Friday, August 30, 2013

Confession.

You know that moment, when you go from enjoying your baby's longer than usual nap, to thinking that the nap is going too long...

You know those extra 10 minutes that you spend watching the clock, thinking for sure he will get up any second...

You know that feeling of climbing the stairs, praying to God that your little one is okay, but knowing full well that you are not above tragedy striking your life...

Do you know?

It may seem morbid, but if we are honest it is what motherhood often looks like.

That was the longest nap Matthias has ever taken and I have to confess that climbing those stairs to that quiet room scared the hell out of me.



We are not above tragedy.  And I'm counting my blessings.  And every moment I get with this little guy is one amazing blessing.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pesto.

Our basil has absolutely exploded, which means it is pesto making time at the Dummermuth house.

We love pesto.  In fact, our go-to family meal (loving referred to as "Adele's Favorite Meal"), is a pesto chicken pasta recipe.  I don't care how many times we have had it, we all get excited when that's the meal on the table and have been known to fight over the leftovers.  And homemade pesto is delicious and only has the downside of the expense of pine nuts.  But we are continually moving towards placing value on making things from scratch over saving a buck or an hour of time, so while the basil is blooming, homemade it is.

Once again, Pinterest was my go-to place to find a recipe for pesto and I found this recipe, from My Crisp White Sheets, that we absolutely love.  I adapted the wording slightly (hope that isn't illegal or something!) to better fit my blog.  Also, we haven't frozen it like she recommends if you are keeping it for more than a month, but it has kept beautifully so far for us in a Mason jar in the fridge.  (I had doubled the recipe in the picture.)


Ingredients:
  • 2 - 3 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cups toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt (we use sea salt)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 - 4 cloves of garlic

Directions:
Roast pine nuts over medium heat and until golden brown on both sides.

If you want to lighten the garlic flavor (which we don't), bring a small pot of water to a boil and drop garlic, with skin still on, in water for 30 seconds. Remove from water and remove skin.

Place pine nuts, garlic, basil, parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and salt into food processor and pulse until ingredients are throughly processed and resembles a smooth paste.  Add more extra virgin olive oil until you reach your desired texture.  Taste to see if more salt or other ingredient needs to be added.

Store in the fridge for up to a month.  For longer storage, freeze the pesto by spooning pesto into ice cube trays and place into the freezer. Once completely frozen you can leave them just as you have them or pop them out and place in a ziplock.

When defrosting place a cube or two in small bowl and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over it to loosen the cube. DO NOT microwave because the cheese will start to melt and the pesto will not be able to spread throughout your dish.

I promise to post the recipe for Adele's Favorite Meal one of these days.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cloth Diapers.

The fact that I have five kids means that I have changed a lot of diapers in the last nine and a half years.  The fact that NONE of the girls were potty-trained before the age of three means that I have changed a hell of a lot of diapers in the last nine and a half years.  And a lot of diapers has equalled a lot of trash.

When my oldest, Adele, was born, I didn't know a soul that used cloth diapers.  Same was true with Elise and even Lucy. But as we were in the process of adopting Nathan, the topic of cloth diapers seem to come up a lot.  And since we were being given a few gifts in anticipation of a boy after three girls, we decided to take the plunge and asked for some cloth diapers.


Here's the thing, I get it, cloth diapering is a little intimidating.  It seems inconvenient and, well, gross. But I'm telling you it really isn't that bad and it is completely worth it when you consider the benefits.

So, what are the benefits?

Must I get all green on you?  I mean, come on, we all know that each one of those disposable diapers goes on to exist forever in some dump.  And our family has been completely amazed at how much less trash we have when we use cloth, recycle everything we can, and compost.  It's not unusual for us to only have one bag of trash go out on the curb each week...for a family of seven...with one in diapers!!  For us, that has become the norm and we hardly think about the lack of trash we have, until we do something like our recent trip to Colorado, when we aren't doing any of those things.  Man, the amount of trash we had shocked us all!

So there is the environmental side of things, and then there is the money side of it.  Now, I have no idea how much it costs for us to wash the diapers. But I do know our water bill is less than $30 a month, so it can't be that much.  Of course, there is also the cost of the diapers.  $20 a piece, sounds like a lot, but considering I am using the same diapers with Matthias that I used with Lucy and Nate, that initial investment has more than paid for itself.  I mean, let's say disposables are $0.25 a piece, that means that one cloth diaper costs the same as less than 2 weeks worth of disposables.  And ours were all gifted...


And then there is the mess and the smell.  You get used to the mess really quickly.  I mean, it really isn't much more than using disposables.  And let's just be honest, parenting is messy work no matter how you do it!  And the smell, well, there isn't much of one because you flush the poop!  Definitely less of a smell than disposables.

Okay, so now that I have convinced you to use cloth (wink wink), let's talk about a few things.

I have chosen to do cloth diapers, but my babysitters, extended family, nursery workers have not.  So when they are watching Matthias, I put him in disposables.  It's just thoughtful.  Cloth diapering does require a little bit of a learning curve and unless we are talking about someone who is caring for your little one, in your house and often, it just isn't necessary for them to learn.

Night time.  My kids pee like crazy at night and the cloths were never able to hold it all, so we use disposables at night.  It just wasn't worth the headache that comes from wet, fussy babies.

Going out and about.  This is another time when we don't use cloth.  There are just times when it would be tough to change a stinky cloth diaper in public, so we don't.

Making them last.  If you are using them on multiple kids, they are going to wear.  First of all, follow the directions when washing them...it really does help.  And if they seem to be wearing a little bit, be creative in trying to extend their life.  Ours have velcro tabs and the velcro was curling and wouldn't stick.  I had thought about trying to replace all the velcro when I realized that I could actually just spend a couple bucks and cut some hook and loop to fasten the tabs together.  Insanely easy and works like a charm!


Set yourself up for success.  We have a changing station in our bedroom.  Our room is on the main floor, so it is super convenient.  We also have a bathroom, which makes for a quick disposal of poop.  We have a small trash can for trash, a can (with lid) for the diapers, and a can for laundry.  It makes the cloth just as convenient as disposables.


Okay, there is so much more I could say, but this is getting long, so I'll leave it at that.  But seriously, don't be afraid of cloth diapers.  They truly are a good thing.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blogging.

The last couple of days I have spent cleaning up my blog. I'm slowly adding pages like OUR BOOKSHELF and ADOPTION, to make it a bit more fun to look through.  I've been learning some tricks of the trade to make things look more ME.  I have even gone through all of my old entries to clean up some of the posts (enlarge the photos etc.) to fit the blog's newer look and labeled every entry so that they can be searched more easily.

You know, because millions of people are desperately trying to search through my blog.  Well, maybe not millions.

The truth is that for the last six years that I have been blogging (can you believe it has almost been six years?!), I have never really said much about my blog to anyone. No one even really knew about it until I began communicating about our adoption through it. I guess I've just struggled with whether or not to really put myself out there. Do I put a link to each new post in my Facebook status update? Do I try to increase my readership (which I'm guessing is quite low compared to most blogs)? And, well, why?

I mean, I have chosen to blog, not journal. Partly, I do it because of the format. It is fun to organize, it gives a place for pictures...it is just a really nice way to record what is going on in our lives. And I don't mind sharing our lives. Not that we are the most interesting family or have something important to share with you all. But then again, many of the blogs I love to read are just like mine...glimpses into people's everyday lives.

On one hand, I would love the things that I write to be so profound or interesting or funny that it catches on like wildfire....passed from one person to another.  On the other hand, the things that I write are little pieces of who we are as a family and there is a part of me that wants to protect them from unwanted eyes.

Well, whatever happens, happens, I guess.  I'll keep on trying to make the blog as good as I can, if only for myself, my mom, and my dear friend Annie.

In the meantime, cleaning up my blog gave me a chance to peek back at some really sweet little posts that I hadn't read in a while.  Pictures of the kids where they are so little, moments that would have been forgotten without this blog recording them.  I guess that all in all, I really am glad that I blog.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Coconut Cream Pie.

I love making pies.  They are just so comforting.  And pies during the summer just feel right.  Our family fell in love with three different pies this summer, each one of which I found the recipe for on Pinterest, each one of which was DELICIOUS.

Now, I have never been one to chose tropical flavored treats (pineapple etc.), but Anthony loves them and I needed a white pie for my 4th of July red, white, and blue pies, so I hunted down a recipe for a coconut cream pie and OH. MY. GOODNESS.


I can't even begin to explain to you how good this pie is.  And the recipe calls for you to make two crusts, one of which you can freeze for another time...and trust me, you will want another time!!

Anyway, so I must share the recipe with you.  It is just that good.  Here is the original post for the recipe from Rock Recipes.

Ingredients:
for the crust
  • 1 cup cold better cut into small cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup ice water (only enough to make the dough form)

for the filling
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened fine coconut
  • 3 beaten extra large egg yolks
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp pure almond extract

for the topping
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp icing/powdered sugar
  • toasted coconut (I use sweetened for this)

Directions:
for the crust
Using a food processor or a pastry blender cut cold butter into flour and salt until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Small pieces of butter should still be visible. Pour cold water over the mixture and work in by tossing with a fork until dough begins to form. Use your hands as little as possible and work the dough as little as possible. Divide dough into 2 balls, flatten into 2 rounds, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes. You can freeze the second round for another time.

You can make your dough the previous day but make sure you take it out of the fridge for 10 -20 minutes to warm slightly before rolling out.

Roll the dough into a 12 inch round and place in the bottom of a 10 inch pie plate. Trim and flute the edges as desired. Poke a few holes in the bottom of the pastry shell, rest in the refrigerator for an additional 20 minutes before baking at 400 degrees F for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before adding the filling.

for the filling
Scald the whole milk in the microwave or on the stove top.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan combine the flour, sugar, salt and coconut.  Over medium low flame slowly add 1 cup of the scalded milk, whisking constantly. As you notice the filling beginning to thicken, add another cup of the scalded milk continuing to stir constantly until it begins to thicken again. Add the final cup of scalded milk, stirring constantly. Continue to cook over medium low heat until mixture begins to slightly thicken.

At this point remove from heat and pour about a half cup of this mixture into the beaten egg yolks whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture immediately back into the pot, continuing to constantly stir. Cook for an additional two or three until the filling reaches pudding consistency and remove from the flame. The mixture should just be beginning to boil at this point. Stir in the butter, vanilla extract, and almond extract.

Cool almost to room temperature before pouring into the baked pie shell. Chill for about 3 hours.

for the topping
Combine and beat to soft peaks and spread on top of the cooled coconut cream filling. Garnish with toasted coconut and serve!

What's your favorite pie?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

We try.

Sometimes blogs can paint life as all rainbows, but let's be honest here, that is hardly reality.  Sometimes, even when we try our best, we fail...pitifully.

Case in point:  Anthony's birthday cake pops.

Elise has a cake pop book and we had decided to make Anthony some for his birthday instead of a traditional cake. Anthony picked out some cute little green frogs and we got everything we needed to make them...the morning of his birthday. Now, unfortunately cake pops take a bit more time than we allotted for them, so rather than cute little green froggies, he got a ball of cake, sans any decoration, on a stick.



He was such a good sport, but it was really pathetic. And I may have shed an "I'm such a loser!" tear over it. Sigh. But we had tried and it was cake, so that counted for something, right?

Anyway, so today we gave another go at it...


Okay, so maybe they don't look exactly like the book, but we all thought they were adorable.  They tasted great too.  Oh, and the kids got to eat cake two days in a row, and that definitely counts for something!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Happy Birthday and Some Books.

So, today is Anthony's 35th birthday.  He's thrilled about it...


Actually, Anthony and I are enjoying getting older.  We are always checking each other for gray hairs (he has way more than me) and dreaming about what we are going to do when all the kids are out of the house.  (Um...we have 5 kids, so yeah, we think about that.)  We just don't fear age at this point...of course, we ARE only in our 30s.

The kids are excited to celebrate their dad today.  Any excuse for them to get to eat cake is pretty exciting.  Plus, Anthony means the world to all of us and we are so thankful for every day (let alone year) that we get to do life with him.  Truly, he is the best.

I could go on and on about how amazing my husband is, but since I am supposed to be getting biscuits made for breakfast, I'll just end this by pointing out that in celebration of our book-loving man on his birthday, I have added a page to the blog that includes a list of many of our most favorite books.  Check it out!

Happy Birthday, Anthony!  We all love you around-the-back much!!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pickles.

I love pickles.  There is just something about that vinegary bite that makes me so happy.  Sweet or bread and butter?  NO WAY.  I'm talking crunchy dill pickles only.

When I was a little kid, my best friend's mom always had a great vegetable garden and was (at least in my mind) the queen of all things canned.  And after 25 years, I still think she made the best pickles.  So making my own has always been something I have wanted to do, but have frankly been a little intimidated by.  But when my friend Leslie, started making her own, I figured I would give it a go.

TA-DA!

And let me tell you, they are super yummy.  Adele, Elise, Nathan and I ADORE them.  (Anthony and Lucy are always the exception, so we don't even ask their opinion.)  And the recipe is nice and simple, which is definitely my style.  Leslie first shared her recipe on the blog of a friend of hers, but I have adapted (and halved) it a bit, so I'll share my version here.

Ingredients:
  • 1 quart sized Mason jar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 4 peeled garlic cloves
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 2 LARGE pinches (yep, that's how exact I am) of dried dill
  • 3 teaspoons pickling salt (crush coarse salt if you don't have pickling, but pickling is cheaper)
  • cucumbers (enough small to quarter and pack the jar full, or enough slices of regular sized cucumbers to fill it)

Directions:
Boil the water.  Reduce to a simmer and add the garlic cloves for 5 minutes.  Cut down the cucumbers and onions while you are waiting and add a pinch of dill to your jar.  At the end of the 5 minutes add the vinegar and salt to the water, bring back to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt.  Remove from heat and fish out the garlic cloves, adding them to your jar.  Pack the jar with the onions and cucumbers, finishing with that second pinch of dried dill.  Add the liquid to the jar, filling to the top and set it aside to cool before screwing the lid on and putting it in the fridge.

The pickles should be good for 3 months!  Though they have never hung around nearly that long in our house.

Oh, and the onion was from our garden, the dill was from our garden (I've dried it and have it in a little jar), and the cucumbers were from our neighbor Frank who loves to talk tomatoes with us!

ENJOY!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pretty Plates.

So walking isn't the only area that I am trying to focus on myself a bit more these days.  I'm also working on it in the kitchen. Now don't confuse this with me actually cooking for my family...I'm still totally lame when it comes to meals. But I am continually trying to add to our list of things that I make from scratch (jam, pretzels and pickles along with my bread and yogurt) and am embracing lunch as a time for me to eat food that is really good for my body and my soul. Let me explain...

Lunch as a mom at home is often one of those just-grab-something-quick-while-you-have-a-second kind of meals.  I can't tell you how many times I have finished my lunch and two minutes later realized that I barely took the time to even taste what I had.  It has left me totally unsatisfied and reaching for snacks every time I'm anywhere near the kitchen.

And this just isn't working for me.

So, I decided to change things.  I bought myself some pretty little plates from Anthropologie...because something from Anthropologie always makes me happier.


And I have bought myself some really good food to sit and enjoy.  Prosciutto, plums, and avocados with amazing little crackers and goat cheese.


Real food that leaves me satisfied and feeling a bit pampered.  Even taking the time to prepare my little plate is something I enjoy.  It is just so pretty.

I've also cut out the cartoons that used to be on when Lucy would be home for lunch last year and I just sit with my boys and we chat about the day.  It is peaceful and delicious and good for my soul.  And I'm hoping that some of these little changes will help me feel like I am getting back to myself a little.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Walking.

Now that the kids are back in school and with Matthias beginning to wean, I've decided it is time that I really begin to pull myself back together. You know, actually focus a little on what is good for me. So, I have begun to walk again.

I walked a ton during my pregnancy and it was just what I needed. I felt great and wasn't over doing it. Plus, we have a beautiful 4.5 mile route to walk around here. I even grabbed a phone this morning on our way out and snapped a few pictures to share...


It may not be the beach, but a vineyard and farm land within a mile of the house is Kansas-beautiful and I love it.

And this morning this was a sweet part of my view too...


So, I'm taking a deep breath, coming out of the family haze and hoping to regain a bit of myself. I guess it can get pretty easy to lose that with 5 kids and a husband in front of you every moment!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

School.

Today is the first day of school and everyone in this house is super excited about it. We hit a wall about a week ago and were about to...well, we were just really ready for school to start.

Yesterday we met the teachers and dropped off school supplies. Last night I had to email two of the teachers because I couldn't remember which forms I had brought home went with which class. I'm already on a roll. Sigh.

This morning when I went up to get Matthias, Nate jumped out of bed, and whispered "KINDERGARTEN" to me with the biggest grin on his face. "I know." I said and walked out in the hallway where I met Adele.

"Mom, I can't remember how to do this!" She was working on multiplication!!! Can you say first-born?! I told her to finish getting ready and I would look at it with her once she came downstairs.

Breakfast was quick and before we knew it we were all outside taking pictures and trying to keep the kids calm.


How cute are they?! (Yeah, and there just weren't any non-goofy pictures of Nate.)


It's a little hard to believe that I put four kids on the bus this morning.  4th grade.  3rd grade.  1st grade.  Kindergarten.  It is all going so fast.  Before the kids got on the bus, we prayed for them.  We prayed for a great year, that they would work hard, have good friendships, that their teacher would have a good year, that God would keep them all safe...at the end of the prayer, Nathan said, "that was a long one."  Yep, there was a lot to pray over sweet little man.

I feel blessed though.  Our kids go to a great school and even when Nate turned to us just before the bus came and said, "I'm a little nervous."  We just smiled and said, "You are going to do great buddy.  And you have three sisters that will help you out."  And that comforted all of us.

I, of course, cried as they all got on the bus...but then I went out to breakfast with these two...


It is going to be such a different year.  Just me and the little guy at home in the mornings.  Just me and my two little guys in the afternoon.  It's going to be different, and change can be hard, but it can be good too.  And I'm thinking this is going to be a good year.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Our Loft/Library.

When I was designing our house, one of my focuses was on having specific areas for things.  I spent hours thinking about every little closet and space.  One of the areas that I was most excited about was our loft, which would be our space for reading.

This is where we keep almost all of the children's books.  The kids each of their own book collections in there rooms, but nearly every other book is in this space.  And few things bring me more joy than hearing pages turn up in the loft.



Even the shelves are organized to minimize the chaos.  The books below are the every day books...


Here are the chapter books and Matthias's books in the red box...


And the last shelves are the family collection books, including some gems that were mine, my mom's, my aunt's and even my grandmother's.  I love these shelves.


We also keep a basket for books that others have let us borrow....


Having great books is something that we are valuing more and more as the kids grow older and I can't tell you how good it felt to box up a bunch that really don't belong on our shelves.  Call us book snobs, we don't care.  I'm already thinking about what books to add at Christmas time...and they'll be good ones too, I promise.

What was your favorite book as a kid?  Maybe we'll add it to our library!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tax-free weekend.

We live on the Kansas-Missouri border.  As in, we could throw a rock into Missouri from our house.  Almost.  Anyway, so there are some occasional perks to living on the state line and one of them is Missouri's tax-free back to school weekend.

Last year, I loaded my 8 month belly full of pregnant and all four kids into the car and headed off to Walmart.  It was a zoo and I felt like I was an elephant in charge of the monkeys!!!  Actually, we had a lot of fun, but I got some serious Braxton-Hicks and was absolutely exhausted and worthless once we finished our lists.

So, this year I approached things a little differently.  I compiled one master list, took one kid (Adele), I am NOT pregnant, and headed off to Target.  (I now have Wal-mart issues and a Redcard, so there you go.)  We stopped at the Starbucks just inside the door for some cool drinks to shop with and entered the chaos.  By check-out, I was joking with the cashier about how the 6-pack of Guinness in my cart (Anthony's addition to my list...hmmm...) should come with the purchase of school supplies for 4 kids!

Here's the thing.  The kids go to a great school, but sometimes I want to pull my hair out with some things like their supply lists.  I mean, seriously, do we need to have that specific brand?  NO SUBSTITUTIONS is printed on the lists.  But that brand of water color paints was only there in glitter.  The 10 pack of markers wasn't washable, but the washable ones were in a pack of 8.  Which do I get?  The folder has to be shiny?  It can't be shiny?  White glue sticks only?  GermX 12oz...I could only find 8oz Purell?!

"GOOD ENOUGH".  That's the mantra of moms buying school supplies.  Do you hear us teachers?!  The hardly used skein of yarn that I took from my personal collection, is GOOD ENOUGH.

Anyway, so I only have 4 items left to hunt down, but for today I am done.  My house went from this...


to this (organized by kid)...


to this, bagged and ready for school!!


DONE!!  (Minus 4 items.)

Less than two weeks before the first day to school...crazy!