What is it with boys?*

*One of my plans for the blog this year is to repost some older posts from the archives.  I've been writing here since 2006, so there's a lot of material there, and it's fun for me to re-read posts from those years, too.  :)  This post today was originally from April of 2006, and it features Ella and Isaac, ten whole years ago. ~sob~

What is it with boys and their inability to find things?! Today I was on the phone with- who else?- Amy, and she got interrupted at least twice with the request from her boys to find something (“Mama, where is the bat?” Her response: “I don’t know. I haven’t played with your bat.”) I get a real kick out of this since Amy is the only woman amongst her four, so she is asked this question MANY more times than I am in any given day!

It really is a gender thing. I can ask my four-year old daughter to find something and she promptly finds it and brings it to me. Tada! Mission accomplished.
I adored (and so miss!) these dress-up years.

I will ask my son (who is two and a half) to pick up the crayon right in front of his feet and he will spin around dazed and confused, like, “Huh? Where?” while my daughter and I are pointing and hollering, “Right there! No. Turn and face us. Now look at your feet. Your feet! Where are your feet? Point to your feet. Now: see the crayon?” And he stares at the ground in bewilderment. We all end up laughing and inevitably I get up, walk over to him, pick up the crayon and put it away.

My little guy also does this: I will say, holding an item, “Will you please take this into the kitchen?” He will take it and head to the kitchen, stop in the doorway, and then turn and ask, “This kitchen?” Um. Yep! (We only have the one!) He is the same with any room in the house. If you ask him to go anywhere in the house, he’ll stop and clarify: “This living room?”, or "This front door?"

I’m not really sure why he does this. Or why he can’t locate anything. But I sure love him. He is the cheeriest, sweetest, most affectionate, dearest little boy. And I could weep for the thought he will ever leave me. Okay, I can have that thought no longer. I will seriously start to cry.


2016 note: I was completely amused as I read this post to realize that the sweetly clueless two-year-old Isaac has now, at twelve, become my go-to person when something in the house has gone missing.  He catalogs all details in his brain and is always the one I ask (or tell the other kids to ask) when something needs to be found.  He always remembers where it last was. 

Favorite meal of the week (it might surprise you!)

One of my favorite times of the day is when we gather around our table and eat dinner together.  Often we'll all tell our "best" or "favorite" parts of the day.  The kids love this.  The other night Ella asked each of us what made us laugh that day, and so we all shared what had made us laugh, and then Ella finished with what had made her laugh--- something God said to Joshua about getting up off his face.  :)  I treasure these times. 

I love to change things up when it comes to making meals for our family.  I can't handle eating the same thing all the time.  I need some variety.  And I got a new cookbook for Christmas-- I LOVE getting new cookbooks--- so I've been trying some new recipes, which is always fun.  :)  This past week I tried two new meals out on them.  I told the kids they were allowed to rank them, since I'll need to know if I should ever make them again.

So.  One of the recipes I had on our meal plan for the week was Chow Mein, from The Pioneer Woman's Dinnertime cookbook.

I love Chow Mein and wanted to give it a shot even though I was fairly certain that none of my kids would appreciate it.

Of course, when I was at the grocery store shopping for our weekly meals, I realized I hadn't written down the ingredients for this particular meal, so hurriedly found the recipe online and we shopped off the online recipe.  Then we thought we might never get the chance to try it at all since the recipe calls for "thin lo mein noodles."  And Ella and I spent approximately ten full minutes in the appropriate section of the grocery store looking for the words thin and lo and mein all on the same noodle package and trust me, there is no such package.  There are no thin lo mein noodles.  No lo mein noodles, even.  No thin mein noodles.  Whatever, Ree.  We came home with these:

Because we're smart like that.  Basically, the recipe has you saute some onions and cabbage and carrots in soy sauce and peanut oil (which I didn't have so we went with sesame oil) and then you boil these noodles for 3 minutes and stir fry it all together with soy sauce and voila!  Dinner. (See why I chose this recipe?)  Also, rewind to the onions + cabbage + carrots part.  (See why I thought the kids would hate it?)

I have this little fixation with thinking that every meal I serve must contain meat.  (I'm not sure who I should thank for that.  Probably one of my grandmas or my mom.)  But I genuinely feel like it cannot be a complete and proper meal unless there is meat somewhere, so at the last minute I thawed some chicken breasts and sliced those up and stir fried those, too.  (Bonus points for the kids who were going to have the Ew! look on their faces when I served them up their cooked cabbage and carrots. They could enjoy the chicken, then.  And the noodles.  And just tolerate the rest.)

I was personally super excited about the meal, but told Mark before calling the kids to the table, "I'm sure that none of them are going to like this." He shrugged and said something to the effect of, "They don't have to like it, they just have to eat it."  And we called them to the table and served it up and they all loved it.  Loved it.  As in, wanted seconds and would have asked for thirds if it weren't all already gone.  So there.  Thank you Ree and Sun Luck and my kids.

Here's the official recipe from the book, should you want to give it a try:
1 T peanut oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup julienned carrots
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 head napa cabbage, thinly sliced
8 oz thin Chinese noodles, cooked according to the package directions (aka: thin lo mein noodles, as listed here)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
My paraphrase of what to do:
Saute the onions first, stir-fry for about 2 minutes or until onions start to soften.
Add in carrots, saute for 2 minutes.
Add cabbage and half the green onions.  2 more minutes.
Then add cooked noodles, soy sauce and sesame oil.  (I added my cooked chicken at this point, too).
Finally, add the rest of the green onions, and there you go.  Dinner is ready.

My notes: I already mentioned that we didn't have peanut oil, so I just sauteed everything in sesame oil.  I doubled the recipe but out of compassion for my kids, I used only half an onion total.  I grated my carrots because I don't have any fancy julienne tool, if there is such a tool.  I used maybe 3/4 head of cabbage, but had two 8 oz packages of the noodles.  And 3 chicken breasts.  Probably less soy sauce since I just drizzled it in-- my guess would be that I used about 1/8 of a cup, total. 

She has all sorts of variations listed in the book, such as adding GROSS mushrooms (which will never ever happen in this house ever because they make me gag.  My apologies to Mark, who loves them.  But he also loves me, so he's very understanding that I won't let mushrooms enter my home.  And he orders mushrooms practically every time we go out to eat, so he's just fine.)  But if you'd like to add them to this recipe, be my guest.  ;)

Did any of you receive cookbooks for Christmas?  What's your favorite cookbook? 

*This post contains affiliate links

Happy Birthday to my husband

(That handsome man of mine in the photo below has a birthday today.)


Mark- Happy birthday to you.  I am so incredibly blessed to be your wife. You are the finest man I know, and my favorite person to be with.

So, because you are now 46, and in celebration of you, here are 46 things I love about you:

1. You love God.
2. You are kind.
3. You are such a great daddy to our kids.
4. You are affectionate with me and with them.
5. You are silly and make us all laugh.
6. You like good music, and have a song or lyric ready for every situation.
7. You like puzzles and board games, and are my favorite person to play games with.
8. You're a good listener.
9.  You care about people.
10.  You're a good friend.
11. You have a heart for the orphans.
12. You are generous with what you have.
13. You are a hard worker.
14. You're smart. (You know a lot about a lot of things.  Like geographical locations and history and dates and math and science and the way things work.  I love that about you.)
15. You are humble.
16. You have integrity.
17.  You are trustworthy.
18. You love football.  (Specifically, the Steelers.  And you get all excited about them and I love that about you.)
19. You see something that needs to be done, and do it. (ie- you are constantly picking up after our kids.  And me. Thank you.)
20. You have a bowl of ice cream practically every night. 
21. You heat my rice bag for me each night so that my feet can be warm and cozy.
22. You love me well.
23. You are faithful.
24. You know how to play, and play well with our kids. (LEGO, dollhouse, made-up games on the fly)
25. You think before you speak.
26. You are rarely angry.
27. You pray for the people you deliver mail to.
28. You love the elderly.
29. You like to do yard work and gardening.
30. You encourage me and our kids.
31.  You compliment me all the time.
32. You have all sorts of facts and stats about baseball and football players stored in your brain.
33. You would rather give than take.
34. You want people to know Jesus.
35. You have a lot of common sense.
36. You give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
37. You are gracious.
38. You are thoughtful of the feelings of others.
39. You are wise.
40. You smile easily.
41. You prioritize us- me and the kids.
42. You are patient.
43. You are game for anything I come up with: "Let's all go for a bike ride!" (when you're still lying in bed in the morning on your day off.  ;))  "Let's rearrange the living room/bedroom/girls' room!", etc)
44. You love children and babies and you're good with them- not just ours.
45. You are strong in spirit.
46. You are selfless; always considering others before yourself.

I love you, Mark.

Favorite BOOKS, movies and songs of 2015 (Part 1)

my favorite books movies and songsI'm staring at that title and wondering if it's even possible to fit that all into one post.  Perhaps this will have a part 2?  And 3?  We'll see how far we get.

I document most of my reading over at Goodreads, and recently when I logged in, I was able to see all the covers of the books I'd read this year, which is one of the things that gave me the idea for this post/series. That, and a conversation we had around our dinner table when I mentioned we'd watched some good movies this year for Family Movie Nights.  We all talked about our favorites and I listed them on the dry erase board.... then we moved to our favorite songs. 

But before we get to those, first up: books.
I've narrowed it down to the top five books I read this past year:

The Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton
This is the one I most recently finished, so I'll begin with this one.  I *really* like Kate Morton's writing. I've read all of her novels. This is one of those can't-put-it-down stories.  Morton begins with telling of a tragedy that happened on a large family estate in Cornwall.  Her story unfolds in two different time periods: the one in 1933 when the tragedy occurred, and one in 2003 as a detective stumbles across the unsolved mystery from 1933 and tries to figure it out.  Morton is an excellent writer, and she masterfully unravels the mystery by offering one clue at a time.
Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love by Sally Clarkson
It's been several months since I read this book.  I love all of Sally's books.  All of them inspire me and encourage me to live intentionally- in marriage, in parenting, in my relationship with Jesus and with others.  Sally has been a steady mentor-from-afar for me through her books, blog and podcasts, and I am truly thankful for her ministry.  As I read Own Your Life, I took lots of notes and prayed through different areas of my life that I wanted to be more intentional in.

The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life's Hard by Kara Tippets
Over the past several years, I have enjoyed stopping by Kara's blog Mundane Faithfulness.  Kara Tippets: wife to her pastor-husband, and mama to her four children, battling the stage-four cancer that ended up taking her life.  This book tells her story of faith in the midst of those years of struggle, trying to live life fully while her body deteriorated.  This is such a beautiful story.  So tender.  Heart-wrenching and encouraging all at the same time.  One of Kara's gifts was kindness, and she models this in relationship with those around her, specifically her husband and children.  I wrote down all sorts of Kara Tippets quotes in my journal, and have gone back to them several times since.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker
Jen Hatmaker is hilarious.  Period.  This book made me laugh.  My memories of this book include lying in bed next to Mark trying to read portions of it aloud to him, but unable to do so because I was laughing that hard.  I took this with us on our family vacation and read it on the beach while Mark and the kids dug their fingers into the wet sand for hours on end, which is not my favorite activity.  Laughing out loud with a good book in hand?  Absolutely one of my favorite activities.  I love Jen, and this book was refreshing and so funny and wise all at the same time. 

Swallows & Amazons by Arthur Ransome
I already rambled on and on about this book in a previous post (click here if you want to read that), but in short: this was our favorite family read-aloud this year, so it must go on the list.  We spent hours with these characters (and my kids spent hours acting out the stories from this book) and those are always the best kind of books to read-aloud, aren't they?

Do leave a comment and tell me your favorite books of the year.  It's one of the ways I get good recommendations!  ;)

*For Part 2, with emphasis on family movies, go here: Favorite books, MOVIES and songs of 2015

This post contains affiliate links

Back to school after over a month off

The day before Thanksgiving, we closed the books and enjoyed the end of November, plus the whole month of December (!!!) and then some, and started back to school today.

It was a wonderful month, and I'm so thankful for it.  Taking the month off allows us to intentionally rest and try to stay healthy.  We slept in every single day that we could, which was positively dreamy.


We played lots of games, worked on several puzzles, and sat by the cozy fire.  We baked.  We decorated the house, inside and out.  We watched Christmas movies (this year: Miracle on 34th Street, The Nativity Story (which is my personal favorite) and The Muppets Christmas Carol).  We read lots of books- especially our Christmas picture books (out only for this one month of the year).  We were able to spend time with family and friends.

We joined many members of our church at a nearby nursing home to sing carols to one of our dear saints who was ailing.  Just a special performance for he and his wife, and any other residents who snuck in as we sang.  It was such a delight, and one of my favorite happenings of this season.

We visited my sweet grandpa, who turned 95 in December.  Grandpa and grandma had 8 children, 25 grandchildren, and 66 grandchildren.   I get teary thinking of the fruit of my grandparents' lives-- their tremendous faithfulness.  Loving God, passing on their knowledge of God to their children, who in turn passed it on to their children, who are faithfully handing it down to their children.  How blessed I am to be one of those grandchildren; to know and be a part of such a wonderful extended family.   

We celebrated Ella's 14th birthday.  We squeezed in many of our traditions: (a pajama ride where we got treats from DQ and drove around looking at Christmas lights), sleeping in the living room (all of us, by the Christmas tree), and many others.  Our two oldest (Ella and Isaac) had their first piano recital, and played beautifully.


We gave gifts and opened them.  We celebrated in so many ways and it was such a gift, the whole month.  Thanks be to God, who gave us the greatest gift in His son.

And today, back to school.  I woke early to snow falling-- something we've been praying for but haven't yet seen.  But early this morning there was about half an inch on the ground and it was falling and I was so happy.  I went walking early with my mom, greeting her with, "Well, if this snow isn't pure delight, I don't know what is!

IMG_0920Then I came back home to sneak in some quiet journaling time before the kids woke.  Isaias (our early riser), came into my room shortly afterward, holding a bird he'd rescued from our cat.  So we tended to it; the poor little thing was in such shock at first, so we warmed it, gave it some water, and made a little spot for it in the living room.  I thought to myself: Well, here's Science for the day.  And art.  As the kids woke-- giddy about the snow and instantly thrilled about our little bird visitor, I encouraged them to get out their sketchbooks and draw, and they all did, and wrote descriptions of what had happened; how the bird looked and how it was behaving.  We looked it up in our bird books.  (We think it's a Pine Siskin?  Or a juvenile Chipping Sparrow.)  We mostly left it alone and it fell asleep.  We weren't quite sure what to do.  We could see that one of its legs was mangled but couldn't see any wing damage and we weren't sure if there was any internal damage, so we just watched it, kept feeding it water and made one attempt to take him (her?) outside to see if it would take off, but that was unsuccessful.  We prayed that God would give us wisdom in knowing how to care for it, and not long after that, we watched it take a final breath and go still.


 Our morning time over breakfast (cinnamon rolls and bacon) consisted of Bible time, prayer, a hymn (How Great Thou Art), new poem (Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost)  (!!!  So timely!  So tickled this morning that we could look out the window and see snow while we were reading this poem!), and some new memory work.  We're learning Psalm 105, and reviewing our Family Ways.  We listened to our new composer, Brahams, after a quick bio.  The kids played outside, burying our bird and making a tiny snowman.  And the rest of the morning was spent on individual work.  The older kids worked on math, copywork, piano practice, and history/literature reading.  I read with the littler girls (Aesop, Burgess) and did narrations with them.  I did a reading lesson with Audra and helped the girls with their other work (math, copywork), and generally moved from room to room, helping with math, drill work, and typing out narrations as the kids were ready to give them. 

It was a great first day back, and I'm so thankful to GET to do this! 

Coming up in the next blog post... our favorite books, movies and music from this past year.  :)

*This post contains affiliate links