Things I’m Loving This Week

Just thought I would do a quick post about a few things I am absolutely loving this week!

The first things are the ones that are growing in my backyard…

Things I'm Loving (Gardens, Apples, Clematis)

1.  Apples growing on our apple tree. Just so you know, these are not apples on the new tree we just planted a few weeks ago. (I wouldn’t be too excited about that because the first year you’re suppose to not let them grow anyway). These are from a tree that the previous owners put in. Last year it didn’t yield any fruit. Saturday my niece and I counted 16 Macintosh apples growing. I just can’t wait for these to be ready for picking!!

2. My growing garden! My lettuce, broccoli and peppers are shooting up. You have no idea how excited I am to see the lettuce doing so well! I’ve tried it before and it just didn’t work for me, so I am so glad that it is looking so good.

Side note: I am NOT loving the fact that something is getting to my green beans! Look at how sad they look in that last picture above? We even put them in a raised bed that is also caged. I need my husband to set up cameras or something so I can figure out what animal is getting in. I would really love fresh green beans come the end of the Summer thank you!

My next favorite thing would be baby birds.

Things I'm Loving

Okay, I admit I am not fully loving this. I mean, these birds made a huge nest in my grill! (You can check that picture out on Instagram). But I thought it would be fun to share with you. And it was a great (little) teaching moment for my son and nieces when I discovered that the birds had hatched.

Lastly, I am loving that my clematis is bursting with flowers.

Things I'm Loving

This flowered well last year, but I do not remember having THIS many flowers on it. And there are so many buds that have yet to bloom. One of my favorite things about our clematis is that it blooms all Summer long, so I get to enjoy this beauty for a few more months!

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peonies

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A Hike, a Birthday, and a Cake to Be Remembered

A Hike, A Birthday, and a Cake

This past weekend was my birthday.

I turned 34!

I have no problem sharing that information with you because I still quite often get mistaken for a teenager. It’s true. Every time I buy a can of spray paint I am asked to show my ID. A few weeks back I was chasing my son as he was running out the front door of the church and bolting for the parking lot. I had to push past a lady, who was just NOT getting out of my way even as I was yelling “Stop!” to my son. I rushed past her saying, “Sorry! I need to grab my son before he get hit by a car.” When I finally caught up with him and was carrying him back into the church, the lady asked, “He’s your son? I thought you were one of the teenagers.”

One day maybe I’ll look aged, but for now I guess I will have to embrace the fact that I still look like a youngster!

On Saturday, my family went out to support Pregnancy Aid South Suburbs (PASS), a local pregnancy and parenting center, for their annual Hike for Life. As a little girl, I would raise money and attend the Hike for Life every year.  I am so glad that we are able to continue to support this organization today!

This year my son was an active participant!

A Hike, A Birthday and a Cake

He loved getting out of the stroller and running on the trail! It helped that his older cousins were walking and he had someone to chase after. I loved hearing his giggles and seeing his energy as ran.

And he ran his first Toddler Race as well!

Our little ball of energy was on track to win this race. Then just two feet shy of the finish line, the little rascal turned around to look for me. Then stood there smiling as everyone was cheering (as if the cheering was just for him or something), and finally he realized daddy was waiting for him and walked the last couple feet.

I tell you, we should have had my husband waiving a cupcake at him or something!

A Hike, A Birthday, And a Cake

Saturday was also my birthday. My husband and I went out to eat the night before, and Saturday we had my nieces over to spend the night. It was nice! They helped keep my son entertained, while I was busy getting laundry done and gearing myself up for a busy couple of weeks.

And then my husband decided he would make me a birthday cake. This is a big deal, because he doesn’t cook, let alone bake. EVER. And in all our 7 plus years of marriage, he has never made me a cake…or bought me one either. Although he has had my mom or sister make a cake, and we usually go out for ice cream (which I absolutely love).

A Hike, a Birthday and a Cake

At first he was going to have my oldest niece help him. But since the kids were playing so nicely, he decided to attempt it himself. I made it easy for him and picked up a box mix. Then I laid out all the measuring cups he needed and left him to work.

The cake turned out super moist and delicious.

A Hike, a Birthday and a Cake

He was pretty proud of himself and now wants to make a cake every weekend. This will be a cake to be remembered for sure!!!

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Adoption Update: Oh for the Love of Paperwork

Waiting for You Adoption

Adoption is not for the faint hearted. Just to be approved to adopt takes a lot of time, money and endurance. Lots of research has gone into simply searching for an agency, and finding one that will accept waiting families. Countless prayers have been lifted up as we seek direction for our next step, asking the Lord to open and close doors.

Less than two weeks ago we received a call from an agency that we had applied to months earlier. They stated that things were still slow on the domestic end of adoption, but they had a new networking opportunity that they were offering.

Through this new opportunity:

  • The agency would complete our home study
  • We could take all the classes we need to fulfill state requirements
  • Our adoption profile would be placed on the agency website, giving us nationwide opportunities
  • And we would also work with an Adoption Consulting company, who would help connect us with adoption agencies across the nation that have an expectant mom looking for a profile like ours.

After much talking, lots of prayer, and bouncing the idea off family members, we decided we would go this route.

Monday night we attended our first three hour class (there will still be several more to come!) And received our next round of paperwork that we need to complete.

Two thick packets of paperwork.

The first packet is for the Department of Child and Family Services. A total of 17 documents, 28 pages in all, that need to be read, signed and dated. In this section, we will need to write out a fire escape plan, submit a water report from the village, our child care plan, background check waiver, etc.

Adoption Keep Calm and Fill Out the Next Form

(photo credit)

The second packet is the agency paperwork. This wonderful stack of paperwork is about an inch thick, many pages are front and back. In this paperwork, we will fill out countless questions about ourselves, our relationship with our spouse, and information about our family history. We will all need medical physicals completed, provide financial information, and provide several other documents as well. By the time we are done, the agency will know every. little. thing. about us.

Once we finish this mountain of paperwork (which also needs to be notarized by the way), we will meet with a caseworker from the agency a handful of times (answering all the same questions that we already filled out in the packet). The home study phase will end with a caseworker coming to check out our home.

Dear-Adoption-Paperwork You will Not take over my life

I am really hoping to get this paperwork done as quick as possible. The next two weeks are a little crazy for us with two weeks of Vacation Bible School, among several other things. It may mean some earlier mornings or later nights, but I am determined to get this done and turned into the agency so we can REALLY start our journey for a second child.

You may also enjoy:

Praying for Our Waiting Adoptive Family

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Family Picture

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A Little Bit of This and That

The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and warm weather seems to be here to stay. These last few weeks have just flown by. Looking at the calendar today, I can’t believe that May is almost over.

peonies

In just a couple weeks, my family will be entrenched in some of our biggest ministry projects we have each year: Vacation Bible School and Teen Camp. I’m feeling the pressure of all that needs to get done for each of them!

But before I can even think about those things, we have had lots of things around our home that needed some attention. The biggest task is yard work.

Last year we moved into our (new to us) home on June 3rd. I scrambled to get a small garden in before our two weeks of Vacation Bible School hit (one for kids and one for high school students). And then my mother-in-law’s health began to rapidly fail, which meant a lot of traveling for my family. Yard work got put on hold.

We live in a corner house, so we have lots of yard! The previous owners loved to plant things. LOVED it. However, while they picked a lot of nice things, there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to it. Several plants and bushes were just out of control. We even had a tree in the middle of the yard that had tiger lilies growing around two-thirds of it, while hostas grew on the other third. On top of that, the tiger lilies were growing through the sides of the bricks around the tree. (I thought I had a picture of the craziness, but I haven’t found it yet).

This chaos was just too much for my OCD self to handle!

Last year, as I had the opportunity in the midst of a chaotic Summer, I pulled out various plants. This Spring, I slowly started pulling out more plants. I am happy to say that plants around the tree in the middle of our yard now have some symmetry to them.

Plants

And the walkway up to our front porch now looks pulled together.

Walkway plants

I am super excited that we got an apple tree planted!

apple tree

We had one apple tree that the previous owners planted, but it needed a companion tree to help pollinate it. Last year, we didn’t get any apples from that tree, so I’m hoping for a few this year!

Last week we took a break from yard work and took a road trip. My husband had a conference in Louisville, so he dropped our son and me off at my sister’s house in southeast Indiana on the way. The next day my sister and I, along with our kiddos, traveled back home. The boys had a great time together!

Road Trip

Saturday was back to yard work. The previous week, my husband pulled out trees along our back fence so that I could put my garden there this year. It gets way more sun than where the previous owners had put a garden.

This Saturday, my sweet husband built a raised garden bed for me. We really, really needed one to help keep the rabbits away from my vegetables! (They think our yard is a playground or something).

Daddy's helper

While I would love to share instructions for you, we really are NOT “DIYers” (more on that another time), so you’ll get better instructions looking at Pinterest than anything you would get from me!

Raised Bed Garden

I am happy to say my garden is in! This is the most variety I have planted in all our years of marriage. Can I just say, I am so looking forward to the fresh broccoli, green beans, lettuce, peppers, carrots, zucchini and tomatoes we will get!

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What’s For Dinner…? #22 (Gluten Free Dinner Plan)

What' for Dinner

Have I mentioned that I love simple meals? I love Summer meals because I can get away with making salads for a main dish and my husband is okay with that.

I love using the grill and not heating up the house. Unfortunately, we currently have a birds nest in our grill….with birds eggs not hatched yet….so we have to wait until the eggs hatch and we can safely remove the nest.

Secretly, I was hoping we could just get a whole new grill, as our grill only half works anyway. But we have several projects that are bigger priorities this Summer. Maybe next year. For now, I can’t wait to get the grill cleaned out, power washed and ready to use.

In the meantime, here is this week’s simple dinner plan…

Thursday: Cobb Salad with sweet potato fries

Friday: Homemade Pizza (I have a gluten free pizza crust mix from Aldi)

Saturday: Leftovers and a Grad Party

Sunday: Homemade Chicken Patty Sandwiches (recipe from Heavenly Homemaker) with potato salad, fresh fruit and veggies (I will just be eating the Chicken Patty without the bun to make it GF!)

Monday: Sausage Spinach Pasta

Tuesday:  Cool Ranch Taco’s  (recipe from Plain Chicken) with Rice and fresh fruit

Wednesday: Leftovers

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Slow Cooked Chicken Caesar Salad

Slow Cooked Chicken Caesar Salad from An Everyday Blessing - Just 5 ingredients!

Do you love simple meals? Meals that take little effort and few ingredients to put together? I know I do. And if you’re like me, then this meal is for you.

Summer is coming, at least I hope it is anyway.

Summer is the time that I loving having cold meals for dinner. I love making all kinds of salads: chicken salad, taco salad, chicken caesar sale.

Summer is also the time that I do my best to turn on the oven only when it is absolutely necessary. Even using the stove top can heat up the room more than I want. So if I’m not using the grill, then I use the slow cooker.

Our Sunday’s are really busy. It’s also a day where we have our biggest meal, our dinner, at lunch time. Since we are at church all morning, I like to have the dinner mostly made the night before. This week was no exception.

So Saturday night, I pulled out my slow cooker and put a couple pieces of chicken in it for a few hours. Before I went to bed, I pulled the chicken out. Since it only cooked for a little over 3 hours, it was perfectly moist, not at all dried out! I shredded the chicken and then placed it in the refrigerator.

On Sunday, when we got home from church, I pulled out the chicken, the lettuce (I bought chopped salad in a bag), along with the other few ingredients and mixed them all up. In less than five minutes we were eating our Chicken Caesar Salad.

Chicken Caesar Salad - 5 ingredient meal from An Everyday Blessing

My favorite things about this meal are:

1. It only has five ingredients (plus a 1/2 cup of water)

2. I can make the chicken the night before. Simply throw the chicken in the crockpot at dinner time and take it out before I go to bed.

3. It took very little effort to make!

Slow Cooked Chicken Caesar Salad

  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 10 cups chopped romaine
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup caesar dressing
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Sprinkle chicken with garlic salt. Place in slow cooker and add water. Cook on low for 3-4 hours, or until chicken is no longer pink in the middle. (Three hours is perfect for my slow cooker)
  2. Remove chicken from crockpot. Once it is cool enough to touch, shred the chicken into small pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, lettuce, caesar dressing and parmesan. Toss ingredients together with tongs until the dressing evenly coats the chicken and salad.
  4. Enjoy!

(I linked with these blog parties)

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Thrifty Summer Fun for Toddlers and Kids

Thrifty Summer Fun

This past week I was excited to have one whole week of warmer weather. It was so nice to not hear the furnace running, and instead have windows open.

One of my favorite things about our home is that we have a large completely enclosed deck off our kitchen. This feature is perfect for my two year old. The deck is like having my kitchen extended.

I can send my son out to play, yet I can see him from my kitchen window and patio door. We can talk to each other. He’s in his glory playing outside, and this mama is getting work done. It’s a win, win!!

This week I put his bike out on the deck, a little lawn mower, a large bottle of bubbles, a few balls, a shovel to dig in the dirt, just to name a few.

Keeping Toddlers busy

And did I mention, I also get a good workout in as I run outside and down the deck steps a million times to retrieve whatever item got dropped or thrown over?

Thursday was a really warm day. It actually reached 88 by us. I got a kick out of Facebook status’ that read, “I don’t want to hear any complaining about this warm weather after the winter we had.” Did you see some of those too?

I was busy pulling things together for a garage sale and wanted to keep my son entertained and cooled off at the same time. So I pulled out a cooler that we had and filled it with water.

Keeping Toddlers Busy This Summer

I gave my son a pitcher, some bath toy fish with a little fishing pole, and a plastic cup. He loved it.

Keeping Toddlers Busy this Summer

Best thing yet, it didn’t cost me any money! I used things that I had around the house.

And then this weekend, as my sister and I were having a garage sale, I pulled the cooler to the front of the house and my five year old niece kept herself entertained for quite awhile.

Keeping Kids Busy this Summer

What are some thrifty fun ideas you have for kids? Would love to hear them!!

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What’s For Dinner…? #21 (Gluten Free Menu Plan)

What' for Dinner

This week was an exciting grocery shopping week for me. Aldi had a special buy of Gluten Free items.

Aldi Gluten Free products

I admit. I was tempted to buy all of them, but I refrained. Typically I make a lot from scratch and do my best to avoid processed food. I think the best diet, gluten free or not, is to stick to the fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat. So when it came to choosing my gluten free items, I asked myself the question, “Would I buy this if it were not g-free?”

For instance, I rarely buy brownie or cake mixes since I make them from scratch. And I already have an amazing (and super easy) gluten free brown recipe! Although if it’s available next week, I may try the vanilla cake mix…

I also don’t buy hot pockets, so why would I buy a g-free version?

There are a few things that I may pick up on my next visit to Aldi, but this week I just bought three items:  Brown Rice Pasta, pizza crust mix, and Sea Salt Crackers.

I have yet to try the Brown Rice Pasta or the pizza crust, but the Sea Salt Crackers were delicious. I loved that I could pronounce each ingredient the product contained, and I knew what it was. I hope Aldi considers adding a permanent gluten free line of foods!

Here’s this week’s Gluten Free Dinner Plan…

Thursday:  Cheddar Ranch Burgers with fries and salad

Friday:  Dinner with friends

Saturday:  Homemade Pizza, salad and fruit (I picked up a GF pizza crust mix from Aldi)

Sunday:  Mother’s Day Lunch

Monday:  Sausage Spinach Pasta (with G-Free pasta)

Tuesday:  Homemade Swedish Meatballs with mashed potatoes and green beans

Wednesday:  Leftovers

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Sometimes You Just Need to Stop & Play with Play Dough

Sometimes You Just Need to stop and play with play dough

Ever have one of those busy, non-stop week’s? Ever wonder if life will ever slow down? I have resolved that life never really does slow down, but that I need to be purposeful about creating slower moments.

Friday is one of my favorite days of the week…and not because it means the weekend is coming. Friday means “Free Friend Friday” at the Sportsplex where my parents work out. Not only do I get to workout with my mom and sister, but the childcare is also free.  It’s also the one day of the week where I get a really good workout. Seriously, my mom could really be a personal fitness trainer. And she is, to me and my sister anyway.

But this week, as Friday came along, I had to make a choice.

Our last few weeks have been incredibly crazy. I’ve had late nights and early mornings, literally running all day long. Then this Wednesday and Thursday were non-stop, running to several places each day and being gone way longer than anticipated. My home was a mess, my body was physically exhausted, my brain was completely worn out, and I knew my son needed some one-on-one time.

So we stayed home. Oh what a wonderful day at home it was.

My home slowly got put back together. My son and I sat and read books together. We colored big pictures together. We had fun making snakes, “pizzas” and snowmen out of play dough.

Sometimes you just need to stop and play with play dough

And I even got a bit of a nap in while my son watched an episode of Curious George. By the time dinner came along, I decided to order pizza. The thought of having to clean-up the kitchen after dinner was just exhausting to me.

The past few months, I’ve had to learn to say “no” to some things, knowing that if I said “yes” I would be over-extending myself. Sometimes those things are good things. But it doesn’t always mean it is a good thing for me for that day or this time in my life.

Saturday, I woke up with clearer thinking. Though still tired from having a son that has not slept through the night in months, I felt reenergized. I could focus on the tasks that needed to get done that day.

It’s true that maybe I didn’t get done everything that I wanted or needed to get done on Friday, but having a slower day recharged me so I could get more done the next day. It’s okay to have a day (or part of a day) to just stop and play with play dough, take time to color (it’s so relaxing), and even take a nap.

Having an unhurried day benefited my health and well-being. It gave me more quality time with my son. While I was rolling out play dough pizzas with him, I wasn’t thinking about the pile of dishes that needed to get done, or the loads of laundry that needed to be folded. I was focused on my time with him.

No, not every day will be like Friday, having an entire day of slow moments. But I know I need to be purposeful about taking time to create slower moments through out my day and week. It’s vital for my health, (my sanity), and my relationship with my family.

What can you do today to create a slow moment for you?

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What’s For Dinner…? #20 (A Gluten Free Menu Plan)

What' for Dinner

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted our weekly dinner plan. The last few weeks have been crazy to say the least. I am drained! Completely wiped out. And that’s okay.

We have had a great couple of weeks celebrating the resurrection of our Lord, followed by my son’s birthday. Creating memories with family is well worth the exhaustion. Although I probably wouldn’t be so exhausted if my son would just start sleeping through the night again…

This week I am excited to have a second attempt at creating a White Chicken Enchilada Casserole. I made one this past week, and it actually was quite delicious (ask my two year old…he kept saying “it’s AHHH-Lish-OUS” while eating it), but I wanted to change one thing to it to make it more enjoyable for my husband. Hopefully I will be able to share this new creation with you soon!

Here’s what we plan on having this week….

Thursday:  Italian Dinner (at a local Christian school)

Friday:  White Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Saturday:  Leftovers

Sunday:  Roast Beef with mashed potatoes and green beans

Monday:  Broccoli Cheese Soup

Tuesday:  Tangy Apricot Chicken with rice and broccoli

Wednesday:  Leftovers

What about you? What’s on your dinner menu this week?

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