Crock Pot Chicken & Dumplings

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This was delicious! The amazing blogger had this recipe floating around on Pinterest, so this was a quick pin and make for me. I pinned it before going to work, picked up the few ingredients and made it the next day.

For this recipe you need:
•3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed
•salt
•pepper
•garlic powder
•onion powder
•1 tbsp chopped onion (I didn’t use it because Arthur doesn’t like onions)
•2 cloves chopped garlic
•1 stick (or half cup) of butter
•14 1/2 oz chicken broth (I rounded to 16 because that’s what my measuring cup had)
•3/4 cup flour
•2 cups milk
•1 bag mixed veggies (I used a 1lb bag)
•1 tube of biscuits

To start with, take your chicken breasts and sprinkle with your salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Put them in the crock pot and put the minced garlic and chopped onions over the top.
Next, you need to melt the butter on the stove, stir in chicken broth and flour. Add in a sprinkle of salt and pepper. The directions say to hold off on the veggies till the end, but I put my veggies in here.

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Let it cook on low for 6 hours
At the 6 hour mark, shred your chicken. I normally hate shredding chicken, but all I had to do was stab the chicken and it came apart.

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After your chicken is shredded, open up your biscuits and cut them into quarters.

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Throw the biscuit pieces into your crock pot and let it cook for another 2 hours on low.

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This was delicious! The kids didn’t care for it, but they get weird with new stuff. Tony ate two bowls at dinner and took the leftovers for lunch today, so he was a big fan. We’ll definitely be making this again!

Happy dining all!

Flea Removal

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Everybody meet Beast Boy. The newest addition to our family. He’s an adorable little boy, a beautiful sandstone colored cat. We’ve been debating for a few weeks now if we were ready for another kitten. We had to put a kitten down a few months ago due to internal problems that were too intense to fix. I was going to discuss with Tony, the possibility of getting one from the next street over. They had a sign for free kittens, which is usually how we get them.

He instead brought home this little monster with him. We apparently had the same idea. He just skipped the discussion.

The little guy needed a bath, I get so annoyed with people who let kittens get so dirty and gross! I gave him the standard cat bath and while drying him, I found fleas all over him. Ugh!

We’ve lived here for eight years and never had fleas, we were not going to ruin the record now! I pulled up one of the pictures on my life hacks board, sadly no link to credit, and read that you combine:

•1 cup Dawn dish soap
•1 cup white vinegar
•4 cups warm water

It makes kind of a soupy mess, which I forgot to take a picture of. Then you scrub it into the fur and rub it in for about five minutes. The kitten did not deal well with this as his second bath in 15 minutes.

For cats I would recommend cutting it down to
•1/4 cup Dawn
•1/4 cup vinegar
•1 cup warm water
Although it was nice to have enough in the bowl to dip the kitten in.

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At first, after rinsing and starting to dry him, I thought this was a failure. So sad! However, in a little under an hour, the fleas began working their way away from his skin, eventually falling off dead.
We did pick up flea collars for all of our little zoo, but now that it’s almost 24 hours later, I can’t find a single flea.

I will call this a big success, and it’s much cheaper than over the counter flea treatments. When trying this, don’t be discouraged if the fleas don’t fall off instantly, it does take a little time to kick in. It will also leave your pet fluffy and soft.

Enjoy the tip for your furry friends, I hope it helps!

Gabriel Michael

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I’m sure many of you have seen the posts on Facebook about October being pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to write about this, as it is very personal to me and can make some people uncomfortable.

What do you say to someone who has lost a child? There is nothing you can say to help, so all you are left with is “I’m sorry”. That doesn’t help, but it’s all you can say.

I got pregnant in December of 2008. I knew right away, as I had always been hyper aware of my body, I knew almost right after Arthur was conceived and had to wait two weeks to take the test. I waited until I was actually late to discover I was pregnant this time too.

I had used a midwife with Arthur, one attached to an actual doctor, and I loved the relaxed way of dealing with my pregnancy, but having the comfort of knowing a doctor was on standby for any problems. It was such an amazing pregnancy and birthing experience that I found a doctor in Ohio with the same ideals.

Everything seemed to be bopping right along, I was growing the way I should be, the heartbeat was strong when they did the checks, so we had no worries.

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It’s hard to tell in this picture, but I was just over three months pregnant. Arthur and I flew out to CA, with my doctor’s ok, for my brother’s boot camp graduation. That’s why I’m wearing the Marine hat!

April rolled around and it was time for my ultrasound to get approximate size and weight and maybe discover the sex of the baby. Tony and I went in, ready to know if we were having another boy or getting our little princess.

The ultrasound tech had barely started when he called in a doctor. The doctor took a quick look and said he wanted to refer us to a specialist. We didn’t think too much of this. While pregnant with Arthur I was referred to a specialist too. That had been because he was so cramped in there that one of his tube was a little more kinked than it should’ve been. He came out perfect, so no worries, right?

It seemed a little odd that they wanted us to go directly to the specialist, but still not a big deal in our minds. We made the drive to the specialist, a little miffed that we didn’t know what we were having, but not worried.

This doctor was a very straight shooter, which I can appreciate, even though he ripped my world apart. Their tech did a check, didn’t say anything and then we were put in the doctor’s office.

Our child, sex undetermined, was not going to live. The first words he actually said were, “This baby has a serious problem and will not make it.” What do you say to that? He went on to explain that there had been a blockage in the baby’s ureter, the tube that goes from the kidney to the urethra and it had burst, leaving waste inside the babies body and polluting the amniotic fluid as well. There was nothing we could’ve done to prevent it, again no comfort in that, and we should induce and deliver right away.

Leaving the hospital that day, after agreeing to set a date very soon, Tony broke down in the parking garage, devastated. He was fixated on the fact that even though we were losing the baby, we didn’t know what it was.

We made the calls to our parents, also determining the date of April 8, so that my mom could come and stay with us. It also allowed us a weekend to go and see Tony’s parents for more emotional support before we had to do this.

Before making the quick trip to NY to see Tony’s parents, I had to go back into the doctor’s office to sign paperwork. This was it’s own tragedy. Inducing labor at 20 weeks, constitutes abortion. I had to sit through all of this paperwork, they had to show me by law, and sign that, yes, I understood that this could kill my child, yes, I had been informed of the option of placing the child up for adoption. It was killing me. I was also given the horrifying decision of going through normal labor and delivery, giving me a baby to at least see and hold, or abortion procedures, meaning my baby would most likely be in pieces. I chose labor and delivery.

While in NY, I didn’t even want to be around anyone. My brother-in-law’s bride-to-be was having her wedding shower and I couldn’t stand to go. I laid around the house, cuddling my almost two year old.

When we got home, it all went so fast. My mom arrived and suddenly it was April 8th. We left Arthur with our sitter, made the drive to the hospital and began the medicine necessary to induce labor. They came in at one point, while mom had gone to check on Arthur, to check the baby’s location through the heartbeat and drain some excess amniotic fluid to speed up the process. The baby’s heart had stopped. That was when I had to stop hoping for a miracle.

The hits just kept coming as they probed my stomach with a giant needle. If you’ve had an amniocentesis, you know what I’m talking about. The drained a large amount of fluid.

My mom returned to me in tears. My baby was actually dead inside me. Not dying, but already dead.

The delivery went quickly after that. My child was born and taken from the room so they could get him cleaned up for me. They brought him back in a little basket.

They were able to tell me it was a boy, my little Gabriel Michael. He was 10 1/2″ long, 1lb 5oz. Half the length and a tenth of the size of Arthur at birth. I could hold him in one hand. They warned me before hand that he was discolored. When he died, his oxygen levels depleted, changing his color.

This image may be disturbing, but this is my son, the only way I’ve seen him, so please be kind:

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Here was this tiny little boy that I would never get to raise. I would never breastfeed him as I did Arthur. He would never grow up and replace this one image I will always have of him.

The staff at Akron General was amazing. They gave me a memory book, containing his stats at birth and his footprints.

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This and a few other things are in my Gabriel Box. There are hospital bracelets that he never wore, a blanket that he was never wrapped in and a hat that never sat on his head.

I had the option to stay overnight in the hospital, but all I wanted to do was get out of there. I wanted to go home to my living child and hold him tight. I wanted to grieve in private. Before leaving the hospital there was more paperwork to sign, allowing the funeral home to take Gabriel’s body for cremation.

After a night at home, we went to Things Remembered to find a container for his ashes. I found a beautiful container, intended for first communion.

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Inside this tiny container are the remains of my son. It is engraved with his name and the day he was delivered.

The grief is hard enough to deal with. Unless you have lost a child, either a stillborn child you have held in your arms or a living child who has been lost, please do not tell anyone experiencing this that you understand. I’ve had a miscarriage, before Gabriel, and that is a sad and terrible thing. I would never take away from someone’s grief over a loss. A miscarriage is still a loss of a child, but to me it was the loss of the idea of a child. Tragic, yet undefined, is how it felt to me.

Losing Gabriel, knowing his heart stopped before he came into this world felt like a failure on my part. It didn’t matter what the doctors said, what my friends said or even other parents who had dealt with this said; this was my failure. My job as his mother was to let him grow, safe and warm inside me. My son never developed beyond 20 weeks. What had I done wrong?

There is no answer. It has been 6 1/2 years since I held Gabriel in my arms and I can tell you there are no answers. If you’re going through this, wondering when the grief will stop, it doesn’t. I don’t think it’s supposed to stop. Don’t worry, it doesn’t destroy your life.

I don’t think about him every day, not even every month anymore, but every once in a while, I will see something and he’ll pop into my head. It could be someone with 2 boys the right age, or it could even be meeting someone named Gabriel. Anything can trigger it and I don’t know what will bring it on.

You reach a point where you don’t want to talk about the loss. People don’t want to hear it, not out of meanness, but because they don’t know what to say. You learn to bring out those memories and grief in private. I’ve recently added to my back tattoo, the one with my children’s names, it now includes Gabriel.

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The Celtic owl is the Guardian of souls, so that is why I chose that image, but it felt empowering to put his name on my body. He is my son, not was, but is my son. Whether he is here with me now or already gone from this world, he will always be my son.

If you have lost a child, I can sympathize with you. Do not let anyone tell you how to grieve. Do not let anyone even imply that you should be moving past your grief. If they have not experienced the loss first hand, and are offering anything other than sympathy or condolences, ignore them.

For all the parents dealing with loss, my condolences. You are not alone in your loss.

Family Year Books

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Hello, my name is Stephanie and I’m a picture freak. Living in a digital age, it’s easier to take more pictures, and less need to print them all, especially since I can pull them up on my computer at any time. I do print some for photo albums, like Disney World and Hawaii, as I purchased special photo albums for those photos.
Of course now I have all these great photos of my family and no way to show them off. I already have a ton of photos hanging on the wall, but my little house only has so much wall space. Since Tony has vetoed the idea of papering the walls in photos, I had to come up with something else!
Enter the DeSantis Family Yearbooks.

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I start going month by month, this is easiest because it’s how my photos are sorted on my computer. The May page featured here has a few of my favorite pictures from that month and a brief explanation of what’s going on. Chiara turned 2 and moving into a big girl bed, Arthur’s preschool field trip and a goofy trip to the mall. Nothing life changing, but still good memories.

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Aside from the regular month pages or spreads, I also do pages for specific events. Vacations usually get their own page as well as big life events. The above spread was about when Chiara broke her arm. Just over a year old and she broke her arm in a fall. It was more traumatic for me than her, but it was definitely noteworthy in 2011!

I get my books printed at Shutterfly. They have a very user-friendly website that let’s me use pre-designed pages, with the option to adjust as needed. I get the hard covered 20 page books, which allows for sturdiness and I also get to design the covers. I find 20 pages is enough for monthly pages, and it allows extra pages for the spreads.
The books can be pricey, $40 with shipping, but I use my coke points, you know those codes on your bottle tops and in the cases of coke products. One of the rewards you can cash your points in for is a free 8×8 20 page book, meaning I only have to pay $11 and change for shipping. 

If you’re a picture freak like me, hopefully this has inspired you to start your own family yearbooks. Enjoy!

Kids Workshops at Home Depot

Chalkboard Hangars

Chalkboard Hangars

I’ve recently discovered that not everyone knows about the Home Depot Kids Workshops. I’ve known about them for several years, but our attendance has been sporadic until recently. Most people know about the workshops they offer for adults, the ones that show people how to different things, like retile a bathroom or install cabinets, but once a month they offer a kids workshop. The first Saturday of every month, from 9am to noon, there is a Kids Workshop available for kids ages 5-12. I’ve seen younger kids there, but they may require more parental assistance. This is also a free activity, which to someone on a budget, that makes it even better!

Arthur building his football game

Arthur building his football game

If you arrive early enough, or if your store is prepared enough, they have little Home Depot aprons for the kids. They write their names on them and it makes a great place to put the pins they get for completing the project. When you arrive, they give you your kit, which contains all the pieces, including nails. You then find your area and follow the simple, step-by-step directions for assembly. I’m not sure why, but Arthur likes to crouch on the bucket seats our store uses. Maybe he thinks he’s Gollum?

Chiara painting her football game

Chiara painting her football game

Sometimes the projects require painting, which they provide, and don’t worry, the paint washes out of clothes. Chiara loves the painting part! Note the cuteness of the apron?

Arthur and his ambulance

Arthur and his ambulance

Our store, and I’m sure others as well, does a safety weekend once a year. The above picture was from our first safety weekend and the kids built ambulances.

Firetrucks

Firetrucks

This month, for our safety weekend, the kids built these awesome firetrucks. These were really simple, simple enough that my 5 and 8 year old were able to assemble them with almost no assistance from me.

I know, especially in the summer, it can be difficult to find things to occupy your children. You want to keep their minds engaged and prevent them from completely vegging out in front of the tv. This may only be a single activity, once a month, but it’s fun and helps build their confidence. After all, when they go home, they have something physical to show for their effort. Something they can play with, and given that it’s made of wood, it can be sturdier than some store bought toys.

I highly suggest checking out the Home Depot website, search their workshops page and click on the kids workshop link. You won’t regret it and I’m sure your kids will love it!

Pirate Party

Chiara’s friend Jonah turned 5. 5 is such a big deal and their can be no better way to celebrate, than as a pirate!

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Best part of any party is the games, and with a pirate theme, the possibilities are endless. One of the games we played was “Hook Ring Toss”. You could do like Jonah’s mom, and make your own hooks with solo cups and aluminum foil, or you could use hooks like these:

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Just attach the hooks to a foam board or piece of cardboard. Rings of some kind, we used glow – necklaces and let the kids. go.

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Sword ring toss was also fun. Also easy to make, you attach a sword to a box, get some rings and let the kids go.

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The picture is not the best one, but there is the obligatory pin-it game: pin the patch on the pirate. This was a purchased game, but still fun. It also made it easy to know who’s piece was who’s because they were numbered.

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This game is exactly what it sounds like. You get a hook, much like the one in my picture above, and let the kids try to scoop as many pretzels as they can. We were playing fast and loose on this one, but you could set up a time frame, 30 seconds or so, if you’re looking to have a winner.

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It’s not a party without a cake! Jonah had this amazing treasure map cake, which was delicious! All in all, party was much fun!

Party on!

Super Barbie Birthday Party

I wasn’t sure if I was going to blog about this one. Or the one we went to today, as I didn’t actually put on the birthday party. After all, part of this blog’s appeal, for me, was that I did or experienced these things first hand. Then I realized that I did experience these first hand, and after talking to the mom’s that put on the parties, so we’re a go!

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Kids in decorating mode

Favorite part of Pinterest planned parties is always the crafty part. Especially with younger kids! Give them some glitter glue, sparkly stuff and stickers and they are good to go! For a Super Barbie party, you of course are decorating masks!

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Chiara made this super sparkly one!

Any respectable Pinterest party idea comes with a “pin the ______ on the _______” option. For Super Barbie, we have Pin the Mask on the Barbie.

Chiara taking her turn

Chiara taking her turn

The kids all did remarkably well on this game, almost all of them getting over the eyes. Yes, they were blindfolded, maybe they were all just above average at this game…… All you need is a picture of Barbie, some cut outs of masks, put some tape on the masks and you are good to go.

Madelyn's mom had an awesome setup

Madelyn’s mom had an awesome setup

I don’t really know why I didn’t get a picture of the cake itself, but Madelyn’s mom did a fantastic job with the food layout. She had the comic book-esque feel, necessary for any superhero party, even a Barbie one.

Adorable food labels

Adorable food labels

We had a blast at this super-fun birthday party. The kids got to keep there masks as their favors, I’m all about making your own party favors at kids parties!

Time to sing to the birthday girl.

Time to sing to the birthday girl.

Party on all, party on!