Monday, April 30, 2012

Sunday Funday at Six Flags

This year, the Easter Bunny brought season tickets to Six Flags over Texas for the boys, and secreted them away in their Easter baskets.

They were SO. EXCITED.

Coincidentally, the Birthday Fairy brought dad a season ticket and the Just Because Fairy brought one for me. Funny how that works, eh?

All talk of imaginary fairies and bunnies aside, the bottom line is that we now have the opportunity to go to Six Flags ANY. TIME. WE. WANT.

The boys and I went yesterday for their inaugural visit to the amusement park, and despite the fact we waited until after church to leave, and thus arrived a bit later than we normally would for a fun-filled, action-packed day, it was just perfect.

This was BEFORE we had to stand in line to process our season passes. 

And this was after. But hey, now it's done for an entire year.

The first thing they wanted to ride was the Superman, 32 1/2 stories of scream-evoking thrills. You can't see  him, but Curt is on this ride. He's fearless.

The favorite of the day was definitely the Aquaman. Let me just tell you, it was much more fun to be soaked to the core when I was 16. But the boys LOVED it. They even stood on the observation deck to get splashed an extra 17 times.

Then we had to ride the Gun Slinger to get dried off. (That's Luke on the far left).

Had to Instagram a few. Yes, I stood and took pictures, because I know myself well enough to know that I can only ride something that goes around in a circle ONCE.

Then it gets ugly.

We found out the hard way that Luke is the same way.

But ice cream makes upset stomachs feel better. Or so he claims.

Then it was off to the Crazy Legs, another go-around-in-a-circle-and-get-scrambled ride.

I rode once.

It was enough for me. But trust me, it was fun.

The crowning moment of the day was convincing Luke to ride the Judge Roy Scream, the 45mph wooden roller coaster that spans the length of the man-made lake in the park. With much trepidation he agreed to ride.

And he loved it.

One last Instagram before leaving.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Super Balls

This is a tale of two little boys....and a recipe that was originally named "Energy Bites."

But when you take two little boys, and try to offer them "Energy Bites," they want to know what's IN an 'Energy Bite.'

"Oh they're super healthy and super delicious," I said, exaggerating ever-so-slightly on the "healthy" part.

The giggles begin as the two little boys skeptically examine the Energy Bites, turning the morsels over in their palms and picking at the flakes of coconut.

"SUPER BALLS!" one exclaims and two little boys dissolve in hysterical laughter, stuffing their mouths full of the newly-christened Super Balls.

Whatever you call them and for whatever reason, two little boys are lovin' Super Balls.

No-Bake "Super Balls"

  • 1 cup (dry) oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
  • 1 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (use pure Mexican vanilla, accept no substitutes)

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.  Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like.  (Mine were about 1″ in diameter.)  Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Makes about 20-25 balls.

Substitutions abound for just about any of these ingredients.  Feel free to substitute in your favorite nut butter (almond butter, sunflower seed butter, etc.) for the peanut butter. 

Some other fun substitutions for the chocolate chips (or an addition to them) could include:
  • chopped dried fruit (apricots, dates, raisins, etc.)
  • dried berries (cranberries, cherries, etc.)
  • chopped almonds, pecans, or sunflower seeds
  • other chips (butterscotch, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, etc.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Slow Cooker Tortellini Soup

I stipulate that I love the crock pot.

OK, now that that's out of the way, this is one of my favorite soups to make in the slow cooker.  It's one of those 'HEY MY KIDS WILL EAT VEGETABLES WILLINGLY' slow cooker recipes, which makes for one happy mama. (In all fairness, Curt will eat anything I put in front of him; Luke...not so much).

Slow Cooker Tortellini Soup

64 ounces vegetable or chicken stock
2 cans cannellini beans, drained (rinse 'em if you want; I don't.)
2 cans Italian-style, diced tomatoes
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 T oregano
1 T basil
1 package (8 ounces) dried tortellini or one package fresh/frozen tortellini, any flavor.

Combine all ingredients EXCEPT tortellini in slow cooker. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, turn slow cooker on high and add pasta. Cook until tender.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Magazine Mornings

One of my favorite morning rituals is reading a magazine, an actual, paper magazine (says this Nook lover), when I eat breakfast and have my coffee. The slick pages, breathtaking pictures, fun facts and design ideas are just the way to start the day.

Especially considering my profession. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

1 Percent

I have a virtual friend, Heather.

I say "virtual" because I've never met her. Thank you, Facebook and the great, wide world of blogging.

Heather is married to Brent, whom I do know. From a long, long time ago. During the two years we lived in Metarie, just outside New Orleans, my mom was friends with Brent's mom. So by default, Brent had play dates with my younger brother of the same age, Andy, and I fought over the Bride Barbie played with Brent's older sister, Jolie, who was my age. I think Jolie and I were the early version of frenemies because I remember fighting over that danged Bride Barbie more than I remember actually playing.

Brent and I reconnected a few years back via the salvation for lost souls, Facebook.

But all that's neither here nor there.

This is mostly about Heather, with huge props to Brent.

I've been following Heather's blog for a few years now. Again, not sure how I came upon it, likely from Brent's Facebook page. But it's one of the most compelling pieces I read on a regular basis. Heather and Brent gave birth to triplets almost three years ago to the day, on April 19, 2009, at just 24 weeks and 5 days gestation. Mary Louise and David are now walking, talking bundles of three year old excitement, and Heather and Brent were able to spend five precious days with Kuylen Stafford, who went to be with the Lord when he was five days old.

Just last week, Heather gave birth to baby Everett, at 35 weeks, 2 days gestation at a healthy weight over just over 6 pounds.

But the birth, like the birth of the triplets, was not as Heather and Brent imagined it would be. Attune to her body and equipped with a mother's instincts, Heather knew there was something very wrong on the morning of April 10. She and  Brent rushed to the hospital and Everett was delivered via mega-emergency c-section when medical personnel guessed, correctly, that Heather's uterus had ruptured along the scar from her original c-section incision.

A uterine rupture happens in 1 percent of cases.

1 percent.

Heather wrote in her blog: 

"BUT (there's always a but), I can't help but want to cry out filth and foul at falling into this ridiculously minute category once more. I can't help but stomp my feet in the most spoiled brat fashion and yell, "but I don't WANT to be the face everyone thinks of as they consider pioneering toward a VBAC! I don't want to be the screaming voice in the head of the personnel who were in on my delivery...everyone begging Everett and I to just. be. ok."

"I don't want to be the face of the 1%...but I am. That's just how it worked out. I'm still here though, and so is my darling Suga...and Mary Louise and David just walked day just got infinitely better..."

And it's that spirit, in the last line of the above excerpt, that makes Heather the 1 percent.


Not at all.

Heather should count herself among the top 1 percent of moms.

Nothing that woman does is done without thinking about her babies first and foremost. I don't think she's slept for three years, pumping crucial breastmilk, administering breathing treatments, comforting and caring for her children. She bakes her own bread. Didn't go out of the house during peak germ seasons to help keep the immunosuppressed triplets healthy. Logs countless hours fighting for health and medical benefits. Studies the best choices for her family. Exercises to maintain her own health, so she can better take care of her kiddos and  husband. Attends hours of therapy sessions with the triplets and reinforces what they learn at home.

Heather is vigilant. Not 1 percent of the time, but 100 percent of the time.

Heather is selfless. Not 1 percent of the time, but 100 percent of the time.

Heather is brave. Not 1 percent of the time, but 100 percent of the time.

Heather puts Mama Bears/Tigers/Lions/You Name It, to shame. Not 1 percent of the time, but 100 percent of the time.

So yes, Heather is the face of the 1 percent. Of AMAZING mothers. We could all strive to be in Heather's 1 percent.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Family 5K

Good times today!

This morning, we participated in the Tyler Run for Autism, organized by the Treatment and Learning Center for Children with Autism, an awesome organization dedicated to ABA therapy for our kiddos on the Spectrum. (because as you may or may  not know, most insurances don't pay for ABA therapy and it's NOT inexpensive).

It was an amazing experience for many reasons.

1. Luke ran his first 31 minutes. According to his dad, he talked and high-fived trees all the way through. Ran effortlessly. Not too shabby for an 8-year-old, if I do say so myself, and he was happy to have run with his dad.

Eye of the Tiger

2. Curt and I power-walked the course and we got to do it with a good friend and her daughter, who is also on the Spectrum.

I walked the race to keep pace with Curt, but he ended up keeping up with us. Both of my boys ROCK.

3. I got to participate in a race for autism with my child, who has autism. Priceless. 

4. At the race, Curt was introduced to the overall third place winners of the 5K, "J" and  his twin brother, "J." The conversation went something like this:
J1: Hi, I'm an autistic.
J2: I'm an autistic, too.
Curt: Hello, my name is Curt. I have an autism brain.
J1: I understand you.
J2: That's very interesting.
Curt: I"m going to go to the bounce house now.

I stuck around to talk to J and J for a few minutes. Twins, they ran the race together and placed third overall. J1 has a perseverative interest American history, particularly the Civil War. J2 is an artist, who "doesn't even trace." I don't know many older children on the autism spectrum, so talking to these young men was heart-warming, inspiring, eye-opening and yes, a bit freaky. One of the things I've always wondered is whether the unique cadence of Curt's speech will dissipate with so much. J and J had the exact same inflections and exact same speech patterns. Kinda freaky, kinda cool. But here are these two young men, who excel at running, history and art, who warmed my heart. And I think I'll seek them out. It would be nice to have some mentors for Curt.

5.  And finally, it was just nice to go to ANOTHER event in the great city of TYLER that promotes community, unity, understanding, awareness and comprehension. I love this city.

6. It was also fun to participate with my TMT peeps.  Our Fit City challenges have been a way to bond, get healthy and have fun. Not to mention that several of us have children with autism. (Yo, it's 1 in 88 kids now).

Oh and 7. We ate breakfast at The Diner after. Yummo.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Another "You Can Only Eat This Once a Year At Most" Recipe from Easter Dinner

You know by now that if it's a Paula Deen recipe, you probably shouldn't eat more than a spoonful, once a millennium. You also know by now that if it's a Paula Deen recipe, it's gooooooooddddd.

I made this for Easter dinner, looking for a savory alternative to scalloped potatoes to pair with my maple syrup, brown sugar ham.

This recipe worked like a...well, a big, vat of cheesy deliciousness. The use of a sharp white cheddar practically elevates this down home dish to sublime status.

I added the jalapenos and used real, minced garlic instead of garlic powder.

And yes, the diet started today.

Baked Garlic Cheese Grits


This picture doesn't remotely do it justice...and yes, that's a big blob of melted butter.


Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

Serves: 12 servings


  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups regular grits
  • 16 ounces Cheddar, cubed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces grated sharp white Cheddar
  • 2 jalapenos, diced


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 4-quart casserole dish.

Bring the broth, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir in the grits and whisk until completely combined. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the grits are thick, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cubed Cheddar and milk and stir. Gradually stir in the eggs, butter and jalapenos, stirring until all are combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with the white Cheddar and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Bacon Brittle

Yes, you read that correctly: "bacon brittle."


But let me back up. 

When I was browsing recipes to make for Easter, I came across this gem in a recent issue of Bon Appetit.

I have a weird relationship with sweet potatoes. Sometimes I love 'em, sometimes I can't stand 'em. The deciding factor between the two is usually the addition of an ingredient that takes away some of the cloying sweetness of the sweet potatoes. For instance, when I make baked sweet potato fries, I sprinkle them in cayenne pepper. The spice masks some of the sweet. I know sweet potatoes are considered the "perfect food" and all that, but a little sweet potato goes a LONG way in my book.

However, with the addition of miso and bacon brittle, I thought this recipe was worthy of an attempt. I'm so glad I did. It was delicious!!!!

Instead of individual servings stuffed back into the sweet potato skins, I served this "casserole" style for Easter dinner. Also, I couldn't find white miso paste. I was standing in the aisle at Fresh, becoming a bit frantic, so I texted my fun, foodie friend, Steve D., who knew exactly what to substitute: equal parts soy sauce to the the amount of miso paste called for in the recipe. I substituted the soy sauce and it worked wonderfully. However, I had to take it one step further: I also added one tablespoon of wasabi. It was the PERFECT yin to the sweet potato yang. The bacon brittle on top added a great crunchy texture and savory taste.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Bacon Brittle


  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 6 medium sweet potatoes (6–8 ounces each)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons white miso (fermented soybean paste) (or 2 T soy sauce)
  • 1 2/3-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon wasabi 


  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  • Cook bacon in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat until most of the fat is rendered and bacon is starting to crisp. Transfer bacon to a sieve set over a small bowl; reserve drippings.
  • Return bacon, 1 Tbsp. drippings, sugar, and sesame seeds to same skillet. 
    Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar turns the color of milk chocolate, (It's so beautiful; you don't even need a candy thermometer to get the temperature just perfect) about 5 minutes. 
    Transfer mixture to prepared baking sheet and use a spatula to spread out evenly; let cool. Break brittle into shards. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature. 
  • Preheat oven to 400°. Place sweet potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until tender, 45–55 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle.
  • Slice potatoes in half lengthwise. Working over a large bowl, scoop out flesh from 8 halves, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick layer inside skins. Place potato halves on same foil-lined baking sheet. Scoop flesh from remaining 4 halves; discard skins. Mash flesh with a whisk; add eggs, butter, miso, and ginger (and wasabi) and stir until mixture is smooth. Spoon or pipe filling into reserved skins. DO AHEAD: Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill.
  • Bake potatoes until the tops are lightly puffed and golden brown, 30–35 minutes (potatoes will take longer if they've been chilled). Top potatoes with bacon-sesame brittle.
    I wish I had a picture of the final product, but it was eaten too quickly. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Here {Came} Peter Cottontail...

Neither snow nor {torrential} rain nor {humid} heat nor gloom of night kept the Easter Bunny from his appointed rounds last night.

Yes, I know today isn't Easter Sunday, but as the Bunny himself told me in a letter, sometimes when kids have two houses, the Easter Bunny will visit each one.

He came to ours last night.

Just like Santa, the Bunny gets hungry too, hopping around all over the place (especially during thunder storms). So we had to leave him a snack.

Luke artfully arranged carrots in the special plate in the shape of a smiley face.

And then Curt came along and dumped a handful of carrots on top of Luke's careful plating.

When we woke up this morning, it was obvious the Bunny had visited. 

As per tradition, the Bunny had hidden the boys' baskets. Silly Bunny.

Luke found his first. 

Curt searched and searched for his. 

I'd post a picture, but, ahem, no way am I posting pics of my kid in his sleep attire online. 

Needless to say, they were both pretty happy with their loot. Six Flags, here we come.

**Disclaimer: We discussed, at length, the real reason we celebrate Easter. Curt even asked why a bunny is associated with the Easter holiday. On Sunday, when the Bunny visits again, we will also celebrate the miracle of the Lord our God rising from the dead to save us from our sins. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

{Adventure} Zipline!

It started off just like any other adventure: with absolutely NO knowledge of where we'd end up.

Curt and Luke BEGGED for hints.

We threw them some bones. **

"You should wear blue socks," I said.

"You must love dogs," said Mr. D.

"You should love trees," said Mr. S.

"You might need gloves," offered Ms. C.

The boys were thoroughly confused [insert slightly evil Mom giggles here].

When we got into the car, the boys tried to follow Ms. C's GPS. I was pretty confident they wouldn't figure it out in a million years. At least.

They didn't.

It wasn't until we turned into the dirt driveway of New York Texas Zipline Adventures that they read the sign and realized what the day's 'adventure' would be.

Awesome Mr. D set it up for us - it was to be an adventure for the adults as well as my boys. We were ALL excited, even Mr. D, who qualifies as an expert zipliner (if that's what you want to call someone who hangs upside down from a cable traveling 900 feet in 53 seconds...)

The awesome guides at NY TX Zipline Adventures got us safely into our gear. All visions of my skinny 8-year-old slipping out of his harness 200 feet above the ground were quickly assuaged...mostly...

All joking aside, we were strapped in so securely it was impossible not to feel safe.

After gearing up, we practiced braking and pulling ourselves back in (not that it was ever necessary) on the ground. Except those of us who were laughing so hard at jibes from the peanut gallery that we struggled pulling ourselves back up to the platform. 

Then it was time to climb the platform for the first zipline.

Standing on the platform, secured to a cable strapped to the tree, the length of the zipline looked interminable and the drop into the thin air seemed endless.

Curt went first, without hesitation, practically pushing all the others in our group aside to be first down the zipline.

He made it. Safely. I could hear his laughter all the way from my perch on the first platform.

It was Luke's turn. My typically intrepid child had a moment of panic as the guide lifted him from the platform just high enough to connect his cables and pulley to the line. He turned around to look at me, his big brown eyes wide. Then he turned and allowed the guide to gently nudge him from the platform.

I couldn't tell from my vantage point whether he liked it or not, but I didn't have much time to ponder his experience as it was my turn to stand on the edge of the abyss. I took a deep breath and stepped off the security of the platform.

It was like flying.

And over far too fast. 

Now Luke and Curt were jockeying for positions at the front of the line. I kinda wanted to push them aside, too, but I'm the mom, so I couldn't.

We did a total of 9 ziplines, each one longer or steeper than the last.

The guides were so much fun and our group laughed and laughed.

It was over far too fast.

I can't wait to do it again.


Blue socks have NOTHING to do with zip lining.

The family dogs at NY TX Zipline Adventures greet the guests and hang with the guides.

Trust me, you hug trees on this adventure.

And you wear gloves so you don't slice your hand to the bone when you reach up to the cable to brake.  But if you're like me, you wear a hole right through those gloves.