Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hard Day for Eagles Fans

It is a sad, ugly day for Eagles fans all over the country. The roar of frustration in the air over Philly is almost tangible. We are in mourning here at The Gang's house.

Late breaking news is that Brian Dawkins, quite possibly the heart and soul of the whole Eagles franchise, has signed a five-year deal with the Denver Broncos.

While we certainly wish this godly man the very best in his new career path, we are incredibly sad for our own loss. Not only is he a passionate player who leaves EVERYTHING on the field, he was very active in local charities and was a great role model of integrity and "family first" for thousands and thousands of fans. For my boys.

And the man can rock the tats. I'm just sayin' . . . .

Sunday afternoons of Eagles football and hanging with my gang just won't be the same.

Friday, February 27, 2009

I'm a Loyal Commenter!

Thanks to the gals over at 5 Minutes for Moms for their very kind and effusive words in today's featured "Say It Forward"(today's post). I am honored to be chosen as a Loyal Commenter; and I'm so happy to be included in the fun here at 5 Minutes for Moms. It's been a great experience to connect with so many moms and learn from many of them on such a broad array of topics. How exciting to be part of a community that seeks to honor the Father through equipping moms and encouraging them to use their skills and gifts in their marriages, their parenting, and their local communities!
This week, as my part in the "Say It Forward" fun, I want to publicly thank Heidi at God's Grace In Practice. I've had the pleasure of meeting her in person now, as we are both "CHOP Moms" - our little ones see the same ENT and audiologists. She's as sweet and kind in person as she always is in her comments to my posts. We share a deep faith in Jesus Christ and I have always appreciated her honesty and her thoughtful perspective, both in her comments and in her own blog.

Her blog is a great mix of practical parenting, frugal living, and journeying through the mazes of parenting a special needs child. In the months since her "Little Boy Blue" was born, she's also become an active voice in the world of parents who blog about their experiences with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome. As a fellow mom to a special needs child, I have learned a lot about services, therapies, and advocating for a child. She's also posts some yummy recipes occasionally, and you all know how much I love new recipes! An added bonus for me is that her blog is just down right pretty. I love all the calming colors and patterns. Even though I just met her once in person, I see just how perfectly it matches her temperament.

Please, take a minute to click over to Heidi's blog and tell her that The Gang's Momma sent you. You'll like what you read there, I promise!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Major Milestone

Baby BlueEyes was completely excited to inform me this morning, as I stumbled out of my bedroom bleary-eyed and seriously under-caffeinated, that his room "totally weeks, Mommy."

Seems the salad and broccoli from last night's dinner worked its magic. Seems he spent most of the early morning hours warming himself in the noxious fumes of his favorite body function. Seems that needing the F@breeze treatment to refresh his room is an important milestone to his smelly little 7-year old self. Seems joining the ranks of his older brothers (excuse the totally intentional pun!) is a goal he's longed to achieve.

This morning, he gleefully achieved it.

Heaven help me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Looking back . . .

September 25, 2008
Getting ready to shop in Guangzhou

February 25, 2009
Singing "Hallelujah" at breakfast

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Moms!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Game Review

Recently, I won a Build-A-Bear game for the Wii gaming system. I was elated: the older boys had spent Christmas money stocking up on "boy games," replete with Lego light-saber violence and football madness. The little ones were easily frustrated by the complicated maneuvers that these games required. It made for some ugly debates about what to do on Family Nights.

From the moment that package arrived, we have been entranced! (At least, those of us who are easily amused by bright and shiny colors and adorable stuffed animals come-to-life have been entranced!) So far, everything I've experienced about this game is delightful. The music is light and cheery. The choice of animals is varied. The narrator's accent is lilting and lovely in its British tones. The directions are simple to understand and easy to execute. The plots of each little adventure are fun and the challenge of unlocking puzzle pieces hasn't lost its intrigue yet. I am the least gaming person you are ever likely to meet, here in the blogosphere or in person, yet I still found my game time fun and not too stressful or inane at all. Yes, I said inane. I, for the life of me, do not see how people can spend hours upon hours playing a game on a tv or monitor. I find it numbing. Except when I'm riding a pogo stick through the Build-A-Bear countryside, dodging shrubbery and jumping over roadblocks. Then it's all good. Really. It inspired not just a couple giggles from all of us to watch me ride. I mean, to watch my bear ride.

I haven't played the game yet in both modes, as my LadyBug really wanted me (I mean my bear!) to participate with her cute little bunny in the Adventure mode. But I've had the pleasure of watching my kids and my niece and nephew have a barrel of fun in the Playground mode. And I did get over to the "store" to deck myself, I mean my bear, out in a snazzy little outfit earned with my winnings in the wild dash on the pogo stick. I rocked that little number, I must say. I mean, my bear rocked her outfit. Sorry, got a little caught up in the excitement. I can't help it really, it's contagious every time the game is on. The music draws me in, the narrator lulls me to deep and easy breathing, and that pogo stick calls me. It calls me. I mean, it calls my bear. Yeah. My bear.

So, thank you to 5 Minutes for Giveaways for the great game package. We are loving the sweet innocence of the Build-A-Bear for Wii and the giggles it elicits are all music to my ears!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Button on my Sidebar

You may have noticed a new button on my side bar. It looks like this:

Kids Murals
Nursery Murals

There is a unique new opportunity for you to cheer the hearts and minds of medically or physically challenged kids in hospitals across the country. And you won't believe how simple this opportunity really is.

Please, take a moment to go here and learn a little about it. Then click on the button and follow the link to learn even more about this great company. Thanks!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Say It Forward

I had grand plans to schedule this post in advance, but I got derailed with a 24-hour bout of strep. I'm fine now, thanks to antibiotics the size of a horse hoof and plenty of rest on the couch while The Boss took over and played Mr. Mom last night. He even grocery shopped, bless his heart! And if my blog is seeming especially prolific this week, it's due to the "Winter Vacation, Interrupted" that I mentioned earlier this week. While The Boss was painting and Li'l Empress was happily engaged in yelling at the television screen while her brothers played Madden and Lego Star Wars, I snuck in several writing opportunities. This one got stuck in the draft pile. Better late than never, I always say!

Mom Blogs

"Say It Forward" is a blog carnival, hosted by 5 Minutes for Moms every Friday. The sole purpose is for bloggers to honor and thank their most loyal commenters. As much as I love encouraging and building up others around me, I am thrilled to participate in this event.

Today, I want to publicly thank my blogging friend, Aus from The Aus Side of Life! for the regular and entertaining comments he leaves here on my blog. Actually, Aus is another blogger whom I have not yet met in person. I think he found our blog while we were traveling in China, linking to us from another blog that I frequent. I believe some of my comments to this mutual "blogger friend" prompted him to check us out here at The Gang's All Here! I'm not sure, to this day, if my comments incensed or inspired him, but he shows up around here almost every time I post. His comments are encouraging, empathetic, and often very informative. I have thoroughly enjoyed our interactions, and his blog (written equally by he and his wife) is an interesting perspective on parenting and seeking God's will for their family.

One interesting thing that you need to know is that Aus and his wife have successfully raised three biological children to adulthood and are now raising two little girls whom they have recently adopted from China. Although I often feel as if we are "starting over" with a 7-year gap between our Baby BlueEyes and Li'l Empress, this couple REALLY has started over. At a time when most couples their age would be winding down the brunt of their daily parental duties, they heeded the call of God on their lives and opened their hearts and their home to their new daughters. Currently, they are seeking the Lord for His Will concerning yet another adoption! I highly encourage you to check out their story. It's a great read!

So, Aus (and Mrs. Aus), thanks for your regular commentary here on my blog. I'm so glad you hopped through the links to follow our journey. I have learned a lot from your parenting experiences and I really appreciate your encouragement and support along the way.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Slow Cooking Soup

Here's a recipe for a soup that I've been crafting for my Gang. It comes from a recipe in an old Giant Foods newsletter around the New Year, for Pork Roast With Cabbage. I've surfed their archives but have been unable to locate the original recipe. If it sounds tempting to you, please contact me and I'll share the original gladly.

On New Year's Day, The Boss always craves the somewhat regional traditional dish of Pork and Sauerkraut. He's really the only one who loves the dish, so when this new take on the old recipe came to my in-box I was really interested. The cabbage was fresh (as opposed to pickled) and served as an almost-Italian-flavored side dish. It did not disappoint. It was truly delish. Even The Boss's craving was satisfied (well, somewhat) with the offering on the table.

As I was eating, my culinary wheels started spinning.

"This would be an excellent base to a hearty beef soup!"
"Add a little of this, a lot more of this, and wow, this could be a great slow-cooker soup!"

And off I spun, into culinary creative bliss while my family chattered on around me.

Well, this Sunday night, I took out the massively-discounted stewing beef I had stashed in the freezer. I chopped and diced. I cried over my onions. And the house filled with the most amazing smells ever. Thank you, Giant Foods - you have sparked the creation of a new culinary masterpiece! (I know, I'm so humble, aren't I?!)

Beef and Cabbage Soup

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. chopped sweet vidalia onion
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 - 3 cans (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, unseasoned (to preference)
6 - 8 cans (14.5 oz.) beef broth, fat free and low sodium is best (to preference)
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 very small head of green cabbage, coarsely chopped
(or 1/2 a medium head)
1 1/2 - 2 lbs. stewing beef, cut into bite-sized pieces

*I say "to preference" because it really depends
how hearty or how "broth-y"
you like your soup to be.

  1. In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil on medium. Add onions & garlic and heat through till tender. Add tomatoes, broth, and spices slowly and heat through.
  2. Pile in the chopped cabbage and stir well. Turn up heat to medium-high and allow to come to a gently boil. Immediately turn heat down to low and transfer to slow cooker when cool enough to handle.
  3. Add stewing beef and turn slow cooker on to low. Allow soup to simmer in crock pot on low for at least 2-3 hours before serving. Be sure beef is cooked all the way through. This might take 4 hours if you choose to add the full two pounds of meat.
  4. Serve with a coarse, dark rye or pumpernickel bread or a hearty Italian bread. Might even be yummy with "cheese on bread" - your favorite flavorful cheese melted on a hearty bread. Careful that the flavors don't overpower your soup, though.

I think the next time I make it, I may add some chopped carrots and maybe even some cut green beans for color. That's the wonderful thing about home-made soups: you can change them up for your family's tastes and it's really, really hard to mess up a good soup! Good luck and as always, let me know what you think if you make this one. I'm particularly interested in hearing what changes you make for your family!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Going Green
1st coat

Lovingly (and meticulously!)
painted by The Boss

*Edited after reviewing some of the comments: The less-than-loving look here on The Boss's face is due to the fact that I'm snapping a picture of him while working. I was in his space, after all. It is not a reflection of how he feels about this or any project we undertake! He, in fact, does love to paint and work on our home. It gives him such a sense of satisfaction and pride in ownership. Just so you all don't think he's being dragged into this re-do unwillingly!!

And there will be no fancy accent walls or faux finishes or other embellishments. We have two huge matching bookcases that are crackle painted with this green and a lovely off-white that will flank the huge window, and a patterned couch. That's enough eye-candy for me! I prefer the "less is more" approach to my decorating and we've already done the accent wall thing in the family room . . .

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Moms!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Winter Vacation, Interrupted

This past weekend, we had a Friday/Monday combination of days off from school. We had planned to head to visit some old friends for a four-day winter break, but viruses interrupted those plans. So we hunkered down at home and made some alternate plans. The kids were deeply disappointed, however. No alternate plans could fix that. We allowed them to be frustrated and sad for a bit, but worked at redeeming the time with some other distractions.

So, Friday night we made a spontaneous taco dinner party. The kids and The Boss all took turns with the Wii and everyone went to bed way too late. Saturday, we treated the kids to a Valentine lunch at "Cheeburger Cheeburger." True to all the hype we'd heard from friends, their burgers were yummy and the shakes were amazing! Li'l Empress was quite moody for the first half hour we were there, but settled in nicely and enjoyed her diced turkey and the occasional french fry and squished grape. I wish I'd have thought to bring my camera - the delight in her eyes when I let her try my shake was truly a "Kod*k" moment. Her little eyes got big, her eyebrows shot up and she pronounced it amazing with a hearty, "MMMMMMMMMMM!" while trying to swallow and take in more all at the same time!

After a not-so quick stop at H*me Dep*t (nothing is fast with 5 kids in tow!) for paint and supplies, we came home and The Boss and the boys patched walls and moved furniture for the Living Room Re-Do. Since Li'l Empress had a seriously abbreviated nap in the car, we managed to get all the kids to their rooms and the little ones off to dreamland early after exchanging inexpensive little gifts The Boss and I had scored on a quick trip out during nap time on Friday.

The Boss and I celebrated Valentine's Day with a little finger foods feast I assembled and watched an episode of ER that I'd DVR'd a while back. It was too late to start a movie, and it's a good thing we didn't pay for one. The Boss fell asleep by 10:10 on the couch. I followed suit a good bit later and we both woke around 11:45 with stiff necks and cold feet.

Sunday was spent with more patching and sanding by the menfolk. The Boss and I have a system down pat now for home improvement projects. I do the design and decor planning. He does the physical labor. I do the baking and cooking of yummy meals and snacks that will keep his gas tank full and happy. I used to help with painting, but apparently I'm not quite meticulous enough for his standards. And, in true introvert form, he really likes to work alone in the space. He can even work for hours in said space with NO MUSIC. Whatever! So I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies after lunch. After dinner, I chopped and diced and simmered a yummy soup for Monday.

The ceiling got prepped and painted on Monday. It's undoubtedly the worst part of any home improvement project, what with all the craning and stretching and straining. But it's already made a dramatic difference in the light and bright of the room. Enough of a difference that I'm wondering if the previous owners EVER painted the ceiling in the 30 years they lived here? I can't think about that too long, it's just gross to think that they never cleaned or refreshed the paint there. Ugh.

So, the first coat of green is up already and I'm chomping at the bit to dig out the boxes of prints, framed pictures of The Gang, and other decor I've had in storage for the past 4 years. I can't wait to take out my curtains and wash and iron them. I'm actually excited about shopping for thermal blinds for the huge window and picking curtain rods. And I'm currently hatching a plan to re-do the outdated brass lamps we've been using. I think I see some sandpaper and faux finish in their future! But shhhh, don't tell The Boss. That's another one of those "menfolk" projects that he has declared requires a meticulous touch. Which I apparently don't have. Humph!

Monday, February 16, 2009

No Hands But Ours

No Hands But Ours

I'm so excited to tell you that The Gang's adoption story has been added to the list of family stories on the site, called No Hands But Ours. If you remember, several months ago I shared with you about the launching of this site. It's serving as a clearing house of sorts: sharing stories, resources, links and other helpful information to parents in the special needs adoption community. It's an honor to be included in this group of moms who are working so hard to change the lives of children all over the world. Some of the stories here will make you weep with the awesome power of love and Our Father's incredible attention to the details of each story. He is mighty to save and each of these stories proclaim that clearly!

To find our story, go to the "Family Stories" link. Because we were so recently added, we are right at the top for now. If our story doesn't pop up quickly, search on the left sidebar by clicking on "Microtia" and you should find us there. You can also search by blog name if you choose.

While you are there, won't you consider dropping an email to the gals who run the site and let them know what you think of this new venture? I'm sure they could use the encouragement of the Body of Christ!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Quick Note

I'll be doing my "Say It Forward" soon. Just wanted to pop in and say:

Happy Valentine's Day to you all.

Trying to figure out how to keep yesterday's post about No Hands But Ours at the top for a few days. . . . Suggestions anyone?!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Feeling Crabby Today!

Li'l Empress woke us at 4:45 a.m., restless from the sounds of the howling winds. Baby BlueEyes came in and slept on the floor by my side of the bed at 5 a.m. Shaggy couldn't sleep so he got up early to take a shower. (I know, how WEIRD is that?!) Li'l Empress failed to ever fall back into deep sleep and spent the next few hours whimpering and occasionally crying out. As a result she and I have spent most of this morning crabby with each other and stumbling around the house with our eyes at half-mast.

Finally, at 11 a.m. I couldn't take it any more. I bundled her up and headed to the grocery store that borders my neighborhood. It was 1/2 hour venture, mostly just a chance to get out and interact with someone who wasn't whining at me OVER NOTHING IN PARTICULAR! Plus, we needed formula and salad for dinner tonight. Before I left, I called in an order to the Chinese restaurant in the same plaza as the grocery store. They have a wonderful lunch special with very generous portions and I needed some fried rice.

Apparently, so did Li'l Empress. She ate all the pineapple that came with my entree, more than 1/2 of the pork-fried rice (onions and all!); and she STILL managed to suck down more than 1/2 of her bottle. That's after eating 1/3 of a turkey and cheese breakfast omelet! I am happy to report that she is sleeping soundly in her crib, bundled up like a little caterpillar in its cocoon, with the humidifier up high to block the sounds of the 50 mph gusts outside her window. And with a little Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi in me, I'm feeling like myself again. A slightly caffeinated version of myself, but who's gonna complain about that today?!

And if those diversionary tactics weren't enough to thwart a Mommy-Daughter melt-down, this delightful snippet surely would have done the trick. (In case this link doesn't work, and it just might not!, you are looking for the Thursday, Feb. 12th posting called "Always Check Your Children's Homework.")

I'm just glad I swallowed the Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi before I read it. That would have really made me crabby :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Looking back . . .

A few words, if you can indulge me for a second.

This week we celebrated Li'l Empress's 18 month birthday.
And in a few days, we will mark 5 months since we met
our sweet little dumpling for the first time.
I can't remember what our home or our hearts
were like before that day.

I'm a blessed woman.

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
check out 5 Minutes for Moms and join in!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Scrumptious Casserole for You

Tonite's dinner is a big family favorite. The recipe was originally from my sister-in-law, over at My Little Nest, many years ago. We've tweaked it and altered it for our growing family and our preferences. I have mentioned it before but never actually shared the recipe. So, for those of you who are feeling a recipe rut, give this one a try and let me know what you think. I'm pretty confident that you'll love it as much as we do!

Chicken Chalupa Casserole
makes 1 9x13 casserole dish
or a deep 1 1/2 - 2 quart casserole

1/4 c. diced onion
1/2 c. sour cream
3/4 c. milk
2 cans cream of chicken soup
8-10 flour tortillas, quartered
4 chicken breasts, browned and chunked into bite sized pieces
2 c. shredded cheddar, Monterey, or Mexican cheese blend

Optional add-ins:
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes, seasoned or plain
  • 2 cans (4 oz.) diced chiles, drained
  • 1 can (6 oz.) olives, drained and chopped
  • 1 can (7 oz.) mushrooms, drained and chopped
  1. In large bowl, mix together the onions, sour cream, milk, and soup. If adding in the optional ingredients, do that now, too.
  2. Pour a small amount of this "sauce" into a lightly sprayed casserole dish. Just use enough to coat the pan and prevent sticking or burning.
  3. Place 1/3 of the tortillas onto the sauce. Follow with a layer of 1/3 of the chicken, 1/3 of the sauce and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat these layers two more times, and end the layers with cheese on the top.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes, uncovered. Top with additional cheese if it needs it. Bake another 15 minutes uncovered, till bubbly.
This casserole is excellent with guacamole and salsa on the side. I've made it so many times that I had to really think through things to see if this recipe is still how I do it. With a few minor changes, it's really still how I do things. (I delete the sour cream in the sauce and use it as garnish instead. And I use the seasoned diced tomatoes with chiles and onions in them to save me as step.) Throw together a salad and toss some chips into a bowl and you have a scrumptious Mexican-style feast for your family!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Because You Asked For It!

Recently, a couple friends commented on Facebook that they'd like my oatmeal cookie recipe. It's a staple here for The Gang; and I make them sometimes several times a month. As creative as I often get with cooking (making up?!) main dishes, I almost never mess with a good cookie recipe when I find one. This is one of those times. The ONLY change we ever make to this recipe is to use cinnamon chips when we can find them, in place of chocolate chips. Enjoy this treat - from The Gang's house to yours!

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies
3/4 c. butter flavored shortening
1 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 c. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 c. oats, uncooked
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. chocolate chips (or raisins or cinnamon chips if you can find them!)
1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Preheat your oven to 325.
  • Cream together the shortening and sugar. Add eggs, milk and vanilla and beat all till creamy.
  • Combine remaining dry ingredients (except chips) in a separate large bowl. Add dry ingredients slowly until all of it is just blended.
  • Stir in chips by hand. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.
  • Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Say It Forward

Mom Blogs

5 Minutes for Moms is hosting another fun blog carnival every Friday. This time, it's so that bloggers can honor and thank their most loyal commenters. As much as I love encouraging and building up the moms around me, I am thrilled to participate in this event.

Today, I want to publicly thank my blogging friend, Stephanie over at Salzwedel Family Adventures for her regular comments and input here at The Gang's All Here! I've never actually met Stephanie in person, but I can always count on her for an encouraging or compassionately commiserating comment (whooo hoooo! check out THAT alliteration!) on my posts. Whether I'm bemoaning the 900th load of laundry for the week or pouring out my heart on these pages, she is consistently upbeat and consistently points us both back to the Word in her comments. Her blog is also a great read. Her journey to see God's will for their family is inspiring. You really ought to check her out. Thank you Stephanie for your encouraging words!

I'm so excited to join this Friday carnival of encouragement. Why don't you join the fun and see who deserves your kudos today?!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Sweet baby kisses

Exploding into giggles

Blowing raspberries

For more Wordless Wednesday
sweetness and fun
head over to 5 Minutes for Moms!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

February is the New January

I am feeling the buzz of excitement and the roar of projects and "to-do" lists in my ears. My heart is pumping and the adrenaline is rushing through my veins. It's the first full week of February. Everyone is at school, at work, taking naps, and following our regularly scheduled programming. I can smell the opportunities for cleaning and organizing. My fingers are tingling with the anticipation of handling labels, bins and storage containers. My eyes are scanning corners and spying dust bunnies under couches. My shoulders are aching to heave and lift and purge the house of extra. No closet will be left un-touched. No shelf is sacred. Not even the bookshelves.

Be afraid. Be very afraid!

I have declared a fresh start. I am blissfully knee-deep in plans to take apart my house, one room at a time. With or without the help of the rest of the Gang. Corners will be attacked. Curtains will be laundered and pressed. Trim will be wiped down. Windows will be washed. It won't stop there. (I laugh out loud as I type that, because we all know, they will be helping. By hook or by crook. With the bribery of the Wii or special meals. Whatever it takes. And I do mean, whatever it takes! They KNOW they aren't safe when I make my declarations. Isn't that what weekends are for?!)

Paint swatches are stacked on the island counter. Furniture is pulled away from the walls in the living room. Splotches of spackle dot the walls. The Boss is catching the fever. Boxes of stored curtains and living room decor are being sorted, tallied, and mentally (and soon, oh so very soon, physically) inventoried. I am head long into ideas for re-vamping, re-purposing, and re-inventing the living room. With the momentum I gather, I plan to pull The Boss and the rest of the Gang into my pile of rolling stones and de-moss us all! From the living room re-do, I hope to roll the rolling stones right into the dining room.

February is the New January. I am woman. Hear me roar!