Looking forward

It's been a few days...

How is everyone?

Can you even believe it's almost November? Which means, for us... it's nearly time for Operation Christmas Child! We did this for the first time last year and loved it. The kids and I have been talking about it for weeks and we're anxious to do some shopping and get those shoeboxes packed. For more information on Operation Christmas Child, go here.

Within the next couple of weeks we're going to be doing this again, too. I can't wait! I was looking at our Thanksgiving journal the other day and was so thankful we have this tradition. We started doing this in 2002, when Ella was just a baby. It is such a delight for us to thumb back through these pages and see God's gifts from year to year. If you're not already doing something like this, I encourage you to begin! It takes just one evening, minimal scrapbooking skills, some photos, a journal, pen, and a thankful heart. And your children will *love* the family project.

Today we went out to celebrate Aidan's birthday (Amy's oldest). He is SEVEN years old. I had the wonderful privilege of being there when this little guy came into the world, and it is such a joy to see the godly young man he's becoming. (It's those great parents of his!)

I just finished knitting my first hat! I'll post a picture as soon as I take one. I'm working up the courage to start a sweater. Not just yet, though.

"Homeschooling" would be a term you could use lightly around our house lately. We haven't done "school" for quite a few days. Mark has asked kiddingly, "What, is this like early-Fall break or something?" Yeah, pretty much. We've just been busy, what with birthdays and organizing and making meals for a friend who just had their fourth baby, leading small group (and having our house clean to host it), baking for one thing or another, laundry, colds,... you name it, we've done it. I even postponed school one day last week so that I could clean and rearrange our bedroom. (And Ella helped me, as I tried to explain to her that this was "kinda school"... you know, serving and blessing daddy this way. She completely bought that and was cleaning happily and helpfully.) I vacillate between being completely okay with this and stressing that I'm an utter failure.

One more thing...
Mark's sister Shelley is going in for surgery on Friday. She will be having a lump removed as well as some lymph nodes, and will follow up with radiation treatment. Will you join us in prayer for her, her husband, and their four children? Thank you, dear readers.

It is a gift to have such wonderful online friends, and I do love stopping by your blogs and catching up with each of you. (That is, except for Amy, who still needs a blog. Ame...?)

I got to go on a date with my husband tonight

Raise your hand if you ever babysat. I sure did. I've always thought I did a good job as a babysitter, too. I'd come over, actually PLAY with the kids (as opposed to watching TV or talking on the phone (NEVER!) or reading a book). And if there was free time when the kids were sleeping, I'd fold laundry, clean the kitchen, the living room.. whatever I could find to do. I prided myself on being *the best* babysitter. Or so I thought until tonight.

Tonight I met the Queen of all Babysitters. She put me to shame. I'll tell you about her in a minute, but... let me back up with the story, first.

The date. With my husband. It's kind of funny how this date came to be. We rarely go out, Mark and I. That's not to say that we don't do date-ish things (we eat good food, rent movies occasionally, and play lots of games just the two of us), but we don't get out much.

The big reason for that is that I don't want just anybody watching our kids. So our list of "babysitters" is short: my mom, Mark's parents, or Amy. Really, that's the list. There's no one else.

My mom is great. Every month or so on Mark's day off she'll say, "Why don't you let me take the kids for a couple of hours so you and Mark can go on a date?" Which is wonderful and I am very thankful. Usually it's during the day, as my parents often have evening engagements, so we catch lunch or something.

Mark's parents are great, and they are usually the ones who come to watch the kids when Mark and I go away for a night or two. (So, our anniversary). They love coming and we love it when they're here. The kids have a blast, Mark's dad wanders around the house and fixes things, Mark's mom does yardwork for us, they take the kids on walks twice a day, every day, and play with them. They're wonderful.

And Amy, too- is wonderful. And my kids love going to Auntie Amy's house. But she's got four kids of her own so it's rare I give her the opportunity. But there have been a few times (like when we had all those adoption classes in March), that I needed her and asked her (and she graciously said 'I'd LOVE to!') and they all did great.

Two nights ago Amy emailed me and said, "Try to find a sitter and let's all go out on Saturday night." Now, Amy is my best friend and her and Mike are our best couple-friends and we LOVE to spend time with them. But we rarely do it. I jumped at the opportunity.

But then there was whole sitter thing. Ugh. My parents are out of town for the weekend, Mark's parents don't live in town, and well, our other option was who we were going to go out with, so...????

I called Courtney. We met Courtney two years ago. Her fiance had recently moved here and was interning with my dad. Courtney lived on the other side of the country. She wanted to move here to be closer to her husband-to-be, and we had considered renting out a room to be able to make some money for our adoption. It was a win-win for both of us. We worked out the details over email, she moved in and lived with us for nearly six months. I'm proud to say we introduced them to Settlers of Catan and they became our steady "wanna-play-Settlers?" friends. They're still in town, and they are now also in our small group. I happened to know that J was out of town at the same function my parents are out of town for, so I called Courtney and asked her if she'd be willing to come watch our kids. She said, and I quote: "I'd love to!" And when I said, "Are you sure?" She said, "Are you serious? Stacy, I LOVE your kids. I'd love to come and play with them for the night." Aww... And let me just say, she scored HUGE bonus points for saying that (as opposed to the "Sure, I'm free" variety.)

I explained that it was still kind of tentative, since Mike and Amy hadn't yet found a sitter... so it might not happen but I would let her know either way. She then said, "Well, even if they can't do it, you and Mark could still go out!" Oh. Yes. Well, then. I guess we could. (I hadn't even thought of that possibility.)

Turns out, Mike and Amy couldn't find a sitter so it was just Mark and I (which is fun because I love my man and it was a treat to go out with him but we were both genuinely bummed that we didn't get to hang out with Mike and Amy.)

Courtney came early. The kids were thrilled. They love her.

We scooted out the door. We went to a Thai restaurant for dinner and then got to see The Bourne Ultimatum afterwards. Very good, both the food and the movie. I was on the edge of my seat during the movie. We'd bought some candy at the store beforehand and I did not even crack open the candy because I didn't want to be distracted with it. I didn't want to miss a second. (Note to self: I've got to read those books.)

The movie finished up around 10:00, and we hurried home. When we walked in the door, the first thing I saw was this:

She'd brought the poster board AND the paints. To make a sign for us when we were gone. I KNOW. (You all want a Courtney, don't you?)

She said the kids were great. They ate dinner, made the sign, played, she braided Ella's hair. Yep. Braided my daughter's hair! How cute is that? I wanted to crown the girl.

So. Mark and I had tried to figure out how much we were supposed to pay her for four hours of babysitting. (Remember, we don't get sitters.) The going rate when I was babysitting was about $1.50-$2.00 an hour, no matter how many kids there were. One couple consistently paid me $3.00 an hour for their two boys and I felt RICH. While I know the rates have surely gone up, I have no idea what people pay babysitters anymore. I'm a bit out of the loop.

I'm actually a little embarrassed to tell you what we decided to give her because, well, it probably wasn't enough. But I'll tell just you. At the risk of you all thinking we're total cheapskates. (Which we are, but that's beside the point.)

We gave her $20. Which she argued about (not the amount, but the idea that we were paying her) but I won, she took it, and went home.

And then I gazed at the sign some more. She brought paints, people. And then I went in to peek at the kids and saw her award-winning braid job on Ella's hair. She braids. Did you get that part? And then I noticed that the table was cleared, the dishes were done, the living room was picked up. Our kids were tucked cozily in their beds. And then I felt like a LOSER to have only paid her $20. I walked around the house saying, "She made a sign with our kids. PAINTED a sign with our kids. She brought that stuff. Made the sign FOR US. And braided Ella's HAIR. Mark! She braids. We should have paid her $50, for crying out loud. What were we THINKING?"

Mark just shrugged and said, "$20 is plenty."

*Sigh.* You and I both know that it's not. She braids better than I do. She combed the tangles out of my daughter's hair. That alone will save me twenty minutes of getting-ready-for-church time in the morning. And that cute sign will grace our mantel for weeks.

I never ever in all my years of babysitting braided hair. Or brought supplies to make a sign or project with the kids.

So much for my babysitting pride. That was all washed away in the wake of Courtney, Best Babysitter Ever.


My birthday boy

My sweet budders,

Happy Birthday to you! I can't believe you are four years old today! (Where did those four years go?)

What a *delight* it is to be your mama! I love you so very much, Isaac.

When I think of you I think of your singing. You love to sing and lead all of us in song. Your favorite songs are: In My Heart There Rings a Melody, Set Me Free (Casting Crowns), and (still)... God of Wonders. Most days I can find you standing on the couch, with a pretend microphone in hand, a book open, calling out songs and leading your sister and brother in worship. My prayer is that your love for singing will grow in you a heart of worship, and a fervant desire to praise your Maker.

I think of your chatter. All the stories you want to tell us, all the events you want to recount (and heaven forbid we interrupt you! You will set us in our place with a stern reprimand for interrupting!)

You are so endearing with your hugs and kisses. I have this moment tucked away in my mind: me, heading out to the van, turning back to wave to you kids at the window. As is customary, we all blow kisses. But that day when I looked I saw you blow a kiss and then wrap your arms tightly around yourself, to send mama a hug, too. That picture is sweet, Isaac. You are *so* dear to me.

You love to snuggle and you miss affection when you don't get it. One morning, recently, we got a late start and our morning cuddles were missed-- not much time for mama holding you. Our day was full and busy. After dinner you wanted me to hold you. At bedtime you said, "When I wake up I wanna hold you for a long time." Music to this mama's ears!

Every single time you are outside you pick a flower for me. You follow up to make sure I've cared for it, too. I do so need a stash of tiny vases for your offerings of flowers!

As I sat on the couch last week after church, you came over to me, touched my skirt, and whispered, "You look pretty today, mommy."

We have this thing, you and I... whenever we talk about how grown up you are, what a big boy you're becoming, how tall you'll be someday (daddy will hold you up higher than himself and say, "You think you'll be this big?"), and mama will pretend to be so sad: "I don't want you to be so big!" And you reassure me with this, every time: "But I'll still hold you, mama. I'll still sit on your lap." (And don't think for a second I won't hold you to your word, my son.)

You're quick to comfort me, especially when I'm sad. A couple of weeks ago I lost it, and promptly slid to the kitchen floor, weeping. You were there immediately, your hand on me, soothing me with these words: "I love you, mommy. It's okay." And then a day last week, when I had hollered at you kids in exasperation, and then sat down on the couch to say sorry... you came to me, wrapped your arms tightly around my neck, and said, "I still love you even when you're crabby." Such sweet grace. And you do, sweet boy. You love me well. Thank you. You fill this mama's heart with your sweet expressions of love.

You have a tender heart, Isaac. You are always remorseful for your sins; always quick to say you're sorry, to hug, say "I love you" and make things right. The things you get disciplined for most often are hitting and not obeying.

You are quick to pray. When we pray in the car on the way to church, you're always the first volunteer. When one of us is sick it is you who will go to them, lay hands on them, and pray for healing. I love that about you. When I need a prayer, I know I can ask you and you will pray. Right then. Oh how I hope this carries on into your life with Jesus, Isaac! May you be quick to turn to Him throughout your life, and have that easy conversation with Him that you do now.

What else? Well, you may be quick to pray and say you're sorry, but you're not quick about much else, little fella. It takes you a very long time to eat anything; you are too easily distracted. There's simply too much to think about and talk about. We work very hard with you to teach you to obey right away when we ask you to come or to do something. Or to finish something and not get completely distracted halfway through. This is especially hard for you.

You are extremely sensitive to all things scary. Scary-to-you are skeletons, especially skulls, and eyeballs (some stuffed animals, even, with big eyes, unsettle you). You have become so adept at averting your eyes, like when we walk through a store with Oct. 31st decorations. You close your eyes, tuck your head down, and simply don't look. And yes, you tremble, too. I am so thankful you are being careful with your eyes like the song we sing. (And I hope, too, that this discipline now of averting your eyes will serve you in the future for purity issues) *but* I also don't want you to be fearful, either. We have nothing to fear under the care of such a big, strong, God!

You wake in an instant, sitting up to tell something. You're a good sleeper, sleeping deeply and falling asleep quickly (and any place: in the van, in our arms at church or hymn sing (which mama LOVES)) when you're tired.

You love your daddy, and want to be like him and do everything he does. Right now as I edit this you are in the bathroom, helping daddy sand our floor. A few weeks ago daddy took you out to breakfast on his day off-- the same place he goes weekly with some guys from church. You felt so important and loved that time with just you and your daddy.

You love all things that make you "grown up" or a "man". I remember once this year we were at Costco and you watched an older boy walk over to the vending machine, put some money in, and get himself a bottle of water. You were mesmerized. You asked right away if you could get a water, too. I said no (because I didn't want to spend the money), and said something like, "Maybe when you're bigger you can do that, budders." And you repeated, "When I'm a big boy I can do that?" And then I thought better of it. I knelt down next to you and said, "Do you know what? You *are* my big boy. Let's go over there and get you a water." You were positively beaming, as if you'd just been pronounced a man. :)

You love it when a responsibility falls to you when daddy isn't here to do it. You take your role very seriously as daddy's stand-in.

You love Ella. I know the two of you will always be close. You truly are the best of friends, and I love to see you interact. You are growing to love your little brother, too. It has been a joy for daddy and I to see you turning to Isaias as your playmate more and more.

You love dinosaurs (or so you tell me, though mama thinks you're a bit wary of them). You love the Steelers, or dressing in "football" or "baseball" clothes. Outfit of choice this year for you was your Steelers Bettis jersey and your black pants with a yellow stripe down the side. I must say, I'm thankful you're outgrowing it. *grin* You stopped wearing diapers this year, too, and graduated to big-boy underwear. (WOOO HOOO!)

You are quite the puzzle maker, my boy! You seem to have a knack for finding exactly the right piece for a spot. You love books, and magazines, and anything you can get your hands on to "read". You've even pulled out the phone book a few times.

You love to play with others but you definitely like your solitude, too. Even when we play with friends or cousins, everyone else will run outside to play or off to play something in a big pack, and you will linger, find a puzzle or a book, and sit quietly to play. You play so well independently or with others. You rarely have tantrums or meltdowns. (As in, I can count them on my hand). You are very easy-going, and just tend to be so content and cheerful.

I'm afraid you've picked up my (and Ella's) lingo, because I hear you say things like, "That's so cute!" or, "Mama, I just saw the cutest grandpa walking by!" You also say things like, "I very want to go there!" Or, "I very love you, mommy!" Which is very cute. And you say every night at dinner, "This looks belicious!"

You have the best smile and you love to laugh. You have the best giggle, and we hear it often around here. You also love to be tickled.

You have quite the imagination- you're always creating stories and characters and imaginary friends. (Most notably: Migi and Donto and Jonathan Trustee.) Where you came up with those names we'll never know, but those guys were your playmates or personas for most of this year.

And now you're four.

I love you, my Isaac. And my fervant prayer for you as you grow up is that you would love Jesus more and more with each passing day.

Happy Birthday!

~Your mama

...and this (if it works)... is a typical Isaac moment around our house...

Celebrating God's goodness

I have a miserable head cold and am off to take a nap here in a couple of minutes, but why don't you head over here to congratulate this happy family, and here to congratulate this one?

God is *so* good, and I am rejoicing today!

Garden in review: Part 3

This is my final post on our garden. (I promise!) Surely I'm boring some of you by now. Thank you for hanging in there with me.

Back garden

ZUCCHINI. [2 hills, 4-6 plants per hill] There's never a short supply of zucchini. We should have thinned these plants once they got going because these always get a bit out of control. They were all ready in mid-August. I still have frozen zucchini in my freezer from last year so I didn't freeze any more this year. We gave a lot away, fried some up, and made zucchini bread a few times.
For next year: thin, get some good zucchini recipes.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH. [2 hills, 4-6 plants per hill] There's a restaurant in town that makes an amazing Butternut Squash Lasagna. Another place makes some Butternut Squash Ravioli that makes my mouth water to even think of it. I would pay serious money to get those recipes. I've tried to recreate those dishes many times in my own kitchen but can never get it quite right. This past year, though, I made a recipe with ravioli, walnuts, butternut squash, sage, and cheese (romano?), and it was *nearly* as good. We have a few growing out there now... and I'm excited to experiment more with this yummy squash.

WHITE PUMPKINS. [1 1/2 hills, 4-6 plants per hill] This gave us three white pumpkins, and I like these. They're pretty. Smaller than a normal pumpkin.

MINIATURE PUMPKINS. [2 hills, 4-6 plants per hill] These gave us a bunch of little pumpkins. Mostly orange, some yellowish. Very cute. The kids love these, as do I. They're so perfectly shaped. And great little fillers for the window box.

GOURDS. [The packet we got was a Mexican Hat Squash, we think. 2 hills, 4-6 plants per hill] These aren't my favorite. And they were very prolific, covering our back garden. But they are good fillers for decorating.
Next year: none. Too ugly.

PUMPKINS. [2 1/2 hills, 4-6 plants per hill] We got about 12 pumpkins from these hills. A couple of them are pretty big, and it's been fun having our own pumpkin patch in the back yard. The kids loved watching their progress.

This was the first time we've planted anything on the back portion of our yard. It was Mark's great idea to utilize that space for pumpkins and squash. My only complaint? Our pumpkin patch was smack dab next to the boys' dirt pile with all their Tonka trucks. Needless to say, that dirt pile was covered with pumpkin vines early on and the boys weren't able to utilize that play area. We'll figure something out for next year.

Garden in review: Part 2

Herb garden

BASIL. This was my favorite herb. I used fresh basil several times a week, and loved it. Also, I made pesto this year for the first time! (Which I plan to do more of in the future but I'd really like to get a food processor first. Chopping cups of basil leaves took a considerable amount of time when I was doing it by hand.) I found a great recipe, made some up, and then spooned it into ice cube trays to freeze them. Then I popped out the cubes and put them out into a freezer bag. I've used some of those cubes already- on homemade pizza, in pasta, and in spaghetti and pizza sauce. So good. And *so* much better than store-bought pesto.
Next year: Plant more basil. Make lots more pesto!

ITALIAN-OREGANO. I used this maybe a dozen times. It was nice to have on hand.

ROSEMARY. This plant grew beautifully (and smelled great) but I rarely use rosemary, and I think I only used it once this year.
Next year: none.

DILL. Our dill grew fine for a few weeks and then it sort of died out. I used this only once or twice.
Next year: none.

CHIVES. I used our chives a few times.
Next year: none.

THYME. I liked having fresh thyme on hand.
Next year: yes.

CILANTRO. This is the herb we would have used the MOST (next to basil) in our garden and yet... our plant was not healthy. I got one good picking from it this year for some Pico de gallo, and that's it. I had to buy cilantro several times at the grocery store and this made me crabby, since it was supposed to be growing in our garden!
Next year: more plants.

Overall, I loved having an herb garden. Aside from having to shoo the chickens out when they were in the yard, it was a good location, too. Next year I want to focus on basil and cilantro. (As many plants as we can cram in.) And add mint, italian-oregano, and thyme, too. (If there's room).

Here's our herb garden, newly planted. Unfortunately this is the one-and-only picture I have!

Garden in review: Part 1

I sort of hate to do this post at all because I really feel like a dismal failure when it comes to being a gardener, especially this year. But I want to review our garden selections and harvest each year so that we know better what to do (or what not to do, as may more often be the case) for next year. Here's what we planted, and here are my notes. And really, this is more for my record than anything else.

APPLES. [2 trees: Yellow Transparents] Oh my lands, I love our apple trees. But this is our last year for our big old apple tree. ~sob~ It's old and rotting from the base of the tree, so we're going to have to take it out. We planted a new tree, same variety, but it will take a LONG time for our younger trees to produce the kind of fruit our old tree was producing for us. Last year I made apple-pie filling with our apples, so this year I made lots of applesauce. Notes: Apple-picking time is mid-July, beginning of August.

Main garden
STRAWBERRIES. [10 plants] Mmm. These were *so* much fun for the boys to eat from. We'd raised the beds from this year to last, and that was a good thing. Less slugs that way.

RHUBARB. [2 plants] Mmm. I love this stuff. Big mistake to put these next to our tomato plants, as the tomatoes began to overtake them. We had two "pickings", one in July and another that we just recently picked. I'd love to get more of these plants.

GRAPE TOMATOES. [2 plants] One plant would be plenty, should we choose to do these again. We have had tomatoes coming out of our ears. The reason I wanted to plant these was because I wanted grape tomatoes on my salad. That didn't really EVER work out, though, considering the fact that our lettuce was done in July and our tomatoes began in August. No lettuce for all those tomatoes. (Hence, the necessity for these kind of notes.) And we don't regularly eat tomatoes, so... ??? We've been trying to use them here, and give them away, too, but many have gone to waste. *Sigh* I did wonder at some point this month if I could dry these, but never looked into it.

CARROTS. [6 short rows: 3 rows of multi-colored carrots (purples, yellows, whites, reds) for the kids, and 3 rows of regular carrots]. Every year I think I thin the carrots enough and then... they're still too scrunched as they get bigger. Also, there's a reason, we think, that the orange variety is favored: we think they're more flavorful, and they seemed to grow better.
Next year: be ruthless when it comes time to thin. Find a carrot variety that grows longer carrots. (Ours are too short, usually about 3-4 inches.)

LETTUCE. [6 heads of romaine, 6 heads of green leaf] This was our first year for planting lettuce. I *loved* having lettuce in my garden! We ate more salads this spring/summer than in previous years. We will definitely be doing this again, although I need to find out about a second planting. (I think I heard somewhere that you can replant them when they go to seed and get another crop for the fall? If anyone knows anything about this I'd love to hear it.) Notes: Our lettuce was done in mid to late July.

CABBAGE. [6 heads] First year for cabbage, too. I had all these visions of coleslaw (which I love, however I don't actually have a recipe for it). Someone besides me was obviously having their own visions of cabbage meals because nearly every head was split open and ravaged by some creature or insect (though I have no idea what). My mom was the only one (besides the pest) who ate any of our cabbage. She said it was delicious. I think we will try this again next year, but just keep a closer watch on it. And maybe do some research as to what was eating it. It wasn't slugs, I do know that. We were great about putting out the slug bait this year. A question, then, for you: 1)if you have a good coleslaw recipe, I would love it.

ONIONS. [Walla walla sweet onions. 1 long row in the back garden, 3 short rows in the herb garden] I love my onions. These are so practical and I use them in many meals. It is so handy to send one of the kids out to get an onion as I'm making a meal (or the tops, when my recipe calls for green onions). Now I just have to figure out how to store them so they'll keep for awhile. I have maybe 20-30 left.

CUCUMBERS. [3-4 plants] This was more than enough last year, but this year these didn't take so well. I'd have to ask Mark to be sure but if I remember correctly, these were getting munched on by something early on and we salvaged them and maybe that's why they didn't take. I think we got 4 or 5 good-sized cucumbers, and a handful of littler ones. But we love cucumbers, so... more plants next year. Also, I'm thinking we should move these to a different location in our garden. (This year they were along the front fence, closer to the house).

CORN. [5 full rows] Corn was the thorn in our side this year. We bought supersweet corn, and Mark ended up having to plant it three times. Finally the third planting took. Or so we thought. We got about 4 ears ALL SUMMER. Most stalks are short, and the taller stalks that have ears never got a chance to ripen. *Sigh*. This was a huge disappointment. No corn to eat, a waste of time for all that planting, and (most frustrating to me): the corn takes up the MOST space in our garden.
Next year: We're taking a break from corn.

BEANS. [3 poles, 5 plants around each pole] This was our first year to try pole beans. In the past we've done bush beans. We like bush better and will return to those next year. We completely slacked in getting our beans harvested this year. The first picking didn't give me enough to can, so I waited for the second picking. By the time we got around to picking them, they were too ripe. We picked them anyway but it took me a couple of days to get to them. When I did- most had gone bad.
Next year: Concentrate on beans, not corn. Because these two things take up the most space in our garden; Mark and I have decided to focus on one crop per year. One year we'll do beans only, the following year: corn only. (That is, if we dare try corn again.)

SUNFLOWERS. [1 row along the fence in our garden] We always plant a row of sunflowers-- just for their cheery countenances. We will keep doing this. We've never actually done anything with the seeds. Probably because the neighborhood squirrels get to them first!

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3.

At random

Last week Cutzi posted her random thoughts and I liked that idea so much I decided to post my own. This is a good catch-all for all the myriad of things going on that don't warrant a post of their own.

1. I began my 2007 Christmas (and seasonal birthday) list today. Isaac's birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks and from then on, we have several birthdays between both sides of our family and group of friends, all the way up until Christmas.

2. Our hummingbird feeder is still hanging on our front porch and I really ought to take that down since it's been several months since we've seen a hummingbird. And that bright red empty feeder is just not serving any purpose right now other than to remind me that it needs to come down.

3. Last week our patio table completely shattered. I spent a good portion of one afternoon sweeping up shards of glass from our patio and picking them from the lawn nearby. I have yet to call the store and find out what they're going to do about that event. I think because I'm afraid they'll make us haul it all back to the store- glassless table, six chairs, and umbrella- and I don't welcome that trip. But I do have my receipt.

4. I'm completely floundering under mounds of laundry. The whole "do a load a day" system has not really panned out for us. What happens is that I remember to put a load IN, but then forget about it for a day or two. Sigh. But I AM newly inspired about *organizing* our clothes like Amy has just done at their house. And if she had a blog and posted about it I could link you there right now. But she doesn't have a blog.

5. But I think she *should* have one. And for the record, I asked her the other day if she missed blogging and she said yes.

6. I'm itching to get something on my knitting needles. I just checked out some Debbie Bliss books at the library (because Kendra recommended her to me) and I'm perusing them for a new project. For the past couple of years all I've been knitting are scarves, slippers and shawls, and I'm ready to move on. What I'm moving on TO I'm not yet sure.

7. My sister-in-law just found out she has breast cancer.

8. The kids have their first cold of the season. Isaac always gets it first, then Ella, and it always skims right over Isaias. And it usually lingers with Ella. She has had a pretty bad cough that has been keeping her (and us) up at night.

9. Ella and Isaac had their yearly doctor's appointments yesterday. When I made their appointments I was clearly insane because I made them for 8:30 and 9:00. In the morning. WHAT was I thinking?!?! It is hard for us to be somewhere by 10:00, let alone 8:30. I had to wake the kids up and we skipped breakfast to get there. Also, we love our doctor but we are always quizzed when it comes up that we homeschool: "So does [Ella] do okay around other children?" Or, "Is she involved with groups of children throughout the week?" (Because I guess her brothers don't count.) That aside, they're healthy and great and growing a ton.

10. Flannel pajama pants. It's the one thing I forgot to list in my Autumn post of things I love about this season.

11. Did you read this post? I loved it. [Make sure to follow the link, too. You'll laugh.]

12. Isaias has this new habit of repeating everything we say. I'm not exaggerating. Every sentence, he repeats. Just to give you a little idea of what this might be like, here's an example. If I say, "Buddy, you need to finish your chicken before you can have any more bread", he says, "I need to finish my chicken before I can have any more bread?" And then if I smartly reply, "Yep, that's what I said", he says, "That's what you said?" Multiply that by about a hundred and you can see why I'm slightly annoyed with this new habit.

13. Amy and I switched our weekly playdates from Wednesday mornings (which we've been doing for years) to Tuesday afternoons. So now we don't do lunch together anymore, but we do get to do "snacks", which is fun. This week she made a delicious pumpkin roll (think pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting rolled inside of it). So tasty. Last time we were there she made rice crispy treats, which is my all-time favorite treat. She knows this, and that's why she made them. *And* every time I come she has a latte (iced vanilla) waiting for me on the counter. This is just one small reason Amy is my best friend.

14. I have been having some serious insomnia lately. Nearly twice a week I'll wake up between 3 and 4 and NOT be able to fall back to sleep. Usually I lay there for an hour or so, trying, and then I get up to go have a quiet time and then after that I crawl back into bed and maybe right before the alarm goes off I might doze for 10 minutes. It's crazy, because I am *so* tired. But once my mind gets whirring I can't really settle it down. And our bedtime hour has been around midnight, lately. So I'm exhausted.

15. I'm reading a really good book right now. I'll post about it when I'm done.

16. Isaac says things like, "This is so delicious I can barely stand it. What does 'barely stand it' mean?" Or this, from our front porch: "I'm wearing my boots because it's a nice..." (he pauses, looking around, and then:) --"Is it Fall today?"-- (I answer in the affirmative, and he continues, triumphantly) "...Fall day!"

17. I wish Michelle lived here. I like her far too much for her to live all the way in Indiana.

18. I love my husband. He never complains. And I do mean "never". He works tirelessly during the day and comes home to serve wherever he can around here. And he puts up with me. He will be getting some extra kind words from God when he gets to heaven for that fact alone, I assure you.

19. I recently discovered Sara Groves.  I love her voice and lyrics.

20. I like having backyard chickens. I've decided they're the perfect pets. They give us four eggs a day. They require very little from us. And when we forget to let them out of their little house until 1:30 in the afternoon, as was the case yesterday, they are just fine. When I peeked in, I found them all sitting up on their roost. They must have decided it was simply still nighttime. And when I opened their little door they just clucked happily and came outside and then I collected the eggs they'd left and that was that.

Last night at the dinner table

Isaias (2): "I need a picko." [translation: pickle]

Mark and I together: "You need a what?"

Isaias: "A picko."

Me, bewildered (I think he's had one or two ever in his life): "Why would you want a pickle?"

Isaias: "'Coz I have corn in my teef."

Aha... a pickle. You know. Those pickles come in really handy for getting stuff out of your teeth.

But I think he actually meant "toothpick."

What I did with those gourds

At the beginning of each new season I have a burst of decorating energy and decorate the mantel above our fireplace and a few other areas around the house. I have three bins for this purpose. One is labeled "Christmas", one is labeled "Fall", and the other is labeled "Spring/Summer". When I pulled out our bin of fall decorations a few weeks ago, the kids gathered around and wanted to help. In order to keep things simple and let them help (and truthfully, so that it wouldn't look like a hodgepodge of decorating clutter), I told them they could each choose one item from the box in which to place on the mantel. Here are their selections:

When Mark got home, he wanted to play, too:

(No, the Pittsburgh Steelers Bobblehead was not in the fall-decorating bin. And yes, it's still sitting on top of our mantel. Because I love my man that much.)

As for the gourds, they went in a pot on our front porch:

And here, in my window "box":

This was my mom's brilliant idea. Several years ago she thought of this and we've each been doing it ever since. When our window box flowers are done, we buy some gourds and/or pumpkins (or grow them, as was the case this year). Then we scour the town-- clippers in hand-- to find the prettiest leaves, and then we come home to our window boxes and create!

From our garden...

... for the sole purpose of decorating for Fall.

I should probably tell you...

...that Michelle has posted a short video of my trip to Indiana.

You can view that here. Or not. (Preferrably not, if I had my way.) I don't particularly like pictures of myself. Not to mention videos. (But I'm just going to get over that for the moment and cringe while you all head over to watch that.)

The three words that made my day


Just seen on the sign outside a local coffee shop.

You can't even know how happy this makes me. Eggnog Lattes, readers.

You may be surprised to learn that I haven't actually had one yet. Yet. I just gasped loudly and braked and alarmed my entire family in the process. Then I whooped with joy. And expressed my delight for a few minutes: "Do you see that? Eggnog! Eggnog Lattes! I can't believe it! I am *so* excited! Do you even SEE that sign? Mark, LOOK. That sign. Everyone, look. That sign! It says 'We have Eggnog.' Do you even know what that means? Eggnog Lattes! Mama LOVES those.... (etc)"

I plan to head out bright and early tomorrow morning for my first Eggnog Latte of the season. (~contented sigh~)

And in the meantime I am just savoring the knowledge that EGGNOG is in town.

On second thought, maybe if I sweetly ask my husband he'll head out later tonight and get me one.

Yes. I'll try that.

Ohmygoodness. WHAT IF THEY CLOSE before then? I am calling right now.

In the kitchen

This past week I've made a number of new recipes from around the blogosphere. They have been well-received by all of us so I want to share them with you, too!

First off, last week's cheesecake recipe request. I made this one. You should, too. It was that good. The poker guys were raving about it. As were we for the next two days as we finished it off. (Thank you, Jodi!)

The following evening I tried out this recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins. Thank you, Kendra, for sharing this recipe. *So* tasty! We brought these to our Bible study and everyone ate happily.

For dinner one night last week we tried these Calzones, and those will become a regular in our home, I assure you. (As delicious as those pumpkin recipes are, pumpkin is kind of a seasonal ingredient, but Calzones? Now, those you can eat *any* time of the year!) (Thank you, Renee, for this recipe. And also for this next one...)

Another night: Mozzarella meatballs. Meatballs alone are a hit at our house, but with some cheesy goodness oozing from the middle? HUGELY satisfying meal. (And I just now realized that I have been spelling the word Mozzarella wrong for my entire life as a speller. I thought it was spelled "Mozerella". So much for my spelling gifts.) Anyway, thank you, Renee. From here on out I'm trying every single recipe you post.

And last, but not least: this morning for breakfast we tried Elise's Amish Baked Oatmeal. I've tried baked oatmeal before but have always found it too dry. That was NOT the case with this recipe. It was delicious-- moist and sweet and yummy! Even my non-oatmeal-eating kids were asking for seconds. Ella took one tentative bite and then said, "I don't think there will be any of this left for daddy!" This also marked the first time I've ever purchased flax meal and millet seed at the grocery store. Although I'm not sure what else you use those things for, they were awfully good in this recipe! :) Thank you, Elise! We'll be having this regularly!

Oh, and Michelle? We also had your breakfast casseroles on Sunday morning. (Enjoyed them all over again. The dessert-y one was much sought-after.) But I'm going to let *you* post those recipes on your blog.

So keep right on posting your recipes, girls. My family thanks you.