Monthly Archives: February 2012

Evan & Makenna’s New Endeavors

Makenna has started to eat food purees. So far she’s tried sweet potatoes, bananas, pears, green beans, peas, and peaches. She seems to love sweet potatoes, tolerates peas and pears, and doesn’t like the rest. We’ll have to keep working at it.

Evan starts preschool in several weeks and is currently enamored with his new backpack! He loves putting it on (by himself) and today I found him wearing it around the house with his stuffed elephant pushed into one of the pockets! His nana also bought him a tricycle and helmet for his upcoming third birthday. The helmet, made for three years of age and up, makes him look tiny! We haven’t assembled the tricycle yet, but will post pictures of Evan’s adventures on it when we do!

Ground Turkey Minis, Ultimate Chocolate Pudding, and Beef-Stuffed Peppers

Haven’t shared any recipes in a while. Here are three we tried recently at the Jacobson home: Turkey & Veggie Meatloaf Minis (or Meatballs), Ultimate Chocolate Pudding, and Beef-Stuffed Peppers.

The meatloaf minis were easy to make, healthy, and DELICIOUS! My mom and I couldn’t eat enough of them. Ryan wasn’t the biggest fan, but he tends to not like ground turkey that much.

Turkey & Veggie Meatloaf Minis or Meatballs, makes 9-12 minis (from People Magazine)

1/2 cup grated onion
7 Tbsp. ketchup, (set aside 3 Tbsp)
1 1/4 lb. lean ground turkey
3 cups shredded broccoli coleslaw (chopped up)
1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute (or 2 eggs)
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
optional–additional spices (chili powder, cumin, black pepper)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Put cupcake cups in muffin pan or spray muffin pan with non-stick spray.
2. Combine all ingredients except (3 Tbsp of ketchup) in a mixing bowl. Distribute mixture evenly among the cups. Brush 1 Tbsp. ketchup on top of each meatloaf.
3. Bake until firm with lightly browned edges, 30-35 minutes.

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The homemade pudding recipe is simple, but one I was able to make dairy-free quite easily (I’ll post the regular recipe here, but note the dairy-free options). I’ve been so delighted to find out that there is such thing as dairy-free chocolate! And it’s not carob, BLECH!

Ultimate Chocolate Pudding, serves 4 (from Real Simple)

¼ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
A pinch of kosher salt
2 cups of milk (or almond milk)
4 lg. egg yolks
2 Tbsp. butter (or dairy-free butter)
3 oz. chocolate chips, chopped (or dairy-free chocolate chips)
1 tsp. vanilla
Whipped cream (Cool Whip has minimal milk/soy)

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Stir in milk and egg yolks.
2. Cook on medium heat 7-8 minutes whisking constantly until it’s the consistency of mayo. Whisk for one more minute. Remove from heat. Add butter and chocolate chips, stirring until they have completely melted. Mix in vanilla.
3. Put in bowl and press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, but up to two days.
4. Stir before serving to loosen up. Serve with whipped cream.

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This recipe was my first experience with quinoa and it was a great one!

Beef-Stuffed Peppers, Serves 6

6 Red Peppers—cored
2 Tbsp. of Olive Oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 4 oz. can of green chilies
1 ¼ lb. of ground beef
6 oz. sun dried tomatoes, chopped
4 oz. quinoa grain or brown rice
2 ¼ c. beef or chicken stock
A wine glass of red wine
4 bay leaves
Sea salt and black pepper

Heat the oil in a pan and add onions. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the green chilies at the end. Add the ground beef and cook until brown. Then add the tomatoes, quinoa/rice, stock, wine, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes (or until the quinoa is done). Season to taste. Heat oven to 375. Stuff peppers with mixture and drizzle olive oil. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the peppers are cooked.

No More Dairy for Me

One of the recommendations of a doctor I’m seeing for my migraines was to eliminate dairy and soy from my diet. This was not something I wanted to hear being from Wisconsin (aka the “dairy state”) and absolutely loving milk, cheese, and yogurt!

But as I looked back on the past few years, I recalled that when I had a dairy-free diet for Evan because he couldn’t tolerate dairy in his breastmilk, I felt the best I had ever felt regarding migraines! At the time, I had given credit to my hormone level, not the dairy-free diet. But having gotten this recommendation, maybe it was the dairy-free diet back then after all.

So, all that being said, I’ve gone off dairy in early December and since then, my migraines have been significantly better. The doctor also indicated that my sinus issues (I got a lot of congestion and sinus pressure headaches) could also be related to the dairy. And that issue too has improved since I’ve stopped consuming dairy. It’s crazy how many products have some sort of milk or soy related ingredient in them! Especially if you know the words to identify (whey, casein, etc. are all milk-related). I’m not being super anal about it, I do still consume some things if it’s an ingredient way down on the list, but have totally eliminated the major dairy and soy items entirely.

So if this interests you at all, I’ve provided some resources and product recommendations. Before I started down this road, I never knew that dairy can impact so many different aspects of one’s health (many health complaints can be linked to having a milk “allergy” (see book/website info below for details)! And that many more people are lactose intolerant that I thought. I’m very thankful that I have made this lifestyle change in a day and age where a lot of people are being more consientious about what they take in and food producers have started to highlight common allergy items in their ingredients. I’m also incredibly grateful that I don’t have to eliminate gluten. I really miss cheese and regular chocolate, but little by little have found great substitutes for many dairy related things!

A book that has been really helpful is: “Go Dairy Free” by Alisa Marie Fleming. She also has a website: Both have a lot of dairy free information but also great recipes. Another website I just stumbled upon is: This website helps people cook and freeze a lot of meals once a month. They have all sorts of different meal plans, one being a dairy-free/gluten-free recipe option. I’ve just started to cook some of their meals. I like this site for two reasons: 1.) I used to pre-make/purchase frozen but healthy meals at Downtown Dinners of Littleton but stopped due to finances and because most of the meals I loved from them had dairy in them and 2.) I love that they’ve already addressed the dairy issue for me.

Here are a few of my favorite dairy-free items:

-Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread (soy free)
-So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer
-Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (dairy, soy, and nut free)
-Coconut Milk Yogurt (there is an almond milk yogurt out there too, but I just couldn’t stomach the texture)
-So Delicious Ice Cream Sandwiches
-Amy’s Non-Dairy Burritos

Evan’s Back Surgery (2/7/12)

We arrived late at the hospital due to not giving any time for an unexpected snow that made traffic slow. Honestly, I was glad we were late because usually you end up sitting in the pre-op room with your toddler for an hour to an hour and a half before the surgery. I think they ask you to come super early so they can make sure your child isn’t eating or drinking anything like they asked and so numerous medical staff can come in and get Evan’s medical history over and over. But it’s difficult to keep a toddler, one who hasn’t been allowed to eat or drink anything for hours, happy and entertained, in a pre-op room for that long.

Like before, the Rocky Mtn Hosp for Children staff were AWESOME. They engaged Evan from the beginning of our experience through the whole stay. Evan brought his favorite stuffed animal, a blue elephant, with him, and the pre-op staff did everything to the elephant (and his aunt Shannon) that they were going to do to Evan. They also let him play with the thermometer, stethoscope, etc. He LOVED it! They didn’t put the IV in until he was already asleep and when they did, it was placed on his foot (which was so much easier to keep him from messing with it!).

Evan’s surgery itself lasted about an hour and a half. The neurosurgeon had previously educated us on the procedure. Basically, they’d cut into his lower back, remove a bone (I don’t know if this was a vertebrae or what) and then test the various nerves they found, including whatever was attached to the spinal cord itself that was tethered to something it shouldn’t be. Once they explored whether the nerves were working as they should (some damage could have already been done to the spinal cord and nerves) and that the piece they were going to cut was not a nerve the body was using, they cut it. Both pieces would automatically “retract” from each other and the untethering would be complete. They’d then put the bone back in place and close him up. The neurosurgeon came out after surgery to let us know that it had gone well.

We were able to join Evan back in the recovery area about a half an hour later. He was groggy and wanted me to lay on the tiny recovery bed with him. He was easily entertained with his anesthesia mask (that was still attached to oxygen). They let him play with it almost the entire time we were there. I got “gassed” numerous times with it, elephant experienced it, and Aunt Shannon too. It smelled like pancakes/syrup because it had been butterscotch scented gas! Evan found it funny that he could “put us to sleep.” Interestingly, there was no bandage on Evan’s back. The surgeon used a super glue to close the incision and so no bandage was needed to protect the area!

We moved to the pediatric floor after our time in recovery. Evan spent most of Tuesday afternoon and evening laying flat on his back watching a Dora the Explorer DVD over and over. I probably have the four episodes memorized now! Who do we call when we don’t know which way to go? THE MAP! And Dora’s hit song “For the First Time” about riding a bike is quite catchy! Maybe I’ll karaoke it sometime! I shouldn’t complain though because it kept him entertained! I do appreciate that there is a self-efficacy message with her and not vague self-esteem. And Evan frequently says “I did it” like Dora does when he accomplishes something he deems hard, which is adorable!

I never thought my son would be successful at the “on your back for 24 hours straight” portion of this procedure, but besides two or three instances of him trying to sit upright, he did well. The second day his frustration of having to remain on his back (until noon) was shown by his behavior. He threw things and tried to hit me when I got close, but he stayed on his back! I had to get creative about consequences because time outs obviously wouldn’t work (he was basically already in a 24-hour time out) and Evan had many opportunities to say he was sorry! Evan’s pain was managed with morphine and Tylenol and by the second day, he was only requiring Tylenol.

The first night was difficult. Evan wouldn’t fall asleep unless I was laying in his hospital bed/crib with him. It was a short, narrow, and high bed so getting in and out of it wasn’t easy (especially while trying to avoid jostling Evan). Incidentally, Ryan, being the engineer he is and being all about safety and research, had looked up this specific hospital bed to find out its weight limit. Luckily it could handle Ryan or me laying on it. Evan fell asleep around 11pm and I was able to sneak over to my fold out bed. He slept until he woke up SCREAMING at 12:30am. He screamed and cried until the nurse came in and gave him more morphine. You could almost tell exactly when the morphine hit his system as he calmed down right away. Poor little one, I can’t imagine the pain and anxiety he felt…waking up in a strange place, his back being in pain…Evan finally settled back into sleep, after insisting that I once again lie next to him. The remainder of the night was a repetitive cycle of: falling asleep, then waking up to Evan crying, comforting him, then falling asleep. I eventually gave up on sleeping in my own bed as everytime I’d try to sneak over to it, Evan would wake up. I’d estimate that in total, I got three hours of sleep, max. I was a zombie the next day and not the most patient with the myriad of medical professionals that wanted to meet with us, ones I didn’t really feel were necessary to aid Evan’s recovery (the hospital social worker, the hospital dietician, the hospital financial person, etc).

By Wednesday afternoon Evan was allowed to lay at a 30 degree angle. As he did well with that, a few hours later he was propped up at a higher angle, and by Wednesday night was able to fully sit up. He was also given the go ahead to have “unrestricted movement” but this frightened Evan so he remained in his crib, sitting up or laying down. My mom was a saint and took the Wednesday night shift. She reported that Evan jabbered on and on for several hours in the middle of the night. She couldn’t understand much of what he said, but it seemed important to him! I got to go home and get some sleep, shower, see Ryan and Makenna, and have a break from the hospital.

Thursday morning Evan was encouraged to move around. He was scared to do much because he knew that it would hurt his back. The day nurse mentioned if Evan didn’t start moving more, he may not be discharged that day! We decided to carry him outside of the room and see if getting him out and about would help. We found a playroom nearby full of fun books and toys. What ended up being Evan’s kryptonite was finding a rocket on wheels that he could ride. Before we knew it, he was on that rocket and had forgotten all about his back. He spent over an hour riding that rocket up and down the hallway! And soon he was walking around (with help) and standing too. The neurosurgeon came soon after and cleared him to go home. That was music to our ears!

So far the hardest part of Evan’s post-hospital time has been riding in the car. I don’t know if it’s the car seat, the safety belt, the bumps on the road, or all combined, but something made it torture for him. So we’ll probably be homebound for the next few days while he makes progress, but compared to being at the hospital, we’re in heaven!!!!

Some cute Evan moments:

-Usually Evan doesn’t like having his blood pressure taken. This time they called them “leg hugs,” which Evan liked. A bit later, he was asking for more leg hugs!

-The first night Evan would not keep his hospital gown on. I could bribe him to put it back on in order to drink juice, but shortly after he was done drinking, off it would go! He went to sleep without it on, but promptly the next morning put it on and kept it on all day!

-Although he was the patient, he made it clear that he wanted to “hold Mommy.” This meant that when I laid with him, he insisted that he have his little arm under my neck to “hold” me.

-One of the best ways of keeping Evan entertained for long periods of time was having him watch a video on Nana’s phone. This was clip of Evan picking up leaves in our backyard that was approximately 3-4 minutes long. He loved it so much that he watched it over and over again (once for over an hour straight) and still asked later to watch it more!

-Evan couldn’t wait to talk to Daddy on the phone on Wednesday. I thought he’d tell him more about the hospital or what he had been up to. Instead, all Evan talked about was wanting to ride in Daddy’s car and go to Home Depot!

-Evan’s night nurse on Wednesday was a large male one. Evan was initially intimidated by him but after the nurse brought him a green popsicle in the middle of the night and taught Evan to fist bump, they were good friends.

We are thankful for everyone’s thoughts and prayers, emails, and text messages over the past week. We have felt loved, encouraged, and supported during this stressful time. A special thanks to Nana (for watching Makenna the first day and staying with Evan the second night), Shannon (for driving us to the hospital in the snow and for being with me during the surgery itself), and Shelly Estevez for watching Makenna Wednesday and Thursday (especially since it was a last minute request).

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

As Evan’s surgery approaches my thoughts and emotions are all over the place. Knowing what is coming, I have really tried to savor time with Evan moment by moment and have prayed a lot. Being a parent whose child has had three other surgeries and a host of other medical issues makes me wonder “Why?” Kinda ironic as that’s one of Evan’s favorite words.

Evan being put under anesthesia and being cut into by surgeons is difficult enough, but I also have thoughts and feelings about what these medical issues mean for Evan on a bigger scale. I want nothing to hold Evan back. I want him to be able to live a full, unhindered life. I want him to feel good about himself, including every inch of his body. A body that a loving and all-powerful God gave him.

God reminded me this week that He made Evan exactly as he should be. God knew every little detail about Evan before I did, before the doctors did. He brought my heart back to the verses found in Psalm 139…verses I meditated on when on bedrest when pregnant with Evan. They brought me comfort back then when I had learned that he wasn’t growing as he should be and they bring me comfort now as we head into his fourth (and hopefully his last) surgery.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

I’ve also wondered if his growth issue has been a blessing in disguise related to this spine issue. Maybe he would have already had significant spinal cord or neurological damage (permanent) if he had been growing at a faster rate. Maybe him staying small has prevented further bad things from happening. One can only wonder…we’re praying that so much good would come out of this surgery.

This won’t be an easy week. But I choose to delight in the wonderfully made little boy that God has blessed us with, body “quirks” and all, rather than focus on the surgery that raises my anxiety. I love his laugh, his inquisitive mind, his sparkling eyes, his beautiful hands, his amazing smile, his caring heart, and his exploding vocabulary! And I love all the days that God has already ordained for him and can’t wait to spend many more with him. And hopefully, God willing, those days will eventually be filled with adventures and joy far away from hospitals, doctor’s offices, and therapy appointments.

Happy Girl!

Haven’t posted any Makenna pictures lately so I thought I’d post one. She’s such a cutie and has the cutest personality on top of it! She’s now rolling around like a pro and can sit up with little support.

My mom has enjoyed buying headbands and little hats with flowers for Makenna. This flower was about the size of Makenna’s head. I need to do a better job of putting them on her when we’re going somewhere!