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.

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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.

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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!

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