In a homeschooling house full of 7 kids & 3 guniea pigs....there is never a dull moment! A lot of people show genuine concern for us and want to know how we are doing, as the road we've left behind was not a pleasant one. So, here I am, to tell some of our stories...share some of our days...and open up a part of our world to you! Come join us on our journey so you won't miss the moments that take our breath away!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Out with the with the new!

Ahh....the after Christmas organizing! 

I must first say that my children are so very blessed!  With so many aunts, uncles, 2 sets of grandparents (actually 4 sets for my older kids), siblings who buy each other Christmas gifts and of course a mom and dad who are somehow able to provide more than their kids kids are beyond SPOILED!  If they go without something that they want, you'd sure never know it around here!

I prepared well for all the new things the babies were getting!  Last week, I spent an entire weekend re-organizing around here.  I went through every toy box and bin in the babies room and took out all of the toys they didn't play with and the ones that they simply outgrew.  Some toys went to my parent's house and others still sit in a pile to be sorted and donated to those in need.  For a few days, their room sat looking so empty, but it is now wall to wall with toys once again!

Thank God I have a knack for organizing...otherwise, I would go crazy!  Our entire house had gotten out of hand over the last few months and one room at a time, I have managed to get it back in order!  I still have some work to do, but overall...we are once again organized around here.  Organization definately makes for a much happier mom...and we've even had time to re-start our family game nights!

I have a few friends who many times call upon me to come and help them organize their me, it's second nature, but to some it's a completly foreign to them.

The babies used to have an official "sleeping area", but many months ago, I had to remove the toddler bed from the room because Emu constantly took the bed apart...he's so facinated with taking things apart and putting things together.  He could always seem to get the bed apart, but never back together and it just didn't seem safe that the bed constantly came crashing down.  So, now Emu and Macaw sleep on their mattresses that we pull off of Ducklings bed every night.  It seems to work out, especially now that they have even bigger toys.  As much as I'd love for them to have bunk beds...I just don't know that they'd fit anyways! is their new "sleeping area" that now also houses their Grocery Store and Construction Zone.

 The only toys I kept in their room are toys that go with each of their "centers", with the exception of one "Misc." bin. 

Here are their large bins.  The bottom is their misc. bin, the middle is their food bin (contains everything for their kitchen and grocery store).  The top bin is all animals (for the vet care center).  You can't tell by the picture, but the wall where these large bins sit sticks out so the small bins actually sit back.  The doll house sits in front of the small bins and lines up evenly with the large bins.  The smalles bin contains wallets/cell phones/money, etc.  The next bin contains all of the tools/wood pieces/nails/screws, etc (for the workbench), the next bin contains all bags/backpacks/purses, etc.  The bottom bin contains all the figures/my little ponies, etc.  The doll house stores all the furniture and people.  There is a toybox up against the wall and that contains all of the buildings for the GeoTrax, in front of that sits the workbench.

 Next to the train buildings toybox is a toybox containing all of the dolls!  In the corner sits two stacks of storage drawers.  The bottom drawer is doll clothes, the next drawer up is all of the doll accessories (bibs, rattles, shoes, etc), then all of the medical/vet care accessories and animal clothes, then a dress up drawer (all the dress up clothes, magic wands, etc.), the top drawer is a train set.  On the top, we have started a Barbie section, as Macaw got her first 3 Barbies and a Barbie Kitchen.  Next is McDonalds (all of the McDonald's food/accessories are stored inside), next to that sits the Vet Care Center.

 Next to the Vet Care Center is the Beauty Salon which holds some accessories and make up.  Then sits the washer/dryer (the dryer holds all of the baby sleeping bags/blankets).  The baby care center sits diagonally which allows for the grill and high chair to sit behind it.  The train table fits nicely right in the middle of this area, with plenty of room to play all around it.

 Lastly, the new kitchen :)

I am always looking for a bargin and some of these toys were bought used...I bet you can't tell which ones :)  Don't worry...they didn't notice either!  If you must know...the Little Tikes Grocery Store, Shopping Cart and some food items were purchased as a used set for $40.  The Mega Blocks and the Garbage can were both given to us (the Mega Blocks were new), Beauty Salon which was used was $10, train table $60.  Not shown...other used items the kids received for Christmas...the Radio Flyer My First Scooter was $10, Ping Pong Table = free, Air Hockey table $30. 
By buying used and with the loving help of a Christmas Angel or two and selling some things they outgrew...the kids got more than they "wanted" under the tree...all without me going "too" far over my initial $50 per kid Christmas budget!  Most of the toys now in the babies room are all new (either for their birthday or Christmas).  Santa brought McDonalds, the beauty salon, and the vet care center and a few other small things.  The rest of the stuff (like the grocery store/cart, the workbench, the dollhouse, the baby care center, the lincoln logs, the kitchen and much more) all came from the grandparents, many aunts and uncles, and siblings who spoil them!

Graham Cracker Houses and Gingerbread Snowboys/girls!

It used to be tradition in our house to do a lot of holiday baking, including A gingerbread HOUSE!  Our traditions didn't hold up during all the changes that took place in our lives over the course of the last few years, but now that we've been settled on our own for the past year...we started up some of those traditions again.  While we didn't do all the baking we normally did, we did have some fun with gingerbread! 

We always made one gingerbread house when the older kids were younger...but they are at the age now, where they each wanted their own house.  So, it seemed we were going to have a gingerbread village this year. 

I started out by making 4 batches of dough, thinking that would be enough.  As we rolled out our dough...I found out that it took one batch of dough and an entire cookie sheet to bake just one whole house.  After baking the first one, I decided to switch to a quicker version of a gingerbread house...after all, we needed 7 houses for our village, as we also had my niece that day!  

I also discovered that I no longer had a gingerbread man cookie cutter, so we had to settle for a snowman cutter.

We stayed busy for HOURS and the kids had so much fun.  We made some wonderful Christmas memories and I hope I have the patience next year to let them all do it again and maybe invite a few more people to join us.  I think this is a tradition that the kids will definately always look forward to, once again!

If we would have had a contest...Duckling would have won for being the cutest, lol.  A quick glance and you would think her gingerbread snowgirl is somewhat inappropriate.  Being a nursing toddler....she also nurses her baby dolls, her stuffed animals....and well, she obviously thinks her gingerbread cookie needs tata's.  As Cardinal was helping her, she asked for Tata's.  To be funny...Cardinal granted her wish, giggled and quickly wiped them off.  Duckling got very upset, in a two year old kind of way...and well, Cardinal put the Tata's back.  Duckling was so proud of her cookie and she definately made for a very memorable year making our gingerbread.  



Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chicken n' Dumplings

Alright it is :D  My very sought after Chicken n' Dumplings recipe!  I originally got this recipe off of copykat.  I've tinkered with it a bit.

Begin by bringing 2 quarts of water to a boil and add either a whole chicken, chicken breast or chicken tenderloins.  Boil until chicken is cooked through.  Remove meat and bring water level back up and flavor to taste with chicken bouillion (I use powdered not cubed), i make mine pretty strong.  You will use this water to cook your dumplings.  When chicken is cool, either cut it up or tear it apart...however big/small you want it.  I usually make my dumpling sauce while the chicken cools.

Dumpling Sauce:
3 Tablespoons Butter
4 Tablespoons Flour
1 Cup Whole Milk
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2-3/4 Cup dumpling cooking liquid (after dumplings have been cooked)
White pepper to taste
Black pepper to taste

Place butter in medium sauce pan and melt, add salt and flour then stir until thick.  Mix suger with milk and add to flour mixture a little at a time and stir constantly with a whisk until thick and smooth.  Add white pepper and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat.  Now cook your dumplings! 

I use the Pioneer Brand buttermilk buscuit and baking mix (comes in a cute old fashioned looking container)
just follow their recipe for dumplings on the back, but double me :)
*you will need poultry seasoning for the dumplings (i flavor my own broth, i don't use canned as the box calls for)

Drop dumplings by teaspoonful (they will stay on the top of your water).  Don't overstuff your pot, it will take a few batches to cook them patient!  I turn the burner down to low/med and cook them for about 5-6 minutes.  If your water is boiling out of the top, your burner is too high!

Place cooked dumplings in dumpling sauce and add 1/2 -3/4 cups of cooking liquid.  Again, add peppers and or boullion (this is why I use the powder) to taste.  Stir gently so that you don't break apart your dumplings.  Add more cooking liquid if needed.   

I hope your family enjoys this recipe as much as mine does!  I still haven't mastered how much to multiply this recipe for my seems we never have enough...even though I cook ours in a commercial size pot!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Spirit of giving!

Each year, we try and focus on the spirit of giving during the holiday season.  It has always been an important tradition in our family and something we have always done with pride.  From as far back as I can ever remember, when I was growing up, my mom always let me choose a name off of a giving tree.  I always loved picking out a little something for someone who otherwise would have nothing to open on Christmas morning.  I carried this tradition on with my own children and I hope that it is something that they carry on with their children too!

We have learned, that when you least expect can be on the receiving end of that giving tree!  For the past two years we have been so blessed by people who heard our story and worried that my kids would go without presents on Christmas morning.  Those people, most all of whom we never met, provided for us, two of the best Christmas mornings anyone could ever hope for.  No Christmas could ever possibly live up to the miracles of those two Christmas mornings! 

This year, I realized that I wasn't going to be able to give my kids a Christmas and for the first time in my life...I asked for help.  I tried numerous organizations and wasn't able to get help this year.  So, I started selling what I could so that I could buy something to put under the tree this year.  For the third year in a row, we were not in a position to give, something that 3 years ago, I never could have immagined.  I realized that my children may be losing sight of something that has always been so important to me and I didn't want them to come to expect that other people should always do for us.  Even though we do not have the financial ability to adopt a family as we used to, or even the capability to provide just one gift to someone in need...there was another way that we could enjoy the spirit of giving this year! 

Having a daugther who is hard of hearing, has prompted us to become involved in the deaf community.  Each month we attend outings/activities put on for the deaf kids and teens.  Another tradition in our house is to make Magic Reindeer Food Jars.  I thought that it would be a great idea for us to make these to be given out to all of the children at the December event.  It was a way for my children to learn, that even though you may not be able to afford to give much, we can still give!

We started by asking for donations of empty baby food jars and we had great success in getting far more jars than we needed!  I did forget what little patience I had during my stressfull days, but, I made it through the kids helping with half of the 101 jars that we made!

Emu helping remove the labels

Cardinal and Eagle adding to the pile of labels

Duckling, getting 2 year olds often do!
Although, stacking 5 jars was pretty impressive

Yep, Mother Goose cleaned up that mess!

Macaw is always looking for a reason to pose for a picture...

and Duckling is always quick to follow!

Emu was in charge of mixing the sugar colors

Looks can be deceiving and capturing a Kodak moment just at the right time can make a huge difference because, this part of the project did NOT go as smooth as it looks here!  Tis' why the kids only helped with half of the jars :)

 "Sprinkle on the lawn at night
The moon will make it sparkle bright
Santa's reindeer fly and roam
This will guide them to your home."

Enough jars to make 101 children smile!

For those left wondering...someone did make sure that our tree will be filled with gifts this year!  While everything won't be sparkling with newness (just wait till you see what an allowance of just $50 per kid can get you)...we will still see six smiling faces at our house this Christmas morning...and more importantly, our hearts will be full of so much joy and pride, knowing that we made it a little easier for Santa to find those 101 children whom we made jars for!