There are many things in life that bring me comfort. The warm sun on my face, hugs from my children and a chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven, to name a few. However, as these nights get cooler, nothing says comfort like a hot homemade casserole for dinner. Not only is a casserole the quintessential comfort food, it stretches my food dollars for my family of 6 and provides easy and delicious leftovers on nights when we are going in four different directions. There are many nights I look in the refrigerator and am stumped about what to do for dinner. I do try to have a menu and plan for the week, but there are days that my schedule changes, or something else comes up. In our busy family, no matter how well I plan, often the plans fall through! So just in case this happens, one of the staples I keep in my pantry is Campbell’s cooking soups. Having a variety of these soups on hand can help me take a bunch of random ingredients and throw together a casserole that my family will love and is good for them! Campbell’s has a variety of soups that are great to use for cooking. They can be just the thing to pull together a fast, healthy meal. Some of them are: Broccoli cheese, Cheddar Cheese, Beef broth, Cream of Celery, Cream of Chicken, Cream of Asparagus and many others. So many of us grew up with our mothers making holiday dinners using Campbell’s Cream of Chicken or Cream of Celery soup. Green bean casserole at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner is one I remember fondly. My mother passed these traditions down to me, and these family favorites will be on my holiday dinner table as well. For my hectic life, having a few cans of these soups in the pantry can turn a fridge full of leftovers or random ingredients into yummy dishes! For more inspiration, Campbell’s has teamed up with The Wisest Kid in the Whole World™ to bring you fun, quick, delicious recipes everyone in the family will love! Check them out here.This week I am single mom’ing it as my partner is away on business. On a particularly busy evening where we had swim practice, orthodontist appointments and homework to do, I decided to throw together some ingredients I had on hand with a can of Campbell’s Broccoli Cheese soup. This is one of my favorite casseroles! Since we have recently switched to whole grains I just changed a few of the ingredients and made this amazing Broccoli Cheese Chicken Rice casserole a wee bit healthier. So here is my version of this casserole:Cheesy Broccoli Chicken Rice Casserole
Ingredients: 2 cups chopped fresh or frozen broccoli (I prefer fresh)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 2 cups cooked brown rice (I prefer short grain)
2 cups cooked chopped chicken breast
1 1/4 cup 1% milk
1 can Campbell’s Broccoli Cheese soup
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. After mixing pour into a 9×13 baking pan. I always reserve a little of the shredded cheese and sprinkle it on top. Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly. Take it out of the oven and watch your family devour this delicious casserole.
This casserole is a hit in my house, I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does!
When I decided to become a mother it was no light decision for me. I had always said I didn’t want children, and to be honest, I meant it. I had many men come and go in my life, and never wanted to have children. Then the day finally came and I met a certain man and decided maybe being a mom wasn’t such a bad idea.
A few years later along came my “Joe Cool”. I was so excited, and scared all at the same time. I was also full of hormones and went through a short period of “postpartum blues”. It probably didn’t help matters that I transferred from San Diego to Pensacola Florida when Joe Cool was only 6 weeks old. That was a bit crazy. Trying to schedule a military move, and handle being a new mom was quite a doozy!! Not to mention I had a C-section and had to recover from that as well. But we managed, and life went on.
Then a couple of years later we were handed a surprise baby, “The Genius”. He was so different from Joe Cool. He was wiggly, and wouldn’t lay still, and full of energy. Energizer bunny baby for sure!
We definitely had our hands full. Their father was a stay at home dad and went to college in the evenings. I was in the Navy working a full time job, and taking care of the kids in the evening while hubby went to school. It was a busy time. I thought It was demanding. I thought it was difficult. Joe Cool is currently 16, and The Genus is 14. Looking back on those times when they were little and required so much attention, I now realize that those were the easy times of being a parent.
Now don’t get me wrong, those days had their challenges: Learning to poop and pee in the potty. Learning how to do things for themselves. Letting them “cry it out” at night as I sat outside their bedroom doors listening to them cry and call for me, and crying myself. But even with all of that, those years were wonderful years. My boys adored me. I reigned supreme as “The Mommy”. What I said went, and there was no arguing. Just a little time out could work wonders. I always knew where they were, who they were with and what they were doing. (Yes, I know I am a control freak.)
Now that they are teenagers things are so much more complicated. They have internet access, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter accounts. They have phones (as long as they can pay their phone bill), with internet access. So I learned about Facbook and Instagram and Twitter etc, so I would understand their world. I put programs on the house computer to monitor screen shots and keystrokes, etc, so I could see what they were up too. I set parental controls on their phones so they can’t text during school, or after 10:00 when they should be in bed on school nights. All of it exhausting work.
Then I had to become a detective. Asking, “Who are you going to be with?” “What are you doing?” “Where are you going?” “When will you be home?” “Who is driving?” “Will there be adults present at this event?” “Will there be girls there also?” “Do you like any of them?” “Will there be adults present?” Around and around I go.
Then just to be even more sure I was getting the straight story I put a “Locator” service on our phone account where I can see where they are based on where their phone is. Anyone who has a teenager or young adult knows that they are NEVER very far from their phones!!
I was proud of myself, and thought I was on top of things. Boy, was I wrong. Because THEN I found out about Kik.
Kik is an app they can download onto their phones for free so they can text other people that have the app, and it doesn’t go through the phone account. So they can text all night long, and I would never see anything on the phone bill, and although I can “lock” their phones at a certain hour, I can’t make the data stop at a certain time, so they can still have access to the internet and their apps.
And THEN I found out about Snapchat. Snapchat is an app where they can send pictures, which can be viewed for just a few seconds, and then never viewed again. What a great way to send “taboo” photos that don’t stay in your gallery so your parent can see them if they scroll through your phone. So sexting via Snapchat has become the new rage. GREAT!! And of course as an adult I know that once something is on the internet it is there forever, but try convincing a teenager of that!
Luckily for me I love in a community where I know many of the parents of my kids friends. I have met them at swim meets, or soccer games, or school events. If I don;t know them personally I probably know someone who knows them. I call this group of parents my “mom posse”, and have used the posse many times over the years.
As a matter of fact I utilized it just the other night. Joe Cool was at work and Karol and I decided to go to the movies. Towards the end of the movie Joe Cool called me three times. I guess he forgot that you shouldn’t talk on your cell phone during a movie (note my sarcasm). When the movie was over I called him and asked what he needed. He said, “Hey, M. and A. want to go to the baseball field and watch the meteor shower tonight and they want me to go with them.”
Now even though Joe Cool is usually honest with me, I was like , “Sure, of course three teenaged boys want to go to a dark, empty field and watch a meteor shower…….right……” So I immediately texted both of the other boys’ moms to check if the meteor shower story was “legit”. I received a response form M’s mom that went something like this: “LOL, yes it is legit. I am on my way to pick up Joe Cool now.”
When they pulled up, I went outside and M’s mom and I had a good laugh about the “mom Posse” and how these teens won’t be able to get away with much of the stuff we did. The boys didn’t seem to think it was as amusing as we did. Oh well!!
I will say that it is a different world then when I grew up in the 80’s. There is more available for kids these days to lure them into trouble. Sure the drinking and experimentation is the same, but there seems to be more opportunities for those things to happen now than when I was a teenager.
So being a detective is as important as being a mom, and unfortunately for my boys, I will always be in their business and trying to keep up with what is going on in their lives. I am not their friend, I am their mom. I can be their friend later, when they have graduated college and they are living on their own. For now I need to parent them and keep guiding them in the way they need to go so they CAN get to college, graduate and be out there on their own living their lives!
(From Carol: I have been involved with my neighborhood summer swim league for a few years and I have met some of the most amazing people who live right here in my neighborhood through the swim team. One of them is Donna Purkey, who is an award winning author!! She has a husband and two beautiful children L and R. She wrote a book for children to help them deal with a parent on a military deployment. It is a WONDERFUL book , and I encourage you all to purchase a copy for yourselves, or a military family you may know. I am certain it will help with the anxiety of a parent being deployed! For Veterans Day 2013 I want to honor Donna, her husband Keith and their children by letting you all share in Donna’s story. AND a GIVEAWAY!!!!)
Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has a dream to follow. For me, telling my story was following my dream. I have always been a writer and I’ve always enjoyed writing. I am probably one of the few people in the world who still has a pen-pal (since 1988!) and we actually write letters to each other – you know, the “old-fashioned way”. But, that is a topic for a completely different blog post! It has been a life-long dream of mine to write and publish a book, and here’s my story!
I am a Navy wife and mother of two young children. I am also a teacher and a writer. I’d venture to say that I am following my dreams, but to be honest, I never dreamed of marrying a sailor and living the military lifestyle! It just happened…and I am so glad it did! Our children are our greatest gifts and it is because of them that I was inspired to write what has become an award-winning book!
A few years ago, my husband deployed (which he often does). My children were only two and three years old and I wasn’t really sure how the deployment was affecting them. We used a variety of activities to keep Dad a part of our lives and I had to believe they were making a difference. But, to be honest, I despised the never ending paper chain. It was a visual reminder of how much longer we had to wait. The length was depressing.And, we were counting backwards which was ridiculous because my kids couldn’t even count forward. We did, however, love our “Flat Daddy” – a life sized photo board of my husband (from the waist up). He mostly hung out in the living room, and my kids often tried to feed him, kiss him, hug him, etc. He even joined us for Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house and it was a huge hit!
The following year, my husband deployed – again! This time, we had “Dad pillows” and we filled a jar with chocolate kisses so the kids could have “a kiss from Dad” each day. Well, that didn’t work. What kid is happy with ONE piece of chocolate? It was such a tease. And, my kids couldn’t understand why Dad would only give them ONE kiss each day? I quickly lost interest in this idea. It just wasn’t working for us. We needed something else. Something more meaningful. Something more creative.
That’s when I came up with the project that became the inspiration for my award-winning* book, “Miss You to Pieces – A Deployment Story and Project Idea for Kids.”
“Miss You to Pieces” is the story of a young boy, Riley, whose dad deploys for six months and the unique puzzle project that his mom (that’s me!) introduces to help Riley count the days until his dad’s return. Simply put, the puzzle project involves adding one piece of the puzzle each day (two pieces on some days!) and when the puzzle is complete, Dad will be home. There’s a little more to it though……
Throughout the story, Riley experiences the normal range of emotions that kids often feel during deployment. But, he grows, just as his puzzle grows, and he comes to realize his mom was right, “The days are like puzzle pieces – some are more exciting than others. But each piece is important because it helps the puzzle grow. And, each day is important because it helps you grow bigger, smarter and stronger!” The story reassures kids that their emotions (like Riley’s) are normal and temporary. And, the puzzle project offers a fun and meaningful way to count the days while providing a daily opportunity to talk and keep the family connected.
As I mentioned, the story is based on my family and our experiences with deployment, but it is undoubtedly a story that most military families can relate to. The puzzle project is something we have done (more than once) and it’s not only fun, it provides us a special time each night. While my kids are looking for the puzzle piece they need (they are numbered on the back by the way!), we talk about Dad, our feelings, our day, whatever! We connect as a family and we strengthen our family bond. We build ourselves as we build our puzzles. And we stay connected just as our puzzle pieces stay connected. I mention that my story is geared towards military families but I’d like to add that ANY family that experiences temporary separation – or any family that is “counting the days” to a special event – can be touched by the story and inspired by the puzzle project. In addition, it’s an excellent teaching tool to illustrate the sacrifices of military families!
To conclude, I’ve told my story and in doing so, I’ve followed my dream of writing a book. But, to be honest, writing my book wasn’t really about me. My intention in writing the book was to share our project idea so that it would provide other families with a fun and meaningful project to not only count the days of a deployment, but to create an opportunity to connect with each other. I also wanted to show kids that their feelings are real and normal. Riley’s example is both comforting and encouraging to children who are experiencing the emotional roller coaster that is common during deployments. I truly hope that my readers will create their own puzzle projects and so I’ve included “Tips for creating your own puzzle project” at the end of the book. And, the tips are good, but you’ll have to read them for yourself!
*”Miss You to Pieces” has recently been awarded Honorable Mention and a Five Star rating from Readers’ Favorite 2013 Annual Book Award Contest. Donna Purkey, mother, author, teacher, speaker, has been married to her husband since 2003. She lives in Suffolk, VA with her family and enjoys sharing her story with schools, Family Readiness Groups, MOPS, etc. Autographed copies are available through her directly. She may be contacted directly at email@example.com
GIVEAWAY CONTEST: Donna is giving away one signed copy of her book to a lucky winner. Here are the rules for the contest:
1) Like the “Miss you to Pieces ” Facebook page
2) Write a comment on this blog about why you like Donna’s idea for her book, or share your own deployment story, or one of a friend or family you know.
YOU MUST complete both steps to be entered once.
To be entered twice you need to share this blog post on your facebook page or Twitter. Please include your FB page or Twitter name so we can confirm! a Rafflecopter giveaway