This Blog is Closing! Well, Moving, in a Sense :)

This will be the last new post on Feeding the Family for Less.  I have joined forces with Anna over Molding Minds Homeschool.  We are having a great new giveaway to celebrate. A $50 Visa Gift Card and a Taste of Home Cookbook!   :)  If you already follow me here, please hop on over to Molding Minds Homeschool so you don't miss anything!

Be sure and join over there to receive email, twitter, and facebook updates!!

Do NOT comment here to enter the giveaway.  Only the entries done at Molding Minds Homeschool will count!

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Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips - Are They Yummy?

Having a kid on a special diet is so hard.  Yes, I did just whine a little. I love food. My kids love food. We particularly love chocolate.  A lot.  A. Whole. Lot.  Especially when it is baked in to that decadent form of gooey goodness we call chocolate chip cookies.  Oh yeah.... To my dismay, all the mainstream chocolate chips have dairy and soy lecithin added. Boo.  Soy lecithin is on the "no no" list for my son and we are limiting dairy.  What when chocolate chip manufacturers thinking when they added an ingredient like soy lecithin to unsuspecting chocolate?  Because the only thing I really know about soy lecithin is that it is an emulsifier and I don't understand the manufacturing process of chocolate chips - I can't answer why they put it in there! LOL....  But, I kept searching the good search and finally found what I was looking for!



Why, YES! You did hear angels singing!
Mini chocolate chips made by Enjoy Life.  They are free. Well, not free dollar wise, but free of a lot of different allergens and stuff.  They are gluten, dairy, peanut, tree nut, soy, egg and casein free.  You would think that a chocolate chip without that stuff would not be a choco-piece-o-heaven, but a choco-piece-o-well.... you know..... not good.  I have to say, I was a bit skeptical (what if they did not melt and I had dry toasty unchocolately goodness?) and the chocolate chips were not cheap by any means, but I bit the bullet and brought home. 

They were AWESOME!  They melted and everything!  They tasted marvelous!  My kids, my husband, and my refined tastesbuds could not tell they were lacking any of those allergens......  That is good!  I can not wait to try these on other things, like in my trail mix recipe!  Woot!

Ok, so here are the details if you want to snag you a bag.  You can buy Enjoy Life chocolate chips in mini chips or chunks. They are available online at The Gluten Free Mall or at your local grocery store for around $5 a bag.  Enjoy Life also has many other products I am excited to try out, like their boom Choco boom chocolate bars. If you click on that link there is currently a coupon for 75 cents off two!  It is worth your time to run over to their website at http://www.enjoylifefoods.com/, and check out their other products.  You may find it makes feeding those on those "free" diets much easier.

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"Mommy, I'm Scared, Can I Sleep with You?"

When I lay down at night with my husband, I can pretty much count on there being more than the two of us that wake up in our bed.  You know how it is, you are sleeping, content, dreaming; all the stress and wrinkles of the day are melting away. Your body is hard at work making repairs and your brain is busy processing all the day's data, storing it away in our brain files.  

Then I hear it.  The sound of carpet fibers being bent and crushed under little feet.  I hope it is the dog.  But, I know deep down, that it is one of the children.  What do they want.  My brain stops processing the former day's information.  A file or two - particularly the one containing the memory of where I put my car keys, is dropped on my brain floor.  My body stops making repairs, the emerging grey hair, wrinkle, or skin sag will be allowed to continue on it's way to making me look a year or two older than necessary. 

I feel tapping.  I initially try to ignore it.  Maybe if I pretend it is not there, it will go away like your bills.  What child is it?  Is it the littlest one, the typical one who is so sweet to snuggle with still?  She doesn't take up too much space, and the smell of her hair is about as precious as it can be.  That would be okay.  The tapping gets more insistent.  I hear the voice of my six year old daughter.  "Mommy, I am scared, can I sleep with you." 

I say, "Go get your pillow and blanket and you can lay on the floor."  Don't judge me, this child snores like a freight train and coughs every 5 seconds due to her allergies. She is not snuggly. She is all arms and legs and muscle.  She says, "I don't want to sleep on the floor. I want to sleep with you."   I tell her to go around and ask her father.  I am hoping that he tells her the same thing.  Nope.  He hauls her up into the bed and puts her smack dab in the middle.  I am thinking I could have done that, I just did not want to. So now, I get to look like the mean parent.  I am laying there trying to get comfortable with a six year old's knee in my right side, while her coughing threatens to drive me to full insanity, when I hear more feet. 

It is the snuggly one.  She trips over something in the floor and starts to fuss, I tell her to come to me and haul her up in the bed.  She is sleeping on my left side.  I am a mommy sandwich.  I find myself thinking that it could be a long night and briefly consider the sofa, or one of the now empty kid's bed.  I wonder how exactly am I going to extract myself from the bed in the morning without waking one of them up. 

I sorta sleep.  When I wake up in the morning, I flip the 3 year old, who has drooled in my hair, over my body and put her next to her sister.  In the process, I wake the three year up.  Why is it she can stay asleep in the car, at 5 pm, when I don't want her to sleep and we are trying everything to wake her up, but is the lightest sleeper in the world at 7 am?  I wake up a little cranky and she is now asking me to carry her to the livingroom.  I make her walk.  I know I am a mean mommy.  But, I have not even had my first cup of coffee yet. 

I really do try to appreciate all these moments, even when they are hard and I am tired.  I try to remember graciousness and gratefullness, because they really do get big way too fast.  I sit on the sofa, hold my preschooler and drink my coffee.

I will leave you with this.  I have always loved it :) Enjoy!

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Close Yer Eyes Kids, We are Trick or Treating...

Today, the weather was beautiful. The sun was warming our tiny part of the earth to just the right temperature, the breeze was barely noticeable, but welcome, and clear skies made everything just look right.  Our city held it's whateverth annual downtown trick or treating event.  After much consideration, and a peptalk courtesy of myself, I decided to take the kids and my mentally handicapped adult brother. 

Let me just say here, that if you called to tell me I won a million dollars, I don't think that my screams of joy and delight would equal that of my kids when I passed on the good news.  I am pretty sure it took me a full 20 minutes to regain my hearing.

I applied make up - no on myself - but on my 3 year old daughter, my 6 year old daughter, my 11 year old daughter, and tried to figure out what I could do to my 6 year old son with my handy dandy dark brown eyeliner pencil.  I could not think of a single thing, so I just combed his hair and helped transform him into Samson, pre the Delilah, blindness, and suicide part.  My girls were made over into Tiana (my single white child), a bride (my 11 yo) and a little girl in a white dress (my 6 yo's words, not mine).  While it was really fun to put mascara on my 3 year old, it wasn't so much on my 11 year old.  I had visions of poking my own eye out with the mascara wand.  She would. NOT. stop. freaking. blinking.  Before any of you decide I am violent or now blind and eyeless, just know that I refrained. So, keep the braille books to yourself - for now. 

I loaded up Samson, Tiana, Bride, Little Girl in a White dress, and Mario (my brother) and headed down town.  On the way, I was giving myself yet another pep talk about how I was going to react should anyone say anything indecorous towards me or my brother when he attempted to procure the free candy by saying the magic words, "trick or treat".  So what he has facial hair, is 5'9" tall, and looks like he is 37 (he is).  He mentally handicapped and I think has probably trick or treated every year for the past 37. It is like, a habit now.  I decided I would just uhm, give them back their candy in a way that left no doubt as to what I thought about them acting like the candy police. 

We arrived downtown and saw throngs of people, and I use that word lightly, people not throngs..... There were witches and dead things, princesses and Jedi knights, and there was an abundance of skin.  Who in the world is the parent that lets their daughters dress up in costumes that I would consider lingerie, or at the very least a fun night at home while the kids are with a sitter.  "Yes honey, I will be red riding hood and you be the big bad wolf." Rawrrr....  Who are the companies that market such costumes to preteen girls?  Is it the same company that decided push up bras and thongs for 8 year olds and preteens were a good idea?  Why are we doing this to our girls?  It is all very disheartening to see that our daughters are being encouraged to find sexiness at such an early age.  How is this going to teach our daughters that they have value and worth because of what is inside their hearts and minds instead of what they have on their bodies?  So stinking frustrating it is....

Besides the initial concern that someone would be rude about my brother trick or treating, the abundance of preteen and teen age skin on display, and losing my 3 year old for a 30 second eternity, it was a fun time!  It was like a test run of the halloween costumes... 

What are your plans?!

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Chocolate Cupcakes - Soy, Dairy, and Dye Free

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes



Mix together and set aside:

2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of  baking powder
pinch of finely ground sea salt

In a mixing bowl, cream together:

1/2 cup cocoa
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
3/4 cup of rapadura

Add in:

1 egg

Take a scant 3/4 cups of almond milk and the flour mixture and alternately add t the bowl.  Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes until creamy.

Pour into greased or lined muffin tins. Should make around 6 to 8.  Bake in a preheated over, 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.  Cupcakes are done when toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.


*Notes:  These cupcakes are not overly sweet. If you want them sweeter, add less cocoa.  If you do not like the somewhat grainy texture of whole wheat flour, use white (at your own risk of course!).

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Where We are Today is Not Living in the Past

As a stay at home mom, I have looked around and thought, "What the heck am I doing here. I am not good enough for this. I will never be what I need to be. I will never be able to do what needs to be done."  These types of thoughts are unproductive and only serve to make things worse,  but they are there and often sends me looking for that magical book, list, website, home notebook, box of index cards, or just sends me to the sofa with a bag of chips, a bowl of ice cream and a diet soda.  Does that make me lazy?  Does that bring to light the possiblity that I lack self discipline?  Does this make me a failure at my job?

Seriously?

The Magical Be A Success at Life Mommy Book
I think it makes me human, real, and driven.  I am driven to find better ways to run my household. I am driven to try harder to be a great mom, awesome wife, and good home manager.  I am also driven to find some kind of affirmation that I am a worthwhile human being when I get into one of those "mommy funks."  I just recently read a blog post about not idolizing the pioneer.  It was a great, eye opening article and can be found here.  We do expect a lot our of ourselves and frequently use our idea of what the pioneer woman was or the Proverb's 31 woman as our model. 

"After I get these back to cozy log cabin I built, I will slaughter the deer, smoke the meat and whip a new bonnet."
The idea that those standards would work in our modern world is just silly.  The pioneer typically lived in a one room house, had few clothes, and had a much simpler way of life.  When it was dark, there was no light and everyone quit working, because they could not see. Their days were shorter in that regard.  They also generally did not work on much of anything on Sundays, using that day as a full day of rest.  While Proverbs 31 woman certainly has really good character traits and we should desire to emulate the Biblical qualities she has, she also lived in a very different world.  She sold at shops, bought land, and planted things.  She also had servants, a different set of real estate laws, and did not have to worry much about sales tax, merchant accounts, and Quickbooks.

If evolution were true, this is what I would look like....

Todays modern conveniences, like running water and electricity, have enabled us to have longer and more productive days.  We have to know that people in the way back when, got to turn it off at 6 pm in the winter, and everyone went to bed early because candles and oil were expensive.  They got more rest.  So, if I as a mom, have a longer day of schooling my kids, taking care of them, making meals, have a bigger home with more clothes, dishes, and indoor toilets to clean; I am going to be tired.  Our bodies and our minds will give out on us on occasion.  My most tired times come when my body is preparing for that uhm "special" time of the month that most women get the uhmmm pleasure of experiencing.  I believe this is hormonal for me and other than getting more rest and making sure I am at least trying to get some nutritious food in my body, there is not going to be much else that can fix it.  Call me lazy if you want to, but please avoid the hours of 1 pm and 2 pm.... I will be napping.

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Home Schooling a Chronically Ill Child - And the Rest of the Kids, Too!

Homeschooling is difficult all by itself, but when you throw in a chronic illness, it feels impossible.  On one hand, you want your child to be "normal" and to learn at a normal pace.  When a child is ill, they fall behind and it can be overwhelming.  Then, you have your children who are not ill.  What do you do with them when you are busy with the sickly child or worse, stuck in a hospital. 

I don't have the answers.  But, I do have a child that suffers from an undiagnosed chronic illness, that has landed him in the hospital more than I would like to see.  I hope I can encourage you, as a parent and a teacher, to persevere and offer some helpful suggestions.

1. Pare down your curriculum.  This is not the time to have a very teacher intensive curriculum.  We are Weaver lovers.  But it is very teacher oriented.  I simply can not keep up with it.  I have my older child doing a workbook curriculum and my younger kids are doing computer based phonics. We use Click n Kid Phonics and Starfall.  We also use Math U See.  The video teaches the lesson, and my 6 year old only needs minimal assistance after that.

2. Lower your expectations of yourself as a homeschooling parent.  It is a great goal to want to read the entire set of Little House on the Prairie books, but if your child's illness will not permit him to be up for extended periods of time, or if you are too busy holding his hand while he is vomiting, you may not be able to accomplish this.  It is ok.  Sometimes I spend the majority of my day cleaning up after my sick child and nothing else really gets done. 

3. Lower your expectations of your children. The entire family will feel the stress of having an ill child in the home.  They need time to come to terms with this and with the fact that your attention will seem unfairly divided sometimes.  This is likely to cause some acting out.  When this happens, it is not a good time to ask about their math lesson.  This is the time to hand out extra hugs and love.

4. Read a lot of unschooling blogs and/or books.  This really helped me.  I was able to see how parents managed to raise children who still all learned to read, all learned to do basic math, and all still enjoyed learning.  I also got lots of ideas about how to promote an attitude and spirit of learning in my home. 

5. Involve education in your child's daily life.  Leave down the scissors, colors, paper, and glue.  Play eduational videos from netflix and your library. Listen to audio books. I have been surprised at how much my kids have picked up simply by watching Sid the Science kid.  Thanks to him, even my 3 year old knows what a hypothesis is......

6. Let your children play together without everything turning into "school".  Your kids need each other.  They need to be able to play with your ill child and your ill child needs to be able to play with them.  My son has had several good weeks.  He is currently having some issues.  The good weeks, I let him play.  We did a little school, but mostly he got to run and jump and play. He learned to roller skate with his sister. They wrestled and colored together.  Should I have been "doing school" or should I have just let him feel good for a little while?  I opted for the latter.  Should my child die from his illness, I will rest easy knowing that he got to be a kid.

7.  Ignore the naysayers. No one knows what your life and day is like except you. Follow your instinct.

Above all, be patient as your family learns how to navigate these waters. 

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Chili in a Biscuit Bowl

I get recipes in my email from various websites.  I stole the idea but not the recipe.  There recipe had a lot of things we are trying to avoid as well as, what I viewed, unnecessary ingredients.

Biscuit Bowl
4 cups of whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
11/2 teaspoons of sea salt
1/3 cup lard
3/4 cup of unsweetened, unflavored almond milk

Mix dry ingredients first.  Add lard. Mix in until coarse and crumbly.  Add milk.  Stir to make a dough.  If it is too dry then add more milk, a little at a time.  Divide in to 12 equal pieces.  Press each into a muffin cup, pressing up along the sides until if comes up just above the muffin pan, and forms a bowl.  Bake at 400 until done and lightly browned.  Set aside.

Chili

2 pounds of ground beef
1 can of black beans
1/4 cup homemade taco mix plus more to taste (link will take you off site to the recipe I love, I do omit the red pepper)
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 can of diced tomatoes

Cook ground beef, drain. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir and heat through. 

Get your biscuit bowls. You may need to scoop out a bit of biscuit from the middle.  Add a couple tablespoons of chili. Serve hot!



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Girdles Are Not Hot

Blogging is especially awesome when you have a great story to tell.  Usually, my stories somehow involve my personal moments of humiliation.  But, if you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

I lost several pounds, like 50, right before I got pregnant.  I looked great.  I worked out 2 hours a day and was toning up quite nicely.  Then, I got pregnant.  No one tells a first time expectant mother that pregnancy will take the skin from your back and put it on your belly and sides.  They don't tell you that those cool, snug fitting screen tees will no longer look right on you because of the loose skin pregnancy give you.  I was so proud of myself for losing most of the baby weight that I decided that I would invest in a waist cinching, back fat smoothing girdle.

I was going to look HOT! A shopping trip was definitely in order.  So, I gathered up my nursing baby and  left my older children with my husband and went to Kohls.

Baby and I arrived at Kohls without any incident.  We strolled on over to the ladies department and continued until we had reached the foundation garments.  I looked through my options.  I needed something I could wear while nursing, so the one piece things with straps were out of the questions.  I almost gave up home when I spotted it:

A waist cinching, back fat smoothing thing of beauty!
I took a couple down and flipped the size card over to get my correct size.  In my past experience, these types of things tend to run big, and I was right on the edge so I got the size right below what it called for. That was my second mistake, the first was that I left the house at all.

The baby and I headed into the dressing room.  I took off my shirt and attempted to wiggle into the girdle.  When it did not slip on easily, I should have rethought the whole idea.  But nope, not me, I was determined to have my cinched waist and smooth back.  I took a deep breath, let it all out and slid it on. 

There it sat. Trapped between my armpits and my breasts.  Please recall that I was a nursing mother.  As in, I was regularly manufacting, what my baby thought, was manna from Heaven.  The pressure of the girdle on top of my chest was uncomfortable to say the least but I had just nursed baby, so no milk leakage.  PHEW!  I figured I had come this far so I gave it a good yank and got it on. Crooked.  I twisted and leaned and grunted a few times but I finally felt like I got it into proper place.   I knew before I even looked in the mirror that this was not going to be my magical answer.  Even so, I turned and looked in mirror.  BIG. MISTAKE.  The boning on the side was pushed out funny and the whole thing was crooked.  The places between the boning were bulging a bit, smoothly bulging though!

My waist looked unnaturally thin.  And all that looseness that was causing me so much grief?  It had to go somewhere.  It went above and below the girdle.  I found that no matter how much I twisted, stuffed, gathered, or sucked in, that this was not going to be right.  Just to make sure, I tried my tshirt on over it.  Nope.  It looked like there was commotion going on under my shirt.  So. Sad.  Oh well, who needs a girdle. I will just work out more, diet after I quit nursing, and then would not need one anyway.  I decided to take it off and just forget the whole idea.  I put my hands around the top and tugged it upwards.

It. would. not. come. off.  I was seriously trapped.  I will not repeat the words that went through my head at this moment. 

I felt a bit panicked.  I pulled and tugged and yanked for a few more minutes.  Then I called my best friend.  She just mostly laughed at me.  I think I recall her saying she would come and help if she could, but maybe she did not have a way there. 

I tried pulling it up, I tried pulling it down.  NOTHING worked.  It was not budging.  The only thing I managed to do was to get it somewhat twisted to where the side boning was going straight up the middle of my front side.  After all this commotion, the baby woke up from her lovely nap and started to fuss. I felt my milk let down. Oh crap.  I soaked the nursing pads right away.  The compressions that I was doing trying to get out of my body noose was not helping.  I had no other choice but to attempt to nurse the baby.  I sat down and nursed her.  It is amazing how you can marvel at the wonder of life even in the most dire of circumstances.  While I was nursing, I contemplated my options.  I could call another friend to come and help me.  I could call the waiting room attendant to bring scissors.  I could wear it out of the store and hoped to not be arrested.  None of these seemed like good options.

I did not want to explain to my husband why I had to spend $40 on a girdle that was cut into two pieces.  I also did not want to secure a criminal record.  I have to admit, I giggled a bit as I imagined the morning headlines.....

Anyway, after I nursed the baby, I was finally, FINALLY, able to jiggle the stupid thing off.  But, I did learn a lesson that day. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS go with the recommended size first.


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Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love to bake things for myself my kids, and chocolate chip cookies rank as the best.  Thinking about making them healthier and soy and dairy free posed a challenge.  First of all, chocolate chips have milk and soy lethicin added, don't they?  Not all of them.  
Not this kind! It is soy and dairy free and they taste good (which is always a plus!)
So, then I just used the toll house recipe with a few substitutions:

Chocolate Chip Cookies - soy and dairy free

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the following in a bowl and set aside:

2 1/4 cups of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt

Put these into a bowl and mix VERY well:

1 cup of solidified coconut oil (I put mine in a cool, dark closet that makes it soft enough to use, yet solid enough to do what I needed it to)
3/4 cup organic sugar
3/4 cup organic brown sugar
2 eggs

Add the dry ingredients slowly into the wet mixture.  When it is just incorporated, stir in your chocolate chips. 

Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake for 9 to 11 minutes.

They are very, very good.

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Bread Pudding

I wanted to make Bread Pudding for the kids. It was relatively easy to work out according to our new dietary guidelines. I had to fight for the picture! The grey looking spot in the middles is from where I was blocking the light. It was that wonderful brown color all the way through. Like I said, I had to basically beat the children out of the way to get to it!
I used homemade soy free, dairy free yeast rolls that did not turn out exactly right. They were really too heavy for eating as a bun or roll, but just right for this! I will be sharing this recipe as soon as I get the kinks worked out. :)




Bread Pudding

3 cups of soy free, dairy free bread chunks
1 cup of Almond Milk (I used vanilla flavored)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted

Mix milk, eggs, oil, and sugar until combined. Pour over bread chunks and stir together. Set aside while you make topping

Topping
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 heaping tablespoon of solified coconut oil (put in fridge for a bit)
1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup of brown sugar

mix with fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over pudding mixture.

Bake at 375 for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top starts to brown and the pudding is set.

Serve warm!

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Whole Wheat Bread

My son is tired of having store bought pita pockets.  It is the only bread I can find that doesn't have soy or dairy in it.  So, I knew I was eventually going to have to make some bread.  I rock yeast rolls that are made with white flour. I can make a loaf of white bread that will make you wonder why you ever bought Wonder.  But, to make bread with 100% whole wheat flour?  I knew that this bread comes out denser and heavier than what most people care for.  I did not want to post a recipe until I had one that was lighter than my past efforts.  The secrets are good yeast, proofing the yeast, a firm hand when kneading, and a good 2 risings.  It is still heavier than white bread, but the flour is heavier and denser, so one will just have to get used to it.  My son was THRILLED with this, and was very excited he got bread again. 

Whole Wheat Bread

1 1/2 cups of warm water - 110 to 115 degrees - I use a thermometer
2 teaspoons of yeast
3 tablespoons of rapadura
Mix these three together in a large mixing bowl and let sit 5 to 10 minutes.  This is called proofing the yeast. Don't skip this step.  It wakes the yeast up and gets everyone moving!  The yeast, after 5 or 10 minutes, should be frothy, bubbling, and puffy looking on the top.  If no significant change has occurred, then dispose of the mixture and try again.

To the proofed yeast add:
1 cup wheat flour
1/3 cup of honey
1/3 cup of coconut oil

Stir until completely combined.  Add in more flour, 1 cup at a time until the dough ball starts forming and you can no longer stir, approximately 2 more cups.

Sprinkle flour onto a flat surface and turn dough out and sprinkle more flour on top of it.  Set a time for 11 minutes.  Start kneading.  Initally this will be easy, but around the half way mark, this will become exercise.  Put your back into it and do not shy away or quit early. This dough needs a good work out, it will be next to impossible to over knead it :-) 

After kneading it for 11 minutes, poke your finger lightly into the top.  If it is springy and firm, then you can stop kneading, if it is still soft and has no bounce, then you need to knead it for 5 more minutes. 

Here is a link to help you learn to knead bread:  Bread Kneading

After kneading the dough, place into a bowl that has been greased with coconut oil and then brush top with more coconut oil.  Cover with a dish towel and place in a warm spot to let rise.  I turn my oven on to 350 and put the dough on top of the stove (NOT IN THE OVEN).  It will rise best if the temperature of its location is 80 to 90 degrees. 

When the dough has doubled, after approximately an hour of rising, punch dough down.  That means ball up your fist and punch down into the middle of the dough.  My kids loved that part!  Form your loaf and put the dough into a heavily oiled bread pan.  Brush top of loaf with oil again.  Cover with the dish towel and put back into it's nice, warm spot. 

Let rise until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Put your newly risen loaf straight into preheated oven and bake until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when you thump it.  About 25 minutes or so, but this can greatly vary according the the size of your loaf, etc...

When the bread is done, take out and resist slicing until it has cooled a bit.  Enjoy!

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Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

This makes a an 8 or 9 inch pie. You may need to double it if you have a larger family.  I just served lots of veggies and bread on the side and got by with one. 

2 cups of homemade white sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt (more or less to suit your taste)
1/4 tsp of pepper
1/2 tsp of thyme
1 cup shredded or chopped cooked chicken
1 cup of frozen mixed veggies or carrots and peas
1 homemade pie crust

Preheat oven to 400. Mix all ingredients except pie crust together. Taste the mix.  If it is bland, add more salt and pepper.  Pour into 8 or 9 inch pie deep dish pie plate.  Cover with pie crust.  Poke holes in top using a fork to vent.  Bake until crust is done and pot pie is done.

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A Basic Soy and Dairy Free Roux & "Cream of" Soups Substitutions

A lot of recipes will have some sort of white sauce or "cream of" something.  I thought this would pose a challenge to recreate in our new diet.  But, most of those sauces start with the basic roux.  You can do a lot with a bit of flour. This uses whole wheat flour, so it is not "white", but it is still a roux, and you can make several things with it!

Roux or White Sauce

1/3 cup wheat flour
2 tbsps coconut oil
2 cups of UNSWEETENED almond milk (Unless you are making something sweet.)

Melt coconut oil in skillet.  Add flour. It should be the constistency of glue.  Add a little more oil or flour if needed.   When the mixture is hot and bubbly, add 1 cup of almond milk, stir with whisk until smooth, it should start to get thick quickly.  When it is smooth and thick, add 1 more cup of milk. Stir until hot and thick. 

That is the base.

If you want:
Cream of Onion - Saute a finely chopped onion in oil, before adding flour.  Add salt to taste.
Cream of Mushroom - Sauted 1/4 finely chopped onion and 1/2 cup finely chopped mushroom in oil. Salt to taste
Cream of Chicken - Make as directed, except use 1 cup of homemade chicken stock in place of the 1st cup of Almond milk, then follow as directed. Salt to taste.
Cream of Celery - Saute 1 cup of finely chopped celery in oil, before adding flour.  Add salt to taste.

If you want white gravy for country fried steak, biscuits or the like, just add salt and pepper to the base until it is yummy. 

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Pie Crust

Pie Crust

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cold coconut oil
pinch of salt
ice water

Mix flour with coconut oil using fork or pastry blender or food processor. Slowly add ice cold water until the dough starts to form a ball.  It should be slightly dry. Chill for a few minutes. Turn out onto floured surface and roll to desired thickness. 

This pie crust will work for pot pie, fruit pies, quiches and any other time you need a pie crust.






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Changes

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you will know that my little boy has been frequently ill with an undiagnosed illness.  He has been sick for the better part of his fifth year.  He has been hospitalized for 20 days, spread out over four different instances and has been to the doctor more times than you can count.  I have to do something.  This out of control, can't help him feeling is for the birds.

So, while I can not diagnose him, I can do everything I know to help support his body so it can function properly.  I can also remove things from his diet to see if this is some sort of food intolerance.  So, we have removed soy, dairy, and dyes from our home. 

This is a very new way to prepare food for me.  I am used to butter, and lots of it, vegetable oil, cheese, and a few (very few) processed foods.  So, this is a new journey for me. Hopefully, it will help my child feel better and maybe I can even shed a few pounds along the way. 

I have already made several things, took pictures and will be posting these items to my blog in due time.  Please feel free to share your ideas with me!

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Jello Fruit By Anna


Anna is a mommy blogger of three homeschooled blessings. Visit her blog at www.moldingmindshomeschoool.com

Pinterest is my current favorite social media site. The idea is that you post (or "pin) pictures of things that interest you and share them with others and others do the same.


For more cute food ideas visit http://www.cutestfood.com/

 I had a TON of jello. Boxes and boxes of it. It had been sitting in the pantry for several months waiting for me to make it. So when I found this idea on pinterest, I had to try it!


Here are the instructions for how to make Jello Oranges:

Mix up several colors of Jello

Cut oranges in half (I used easy peel cuties) and scoop out fruit.

Pour jello into orange peels and let set.

Slice oranges with sharp knife.

And that is it! You have a fun snack for the kids. Mine loved it!



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Organizing Kid Toys - Taming the Beast

If my kids toys are all over their rooms in piles, all they can see are random arms and legs, blocks, and car wheels.  This also somehow attracts yesterdays pj's, a stray sock or shoe, and a roll of toilet paper (I don't know either!)  So, if you are anything like me, you send the child(ren) into their rooms every so often to clean up the mess.

This is what we want, and are generally hopeful enough to picture....
We hope the children disappear into their rooms and actually start putting things away.  Instead, at my house anyway, you hear shrieks of laughter and the children having more fun in their room than would have outside in a mud puddle.  So, we going to find that the children are not channeling Martha Stewart, they are, indeed, playing. Playing with all the things they found boring and uninteresting just an hour before telling them to clean thier room.  This is where you, my reader, and I part ways.  I turn into this:
Then after giving further instruction and threatening them them with all manner of horrible punishments encouraging them to do better, I walk out of the room.  I hear nothing.  Being a mother now for several years, hearing nothing is never good.  I go in and find the children like this:
You start with the mess dear children! Sweep it all into a pile, throw it away, no nevermind those toys cost MONEY, so put them away into the boxes that I have graciously provided you. 
Just clean up the messes you have made my little dahlings... 
Mommy will be ok in a few minutes, she just needs a drink air.
My children have never been able to guilt trip me very easily, and therefore have learned to not be guilted into things by me or very many other people, for that matter.  So, my tears will mean nothing to them. In fact, the one time I told my three year old that I would cry if she did not give me kissies, she looked at me and grinned and said, "Ok, Cry!" She was thrilled at the prospect....

There has to be a better way to help them keep their stuff picked up.  When their stuff is picked up and all organized, they actually play with it. So, you can see why this would be important to me.  So I bought a toy organizer that has bins in it.  The bins are open so the kids can easily see their toys.  They already have a book shelf in their room, so I also bought 4 of those fabric bins to use on the shelf.


IT WORKED!  My 3 year old played with the barbies last night. Then, she put them back! WOOT!  My son played with his cars, and he put them back! WOOT!  It is a magical thing!!!  I suppose the newness of the toy organizer will wear off, or they will eventually use the bins for making mud pies outside (gotta figure out a way to strap those babies down) but, for now there is peace with the toys.

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For My Friend, Anna, In Honor of Aluminum Foil

Yesterday, my friend Anna, over at Molding Minds Homeschool, challenged me to do a philosophical post on aluminum foil.  I don't do deep and philosophical.  I don't have time to contemplate why tin foil has two sides.

Both useful and fun!
But, I can offer a new contest, leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite use of aluminum foil for your first entry.
To get a second entry, and therefore a bigger chance to win, run over to Anna's tin foil post at Molding Minds Homeschool and leave a comment for her, letting her know that you are entering the contest from here ;)

I will send the winner 500 square feet of Reynolds Wrap (a $20 value!) to do with whatever you please!  I will be picking the winner, using some kind of random way, next Wednesday, August 23rd.

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Six Seconds

video

This is my son playing his version of "Angry Birds."  My 5 year old son and 6 year old daughter set this up. I was in the livingroom all vegged out contemplating the meaning of life, when I started hearing crash after crash followed by shrieks of laughter.  My daughter came to me and asked for more cans for their "obstacle course."  I investigated and saw this mess.  I almost got irritated, after all, I do believe they raided the trash can, but then just had to laugh.  They had a ball. 

This was a six second reminder about just how fortunate I am.  I was never supposed to have kids. I have been blessed with four! God is indeed merciful, I have done nothing to deserve them!  Count your blessings!

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Finding Joy

The past homeschooling year has been so hard!  With my son's illness, it was like I was lost and trying to find my way out of a strange city without a map.  You know there is a way out, the city is only so big, right? But, even if you try to stay straight, there is a fence that is too high to jump over, a creek too high and busy to swim across, so you have to go around it and then you are off course.  Nothing felt safe. 



Scary times!
  When nothing feels safe, there is fear. Fear steals from us. It sucks the joy out of us, and makes it difficult to get up in the morning.  This is no life to live.  I have a coffee cup that reminds me, "Life is not a dress rehearsal."

I tell people all the time, that seek my advice, in all situations there are things we can "pick."  Today, I pick joy.  I want the joy back that fear stole from me. I get to pick that!  I may not get to fix my baby, but I can choose to show him how to live life. :-D

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Spectacular Crepes

Crepes, the word that can strike fear into the hearts of the best home cooks.  I was up for the challenge.  I found a recipe out of a magazine and set out to conquer it.  I assembled my ingredients. 000_0001

Notice the diet soda?  That is for my nerves, not the crepes. 

I mixed up the batter, per the recipe instructions.

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The first one I made was a flop. My heat wasn’t right and my batter had a couple of teeny lumps in it that I failed to notice.  I also was following the instructions of the recipe meticulously, so I did not have enough of the batter in the pan to swirl around.

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I went ahead and cooked it through and tasted it.  It was AWFUL! When I taste a crepe, I want to taste a nice sweetness that is not too overwhelming.  This batter tasted like an egg with a bit of flour thrown in.  So, I made some changes and tried again.

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Cooked until the top looks dry.

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I turned it over and repeated the entire process five more times.

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Don’t these look nice!  Some powdered sugar at this point and a fork would have been fine!!!! But, no! Some frozen berries with sugar and yogurt and you get this:

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This was DELICIOUS!!!!

Here are the recipes I used.

2 1/4 cups of milk

4 eggs

1 1/3 cup of flour

3 1/2 teaspoons of sugar

pinch of salt

butter

non – stick skillet

Mix the milk and the eggs with a whisk until well combines. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt until well combined.  Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Whisk like mad! You want this batter to be like VERY thin pancake batter. I was going to say the consistency of syrup, but you want it just a tiny bit thinner than that.  Once all the lumps are gone, the batter is ready. Set aside.  Make whatever filling you are going to use.  Get out a wire cooling rack and the butter.

Heat your skillet on medium to medium high heat – you will have to play with this a bit!  Put in a small amount of butter, just enough to BARELY or just barely cover the bottom of the pan, DO NOT go overboard with this! If your skillet is hot enough, the butter will start sizzling and melting right away. 

Pour about 1/4 cup or a bit less, into the skillet, IMMEDIATELY pick the skillet up and start swirling the batter until it is covering the bottom of the skillet and set.  Place the skillet back on the heat and cook until the top of crepe is dry and you notice the edges are starting to brown. Turn the crepe over using luck, a spatula, your fingers, or a Pampered Chef mix and scraper; whatever you are comfortable with. Cook for 30 seconds or so until the bottom starts browning a bit.  Make sure the crepe is not sticking and turn the skillet upside down over your wire cooling rack.  Hopefully, your crepe will fall out flat onto the rack.  Smile  Mine did! WOOT!  When it is cool enough to handle you can add the filling, either a sweet filling or a savory filling.  We did both!

 

Fruit and Yogurt Filling

2 cups of frozen berries

1/2 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of yogurt (I used strawberry)

Mix the berries and the sugar. Pop into microwave for 45 seconds to thaw it.  Stir in yogurt.  This is SO GOOD!!!! Put a few tablespoons into the crepe and put some of the syrup part over the top with a bit of powdered sugar. 

 

Beef “Stroganoff” Filling

2 cups of leftover grilled sirloin steak

5 tablespoons of sour cream, divided

1 can of cream of mushroom soup, divided

1/2 cup of beef broth

Shred or chop steak. Mix in 3 tablespoons of the sour cream and 2/3 of the mushroom soup. Heat until warm over medium heat. Set aside. Mix the rest of the soup and sour cream together, add enough broth to make it into a sauce that you can pour over the finished crepes.  It should be close to the consistency of your crepe batter, maybe a bit thicker. Smile

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How to Boil Water

I hear all the time about how people "can't cook".  They seem to have a mental block where all things food, save for eating, is concerned.  Boiling water is a challenge.  During a conversation with a cooking challenged friend, I asked how this could be possible.  It seems so simple to me, this idea of cooking, how in the world can it be so complicated for others?  The discussion enlightened me, and I offered lessons to her. So, if you are cooking challenged, here is the first lesson.

Pay attention. 

Seriously,  that is the first order of business.  We have to pay attention to our recipes, our stoves, our ingredients and the time.  My daughter wants to be a good cook.  She has made multiple attempts at this, and it seems that she is chasing an impossible dream.  Her main problem? She doesn't pay attention and will therefore lose steps and/or forget ingredients.

Here is your first pratical lesson; boiling water.
1. Put a pan of water on the stove.
2. Turn the heat on high, put a lid on the pot.
3. Wait; when the water starts bubbling a little, this is a simmer, not a boil.  When it is bubbling and rolling and generally looks very active, this is a rolling boil.  It is ready for whatever you need to boil.

If you are prone to distraction, then set a timer in 5 minute intervals to remind yourself to check on the water. :) 


 

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Another Really Fast Dinner Recipe: Cowpoke Beans

If you live anywhere south of the Mason Dixon, you have seen something very similar to this dish. I make it when I need something SUPER quick that my kids are guaranteed to eat. It is mucho cheap to make and mucho fast.

Cowpoke Beans

1 pound of ground beef
2 - 20 ounce cans of you kids favorite baked beans (get the amount relatively close, either a little over or a little under)

Fry ground beef until done, drain fat.  Add beans to the skillet, heat through.  Serve.  :-D Seriously, that is it. 
This is really good as a baked potato topping, as well.  It is also good served with potato salad or coleslaw.  I have been known to serve it on a bun as well, topped with some monterey jack cheese. 

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Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I put off reading this book for quite some time.  I heard about it over and over on the news and read a few blog posts on it.  I was frankly not interested in buying a book and subsequently supporting what seemed to be a horrible mother/person. 

Boy was I wrong to judge.  I don't usually consider myself a judgemental person and generally consider myself to be pretty open minded and easy going.  But, I do have to admit, I let the opinion of the masses sway me on this.  I finally got around to reading the book and let me tell you what! It was a wonderful book. 

As mothers, we tend to put forth our best parenting and best game faces around everyone but our kids.  We hide our flaws and our occasional lack of good judgment when we are around other people.  (Our children truly do know us the best LOL.)  Amy Chua put it all out therem for everyone to see.  She made no apologies to us, the reader, but really let us in the most personal parts of her life where it concerned  her children.  What started out being a book about how Chinese parenting style was better than Western parenting style, morphed into a telling of how she raised her two daughters the best way she knew how.

Although, this is not a parenting manual, she really did challenge me and the expectations I have for my own children.  I can see where I have been too lenient, too harsh, and just right.  She really believed her daughters were so capable that she pushed them to discover their limits. In turn, her daughters learned their limits and even moved past them to accomplish a great deal.  I saw how I tended to "settle" for mediocrity when my children are capable of so much more than that.  It is unfair to them.

I don't want to say a whole lot about the book's contents, as I don't like to spoil it for a new reader. So, I will close this post with this; I have officially learned, never, ever, judge a book based on what other mommy blogger's say......

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New Recipe: Mexican Casserole

A few years ago, right after I got married I ran across a recipe that called for refried beans, ground beef, and Jiffy cornmeal mix.  I have since stopped getting Jiffy in an attempt to not eat so much processed food, and the recipe is also long gone.  I thought about corn pudding and that recipe and decided to smash them together for a more "one dish meal" approach.

Mexican Casserole

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 envelope of your favorite taco seasoning mix (I use my own and will post the recipe at another time)
3/4 cup water
1 can of refried beans or 1 1/2 cups of your own
2 cans of cream style corn
1 cup of self rising cornmeal mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
 1/3 cup of sugar

Heat oven to 425.  Brown the ground beef and drain. Stir in taco seasoning and water.  Cook until most all the water is gone, but beef is still fairly moist. 
Spray nonstick spray in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Spread beans in the bottom of pan.  Spread cooked and seasoned ground beef over the beans. Set aside.
In another bowl, mix the remaining ingredients.  Pour over ground beef.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the casserole is starting to brown and the corn pudding is set.

Serves 6 to 8

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The Care and Keeping of Mosquitos

I am often told that I share what others may keep to themselves, for fear of mortal humilation.  I can't help myself.  Sometimes things are just too funny to hoard.  So, at the risk of being made fun of, I am going to tell a funny story about how you should, as a mother, always trust your first instinct, particularly if you are feeling too lazy to investigate further.  :)

My children often visit the "pond" beside our house.  It is not really a pond, but a good sized mud puddle that never seems to dry up.  It is about a foot deep and about 2 foot in diameter.  :-D  They came in the house with jars of the "pond" water and were all excitedly chattering about the tadpoles they found.  I looked and said, "I don't think it is tadpoles, I think they are baby mosquitos."  They insisted they were tadpoles, so I asked their dad about it.  He confirmed that they were not baby mosquitos, but some other kind of water bug.  Well, I briefly looked closer and saw a big head and a tail on the little jokers, and said, "Ok, they are tadpoles."  Made sense because we have numerous frogs and toads out here, they are literally everywhere, like a plague or something. 

Anyway, we put the jars on the mantle and then on the back of the sink in the kitchen.  The kids asked me to help them find out what tadpoles eat, so they wouldn't die.  So, I made a couple calls and looked up some web pages about the care and keeping of tadpoles.  A couple of pieces of lettuce in the freezer later and we had tadpole food.  The children enjoyed tearing off teeny pieces and threw them in the jar.

Yesterday, I noticed that there were a couple of mosquitos floating on the top of the water in jar. There were also a couple of dead tadpoles so I fished them all out and put them in the drain.  Mosquitos are very thick around here and we have to spray on bug spray and light citronella candles if we want to be outside at dusk, so it did not occur to me to think anything other than a couple of mosquitos got into the house and were thirsty. (Stop laughing at me.)

This morning I got up and noticed ALL the tadpoles were dead.  At this point I knew something was up.  I inspected it more closely and realized, they were not dead, they were empty shells. When a mosquito bit me as I was standing there by the kitchen sink, contemplating that I had been taking care of icky bugs all this time, I was not suprised, but I was pretty ticked.  How dare that mosquito bite the hand that fed it.

I killed it. 

Then I ordered a "grow a frog" kit for the children.

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It Takes a Village.... and Chainsaws...... and beer?

A secondary title for this post could have been, "You know you live in the south when......."  A member of my family/slash very good friend had the nerve to go out of town to New England.  God decided to punish them for leaving His country by sending a very strong wind to knock down the biggest, oldest tree in their front yard.  This tree provided the majority of the shade in their front yard and all the shade for their house. It was a Pin Oak of impressive size and girth.  It was a beautiful tree when it was standing and housing birds and squirrels but, laying over on the ground with its root ball standing straight up, it is just a big mess. 



That is my beautiful daughter perched on top of the root ball!

The local utility company came and cut up the tree where it had fallen across the road and kindly stacked it all up in their yard :) Thank you so much! 

I got a text a few days ago from these family members saying that there would be free food and beer for all those who came to help dispose of the tree mess.  Well, OK!  Giant tree! Chainsaws! FREE food! And umm beer?  Most people might shy away from beer drinkers using equipment that requires some what of a steady hand, else it could cut off a limb!  You know a limb - like an arm or something!  But not me.  I was raised a southern girl and have since turned into a southern woman.  We are tough, strong, and possess a sound mind that is not afraid of work (unless it is housework - but that is different).

I put on a pair of blue jeans with a hole in the knee, loaded up all the kids in the van and off we went.  After breakfast we set to work. There was a total of 15 adults and 15 children. We had to take care of the part of the tree that fell in the neighbors yard first.  The neighbor had told them earlier that he was in no rush to have it taken care of, and evidently he wasn't. He stayed in his house the whole time and did not even come out to offer a cup of coffee!  He was probably raised in Vermont or something and probably drinks coffee with sissy stuff like French vanilla creamer.  He probably even believes it is *actually from* France.

I won't sugarcoat it.  It was hard labor.  But I tried my best to do my share and earn my free lunch, just like my daddy taught me.  The beer made its appearance and everyone proved that this family comes with class and ethics, meaning no one got too sloshed to run the chainsaws.  On a side note, my husband suggested we would have a bad future should I choose to imbibe, so I abstained. But that is ok because he looked totally hot running a chainsaw.

My DH in all his hotness...

This was altogether a full body work out.  I have muscles that I did not know existed.    The satisfaction of taking apart this huge tree, branch by branch, and seeing it all in nice piles of brush or stacked wood, was entirely too gratifying.  But it was fun and I did figure out that I am more cut out to do that kind of stuff than I am to clean my house. And I don't feel near as guilty about french fries I ate today!

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Happy Mother's Day

In September of 2005, my son was born. I can not tell you his birth weight or what his APGAR scores were or whether or not he was born with hair.  He was born to a woman that would later make an excruciating decision about their future. She would change the way both our families looked.  She would make it possible for me to have a son.  It was our miracle, a realisation of our prayers.  It was her sorrow, regret, and longing for a better life for him and her, all mixed up into one bag of emotion. 

My oldest daughters were born in March of 2000 and January of 2005.  They were born into neglect and abuse, to parents who were caught in the throes of addiction and poverty and seemingly could not find their way out before they lost their children to the bad choices they made.  I struggled to hold back my tears as I watched the juvenile court judge strip the birthmom of her parental rights.  When she appealed the decision, it seemed like I held my breath the entire three months that it took for the appellate court to issue the ruling that affirmed the lower court's decision.

I do not ever forget that my opportunity for motherhood came at the tremendous price of someone else's prayers not being answered.

I always wanted to be a mom.  I never wanted anything else.  When I got married at the age of 21, I fully expected to give birth within the first year.  (Frankly, everyone else thought it would be within the first 8 1/2 months seeing as how I married my spouse after knowing him for 17 short days.)  Instead, a month after our first anniversary I found out that we would not ever have children without expensive medical intervention.  Devastated does not begin to touch what I felt.  Eight years later, I adopted my first child, what would be my only son.  A year after that I adopted my two oldest girls. In between the adoptions, I got pregnant without medical help, and delivered my youngest daughter.  I get the pleasure of living the dreams of my childhood while I am still young. When the children are grown, I will pick a new dream, but for now I will just live the dream.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are mothers and to those of you that, for now, just dream.

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Italian Beef Sandwiches

A big hunk of beef - 3 to 5 pounds
12 to 15 ounces of hot pepperocini peppers
water or beef broth if needed
3 to 5 tablespoons of Itatlian seasoning
1 medium onion, chopped
3 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced
Crushed red pepper (optional)
plenty of salt and black pepper
Crusty rolls of some kind.

Put beef roast in slow cooker.  Pour in jar of pepperocini peppers, juice and all. Pour in enough beef broth or water to cover meat half way. Put in 1 tablespoon of italian seasoning per pound of meat. Thow in chopped onion.  Put in 1 minced clove of garlic per pound of meat.  If you want it hotter, put in some crushed red pepper.  Finally, sprinkle on plenty of salt and pepper.  Set the crockpot to high, and cook for 6 to 8 hours.  Cook it until it is shredded EASILY with a fork, and then cook slightly past this stage.  Meat that is easily shredded can still be a bit chewy on a sandwich if it is not super tender. 

Taste your broth. It should taste pretty good, if it is a bit bland, add salt. If it is too spicy, add beef broth.  Now, depending on how fatty your beef was, you may have accumulated a bit fat on the top of the broth. You can remove the meat, pour the broth into a bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes.  The fat will be on the top, just skim it off with a spoon if you want too. 

Put the beef on the rolls, and then dip the whole thing into the broth. YUM!!!!  or just place a small bowl of broth beside each plate for everyone to dip their own sandwiches in.

Do not make this recipe harder than it has to be.  None of the measurements have to be exact. :)

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April has brought not only showers of rain, but showers of hard times as well.  My son got very sick again the last of March and continued into april.  We spent the first 3 or 4 days of April in LeBonheur in Memphis, another day in our local hospital, and then 8 days at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio.  Not one of the doctors we have seen are able to tell us what is wrong with him.  Up until now, we thought he had Intracranial Hypertension. That has been called into serious doubt.  Up until now, I could tell people, "At least he doesn't have anything that will take his life."  It has crossed my mind, that although whatever illness he has is not likely to kill him, we don't know that for certain anymore, and the uncertainty is heartbreaking. 

I feel like the rug has been pulled out from beneath me, I am wobbly and confused.  Making the smallest decisions can be difficult and tend to take more thought than I care to give them.  I am overwhelmed by otherwise simple tasks.

I have looked over the house and declared on more than one occasion it was a disaster and needed to be cleaned.  I have found that the state of my home is a pretty direct reflection of my state of mind. It seems to big of a task to take on, so I am doing things slow and trying to be easy on myself and my family.  Yesterday, I went to the grocery store and a friend came to visit in the evening. She brought her two youngest kids with her. It was a fabulous distraction. Tonight, we had pizza and I straightened my daughters' hair with a flat iron. 

Maybe tomorrow I will fold the clean laundry or go get my youngest the birthday present we did not get around to getting for.

Tomorrow is the first day of May.  I am lifting my glass to it with this thought, "Bring on the May flowers."

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Traveling For Less and an Update on My Son!

I had to take my son to Columbus, Ohio, to see a neurologist who specializes in his condition.  It is a full eight hour drive on its own, and when you add a five year old on some serious diuretics and a mommy who has a  bladder that acts like a five year old on diuretics to the mix, you take 10 hours to get there. 

I am generally the whiny one who thinks that going through a drive through will be easier and faster rather than packing sandwiches for everyone whenever we go anywhere.  I like a sandwich okay, but cold slices of meat on bread is not my idea of a meal. 

My wonderful cousin made the drive with me.  She wanted to make sure I did not turn into a hysterical, slobbery mess in front of the doctor got all my questions answered.  An added benefit of bringing her along for the ride is that she travels ALL. THE. TIME.  As in she will say she is going to go running with you tomorrow, but then she won't show up because she will actually be in Tim-buck-to, which she won't think about when she makes the offer, even though she is due to leave as soon as she gets back home.....

Anyway, she knows how to eat cheap on the road. Well, not only eat cheap, but eat GOOD!  So, I am here to offer her wisdom mangled by mingled with my own.

  • Do not premake the sandwiches.  Keep the bread seperately from the other fixins'.  This way the sandwiches will be fresh and the bread not soggy.
  • Bring what you will eat.  If you love PB&J's then bring bread, peanut butter and jelly. 
  • Package fresh fruits and veggies, ready to eat in zipper bags, in individual portions, so whoever wants it can just reach in the cooler and get it.
  • Bring a cooler! 
  • Bring bottled water or other clear drinks.  If the kids spill water it is generally not a big deal to anyone who did not get wet in the process.  (Drinks packaged in pouches or boxes are generally not a good idea because kids tend to squish the liquid out through the straw, trust me on this.)
  • Do premake salads and wraps.  Package them as single servings in Ziploc bags.
  • Only use brand name zipper bags.  The generic tend to leak.
  • Bring plastic forks (for the salads), paper towels, a regular bath towel (for the serious messes), and a box of baby wipes. 
  • Bring yogurt in the plastic tubes, string cheese, baggies of cheese crackers, graham crackers, and single serve bags of cookies for easy snacks.
Here is you a couple of ideas for some wraps.
Ceasar Salad Wraps
Tortillas, Flat Out Bread, or some other kind of wrap that you love
Red Pepper, seeded and cut into strips (optional, but I LOVE it!)
Cooked chicken, chopped
Romaine lettuce
Ceasar Salad dressing
Shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Spread some dressing on the wrap.  Top with some lettuce, chicken, pepper strips, parmesan cheese and some salt and pepper.  Do not overfill, go easy on the toppings, otherwise it will be hard to wrap. 
Fold the bottom of the wrap up over the ingredients about an inch or so.  Flip one side over the whole wrap and roll up while using your fingers to tuck in the sides as you go. 

Red Pepper Avocado Wraps
Red Pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
Avocado
Lime juice
Red pepper hummus
Alfalfa sprouts
Baby Spinach
Turkey slices
salt and pepper
Wraps of some kind

Peel the avocado, half and slice it into thin slices. Dip the slices into lime juice.  Spread a nice layer of hummus on the wrap.  Top with avocado, red pepper slices, sprouts, spinach and turkey. Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper.  Again, go easy on the amount of toppings you use.  Wrap up and place in a ziploc bag. 

Now, a quick update on my son; The neuro is questioning the diagnosis of pseudotumor cerebri.  We are to take him off all his medication and see how he does. If he gets better, we will assume the PTC diagnosis was correct but it is gone now and the medicine was keeping him sick.  If he stays the same, we will be doing an arteriogram.  He has had some really good days as of late, so I am really hopeful. At any rate, we have found a wonderful doctor!!

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New Recipe: Pasta Bake

1 package of rigatoni, penne rigate, or other smallish noodle
3 cans of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup of water
1 tablespoon of italian seasoning
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper
1/2 tsp of onion powder
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
1 pound italian sausage, casings removed
1 package of italian & herb Philly cream cheese
2 to 3 cups of mozzerella cheese

Start heavily salted water boiling for noodles.
Meanwhile, pour tomatoes, water and seasonings in a pot with a lid.  Bring to a wild simmer.  Put a lid on the pot and let it go, just stir it occasionally.
Start browning your italian sausage.  (If you had the time, you could actually break it up and put it raw into the sauce and let it all cook together, but I did not have the time or the inclination last night.)
When the water for the pasta is at a full rolling boil, pour in the noodles.  Cook them for as long as the package says to, minus 1 minute.  :-D  Stir the pasta right after you put it in the pot and once or twice during cooking, but do not stir it everytime you look at the spoon or the pasta.  The last thing pasta needs is for you to be whacking at it with a spoon all the time.
Pour the cooked sausage into the sauce and drain the pasta.
Now that everything is cooked, it is time to assemble.
Get a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Put the pasta in the pan.  Spread the cream cheese over the pasta.  Sprinkle a cup or so of cheese over the cream cheese.  Pour the sauce over this.  Sprinkle on the rest of the mozzerella and put it in the oven.  Turn the oven on to 350.  It will cook as the oven heats up.  You are not making a cake so it doesn't matter if the oven is cold when you put it in there.  When the cheese is melted and starting to brown and the center of the dish is hot, it is done.  You could even put it in the microwave if you wanted to and had a big enough microwave. 
My family loved this!

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10 Facts about Your Child and the Hospital

I am sitting here at 1:30 in the morning at the children's hospital with my son.  Because my son can not sleep and therefore I can not sleep I had nothing else to do, I opened up the trusty laptop and decided to write a blog post. So here it is:  Ten Facts about Your Child and His Hospital Stay

  1. The IV will always be placed in the most inconvenient spot. 
  2. Your child will complain about being tired, yet refuse to sleep.
  3. You will, at some point, decide sleep is for the weak. 
  4. When the doctor makes his/her rounds, it will be after your child has finally "got snuggly" and is getting some serious shut eye. 
  5. Because you decide to follow the advice of the well wishers, you will try to sleep when your child sleeps.  To do this comfortably, you will remove the most offensive undergarment you have on - the bra.  For whatever reason, this sends out an invitation to all the doctors, residents and med students, to come and visit your room.  If you are anything like me, this will cause you to hunch over to the point you resemble Quasimoto with his arms crossed.  Hospitals rooms are cold.
  6. Hospitals sell burgers for the same price fine dining restaurants sell rack of lamb.  You will pay it, living off Mr. Discover, and cringing when you think about having to make small monthly minimum payments on lunch.
  7. There is no such thing as regular meal times while you are a guest of the hospital.  For instance, I ate breakfast, lunch and supper at 9:30 last night. 
  8. The food at the hospital is not the whole grains and  fresh food the USDA encourages.  My potato soup was made from instant potatoes, the sandwich was processed deli meat, with processed cheese on white bread.  It is like the hospital is saying they will get you in there one way or the other.  I do have to say though, the chipotle mayonaise was a hit with my taste buds, as were the Dibs ice cream and barbecue flavored Fritos!
  9. A 5 year old on lasix will wet through any pull up that is on the market today.  *He will do right after he or you falls asleep, while you don't have a bra on, and when the doctor is due to stop by at any second.*
  10. The fold out cot, bed, recliner, or couch in your room, will take a master's degree in engineering to figure out.  At one point of trying to figure out how to make it long enough to sleep on, you will just consider making a pallet on the floor.  You will decide against it though, because sleeping on the floor (with no bra) will broadcast the extra special super signal all over the hospital and nearby towns.  Everyone will visit you, including the hospital social worker.

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