Nov 29, 2009

A new blog

I have started a new blog. This new one is anonymous. Names have been fictionalized to protect the guilty (including myself).

However, I screwed up from the beginning.

I linked that blog to this one (as in, I created them under the same profile). As a result, while this blog will stay here, will stay listed in the Blogger directory, and will be recognizable by search engines, it will no longer be listed on my Blogger profile. Also, my name on my profile has been changed, which resulted in my name on all blogs being changed. Kinda would defeat the whole purpose of picking out names for all of us if you can still click on my profile and arrive here, where I unfortunately didn't have the foresight to leave us all completely anonymous.

It was kinda on-purpose, so I would have one dashboard and one Google account to handle all my blogs and stuff. I just thought I would have more flexability when it came to having them be associated with one another on the 'net. Ya know what I mean?

Long story short, This blog is staying right here. I'm still gonna neglect to post here, just like always. It's just a little more incognito over here now. And in the future, general homemaking/working mom/food/recipe/menu stuff will be there, not here. Our daily life stuff that interests mainly only family will be here. New teeth, rants, raves, gripes, etc... I still plan on this being the place to air all our dirty laundry for the world (and by our, I mean my whole family, not just those who reside with me on a daily basis). And some of it could end up over there, just with a less personal touch, and with more regard to what is/isn't professional.

For those who read Mrs. Newlywed's blog before she went underground for a short while, think of it as being like her blog, with less emphasis on fashion and travel, and more on raising kids while working, etc. Completely anonymous. Hopefully funny and much-read.

Meanwhile, check out Rubber Duckies and Rice Cereal. I hear it's a really cool blog (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). At least, I hear tell it WILL be, after it gets going. Not all of the sidebar content has been created yet, and there WILL be ads after I add them. I'm doing an experiment, to see if I can get it off the ground and make a little money off of it. (Money to go to savings for additions to our house, college fund for kids, vaca money in the future, etc. Not to pay bills. Just so no one worries that we're starving or losing our house or getting our electricity shut off or something. No happening as of now. Pray to God we're never in that situation again. I mean money's tight, but just to the point of careful budgeting and not buying a lot of unnecessary crap and all that.)

My family is obligated to check it out, visit often, and promote it/blog roll it, etc. And please, pick up on the names I've created for all of us (Angst and Belle will remain in use, since they're already so popular), and use them often when speaking of my new blog. Leave it anonymous. As in, don't tell the world that it's me (your daughter/sister/etc.) behing the keyboard over there. Since Rubber Duckie is intended to (hopefully) have more exposure to the public my Crazy blog, I'd like for us to not fall victim to identity theft, stalkers, and the like. Feel free to leave Crazy in any existing blogrolls. Just don't publicly link the two. Thanks in advance for your forced participation in this. (And no, I don't feel bad in stealing Angst and Belle's nicknames. We know where the names originated. I'm stealing them to combat confusion amongst us.)

Oh, and if anyone would like a shout-out on my blog (ya know, writers and such that I may know - you know who you are) I can do it anonymously, without telling everyone that we're related. Just let me know.

Oh, one more thing - I created a gmail account (rubberduckiesmom - AT - gmail - DOT - com) for the new blog, so it wouldn't be tied to my personal email. Those who know my personal email are invited to use either account. I now have to log into iGoogle with my gmail, so I'll be just as likely to see your email there as I would if it were sent to my normal personal email account.

I haven't worked out all the details of how I will juggle keeping one blog so anonymous while not being so protective on the other. I think I'm going to eventually go through (soon) and change all the names on my Crazy blog, just so I won't be paranoid.

Nov 12, 2009

For Seester... with love <3

I saw this today, on V's blog, Not Even A T-shirt. It reminded me of you. You may not feel this way today, or even tomorrow. (For all I know you do... point is, I'm not sure how you stand on the issue yet, but anyway.....) One day, you WILL feel this way about a certain current situation. And you will know exactly what I meant when I posted this.

This one's for you, Sis. I love you.

One day, you'll be ready. And you will. And you'll (eventually) feel stronger for going through this and not letting it consume you in the end. One day. Just keep this in mind until then, knowing that one day you'll decide to take this route. And you won't care about this forever. One day, this will all be a distant memory, and you'll have something better, and then, on that day, this won't matter so much anymore. I promise. One day, you'll just wake up and be over it, and you won't ever look back. One day.

I love you.  :)

Nov 11, 2009

Update on Granddaddy's status

This isn't really much of an update. I just wanted to say that we went to visit him last night. It was a rush to get there. I got home at 7pm, fed Mikey his cereal, and strapped him in his carseat. We were at the hospital at 7:40. Mikey was  VERY upset with us when we got there. He cried all the way to the hospital. He knew it was almost bed time, and he couldn't fathom any reason for us to be going anywhere right before bed time. He was fine once we got there.

It was a surprise to Granddaddy. He didn't know we were coming. I think seeing his great-grandson really made his day. He talked to him a little while. I was disappointed because I had meant to take my camera to get pics of him with Mikey, just in case..... I thought my camera was in the car, but Michael couldn't find it. :( 

I didn't get much information out of him regarding hid diagnosis or test results. He has three kidney stones, two in one kidney and one in the other. He has an enlarged prostate, which has a "spot" on it, but not sure if it's cancer or not. He has a "spot" on his spine, again, not sure if it's cancer. He has an ulcer on his foot from the last time he fell. The bruise got so bad it's now ulcered. He hurts from his lower abdomen down through his legs. He can barely walk across his hospital room and back (with help).

He has had x-rays, scans, a bone scan, I don't know what all.... They want him to go to the nursing home for in-patient physical therapy for a few weeks. Last night he told me he was going to the one on West Hobbs Street, but today Michael told me he was going to the one across from the hospital. I hope not. I guess we'll see.

Then he told me that they had made new wills a few years ago. Not sure what they say. I told him I didn't care what they said. My exact words were,

"I've had 26 really good years with the two of you. I'd love 26 more, but if either of you are going to have to suffer for me to get them, then I'd rather just keep the memories I have and let that be enough. I'd rather you not suffer any more than you have to. I don't care about the house or money or car or any of that. Just the memories I have. That's what's really going to last, anyway."

Then he almost made me cry. He said what I had been hoping I wouldn't hear from him.

He said, "I'm just ready to go home to the Lord. I'm ready to be with my Momma and Daddy and son."

And Michael and I realized that he was crying. And it ripped our hearts out. That's the first time Michael has seen him cry. It's only the third time I've seen it. Once when Granny Kyle died, once when Daddy died, and once last night. I think he's dying. I think last night he was telling us goodbye, just in case......

I'm not ready for any of them to leave me. I just had my son. I want him to remember them when he gets older. I want him to have more than pictures and stories from us. I want him to have his own memories of these four great people, these people I love so much. I remember Granny Kyle a little. I used to go visit her with Granny when I was little. When she lived on Hine Street, in that little-bitty house. Before she went to the nursing home. I wish I had known then what I know now. Back then I was just bored while we visited. Now I could sit and listen to her talk for hours, telling stories about her growing up and how it was back in the good old days of her youth. I want that for my children. It just doesn't look like I'll get my wish.

Truthfully, I wish they could stick around for another 26 years for my son. Without pain, and illness, and everything else they're going through.

It seems like every time something good happens to me the last few years, someone dies. We got married, Memaw died. We had mikey, and now I really do believe Granddaddy is going to die. Very soon. Why can't something good happen to me without someone dying? Just once?

Now I'll be satisfied if I get to have all four of them for my son's first Christmas. I hope they all make it until then.

Meanwhile, I still haven't talked to Belle, and she (as of last night) still hasn't been to see Granddaddy. Too wrapped up in herself, I guess.

Nov 9, 2009

And now, for my 90th post, I bring you bad news....

I called Michael from work today after lunch. Guess what he told me.... Come on, just guess....

Granddaddy is in the hospital and has been since an ambulance picked him up Saturday. Granny said they think he might have prostate cancer, along with whatever else they find when they get all the test results back. Great.

The best part? My sister DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER TO TELL ME!!! Mike told Michael today.

I could have visited him yesterday, while I was off work. Instead, I get to leave work at 7pm tonight, go home, get my husband and son, drive to the hospital, get there around bedtime, visit for 10 or 20 minutes, then drive home. Then we all get to go to bed late (mostly my child, who likes his 8pm bedtime and will protest VERY LOUDLY if he is late about getting to bed).

Thanks heaps, Sissy.

I love you, no matter what. I just wish you had told me.

Oct 23, 2009

This week in our life: Big Milestone!!

So, we had the 4-month checkup Tuesday. (I worked all weekend, night shift, so was in a great mood Tuesday afternoon after about 4 hours of sleep or less). Stats from the checkup:

25" long
41 cm around the head
and 16 WHOLE POUNDS and not a bit more or less on his weight!

Michael is at or over the 50th percentile on all three growth indicators. The doctor is satisfied he is properly reaching all his development milestones. He got 1 oral vaccine, and three in his legs. At which point we almost cried with him. Keep in mind, Mommy was helping to hold him.... Daddy was standing in the corner, and ended up with his eyes shut and his back turned to us by the last shot. He hates being there for him to get his shots. And my goodness, he screamed and cried ten times worse this time than the last. I had to nurse him after for several minutes to get him calmed back down.

And for the big one..... CEREAL!!! Yes, he had his first bowl of rice cereal mixed with warm breastmilk Tuesday evening after we got home. AND HE LOVED IT!!! He takes after my side of the family with that. We love our cereal. :) We had a small problem yesterday morning with his cereal. The spoon hurt his gums every time we gave him a bite, so we had to put the cereal into a bottle. (Yes, our spoons are padded. They even turn white if the food is too warm for baby's mouth.) At least, I think it's his gums. Has to be, judging by his response every time we gave him a bite. He was fine every bite, until the spoon touched his bottom gums. I don't know if his gums being that sore means his teeth are withing days or a week or so of coming through the surface or not. I do know that until then he had no problem with the spoon. He had cereal a few times before then, always with a spoon, and never had any problem with him gums.

Hey Momma, do you remember how old I was when I cut my first tooth? I have my baby book, but I've been too lazy to dig it out to see when I hit all the major milestones. (I know it doesn't mean my child will hit them the same time I did. I was just curious, and I think it would be fun to anticipate and see how close he comes.)

Oh, and did I mention he can't have any other kinds of solid food (carrrots, peas, etc.) until he hits the 6-month mark? This is due to the possibility of allergy development if we start earlier than that. Oh, and I'm going to try my hand at making baby food at home. I feel better making my own. There's a baby food recall out right now, in fact, for Plum Organics Apple & Carrot baby food in Portable Pouches due to the possibility of BOTULISM. No thank you. At least if I cook and freeze our baby food, then I know where it's been, how it was cooked, and what's in it. The only reason he's getting Gerber store-bought rice cereal is because I don't know how to make that. If I did, I'd be making it, also.

OK, I'm off my soapbox now about store-bought baby food.

EDIT TO ADD: I took tons of pics of the first cereal feeding. I'll be putting a lot of pics on Shutterfly ASAP. No promises when. I work Friday through Sunday day shift this weekend, then Tuesday night through Thursday night, so......

Oct 1, 2009

Totally awesome....

I was reading all the 500+ posts on my Google reader (been a week or two, ya know) and found this:

Flash mob at Oprah - courtesy of V at Not Even A T-shirt

Apparently, when the Black Eyed Peas did the Oprah show last month, the entire crowd did the Flash dance to "I Gotta Feelin'". How awesome is that?

So visit her blog and check out the video she posted. I'm too lazy to do it myself.

Besides, I'm posting single-handedly (literally) with the babe attached to my boob. You're welcome very much for that bit o' info. (Sissy tells me quite often that I tend to over-share when it comes to bodily functions and other tidbits of TMI.)

Oh, and a baby-update post forthcoming sometime in the future. Short version: still teething, rolling from belly to back every once in a while, rolling from back to belly (on the bed, if you're laying beside him to create a dip in the mattress), and can sit if supported.

Also, we somehow kept Chris' flu from spreading to any of us.

Sep 18, 2009

PSA: A movie you don't wanna watch (for Momma & Sissy)

Shawshank Redemption.

Normally, I LOVE Stephen King movies, no matter which it is.

But as I watched this with Michael the other evening, all I could think of the whole time was Buddy.

I almost cried during parts of this movie. And almost cried afterward, while trying to fall asleep.

So don't watch it. Or anything like it.

Sep 14, 2009

O...M...G... (it's the flu!)

Cue lame '70s horror flick music.

Chris spent all weekend at our house, per the usual. Yesterday, as I'm getting ready to go to work, Cindy and Eric come over to cook dinner for Michael and take Chris home. She kissed him on the head and he felt like he was burning up with fever. We checked, and it was 100.2. The we checked the baby, who felt fine 30 minutes before but was by then feeling warm, and he had a fever. Then we checked Aaron, who mentioned he didn't feel well. Guess what? He had a fever.

So I called work and told them I wouldn't be coming last night. We ate and they took Chris home. He went to the doctor today. Type A influenza. Great. Oh, goody. So I called work and they told me to stay home and not risk getting all my co-workers sick. So I'm on family sick leave tonight, too.

We have to take our little man to the pedatrician tomorrow afternoon. If he gets a high fever, we'll go to the ER. Aaron has an appointment at 3:00. He's on his way there now.

I've already told Momma about the outbreak at my house. She was just here yesterday, but left bfore we discovered everyone was sick. Chris spent Friday afternoon at a friend's house, so we called them to let them know. The friend's mom is pregnant, so I felt she really needed to know to be on the lookout for symptoms.

Much joy here. Everyone stay away for the next week.

I don't feel so well, either. No fever so far. Just feel blah. Not sure if I'm projecting the kids being sick on myself, or maybe it's just me coming off night shift. Hopefully I'm not sick, too.

Now for a bit of sunshine peeking through the flu fog: my milk supply is a little better. I'm still seriously considering fenugreek, though. We'll see.

Sep 11, 2009

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back......

I'm back! After almost 4 months of no blogging, I am back. I promised my sister I'd come back to blogging, so here I am.

So, tonight is my first night shift since coming back to work. And it's off to a really shitty start. My child is at home with Daddy. And how's it going for the two of them, you ask?


Great. So now, of course, I feel like the crappiest Mommy on the face of the Earth. Yeah, it's sweet, he can't sleep at night without Mommy. But he's at home right now, fighting sleep and inadvertently irritating Michael because HE WON'T SLEEP AT NIGHT WITHOUT MOMMY!

On top of this, I get chewed out for being in the bathroom pumping when they needed me to go out and do a few minutes of work. "Where have you been the last hour? I needed you go to untag RCIC. I had to send Chip to do your work because we couldn't find you...."

Great, make a Mommy who's about to cry over her baby refusing to sleep feel even worse, why don't ya? Sorry my milk is trying to dry up, and it took me an hour to get it to let down to my pump, and then I only got just under 3 ounces, even though I haven't pumped or nursed since before 6:00, which was over 3 hours before I started trying to pump.... Two weeks ago I could get 4 ounces or more in less than that time. I spent my whole 7-off nursing my son every time he acted hungry, trying to up my supply. I wouldn't let him fall asleep nursing until he had emptied both breasts each time. You'd think it would increase my milk. But no. It's no better than it was at the end of last week, after working four days.

The really sucky thing is, My friend KW just had her baby September 1. She can nurse her son and THEN pump 8 ounces, which she is freezing for when she goes back to work. How is that fair??? He's ten days old. He can only eat two or three ounces at a time. There's no way she needs to be making that much milk. And her mother keeps mentioning it to me, which is just great. Talk about making me feel like a failure because my boobs won't do as I command. But no, no empathy for me. Just on and on about how productive KW's mammary glands are, while I sit here trying not to cry sometimes over the thought that I'm slowly losing my milk and I'm going to eventually give up on trying to breastfeed, waaaaay before either of us are ready. It's not like I have gallons frozen or anything. I've been lucky to make enough at work for a couple of bottles the next day. And the stress from missing my baby when I'm at work, trying to work, not making enough milk, and feeling guilty for not pulling my weight around the house are NOT helping my milk supply any.

Bless Michael's heart. He doesn't say anything about me not pulling my weight around the house. Every once in a while, if I'm off work, he'll ask me to do a load of laundry for us. Or to cook us something quick and easy. That's about all he every asks. I'm still doing the grocery shopping and menu planning and all that. Aaron usually cooks dinner, even when I'm off work. I've never had to worry about taking out our garbage or cutting grass. I think he knows I'm tired and stressed. He tries to do almost every bit of it so I don't have to. Bless him.

So, to recap: Work sucks. My child refuses to sleep tonight without Mommy. Michael is irritated at the lack of the baby sleeping. My milk is drying up. Today is September 11,2009, which is the eighth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, and also the second anniversary of Toney dying.

I'm thinking of taking a daytime-only position, if they'll give me one. I'll lose most or all of my overtime, and I'll be working Monday through Friday every week, so there'll be less days off. But maybe it'll be worth it to be home every night. I don't know. I'm so tired right now. Tired of worrying about my milk, and pissing people off at work over my pumping taking up so much time, and worrying about helping clean the house, and.... Everything.

God, I wish I didn't have to work. Especially tonight. What I wouldn't give right now to be a stay-at-home mom. I guess I should be thankful I even have a job, much less one that pays so well. I just can't help but be so sad over everything I'm missing.....

If my milk supply would cooperate, and my boobs would let down better for my pump, it would be a tremendous help.

I am literally sitting here at work, with tears streaming down my face over all this. Maybe something will resolve itself soon.

I'm going to the bathroom now to wash my face and try to pull myself together before they need me to do something, which will require facing co-workers with red puffy eyes and a tear-stained face. If anyone made it through my rambling, emotional post, then bless you.

Also, another post with baby updates will be posted sometime later, depending on how busy we are the rest of the night. We're bringing a unit down tonight for some repairs, so we may be slammed pretty badly.

P.S. to Mom - Please know I'm thinking about you today. I'm sorry I didn't call to check on you. If it makes you feel better, Robbie wrote me on your birthday and I haven't sat down to write him back yet, either. I don't know yet what to say to him. Not much has changed. There's only a couple things new to tell him. And he can only have 5 pics at a time, so I don't know what they did with the rest of the 18 that I sent him last month, but he said for me to not send anymore right now, so....

But please know I am thinking of you.

Jun 9, 2009

Update from today's doctor's visit

Nothing. Next Thursday we'll talk about options for induction dates if I've not delivered yet. Yay. I do have a slight backache coming and going, so there is a glimmer of hope. I didn't even have her check me for dilation today. Not worth the cramping after the internal exam to possibly hear "nothing happening". So no idea if I'm getting closer or not. I figure I'll know when contractions start. There;'s really no way to know when, even if I know I'm beginning to dilate, so why bother?

In other news, my SIL will have her c-section Friday morning at 7AM if she's not delivered by then.

I took my brother $40 today. I woke up at 3AM dreaming about him. Then, at 7:30 when my alarm woke us up for our doctor appointment, I woke up dreaming about Daddy. Little sleep was had last night. I took a 3-hour nap this evening.

I'm off to convince my husband that we need to find a place in Athens to get a big salad with everything in it (cukes, ham, bacon, maters, cheese.... everything.)

Jun 8, 2009

Are we there yet?

OK, so I stopped working a few weeks ago. The swelling in my ankles wouldn't go away. Not to worry, as soon as I stopped working it went back to normal pregnancy swelling. We've been filling our days with visiting friends and family, cleaning, and relaxing.

I'm due in 17 days. No progress as of last Thursday. We go back in tomorrow for another weekly checkup, including internal to check for dilation and effacement. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

The baby dropped a couple of weeks ago. He seems to really enjoy headbutting me in my nether regions, as well as my bladder. He has actually hurt me so bad that a few times in the last few weeks I could do nothing more than lay on the couch and cry due to the stabbing pain (AKA lightning crotch, since it feels like lightning has struck you in the crotch area, for those that aren't familiar with the term). My poor husband kept telling me one night, during a really good round of headbut-momma-in-her-no-no-spot, how sorry he was that I had to go through that particular side effect of late pregnancy. I swear, my first child NEVER did this to me. I think I would remember the lovely feeling of being stabbed repeatedly up my va-jay-jay, even nine years later.

Had some pain in my lower back all afternoon yesterday and all night last night. Just a dull, not exactly constant, ache in the lowest part of my back. Went away this morning. Had hoped it was a sign of impending (like in the next week) labor. Alas, the back pain is gone. Crap. I was so hopeful yesterday evening, when even rest (sitting, reclining, laying) didn't help.

My sister-in-law will be having her c-section Friday to deliver the twins if she hasn't had them by then. She had a lot of complications having her first child, and has already been hospitalized twice for preterm labor in this pregnancy. Due to the previous complications and the fact that she's having twins, her doctor strongly suggested a c-section whether labor starts naturally or not. She's due in less than 5 weeks, so her doctor says the babies should thrive even at this point. Please pray for her and the girls. We don't expect any problems, but you never know...

My grandfather is having surgery next Monday to correct/patch his hernia. The surgeon will go in through his belly button, patch the hernia, keep him for observation for several hours, and hopefully send him home the same day. Pray for him, please.

Part of me is jealous of my SIL. I got pregnant first, we planned and tried for our baby (her pregnancy wasn't planned to happen this early, she got pregnant before they wanted) and I'm due 10 days before her, but her babies will probably be here before ours. I do feel blessed, though, in knowing that all is expected to be perfect with her babies, no matter when they get here. In the end, the health of our family is all that really matters. As long as all three babies (her two girls and our boy) are healthy and thriving and don't need any medical intervention, I'll be happy. I've worried a lot about her and the girls. She's had a lot of problems, and has had to fight at times to keep them in and baking, as they should be. Thankfully, she has made it well past the date her doctor set as the "we-aren't-gonna-stop-it-if-you-go-into-labor-after-this-day" milestone. We all breathed a sigh of relief after hearing that. It's been pretty cool, being due so close together. We hit the same milestones at pretty much the same time. We've been able to compare belly size (for the first 6 months, until her two babies outgrew my one). We have belly pics of the two of us together. We were both obviously pregnant for my baby shower, which resulted in some really cool pics, as well as funny conversation.

Her son knows there are babies in Mommy's belly, even if he doesn't exactly understand what that means. She can ask him where his sisters are, and he does the cutest thing. He lifts her shirt to reveal her bare belly and pushes her belly button (or as she calls it, the eject button) with his finger. He'll do it to me when I ask him where my baby is. So cute! He's only 16 months old, and that smart already. He remembers where the babies are. Amazing.

My step-son broke his arm a few weeks ago, on May 23. He's fine, but most of his summer will be spent in a cast. He broke it the Saturday before school ended. Three days of school left, and my kid can't use his arm to write. Thankfully, his class had already finished all their assignments and grades were already calculated when it happened.

The last few weeks have been filled with tragedy in our community. Three deaths in less than 4 weeks.

A dear friend of ours passed away Saturday night, from pancreatic cancer. His visitation is tonight, with the funeral tomorrow. Please pray for his family, that God may guide them through this very difficult time. He had a son (18) and a daughter (around 11 or so). His nephew died just months ago, at the age of 16. The last several months have been especially hard on this family. We may or may not go to his services. The thought of a midday burial, in 90+ degree heat, while almost 38 weeks pregnant does not sound that great to me. It was bad in March when Michael's grandfather died. It sounds worse now. If we do go, we may just do the service and not the burial. If we get out of the doctor's office in time to go. My appointment is 9AM. The funeral starts at 11.

Another aquantance of ours dies late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, from a car accident. His wife was in the truck with him when they wrecked. She had to be flown to Huntsville Hospital. Their truck flipped, and both were thrown (not wearing their seatbelts). The cab of the truck landed on him, and he was pronounced at the scene of the accident. She is expected to recover. We just found out about them this afternoon. His funeral was to be at the graveside this afternoon. Due to the late notice (I stumbled on the news article on the local paper website while looking up the arrangements for the OTHER funeral) we did not attend.

My last day of work, a high school classmate of mine died in a car accident. His wife was injured, but has physically recovered. They just got married last July. At the time of the accident, they had a 6-week-old son, their first child. Truly a tragedy. Their life together had just began. Now she is a widow with an infant son who will never truly know his father. Also killed in the accident was a man who lived not far from us, a man we knew in passing. We weren't friends with any of the people involved, but my heart aches for them. Either Michael or myself knew all three people involved in the accident. This is the first member of my graduating class to be lost since we graduated in May 2001. Hopefully it is the last for a very long time.

As my time draws near to have our child, updates will probably be as sporadic as they have been the last month (meaning, one or two a month) until I get things back together. I just have absolutely no energy to do more than required of me right now. No burst of energy to nest. Nothing. I will be sure to post after delivery some time, and to post a birth story in the (hopefully near) future. More than that can not be promised.

Hopefully today's hour-long shopping experience in Wal-mart will help jump-start something. So far, nada. Hopefully, I will hear of news in the dilation/effacement area tomorrow morning. Hopefully, all the hospitilizations in my family's very near future will end very well.

May 14, 2009

For Momma: A Post on GF eating

I saw this on my Google feed, and thought I'd link it for my mom and anyone else who sticks to a GF diet. A guest blogger named Carrie posted this over on Erin's blog, 5 Dollar Dinners. It has lots of good links to other GF blogs, as well as other GF info. Check it out!

As promised, my gifts from yesterday!

My husband did good! He went to Tractor Supply (yes, I know, sounds really redneck, but they have the cutest stuff for gardens and yards). They had a welcome mat I had wanted, and he was going to get it for me. (It had a full-color picture of a brown horse standing in a barn door, and said "Welcome Friends" on it. Beautiful!) They sold it Monday. So he went in serch of other stuff I might like. (Basically anything in the store to decorate our yard and with horses on it.) He bought me a wall plaque and two garden stepping stones. Check 'em out!

My new awesome garden stepping stones

They are made of cast iron, so they'll last forever. And talk about heavy. They weigh over 5 pounds each!!! (He thinks they're something to hang up. I thought so, too, but I thought they were awful heavy to be hanging decorations. I found out what they really are when I went looking for a picture of them, since I didn't take any. I also hadn't seen these yet, or I surely would have had a fit over them before yesterday.)

And my new wall plaque. I love it!

Right now the plaque is hanging on my living room wall. I already had a nail there, left over from Christmas stockings. But the wall where it is hanging is so dark, you can barely tell this is hanging on it. I'm going to have to find somewhere else to put it, preferably outside somewhere.

I also have to find somewhere for my stepping stones, where they can be seen. Not sure where yet. If I put them in the front flower beds, they'll be covered up when my elephant ears get big. If I put them in the flower bed where the hose connestion is, they'll get buried in mud. If I put them around the pool, they'll get buried in the mud from splashing water out of the pool. (Wait, the kids wouldn't do that, would they? Surely not! That didn't happen ALL last summer, every time we got in the pool. And no one else got in there splashing, either! Especially with a couple of their girlfriends! 'Cause adults don't do that, and our kid and his brother and friends are too well behaved, and they've had better examples than that!)

I could put them in the flower bed by the horeshoe pits, but they'd be the only thing there besides drift wood. There's not a single plant on that side of the house, in all of that hugely long space.

I don't know. I'll worry about that later. Like maybe the next day I'm off work (Monday).

I also got beautiful gifts from Grandmother and Papa. They bought me a receiving blanket with a frog on it, two bib/burp rag sets (I Love Grandpa and I Love Grandma, of course!), a set of thermal pajamas, a boxed outfit set, and an outdoor clock. The clock is cool. I can't wait to hang it on the tree out beside the pool.

My sister brought my presents for my birthday and Mother's day to me Monday while I was off work. She bought me a pack of baby boy onesies, a set of children-sized clothes hangers, several sets of scrapbook stickers and embellishments for the baby's scrapbook, a "sisters" picture frame, and a beautiful candle with a saying on it about sisters. ("Sisters keep each other's secrets, bear each other's burdens, nudge each other's laughter, & hold on tightly to each other's love.")
My wonderfully awesome Mommy got me a breastfeeding book, but I don't know which one. She had to work last night, so she's bringing my present by later in the week. (That's OK, 'cause don't tell her, but when I went shopping Monday I forgot all about Mother's Day the day before, and I forgot to buy everyone's presents! Even though I did talk to them all on the phone and wish them Happy Mother's Day Sunday. So now I'll have to go this Monday to pick them up, and take them to everyone. If I don't forget again! Sssshhhh, it's a secret! But I guess that makes us kinda even. Maybe if she finds out I haven't bought her anything yet for Mother's Day, she won't feel bad about not being able to see me yesterday. She did call (of course), and it was good to talk to her before she had to go to work.)

My BFF brought me a birthday card. She's the only one working in her house right now, and so she's the only one able to buy groceries and pay the bills for her and her parents. She didn't have to even bring me the card, but I appreciate her thinking of me. :)

Cindy and Eric bought me a bouquet of flowers. They were beautiful! All different roses, carnations, and several other different flowers. Very colorful, and gorgeous!

Oh, and for the third year in a row, guess who won the birthday club dinner from her favorite Athens BBQ joint..... That's right, yours truly won the free dinner plate from Lawler's. Again! So, guess where I'm making my husband take me for dinner soon! (Maybe for lunch Monday?) Not that it'll be hard to get him to go. He loves Lawler's as much as I do.

May 13, 2009

It's my party......

Happy birthday to me! My dear, sweet, loving husband bought me a present today, despite my telling him repeatedly that he didn't have to go get me anything. I'll report back tomorrow on what, exactly, it is. Poor thing, he got left to pick it out himself with no help from me. Not even a hint or suggestion. I just couldn't for the life of me think of anything I wanted.

His first words to me today were "Happy birthday". He remembered before I did that my birthday was today. I have lost my mind, ya'll. My husband had to remind me that I turn 26 today.....

My feelings as the weeks close in on us

Aaaaannndddd, I just sent my bosses an email confirming when I will take my light duty and maternity leave. It feels weird to send that message. Makes the countdown seem that more.... I don't know.... Looming? Pressing? Those aren't quite the words I'm looking for, but they give just about the right connotation, except they aren't joyful enough at the same time as being inevitable. Imminent, maybe? I don't know.

I'm sure you all get where I'm going with this. I'm overjoyed, thrilled, eager, impatient that the time is drawing so near, yet I'm also anxious, doubtful, unsure, afraid. I'm sure anyone who has been in my shoes knows exactly how I feel. Overjoyed at the new life to love, thrilled to be given this blessing, eager to meet our child, impatient for him to be born. Anxious about my ability to care for him correctly, doubtful over my knowledge of children, unsure how to react, afraid we'll make the wrong choices. I mean, I can change a diaper, or feed him, bathe him. I'm not afraid I'll drop him or break him somehow. I've been around newborns before, and helped care for them. But this is different, this one is mine. We have to care for him at home with no help around the clock. I'm sure we'll manage just fine. It's just been so long since I've helped bathe a newborn, or......

I'm sure every new parent has these feelings. I'm sure we'll be just fine. We'll do what parents have done since the beginning of time. We'll figure it out. And if we run across something we can't figure out, we have family and friends who are parents, and we have the internet, if all else fails. After all, it's too late to turn back now. :) Even if we wanted to. (Of course, we wouldn't dream of it.)

These feelings are just new to me. I didn't have them last time. Of course, I didn't have to worry about bathing her that first week, or what to do if she starts crying and won't stop no matter what I do. So of course I didn't have them last time. I didn't have to worry about it. This time is a whole new ball game. Right now, I feel like I'm riding in the first car of the world's tallest, wildest roller coaster. We're paused at the top, a moment to catch our breath and collect our thoughts. Soon we'll be on our way down, and up, and around the track, travelling faster than we ever imagined!

Time to take a deep breath, hold hands, close our eyes, and just sit back and relax! I'm sure we're in for the most intense, most thrilling, most satisfying ride of our lives! I wouldn't trade it for anything, and it hasn't even really begun yet!

Wanna ride with us? Stick around! I'm sure all the ups and down will be posted right here!

Pregnancy Update - 33w 6 d

Tomorrow I will be 6 weeks away from my due date! Sweet, huh? Why yes, yes, it is! That means it could be 3 weeks, or it could be 8 weeks until we have an outside baby (as opposed to our current inside baby)! :) Hopefully more toward the 4-6 week side than 8.... I love being pregnant, but I'm ready to meet him already! (I know, not until he's ready... But still....)

Anyway, I just realized I forgot to post an update after Monday's appointment with Roberta, so here it is:

Baby seems to be head-down (yay!), although no ultrasound to confirm (boo!).
He also is around 17 inches long, head to toe.
Roberta measured Mike's heartbeat at 140 bpm (good, strong heartbeat!).

My BH contractions (Sissy, see this post for a reminder in what those are! j/k....)seem to be OK for now. We did discuss them, she said no more than 4 an hour. Also, an increasing number per day, or seeming to progress (shorter intervals between, more intense, lasting longer, etc....) would be cause for concern. Basically, if they stop when I rest and drink water, then it's OK, which I already knew. (Just wanted Mom to know that I did ask just to be on the safe side. Plus, I figure she needs to know how much they hurt (oh my God, do they hurt!!!) and how often I have them, so she can guage the health of my pregnancy,possible time frame until we start worrying about internal checks and real contractions, blah, blah.....

She also thinks likes I do, baby is putting some pressure on my cervix/bladder, causing some of the intense, stabbing-like pains I feel during a BH contraction sometimes. Again, she said no big deal, see the above regarding BH contractions.....

Back on the 27th at, I think, 10:30 or so, for our next checkup. I think this will be our last two-week checkup. Should start in on the weekly checks after that. Except that my next appointment is on a Wednesday, and I have Mondays off. So I'll need to try to reschedule. If not, I guess I'll work Monday instead of Wednesday that week.

We bought Mike's "dresser" Monday, too. Yes, he has a dresser and an armoire in his room, but this is for our bedroom, for his stuff while he's sleeping with us.

Cheap, functional, small enough for our room but big enough for the main things we need, reusable later as storage for other stuff.... What more could we ask for? We also bought more baby stuff... Teething rings, newborn mittens to keep him from scratching himself, bottles, nipples, wipes....

We also bought a duffel bag to start packing for the hospital. So far it has my new fluffy houseshoes, Michael's new tennis shoes, his two new pairs of jeans, his two new t-shirts, his new pack of socks, and the few snack items (Dum Dum suckers, snack crackers, and spoons) we bought to have with us. Yes, I realise the bag is more for me than him. He has clothes already packed because we bought them Monday, and I went ahead and packed them so I wouldn't have to try to figure out where I put them later. Next Monday I plan on packing my stuff. We may have to buy another duffel bag. This one is only a 24" bag.... What can I say? We don't travel EVER, so we have no luggage.

I guess over the next two weeks, we'll also be installing the car seat base in my car. I can just see my husband, trying to figure out the LATCHes to install this thing without my help, while I sit in the hospital room, waiting for him to finish so we can be discharged to go home.... LOL. I think I'll handle, or at least oversee, this one. I tend to do better with written instructions than he does.

This is my last week working on shift. Beginning next Tuesday, I'll be working four 10-hour days, Tuesday through Friday. This will go on hopefully until the last Friday of this month, at which point I will take my leave. The position I'll be filling on light duty will be a desk job, where I'll be able to get up and walk around if I need to, but I won't have to be on my feet as much as I am some days right now.

I found a new blog today.....

Noah's Road is a blog written by the parents of 6-month old Noah, who was shaken by his daycare provider on April 20, 2009. He spent almost three weeks in PICU. He is home now, doing somewhat better. Due to waiting to go to trial, his parents can't give many details, even of how Noah is doing physically. Their journey has been difficult, and surely won't become easy any time soon. Their son is going through physical and occupational therapy, and seeing neurologists, opthomologists, and who knows what other kind of medical specialist.

Please go by their blog and read their story, and pray for them tonight. If you have children, remember to hug them tight, and kiss them goodnight, and tell them you love them. Remember to thank God that they are healthy. There are so many out there who were born sick or grew sick, so many who may not make it home. So many who may not see their first birthday. Thank God my children are healthy, so far. I can't imagine what these parents must be going through.

I don't know if it's all the hormones in my body getting ramped up to prepare for labor or what, but I'm sitting at work crying over this little boy's story. If anyone walks in the room, they'll all think I'm nuts. I don't understand who would be capable of doing something like this to a five month old child, or why they would do this. This was a childcare worker who should know better. I guess it's not up to me to understand, though. It is for God to understand.

Please pray for this family. When they dropped their son off at daycare, he was happy, healthy.... "Normal". I can't imagine what terror they must have felt when they got the phone call that changed their lives forever. What anger I think I would surely feel for the woman who did this. The heartbreak they feel every night, as they sit up watching their child sleep. I can't imagine......

May 12, 2009

Food Review - Great Value brand pizza

I used to love Great Value brand pizzas from Walmart. Similar in taste to national, name-brand frozen rising-crust pizzas, but more economical. They were a good value for the money. We bought them all the time.

It's been a while since we bought one. Yesterday, during my "I-don't-care-what-we-buy-I-didn't-make-a-list-I'm-too-tired-and-spaced-out-to-care-let's-just-buy-a-bunch-of-stuff-and-figure-out-a-menu-later" grocery shopping experience, we grabbed two Great Value frozen pizzas, a pepperoni and a three-meat. Both were "rising Foccacia crust" pizzas. I noticed the box has been changed, but hoped the quality and taste were still there.

It wasn't. Quality, maybe. Taste, definitely not. The three-meat pizza had sausage on it that was so spicy, I scraped it off my pizza. The pepperoni was OK, I suppose. I did not like the crust on either pizza, nor the sauce. I like a saucy pizza. My mom would have loved the amount of sauce on these. (It was barely there. My mom doesn't like pizza dripping with sauce, which to me is the best way to eat pizza.)

General consensus around my house was the same as my thoughts. None of the five of us liked either pizza. And we love pizza around my house! (Well, except for my husband. He likes a really good pizza, but he isn't a pizza LOVER like the rest of us. The rest of us could eat pizza every day for the rest of our lives and be happy.)

I will not buy these again. I only bought them for the sake of saving a buck or two on each pizza. I will definitely buy DiGiorno or Freschetta next time, and spend the extra money gladly.

I will add, these are the only two we have tried since they (apparently) changes their pizza recipe. I can't speak for the pizzas with other toppings or crusts.

Anyone else tried them? Did you like them or hate them?

Menu Plan Monday - one day late

Menu Plan Monday is hosted at I'm An Organizing Junkie. Head on over to check out other menus from fabulous bloggers.

Yesterday we went grocery shopping. I did not make a menu or grocery list for the week. We winged it when we got to the store. Good thing, I guess. Halfway through the store, I was out of breath, but determined to finish. So we took a break, slowed our pace, and finished the job. After checking out, I sat in the car while Michael unloaded our buggies.

Keep in mind, we didn't just go shopping at Piggly Wiggly. No, sir. Walmart. See, there were still things we needed for the baby, little things like rubbing alcohol and cotton balls and such. We also needed chlorine for the pool, a bag to pack for the hospital, and a cart for baby's clothes the first few weeks or longer (while he's rooming in with us). I should have known I couldn't do a full-on Walmart trip anymore. Thankfully, soon I will be on leave, and the couple of trips I am likely to take to town before I actually have to go to the hospital, I can spread out over a couple of days each week if I need to.

OK, now down to the actual business of the post: our pitiful menu for the week.

Monday, May 11, 2009
Frozen Pizza

Tuesday,May 12, 2009
Sub sandwiches

Wednesday,May 13, 2009
Spaghetti (not sure if we have meat for this or not - may be meatless spaghetti sauce, but I don't care at this point)
Garlic bread

Thursday, May 14, 2009
Chili dogs

Friday, May 15, 2009
Frozen Lasagna (yes, late pregnancy has me resigned to frozen over homemade, but again, I don't care)
Garlic bread

Saturday, May 16, 2009
Sloppy Joes

Sunday, May 17, 2009
I don't know yet, whatever we can find to throw together (again, I don't really care at this point.)

I just remembered, we did buy a large box of corn dogs. If we have enough left, maybe we can have them for dinner Sunday. Or the guys can eat some red beans and rice or something we have in the cabinet. If I don't like what they fix (ala, red BEANS and rice), then I can eat a sub sandwich again, or leftover sloppy joes or something.

Sorry some of my menu items leave much to desire this week. I'm exhausted, mentally not physically, and having a hard time holding my thoughts together to form coherent sentences when I speak. I can not mentally handle all that goes into making a real menu and grocery list right now. Give me a break, I'm almost 34 weeks pregnant. Guess my mind knows I have better things to deal with.

Maybe I'll make the guys come up with a menu, one full of all-time faves that I can shop for and cook from memory. Then I can do like I did two weeks ago, with the list and cooking instructions and all. On the other hand, sandwiches and hot dogs will save a lot on the brain power and electricity and prep time involved in menu planning. Maybe I'll just leave it as-is the next few weeks. It was easy to shop this week. Actual groceries consisted of:

3 pounds of sliced cheese
6 pounds of various lunch meat (turkey, chicken, ham)
two loaves of bread
a big pack of hot dogs
a 12-pack of hot dog buns
a 12-pack of hamburger buns
3 packs of sub rolls
I forget how many cans of chili sauce, I just grabbed somewhere around 8 and threw them in the buggy
a jumbo can of Manwich sauce
two frozen pizzas
a 3-pound frozen lasagna
I also bought water, Mountain Dew, milk, eggs, sausage, food for work, and such (basically staples in my house)

I know for sure I have spaghetti sauce and noodles at home, and I think at least a few loaves of French bread (or some other bread) and a couple of pounds of ground beef frozen. If not, oh well. I don't care. We'll have spaghetti with garlic hamburger buns or something, or no bread at all if we don't have any acceptable substitute in the freezer. If we don't have any ground beef, we'll have meatless spaghetti and nix the sloppy joes for something we do have. Everyone should just be glad we actually have any food at all.

May 8, 2009

Frugal Friday

Frugal Friday is hosted over on Life As Mom. Check it out for great frugal ideas!

My frugal tip today is for laundry detergent. Being pregnant, I prefer to buy those big jumbo bottles of laundry detergent and fabric softener. You know the ones:

I keep mine on the shelf above my washer for easy access, and because if it drips, it goes right into or on the washer for easy clean-up. I don't have to pick a heavy bottle up over and over, straining muscles best left unstrained at the moment. Besides, it has always hurt my wrists to pick up a big bottle of detergent. They're too heavy for my carpal tunnel to manage.

To cut down on our costs, and because it's more environmentally friendly, I reuse our big jumbo-size bottles. When we get low on detergent or softener, I buy a regular or medium sized bottle at the grocery store. The bottle is normally big enough to fill our jumbo bottle up halfway. I then fill our bottle the rest of the way with some water.

It's a thrifty way to fool the guys. They don't know my secret. My reason behind this is, no matter what size load they wash, they use the same amount of detergent and fabric softener. Also, I have a Downy ball and Tide Kick we use in the wash for dispensing detergent and softener. The guys will fill each dispenser all the way up, no matter how soiled or large the load of laundry is. This keeps them from using too much.

Only I know the secret of the detergent. My husband caught me during the watter-adding step of refilling our bottles this way once. He thinks it was because we were almost out of detergent, and I was tyring to make it stretch until grocery day! In reality, I do this every time we open a new bottle! I have trained the guys to not throw away my big bottles when they empty. Doing this has seriously decreased our consumption of laundry products.

I used to wonder why we ran out of detergent so fast. I started keeping track of the number of loads we were getting out of one bottle of detergent and fabric softener, and secretly watched them do a few loads of laundry. That's when I figured out what was happening. We weren't washing that many loads of laundry, they were using almost waaaaayyyyy too much detergent each load! We now get the "recommended" amount of loads out of a bottle before I have to buy another one. So far, so good. I just make sure the guys are all gone or outside when I refill our big dispenser bottles. If they catch on, my great idea might not work anymore! Also, I try to do this after all my laundry is done, so the soap bubbles inside the bottle have time to settle down before I need to use the detergent. Just a personal preference of mine, I guess. I've never noticed any difference if I use the watered-down version right away or the next day.

Another thing to note, I don't know if they've ever noticed the difference in the thickness of the detergent or not, but I started this about the time Tide swapped around their formula and started charging almost twice the old price for the same amount of loads. I think that if they noticed, they may be under the impression that the "formula swap" in Tide may have something to do with the detergent looking a little thinner than it used to. It isn't much of a difference, just a little thinner looking after everything gets mixed together thoroughly in the bottle. I end up with about a 70/30 mix of detergent and water, so there's more cleaner than water in there, which helps keep it slightly on the thicker side.

Yes, I know, I'm crazy. Nutty as a fruitcake, right here baby. But it works on my guys. That's all that matters. :) Some days, you have to be on your toes around here to keep ahead of the guys.

May 7, 2009

And also......

I feel sooooo much better today, thanks. I woke up still sleepy, due to the 5 or 6 bathroom trips I made last night, not to mention the 10+ times I turned from one side to the other trying to get comfortable. But MUCH less general fatigue. I think taking yesterday off did the trick.

Yesterday, we slept until the tornado sirens woke me up. At that point, once I figured out that the sirens were really sounding, I figured I better turn the TV on to check it out. I had been woken up just a little before by thunder. (In response to the [literally] house-shaking thunder waking me up, I promptly turned over and went right back to sleep. Priorities, you know???) Turning the tv on woke Michael up. Of course. So we got up and watched thelocal forcasters broadcast all warnings around us.

Then we got dresses and went for breakfast. We stopped by Ann and Randy's to visit for a few minutes. Went home. I fetched the paper and mail, and curled up on the couch with a blanket and the pint of Butter Pecan we bought at S&Z. Michael swept and mopped the living room while I lay on the couch watching. (Hey, he forbid me to do work in the house yesterday.) On a trip to the bathroom, I noticed the toilet could REALLY use cleaning. And the floor needed to be swept.

So, I shook out the bath rug and folded it up to lay on the sink. Then I realized that I was "dusted in" the room. I had shook out the rug all over my socks, and in between me and the door. Smart, huh? So I got the broom, and swept up just enough of the dust from the rug to give me a path from the toilet to the door. I moved the trash can, toilet scrubber holder, and book basket.I swept behind the toilet and sink. Scrubbed the toilet, and wiped it down. Threw the scrubber away (thank God for disposable toilet scrubbing pads), and told my dear loving husband that he could finish sweeping the other half of the bathroom. I did end up eventually putting back the toilet scrubber and book basket. He put back the trash can and bath rug.

After that, I didn't do anything the rest of the day. I refused. I stayed on the couch 90% of the rest of the day. If not for the trips to the bathroom, to get something to drink, now I'm hungry, etc., I would have stayed on the couch 100% of the rest of the day.

Anyway, all that to say, I did almost absolutely nothing yesterday but lay around, and today I feel 100% better. Well, maybe not 100%, but more like I felt five or six weeks ago. Like I can manage working until Sunday evening. Since my next day off is Monday. Which will be spent paying bills, buying groceries, and going to the doctor. Yay. (Actually, yay to the doctor's appointment, boo to everything else.)

As promised: An update on weight gain

My mother is concerned about my health, and is worried I may be eating too much too often. Normally this would cause a "WTF?" reaction in me, but this time it doesn't. My mother is concerned about this for good reason. She has a genetic auto-immune disease, Celiac disease. It is hereditary. She also has been diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity or allergy. (Sorry, pregnancy brain is keeping me from remembering, and I'm too lazy to go through my archived emails on the subject right now to figure out which.)

Since she has both, all three of us kids (myself, my seester, and my brother) each have a 100% chance of having at least one of these conditions/diseases, if not of having both. Celiac can cause devastating effects in pregnancy, in severe cases. We have wondered if I have Celiac, since I exhibit several of the symptoms. My mother is worried that my gigantic appetite is connected to Celiac. (Don't worry, none of this offends me, since I, too, am shocked some days by the sheer amount of food I have to consume to keep my stomach from screaming at me every few hours!)

Anyway, the purpose of my post: my total weight gain for this pregnancy. Yesterday morning, after my trip to the bathrrom and before getting dressed, I weighed myself. I weighed in at: 166.2, for a total weight gain of 21.2 pounds. Pretty good, I think. I still have 13.8 pounds, give or take, that I can gain and be in the "normal healthy weight gain" range. Last time, I gained something more like 40 pounds. Of course, last time I was alotted that extra gain by my doctor for health concerns. So far Roberta says I'm right in range for weight gain, and have been so far the whole pregnancy.

This morning, I weighed 166.6 pounds, but I didn't have a BM yesterday, so I'm discounting that extra 0.4 pounds. :) Even so, that would only put me at 21.6 pounds. Well within the so-called "norm".

And also, the guys at work are now making jokes on how many times a day I eat. They're all good-natured, as they all are married and have kids, so they know what's up with my 5 meals a day. :) Most of them have said their wives ate like this in the last weeks of pregnancy. The women I've talked to at work all say they did, too. I think my Mom was maybe just "abnormal" in her eating and appetite. :) [Just kidding! Love you Mommy!!! XOXOXO]

May 5, 2009

Cleaning a window-type air conditioner - posted for Susan

Susan posted her Tackle It Tuesday chore over at 5 Minutes for Mom. She cleaned up her portable air conditioner. I thought I would post more detailed instructions on how she can do this and get every bit of gunk out of it (or as close to it as possible without tearing the whole thing apart). I have, after all, cleaned one or two (or thirty) of these before. So, in honor of Susan's post, here's my method for cleaning window-type air conditioners. (I apologise in advance, but I have no pictures for you. Two years ago we bought our house, and we're fortunate enough to have a central heating and cooling unit, so I no longer have the joy of dealing with this chore two to three times a year. Anyone who does this and posts pictures can feel free to post their link in my comments below for everyone else.)

It's that time of year again. My Southern brothers and sisters most likely know what I'm talking about. For those who have window air conditioning units, it's time to take them down and clean them really good. When you live in an area that regularly gets high temperatures near or over 100&degF for weeks on end in the summer, this can be your most important spring-cleaning related job. Sometimes, it has to be repeated again in mid-summer at least once. A clean unit just cools better than a dirty one.

Don't be afraid. It won't hurt you to do this. All you need are:
  1. someone to lift the unit and carry it outside to the driveway/patio/wherever
  2. degreasing cleaner
  3. a scrub brush
  4. a hose with sprayer
  5. a screwdriver (to fit the screws holding the outer cover on)
  6. a nice, cool morning (preferably) so you don't sweat yourself half to death while you wait on your house to cool back down
Here's what to do to get started.

Unplug the unit. Take it out of the window/wall sleeve/etc and carry it outside. Place it in the driveway, on the patio, on your porch.... Anywhere that has a hard, relatively flat surface that will produce the least amount of mud while you're doing this. It does no good to clean your air conditioner, then get mud all in it. Take off the cover if there is one (should be held on with screws). Soak the coils down with your water hose, then with a degreasing-type cleaner (just the el-cheapo dollar store or store brand version; or even better - a natural degreaser). Matter of fact, spray everything you can (not electrical controls, etc.) with the cleaner. Spray the air vents, the front grill (where the filter goes), everywhere. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes or so. You may need two or more bottles of cleaner. You want to soak this baby down really well. Don't be shy.

Scrub the radiator with a brush (one with metal bristles will work best, but any scrub brush will do), being careful to not bend or crush the "radiator fin" part of the coils. Scrub the other parts of the unit with a nylon-bristle scrub brush (a dish-washing brush or fingernail brush will work great here). Hose out the unit very well, especially the coils. Rinse until the water runs clean and all of the cleaner is washed away.

Let all the water drain out of the unit, and let the unit dry thoroughly before putting the cover and any other pieces (vent pieces, etc.) you may have removed back on. After dry and the cover is back on, put the unit back where it belongs. Making sure the unit is COMPLETELY dry, plug it up and give it a try for just a minute. Bet it works better!

Dish detergent and a fingernail scrub brush are excellent for cleaning the front filter on a regular basis, also. It will remove all the greasy, gunky buildup and dust better than anything I've found.
Just do it in the morning, before it gets hot (or warm). Turn your unit off, remove and wash the filter. Don't scrub hard enough to break the filter, it doesn't take much pressure to get it clean this way. The sprayer attachment on your kitchen sink will work well for rinsing the detergent from the filter. (While you're at it, why not clean your dryer's lint filter this way, too? You've already got the necessary detergent and scrub brush out. You can let the two filters dry together.) Let your filter (air conditioner or dryer) get completely dry before putting it back in your machine.

I am lucky enough to have central air now, but it hasn't been but a couple of years since I lived in a place that had a window air conditioning unit in one window of every room. (It really does get that hot here in the summer!) I always liked to hang my filters outside in the shade to dry (we had a covered porch I could hang them from). The heat outside, plus the breeze blowing, dried my filters really fast. I never tried it in the sun, so I don't know if this would hurt them or not.

The main things to remember are:
1. Natural cleaners are best for this, as you'll be doing this outside, and you need to be mindful of what chemicals you put on/in the ground. What you use may run off into your town's drinking supply. Some products will be more preferred for this than others. If you must use a non-natural commercial cleaner, try Dawn dish detergent, diluted in water and poured in a spray bottle.
2. Let everything dry thoroughly before putting the unit back together, plugging it up, etc.
3. This is best done now, before the need for air conditioning becomes greater. I speak from experience when I say, you don't want to wait until the middle of a 95+ degree afternoon to HAVE to do this because your air conditioner quit cooling your house.
4. Clean your removable filters at least once a month, preferably every week or two. It will help your unit work better, and last longer. Try to clean them in the mornings, when the need for air conditioning isn't as great as late afternoon.

Update on yesterday

So, yesterday was not a day of rest. We dropped the car off for an oil change and went to St aple's for another filing box so I could work on my kitchen table. Then we went to Lowe's to buy Michael a new skilsaw and saws-all, and me a rug pad for our living room rug (it slides across the hardwood - not too safe).

Then it was off to Jody's Optical to see my seester. She had bought me a present, and she wanted me to come pick it up while we were in town. Guess what she got me.... The book Love You Forever!!! I've been looking for it every time we go to Wal-mart, and haven't been able to find it. Well, she found it and bought it! SQUEEEEE!!!

Then we walked down to Piggly Wiggly for a few items that we had run out of. I just went grocery shopping last Monday, but I've been eating 5 times a day, sometimes 6!!!

Then it was time to go for my checkup at Roberta's. We got there and signed in. I noticed the waiting room was empty except for us, but I thought maybe it was just because Dr. Carlota was out of the office. The receptionist noticed we were there, and told us that Rpberta was out delivering a baby. We could either wait, come back at 2:30 (it was 11:30 right then), or reschedule for next Monday. So we rescheduled. Next Monday it is.

After rescheduling our appointment, we went to see if the car was ready. It was in the garage on the rack when we pulled up, so we waited. After getting our keys from the mechanic, Michael called and ordered us bacon cheeseburgers from S&Z. I followed him until he pulled off there. I went home, got in the mail, and waited on my burger. After eating, he cut grass and cleaned up the yard while I worked on the table.

I got the table half cleaned off before dinner time. I threw away half of the stuff I cleaned off the table. If it wasn't ours, it got thrown away. (We still get junk mail for people who lived there before us, and for Mamaw. It sometimes gets lost on the table.) If it was an old newspaper, it got thrown away, read or not. Junk mail, garbage or shredder. Bills that have been paid, filed. Coupons, stored in coupon organizer or thrown away. All Michael's screwdrivers and stuff he's piled up there, taken back out to the shed with his other tools. Unread magazines, dumped in a shoebox-sized plastic tote for reading or giving away. (Maybe I can use some of them for reading material during my maternity leave and hospital stay?? All I know is, there's no way I'm throwing away Better Homes and Gardens, American Baby, and Michael's Field and Stream magazines without looking through them first.)

I also created temp files in one of my file boxes for crafting ideas, recipes to add to my MasterCook software, paint samples for painting our bedroom (one day, I hope), and stuff like that.

I also cooked dinner last night! Lemon Pepper Chicken, mashed potatoes, shells and cheese, salad, and Texas toast. (Easy cooking with Lawry's Lemon Pepper marinade. I don't marinade - just pour it over th etop of the chicken pieces, add a little water to the bottom of the baking dish, and bake until the chicken is cooked through.)

After eating dinner, I got Aaron to put up the leftovers, I neatly stacked my file boxes and stuff back on the far edge of the kitchen table, out of the way. (Mainly so we could walk through the kitchen around the table this morning!) After stacking everything up there, over half the table was clear! Yay me!

Then I went to bed. I was exhausted. I woke up this morning still tired. I started to cancel my overtime today, but the thought of missing out on duoble overtime made me come to work anyway. I'm going to tell my boss today that I'm canceling tomorrow. It's only regular time-and-a-half overtime, so quite a difference in the amount of money lost by canceling tomorrow instead of today. I may have them cancel one overtime day each week from now on, giving me two days off and five days on. Or I may have them swap me to 40 hour weeks until I take my leave. It depends on how I feel after I work the rest of this week (except tomorrow).

May 3, 2009

New Item: SaraBear Diaper Caddy

Meet the SaraBear diaper caddy. Totally cool, awesomely stylish, completely practical. Bigger than the caddy I already have. They come in several colors, so finding one that fits with the style of my house shouldn't be too much of a problem. If it is, I can always make one, right? I'm thinking, a little fabric, a basket, and some iron-on hemming tape should do the trick.

But why, you ask, is this such an awesome thing for me to want several, or at least a few? Because, dear readers and friends, my baby's room is upstairs, and our room is downstairs. I know it's not practical. But that's the way my house is built. And it's not practical or feasible to move our room to the upstairs right now. Not enough time, too much stuff, you get the picture. Plus, my doctor won't want me to go up and down the stairs for the first couple of weeks or so anyway.

We already have one (not a SaraBear, and not this color), and I've already started putting stuff in it. (Mainly because we needed the extra space that big box of diapers took up. You know, so we could go buy more diapers.) I'm thinking, one for the living room and one for the bedroom. That way, I won't be sending my dear, sweet husband upstairs five times a day for diapers and wipes and diaper cream and...... Seems smarter to me. I could buy or make one (preferably buy, of course. We all know how this is likely to end if I try to make one now....) to match our living room. This one would kinda match, but not really.

The one we have already matches both the bay's room and our bedroom. By having two caddies, hopefully it will eliminate having to bring one caddy from bedroom to living room, then it's time to go to bed, and in the middle of the night you realize you left the darn thing in the living room. Kinda fits in with my motto: Work smarter, not harder.

Note to self: also need to buy two or three plastic rolling cart-with-drawer thingies for storing baby stuff in the bedroom the first few weeks. Since there's no need in even trying to clear out a dresser drawer. It won't ever happen, unless it gets done during my leave while I'm nesting. Also need one or two more under-bed storage boxes for our bedroom. Or some space bags. Either way, they're just going to be storing old sheets and stuff I really don't need right now, since they don't fit my bed. And don't forget to look for some kinda diaper caddy to match the living room, SaraBear brand or not.

May 2, 2009

My crazy pregnancy/labor dream

Ok, so I know pregnant women are supposed to have really weird, extremely out there dreams at least a few times while they're pregnant. I haven't had but one or two so far. The one I had last night takes the cake, boys and girls. Fair warning, it's a doozy. Some might even think it's kinda graphic, sick, or just plain TMI. What I'm describing below does have a certain EWWWWW factor about it. If you read what I've written below, don't complain about it later when you can't get the images out of your mind. You've been warned.

The dream went like this:
It was time to be expecting the baby any day now. The bag was packed, carseat installed. Ready to go. And then I went into labor. My water broke. For some unknown reason, I decided to deliver the baby at home, myself, with no doctors or medication or anything. I could feel my contractions mounting, but they didn't hurt. I mean, I could feel the squeezing and pressure from the contractions, but they didn't hurt.

So I was sitting on the couch in our living room, except it was our couch, but not our living room. I had a clock, and we were timing my contractions. The whole family was at our house. I mean whole family as in both my and Michael's sides, plus our friends.... People everywhere, except no one was in the living room except me and Michael.

The time finally comes for me to push. So I sit back on the couch, and the baby's head pops through my.......... Stomach. Seriously, like in Alien. He crowns through my uterine wall, through my abdominal muscles, through my skin, and his head pops out of my stomach, just above and to the right of my belly button. He was face up and looking straight into my eyes, drawing his first deep breaths with no help. He didn't cry, only smiled instead. And it didn't hurt at all! Then, I reached down, grabbed his head, and pulled his body out of my stomach through the hole his head made. There was no blood, no gore, nothing. Just a clean baby and a hole in my stomach the size of a key lime.

Don't ask me how my child's head and body squeezed through a hole in my stomach the size of a key lime. I mean, I know they squeeze out of small, ummm, holes to begin with when you deliver them. I just remember, in my dream it seemed so odd that an entire baby could stretch that little bitty hole in my stomach enough to get out without ripping me wide open.

After I pulled him out, we clamped and cut the cord. Still no pain. Michael held him. Then my placenta began detaching. That's when the pain hit. More a stinging sensation that a stabbing one. Like I could feel my placenta peeling itself away from the wall of my uterus. After it detached, I pulled it out through the hole in my stomach and threw it in the garbage. Then I went to the bathroom, bandaged the hole in my stomach, and changed clothes. The hole left a little jagged scar on my stomach after it healed.

I told you, weird. Funny thing is, today I woke up with my stomach hurting in the exact spot that busted open in my dream. I think he was either headbutting or kicking me in that spot while I slept. It is sore today. Almost like it's bruised on the inside.

Crock Pot Tortilla Soup/Taco Soup (Recipe Two-fer!)

I know this isn't on my menu for this time, but this is SO GOOD!!! Of course, you could cook it on the stove all day, too. For stove top preparation, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a low simmer and let it sit and cook all day.

Crockpot Tortilla Soup


2 or 3 frozen chicken breasts (Split halves, boneless skinless, whatever you have. You can also use thawed chicken breasts if you have them. Point is, you can throw them in frozen if you forgot to thaw them!)

2 cans chicken broth or other broth (chicken will be better in this, but use whatever you have)

1 can Mexican style stewed tomatoes (could also use Rotel, Italian style, or plain stewed tomatoes)

1 can blackbeans, rinsed

Frozen or canned corn (Use as much as you like, doesn't matter. Just pour some in. Any kind, Mexican style, whole kernel, etc. As long as it's whole kernel some-kinda-corn, it'll be OK.)

1 small can (8oz) tomato paste

1 pkg taco seasoning

1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 to 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely diced)

You can also add whatever else would sound good to you. Diced carrots, onions, celery, green chilis; hominy, Tabasco, bouillon cubes..... (I like a little lime juice, just a few drops, to give it more flavor.)

1. Dump everything into your crockpot or stew pot. Stir it a few times, just to mix it all up.

2. For crockpot, cook on low all day, or on high for 4-6 hours. Of course, no need to stir the pot while it's cooking!

3. For stove top prep, bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat and cook on low at least 6 hours, up to all day. Stir this a few times when cooking on the stove top to prevent sticking or scorching, etc.

4. Before serving, pull out chicken breasts and shred. Return chicken to pot.

Top this with guacamole, salsa, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips, Fritos, shredded cheese, or anything you like. (I like some sour cream, shredded cheese, and salsa. I like some tortilla chips on the side for dipping into this.)

To turn this into taco soup, use 1 pound browned ground beef instead of the chicken. Leave out the garlic. Cook as directed above.

Either of these variations can be made in a double batch and then what's left after dinner can be frozen to eat later. Which I suppose makes this a double two-fer recipe, doesn't it? :)

May 1, 2009

The irony of my life......

I go to a blog I read to see her update, and I see this:

Oh, the irony.

If anyone is interested, the link from this ad is:
Celiac Central

I tried it. It basically asks if you have any of the more common symptoms, or have deen diagnosed with certain conditions, and if you have an immediate family member diagnosed with a condition like Celiac. It then provides a printable copy of the form, with suggestions for talking to your doctor. It offers no opinion on if you are likely to have a disease like Celiac, saying only that "multiple symptoms" may indicate a need for testing.

My first blog award

Yesterday afternoon I was given my first ever blog award. Buckin gave it to me. Her blog is Rubber Baby Buckin Bumpers. Now I must pass the Zombie Chicken Award on to other, more worthy, bloggers.

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all…"

And now for the passing of the torch.... I like love the blogs Buckin handed this award off to, but in the interest of passing on new blogs, I will pick:

The Heir to Blair (yes, I know... GTFO! I'll probably get an eviction notice from her for this, but I'm still gifting her this award... It's all Buckin's fault!)

Obviously You're an Idiot - a quite truthful look at all the stupidity around us every day.

$5 Dinners (menu plans and recipes, most of which are cheap to make, but still delicious!)

I'm an Organizing Junkie (the home of Menu plan Monday)

A Year of Crockpotting (she doesn't post here as much as she used to, but this lady used her crockpot EVERY DAY for a YEAR! There are tons of crockpot recipes here!)

Honorable mention goes to my mom and sister. They both work a lot, so don't update much, but I'd fight off zombie chickens to read their stuff, too!

Now, Sissy or Mom, email me and tell me how to add my award to my side bar!!! I'd try to figure it out, but my brain refuses to cooperate today! It's so bad, spell-check is my BFF today, along with other remedies..... (Mountain Dew, Cheez-its, blogging....) I have literally edited this thing like, 5 times since I originally posted it. I keep finding things wrong with it.... :/

Dear Sissy,

I will not delete the recipe posts. I promise. They will be here until Blogger do us part. I am tagging all of them, so they'll be easier to find later on. I know you can only cook Chef Boyardee, Hot Pockets, frozen pizza, HH, oven toast, and mac and cheese. I feel bad for whatever guy you ever marry. I can see what your weekly menu would look like. Maybe I can fix that before that time comes. I sure hope so. Either that, or you need to marry a chef! Just remember when cooking for Mom, these are not GF, so appropriate substitutions need to be taken.

If I do not forget, I will try to come to Jody's Monday. I have a checkup and an appointment to get my car serviced, and I need some more breakfast stuff for work, since I didn't buy enough the other day, and I just realized today that I'll be out halfway through next week. :)

You know, I just realized something. You may actually be onto something with your cooking abilities. It would be mucho easier to walk into the grocery store with this list:

12 cans Chef Boyardee
4 boxes Easy Mac
4 pounds hamburger meat
4 boxes Hamburger Helper
1 box instant potatoes
10 frozen pizzas
10 boxes Hot pockets
2 loaves bread
5 boxes cereal
2 gallons milk

Five nights a week you could cook:
Monday - Chef Boyardee
Tuesday - Pizza
Wednesday - Hamburger Helper, Easy Mac, and instant mashed potatoes
Thursday - Hot Pockets
Friday - Cereal and oven toast

That would give you 20 meals, plus extra Easy Mac and cereal. That would feed two people lunch on the weekends. You could stop at drive-throughs for breakfast every day at 1:00. (You know, since Sonic serves breakfast all day, and they have new CroisSonic sandwiches! Did you see them? They look sooooo good! And their breakfast burritos.... MMMMM!) The other two nights you could go to Sonic or Subway or Arby's. Every once in a while, skip the Hamburger Helper in favor of KFC, Captain D's, Krystal's, Little Cesar's, Bojangles, Wendy's, Hardee's, Zaxby's or Papa Johns. You know, for variety.

You may be on to a good idea here. I'm gonna have to try this menu myself for a week. Of course, I'd have to triple the shopping list, throw in 10 extra boxes of Hot Pockets, 2 gallons of milk, 4 dozen eggs, two boxes of sausage patties, a case of canned biscuits, coffee, sugar, and some MD and breakfast stuff for me, just to feed us that one week. Still cheaper than my normal list though!

I love you seester, and I hope this gave you a laugh or two! You know I'm playing. (But seriously, that menu and grocery list I made for you doesn't sound half bad right now!)

Big Seester (and getting bigger by the day, it seems!)

Apr 30, 2009

Sausage Bread [AKA Sausage Balls (not the kind you think it is)]

Another absolute favorite. This does not make those little round things concocted out of sausage and bread and such and served as finger foods at parties. No sir. This makes little pieces of toast, topped with sausage and melted cheese. Pure heaven any time of day. Delicious later in the day after they've become room temperature. Just as good tomorrow after reheating.

I grew up eating this for breakfast at my Granny's. She always served it, and we always ate it, with a big bowl of Argo brand canned peaches. We dunk our sausage balls in the peach juice before we eat them. My brother-in-law loves these, but he thinks I'm crazy for eating them with peaches. I think he's crazy for not trying it with peaches. Sadly, it is very difficult to find Argo peaches today. I know of one or two grocery stores in my town that carry them, when you can find them. Other brands of canned peach slices just don't taste right with this. They're OK, just not right.

Sausage Bread (AKA Sausage Balls)

1 lb breakfast sausage
1/2 to 1 loaf Velveeta cheese
1/2 loaf sliced white bread

1. Crumble sausage into skillet and brown over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain excess grease from the pan. (Grease interferes with the melting of the Velveeta.)

2. While sausage is cooking, cut cheese into small pieces, to aid in melting.

3. Add cheese to browned sausage in skillet and heat until cheese is melted, stirring to mix.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F.

5. Cut bread slices into quarters. Pile sausage and cheese onto each piece.

6. Place bread on rimmed baking sheets. Bake 3 to 7 minutes, until bread is toasted.

7. Serve with a can of peaches in light syrup on the side. Of course, the syrup is for dipping, and the peaches are for eating with the sausage balls.

The only hints I can think of for this recipe are to make sure you don't burn the sausage or cheese, and don't toast the bread too much. I've never, ever made these and frozen them. They do, however, make excellent leftovers.

Hobo Dinner

A family favorite from my childhood. Much cherished by my family. Another of those meals that my guys just PURPLE PUFFY HEART LOVE. Well, maybe not purple puffy heart, since they are guys. But ya know where I'm going with this.

Have Celiac or follow a gluten-free diet for some other reason? Go to Gluten-Free Southern Cooking to see how my mom converted this recipe to GF. She has Celiac, and this was one of the first recipes she converted to GF so she could still eat it. That's how loved this recipe is.

I have no idea how well this freezes, since I've never tried. Also, as always, with my crew, I have to make a double recipe just for dinner. A double recipe of this usually leaves us with one or two servings for someone for lunch the next day, if we're lucky. However, feeding my guys (sometimes up to 4 of them, plus me) usually equals cooking for 12 people or more. And then some nights we're lucky if there's leftovers for someone to eat for lunch the next day.

I do know that this recipe makes excellent next-day leftovers. We never throw these leftovers out. They don't stay around long enough. Also, I've tried this using Lil' Smokies sausages instead of the smoked sausages. My guys hated it. I got told to never, ever cook this using Lil Smokies again. (Did I mention they normally love Lil Smokies?) Also, this does not do well in the crock pot. I've tried, more than once. It left lots and lots to be desired. I always cook this fresh.

Hobo Dinner
Should serve, like, 6-8 normal people

1 pound smoked dinner sausage (then kind that's like kielbasa)
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-3" chunks
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2-3" pieces (or 1 small bag baby carrots)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2 a soup can of water
1 small onion, sliced and rings separated

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Place potatoes and carrots in a 9x13 baking dish.

3. Slice sausage into 1/2" thick pieces and spread evenly over vegetables.

4. Spread onion evenly over sausage pieces.

5. Mix soups and half a soup can of water in a bowl. Pour evenly over onions.

6. Cover tightly with foil.

7. Place in oven and bake for approximately one hour, or until the potatoes and carrots are tender.

My helpful hint for this recipe is to place a cookie sheet under the baking dish. This usually ends up getting in the bottom of my oven and burning there. Save yourself the trouble. Use a baking sheet or cookie sheet. Even if you have one of those oven liner thingys in the bottom of your oven like I do. It'll come right off the liner thingy, but it stinks when it drips down there and burns.

Tater Tot Casserole

This is a family favorite! Basically, all it is, is chili-cheese tater tots! Who doesn't love that?!?! Whenever I'm asked by my guys "What's for dinner?" and I answer "Tater Tot Casserole", there's nearly a stampede right then and there. This also freezes well. Details on that under the helpful tips section of this post.

Tater Tot Casserole

1 pound ground beef
1 (2 pound) bag tater tots
2 (10 oz.) cans hot dog chili sauce
2 cups shredded cheese (any)

1. Pour tater tots into a 9x13 rectangular Pyrex dish or other such baking dish. Cook per package directions until tater tots are crispy and cooked completely.

2. While tots are baking, cook meat. Set aside. (I like to boil my meat in a big pot of water and then drain the water out. Less fat, cooks quicker, doesn't burn and get all crunchy like browning meat on the stovetop in a frying pan can. See the tutorial on the tutorial on Southern Plate that Christy Jordan wrote for more information on this.)

3. Mix chili sauce into the cooked, drained meat. Heat through.

4. Pour chili sauce over crispy tater tots. Top with shredded cheese. Bake at whatever temperature your oven is already set on for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Some helpful tips for cooking this dish:
1. If freezing, assemble without cooking the tater tots or heating the chili sauce. Let the ground beef cool before assembling, but go ahead and mix the meat in the chili sauce before pouring over the tots. If you do heat the chili sauce, let it cool before you pour it over the tots. Trust me, if you cook the tots before assembly, or pour hot chili over the tots before freezing, you will have yucky, soggy tots. Not cool! After assembly, wrap well and label. Don't forget to label with cooking directions, too! This way, if you need your husband or teenager to start dinner, you can thaw this in the fridge the night before, then call when you need it popped in the oven and just tell them to follow the instructions on the label you made!

2. If you freeze this, it can be cooked two ways. The first is to thaw in the fridge overnight, then bake at 350°F about 20 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese is melted. The other is to unwrap and throw it in the oven frozen. Then you would bake it at 350°F until heated through. I would guess 30-45 minutes, but I've never done it this way, so I'm not sure.

3. If you're worried about your cheese burning due to the increased cooking time after freezing and thawing, but don't want to cover it with foil while baking (so the cheese won't stick to foil, of course), then try this. Assemble the casserole, everything but the shredded cheese. When you bake this, bake for all but about 5 or 10 minutes of the time called for. Take it out, add the cheese, then bake another 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

4. Short on time? No need to cook the tots if you need to throw this together really fast. It will just make for soggier tots if you don't cook them until they're crispy first. Plus, it takes about as long to cook the ground beef as it does the tots, unless you have ground beef already cooked in your freezer, like I do.

Have any more suggestions? Share them in the comments.

Mini Meatloaves

I love meatloaf. Love it! Also, I love cooking meatloaf this way. I hate greasy meatloaf, swimming in all that fat from the ground beef. I also hate meatloaf covered with a nice burnt layer of what was tomato sauce or ketchup. So, this is how I cook my meatloaf. This also freezes well. I'll include that in the instructions, too, in case someone out there is interested.

Mini Meatloaves

2 lbs. ground beef (chuck, etc.- whatever kind you prefer)
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup bread crumbs, crushed saltine or Ritz-style crackers, etc. (again, whatever you have - this is great for using up old, stale bread or crackers)
1 package meatloaf seasoning (I usually use McCormick, just because that is what's available in my stores near here. I probably should look into making my own, though.)
1 (14oz) can italian diced tomatoes
1 (small? 6oz?) can tomato sauce

For most of these ingredients, I just use whatever I have or can find on sale. All the grease that cooks out of this will drain away, so I'm not concerned about buying low-fat (80/20 or 93/7 or some such) beef. Also,I try to stretch our grocery budget just a little, so I usually buy the store brands of canned goods when I can. As stated above, about the only thing I don't buy store brand is maybe the seasoning, because I don't think I've seen store-brand seasoning. I could probably make my own cheaper, especially if I also made my own taco seasoning, etc. I may look into that. But for now, store bought it is.

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Get out your broiler pan and the rack that goes with it. I love using my broiler pan for cooking meatloaf. All the slits in the pan let all the nasty grease drain into the bottom of the pan, keeping my meatloaf high and dry, you might say. If you don't own one of these, you can use any pan with sides deep enough to hold the grease. However, I really do suggest you go out and get one if you don't have it. You'll thank me for it later.

2. Spray your pan with non-stick cooking spray. This helps the meatloaf not stick to the broiler pan, or what ever pan you're using.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and tomato sauce together. Add seasoning and bread crumbs (or which ever you're using). THEN add the meat, mixing well with your hands.

4. While your hands are still covered in the meatloaf mixture, grab the meat by the handfull and shape into a ball/loaf shape. Place on the broiler rack (or other pan). Continue until you've used up all the meat.

5. Place your pan of meatloaf in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until meat is cooked all the way through. If you like, you can spread tomato sauce or ketchup or whatever your family prefers over the loaves, before or during cooking. I don't like it, so I omit this part.

Some helpful tips for making mini meatloafs:
1. A muffin pan can be used, also. Just spray the pan before you fill it. Press enough of the meat mixture into each cup to fill it over. Place muffin pan on a pan deep enough to catch any grease that runs out of the muffin pan.

2. For freezing, either use a muffin pan, or line baking sheets with wax/parchment paper (whichever you have). When using muffin pans, spray each cup before filling. Fill and freeze until the meat is frozen solid. Transfer to zippered freezer bags and freeze. When using baking sheet, spray the wax paper with cooking spray. Shape each loaf by hand and place on the paper, not touching. Freeze until frozen solid. Transfer to freezer bags and freeze.

3.) This recipe doubles and triples easily. Monday I cooked 5.3 pounds of hamburger meat into meatloaf. (Yes, all of it was for eating that night and leftovers the next day). I used: 5.3 pounds meat, 1 (14 oz) can Italian diced tomatoes, 1 (14 oz) can tomato sauce, whatever stale saltine/Ritz/oyster crackers I had in the cabinet (pulsed them in the blender to crumble them up quickly), 5 eggs, two packs of seasoning, and enough milk to hold it all together (1/2 to 3/4 cup? I don't know, I just poured some in the bowl). I mixed it up following the directions above. It made 19 mini-meatloaves (each was a gull handful of meat), which filled up my broiler pan completely. I had to cram them on there, touching. It only took them about 75 minutes for them to all be cooked completely. I checked with my meat thermometer, and every one was 190°F or more inside. This fed 7 adults (some of which ate two or more loaves), gave me a plate (with 2 1/2 loaves) for lunch at work Tuesday, and left 5 in the fridge for the guys to eat Tuesday.

4. Alternatively, you could double or triple the amount you need when you make this. Cook what you need and freeze the rest. Dinner in a flash later, with only a minute or two of extra work now!

5. To cook after freezing, just place on the pan you want to cook them in (still frozen) and put them in the oven. It'll take longer to cook, but there's no defrosting needed. In fact, defrosting is really a waste, because then you'll probably have to reshape each one before baking.

6. If you want to make traditional meatloaf (one big loaf) this recipe works, too. I find it takes less time to bake if I make mini loaves for each of us, so that's what I do. By all means, use a loaf pan and make one big one if that's what you want. Or better yet (in my opinion), shape it into a loaf and place it on a broiler pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. All the grease still drains off, and it's still one big loaf.

7. When using a broiler pan, spray both sides of the rack with non-stick spray. Also spray the inside of the bottom pan. Trust me, easier cleanup later. The slots in the top pan will collect tiny pieces of meat and gristle and such as they cook out of the loaves, and then you'll have to scrub to get them off. Trust me. Spray the whole pan. You'll be glad you did.

8. Be careful when taking the broiler pan out of the oven when your meatloaf is done. Hold that pan even and level, and don't slosh it around. If you don't watch it, you'll pour hot meatloaf grease all over yourself. Not fun. I poured it all over the toe of my leater and suede work shoes the other day. I didn't burn myself, but I could have. Thank goodness I wear my shoes even inside.

Anyone have anything else to add? If you do, leave a comment!