A Doll and Me Tea Party

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Much to the grandma’s delight – these birthday pictures are finally making their way into shareable internet land.

I sorta had a computer picture storage overload problem – I guess 50,000 high res pics can do that to a machine. Oops. 

So after thinking all were lost, and sobbing my eyes out and praying imprecatory psalms on all creatures great and small and basically denouncing all things good and pure, my sister came to my rescue. Man. Pregnancy hormones are no joke!

And let me know they weren’t lost afterall. :)

Love my sister.

So here it is – a lovely tea party for my little six year old Kami and her friends.

All 14 of them. And their 15 dolls.

Smallest house we’ve ever lived in. Biggest indoor bday party we’ve ever thrown.

The more the merrier, right? :)

It was also one of the cheapest. I utilized the dollar store’s baby girl shower section and pulled off some pretty frugal hacks to make this an American Girl doll party – without the American Girl prices.

 

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Upon arrival, every girl got a tea hat, some pearls, and a pink bow for their dolls. (hats, $1 each, Target. There weren’t any left for Easter. But Philly people don’t wear hats for Easter anyway, right?  So it all worked out ok that I took them all. :) Mini pink Bows, Dollar Tree, $1 for 20.)

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American Girl Tea Party

 

Each doll had their own little treat boxes to take home their special surprises. (Which were, one pack of baby hair clips  – 50 on a sheet – for $1, courtesy of Dollar Tree. They also had a special craft that was added to these boxes later.) I got the doll’s names from the mamas the week of the party so they could all have their own name tags and keep them all straight too.  (Mini pink boxes, Dollar Tree, $1/12 pack.)

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The dolls even got their own cupcakes. I asked though, and they said none of them were hungry! So they all shared with their girl mommies. :)

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I pulled out my grandmother’s china, some china from a friend, my wedding china, and a new tea set that my girls gave me for Christmas. We had just enough for everyone! And believe it or not, three, four, and five year old little girls are fantastic with china.

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File0116After a delicious lunch (of which I didn’t get many pics of the food – I was rather busy. With the 15 dolls. And their 14 mommies…), we made some jewelry for the dolls.  Another frugal hack – making jewelry for the dolls meant we were making tiny necklaces. It took 3 packs of beads, one pack of elastic string, and only about 15 minutes. Most of the girls stayed super engaged – even the younger ones. And I was so thankful for my husband and my neighbor who stuck around to help tie all those tiny necklaces together. :) The girls put their doll’s necklaces in their doll’s treat boxes to take home with them later.

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It ended up being quite the party. But we made some beautiful memories. And that’s what I wouldn’t trade for anything.

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Week 21: It’s a……

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I’ve been sitting here for several minutes thinking of a title to this post. Ironic for me only because titles usually come quickly to me.

If there’s a title when this goes live in the next day or two, you’ll know I settled on one.

*UPDATE: Cheesy, teaser title. That’s all I could come up with. Sorry. :)

First off, can I just say that I am so thankful for all of you? Last week during that awful-turned-beautiful ultrasound I was upheld by so many prayers and thoughts and well wishes and crazy amounts of texts-that-I-could-barely-keep-up…this baby (aaaaaahhhh….you thought I was gonna say didn’t you? hee hee hee hee!) is so loved so much by so many already.

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Second. I know you could care less about my mushy gushy “thanks for all the prayers…” words.

 

I know my place.

 

 

 

I should probably just get to it.

 

 

 

 

SO….

 

 

 

 

Without anymore drama….

 

 

 

 

(Because we have enough come to us in this family – we certainly don’t need to manufacture any…..)

 

 

 

Ya’ll.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And while my first born was really wanting a sister, after a couple hours she came around. Now she wants to marry her brother. So I think we’re all good.

 

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My youngest. Oh goodness. This is all she’s wanted for over 2 years.

She said to me, “Oh Mommy. This baby is my favorite brother on earth.

Not in the normal little kid exaggerated way. But in a distinctive defining way.

Like,

Now I have one favorite brother on earth and one in Heaven. So how lucky am I?

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She said a few hours after we found out,

“You know Mom? Now when our brother dies – I mean when all of us die – Baby Kyle can have a best friend in Heaven.”

And today. A week or so after we found out.

“So, all that stuff we did with our other brother Kyle? We have to do it with this brother too. We have to do the finger puppet shows and play videos for him. And tickle him and kiss him and talk to him. Because Kyle just loved it when we did that to him. This brother will like it too. And now someone can wear those clothes. And use that blanket.”

I had been wondering what to do with them. I guess she settled that one for me without batting an eye.

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My oldest has become obsessed with our home videos of their baby days. These sorts of questions have popped up,

“So, how old was I when I started walking? I want to know how long until our brother starts walking. It’s gonna be so fun to watch him.”

And,

“So, when he’s born, I’ll be the one to make sure he isn’t lonely in case you have to rest or cook food or something.”

And,

“I guess we won’t do school next year will we? I mean, since we’ll have a new baby to take care of – we’ll be pretty busy.”

 

(The girls got their own personalized ultrasound images – they have them right beside their beds.)

So here he is.

The Lord has taken away. And He has given.

We can’t help but praise Him for it all. 

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I couldn’t wait a second longer. :)

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Thanks for praying. Here’s the news we got.

“A perfect baby. Not even a single choroid plexus cyst. Perfect measurements. Perfect heart. Perfect stomach. Perfect kidneys. Perfect everything.”

I didn’t even know how to take it all in.

So, the doc told the girls the gender. Out in the hallway – so they could come tell us.

It was so perfect. Except one girl wanted another brother and the other wanted another sister….

So one girl came stomping into the room and one came in hopping with a face breaking smile.

You’ll have to wait a few more days on that one. But we’ll let you know as soon as we tell a few more family people.

For now, we are just going to keep right on floating all the way to Easter.

Man. Do I love life.

So we celebrated with a selfie. Kami just did somersaults. :)

Your prayers and well wishes – wowzers. Couldn’t even keep up with them all. They carried us right into that ultrasound room until we could float right out. :)

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Week 20: Defining Moments. (aka, we really are doing this again.)

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Happy April!  These are my best April Fool’s Day jokes. But today isn’t one. This day has been marked on my calendar for 8 weeks now. April 1st. 1:00. 13th floor. Maternal Fetal Medicine.

I can not believe we’ve made it this far. Half way? No issues at all? No bleeding, no spotting, no crazy weight gains, no preeclampsia? I mean – it could set in at any time. But still. I *have* to make myself look back and see the wonder of this 20 weeks of….normal. I feel like making it to this halfway point is a sort of defining moment for me. No matter what happens later today, I’m here now.

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I love this baby dearly. But when your heart has been nearly stopped for your last child, and it’s pieces are just barely coming back together….there are scars that are still so painful. It’s so natural to want to protect it – keep anyone from ever touching it again.  This baby is starting to touch it.

I talked to my baby for the first time today.

But I guess the biggest defining moment to date will be later this afternoon. We have another ultrasound. These are so difficult for me. I wish I could drug myself up and sleep through the entire thing. After the last few days, I’m sure my family wishes they could have drugged me up and made me sleep through the entire thing. :)

This is it, folks. 2 different ultrasounds. It’ll probably be close to an hour. Of intense examination of every vital organ searching for anything that would alert us to something amiss. I’m terrified. I feel like ultrasounds are like a corrupt trial – where I assume my baby is going to die – unless it happens to be proven alive and healthy. Mustering the energy to hope is almost impossible at times.

Most women have these ultrasounds somewhere between 18-20 weeks. Most women look forward to them excitedly. Take videos of them. They call them the “gender ultrasound”. That’s not what this is. Most women don’t find out about their babies’ diagnoses until these ultrasounds. Not to be a downer – but just a realist. Every facebook post of “gender ultrasound today! What are your guesses? boy or girl?!” sends me into a ball of anxiety for that dear mom. Hoping against hope that this will in fact be all that’s exciting about her scan.

I don’t really care to know the gender. I don’t really care to figure out a name, decorate a nursery, buy clothes even. It’s not that I don’t want to know. It’s just that it’s as far from my mind as the next time I have to take trash to the curb.

Can’t I just have a healthy baby, then find out what the gender is after we’ve passed 18 hours or so? And the name thing? How long do I have for that? What can it possibly be like again to have a baby, and just move on to things like feeding problems or falling asleep and not making yourself stay awake for every possible moment because you only get a precious few of them? Is it ok to not take 1,500 photos in the first 18 hours? Because I really may get to take more at hour 19? No one is going to take the baby away?

These are seriously questions that just seem almost impossible to think about. The most telling one was from Kami, my youngest –

“Mom? We’ll get to go see the baby? And even hold it? And then you’ll bring it home?”

She’s never known that normal.

More defining moments.

But back to the gender. I don’t really care. I wanna see four heart chambers. And I want to see an esophagus attached to a stomach bubble. And functioning kidneys.

But my husband and my girls wanna know the gender. They are ganging up on me. And from what I’m gathering, no matter how hard I fight this one, no one is going to come to my rescue on it. :) So we’ll find that out today. But only after I see that heart. And those kidneys. And that stomach bubble.

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So this is it. I’m in my pj’s still. But the girls are dressed and ready. They can’t wait to see this baby. It’s their first ultrasound for this one.  They’re dressed and ready. And excited. I’m getting there.

Pray for us? Not for a perfect baby….God has already formed it from the beginning. But for our hearts. That no matter what, we’ll keep fighting for faith and joy. And that the peace we’ve grown so accustomed to knowing in these sorts of moments will continue to fill our hearts.

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Thanks, friends.

 

 

Week 18: Are we really doing this again? (Part II)

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{Feel free to backtrack and read Part I if you haven’t already. This will make much more sense if you do.}

Up on the table I went. The same ultrasound table. The same room. The same giant flat screen that we witnessed the still still heart of our little Kyle-man…and here we were again. Just two years and some days later.

I took a giant breath. We tried to make it as nonchalant as possible.  That gooey stuff – so warm – they always have that stuff in a warmer. Seriously – if you don’t have a ultrasound tech that uses warm goo on your tummy, find a different one. It’s so worth it.

And there it was. The tiniest little thing you ever did see. Only a head and a tummy. Still attached to my uterus in the tiny yolk sack. No arms or legs and only a half centimeter long.

But it had a heart.

That was beating. 

So quietly even that the ultrasound equipment couldn’t pick up the sound. But the little thing was just a going strong as ever.

Yeah. We both cried. There wasn’t much to look at. But there it was – alive and tiny and so perfect. I mean, we couldn’t see if anything was wrong at that point, but for that moment in time, we dwelt in the moment of blissfulness. Completely happy that there was a baby who was alive and well and we could see it.

Week 12 selfie for my praying friends. <3

Week 12 selfie for my praying friends. <3

Weeks 8-12: These weeks came and went with an onslaught of nausea and fatigue. I was pretty much in bed from 6PM on – after an afternoon of naps and resting on the couch. The cold and dark days here in Philadelphia didn’t help with the feelings of exahustion, either. But my girls were little angels. Chloe cooked breakfast for me, and lunch for everyone. Chris was the true hero in these weeks – I didn’t wash hardly a dish or change a single load of laundry during this time. (I rarely do anyway, but generally I can get around to carrying my own weight with the dishes and laundry when I have a free moment.) Considering we don’t have a dishwasher or a reliable washing machine, this is quite the feat.

This was coupled with an ultimatum from our landlady – telling us she decided not to renew our lease and we had to be out of our house by the end of the month. For whatever reason – hormones, my exhaustion levels, perhaps the fact that we had just gotten unpacked 4 months earlier? – I was a complete wreck from this and was pretty much ready to give up on all things happy and hibernate the rest of the days away under my covers. We spent any of my remaining energy looking at property after property and finally came to the conclusion that where we are isn’t as bad off as we were thinking, for one. :) And second, that we’d need to buy something if we wanted to move into anything that was remotely move-in ready. (We weren’t up for a fixer upper at this stage of the game.)

I’m so grateful for a church that was so ready and willing to jump in and help out. I was going to make up a to-do list that would get us up and out in two weeks – and the church people would sign up and get us up and out! The goal was for me to not lift a box. The day we were planning to make an offer on a house, the landlady let us know that moving wouldn’t be necessary after all and we could stay where we were.

That was a HUGE sigh of relief for me.

Even now, I’m not sure what all of that run around was for – except maybe to get to know the area better? I do know that now I’m much more content where I am than I was before – and I’m so so happy to not be unpacking boxes right now!

Right around the end of week 11, going into week 12, I could feel the baby moving. This was such a huge relief to me! This is extremely early for anyone to feel anything. But after so many weeks of tracking every one of Kyle’s movements and thinking at each one it could be his last, I guess my mind was still super tuned in.

The tough part of this for me, though, was knowing that while I could feel this baby move, I would have a palpable fear – a deep unsettling fear – when I couldn’t feel the baby every day.  Only when it was floating near the front of my uterus was I able to feel it – when it was close to my skin. That would be a few times a day – then nothing for three or four days. I would be so nervous. My anxiety levels would rise by the hour it seemed. At one point I even took more pregnancy tests. Thinking that maybe if we had lost the baby, my hormone levels would have already dropped enough that the test would show negative. It was positive every time. And a few days later, I’d feel the baby again. And the cycle of relief and fear and anxiousness would start all over again.

Week 12, 4 days: I had requested a special ultrasound to be done. The Nuchal Translucency scan is one ultrasound done specifically within a ten day period of time. Anytime during the 12th week up to around 13 wks 4 days or so.  I was having a hard time getting in to see the midwife group I had chosen for my prenatal care here in Philadelphia, so I had to check into a high risk Maternal Fetal office – without any sort of referral – to see if they’d do it for me. Thankfully they were super willing to schedule something and I set up the appointment.

This ultrasound was the same one we had that showed Kyle’s devastating prognosis.  It’s a critical time for measuring the baby’s development and the amounts of fluid that gathers behinds baby’s neck. A larger than normal amount can be a signal of some genetic issues. This measurement of the fluid, along with a measurement of the nasal bone, is generally taken to check for Down’s markers. Kyle’s swelling wasn’t just behind his neck. It surrounded his entire body, like a bubble.

In my mind, having this scan at this time would show me, not that the baby was fine, but whether it had the same genetic traits – to the severity – that Kyle had.  This drive was one of the most heart wrenching hours of my life. I had to really come to grips with the fact that this was the moment of truth for me. The moment where I would know if we were going to do another pregnancy with a fatal end or if we could keep hoping for one a little more routine. I had to know where my mind and heart would be *before* I heard the news. If this would be the news that would finally break me, or I could continue going on with my faith…

My God never fails me. Ever. And in that tearful drive downtown I couldn’t help but feel the peace of God, knowing so many of my sisters and brothers in Christ were upholding my tired heart in prayer. I can never be more grateful for my dear friends.

That day was so full of fears. Who my technician would be, who the doctor would be to read the results, what we’d see – or not see.

Man – I think I remember a day when ultrasounds were exciting? But they are seriously the worst for me now.

I got up on that table again. (They had warm goo too. So Philly’s not all bad. :)

For the first 30 seconds or so all we could see was the baby’s head. It was so beautiful. But the angle she was checking didn’t show its little heart beating. I was terrified but took some comfort in the fact that she didn’t seem to be at all.

Then, around second 31, I could breathe again. Because there it was. The most unbelievable sight ever.

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No bubble around baby. A strong heart beat. (Another “funny” to me – I used to care about how fast it was – my mom always swore by faster ones are girls and slowers are boys…I’m not one for jumping on that bandwagon generally – but now, I don’t care. I don’t even think to ask. I just have to see it. Beating. So, no, I don’t know how fast it was. She told us I think. But I wasn’t listening to her.)

Until she said, “It looks perfect.”

I’m completely in tears even typing those words now. I still don’t know how to understand them or take them in.

She went on to tell us how “this isn’t definitive” and “your baby could still have issues”….but I saw what I needed. I don’t care what our baby has. For what we could see right in that moment, it wouldn’t have what Kyle had. There was no “come back in a week, but only if you haven’ t miscarried before then.”  Or “We aren’t sure how your baby is still alive but it is.” It was just “It looks perfect to me. The doctor will be in in a minute.”

{To be continued….sooner rather than later this time…}

 

 

Week 16: Are we really doing this again?

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Sometimes I just wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into. And honestly, posting about a new, planned, hoped for pregnancy like this one to such a public audience was something I feared greatly.

I know there’s mixed feelings out there – I’ve heard from some of you. But most everyone seems so positive and for that, I’m so grateful. Your words of encouragement and hope and tears and even fears help me know I’m not alone.

I guess what I wanted to give from this public sharing of private events – is this: I want to share my hope. I want you to share with me your hope. That’s one of the most beautiful things Kyle taught me –

there is always hope. Sometimes I can’t see it, but someone close to me does. Sometimes you can’t see it, but I can. It’s always there, though. And I can’t tell you how earnestly I’m hoping for a very very good ending to the beginning of this story at the end of the summer.

To catch you up a bit on what all has happened in the past 4 months or so…

Week 3: I knew I was pregnant before the tests did. I kept taking tests, texting my sister and a couple of my friends. Wondering what was up. I just *knew* I was pregnant. But I had no proof yet.

Week 4: I got proof. I texted one of my favorite ultrasound techs in South Carolina – like having a medical experts confirmation of the two blue lines would help me really believe it. I was massively excited, shared the news with Chris, who was beyond thrilled. I took the day to just be happy happy happy.

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Week 5: Reality set in. Everything that was logical in me said that we had just decided to do the dumbest thing on the planet. I mean really. We have no written medical evidence that what happened to Kyle won’t happen again. We don’t think it will based on what we learned,and the opinions of two of our doctors. But still, nothing definite. We also have no evidence that we had indeed solved my tendency to have early term miscarriages. We were pretty sure it had to do with my thyroid issues – which are most likely due to several environmental and poor diet factors I grew up with – and had been treating those issues with diet and medication for over a year. So we had hope that this pregnancy would be different. But we had no proof. No guarantees. The fight for hope and joy was real.

I called my doctors in South Carolina. We were planning to travel there for Christmas and New Years, so I asked if I could come in and see them while I was in town. They were thrilled. And offered (still free) ultrasounds.

Week 6: My energy vanished completely. Literally. I put myself on a modified bed rest of sorts – just to be careful. Chris was a true hero – taking care of basically everything. And never once complained of the pizza he was asked to pick up more times in a week than I’d care to admit. We decided to fake it with the girls as much as we could. They were still so fragile, we talk about Kyle every day in our house. Dealing with another loss would break them in two. So we let them think that Mommy was just really tired and they picked up the extra slack for the most part, just fine.  I took another test – just to see if I was still pregnant. I had no reason to think I wasn’t, but I had to know. I figured my levels were still low enough to show up a negative test if in fact we had lost the baby. So I took another test.

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Didn’t even have to wait on the results to that one. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d ever make it this far. At this point, I had passed my second miscarriage date, so I was becoming a bit more hopeful. I knew I wasn’t out of the woods at all yet, though. And to keep my mind on track, it was Kyle’s birthday week. I had thought that being pregnant on his birthday would be somewhat helpful. But really, it was just a stark reminder of reality. That nothing is guaranteed ever. And my only hope *had* to be in Someone other than this baby. So many came around me that week. Blog readers, new friends, people in South Carolina made sure Kyle’s little grave was looking just perfectly dapper for his second birthday.

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My girls stayed close to my side throughout the whole week. Which meant they were curled up in bed with me. We did school in bed, read-alouds in bed, crying and missing their little brother – all in that little bed.

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Week 7: We passed the dreaded birthday week. And did Christmas at our house on Christmas Eve. Then Christmas Day, we drove down to South Carolina to surprise Chris’ grandmother. And boy did we ever! It didn’t take her long though to notice that I was in bed most of the day when I was home and spending more time in the bathroom than normal. She asked if I was pregnant. I lied. At first. Then, when I took her to the airport to send her back to her home in Florida, I let her know the truth. That that very afternoon, I was heading to see my doctors in town and would definitely keep her updated. And please don’t tell anyone. :) I feel like Great Grandmas have just as much right as closest friends. Especially when they figure these things out on their own.

That afternoon we drove to my OB’s office for blood work – mainly to make sure our treatment plan of my thyroid was still working as planned. It was. My blood work results couldn’t have been more perfect. Then we headed over to my high risk doctor’s office. My favorite tech showed up at the door – we chatted for quite awhile catching up on all the office news – we were both nervous wrecks about what we’d see when she put that wand on my stomach….

(…to be continued – stay tuned!)

 

Roasted Sweet Potato and Sweet Corn Hash

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3 ingredients + Spices for a paleo friendly, Low carb dish.

So now that I can admit that my food tendencies have been tending more towards craving levels, ahem, I can share one of recent favorite side dishes.

I love winter vegetables. The warm oven heating up my house while those delicious root vegetables cast warm sweet smells through the kitchen.

And we love the snow. I’ve never seen this much snow in my life. It’s fantastic!! In the South, we have to pay big bucks to drive somewhere far away to go sledding on hills half this size covered in manufactured snow. Having this hill down the street from us (and there’s lovely workers up here who actually clear those streets every time!) is beyond awesome.

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But the record setting below zero wind chills and the locked inside the house feeling and the instant frostbite warnings.  Whew, those are a force to reckoned with.

Seriously? instant frostbite warnings. I’ve never heard of such a thing before this winter.  Ya’ll, this southern blood isn’t changing over so well.

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And can we talk about socks for minute? In the South, we wear socks one time. Easter Sunday morning. That’s it. My poor kids. They’re still trying to figure out if the socks go under the 3 layers of pants or over them. And then where do they put the boots? :)

But back to the veggies. I had some sweet potatoes lying around and some frozen corn in the freezer and wanted to whip up a nice paleo, low carb friendly side dish. Well, that low carb paleo stuff wasn’t my intention at all. But it sorta happened so I thought I’d add that in.

First you’ll wanna shred your sweet potatoes. I used my kitchen aid grater attachment. Cubed ones or diced ones would work just as well.

Add the shredded sweet potato (I used one large one for our family of 4.25) and 6 oz bag of fresh or frozen corn to a hot skillet with a little olive oil.

3 ingredients + Spices for a paleo friendly, Low carb dish.

 

At this point I let these two become good friends in the pan, adding a 1/2 tsp of salt, a 1/2 tsp of stevia (since my corn was frozen, the normal sweetness wasn’t there that I love), 1 tsp of paprika and a dash of cinnamon. The smells coming from this were just incredible!

Then I added a sliced green onion.

3 ingredients + Spices for a paleo friendly, Low carb dish.

 

3 ingredients + Spices for a paleo friendly, Low carb dish.

 

That just took this over the top!  I kept cooking and tossing over medium high heat until the corn began to turn slightly brown in places and the sweet potatoes began to have that slightly crispy “hash brown” look.

You should try it. Warm up those winter veggies a bit – it may make you enjoy them a tad more and make these last few remaining days of winter a little less….well, bitter cold.

3 ingredients + Spices for a paleo friendly, Low carb dish.

 

3 ingredients + Spices for a paleo friendly, Low carb dish.

 

Roasted Sweet Potato Sweet Corn Hash