Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Boys

It's been awhile since I have posted about two of the most important things in our lives: Benjamin and Jonathan. While it's on my heart, I'd just love to jot down (okay, type) what they are up to lately....just so I don't forget!

What a year this kiddo has had! So many of you have told us how you have seen Benjamin, literally, come out of his little shell since the school year began. What a blessing that is to hear. We just had his yearly ARD with KISD and he will be progressing in his therapy next year and actually going over to Timber Ridge Elementary once or twice a week to have therapy with other kids his age, a lot of which will focus on his social skills. He will continue his work at Camp Hope even during the summer once a week.
He is thrilled about summer being around the corner and asks me daily if it's June yet. He will be starting Children's Day Out (once a week) and gymnastics in June. He will also have two weeks of swimming lessons in July which he wishes would start today.
It's been over a year since he was diagnosed Asperger's Syndrome and we definitely dove head first into it all. What a journey it has been and continues to be. His charm and wit have grown and conversations with him are the highlight of my day.
He still loves vacuums and can rattle off about five brands of them that really do peak his interest. He even does a lot of vacuuming for me and even loves to make the 1950 era diamond carpet pattern while vacuuming. His little infatuations have grown to also include dry cleaners, wind-up robots and the small creek (or glorified drainage ditch) two houses down from us. It's hard to believe he'll be five in September. He is already talking about having a robot party.

Apparently my two-year-old carries the weight of the world with him everyday...yesterday at the doctor they found two knots in his neck from "stress". They also said it could be from sleeping in weird positions, so we're going with that one. He has been enjoying neck massages, ibuprofin and heat therapy to hopefully melt his troubles away. Um, yeah.
In the last few months, we have seen our baby turn into quite the little boy. He's extremely social and loves going to preschool to see his teacher and friends. His vocabulary is increasing, although sometimes we don't have much of a clue what he is saying. He mimics Benjamin every chance he can.
He loves being outside and has had a rather disappointing week with all the rain we've had. He could entertain himself for hours outside, especially in the sandbox where he has an ongoing construction project of never-ending "caaaa-thles". He has a small lisp where he sometimes turns an "S" sound into a "th", but it's pretty endearing at this point. He also has quite a stubborn and often ornery side to him.
He is also extremely affectionate and never misses a chance to say "I wuv woo".

Crazy how time flies. These two characters fill our lives with more joy than we could have ever imagined. We are truly blessed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My good friend, Becky, over at Casita de Alaniz (she's actually a "real life" amigo, too!) has some wonderful recipes. Over a year ago she shared her Chicken & Rice recipe with me and I was hooked.
Now, I know every good southern girl has her own recipe for Chicken & Rice, usually including a can or two of Cream o' Mushroom (a casserole standard in Texas), but Becky's recipe was different and...sooo yummy.
Becky & I recently chatted about lightening it up. She said she uses the brown Minute Rice (which helps since the fiber content would knock down the POINTS). Although I couldn't find the brown version at HEB last week, I recalculated it on the Weight Watcher site using the reduced fat soups and skim milk.
I seriously couldn't tell the difference. And neither could the fam. This will continue to live on as a family fave-- now a bit lighter!

Becky's Chicken & Rice...WW Style!

8-10 thawed chicken tenders or 3 large chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 can 98% fat-free cream of celery soup
1 can 98% fat-free cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cans (yes, cans) Minute Rice (can use brown)
1 package Lipton Onion Soup Mix, dry
1 1/2 cans skim milk (it will rinse the rice out)

Combine soup in mixing bowl, add rice and then milk.

Man, I love how Becky thinks. She and I are so alike....this totally saves you a dirty measuring cup by using the can. She's one resourceful gal.

Mix well with wire whisk. Add package of onion soup mix, stir well and sprinkle with a little salt (I use Accent in place of salt a lot these days) and pepper.
Spray 9x13 casserole dish with Pam. Pour half of soup/rice mixture in the bottom.

Then lay chicken pieces on top of soup layer. Follow with remaining soup/rice mixture on top of the chicken to cover. Cover tightly with foil and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for an hour and a half. Take foil off last 30 minutes to make the top a little browned.
Allow to sit a few minutes before serving.
6 generous  heaping servings.

POINTS value: 6 points per serving.

Weight Watching TIP OF THE WEEK:
Not all 100 Cal packs are the same. A few of them are PACKED with fiber to make them only ONE little point per awesome is that?
Two AWESOME fiber-packed 100 Cal packs are from our friends at Hostess and Mrs. Freshley's Snack Away brand. 

These Peanut Butter Wafers are only 1 point each (and actually only 90 cals) while their competition at Little Debbie with their 100 calorie peanut butter bars are 3 points each!
The hostess 100 cal cake packs are truly wonderful...we love the strawberry ones. 
Now, I am certainly not advocating that these are necessarily healthy, it would probably better to eat a piece of fruit. However, sometimes a treat is great. And it's fun to feel like I am eating "naughty" when I am really eating quite nice.
Happy snacking!

Oh, and I am so excited to report that I made one of my mini-goals last night at the meeting! I reached my 30 pound mark-- actually even went over a bit to make it 31.2 pounds lost so far. And I am still using all of my extra points every week-- every last one. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Get ready for a shameless amount of photos. As I have mentioned before, this is my online version of a scrapbook. We have been Easter-ing it up for a couple of weeks now. Here's a few of our fun memories...

Last weekend was a very chilly Easter Egg hunt (and yummy potluck) for our Homebuilders class at church. The boys had a great time. Love our class and have missed everyone so much since we have been teaching the last two quarters! We'll see a lot more of you guys in the summer...can't wait!

Funny how rare family photos seem to be these days. Can you tell we were facing the sun?

I just love this sweet photo of our friend little Landry with Benjamin.

This was Benjamin's class gearing up to hunt eggs in the auditorium at his preschool egg hunt. Again, another chilly day. But finding eggs in every pew seemed pretty fun to these kiddos!

Dying eggs with Daddy. B is getting to be a pro!

Little Man loved this.

The Easter Bunny didn't pass our house by!

Ready for Easter Sunday Church.

Later that day in Marble Falls at my parents' house. "Traditional" rib dinner, egg hunt and playing at the lake.

Jonathan found every egg he could. Even one in the neighbor's yard awaiting their hunt. He was determined to get it out from behind the fence. But didn't.

Benjamin diving into the candy with Grandma.

Cousins Kayla & Keaton

Kayla with our boys at the lake.

Mike & Keaton trying to convince us to ride a wave-runner. We're just landlubbers.

And I heard them exclaim as they spashed out of sight....
Happy Easter to all and to all a, afternoon.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Funnies from the Four-Year-Old

"Oh, you're vacuuming? Does this mean we're having LIFEGroup here today?"
Hmph. Apparently he thinks I only vacuum when company is coming? C'mon, now.

To his brother when the two-year-old tantrum rears its ugly head...
"Nooooooo....we DO NOT act like that. It is not okay. Got it?"

To his brother when the two-year-old tantrum rears its ugly head....
"HEY! You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."

"Look at all those people at the car wash. I am so glad they are finally cleaning their cars."

At Camp Hope to another little girl in the waiting room...
"What are you here for? I see a therapist. My therapist just had her wedding. And she wore a HUGE white dress. The really big one."
I am sure our petite therapist Miss Shana would have loved to have heard this. What is even funnier is that we didn't even go to this wedding. 

"Mommy, is this your laptop? Did Daddy decide you could borrow it?"

"Does Lightning McQueen say 'Merry Christmas' or 'Feliz Navidad'. I think he says 'Feliz Navidad.'" 
Hola, McQueen.

Monday, April 06, 2009

This is just a test!

This is just a test. I just learned a fun new blog trick to make my signature pop up automatically without having to upload or paste it every time. Just wanted to make sure it works! Looks like it did! Yahoo!
For those of you with signatures, I will try to create a photo tutorial on my design blog in the next few days explaining this simple trick.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Texas Tradition

"Like a blanket spreading out as far as I can see,
When those flowers line the road, you can look for me.
I'll be hanging 'round your back door like an old familiar tune,
I'll be there when the bluebonnets bloom..."
Robert Earl Keen, When the Bluebonnets Bloom

When I was a tot, my parents would dress me up and take me out to a field of bluebonnets to take photos. If you're from this area, chances are your family has a similar tradition. Something about our state flower that always makes me smile. Their light smell just gets me when I am standing in a big spread of them. They are a part of this state and in a way, a little part of me.
Every year in school, I remember countless teachers reciting the familiar words to The Legend of the Blue Bonnet. I can also remember my mom trying every year to turn part of our front yard into her own little Blue Bonnet heaven...with only a few measly buds sprouting up here and there. I also remember missing these beauties the 11 years I was in west Texas...they just aren't quite as plentiful as in central Texas.
It makes me so happy to be able to share this little tradition that my parents instilled in me with my own boys now. Although the lack of rain made for a slim crop this year, we still found a great patch in Belton (thanks, Melissa) that was perfect for the obligatory photos.
Happy Bluebonnet Season!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Mmmmm.....this is my new favorite by far. We made this last week one night and I am still thinking about it. Actually, that's sort of sad, huh? But, seriously. It. Was. Delicious. We have a little joke-sie around El Rancho that we refer to as "restaurant quality"....meaning a dish that is so unbelievable it could have come from our favorite restaurant. (And to give credit where credit is due, we borrowed this cheesey line from Sarah Jessica Parker in The First Wives Club).
So, I present to you, dear "losers": one awesome, restaurant quality recipe!

Green Chile-Chicken Casserole
(from the All-New Complete Cooking Light Cookbook)

1 1/3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup canned chopped green chiles, drained
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup fat-free sour cream
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 (10.5 oz.) cans condensed 98%-fat-free cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
cooking spray
24 (6-inch) corn tortillas
4 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups (8 oz.) finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

To start, I have to share the best garlic trick, ever! Actually, most of you probably already know this, I have just been behind on the garlic tricks, mainly because I was stuck in the land of pre-mined, jarred garlic. I won't ever buy it again! My friend, Jennifer, who has some awesome chef skills that we all like to oooo and ahhhh over, taught me a great trick to use with something that I had in my drawer-- my garlic press. I had used it before, but it seemed like a lot of work....pull garlic clove off the head, pop & peel garlic, chop off ends and then insert into press. Jennifer told me to just stick the whole clove (skin & all) into the press.

Then just squeeze.

And voila! The skin remains in the press after the garlic is already in the pan! Throw away your jar of pre-minced stuff for good!

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine first 9 ingredients in a large saucepan, stir with a whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
3. Spread 1 cup soup mixture in a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 6 tortillas over soup mixture, and top with 1 cup cooked chicken and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layers 3 times, ending with cheese. Spread remaining soup mixture over cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Yield: 12 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup).

POINTS value: 7 points per serving.

Weight Watching TIP OF THE WEEK:
This tip was told to me by our super talented photo-taking friend, Melissa. If you are a planner, especially when it comes to your family's meals, you will love emealz! And they have a POINTS friendly option for Wal-mart shoppers! You may have heard of emealz if you're a Dave Ramsey fan. I have gotten several new recipes from my emealz membership and love their format. They help you plan out a week's worth of meals that are not so spendy at all! You'll save time and money and the meals are really tasty. I do add in lunch stuff, breakfasts, and snacks, so that adds a bit to the budget. But, other than that...what a great idea! And, the plan I chose is for a family of usually we have leftovers for lunch the next day.