Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

I know I am always bragging Rob up and talking about what a good cook he is so it's time to share on of my favorite recipes he makes. Here is his fabulous homemade Chicken Noodle Soup. I assure you Campbell's has nothing on him! The ingredients are surprisingly simple but each bowl is full of flavor. This Home Sweet Kolkman fall favorite is a bit of a process but it's worth every bite!

Rob's Chicken Noodle Soup

Approx. 16lbs of poultry (We get what is on sale. Doesn't matter if it's a combo of breast and thigh pieces.)
Approx. enough water to cover your poultry
1 1/2 bags of whole carrots
1 bag of celery
3 packs of McCormick's Chicken Noodle Soup Seasoning
1 large bag of Egg Noodles


Pressure cook your chicken at 15 lbs of pressure for thirty minutes or so until it's falling off the bone.
(Rob filles our pressure cooker approx 1/2 full with water to submerge the chicken.)

Wash, Peel, and Chop your veggies... (Rob uses our Pampered Chef slicer with caution because that gadget is sharp and dangerous!)

Drain the cooked chicken into a large strainer.

Save the broth.

Remove the bones.

Add all of the chicken, veggies, and seasoning to the saved broth and let it cook down.

Cook your egg noodles separate as directed on the package. Place a serving size amount into a soup bowl. Pour the hot soup over your noodles. Stir. Eat with crackers and a salad on the side!

Store the rest of the soup in freezer bags for the rest of the fall and winter soup eating season! We use both gallon and quart sized bags so we can decide how much soup we want to thaw at a time.

This is Rob's third season making this soup so he has all the kinks worked out of it. He opts to make the egg noodles separate because they tend to overcook if they are added directly to the soup. They also get very mushy and/or disintegrate if they are froze and re-cooked. He doesn't add extra fluid to the broth so it is very concentrated. If you add more water than what you need to cook the chicken with it gets a tad overwhelming trying to store it (you wind up with 3x's the number of bags to freeze). Not to mention, you end up having a pot not big enough to hold all of the liquid. It works out well to save some of the water you use to boil your noodles in when you are ready for a helping of soup to dilute it. It's really all to taste depending on how concentrated or diluted you prefer your soup. 

What all of this boils down to is a warm, rich, and hearty soup that makes a cold day a little warmer, the sniffles just a bit more bearable, and the aches just a little less achy. And if consumed in sufficient quantities you are guaranteed to drift off to sleep!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween 2009

I wanted to slip this post in before it's Halloween 2010 and the clock is ticking folks, I'm down to the wire here. Last year Ava was only six months old and I can't believe a year has past already. Seriously, where does the time go?

When I think about Halloween it's hard not to reminisce about this holiday as a child. I loved getting dressed up. I loved all the decorations my Mom set up around our house. I love that she still has some of them! I loved carving pumpkins with my family and baking our pumpkin seeds. I loved that my Mom came to my school parties and helped out in my class room. I loved that we usually ordered pizza for dinner. I loved that my Dad was the one to take us around the neighborhood at night. I loved that my Mom handed out candy and there was always some left over even though we made a haul trick-or-treating. I loved that my brothers and I sprawled out on the living room floor while we sorted out our candy. I loved that it was a night we spent together.

Halloween is a without a doubt a kid's holiday that inspires creativity and all things make-believe. But I believe it's definitely best celebrated as a parent. I love everything about it from the decorations, treats, kid's costumes, pumpkins, parties, crafts, scary stories, and all things spooky. For me, Halloween is something whimsical to look forward to before the snow starts flying and all the craziness of the winter holidays begin.  It's truly a great time for fun family activities. I look forward to making wonderful Halloween memories with Ava every year!

 Enjoy some pictures from our Halloween 2009!

The cutest pumpkin I know... Ava Elise!

Elise & Ava's Pumpkins...

 Ava's making a craft at her daycare Halloween Party...

Ava's pleased with her craftiness...

The best spooky hand ghost I've ever seen...

Rainbow Chickie... What a perfect costume for Ava!

I loved getting to attended Tweet's party at AppleTree...

Tweet's loves to fly!!!

Ava enjoyed playing with pumpkin glow sticks on a mat with the other babies...

Ava loved her pumpkin on a stick...

Pumpkin Kisses...

Get your own pumpkin... This one's mine...

"Tutu" much Halloween fun at our Neighborhood Party...

Ava's dressed and ready for round two... "Tweet-Tweet!"

Ava-Rainbow Chickie, Kaylie-Lady Bug, Alaina-Fairy, Emmie-Butterfly, & Jacob-Dinosaur
The Crazy kids of Cozy Acres!!!

Ava and Momma on Halloween Night!!!

Happy 2009 Trick-or-Treating! It was super cold so we drove around our neighborhood in a heated vehicle to keep our kids warm. Now that's lucky! I also want to mention how I loved getting a warm cup of coffee with some Carolines to keep me warm. Halloween is nothing but good times no matter who you are or how old you are.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Grandpa's Lullaby

One of the things I miss most about my Dad is his big heart. If my Dad loved you he loved you with his whole heart and that's a fact. I had my Dad's whole heart wrapped around my finger from beginning to end. I was his youngest and only daughter which made our connection very special. He told me a thousand times over that the day I was born was one of his happiest. I will tell you a thousand times over that the day he past away will be one of my saddest. His thoughtfulness and kind gestures made him who he was. The most loving, kind, and generous person I may ever know. I will remain thankful for the years we spent together, for the memories we made, and for all the gifts he gave to me and my children. I will love and miss him without a doubt, for the rest of my days.

I'd like to share the story of Ava's Lullaby. It's about time since I have referred to it in the past on this blog.

I have to explain a little bit of Grandpa Barron history for you to understand how Ava's Lullaby ever came to be in the first place...

One of the things my Dad looked forward to when he was told he was going to be a grandpa for the first time was that he would get to sing to his grandchild. Jack Michael Barron arrived into the world on June 28, 2001. I remember being in my early 20's and thinking how great it was to see both of my parents embrace grandparenthood, especially my Dad. He loved singing "Diddle Diddle Dumpling" to Jack and he sang it in his grandpa way. On May 24, 2003 Emma Grace Barron was born. The world colored in pink looked even brighter to Grandpa Barron. He had someone to call his pretty and he sang to her too. Jack and Emma are only 23 months apart... so Jack was too little to care that Grandpa sang, "Diddle Diddle Dumpling" to both of them.

Diddle Diddle Dumpling

Diddle, diddle, dumpling,
my son, John,
Went to bed
with his stockings on,
One shoe off
and one shoe on!
Diddle, diddle, dumpling,
my son, John!

Rob and I announced our pregnancy with Elise to my parents in February of 2007. My Dad was ready for another baby to love and sing, "Diddle Diddle Dumpling" to. But Miss Emma Grace at the tender age of three was not so keen on sharing "her" song. So Emma decided that my Dad could sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to Elise. They were both so excited a baby was on the way that they sang this lullaby to her while she was growing in my belly. The words to this song are so fitting for Elise...

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

"Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!"

What can I say about Ava Elise Kolkman? Well she is our "Rainbow Baby" and announcing her life to our family was a very hopeful and anxious time. She was the answer to our prayers and we prayed for her life each and every day I carried her in my belly. It was very important to me that my family got to know her very early on so I took my parents frequently to my high risk OB appointments. My Dad loved to come with me and get a sneak peak as he said, to brighter days that lie ahead. Ava was and still is a bright spot in our lives. Pulling us though hard times must be her God given purpose. I will be forever thankful for the joy she brings me and my family.

My Dad would meet me at my regular OB office at 3:15 pm on the days I had appointments at MFM. He would jump out of his truck with a bounce in his step and get into my car which he called, "Momma's Red Chili Bean." He would shut the door and give me a kiss... warm up his hands and say, "Tweet-Tweet, Grandpa's ready to see you so be good little girl!" I don't think many daughters share this time with their Dad's but I am thrilled I gave both of my parents the opportunity to know Ava in-utero, especially my Dad.

My Dad was like a kid in the candy store at these appointments. He was always pushing buttons on the ultra sound machine when the tech would leave so he could have extra pictures of Ava. He would say, "Grandpa needs his own pictures ya' know." He would hide them in his front pocket and he showed her off to all of his friends. He was the proudest Grandpa ever and he was over the moon for Ava Elise. He was also known to "button push" at my NST's for Ava. He had to know how everything worked and he loved to be on the inside loop when it came to these check ups on Ava. It was at these appointments, when I stretched out in the lazy boy hooked up to the fetal heart monitor, that my Dad and I talked about what song he would be singing to Ava. I decided for Elise that, "Twinkle Twinkle" was officially retired. I really wanted my Dad to learn the lyrics to, "Somewhere over the Rainbow" for Ava but he was resistant to the idea and I couldn't figure out why. What song better or more fitting could there be for our "Rainbow Baby"?

My Mom spilled the beans a little early to me about my Dad's lullaby he was personally writing to Ava. The idea of this melted my heart. She told me how she came home from work one day and caught my Dad singing in the house. She didn't think to much of it since my Dad did occasionally hum a tune when he was in a good mood. She didn't start to question him until she repeatedly caught him singing on different occasions. When she inquired about what he was singing he would say, "Oh nothing." He was one of the greatest secret keepers I will ever know. Then she caught him scribbling on a note pad and singing in his chair one day when she came home early. He could no longer hide his secret. He confessed he was writing a special lullaby for Ava because no lullaby already written was special enough to sing to her. How sweet is that? Precious! My Dad loved Ava from the very beginning and it became very clear to me that they would share a bond unlike any I had ever known.

A few weeks before Ava was born my Dad sang his lullaby to her in-utero for the first time. It was the sweetest moment I've fortunately had the privilege of being a part of. He had the look of pure joy in his eyes as he sang his song to her. He was truly delighted by every word that he carefully thought about for months as he anxiously awaited her arrival. My Dad met Ava face to face on April 15, 2009 an hour after her birth. He held her in his arms and he sang his song to her face to face. I remember him smiling and winking at me in our hospital room while he sang to her. Silently, we exchanged a look and I know exactly what he was thinking. "Ava, was worth all the worry and wait. She was perfect or better and our prayers had been answered. She was here to stay!"

Ava's Lullaby
by Michael James Barron

Hotchie Coutche, twedle dee dee
Bumble bee Bumble bee don't get me
Elise slides down from rainbows crest,
 watching over Ava's nest-
Grandpa's pockets hold some treats
and he tickles Ava's feet-
Grandma's coming thru the door 
what she buy me at the store-
Jack and Emma are on the floor
and they want to play with Ava some more-
Dad and Mom can we stay
I don't want to go away.
(Hotchie Coutche, twedle dee dee
Bumble bee Bumble bee Grandpa loves me-
 This italicised verse was added later on with the help of Jack & Emma.)

My mom was putting some books in my Dad's nightstand this past August when she stumbled upon a treasure. She found his special pad of paper with the original page he scratched down the lyrics to Ava's Lullaby. What a great gift to find and receive during my birthday month this year. Thanks for not throwing this away Dad! This find is truly better than receiving a million dollar lottery ticket! I love that my Dad most likely bought this pad of paper in remembrance of Elise. It had our Angel Prayer on it that we read together prior to the start of our family gatherings. I love that while he embraced Ava with his whole heart he never forgot Elise and included her memory whenever he could.

Angel of God

I love that when my Dad wrote letters he wrote in cursive. I love that when he wrote lists or his name for example (on everything!) he wrote in all caps. I love that the original copy of Ava's Lullaby contains both styles of his writing. I love how I can now see his thought process as he carefully constructed the lyrics for Ava's Lullaby. I am saddened to no end that my unborn children will not experience moments like this with my Dad. It is my hope that while their souls are in Heaven he is singing away to them! xoxoxoxox...

Grandpa's Original Lullaby

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Elise's 3rd Birthday and Memorial Celebration 2010

With a lot of God's Grace, Rob & I made it through another year without our firstborn daughter and managed to exhibit a little "grace" of our own. We lament for Elise in ways I can't possible describe well enough for you to understand unless you have walked in our shoes so I'm not going to try. However, we continue to use this tangible ache in our hearts to do positive things for other families experiencing the loss of a child by donating to the P.E.N.D. program at Spectrum Health. Our donations this year were successful and with a lot of work Elise's memory lives on in our hearts and in the hearts of others.

80 memorial cards were sent out to family & friends with a memorial photograph...

Here's the Memorial Photo I picked to mail out with the help of Rob and other family & friends...

Here are some other favorites from our memorial session...

Two Suitcases & a treat for my OB office of Hershey Hugs & Kisses...

Perfect suitcase contents for grieving parents of an angel girl or boy...

I put a lot of thought and care into the contents of our donations... Angel wings, two books for healing, a picture frame for each, stuffed bunny/bear rattles, music for healing, and white layettes tipped in pink or blue.

My Best Friend in the world also donates on behalf of Elise each October... Thanks Kris!!!

This year we had two 9 x 13 cakes delivered to Butterworth 3 West... The floor I delivered both of my girls. The care those OB nurses gave to my family & I is one in a million! In remembrance of Elise it is my honor to treat them to some dessert.

"Elise, Heaven holds you before we do."

Here is just a tiny side note... When I arrived to the hospital with Ava, the suitcases, and cakes I wasn't sure how I was going to make it to the lobby where I was set to meet Nancy. Making it from the car to the parking ramp elevator was a challenge to say the least. The elevator doors opened and three women were inside. They all jumped out to help me. I was so relieved. They were all nurses there on their day off to attend a mandatory meeting. They inquired about what all the stuff was for and where I was going. I shared a tiny bit of Elise's story and explained what the donations were and about our memorial celebration. One of the women started tearing up. I assured her I was doing okay and to not be so upset because it's truly a day for healing. I explained that I enjoy giving back to the P.E.N.D. program that helped preserve Elise's memory as part of our yearly celebration.

She shook her head "No"... and then shared her story. Her term daughter was stillborn 28 years ago. She helped me along with the other women to the hospital lobby. She said that no matter how many years pass I will never forget Elise because 28 years later she remembers lossing her daughter like it was yesterday. This statement I believe to be true! She thanked me for letting her help me in honor of her daughter, Jessica. We shared some tears and hugged goodbye. This is just another reminder that God places people in our lives for specific reasons. Nothing is by chance. Our paths crossing was not by accident. It was part of that women's God given purpose to be in that elevator to help me get inside the hospital with all of our donations in-tact. It was part of my God given purpose to need her help in order for us to share our stories. I believe it's all part of "The Plan" and it's certainly heart warming!

Nancy Kingma & Ava... "Thanks for making all of this possible Nancy!"

A gift for AppleTree/Lighthouse Learning Academy... We donate a Heaven inspired book each year along with a sweet treat. I look forward to the day when Ava can help share her sister's story and help pick out the book we give in memory of her.

This year we gave, Someday Heaven by Larry Libby... A great book I read after my Dad past away.

Elise received a package on her birthday... I love getting mail for her!

She received a Beautiful "E" Ornament for our Christmas Tree. Thanks Heeringa family!

We also received flower's from the Ward family from Utah... Three roses for Elise's 3rd Birthday...

Rob's rose garden for Elise bloomed another round this fall!

10/13/2010... Elise's resting place on her 3rd birthday...

My Dad's resting place on Elise's 3rd Birthday...

Pre-Ceremony... Our immediate family gathering in the cemetery...

Ava's hooping it up for her sister's birthday!

Ava giving Elise's Stone some love taps...

A special sister's kiss...

I'm reading the "We Remember Them" poem on behalf of Elise & my Dad...

I read two poems that were new this year.

Little Footprints

by Dorothy Ferguson
read in memory of Elise...

How very softly
you tiptoed into my world.
Almost silently,
only a moment you stayed.
But what an imprint
your footsteps have left
upon my heart.

In Loving Memory of You

by Debbie Heydrick
read in memory of my Dad...

Quietly I'm remembering you
in the silence of my heart.
Each thought of you, a treasure
while we are now apart.
At times I'm filled with longing;
Your face I'd love to see,
To feel your warmth, to hear your voice,
to have you here with me.

But God has a plan; He created you
and numbered all your days.
May he hold you in His loving arms
and surround me with His grace.
With the hope of reunion in Heaven one day,
I entrust you to His care.
Cherished memories of you live on in my heart.
Your life is a gift we share.

Jack lead the, "Our Father"...

Group photo with Rob...

Group photo with me...

I'm helping Ava get her balloon's ready to release... She was very excited!

Ava's love notes are on their way to Elise & Grandpa!

All of our balloon's are on their way to Heaven... I hope my Dad can help Elise catch all of them!

Up Up Up Up Up... Up they go!

We were all happy they cleared the trees...

Jack & Emma treated Elise to some Halloween Decore'...

Jack & Emma also left Grandpa Barron some Halloween Decore'...

Family Photo...

Elise's Spot at the end of the evening...

Our mailbox balloon's are out & our lights are on @ Home Sweet Kolkman...

Our Birthday Cup Cake is inflated for Elise...

Our neighbor, Lori Hart, made cookies for us and left them with a thoughtful note while we were in the cemetery...

Our family & friends gathered for a great meal...

We sang "Happy Birthday" to Elise & my Dad...

We had Carrot Cake (One of my Dad's favorite desserts) in memory of him...

Angel Food Cup Cakes for Elise!

We ended the evening watching Jack, Emma, and Ava play... I love how they love each other!

It's truly hard to believe three years have past since we last held Elise in our arms. As time moves on so does our grief. Rob and I reflected this year on how Elise would have been the same age Ava is now when we brought her home from the hospital. Every memory we have made with Ava over the past 18 months are all the memories we were cheated from making with Elise. It's hard to know what life would be like with a three year old. It's hard to know what our lives would be like with two girls to chase around. It's hard to know what it would be like to watch sisters grow up close in age. It's hard to know who Elise would be. We mourn for all the missed moments that cheat us from knowing who she'd be today. We will continue to dream about our little girl who's days were numbered all to short. Rob and I will help nurture the relationship between Ava and Elise as gently as possible because even though they are apart they will always be sisters. Our love for Elise will never end because families are FOREVER!

[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:7-8