Monday, January 31, 2011


Ugh. Double UGH. This one even rates a TRIPLE UGH.


I completely forgot when I posted that last entry for those yummylicious cookies that my Kitchen Aid stand mixer?

Is broken. Again.

TWICE now in 13 months.

I'm so disgusted on so many levels.

I mean, I don't even make that many things that are super heavy and thick that the gears would have to labor so incredibly hard.

I don't even use it every day.

Truthfully, I don't even use it every week.

I really would have expected it to be more reliable.

More sturdy and capable of handling a simple double batch of oatmeal cookies.

Or peanut butter cookies.

With the butter and shortening completely melted to make the mixture easier to handle.


I mean, considering it's sportin' the label "HEAVY DUTY" in big bold letters right across the front.

You'd think, right?!

You'd be wrong.

Last year's repair guy explained it all.

Plastic gears that break "more" easily to prevent the motor from burning out.

Plastic gears that are easier and more cost-effective to repair and replace.

Yada. Yada. Yada.

I'm disgusted.

There's not many double batches of anything that I can make that my dinky little hand-mixer can handle.

And Saturday? I was too irritated to even try after I realized the mixer was NOT. MOVING.

And smelled slightly like a diesel truck idling in the middle of my kitchen.

Which went over like a lead balloon with the kids.

Ugh. UGH. UGH!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Fun Part of Fasting

I love the feeling that comes at the end of a time of fasting.  It's a celebration of sorts.  And this weekend, The Gang will be breaking their fast in all kinds of ooey-gooey style.  The first thing I'm making, after a big 'ole pot of dark, rich coffee, will be these treasures. They may be tiny, but they pack a mighty punch of flavor and decadence.  I have no idea just to whom I should be giving credit for these little bites of deliciousness, but I'm sharing this recipe with you and yours, hoping that you all enjoy the cookies (and the making, maybe even together?) as this Gang enjoys them.  Don't say I didn't warn ya - they are ridiculously scrumptious and worth the many steps of creating this fantabulousness. Trust me.

Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwiches

Cookie Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter 
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Cookie Directions:
Beat butter, peanut butter, sugar and egg until smooth.  Add flour, baking soda and salt until mixed.  Roll 1 tsp dough into a ball and place 2 inches apart on un-greased cookie sheet.

Bake 10 minutes at 350.  Let stand 2 minutes and remove to cool.

Sandwich Filling:
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Make Filling:
Mix peanut butter and sugar.  Spread flat side of a cooled cookie with 1 tsp (-ish!) of peanut butter filling and top with another cookie.  Refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).

Dipping Chocolate:
1 cup semi chocolate chips
4 tsp vegetable or canola oil

Dip in Chocolate:
In microwave, melt the chocolate chips slowly and gently and add oil in small amounts at a time. Stir to combine.

While chocolate is still wet and warm, dip cookies halfway into melted chocolate and let excess drip off.  Place on waxed paper and drizzle decoratively with remaining chocolate.  Refrigerate to set and/or to store.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

Our church has been in a season of fasting and prayer during the month of January. Normally, I don't talk to many folks about our fasting decisions, as they are really individual per person and per family. But most of you who come by here regularly know that one of the things that is regularly on my heart and in my "sights" spiritually is the plan and vision that God may have for the next season of This Gang's life. This year, our fast is no different.

The Boss and I have been praying for clarity regarding our home's vision and mission. Specifically, we've been praying about things that can make us more like Christ first within the walls of our home and then to the others that we encounter in our daily lives.  We've also been praying about our next adoption. It's never far from my heart or my mind, the deep-seated knowing that there's a little girl on God's heart that will be just the right addition to this big, loud, crazy Gang. I think about it all the time, really. I pray about it, I talk with the kids about it, I read all I can get my hands on regarding adoption and special needs. And I try to listen. To the Lord. To my husband. To the kids. To those who have traveled the journey before us, both in adoption and in life. The listening is hard for me. (yes, snicker away, go ahead... okay, composed and ready to resume? Good. Let's move on.)

The listening is hard for me for many reasons.  But in the last week or so, as I've been contemplating the ways in which we need to tighten up our home environment to provide a good listening environment for Li'l Empress, I've been struck by just how important it is that we be creating a good listening environment for The Gang. So that we can listen to The Lord.

Yeah. Let that one sink in with ya a bit.

I've been struck more strongly in the last week by just how hard it is to create and maintain a good spiritual listening environment in a busy home like ours.  In this culture of ours.  We do like our background noise, don't we? Radio on in the car. Morning news blaring in the background. Fancy ring tones for calls and different ones for texts. Songs stuck in our heads, leaking out our mouths (no matter how badly sung!) from this morning's radio alarm. Cell phones permanently attached to our fingertips for constant access to incoming texts. Immediate answers back to said texts. Laptops open in every room. Multiple tv's to avoid the noise of dissension over channel choice. Come on now, I know that it isn't just The Gang's Headquarters that sounds like this. You probably got some noise goin' on in your house, too. Don't ya?

Hearing lots but not really listening to anything.

Really. We can't handle the quiet can we?  And as the old saying goes, when I'm stepping on your toes, I'm bruising the bottoms of my own feet as I tromp. (Or something like that, anyway... I swear, I heard it somewhere.)

I was struck Wednesday afternoon by the utter silence and still in my home for all of 30 minutes or so. The Boss and Dr. D were at the gym (no doubt with iPods blaring in their ears to drown out the noise of the gym tv's!). Shaggy was in his room working on a school project. Li'l Empress was sleeping. And LadyBug and Baby BlueEyes were playing in the snow at their cousins'. I was alone (GOSH, that felt so weird in itself!). And IT. WAS. QUIET.  Just me and my book. Oh, and my Tigger mug o' tea, of course.

In that quiet moment, I realized that I could hear the snow falling outside the window.

I could hear my cat snoring.

I could hear.

I could hear.

I'm coming to the end of this season of fasting and prayer with a new-to-me revelation of my spiritual listening environment. It needs to be a lot quieter, a lot more often. It needs to be peaceful. It needs to be free of spiritual clutter. And purged of the white noise of my life. I need to hear Him. But in the hearing, I need to listen.

So when HE asks me, "Can you hear me now?" I can say, "YES, LORD! I hear YOU. And I'm LISTENING."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

It's snowing again, here in PA.

I think even my happy little snowmen
are getting a little tired of the white stuff.

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.
If  you leave me some comment love,
I'll be happy to reciprocate.
While I'm huddled up with my hot tea
and heavy sweater!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Back on Track

In the months since Li'l Empress began pre-school, I have noticed in small and almost immeasurable ways that The Gang has gotten kind of lazy about maintaining some of the environmental changes we made in respect of her hearing issues. Nothing huge, just some creeping in of bad habits that barely blipped on anyone's individual radar when they were happening. Things like talking over each other at the dinner table (not in rude, interruptive ways, more like multiple conversations happening at once).  Or the iPod being on too loudly for too long.  Or leaving the morning news on while the boys were fixing their breakfasts and talking. Quite often, the microwave and/or the dishwasher and/or the washing machine would also be going all at the same time. Finally, there's been a return of the yelling across the house or up the stairs lately. Which easily (too easily?) became yelling for lots of other communications as well.  (Not even going to tell you how often I've fallen into this mode of communicating lately - suffice it to say that snow days, cabin fever, and hibernation are not always my friend! Ugh.)
As a reminder, unilateral hearing loss (hearing only from one ear) is a very easy special need to live with, and some of the adaptations that a family can make to create a good listening environment include the absence of "white noise" or cluttery-type background noises, speaking one person at a time (this is a tough one in a large family!), limited electronic noises (tv, iPod, stereo, computers, etc.), and face-to-face communication as frequently as possible when addressing the member with the hearing loss.
(Click here and scroll down to the section that says
"Profound Hearing Loss" for a great description of what Li'l E lives with daily.)

Unfortunately, if you are also a parent, you well know that these kinds of  bad habits almost always start small. With a slow creeping in that eventually feels large and looming when you let yourself finally acknowledge their presence.

Put all that together with the fact that we haven't really had a "normal" (for us) routine since before Christmas break and I was kind of knocked upside the head with a bit of awareness the other day that had been eluding me in the previous weeks.  I knew something was "off" for her, (not just for her but for The Gang in general if I'm being really honest about it all) and that her frustrated and often defiant behavior wasn't just about being three. I forced myself to observe her for the last couple days, and to observe the interactions between her and the older kids. What I noticed made me really sad. It felt a bit large and looming as I first mulled it over in prayer. But then I got determined to take back some ground. To get back on track, as it were.

There's been a return of some of her anxious behaviors, mainly manifesting itself this time in picking at some loose cuticles and dead skin around her thumbnails. Her poor little thumbs are just about raw. She's been obsessing about a couple things, and has been really really adamant about her favorite routines/rituals (like bed time or pre-school drop-offs).  She's also fallen into the habit of yelling "WHAT?" when we speak to her. Sometimes it's kind of funny, especially when she scrunches her little nose and is trying to concentrate on what she thinks she just heard. But the more I observe these (and other) behaviors, the more I'm realizing that we have got to be modeling the tenets of a good listening and communicating environment for her in more tangible and simple ways.

It's not surprising to me that these things are coming to the surface this month. I know that practically speaking, we just wrapped up an incredibly busy holiday season and every kid reacts to the changes and irregularities with similar behaviors. I also know that the older kids have been battling some selfish behaviors and egocentric attitudes that have made the dynamics between all of them very difficult.  Throw in a little cabin fever, a head cold or two, a lingering virus and two teens who can't really chew real food yet but are all the same just  positively rammy with hunger and let's just say that January hasn't been my favorite month.

All that being said, I must also say this:  It is no coincidence to me that it's all coming to the surface in the midst of this intentional season of prayer and fasting for The Gang and our church. Granted, I'm a little slow on the uptake, having only come to this ability to articulate the "ick factor" here in the house as recently as Saturday evening.  (Yes, I know, we've been fasting and praying since the 10th. I told ya, I'm a little slow!)

I know this stuff in my head. In fact, I could have even told The Boss that we should be geared up to expect some behavioral and spiritual battles early in the month. But I never followed up on the thought, nor on the preparations in my own heart and mind.  I regret that now; it sure makes for a rough start to the new year!  I do feel as if I'm coming out of the fog of it all a bit. Especially on Monday - while I sitting across from Li'l E in a crowded, noisy McDon@ld's.

So, I'm forcing myself back on track. Quieter daytime environment. (Sigh. I really have to go back to using my iPod mainly during naptime, I guess.) Re-directing and re-phrasing. Girding myself up for more consistent reminders to speak nicely to one another. And to do it IN THE SAME ROOM. Pulling out the big guns of serving one another for consequences of disrespectful or unloving behavior. Making mediation of their differences include reconciliation and repentance. Assigning extra jobs to those who can't get themselves back on track with my lead. (Counting to ten before yelling myself. Ugh.) 

If nothing else, the quieter more peaceful environment will return soon because certain little Gang members will be plumb tuckered out from all the jobs that they reap from sowing their seeds of dissension. And I'll have a clean house, to boot!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

Ni Hao Yall

What to do when the frigid weather forces
The Gang to hibernate for
the entire weekend?

Why, you have a Pl@y-Doh
Cake Decorating Contest, of course.

Hope you all are finding creative and
colorful ways to stay warm and stay IN!

Link up over at Sunday Snapshot
and join the fun.
Leave me a comment 
and I'll come by for a visit 
over some hot tea!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Eating a Fr*sty with no feeling in your
whole lower face takes great concentration.
He actually asked for a mirror so he could
see where he was putting the spoon!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom and join in!
Leave a comment and I'll drop by 
to say hi and return the favor.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

... on a Monday!

Ni Hao Y'all

Fun in the snow on a sunny Sunday. . .

Baby Blue Eyes is manning the ship, steering them
safely down our mini-hill in the backyard.

 There's nothing quite like the bond these two share.
Already whispering secrets and giggling over silly clothes.
Even through chattering teeth and bracing wind!

Join the fun over at Snapshot Sunday!
Leave a comment and let me know
you were were. I'll come by for a visit
and do the same. . .

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Where Have I Been?!

Omigoodnessgracioussakesalive!  Have you SEEN how long it's been since I last posted a blog entry? It's been 11 days. EEEE.LEV.EHN. I think that is quite possibly the longest I've ever gone without a post. I have no idea where the time all went.  In the days since we last spoke (Yes, I know we don't really speak here, but I like to feel like I'm chatting with you all when I'm writing. That okay with you? Good. Moving on...)

In the days since we last spoke, I've attempted a beginning of the year cleaning/purging/organizing that got seriously derailed by, well, life. The cd cabinet did get purged (not nearly enough but it's a start), closets got cleaned and then, well, life happened. I canNOT believe just how much grocery shopping and meal planning I had to do in that first week of the month, just to get us caught back up and on track from the holiday routines! Does anyone else have that problem with their meal planning?  We only had a couple "out of the ordinary" meals and special treats, but somehow I was so off-track with some of that stuff that I was starting almost from scratch.  So I've been cooking. ALOT. We had our first snow day - nothing like a snow day to completely throw a Momma's routine out the window, huh?  Our local church family also began our annual 21-day season of prayer and fasting . . . obviously not a ton of stuff to "DO" with that, but my focus has been different this last week, for sure.

And as of Thursday morning, Shaggy and Dr. D are now 8 wisdom teeth lighter between the two of them. Once they are back on their feet, I think I might be able to resume some of the plans I had for those annoying little drawers and cubbies that I've been ignoring far too long.  So. All that to say that I've been pretty pre-occupied and great blog post ideas would pop into my head when I'd finally fall into bed exhausted at 11 p.m. But we all know once a tired Momma is warm and snug in her bed, it doesn't even matter how great that blog post sounds inside her head. The ZZZZZZ's are calling louder. Oh, the call of the ZZZZ's. The call has been strong these last two weeks, I tell ya.

On a happy note, I'm thrilled to report that the pathology report finally came back on my moles that were removed before Christmas and everything came back clear. I wasn't entirely aware of just how nervous I was about the results until I got that call. The happy tears were a relief to cry.  And, my mother-in-law came through a lumpectomy with great success recently, after several delays due to a nagging infection in her lungs. Finally, one of my favorite guys in the whole world (you met him and his family here) came through a rather unsettling medical crisis with flying colors and God showed Himself strong and faithful even in the face of military procedure and logic.

With all that has gone on here in The Gang's house since that first week of January, I am honestly startled and not just a little dismayed to look at my calendar and note that we are ONLY half way through the LONG.EST. month of the year.  I'll be quite content if we don't have any more snow, or snow days for that matter. But if we do, the fridge and the pantries are finally all re-stocked. The meals are planned. And since The Gang is fasting all sweets, treats, and sugary-snacks together, I don't have to bake at all this month. Which should leave me with plenty of time to get back into the groove of hanging with you all, blogging to my heart's content again.  And aren't you all so glad for that?!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

  Cupcake Creations in the Kitchen

 One must be properly attired in a pink tutu
to create the perfect cupcake!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
link up at 5 Minutes for Mom!

Let me know you were here 
and I'll come by to peek in at your WW post.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Making My Heart Race!

You might have heard about a new little network debuting this weekend . . . you know the one. Formed recently by that famous lady that folks talk about all the time? You know, around the water cooler, over coffee with friends, in the grocery store with strangers? The one who is responsible for most conversations that start like this,   "So, did you see Oprah this week?"

You might remember that I've had my own love-dislike relationship with her over the recent years of this blog. (Here's a post about a show I loved. And here's one about a show I disliked.) No matter how you feel about the amazing Miss O, I'm pretty sure you've had at least one conversation recently about her or about one of her shows. We all have, whether or not we can overcome our pop-culture snobbery enough to actually admit it.  (Ouch, was that my toe I just stepped on?!)

Here at The Gang's headquarters, I can't stop talking about one of the new shows that premiered over the weekend on her new network. In fact, when I watched the first episode in full, I was so excited and motivated, I could hardly fall asleep when it was over. Which, as a night person already, is really not a great thing at 10 p.m. Especially when your sick, morning-person hubby is staggering up the stairs for bed and the bed isn't even made yet.

(Earlier that morning, I was highly motivated to clean my room because The Boss has been sick. I "NEEDED" to strip the sheets. RIGHT. THEN... And wash all the towels. And everything else he might have touched. Or breathed upon. Or near. Yes, I am The Gang's Momma and I am a germ-a-phobe.)

So, anyhoo.  (I never really say that. But it sounded so, so, Australian. Didn't it? Did it? I'm going with a big fat "yes.") So. I've been anxiously awaiting this new show for weeks now. As soon as I heard that my hero of home-organization was coming back to regular television programming, I was over the moon with joy. You may remember him from this little gem of a show:

But this new show? Is giving me palpitations. And I've only seen the sneak peek previews and one full episode. My little heart is going crazy with skipped beats and "a ha!" moments. I've already purged a couple jewelry boxes, Li'l Empress's closet and dresser, my desk organizer, my make-up stash, a huge pile of paperwork, and a couple random drawers. Next up is our huge collection of cd's, dvd's, and vhs tapes.

(And by the by, if you have any leads other than cr@igslist
for a great way to unload those kinds of items and fill our little Adoption Jar
with some extra change, I'm taking suggestions!)  

I even got the kids in on the action by making them sort and purge their arts and crafts bin. Whew! We filled three kitchen garbage bags of that sort of stuff just from Sunday night till their bedtime on Monday night. In fact, after seeing the sneak peeks of my favorite new show between football games on Sunday, I even ordered my whole Monday schedule around how to best and most efficiently run my errands, do the holiday returns/exchanges, and purge through some more paperwork in order to be able to sit (guilt-free!) with a big mug o' chai and absorb all of Peter's wisdom undistracted by my workload.

Yes. Yes, I am talking about Peter Walsh and his awesome new show.  If you haven't caught it yet, you really must find it. Then, DVR it. Prepare a mug o' hot drink of choice for yourself and take it all in. Seriously. There's something for everyone. Even The Boss sat and watched it with me, commenting and agreeing with points along the way. (Whether he actually implements any of the tips and tools for his own stash of "STUFF" remains to be seen. Although I will give him props. Over the weekend, he did clean out his closet and got rid of a couple t's and some old socks. Santa brought him new socks this year.)

I was oooh'ing and aaaah'ing over his sage insight (Peter's, not The Boss's!) and strategizing in my head what I would be able to do with what I was taking in. Oh, and the beautifully organized, focused, intentional living space was making me positively teary by the show's end. What a lovely room. What a gift to give that family. What a delightful jump-start for their new perspectives. Sigh. I've already set the DVR to record each and every episode. I canNOT miss even one. And look at that, I'm being super-time efficient by dvr'ing them too - no commercials detracting from the mission of my viewing pleasure and only a portion of an hour taken up in my day. I'm so proud of myself!

I've decided to ride that wave and keep feeding the thrill that I feel every time I throw something out. I'm gonna ride the crest of accomplishment that soars inside when I clean a shelf or  re-organize a cupboard after a good purging.  I'm hanging on to the high I get whenever I down-size a drawer. (Wow, that was some kickin' alliteration, there! Look what an un-distracted 48 minutes with Peter Walsh has done for me!)

(Well, really, I've loved his work for years
but this show has catapulted
him to celebrity crush-dom.
I wonder if he knows
how auspicious that is?)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

Well, I'm back from my self-imposed break. You missed me, didn't ya? We had a unusually busy holiday season for our Gang, with travelling to both sets of parents and hosting family in between the stops. Unfortunately, we also had some sickness following us on all our various sundry stops along the way. The Boss is (hopefully) the last of us to suffer through a nasty head/chest cold that has been dogging the household since the middle of December. He always gets it the worst, even though mine always turns to a sinus infection right away. He should be on the upswing by the end of today, I'm praying....

Ni Hao Y'all

My Sunday Snapshot is all about football. In addition to our raging, rabid Eagles-mania here at the Gang's house, The Boss and Dr. D also joined a fantasy football league with one of their uncles and a couple cousins. It's been fun for them, connecting with the cousins and there's been lots of old-fashioned ribbing along the way.

I'm not entirely sure I like the way it's changed how we watch games:
all that stat-checking and rooting for one player vs. just rooting for our team.
But that's alright, I guess.
I root for my Eagles and occasionally the random underdog here and there.

Anyway. Dr. D found out last night at the end of our decidedly lackluster game
with the Cowboys that he won the fantasy league's championship.

He gave himself a "Gator-ade" bath in the driveway to celebrate.
Yeah. Ummm, I nixed the artificial stuff and he used a tiny cup of regular water.
After all, it was really, really cold out there.

 He was jubilant. Even in the virtual world of sports,
he's super competitive and NEEDS to excel.
He also loves to ham it up and make us all laugh
at his antics. He was in rare form last night.

And, it appears, he needs to congratulate himself.
This is a funny trophy he made in an elementary art class quite a few years ago.
He pulled it out tonight and paraded it around the house,
chanting as if he won some national championship or something.

He even made himself a screen banner that he can look at everyday.
Or at least until he has something else for which to applaud himself!

Come on over and join the Sunday Snapshot fun.
Even if you post on Monday like me!

Leave a comment, let me know you were here.
And I'll drop by later. After the coffee takes effect
and I've adapted to the idea of Monday.