Another Round of Freezer Meals! Gluten Free!

Last Sunday I posted a photo of my fabulously FULL Freezer on facebook.

Since several of you asked for what recipes we did here is the list! I’ll try to start posting them each time we do them. Which is around every 4-5 weeks.

  1. Crockpot Italian Chicken
  2. Low Carb Taco Soup
  3. Cheesy Chicken Ranch Lasagna
  4. Fiesta Chicken Casserole
  5. Low Carb Meatballs alla parmiaganna
  6. Slow Cooker Sausage Breakfast Casserole
  7. Chicken Broccoli Noodle Casserole
  8. Chicken & Rice Soup
  9. BBQ Chicken
  10. Slow cooker San Francisco Pork Chops
  11. Slow Cooker Cheesy Bacon BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
  12. Macaroni & Beef with Cheese
  13. Bacon Wrapped Chicken with Rosemary
  14. Taco Casserole
  15. King Ranch Chicken

Some Tips/Basic things we do

  • I eat Gluten Free (I have Celiac disease). My friends I cook with are so sweet to pick GF recipes! Or recipes that I can alter. which means we have to leave out recipes like stuffed crescent rolls. sniff sniff. I miss crescent rolls. When recipes have cream soups (chicken, mushroom, etc.) we buy the cream soups for them & I use a batch of “cream of whatever soup”. I keep a batch of this around. Even my husband is fine with it. & doesn’t notice a huge difference!
  • We don’t just pick recipes specifically made for the freezer. we pick whatever we want & alter it.
  • We used to prepare the meals completely, using Glad’s black oven pans. But now we pretty much just prepare the ingredients & use freezer bags. This way things taste so much fresher. & the majority of the work is in precooking meat, measuring ingredients, etc.
  • This round of meals cost us about $115 per person. which is less than $8 a meal! We try to make each meal serve 6-8 people.
  • I type up a mega shopping list & 2 of us go shopping the day before.
  • We start Sunday after church & spend 4-7 hours Total. the time varies on how many recipes we’re doing, when we all get started, difficulty level of recipes, etc.
  • 15 recipes definitely took us longer. but honestly I’d rather spend 1 more hour to get 3 more meals than do it again sooner. (Although the day cooking with friends is quite fun! & we turn on a movie usually too)

I know it’s probably not the fastest method. I’ve seen several post on Pinterest about making 40 meals in one afternoon, but when I’ve looked through those they’re usually things my family wouldn’t really choose. lots of chicken with different veggies frozen to be thrown in a crockpot. good! just not my family’s style. so each of us girls chooses 4-5 recipes, we all look over them & approve or ask someone to swap out some recipe. This way we get a bigger variety.

Freezer meals has made the “witching hour” (or is it bewitching hour?) at my house dramatically less. yes, somehow kids seem to always get a little crazy around that time, but thankfully I usually already have dinner planned, or even in the crockpot or in the oven!

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Happy Day!!

Such a great day at our home!

DJ turned 3!!!!!

we celebrated yesterday since my dad was in town for the weekend. He had such a fun day! pancakes for breakfast (he only had 4 yesterday, usually he eats 5!!), macaroni & cheese for lunch, got a “Mack” car carrier truck with a new Lightning McQueen, a roller coaster in the backyard! (a small car that rolls down a plastic hill) & some other fun things. But I think his favorite very likely might be the Lightning McQueen balloon! he’s been carrying it everywhere yesterday & today. It even slept by his bed last night.

He has brought so much life to our family. He’s challenged me, helped me grow, & fills my day with so much joy!! (& sometimes tears!) He’s dramatic with his facial expressions. He can either be calm & sweet, or a pistol!! I am beyond grateful that he is ours!! DJ we love you so very much!!

Another reason for happiness today is that the 90 day waiting period for AJ is over!! (the state requires a 90 day waiting period after parents rights are terminated for the adoption process to fully start) Although I am NOT a phone person, I was VERY excited to call our lawyer today to hire her for AJ’s adoption!! She did DJ’s adoption, so remembers us. Hoping she can get papers moving along & get a date set for court soon. (hoping that we can do it Feb 6th, the same day as DJ’s, but we shall see if the judge has court that day. technically we have to have AJ in our home for 6 months before the adoption consummation, but if we can get the date close to when DJ’s was our adoption worker said she’d be ok waiving a bit of the 6 months)

& the final reason for happiness today…Routine!! I loved the Thanksgiving break from school, but sure love getting back into a routine! the warm weather isn’t my fav, but it did allow DJ & his little friend who I’ve been getting to watch some have LOTS of time outside. Outside time for the little ones does a mommy good!

Oh happy day!!

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#17!!!

Yesterday this post was all typed up, ready for a few pictures…then it disappeared!

oh my word. I had to step away & breath. I was in serious denial. so i broke it up into 2 posts. One about our mega summer trip, which was no where near as exciting as the trip actually was, but we all know I’m not great at wording/blogging/taking enough pictures..etc. it was a great trip, jam packed seeing tons of relatives, friends, & lots of car time!

So the BIG news, if you hadn’t heard, is that foster #17 is here! But what’s even MORE exciting is that even though AJ (that’s what I’ll refer to baby as) is going to be a permanent part of our family!!!  here’s kind of the run down of the last month or so.
Between us getting back from our trip July 30th & Aug 17th we got a couple possible placement calls. One was out of our age limits. we’ve said up to 2, which we have to clarify as under 24 months. Our CH worker called with a 2 yr old…but no clue if we were talking just turned 2, 2.5, or almost 3. which really makes a big difference. So we said no. Even when it’s out of our boundaries, it’s still hard. But we really felt like we needed to take a placement that was going to be a possible adoption, not just a foster placement. So we were sticking to our guns. We got another call & said yes!! but the CPS worker chose a family that was closer to their office. which worked out great, because it was over an hour away & I’d be traveling back & forth at least once a week for visits. was sad that day, but glad to not be driving that far.

  • Friday, August 17th-woke up that morning feeling like something was different. I felt like God was saying “today you’re going to get a GREAT placement call!” around 1:00 we got a call! within a couple hours it was set that we were getting AJ, but some circumstances meant it would be Monday before AJ was in our home. I did get to visit AJ a few times over the weekend. That was such an amazing privilege that most foster parents never get. The CPS worker kept telling me, this is very unusual, this is not normal. believe me, I know. I’m used to 2-4 hours notice of a child being in my home, so 2.5 days was amazing! we actually had time to prepare ourselves & our home!
  • Monday, August 20th CPS worker brought AJ to our home, & after 10 min of mega paper signing was gone! Even though it had only been a few days, I was already starting to feel like this might be the one….the one we get to adopt…that our family might be complete.
  • Monday August 27th- 14 Day hearing. which if you do the math was really only 7 days, but this judge rotates, or has different hours or something. so they did it early. & the parents Relinquished their rights!! no one at CPS has ever seen parents relinquish at the 14 day hearing. I never had to take AJ to a visit. it really was amazing. so exciting. &  we were falling in love.
  • a few days later a CPS worker called to update me & get some information. She was just getting papers ready to transfer the case to the adoption unit.  There were a few people to double check with as far as relative placements go, but it was looking like the goal was for AJ to be part of our family forever. continued excitement!!!…
  • Monday, September 17th Robbie left for a work trip & wouldn’t return ’til Saturday. the CPS supervisor called to set up a monthly visit to see AJ & to tell us who our adoption worker is…the same we had for DJ!! even more excitement. It was all going so easy…..
  • Tuesday, September 18th Our CH worker called….a new adoption supervisor decided it was procedure that when a child has been in a foster home less than a month & is heading to adoption, that a full adoption staffing be called. This means that all agencies around the area were contacted & could submit possible adoptive families for AJ. CH worker had never heard of this procedure & immediately started calling people asking what was going on. Everyone at CPS knew we were an adoptive family & wanted to adopt AJ. & we were 2 days away from having AJ in our home for a month. 2 days people. well, the ball on the adoption staffing was rolling so that’s what we did. over 100 families submitted their home studies wanting AJ.
  • Wednesday, Sept 18th  It was narrowed down to us & 2 other families. they were supposed to have an answer to us by Thursday morning, but the meeting had happened without AJ’s attorney/guardian at litem present, so they had to wait for him to look over the home studies. My muscles were so very tense. I was trying so hard to not worry. to trust that if God wanted AJ to be with us it would work out. But if not, that God had a better plan. But I kept feeling like something was suspicious, something just wasn’t adding up.
  •  Monday, Sept 24th Robbie called the Attny/Guardian At Litem to express our love for & desire to adopt AJ, hoping this would help us be chosen as AJ’s forever family.
  • Tuesday-supposed to hear officially, but didn’t. not surprised.
  • Wednesday, September 26th- CH worker called that we were officially chosen as AJ’s adoptive family. My muscles instantly relaxed. I didn’t realize how stressed I was until we got the official word.

    Since Robbie was out of town most of the week of waiting my sweet mom carried most of the burden of my emotions. from I’m doing good! to feeling like the world was ending. We didn’t tell many people. I don’t know why, I guess I’m just really private. & I didn’t want to have to talk about it & update people all the time.  If things went badly I’d let people know at that point.  I kept thinking this was just crazy to be so worried about a baby we’d had less than a month. But everything about AJ being with us felt different! So easy, & wonderful. AJ even has similar race percentages as DJ. As my pediatrician said, it’s like God just handed us a baby He wanted us to have. while we were waiting to get a placement my prayer had been that the Lord would bring us not just any baby to adopt, but one that needed our family. It sure seems like He answered our prayer!

    We are so excited & incredibly grateful for AJ. I’m not even ready for another foster placement. Just thoroughly enjoying our family of 6 & ready to get the adoption ball rolling. As of October 1st AJ is officially  in the adoption unit. this Friday is a status hearing for the judge to get updated on what’s going on. I have to take AJ as this judge likes to see all the kids cases she hears. Sure hope she hears AJ’s case first & we get out of there ASAP! AJ has to be with us for 6 months before the adoption can be consummated. so we’re looking at end of Feb, early March, 2013. But I’m hoping & praying that the judge will waive a couple weeks of that 6 months & let us adopt AJ on Feb 6th, the same day DJ was adopted. Then we can celebrate adoption day every year! or Gotcha day, whatever you want to call it. I think that would be a great way for them to always know they’re adopted & a very wanted part of our family.

    (AJ is not baby’s real name. It is what baby’s initials will be when we officially change baby’s name)

    “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!”
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annual SC trip + Branson

This summer our annual South Carolina trip to visit Robbie’s family was extended into a mega trip!
Here’s a few highlights. Sadly there were so many things I didn’t get pictures of.

The last couple years we’ve gone to visit Robbie’s aunt & uncle who live on a lake.

Our kids have 2 Really cool uncle Jacks. The uncle on the left made an amazing potato gun. It provided some super fun entertainment.
Davis tried skiing for the first time & did ok! We did forget to tell him to let go of the rope when he falls, so he did end up drinking some major lake water! But he got back up, tried again & did pretty well.

Addie preferred tubing

Robbie always takes the kids on a little tour of the lake, looking for small coves on his uncle’s jonboat.

We also made a trip to the Congaree Swamp. It was very….swampy. The big kids had a great time. I….um…well….got a good long walk in.  My Father in Law always makes a swamp BINGO for the kids. so they’re constantly on the lookout for things.

We went to see Robbie’s grandad, who is 98 I believe. Also saw lots of other family & friends. we packed a lot into  our 4 days there!

Then we headed out to Branson. on the way we stopped by another Aunt & Uncle of Robbie’s who live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. with less than a day’s notice they made us dinner & had Robbie’s cousins come over for dinner. it was so nice! not sure why I don’t have any pictures of that. we got about 5 hours sleep then headed to Nashville, TN to see Robbie’s other cousin for about 20 min. next stop…Branson, Missouri.  (Yes, we spent a LOT of time in the car!! my stomach was NOT a fan of it. especially all the twisty mountain roads. they were gorgeous, but absolutely not fun at all for my tummy)

We were in Branson for my dad’s family reunion & to celebrate my grandma’s 80th birthday. I hope that I’m as spry & healthy as she is when I’m her age. She & my grandpa travel to visit all the kids/grandkids/great grandkids at least once a year. they are true snowbirds-living in Kansas during the summer & Arizona during the winter.

grandma & grandpa:

our family (I’m an only child. My dad is one of 6. we’re a Large crowd when we all get together!)

well, that’s my July update. haha!

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Another Goodbye

well, 2 weeks ago we said goodbye to our foster babies (#15 & #16). The homestudy that was taking forever on the only possible kinship placement was all of a sudden done & approved.  We were leaving to go out of town 2 days later, so the caseworker wanted to move them before our trip. That evening Robbie & I worked hard getting all their belongings rounded up, getting their pictures off the computer, in order, on a disk, & some prints ordered. The next morning the CW decided that when I brought them to their visit I’d just leave them for her to take to their new home. WHEW!!it was a whirlwind of 23 hours.

I cried almost the entire way home after dropping them off, then let myself be a big bum that evening-sitting on the couch watching TV & eating too many cookies. The next morning I had to move on. I’d had my mourning time; now it was time to get the house put back to “normal” & finish packing the 5 of us for our 11 day trip. the problem is I can’t just pack our stuff.  I have to over organize everything, clean the house so when we get home we’re walking into a wonderful clean home, & now I also had get all the baby stuff cleaned up & put in the attic. I didn’t want to come home to reminders that the babies were gone.  The big kids were a huge help. I should’ve taken pictures of all the stuff they helped me do. They scrubbed the bumbo, 2 high chairs & 2 exersaucers. (they also clean the bathrooms, & do a pretty good job at it I must say!..now if I could just get them to clean the blinds for me…hmm…) Getting all the baby stuff cleaned, re-organized & put away is how I process saying goodbye. It helps me officially close their “chapter” of our fostering adventure & prepare for whatever placement we get next.

We’ll probably never hear any updates about them. I pray whenever they come to mind that in their new home they are happy, loved, & safe from parents who continue to make bad decisions. I pray they are mighty forces for the Lord as they grow up & that their time in foster care was not in vain.

The day after we dropped them off I was telling a friend they left. She looked at me kind of funny, & said “well, that’s a good thing! right?!” It caught me off guard, as no one’s really said that. & got me thinking. It is a good thing. even if the situation isn’t perfect & there are several things that worry me, it’s not up to me. I’m not in any sort of control over the situation. & it IS good when families can be reunited.

So now we’re waiting! I’m back to keeping my phone near me ALL the time & jumping when it rings. We actually did get a call about a placement a few days ago, but it was out of the boundaries we’ve agreed to take. Saying no stinks, but we’ve learned it’s better to wait for  the right placement for our family. I’ve enjoyed these 4 days at home with just our family of 5. I’ve actually gotten a lot done, & have a good more to do…but I’m addicted to having foster babies around. Seriously, when people tell me over & over how wonderful of a thing it is that we’re doing by being foster parents, my 2 responses are: 1)It’s a wonderful gift God’s given us the desire & ability to do, 2)80% of fostering is me just wanting to have babies around. So it’s not purely an unselfish thing we do. ;)

Ring phone, ring!!

 

 

 

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cornrows & a PTL moment!

Yesterday my mom stayed home with 4 of the 5 while I took toddler to an appointment. I did think it was odd that they scheduled an appointment on Memorial Day. Hmmmm…So I was not surprised when I got there & the place was closed. HAHA!! Oh well. I did need to go to Walmart, so I ran to take advantage of taking just 1 instead of 5 kids shopping!

Toddler was WONDERFUL!! & I found myself enjoy this one, not just surviving him anymore. He is a sweet little guy, but we just rub each other the wrong way. I’ve been praying for the Lord to soften my heart to this sweet child He created & loves so much. & AT Walmart, He did it!! Thank you Lord for such a wonderful answer to prayer!!

So it astounds me that CPS can take away parents rights to their children, but when it comes to hair cuts….the parents have the last word. We can’t even trim hair w/o parents permission. It makes NO sense to me. This little one has some mega hair! & gets called a girl everywhere we go. I am allowed to trim his bangs, but I’m just not personally into boys with long hair & bangs. I’m just not that Southern I guess. Something had to be done though. ponytails don’t stay in, hair clips don’t stay in & contribute to the girly look. So last week I started doing something I haven’t done in 3 years…cornrows!! we get LOTS of compliments on them everywhere we go. & now people automatically know he’s not a girl. WHEW!! another huge bonus is it’s gotta be so much cooler in this East Texas heat than it sticking to his neck. They don’t stay as well as cornrows in black/textured hair. So I’ll have to do them every week instead of every other week, but that’s ok. it’s worth it! Wish I could post a picture so you could all see it!

I have to make an addendum to my post about the cascade licking event. we DO keep our cleaning supplies locked or at least in cabinets with childproof locks on them. I had the cabinet door under the sink open while I was putting some things in the trash & that’s when DJ apprehended the Cascade. cleaning supplies being available to toddlers is not an everyday occurrence at our house ;)

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Mega Shopping List

Tomorrow is what our foster agency calls “super Saturday”. It’s pretty much all day foster parent training. One of the families in our agency hosts it at their house. It’s about an hour drive from here, but it’s worth it to get all or almost all our yearly training hours done in one day. There will be 4 classes offered, but we only need the first 2, so hopefully we can get away a little early.

We’ve got a new babysitter for tomorrow.  I’m pretty excited about her! She watches my 3 little ones in the mornings at the gym, so she knows them well. & she has a 2 yr old who loves DJ. (Except for when he used to freak him out with how insanely loud he is. One of these days I’ll attempt to capture it on video & post just so you can hear!) She found me on Facebook a couple months back & offered to help if we need babysitting help. What a HUGE blessing that is!! She knows the kids, I’ve seen her calm in a room full of kids at the gym, & she’s willing to spend most of a Saturday with all 5 of my kids plus her 1.

Today I made a fruit salad & dressing for a spinach/strawberry salad to take for potluck lunch tomorrow. My mom made the spinach salad growing up & I thought it was nastiness. Now I think it’s super yummy!! Does that mean I’m grown up now?I won’t bore you with the rest of my day. ya know, dishes, laundry, bottles…rinse, cycle, repeat.

But I did make the mega shopping list for our freezer cooking day! Here are the recipes we’re doing this round. They’re all rather simple & I’m excited about all of them. I’m so glad to have ladies who love freezer cooking day as much as I do!& glad for a husband who watches the kids knowing how much freezer meals make my late afternoons so much less stressful. I did type of the guidelines we’ve all agreed upon as a group, so if you’re interested in starting one of your own, or just want more info on how we do it let me know.

As for the status of our foster babies…they’ve been with us for over 5 months now. Situation just isn’t getting any better. There’s one relative that a homestudy is just being started on. That’s the last possibility. Parents generally have 12 months to get their act together. So if relative doesn’t work out, this could drag on for awhile or could end up looking for a permanent home for them.

I kind of freaked out last month when the case worker mentioned “adoption.” we really just want to adopt 1 more, not 2…or 3. It’s so hard to say “we can’t adopt these kids”.  we’ve never been in a place to have to say that. But I CANNOT worry about tomorrow. Just completely trust that He’s got it in His hands.

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