Monday, April 30, 2012

Baking Day.

The kids are off from school today because it's Labor Day here in Panama.  I decided that we were going to spend the day getting breakfast and lunch treats in the freezer since we had the whole day available.  Carson, I knew, had a birthday party to go to which made it an even better day because one less person makes things easier.  Except when that person is Chloe.

When the birthday boy's dad got here to pick up Carson, he offered to take Chloe to the beach with them, too.  Before I could nicely explain that I needed her in the kitchen today, she was dressed and ready to go.

Fine.  Be that way.

Camilla agreed to help me if I would play Uno with her this afternoon.

Fine.  Deal.

It took us about 3 hours, but we got "Ode to Weird Food" day mostly completed.

I found a recipe for Watermelon Granita because we had way more leftover watermelon that we could ever eat. The recipe called for seedless watermelon, but Camilla was mostly a trooper picking the seeds out.   

Tony is a HUGE fan of Dairy Queen's Mr. Mistys or whatever they are called now. (Artic Rush maybe?)  I am hoping this will meet the need!

Then, we moved on to spinach processing.  Both the green smoothies and the green goblin muffins require pureed spinach.  (I substituted watermelon for the pineapple in the muffin recipe because, like I said, we had too much watermelon.)  I'm not sure I've ever used the blender as much as I did today!

After making the green foods, I needed to make something more normal.  I whipped up a batch of oatmeal peanut butter cookies.  The recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies, but my willpower isn't that good so I baked 9 of them, and froze the rest of the dough in preformed balls for easy baking later on.

This is the final tally of the afternoon.  
The bowl in the back left of the picture is mock tuna salad- a favorite of mine and Chloe's.  We also hard boiled a dozen eggs for easy snacks and lunches.  There is one batch of chocolate zucchini muffins, too.  (I had planned on two more items,
but Chloe's absence was too much for us to vercome, and we didn't get it all done!)

Date Night!

Do you know what this is?
It's a list of instructions.
For the babysitter.

 Do you know what this is?
It's the clothes I'm packing. 
For my overnight getaway.
With my husband.

I was able to find a sitter willing to spend the night with the four kids so Tony and I could get a night away from our life.  We headed downtown to our favorite hotel, Hotel Riu, and checked in Friday night.
Our Beautiful Room.

I love this huge picture over the bed.  When we moved to Panama, our family stayed in this hotel for a few nights while we waited for our apartment.  During that stay, we were in the purple rooms.  We've also stayed in the green rooms.  This was our first time in the orange rooms.  (The kids were super jealous!)

 After we got situated in our room, we changed clothes and headed to Tastes restaurant for dinner.

Posing with the bread basket.

 No greater blessing as a mommy than being able to enjoy a meal without cutting anyone's food or worrying about how long the food is going to take and whether the baby can make it that long!

This was our appetizer, Potato and Lamb Stew. 
(It came with three pieces, but I ate one before I remembered to take a picture.)

I ordered salmon with quinoa for dinner.
Tony ordered the same thing. 

(That drives me crazy!  Why can't he order something different?  It's no fun if we order the same thing.  He's been doing this for years.  I really should let him order first.  Am I the only person this bothers??)

After dinner, we went out to the pool to enjoy quiet.

Just being together.

The Riu has the BEST continental breakfast I've ever experienced.  And I consider myself a continental breakfast guru.  And, hands down, nothing compares to this one.  14 tables of amazing food.  The Riu breakfast is legendary in our house.  I imagine, someday, I'll sit with my grandchildren and tell them about this breakfast we had many years ago...

Clearly, Tony was getting tired of our photo documentation, but he was a good sport.

We got home about noon, and we're thrilled to hear that the kids did great while we were gone.  I always ask sitters if they are willing to come back.  (I like to get that out on the table.)  This one said, "Please do have me back!"  The kids agreed that Miss Trinity was a definite for future sitting assignments.  Sounds perfect! 

Wonder what she's doing next weekend???  ;)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Camp Daddy.

As I mentioned previously, Tony took had a week of vacation last week.  When we were homeschooling, these weeks provided the time for our family beach vacations.  Now that we are tied to the school's calendar, Tony spent his week off participating in our everyday activities.  Every Thursday, I attend Bible study, and Coralynn normally goes to a sitter.  This week, she got to stay home and have a morning at Camp Daddy!

Daddy decided Coralynn needed a ponytail.
Coralynn decided she needed to wear Camilla's flip flops.

Enjoying her morning beverage on the "playground."

Fun times with Daddy!

Working on her "computer."  Makes me wonder if Daddy was on his computer, too!

Bits heading out to do her errands with her sunglasses on and her "purse" on her arm.

Time to go!

Coralynn loves nothing more than curling up and reading books.  It was a special treat to be able to curl up with Daddy on a Thursday morning!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Coralynn Update and More

Last night, we went to the ENT with Coralynn.  Last week, she failed her hearing test terribly.  We walked in suspecting that surgery would be recommended.  We walked out with the surgery scheduled for next week, and lab orders for bloodwork.

This morning, Tony, Coralynn and I headed to the hospital for the labwork.  She did super well, and, fortunately, Tony is on vacation this week so we could enjoy the rest of the beautiful morning without him having to go to work. 

Looking into Panama City

The Cinta Costera- not at rush hour

Coralynn running down the ramp.

Catching Up with Daddy.

The Sea Wall.

Mommy and Bitty.

Watching the Birds Fish.

Coralynn trying to stay on the line.
(maybe after tubes?)

Beautiful Panama City and the Pacfic Ocean.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


My great friend, Gina, asked for details about our healthy living strategies.  (And, everyone needs a Gina.  Sweet, hysterical, loyal.  That's a friend!) I also had some friends here, in Panama, ask for some details on what we're doing.  So, I thought I'd let you in on our plan.

1.  I am genetically thin.  I just am.  That doesn't mean I've always been healthy.  Just thin.
2.  I lose weight relatively easily.  I also gain weight without much difficulty.  There is a fair amount of swing in my weight.
3.  I am going to tell you what we're doing and why.  These are not medical opinions or judgements against what decisions you are making for your family.  Don't feel defensive.  If what works for you, works for you, then keep working it.)

Step One:  Determine Your Goals and Prioritize.
As we began this little all-consuming journey toward health, I learned very quickly that I was going to have make some choices and decide on my priorities.  What were my long-term goals?  What role did the budget play?  How many grocery stores did I want to have to go to?  Why was I making the decisions I was?

I started very simply with wanting to get rid of processed foods.  In my mind, that was an easy concept.  I quickly discovered that "processed food" means different things to different people.  We can all agree that an Oreo is a processed food.  So is a canned green bean.  But what about frozen vegetables?  How about olive oil?  Or baker's chocolate?  We can agree that white flour is processed, but is whole-wheat flour that I didn't ground from berries against the rules?

This is one of those times when you have to be willing to say to yourself that it doesn't matter what everyone else chooses.  Be okay with your choices.  I tried for a few weeks to be vegan.  Tony doesn't eat beans.  Us being vegan wasn't going to work, but I diligently hid beans in foods and lied to my family about it.  That is not a good long-term strategy.  After the vegan issues, I finally had enough courage to make some decisions based on one 4-word thought.

Eat Whole, Real Foods.

Step Two:  Make Choices Based on Your Goals.
After I decided that I wanted our life to be based on real foods, I did some research on some individual foods.  I began to understand that some foods I didn't want part of our diet. (Again- "diet" is the food you consume, not a 12-week program with celebrity endorsements.)  Some of these are pretty universally agreed upon.  Others are more "controversial."

1.  Eliminate as much processed food as possible.

I got rid of all boxed snacks and cookies.  No more chips.  Canned fruits and veggies are out.  Canola and vegetable oils are out.  (More on that later.)  Juice boxes are out.  Soda is no more.  Salad dressings are gone. 

Allowed "processed" foods include olive oil, peanut butter, organic butter, whole-wheat pasta, raisins, and frozen vegetables.

2.  Eliminate Soy.

Soy is a hot topic in the medical/nutrition world.  After doing my research, I came to the determination that soy had to go, especially since my oldest two were on soy formula for a year.  Once I got rid of the processed foods, the soy mostly went with it.  Vegetable oil was the last thing I replaced because it didn't occur to me that vegetable oil is soybean oil.  (You think growing up in the fields of soybeans in East Central Illinois I would have known that, huh?)

3.  Avoid Dairy.

As I mentioned in the soy paragraph, my older two kids were on soy formula as infants because they reacted to dairy.  While I nursed Coralynn, I had to cut all dairy out because of her sensitivities to it.  I began to research dairy, lactose, and casein.  I am confident that no one in my family has a true dairy allergy, but I did come to the decision that no one needed to be consuming large amounts of dairy products.    

The dairy concerns were one that I had to make some decisions. 

Milk:  Since I knew we weren't going to soy milk, I switched us to almond and coconut milks. (It's not really coconut milk- leche de coco. It's a drink made from coconut. Very different products.)   The milk decision was pretty easy, and it is readily available in Panama without breaking the bank.

Butter:  I cook with butter.  Butter is a real food.  (It's counterpart, margarine, is not a real food.)  To get rid of butter would mean that I was going to have to buy a non-dairy created substance (made from various oils- sunflower, canola, safflower) that was made to replace butter.  Many people make the decision to do that, but that doesn't line up with my goals.  Instead, I made the decision to buy organic butter even though it is expensive- $6/lb.

Cheese:  I am truly allergic to cheese.  It causes migraines for me so I don't eat it or cook with it.  It is in the house for lunch quesadillas and pizza toppings.  We made the determination that the cheese intake is so minimal (and many of the alternatives are soy-based) that we would allow it to continue as normal. 

Yogurt:  This was the hardest one for me to decide what to do.  Coralynn loves yogurt.  She can consume large quantities of it in a day.  To keep normal, cow's milk yogurt would negate any efforts to minimize dairy intake.  I went to the grocery store hoping to find a good alternative.  At the American-style grocery store, I found three possible options.  Lactose-free yogurt, organic cow's milk yogurt, and soy yogurt.  Soy yougrt was quickly eliminated from the possibility list.  The other two options were over $2.00 for a single-serve yogurt.   Paying $20/week for Coralynn's yogurt wasn't going to work.   Coralynn really likes the drinkable yogurt.  In lieu of a better solution, I began to add coconut milk to normal yogurt to create a drinkable yogurt with less dairy in it.  That worked for a while, but it wasn't a great option.

We headed to the organic store to see what we could find.  I was REALLY hoping they would have coconut-milk yogurt that I've heard is available in the United States.  Unfortunately, they didn't have anything like that.  They did have goat's milk yogurt.  And it was reasonably (still expensive, but doable) priced.  I decided to buy a couple of them.  Coralynn absolutely loved them!  I did a little research on the differences in cows' mik and goats' milk.  We determined that goats' milk would work for the time being.

4.  Up the Raw Fruits and Vegetables.

Again, this is a non-controversial topic.  Everyone agrees that eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is important for optimal health.  At the advice of my friend (who is also a frugal guru), I began drinking green smoothies.  Laden with leafy greens and fresh fruits, they are a nutritional homerun.  Only issue here is the prohibitive cost of berries ($5-6/lb).  I tried making tropical-fruit green smoothies, but I just didn't like them very much.  I found frozen fruit at the warehouse club ($11/5lb), and decided that was going to be a sacrifice worth making.  Chloe, Coralynn, and I try to have a smoothie every day.   The others are slower to come around, but I'm confident we will convert them soon!

Step Four: Establish an Eating Routine
This is not to be confused with eat the same foods all the time.   Really, this step was just for me.  I needed to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at relatively the same time every day.  Before we started this plan, I ate nothing until 3:00pm when I would be exhausted and have a raging headache.  I would then eat sugar-filled processed snacks until dinner.  After dinner I would consume 1000-1500 calories of junk while watching television.  It is truly a genetic miracle I wasn't overweight.  During my research stage, I began to read about thin overweight people.  Or, as my friend calls them, the "skinny fat."  The short explanation is that your weight can be healthy, but your health stats can read like someone overweight.  I was very concerned about that, and being a good steward of my health became my motivation to keep on the healthy path.

Since weight loss was not the driving force, I wasn't sure if I should count calories.  I finally made the decision that my idea of healthy portions was so skewed that I needed to keep track of how much I was eating.  I started trying to keep the calorie number under 1200 because I'm sure I read somewhere that was the proper number for weight loss.  After an initial drop in weight, it became super clear that I wasn't going to lose more weight at that number, and I wasn't going to be able to maintain such a restricitive amount.  (And, quite frankly, there was no reason for me to try to lose weight.) 

I upped my number to 1500 to see what happened.  I was easily staying within that number, feeling full, and losing weight.  An online friend mentioned a website she was using that taught zig-zagging caloric intake to keep the body interested.  I did that for a few weeks, and I lost more weight.  At about a pound away from my pre-pregnancy weight, I determined it was time to come up with a maintenance action plan.  (My mind would very much like me to drop a ton more weight, but I know that is a huge mistake.)  I came up with a simple plan based on an idea from WeightWatchers.

With the new WeightWatchers PointPlus plan, all raw fruits and vegetables are "free."  You don't count them in your calorie/point count for the day.  The idea is to encourage people to eat more of the healthy stuff.  I decided I would do the same thing.  Now, I still eat 1500-1700 calories, but that 1500 does not include my green smoothies or salads or fresh fruits or fresh vegetables.  Recording this way still forces me to make healthy food choices, but it allows a greater amount of food.  The perfect plan for lifestyle maintenance! 

Step Five:  Exercise.
I'm an exercising nightmare.  I hate it.  Hate it.  I'm okay with weight lifting, but I hate anything that would count as "cardio."  Hate it.  Ugg. 

Here's the thing, though.  I'm beginning to (10 weeks in) hate the tired feeling more.  And I'm beginning to hate the flab more. 

Saturday, the kids had WalkAThon- the 2-hour culimnation of a fundraising mission.  Carson ran 9 miles.  Chloe ran 4 miles.  Camilla did almost 3.  I tried not to die after 2 miles.  Some of my sweet friends were walking with me encouraging me to keep at it.  I found out that some of them meet at the park a few days a week and run. 

Does that sound like fun?  No. 
Does it sound like people would hold me accountable?  Yes. 
Am I going to give it a try?  Yes. 
Was I overjoyed when I heard that it had been rained out for this morning?  Yes!

I'm still working on this part.  Still working...

Step Six:  Remember Reasonable.
I firmly believe the Lord has numbered my days  He knows exactly when I'm going to die.  It's all part of the plan.  I should be a wise steward of the life He's given me, but I need to remember where my control stops.  And, with that in mind, I have to live my life.  I will still have a piece of cake at a birthday party.  I will go out to dinner with friends and not interrogate the waiters (except about cheese!).   I will remember that health is more than just food.  It's the whole body- including the mind and soul.  God gave Peter permission to let go of his diet (Acts 10) in the name of ministry.  My lifestlye should never take over my life. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

75 Minutes.

Friday is normally the only day-home day Coralynn and I get.  Sometimes we still choose to run errands, but this has been an exhausting week so we just stayed in our jammies for most of the day.  When she went down for a nap, I had lunch.  And, then I needed something sweet.  I'm not sure why, but my sweet tooth has been super needy lately.  I can't seem to get enough dessert. 

Since I haven't baked in a while, and the Bits was nicely sleeping, I decided it was time to get baking.  75 minutes later, I was done after completing three desserts, swapping out the laundry, washing the dishes I'd used, and showering.  Gotta love a productive afternoon!

Monday, April 16, 2012

When Life Sends You Rain,

Play in the Puddles!

A Weekend in the Life of Us...

Saturday morning, we decided to run some errands.  Coralynn decided to drive.

Make sure it's all clear.

Put into drive.

Tony decided that wasn't safe, so he took over, and we headed to the mall.  We split into teams and ran a couple quick errands.  The plan was to meet in DoIt Center so we could buy mousetraps to catch Fred.  (Yes, we name everything.)  Unfortunately, Tony and DoIt Center always take longer than anticipated.

At least the kids found some place to wait.

We made it back from the mall, McDonald's, and the grocery store with enough time for the baby to take a nap.  While she slept, we played Uno.  Once the Bits was up, we headed for the swimming pool.  This was a good plan because Bits' first word after waking was "Pool?!"

Headed down to the swimming pool.

New Googles- Camilla!

Coralynn sporting the new googles.

After getting our fill of swimming, the kids wanted to go to the playground.  We love the pool and playground at the apartment complex!

Coralynn doesn't like sliding so she just hangs from the top.  Carson, on the other hand, loves to get the slide really wet so he can fling down it faster. I was supposed to photograph this in action.

Getting ready to slide.

Here we go.

Time for me to buy a new camera.

Coralynn decided it was just more fun to spy on Chloe.

Overall, Saturday was a fun day.  Unfortunately, for Fred, the chocolate chip we read on google was an effective mouse bait, really was an effective mouse bait, and Fred is no longer with us.  (Camilla cried.  These really are my children.) 

Even more unfortunately, unless you are Fred's family, Coralynn cried off and on throughout the night, and we began to wonder that she might have an ear infection.  We headed off to church Sunday morning deciding that we'd think about taking her in.  After church, we headed to PriceSmart for more groceries.  (We spend a lot of time at grocery stores.)  And, we spent more time pondering over the Bits and her ears.

After lunch, I decided that we should look in her ears.  We have an otoscope so, in theory, we can check for ear infections.  We don't have a clue what we're looking for.  All it looks like is fleshy ear when we look in.  I really think there should be a sign that says, "Infected."  That would make all this easier.

I googled "looking in kids' ears for infection while using otoscopes."  Amazingly that turned up some information.  I looked in her ears.  I saw something!   Earwax.  Grr.  Coralynn produces all kinds of earwax.  I know this because the ENT gets all grumpy about it.  I now understand why- you can't see anything! 

I clicked on the "removing earwax link" for suggestions.  I followed the directions adding hydrogen perioxide to water to flush out the wax.  (Seriously, you can find anything online!)  I looked again.  This time I actually saw the ear drum.

It didn't look like the healthy pictures, but it didn't look super inflamed.  And we already know that she has fluid in the middle ear.  We've been treating it for months.  I asked Tony what we should do.  He thought I should take her to the ER to be checked.  I thought he should call the ENT.  (Neither of these are medical opinions.  They are trying to pass the buck so that the other person has to deal with it.)

We settled on calling the pediatrician here in Panama.  From what Tony tells me, her voice message said she was on vacation.  I took his word for it. 

Hmm.  Now what.

Well, I did what every expat does.  I called the US.

Fortunately, our former pediatrician and still friend, Dr. Lisa, answered the phone.  15 minutes later, we had an action plan.  Unfortunately, Tony already put the Bits down for her nap.  So, we decided to send Tony and the kids to play basketball, and Bitty and I would stay home.  When she got up, we would take her to the ER just to makes sure there was no infection.

Sitting in triage waiting for the doctor.

Today's public service announcement:
Don't give the patient the sucker until AFTER being seen by the doctor.  It just makes everything sticky.

After seeing the nurse, we waited for about 30 minutes to see the doctor.  Coralynn had a great time running around and meeting all the other patients.  Tony and I were trying to explain that she needed to act sick so we could get seen sooner.  Nope.  She was as happy as can be.

Left ear. 
(Tony is offically old because he asked me if the doctor looked old enough to have graduated from medical school.  Those are the kinds of things old people say.)

Right ear.
(The doctor wasn't very old, but he was clearly trying to give good service.  And that, in Panama, makes him the best doctor ever.)

The doctor, Dr. P, said that her ears didn't look normal, but there was no raging infection.  (Wait a minute!  That's what I said.  Woohoo!  Go me!!)  He decided to call our ENT to see what she wanted him to do.  30 minutes later, we had tried out 2 more waiting rooms and a new seating area.  Dr. P. came back in and said that our ENT wasn't answering her phone.  Did we want to try their ENT?  Sure.  30 more minutes, but we got to stay in the same room.  Their ENT still hadn't answered.  I sent Tony out to see if Dr. P. would just let us go.  (And since I'm the new otoscope pro, I determined no clear infection + appointment with ENT in 10 days= Us leaving the ER.)  Dr. P. said he wanted to get a specialist's opinion, and I wasn't enough of a specialist for him.  Finalemente, we hear back that the ENT doesn't need to see her (insert HUGE sigh of relief), but that we should start her on the antibiotic.  Sounds like a plan!  2 hours after arriving at the ER, we had meds and were leaving.

The kids were so good while we were there.  Well, at least I think they were.  We left them in the Lobby.  Tony did agree to take us for dinner since it was already after 7pm.  What do expats do for dinner on a Sunday night after spending hours in a Spanish-speaking ER? 

They go to Subway!