Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Miss Abby-girl



If you follow the news at all you know that we're getting a ton of questions about our adoption right now. 

This is all I know

Adoptions are still happening in most of the country.

We have no idea what will happen in the next few months.

We still long to bring Captain and Sister home to our family and will continue our process regardless of what we hear/see on the news.

God is faithful and if all I can do is rest in that fact, that is enough.


I have seen so much of His hand in the last week. We are heartbroken over the events taking place in Ukraine and amazed at how God was preparing our hearts long ago to walk through this adoption with so many unknowns. About 7 months ago we found out we were expecting. I am embarrassed to admit that I cried...a lot. I was afraid and the timing was wrong. Well, WE thought the timing was wrong. This week when I most needed a distraction and a little bit of joy He sent me my baby girl a little bit early and right on time. 

So I won't write about what is happening in Ukraine. I probably know about as much as you. I do ask that you pray without ceasing though. We are believing for a peaceful resolution and a trip in a few months to grow our family a little bit more.

"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness" Psalm 30:11


Abby's Birth Story

I've never been one to take belly pics but my Melo loves the camera and you never know what you'll find. Not sure if this was supposed to just be a belly shot or if she cut the head off. Here's me looking round at about 38 weeks.



I woke up last Wednesday with a "feeling" that it was the day. My Fully Alive sisters were coming that evening and Mom's birthday was the next day so I was really hoping to make it until midnight. We had decided to have Abby at home so I spent the day cleaning like crazy. We went to Isaiah's baseball game at 6 and while I wasn't having contractions, I knew labor was starting. Dropped the kids off with grandma, rushed home for Fully Alive and contractions started just as my guests arrived. I have a history of thinking I am in labor when I'm not and I wanted to tell Jacob first so I never said a word. I probably looked rude constantly glancing at my phone-timing contractions. After the girls left, we brought the kids home and tucked them in bed. I decided to let Jacob sleep a few hours before telling him. I figured one of us should get some rest.

The first awesome thing about my home birth was not feeling pressure to be ready to leave. I climbed in bed with each kid for a bit of snuggle time, set up my diffusers, prepped the bed, took a long bath, read my Bible, turned on some music and had a snack. It was lovely and peaceful and perfect! Finally around 3:30am I woke Jacob to tell him the news and sent a text to my awesome midwife, Kim Watkins.

I was totally prepared for my easy delivery. All of my kids came out quick. I don't think I ever pushed more than 10 minutes. Abby is obviously competitive. She decided to come earlier than any of the others had. She also had to come on her grandma and great grandma's birthday to beat Melody who only shared a birthday with one grandma. And of course she thought she'd beat them all my making Mama work a little harder and longer too. I just have to say I have so much respect for the women who have had to push for hours without pain meds. I think I was just over 30 minutes and that was enough for me!

I don't know how to describe her birth. Words like magical and miraculous come to mind but nothing quite captures it. It was peaceful and warm and beautiful, nothing like my hospital births. Something about being in our home with our family made all the difference. Abby was born at 6:35 am March 12 into her Daddy's arms. I was so in the moment that I forgot to have anyone take pictures but I will never forget.



Perfect in every way!


8 pounds 2 ounces



21 3/4 inches long

The kids came in shortly after and Miss Melo got to cut the cord. Everyone was in love the moment they saw her. We got to spend the morning snuggling in my bed just loving on baby sister. 

Isaiah is such a proud big brother
Melo keeps saying over and over, "I can't believe I have a baby sister! "

She also informed her grandma that SHE was the one who needed rest "I was up almost the whole night and Mom was just in her bed with a bunch of pillows"

Joshua has really surprised us. He showed no interest in the pregnancy and could care less about all other babies. He LOVES this girl! He calls her Cutie Patootie and wants to hold and love on her often.

I don't have any pictures of Caleb with her, He loves her a little too much. He wants to pick up, hug tight and lay right on top of her. I need to get someone else to take some picture while I "help" him love on her without hurting her.

She's also found a perfect spot for snuggling and sleeping.


I really want to photograph everything. Being our 5th/7th child I know it would be easy to fall through the cracks. I want her to always know she is not just another Holt kid. She is our perfect unexpected blessing.
I tried to capture her first bath tonight. Using a 6 year old with a camera phone probably wasn't the smartest. 

They may be fuzzy but we have them.
She loved it! Holt babies love their baths.

and the after-bath cuddling,
nice warm coconut oil massage,
All cozy and ready for bed


We love you Miss Abigail Ahava Holt! Happy one week! Can't imagine life without you!

Friday, February 28, 2014

60 meals in the Freezer-Week 6

Be sure and check out -Week 1-Bacon Ranch Chicken
                                   -Week 2-Baked Sandwiches
                                   -Week 3-Tex Mex Chicken
                                   -Week 4/5  Beer Bread and Lasagna

I have so many recipes I want to get into the freezer before Abby's arrival but life has been BUSY these last couple of weeks so I've had to cheat a little.

My mom has been a huge blessing and cooked up a bunch of ground meat for me. She seasoned and vacuum sealed in 1 lb packages so I can pull it out for fast cooking. It may not be a whole meal in the freezer, but it takes up very little freezer space and makes dinner prep so much faster. She made a variety of beef, chicken, turkey and sausage seasoned different ways. Here are a some ideas for quick meals if you already have the meat cooked.

Ground meat seasoned with Italian

*Throw in a pot with a jar of spaghetti sauce and let heat/thaw while your noodles cook and you've got spaghetti with meat sauce in about 10 minutes.

*Cook a box of pasta (rotini, ziti, shells...) a couple minutes short of suggested time and place In a 9x13 pan. Stir in a pound of meat and a jar of spaghetti sauce. Top with mozzarella and parmesan and bake until heated through and cheese is golden. Delicious and easy baked pasta.

Ground meat seasoned with taco seasoning

*Obviously you can make...Tacos

*We also have what we call taco dip. I just mix the meat with a can of refried black beans and some cheese, heat and the kids love to eat it with chips.

*I like to stuff the meat into a bell pepper with some cheese, sour cream...whatever is in the fridge and bake until the meat is hot and the pepper is soft.

Ground breakfast sausage

*I love having this already cooked on hand for breakfast casseroles. I usually just pull up All Reciepes and find one that I have the ingredients for already. Having the sausage cooked already means I can just mix everything together and throw in the oven.

*It's also nice to be able to make quick omelets or burritos.


I am sure you all can come up with dozens of other quick ideas. These are just my go-tos


I also managed to cooked up several dozen breakfast sausage links this week. I cannot stand the mess, smell and dishes from  making sausage! So glad it reheats well. I just divide into bags with enough to feed our family one meal and freeze. You can thaw over night or microwave in the morning while the eggs are cooking.


The last easy thing I froze up this week is a new favorite of ours...mostly because it's so easy.


Just slice up a half of an onion and a bell pepper. Throw in a bag with about 5 chicken breasts and a tablespoon of taco seasoning and freeze. It can go straight into the crock pot when you are ready for 6-8 hrs and is delicious on a tortilla/wrap or served over rice. I made several bags of these this week and have already eaten a couple.

This probably wasn't my best week getting the freezer stocked but it at least beat my attempted beer bread week. Hoping I can skip making freezer meals next week and have a baby instead!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

60+ Meals in the Freezer- Week 4/5

Be sure and check out -Week 1-Bacon Ranch Chicken
                                   -Week 2-Baked Sandwiches
                                   -Week 3-Tex Mex Chicken Casserole

Last weeks freezer cooking attempt failed...bad. I was planning to cook up beer bread for the freezer. It makes a great side for any meal (ok we just make a whole meal of it) and the best toast! Unfortunately I only have 3 loaf pans and we kept eating 2.5 of the 3 loaves before they made it to the freezer...oops.
So here's the recipe. Maybe you'll have more self control!

This really is the easiest recipe ever!

Beer Bread




Ingredients
3 cups self rising four
3 tbs sugar
12 oz dark beer (room temperature)

Directions
Grease loaf pan
Mix sugar and flour
Slowly add beer while stirring
Pour into pan and bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes
Around 35-40 minutes I like to brush the top with honey or honey butter
Serve with honey butter

Remove from pan and cool completely. Then wrap in wax paper (to keep from sticking) and then plastic wrap. If its gonna be in the freezer more than a couple of weeks go ahead and put it in a ziplock bag with as little air as possible.

Tomato Sausage Lasagna


This is easily the best lasagna ever. If you like traditional lasagna with ricotta or cream cheese, this might not be for you. If you love pizza...this is your dish! It is packed full of sausage, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. It is a little time consuming but completely worth it, especially if you make up several for the freezer. The recipe came from Martha Stewart. You can find the original here. Below are the ingredients and directions for 10 half pans with some minor modifications. A half pan is plenty for our family of 6. We usually serve with salad and even have a little left over.

If you are using foil pans, spend the extra money (it's a very small difference) and buy HEAVY DUTY...or learn the hard way like I did when a pan split down the bottom spilling hot lasagna on the floor

Ingredients
About 60 lasagna noodles
10 tbs olive oil
5 large onions, chopped 
20 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbs Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tbs red pepper flakes
5-6 lbs mild Italian sausage (casings removed)
10 (28 oz) cans tomatoes in puree (I like to run them through the blender a bit so there are no large chunks)
30 cups shredded mozzarella
5 cups shredded parmesan

Directions
Fill a couple (2-3) 9-by-13-inch baking dishes two-thirds of the way with hot tap water. Add noodles, and arrange them in alternating directions to prevent sticking. Let soak while preparing sauce.


Make sauce: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion,garlic, Italian seasoning, and red-pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add sausage, and cook, stirring and breaking it up, until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain grease and return to pan.  Add tomatoes and their puree, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon (unless you put in blender first); bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. (You should have about 40 cups of sauce....yes, I make it in 2 huge pots) 


Drain noodles, transfer to a baking sheet. I usually just lay them flat on a clean beach towel. Spoon 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of each pan. Fit 2(3 if using 8x8 pan) noodles in pan, overlapping slightly. Cover with 1 cup sauce, 1 cup mozzarella, and 1/6 cup Parmesan. Repeat with another layer, then top with another layer of noodles, 1 1/2 cups sauce, and the rest of mozzarella and Parmesan. (If using the 8x8 pans you will just have 2 layers and need to divide the ingredients accordingly) 

Cover pans tightly with aluminum foil, and place in an air tight ziplock freezer bag. This is another good one to double bag. I can usually fit 2 in a bag if I get the big 2 gallon freezer bags.


When you remove from freezer bake for 1 1/2 hrs with foil on. Then remove foil and bake until cheese is golden and center is hot (about 20-30 more minutes).

Go check out this awesome puzzle fundraiser our friends 

have put together to help us bring our kids home.




Thursday, January 30, 2014

60+Meals in the Freezer- Week 3

The truth about bulk cooking/freezer cooking is IT'S NOT FUN.  To be honest I kind of dread it every time, but I am always so glad I did it! Last night, around 9pm I started having really strong Braxton Hicks contractions. I have a history of thinking I am in labor when I am not. This time I was getting nervous. A normal pregnant person would call the midwife since it's too early to go into labor. Me? I start cooking! By the time the contractions stopped I had cleaned out and organized the deep freezer, prepped a dozen casseroles and detailed the kitchen. By midnight I was exhausted and my back was aching but I was thrilled! 10 more meals I won't have to prepare after Abby's arrival and 2 extra for Melo's teachers...totally worth it.

This meal was relatively easy and super affordable! I did not keep track of costs but I know for 12 pans it was under $80. That's all of the ingredients plus the foil, foil pans and ziplocks. Keep in mind the bags can be used again since none of the food touches them so they don't really count in the total cost.

A friend shared this link with me. It has a few great recipes. However I find it to be simpler and less expensive to make more of one recipe at a time and because we have the freezer space I am able to.

I went with the Tex Mex Chicken Casserole and tripled her recipe. Hers makes 4 8x8 pans. Below is the ingredients for 12. I'd say 1 pan feeds 6 adults or 8 children but needs a little filler (chips and salsa maybe?)

Tex Mex Chicken Casserole 12 pans
12 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
24 cups of cooked rice
6 cans of Rotel tomatoes
6 cans of whole kernel corn, drained
6 cans of black beans (undrained)...I drained the beans and added sour cream in place of the liquid for more flavor
3 small cans of black olives, drained...I skipped the olives. We aren't big olive fans
18 cups of cheddar cheese, grated...ok that's what she says...went with more like 24 cups. We love cheese
Directions:
  • Mix together all of the ingredients in a bowl, except the cheese.
  •  Divide into four pans and top with the cheddar cheese and cover with cardboard topper or foil
  • I like to bag and double bag being careful to get as much air out as possible. This allows it to stay fresh in the freezer a lot longer. 2 8x8 pans will fit in a 2 gallon bag.
  • : Remove cardboard piece or foil and bake at 350 until thoroughly heated and cheese is melted
Check out these recipes from the previous weeks
Week 1-Bacon Ranch Chicken
Week 2-Baked Sandwiches

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It hit me like a ton of bricks...a man (who I greatly respect) made a comment about the church building orphanages. My first reaction was joy as orphaned children are my passion and calling. But then my spirit heard another Voice and I realized that the church was never meant to build orphanages. We may be called now, but it's only because we forced God's hand. It sounds strange. How can people force God to do anything? Because He gives us free will and we often use it to tear down what He meant for our good. It started in the garden and we messed that up. The same is true of orphans, they were never meant to live in orphanages. God may be calling His people to build them but it's only because we are still refusing to obey His other calling. Children are supposed to be in families, their own families. Restoring families should be our first goal. It's a fallen world and that's not always a possibility. I think that's why He demonstrated adoption for us. It's His "plan B."  Would you believe that there are approximately 15 times more Christians than orphans. FIFTEEN TIMES! That's inexcusable.
Normally I would keep a word like this to myself. I worry too much about offending someone. However on the way home I started to share with Jacob and he stopped me and said that he received the same word. So I'm going to risk offending you and just ask you, what are you going to do about it?

"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin"  James 4:17

Monday, January 20, 2014

60+ Meals in the Freezer Week 2

I stole this recipe from a friend...well the idea anyway. I never actually got the recipe but it's a pretty easy one to come up with on your own and lots of ways to mix it up. She served it at a birthday party and it was such a great idea! So thanks Tiffany...
The prices on this one are not exact because it varies by store and what types of meat and cheese you choose. This is based on Oscar Mayer honey smoked turkey and Great Value mild cheddar and swiss cheese.

Baked Sandwiches

Ingredients
10 King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls  ($39.80)
(the big ones in the pie pan)
6-7 lb thinly sliced deli meats      ($34.86)
150 slices of cheese                   ($23.80)

Directions
Cut the top half of each roll off and set aside.
Spread 2 layers of meat evenly on each roll.
Evenly lay about 4-5 slices of cheese on top of the meat.

Repeat 2 times so that you have 3 layers of meat and cheese.

Replace the top half of the roll.
Cover tightly with foil and put in air tight plastic bag or wrap before freezing.

Thaw overnight in fridge and bake at 400 for about 45 minute (until cheese is melted).
I have not cooked from frozen but I'm sure you could just adjust the time.

One sandwich serves 6-8. Great with potato chips and fresh fruit!
Total cost for 10-$98.46
Cost for 1-$9.84

This idea is so great. It's a fun one to get creative with. Try one of these:

Bacon, egg and cheese.
Chicken, pepper jack and bacon (dipped in guacamole).
Pulled pork and provolone   .


An easy NO PREP freezer breakfast or treat

We are selling these amazing braided pastries through 

1/24/14. They are perfect for the busy mom because they 

come frozen. You set them out the night before to let the 

dough rise (they just about triple in size) and then bake. All 

proceeds got to our adoption fund.  Available flavors: Apple, 

Blueberry & Cream Cheese, Cinnamon, Cream Cheese, 

Strawberry & Cream Cheese and Double Chocolate. All flavors are $13 except Double 

Chocolate which is $14. Local orders only as they are perishable. Let me know what you'd 

like! 




Wednesday, January 15, 2014

60+ Meals in the Freezer Week 1

I am roughly 8 weeks away from having our 5th baby. Children numbers 6 and 7 not far behind...
Basketball season is in full swing and we are about a month out from baseball and soccer starting up.
Oh and there is homeschooling, fundraising and adoption paperwork too. Every year I start out with good intentions but fall in the trap of fast food. Taco Casa and Little Caesars are our go-to's when we are crunched for time and money. Where else can you feed a family of 6 for $10? I am determined not to let that happen this spring so I'm filling my freezer. I've been freezer cooking for a couple of years and still getting the hang of it. My goal is to put 10 meals in the freezer each week until Abby's arrival. I thought I'd share them in case anyone else wants to join me.
These are not necessarily "healthy meals' but many of them can be adjusted. Right now our priority is getting our kids home. These prices are all based on the cheapest NOT the best for you brand. If your grocery budget is more flexible, please make the better choices!

Bacon Ranch Chicken

I got this recipe from Crockin'Girls but made some adjustments (More sauce & noodles to stretch the meal and fill more little tummies). It's one of my favorites because it requires so little prep time and you just drop it in the crock pot the day you want to serve it.

20 lb chicken breast or tenders. $45.92  (4 Great Value frozen 5lb bags)
I have only been using 3 bags (15 lb) lately. The kids prefer it and it cuts costs to $34.44
16 cups sour cream                   $11.84  (8 Great Value 16oz)
15 cans cream of chicken soup  $10.95  (15 Great Value 10.5oz cans)
15 packets ranch dressing mix   $18.45  (7.5 Hidden Valley Ranch 2 packs)
15 tsp minced garlic                   $3.95    (1 Gourmet Garlic 4oz tube-leftovers keep for another recipe)
30 tbs bacon bits                       $4.98    (3 Great Value 2.5oz bag)
10 boxes of egg noodles            $10.00  (Great Value 16oz boxes)
Total for 10 recipes=$106.09 ($94.61 if you use 15 lb chicken)
Total for 1 meal (serves about 8)=$10.06 ($9.46 if you use 15 lb chicken)







Directions:
Divide chicken evenly between 10 containers. I like to use gallon ziplock bags because they take up less freezer space. Reusable containers are a less wasteful option.

Mix together sour cream, cream of chicken, ranch, garlic and bacon and pour (divided evenly) over the chicken.

Seal (I double bag just in case and reuse the outer bags next time.) and lay flat in freezer

When you are ready to use just pull from freezer and place in crock pot on high for 4-5 hours (less if you thaw first).

While it is cooking, cook 1 box of noodles for 1-2 minutes less then the suggested time.

When the chicken is cooked through, shred and return to sauce in the crock pot. Add cooked noodles and let sit for a few minutes and serve.

I usually serve with steamed broccoli.

An easy NO PREP freezer breakfast or treat

We are selling these amazing braided pastries through 

1/24/14. They are perfect for the busy mom because they 

come frozen. You set them out the night before to let the 

dough rise (they just about triple in size) and then bake. All 

proceeds got to our adoption fund.Available flavors: Apple, 

Blueberry & Cream Cheese, Cinnamon, Cream Cheese, 

Strawberry & Cream Cheese and Double Chocolate. All flavors are $13 except Double 

Chocolate which is $14 Local orders only as they are perishable. Let me know what you'd 

like! 








My "plan" is to make 10 of 1 recipe each week until Abby's arrival. I will try to add to this post each time as I purchase the ingredients and break down costs.