Friday, April 24, 2020

8th Most Popular Blog Post (as of 4.15.20)

Our 8th most popular blog post is probably our shortest post with only one picture and a few words, but it caused the most....let's go with discussions. I didn't tell Lisa what I was doing and she started getting texts and calls, including from our immediate family. Not every one thought this was as hilarious as I found it. It's been just over two years and Evie is an important member of our family who we all love.

I originally posted the ultrasound picture on April 13, 2018. Here's the link:

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Banana Peanut Butter Bread

Laurel made lunch today...Banana Peanut Butter Bread and it was amazing. With the bananas and peanut butter, it was hearty enough to make a great mid-day meal with a tall glass of cold milk. It seems like kitchen adventures have replaced our outdoor fun during our COVID-19 lock down. Here's the recipe:


1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 mashed bananas
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Mix butter and sugar.

2. Add eggs, beat.

3. Stir in peanut butter, bananas, flour, and baking soda until blended.

4. Add chocolate chips.

5. Pour into 5X9 inch loaf pan sprayed w/coconut oil.

6. Bake at 325F (preheated) for 70 minutes.

As a bonus, Laurel made a second loaf with Gluten-free flour and replaced half the chocolate chips with an 1/8 of a cup marshmallows. Both recipes turned out awesome! 


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Monday, April 20, 2020

Chicago Italian Beef Recipe

If I ever find myself in a position to request a last meal, Chicago Italian Beef would probably get the nod with a side of pepperoni pizza. We were fortunate to have an outstanding little joint (Matty's and then Murph's) serving Italian Beef about a block away from where I grew up on the NW Side of Chicago. It was a treat to get an Italian Beef with fries as a kid. It was also a big deal to go alone with 50 cents and leave with "Gravy Bread" wrapped in aluminum foil. As I got older and eventually moved to the SW suburbs, we found other places with excellent Italian Beef sandwiches. In fact, I don't think I've ever had a bad Italian Beef in the Chicagoland area. 

Eventually, we found Portillo's and they became our "go to" because they have many locations in the Chicago area. We moved to Florida in late 1999 and would always have at least one Italian Beef whenever we returned to visit family. After a couple of years a little south of Daytona Beach, we relocated to Jacksonville and quickly found Caddyshack, an establishment a half hour away, owned by Bill Murray and his brothers. They would fly Italian Beef from Chicago down every day. We would still try to have an Italian Beef whenever we returned to Chicago, but it was less of a priority.

We moved to Northern California four years ago and have yet to find a good Italian Beef place. I take that back, we did have a great sandwich from a food truck shortly after moving, but we forgot the name and have never seen the truck again. It was a husband and wife from Chicago who owned the business. We've had some horrible Italian Beef from a few places, even after they assure me it's "authentic" Chicago.

So, after five weeks of being locked down inside our house while watching family and friends post pictures of food, several made their own Italian Beef and a few who went to Portillo's, I decided it was time to attempt to make our own.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

9th Most Popular Blog Post (as of 4.15.20)

If Kellisa could communicate better, I'm confident our 9th most popular post would also be in her top 10 greatest days of her life. Back in May 2017, Kellisa attended the Evening of Dreams dance. It started with a special ride to the red carpet before entering the "Under the Sea" themed prom for individuals with special needs. The annual Evening of Dreams became a highlight for Kellisa we all anticipated with great joy. After 3 years of going, Kellisa's streak is coming to a gap in 2020 due to COVID-19. Hopefully, all will be back to normal soon and Kellisa can attended her next Evening of Dreams in May 2021. 

I originally posted this story on May 21, 2017. Here's the link:

                            #10 Escaping with our Lives (A 1st Anniversary Story)

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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

10th Most Popular Blog Post (as of 4.15.20)

I was looking at the 10 most popular posts on this blog and many of them surprised me, so I thought it might be a cool idea to share the Top 10 again. 

Starting with #10, we go all the way back to a story from March 1990 when Lisa and I attempted to celebrate our 1st wedding anniversary with a camping trip to Apple Canyon in NW Illinois.

I originally posted this story on March 18, 2015. Here's the link:

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Day 30: COVID-19

Hopefully, every one reading this had a safe and Happy Easter!

We colored Easter Eggs on Saturday afternoon. Everyone was flexible and hopeful since all we had was brown eggs. We were all pleasantly surprised at how cool the coloring turned out, especially once they were dry. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Days 23 - 29: COVID-19

This week was Spring Break for the girls and we stayed home. In fact, Kellisa never left the house and Laurel never ventured outside except for a few brief moments in the backyard. We never made any firm plans for the week, but there's a better than average chance we would have gone somewhere if we weren't on a lock down. The Redwoods and Grand Canyon were two places at the top of my ideas list. Hopefully soon!

The days continue to march along without a lot of distinction. We are fortunate to be healthy, working from home, and well supplied with food. Like many people, grocery shopping is a challenge with shelves half empty, but we're doing a pretty good job of making creative meals with what we find. Lisa is doing a great job of making sure we have vegetables everyday and some kind of fruit most days. This update will focus on the food...the highlight of Spring Break Week 2020.

Kellisa let me braid her hair one night and I'm proud of the outcome

Full moon over Roseville, CA

Little lizard living under our backyard deck
Evie enjoying some sun in the backyard

Laurel's mushrooms were ready for harvest

Mushrooms, eggs, sausage, and potatoes

Brunswick Stew, Cornbread, and Sweet Tea

Norm of the North (Family Movie Night)

Day 22

Day 30

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Monday, April 6, 2020

Black Mesa

Memories Revisited:

Kellisa's 8th State Highpoint

Black Mesa, Oklahoma

Round Trip Hiking Distance: 8.4 Miles
Elevation Gain: 654ft.

April 2008

Our first father/daughter Spring Break trip happened in 2008. The main objective was to reach the Highpoint of Oklahoma. The plan was to fly to Amarillo, TX and have our cousin Matt pick us up, as he was able to join us for this trip. However, we almost did not make it to Amarillo. We had a stopover in Dallas that included a severe seizure that lasted longer than 5 minutes. Paramedics had to be called and airport police also hustled to the scene. Just as everyone was arriving, Kellisa popped out of her seizure.

Since the paramedics were on scene, they had to check Kellisa out. At the same time, a police officer starts questioning me about Kellisa. "Where is her mother? Is she Hispanic? Do you have the mother's approval to be traveling out of state?" I did not let the questions bother me as I figured he was just doing his job in a border state. Kellisa checked out OK and they offered to transport her to the hospital for further evaluations. Did I ever miss Lisa at this point. We are use to making joint decisions in these situations.

If we go I just being selfish? Would I ever forgive myself if something happened in the air?

If we stay...we are entirely stuck in Dallas and for how long? Matt will be waiting in Amarillo for a long time.

Even though Kellisa struggles with communication, we try and give her a say in these situations. Kellisa was looking good as she did not have the usual paralysis that follows even a mild seizure. I'm sweating bullets as I ask her if she is OK and ready for one more airplane ride. She answers "Yes" and that was good enough for me.

We were far from our gate and it was past the departure time. We hurry to the gate and to our good fortune, the gate agent has held the plane because he had seen us at the gate earlier and knew we where around somewhere. He was also listening to the rescue on his radio and assumed it was us. I was very appreciative that he held the entire plane about 15 minutes just for us.

How about one more problem? We fly Southwest and they are well known for not assigning seats. With Kellisa, we are always the first to board. However, being the last on a full flight would mean that we both would get stuck with middle seats and who knows how close together? I think the gate agent saw some fear in my face and correctly assumed why it was there. He told us not to worry because he had the flight attendants hold two seats in the front row. Gotta love Southwest! The flight was uneventful and we met Matt at the airport just as planned.

The following day we made the long drive to Black Mesa as we introduced Matt to Hannah Montana. Almost 4 years later, he can still sing some of the songs he heard that spring day.
Kellisa is all smiles at the start of the hike:

Views along the trail:

Most of the elevation gained on this hike can be seen in the picture below as the rocky trail works it's way up the side of Black Mesa:

The next 8 pictures were taken by Matt as I pushed Kellisa up the trail to the top of Black Mesa:

Looking back over the landscape from the top of Black Mesa:

Even though we made it to the top, we still needed to hike approximately 30 minutes along a relatively flat trail to the granite monument that marks the actual high point:

The top of Oklahoma:

At the edge of Black Mesa before we started our descent:

Kellisa still smiling back at the car:

Beautiful sunset as we leave the highpoint area:

Original Blog Post Date: January 20, 2012

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Day 22: COVID-19

Laurel has been growing food for the family and documenting her observations each night for school. Today, we were able to harvest the first batch of edibles from her mini-farm in the kitchen. We feasted on broccoli micro-greens and the box claims they have 9 times the vitamins compared to regular broccoli. Laurel made another amazing dinner with a little help from mom. We enjoyed wild caught salmon from Alaska, biscuits, rice, and the broccoli micro-greens cooked with bacon. Laurel was very proud of her harvest and meal. We ended our day with another family movie night when we enjoyed the 2010 movie, Megamind. 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Day 21: COVID-19

Hard to believe we're at three weeks for our lock down. WOW. I know this is unprecedented for just about everyone, but Kellisa is the one in my worries and thoughts today. She is the one most at risk in our family and we are doing everything we can to protect ourselves and her health. Kellisa has no idea what's going on in her world. She loves school with her teachers, aides, and so many friends. Kellisa also loves her bus driver and riding the school bus every day is a highlight. Then all of a sudden, she finds herself never leaving the house. In fact, she rarely leaves her bedroom. 

A quick reminder, Kellisa was in the NICU for the first 113 days of her life and then only really left home for school, therapy, and doctor appointments for the first years of her life. She was medically fragile and scared of literally every little sound. We stayed at home and couldn't even leave to go to a restaurant. So, Lisa and I have years of being trapped at home. I doubt Kellisa remembers these years.

This might be hard to believe for those who only know the adventurous and traveling Kellisa, but that girl didn't sprout until she was 5 or 6 and then really started thriving around 8-years-old. Outside of surgeries and a few hospital stays in the last 10-12 years, Kellisa has never been "stuck" at home for more than a couple of days. Like the rest of us, she's accustomed to being out and doing stuff. Unlike everyone else, she can't comprehend why she's stuck at home with her family. I'd give anything to get inside her head for a few minutes, but I also know that I probably couldn't handle what I would learn. 

My mind went in this direction when Kellisa started getting excited in her bedroom and calling out for attention. I entered her room and found her pointing and giggling at a flock of turkeys strutting their stuff just beyond her bedroom sliding glass door. With our small yard, the turkeys were less than 10 feet away. I watched Kellisa interacting with them and it was like they were putting on a private show for Kellisa. This went on for awhile and Kellisa loved every second. 

I was extra appreciative to witness Kellisa enjoying her encounters with nature from the safety of her bedroom. Hopefully, this will be over soon and Kellisa can get back to her life.

Laurel has been doing schoolwork every day and has had a couple of exciting face time sessions with her teacher, but today she had a joint session called "Fun Friday" with her classmates. She was so excited to see and be able to talk with her friends for the first time since this whole pandemic started. Laurel has been doing amazingly well, but this was a definite highlight and a much appreciated diversion during her seclusion. 

Not surprising, shortly after Laurel's class time, we learned the in-person school year was canceled for both girls. Laurel was disappointed because she misses her friends. 

After dinner, I spent a few minutes in the backyard. I noticed the relative quiet at 8pm and looked out to observe the clear nighttime skies free from clouds and airplanes. When I made my way to look straight up, I noticed the 78.7% moon staring down at me. It was bright and clear, but at an angle I wasn't familiar with from previous encounters. I quickly grabbed my camera to capture the moon in all her beauty.