Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015

GOODBYE 2015! I will not miss you at all! You started with so much promise and then crashed into the hardest year for my family since Avery was born, when we literally just walked around in shock all of the time. It was just one blow after another, and I'm pretty stinkin' tired of it.

I'm not a big one for lectures, but I have learned something this year. There is no true justice, and karma is just a fun idea. All we have is MERCY, because that's what we can give to each other. It's not just some idea that can never be proven. It's compassion, and it has meant a lot to me in a year full of heartbreak. And extending it towards others helps us all.

Maddie Brynn and I are always talking about kindness, towards those that show it to us and those who do not. It's something I continue to work on myself, and hope I can instill deep inside of her. I don't have any resolutions this year and I'm honestly too scared to make any plans, but I'll keep my dreams for my children. Happy New Year from The Bubs, xoxo


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bubs Love... HELLO FRESH!

I just can't end the year with one post for this entire month! I have about 10 posts that I've started this year without finishing (..imagine that..) SO I chose the one that caught my eye first... because it's about FOOD.  For more than 5 months now, Bub the hub and I have been using a weekly meal ingredient delivery service that has truly made life SO much easier. I saw a recommendation for Hello Fresh this past summer when the week days were especially long with both girls home, and mommy's brain power and energy was also at an especially low ebb. The promise of 3 weekly meals that I did not have to brainstorm or go to the store for correct ingredients (and inevitably forget something) appealed to me greatly.

It was also exciting to me to be able to try some new recipes because it's literally been the same 5 things for dinner around here for a long, long time. And 80% of those involved chicken. Poor Bub the hub. Anyhoo, we started with a very reasonably priced trial to make sure it was right for us. We chose the option that was 3 meals a week for 2 people. We knew Avery would not be able to eat most of the choices because of her special diet, but had heard that the meals for 2 usually had some leftovers. Perfect if Maddie Brynn wanted to try something new with us.

I was really excited to get my first shipment! It contained 3 very smartly packed ingredient boxes plus recipe cards. I poured some wine and opened the box with the shortest cooking time: 30 minutes. Granted, the longer ones are only 45 minutes, but I wanted to start slow. The first recipe we ever tried was Eastern Carolina Pulled Chicken Sliders with Tangy Cabbage Slaw.

It was not super fancy or hard at all, but it was something I would never think to make, and I appreciated that. The fresh ingredients impressed me, and continue to do so. I have even found some new brands of food I like. And what continues to happen is that I end up making things- usually side dishes-that I do not think will be my cup of tea, and then it's totally delicious and I am converted. In this first case it was the slaw. I am not a cabbage or coleslaw person. Like, probably hadn't passed my lips in a decade. After making the slaw side dish on the first night, I have since made it twice more. Yum!

As far as cooking difficulty, I consider myself a B+ cook if I have a recipe, probably a D cook if I do not! But I can chop and simmer and saute, and do enjoy it. Each Hello Fresh recipe has a difficulty level, so you know what you are dealing with. I have not found any that were too difficult, although sometimes chop and prep do take me awhile. Bub the hub and I have started really sharing that though, so it goes by a little quicker :).

With the example of this slider recipe, the only prep I had to do was slice the scallions and halve the buns. The rest involved combining a mix to simmer the chicken in, mixing the slaw together and then shredding the chicken at the end. Voila!

I can't say that my finished product ever really looks as nice as the recipe visuals but omg did it taste good! It was definitely filling as well.

The next two recipes of our trial week got progressively harder with longer cook times and more ingredients, but it really wasn't bad at all. We had a Thai-style Beef dish that again, I would never have organized on my own.

The only mildly difficult part of this one was all the chopping.

This recipe was another win and had plenty of leftovers.

The last recipe of the week was something that was pretty far out of my comfort zone and even after enjoying the first two meals so much, I still had my doubts. It was Poached Cod in Chorizo-Fennel Broth with Sweet Potato Crisps. I had never cooked cod before and certainly never poached a fish. It totally blew me away. Having now tried 60+ Hello Fresh recipes, I still think  it was probably the most difficult one we've done, but worth it. Everything I did was totally new to me and I loved learning it all.

Look, I'm poaching cod in a fennel broth!

Again, the end result was not the prettiest, but totally the tastiest.
And baked sweet potato crisps are definitely a new fav side dish!

Soooooo, I'm not going to share every single thing we have cooked, but I am going to mention some more of the ones that were pretty new to me and we ended up loving. We've really loved them all, though.

Lemony Basil Chicken with Artichokes Hearts

Honey Dijon Pork Chops with Squash/Lima Bean/Corn Hash

Roasted Pork Chops with Balsamic-Fig Sauce, 
Arugula Salad and Rosemary Potatoes

The simple arugula salad is one of those side dishes I have made again 
and again on my own. So easy and yummy.

Autumn Risotto with Butternut Squash, Sage and Pepitas

I am a big risotto fan and this one was AHmazing.

One thing I have not photographed (shocker!) but we have especially loved are the recipes for "flatbread" which is basically a fancy pizza. Our favorite has been the Fig & Brie Flatbread with Thyme-Caramelized Onions. The flatbreads are so easy to put together and the flavors are always delish.  That reminds me there was also a Fig & Brie Grilled Cheese recipe that I could basically eat every day. Am I making you hungry yet?

Tonight we actually made one of the most simple recipes but also one that Maddie could easily enjoy with us.
Stovetop Shells & Cheddar with Crispy Breadcrumbs!!
and Roasted Carrots

In conclusion, I am relieved by the stress that these deliveries take off my shoulders while still allowing me to make home made meals and try new things. And learn new things! Hello Fresh is not even paying me to say these things!! Seriously though, we go to the grocery store less and I am almost never stressing about dinner. Can you say that?? 

If you are interested in trying your own week of boxes, you can use my referral code RXL2BU for $40 off your first delivery, which is exactly how we started. Or at least go on the site and check out their recipes: You only pay for a week at a time, can cancel at any time, or skip random weeks like we do when we are out of town/out of money or the fridge is especially full.  If you do give it a chance, please let me know how you like it! Hopefully it's as big of a success as it is for our family.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Silent Blog

Yes, it has been.  We've been doing all sorts of Christmas-y things though!

Avery enjoyed her Polar Express pajama day

Maddie helped me decorate a gingerbread house with
a lot of concentration. "I can do it myself mommy!"

Avery had a holiday party that included some pretty 
face painting and a visit with Santa

Maddie got to meet Santa too at breakfast with a make-your-
own-waffle station. She had chocolate chips, candy and 
sprinkles on hers... my kind of girl.

She also gave Santa a lengthy list. Sigh. Santa advised Maddie to,
"keep up the goodness." :)

Bub the hub and I even got dressed up and went to 
the company Christmas party. Home by 9:30! 
Yes we are quite the party animals.

I am still Christmas shopping and wrapping as well, of course. I work until the last possible moment... it's just my way. 


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Zoo Day

The girls and I had a really nice zoo day today. Both girls were off for Thanksgiving holiday, but Bub the hub was at work, so we decided to have a little girl fun. Taking both girls by myself on an excursion like this is not usually possible, but we had some help! We invited one of Avery's favorite teachers, Miss Maggie, to come along. Avery adores her and Maddie has a ton of fun with her too, so it was more like inviting a friend :).

I wish I could have gotten a pic of Maddie using the zoo map to help us navigate through the park. She was holding it upside down and is not able to read yet, but still quite insisted that she knew where to go! "I can do it mommy!" is what I hear constantly these days. 

She also insisted on my taking pics of her on all of the animal statues that she could find.

I'm not a super fan of the cheesy-head-tilt-smile pose that 
she's really into these days, but it's better than a frown I suppose!

Posing on these statues is not new. Lat year she wanted the same:

Oh how we've grown! 

Avery really seemed to enjoy the animals this visit. I'm not always sure how much she can see at a distance, but she smiled and laughed her way through the park. I think we all enjoyed the giraffes and elephants the most. Maddie enjoyed the reptile center a little more than I feel comfortable with....

All in all, a successful trip! As we were leaving, we just barely caught a ride on the zoo train, which I remember enjoying so much as a child. I was so thrilled that Avery sat next to me happy, giggling and talking for the entire ride, even the loud and bumpy parts. My little girl is really growing up. 

Here is a selfie of Maddie with our favorite sitter and wonderful overall person, Miss Maggie. I'm so thankful to have people like her in our lives, people who love and understand both of my very different daughters ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ .

More on thankfulness in the next post!!!!


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How's Avery?

Lately I've been thinking of all the unsaid words that pass through my mind when someone asks after Avery. Because there is never enough time to respond accurately to the person with the kind, well meaning question. And it's not to say that I do not want to be asked! I always appreciate the thought. I try to keep it short and sweet for you when meanwhile I could absolutely talk forever.

And I do, sometimes.... to my closest friends, and they know who they are. I can only imagine they are thinking, "what next?" because boy do the issues just keep rolling on when you have a child with so many challenges, who cannot communicate.

A special needs website that I follow asked a question the other day that made me think even more about this topic. What's one secret or truth you wish you could tell others about your experience with disability? One thing I would say is that it's really hard to be honest with friends and family about Avery. And I'm not talking about dishonesty, I'm saying it's really hard to paint a picture of what this is like for her and for us.

Sometimes I say "good" when I'd really like to share what a horrendous time she has sleeping through the night and how insanely frustrated she gets because we don't know what she wants or what hurts. Sometimes I want to share how horribly hard it's getting to lift and carry her; how difficult her special diet can be; how she head-hits whenever she is frustrated and for months it has been a huge problem that is only getting worse. 

When I respond with "she's hanging in there" sometimes it's because I've had to hold back tears multiples times a day, worried about her frequent seizures. I'd like to share how hard this is all to take one day at a time, even though I know that's the only way to survive.  

I could talk all day about how she hasn't been herself in months, but we can't pinpoint why. But I won't, because I don't want to scare the hell out of you with our list of worrisome details that most parents do not face every day. I don't say any of these things because it's a lot easier not to see the concern on your face and watch you struggle to respond.

The truth I wish people could understand is that I don't want to burden you with our problems, I don't want to have to ask for help and I really don't want to be pitied. So most of the time, I'm going to say "good."

I hope you understand that all of this and more flashes across my mind when you ask me about Avery. Please know that I really am thankful when you ask, even if I have a look on my face or something in my voice that might seem disconnected.

I also want you to know that your questions and thoughts about Avery mean the world to me. I always notice those friends and family that show me how deeply they care about her welfare by asking if I need help with her, or actually putting forethought and love into gifts for her. It makes a huge difference to us.

I wish I had a cute current Avery photo to go along with this post, but those have been very hard to come by lately. Instead I'll share one I came across the other day that put a huge smile on my face.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween 2015

Another fun Halloween went by! My beautiful Dorothy and Snow White both had a good time. Avery always enjoys dressing up, but it is Maddie who is in her element!  

We all went to our neighborhood Halloween gathering to visit with friends before trick or treating. Avery won the best costume prize for her age group! I think it was the adorable Toto in basket that cinched it :)

Afterwards, Avery went home with daddy to eat some dinner and Maddie started on her trick or treating right away. I wish I could have gotten some photos, but she was running at top speed as fast as those little legs could carry her, from one door to another with a group of little girl friends. Seriously, it was like a herd of wild pack animals! I did get this one pic when they paused briefly to visit a Halloween table.

One sweet moment that I really wished I could have gotten on camera was when Maddie ran up to the house of her PreK teacher, who lives in our neighborhood. Her teacher leaned down and opened her arms wide and Maddie ran straight into them for a big hug. They were both so thrilled to see each other. Made my heart happy. Earlier this week, Maddie had a costume parade at her school. All the kids lined up outside their classrooms to watch the the PreK and Kindergarten kids parade up and down the halls. Precious!

Here she is with her class

Back to Halloween night, Maddie and Bub the hub did 
some (very) last minute jack'o'lantern carving.

Maddie also did a lot of handing out candy at our door. I would say this is her favorite part by far. She ended up sitting in her little chair on the porch to greet everyone that came by. And when we were about to run out of candy and turn our porch light off, she took candy from her own basket to give out, just so she could enjoy it a little longer. 

I just adore her sweet, earnest heart.

And last but not least, we had thevery wonderful Nana help us out all night! She's the best, that Nana. Or should I say, Kitty Cat Nana, with smiley Avery and Maddie with a gob of candy in her mouth.



Monday, October 26, 2015

State Fair 2015

Our visit to the Fair this year was better than ever. I said last year in my fair post that I had felt more relaxed than in past years (since having kids) and this year I felt the same way, even more. The weather was fantastic, both girls were happy the entire time, and it was just all around good fun.

There was one thing about our visit this year that was VERY different. Just after entering the fair park, my uncle turned to me and said, "Why don't we start with the Midway this year?" I almost fell over! Our tradition since I was a very little girl has always been to leave the games and rides until the end of the day. First we did animals, then crafts, car buildings, markets, etc, and only then (after mucho anticipation) did we head to the Midway.

My first reaction was like no way! that's not what we do! And then all I had to do was look at my four year old, who was already basically sprinting to the rides, and I was like well, why not? So after getting a few snacks, we headed to the kids' train ride that Avery had enjoyed last year.  Maddie had like it too, of course, but this was the only ride we had found that was safe and enjoyable for her sister. We were so glad that she seemed even more excited to try it this year. It started the whole visit off so well.

Soon after, we found these swing rides that I just knew Avery would love, but the seats were too low and her legs were too long. I was so disappointed! Maddie did fit well and enjoyed herself.

I was so pleased to find another swing ride for bigger kids a little further into the Midway. It went just high enough to thrill, not scare Avery. And I could ride right next to her! SO HAPPY!!

I know it's hard to see our faces here, but we are both smiling and laughing, big time! We rode that ride over and over again :). Maddie and daddy rode too. Here is a selfie-- did you know Bub the hub took selfies?? Me either! You can see me and Avery in the background too.

I think Maddie must have rode 10 rides total. She is a daredevil, just like her mommy. She rode cars, bikes and airplanes, and even a roller coaster multiple times. This is how Maddie cheered when she measured tall enough to ride something she wanted.

And the joy on her face during each ride.

After spending some time in the Midway, we headed over to find a Fletcher's corny dog, which is another good tradition.


Avery took a nap in her stroller while Maddie enjoyed the Little Hands Farm that we visit every year. 

Big Tex Maddie

Farmer Maddie

We took our annual family pic in front of Big Tex, which is always a feat. We are missing Aunt Christine in this one, but I think we are all actually smiling/kind of looking. This year we were a smaller group than usual already, missing Grandaddy, Uncle Drew and Shannon, who weren't able to make it. We missed them a lot.

I tried so hard to get a pic of me and both girls. Getting Avery to look at cameras is challenging to say the least. At least we've got Maddie pose smile and Avery half smile!

Got a good one of all the girlies together too. 
The girls wore matching dresses with their names monogrammed because why not?

At the end of the day, we headed back to the Midway and did a few more rides and played just a couple of games. The first one was a bust but on the second one, Bub the hub made an impossible basketball shot on the first try and won a prize Maddie had been begging for.

Her very own huge unicorn, as seen in "Despicable Me." The way her face lit up at her daddy winning that unicorn is not something I will never forget. We felt pretty satisfied after that and didn't need to play any more games! We did pick up one more thing on the way out.

"Birthday cake" funnel cake. OMG.

We arrived home exhausted and happy. This little one had us tuck in unicorn with her that night, as well as her other menagerie of friends. I had to laugh.

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