Easy Almond Bars

These bars are super easy to make.  No fuss, no waiting to cool to add layers, no strange ingredients.  In fact, the only ingredient you need to be sure to have on hand is a package of sliced almonds (well, and the almond extract….but one bottle of that makes quite a few pans of bars).  Perhaps this recipe will become your go-to when you suddenly find yourself needing to bring bars to a get-together.  Here it is:

4 eggs

2 c. sugar

1 c. butter (melted)

2 c. flour

1 Tbls. (or less) almond extract

1 c. sliced almonds

powdered sugar

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Beat eggs and sugar until lemon colored.  Add butter, flour, and almond extract.  Mix and spread into a 9×13 pan.  Sprinkle almonds on top (you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve nearly omitted this step!).  Bake at 325 for 25-30 minutes.  Upon pulling from oven, sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Enjoy!!

Meeting Violet Vander Kooi

At 39 weeks and 2 days, I had an OB appointment. I was told I was dilated to a 1, and that I ought to schedule an appointment for the following week but it was doubtful I’d make it that far. I wasn’t sure what to think about this, as I had gone into early labor at 36 weeks and 5 days and actually had checked into the hospital. I was told at that time I was dilated to a 3, and shortly thereafter my contractions went from being 4 minutes apart to more and more spaced until they just stopped.

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33 weeks pregnant. We never thought to take a photo of me while in labor.

Two nights later, I had contractions throughout the night that weren’t very intense, but certainly kept me awake. I knew Joe was planning to leave at 6:00 to chop corn silage, so I got out of bed at 5:00 to do some housework to see if my labor progressed. Instead, it seemed to quit so I didn’t even mention it to Joe as he left. Grandma Deb had invited Ava to go with her on a bus trip to the Clay County Fair, and so I dropped all the kids off at school in the morning. It was an odd day for me with no children and I accomplished a lot of things at home. Throughout the day, I would go from having 5 or 6 contractions in an hour to not having any contractions the next hour. I picked the kids back up at 3:00, we came home, and I did heifer chores. Then, I decided to rest on the couch as Vince and Liv brought me papers from their work at school, and Ava brought me books to read to her. I was having quite a few contractions. Suddenly, a much more painful one came, and I decided to stand up. Just then, my water broke and I tiptoed off of our rug safely!

After a minute, the full realization of what just happened hit me, and I called Joe. It was 4:30. Thankfully, he answered and then asked what the plan was. My response was, “Um, I need to think about this.” I was so caught off guard. I proceeded to call my sister, who is a family doctor, to get her opinion on how much time I had. She said 2 or 3 hours. I needed to find a place for the kids, and one of my sister-in-laws was in California and another was hosting a birthday party for her son. I called my third and last sister-in-law, Kia, and she was 30 minutes away. I hung up with her and Joe called me back to say his dad was going to replace him and he would be home as soon as possible. Kia called me back and said her nanny was on the way. I called the hospital. The receptionist was very nonchalant when I told her I would be in by 5:30. She asked me if it was my first child. I impatiently replied, “This is my fourth child. Things need to be ready when I show up.”

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Her first screams.

 

I hung up the phone and the kids are all standing around me, looking bewildered. They had definitely been listening in. I explained to them what it means when a mom’s water breaks and that, after months of waiting, the baby would be born yet that night. I told them I needed to shower and they were to each pack an overnight bag. Great excitement ensued and they ran off to gather their things. As I showered, I realized I really hadn’t had much for contractions while on the phone and began to doubt the reality of it. As I finished, McKenzie the nanny arrived as well as my mother-in-law. I had food in the oven and fridge to feed the silage chopping crew that night so we all worked together to gather those things to put in my mother-in-law’s car. I kissed the kids good-bye, they hopped into McKenzie’s truck and I started to pack things. Joe came home and showered. We both grabbed a few last minute things and were about to get in the car outside when I had a very, very long contraction. I can’t ever stand to sit while having contractions so I just kept waiting for it to end while leaning against the car door. Joe kept trying to decide if he should get in car because the contraction should just about be over, or come over to help me. Finally, it ended but it was certainly a turning point in labor. The drive to the hospital was about 8 minutes and I had one more major contraction while in the car. I began to have another one as Joe was parking so I hopped out. Contractions kept coming as we made our way to check-in. Two EMT’s saw us in the parking lot and decided that they were going to accompany us until we were in the care of nurses and a doctor. Each time a contraction would come, I would have to stop walking so the whole process took about 30 minutes.

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I think that Joe realized he could just as well wear a nice shirt for our 4th child’s delivery….of course photos will be taken.

 

Two nurses and Dr. Sebata greeted us at the front desk and we all went to the delivery room together. They wanted to check my dilation immediately. Dr. Sebata quickly announced, “It is 6:00 and you are dilated to a 6. This baby will be here before 7:00.” I was in a bit of disbelief. My water had just broke 1.5 hours earlier and things were such a whirlwind. For the next 30 minutes, it was very busy with attaching monitors and getting an IV line in and of course the 20 questions they think you need to answer while in labor. I was fairly annoyed with the one nurse who was constantly adjusting the heart-rate monitor. Really, my contractions were not overwhelming and when they asked me to rate my pain, I estimated it at a 3. I honestly thought they would get much more intense but they never did. I would sit on the edge of the bed and then stand and lean on Joe with each one. At 6:30, Dr. Sebata checked me again and said I was a 9. Joe was very encouraging that I was almost done. I said I didn’t believe it because they didn’t even have the table with all the tools set out. The nurses and Dr. Sebata laughed and pointed to the table they said they set out immediately after first checking me. I had a few more contractions and was told I could push if ready. I had delivered Liv, our second child, while lying on my side, and Ava, our third, basically fell out so it was a little difficult for me to push while on my back but that was the strong recommendation of Dr. Sebata. It was discouraging for me and I needed a few tips and coaching between each contraction. Suddenly, my body just sensed what to do and I think that really, the time had just come.

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I’m not really sure why I am posting a photo of me straight out of the shower and wearing my pajamas, but I guess it is all I have!

I remember the excitement at the report that the head was right there and the reports of a lot of hair. Then, to my amazement, the unexplainable joy at the sound of a child’s first cry. Joe cut the cord and they exclaimed, “It’s a girl.” The time was 6:50.  As they passed her up to me, she continued to scream. I was still so in shock and awe and the emotion I remember the most is just plain elation. Even after experiencing childbirth 4 times, it is still just a difficult feeling to put into words. After spending much time enjoying her and feeding her, they wanted to clean her and measure her. She was just 7 pounds and 1 ounce — my smallest girl. She measured 20.5 inches and did, in fact, have quite a bit of brown hair. I showered and as I was finishing I could hear Joe’s sister bringing our other 3 children into the room. It was endearing to see their excitement and awe. After they left, Joe went to grab us some Subway as we were both starving. We enjoyed some time together while eating and then Joe left at 10:00. I was able to snuggle my new baby girl most of the evening.

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So blessed!

 

In the morning, Joe brought the kids to the hospital after enjoying some of the fun of Turkey Day, our town celebration. We agreed to the name Violet Ann Vander Kooi. He left me a carseat and brought the kids to his mom’s clothing store to watch the parade so he could get back to chopping silage. Violet and I waited at the hospital until 8:00 at night to complete some bloodwork. It was a relaxing day, yet I was so ready to go home and begin a new chapter in our life as a family of six. At 8 days old now, she is an absolute joy to care for. Vince, Liv and Ava have been great helpers and the excitement is still very evident in them. Joe hasn’t been home much except for sleeping for all week but I know that seasons change and he is providing for our family. I am still just overjoyed at the miracle of a new baby and feeling blessed beyond my biggest dreams.