Category Archives: Isn’t Life Funny?

A LOT of funny stuff happens in my world!

Spring cold I don’t need you in my life and I want to break up!

Earlier in the week, I promised you I would be posting my grandmother’s banana bread recipe today.

Earlier in the week I was only incubating the spring cold that has now taken up residence in my sinus cavity.

My denial of the “I don’t feel so great” signs has finally proven futile and this morning’s efforts to edit photos and string thoughts together has resulted in me finding myself staring at the computer screen only to periodically “come to” and wonder how long I have been staring at the computer screen in my head cold fog.

I am calling it a day – at 8:27 am. Pillow. Blanket. Couch. Coffee.

Hot tea would be more poetic and would seem more soothing but black coffee runs through my veins and is my comfort.

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All is not lost!

I get to lay on the couch and watch movies all day – except for the Target run I have to make, the kids I have to pick up from school, the daughter I have to run to a pool party after school and then pick-up two hours later and the pizza order I have to place for dinner. Hey, when your head feels like it weighs 500 pounds and is being squeezed in a vice, the “super mom reserves” run out quickly.

My youngest will get to play far too much Skylander Giants on the Wii and while you won’t get banana bread today, I am going to share coffee cake with you.

Well, you have to make it yourself. But that’s part of the fun. And you don’t want my germy self making coffee cake for you anyway.

I’ve shared this recipe before, not too long ago but it is worth repeating.

My blogging friend Kenley over at Green Door Hospitality mentioned my Salted Pecan Coffee Cake on her blog today – THANKS KENLEY! This recipe originated with my grandmother and I added a few special touches – think Fleur de Sel and maple glaze.

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I thought this might be a good substitute for grandma’s banana bread for anyone who might have missed it or wants a delicious idea for the weekend.

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Salted Pecan Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze

I promise I’ll get the banana bread post up next week. Until then, I hope you have a wonderful weekend enjoying a little coffee cake with someone you love.

As for me, there is a couch and a cup of coffee calling my name.

 

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No More Bird Watching in my Pajamas!

My sweet husband, apparently unimpressed with my Ninja skills and tired of my less than socially acceptable early morning wild life photography in my PJs, called me in from the backyard this morning to have the kids give me my Mother’s Day present early.

A new 55-300mm lens for my camera. How did they know? You’d think I’d been talking about this lens for months. They know me so well, it was just what I wanted.

You see you have to get VERY close to your subject to get a great picture with an 18-55mm lens. Which is fine when your subject is a cake but when it is a quail, well that’s when Ninja stealth is required.

Giddy, I popped that lens on and raced out the back door; still in my PJs. Here’s what I got …

Quail

I love quail and we have them everywhere!

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This may be an indication that we are getting old but we love to sit on the back porch and watch the birds as they come to the feeder hanging from the Palo Verde Tree in the center of our back yard. We each have our own chair. Side by side. We always sit in the same spot. We are old.

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Pretty soon we will have bird watching books and I will be able to tell you every species of bird that comes to visit.

So very old.

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I can tell you that these visitors are Peach Faced Lovebirds and a Mourning Dove who have landed to enjoy breakfast at the just filled feeder (it will be wiped out in only a couple of hours). There is something in the mixture that the Lovebirds are partial to, you should see the seed fly as those sassy birds fling it out in search of their favorite snack. We joke that they are picking out the cashews – mixed-nut reference, no body wants the Spanish peanuts. I know you know what I’m talking about.

We make bird jokes and laugh at our “cleverness”. We are old.

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Luckily, there is quite a cast of characters gathered below just waiting to clean up the mess.

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I have to tell you about these little guys. I have no idea what they are other than absolutely adorable; remember, I don’t yet have a bird book.  They are still babies but are old enough to fly and are starting to forage for themselves yet are still little enough that they make quite a fuss for their mom’s attention, fluffing up their feathers, flapping their wings and sqwaking for a nibble. Watching their antics is so much fun; could it be because their demands are somehow so very familiar.

Old people use the term “antics” when referring to the actions of the young.

Morning-Doves

This one is my favorite. Mourning Doves, perched just outside the back gate, waiting patiently for me to move away from the bird feeder. Incidentally, I have always thought they were “Morning” Doves until a google search just revealed that they are in fact “Mourning” Doves; boy do I need to get that bird book. I find that somewhat depressing and much prefer “Morning” Doves.

Cottontail-Rabbit

Ooooh, and there was a bunny too!

So for now, I will no longer need to build the “blind” I had planned or sneak around in my jammies and slippers disturbing the wildlife.

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These two pictures were shot a few weeks ago with my smaller lens. I was crouching down taking a picture of a hibiscus blossom when this little guy came in right next to me to get a drink.

I simultaneously heard him and saw him out of the corner of my eye.

He didn’t even know I was there.

Ninja.

Pretty good for an old lady.

Disclaimer: This post was in no way intended to offend the aged. I have three young exhausting children. I am tired. Don’t judge.

Pool Season Begins with My Polar Bear in His Underwear

Sunday evening, after all of the Easter festivities had wound down and Sara and David were getting ready for bed, my husband decided to do a bit of quick swimming pool maintenance. Nathan was still playing outside (no school for him the next day) and of course, when he saw his dad inside the pool fence (the most highly coveted back yard destination), he was more than eager to “help” daddy with the pool. “Helping” daddy quickly led to Nathan stripping down to his underwear and leaping unabashed into the water.

Cold water.

Rather than fish him out and warm him up, we decided to let him have a go, be a kid.

To him, it was a 110 degree summer day. Lip quivering in pure joy.

This child is a polar bear.

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He had so much fun and seemed to avoid any sort of hypothermia so last night, we officially declared the start of pool season! Well, at least for the crazy little people who are willing to brave the 73 degree water. I, however, am not crazy and will swim at 90 degrees thank you.

The crazy little people I live with …

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Sara, how’s the water?

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COLD!

She made it about 10 minutes and was the first one out. Smart.

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David made it a few more minutes but was soon done and snuggled up in a towel. Warm.

And then, there is Nathan. Wild.

I have a significant amount of grey hair. I would like to share with you why that is …

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A fearless and impulsive boy who LOVES the water but is built like an anvil; 70 pounds of thick, solid iron that should sink and yet, swims like a fish.  My husband said it best when he compared watching Nathan swim to watching a helicopter fly; “It defies all logic and yet, there it is, flying” – or swimming as it were. I guess it doesn’t hurt that he is also strong as an ox!

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“What!? I not cold!”

He would have swam and leapt and dove and splashed and cannon-balled all night if we’d let him. But pool season has only just begun. There will be plenty of days ahead for all of that!

Beef in Stout by the Fire in an Irish Castle

Beef in Stout … seriously does it get any more Irish than that?

Can’t you just picture yourself in the library of an old Irish castle

JohnstownCastle55843220Photo from advertising for Johnstown Castle, Ireland

(now a cozy hotel with every creature comfort imaginable, delightfully historic but with indoor plumbing, central heat and no ghosts or banshees or sieging Norman invaders), curled up in an overstuffed chair in front of a roaring fire, (yes, my post title was shamelessly misleading) soft tartan plaid cashmere throw draped over your lap.

A polite knock at the door, your dinner has arrived and just in time; that massage in the spa followed by several hours of reading by the fire have left you with quite an appetite. The handsome waiter, let’s call him Seamus, sets a large silver tray on the weathered walnut table by the window overlooking the lush green glens and rocky cliffs that lead down to the sea still glistening in the fading evening light.

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Yes, exactly.

Image from Discover Ireland.

Seamus ladles out steaming, heavenly scented bowls of rich stew topped with wedges of perfectly crusty bread. He flexes slightly as he pours two generous glasses of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, placing the yet to be finished bottle gently back on the table.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking … wouldn’t Beef in Stout, in Ireland, go great with an oh, I don’t know, Irish Stout? All I have to say to that is, I’m creating this travel fantasy so there will most certainly be French wine. Besides, a good French red goes with everything. Everything. And there are currently no invading Norman hordes, so we’re good.

Oh, and Belgian chocolate, that’s on the tray too. It also goes with everything. Truly.

And who is that second glass of fragrant red wine for?

Well, in my case, it is for my sweet, handsome husband who just came in from 36 straight holes of golf. Who did you think it was for?

Interestingly enough, I am picturing him in traditional Irish golf attire …

I think it goes without saying, this is not one of my original photos, but I'll put it out there - just for the record.

I think it goes without saying, this is not one of my original photos, but I will put the disclaimer out there anyway – just for the record.

Just. Like. That.

No, I’m not poking fun. He could totally pull off the look. And besides, you don’t make it to seventeen years of marriage if you can’t laugh at each other together.

Incidentally, I am also picturing him preferring to have an Irish Stout with his stew. And darn it, he is just too full for Belgian chocolates. But what to do with that second glass of wine? Good thing I’m on vacation.

Yes, that was a lot of set up for a Beef in Stout recipe. The laundry I have to do, dishes waiting in the sink and errands I need to run may have something to do with my need for Calgonesque travel fantasies.

Poof. Back to reality. At least there’s still the stew. And Calgon.

Beef in Stout with Herb Dumplings

from Irish Pub Cooking, Parragon Books, serves 6

Ingredients

Stew

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 carrots, sliced
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 lb braising beef cut into cubes, I used chuck
  • generous 1 3/4 cups stout
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

Herb Dumplings

  • generous 3/4 cup self-rising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded suet – I know, use butter
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus extra to garnish
  • about 4 Tbsp. water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the oil in an oven-proof cast iron casserole (like Le Creuset). Add the onions and carrots and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened.

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Meanwhile, place the flour in a plastic bag and season well with salt and pepper.

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Add the beef to the bag, close the top, and shake well to coat. Do this in batches.

Remove the vegetables from the casserole with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the beef to the casserole, in batches, and cook, stirring frequently, until browned all over.

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Return all the meat and the onions and carrots to the casserole and sprinkle in any remaining seasoned flour. Pour in the stout.

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Add the sugar, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook in the preheated oven for 1 3/4 hours.

To make the herb dumplings, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut in the butter and stir in the parsley and add enough of the water to make a soft dough. Shape into small balls between the palms of your hands. Add to the casserole and return to the oven for 30 minutes.

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Remove and discard the bay leaves and serve, sprinkled with parsley.

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I have yet to visit Ireland and I gave up wine for Lent (well the second half of Lent anyway) but even so, I got to enjoy this wonderful stew with my sweet, handsome husband and the three little people who make reality (laundry, dishes and errands included) far better than any fantasy escape to a distant land could ever be.

Now where’s that Calgon.

Spring has Sprung; well at Least it had Yesterday

I think, finally, I can say that it is officially Spring around here. Finally. It is a little cold and rainy again this morning but I am going to stick with the idea that it is indeed, Spring.

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I know, I know, if you are back east, in the midwest or up north, you don’t want to hear a southwestern girl complaining about the cold – especially today with yet another winter storm blowing in. I used to live with snowy long winters too but I have been in Arizona for a long time now and my blood has become very thin. VERY thin. I could never go back, I wouldn’t survive a real winter.

Even here, we have had an unusually cold winter with several nights of record below freezing temperatures – not fun for desert plants or desert gardeners. There were a few mornings of taking kids to school in 20 degree temps that I was sure I wasn’t going to make it. Heated seats are the only thing that saved me.

But it has been warming up and for about a month now, I have been crazy to get outside and get my hands in the dirt and on the pruners. We live on just over two acres of Sonoran Desert and I have fallen in love with cultivating this harsh but beautiful land. One day soon, I will tell you the story of how we ended up here but for now I will just share that we have put almost 3 years of blood, sweat and tears (literally – everything here has a thorn or a spike) into our spread. I know it is only two acres but there are days when it feels like 200.

Finally, with the warm weather and long weekend, we were able to spend four straight days working outside; which is also why it has been a few days since I posted. It was warm and sunny and wonderful. We  planted a couple of new citrus trees and did a lot of pruning, clean-up and fertilizing and started working on our outdoor kitchen. We still have a lot to do but I am happy to report that everything seems to be showing signs of life – everything except my beloved Hibiscus but I haven’t given up or lost hope yet.

Yes, it is spring and I have proof …

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The tall spiky branches of the Ocotillo are covered in green.

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The landscape plants are starting to bloom.

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The Lantana, which was hit hard, is starting to show signs of life and recovery.

Spring-2Soon there will be peaches,

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and mandarin oranges,

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and lemons,

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and figs,

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and tomatoes,

and Meyer lemons, navel oranges, limes, grapefruit and fresh herbs (the full vegetable garden is in the works for next year).

We have also had our first visitor …

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found happily sunning himself stretched out on the back patio. I have come to an understanding with his kind. As long as they don’t have a rattle or venom of any sort, stay outside – let me repeat that STAY OUTSIDE, don’t startle me, don’t end up in the pool either dead or requiring rescue, don’t hiss at or threaten me or camouflage themselves in such a way as to startle me when I don’t see them, we are able to live in harmony or at least in tolerance. The rest of my family thinks these gopher snakes (who are around 5′ long when fully grown) are cool, awesome and “soooo cute” as Nathan says. As for me, I am just happy they don’t have fangs and a rattle.

So, now that Spring is officially upon us, I will be outside, A LOT, happily playing in the dirt. I may be absent from the blogosphere a day or two, here or there, but I promise I will be back with more stories of the land, the house, the family, the food and the savior that I love.

Come back for a visit tomorrow – I have a confession to make.

Happy Spring!

So about 9 hours after posting this, I am feeling the need for a “Post-Publication Edit”  …

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Ariel view, taken today, of the ball fields where “spring” training starts next week.

Spring 13A view of the Loop 101 Freeway in Scottsdale, taken today.

In this part of Arizona, we do not get snow. Not ever. Okay, once in a million years and today.

I may be an optomist but it is a good thing I’m not a weatherman.

Today, I Will Share the Cake Because It’s Valentine’s Day and I Love You!

God has certainly had my heart focused on Lent but I do LOVE Valentine’s Day. I know it is hard for some. It has been hard for me in the past too. Maybe you don’t have a Valentine as the world defines the term but know you are deeply loved.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

I have been blessed by love in my life and I can’t help but celebrate it. I am loved as a daughter. I am loved as a sister. I am loved as a friend. I am loved as a wife. I am loved as a mother.

So much love, but it is my “Valentine” in the true sense of the word that I am thinking of today.

Anniversary-Blog-1We were married on a cold and snowy January day, seventeen years ago.

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Surrounded by the people that we love the most.

In the presence of our Lord and Savior.

Anniversary-Blog-8On that day, we stepped out into the world together.

Anniversary-Blog-4As Husband and Wife. For Better or Worse. My forever Valentine.

Anniversary-Blog-2Oooh and there was cake. I’m sorry, I have mentioned before that I am not the most romantic person. The mushy stuff is not so easy for me and that was all I had so naturally, I turned to cake.

How about this, love is life and life is always better with cake. Sorry.

A quick side note on cake: If you are in the market for cake, in the Spokane, Washington area, you must check out Just American Desserts and let them make you your very own cake to die for. If you don’t live in Spokane, you may want to plan a trip there, just for the cake.

Someday, I may tell you about how I ate the entire wedding cake-top, meant to be shared on our first anniversary, ALL-BY-MYSELF. The WHOLE thing. Just me. Alone.

But for now, I just want to wish my sweet husband a Happy Valentine’s Day!

He still loves me. Even after I ate all of the cake.

I have embellished all of the photos on this post with overlays but all original photography was done by Kim Price, Spokane Washington.

The Trouble with Tonsils

Our first ER visit of 2013, January 9th. This has to be some sort of record.

As you may know our family has been waging war against a cold virus of some sort. Well, despite my best battle strategies, the enemy virus decided to play dirty and take the game to a whole new level; landing us in the pediatrician’s office on Monday, the ER on Wednesday and the next two days in the children’s hospital. The battleground? My daughter’s left tonsil.

I still have no idea how or why a tonsil abscesses but they can and do and it can be dangerous. When you start hearing things like “potential airway obstruction” and “nasty infection” you don’t play around.

So, after six hours in the ER we were on our way via ambulance to the children’s hospital for whatever procedure the ENT doc determined best. Despite the condition of her tonsil, a CT scan, and being bored after six hours – SIX HOURS – of waiting (I won’t elaborate on the 5 1/2 hours of Disney tween shows I am still trying to purge from my collective conscience) this was all a big adventure for my daughter. She was a little bit scared but asked great questions and was reassured by the wonderful ER staff who took the time to answer each of them and respect her need to know what was happening with her body. I was very proud of her and let her take the reins a little as I listened to her ask some very mature and appropriate questions. Okay, there were a few questions like “Will my voice always sound like this? ‘Cause it’s kinda’ cool!” but all-in-all, she was right on track.

Most of our wait was due to locating a bed at one of the area children’s hospitals and then getting the ambulance ride scheduled. Ahhh, the ambulance ride, a highlight for Sara, but nothing I would like to repeat anytime soon or ever. The paramedic was professional and nice but shared a little too much of his own tonsil stories and how he still has to gargle with Listerine to keep them from “flaring up”. Vote number one for tonsil removal as I tried to imagine a lifetime of gargling with Listerine as my daughter’s fate.

We arrived at the Children’s Hospital very late Wednesday night and were settled in by Susan who would be Sara’s nurse on the night shift. I was pleased to find that the hospital felt a lot less like a hospital than it could have. With a “room service” type menu (which Sara thought was awesome – even though she couldn’t eat), lots of movies to choose from on the TV, a cafeteria open until 2:30 am, all the coffee I could ever want and a pull-out bed for me in her room. They did everything they could to make us as comfortable as possible; including bringing me a much-needed toothbrush.

The next day, after consulting with the doctor, it was determined that the best course of action was to remove both tonsils. The doctor gave us a couple of options but was supportive of our decision to ensure that she would never have to go through this again and that she would avoid a future dependent on Listerene.

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Her surgery went well and she wasn’t in nearly as much pain as I thought she would be afterward. After one more night in the hospital, we were cleared to head home the next day (yesterday) to recover and enjoy lots of Jello, Popsicles and sorbet – contrary to popular belief, ice cream is not part of the recommended diet. Sara is doing great. I am wiped out but relieved and happy to be home.

We certainly don’t wish or choose for things like this to happen, but when they do there is always a silver lining to be found. There is always something to be learned. Always something to be thankful for. Always a blessing.

What have I learned …

My daughter is growing up and is not a little girl anymore. Out of this experience I have gained a new respect for her as I watched her handle herself with maturity and confidence. She was brave. She was assertive. She was trusting. These are qualities she has had to work hard to find after the trauma and hurt she suffered in her past. She is overcoming and she is strong.

Always listen to your mother’s instinct; that gut feeling that tells you to act. I truly believe it is a prompting from the Holy Spirit. Worry, fretting and fear are not what I’m talking about – those are never of God. I’m talking about the intuition that tells you something is not right and you need to do something about it. Listen to it. Seek out health care professional who respect and value that intuition as well. Walk away from those who don’t or those who treat you in a condescending or dismissive manner. You are MOM (or dad) and you know your kid.

What I have been reminded of …

God is in every detail of our lives. Fear set in when Sara was in pre-op awaiting surgery. It was the first time I really saw her get scared. She had been anxious here and there but now she was scared. As she cried, I took her hand and her dad and I prayed with her. She stopped crying and her breathing relaxed as she was filled with the assurance that even though we could not go into the OR with her, she would not be alone.

What I am thankful for …

My God who is in the details.

My husband. Who is always there and gets us through whatever comes.

The amazing people God has placed in my life. Friends who were there to take my boys at a moments notice and knew just which magazines to bring me.

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I am also thankful for the funny moments, because in our world – no matter what – there are always funny moments. When Sara was looking over the patient “room service” menu and says “LOOK mommy, they have cocktails!” I got excited for a moment but then reason caught up and I realized that what they really have is “fruit cocktail”.

When my friend Tracy (who had Nathan) sent me this text: “I just had to share a Nathan chuckle. He asked for another cookie (yes, I gave him one, that’s probably why he loves me!) … anyway he had already had a bag of popcorn so I told him he would have to wait because he couldn’t possibly be hungry. He said ‘ok, can I eat a banana while I wait to be hungry?'”  I so needed to hear from that funny little boy just then.

I am thankful for my daughter’s wonderful teacher who came by yesterday afternoon to visit with her, drop of her make-up work and give her the cards her friends and classmates made for her. She felt very loved and missed and was grinning from ear-to-ear. I have to share what her friend Madison wrote as it is so adorable (11-year-old girl dramatic but adorable) … “Wow, I never knew how much you meant to me until you were gone! I realized you were always there for me. You are someone I can fall back on. I realized I love you.” I am thankful to know my daughter has such sweet friends.

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I am thankful to be home now and have this latest “adventure” behind us. I am exhausted but relieved as I see my daughter sitting and doing her make-up homework healthy and healing and only down a couple of tonsils. That two days in the hospital with my child has really made me think about the parents and kids that face terrifying diagnoses, hospitals, ambulances, ERs, doctors, IVs, needles, procedures, tests, fear and uncertainty every day. We are blessed to be healthy.

I am also blessed to have had this opportunity to bond with my daughter. Things are not always easy for her and I and we butt heads … A LOT. As crazy as it sounds, two days in a small hospital room together was very good for us. Next time we need a bonding moment though and I reminder of how much we really mean to each other, I’m hoping we can just get pedicures.

A few special post-tonsil ordeal thanks …

Thanks to Tracy and Eileen for each taking a “Brewer Boy” so their mom and dad could be with their sister without worry, knowing they were being loved and cared for.

Thanks to all of the friends and family who offered their support and prayers through a multitude of texts, phone calls and Facebook messages.

Thanks to the Gilbert Hospital ER staff for the excellent care. I hope we never need an ER again, but if we do it will be yours.

Thanks to the staff at Cardons Children’s Medical Center, especially our night nurse Susan who made Sara feel very special and Dr. Page who advised and informed but also listened.