Thursday, June 27, 2013

In the Kitchen (& at the Farmers Market!): Buttery Shrimp and Radish Pasta

The boys and I made out first trip to the farmers market last week, despite the rain, everyone had a good time.  We piled back in the car, soggy but happy, with arms full of veggies, flowers, two french pastries (for the boys), and a caramel latte (for mama). 

I didn't make many trips there last summer, at least, not that I can remember.  To be honest with you, maybe I did, everything about last summer is kind of a blur. But this summer I have high hopes of many returns.  This early in the season I knew one of the things I could probably count on being ready would be radishes.  So even before our Saturday morning trip I had planned on making this radish and shrimp pasta for dinner on Sunday evening.

I've posted about this before, but it's worth posting again; especially if you have an early season farmers market trip planned this weekend.  This recipe came from Kim at Lapacek's Orchard. Cut radishes above are courtesy of Hutton, always my chopping buddy.

Buttery Shrimp and Radish Pasta

Coarse salt and ground pepper
3/4 pound linguine or other long pasta
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large bunch radishes, thinly sliced, greens rinsed well and roughly chopped
1 pound frozen large shrimp (peeled and deveined), thawed
Shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot. Add 2 tablespoons butter and toss until butter is melted; keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high. Add garlic and radishes and cook, stirring occasionally, until radishes are crisp-tender, 3 minutes. Add radish greens and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper, then add to pasta and stir to combine. In skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque throughout, 4 minutes. Add shrimp to pasta and toss, adding enough pasta water to create a light sauce that coats pasta.

We topped with a little shredded Parmesan.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A 4th of July Guessing Game

This aloe plant sits on our kitchen windowsill.  It's just an aloe plant, yes, but it holds special meaning to me.  See, long ago, pre-fire, my friend Sharaa gave me some starts from her aloe plant. Those starts sat in a pot on my desk in my office and they grew and grew and grew.  When they were getting too big for the pot I pulled some out and handed off starts to some of our family and friends; my mom received one of those starts.  

I lost my aloe plant in the fire.  I remember staring in through the broken glass the day after, my plant stand toppled to the ground, covered in soot, and I wondered if I could save those little guys.  But it was fruitless, they had been too damaged with the water than they sat out overnight in the freezing cold.  My plants were gone.

But this little plant, this little plant that long ago sat on my desk, came back to me (from my mom) and it's just as big as ever.  In fact, it's due to be replanted, with starts to be sent off to more family and friends.  It sits on my windowsill and it reminds me, gently, peacefully, happily, of our old home.  

But this wasn't really supposed to be a post about my aloe plant, the purpose was.....oh yes, it's that time, another Holiday Guessing Game!!

I didn't think I was going to have one for the Fourth of July, I've been looking in stores at their decorations and nothing just hit me as I love this, I need to have this.  Until, UNTIL, I found this little star pick.  I had a pick (in this same aloe plant) for Valentine's Day and I loved it so much.  So when I happened upon this star I picked it up, and I picked one up for one of you too. It's our only Fourth of July decoration in the house, and I'm so happy to have something festive. 

I usually do guessing games about the kids, but this time it's going to be about me...first person to correctly guess which Fourth of July festivity I am most looking forward to will win this little guy. 

Comment here, Facebook, Twitter, wherever you'd like (I haven't been on Twitter or FB lately, but I will go check those!)  And then!  Tell me which festivity YOU are most looking forward to!  I'm looking forward to hearing your answers.

I'll be out birthday party preparing on Friday and plan to swing by the post office so you'll have this in time for the holiday. Happy Guessing!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Makings for the Birthday Boy

We are four days from Hutton's 3rd birthday; five days from his 3rd birthday party.  

A month or so ago I asked him what he wanted for his birthday and he requested one thing:

"A crown like Keaton's"

(I haven't yet written about Keaton's 4th birthday back in December - it's on the list - but if we're friends on Facebook you may have seen the picture of it.)

He wanted a birthday crown.  Okay, sweet boy, I will make you a crown.

We considered also getting him a wooden barn, since the boys love playing farm with their tractors and animals, but after a recent trip to Menards, where Hutt had the time of his life playing in a little toy house, we changed our minds.  

Collin and I had driven separate so he was able to haul the paving stones home and after I got the boys back in the car and heading home Hutton inquisitively asked "Is Daddy bringing home a house?  I really, really want one of those houses."

And so the plan for a cabin house was born. 

Collin and I have both been working on his gifts - the crown is complete and the house just needs a couple more things to finish it (Collin has also been busy working on the boys' swing set.) 

Unfortunately there won't be a big birthday present opening on his special day, he has already seen and tried on the crown, and the boys have been busy helping Collin put the finishing touches on the house, but that's no matter, he is one happy birthday boy just the same.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Breakfast on the Farm

We've been laying low these past several weekends, trying hard to stay close to home and not make too many plans.  It would be going too far to say they have been relaxing, life isn't exactly relaxing with small children, but they have been a nice change of pace to our usual summer weekends. This past weekend though there was an event we just couldn't miss: Breakfast on the Farm.

June is Dairy Month in Wisconsin - there are lot of different things planned throughout the state.  This year our county's farm breakfast was held out in Junction City and so we piled up the car and headed west.  After breakfast we went on a hayride, looked at the animals in the petting area, walked over to the barn to check out the cows (this didn't last long because one of Mama's biggest pet peeves is seeing cows jammed into a barn.  It makes me, quite honestly, irate.  Cows should be out pasturing, in the grass, not standing in mud.  But I digress...), checked out the tractors, and ended the morning with, of course, some ice cream.  

On Sunday we celebrated Father's Day with Papa and Busha and Keaton told Bush all about the "big tractor with a Really Big Arm, like this *stretches arm as high as he can*" and Hutton told her about the "llamas (alpacas, actually) and the grey llama bit the white llama in the dupa and the white llama spit at him! so we all backed up."

For me, the goats would typically be my favorite part but Trey, the baby chocolate cow, stole my heart with his little cow moos.

As you can imagine, this outing was pretty much heaven for my tractor/farm lovin' boys.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Today I: 

Watched my oldest jump from the edge of the pool into the arms of his very first swim instructor.

Sat in the sun,  reading a couple of chapters in my new book while the kids played nearby.

Glued and taped flowers and weeds to pieces of paper - art time moved outside.

Listened to the boys as they pointed out and told me over and over, that's a milkweed, that's a milkweed, that's a milkweed, on our nature walk.

Rang a cowbell (twice) to signify it was time to pick up toys and come inside.

Left the dinner dishes on the table to return outside for more baseball, trike riding, and playing with the neighbors.

I've mentioned on here a time or two that I'm not much of a summer person.  I don't hate summer; but I'm just not a lover of summer.

So my anticipation for this summer has really taken me by surprise.  

I don't know if it's because last summer - dealing with the fire and not living at home and bringing a baby home into the mix of it all - was, well, pretty awful and I feel like I need a re-do.

Or if it's because this past year was our first taste of school and this, now, is our first summer break.

Or, if, more likely, it's a combination of those things and the boys getting older and plans for a couple of vacations that I'm so looking forward to, but suddenly I am welcoming this season with open arms. 

Long nights outside, days in the water and sun, ice cream cones, corn on the cob, we've already eaten our weight in watermelon, but more watermelon, trips to the farmers' market, bonfires, s'mores.  I may change my tune in a few months, but for now, summer can stay for as long as it wants.

Friday, June 14, 2013

let them get dirty

As of tomorrow we have two weeks.  Two weeks until Hutton's 3rd birthday party.  Of course, what I really mean is, two weeks to make it through the mile-long to-do list.  

Last Saturday is was rainy and we thought maybe it'd be a good time to start cleaning the garage (where we plan on hosting the party.)  There is a lot of work to do out there and with every mess Collin and I touched the boys were making two more behind us.  

The task of cleaning is always overwhelming for me and I have a tendency to waste a lot of energy fretting over how it is going to get done rather than just digging in and doing it (that would be Collin.) Looking around at the mess my heart started racing and I could feel the walls closing in around me.

"It stopped raining."  I told Collin, "I'm opening the garage door." I needed some air; the boys needed some room to run (that was not under our feet.)

The door wasn't even all the way up before they started sprinting out.  Collin and I looked at each other, ahhh, a little peace and quiet.  But within seconds we were already asking "Where is Nolan?"

"He's all yours, Mama!"  
Collin kind of chuckled as I walked around the car to behold the sight.

There was no use trying to end it; they were already soaking wet and filthy.

"Well, I might as well go get my camera."

When you're pregnant, especially with your first, people like to give you all sorts of advice. 

Sleep when the baby sleeps.

Cherish every moment.

Take time for yourself.  

But I think the best parenting advice I ever got was this: let them get dirty.

I could see this as several more loads of laundry, shoes that won't dry for days, and mud in my bathtub.

Or I could see it as clothes that can be cleaned, shoes that will eventually dry, and mud that washes down the drain.

(Pro tip: Showers are preferable to baths in these cases.)

Oh, and maybe most importantly, I can see it as three happy (and filthy) little boys who just had the time of their life.

Wishing you all a happy weekend.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Nolan's Birth Story (Finally!)

Before I delve straight into the story of the day Nolan was born, I thought I’d refresh your memory (and mine!) about the weeks leading up to his birth. 

On April 20, 2012, two weeks before Nolan made his arrival - when I was about 33 weeks along - I went into pre-term labor and spent the weekend bedridden in the hospital, hooked up to magnesium to slow the contractions.  I had never been on magnesium before, but I can now tell you that it is not enjoyable. 

After getting things under control, I was released the following Monday morning; sent home with virtually no restrictions.  Looking back you’d think I would have been happy about this, but I remember coming home and going straight to bed.  Physically, I was exhausted, but mentally it was even worse.  I had a lot of anxiety around this birth, would I make it to the hospital in time? Will I know when I actually am in labor?  Will he be okay?  Part of me just wanted it over.  I know I was still early, but I just wanted the baby here, safe, in my arms. 

The next two weeks I was miserable. MISERABLE.  I see I didn’t post much and when I did I mentioned feeling okay for a couple of days, but don’t let that fool you.  I really don’t know how I made it through those weeks.  During working hours I somehow propped the computer on my lap and while practically laying sprawled out on the couch I worked my way slowly though the to-do list.  During non-working hours I pretty much needed a second adult around at all times.  I just… I couldn’t keep up with the boys.  Kira, my sister-in-law, graciously helped me on Wednesdays and Collin was pretty much mandated to be around all weekend.

Two weeks after being admitted to the hospital, on Saturday, May 5, 2012 I had had a couple of pretty good days.  Very few contractions, energy was up, and for the first time in two weeks I felt capable of handling the kids on my own. Construction on the house was behind and knowing that we’d be welcoming an infant in the near future I sent Collin out to work for the afternoon.  “Just keep your phone close” I told him.

The boys and I played and then I rounded everyone up to head downstairs for a nap.  I’m sure they didn’t really want to do that, but Mama did!  The three of us were snuggled together in our bed and while they dozed off I started flipping through the pages of a new book; before I knew it though, I had joined them.

Shortly after 4 pm I woke up to contractions, nothing too intense, but after a few I grabbed my phone to start timing them.  Like usual, they were about 10 minutes apart. I was flipping through Facebook, asking an all important question: Kindle or Nook? When the boys woke up and almost instantly started bickering.  Within a few minutes I was calling Collin – “can you come home?  I’m having some contractions, nothing too intense, but I’m not sure I have the energy to handle the fighting.”  I remember looking at the clock; it was about 4:30 pm.

“Sure,” He said, “I won’t haul this last load.”

We were still lying in bed and I was trying to keep them engaged (and out of each other’s hair) when, with no warning what-so-ever, my water broke and suddenly I was soaking wet.  I threw back the covers, realized the bed was also a sopping mess, and struggled to get to my feet.

“Oh my God. Oh my God.” I repeated over and over.

This was my worst fear: that my water would break when no one was home.  The doctor had told me he believed once my water broke I’d have one hour before delivery (based on previous births) and we had a 45 minute car ride to the hospital.

Within seconds I had Collin back on the line “My water just broke!  GET HOME NOW!”

“I’m on B” he said “I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”

I immediately called Collin’s parents, “My water just broke, can you come over?” Thankfully they were only about 10 minutes from the duplex.

The last call I made was to Labor and Delivery, to let them know I was on my way.

I walked from our bedroom to the downstairs bathroom, my clothes were literally dripping wet and with each step more fluid gushed out. I could not think straight.  “Oh my God. Oh my God.” Is all I kept saying. 

“What?  What Mommy?”

The boys were trailing behind me, completely confused and obviously a little scared.

“We’re having a baby.  We’re having a baby!”

They snapped me out of it. 

Think.  Think, Kate, think. 

I grabbed a new pair of pants and headed upstairs to throw the last remaining items into our toiletry bags. 

But not before I sent a text message to friends:

4:41 pm: Water broke. Heading to hospital. Please say a prayer we make it.

Because, you know, it is always vitally important to take time to send text messages when in labor.

My big boys followed up the stairs right behind me and as I frantically threw things together I tried to calmly tell them what was going to happen. 

“Papa and Busha are coming over to get you guys.  Daddy and I are going to go to the hospital.  We’re going to have a baby.”

Before I knew it Collin was home and as he worked to get car seats out of the car I threw a couple of bags in.  His parents were there within minutes of him getting home and told us, “leave, just leave, we’ll take care of everything here.” The boys were standing in the doorway as I blew them one last kiss and yelled out “bye guys!  I love you!”

From my previous two labor experiences I had determined that it was the car ride, the sitting straight up and down in the seat, that progressed me so quickly (when I arrived with Keaton I was at 10 cm and crowning; with Hutt he was practically falling out, he was born within 10 min. of our arrival).  So this time I did something a little different, I reclined the seat, I grabbed my phone, and I started texting. And tweeting.  And Facebooking. 

This sounds very unromantic.  I mean, here Collin and I are, in labor, about to welcome our third child into the world and I spend the next 45 minutes yacking to people on the phone.  But I don’t think Collin minded, I’m pretty sure he preferred an unromantic labor to delivering a child on the side of the highway.

And guess what, it worked!

We were only two blocks from home when Kira called.  Kira is a nurse and she is my guiding light in all things medical related (in a lot of other things too, but always with the medical stuff).  She told me to call Labor & Delivery back and have them waiting with a wheel chair outside.  She also reminded me of our plan to request a police escort.  Of course, I had to pick a weekend that not only was my brother not on duty, but he was OUT OF THE STATE. 

At 4:55 pm my Texting Distraction Plan went into place and for the next hour or so a number of our family and friends’ phones started blowing up.

4:55 pm: En route. Contractions are picking up but so far so good.

4:56 pm: About 3 min apart.

4:59 pm: 30 miles to go.  Want to get north of Point before we call for escort.

5:08 pm: Can’t get escort for anything over speed limit.  Passed on ambulance pick up, we’re gonna do this thing. 20 miles.

Just as we got out of the Stevens Point area I called 911 and explained the situation.  The dispatcher told me they couldn’t escort for anything over the speed limit, of yes, that’s right, 65 miles per hour.  “Uhhh, yeah, that’s not going to work for us.” I told her.  She offered to have an ambulance meet us at the next exit and when I relayed that to Collin he kind of snorted – “We don’t have time to stop.” “No thank you,” I told her, “We’re plowing through.”  “Are you speeding?” she asked me.  “Yes.  Yes, we are.” “Okay, what vehicle are you in?  I’ll relay this to the troopers.”

5:14 pm: Just passed cop and he didn’t pull us over.  Yay!  About 10 miles. Feeling pressure.

5:21 pm: Almost there!! Watch me have hours to go.

5:22 pm: Let’s take guesses, how many cm dilated?

My phone exploded as the guesses came pouring it.  8, 9, 10, I think someone might have said his head was coming out (this is why I love my friends, btw.)

I hadn’t called in to ask for a wheel chair, I think I had been too distracted by all the texting, and the second I stepped out of the car I regretted that. 

I grabbed my stomach and more than likely dropped an “oh, shit.” I didn’t think I could walk all the way to the door.  Then, once inside, there is an elevator ride up to the second floor.  I tried to hold it together, to not LOOK like I was about to dramatically lay an egg, but by the expression on the face of the women coming out as we were going in, I don’t think I was doing a very good job.

While I very specifically remember checking in with the other two boys, the check in with Nolan is kind of a blur.  I do remember that I walked to my room, contracting all the way.  And I remember that it was then that I realized these new pants that I put on?  Yeah, they are soaking wet too.

I got in the room, met our nurse, Michelle (who, quite honestly, was the most amazing labor nurse ever), and changed into my gown.  I waddled back to the bed, contractions were very intense and frequent, no more than 2’ish minutes between them, and I mentally prepared to hear it was time to push.

5:33 pm: I’m only 4 cm!! But they are getting everything ready; she doesn’t think it will be long.  NICU has been notified. 

Yeah.  You read that right.  I was only FOUR centimeters.  Texting Distraction Plan worked TOO WELL.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked Michelle. 

No, she wasn’t.  But she assured me she had read my chart and she did not anticipate a long labor. “You’ve only pushed a total of six times in two labors – I do not believe this is going to take long.”

I prayed she was right.

I spent the next 30 to 40 minutes laboring through contractions.  They were pretty decent and sped up to between one to one-and-a-half minutes apart.  I was having to concentrate and breath through them but once they were done I was able to talk and joke around – the mood was still very light.  Michelle and another nurse were setting things up while we waited for the on-call doctor to come in.  I remember her telling me “I can’t believe you are still laughing.  If all women had labors like this the world would be over populated.”

Doctor K. finally arrived; this would be the first time my own doctor did not deliver our baby and I was happy to find out I really like him.  What I was not happy about what the news he had:

“You’re now at 5 centimeters.”

Eeeeeeeeek.  Stop the presses.  WHAT?  It’s been 40 minutes of intense contractions and I’ve only progressed ONE centimeter??  COME AGAIN?

He assured me, yes, I was only at a 5 and asked if I’d like anything for the pain.

While the mood was light up until this point I remember kind of wanting to cry.  I was doing okay laboring through these contractions because I thought they were doing something.  To find out they hadn’t done much of anything felt very, very depressing.  Suddenly I wondered how I was going to make it through this labor.

We talked through the various pain management options but I decided to decline for the time being.

“Okay,” he said, “I think you have about 35-40 minutes to get something if you want it; after that it will probably be too late.”

As he was heading out the door Michelle could see the disappointment on my face; “would you like to try sitting on the birth ball in the shower? Sometimes the warm water helps progress things.”

Yes, I told her, I would like that, anything to get my mind off these contractions that suddenly felt unbearable, but, could we wait a second I’m about to have another one.

She put a cool wet cloth on my forehead and went back to document something on the computer, just waiting until I was ready to get up.

But as soon as that contraction was over I felt another about to start.  It was two minutes after the doctor told me I was at a five.

“Oh my God,” I said to her, “I feel like I need to push.”

At that I turned slightly up on my left side and gripped the bars of the bed for dear life.  I realize now that this was the moment I went through transition.  My entire body began to violently shake, it was pushing without me even trying. I tried with all my might not to shoot that baby right out.

“Don’t Push! Don’t Push!” She ran over to me just as the contraction was ending and checked me again. 

I could see the look of shear panic on her face.  “Yeah, you’re a 10 and this baby is coming fast!”

She grabbed for her call button that hung on her neck but dropped it instantly and ran for the emergency pull by the door.


The entire floor was screeching and the red lights were flashing.  The second nurse that had been in the room earlier came running back in; together they set everything up as a few more people congregated.

Dr. K. peeked his head in and asked, “What’s going on?”

Michelle looked up at him and said mater-of-factly, “We’re having a baby.”

As he scrubbed up he looked at me and laughed, “Well, that’s one way to do it!”

As Dr. K. sat down, they raised the bed up, and Collin grabbed my hand and with that a contraction was starting the Doctor looked at me and said “Okay, we’re ready to push.”

All of my delivery’s have been similar and yet very different.  Keaton’s was difficult because I was ready to push before they would let me (we were waiting for the doctor to arrive), during Hutton’s I didn’t feel the need to push when they told me to and I remember the ring of fire when his head emerged.  I didn’t have that with Keaton and I was very unprepared for the pain of the actual delivery.  I was prepared this time and while these contractions were horrible, I was dreading that first push.  But much to my surprise Nolan’s first push really wasn’t painful at all.  In fact it felt great to finally have a contraction that I could work through.  Like with the other boys, three pushes and Nolan had officially made his arrival.  They laid him on me and as Collin prepared to cut the cord I remember laying back and just being so thankful he was here and he was safe.  That thought lasted only about 10 seconds though when I realized no one had confirmed that it was, in fact, a boy.

I sat up and started rummaging around as they were patting him down – “It is a boy, right??”

“Yes.” Collin assured me.

“Okay.  Good.”  I laid back until they were ready to put him up on my chest.  I remember holding him tight, leaning down to kiss his head.  “Shhhh,” I whispered to him.

Collin stayed right by Nolan’s side as the NICU team looked him over.  I tried to steal as many looks as I could and kept my mind busy talking to the doctor.  Unlike with Hutton, this time I was prepared to have him be placed in the isolette and wheeled upstairs.  So, it took me by complete surprise when they brought him back to me, a hat on his head and ready to stay with Mama.  “He looks good; if he can maintain this on his own, there is no reason for him to be in the NICU.” 

As I pulled our baby in close Collin came down by my side and all the worry and anxiety that had surrounded this birth was gone and suddenly the only emotions I felt were peace and love.

Nolan Hank Konopacki
Born May 5, 2012 at 6:20 pm
6 lbs 6 ounces
18 inches

The following are some pictures from after delivery and our stay in the hospital.  If that's not your thing, maybe I can direct you to some other Nolan posts:

It's funny, I remember looking at Nolan in those first few days after birth and wondering, who does he look like? While we all know that each child is an individual, it's hard not to compare them to their siblings.  I look at these pictures now and all I can think is, Wow, he looks just like Nolan. :)