Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chicken Enchilada Penne Pasta

Oh boy.  This new recipe from Pinterest is now a new family favorite.  Enthusiastic thumbs up from all five!  Recipe pinned from here.

Let me say this:  I do not like spicy...the mouth-burning, eyes-watering spicy?  NO THANK YOU!  So I was a little skeptical about liking this myself, but I really loved it.  I adjusted this a bit as I made it, wanting to error on the calmer side of spice.

If you like things hot-n-spicy, use the hot varieties of the enchilada sauces, kick up the spices, add chopped jalapenos when you serve it, or whatever else makes your tastebuds sing.

Here it is as we loved it:

Chicken Enchilada Penne Pasta

1 rotisserie chicken, chunked or shredded
2 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 - 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 can (4 oz.) diced green chiles
2 cans (10 oz. each) green enchilada sauce
2/3 cups red enchilada sauce
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 cups shredded cheese (I used cheddar/jack)
1 cup sour cream
1 lb. penne pasta

Optional toppings:
diced tomatoes
diced avocados
sliced olives
sliced green onions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic and red pepper, saute an additional 3 minutes.  Add chicken, green chiles, enchilada sauces, chili powder and cumin.  Heat just to a boil and simmer for 8 - 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed on package.

Add cheese and mix well, until all the cheese is melted and incorporated.  Remove from heat and stir in sour cream.  Add pasta and mix together well with the sauce.

Top with optional toppings as desired and gobble it up!

It looks rather bland, but it is loaded with flavor...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

She's A Little Bugged

I began looking through some older pictures for another reason, but stumbled upon some other gems in the process.  I kept opening album after album of pictures that speak loudly of who Beth is.

From the time this girl has been tiny, she has loved all things bugs.  She has never met a bug she didn't fall in love with.  She sincerely thinks these little creatures are all kinds of cute.  She's a girl who loves what she loves.  

I'm a girl who doesn't particularly get freaked out by bugs, well not ALL bugs anyway.  But I really prefer them to stay in their own habitat and not invade mine.  I really don't want to touch them.  I'll look at them if I must, but please don't get too close.  And then came Beth.  And before she was 2 years old, she could catch flies.  She would toddle after one all over the house, wait for it to fly up to a window, climb up on something and pinch that fly between her little thumb and finger, proudly bringing it to show us.  She would catch anything that crept or crawled or flew.  Intensely curious, she would put it right up to her face and study everything about it.  Before I knew it, I was buying books about bugs, planning bug-themed birthday parties, setting up frog habitats and helping her catch (or purchase) their food.  It's amazing the adventure our kids can bring us on!

So as I looked back through some of these pictures, I loved how much they captured Beth's personality.  I could post pages of pictures of just her and bugs, but I chose just a sampling.

Here she is with a freshly-caught fly!

And a snake that she caught and carried around ALL day.

And a little crab on the beach.

Her one-eyed tree frog, Sally.

And a crane fly she caught - mid flight!

Another frog named Sally. (She was fond of the name Sally!)

A collection of snails.  (Check out the pile on the table and in the jar.)

She would even dress like an animal...she wore this elephant costume ALL.  THE.  TIME.  Her little cheeks would be flaming red from over-heating, her sweaty hair would curl up around her face, but that costume stayed on.

And this has nothing to do with this post, but I just think it's an adorable picture of my three.

And this one too.  Precious picture with my Gramma Bryan.  Miss her still.

And this one?  Come on.  It just cracks me up!  

Now back to present day!  On a recent hike, Beth was scooping up mud and came up with this big 'ole frog!  Even Brenna has been a good sport with the bug (or salamander) lovin'.

The day after this hike, on a walk with her dad, Beth came home with another snake.  She didn't want her picture taken with it...I should have insisted.  I'm happy to say that after taking a swim in the pool, that snake was released into our greenbelt.  Slither far, little snake.

Beth's uniqueness is such a joy.  She makes life such an adventure, and so much fun.  She sees beauty in things that many people only see "ewww"ness.  She's intensely curious still, and plans to have a houseful of animals when she has her own house.  She really would love to have a very large snake, but I've drawn the line.  So she's decided that when she's grown, her house will have a giant "animal room" where she will keep her snake.  And iguana.  And various lizards.  And she's assured me that when I come to visit I don't have to go into that room.  Kind of her.

I love, love, love this girl's zest for life, her inquisitive spirit, and her love for adventure!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

One Skillet Wonder ~ Spicy Sausage Pasta

I made a new dinner tonight (thank you, Pinterest), and it was an overwhelming hit for all.  Don't let the word "spicy" get ya.  You can easily adjust how spicy "spicy" is for you.  I'm am not a spice girl (Go ahead, sing a chorus of "Tell me what you want, what you really really want...") but I loved this pasta.

And it is entirely made in one skillet (much like its cousin, the Pizzookie).  You'll dirty a cutting board, a knife, a measuring cup, a spoon and...that's it.  LOVE dinners like that.

Spicy Sausage Pasta

1 TBSP olive oil
1 (14 oz) package Adele's Chicken and Apple Sausage, sliced (or any sausage, add a hot/spicy sausage for more kick)
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove chopped garlic
8 oz. penne pasta
1 (10 oz) can petite-diced tomatoes with green chiles (use the hot version of Rotel if you want to kick up the heat)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar/jack cheese (or use pepper jack for more spice)

In a large, oven-proof skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add sliced sausages and saute until slightly browning, about 3-4 minutes.  Add onion and continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes.  Add garlic about another minute.  Add tomatoes with juices, chicken broth, and heavy cream; stir to combine.  Mix in pasta and heat just until boiling.  Stir well, reduce heat to medium low and cover skillet.  Cook for 15 minutes, stirring a couple times during cooking.

After 15 minutes, stir in 1 cup of the cheese and mix well.  Top with the additional 1/2 cup cheese.

Place skillet under broiler and broil until cheese gets all bubbly and lightly browned.

Super flavor-filled and yummy!!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

It's A Pizzookie!!

WHAT is a Pizzookie??  First of all, I love them name.  Say it out loud.  It's fun to say, just like Francisco.  I think Buddy the Elf would love to say Pizzookie.

Here's what it is:  it's a Pizza/Cookie.  Alaina came home from Arizona and raved about something called a Pizzookie.  Apparently they are quite the thing in Arizona.  You can order them at most restaurants, and they come in cast iron skillet with ice cream plopped on top.  You eat it right out of the skillet, sharing it...each man for himself.

So I've been eyeing different recipes, and found one here that sounded very similar.  I made it last night, and I do believe this will be my requested birthday dessert from this day forward.  It was delicious, and it was so fun to eat.  I pulled it out of the oven after the girls were in bed (ssshhh!) and Brad, Alex, Alaina and I happily shared it.  We may have finished off the whole thing.  It's a FUN dessert, super yummy, and will be on our regular rotation of requested desserts!

Chocolate Chip Pizzookie

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2cup white sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1+ cups chocolate chips

Melt the butter over medium heat in an 8-inch cast iron skillet.  When the butter is melted, add the sugars and whisk together in the skillet.  When the sugar is all incorporated and melted into the butter, remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg.  Add a spoonful of the hot sugar/butter mixture to the egg and whisk well (to temper the egg so it doesn't scramble when you add it to the skillet.)  Whisk the egg into the skillet mixture and blend well.  Add the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir carefully with a wooden spoon to incorporate.  Mix in the vanilla and the chocolate chips.  (I used 1/2 dark chocolate, 1/2 semi-sweet, probably a bit more than 1 cup total.  Some of the chocolate will begin to melt in the hot mixture, don't worry about that.  Just mix it in well...the gooier the better!)  Spread the mixture evenly across the skillet, and put it into a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges lightly brown and the center seems set.

Remove from the oven and let set about 5 - 10 minutes.  Scoop vanilla ice cream right in the center, hand out spoons and dig in!!

This would be so much fun for a family dessert, a date-night dessert, a girls' night dessert...anything!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies ~ with Cream Cheese?

Alright, let's lighten things up, shall we?  Topics, I mean, referring to my last post.  Not lighten things up as in these cookies.  Let's be real:  chocolate chip cookies really should be cookies.  Not lightened up, healthified, or nutritionally sound.  There cookies.  Eat them.  In moderation, of course, but just eat them the way they were meant to cookies.  I'm slightly intrigued with people's idea of adding beans and things to chocolate chip cookies in an attempt to make them healthier.  But then, I really prefer to let beans be burritos and in chili and soup.  And I just can't defile a chocolate chip cookie in that way.  That's just me.

So, in perusing Pinterest, I came across a recipe that caught my eye.  Really, I read every chocolate chip cookie recipe I come across.  Some capture me, some don't.  These did.  So I made them, with just a couple tweaks.  And they are really, REALLY, good.  They are a very soft, yet firm cookie.  Dense.  Flavorful.  Rich.  "I must have a tall glass of cold milk" kind of good.  The intriguing ingredients?  Cornstarch and cream cheese.  Don't let this turn you away.  The cream cheese gives them a soft texture, but not a cream-cheesey flavor.

They have been taste-tested by 3 out of 5 Carlsons, and heartily approved by all!  I think that equates to a 100% satisfaction rating.

The original recipe is here.  Mine is below with just a couple minor tweaks.

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup cream cheese (block-style, softened)
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 cups chocolate chips, any variety you like.  (I used 1 cup dark chocolate, 1/2 cups semi-sweet)

Beat together butter, cream cheese, sugars, egg, and vanilla.  Beat for a few minutes, until light, fluffy and cream cheese is fully-incorporated.

Add cornstarch, soda, and flour.  Mix just until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Using a large cookie scoop (2 inch), scoop 8 large dough balls onto each cookie sheet.  With your fingers, press balls down to form disks, making sure to keep the thickness even.  Press down the center of the disk just a tad.

Refrigerate cookie sheets for 1 to 2 hours.  (Don't skip this step.)

Bake at 350 for 9 -11 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and the centers have lost the "doughy shine".  Allow to cool a few minutes on the cookie sheets, then remove to wire racks.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Heartache and Hope

Warning...really long and unedited...

Today is an important anniversary in our family.  A day I wish never happened, and yet a day that ultimately brought us to a new understanding of hope.  And so much more.

Usually I try to ignore this day, and instead I choose to celebrate our July 2nd daughter's "other" birthday, the day we got our miracle.

On this July 1st, the 7th anniversary of our life-changing day, I want to share some closely guarded thoughts.  Seven years later, and I just now feel ready to expose a piece of my heart that I've tenderly guarded.  I'm going to share some pictures that very few people have seen.  I fiercely protected those images, and the ones in my mind, because they are so deeply personal.  I see these pictures with all the emotion and fear of the moment they were taken.  I didn't even want them taken, couldn't physically bring myself to do it.  But a nurse sweetly insisted.  She assured us that someday it would be a very important part of our story.  So I gave her the camera, and she took the pictures.

I should back up, I suppose, and start from the beginning.

We had gone to Eastern Washington for a family reunion.  It was a scorching hot Saturday, and my kids (then 5, 8, and 11) had spent the bulk of the afternoon in a neighborhood pool, along with their cousins.  Beth had been taking swim lessons since she was two.  She was such a little fish: she could swim the length of the pool with ease.  On this day, she spent most of her time hanging over a pool noodle with her goggles on, "snorkeling".  She would put her little face in the water and look all around,  pop her head up for a quick breath and go right back in.  The time came to get out of the water and get changed for dinner.  Brad called all the kids out of the pool.  At the same time, a group of teenagers had arrived to use the pool.  They began jumping in as our kids were getting out.  Beth popped her face up, Brad told her to get out of the pool, and then started to clean up the pool toys and deck.  Minutes later, Brad turned to see Brenna still in the pool, and told her again to get out.  "But daddy, I think that's Beth at the bottom of the pool!"  Chaos began.

I was in the pool house cleaning up, and I remember my sister-in-law rushing in and saying, "Call 911! Beth is at the bottom of the pool!"  As I type those words, I feel the same instant gut-wrenching emotion.  I ran outside, to see Brad emerging from the water with my life-less baby girl.  Someone put a towel down, Brad placed Beth on it and began CPR.  I slid on my knees to her side, noticing her blue face and lips, her completely still body.  I started praying outloud, pleading with Jesus to revive my baby.  I heard this horrible, primal screaming and wished it would stop.  Then I realized it was me.  I was wailing in a way I had never heard myself sound.  When I stopped, I looked up to see Brenna on the other side of the pool, screaming as she watched the seen unfold.  I ran over to her and hugged her, just as someone came and scooped her up to take her inside.  Brad and I both breathed into Beth, I yelled for her to wake up.  Someone else came to help with CPR, I was pulled away.

Just as the medics were arriving, they told me she was making sounds.  I ran over to her, to hear a distant, moaning sound coming from Beth.  A sound I had never heard.  The medics scooped her up on the gurney and literally ran her through the pool house to the waiting ambulance.  I was put in the front seat of the ambulance and Brad, against what he was told to do, climbed into the back for the ride to the hospital.  What a ride.  I could hear total silence one minute, the guys in the back yelling for the driver to "get there!", and then I would hear a bizarre scream come from my child.  It was a sound I never would have recognized as my own child.  I can't even describe it.  And then she would go quiet. I prayed the entire way, pleading prayers.

We finally arrived at the hospital, and they ran the gurney inside.  Brad and I followed.  As she disappeared into a room, we were bombarded with questions about her history, age, allergies, etc.  I answered everything and then fell completely apart.  I remember crumbling to the ground as someone put a chair under me.  A couple nurses tried to pull me, in the chair, into a room.  I'm sure I was making a scene and they wanted me out of the way.  And that's when I realized, if I didn't pull it together, I'd be kept from my baby.  And then I heard a nurse tell someone to call a chaplain.  Another kick to the gut, as I thought that only happened in a death.

I went into Beth's room as they worked on her.  She had her eyes partly open, but in a vacant stare, bizarre noises coming from her.  She wasn't moving any part of her body, not responding to any stimulus.  I bent down and talked to her in her ear, prayed over her.  She briefly stopped making the noises, and I prayed that meant she was with us.  The only way I can think to describe how her expression and sounds came across were as that of a very brain-damaged child.  Before I knew it, they were leading us from the room so they could intubate her and take her for a CT scan.  I waited in the hallway while they did the scan, while a chaplain stood beside me.  I told her I didn't want her there, my way of being angry that we may need one.  I overheard partial conversations about Seattle and Life Flight and urgent.  I began to get very sick to my stomach.

I then went to the private room where the rest of the family was.  I walked in and saw Brad, sitting in a chair with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands.  Sobbing.  He was a broken man, completely helpless to protect his child in that moment.  And I was overcome with compassion for him.   I knew, without any discussion, that he was feeling the burden of  a load of guilt that is unimaginable.  He is an involved, attentive, loving, protective father.  And this happened on his watch.

I knelt down in front of him, took his face in my hands, and said to him, "This is NOT your fault.  And we will be okay, no matter how this turns out."  And hears the thing...I don't know if I totally believed those words when I spoke them, but I knew that in that moment they needed to be said.  They needed to come out of my mouth and they needed to go into Brad's ears.

When I sat up and turned around, I realized there was a policeman in the room with us.  He had apparently been there for some time, talking to Brad, getting "the story", making sure there was no criminal negligence that had led to this.  He was wonderful, actually.  Stayed with us very late.  Once he knew we'd be going to Seattle, he offered to have someone drive our van to their station and lock it up until we could come back for it.  Offered his help with anything we needed.

Soon after, the doctor came in to tell us the CT scan was clear and Life Flight had been called to fly her to Children's Hospital in Seattle.  The plane was flying in from Spokane as soon as the crew had gathered.  And...only one parent could fly with her.

Without question, I knew Brad was the one to do that.  I had been making many trips to the bathroom as the evening progressed, all my nerves and stress manifesting physically.  I knew flying in a small plane like that would not be a help to Beth.

So plans were made.  My brother would drive me over to Seattle in our van.  His wife would take our other kids home with her.  And then I realized...I had to say goodbye to Beth.

At this point, we had been told she was in bad shape.  They didn't know if she would make it.  Saying goodbye?  Agony.  I kissed her little face, told her I loved her, we prayed over her.  I hugged Brad and left before the flight crew arrived.  I wanted to get a head start, knowing a long drive awaited.

I was in shock, for sure.  My body was pulsing with adrenaline.  I fixed my mind on just getting to Seattle, and tried not to let my mind wander.

Brad was able to call me just before the plane left, and assure me that she was still the same.  He described the "flight bag" she was zipped into, and how the ambulance ride to the airport was going.

He called again when they were on the ground, she was getting checked into the ICU, still the same.

I finally arrived in Seattle, so immeasurably relieved that I was back with my baby.  The ICU waiting room was filled with family and friends.

I went back to her room, and was filled in on her condition by her doctor and nurse.  She was partially covered with a sheet, on life support, a buzz of activity all around her.  The doctor was somber.  She said it was "50/50".  And I remember he saying, if she does come out of this, we won't know the extent of brain damage until all sedation is removed. But you should be prepared for that."  How do you "prepare" for that?  I don't know that you do.  The only thing we could do was pray.  And pray.  And pray.

Soon after, Beth temperature began to spike, a typical response to physical trauma.  Dangerous, especially to a brain they are trying to protect.  So they put her body on a cooling mat ( a pad that continually circulated cold water), naked, and gave her a paralytic medication so her body wouldn't shiver.  We couldn't even touch her, for fear we would stimulate her in any way.  Literally, I reached out and touched her arm with my finger, and they told me not to.  This moment was when our helplessness spiked.

About 3:00 in the morning, we were taken to a parent sleeping room, given a pager in case her condition changed, and told to try to sleep.  The room was barely bigger than a twin bed, with one night stand and one chair.  We curled up in the twin bed together and sobbed.  I fell asleep fitfully for about an hour, and then went back up to her room.  I couldn't stand to be away.

When I went back, the nurse was so very kind.  This is when the discussion of taking her picture came up.  I later learned that because they didn't know if she would make it, they wanted us to have another picture of her.  She explained the purpose of each and every tube in Beth's body.  She explained what every number on the monitor meant.  She told me the "magic number" they were looking for in her temperature.  They wanted to lift her sedation as soon as they could to assess her brain and lungs, but couldn't as long as there was any fever.  I stared at that number and willed it to go down.

We were talking to people through the night.  Remember...this was 7 years ago, so the social media thing wasn't going strong like it is now.  We weren't able to spread the news via facebook.  Just phone calls that spread into other phone calls.  By the time the sun came up the next morning, Beth had people praying for her across the country.  Then in Australia.  And London.  The messages just kept coming.  I had friends who stayed up all night praying for her.  Touched my heart more deeply than I could ever express.

More talks with the doctor...sometimes optimism, and the next conversation would be more grim.  And then finally glimmers of hope began to shine more brightly...she began taking sporadic breaths, overriding the respirator.  Just a few breaths, but enough to show she was fighting back.  And the temperature started to fall, getting very close to our magic number, then rising, then falling.  Then there was a meeting, a we try to lift all sedation and see how she is, then re-sedate her until it's safe to wake her up all the way?  Do we leave things as they are and hope the temperature stabilizes?

The respiratory therapist was staying by her bedside for longer periods of time, watching all those numbers obsessively.  A few more overriding breaths, and the decision was made to go for it.  Give it a  try.  The more she showed signs of breathing, the more we held our breaths.

The doctor told us if things remained the same, they would take her off the respirator within the hour.

We went out to the waiting room to make some phone calls and gather ourselves.  I was on the phone with a dear friend, listening to her sweet prayers, when the therapist came out with a big grin.  He motioned for us to come back.  "Is she off it?????"  He broke into a full smile, winked, and led us to her room.

And there was my sweet girl, tubeless.  I grabbed her hand, leaned down and called her name.  She opened her eyes and looked me straight in the eye, tears welling up.  "Stay with me," she said, her eyes closed again.  Sweetest words.  

I had this thing I did with all my kids from the time they were tiny.  When we were holding hands, I would do a quick three-squeeze on their hand, our silent way of saying, "I love you."  They would always give me three quick squeezes back.

Anxious to see how intact Beth's brain was, I gave her hand three quick squeezes, hoping she remembered our sign.  Sure enough, though very weak, she tried to squeeze me back.  I knew then we were getting our Beth back.  She was so very weak, could not stay awake, but she was coming back.  I bent down and kissed her cheek, and she tried to pucker her little lips up for a kiss.  Those small little signs were some of the most emotional moments in my life as a mother.

A few hours later, she woke up and asked if she'd missed the Fourth of July...we knew she was all there, fully oriented.  I showed paper with words on it, "Do you know that letter??"  She mostly knew what she did before the accident.  She did have to relearn some letters, had to relearn to write the letters she did know.  It took her several days to regain all her coordination and balance, but she got everything back.  We were blessed with her life twice.

The third day in ICU, the doctors asked us to sit in on their rounds on Beth.  They went through every detail, from her flight to the previous hour.  I cried through the whole thing, hearing parts I didn't know.  Scary moments on the flight that I hadn't heard about, the grave prognosis when we arrived.

The more they talked, the more it was sinking in...the miracle we had experienced.  Great doctors, great nurses, and a great God who said yes to our prayers.  I don't know why He said yes to us.  I don't know why He says no to others.  I just don't know.  But I know that we are grateful, thankful, beyond our ability to put into words, to have our daughter given back, 100%.

The days and weeks that followed were tough.  The emotional pain was much more slow to heal that the physical.  We were interviewed by our local paper, we agreed only because they wanted to emphasize water safety and knowing CPR.  A Seattle news station saw that article and called to ask if they could come down and interview us.  We did, only because of that same message: you need to know CPR.  In emergencies, you don't have minutes, you have seconds to do the right thing.  Seconds matter.  Knowing CPR, and performing CPR within seconds can change the outcome of a traumatic event.

Three years after her accident, Beth remembered every single detail.  She remembered how she got disoriented when teenagers started jumping in the pool.  She remembers popping her head up and getting a mouth full of water from someone's splash.  She remembers getting confused about which way was the wall.  She remembers another splash and her noodle floating away and more water in her mouth.  She remembers the moment she gave up trying.  It breaks my heart in so many ways.  We are not "those parents" that would let something happen.  It was a moment of neglect, a moment of assuming that everyone was out of the pool, it was a moment of being inattentive.  That's all it takes:  a  moment.  This time of year, my heart wrenches every time I hear a story on the news about a child drowning.  I physically ache at the thought of what that family is going through.  We had a glimpse of it, and I can just say it's beyond anything someone can imagine.  It's ugly.  It's traumatic.  It makes you physically ill.  

So many people leave that hospital without their child, and I cannot imagine that.  We sat near parents in the ICU waiting room who were not going to have the same outcome we had.  No, it's not fair, and I don't understand it.  

This is such a personal story, and filled with more emotion than I could put here.  Some things are meant to stay personal, some are meant to be shared.  The parts that are meant to be shared?  Hope matters.  Healing comes.  God answers.  Sometimes He answers yes, sometimes He answers no.  But He always answers.

Pictures are hard to share.  I'm sure they are harder for Brad and I to look at than anyone else, because that's our baby.  Our heart.  But here they are.  Real life.  LIFE.

Before we knew what our future held.

This was day 3, still in ICU.  Her Auntie Debbie brought her some plastic snakes from The Rainforest Cafe.  She held them tightly while she slept ~ so very Beth!

In a "normal" room.  Thankful that bed was big enough for both of us.  I could not get close enough.

Life is so precious, so good.  I cringe when I hear parents say they want to keep their kids the age they are forever.  No, you don't.  Beth was almost 5 forever.  You don't want that.  Kids growing up is a blessing denied to many.  Don't wish for anything different.  Love each stage.

Thanks for listening to my heart.