A few weeks ago we received a post card from our family cemetery letting us know that they would be placing memorial Christmas trees in their chapel area and we were invited to bring ornaments in memory of our loved ones. We are blessed to have known many people who were laid to rest at this cemetery and I truly wanted to make ornaments for every single one of them, but that just wasn't practical. Instead, I chose a select few. We (my mom and I) didn't want to spend a fortune on the ornaments because no where on the invitation did it say whether or not we'd be able to retrieve them at the end of the season.
We bought plain, solid colored balls (a box of 8 for $4.95!) and headed to my craft room where we used paint pens, punches, and ribbon to personalize them. Each ornament got a double ribbon tie at the top, a name, and a hang tag. On the front of the hang tag was our loved ones full name and as much of the birth and death information as we had available to us, and on the back of each tag was a short personal message from us to them in heaven.
In addition to that box of 8 ornaments, I also purchased two separately. There was a lady at a local craft fair would painted names on ornaments for $5, so I bought one for our son Henry in orange (his favorite color) and added an orange ribbon and a paw print ribbon, keeping with his love of animals.
Everyone has a story to tell...
You've heard me tell my story over the years, a story of creativity and love, grief and hope, and most importantly, a story of family. Origami Owl is a fairly new company that specializes in customizable jewelry including what they call Living Lockets, which allow you to tell your story in a way no other jewelry ever has. Think of it as a sort of scrapbook you can wear.
I'm typing this as I sit at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin with Jack, passing the time as I listen to the pump that is delivering his monthly IVIG treatment into his veins. Jack is busy watching a Baby Einstein DVD of all things, and I'm left to think.
Next week marks the three year anniversary of our first infusion. It was the day before Thanksgiving when we got the call alerting us of Jack's immune deficiency and informing us that we had to come to Milwaukee immediately and spend the night while Jack received his first treatment. Imagine our horror, not even three weeks after burying our oldest son (whose cause of death and autopsy results had not even been made known to us yet), to learn that our other son also had a potentially life ending disease. I was numb. I never wanted to set foot in this hospital again, but I had no choice. In a matter of hours I would be walking that same skywalk that I walked out three weeks earlier to a car that still held two car seats though only one of them would ever hold a child again. I cried as I turned off the highway and saw the building come into focus. I cried as we walked the skywalk to the desk clerk who told us which room we were being admitted to, and then again when we passed the large bank of windows that looked over the helipad where Henry's little body was resuscitated the night of November 1. Needless to say, it was a difficult trip.
We learned at that visit that Jack had Bruton's x-linked agammaglobulinemia, and that these visits would be required every three to four weeks to build up and maintain a sort of false immunity in him. Though they would no longer require overnight stays, they would still be all day endeavors and required a good number more visits to Children's Hospital than any parent ever hopes to make. I felt sorry for Jack, who would have to endure these treatments and pokes for the rest of his life. I felt sorry for my husband, as I saw the emotional strain this placed on him and, I'll admit it, I felt sorry for myself. I didn't ask for this. I didn't *want* this. This is not what we signed up for when we decided to have children and start a family.
All of these visits though - I'm estimating about 40 so far, as we started coming every three weeks and then switched to every four weeks - have given me perspective. I am not alone. I am confident that every patient and patient family that walks through those doors wishes they didn't have to. I've also learned that despite how devastating our situation is, it could still be worse.
Today's treatment is winding down, and I will walk out that same skywalk as we return to the car. I still think of Henry, and mourn that loss every day as I will until the day I draw my final breath, but I know that he is with me both now and always and there will be no tears today. I don't feel the overwhelming sense of loss anymore when I walk through these hallways. I feel hope, comfort, kindness, and empathy. Time has eased nothing, but the perspective God has granted me these last three years has afforded me the opportunity to adjust the weight of grief and make carrying that weight a little less burdensome. For that, I am grateful.
As you likely know if you've been following this blog for any length of time, my husband and I lost our son Henry three years ago to an undiagnosed immune deficiency disorder. In short, Henry woke up sick on Friday morning, October 30th, 2009, and closed his eyes for the last time three days later, aged three years and four months old. He was an amazing little boy, so vibrant and happy, always smiling, and he loved animals. "Aminals," as he called them, were his life. Every day I would take him and his brother Jack to the little zoo in town and walk around the circle. Sometimes we would go twice a day, because he loved it that much. He was always very concerned about the animals. If boys three times his age were being mean to the animals, Henry had no problem telling them so. "Be good to the 'aminals'!" was his mantra, and I heard it more than once in his short life.
This is one of the easiest recipes I've ever tried. As much as I enjoy recipes that are truly made from scratch, some times it's nice to have something like that that you can just whip together in an instant with a few things from the pantry. It's warm and creamy and tasty. What more can you ask for? Oh, and it also bears a striking resemblance to the Cream of Chicken Noodle Soup that Campbell's used to sell (1. Why did they stop? 2. Can you tell I was a Campbell's Soup kid? This is the second post in two days that mentions the brand. Love that stuff! Homestyle Chicken Noodle is my all time favorite. I could eat it at every meal to this day. Nom.)
Anywho... here's the recipe that grandma clipped from an old issue of Taste of Home Magazine:
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of celery soup, undiluted
1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed chicken noodle soup, undiluted
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 can (10 oz.) chunk white chicken, drained
1 can (5 oz.) chow mein noodles (note: I would not use these again the next time)
In a large skillet, combine the first five ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add the chicken; heat through. Serve over chow mein noodles or substitute with any noodle of your choice.
When I made this, I used the chow mein noodles the recipe called for - partly because I like them, and partly because I had half a bag in the cupboard leftover from some chop suey we had a few weeks back. I was not a fan of the taste combo here at all. Not even a little bit. Ptooey. BUT, the creamy chicken stuff was super good on its own, and it totally reminded me of that old Campbell's soup. Next time I make this, I'll be using some type of noodle that resembles those in the chicken noodle soup. Something straight, thick, and flat. Maybe some of those home made noodles you see in specialty shops. That would be perfection.
I will probably also use "real" chicken rather than canned chicken. The canned chicken tasted fine and worked great and was über easy, but it kinda skeeves me out and I'm not sure why. Next time I'll probably use some shredded chicken breasts (I like to boil chicken breasts with onion and then shred them in my Kitchen Aid Mixer. One of the many things Pinterest has taught me.) rather than the canned stuff.
The days are getting shorter and the temps are dropping up here in NE Wisconsin. It's the perfect time to whip up some of this comfort food...
This isn't one of grandma's recipes, but it's still new to me so I thought I'd share it here. I was looking for some comfort food, and wanted something easy to throw together in the crock pot and found this in one of my Gooseberry Patch cookbooks (love those books!). It's in the "Slow Cooker Recipes" book on page 109 if you have a collection yourself. :)
Overall, it was a hit. Both my 4 year old son AND my husband enjoyed it so I'd call that a success. The only commentary from the hubsy was that it was a little bland, and I concur. I think the recipe has plenty of salt between the actual salt and what is contained in the bouillon, but it could use a little cracked pepper to zip it up a bit. I don't like spice, but it has to have a little something to give it some oomph.
Here's the recipe:
2 c. carrots, peeled and thinly sliced (I just sliced up some baby carrots we had on hand)
1 c. celery, thinly sliced
3/4 c. green pepper, diced (I omitted)
1 c. onion, diced (I just used one whole onion, didn't measure)
1 lb. stew beef, cubed
1/2 c. pearl barley, uncooked
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
3 cubes beef bouillon
2 T. catsup
1 t. salt
3/4 t. dried basil
5 c. water (maybe next time I'll substitute in some beef broth here?)
Layer vegetables, beef and barley in a slow cooker; add seasonings. Pour water over all; do not stir. Cover and cook on low setting for 9 to 11 hours. Makes 4-6 servings.
I would definitely make this soup again, but with a few minor adjustments (pepper, beef broth). I had enough for four bowls and was able to freeze two meals worth to boot, so I'd say that's a win. There's nothing better than just being able to whip some home made soup out of the freezer for supper at the end of a long day!
Enjoy, and let me know if you try it!