Saturday, June 23, 2012

Stone-cold confessions

In case you don't know me in real life, I'm going to tell you a little random something about myself:

I eat ice cream almost every stinkin' day.

Calories be darned. Who gives a rip? Not me. I'm just a girl that at the end of the day needs her ice cream.

Normally I prefer it in dish form -- a scoop is the perfect way to end the day, and no judgment if the day was especially rough with the kiddos and I need two scoops. Ha. Weather and time of year also have no affect on my ice cream consumption either. I am just as happy eating it with snow falling outside as I am in the 100+ degree temperatures.

I am normally very much a Blue Bell girl. There are never less than 3 half-gallons taking up space in our freezer, and little ol' me is the main consumer. My seasonal addiction kicks in come November when I start scouring the countryside for every container of peppermint I can get my little hands on. And no, I am not kidding. Two years ago I think I went through 8 or 10 half-gallon containers of it. In mere months. I know I'm not alone in my peppermint-freakdom as these containers have been very hard to find in years' past because they only make so many. That's right, there are other freaks out there like me. And my friends have only helped fuel my sad little addiction, going so far as even buying me the last half-gallon spotted at their local Walmart.

{Problems, have we?}

The rest of the year I prefer good ol' homemade vanilla, while on occasion trying out a new flavor here or there.

But with summer here and kiddos home that I have to share with (no, I don't share very well, I'll admit it), I've been buying more popsicles. And I bought a box of something random the other day that has started a new addiction for me -- Edy's Fruit Bars in Creamy Coconut.

Heaven on a stick.

What's funny is that I hated coconut as a kid. Nasty stuff. The flakiness killed me.

But now?

Heaven, my friends.

Next time you're dragging yourself through the grocery store (anyone else out there loathe that weekly task?) throw a box in your cart. Sharpie marker out the calorie information, sit back and enjoy perfection in a popsicle.

You'll thank me.

And lest you give me a hard time about my ice cream issues, I must point out that my life is void of any other addictions. No coffee or caffeine for me (okay, maybe one pop a month if we're eating out at a pizza joint or Mexican restaurant). And yes, that means this mama of five isn't fueled by coffee or pop -- I put up with these kiddos au naturel! They haven't "driven me to drink" quite yet, chuckle chuckle.

In the meanwhile, I'll be dragging out the Zoku popsicle maker from the basement this week. It's on our summer bucket list to make popsicles, and there are lots of fun recipes pinned to my Zoku board on Pinterest that I'm just itchin' to try...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Cookin'

With seven people currently living in our house (say wha????), I've had to buckle down and get serious about organization and being more thrifty. Lots of changes have been made, and one of the biggest and best is the fact that I cook a lot more than I ever used to. What used to be one of my least favorite things to do is slowly becoming one of my favorite things to do. Sure wish I felt the same way about cleaning the tub and shower...

Regardless I still have the same issue that creeps in everyday around 3:00 or 3:30 -- what in the heck am I going to make for dinner?

So I took a cue from this clever gal and made a list of 15 "summer" meals for my family to enjoy. I'm definitely a seasonal gal -- my taste in food and in music changes seasonally -- so this is right up my alley to switch things up every 3 months or so, basically, every season. I even typed it up, slapped it on scrapbook paper that I haven't dug into in years, and clipped it up to the fridge for quick and easy reference every day. Most of the recipes I simply keep stored on my Pinterest boards.

I try and cook dinner most weeknights and one meal on weekends at least so we're not having to PB&J it too often. Because of this, we've been enjoying our fast food/eating out meals a lot more since they are far and fewer between. And of course, the ol' budget is thrilled with the changes as we are saving a ton of cash. We're pretty old-fashioned around these parts, so drinks are always milk (from a local dairy), and side-dishes range from steam-in-the-bag frozen vegetables to fruit salad or green salad or sometimes a bag of chips when it is burger or sandwich night. The one thing I haven't mastered yet is getting my grocery store visits down from the almost daily trips we make right now. We tend to shop like Europeans, buying only what we'll need for the next day or two. Yes, it wastes time and gas, but then again, the grocery store is blocks away from our little girlie's daycare, so we have to drive by it anyway. Maybe with this sort of planning ahead I'll get better about it.

I figure that each meal will be eaten roughly twice a month, not too bad as far as repeats go. After 3 months, we'll surely be ready to switch it up to a different list of meals. So here is the list for summer, and I'm including links to my pins when possible in case any of you want to try them as well:

1. Farm Chicks' Fish Fajitas

2. Ham & Cheese Sliders

3. Hillbilly Spaghetti Pie

4. Slow Cooker Thai Style Ribs

5. Crispy Tuna Casserole & 7-Up Biscuits

6. Root Beer Pulled Pork Sandwiches (my family usually gets 2 dinners for all out of this plus 2-3 lunches as well for my husband and I)

7. Slow Cooker Chicken & Cornmeal Dumplings

8. Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce

9. Florentine Chicken Ring

10. Breakfast for dinner (courtesy of the "Breakfast Man" in our house, my husband -- this could be pancakes or waffles, or "toad-in-a-hole", a family favorite)

11. Bison Burgers (again, husband cooking night with bison meat from the Farmer's Market)

12. Ranch House CrockPot Pork Chops with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

13. Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken

14. Baked Potatoes and Green Salad

15. Slow Cooker Apricot Chicken

Happy cooking, my friends! And please, leave me a comment if you have any amazing recipes you think I should add to my arsenal. I am always on the lookout.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Just call me Farmer Val.

Okay, so maybe Farmer is stretching it a bit.

But, I've come a long way, baby. From black thumb to *turning green* thumb!

I've had a problem in the past. I love flowers. I love to plant flowers. And apparently I've loved killing flowers because that's pretty much what happened to all of them, year after year.

Last summer was no exception on a few plants, but I chalk that up to the unbearably 100-plus-degree--every-ding-dong-day-for-months-on-end summer we *enjoyed*, but there were two plants that survived. I purchased two Boston fern hanging plants last spring from Lowe's (on clearance) to hang on our front porch, and at the end of the fall last year, I got the wild idea to bring them inside to see if I could keep them alive. My husband screwed two hooks into the ceiling of our sunroom ("playroom"), bought clear plastic dishes to hang on the bottom of each to catch the drips when I watered them, and sure enough, those babies survived. No, they didn't just survive, they thrived. And like any good mother, I threatened my boys that they better not mess up my ferns in the playroom or they were going to be sorry. Ha.

I think it kind of even turned into a game/challenge for me to try and reverse my killer thumbs. And I'm not gonna lie -- I started talking to those ferns on occasion when I would water them, telling them how beautifully they were growing. Hey, they're living creatures, too, so I figured it couldn't hurt.

So they are back out on the front porch, happy as can be, and monstrously huge. I already had to replant one of them in a bigger hanging container, and I'm pretty sure the other one is ready for a bigger container as well. My husband and I love sitting out on our porch especially at night, watching the bats swooping above our street, and with the addition of the outdoor curtains, it's our own little private sanctuary. And you can't even hear the screaming children upstairs in their rooms...haha...

I also have a table full of herbs in small pots -- lemon thyme, spearmint (solely for sniffing because what are we going to actually do with it?), rosemary, cilantro, basil (oh my heavens, is this ever coming out of our ears, so if you live by me and want some, come and get it), and my personal favorite, catnip. We love the new game of torture-the-kitties-with-the-pretty-green-leaves. It's hilarious. That's right, we're totally fueling our kitties drug habits...

This year I told my husband I wanted to try something new -- vegetables! At first I thought about building a raised bed or two, but then I thought maybe we should start smaller this year to make sure we could hack it. So we decided to start with tomatoes and bell peppers and plant them in containers. I was a bit frustrated at first when I found out how expensive five-gallon gardening containers are (times five), but then we got the genius idea to purchase paint buckets (only a couple bucks each) and drill holes in the bottom for drainage. That's right, redneck gardening at it's finest! Although I give myself props for picking the more stylish silver Lowe's buckets than the neon orange Home Depot ones (no offense, Home Depot, I still love you).


It worked.

We have two Cherokee purple heirloom tomato plants (you've never tasted a more delicious tomato, I promise) with several big beauties just waiting to turn purplish-red. We did have a few more tomatoes growing on those plants, but they ended up having "blossom end rot" and I regretfully had to prune them off in the hopes of saving the others. I was proud of myself though, for diagnosing them based off what I researched on the internet, and we found a solution at our local nursery to add to the soil to hopefully prevent any more of that.

We also have an Arkansas Traveler tomato plant with tons of tomatoes waiting to ripen. Thank you, local neighborhood Walmart grocery store, for that $3 bargain. Just like any good weirdo, I picked that plant solely on it's name because I know all of the words to the folk song, "The Arkansas Traveler". Want me to sing it for you? No? Alrighty, but you're missing out...

Then there are the two bell pepper plants, one orange and one yellow (my two favorite types of bell peppers). I prefer them over red and green. I think right now we have nine big peppers just waiting to turn colors.

My kids brought home Dixie cups filled with dirt (and supposedly seeds) from school, of course, and only one survived. Supposedly we have ourselves a punkin' growing. Guess we'll be waiting to see if it actually bears us a little orange surprise this fall.

Then my husband got in the act and purchased something he'd obviously been salivating over from the "As Seen on TV" ads. What is it with men and "As Seen on TV" crap? Huh? That's right, he brought home not one, but two Topsy Turvy upside down tomato planters. (You know, because one wouldn't have been enough.) And how do you hang two, you might ask? Well, you go ahead and shell out the buckaroos for the Topsy Turvy big metal contraption to hold them!

But who is eating crow now?

That's right, little ol' me. Those Topsy Turvy thingamajigs are working! He stuffed them with strawberry plants, cherry tomato plants, heirloom tomato plants, and pepper plants, and sure enough, we've got ourselves a mini-hanging garden loaded with produce. And I've gotten in on the act and now prune those plants every morning, pinching off the dead leaves, etc., which seems to be making them grow even faster.

Our nerdiness has only manifested itself with each morning that brings a "Hey, look at this! It's ripening!" or a "Hey, look at that! There's really a tomato growing on our plant!". We're like two little bratty kids in a candy store, giddy with the thrills that growing our first edible wonders can bring. And of course, we're already dreaming and scheming of what we'll add to next year's garden.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Very Pinteresting.

There's nothing like Pinterest to keep a girl grounded.

Once you've spent any amount of time on there (say hours, anyone?), you can feel both inspired and downright intimidated all at the same time. People, please. You can't fool me -- all you little Martha Stewart look-alikes can't really have it all together where you make no less than 482 homespun crafts a day while homeschooling your 19-and-counting children and managing your organic homestead all at the same time. (Um, ya'll better not be pointing fingers at me. I feed my kids Fruit Loops and send their sugared-up selves off to public school every day.) Puh-leeze. I'm assuming all those Pinteresting people out there are just like moi -- pinning fools with thousands of ooh-I-should-try-this-some-day-pins all the while knowing that realistically getting one accomplished a year sounds about right.

Am I right, or am I right? Right, right, right?

Anyway, nothing inspires better than to have a necessity fall apart on you in an hour of need.

I finally found time to sew up some new pajama pants for my growing-several-inches-a-day young lads since all of their pajama bottoms are currently capris, and when I got ready to iron all of my fabric (that I bought weeks, months, and years ago, people, hello procrastinator), my ironing board cover fell right off.


So I did what any other resourceful and desperate girl would do. I grabbed my keys and headed straight out the door to Target, realizing before I even stepped foot out the door that I don't have a normal sized ironing board. No sirree. This years-old special came from Target and was a fancy-schmancy designer (Philip Starck, maybe?) ironing board. It's wider than the average board by at least 5 or 6 inches, and I'm pretty sure a standard size ironing board cover would be no bueno. I blame it on the husband. He bought it.


I quickly dug through my fabric stash (let's not talk about how much fabric I've collected, coughcough, hoarder, coughcough), found three coordinating pieces of "Blossom" by Urban Chiks for Moda (in case anyone wonders), and got to work using this awesome tutorial.

And voila. She went from this ghetto specialness:

to this:

(and a look at the back):

Ah, much better.

And girlfriends, I spent ZERO dollars. That's right. I used the pad from the other cover, ripped the cording out of the other cover as well, and used fabric I already had. My man is so proud. And he is not too manly to iron his shirts on our birdie-infested ironing board.


Thank you so much for such kind remarks regarding my last post. I'm definitely going to be sharing more about our fostering journey, the good and the ugly, but I promise to also throw in some more crafting fun (and fails, haha) and general hilarity from slices of my life. You know, in all my free time...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chewing on my thoughts.


I know, I know, same old story -- I've been absent for a while now. As you know, this is due to my new adventure as a foster mom. There are five children needing my attention these days, so free time is a hot commodity 'round these parts. And one of the little darlings is a baby! As in, tiny little thing, my littlest baby ever of this age to care for, and sakes alive, are we ever having a fun time.

But I've also felt lacking in substance to write about. Sounds goofy to say that, yes, considering hello, I am surrounded by five hilarious children which should have me posting about their antics 'round the clock. Unfortunately most of the time I feel I am dealing with a heavy heart and struggle with what to share and what not to share. Our world has been turned upside down in so many wonderful ways, but it's also kicked our tails straight up and into the middle of the mushpot of life -- out of our comfortable little corner of the world into the hurting, the dirty, the mean, the ugly, and the needy (although sometimes those words could apply to each of our hearts, don't you think?). This blog has been a creative outlet for me, mostly filled with lighthearted fodder, but my life has taken a crazy turn from all that for right now, and I'm not sure if my "audience" will care to see this side of things or just prefer the rainbowy-sparkly-glittery side I usually love to share.

The thing is -- foster parenting is one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I wouldn't change it for anything. Truth be told, I would've never imagined myself on this adventure in a million years, yet here I am. Most days are fill-my-cup-up-to-the-brim-with-joy-overflowing types of days. The kind where I feel like pinching myself constantly to make sure it isn't a dream, and that yes, I am truly and unbelievably this happy in life thanks to finally jumping outside of my comfort zone to this new unpredictable and very insecure life we're living as foster parents. But then, of course, some days are poop. Like the crappiest crap ever. (No pun intended especially since we've dealt with the joys of preschooler poo-in-the-pants more often than I'd like to admit, haha.) Days where I feel my heart has already been ripped into a million pieces because I'm hurting so much for these little people we've been called to protect and stand up for; days where I wonder who truly has these little ones' best interests at heart (besides us) and if the big gameplayers are going to indeed make the best decisions for them or if they'll just be lost in the blurry shuffle with the thousands of other foster children; days where I wonder how in the world will I be able to cope if and when the state takes them away from me someday. {Note to self: don't dwell on that thought. Ever.}

So that's where I'm at. Living the dream in many ways, but the type of dream where you often wonder when the rug is going to be pulled out from under you, if indeed it will be pulled out from under you. But trying to remember to pray above all of this -- to trust in God no matter what, no matter the heartache; remembering to constantly thank Him for all of the joys and the trials (ugh, not the easiest); and trying to forget about worrying about what the future holds. Because it is so, so, so not about me.

How's that for an out-of-focus blog update? Ha. I promise to return, once I figure out the correct recipe for what to share from my heart, what to leave out, and how best to share it.

Hope you're enjoying the best summer.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

And then there were four...

Um, hello.

It's me.

Yep, I'm still here.

As you could probably guess, I haven't had much time for blogging. Between managing five kids, dealing with the state, squeezing in visits with birthfamily, taking on extra piano gigs, working three part-time jobs, and trying to keep on top of household chores, cooking, etc., well, I've been a bit preoccupied. ;) Oh, and science fair projects. Ugh. Does anyone really enjoy working on those?

Just when I thought life was settling into a "new normal", yesterday took a wild turn on this foster care rollercoaster. The state notified us yesterday morning that our girls would be moving in mere hours to a new placement. We literally had a few hours to prepare. I sped home from work to pack up their belongings, and then I had to run to a memorial service that I was playing piano for while my husband went to meet the caseworker and pass the girls over to her. They were already at daycare for the day, so she just met him there to pick them up. When we dropped them off that morning, we had no idea that we wouldn't be bringing them back home with us that afternoon.

I didn't even get to say goodbye.

You can imagine the emotions swirling through my head, especially since we had virtually no notice, but before I up and complained about how unfair that might seem, passing them off so fast with no goodbye from myself, I took a step back to realize what a blessing it was at the same time. Unfair, yes. But easier on my emotions? Unfortunately, also a big yes. The truth is, no matter how hard it is to part ways, it is a good move for the girls, a step forward towards something we were wanting for them, and in time, the two months with us will be a mere blip on their radar. They will blend right in with the next family, they will be very loved and adored and well taken care of, and most importantly, they will be reunited with another sibling. And words cannot express how thankful I am for my husband through all of this. He has not only been a wonderful father to our three boys and the foster girls, but he has also very much "manned up" and taken charge, especially the hard parts of dealing with the state on tough issues, etc. I am thankful he was the one to do the "pass off" to the caseworker and handle the hard goodbyes.

In the midst of those emotions and thoughts all swirling wildly through my head, an image of Nanny McPhee popped up in my head. What was it she said in that movie? "When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go." The situation kind of made me feel like that. Those girls needed us for those two months. The situation changed and they no longer needed us specifically, so it was time to move on. You have to rise above the tough feelings and emotions and realize that their best interests must take precedence, and that is exactly what happened. It's nice to be able to move forward from our first fostering experience with a complete sense of peace about the situation and how it played out.

And then there were three.

Or so we thought. At the same time we passed off the two girls and thought we were back to our happy family of us and our three boys, the state called again. My husband hadn't even driven home yet from meeting the caseworker and the girls leaving.

Another sweet girl was needing a safe haven. Could we do it? Could we come get her in the next few hours?

So, you know how it goes...

And then there were FOUR. :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Week One.

"Week One".

That's a good title for the first week of January AND the first week with our little foster princesses.

This New Year's was nice and low-key for us. Well, as low-key as things can be when you have two guests in your house on top of the three other kids you have. ;) We don't normally do anything for New Year's Eve anyway, and since New Year's Day was a "church day" for us, we went to bed at a normal time and got a good nine hours of sleep. Some might say "boring"; we say "bliss". Going to bed early and getting a lot of sleep = bliss.

Also, this year I made NO resolutions. What's the point? I always start out with good intentions in my resolutions, but I always end up giving up (or forgetting about them) after only a month or two. In many ways, it really is just another day. But on the other hand, I also love that feeling of getting a fresh start, a do-over per say. This year I'm looking to simplify my life in many ways (don't laugh -- it really is possible to simplify even with a house full of kids), so I just decided to go with the idea of picking a word for 2012. And instead of picking a word that is a bit more me-centered like I've done in the past, this year I picked the simplest of desires of my heart, to be "willing".

No more telling God what I want, no more telling God how I think things might work the best, no more asking God for stuff. I truly just want to be "willing" -- willing to follow what He wants me to do. 2011 didn't exactly turn out the way my husband and I wanted it to (although yes, we got two added blessings in our two new sons), but despite the things we went through, we are happier folk because of what we went through. And we definitely learned that letting go of all of those things we try so hard to control in life didn't end up making us miserable like we thought it would, but instead freed us and just added to our happiness and faith in God.

So there you have it. May the year 2012 bring out my most willing heart to be a woman for Him and not for this world.

As for how "week one" has gone with the girls, things are going better than expected. Their transition was much easier than I anticipated, probably due to the fact that at this point they are used to being moved around a lot and it's kind of their reality, bless their little hearts. I found a daycare with spots for both of them and they started yesterday. For gals who'd never been to daycare previously, they did fantastic! Their teachers gushed over how sweet and polite they are, and we couldn't be more proud. And I'm not going to lie -- while I'm at work, it's so nice to have some moments of quiet and adult conversation while they are being taken care of.

Overall we're settling back into a normal routine for us, and the girls are fitting right in. I haven't really changed the way I run my household, and I think that's been the best way (at least for me) to work this out. They're quickly learning all of our "house rules", and it's just life as usual, with two extra little people.

There are times I look at them and can't imagine the day when they will more than likely be moved out of our home. There are times I think my heart will break into a million pieces if they are. And there are times where I think, no, it will all be okay, and then we'll probably get one or two more little people who need a safe place to land and we'll probably love them just as much while we have them. I guess I won't really know how heartbreaking it might be until we cross those milestones, but I guess I'm also learning with this process to simply take it one day at a time and not worry about the next day. Right now my husband and I are looking at it as kind of a "grandparent" type of thing -- you know, how grandparents get to love on them for a little while and then send them back, haha, one of the perks of being a grandparent. It's also a good lesson in patience dealing with the state, and I'm learning to be consistent (read: borderline annoying) and make things happen, you know, to be the squeaky wheel when I need to. It's not only our responsibility to take care of these little ones and shower them with love, but it is also our privilege to be an advocate for them.

So that's our first week in a nutshell. I promise to return with more crafty posts at some point. Believe it or not, I actually squeezed in quite a bit of sewing in the last two weeks, but I need to download my pictures to share.

Oh yeah, and we had a snake in our bathroom. That will make any first week of the year quite exciting, don't you think?!