Just thinking of you tonight... and wanted to tell you that I am so blessed by those of you who read here.  Truly.  So thankful.

Thank you for tuning in and sticking with me when there's a dry season here on the blog. 
Thank you for commenting-- your comments are an encouragement to me and I am so grateful.  Thank you for sharing a bit of yourself in the comments.  (That's often my favorite part!)

Thank you for listening to my heart all spilled out here so many times, and for praying for me and my little family.

getting our Christmas tree last month.

I appreciate you.

May you be blessed.
((big hugs))

And Happy New Year!




My Audra (6), will often ask: "Mommy, will you tell me the story of the girl and the boy who prayed and prayed and prayed for a baby and then God gave them one?  And then God gave them more babies?  Can you tell that story, mommy?"

It's her favorite story.

A few mornings ago, she tucked herself into bed with me to snuggle and chat.  Her head was nestled on my shoulder and we'd been talking for awhile when she asked for the story.  I was reluctant at first, wanting instead to get into the shower, but I agreed.  And I began as one should always begin stories, with once upon a time....
Once upon a time, there was a girl and a boy who loved each other so much that they got married.  After they'd been married awhile, they wished for a baby, but no baby came.  Many months and even years passed, and still there was no baby.  So they prayed and prayed and prayed and waited and waited and waited and they kept praying and they kept waiting, and then finally, one beautiful day, God answered.  And when the girl discovered she was pregnant, she immediately ran out to her car to go find her husband at work.  (She didn't even grab her coat, though it was a very rainy day.)  She saw the boy she loved and she ran up to him, and with the rain pouring down on both of them, she told him he was going to be a daddy.... 
And so the story goes, from my first pregnancy, to the next, to our first adoption, to the next adoption, all the way to six years ago when God gave us the gift of her, my dear Audra.  As we get closer and closer to her little self entering the story, her eyes are eager with anticipation and her smile gets wider.  Sometimes I add in more details, sometimes more description, but the outline of the story remains the same.  The older kids love this story, too, and they will often tag on details they know and each of them love it when it's their time to enter the story.

As I'd been talking, all cozy under the covers with my Audra, Ella had joined us, and there I was, sandwiched in between my oldest and my youngest.  The girls giggled when I first slipped and said "daddy" (as I always do) and then we came to Audra's entrance into the world, and I talked a little about her birth and our delight and then said, "And that's the end of the story."

Immediately I realized that it wasn't, actually, the end of the story, and so, haltingly, and through tears, I went on.  "Actually, that's not the end of the story, is it?  After we had Audra, we continued to pray and long for another baby, and-- years later-- we found out that God had made another little baby, growing inside of me. And then our baby died.  And six months later, He again began to grow a baby within me, and that baby died, too. 

...That's kind of a sad ending to the story, isn't it?"  Ella squeezed me and agreed it was.  And Audra said something about being sad that the babies died.  And in an effort to give the girls a happy ending, I said I was so thankful for them, and that I loved being their mommy and that I am so richly blessed that God has given them to me.  When they had started chatting about other things,  I slipped away to the shower, and there I wept.

* * *

My heart is hurting.  Around me everywhere is the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, celebrations, parties and smiles; songs and lights and the joy and the anticipation.  

And I'm a pretty good pretender.  I am smiling, I am showing up for the celebrations, but right beneath the surface is the grief; the lump at the back of my throat and the sorrow that sits in such sharp contrast to the joy of this season.  

Yesterday I spoke with a dear friend on the phone, and when she asked me how she could pray for me, I thought of the two choices before me: I could give her a "surface request", and tell her to pray for our health and rest in the midst of what will be a very busy week, or I could go deeper, and tell the truth.  So I went there, and with my telling came my tears, and I sat on the edge of my bed, cradling the phone and weeping for the second day in a row.  

It was two years ago, in early December, when Mark and I told our kids that a new baby brother or sister was growing in mommy's tummy.  We were near-to-bursting with the news we had kept to ourselves for several weeks, treasuring it and speaking of it in hushed tones when it was just the two of us, marveling at this answer to prayer.  There aren't words to describe how happy our kids were.  We talked and planned and dreamed and celebrated together for a few precious weeks. 

Then on Christmas Day, 2013, I was so sick I could barely sit up.  We were at my mom's house-- there for our traditional Christmas breakfast which would be followed by the Christmas story, then songs, prayer, stockings and gifts.  I tried to sit at the table to eat, but excused myself to the guest room to lie down.  I had a high fever and chills all day.  All I could do was sleep.  I was so sick I didn't even care that I was missing out on all the fun.  When my fever broke, and I was more coherent, I began fearing for the life of my baby; I worried about what this fever may have done.  In early January we went for our ultrasound and there was no heartbeat.  I don't know if it actually was the fever that instigated my miscarriage, but that is the day marked in my mind and heart as the beginning of the end of our baby's tiny life.  Had our baby lived, we would be celebrating this Christmas with a little one, toddling around all the wrapping and presents, touching the ornaments and lights on the tree, pointing and jabbering and delighting us all.

However, that is not our story.  

Before I hung up the phone yesterday, my friend encouraged me to journal and process this grief, and  yes, even this year, two years later-- and not push it down and pretend it away.  Good counsel, that.  
Yet when I sat later with my journal open and pen in hand, I didn't even know what to pray, what to ask.  So I prayed simply this: that He would sit with me in my sadness.  And He does.  And I am reminded of this truth: He is Immanuel, God with us. And therein is the happy ending to all sad stories. 


There is a greater story.  A story with angels and dreams and danger, twists and turns and surprises (a stable?  Really?)  A story that the prophets foretold, a story that opened here on earth with words, not on a page from a book like the stories we read- but from the mouth of an angel speaking to the young girl Mary.  Then we turn the page in the story and find Joseph being visited by an angel in a dream.  And we read of the instruction to name this baby Jesus.  The story shifts and there is peril- the evil King Herod who wants the baby Jesus dead.  Then the wise men who followed a star (a star!) to find the child Jesus and worshiped him, then were warned in a dream not to return to evil King Herod.  The shepherds, listening to the settling down, nighttime noises of their flock of sheep, and peering up into a dark sky only to suddenly see that same sky alight with an angel-  an angel! Can you imagine?- and one who was talking to them.  How stunned they must have been.  And then not just one angel but more of them?  This is THE story.  May we all be filled with the wonder of this story; of Light come into darkness, of Immanuel, God with us. 

Pork, two ways, in the crock-pot

When it comes to meat, I know what I like.  I like moist meat.  The kind that breaks open easily with a fork.  Full of flavor.  With sauce or drippings.  Yes. YUM. 

I've established two go-to recipes for pork that we love.  I can't imagine you won't love them, too:
First and favorite way:
Take a thawed pork shoulder (or any other big hunk of pork) and sear it in butter or olive oil in a cast-iron pan (or other frying pan).  Brown it on as many sides as you can get to by flopping it around in the pan, on medium heat.

Drop it into the crock-pot.  

Then, in a bowl, mix together with a fork:
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T chili powder
2 T smoked paprika
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1-2 shakes of cayenne pepper
Pour about half of that seasoning mix on top of the roast and rub it in.  Then flip the roast and season the other side with the rest of the mix.  Rub in all over the roast, (top, bottom and sides), stick the lid on your crock-pot, set to low and leave it until dinner.  (Cook for at least 5 hours on low.)  
I usually peek at it about half-hour before dinner and roughly shred the meat with two forks and stir it a bit. You can eat it as is or take the juices from the bottom and make yourself a gravy with them.  (1-2 T of butter, add 1-2 T flour, add juices into a saucepan until it thickens, voila!)  DELISH.  Serve with mashed potatoes or rice.  Mmmm!
 * * *
Second and also scrumptious way:
(But made less often because I have to pre-plan and have these ingredients on hand)
Take a thawed pork shoulder and sear it as described above, put it into the crock-pot and pour these (mixed) ingredients over top of it: 
3/4 cup of beer  (I don't know beer. At ALL. I generally buy a bottle of some sort of ale.  I'm sure anything would work).
1/2 cup dijon mustard
6 T honey
1/4 cup olive oil (less)
1 T dried rosemary
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed 

Set crock-pot to low and leave it until dinner.  (At least 5 hours.)  Check and shred meat about half-hour before you want to eat, and then add 1/2 cup cream.  
This sauce is amazing.  Truly.  It's so good you'll want to drink it.  I always serve this with mashed potatoes so we can just pour this sauce on over the potatoes for gravy. Or with some bread so we can lap up the sauce on our plates with the bread.  Yum.  

Podcast recommendation: Sally & Kristen

Oh, dear friends and fellow mothers~

I have been so encouraged and refreshed by a podcast recently.  I just have to share it with you so that you, too, will be inspired and heartened in the everyday at home-ness with your kids, and also in casting a longer-term vision for the relationships with your children.

Sally Clarkson (ever one of my favorite mentors-from-a-distance) and Kristen Kill sit down and have rich conversations around the main topic of discipling your children.  They share stories and practical examples, and they both have such hearts FOR their kids, and a sweet vision for how to disciple well-- in love and grace and relationship.  I have loved every episode.  Seriously, these are my kindred spirits from afar.  (I secretly feel like I'm eavesdropping from a nearby table as they sit down to chat, and it has truly been such a treat.)  So much of what they share in these podcasts is familiar to the way that we do things in our home (or aspire to do things) and these sweet conversations have been such an encouragement to me over the past few weeks.

I know Sally has the podcasts on her blog, too, but I was able to locate them easier from Kristen's blog, so these links will take you to her blog.  Here's the list, and a link to each episode if you click on the episode title:

#1: A New Mom Heart Podcast (Sept 16)
#2: Foundations for Flourishing in the Everyday (Sept 22)
#3: Keeping Your Soul Alive So You Can Thrive (Sept 28)
#4: Homeschooling With Life, Grace and Excellence (Oct 20)
#5: Discipleship is Heart Work (Oct 26)
#6: Discipleship With Grace (Nov 2)
#7: Inspiration and Heroes (Nov 9)

You can also subscribe via iTunes here.

I hope you are able to listen in and that you find encouragement, too.

Blessings to you,


I wrote this post in early spring (as evidenced by the photo-- we had just rototilled our garden).  It has sat in my drafts folder for these many months, unedited.  But it has come to mind often, and has turned up in conversations (with Mark, mostly) so often that I pulled it up today and edited it for posting.


He sits on the edge of my bed, this brown-haired, brown-eyed boy of mine.  His cowlick familiarly springs up at his hairline.  I used to call him my sweetest budders.  He was this chubby-cheeked little affectionate, smiling, thoughtful boy.  Now he's this lean young man, with a smattering of pimples on each side of his mouth and on his forehead.  He is soft-spoken, thoughtful and sensitive.  His eyes are alight, he's holding a stack of LEGO magazines, and he wants to show me some things. 


At the beginning of last week I read through Philippians 2 and prayed through this verse in particular:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (v 3-4)
I prayed that God would help me to delight in my kids, to choose them over myself, to stop and tune IN; to listen; to engage.

I am finding these years with older kids somewhat challenging.  They no longer need me to kneel down and tie their shoes, to choose their clothes for the day, or to hold them when they're sad.

Those littler years were easier for me in the sense that their needs were obvious.  [I actually feel quite qualified to tie shoes and choose clothes.  ;)]  And the way God created me is that I thrive on seeing a tangible need and moving to meet it. 

As they've grown, I am discovering that their needs aren't always so obvious (nor tangible), and I have to pay attention.  One of the things they really crave is my time and my attention.  And it is much more of an emotional investment than it ever used to be.  Each of my children- and particularly the older three- want my presence.  They want to talk.  They want time; uninterrupted time with just me or with just their daddy.  My boy wants to burst in during my quiet time and show me some LEGO magazines. 

I'm not yet in the habit of doing that.  Can I be perfectly honest?  I don't want to give up my carved-out-for-me-quiet-time-in-the-afternoons for a child who wants to sit and talk.  I know.  Selfish.  Of course I love them and if I take the long view, of course I want that type of relationship with them.  But my flesh wants a break.  I am tired.  I often feel depleted with all the demands on my time and attention. So I tuck myself away in my room every afternoon to have quiet.  To spend time journaling, praying and reflecting.  I am resistant to give up "my time" to meet their relational needs.  And yet I sense a gentle nudging of God, asking me about giving up some of that time for them.

I also suspect that this means that I need to take the opportunities as He brings them, regardless of what I'm doing.

I don't know what form this will take or if this will be a consistent, regular time. And so I pray for a heart to serve them, to put them above my own self.  I pray that God would give me opportunities to serve and bless them; to be willing to die to myself and my own ambitions and interests and gladly make time and space for them.  I pray for humility, and that He would help me look to their interests; look to the things they are interested in.

I made a list in my journal of all the things my kids are currently* interested in (*these things change, you know. ;)).  I made a list for Mark, too.  I think God has used those lists really practically in the past week.  I can think of several examples where something off the list has come up and I've been challenged to respond.  One of the kids wanted to play catch in the front yard, but couldn't find a sibling to play with them.  I didn't particularly want to play catch, (there was dinner to make; dishes to do, etc) but recognized that God was giving me an opportunity to engage in this child's interest.  So we played catch for probably a good hour.  And we had a whole lot of fun.  :)

Weekly Meal Plan and Traditions

It's a beautiful fall day--- blue skies but brisk.  I've been wearing slippers around the house every day.  I can hear the heat kick on occasionally.  I had a conversation with some friends recently about heat-- and one of them said that she (and her now-grown children) try to see how long they can go into the fall without turning on the heat.  It's like a contest for them.  Not so, here.  I like a warm, cozy house and so our heat sits somewhere between 68-70.

Mark got paid yesterday-- hooray and thank you, God!-- so I did some meal planning and grocery shopping last night, and this is what we're eating this week:

Monday | Chicken in a Creamy Parmesan and Sundried Tomato Sauce (or, as the sheet on my fridge says: "Chicken & Yummy Sauce".  Because just click over to that picture and tell me if you can resist adding that to your meal plan sometime in the near future.  YUM.  I've actually never made it before but I'm thinking one cannot go wrong with those ingredients.  I think we'll do spaghetti squash with it, because I have one and need to use it.  Oh, and maybe some crusty bread so that we can sop up all that yummy sauce with it.  Mmm.

Tuesday | Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef (Pioneer Woman) because, slow cooker.  My favorite.  Because it's just there, cooking our food all day and smelling up the house so wonderfully.  With basmati rice.  Maybe salad if I have some greens handy.

Wednesday | Macaroni and Cheese* I use Heather's recipe (thank you, Heather!) because it's so forgiving-- whatever cheese and sour cream/cream cheese mixture we have on hand, toss it in and it always tastes great.  I have no idea what we'll have for sides.  I rarely think of sides (unless it's rice or potatoes) until the day of.  Something green.  Salad, asparagus.
*I just realized that I should note, here, that I triple the sauce from the recipe listed, and boil 7 cups of macaroni noodles for our family.  It makes a big dish.  ;)

This photo has nothing to do with this post, but seemed fitting for the season.  (These apple pies were actually Isaac's  birthday dessert request at the end of October).
Thursday | Thanksgiving!  (Hooray!)  For our big Thanksgiving meal hosted by my parents, I am bringing a green salad and making scrumptious sweet potatoes (which I don't personally love) but are oft-requested and generally well-loved by everyone in sight.  ;)  Mark and Ella, especially, oh! -- and my mom- DREAM of these sweet potatoes.  It's just a bunch of sliced sweet potatoes (from the produce department, the white ones) baked in a brown sugar/butter mixture and topped with marshmallows a few minutes before the timer goes off.  Mom will do the turkey, potatoes, gravy and stuffing and many desserts (bless her) and my siblings are bringing other sides.  I'm just now remembering that I may have volunteered to make some sort of apple dessert, too, so I'll have to double-check on that.

We'll have the big meal Thursday afternoon and then Thursday evening we just eat leftovers: turkey sandwiches, usually, on white dinner rolls, and chex mix and desserts.  My sister and her family will be here through the weekend, so the kids are thrilled to see their cousins that they rarely get to see.  My brother, his wife and their two kids will be there, too, and my other brother, and all of us packed into my parents' house.  We play games, sit around and talk and laugh and eat and generally have a wonderful time. I love it and so look forward to it.

Friday | White Chicken Chili and cornbread.  Quick and easy.  I have pre-cooked chicken and chicken broth in the freezer and I'll use cans of white beans instead of cooking up dry beans.  We'll (Mark included!  He has the whole weekend off this year!) all likely be at my moms most of the day but try to exit before dinner so that she doesn't have to feed us all... again.  

SaturdayTHIS IS THE DAY WE GO GET OUR CHRISTMAS TREE AND DECORATE OUR HOME FOR CHRISTMAS and I love everything about this dayA couple of years ago we started a new tradition with my brother and his family (who live nearby) and my parents (who also live nearby).... we all go out and get our tree together (that's not new, we've been doing that for years, stopping to get peppermint mochas or eggnog lattes on the way out) and then we all go home to decorate our individual houses.  Then later that night, when all is decorated and alight, we do a neighborhood walk and tour everyone's decorated homes, then end up back here at our house for pigs-in-a-blankets, spinach and artichoke dip and bread, cider and eggnog and desserts.  Love it.

Sunday | Nachos. Another super easy recipe.  On purpose.  I think we'll all be exhausted.  Hopefully this will be a restful day after all the hubbub of the weekend.  I envision lots of lovely, cozy nights in front of our cheerily lit tree and a crackling fire. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! 

Snippets from an Ordinary Day

It was Monday. The kids had already gotten dressed and had done their morning chores-- not without some reminders from me for the little girls.  I had been up earlier and had exercised and showered.  We began our morning together at the table for breakfast.  I made Yogurt Biscuits (upon which the kids spread pumpkin butter from Trader Joes) and smoothies for the kids, eggs and bacon for myself.

We started in-- I forget what time it was.  I think we had some sleepyheads so we started late-- with Bible time.  We read about Saul, and Samuel.  For narrations I wrote names on the board and asked the kids to tell me something we learned about each person/person's character.  They love this.  I stood at the board and transcribed what they said:


Then I passed out copies of our November poems.  [I keep six copies in my Morning Time binder and pass them out each morning.  (This is so much easier for me than having each child have their OWN memory work binder, which is what I tried last year.  We just don't have that kind of room at the table!]  Ella recited one poem; If, which they began learning last month, Adelia recited Who Has Seen the Wind?, and Audra recited The Mist and All.  I can't say any of them from memory yet.  All of the  kids amaze me with their memory skills! 

On the opposite side of the poem sheet, encased in a clear sheet protector, is the hymn we're currently learning: Great is Thy Faithfulness.  We sang the first verse and the chorus, then I shared the story about why that song was meaningful to me; that years ago I was fearful and struggling with whether or not we should move forward with our adoption of Adelia, and how God gave me that song as a confirmation to me.  I can't sing it without tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat for how significant it is to me.  When we were done singing they passed them back to me to file in the binder.

After that I asked the kids for prayer requests-- and as they say them, I write them down on my Morning Time sheet, then when they've each shared one or two things, I read off the list and then we go around the table and pray.  We prayed for my grandma who just had surgery to remove cancer and who doesn't know Jesus, we prayed for a man at our church who has cancer, we prayed for our Compassion kids, we prayed for a friend of ours who is in the process of adopting, we prayed for another friend whose baby is in the hospital fighting for his little life.

Then we moved on to memory work.  Normally we'd work on our new memory verses first but that day I began with a review of old memory work: the books of the Bible (Old Testament).  We went around the table and tried to remember them all in order, taking one at a time.  And then we said them all together at the same time.

Then we cleared the table and headed into the living room for our new memory work.  We're learning Luke 2:1-20, just a verse or two at a time, but this week we're covering verses 1-7.  So instead of just reciting at the table as usual, I thought we'd do drawn narrations with it and so I formatted our memory work sheet like this:


leaving room for drawings. The one above is Isaac's (12).  The one below is mine.

While we were all drawing, we listened to music from our current composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff.  And normally at that time we would read something for Science (right now: Pagoo), and then read from our current read-aloud, but we were running later than usual, so I skipped those for the morning. (It's okay-- last week I'd read extra Pagoo because the kids were having so much fun drawing while I read, and our read-aloud was actually due back at the library before we'd finished it, so we're waiting for another copy to come in.)

When we wrap up morning time each day, the kids all head outside for 20 minutes.  During this time I usually make myself a latte, load the dishwasher and do a bit of meal prep or ready the next thing on the schedule.

When the kids came indoors-- it was a cold and blustery day that morning!-- I lit a fire for warmth and cozyness.  The older kids then disperse to check things off their individual lists (printed weekly, on their clipboard), one of them starts practicing piano, and I organize the little girls at the table with their lists and books.  They work on math and copywork (this is what they're both doing; upper and lower case letters, one per day, focusing on writing three perfect letters) and some Explode the Code.  I keep doing meal prep/kitchen clean up and sit with them and help them or instruct them as needed.  They are very easily distracted, and often end up bickering, so more often than not these days, I end up separating them and sending one of them to complete their work on my bed.

I did a reading lesson with Audra when she'd finished, (I alternate days for this with each girl), and then we all snuggled into my bed for reading time.  I read them a fairy tale from The Blue Fairy Book* and instead of having them narrate it back to me, I told them we could just draw a picture of Felicia's dress (she's a princess, and I knew this would appeal to them).  So then we drew pictures, side by side, and then they were all done.  They have a 5-minute room tidy and a couple other things on their lists for the day (mostly chores), but their school time was done.

Interspersed throughout this time (from when the kids come in from playing outside), I will often get requests for either help with math, or a narration (they narrate to me after each of their history/literature readings). 

And that was our school day! 

*I ended up dropping a few books (from the stack I began the year with) for the little girls.  It was all just too much.  We're still reading Aesop, The Blue Fairy Book, Burgess' Bird Book and a few others (D'Aulaire's books, that will come later in the year), but I dropped most of the history selections.

**This post contains affiliate links.

Book recommendation: The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower

The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, by P.J. Lynch

If you have the opportunity to scoop up this book at the library, do!  I think all ages of kids would be fascinated by the illustrations, but it is definitely one of those picture books with a lot of words, so it's great for older kids, too.  Beautifully illustrated, based on the true story of John Howland.

We read it in front of our cozy fire over the course of a few days and we all really enjoyed it.

*This post contains affiliate links.

Fall Deliciousness

One the of the grand things Mark and I decided for this school year is that when he gets a day off, he's going to sub in for me, following our normal school routine, and I get the day off.  As in, off.  While the kids are still getting school done.

I can't even describe to you how delightful this is.

This morning--- wait, let's go ahead and begin with last night, because I think you should all know that I single handedly ate an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's Peanut Butter Cup ice cream.  But that's not all.  I also ate approximately half a bag of Kettle Honey-Dijon chips.  You may think I'm exaggerating but I'm not.  Also a lime+coconut+rum blended drink Mark made me.

It's been that kind of week.  PMS hits hard and fast these days and on Sunday night I was bawling and feeling like this life of mine was impossibly overwhelming, was suddenly exasperated and irritated about all the mess everywhere, all the noise, everything that had to be done, anything on our calendar, any and all questions and all the interruptions.

So last night was absolutely necessary.

Oh.  And yes, I'm still counting calories.  I think I'd saved about 800 calories for last night's snacking, but we all know I went over by about 4000.  I figure that's just fine to do once a month.

Anyway, all that to say that today is a much-needed day off.  I woke up at 7:30 (that's sleeping in for me!).  Mark was already up with Adelia, reading books on the couch.  I went for a jog, came home, showered, got ready-- all while Mark was busy with the kids in their getting-ready-for-the-day, chores, and breakfasting routines, and now I'm at Starbucks with an iced latte and my Bible, journal, colored pencils and the laptop.  George Winston's December CD is playing happily in my ears.  It's my favorite soothing music.  I chose a sunny table by the window where I have a view of the fireplace but also get to sprawl out all my stuff.

This post is titled Fall Deliciousness because this may be my favorite time of year for cooking, baking and perusing cookbooks.  I've tried out some new recipes lately and wanted to share them with you.  Sorry for the long and winding intro.

First up: bread.  Is there anything better than freshly baked bread this time of year?  NO there is not.  So I've been baking bread.  Lots of it.  Our favorites are my grandma's white bread recipe, because it makes four loaves and because it's pure comfort to me to read her instructions in the recipe and to think of her baking it.  And the smell of it and-- it's the perfect bread for sandwiches.

baking bread
I also have another whole-wheat bread recipe that I alternate with for sandwiches.  And this recipe for Honey-Oat bread that I bake to use for dinnertime.

New to me but equally satisfying is this recipe for crusty bread.  (Thank you, Sarah E!) I have ALWAYS wanted to make this type of bread but don't have a dutch oven so I figured it was out of the question.  But a couple of weeks ago I decided to try to use an old Corningware dish I have that has a glass lid, and I'm so thrilled because it totally worked!  I made two loaves and they were perfect:

Secondly: soup.  Please do yourself a favor and make this recipe for Slow Cooker Butternut Squash soup.  (Another thank you to my friend Sarah).  I've made butternut squash soup before but this recipe is by far the best.  I think it's the coconut milk you add at the end.  Plus, you chop everything up and throw it in the crock pot and then your house smells like pure fall goodness all day long.  I think those are the best kind of meals.  [Just a couple of my notes on this recipe: I used sweet potatoes instead of the carrots and will do it again.  Because we just love sweet potatoes at our house.  Also, I peeled my apples.  I don't own an immersion blender so I just poured it into my food processor and pureed it in small batches.]  We all loved this soup!

A terrible picture, but here it is--ready to cook all day!
Serve the soup with some of that crusty bread and it's a perfect fall meal.  Or make up some quick Yogurt Biscuits but add something savory like parmesan and sage or whatever you have on hand.

Last but not least, please make this recipe for Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies from Ashley Rodriguez.  Just... yum.  It's the variety of sugars and the salt on the top.  I keep making them.  Double the recipe, for sure.  And I know she says to refrigerate the dough but who wants to wait for that?  Plus, then you have hard dough that's tough to work with so just ignore that part.  And use whatever chocolate you have and like.  I use milk and semi-sweet. 

(Recent) favorite cookbooks to pore over: Date Night In (which is where the cookie recipe comes from) and The Forest Feast (which is just pretty and inspiring.  I love her dressings and salads and her photos and illustrations throughout.)

Please share any of your favorite fall recipes in the comments.  We love to try new recipes at our house!

*This post contains affiliate links

Snippets from my journal and prayers on a Monday morning

It's Monday morning. I'm heading into this week weary and feeling overwhelmed.  This is Mark's long work week (no day off), and I really wish I was starting this week feeling rested, but that's just not the case.

I went walking early with my mom, then came home through the back door to find Mark loading the dishwasher for me before he left for work.  I sat at the kitchen table and drank a glass of water and he asked me how I was, and then listened to me while he worked, and I told him of my weariness.  He took time to pray for me before I saw him out the back door.  Then I snuck into my room, trying to avoid all the creaky floorboards, closing our old door just so; so that it won't click noisily, hoping and praying everyone would stay sleeping so that I could begin this day quietly.

So here I sit on my bed, under the warmth of an electric blanket. A little bit ago I pulled out my journal and started telling God all about it: my weariness, how there are so many demands on me in a school week and I'm feeling a little pouty and slightly resentful, even, that I will run around today and this week meeting everyone else's needs but would really like someone to take care of ME.  (Does anyone else ever feel that way?  Maybe I'm just especially selfish.  ;))

Even as I'm writing that prayer to God, I am thinking of this verse, which I then anchored to the page of my journal and to my mind for the day:

from my journal pages this morning
Yes.  I am trusting Him.  He knows me, He cares for me, He sees me.  He is my God and He will supply every need of mine according to His riches.  I can trust that while I am looking out for everyone else's needs this morning and throughout this day?  He will attend to mine.

And I can see the ways He's already doing that today...

~He gave me the gift of going walking early with my mom: exercise and fresh air and adult conversation for a half-hour! (5406)

~Coming home to find Mark in the kitchen, loading the dishwasher.  His kindness in loving me through practical service to me.  He knows I like to begin my day with a clean kitchen, and he got up early-- sacrificing his own sleep-- to do so. (5407)

~Mark praying for me as he cleaned the kitchen (he told me when I came in he'd been praying for our day), and aloud, with me, before he left for work. (5408)

~Mark, who faithfully works hard to provide for our family. (5409)

~Passing Isaias on my way to my room, as he's heading outside to do his morning chores.  So thankful for my kids and the work they do so faithfully around the house. (5410)

~This sweet time of quiet God just granted me-- a whole 40+ minutes of time to journal and pray and rest in the truth of His word while He kept the kids sleeping. (5411)

~The coziness of our home and my bed (and the warmth of the electric blanket!) (5412)

~His word, which is so precious to me. (5413)

~My chatty little Audra (6), who was the first to come into my room, snugging up beside me and talking, talking, talking, always talking.  How I love her and how thankful I am for this girl, the gift that she is to me, the miracle of her.  (5414)

Praying now that my eyes will continue to be open to see the goodness of God today; to see Him so richly and personally providing for my every need.

Blessing to you, sweet friends, on your day!  May each of you see Him in his rich provision for you, too. 

School days and a read-aloud recommendation

I really wanted to write here on the blog today, but I am having a sinus headache and finding it a bit tricky to type with my rice bag propped on my forehead. ;)  We'll see how long I can manage this.  


Not long, apparently, since I've already moved it to the back of my neck.  Oh well, that hurts, too, so we're good to go!


We're finishing up Week 3 of school around here and it's going so, so well.  I'm just loving it.  And so are the kids.  I am so thankful for the privilege of schooling our kids. 

We've been battling sickness (flu, cough, colds, sinus pressure.... argggh) for the past few weeks, all of us at various times... virus #2 now cycling through our home :(, and even though we are sick and weary, there has been great peace in our schooling, and for that I am thankful.

One of the things that has been a great blessing to me is that we REALLY pared down our evening engagements this year.  We have one thing each week in the evening.  Same night, every week.  And that's it.  So our evenings have become a time of rest again, which is so good and was so needed.

Last year I felt like we were running here and there and everywhere- always hurrying to make dinner and then eating it QUICK!  We have to leave in 20 minutes! and trying to get out the door and then home to the mess of the kitchen and late to bed for everyone... and this year we just said no.  To a lot of things.  And I am so thankful.  Now we're home, eating dinner together and then cleaning up together and then retiring to the living room for read-aloud and puzzles or play.  It's been a sweet gift to us all.

Speaking of reading-aloud.  We just finished reading this one:


We started it while we were on our road-trip; it was our vacation read-aloud.  And honestly?  At the start I was unconvinced.  I have heard oodles about this book/series and had picked it up several times and read a page here or there at various bookstores and at the library, and I always ended up putting it down, thinking, "Eh.  No."

But... we needed a new read-aloud, so I finally decided to give it a go (and trust all those who had recommended it).  It only took us a couple of chapters and the kids LOVED THE BOOK.  We all do.  We actually finished it last night and are on to the second in the series.  There is a bit of sailing jargon to get through-- which was maybe what was off-putting to me when I'd looked at it before?-- but it will definitely rank in the category of our favorite family read-alouds.  [And oh, Titty.  How I adore you.]  (She is going on my list (the list that only actually exists in my head) of favorite girls in stories.  You know, along with Anne Shirley and Jo March and Laura Ingalls?  Yes.  Also: Able-Seaman Titty.  I love her spirit.  :))

I wish I would have snapped a picture of the "boats" we had in our back yard when we got back from vacation-- one flying a Swallows flag and the other an Amazon flag.  And all the adventures the kids were acting out from the story.  They are so engaged with it and it has been a great delight to read it aloud.  :)

So there you go.  A hearty recommendation of a fine book.  Any recommendations you'd like to toss my way?

Blessings to you and yours,

*This post contains affiliate links

First Day of School: Morning Time

Yesterday was our first day of school, and we made it.  :)  And: it was all that I had prayed it would be: peaceful, relaxed, and enjoyable.  (Thank you so much, God!)  I was up early, made some cinnamon rolls, hot cocoa, and cooked up some sausage, and then just pulled out the books/things I'd put in a basket to accompany us at the breakfast table, called the kids to eat, and we began our day.

We're easing into our school year with Morning Time only-- which is basically all the stuff we do at the breakfast table.  I feel like God gave me such a great system for this over the summer as I read a few of Cindy Rollins' Morning Time (MT) posts and-- honestly, even MORE importantly, for me: saw a MT schedule of hers.  I just really need a visual for things to gel in my brain, and I am so so thankful she provided that because it gave me an organizational structure to all we've already been doing.  :)

Here is our little Morning Time schedule for October:
(Note: Pretty much everything on the above schedule will change as we move in to other months in the school year (new hymn, new memory verses, new poems, new electives, etc.), but this has given me the needed format for plugging it all in.) I anticipate printing a new schedule for each month, and working from it.

The only change I made to our existing routine was to shift the kids' morning chore time, which had been after breakfast, to now be BEFORE breakfast. This means we can settle in together, first at the table over breakfast, then shifting into the living room (for the Ambleside selections, electives and our read-aloud) without interruption.

As I moved through our morning, I checked things off and made notes on my printed schedule with a colored pen.  (See photo below).  I know there will be mornings we don't get to all of these things, and I'm okay with that.  [For example, when my kids are sick, I always let them sleep in, and we start late those mornings.  Sometimes we have interruptions due to sibling squabbling or disobedience, and it can throw our whole morning.]  I think it will be so helpful for me to have this sheet I've been checking off throughout the week to have a visual of what's been done, so that I can think: "Okay, we've done our hymn 4x this week already.  We can skip that today to save time.


We moved away from the breakfast table after poetry and resumed in the living room-- all sprawled out on couches and the floor-- for some Shakespeare:


And then we ended with our read-aloud and finally some outside time. :) [Which is when I get time to make myself a latte!  ;)]

That's our plan for our mornings.  Next week sometime we'll add in independent work (math, history, copywork) for the older kids, more narrations, and my time with the little girls.  But I'm STILL planning all of that, so we'll get to that when it's ready.  ;)

Prequel to our first day

This year Ella is in eighth grade, Isaac is in sixth grade, Isaias is in fifth, and the girls are both in first grade.  The little girls are doing Ambleside Year 1, Isaias is doing Ambleside Year 4, and the older two are doing Ambleside Year 7.  

That's a whole lot of kids and a whole lot of lesson plans, and it was enough to make me feel pretty overwhelmed (read: lots of tears) when I told Mark two nights ago: "I don't even know how I'm going do this...") 

Because, I just know how this goes.  I know that when we start school, my plate goes from very full to HEAPING.  Everyone needs something from me at the exact same time (or just two seconds later), and on it goes and it can just feel like too much.  And then I still sort of need to be mommy and get meals on the table and the laundry done and the house relatively clean and it's just a lot.

Going into this year, I fear that my older kids' books are too challenging, and that they won't enjoy their reading.  I worry that I will not be able to keep up with all the reading and all the narrations and the correcting.  I fear that I'll be stressed and overwhelmed and tired.  Oh, wait.  I will.  ;)

Mark listened and prayed for me.  I got some sleep, woke up the next morning and prayed and journalled.  I really just needed to talk to God about it all, and then I felt so much better.  I told Him that my desire is that we would learn in an environment of togetherness and interest and pleasure in whatever we're reading and learning; that there would be joy as we *get* to learn about other people and places and times and concepts.  I asked Him to teach me how to be a better teacher this year, and to be a better learner myself.  I asked Him to give me a spirit of joy, and that it would be contagious to the kids.  I asked him to help me to keep up with their readings and to ask good narration questions. I asked for wisdom with what direction I should take with the girls (individual time with each of them or together?  What to use for phonics/reading?  What time of day?)  I asked Him to cause all the pieces to fall into place and I asked for peace to reign in our home.  I asked Him to help me to use my time wisely (less Facebook, less computer time altogether, less shows that we watch too late when we should be sleeping).  I asked Him to help me not to live in a state of exasperation/stress, but to slow me down, give me a restful spirit and a joyful one, and to give me a "let's tackle this together" approach.  I asked Him to create discussions and connections.  Ultimately, I asked Him to lead us, because He knows us and He knows which books we will sink into and learn well from.  He knows our frames, our needs, our lives and interactions and challenges.  And after I'd unloaded all of that, I wasn't an emotional wreck anymore.  I trust Him to lead us faithfully as He always has.  And I'm truly looking forward to it all. 

Later that morning I stumbled upon a blog post that brought encouragement to my heart-- just that reminder that no matter what I've planned, if it's too much, we can pare it down until we get to a place of peace.  And that it's not about checking off the boxes and doing a certain number of books but about choosing a few, and doing them well


A friend of mine is hosting a Garage & Bake Sale this weekend.  ALL proceeds are going toward the refugee crisis.  ( Isn't that wonderful?)  So when I found out she was doing that, I immediately offered to make signs, because that's my favorite thing ever, pretty much.

I've said before here that if you give me some paper and a Sharpie marker I'm a happy girl-- for hours.  So last night after the kids were in bed I sat down with my pens and some poster board and went to work.  Here are (some of) the results:


I seriously had so much fun.

My sweet Ella is going to bake some treats for the bake sale, too, which just makes me so happy.  When I initially asked her if she'd like to bake anything, she said, "YES, mommy. Especially for that cause. I've been *wanting* to do something to help, so I would love to."  (Is she not the cutest?)

Confessions of a Second-Rate Charlotte Mason Educator

When people ask me what type of homeschooling we do, I generally ask them if they're familiar with Charlotte  Mason.  Usually no one knows who that is or has only a hazy recollection of hearing her name before.  So I end up briefly describing what a living book is, and just say that we do a lot of reading.  :)  Charlotte Mason simplified. 

While I identify with a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education, and I feel a kindredness with her approach, I feel like I am a looooong way from educating the Charlotte-Mason way.  So here are some of my "confessions", if you will:

I love Dictation and it truly works, but I think we did it all of four times last year.  For reals.

We didn't do any Shakespeare last year.  At all.

We aren't learning Latin or any other foreign language.  And- gasp!- I don't have any plans to do so.

We barely did Composer Study last year.  Occasionally I played some classical music while the kids were drawing, but truly that was probably only a handful of times. 

We do Nature Study, but we've never looked up or written down a Latin name for anything.  We just look.  And draw or paint.  And appreciate what we see.

I always feel like I'm cheating somehow when we do narrations.  I'm sure it's *supposed* to be more structured than it is, or more official, somehow.  And certainly it's supposed to happen more regularly than it does.

* * *

I read a few homeschooling blogs, and I sort of marvel at how organized and how "together" these moms are, how they have such great CM systems; how intentional they are about implementing Charlotte Mason's methods, and how they put out such coherent, regular, thoughtful homeschooling posts.  And I conclude that they are doing this Charlotte Mason thing The Right Way, whereas apparently I am only dabbling, because what I do doesn't resemble what they do, or at least it doesn't seem quite as polished. 

But you know what?  I'm actually okay with that.  That is them, and that is not me.  I don't fret about it like I used to.  The longer I homeschool, the less anxious I am about those things.

Some things we do well some years. 

For two years straight we did do Shakespeare.  Six plays.  And we enjoyed it.  We plan to cover some more plays this year.  Regardless, when all is said and done, I have introduced my children to Shakespeare, and I think that's a good thing.

Some things will always be a struggle.  I don't think we'll ever learn a foreign language, and I'm okay with that.  Would I love it if my kids knew a second language?  Um, YES.  But it's not really in my wheelhouse or in our budget and I trust that if God wants them to learn one someday, He will make it happen. 

I'm okay with the way we do Nature Study.  Of course I have lofty visions of beautifully drawn flowers and plants and trees and insects and animals, with corresponding Latin names calligraphied perfectly beside my drawings, but it's just not going to happen.  And that's okay.  Overall, I know that my children notice things around them when they are outside.  They have gained an appreciation and a curiosity of nature.  They notice what blooms and when, and they want to draw a picture.  They  take the time to watch bugs and spiders and examine their behavior.  They delight in what they see; and in what God has made and in how He has created.  That's a great thing.

I may not do narrations right, but my kids remember well and love to tell us about what they've read.  So they are taking in the information, processing it, and retelling it.  That's enough.

I say all that because I began this post with the idea to tell you about an inspiring book I'm reading about educating the Charlotte Mason way.  (I try to read at least one homeschool-related book each summer for the purpose of fresh inspiration.)  And as I began writing about it, I recalled the book I'd read last summer-- The Living Page.  I realize that as inspired as I was after reading that book, as many notes I took and plans I had, our homeschool really didn't change a whole lot as a result.  (I think it changed me in that I paid more attention to what I was reading and have been more faithful to write things down in my journal and label them "commonplace".  And I created a Word Book for the girls and we used that throughout the year.)

But with all my lofty plans of wonderful historical timelines and a firsts notebook and all the other notebooks we were going to start, and maintain?  None of that materialized.  I think some of that is due to my lack of planning.  Or more accurately, my lack of follow-through.   I can be visionary and get easily excited about things and begin well, but I don't always finish.

Or maybe it just wasn't our year to excel in notebooks and timelines.  :) 

Part of the reason, too, is that there is just not time to do it all.  There are five children in this house (!!!!)  Things can be quite crazy around here.  (Just ask my friends who were here recently when my daughter was having a tantrum on her bed.  Screaming and kicking the wall.)  These things happen in our regular life.  There are days we skip whole subjects entirely because we just cannot even.

And yet, the school year happened and we learned.  We grew in knowledge alongside each other and we lived the firsts together and we marveled over connections made through our different readings and we are doing just fine.

This year we will grow and learn alongside each other, too.  And I will delight in my kids' learning.  I will pray and ask God to lead us in our learning endeavors.  And He will.  I will be thankful for the relationship I have with each of my kids, and for the privilege of getting to teach them. 

ps: I may yet tell you about that book, but before doing so I felt I should tell you how imperfectly we'll live out any inspiration I may derive from said book.  :)

Road Trip ideas!

I know everyone has school on the brain right now, and actually, so do I!  But we're not actually starting until October so I'm not doing schoolish posts quite yet.

We just returned from a 10-day family road trip and it was great.  We drove from Washington to California, along the coast, into the Redwoods, and as far as Monterey Bay- and then back home through Yosemite.  We camped, stayed in vacation houses, and spent a couple of nights in hotels.  We logged over 2500 miles on our van, and the kids were amazing.  I thought I'd post some of my road trip ideas here so that I can remember and in case it's helpful for anyone else.  :)

First tip: Make your kids pack their own stuff.  :)  This is our system for any trip, and it works- even for the little kids.  Our olders can either help with the younger kids or the younger kids can pack what they see in the pictures and you can check their work.  Either way, it saves a TON of time.


(Right after I copied these, my kids pointed out that I'd forgotten to put pajamas on here!  Whoops!  I told them they could add it to the "Other items" list on the top left-hand corner.  :))

One of my favorite things is equipping our kids for all those hours in the van, and since we don't rely on technology because I'm old-fashioned that way, here is what we do instead:

Gift bag of goodies: Each of the kids gets a gift bag of goodies.  I choose a different color bag for each child and write their name on it.  AND: I keep this a secret until the morning of, so when they get to the van they it on their seats and spend the first several minutes rifling through them.  They love this.
The kids climbing into our van right before we hit the road.  Isaias has spotted his bag on his seat.
In the bag: Gum, lollipops, snacks (goldfish crackers, gummy bears, swedish fish, fruit snacks, granola bars, cookies, plus coupons for drinks from the ice chest*), packages of tissue, a couple of mechanical pencils, a pen, word search/suduko/coloring/maze books I picked up at the dollar store, a blank composition book or notebook for writing or coloring, and their Road Trip Journal (more on that later). Also, there are no rules for the treats in their bags: they are theirs to eat whenever they want.  :)

*This is the first time I've done the coupon thing, and it worked great.  Each of the kids had coupons in their bags- just slips of paper that said, "Good for one soda" or "Good for one juice box", and when they wanted a drink they got to hand in their coupon and get a drink. 

Road Trip Journal: I made a journal for each of the kids to take along.  I bought some inexpensive folders with the brads in them and three-hole punched the pages and tucked them in the folders.

In their journals:
Map of the United States.  I printed the B&W copy, because we colored them in as we saw the license plates from each state.  This was a fun activity that lasted throughout the whole trip, and kept us all looking out the window!

Journal pages (Days 1-10): I've made the first page larger for you to see and the other pages small, but if you click on them you'll be able to see them larger.

Vacation wrap-up:
Also included in the journal were these battleship pages and some blank graph paper (for their own lists or mazes or whatever games they wanted to play).

I printed off journals for Mark and myself, too, and we all spent time filling them in each day, either on the road or when we settled for the night.

Snacks: I also packed lots of general snacks up front between Mark and I (bags of chips, carrot sticks, crackers, string cheese, nuts, dried fruit, etc) and occasionally I'd pass those around. 

Games: We play lots of games while we're on the road.  Here are some of our favorites:
ABC game
License plate game (see above map)
License plate game #2: Call out the letters of a license plate and everyone races to try to think of a word with the letters in that same order.  (Example: HDG might be hedge or handbag).
Color game: Call out a color and everyone calls out what they see outside the window that is that color.
I Spy (in the van)

We also brought some trivia books and some Brain Quest flip books to quiz the kids.

Music: We made a road trip playlist and listened to it a whole lot.  :)  Mark and I sang loudly and tried to get the kids on board with all of our favorite music.  :)  

Maps: We had maps for each state and showed the kids each day where we were starting from, and where our destination was that day.  They loved this, especially our six-year old.  She kept asking us to pull the map out so that she could see our progress along the way!  

Quiet: There were a few times we called out, "Ten (or twenty!) minutes of quiet!"  And everyone had to be quiet.  We only did this two or three times but it helped for our sanity.  :)

I posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook throughout our trip but I'll try to post a few here, too, within the next couple of days.

Garden notes and drying tomatoes

I knew when we planted our garden this spring that I didn't want to do a lot of canning.  It's just a lot of work, and I was tired and wanted rest

Ahem.  I did NO canning.  Oh, wait.  That's not true.  I think I did up two batches of freezer jam: one strawberry and one peach.  But still.  That's not a lot.  I imagine I'll regret that come fall and winter.  But when it's 80-something degrees in the kitchen, I just cannot get motivated to can.  No way.

I froze a lot of berries- strawberries and raspberries from our yard.  We made several batches of fruit leather.  We ate beans fresh and roasted them up for a few dinners.  We made a lot of tomato-and-cucumber-and-garlic-and-basil-and-feta salads.  YUM.  


I still have tomatoes and basil coming out my ears.  So this morning I was up early in the garden and picked a huge bowl of Sun Gold tomatoes (my favorite), and decided to try drying them.  I just sliced them in half (quartering the larger ones), and then in a food processor, blended about 10 leaves of basil and a couple of garlic cloves and olive oil, and drizzled it all over the top of them.  Sprinkled salt and pepper over the top and we'll see how it goes.  But I cannot WAIT to try them.  They look and smell delicious.  :) 

I'm contemplating doing this with my rhubarb.  Has anyone ever tried this?  And I'm definitely making some more rhubarb syrup just as soon as I can get ahold of some cheesecloth. 

On Duct Tape and Really Awful Mornings

The digital clock in the van read 10:00 and even though there were six of us in there, it was silent.  When I looked for my kids' eyes in the rear view mirror I could see their hurt even through my own tears.

It was one of those hard mornings.  A lot of grumbling and bickering.  An impatient, irritable, hurried mama.  We were supposed to leave the house at 9:30, but between the bickering and the shower nozzle that broke and the duct tape we couldn't find because the last child who used it just a couple of days ago had forgotten to return it and it was now nowhere.  And the child who used said tape and has been dispatched to look for it is now sullen and crabby at me, of course, because ...why?  Apparently it's unfair that he should find the tape he last had.  But no tape is found, so I shower while holding the nozzle above my head which isn't super handy and every time the nozzle slips from my hands water sprays out of the shower and onto the floor and I am crabby.  And we're already late.  The duct tape search is called off but where are my brown sandals?  The strappy ones that aren't in my closet or beneath the bed or by the shoes near the door or in the living room closet or on the back porch.  So I decide on the black shoes but now I can't find my black t-shirt OR my black tank.  And while I'm on my hands and knees looking beneath the bed, again, for my brown sandals, my boy comes in to offer help and I am near tears and then I scrape my arm on the bed frame and snap at him and now my arm is wounded and my son is, too.  That's when I hear more bickering coming from the living room.  So I get up and position myself in the hallway so that I can see and holler at the child causing trouble.  And I tell her to go sit on the porch until we're ready to go.  While I'm in the hallway directing her I see my other little one, sitting on her bed with her hand pressed over her mouth.  Because minutes before she'd been whining for the umpteenth time and I'd told her to put her hand over her mouth.   She had done so and then run to her room in tears, and I had forgotten about her in my shoe/shirt/tank search.  I tell her she can remove her hand and on my way to try to soothe her, the child who is supposed to be on the front porch is making her way back in so I open my mouth again and harsh words tumble out.  And the son I've just wounded is there, standing, and I need to make things right with him, too.  And on our morning goes.

So by the time we're all settled in the van... oh, except that no one is really feeling settled at all because how settled can any child feel when their mommy is on the verge of a full-on sob session?  In my mind I'm blaming PMS and I'm blaming them, the bickering kids and the one who never puts things away where they belong and the one who won't obey and I am feeling sorry for myself, of course.  And the time glares at me, reminding me of our tardiness.  We're leaving the house a half-hour late, and our destination is still 30 minutes away.  It's just some girlfriends and their kids-- but still.  I try to text my friends to let them know how late we'll be and lo and behold, my phone will not text.  Lovely.  So I begin to drive.  All is quiet in the van.  So I fill the van with my words-- words of accusation.  Could you just say sorry, maybe, for losing the tape? And while you're at it, why don't you tell me why you're angry at ME?  How does that make any sense at all?  And you, the whiny one: can you imagine if we all opened our mouths and screeched like that every time something didn't go our way?  And on I went because--ughh- all the ugliness surfaced right there in the van.  And then the child who lost the tape tried to apologize and somehow ended up making it all so much worse because you know, he isn't sorry, really, he's just saying that because I told him he should say it and so I cut his apology off.  And those kids I glance at in the rear-view mirror?  Still silent and now shrinking.  I finally stopped talking, kept right on with the crying, and added prayer. 

Suddenly I knew we had no business going.  I knew we would not settle all of this on the drive there, and I knew it wasn't fair to ask them to go from this awful morning to smiling and playing with their friends.  I also knew it wasn't wise for me to go in my emotional state and sit with a group of  friends and likely sin MORE with my tongue about my kids.  So I announced that we weren't going and reversed direction.  I kept praying.  I kept crying.  (I was still feeling quite sorry for myself and I was also feeling sorry for my words; for the accusations that are so quick to fly out of my mouth and for the ways I had wounded every single one of them and how I knew I needed to mend things with each of them but where to even begin?  And also, I didn't feel especially like saying sorry and I was definitely still crabby at some of them.  So I kept quiet and kept praying. 

I knew we needed to be together.  But I didn't want to get home and have everyone scatter and hide.  I knew I needed to make a public confession, because I had sinned against them in front of each other.  So as we parked the van back in front of our house fifteen minutes later, I asked them to stay in their seats, and then I turned around and met their eyes.  And irregardless of how I felt-- I did the right thing.  I apologized.  I looked each of them in the eye and said that I was sorry and I detailed what I was sorry for.  I made sure things were right with each of them. 

Then I offered to take them to the library.  They love the library, and I thought it might soften the blow of not getting to go play with friends.  I also thought it would be a good place where I could settle my own emotions.  The thought of sitting cross-legged in the children's section and pulling books from the shelves onto my lap with my kids scattered around me doing the same peaceful thing?  Yes.  We all needed the distraction of something else.  Something quieting.  And then after a bit of that, we could go home and then we would be ready to pile onto the couch, all of us, with a stack of books, and I could read aloud.  And that would be the coming together that we all so desperately needed.  So we did.  They each chose a book from the stack, grabbed a homemade chocolate chip cookie, and tucked themselves around me on the couch.  And we read stories. 

I'd like to say all is well, and it is, ultimately.  The ugly of my sinfulness stands in such stark contrast to the holiness of the One who paid it all.  Where I excel in harsh words, He is kind.  Where I am quick to accuse, He is merciful.  Where I am full of anger, He is compassionate and slow to anger.  Where I am impatient, He is long-suffering. Where I am full of self, He is full of love for others.  Where I care for control and everything to go my way, He is far more concerned about my heart and His glory.

I am reminded of how desperately I need a Savior and I am all over again grateful for His mercy. 

I am heartened by the truth that He is not done with me, and that He is gentle in His love and instruction.  He is patient with me and will continue to grow me in love for these He has entrusted to me.  He is present with all of us in the mess of our morning and He will tenderly mend hearts where mending is needed.  (Chocolate chip cookies and new library books went a long way in that mending process, but I trust He will provide more opportunities this day and this evening for me to choose love and be a gracious mama.) 

Blessings to you and yours,