I am wife to a magnificent man and mother to five wonderful children. Three of my children were born in the Northwest and two were born thousands of miles away in Liberia, West Africa. Birthplace is no matter, all of my children were born in my heart. This is our journey.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Making affordable meals and a recipe you can use for the Superbowl.

Now, more than ever, finding a way to make meals affordable is important. Just last week I took 6 pounds of hamburger from the freezer. We purchased a beef and paid $2.29 per pound. Then with other supplies totalling just over $4, I made 2 meatloaves and 58 meatballs. In total there was approximately 20 servings made for the $18.00 including sauces for the meatballs. That makes it $.90/serving. Add some rice and a salad or veggies and you have a nice meal for over $1 per person. I will be honest and tell you that I make my own cream of mushroom soup that I used for one of the sauces and it saves us a lot.

The recipe that we use is like no other. I have tried meatloaf seasonings pre-made in the store and oh my, I can't stomach the stuff. This recipe, however, works for both meatballs and meatloaf and we can't get enough. These meatballs in the homemade BBQ sauce are excellent for Superbowl Sunday or a potluck. When they are finished cooking you can throw them in a crockpot to keep them warm and head out to the party or potluck. Thank you Aunt Cheryle. With her permission, here is the recupe for the meatballs and one of the sauces we use.

I double this recipe and make meatloaf with it as well:

3lb lean hamburger 12oz. evaporated milk
1 cup oatmeal 1 cup smashed crackers
2 eggs 1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp garlic 1 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder 1/2 tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Make into golf size balls (our kids are great at this). We freeze them on freezer paper and then package them up with our foodsaver.

When you take the meatballs out, place them in pan. Cook in oven heated to 350 degrees with sauce for 30 minutes if thawed, 45-60 minutes if frozen. The cooking times are close to the same if you make meatloaves out of it.

BBQ Sauce
2 cups ketchup 1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp liquid smoke 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup finely chopped onion

Stir all ingredients together until sugar is dissolved.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Corralling the chaos. Aka cleaning the kid's rooms.

Naive people that we are, Steve and I decided that we would try something to get a handle on the rooms that our children live in. On Saturday we had them bring everything from their rooms down to the living and dining rooms. I mean everything. Toys, belongings, clothing and bedding. There were only bedframes and mattresses left in each room. They were each given a blanket to put their own things on and it was not a pretty sight. There was not an inch of clear floor space . Our point was that we wanted the kids to see what all of their items looked like in one place. It makes it much easier to part with things once you see how much space they take up. Els was very accurate when sitting amidst her mountain of possessions she said, "This is just embarrassing."

We have a boys room and a girls room. We do have one extra bedroom and someday it may get occupied but for now this works well.

We are all very pleased with the results. The girls each have a large basket that slides under the beds for things they do not want on their shelf on the bookshelf. They also each get one bin on the bottom of the bookshelf for things they use often.

Steve added a shorter closet rod in the girls closet so now each girl has a section. There are less clothes in the dressers and we actually were able to take one out of their room. They each have a treasure box that sits on the top shelf in the closet and these boxes are reserved for very special items that they do not need access to daily. Here they keep special letters and momentos.

I am still working on the walls but this feels very clean and managable. There you can see two of the baskets under Lil's bed. Man, that view looks bare. Isn't it nice?

This is the sitting/reading/dressing area in their room. Each girl has a place to hang her robe. We would like to add a rug and a few throw pillows here so they can read or play here. (Steve also painted this wall with a nice toasted wheat color to cover an unfortunate marker incident.)

The two boys have a smaller L-shape room. They really like how it layed out now also. Bub has a place for his trophies and football memorabilia and you can see their laundry basket. Their bedding was still in the dryer at press time.

We moved in a bookshelf my dad made and purchased some bins. Lij has bins now for his animals, blocks and cars. There is space for their own books and instruments. Bub also likes having a safe spot for his boom box.

Most of the clothing is hung in the boys room also. They each have a storage box for the floor of the closet for toys and belongings as well as their treasure boxes on the top shelf of their closet. They share the one dresser for underclothes and pajamas and there is a lower shelf in the closet for shoes. Under the bed the garbage and fire trucks roll in nicely and Bub has a basket under there for storage as well. He even said this afternoon, "Well, our hardwork paid off." I would agree. The whole house feels lighter.

Unfortunately, during the great clean sweep, our washer gave out. We are under warranty but the repair man can't come until Wednesday. So now we are heading out to Nana's to wash clothes and have dinner. Now that their rooms are so nice I do not want to lose ground. Can you blame me?

Friday, January 23, 2009

The tightrope of life.

The balancing act of being parent is no small task. Now I know there are some pretty tough jobs out there. Air traffic controller I am not, but that doesn't diminish the responsibilities that are required of a parent, male or female. For me, an important piece to my balancing act is giving my brain time to rest.

After busy mornings schooling, we recently had to change the way we do quiet time around here. We have five children and 1pm - 3pm has always been our downtime. However, in the last few years we have gone from 5 children 6 and under to 5 children between the ages of 4 and 10. That really changes things as several of them have graduated from naps.

This last week we had a family meeting of sorts. Some of the older ones have a habit of entering the napping territory and forgetting their consideration somewhere along the way. Also, this time has become a time of "Mom, can I's" leaving me feeling like an activity director all day long.

We sat the older three children down and told them that we realize that they are no longer nappers but that does not mean that quiet time is not needed. We explained to them that while they are not responsible for the way mommy feels and behaves, they can have a significant impact either way. I shared for a bit about my personal choice to stay home with them and that our time is very valuable and short with them. I wanted to stress that is important for them to learn how to entertain themselves for periods of time and how healthy that is. It was really important to me to make sure that the kids understand that this is not "me time" which can have a self centered focus. This is a time for all of us to recharge, practicing consideration for others as well as the pursuit of individual interests.

So this is now how quiet time works in our home. Everyday at 1pm the two youngest are read a story and sent to bed. During the story time the older three are to get any activities they would like to work on. They may not go upstairs to get anything after the youngers are resting. They will read on their own for 30 minutes and then they have 90 minutes of free time. 30 minutes of that may be spent on media such as the Wii, a TV show or computer time.

I have really been enjoying our quiet times lately. You will often times find me sitting on the couch reading a book, working in the kitchen, getting to some projects or resting. At the same time the older kids are working on things that aren't very friendly to younger kids such as big lego projects or painting projects. It's very nice and I am feeling not as weary when 3pm comes like I used to.

“This post was written for Parent Bloggers Network as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by BOCA.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Necessary Evils.

We went back to the eye specialist for a check-up. The outcome was that while she has made progress with her lazy eye, they believe that it is now as good as it will get. The next step is to patch her and see how that goes. 7 days a week for 2 hours each day she gets wear this cute and hip patch. She isn't a big fan but she knows that it's going ot help her eye. If we know anything about this girl, it's that if she can see the logic in something then she is on board. She wears it everyday after nap/rest time and it seems to be working out really well. She is rested but not trying to school while wearing it. We have also been getting a little math in very sneakily too. For the first few days she was asking about every 30 minutes how much longer she has. She now knows that each day she a pie with 4 parts. When she asks we tell her how many parts she has done and how many there are to go. Isn't that a great way to expose her to fractions?
We also have the option of skipping the patch and give her blurring eye drops for her good eye 2 days per week. We haven't tried that yet. We are going to do the patch for a couple weeks and then try the drops. We told her she can try each and then decide which one is easier for her to handle.
I am really proud of the way she is handling it. She has been a trooper through it all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lifting my spirits.

I have been feeling a little blue lately. I think I have a bit of cabin fever. We usually take a trip during the Christmas season even if it's only for a few days. This year we decided to stay home and work on projects as we are planning a larger trip this summer. It seems that my body and mental state are used to taking that trip. It felt really good to get the things accomplished that we did but it seems that I gain a lot of perspective when we go away for a few days.

Sunday was a gorgeous sunny day though cold. Really cold. But after our naps Steve went outside and decided that it would be a great evening to burn a pile of things that we have been waiting to burn in the firepit. We all bundled up and headed out.
Doesn't that look inviting? It really was. We were in and out making dinner and different kids got to spend one on one time with Dad by the fire. It was toasty by the fire but quite a bit less toasty a few feet away. But it didn't matter. It was just nice to get outside and enjoy some time together.

Of course, no first outside fire of the year would be complete without roasting marshmellows. We broke out a bag and everyone had a couple before retreating to the warm house. We had fun and my spirits were lifted.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Feeling a little down today.

Nothing tragic is going on but just having a down morning. I didn't have a great start to my morning and then things sort of progressivly went down hill. I thought maybe a picture from the last college football game we went to would cheer me up. So here it is.

It was a fantastic game and I had a really great time with the kids and Steve. The picture brings back the memories instantly. This was the sky just as the game was ending. I had to snap a picture. Only 8 more months until next season!
(I realize that football isn't everything, it's just a really fun way our family spends time together.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A husband who rocks and a winner!

Wintertime is always time for indoor projects for us and this winter is not exception. Steve had the week off after Christmas and he set to work. He painted the family room and the downstairs laundry/bathroom.

Then to ice the cake he built me a folding counter. We have yet to pick a surface for the top but it is getting lots of use already.

He also put in a closet rod so I can hang up certain items as soon as they come out of the dryer. Beautiful. Just beautiful. This counter is saving mine and the kids' backs while we fold and everything stays in neat little piles until they are put away.
He also put an in the wall ironing board for me which made me smile for days. No more taking the rickety ironing board out. Plus it has a spot with metal sides that holds the hot iron when we are done so it can be put away right away. Amazing. Really it doesn't take a lot to make me happy. Organization makes me a little giddy and this project didn't let me down. I would post a picture but the front is currently off being stained to match our trim.
But on to more important business. There is the issue of a winner of the giveaway celebrating one year of this blog. We placed all of the entries into a fancy cereal bowl and pulled out a winner. Musicmommy you are it! Email me at samaddox at yahoo dot com with your address and I will send your prize to you. Congratulations!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A few of my favorite things.

***Reviews up at Making the Grade Reviews.***

The moment you have all been waiting for. I know you thought it would never come but here it is. I decided to share with one lucky, randomly selected commenter a few of my favorite things.

What can you win? Well, let me tell you. In the basket (for photograophing purposes only) is the following.

1. A $5 Starbucks giftcard, because nothing says loving like a tall Sugar Free Vanilla Frap light. Say that three times fast.

2. A package of my favorite salted and roasted almonds.

3. A moisturizing anti-bacterial soap from Bath and Body Works. The scent is Dancing Waters and it smells sooooo good.

4. 2 color coordinating buckwheat hull freezer bags for an unfortunate headache handmade by yours truly.

5. Last but not least, there are 3 of the cutest little candles in three shades for those Calgon-take-me-away moments.

So how can you enter? There are three ways. Leave me a comment telling me how you found me and how long you have been reading. If you have your own blog, you can post an entry telling your readers about this contest with a link to my blog. If you do that, leave me a second comment with the link to your post. Third is if you a link to my blog in your sidebar. That's it! Easy as pie. I will leave this post up until sometime Tuesday evening when we draw a winner.

Thank you to those that read along as we navigate through parenthood, adoption and homemaking!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hang in There...

It really is coming. I am working on a nice giveaway as I type. I am hoping those tens of readers I have will like it. Keep checking. It's coming soon...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A day to take note of and a giveaway coming!

Tomorrow is the first anniversary for my blog. It was almost one year ago that I embarked out on keeping a journal of our family life. I needed a place to "talk" about the goings on here as well as a place for some personal reflection. Being a mom is hard. Really hard. But also really, really rewarding, making it absolutely worth it.

This blog has helped me to process things as they happen. Check back tomorrow as I will be hosting a giveaway celebrating my first year. You never know what the loot might be!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Kicking breakfast up a notch plus a new snack.

Breakfast is becoming a little hum drum around here. No one is unhappy. I am just bored making the same thing over and over again. It usually involves some form of eggs and in light of my recent health issues including high cholesterol it seems that a few days per week we should lay off the eggs.

This morning we had oatmeal with yogurt on top. Most of the kids liked it. The ones who didn't just didn't care for the multi-berry yogurt flavor. I will remedy that soon as we will be making our own yogurt in the very near future. How cool are we?

I made the oatmeal with a little bit of butter, added ground flaxseed for heart health and then topped it with yogurt. Healthy and decent tasting. Let me tell you, that means a lot coming from someone who can't stand oatmeal.

Sunday I was in the mood to make something new for a late afternoon snack for my family. I came across a recipe here for soft pretzels and my on my were they a hit. We dipped them in ranch but you could use any dipping sauce that you would like or none at all. They were just as yummy plain too. Enjoy!

Soft Pretzels

4 1/2 c. flour

1 1/2 c. warm water

2 t. kosher salt

1 T. sugar

1 package yeast (2 1/4 t.)2 oz. melted butter

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in a bowl or stand mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Let sit 5 minutes until it begins to foam. Add flour and butter and knead 4-5 minutes. Oil a bowl and put dough in when done. Cover and let rise 45-55 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring 10 c. water to a boil with 2/3 c. baking soda. Break off small amounts of dough and roll into a snake-like coil. It's easier to shape if the coil is thinner. Shape it into a pretzel form and place into boiling water for abut 30 seconds each. Remove and place on well greased baking sheets. Beat 1 egg mixed with 1 T. water and brush on the pretzels. Sprinkle kosher salt on and bake for 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them at the end so you can take them out when they are lightly golden brown.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A second chance.

**New reviews up at Making the Grade Reviews.**

I knew that homeschooling would be a rewarding venture but there has been an unexpected benefit. I received a good education and did learn a lot despite a few teachers that needed to be in some sort of therapy. Two of my teachers had exploding episodes where chairs were flung about the room. Granted, some of the kids that they had to deal with may have led me to an emotional breakdown but it fostered a less than academic atmosphere. In the early days of my education I attended a school that had an excellent reading program and this formed a strong foundation for learning in my life. So much can be learned by reading. I am reasearcher by nature and if a topic comes up that I need information on, I am quick to find a book or eight on the subject.

The aspect that I am loving about homeschooling is the second chance at an education. I chose not to go to college, a decision I don't regret. But there is something to be said for learning as an adult. I had good and bad teachers and a few mediocre ones. The teachers that made a difference in my learning were the ones who were excited about what we were learning, that presented it as new and learned right along side of his/her students. I love those aha! moments as I am learning right along side my kids. We are both excited and I think that is a positive example to them. Learning is not only sitting inside a classroom. I want to foster a life of learning for my kids. It's the walks in our neighborhood when we discover a new plant. It's a teaching moment in the car about grammar or a new vocabulary word that someone uses at the dinner table that everyone wants to know the meaning.

I want my kids to love learning. There is great satisfaction for me when we are talking about something and one of the kids runs to get a book to get more information. I think one of the best gifts you can give your kids is to teach them how to learn. They ask me questions all of the time. I don't always have the answers but I know how to get them. That's what I want to teach them. Not all of the answers, but how to get the answers.

This morning I am feeling grateful for the opportunity to learn right along side my kids. (Thanks Mom for all of the reading to us you did when we were young, it made a difference!)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

He proved himself

Back in the summer Bub asked if he could have some fish. We talked about it and decided that it wasn't the time as everyone's interest in our dog had faded. They loved to play with her and take her for walks but as far as feeding her and letting her out in the mornings and afternoons without complaint, well, that was another story.

As time went on, Bub started showing some maturity in helping with the dog. He began being the first one to let her out in the morning, feeding and not complaining when something needed to be taken care of pet wise.

We weren't sure how serious his fish request was as he hadn't talked about it in awhile but we decided to get him set up for fish as a Christmas present.

Days before Christmas he told me that if he got nothing else for Christmas, he would like fish. I was pleased as that was already our plan.

Yesterday was the big day for the fish purchase for his tank. The store in our town was having an "ick" problem and couldn't sell any fish right now. So, his dad took him to a neighboring town to pick them out. We let him pick the two he wanted and then the man at the store gave him a freebie third as he couldn't get it back out of the bag.

So, Bub is now the proud caretaker of three fish. The appropriately colored black and orange fish are named James and Jaquizz for two players from his favorite college football team (the third teeny tiny freebie fish is Rodgers). Five points to the person who knows which team those brothers play for without looking it up. Ok, five points to anyone other than Brooke!

The fish have been given a valued spot next to his lego creations and football memorabilia

Friday, January 2, 2009

End of the year 2008 recap

So I decided that I want to go back and recap some of the highlights of the last year. We had some friends over for New Year's Eve and at midnight we went around and everyone said what their favorite thing of 2008 was. I drew a blank. It must have been the mind numbing game of Phase 10 at midnight. Surely we had a lot of fun. What's wrong with me? So now that the pressure is off here are the hightlights.

1) Began homeschooling the twins in January. This was scary and exciting all at the same time.

2) Spent a weekend with my Mom and sisters for our annual girls shopping and laughing weekend.

3) Took a fantastic trip to Leavenworth as a family. Gorgeous scenery and much relaxing fun had.

4) In April track was in full swing for the twins as well as school for Steve.

5) Bub won a meet taking him on to the state track meet. Both of the twins had a great season.

6) We celebrated hubby's sister graduation from college in June with a really fun party with lots of old friends and family.

7) July started out with us hanging out with friends for a few days at the beach. The middle had Steve and I celebrating our 11th anniversary and it ended with an incredible camping trip with the kids.

8) August was full of more camping and the exciting news that my sister was expecting their second child after years of infertility.

9) Football was in full swing in September. Bub had a great season this year and learned a lot. We also started homeschooling all of the children. Rewarding and challenging for me in a good way.

10) October held more games and a really meaningful Sunday at a friend's church for a Pottersfield presentation.

11) Steve took a day off in November for us to go on a field trip to a local university for the morning. We went and watched a football game at the same university with the older three kids for an exciting game on national television. This month also brough the diabetes diagnosis that has changed the way we live. Found so early this was a God send and we all feel lots better.

12) December brought the start of basketball for Lil as well as lots of time with family and friends.

That's it in a nutshell folks. Blessings to you in 2009!