Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

So I keep trying to recount our holiday travels, and it just sounds like a laundry list that I don't want to publish.  It really was lovely.  Maybe someday I can reform it; but until I do, here are some posts that are making me think or inspiring my creativity.

Just starting to get into more natural options for my family's health and wellness (cause we can't shake the yuckies!!!).  This post on natural remedies for colds and coughs intrigues me.  More research to come

Love these ideas for savoring family life and treasuring each year.  Also love her 24 ideas for keeping a family journal.

Oh, Ann.  Why did you have to go and make a daily docket?  It's so lovely.  It actually makes organization enticing in a retro way.  Best part: it keeps first things first.  Time in the Word and thanksgiving are at the top of the list.

How nice of Forbes to share this!  Join the Christmas Conspiracy!  Spending less on ourselves and giving more during the holidays.

We're all trying to figure out how we make this Jesus' special day.  Loved reading this family's new traditions.

Such a good idea.  I think young moms (probably all moms) need to do this.  If we just keep doing what we've always done, we'll keep getting what we've always gotten.  Time to step back and reevaluate.  

And now that our children have been blessed by every aunt, uncle, and neighbor; it's time to start another tradition.  Appreciate Kristen's perspective.  Must add this to my to-do list for tomorrow!

Enjoy my favorites from this last week, and maybe my writer's brain will come back tomorrow!  Blessings!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Home again, home again...

We've been on the road since Saturday.  And my body feels like... it's been on the road since Saturday.  Don't get me wrong.  It was totally worth it.  Visiting with friends.  Celebrating Christmas Eve with our usual gang and family.  Making the long trek up to Michigan to visit my grandpa and other family.  All. totally. worth. it.
My mother is also up in Michigan to spend time with Grandpa while he's in the hospital.  When we got to our hotel, she was there waiting for us with... wait for it... cookies!  If you know my mother, you know this is pretty much expected.  Today at lunch, Caleb said his favorite part of the whole trip was getting to the hotel and seeing Grandma.  Not his presents.  Not playing with his friends.  Not even feeding the chickens at my sister's farm.  Just seeing his grandma.  Priceless.

I have several fun things to share from the trip, but... for now, let me just say that it's nice to be home.  It's good to make food for my family.  It's lovely to fold warm, clean laundry.  It's bliss to spend the morning cleaning out two closets (if you know me, you know how happy this makes me).  And it's so relaxing to bathe the kids, snuggle them in their footie pajamas, pack them into the car, and drive through the Walkway of Lights before they're turned off for the season (We've visited no fewer than 10 times.  This is where my husband and I have our best conversations because the kids are so completely enthralled in the lights.)  Oh, and have I mentioned that Teacher Man doesn't go back to work until next Tuesday?

So I'm going to go snack on some kettle corn, catch up on Downton Abbey (have I mentioned before that we're also Masterpiece Theater junkies?), and revel in the fact that the boys' rooms can serve them better, the Christmas decorations are no longer in my road, and my 3 year old actually ate what I prepared for dinner (gnocchi).  It's a Christmas MIRACLE!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Birthing alone

Did the title alone scare you?  Just the idea makes me feel panicky, and I'm not even pregnant.  So don't worry, Mom, this is not my new birthing plan.  However, millions of women birth their babies without any trained attendant because they have no. choice.  They have no access to a hospital.  They cannot afford an attendant in their home.  And they cannot stop the inevitable.

My MOPS group has started to support a child survival program in Kenya that provides prenatal home visits to pregnant moms, a birthing attendant during labor and delivery, and healthcare/nutritional support after the baby is born... all through the local churches of Kenya.  Amazing!  How are we doing this?  Compassion International.  Why are we doing this?  Because we're moms.  Because we're in MOPS to help other moms be better moms.  Because that doesn't just mean the moms in our neighborhood.  It includes a Maasai mom in Kenya who is only 15 and expecting to bury several children before one survives.  And that is not okay with us.

I just. can't. imagine.

I keep thinking about Mary.  Tired from a dirty journey, laboring in a stable, smelling (and I mean smelling) the stench of animals, and very possibly birthing alone.  Grateful for her sacrifice to bring our Savior into the world.

So as you make your budget for 2012 and come up with your resolutions, consider Compassion.  It's amazing what $20 a month (a child survival program sponsorship) can do. 

The Magi Arrived

Yesterday, I was ready to DO something.  And Teacher Man was officially on break!  So we decided to let the Magi visit.  At the end of dinner, we read in the book of Matthew how the three kings had brought gifts to Jesus; and we explained to the boys that just as the kings wanted to show their love for Jesus through their three gifts that we had three special gifts for each of our children to show them our love.

Can you tell who my older son looks like?  Holy cow.

Teacher Man and I gift-gather all year (, IKEA, and pick three gifts at Christmas for each child.  While I've heard of many people doing one gift for the mind, one for the body, and one for the spirit; I had specific things picked out for the boys that they were ready to enjoy right away.  Having only had children for three years, I am blown away by the number of toys one can accumulate in that time.  We purposed in our gifts this year to give them things that they could play with in multiple ways... gifts that would stimulate creativity, imagination, and learning.

I wrapped up two of their gifts (the smaller ones) and stashed each of their bigger gifts in different places around the house, making clues and hiding them around the house for the boys to hunt for their gifts.  (Caleb didn't mind doing Ben's hunt for him.)  They LOVED this!  Caleb is still talking this morning about how he looked around for clues and wasn't it so funny that there was a clue hidden in Mommy and Daddy's pretzel tub?

Reading one of Ben's clues.  It's an adventure!

On the hunt!

It turned out to be a very special evening for the boys.  We were overjoyed today when we watched how perfect the gifts were for each boy.  Caleb spent HOURS last night and this morning setting up and playing with all his new track and accessories.

And Benjamin has spent all morning pushing cars around the roads on his play mat.  

We know Christmas isn't not about things; but, as parents, we are always excited to give our children good things...things they'll enjoy...things that will help them grow.  So excited to celebrate more this week with our children as we remember that our Father gave us the Greatest Gift.  Merry Christmas, friends!  

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

In case you were curious:  Ben received an IKEA soft ball, an alphabet puzzle, and an IKEA play rug.  Caleb opened an abacus for math class (his favorite time of day) and a Melissa and Doug tool box (working on those fine motor skills).  Then he raced around the house following clues to find a big box of wooden track.  Fun!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Caleb watched this no fewer than 7 times today.


Quick update on Grandpa Robert

A girl's love for her grandpa never changes.

Thank you for your prayers, friends.  My mother's father (Grandpa Robert) made it through surgery well although there was a lot of infection in his abdomen.  At this point, he's looking at 10 more days in the hospital and two weeks of rehab at a care facility closer to his home.  Today he was in a drug-induced coma to allow his body some forced rest.

This will be a tough Christmas for our whole family, not having Grandpa with us at the big family celebration, taking turns staying with him at the hospital over an hour away from the rest of the family, adjusting to a new season.  I ask that you'd pray for Grandpa... that he'd be encouraged this Christmas, that his body would heal well from the trauma of three surgeries, and that all of us in his immediate family would know how to love him well.

Would you lift up my mother and her two brothers as well?  This has been a week of unpleasant surprises, late nights, and tough decisions.  And I know my mom just sounded weary on the phone last night.  The surgery has gone well, but recovery seems like such a long road.  Thanks for walking alongside us in the journey... for being the Body.

Blessings to you as we continue to celebrate the coming of our Savior!

Monday, December 19, 2011

In everything...

You know those days.  They start with someone screaming you out of your sleep...which wouldn't be as bad if there were a real problem and not just a desire for night-night music to be turned on... at 6 a.m.  Yes, he's still alive.

Heaven help me, but I was in a funk today, partly due to my wake-up call.  My brain was in permanent coast mode, my body set on super slow.  How the boys lived through the morning is beyond me.  I vaguely remember doing puzzles, cleaning up breakfast, making lunch, and scrubbing the cemented banana off my kitchen floor; but that's about all I've got.

But then my mailman left this in my box.

Thank you.

We had left a note to our postman saying the same thing (along with some pumpkin bread... I have trouble wasting my time with any other kind.).  And in the midst of his drizzly delivery day, he stopped to say thank you.  And it lifted my heart.  I came into the garage with the note, and checked on the laundry.  Washer empty.  Dryer full of wet clothes.  Huh???  Must check breaker box.  Breaker off.  Can't get it on.  What's that smell?

Now normally in my house that question can be answered by sniffing the baby's bottom, but this was different.  I smelled gas.  Near the furnace.  Our poor handyman.  I call him about all kinds of things, and he always has grace for me.  He told me to spray super sudsy water all over the joints of the pipe to see if any of it bubbled.  And, boy, oh boy, did we have a few bubbles.  It was a small leak.  He came and fixed it as soon as he could.  And we had the opportunity to say thanks... both to our patient handyman and to God.  Because if the breaker hadn't switched, I wouldn't have smelled the gas (I had to be super close.); and if I hadn't smelled the gas, it may have come up another day under different circumstances.  So we give thanks.

Thanks for a dryer that caused a breaker to flip.  Thanks for the leak being right in front of the breaker box.  Thanks for my way over-sensitive nose that normally just gets me in trouble.  Thanks for a handyman who serves us even after he's had a hard day.  Thanks for friends who let us crash at their place while we wait because I don't know much about gas but I do know it's dangerous and makes me nervous.  Thanks for their little boys who made my little men giggle and smile and watch way too much Thomas television.  Thanks for a husband who rushes home to make sure I'm not juggling this all alone.

Yet the day isn't over.  Teacher Man had a meeting.  I hate meeting evenings.  It's not that I don't believe in the causes we support with our time; it's just that I'm a jealous wife.  Jealous for my man's time and attention.   Oh... and I hate juggling the cranky children solo right before bed.  I don't know where they get their moodiness...

Teacher Man leaves, and I'm sad.  Then the phone rings.  Grandpa isn't doing well.  He's being prepped for emergency surgery.  This recovery will be long and difficult.  Surgery could last 4 hours.  My mother is hundreds of miles away from me so she can sit at his bedside.  Sit and pray.  I want to jump in my chariot (which could be mistaken for a minivan) and drive to sit by her and support her, but I can't.  My babes are sleeping, Teacher Man is working tomorrow, and there is really nothing my presence can do.  So I sit and pray.  Because really is there anything else more powerful?

Pray for the surgeon's hands to be filled with skill, for his mind to be given understanding.  I pray for my grandpa. For the peace of God in surgery.  For the encouragement of his heart in recovery.  And I pray for my mom and her brothers.  For a peace that passes understanding.  For comfort.  For faith in the Sovereign God Who stands at the helm through all this.  And I give thanks. again.

Thanks that my mother has two brothers.  Thanks that my grandpa was still in the hospital when they discovered his complications.  Thanks that they caught it early.  Thanks for the years of farming that strengthened his body. Thanks that he has always rested in the hands of his Creator...  I must give thanks.  And in giving thanks, a peace washes over me because I rest in the same Hands.

In every thing, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Last I heard, he's still in surgery.  Would you lift us up tonight?  I'd be ever so thankful.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


You know, one day my sons will be men.  One day they'll be the ones making tough decisions, leading the church, fathering the our grandchildren.  How on earth do we communicate to them how precious every human life is?

How do we keep their hearts tender to the value of every aged soul when we live in a culture that pushes the elderly into isolation?  How do we help them to celebrate every sweet babe no matter how many breaths he takes on this earth?

They've gotten more than their share of criticism, but what I will say for the Duggars is that they've given their children a precious gift by instilling in them a love for life.  A love for their elderly grandfather who died in their home on hospice care.  A love for their sweet little sister who consumed their family's world for months as she fought for breath.  A love for the sister they will never know who passed into eternity before taking a single breath.  A love for one another as they live each day serving and treating each other as valuable people, endowed with life by their Creator.

There's a lot in the media about how disgusting it is that the Duggars shared photos of their stillborn child's hands and feet.  Sigh.... How broken and twisted is a world that encourages p*rn*graphy and violent photography but cringes at a family's only opportunity to touch their child!  How do we treat a mother's loss so flippantly?   How can anyone look at this family in pain and judge them harshly?  How have we fallen so far?  So far from seeing life for the incredible gift that it is.

Teacher Man and I sat on the couch with tears in our eyes when we saw the pictures.  Hurting for their loss.  Saddened by the little life that never saw the sun but overjoyed knowing that she stands whole in the presence of the Son.  And angered by the evil response of the world.  Every child is a gift from God.  Every. child.

So we will continue to pray for friends who have lost children, for those who are losing loved ones, for the elderly in our midst in need of healing.  We'll reach out to them in practical ways and speak of them with honor and dignity.  We'll rejoice in them, our little men, our precious gifts, and love them with abandon.  Because each and every life is equally precious to God, from the 40-year-old successful businessman to the babe just conceived with no voice of its own. And we'll pray... pray that God will keep all our hearts soft and will give each of them a deep love for life. all life.  Amen.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ugly World, Beautiful Savior

I think this is why Christmas has been so hard for me.  Most years I can put on the music, turn on the tree, stare at my lavish decor, and pop an extra Christmas cookie in my mouth... and it takes me back.  Back to a time in my life where the biggest concern was the number of days until the present-opening fiesta. Back to a time when I knew that all my needs and many of my wants would be taken care of at no cost to me.  Back to the days when I was blissfully ignorant of the world and the evil in it.

This year is so different.  When I look at our garland of Jesse tree ornaments, I'm reminded of how many sinful generations this world had to go through before the Savior finally came.  Yes, there's redemption in all those stories; but there's also murder, incest, prostitution, pain, hurt, and evil.  When I reflect on our focus this year of giving to others, I am reminded that the needs of this world are so much bigger than myself, though not bigger than my God.  As I think about the birth of Christ, I think about birth.  The reality of birth.  Do you remember birth, mommas?  It's messy and awful and painful and breaking; yet there is such beauty in that first cry.  Such beauty in the first cry of the Savior, born to rescue me.

It's these sensitivities that are changing me.  Drawing me into a deeper, more real love for my Savior.  It's this desire to keep focusing on the realities and the needs of this world that keep me from slipping into the euphoric sense that all is well everywhere during the twenty-five days of December. Peace on Earth...  Because it's not peaceful.  It's sinful.  It's broken.  It's ugly.  And more often than I'd like to remember, it's just evil.

A couple days ago, they found a four year old in my community living in horrific conditions.  It's the stuff that movies are made of, though it's so extreme I'm not sure anyone would believe it's true.  I wouldn't if I hadn't seen the the quotes from Animal Control about the rats and the mice...heard the commissioner talk about the smells and the toys amidst trash.

This is the best-for-me Christmas I've ever had.  God is breaking me in so many areas where I need to be broken, need to have my blinders ripped off.  Need to feel His heartbeat for the world and the lost around me.  Need to sense His urgency.  Teacher Man and I keep talking about our desire to enter full-time ministry reaching out to the children of our community, and the same thought keeps being echoed.

There's not much time.

I just don't feel like we have many days left.

This world is so broken.  He must be coming soon.

How do I balance all this?  World hunger and meal planning.  Child slavery and library time.  Poverty and my Christmas shopping.  Prostitution and bedtime stories.  The lostness of this world and the lostness of my own children.  See what I mean?  Now that the evil is in front of me, I have to do something.  But the dailies that I must do for the health of my family seem so trivial compared to the wounds of this world that need the Healer I know.

So I pray.  I pray with an open heart that God would show me how my two hands fit into His tapestry of grace.  How my frightened, weak heart can beat courageous and passionate.  How my little warriors can make an impact.  How His redemption is making old things new and transforming the broken of this world into a radiant bride.

It's a gloomy day here.  And my heart is heavy.  But amidst my sadness at the reality of this world, I have hope to move forward.  God has a great and marvelous plan for my life.  His perfect love casts out fear.  And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

May Emmanuel, the God who dwells with us, touch our hearts and minds this Christmas.  May He transform our lives to be a truer reflection of Himself.  May He be near the broken and the needy.  And may He wake the sleeping to the actions of grace.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My new morning routine (and how it eases up the rest of my day)

I am not a morning person.  Not. at. all.  Ask Teacher Man.  He'd be happy to tell you what I look like.  What I sounds like.  How grouchy I really am.  Actually he might not tell you.  He's nice that way.  He also did all my dishes last night when I burned my hand making him cheesy garlic bread.  And brought me ice packs.  And got me Tylenol.  Love that man.  I found his first gray hair on Saturday while giving him a haircut... but that's another story.

My mornings fall into three categories: weekday (Teacher Man gone), Saturday, and Sunday.  Saturday is chilled, and I try to let Teacher Man sleep while I make hot breakfast although sometimes he returns the favor.  Sunday we've worked out a trade off of showering, feeding the kids, dressing the kids, and getting the stuff together to be out the door by 9:15 a.m.

But the weekdays...well, it's hard for me to pull it together until recently. This is a new routine for me now that I'm not nursing or waking up three times a night.  I can actually muster the energy to do it, and it makes the whole day better.  I got the idea from Large Family Logistics because, though I have no intention of rivaling the Duggars in family size, I would like to streamline my household jobs so I can enjoy more time doing things I love.  So I have a five-item wake-up routine that starts as soon as Dave leaves and I get up.

1. Get out of bed.
2. Make bed so I cannot get back in it.
3. Open blinds to let light in or let in the promise of light coming later. (This feels surprisingly good.)
4. Throw load of laundry into washing machine.
5. Unload dishwasher.

This means that my room looks nice whenever I go back into it, instead of depressingly messy.  The house is bright and cheerful as soon as the sun comes up.  The laundry is not an issue since most weeks I only have around 5-7 loads.  Once it's started, the momentum of having it going is enough to get it done by the end of the day.  Lastly, I have an empty dishwasher for when the men's dishes start to pile up after breakfast.

Just the act of doing all these things also helps me to feel successful.  Even if the children wake up 5 minutes after I get out of bed, I've already gotten a lot done and have done things that will help the rest of our day to go so much more smoothly.

Because I need to have time to do this:

And this.

And to go get clothes for this little dude.
I love his chubs.

I was telling a friend that I'd like to start making a loaf of bread in the breadmaker first thing in the morning, but I think I'll wait until after the holidays to try to add to the routine.  My 5 things are working really well for me and keeping this house in good shape without distracting me from what's really important.

Not that they would let me forget.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Our Moment of Panic

Last night, I heard it.  My name cried out in complete panic.  Teacher Man pounding on the back of our baby who was clearly choking on something.  His lips turning purple. My husband and I vacillating between horror and lifesaving.

And then as quickly as it began, it was over.  Baby boy cried.  And breathed.  And we started breathing again too.

Every moment.  Every breath that we have is precious.  I wish I could take comfort that this situation will never occur again in my life as a parent, but I know that just isn't true.  So I'll choose today to trust the Lord and learn to enjoy every moment of the little lives that He has entrusted to me.  And I'll leave my hands upturned and open.  Because all. is. grace.

(Surprisingly enough, Ben choked on some drainage not one of the many objects that he likes to put in his mouth.  Never a dull moment.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Things I've Said Today

 Just for the record my boys are 3 and 14 months.  And this is a slice of our day.

"Stop putting your brother in a headlock.  He doesn't like it."

"When you grit your teeth, you're about to make a bad choice."

"If you eat your train, I'll give you some crackers."

"I know you want to sleep, but you need to get in the car."

"Is that smell your kid or mine?"

"Get out of your brother's face." (said this at least three times)

"Be gentle.  Did you hear me?  I said, "BE GENTLE!!!!"

"Stop playing with the trash can."

"Does that cracker really taste better now that it's been on the floor for 10 minutes?"

"If you leave that on the floor, it WILL be eaten.  Do you want it to be eaten?"

Grace.  Just enough for each day.  Hoping tomorrow will be a bit more graceful.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How we're doing...

From the outside, I'm sure my life looks a little nutty right now.  We've had doctors' appointments, specialists' appointments, therapists' appointments, re-certification meetings, insurance calls, and even an outpatient surgery in the last two weeks.  I should be frazzled, exhausted, and overwhelmed (and I was pretty out of it last night).  But, to be honest, I feel great!  Because on the inside, I just have enough.

Enough grace to live each moment.  Enough friends to pray for me and remind me that I'm being prayed for. Enough love from our part of the Body.  Enough support from family and friends who helped me juggle my sweet babies yesterday. Enough grace from my husband last night, who did dishes, tucked me in extra early with more blankets, and got up with a sad boy last night.  Just enough.  

Don't get me wrong.  When a friend offered me a cup of coffee after lunch today, I took it.  I needed it.  It gave me just enough energy to pick up my house when I got home so Teacher Man could come home to way less chaos today than he did yesterday.  And now I'm sitting. And I really don't want to get up.  

But I have a peace that even if and when we have life's emergencies, we'll be supported by God and by the Body.  Never in my life have I lived in community like this.  I always felt like I could only depend on my immediate family for help. Until now.  

A dear friend allowed Ben to stay at her home all morning.  Grace.
Other friends texted to remind me that they were praying and loving us from afar.  Grace.
Friends from around the globe messaged or emailed me to let me know they were holding us up in prayer. Grace.
My mom read to the boys so I could have 5 minutes of privacy.  Grace.

A gal from our church sent Caleb a get-well-soon letter in the mail (Thomas-style, of course). Grace.
Caleb's new Imagination Library book arrived yesterday. Grace.
Another friend brought by a Blessings Basket with a present for Caleb to open for each of the next 7 days. Grace.
Friends met us at the library today to chat, read, and then share lunch. Grace.

One of my other friends just shared this today as well, but it's so true.  I feel like I now live in a community that "does life together."  They don't need to see me looking good.  They want to know I'm doing well.  They don't need me to be proper.  They need me to be authentic and to care deeply.  They don't just love me when it's convenient.  They love me sacrificially and inspire me to be a better Christ-follower.  This is what it is to be a part of the Body.  When we are weak, Christ empowers the rest of the Body to strengthen and help heal us.    Even if it's a cup of coffee on a tired afternoon, each little and big act of compassion keeps the Body healthy and reminds us of the love of the Life-giver.

So thank you to each member of our community.  It's a blessing to do life together.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Couldn't have been better

First, let me say that I'm not a morning person.  Caleb's surgery time had a 6:45 a.m. arrival required.  Did you catch that?  6:45. In the morning.  In a city an hour and a half away.  Right now caffeine and adrenalin are carrying me... oh, and that enormous thing called the grace of God.

After arrival, Caleb was so chilled.  He played a couple rounds of Go Fish (with Thomas cards, of course) with Grandma Joan.  Then during the pre-op chat with the nurse, she gave him three Thomas stickers!  What?!?! They have Thomas stickers?  Suddenly his world got a lot better.

Then. The worst part of the day. Letting the nurse carry Caleb away though he wanted to stay with Mommy and Grandma.  Later he would tell us, "I didn't like leaving you."  (tear.) And I would tell him, "I didn't like not having you with me."  (I may have to go hug him in his bed right now.)

After a half hour of waiting, my mom and I were taken back to recovery.  My sweet baby boy was calling for his mom.  They immediately put him in my arms, and we cuddled for an hour.  Ah, a whole hour of cuddling with my eldest.  Wonderful.  The recovery nurse also worked her magic with even more Thomas stickers and a Thomas movie to pass the hour.  We were in and out of the hospital in three hours!  Unbelievable!  It was only 9:15 a.m.!  A whole day in front of me.  Oh my.  A whole day in front of me?!?

On top of Caleb having the best time possible, we heard wonderful recommendations for our surgeon before we went to the hospital and then heard great things about our anesthesiologist after arriving at the hospital. And so far, Caleb has had NO side effects from the surgery or the anesthetic.  So. so. grateful.

So thank you.  Thank you to all who prayed for my sweet boy. and for me.  I almost chickened out as I was filling out paperwork.  Should we just do the tubes and not worry about the adenoids?  But then I realized that my decision-making skills may have been a bit inhibited by only 6 hours of sleep and the frappucinos I chugged on the way up.  So I went with our previous decision.  Thank you to whoever was praying around 6:45 a.m. Clearly, I needed it.

We'll be spending the next few hours cuddling. Reading. Letting Burger King make our supper. Sitting. Probably drinking a little more caffeine. And just being together because as my big boy says, "Leaving is my least favorite part."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Would you... please?

I still see him like this.

But I know he's more like this.
(chokes and then sobs)

Caleb is going in for surgery tomorrow: his second set of ear tubes and the removal of his adenoids. I didn't think I'd be nervous since I was so grateful for God's timing for this surgery.  But I am.  And he is because he's old enough to catch everything that's going on.  But I know that He isn't the least bit afraid and holds us all in His hands.

Would you pray? For the doctor to have skillful hands.  For the surgery to be successful.  For safe travels in the wee hours of the morning.  For a peace that passes all understand for this momma and her sweet firstborn.   We report to the surgical center at 6:45 a.m. Thank you for being the Body.

And thanks, Ann, for dropping off the frappucinos. You blessed me tonight, and your present will keep my eyelids from closing on the freeway.

(First photo credited to Mandie Anderson of Thotful Designs.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Reality

In this journey to be intentional about the Advent season, I'm finding myself longing.  Longing to relax into old habits, craving to indulge in materialism, frantic to avoid reaching out of my comfort zone.  I didn't expect it to feel this way.  Somehow, I thought the newness of all our changes would keep me from missing the things that we just don't want in our life anymore.

It is hard to be purposeful with little ones.  Their lifestyle of neediness leaves a person drained of all energy, creativity, and sometimes sanity. (See picture above. Help. First I laughed my head off then I worried about my son's priorities and his immortal soul.  But first I laughed.)  I can literally feel the energy draining from my brain as I put my little ones to bed.  It's just hard.  But we need to be intentional.  We must.  They say we're losing our young people in the church.  They call us hypocrites.  Could it be allowing our love for Jesus to bleed into every area of our lives, this painful and exhausting and purposeful process, that is the difference between a false front and a salty life?

So we gather around the table to read the Word from the "In the beginning."  We read about Adam and Eve and their bad choices.  We read about how Noah made God smile.  We read about things that are just so decidedly un-Christmasy.  But so definitely Christly.  This is His Story, which He offers us to share.  It's right. But it's hard.  It's got a lot of ugly. Wicked men.  Evil serpent. Worldwide death.  Wouldn't it be better to spend all month talking about a sweet Nativity scene?  Or do we brave our way through the muck and mire of humanity's history so we can rejoice with a deeper gratitude when we celebrate the Christ-child's arrival?  And so we plod on.

I'm a romantic.  Even if things don't look lovely, I want to pretend that they are.  But I don't think Christmas is supposed to look rosy.  Personally, I think this year God is blowing the mist off of Christmas for me so I can realize and celebrate the harsh and wonderful reality of Advent.  Emmanuel, God with us.  The world is ugly.  It's full of sin.  And broken people.  And sickness.  And death.  And our only hope is in clinging to a Savior who was willing to be born homeless in filth so that we could stand righteous in white.

And really, what is the ultimate romance?  There's only one true romantic.  It's our God, like a lover orchestrating a perfect proposal, weaving each event and moment of our lives to draw us into a passionate love relationship with Him.  Greater love has no man than this.  He's already laid down His life for me.  No love greater.

So for one more day, I will turn away from the false.  From the clean stable.  From the clean picture of Mary. (Because I remember birth, do you?)  From the smiling Bible characters.  I will look to see the people.  The sinners.  The sacrifices.  The lost waiting for their Shepherd.  And I will prepare my heart to rejoice anew on Christmas Eve as we remember that He came to die so that we, the sinners, could find life and grace and mercy.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Exercising (no pictures, please)

When I found out that we were expecting Caleb, I was running at least 12 miles each week. outside.  Sometimes in the snow.  And I had abdominal muscles.  It was amazing!  Only a couple months into the pregnancy, my sciatic nerve started acting up, and I wouldn't be able to walk the day after I had run.  So I walked and walked and walked to make up for the fact that I wasn't running.  Someone told me that walking would help labor come so I walked some more.  Caleb arrived 11 days after his due date.  I'm convinced that people say things to give pregnant women false hope.  Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Caleb and I exercised together after he was born.  I did Pilates with him, ran with him, and started feeling healthy again.  Then came Ben.  During the pregnancy, I had serious circulation issues that forced me into compression hose (a.k.a. incredibly tight torture hose).  There was no way I was exercising in those.  They don't breathe.  It's like wearing plastic pants.  To this day, I have no idea how I got them on when I was 9 months pregnant.  That said, during that pregnancy, I did couch exercises.  Lifting maple cream cookies to my mouth, bench-pressing a remote, and watching about 367 episodes of West Wing.  

So after Ben was born, it came as no surprise to me that I was not quite as healthy.  With two littles to chase after during the day, I had no motivation to exercise.  And evenings were NOT an option.  I was in a coma by 8:30 p.m.  Sometime during the summer I just got tired.  Tired of being tired.  Tired of being lazy.  Tired of not feeling healthy.  So I started to run.

Do you know how hard it is for a mom with young children to motivate herself to run after the kiddos are in bed?  It's really hard.  It's incredibly hard.  It is unbelievably hard.  So I put the word out on good ol' Facebook that I was looking for a running buddy.  I needed some accountability.  Lo and behold, a couple moms that live in my neighborhood answered.  At this point, it's just one other mama and myself who run 3 miles twice a week after our kids are in bed, but I'm amazed by the results.  Now that I'm exercising I have more energy during the day, the clothes are fitting better, and I'm happier just knowing that I'm doing something.  As we run our miles, we talk about our crazy kids, our successes, our moments of stupidity, and at the end of every run we can look at each other and say that we're one step closer to being healthy wives and mamas.  While it's a gift to ourselves, it's also an enormous gift to our families.  Health (this one's obvious).  Perspective (this comes from talking about our less that glorious moments).  Energy (I really have more motivation than I've had in months).

And every Tuesday and Thursday, I know I'm going to make or get a phone call that goes something like this.

Runner Mom 1: Hey!
Runner Mom 2: Hello!
Runner Mom 1: You up for running tonight?
Runner Mom 2: Sure.  8:00, okay?
Runner Mom 1: Sounds good.
Runner Mom 2: Okay, I'll pick you up.
Runner Mom 1: Great!
Runner Mom 2:  See you later.
Runner Mom 1: Bye.

That's all it takes to get us out the door and doing something better for ourselves rather than sitting on the couch catching up on our blog reading and eating enormous amounts of kettle corn.  Cause that stuff is amazing.  Maybe when spring comes I'll be inspired again to exercise with kids, running with the ol' jogging stroller.  But until then, I'm incredibly grateful for accountability.  Because I know that without it, I'd be on the couch following the West Wing exercise plan, which is not famous for its fantastic results.  Man, I miss those maple cream cookies.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Can you hear me now? Quick update.

We saw the ENT today.  I told Caleb that his ears were so special that the audiologist told to ENT that he had to look at them.  (insert manipulative, evil laugh here)  The ENT was wonderful, looked in both boys' ears, and told me that Ben is fine but Caleb should definitely have another set of tubes and probably get rid of his adenoids.  I shared our insurance situation with him, and we were scheduled for surgery with another doctor in his group for NEXT TUESDAY!

I consider this nothing short of an answer to your/our prayers!  While other times it has taken months to just see the doctor, we will have had our pre-operative appointment and surgery within eight days of my first prayer.  Only God.  Oh, and that just happened to be the only day next week that we were available.  Thanks, God, for managing my calendar even when I didn't have my binder (love that thing.) with me!

So so thankful.  Thankful to God and thankful to His people for praying.  I told my mom on the phone today that I feel like the most supported young family in the world.  We may not be financially rich according to the standards of our society, but we feel rich.  Rich in God's provisions.  Rich in friendships.  Rich in ministry.  Rich in family.  Rich in love.  So so blessed.

Failure to break.

I failed.  Already!  It's not even December 1st, and I've messed up.  Today was the first day of the Jesse Tree.  Did I remember?  No.  Now granted, today has been chaotic.  Haircuts, baking, cooking, church... yada yada yada... but I didn't keep first things first.  Why is this so hard?  How can we NOT slow for a few moments to remember the story of the Christ child from the beginning?

Shabbat... When my mother-in-law returned from six months in Israel, I remember her saying, "I miss Shabbat." so often. The hurrying and cleaning, the anticipation and then at sundown, it stopped.  Everything stopped as the family sat down to pray the same prayer that has been lifted up for thousands of years by God's people.

Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

They rest.  They reflect.  And they step back, trusting that life is in God's hands more than it is a product of our own labors.

A new friend met me for coffee, and the topic of self-sufficiency came up.  Why is it that we feel the need to prove to ourselves and to God that we are self-sufficient?  Why do we find no sin in busyness without Sabbath rest?  Why do we think hard work is superior to meditation and prayer?  Why are we afraid to slow?  Afraid to trust in something greater that our strength.  And this is what I communicate to my sons without even speaking by hurrying by a moment made for more. So much more.

Resting before the Lord and preparing our hearts this Advent won't come naturally.  Our nature is to hurry.  To worry.  To try for self-sufficiency.  To keep plodding through the next thing.  Bootstrap faith.  At the end of it all, I'm pretty sure the only things that will come from this are an ulcer, a panic attack, hopelessness, and a lot of  foolish barns.

A wise friend once told me that if you had a container full of sand and tried to force some big rocks into it, you would never fit it all.  But if you put the rocks in first and then poured the sand over the rocks and into all the crannies, you would save your strength and find success in the task. 

Tomorrow is an insanely busy day.  I'll be in my van with my little men most of the day.  I hate insanely busy days.  But what are my rocks?  Is it the appointments or...

Fix these words of God in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

All looks like sand when we stand on the Rock. 

So we stop.  We pray for friends who moved to the other side of our country yet love us so well from afar.  We open His Word.  And we remember.  Christ is first.  Christ is all.  We are here today to be used by Him, not to use His gifts for our goals.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

"My Hope is Built on Nothing Less"
by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Can you hear me now? Uh-oh.

A couple of weeks ago, Caleb had his 3 year wellness visit at the pediatrician.  You know...the ones where they go in healthy, the doctor tells you they're fine, and two days later they come down with the plague that the child who was in the exam room before them had.  I strongly dislike these visits for said reason.  Well, you'll be happy to hear that my 3 year old is normal.  Above average actually.  But when they tested his hearing, the doctor said that she was going to send us to an audiologist.  I seriously thought the nurse had just gotten the test wrong.  After all, my kid pronounces every enormous words that hears.

So we went to the audiologist on Monday.  By God's grace, we didn't wait long, Caleb was obedient, and two of my favorite college students were at home with Ben so I could focus on Caleb.  After 15 minutes of testing, the audiologist let Caleb play with some toys while we talked.  Apparently, he has fluid in his middle ear which means he is not hearing very clearly through the liquid.  All I can think is that he must have some seriously amazing hearing behind that fluid because he can hear me whisper about ice cream three rooms away.

The answer to his issue: an appointment with an ENT and probably another set of tubes in his ears to drain the fluid.  My heart stopped.  Our insurance is changing, and if we can't schedule the surgery until after the first of the year, we'll be paying for it entirely out of pocket.  Now our insurance this year is ridiculously amazing, AND our younger son's hospital stay in March has more than met the limits.  I drove home praying, "Lord, don't let me panic; but please, please be working to allow us to take care of this before December 31st."

As I thought about the audiologist sending reports to the pediatrician, the pediatrician finally taking time to make a referral, the referral finally getting to the ENT's scheduling, and us finally getting to his office an hour and a half away; I just kept praying.  Then, come to find out from my sister who just happened to be coming over that evening, I can just call the ENT myself to set up the appointment since we have private insurance.  What??  You mean, I can bypass all the middle men who don't understand how important this is to me?  WOOHOO!!

So that's what I did yesterday.  Now our ENT has offices in a city an hour and a half away and in our city, but normally you have to wait two months for an appointment in our city.  Are you ready for this?  The scheduler gave me an appointment with the doctor I wanted IN OUR CITY tomorrow afternoon!  AMAZING!  I know I have no guarantees that we'll get in for surgery by the 31st, but I'm so encouraged.  Plus, the audiologist said she would make up her report within a week, but when I called her to explain what we were trying to do, she FAXed the report over yesterday morning!  Grace.  Pure grace.

Is everything else in my life working out quite so smoothly?  No.  I've made plenty of ridiculous choices in the last 24 hours.  Deciding to go to the grocery store in the middle of a snowstorm.  Silly.  Deciding to wear Crocs to the grocery store in the middle of a snowstorm.  Just plain ridiculous.  Deciding to push an incredibly heavy cart through 4 inches of slush in the parking lot of the grocery store while wearing Crocs.  (Okay, that last one was just funny for everyone else to watch.)  Deciding to let Ben sleep with us when he was crying last night. (Oh my word, I'm so I tired.)

So I hope as you're reading, you pick up that I'm a horrible perfectionist who is so so far from perfect. (type A+, right Misty?)  I also have children who are 100% children.  Right now Ben is going into the living room just to bother his older brother.  Then when Caleb gets upset, Ben will cry like it's Caleb's fault.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?

And if you think of it, I'd appreciate your prayers.  Doing this surgery this month would mean so much!  We know the Lord is in control and will provide for us no matter what, but I'd love to see Him work this seemingly impossible situation out.  Amen.  Now if you'll excuse me, my baby is eating Kleenex; and I should probably do something about that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When we unplugged ourselves...

A couple weeks ago I posted that I was doing away with morning T.V. time.  Who has this been hardest on?  Me (being completely objective, of course).  I miss the hour of silence I used to have to check email, drink coffee, and warm up to the idea that it was morning.  Who has this been best for?  Probably all of us.

We knew we'd have to trade traditions (you can't just take something away!) so we started our prayer album, which has gone surprisingly well.  Caleb runs out of his room every morning saying, "Who are we going to pray for?" rather than "I want to watch Thomas." He then flips the album, and we pray for the next person over our Cheerios.  This morning it was the Baxter/Moon families. :-)

Right now instead of being grumpy and whining for more screen time with his favorite tank engine, Caleb is playing in his room with his trains.  And every train has a different voice.  And they're fighting over which Candyland location they each are going to.  It makes me so happy.  I guess it's one way to learn conflict resolution.

Ben has become a lot more active since we're rarely sitting in one location for more than ten minutes.  He follows Brother around the house constantly and is now standing up on his own!  What an answer to prayer!

So as hard as it is for me to not just tune out for the first hour of the day, it's good.  It's right for me.  And it's keeping first things first.  Stay warm, friends.  I'm not liking the looks of this storm!  Teacher Man biked to work!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Meal Planning (Another Organization Obsession... I mean, Post)

I like knowing the future.  It makes me feel powerful.  That is even the case with meal planning.  I know I'm pathetic.  I'm just grasping for control in a chaotic blur known as my life.

When Teacher Man and I were first married, a couple from our church took us under their wing and mentored us in everything from parenting to budgeting.  A couple of weeks into our marriage, I confessed that I was frustrated by the fact that our nearest grocery store was 20 minutes away.  The wife taught me how she laid out her meal plans every two weeks so she only had to drive to the store biweekly.  Brilliant!

As a newlywed and a first-year teacher, this system worked so well for me.  I could easily anticipate our little needs and stock up two weeks of food.  As a mom now, I've adapted this system to my chaos.  Some days are just ugly.  I'm talking therapy appointment-library errand-handy man working in the house-audiologist appointment-friends over for a visit-brothers not getting along kind of day.  That was my day today.  Glad my meal was planned!  So here's what I do...

I used to use a separate meal planner, but I've discovered it's easier to use my regular calendar, planning easy meals for days with the most commitments outside of the home.  Plus, that allows me to see if we have any parties or birthdays that I need to shop for as long as I'm in the store.  I have a list of meals that I know our family likes (about 50).

Based on what I have on-hand and frozen, I choose a meal for the first day.  If I know the dish makes a lot, then I plan to use the leftovers on the following night.  If there will be a small amount of leftovers, I package them up after dinner for Teacher Man to take to work for a hot lunch.  I go day-by-day writing down meals until I know that every day will have one hot meal in the evening with either a prepared dish or leftovers.  Sometimes I redress leftovers.  Taco meat becomes a topping on a taco pizza.  Turkey gets thrown into soup.  Beef roast with veggies becomes beef vegetable soup with hot rolls.  I'm drooling right now. Hot spoon rolls are my one weakness (name that TV show!).  As I write each main dish, I write down ingredients I need on my shopping list (placed right next to my calendar).  Normally, I have a pretty good memory of what I have in my cupboards so I don't end up buying what I already have.  If you have no idea what's in your cupboards, please buy Tsh Oxenreider's bookOrganized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living
 and simplify your kitchen. and your home.  Trust me.  Everyone will be happier.

Now I'm blessed.  My husband almost never complains about our food.  Our food reviewing system goes like this: critique the recipe not the cook.  If you like it, say you'd like to see this dish more often.  If you're not digging it, say you'd be okay with only eating this dish occasionally... like once in a lifetime.  And I've promised my family not to get upset as long as they critique the recipe and not the cook who slaved away for hours to prepare a hot meal for them. (insert tear shedding here)

Okay, so now you have your dinners and your ingredients for those dinners written down. If you didn't think about side dishes, do so now.  Think about bread/grain, veggies, and fresh fruit.  Also, think about whether the troops will revolt if you forget about dessert.  Take a moment to put a couple special desserts in the weeks.  Your crew will thank you, and you'll feel better about yourself as a mom.  Have you written down all the ingredients for the sides and desserts you plugged into your calendar?  Good.

Also, do yourself a favor.  You know an emergency is going to come up so buy yourself some pasta sauce and frozen ravioli for that ugly night (or maybe a frozen pizza or two).  You know the one I'm talking about.  The one where you want hot carbs and cheese, but you might kill Betty Crocker if you have to think about opening a cookbook.  Meijer frozen pasta is on sale this week, and it's yummy!  Just sayin'.

Lastly, I think about breakfast and lunch.  Lunch around here is normally sandwiches (meat, cheese, PB, bread, lettuce), yogurt, fruit, carrots or celery, and applesauce.  I check my staples and add any extras to the list.  I buy an obscene amount of bread at Aldi.  Their wide-pan bread is only $1.69/loaf and is so filling.  I once saw a demonstration as a home economics teacher squeezed all the air out of a loaf of "normal" store-bought bread.  There was nothing left!  It was all air!  Now...I'm raising men.  Men need really manly bread.  Or at least that's what they tell me.  So we spring for the bread that has some extra bulk to it since I don't feel up to making all of our bread from scratch.  I'm just not there yet, Katie.  Let me get both boys potty-trained.  So anyways, I freeze at least four loaves of bread to get us through two weeks, plus the one in the cupboard.

Also, breakfast tends to be simple. Pancakes, toast, cereal, bananas, oatmeal, juice, milk, and coffee.  Heaven help us all if I forget the coffee... or the pumpkin spice creamer. I am not blessed with perkiness in the morning. After inventorying these essentials, I add any necessary items for breakfast and lunch to my list.  This is the time to look at your baking goods, toiletries, and household items to see what needs to be refilled.

Here's where the money savings come in.  Now I go to my computer and look at the sale bills (normally for Meijer and maybe Marsh).  Anything at an extraordinary price, I buy in bulk.  Normally these items include chicken breasts (which I trim and freeze with 3 in a bag), frozen foods, and household items. Don't feel bad for spending a bit extra on one trip if it means that the next trip will be super low! These items will become the basis for your next two weeks of meals. We had the opportunity to buy a ton of family farm-raised 90/10 ground beef at $2/ lb. Needless to say, I have a freezer full of ground beef right now.  Did I hate seeing that amount come out of my food budget? Yes.  Are my bills lower now that we don't have to buy hamburger?  Absolutely.

So simplified: Write down needed ingredients as you plan for
  • Dinner
  • Lunch
  • Breakfast
Then write down things that you'll need for 
  • Cleaning your house
  • Cleaning yourself and your babies (include diapers and wipes here)
  • Gifts or special events
Then check the sale bills and write down things that you'll use that are at an extraordinary price. 

Now make yourself a friend.  I mean a really good friend.  One that loves you and loves your littles.  Now leave your littles at her house. (See! I told you she needed to be a really good friend!) And go to the store and fill your cart to the top so that trips to the store don't have to interrupt your life for the next two weeks.  One time, I took both boys (Caleb in the cart seat and Ben in a Bumbo seat in the cart), and I literally considered stacking cereal boxes on top of Ben's head... just for a moment.  THAT is how serious I am about getting my shopping DONE.  My poor children.  For those of you who were concerned, no, I didn't actually put the boxes on his head. For those of you who know Ben, you know he would just giggle and chew on the boxes.

Also, I have given myself permission to only go to two stores every two weeks.  Normally this means I go to Aldi and get things at a good price that aren't at an amazing price at Meijer.  I have also given myself permission to run across to the store (we now live next door to the grocery) after a week has gone by to get more fresh fruit.  I wouldn't want to get scurvy, would you?  It sounds terrible.  Other than that, I try to steer clear of the grocery store.  If I'm there, I spend money.  If I'm not there, I get to keep the money.  And if I'm planning for what we'll eat, I've saving money by buying wisely... I'm also feeling pretty powerful, but I think I mentioned that before.

If that seems like a lot, I'm sorry.  It takes me about 45 minutes to get this all put together (and to grab appropriate coupons) and 1-2.5 hours to do all the shopping. But think of all I save!  Time loading and unloading children, energy charging through the store to grab last minute ingredients for supper, money spent on convenience foods or even fast food.  These savings (and the awesome feeling of power) have me hooked on my system.  Hope it saves someone a few minutes that are much better spent playing Go Fish with your preschooler or snuggling on the couch with your husband.  Speaking of which, I'm off to do my dishes because the daylight hours belong to my men.  Eat well, friends!

Evaluating Traditions

Like I said before, this year is the Year of Traditions.  Our 3 year old is watching very. closely. and takes traditions very. seriously.  If you have an oldest child who is a little bit OCD, you know what I'm talking about. Teacher Man and I have spent hours talking about how the little (and the big) things we do around the holidays share our unspoken values with our children.

We've even done some online research into the history behind different decorations and cultural traditions (we know we're nerds) to figure out if we want to include them in our family culture.  And, like I've said before, I feel like we have an amazing opportunity to adjust our vision of normal (ours and then our children's) so our everyday (and holiday) practices give a clearer reflection of Christ.  

So for this Christmas, here's what that looks like. The boys will receive three gifts (like Jesus did) that we've been saving for them throughout the year.  I tend to garage/consignment sale shop throughout the year and save up treasures I know they'll enjoy.  Each boy will also receive a Compassion gift that they have chosen for a child in need. (Yes, we're choosing for Ben, probably feeding infants since food is so important to him.)

Several of our family members will receive gifts of Compassion partially funded by Caleb doing chores around the house.  We'll also be giving homemade gifts, specially crafted for our loved ones.  We've been considering our relationships with our neighbors.  I'm hoping to put something small together for them.  We appreciate the safe community we live in, and a safe community is made of safe residents. 

Another new tradition that I am especially jazzed about this year is our Jesse Tree.  Ann Voskamp has put together a family devotional that follows the lineage of Jesus, starting with Adam and ending with Christ on Christmas Day.  Because we're actually talking about this ahead of time (glory be!), I have my ornaments made. These are at the end of Ann's devotional to be printed. I glued mine on brown construction paper to give them some added oomph. I have boys.  They destroy things.  We'll be using the garlands in the family room to hang the ornaments in chronological order (did I mention that my son is not the only type-A person in the family? hehe.).

We did end up putting up the tree.  With lots of help.  The ornaments tell the story of God's grace in our family: Teacher Man's pictures from elementary school, the boys' ornaments from each year of their little lives, the picture we gave to all the guests at our wedding asking them to pray. Grace. And my boys are entranced by the lights.  "Mommy, it's so very beautiful!  It's wonderful!" Which gives us a change to talk about the Light of the world.

I'm never without my help.

Nor would I want to be.
Life would be so boring without these little hands.
And our little audience.

"It's so heavy, Momma."

"What's this thingy for?"

There are still a few more traditions that we are mulling over for our family. I guess the goal is not to get rid of all the traditional Christmas practices but to redeem each one in a distinctly Christ-honoring way.  When my children see a Christmas tree, I want them to look at the ornaments and see God's grace.  When they think about gift giving, I want them to immediately think about giving to others in need.  When we talk about the season, I want them to know that it's a special time in which we let others know how much we love them because He first loved us and sent His Son to die for us.

Back to reality, my elder son just said firmly to my younger, "That's not funny, Ben."  Which means that a not so calm response (a.k.a. a physical attack) could be moments away.  Have a blessed day of decorating and anticipating our celebration of Christ's birth!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Having trouble commenting?

Several of you have contacted me that you are having trouble commenting on the blog.  Sorry!  I've contacted Google that there's a problem.  In the meantime, this is their solution.  Hope it helps you stay better connected with other bloggers and myself!

Please try the below. It has resolved the issue for many in the forum.

1. Login to Blogger using "".
2. Do not check "Remember me".

If that does not help, try again.
1. Clear cache, cookies, and sessions (not just cache or cookies) - then restart the browser.
2. Login to Blogger using "".
3. Do not check "Remember me".

Also I've heard that Internet Explorer really doesn't like that "remember me" button.  Hopefully these two options will help.  

If this also fails, you may try some other browsers like Chrome or Firefox.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hard night

Some nights are just hard.  While the world of rapid communication means that we know things faster, sometimes it seems like bad news travels faster than good news.  When all the hurt and pain that is plaguing loved ones and acquaintances is before our eyes in an instant, how do we bear it?

I can't.  But God can.  And I'm so grateful that when we let the burdens roll off of our backs, He picks them up and carries them.  And He uses these times to remind us.

Life is short.

We are but a vapor.

Redeem the time.  Redeem the time because the days are evil.

Redeem this moment.

And this one.

And this one.

And love Me with all that you are with the days I have given to you.

Cheesy Turkey Soup

Sorry, no pictures because I had no intention of posting this.  But when four different people on FB tell you to post a recipe, it's kinder to just share it with the world.  So here it is....

This was a Taste of Home recipe passed on to me by a friend.  I've made my own changes (like adding turkey) so I'll post the Taste of Home recipe (easier) alongside mine (more fresh ingredients)

6 cups of water with 4 tsp. chicken bouilion granules (or I use leftover turkey drippings with the fat skimmed off and enough water to make 6 cups)
1 package (30 oz.) frozen southern style hash brown potatoes
1 package (16 oz.) California style frozen veggies (or I use 2 heads of fresh broccoli and 1 medium carrot, chopped)
2 cups turkey, chopped (whatever pieces you want)
1 lb. Velveeta (or processed cheese)... can't help it, I love Velveeta.
2 cans (10.75 oz) cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk (I never add this.)

1. Stir your bouilion into water or use your drippings to make 6 cups in a large Dutch oven.
2. Add frozen veggies or fresh veggies and allow to simmer (with lid on) until soft.
3. Add frozen potatoes now if you were using fresh veggies. Otherwise, just throw all the frozen stuff in at once.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until thawed.
4 Add turkey.
5. Stir in cheese and cans of soup.  Stir until cheese in melted.
6. Serve immediately or keep in crockpot on keep warm setting.

Enjoy!  It's delicious and freezes super well (up to 3 months)

We Gathered Together

It's been chaos around our house for the last few days.  We made a 2.5 hour trip up to Great Grandma's (Gigi's) house to celebrate God's goodness with extended family from far away.  
This was on the way there.  (If we had taken a picture on the way back, it would not be this peaceful.  They cried the whole way home.  My nerves are shot.)
We also stopped at McD's for the benefit of our big boy who we now have to make restroom stops for.  Plus, they have $1 small specialty coffee drinks for the next couple weeks. Two mochas for exhausted parents + one orange drink for the big boy= happiness the rest of the way to Gigi's house.
Is it just me or did he become a man overnight?  Where's my cute little pudgy boy?  I want him back!!!!

The boys played with toys made by their great grandfather,

got to know extended family from Kentucky,

Skyped with family that could not be at our gathering (including Grandma Pam!),

and ate (mostly crackers). 

Have I ever mentioned how much my children's eating habits bug me?  Anyways...

It was a lovely day of giving thanks (until the drive home at least). 

Then yesterday, Teacher Man's family came over here to celebrate.  I'll upload more pictures later for the benefit of Grandma Pam, who is very much missed.  All that to say, I've been too busy to blog about all our Christmas ideas around here, but there's been a lot going on!  Stay tuned and have a restful Sunday!