family back to school night, which consisted of a quick trip to the zoo, dining out, and ice cream.

Sometimes I get it in my head that big memories have to be made in a big way.  Not so.

I hope we can look back at all of the little moments of the summer that we've pieced together doing simple, ordinary things - just being together, really - and find that those moments fill a big place in our hearts.

Here we go....our moment of denial, pushing back against the force of school for one more day...
Does it take anyone else an eternity to get everyone out of the car and into the destination, or is it just me?
 ...and 27 minutes later, we're finally walking toward the zoo.
 We've been here for a walloping 4.5 minutes, George, so of course you're sweating and need to take a break to cool off.  You act like you just had surgery or something.

Okay, so I know you guys don't need to see a thousand photos of the zoo animals because, boring.

But, I just have to show you these because, I'm not kidding, the first five exhibits that we went to every single animal was sleeping.  It was like they were all having sympathy pains for us.  

The Husbands are coming. Let's show them what a nap looks like...
That looks comfy.
 
Lazy lions.  You could at least muster a growl or something.
And, whatever you are, we are not impressed.
 The orangutans woke up to find their distant relatives staring at them.  
Last non-human photos, I promise!  
Tiny the gorilla was the only anamalia who kept us from asking for a ticket refund.
 This guy charged at a little girl who was standing behind the glass eating a banana (of course).  
I couldn't believe how fast he could move.
 He looks all innocent here, but seriously this guy is Kerchak on steroids.  {Tarzan fans?}

On to the cuter species...
This was Joseph's expression the entire time we strolled the zoo.  I'm not sure if it's the sun in his eyes, or the look of being completely underwhelemed.
 Charlie reminds me not to miss the little things.  He's very curious about surroundings, wanting to touch, count, ask questions.  It's such a joy to watch his fresh discovery of everything that seems so ordinary to most of us.
 Pausing for a picture {moans and groans}.
These snapshots are such a treasure for me, because I understand that one day Benedict and Charile will both be grown men, and I very much hope that they still depend on one another then the way that they do now.  
Benedict has big shoulders.  I know, because he's carried me a time or two.
 Should we leave them for a while? They seem to fit in so well here!
I'm sure no one would question us - especially when you're wearing such a classy shirt 'n all.
Moving on to TGI Fridays for some Jack Daniel's burgers and *other* refreshments.  Cheers!
To commemorate a brand new year of educational privilege,
I asked the boys to show me their best "great thinkers" pose.  
George, in yet another moment of brilliance, suggested we get ice-cream.

Ready or not, school, here we come!

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Proof Is In The Pumpkin


Happy Monday, Friends!

Before we charge off to piano lessons (the one civilized activity of the week), I thought I would take a moment to answer the one request so many of you made last week after reading this post about George's surgery, and that request was to see pics of George tasting his favorite food, pumpkin bread, for the first time post-surgery!

On Thursday George had his stints and stitches removed, and when the doctor asked him if he could breathe through his nose, George proceeded to take the deepest breathe you can imagine, after which I went ahead and bawled my two dollar mascara off right there in front of the doctor and his assistant.

Since then, let me tell you, George's taste buds are livin' the high life! Every food he's eaten has been like tasting it for the first time.  We get quite a kick out of how much he smiles while he chews, and is always offering a taste of whatever he's chomping on to everyone followed by, '"You have to try this, it's sooooo delicious!"

Friday morning he was really happy to be feeling like himself again, and couldn't wait to go out roguing (that's farm talk for pulling weeds) the soybeans with dad.  They left the house before sun-up and came home five hours later super hungry.
I had everything prepped for a big brunch, including pumpkin bread, which George was more than happy to help me make.
Pumpkin bread was the one thing George had been asking for since surgery, and watching him happily devour the warm loaves of bread, savoring every bite, was nothing short of delightful.
"Here's to you, here's to me, here's to food, it's so tasteeeeee!"

(we add chopped walnuts to the streusel, and hold the glaze).

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Words of Hope Made Flesh - George's Surgery Recap


This post is dedicated to our son, George, whom I hope will be able to read it one day, and on that day be able to testify to the gift of God's grace working in his life in times of joy as well in times of suffering.

Thank you, all of you, who lifted George, our family, and the surgeon who operated on George up in your prayers last week.  We will forever be grateful.

Like most moms in this world, I can tell you what my boys love to eat.  I know their favorite snacks, favorite meals, favorite desserts.  And I absorb every ounce of glee that bursts forth from their inner being every time they discover that today is the day I've made what they like best.

Tops on George's snack list is pumpkin bread.  He asks at least once a week for me to make it for him.  He's even volunteered to take the burden of baking off of my shoulders, if only I would show him how to mix up the magic.

I'm gonna do just that, George.  Tomorrow, I'm gonna teach you how to bake that bread.  Because tomorrow the stints and stitches come out of your nose, and maybe, just maybe, for the first time in years you will actually be able to taste your food.

Such a little thing we take for granted, tasting our food.  And also the breathing in of those deep, deep breaths, the ones that fill our lungs with the scent of the foods we can hardly wait to savor.

George has no idea how good pumpkin bread smells as it's baking in the oven. And even though he thinks he loves the famous flavor of fall, I'm pretty sure he's never really  tasted just how delicious it truly is.

It was during George's big life as a three year old that we realized he was going to be an allergy sufferer. Within that same year he had his first asthma attack, too.  I hated that he struggled so much to breathe, but felt that since Steve had dealt with asthma and allergies for most of his life that we would be able to manage George's care.

After three years of trying every medication, natural remedy, chiropractic care and dietary restriction, we finally decided to take him to see a specialist at National Jewish Hospital in Denver.  To make a very long story short, it was made known to us that George had complete blockage (structural as well as tissue swelling) in both sinuses, and without surgery, his condition would not improve.

The doctors recommended that we postpone operating for as long as possible, because any work on the septum prior to the teen years meant an increased risk for interrupted development of the facial bones, which could lead to potentially serious cosmetic issues.

As time passed, however, George's condition worsened.  His inability to breathe was affecting his sleep, his mood, his attentiveness in school, his attitude, and his energy levels all around, especially when it came to playing the limited, yet very necessary, sports his cardiologist gave the okay for him to play (oh, the heart condition, that's another story for another time).

After several consultations with George's ENT doc, countless prayers, and hours discussing what we should do, Steve and I decided it was time to proceed with surgery.

So many of you have been in my shoes, caring for children who were not born with perfectly healthy bodies.  You've made countless trips to specialists, spent hours researching the latest treatments, dove head-long into natural remedies, diet changes and any therapy that might help your child even just a little bit.

I'm right there with you.

And, I acknowledge that some of you have very seriously ill children, and that my experience with George is but a glimpse into a much greater sacrifice of love and suffering that you endure.

I know this because I saw you there at the hospital where George's surgery took place.  You were the ones holding fragile babies, wheeling weak post-chemo children outside to feel the sun on their skin, pacing in the hallway with another cup of coffee waiting for any bit news on your little one.

I suppose, then, what we have in common, is our love.  What we wouldn't do to trade places with our children, to take up their suffering and place it upon ourselves.  We share the ache that only mothers know, that you came from my womb, you are flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, and I would do anything for you feeling that puts us on our knees begging for grace day after day after day.

Despite how raw my heart felt knowing what George was about to go through, I couldn't help but feel comforted by his courage and joy throughout the entire journey.  Children are so much stronger than we give them credit for.  They are hopeful, optimistic and trusting in a way that is so beautifully humble.

It is our duty to teach our children well, but truth be told, there is an equal amount for us to learn from them.
I'm a little bit of a holy water fanatic.  Some people have lucky underwear, lucky socks. I've got Holy Water. Go ahead, call me crazy. I can see the eye rolls now. I can't help it.  I love my sacramentals.  On the way to Denver I realized I left my Holy Water on my bedside table. In the midst of my lament, George announces, "Don't worry, Mom! I've got ya covered!" He hands me a bottle from his back back, and I love him even more.

On Monday afternoon, we made the long drive to Denver.  Steve was battling a nasty case of strep throat, and even though I begged him to stay home, like a good Dad, he insisted on coming. Tuesday I convinced him to stay at hotel and rest while George and I went to meet his surgeon for a consultation.

I had been asking and asking for friends and family to pray specifically for George's surgeon, because I knew that the operation was going to be complicated, and wanted our son to be in the best hands possible.

Without a doubt, those prayers were answered.

Just before heading into the operating room, the surgeon came in to see if we had any last-minute questions.  It was then that he told us that he had stayed up the night before thinking about how to approach the operation, and that he had changed his mind with regards to the incision.

It was revealed to us after the five hour surgery that if the doctor had not changed his approach to the operation, he would never have discovered that George's septum was not only severely deviated but crushed (read: three year old meets baseball bat), and without electing to perform the incision as he did, the surgery would have been a complete failure.

Fuzzy pic of the patient with papa just before surgery.  The look on George's face broke my heart.  He was saying to me, "Don't worry, Mama! Everything's going to be okay!"
This image of Steve praying over George will forever be pressed into my heart's memories.
Nothing really prepares you for what it's like to see your child on an operating table, knowing that, because of his heart condition he is at a higher risk for complications with the anesthesia, yet you cannot be there if something goes wrong.

Nothing prepares you for what it's like to wait, and wait, and wait for it all to be over, to hear the doctor say it is finished, and everything is going to be okay.  And yet, as agonizing as our five hours were, there was a family there whose son was in the OR for twelve hours.

Nothing really prepares you for the recovery period, the time when the pain and anxiety sets in, for the look in your child's tear-filled eyes that is begging you to do something, anything, to make it better.  

But you can't.  You can't make it better.

Everything about the George's surgery experience reminded me that no matter how hard I try to manage this life of mine, and the lives of six other beautiful children, I am not in control.  And, in those moments when I feel helpless, it's literally a second-to-second surrendering of everything to the One who is in control.
Every place we ate, including Smash Burger heaven, we had to send a pic to the brothers back home, you know, just so they could feel extra sorry for us (wink-wink).  While Steve and George had a muscle flexing contest at the table, George felt it was necessary to point out how scrawny my arms are, but tried to console me with the fact that I have *huge* legs.  I think we are going to have to work on the compliments when it comes to the dating years.
The day after surgery, while we were waiting to check out, a pet therapist came by to see if you wanted a visitor.  I knew you would say yes, since you love animals and nature so much.
Even though you could barely eat anything, you requested Panera Bread for lunch.  We surprised you with a stack of letters, filled with love and good wishes, sent to you from friends and family.  It was the first time I saw you smile that day.

What I hope to always remember, from this experience, is just how incredibly noble George was throughout this entire journey.  In the days leading up to the surgery, while he had many questions and moments of nervousness, he was also so funny and cheerful, making Steve and I laugh more times than we can count.

At the hospital, you never once complained.  You thanked the nurses and the doctors every time they came in the room and even offered a smile, even though it was painful to speak.  Your gentle, patient spirit has continued here at home as you ask for so very little even though I know you are fighting through a tremendous amount of discomfort.  

We have talked a lot, you and I, about how pain and suffering can make us bitter, or it can make us better. (The wise words of Father Brett Brannen.)  I believe that you, George, will be better because of all of this - better able to understand and comfort those who suffer, who struggle, who need and deserve comfort and compassion.

I've poured over these verses countless times....
...for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:10)

...we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3)

...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross....consider Him who has endured so much, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-4)

From the first time I read them, I believed these words.

But God decided to put flesh on the words - for me - through the sufferings of my son.

And now they are real. I don't just believe the words, but I trust them, because I have seen them and known them to be true.

Though we may be weary, will not lose heart, we will persevere, and in between the moments of hope and perseverance we will eat bread.  Pumpkin bread.

And it's going to be good.  So, very good. I promise.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Prayers For George Today


Dear Friends,

Today, Steve and I would be so grateful if you might take a moment to pray for our son, George, who will be undergoing sinus surgery this morning at 11:00 a.m.  For the past couple of years, George has suffered from complete blockage in both his nasal passage ways and has only been able to breathe through his mouth.

This condition causes George a great amount of discomfort and is also negatively affects the way his palate and sinus structure are developing. Despite the obstacles George endures physically, he is wonderfully energetic and positive.  Steve and I are constantly inspired and encouraged by his joy and positive outlook on life, and we thank the Lord every day for blessing us with such a beautiful soul!

After George's last visit to the ENT specialist in Denver, we were told that surgery was not only necessary but inevitable, and so, after a great deal of deliberation and prayer, we have decided that it is time to move forward with the surgery.

Yesterday, during our consultion with the surgeon, we learned that, due to the structure of George's nose (he has a severely deviated septum), the procedure will be more extensive than originally planned and will also take longer than expected (around 3 hours).

With that in mind, and knowing that George is at a higher risk for complications with the anesthesia due to his heart condition, there is a great weight on our hearts today.  Please pray for George's surgeon, Dr. Streubel, for his nurses, the anesthesiologist and of course for George, that he will be graced with courage and peace as prior to the surgery, and that the operation and recovery for him will all go smoothly and be non-traumatic.

We thank you, with all our hearts, and want you to know, sincerely, that we are praying for you and your loved ones today as well.

~ Steve and Susan