Monday, July 14, 2014

A bright spot!

Lately I find myself wishing away the summer. It's too hot for the littles to play outside. Even if it weren't, it's too buggy, or they eat gravel and grass and rubber mulch. There is too much TV, too much laying around, too much crying, too much bickering. You might say that our days are full...of the wrong stuff. Why can't we have three months of vacation in the fall when the weather is tolerable?


I'm so thankful for the little bright spots in our otherwise boring and lazy summer. With twelve children, we can always find something to celebrate! Here is the bright spot for today...

I almost can't believe what I saw this morning. If you have followed us for awhile, you might know about Max and his struggles to eat and drink. WHY do children raised in institutional settings have feeding issues? This is SO basic. I believe it demonstrates that even basic care isn't basic enough. Anyhow...

Getting Max to drink has been the biggest challenge. Initially, he would only accept liquid from a spoon. And then he had developed a way of tipping his head back and swallowing without closing his mouth. Like a baby bird. Can you imagine how labor intensive that was?

I brought him juice boxes a few times while we were still just visiting. I'm not sure what they did to him there, but the mere sight of a straw provoked an anxiety attack. For the past year he has used a sippy cup without the stopper. It allowed him to stay hydrated, but also allowed him to dump out water and play in it. Great fun, eh?! 

A few months ago, I put the stopper into the cup to see how he would do. Sure enough, he figured out how to suck enough to get the water out! I would offer him a straw from time to time. I would let him SEE me using one. Sometimes I would just leave a straw on the table where he could see it.

Even though I knew Max was making slow progress, I was FLOORED today when his speech theraptist told me he drank from a straw today. She was shocked, too! He just DID it. He wasn't coaxed or convinced, He just took the cup and drank.

When Max came out to the waiting room, I got a demonstration...and photographic proof that it happened!!




We still have lots of work to do, and another four boring weeks of summer, but today we are celebrating Max, his determination, and his new skills. What are you celebrating today?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Adventures with clearance rack peppers.

I love shopping sales, couponing (don't forget to join my Ibotta team here: http://ibotta.com/r/xqtug)  and clearance racks. The other day I found this lovely bag of peppers for just $0.99. We used a few for salads and burritos but there was no way we could eat them all. I sat and looked at them for awhile...pondering what to make.


Oven roasting them was a possibity. I looked up the instructions and wasn't feelin' it.


Then is hit me. Jelly. Yessss...warm, spicy pepper jelly would be FUN!!

I cleaned up the peppers, seeding most of them. Some seeds were left in the mix for a little extra warmth. All the little beauties went into the blender with a cup of apple cider vinegar. I used a half cup of leftover lime juice that I used for Independence Day limades and a half cup of lemon juice. Six cups of sugar and three packages of pectin round out the ingredients. 

So easy! Except that I was multitasking when the mixture started to boil...and yep, my syrup boiled over bigtime. The whole house smelled like peppers and burnt sugar! The inside of my nose felt a little offended. Not hurt, or burnt, but as if I wasn't really supposed to be breathing those kind of fumes.


Even though I made a huge mess, and stayed up way too late, the end result was super tasty...and beautiful! Perfect on buttered toast, cream cheese and crackers, or even just used for dipping pretzels! I'll be scouting that produce clearance rack for more peppers. Maybe I can make enough for Christmas presents!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Independence Day

We had a great Indepence Day, how about you? It's always a fun time for our family as we have a couple of 4th of July birthdays. This little boy was a real firecracker from the start!



Now he's all grown up and getting married this fall. 


We had a turkey dinner yesterday instead of a typical American cookout. I'm on a "let's clean out the freezer" project. We are keeping food costs down, and cleaning the freezer out in preparation for hunting season. It felt a lot like Thanksgiving...very appropriate for Independendce day, don't you think? 

After our cake and ice cream, we took everyone out front for fireworks. This is really Max's first Independence Day celebration. Last year he was a tiny little ball of anxiety, so he stayed in the house and went to bed early. 

This year, Max started off much the same when the fireworks started. He was screaming and clawing at me, trying to hide his face in my neck. However, I know him a little better now. This boy gets high on drama. And while the anxety was real, I could tell that he wanted to like what was going on. So I pushed him to participate. I showed him how to cover his ears, which he refused to do. I would help him clap after each showy piece of pyro-splendor. 

Before long Max was clapping on his own. He relaxed a bit and sat in front of me instead of holding me in a clingy death grip. Then our neighbors brought out the big stuff. It's impossible not to wonder how much money they spent, but we sure did enjoy their show. Max was not as appreciative though and started his freaking out once again.

I'll never forget the sweetness that I witnessed at that point. Ruby reached out to Max...covered his ears with her hands...and locked eyes with him. "It's ok, Max...it's ok," she said to him. The only photo of this moment in the one in my mine. It's enough.

I am so blessed. I can't even comprehend it. 

Hope you had a happy Independence Day, too!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

New Ways to Save

Sorry if this looks like advertising, but I am excited about a new way to coupon. It's new to me, anyway. I'm sure lots of my friends have known about Ibotta for awhile now. I just have one question for those friends...why didn't you tell me about this sooner??


So what is Ibotta? It's a rebate app for Apple and Android. You use the app to unlock rebates for specific items available at specific stores in your area. To unlock the rebates, you may be asked to answer a poll, a quiz, watch a short video, or just read a snippet of information. Easy stuff. 

Then you go out an purchase the items you have unlocked. Some items are things you buy all the time, like milk. Other items are new to the market and have large rebates to encourage you to give them a try. When the rebates match up with a sale, you can save even more. Ibotta also offers bonuses to redeem certain sets of rebates.

For example, I bought the Dial bar soap on sale for $1 and earned a $1 rebate. I bought the Dial body wash on sale for $2.99 and earned a $1 rebate. Then I earned a $1 bonus for redeeming two Dial rebates this week. My net cost for both items was $0.99! 


Ibotta rebates can be used in conjuntion with coupons. I have Ziploc coupons that I've been saving. There is a $2.50 off two Ibotta rebate for Ziploc bags this week so it's time to use those coupons and get the Ziploc bags I need for our back to school supply lists that are coming out soon.

The rebate funds go into an account. You can cash out when you reach $5 or more. If you want to give Ibotta a try click this link: http://ibotta.com/r/xqtug. You'll get an extra $1 bonus if you redeem your first rebate within 10 days. 

Join me on Ibotta and learn new ways to save!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fix your glasses. Fix your glasses. Fix...

So this is one of the things that is driving me batty these days. The Miraflex frames were a lifesaver for us, but they are just not doing the job for Zhen anymore.

Here is what I see 90% of the time when I look at Zhen.



This is what I say a b-jillion times each day.





What other types of indestructible frames are available? The strap is a must. The flexibility is a plus. These frames are in pretty good shape considering the abuse they have taken. Who has ideas for me?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer school!

It's the end of June, school has been out for about six weeks, and we are starting to settle into a summertime routine! It's funny because six weeks from now, school will start again and we will be trying to find a new routine. I spend a lot of time wishing for a new, and easier, season to arrive. But, of course, each season has it's own unique challenges. I should know that by now, right? A few weeks ago, I got to take a mini-vacation...a complete break from the challenges at home. Hanging out in California was just the recipe for recharging these old batteries. While I was there, I was blessed to accompany my future daughter in her quest to find THE dress. It was a great day, full of anticipation, excitement, disappointments and ultimate victory! So much more to do before the wedding in November... Back home, I had to learn how to get the three little Amerikrainians out of bed, pottied, dressed, fed and on the bus for summer school by 7:45am each morning. It's like a mini-marathon! But, it's doable. I have until noon to get things done around the house, but really, I feel like going back to bed once I'm done getting those boys ready to go! It's worth the trouble though. Max, Theo and Zhen are loving school...loving life. I thank God for the privilege of caring for them.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Not giving up...

II have been too heartbroken to write for awhile. What do I have to say that anyone wants to hear anyway?

People who were dear to me have turned their backs, removed me from their lives. My friend's cherished little boy died in his sleep. Another friend's baby boy has very serious heart problems including a surgery that didn't go as planned. I have Ukrainian friends who are separated from their family and home in Crimea, perhaps for good. I have children I care for in Crimea, children that I have watched and prayed over for years, who suddenly have no hope of ever having a family. I have witnessed adoptive families threatening each other, turning their backs, slandering each other and worse.


It all makes me want to hide under the bed covers. Tell me when it's over...

But then the darkness wins, doesn't it.

Even though I may be doing this wrong, or even badly, something in me won't give up. Enjoy some photos from the past few weeks...


For a few blessed days, all my children were under the same roof!

Oh my...look who found some scissors!

I let some school supplies slip through my fingers in the chaos of the end of the school year. 

Max has discovered the joy of sprinklers.

Richy spent a few weeks with us...and has inspired a future javelin thrower...



Pizza on the front porch, with your best friend. Priceless!

Just enough room on the front porch for the baby pool. Pure joy for these water obsessed boys. 

We are down a bed tent. Looking at all options to keep the little boys safe. 

Daddy let her have a blue drink and blue candy. Spoiled, I tell you.