Saturday, March 18, 2017

Crock Pot Freezer Meals

 
 
So I've got about 5 minutes to post these recipes and I hope that you can read them! And I hope it all makes sense!
 
  This past week I decided to cook beans and thaw an entire box of chicken and about 8 lbs of beef.   What I'd forgotten is that I had plans to be in the city by 5 pm, Malia had piano at 1pm, and Morgun had Driver's Ed at 3:15! And I had a full day of school with the kids!   I about freaked out!
 
I could have cancelled school for the day, but we'd already missed school on Monday, and Friday was going to be another non school day.  So I decided to tackle it all!  I've no idea what I was thinking!  Perhaps I wasn't!  :) Anyhow, I had a good start and was watching the time so I wouldn't forget to take Malia to piano...and then my knight in shining armor arrived home!  He was a life saver!! 
 
Marty's back pain has been flaring up again.  That's not a good thing when you're self employed and rely on your ability to get the work done.  But it did work out to my advantage, as he ended up taking Malia and Morgun to their events!  Could you please pray that his back heals?  It's hard to not be able to work, or only be able to put in short days. 
 
I managed to make 4 different recipes and ended up with 16 meals in the freezer in about 5 hours.  That includes helping kids with school, correcting school work, doing laundry and folding it, preparing and cleaning up lunch, and cleaning up the mess from all the freezer meals.  All in all, I'd say that's making pretty good progress! 
 
I started the process the night before by cooking the beans for a few minutes.  The next morning I drained, rinsed, and cooked the beans as per instructions.  By the time I was ready to assemble the meals the beans were cooled.  That is a must in making freezer meals.  I don't cook anything other than the beans.  Everything gets chopped up and mixed, and then put into labelled freezer bags.
 
 

 
I LOVE this massive baking bowl!  It's like the one my mom used to punch down her bun dough, and it's perfect for mixing these meals!

 
I thaw and then cook each of these meals for 3-4 hours.  I find it really depends on your crock pot.  I got a fantastic 8.5 litre crock pot about a year ago and it cooks hotter than my old one.  So when it comes to the cooking time, adjust according to your crock pot.  Also, I generally add a bit of cornstarch mixture at the very end as most recipes end up being very runny.

 
Keep in mind that I rarely follow a recipe to the letter.  I tend to modify and/or add ingredients.  I added shredded zucchini to the following 2 recipes.  I also added some pumpkin to the Cilantro Lime Chicken just because I'd thawed too much for the Black Bean Chili recipe.
 
We love this Cilantro Lime Chicken recipe in wraps.  You can also eat it with tortilla chips or rice.
 


 This is another favourite!  And best of all it's super cheap!  And nutritious!  We love having this served over rice! I don't add the stock as I find the recipe gets runny enough in the crock pot. 





I also made Sweet and Sour Chicken and Beef Stroganoff.  I use my regular recipe for both of these recipes.  Again, I don't cook or sauté any ingredients.  The Stroganoff is mostly a recipe of a little of this and a little of that.  I don't use canned soup, but rather a mixture of cream, milk, dill, beef bouillon, garlic, salt, and pepper. 
 
The entire cost for all 16 meals was approximately $125!  That works out to about $8 a meal. The Stroganoff significantly increases the cost of these meals. Without the cost of  ingredients for the Stroganoff, each meal worked out to about $5.50!  Keep in mind that feeds all 8 of us, and there are always left overs!  Also, I didn't buy the corn, pumpkin, onion, or tomatoes.  I was pleased with these numbers.  Now to find more recipes that are inexpensive, nutritious, and easy to make!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Randomness and Encouragment

 
It's Saturday morning (...well, afternoon really...but for a Saturday it's still morning! ;) and the kids are outside and Marty's working in the shop.  I should be purging, but I simply have to take the time to share a few things with you guys.  It's a post filled with all kinds of random stuff.  But it's the stuff I want to remember!  It's the stuff that makes this life of mine meaningful and wonderful!  So prepare to be taken down many little rabbit trails! 
 
First, I HAVE to share what happened to us this past week.  We got a letter and a huge gift in the mail.  I know this couple isn't too keen on having their names published, but suffice it to say that they are an amazing young couple who are working hard to follow God's leading.  And through their prayers they were led to encourage us in a way that words can't describe!  To be encouraged after a few months of doing the really hard stuff was just what we needed!  Marty and I were blubbering like babies!  I couldn't even read the letter aloud!!  You know who you are, and again I say thank you!!  You may never know how much wind you put in our sails!
 
Once again it made me realize how very, very important it is to pray for one another, to step out on a limb and say those words of love and encouragement that are in our head and heart!  I dare you to take the time right now to do just that...call or message that person you've been praying for.  They may just need to know that today!
 
I also realized once again that this idea that God will meet all our needs right at the moment when we need it is a bunch of hogwash and whole lot of misinterpretation of scripture.  Let me explain what I mean before you jump down my throat. 
 
As I mentioned in my last post, January and the beginning of February were hard!  Take your average day of whiny, disobedient children and multiply it by 5 and add a butt load of outside stress.  That was what those weeks looked like for us!  We were drained.  We were discouraged.  We felt alone.  We begged God for relief, for energy, for strength.  We so wanted to be back on the mountain top.  And if not on the mountain top, at least not down in the dirty valley!  We wanted to have at least an hour or two of really enjoying the day.  We slowly moved past the really hard, to days that were more doable. 
 
So here we had weeks of little to no relief.  Was God there during that really hard time?  Of coarse He was!  Did we get the relief we needed and wanted?  Not at that moment.  What we did get in that moment was perseverance.  We got just enough strength to carry us through the day, moment by moment. And at the end of this trying time, we managed to take one tiny little step towards the goal of being content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.  So does God give us what we need at the moment?  No.  At least not in the way we generally think of Him providing for all our needs.  Most often we may not get what we think we need...in our case a reprieve from all the stress...but God will always honor His promises of being with us and giving us what HE knows we need.  For us it was one step closer to being able to say, as Paul, did in Philippians 4:11, "for I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am in."
 
It dawned on me that Paul did not get to that point by living the comfortable Christian life of regularly attending church and Wednesday night Bible Study/Community Group.  He didn't get to that point by giving 10% or more of his income to charity. He didn't get to that point by surrounding Himself with fellow believers.  He got to that point by going out into the world and encountering the most difficult of times of persecution and hatred. 
 
So in those weeks it could be said that God did not meet our needs...at least not in the way we would have wanted and the way we thought we needed.  However, it came a little later!  It came in the form of the above mentioned gift.  It came in the form of a wonderful visit with my brother and sister-in-law.  It came in being able to see my sweet niece and nephew.  It came in taking a week off of school for midterm break.  And it came in the form of my kids enjoying each other. It came in being able to spend a day skiing with the kids.
 
I want to remember all of this wonderfulness, so here's  peek into what the past few weeks have looked like. 
 
Our midterm break was wonderful and not nearly long enough!   We all got to relax and do the things we enjoy!  For me that was creating!  It was such a salve to my weary soul!  I've been experimenting with "staining" wood with a stain made of steel wool and vinegar.  It's easy and inexpensive.  I simply put one piece of steel wool into a jar, and covered it with vinegar.  How long one leaves the steel wool in the vinegar depends on the colour you are hoping to achieve.  This particular mixture was from a few months ago.  I'd taken the steel wool out, hoping it wouldn't get the orangey rust colour I'd previously gotten. It worked!
 
This is the wood before I applied stain.  The wood was pine boards left over from a previous project.
 
 
This is after I stained it a few times.  The beauty of this stain is that if the first coat isn't dark enough you simply add another coat.  Keep in mind that the stain must be dry before you will see the true colour.


 
Then I whitewashed the board with a mixture of 1 part paint and 2 parts water.  Once again, I added coats as needed to get the look I was going for.

 
Then I traced the letters onto the board and used a craftsmart paint pen to fill in the letters.  Using this pen made the task super easy!

 
Then I applied a thin coat of a water based finish.

 
This is the end result!  And I love it!!  I also sewed the green pillow case in this pic.  I am loving the end result of our master bedroom!!  Can you believe this is the very first time, in 25 years, that we actually have a headboard!  And the very first time the curtains aren't a blanket or sheet!  :)

 
 
I managed to take photos of a few of those special moments I mentioned earlier. 
 
 
I LOVE this picture!  My brother and his family came for a short visit and it was so precious to see our kids play together!  H loves trains and he was in his glory!
 

 
Uncle Marty was smitten with this little doll!  M has the sweetest of personalities!  Her little shoulder shrugs and big grins are all kinds of "melt my heart"!


 
 
This little "brat", as Morgun would say, twisted his arm so he'd read a princess book to her!  I still get all kinds of warm fuzzy feelings looking at this pic!  This!  This is the good life!!

 
And then this! (apparently Raina thinks we say "u" instead of "a"!  Haha!  I think the magnet is most appropriate, don't you?!

 
And skiing!  We had a blast!!  These kids have all mastered the bunny hill and are great at stopping, turning, and making "pizzas"!  Jackson's a natural at skiing and I'm pretty sure he will make me freak out at some point!  He has no fear!  Eek!
 
On a side note, we still don't know if Morgun's wrist is in fact broken.  He's had 3 xrays so far, but nothing definitive is showing up.  He does have a cast due to all the pain he was having.  In a few weeks he will see an Orthopedic specialist and hopefully we'll have some answers then!

 
And last, but not least...this!! 
 
 
In early fall we got a traditional wheelchair for Wren.  It was super comfortable for Wren and great for her posture.  However, it was tippy on gravel and in the grass.  It had about a million steps to fold it up.  It was nasty to put into our vehicle.  Think along the lines of perfectly maneuvering this big contraption to make it fit.  Then making sure it is the very first thing to be packed into the vehicle.  So running errands would have looked something like this...put Wren in the vehicle.  Fold chair and place in vehicle.  Place groceries in vehicle.  Go to next errand.  Take all groceries out of vehicle.  Take chair out of vehicle.  Put all groceries back in vehicle.  Upon returning to the vehicle, this would have been repeated each time.  UGH!!  It about made me scream!!
 
So since September we have been asking for this chair.   It's very similar to the one we have, but it's much better for Wren's posture!  BUT, it's not funded!  The process to get this chair is long.  First we will see if the government will make an exception and fund this chair for Wren. This application has FINALLY been submitted after me asking for that to happen for the past 6 months!  If it's not funded then we will apply through the Kinsmen Foundation to have it funded.  We've been nipping at the bit to submit the Kinsmen application, however, first we need to know if the chair is funded.  If it is funded, then we can as for a trike, and/or a walking frame for Wren instead of the chair.  If you happen to think of us, please pray that all of this will fall into place.  Thanks!

 
This is the walking frame we are hoping to get for Wren!  I can't wait to see what she can learn by using it!  


 
I hope you all have a great day, and can see the good in your life!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Christmas 2016...Finally! :)

 
 
I had plans to post about our Christmas at the beginning of January.  But then...life! 

Then this morning (Saturday) one of my littles looked at me and asked, "Mama, how come you're so happy today?"

I hung my head in shame!  It really is that obvious that I've been stressed.  Yesterday I got to take a few of my kids skiing and we finally had a day of laughing, fun, and treats! No yelling, no snarking, no drama, no trauma, no hours of working with a child to achieve success.  And what a balm it was to my weary heart! I know self care is extremely important, but most of the time self care is not even an option.  Self care involves having people in our life that really know our kids at a deep level and are committed to being in our life for the long haul.  We have some amazing people in our life, but most of them are as maxed out as we are.  That's called life and I wish it was different, but it's not...so we do the best we can!
 
It's been awful around here lately.  Stress and emotions have been at an all time high.  I'm convinced we had at least 10 full moons in the month of January! It's been a time of going to bed weary, beaten and defeated...and waking up knowing it will still be the same.  Many days I'm just super glad that I don't have to redo the day.  I used to wish I could redo some days.  Lately I've been glad that's impossible!  I don't even want a redo!  I know I did my best and yet still feel like I failed.  Adios January 2017!

This place of hard has a way of making my faith grow, and a way of making me realize how much I need my God for every step I take!  This hard has a way of opening my eyes and giving me a glimpse of the hard that those around me are going through.  It's made me realize the concept of "stress", of "tired", of "hard" is all relative.  I used to think my life was so stressful and hard!  Hah!  And now I sometimes think I get what that means...but I'm pretty sure I don't!  To all you mamas and papas out there dealing with the really hard...hang in there!  Lean on Him!  Every moment of every day! I'm praying for you as I pray for myself.  May you find this song by Matt Maher as encouraging and comforting as I do!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuvfMDhTyMA
 
We're still in a hard place, but we're beginning to figure out what was/is going on...at least in part.  Thankfully, it's something we can work at.  And it's quite simple! Vitamins and other supplements! 
 
If you've read The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, you know there's a chapter that talks about the importance of nutrition and supplements, and how it can affect a child's ability to cope.  We've figured out a combination of vitamins and supplements that work well for our kids. (Side note:  be sure to talk to a professional before you begin pumping all kinds of good things into your kids' systems.  Each kid is different and needs a professional to guide you through figuring that out.  I have yet to meet a physician that understands what Dr. Purvis is talking about.  So far I've only ever had blank looks when I mention all that Karyn Purvis mentions.  We work with a very talented naturopath in BC.  She's a godly woman, has adopted, and understands!  And best of all...she's not a quack job!  lol!)  With the hustle and bustle of being gone over Christmas and settling into a new routine in January, we forgot about our daily supplements. Needless to say, we are back on track and are beginning to see calmer kids able to better handle the trauma of their lives.
 
Anyhow... Due to a very generous offer, we were finally able to have the much dreamt of and often talked about vacation with my sweet sis and her family in the USA.  It's something we've talked about for at least 5 years.  I was beginning to think it would never happen.  It seems that every year one of our families was adopting, fostering, or adjusting/bonding with a new arrival, and that simply doesn't provide the opportunity to visit each other. 
 
With this generous offer we were able to fly to NC and meet at a spectacular vacation rental near Corolla.  It was just what we needed!  There's something especially sweet in spending Christmas with family that gets us.  They understand why we parent the way we do.  They understand our hearts.  They understand trauma.  They understand the toll it takes on a family.

And at this very moment, we interrupt this post to deal with life!  Morgun fell on his wrist yesterday, and as I've been writing he's been applying ice, and we've been trying to decide whether we should have it x-rayed.  I don't really think it's broken.  Most likely it's badly sprained.  The ice isn't offering much pain relief...so I guess it's off to minor emergency! Adios to a "work free" Saturday!  Hahaha! I'm actually sitting her laughing because our life is hilarious!!  So grateful I can laugh about it all!! 

Anyhow...I'm off to the city...

It's Sunday night and I'm finally back!  Morgun's wrist appears to be badly sprained.  However, he is still in a lot of pain and the Advil, Tylenol, and ice are doing very little for the pain.  There is a chance it could be cracked, so if the pain continues for a week we were told to go back to the doctor.  Here's to hoping it's not broken! 

And back to our Christmas....I want to remember the good, the sweet moments, the beautiful moments.  If I don't take the time to record them, to remember them...I'm afraid I'll get swallowed up by the awful and the hard....and I'm not about to let that happen!!


We had a wonderful Christmas!  The oldest 4 played pool, video games...and slept!!



And ate!  A lot!

 
This home had 7 bedrooms and bathrooms, and an elevator!!  The little kids loved it!!  This is their excitement on Christmas morning!
 
 
Kathy and I snuck out one evening to find a tree. We found this Charlie Brown tree that was literally missing half it's needles!  And being the good, thrifty Mennonite girls that we are...we got it for free!!!  :)  It may have involved some negotiating, some walking away...and some cart surfing!  Well sort of!! Bahaha! 
 
 A string of lights and some homemade ornaments and a paper chain made it just perfect!

 
We toured the Wright Brothers museum.  It was pretty amazing and informative! 
 
 
 
The ocean was a favourite for us!  So, so very beautiful!  There aren't  too many things that calm the spirit like a walk along the beach!

 
 

 
 

 
 
I love this picture!  It's so depicts our life!  The waves were so stormy and big, and the clouds so dark and full.  But oh so beautiful!!


 
And then this at the end of the day!  A reminder of how life is...it may be stressful and crazy and overwhelming now...but in the end we will enjoy such peace and joy...even if that peace and joy is sometimes hard to grasp on this side of heaven!

 
 

 
 
Our kids!  All 11 of them! How cool is that?!?!  Two families that originally had planned to have small families.  I think God must smile about that every day!  I know it sure makes me smile! 

I can't share too many pics cause so many of them include 2 littles that will hopefully soon officially be family!  If you happen to think of these two, please pray for them as they adjust to having a stable and loving family.  Pray their adoption happens soon!  And pray for their parents and siblings as they go through the hard of adjusting.  Thanks!


 
How do you get 11 kids to all look at the camera?  Like this!!  Haha!  Thanks Mark!!
 
 
 
 

 
I'm so incredibly proud of my men.  Here they worked together to carry Wren and her chair up and down the stairs to the beach! 
 

 
And how cool is this?!?  Gotta love having a big strong cousin to carry you!



 
 
 



 
 
We spent some time at the park.  We all loved this "horse"!  Wish we had one of our own!  Perhaps an Industrial Arts class for the boys?
 
 
 

 
 
 

 
One day we took a tour to see the wild horses.  We loved, loved it!  How cool to search for the horses and see them in and among the brush and houses in 4x4 only country!
 
This is one of the "roads" we took while searching for the horses. 
 
 
 
 




 
Our driver got super close to this horse!  I could have almost reached out and touched him! 

 
And that about wraps up our Christmas! 
 
I hope you all had a great Christmas too and that even though you may be in the middle of the really hard stuff  that you can take some time to search for and find the beauty in your life.  It's there...sometimes we just have to look a little harder to find it! I'd highly recommend buying a journal and recording all the good, all the wonderful, and all the little things!  Writing it down helps us remember!  And really, that's what we want...to remember the wonderful and beautiful things in life no matter how small!
 
I'd have totally forgotten about this cute incident if I hadn't written it down as one of the things I'm grateful for.
 
A while ago, the kids were all tucked into bed and finally sleeping.  It had been another REALLY hard day! And then we heard the pitter patter of little feet making their way downstairs. Jackson, with heavy, sleepy eyes...the eyes of sleepwalking...mumbled, "I'm thinking I want to go play outside."  We couldn't help but smile!  How cute is that?!?
 
And to think #wecouldhavemissedthis!
 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Wren's One Year Anniversary!

 
It's been just over a year since Wren joined our family!  It's been an exceptionally busy year filled with indescribable moments of wonderful!
 
This kid has an incredibly deep joy.  A joy that at times simply radiates.  She has a gently spirit...well, most of the time!  lol!  Except when she gets in the mood to be naughty!  She has a stubborn and tenacious streak.  I know it is something she needed to have to survive...physically, mentally, and emotionally...but sometimes I wish she knew it was ok to be a little less stubborn and tenacious! 
 
This picture was taken while we were still in China and it remains one of my favourites!
 
 
And this!  Our arrival home!  I totally forgot that I never did post more than one picture of the fantastic photos Chantal took.  You can check out more of her photos from that day here.. http://www.chantelklassen.me/wren-is-home-china-adoption-homecoming/
 
These photos...emotion!  Just lots of emotions!  But mostly I keep thinking "taste and see that the Lord is good!"
 





 Wren has grown in so many ways!  This thing of being a part of a family is hard.  Very hard!  Families have expectations.  Families have rules. Families have odd customs. Families get upset and angry...but they still love fiercely.  And the effort it takes to figure all of that out is immense!  Not to mention confusing, upsetting, frustrating, and annoying!  Slowly, very slowly Wren is learning to express her thoughts, emotions, and feelings.  And that is hard for those of us that love her...how do we meet her needs and address her deepest fears, when we don't even know what they are?

But these moments of joy...so worth it!!
 


Wren is learning to read and write. She is learning how to add and subtract.   I am so amazed that this girl who was considered stupid, and unable to attend school, is learning so much!!
 




Wren loves her siblings and is especially bonded with the youngest four.  They do everything for her with very little complaining.  And the big boys...it's been hard to adjust to having another bratty sister, but they too do so very much for Wren.  I know it's only been a year, but I can't wait till everyone feels like we're a solid family unit again.

 


Wren hates her standing frame most days.  Except when it's time to bake or do a craft!
 

 
 
This Christmas season is particularly difficult for Wren.  She's incredibly insecure.  I've no idea why. I do know that not knowing what to expect is a factor, so we have told her what gifts she is getting and that seemed to help.  Hopefully, todays' explanation that THIS IS Christmas (as in our daily Christmas activities) will alleviate some fears.
 




I must say that in some ways Wren's adoption has been the "easiest".  Overall, we adjusted much more quickly than normal.  It feels like Wren has been a part of our family for much longer than a year.  And that is certainly a God thing! 
 
I can not imagine our life without Wren!  She certainly is a perfect fit for our family!  And that makes this mama very grateful and happy!!
 
To Him be the Glory!!