Monday, December 29, 2008

Parenting Reflections for 2008

Hmmmm, as I sit here fingers poised and ready to type out a novel, I find myself with writer's block. Isn't that funny coming from someone who usually has way too many things on her mind and has trouble narrowing down what it is she will blog about. But that's me. I have started this post about thirty different times on probably just as many occasions, and I still am not sure what it is that I want to convey in this post. As you can see by the title of this post, it is about parenting, but what about it?

I guess I could sum it up by saying that a parent is a continual work in progress, and that no matter how awesome they appear, they are far from perfect--------ahem, speaking from experience that is. Take two weeks ago---- While I was going to the bathroom, you know who was sitting at my feet and in an instant, Dennis reached behind the shower curtain and pulled out a razor and stuck it in his mouth...... before my quick reflexes could take it out of his hands. How did I not see that one coming? Don't worry, I was there to prevent him from getting hurt, but it was sobering that even I after years of practice, didn't have it all together all of the time.

Oh, and what about Sveta's ringworm on her face? I saw that she was developing a rash on her face, but refused to believe that it was ringworm at first. Doesn't everybody know that Reed kids are too good to get ringworm? After I was thoroughly insulted by the school nurse who suggested that this is what my lovely daughter had, I went home and googled it, and sure enough, she had it. I immediately started putting on an anti-fungal cream, but the ring wasn't getting any better after two days. That is when I noticed that she kept touching it, like every few minutes. I insisted that she stop touching at, but after three more days, it was evident that she was touching it when I wasn't around. No amount of love, encouragement, begging, or demanding was going to get my sweet Sveta to stop touching it, so I got my creative parenting juices flowing.
"Sveta, No gum or candy until your ringoworm goes away. That means, don't touch it!"
And guess what? Within two days, the ring was nearly flat, and on the third day, we celebrated. Sveta got a piece of gum. I winked at her, and pointed to my nose and simply said, "Mama knows."
Little things like this happen everyday..... I think it comes with the territory, and I can certainly handle it, but there are times when I feel like I am not enough, not patient enough, not caring enough, not strong enough, not wise enough, and not able to do the things that I was sure I could handle. Actually...... I don't feel this way too often, but when Dennis started bleeding and had to be rushed to the hospital, I panicked feeling very inadequate. Everything I knew about parenting temporarily slipped my mind, and as I rode to the hospital thinking that perhaps the child in my arms would die, I wondered if he would have been better off just staying in the orphanage. My heart knew the answer to be no, but my head thought that if he was still there, he would not be riding in an ambulance having blood sucked out of his mouth to keep from choking.
All I was able to do was hold my son.
Even my faith temporarily faltered as I wondered if God would indeed save Dennis. Only when the bleeding stopped, did I have peace that Dennis was going to be okay. What kind of mother loses hope, if even for a second------ just because things are out of her control? I know. This kind of mother. Later, my husband told me that as he was racing home in the car, he felt God telling him that Dennis was going to be okay. That was when I was gently reminded that I was not doing this alone, and that while I momentarily didn't have everything it takes to be an awesome parent, I didn't have to be because God was right there picking up the slack.
Well........... God picks up the slack for me many times a day.
And it doesn't make me weak to admit that. In fact, I have told my kids on more than one occasion that when they do something that makes me upset with them and even possibly makes me dislike them because of their behavior, they can take comfort in knowing that I turn to God to fill in and make up what I am unable to give at that moment. And because of that, they can trust that I will always love and be there for them, no matter what.
Everyday, I am learning to be more patient, and I am working hard at being gentler and softer when I speak. This is an area where I need major work, but it was really encouraging to have my daughter notice and say two days in a row, "Look at Mama. She is being gentler when she speaks." Hunh?, (looking both ways), where did she get that? Gentler? I was just trying to keep from raising my voice when I speak. But, I can handle being called gentler, although she hasn't used those words to describe me in a few days.
As a mother, I have to continually be open to change, and I have to remind my children that they have to be open to change too. Just because we are in a comfortable place in the mean time doesn't mean that things are going to stay that way forever. Just this year, I became the parent to not one but two teenagers, and with that comes change. Not just on my part, but on their part too. This year, I took my kindergartner out of school because he needed to be home with me one more year. Had I been unwilling to change or acknowledge that my son just wasn't ready for school yet would have been detrimental to his well being, I believe. Just a month ago, I had to address one of my son's obsessions with fire----- which was a huge change for me. These are just to name a few.
Recently, John and I had a major breakthrough with one of our daughters. It started out with something trivial------- another daughter coming to us and saying that someone had been in her room to turn on her Christmas lights without asking. The rule in our home is to not touch something that is not yours without the permission of the owner, so for the daughter whose lights were touched, this was a big deal. I went around asking each child, and each one said it wasn't them except for one who said that Dennis probably had done it. Stupid, stupid me, actually entertained that thought, and was almost convinced that it couldn't possibly be the daughter who was the only one who had alone time in the room, who had a habit of using things without permission, and who was trying to blame someone else. Even after 2 years home, she was more convincing than ever and stupid, stupid me even went back and asked the daughter with the lights if she had made up the story to get someone else in trouble. Of course, I apologized for that one, and learned a valuable lesson about my forgiving and very honest daughter, and had my husband who is often times much wiser than I deal with our lying daughter.
He came down on her very matter-of-factly, and said that he knew that she had turned on the lights. Her story changed. Now, she probably did do it, but her brain couldn't remember doing it. Still a lie, but to her, she was convinced that she had us convinced. Thankfully, I was doing something with the other kids, and my husband wasn't buying it. Eventually, the truth came out, hard as it was, and our daughter learned once more the same thing we have been teaching her from day one. Consistency continually, I like to call it. It was hard to see just how much more work we have cut out for ourselves with her on such a simple thing as lying. She was willing to blame another child, she was willing to have the whole family forgo movie night, and she was willing to lie to our face not once, but as many times as it took to deny that she did anything wrong. At the end of her confession, I was not so graceful. Probably because it was like pulling teeth to get the truth out of her, and mainly because I thought that we were past this kind of nonsense.
This happened five days ago, and we did go on to enjoy a wonderful Christmas with her, but until she has rebuilt her character--- one of honesty and trustworthiness which amounts to being responsible and respectful, she will enjoy a much earlier bedtime and less privileges than her sisters. I periodically joke with her that I wonder if she will still have an early bedtime when she is seventeen.
As I wrap up this post, I am still blessed to report that I am doing exactly what it is that I want to do with my life........ and through it all, it is still very rewarding, every last bit of it. I am still excited that I found a solution to my sock dilemma, I am still following the five finger rule, and I remind my kids daily that they are all stuck with me. My wonderful husband and I are getting ready to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.... with overnight childcare courtesy of my Mom and sister. If we still don't have trouble getting people to watch our kids, that must mean we are doing something right, right? Ending with a big smile!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A look into Dennis' Surgery Day!

We started yesterday by walking out into a cloud of fog at 4:15 in the morning. I was not eager to get into the cold car and drive out into the dense fog, but a mothers got to do what a mothers got to do. If anyone knows anything about driving in fog, a one hour drive can feel like a three hour drive. We eventually got to the hospital, just a few minutes late, and went through admissions.

In no time, they had Dennis being prepped for surgery. When Dennis first came home in July, he had no problem letting the nurses and doctors touch him, but he has since had a change of heart. Even this little toe monitor upset my little guy more than you can imagine and every time he looked at it, it made him cry. I had him look the other way.

Once the mean ol' nurse left, he was fine and enjoyed exploring the room.

At one point he tried to escape, but he didn't get far.

The medication to calm him so that they could take him for surgery didn't take long to work, and by 7:20 am, I was handing him off to the nurse.

The surgeon (who is just awesome) came out around 9:30 am and told me that Dennis was doing great and that I would be called back in about 45 minutes. Well, I was actually called back around 10 minutes later because Dennis was awake and crying and the nurses couldn't calm him.
I tried my best to comfort him, but it would only last for about three minutes at a time before he woke up dazed and confused, crying and trying to get down off the bed. The anesthesia was hard on Dennis, but he was a trooper and wanted to eat and drink just three hours after surgery.

We finally got a room, and I was able to rock him. Still, he cried every time the nurse came in to check his blood pressure or fiddle with his IV.
In the course of five hours, Dennis polished off three cups of apple sauce, a cup of pudding, and half of a cup of cream of wheat and drank about half a cup of water. The anesthesia had finally worn off by 5:00 pm and since his vital signs were all great, I took a chance and asked if the nurse would call the doctor to see if we could go home. She came back in twenty minutes later and said that normally he would say no, but since Dennis is doing so well, and he trusts that I can take great care of him at home, and he acknowledged that Dennis would get a better nights sleep at home, he released us. Praise God.
Dennis had no qualms being in Daddy's arms------- the two drifted right off to sleep together.

I moved them to bed for more of the same.
Dennis slept through the night and around 4 am I gave him some more pain medication and changed his very full diaper and he went back to sleep until almost 8am this morning.
When Dennis got up, I could tell he was hungry and he drank a cup of warm half and half mixed with Carnation instant breakfast and he ate a bowl of applesauce with rice cereal mixed in.
The I gave him a bath and rinsed his mouth from all the blood clots that had gathered in the cheeks and in his gums. Dennis has a fistula that goes to his tear duct that will be fixed later, but for now, blood tinged tears come out of the hole near his right eye socket.

Dennis is now fast asleep and when I went in to check on him, I found that he had pulled his socks off and covered up his face. Yup, he is already back to his same old self!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We are home!

Dennis and I just got home! That means he is doing well--- really well! Thanks for all of your prayers! His surgery couldn't have gone better. We're going to bed----- both of us are wiped out!

Monday, November 10, 2008

I just Love my Family

My oldest daughter Rachel has one amazing, yet sorrowful story of her prior life back in Ukraine. Despite her past, she is defying the odds and growing up to be one very sweet, thoughtful, helpful, and loving daughter. Her desire to have a baby sibling has not grown old. She is still very much in awe of Dennis and loves him very much. It is obvious that she will one day grow up to be an amazing daughter. Yes she had a very rough start and saw way more than anyone should ever see in a lifetime, yet she has truly forgiven all the people that have hurt her in the past and has been able to look forward and make sure that she doesn't repeat those mistakes. Early on I told her that she could do one of two things. She could wallow in self-pity and blame the rest of her depressing life on her past, or she could choose to forgive those that hurt her because they didn't have the family, money, support and or love of God to carry them through the very hard times, and learn from her past and make sure to never be what they were. She has chosen to live---- and not just live---- but LIVE! This picture doesn't do Rachel justice. She is helpful to everyone-- even her obnoxious, bugging older brother who she made a sandwich for his lunch this morning.

A staple in our house is baked potatoes baked in the oven not microwave. They are so versatile. Yesterday after church we had leftover baked potatoes topped with chili, cheese, sour cream, and butter. We had cut up broccoli, carrots, radishes, and cucumbers dipped in ranch dressing. Simple, cheap, delicious, and filling.


We went to an afternoon bible study at our friend's house. They are the ones that live out in the country. On the way there, the girls kept saying,

"Their apples are delicious."

"I hope they let us pick some more pomegranates."

"Even their nuts are yummy."

Needless to say, the visit was very nice.

If the kids were good there, we promised to take them out to a restaurant. It wasn't a bribe but by holding them accountable to shine their light and knowing that as a family they all had to help each other to be their best, it was a great incentive for them. Sadly, William got a little wild and threw a boot, angrily yelled at a llama, and knocked over a chair. Admittedly, he knew that he had not been on his best behavior. This is something that we have struggled with for a very long time with William, it is a huge factor as to why we started the evaluation process for him back in kindergarten. Anyway, while driving home we made very clear to William that he had made some bad decisions and we weren't sure whether or not we should go to a restaurant. At the very least he may be eating crackers and water if we did go. This got him to thinking and finally we got the right response out of him instead of the huge grin that he normally can't wipe off of his face.

All the other kids had been really good, and William did seem sorry for his behavior, so we drove to IHOP. Before we were seated, John had another talk with William. John was going to give him grace as long as William promised to try even harder next time. William's face was one of genuine thankfulness mixed with seriousness. We want William not to fear discipline and punishment but we want him to want to be behave because he knows that we love him and will forgive him when he messes up. Exactly like God wants of us. If God was all about us behaving perfectly or else we go straight to hell, He would not be someone that I would to entrust my life too. I think our children need to always know that we are also always ready to forgive when we see that they are truly sorry for what they did.

Here are some pictures from the restaurant.

Most of us had breakfast for dinner. After we all gorged ourselves, there was still tons of food left over. Sveta and Caleb decided to bring the rest of their grub home to eat after school today.


I had to save the best for last this morning! Lately Annalyn has been doing so well that I had to take a moment to brag! I'm sure you already knew this when I posted here, but ever since I blogged about her two year anniversary, I have been waiting for the day where I can finally boast about her progress! And progress she has made.

For the last three days, something seems to have clicked in Annalyn. Actually it was the whole week prior as well, when I began to note significant changes in my daughter. All this week, she has remembered to take her instrument to school--- good thing that I didn't act hastily and pull her out of band like I wanted to. She has been incredibly helpful, putting the needs of me, and the family first for a change. In the morning, she has been getting up and unloading the dishwasher without being asked before she sits down to eat breakfast. This is huge and you better believe that I have been incredibly thankful and praising of her responsible acts.

She has done some extra credit assignments to raise her grades--- and recently got an A+ on her science project. In the beginning she had in her mind that Dad was going to help her like he did with her mission project, but I quickly made it known to her that this was something I fully expected her to do on her own. For a few days she tried to come up with reasons why she needed his help, but I watched her and knew that she could do it on her own with minimal help from anyone. I had her work on it in the kitchen where she had constant encouragement and support if she truly needed it. I snipped a few wires for her, but that was it. Come time to turn it in, she actually had to bring it home and make some last minute changes if she wanted to get the best grade. She did, and when she finally turned it in and heard that she had gotten an A+, you could see how proud she was of herself. I knew that she could do it!

A couple of weeks ago, I found tons of dirty clothes in her drawers and I reminded her of how irresponsible this was. I made her clean out her drawers only to later find a dirty pair of her jeans with the belt and underwear still in them turned inside out and crumpled up inside the dirty clothes basket with the dirty crotch staring right at me. I was mad---- all of my kids know that they have to turn their clothes right side out before they put them in the hamper. I will wash clothes but I will not spend my time turning their clothes out. So, when I saw this, I simply picked them up exactly as I saw them and set them on her pillow so she would be greeted by the same thing when she got home from school. Mind you, after 2 years of being home, this is not to much to ask of my almost 11 year old. Of course this embarrassed her, but I saw something click inside of her when she this and realized how disrespectful she had been to me. I even joked with her and said that I had almost taken a picture to blog about it. She said she would have deserved it if I had done that. I then told her that it wasn't my goal to embarrass her, but to teach her how to be the daughter that I know she is capable of being. She hugged me, and this was an appropriate time, another accomplishment for her. I hugged her back and gave her side a little tickle.

What really melted my heart was when I woke up yesterday morning to her gently and lovingly rubbing my feet. It was so unexpected--- and so very sweet. I do not know what came over my daughter, but after a minute or two more of feet rubbing, I invited her to crawl into bed with me and get cozy. It was a wonderful moment.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Enjoy my Children

Isn't Dennis just a little sweet pea? He is either that or a turkey or a muffin or a tomato. I refer to him by names of food because that's what my favorite Aunt did to me. I was always her asparagus, her little turnip, or her sour pickle. Now, my kids are her artichokes and cabbages. I have picked up her name calling habit, in her absence.

The other day I froze Jonny's warts. I froze a few of mine too. Funny how as a child I never had any, but now there is a few that I can't seem to get rid of. Ugh! Comes with the territory, I guess.

I try and do things with Jonny during the day that I think he would be doing if he were in school. We practice reading, speech, coloring, writing, and drawing. I am trying to get him to come out of his shell and draw a little more without being embarrassed. So how'd I do that? I drew a funny looking skeleton and had him trace and color it so that the drawing was ours together. He liked that.

This morning was a good morning! Why? We had some really good laughs as we were making school lunches. About what????

This poor, pathetic banana. Even Rachel wouldn't touch it, laughing out loud.
Adam is becoming quite the chef. He enjoys cooking and doesn't mind doing everything when I let him pick out a recipe that he wants to cook. Over the weekend, he chose to make a Boston Cream Pie. I had to think quick in the beginning when Adam realized that he had doubled the eggs, water, and oil for one cake mix (he is used to doubling everything). Thankfully, I had another mix of the same flavor and we just made a plain one so that people could have seconds if they chose.

Part of the prep was tracing round cake pans so that he could cut out Parchment paper to line them. It was so fun spending one on one time with my oldest son in the kitchen---- it will probably be near the top of my list of best quality time ever spent with him. Besides being an awesome cook, my son is responsible, inventive, respectful, funny, and just awesome to be around. He has a nice sense of humor and makes parenting such a pleasure. I feel blessed to say this about my teenager....... very blessed.

Here he is assembling the cake.

He took a few pointers from me on how to frost the top to make it look as smooth as the picture. I'm sure he won't need my help next time. The cake turned out wonderful as you can see, and him and I had the pleasure of sharing the last piece.
Rachel is having some trouble with homework. John and I both have been working with her everyday. Her reading and writing is getting better--- finally, but math frustrates her when she is expected to do many steps for one problem. Today we worked on multiplying fractions and then she had to simplify them. Each problem had at least five steps----- let's just say that she didn't like this.

Where we know she is struggling because of her language, we have reduced her work to an amount that is okay with her teacher. Instead of 20 spelling words where she might only get four right because she focused her energy on trying to learn them all, I pick out five to eight that I think she will most likely use in her writing now and have her learn those words really well. Her much improved spelling tests are proof that this is working.

I am also having her read second and third grade level books not because she can't understand higher level books but because this is the level that she can read where she doesn't stop and have to pronounce each and every word and yet still read it wrong. I want her to build up her confidence by reading with ease for awhile and getting herself familiar with blends that don't make any sense like "ph" and "gh".

In some ways, we have made schoolwork easier for Rachel and in other ways we have stepped up our expectations of her----- it is a fine balance. I just know she will catch up--- she is so capable...... it is just going to take time!
Now that the weather is cooling off, the kids are playing outside more. Anna is teaching William how to healy------- he thinks holding onto the scooter for balance will help him learn faster.

This has got to be one of my favorite pictures. Annalyn is enjoying being a big sister and there are times when she will spoil him rotten. In case you can't tell, Dennis is in heaven with his water bottle and wagon! Annalyn went on to pull him all over the cul-de-sac.

Later in the evening, I found Sveta sharing her cup of crushed ice with Dennis and Jonny. It was so sweet.

I remember when we first brought Dennis home and I gave him a cracker to feed himself. He had trouble finding his mouth, poor little guy that it was obvious that he had never been allowed to do this. Now he is great at feeding himself!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Helping Around the House

Chores which I like to think of more as just helping around the house, are a part of my children's lives as much as they are a part of mine and Johns. In order for a family to function there are things that need to be done. The dishes must be cleaned, the clothes washed, the trash taken out, and the floor swept. Of course these are just to name a few, but the point is that a home needs to be kept up in order for things to run smoothly. If dishes were not washed then what would you eat on? Same with washing clothes. If the trash wasn't taken out, it would smell and most certainly attract bugs and rodents.

Now I know that I don't need to tell any of you this , but I did have to explain this at some point to all of my children. As a family we work together to help keep our home clean and tidy. This is something that John and I fully believe in---- children need to learn at an early age that contributing to the family by helping out is important and the responsible thing to do. And just like I don't get paid for washing my kids clothes, my children do not get paid for their everyday chores.

But how many chores do they do? Oh--- they do their fair share, and by that I mean, they do chores before school and after and before bed. Now you can say that is alot of chores, but my argument would be, what do you consider a chore? Is fixing your bed in the morning a chore? If so you can count that as one. Is putting away your pajamas and hanging up your towel after your shower considered a chore? If so, add two more to the list. Is cleaning up the breakfast dishes you helped to make also considered a chore? If so add another one. I'm sure you get the point.

But what is cool about our family is that, we have a routine and so chores are not that big of a deal. Take the morning for instance. When we get up for school there are certain expectations--- everyday, like straighten the living room, unload the dishwasher, load the dishwasher, pack lunches, feed the dogs, and take out the trash above and beyond the normal fixing the bed stuff. When it is done simultaneously and cooperatively by all of the older kids it only takes 10 minutes or so when they work together. That's all. And by them doing this, it allows me to help pack their lunches, fix hair, pretest them before school if they have a big test, and discuss appointments for the day. Most mornings things go really well because the kids work together and they end up having at least 15 minutes of free time.

Only two years ago, I used to have my boys do boy chores meaning just trash and yardwork stuff and my girls do women's work like dishes and sweeping and such. Phooey!

How wrong was I and what exactly was I hoping to teach my kids back then? That my boys should never help their wives in the kitchen when they get married because it is women's work? Or that my daughters should not grow up to help their husbands in the yard because it is a mans job? How silly, since John and I are not that way. I am so glad that something clicked inside of me because I realized how important it is to teach my kids to learn to do all chores around the house so that one day they can be out on their own and they won't be calling me to ask how to prune a bush or wash a load of clothes. They will be able to do whatever needs to be done around the house because they will know how to do it and it won't even be a big deal doing it because they will be used to doing it as part of their everyday routine.

Here is Caleb sweeping up his cereal spill. Accidents are not a big deal--- they happen, but if you make a mess you clean it up--- this starts around age five in our home, but of course at that age there is alot of supervision with the clean-up. Oh, and I do not expect my kids to clean up glass until they are 10 and up and they know to run and put on shoes if something breaks before they start sweeping it up.

Recently I had to sit down with all of my kids and explain how I was tired of my van being a trash can. Yes I had had it with the trash all over the floor and yes I raised my voice. The kids had to clean out my car and I let them all know that if everything wasn't taken out of the van each and every time we got home from going somewhere and I found it on the floor, computer would be taken away from everyone for a week. This may sound unfair since the older kids don't necessarily do this, but there is no reason that they cannot take a second out of their life to remind a sibling to grab their paper or candy wrapper or jacket up off the floor as everyone is getting out. It is called looking out for one another and holding each other accountable. Actually, it has worked out beautifully and I have only had one piece of trash left on the floor in almost two weeks and that time I gave grace because it only happened that once in which my opinion made it deserving of grace.

One day Rachel didn't want to do her chore and she decided to tell me how unfair it was that she had to vacuum while Annalyn only had to fold a load of clothes. Of course she didn't realize that Annalyn would also be helping to set the table--- making it fair, but really that wasn't her business anyway. For arguing with me, she got another chore and her face was priceless so I grabbed the camera so that I could take her picture and later show her her sour-puss face. We later laughed at it when we were going through the pictures and she did apologize. Laughter is so healing and does the spirit wonders, by the way.

Sveta has pretty basic chores, but she does them well. She usually always makes juice from concentrate--- this time I had to show her how to measure the powder for lemonade. She likes being able to say that she made the drink for our meal.

Adam has really changed this year. For the most part (except mowing the lawn) he is always very helpful with little to no lip service--- a huge change from last year. However, I am not saying that he enjoys it--- just look at his face.
Adam and Caleb wash dishes too, just like Julia has learned to mow the lawn.

I praise them often for being such awesome role models for their younger brothers. And speaking of younger brothers, even Jonny has little chores like helping carry in groceries, putting away shoes or jackets, and picking up toys around the house.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bread Pudding and a Butterball Turkey

I have to be careful with Thanksgiving around the corner. My son might be mistaken for a Butterball Turkey!
He sure loves showers and will spend as much time as I will let him after I have gotten out.

Here is my handsome guy brushing his teeth. He does a really good job! For those of you who have been wondering what exactly Poland Syndrome is, you can see how his right breast is lower and much flatter than his left. He is basically missing a left pectoral muscle, but nonetheless, he is my little cherub. After discussing with doctors, we do not plan to do anything unless Dennis wants something cosmetically done when he is a teenager. That would include removing muscle from his thigh or calf to build up the appearance of a chest muscle so I am not eager to go down that path for purely cosmetic reasons anytime soon if ever.
Julia and Sveta made this bead necklace the other night. It is so big that it can wrap around their neck at least six times.
I gotta love my kids hearts, especially Williams. Today after eating his snack on this plate, he wanted to show me how he wiped it clean so we could use it for another time. Nothing like trying to save our family money by not being wasteful. The other night at church, Anna brought out a dessert plate to the car. "Why did you bring that Anna?" "It had my snack on it and I didn't get it dirty. It is still clean so we could reuse it at home."
Last night, I made up a new recipe for bread pudding and it was delicious. Honestly, my family thought it was the best ever....... so good I am not sure I am going to post it. Isn't that rude?
Anyway, when the bread pudding was done we topped it with pureed strawberries and whip cream. It was heavenly.
Guess what I finished up for lunch?
Today we got a package in the mail all the way from Australia. Souvenir rulers and pencils and a book....... Thanks Chelley.... that was so thoughtful of you! As you can see, you made my kids' day.

I am Exempt!

Boy, they didn't wait long to serve me. I promptly got back to them, the same day that I voted.

To Whom it may Concern,

I am juror XXXXXXXXX and I am writing to get an exemption from jury duty. Not only am I a stay at home mom of 11 kids, but we just adopted our 2 year old son with special needs at the end of July, 2008. I do not leave him with a babysitter yet because I want to avoid attachment issues and he is going to be having his first major surgery on November 5th to remove his right eye. I need to get an exemption from jury duty because of this. If not, hopefully you guys don't mind my two small children coming with me and sitting on my lap. Unless, I hear otherwise, I am assuming that I am excused.

Sincerely, Christine Reed
Ms. Reed,

Your request to be excused from jury service has been approved. You will receive confirmation by mail.

Thank you,
United States District Court

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All About Food

I have always loved to cook. Even as a young girl, I remember wanting to help in the kitchen--- probably to sample all of it more than anything. But sampling the food and cooking what I know tastes good is part of why I am so passionate about food and what I prepare for my family. Not only do I love to cook for my husband and children, but I also love to entertain and cook for friends and family whenever I get the chance. I guess you can say that a huge way that I show my love is by cooking delicious foods for those that I care about.

So what does Christine cook? I try to balance my meals out with inexpensive foods most days like pasta, casseroles, and potato or nacho bars and then I am able to splurge on better cuts of meat a few days a week. I also buy what is on sale and as all of you know that ranges from week to week, store to store, so often times I surprise even myself with what I pick out and decide to delight my family with.

One day last week I made fried Polska-Kielbasa and red potatoes with green beans on the side.

I love to buy stew meat and make different recipes with it.

Last week I made Beef Burgundy that was very yummy. I always try to take the time to braise the meat first so that it will sear in the flavor and come out more tender.

I served the tender meat with onions and mushrooms in a red wine sauce over rice pilaf. It was a hit as long as those who didn't like the vegetables were allowed to pick them out and have John and I eat them. I was okay with that because they still had their veggies from the side salad I served with it. Crusty French Bread sopped up the rich flavorful sauce. Mmm-mmmm-mmm-mmm-mmm.

Just had to throw this picture of Dennis in because he is afterall eating food and that's what this post is all about.

Taco Soup is another big hit in my family. It is so versatile that I have no set recipe. Each pot is never the same.

The main ingredients are ground beef, taco seasoning, tomato sauce, canned beans, canned corn, and water. Sometimes I add Ranch dressing seasoning or green chiles.

We pour the soup over crushed tortilla chips and top with cheese, chopped olives, green onions, and sour cream.

For snack, I give the kids anything from handfuls of cereal, to apples with peanut butter and a few M&M's on top, to toast with jam, cookies, cheese and crackers, or bowls of Top Ramen.

Dennis can eat just about anything now, and now that he has exercised his mouth so much from all his eating, he can almost touch his lips together. Here he is reaching for his sippy cup. That is a huge achievement for him since he used to just let his drink spill all over him. He is learning to control the amount of liquid that goes into his mouth.

Tonight was more of a splurge night because dinner came out to about $3.00 a person. On the menu---- tri-tip, rice pilaf, fruit cocktail, and butter-baked bread.

I season my tri-tip with worcestershire sauce, pepper, salt, and ground mustard.

I cover the bottom of the roasting pan with seasoning before I lay the meat down so that the juice will be extra flavorful.

Then I season the top of the meat before I cover it and slow roast it for three hours.

I love this part because I get to sample what I have made.

We go through about a gallon of milk a day.

With the leftover tri-tip I will be able to make John a sandwich in the morning and still have some meat leftover to make myself a yummy quesadilla.