Monday, November 28, 2011

Big Boy Hair Cut


After the Space Derby, we all came home and The Husband began cutting the boys' hair.  It was right before Thanksgiving, and they were all pretty shaggy.  I convinced The Husband to cut Mr. Kimble's hair too.  I've given him many trims with the scissors, but his hair was just growing wonky.  Half was curly and half was straight.  The front sides of his hair hadn't grown in yet, and it was starting to look like he had a mullet.  So even though I knew by the end of the haircut, he wouldn't look like my little baby boy anymore, we went ahead with the haircut.  Above is the before picture.

I held his head and face while his daddy used the clippers.  For a (barely) 2 year old, he did quite well, and didn't really mind the sound or the feeling.  He only fidgeted because he didn't want me to hold him still.  So after a dum dum sucker (left over from Halloween), he sat still a little better.  Heath does a great job with cutting all the boys' hair, and cutting Kimble's was no different.


Although Kimble's hair is a bit patchy, due to lack of growth and not from a bad haircut, he looks pretty good with his new hairstyle.  He sure looks different though.  He's getting grown up.  (sigh)

Space Derby


The boys enjoyed their space derby last week.  It had been cancelled and postponed a few times, so they were excited to finally have it happen.  After helping to cut their spaceship-rockets at a friend's house, we left it up to them to decorate them.   The boys worked together to create U.S.A. ships, with flags and patriotic colors throughout.

Here is Heath, helping to wind up Kolby's rocket.  100 twists of the rubber band, then you lock the propeller in.  After fitting it in the little contraption that held the four that were racing against each other, a lever got pulled and off shot the rockets!


It was so exciting to watch, even Kimble got into it.


Here is Kolby, watching with pride as his was about to be raced!


Unfortunately, that is is as far as Kolby's rocket went, the first time around.  Perhaps it just malfunctioned a bit, or didn't get wound up enough...but it was sorta funny to see all the other rockets shoot past everyone, and see Kolby's get fizzled out four inches from the start.


Keaton didn't have to wait long for his turn. He was so anxious to see how his rocket would do.


Mr. Kimble stopped watching the rockets, and pigged out on cheese puffs for the rest of the night.


Yay!!  Keaton came in first one round!  You can see his rocket suspended on  the wire behind him.


After another few tries, Kolby's rocket did better, and he even placed second one round!


We all enjoyed a fun night together. I'm glad they get these experiences in cub scouts.

Pumpkin Love

I have to say, I've never been a huge  pumpkin fan.  I have always gagged a bit, whenever a pumpkin pie gets too close to my senses.  Even opening a can of pumpkin filling grosses me out.  But, if I can get beyond that, then anyone with the same feelings about pumpkin pie should here me out.  This next recipe is super good.

While at my cousin's house a few months ago for the Balloon Festival, Allen and Monique made all of us a big batch of pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes.  I was sure that I would simply feed some to Mr. Kimble and then have something else for myself, but I tried them and liked the flavors.  Just like my Pumpkin Roll, I'm finding that even though I hate pumpkin, there are things that you can make with it that completely changes the taste.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes

3 c. pancake mix (whatever brand you have where you just 'add water')
2 cups oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flax seed
 1 Tbsp cinnamon
 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup chocolate chips

Mix everything together until it is well incorporated.  Heat up griddle; grease the pan with a little butter or cooking spray.  Using a ladle, or a 1/3 cup measuring cup, begin forming your pancakes.  Flip over when underside is golden brown.  Repeat with remaining batter.

This batch of pancakes makes about 24 good-size pancakes. We topped off each pancake with a spread of peanut butter, and a drizzle of syrup.   The pancakes are very rich tasting, with the addition of the chocolate chips, and they were filling too. 


Each of my boys only had one pancake, and then they went off to play in our church's Turkey Bowl, Thanksgiving morning.  We put the extra pancakes in a Ziploc bag in the fridge, and had them for the next few mornings.  Mr. Kimble, especially, loved them.  You can also freeze the extras, and have them when you want at a later time.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Black Friday Special

If you are considering buying anything from my shop on Etsy (Krinkle Kut), then this is the weekend to do it.  Not only will I ship out items as quickly as possible, but through Cyber Monday, each order will receive a free skinny headband (colors may vary from those seen in picture).  I just put up lots of new items, so feel free to take a look!



 I also have some new rolled flower headbands up for grabs, including these two.


 As well as dolls and other baby items.  Come take a look!


Happy Thanksgiving!


From our little Pilgram to yours, hope you have a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ranch Potatoes (Hashbrowns)

I'm a country girl.  Growing up on a ranch, we often had cookouts with all the extended family.  My great grandfather and grandmother would man the cooking stations, as they made country fried steak (we call it cube steak), biscuits, and gravy.  All of this was cooked in dutch ovens over the fire pit, and they had it down to a science.  Everything always tasted so good, but my favorite thing ever...the one thing I left lots of room for on my plate, was a big serving of ranch potatoes.

The anticipation of these ranch potatoes started days before, when a handful of grandkids would peel bags and bags of potatoes.  We were a large group of people, so we needed lots of food.  I remember sitting outside, with a potato peeler in one hand and a chunky potato in the other, with a milk bucket in front of me, to deposit the newly peeled potatoes.  Some of my siblings or cousins were always there too, for it took quite a number of us to peel 60 pounds of potatoes.  Most often, this chore was met with grumblings and complaining, but I remember being happy that I could do it.  First off, peeling potatoes for a cookout meant that we got paid!  Sometimes I even had a whole five dollars that I would get.  Awesome.  Second, I knew that peeling potatoes meant I would soon get to pile my plate with all the ranch potatoes I could eat.  It was a good thing.

Learning how to make these delectable dishes was passed down to each generation.  Even after we moved away from the ranch, we would still have our ranch cookout meals.  Every year that we went camping as a family, we would always have this meal as well.  I still love cube steak and gravy, and it's one of the rare times I buy steak.  I love love love eating our family's biscuts, but unfortunately that is something I haven't yet perfected how to make.  However, there is one thing I can do really well.  That is, of course, ranch potatoes!


These are well known by the name of Country Fried Potatoes, or Hashbrowns.  We call them Ranch Potatoes, and here is how you make them.

First off, you need enough potatoes for your family (make extra, because these are so good and you will want enough to satisfy every one's intense desire for M.O.R.E.!!  Peel the potatoes, rinse them, and dice them up into small bite-size pieces.

You will need a deep dish frying pan that has a lid.  The bigger it is, the better. You want as many potatoes layering the bottom of the pan as possible, so you get some nice browning color.  If you use a soup pot, only a small amount of potatoes will ever get browned.  For Ranch Potatoes, you need some nice crispiness throughout ALL the potatoes.  The more browned, the better.  Thus, you need a big pan, with a lid.  Having a lid is necessary.  If you cook these potatoes without a lid, the outsides will brown too quickly and the insides of the potato will still be undercooked.  Ok, so Pan + Lid.  Got it?

Next, you need some vegetable oil.  You need enough to coat the bottom of your pan, plus a little.  I used about a quarter of a cup of oil, maybe more.  When your oil is heated up in your pan, add in your potatoes.  Thoroughly stir your potatoes.  You should find that there is enough oil still on the bottom of your pan, and your potatoes should be nicely coated with oil as well.  If not, add more oil now.  Oil is essential to crisping up your potatoes, and having them not stick to the bottom of your pan.

Seasoning:  Now is the time to season.  I use a healthy amount of seasoning salt, lemon pepper, and black pepper.  Potatoes need to be seasoned well, so don't be afraid to shake shake shake.  You can always add more seasoning at the end, if you find that you didn't add enough now.  After you season, stir again to thoroughly combine.  Make sure the potatoes are nicely spread out along the pan, place your lid on the pan, and begin the anticipation.


Your heat should be on medium high.  Don't make it too hot or it will burn before it's done.  Likewise, if your heat is too low, you'll never get your potatoes browned.  My stovetop burner was on 8.  Now, watch the clock.  About every 4-5 minutes, you need to stir/flip your potatoes.

You will start to see some color, after a few flippings.  That's what we want.  Now, place the lid back on and don't touch for another 4-5 minutes.


Oh look, more color.  Nice beautiful potatoes.  Make sure to keep the potatoes spread around the pan, so they can get browned!  Put lid back on and wait some more.


Oh, now that's good.  You'll notice that the potatoes are starting to feel softer, with each flip.  That is the key to using a lid.  It steams and fries the potatoes at the same time.  Genius.  Put the lid on and cook some more.


Ok, now we are getting serious.  All of that lovely browning is looking good!  At this point, your potatoes should feel nice and tender, when you are flipping them over with the spatula.  If your potatoes are cooked through, you can keep the lid off now, but we still need more cooking time in the pan, to get more browned and crispy.


Oh look at  those beauties!!  One final round, and they should be done.  Another couple of minutes, and the underside of these potatoes will be nice and crispy.  Then...you are done!


Remove your ranch potatoes into a bowl.  If there is a lot of oil left, you can drain the potatoes on a paper towel before transferring to your serving dish.  Taste a nibble, and see if you need additional seasoning.  Now is the time to add more, if needed, because it will stick to the oil on the potatoes.


Now, eat the perfection.  Yum.  Ranch Potatoes are a good thing.  Just remember that these bad boys can be served any time.  Besides breakfast, serve them alongside hamburgers, or some baked chicken, or with a steak.  They taste excellent with gravy as well.  If you want to go the extra mile, you can cook up some bacon, and use the bacon fat to cook the potatoes in, and then add the crumbled bacon at the end of the cooking process.  Delicious.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ah-Mazing Tacos!

Almost a year and a half ago, I was sitting in the library at The Children's Hospital, while my sweet baby was having heart surgery.  After using the computer to update friends and family, I found myself needing an occupation, so to speak.  Sitting around, letting your mind wander, thinking about all the possibilities and outcomes of such a life-threatening surgery...it isn't good.  So I looked around for something mindless to do.  Something that wouldn't require a supreme amount of focus, but still something to pull my thoughts from the surgery.

I saw some magazines, and picked out a foodie magazine that had a lot of recipes.  I flipped through some pages, found some recipes I thought we would like, and made copies of them.  The "librarian" let me use the copier, and when she saw that I was copying recipes, she said "Oh, did you find a great cookie recipe?  You need to make a batch and bring it in for all of us."  I remember staring at her, and thinking "Lady, my baby is having open heart surgery.  Making cookies for everyone is the last thing I'm capable of doing right now."  But instead, I mumbled something like "nope.  no cookies" and went on my way.

The recipe I am posting today came from that magazine, although I have no idea what magazine it was.  Because my family loves tacos, and we have them weekly, I thought they would enjoy this twist on an old favorite.  Introducing:  Grilled pork tacos with summer corn & nectarine salsa.  Yum.


Grilled Pork Tacos with Summer Corn & Nectarine Salsa
Pork:

2 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp olive oil
4-6 pork chops
1/2 tsp each of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin

Lay out your pork on a cutting board, and season both sides with the listed seasonings.  Put pork chops in a Ziploc bag.  Add in the lime juice and oil, and manipulate the bag a bit so that the juice and oil work it's way around the pork chops.  Marinate for at least 10 minutes, or up to three hours.  After it has been marinated, grill pork until done.  Let stand for 5 minutes and then slice into thin strips.

Corn & Nectarine Salsa:

1 1/2 cups of corn kernels, toasted or grilled
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
zest of 1 lime
2 tsp olive oil
1/5 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup diced ripe nectarine
1 Tbsp diced jalapeno
2 tsp honey
1/4 cup red onion, diced
salt and pepper, to taste

If you are using fresh corn on the cob, grill the corn after you grill the pork, and get some nice color on the corn, and then cut off the kernels from the stalk.  If you do not have fresh corn, you can use frozen kernels.  Simply place them on a cookie sheet, and using a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper, mix thoroughly, and then place under the broil.  Stir every few minutes until your kernels are browned a bit.

In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients listed above.  Season to taste.  Depending on how ripe your nectarines are, you might want to add additional honey.  I also added additional lime juice.  (Tip: if you make this out of season for nectarines, you can substitute peaches.)

Assembly:

I use corn tortillas for my tacos, but they must be softened with some oil as they heat, otherwise they crumble up.  To do this, simply use a small saucepan or a griddle.  Put some oil in the pan.  When it is warmed up, place tortilla on pan.  Flip over when tortilla is soft.  If you want a bit more flavor, wait until it's golden brown and then flip over to cook/heat up the other side.  Once you have enough tortillas done, begin assembling your taco.

I placed the pork strips  on the tortilla, followed by some grilled cabbage shreds that I warmed in a pan and sprinkled with lime juice and a dash of olive oil.  Then I topped it with the corn & nectarine salsa.  Absolutely delicious.  The lime flavor really comes through, and the meat is so tender.  The salsa adds some crunch and flavor that makes it so unique and different from your normal tacos.  I think adding chunks of avocado would make this dish over the top.  I hope you try it.  (PS:  We served this with a side of my amazing Refried Beans.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

L.A. Lasagna

A few  years ago, when The Husband and I had our little vacation in Hawaii, we ate at a little known place called Planet Hollywood.  We shared an entree (because we were still on a budget) and after knocking each other's forks away so we could get more of the goodness, we decided we'd better find a way to recreate this dish at home.  May I introduce you to L.A. Lasagna.

These are like yummy Italian egg rolls disguised as lasagna.  Inside is a mixture of sausage, onions, ricotta, mozzarella, and yummy seasonings.  Then it gets rolled up, dipped in a tempura batter, coated in panko breadcrumbs and then fried to a golden brown.  By using marinara sauce as a dipper, you get one amazing entree, with plenty to go around.  Let's get started.

Meat Filling:

2 Tbsp oil
1 pound Italian sausage
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced fine
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups  tomato sauce
1 cup tomato puree
4 oz Parmesan cheese
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp fresh basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs

Saute onion, bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil for about 4-5 minutes.  Add in meat and cook until meat is browned.  Break up meat so it is nice and fine.  Drain off any grease.  Return meat to pan and add tomato puree, tomato sauce, seasonings and herbs.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add Parmesan cheese and simmer an additional 10 minutes.  Refrigerate mixture until it is cool (about 2 hours).  Stir in breadcrumbs.  Set aside.

Cheese Filling
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic
1 tsp Italian seasoning

Mix all ingredients together until well combined.  Set aside.

Additional ingredients:
1-2 packages of egg roll wrappers
4-5 cups of prepared tempura batter
4 cups Panko bread crumbs (Do not substitute other breadcrumbs for this step.  It must be Panko!)
egg wash (1 egg plus 1 Tbsp water)
Vegetable oil (enough to deep fry in)
2-3 cups of your favorite marinara sauce

Assembly:

1.  Take one sheet of your egg roll wrapper and position it on your counter top.  Spread some meat filling evenly across the sheet, leaving 1/2 inch around the edges.  Using your fingers, spread some of the ricotta mixture across the center of the sheet (about 1-2 Tbsp).  Brush the edges of your sheet with the egg wash, then roll up the egg roll like a taquito, leaving the edges open.  The egg wash should seal it closed when done rolling.  Repeat with additional ingredients until you have a lot of 'egg rolls' ready for the next step.  (Don't stack on top of each other or you will end up with them sticking to each other and tearing.)

(Tip:  After making the first few, you get a feeling of how much filling to add, in proper amounts, to have it roll up nicely.  I've tried to adjust the recipe so you have the right amount of filling needed, but if you run out of , say, the meat mixture before you are done using the ricotta mixture, don't worry.  I do too.  Just use the remaining amount in another dish, or mix it in with some spaghetti noodles, so you don't have anything wasted.)

2.  In a bowl, season Panko breadcrumbs with a little bit of garlic salt.  Prepare your tempura batter. Make sure your oil is heated up and ready to fry (approx 350 degrees).  First, take one roll and dip it in your tempura batter, then roll it in the panko breadcrumbs until it is completely coated.  Dip each end of the roll in the tempura batter, then seal it with more breadcrumbs.  Place in hot oil and fry for about 8 minutes (turning once halfway through) until it is a nice golden brown.  (I fry about four at a time for two reasons.  1. My cooking pot isn't that big, and 2. You want your oil to maintain its temperature.)  Remove roll from oil and drain on a wire rack.  Continue cooking the remaining rolls.
3.  For presentation, cut each roll on the diagonal, and serve with marinara sauce.

If you find that you have way more lasagna rolls than you know what to do with, you can freeze them.  After you have rolled them, place them on a greased cookie sheet (side by side but not touching) in your freezer.  After about four hours, remove from sheet pan and store in a double-lined Ziploc bag.  To use after freezing, simply place them back on a cookie sheet so they aren't touching, and thaw in your fridge for 24 hours.  Then follow the remaining steps of the cooking process (Dip in tempura, then in panko, then fry until golden brown.)
The instructions may seem long, but the outcome is well worth it.  Plus, it makes a lot, so most of you would make once, eat twice.  I hope you give this a try.  We all love it, and since it's something we don't often make, it's a nice treat.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Brisket

You may have noticed a lack of recipes, on my blog, that contain red meat (or fish for that matter, but let's not get off topic).  Red meat and I don't really get along, so it's not often that I buy it.  We eat mostly chicken, turkey, and pig in our household, but there are times when red meat is intentionally purchased, and gets consumed in my household, though these times are few and far between.

There was one such opportunity last month, as The Husband and I were perusing some cookbooks that I had checked out at the library (livin' large, I tell ya), when he saw a recipe he wanted to try; a recipe for a brisket sandwich.  A sandwich.  Huh.  (He loves sandwiches, and I don't.)  Well, I probably scrunched up my nose in indifference, as I moved on through my cookbook, and marked my own desirable recipes.  Then, a few days later, as I made up our grocery list/menu, I conveniently left out this recipe, and gathered the books to return to the library.

Oh, but The Husband was on to me.  He said "You got my brisket sandwich recipe out of that book, right?"  No.  I did not.  So, I wrote down the recipe quickly, and included the necessary ingredients on my shopping list, and then returned the book to the library.  I don't even remember what the book was called, so I can't even credit this properly.  I'm just glad I wrote down the recipe, because It.Was.Good.

I made it.  I ate it.  I liked it.  Now I'm posting it.


Brisket Sandwich

2 Tbsp oil
1 Brisket cut of meat (about 5 pounds)
Salt & Pepper
4 cloves of Garlic
1 cup beef stock
4 stalks of celery, cut in chunks
1 onion, cut in chunks
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup dijon mustard
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tsp paprika
1 dozen crusty sandwich rolls


Heat oil in a pan over the stovetop.  Add in garlic and cook a minute or so to incorporate the garlic into the oil.  Season meat on all sides generously with salt and pepper.  Brown meat in oil for a few minutes on each side.  By searing the meat, you caramelize the outside layer and promote some great flavors as it slow-cooks afterward.  (Tip:  If your piece of meat is too big for your pan, or your for the crockpot, you can cut the meat in three sections so you can handle it better.)

In your crockpot, add the remaining ingredients.  Mix gently to combine everything.  Then, place brisket, and any oil drippings that may be leftover, in your crockpot, and position it into your mixture.  Cover your crockpot with the lid, and cook on low for 9 hours, or on high for 6 hours. (You can keep it cooking longer, if necessary, if you aren't ready to eat yet, or you have a bigger piece of meat that requires longer cooking time.)

You will know when your meat is finished if it falls apart as you pick up a section.  To serve, remove meat from liquid, and let sit for about 10 minutes.  Then, shred meat using two forks (or whatever method you want).  You can use some of the cooking liquid to pour over your meat, if you want, to keep it nice and juicy.

We served the brisket on a hard roll (I got a packaged dozen or so in the bakery department at my grocery store) and we also spread a little mayo on the bread.  This is how we ate it, but you can add other things to the sandwich, if you so choose.

I was really surprised at how much I liked the flavors of the meat.  The ingredients all worked together to create a really amazing taste.  Give it a try. I think you'll like it.  (If you find that you have a lot of leftovers, the meat can be frozen in a double-lined Ziploc bag.  Simply thaw in your fridge for 24 hours before re-heating.

Friday, November 18, 2011

CICU Staff

As we were walking around the hospital, we got a chance to see some of our heroes again.  These doctors made all the difference, in Kimble's life and our life, and we always get so excited when we see them.  We approach with hesitancy, because we are sure that with so many patients, they won't remember us or our specifics, but we are always surprised by the recognition they show, and the happiness they have for Kimble's progress. 

First up, we saw our doctor Jesse, as he was leaving his shift and heading home to his family.  He was with us the night Kimble had his post-surgery problems, and after emergency surgery, had a terrible night of teetering between life and death. It was Jesse's cool and calm leadership that kept Kimble alive. 

We love Jesse, and were very happy to see him.  He loved seeing us as well, and even chatted about some specifics to Kimble's case, that proved he remembered us very specifically.  It helped that he and a team of doctors earlier in the day were just discussing that very night (almost two years ago) as they went over some research studies that Kimble was involved in.


We also saw Dr. Adel.  He did all my prenatal ultrasounds, up at The Children's Hospital, and he also did all of Kimble's echocardiograms with all of our stays up there.  He knows Kimble's heart with as much detail as our surgeon does, and he also was happy to see us and see Kimble doing so well. 

Again, Dr. Adel discussed some specifics of Kimble's heart with us, that demonstrated we weren't just another patient to him.  That is one thing I've always love about Dr. Adel.  He is so personal about his work and how he relates to not only patients, but to their families as well.  He is an amazing man, and we were so happy to talk with him and discuss Kimble's future surgeries, which when the time comes, he'll be part of our team of doctors again.  Oh, and he also taught Kimble how to 'fist pump', which he mastered a few minutes after this picture.


Going into the CICU, when I delivered blankets, I saw Dr. Campbell again.  He has done all of Kimble's open heart surgeries, and is a man I trust with all of our lives.  He was watching another post-op baby at the time, but took a few minutes to discuss Kimble with me.  I had to remind him a bit about Kimble's case (which isn't surprising considering how many surgeries this man performs) but he also remembered us and discussed a few things about Kimble's future surgeries.  In discussing the possible  reversal of Kimble's Glenn, we learned that it is a surgery he does not too often, but probably every 2-3 years.  He'll be on board when we come back in about a year, for another surgery.  It was great talking with him, and Heath loved seeing him again.


Dr. Shannon Buckvold was another doctor that took care of us during both our stays at the hospital.  She discovered the swelling around Kimble's heart, just as we were ready to be discharged when he was a newborn, and thus we stayed another week to watch those levels, and ultimately have it surgically drained.  If it wasn't for that detection, Kimble could have had some serious problems once we got home, or possibly have died.

She was also with us when he had his surgery at 7 months old, and since she knew his tendency to swell, she aggressively managed his post-op care and he recovered beautifully and quickly.  She is a super smart woman, and we are proud to be connected with her.


Touring the CICU, we also saw many nurses and other staff who took care of Kimble (and us) during our many stays there.  We care about these people so much because they do something for us that we can't possibly do ourselves.  They have the knowledge and experience and the gentleness needed to be the caretakers during a very tough time in our lives.  I'm not sure they understand how much gratitude we feel for them.  With all their patients, I'm sure the details of our lives escape them, but they will never leave our hearts.  We love all the staff in the CICU and the CPCU.



We know that when we go back for another surgery, we will be in the best of hands.  Despite all the heartache and struggles we had, we love this place, and especially the CICU, and feel it a privilege every time we go back...for whatever reason.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Donating Blankets (Year 2)


 Last week we met up at The Children's Hospital to deliver blankets again!  It is such a rewarding experience to be part of something much bigger than ourselves.  Every time we go to this hospital, it feels like we are returning home again.  There is such a feeling of reverence and gratitude and love that overflows with every breath you take. 

Many people are interested in what we are doing.  As you can imagine, our families, plus kids, plus bags and bags of blankets...it tends to create some commotion.  I had one lovely lady come up to me and ask me what I was involved in, as she pulled her two daughters in a wagon, with one daughter having a hospital nightgown on, and the other simply spending time with her sister.  I told them our short story, of how we and two other families had babies born with congenital heart defects, and after spending a lot of time in the hospital, where we witnessed so much love and service, that we wanted to give back as well.  Thus, every year, on our boys' birthdays, we donate all the blankets we've gathered through the year, to all the patients at the hospital.

The mother beamed up at me, and with a smile said to her daughter "Maybe you'll get a blanket tonight, sweetie!"  The young patient gave a little whoop for joy, then settled back down in the wagon with her sister, as they continued their field trip around the hospital. 

I am so serious when I say that every blanket makes a difference.  I have no idea what this young girl was going through, but they were all so happy to receive a simple blanket.  A blanket to snuggle with when she is alone in her hospital room.  A blanket to keep her warm at night when the chill from the windows breaks through.  A blanket to squeeze tight against her chest when she's being brave and undergoing testing.    A blanket to let her know that people care about her.  Or, unfortunately sometimes it's a blanket to take home as a reminder of a child's life.

That last reminder, is what our friend Tabitha holds dear.  This next picture was taken last year, as our husbands donated blankets to the CPCU.  There, they met Tabitha, who was awaiting her son's open heart surgery that was to happen in a few days.  They had already been in the hospital for a few weeks (if I remember correctly) and Tabitha's family was still in New Mexico.


We got to know Tabitha and learned about her sweet baby Logan.  It wasn't more than a week after our blanket drive, when we heard that Logan did not survive the surgery.  Our hearts went out to Tabitha and her family.   What a heartbreaking experience to forever change her family, and in a much smaller way, our families as well.

This year, our blanket drive was in honor of Logan.  Tabitha worked hard to collect blankets as well, and together we donated 324 blankets.  The number was significantly lower than last year, but we succeeded in our original goal, which was to give every single patient a blanket.





 It was also a fun time for the kids to be together again.  We try to get together about every six months, and so it's frequent enough where they all remember each other, and the friendships are starting to develop between our older kids.  The boys don't really know what's going on, but they tolerate each other just fine.  Teresa and I teased that getting a picture every year, with the wagon, was going to be fun to compare how they grow.  When they are teenagers, they won't quite fit in the wagon anymore, and by that time, they'll be bench pressing them.  So funny to imagine...and I hope it comes true.  I want these boys to be the best of friends, and have each other in their life forever.


After we took pictures of all the blankets, we loaded them up in wagons again and delivered them to the volunteer office, where the staff is always eager to get donations (of any kind).  From there, they will be washed and then delivered to the patients throughout the hospital.   Here is Kennedy, helping to gather blankets.


While the moms are delivering blankets to the CICU, the kids entertained themselves by making a wagon train, and touring the hospital.  They had a great time.  Kolby even managed to find a hideout that kept him in the 'missing' status for a while.  I wasn't too worried, as I know how Kolby can be, but when he 'got lost again' a few hours later, and had Derek with him (Julie's son), things were stressful for a bit.  We were glad to finally discover their hideaway (a little room that had video games in it) and made sure they knew that information on whereabouts was a necessity in such a public place.



We took our wagonload of reserved blankets and made our journey to the 3rd floor, where the Cardiac ICU was.  It's always emotional for us.  We each have intense memories of our time there.  The sights; the smells; the lighting...everything triggers our emotions.


 One grandmother was with her newborn granddaughter.  It reminded me of when my mom came to visit Kimble.  She was delighted to pick out a blanket for her grandbaby, and thanked us many times over.  I don't know about the other moms, but accepting thanks doesn't seem right.  I'm just the middle man, so to say.  I help collect these blankets, but it is all of you, and all of our friends, and all of our church congregations that give us the blankets.  So I extend the thanks to all of you.  Thank you for supporting me in this amazing project.  It is so meaningful to me.






 After donating the blankets, and letting the husbands have a turn talking to people in the CICU (more to come on that in the next post) we let the boys have cupcakes, to celebrate their birthdays.  We love having them together again!


 We decided to let the dads show off their boys, and their matching shirts.  My sister Sharon sent me the vinyl, and I ironed it on their shirts.  The shirts had cute little robots on the front (with big hearts across their chest)...

...and on the backs  of the shirts were their names, with the number 2.  It's not easy to get three toddler boys to sit still and show off their shirts!


 They each got to wear some fun neckties as well.  I sure do love these boys!


I'm going to make a bigger effort to get more blankets to donate this next year.  I already have a few that were donated a bit too late, to start next year's tally.  If you would like to donate a blanket, please contact me.  Such a simple service has a chance to influence a child for the rest of their life.