Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Heard

Cole: "Reese, can you believe that in the olden days, kids thought they had to be good for a whole YEAR so that they wouldn't get coal in their stockings? A WHOLE YEAR! I can't believe it. I don't think I could even be good for a day!"


Reuben (sings Jingle Bells loudly, then stops suddenly): "The part I don't get is 'one-horse open sleigh.' Why 'one-horse open sleigh'? Why that?"

Cole: "Reuben, it doesn't REALLY mean one horse is there. It just means that the sleigh is so big that one horse could fit INSIDE it."

Reuben: "But I thought Santa had eight reindeer?"


Cole: "Mom, look! A guy with a bell and the bucket! Please, please could we do it?"

Mama: "Oh, sure! But let's do our shopping first so I make sure I have enough money for the groceries. Then we'll do the bucket."

Reese: "Wait. What is that guy doing?"

Cole: "He is collecting money to give to people who are poor."

Reese: "I don't get it. So are we getting some out? Or putting some in?"

Friday, December 17, 2010

Heard Around...Trader Joes

Reese: "Mom! Mom! You have to come over here and see this right now! This guy is so old he has SPIDERWEBS on him!"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dinner Conversation

Cole: "So what time is Uncle Doug coming over?"

Daddy: "He probably won't be here until just before your bedtime. His brother Wesley is coming too."

Cole: "What are you guys going to do?"

Daddy: "Oh, I don't know, we might smoke our pipes. And make a fire outside. Maybe play some video games."

Cole: "Oh I see. It's like your friends are coming over...and this is a playdate for you?"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Heard Around The House

(What? The second post in a WEEK?! Hello, second trimester!)

Sean (looking adoringly at the Christmas tree all covered in lights): "Reuben, LOOK! There is a Pee Tree inside our HOUSE!"

Reuben: "Well, Sean, if you peed on THAT tree, the pee would just fall all down through the branches and get all over the carpet and Mom would be mad. So I don't think you should pee on THAT tree. That is just the Christmas tree."

Sean: "Oh."

Crises least for today...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Numbers....And The First Pictures

It's been a bit of a fog around here. We have been living in our new little paradise for 6 1/2 weeks and I am 14 1/2 weeks pregnant with our sixth child. Our move took an exhausting FIVE WEEKS to carry out....and there are still stacks of boxes in my front room. I have spent the last two months on the couch in my pajamas, and my grandmother died three days ago.

Needless to say, we've been doing a lot of just "holding on" these days. Only this week have I begun to feel like I am waking up a bit. All I have wanted to eat since October is toast with butter and glass after glass of apple juice....all of which have done a number on my blood sugar now that I am pregnant again...only exasperating my first trimester fatigue. Justin has been a rock star, as usual, and has carried all of us for weeks now; I can't tell you how happy I am to jump in the game again!

So Whitney, these first pictures of Snake Hill are for you, of course. There will be more to come!

These first few are of the front entrance--it's an unconventional "front door" set-up but we're thrilled to have such a huge covered area. The house is small, so it's great to have a dry place where the kids can play outdoors even on rainy days...

Outdoor fireplace:

I'm skipping our front room since it's all littered with boxes still. But you come in through that door next to the fireplace, into a big open room with a stone floor. The entire south wall is windows, so we're getting tons of natural light, even in these short days of winter, erm, I mean, fall. The back wall is brick and leads into the only bedroom, which is ours and Ari's. When we moved in there was a terribly ugly accordian door in this doorway but Justin ripped it out right away. We're thinking of building a big wooden bookcase in the opening with a secret door that opens into the bedroom.

Lovely walls. They look like fancy plywood, but don't be deceived. They're plastic. And I have to say that it is marvelous to step down onto carpet when I'm up in the middle of the night. The hardwood in our old house was beautiful, but who doesn't love them some plush teal carpet? The bedroom is tiny; that door on the right leads to the hall, kitchen, laundry & bathroom; the door on the left is a mini little closet that, right now, holds primarily Justin's work clothes and hidden Christmas presents. I got rid of most of Ari's clothes and the few things I kept live in those stackable crates next to his bed.

Here's the backside of the brick wall

And our solution to not having closet space (which we actually had in the apartment where we lived for Cole's first nine months, but not since!) is to keep our clothes in beautiful wooden bed boxes that Justin built. They have wood legs in front but casters in the back, so that we can pull them out. This is Justin's at the end of the bed, and mine is on my side. There's room for a third on Justin's side, but the brick wall is in the way so we wouldn't be able to access it.
Those are all the pictures I have for now--will try to take some more this week for you. And maybe unpack a few more boxes along the way!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday Here

Mama: "Cole! Reese!"

Boys: "What?!"

Mama: "Are you finished watching Prancer?"

Cole: "Yes."

Mama: "Then why is the TV on? And the DVD player on? Come upstairs and turn everything off, please."

Cole: "But I thought it was like a theatre. I thought we could just leave."

Mama: "Then please pay your $8.50."


Reuben (running into the kitchen frantically): "Mom! Mom! Sean is giving his breakfast to Ari!"

Mama: "Well, isn't that nice."

Reuben: "No!"

Mama: "Yes, it is. That is just fine." (yells): "Thank you, Sean!"

Reuben: "No! Mom! He is putting bites into his mouth, and then SPITTING them onto Ari's tray!"


So what is happening around your house today?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

All About Snake Hill

Five days ago we received the keys to our new home! (yes, there are snakes there!)

We bought our first house, a little 900-sq-ft number, in 2002 (Cole was almost a year old) and sold it in 2004, when Cole was 3 and Reese was 6 months. We were quickly outgrowing it and wanted to take advantage of the fabulous market. It wasn't a great time to buy, though, as houses were getting caught in bidding wars and going for top dollar in our area, so we decided to rent a house "for a year" while we caught our breath and decided what to do next...

That was over six years ago. For six years, we have searched out multiple houses, properties, loan packages, mortgage brokers, and have continually asked God to show us what he had for us. For six years, there have been dead-ends and closed doors.

At the beginning of this year, we spoke with a realtor who encouraged us to apply for a particular program that is designed for low-income families (he figured that we would qualify because of the number of children we had; he was right). We decided to look into the program, and because it looked promising, we applied.

The application process was extremely tedious and time-consuming because of all of the extra verifications that were needed. We found out in early April that we qualified, and we foolishly hoped that we would be able to purchase a house before the end of the month, so that we could also qualify for the extended tax credit, but we had no idea how long the process would really be. We first began looking at houses with our realtor in March, but because of the specific strict regulations of the program, we struggled to find a house that would meet program guidelines and also suit our growing family. We could have easily settled quickly into a big, nice house in a suburban area, but we knew that the best solution for us would be to sacrifice the big, beautiful house for a smaller, older house on a larger piece of land.

For months and months we spent every single day researching the listings, without fail. I can't even guess how many miles the boys and I put on the car driving all over the county driving past potential houses. There were so many things we were willing to concede on, and we tried so hard to be flexible and to look at each property with eyes open to possibilities, but we just found NOTHING that would work for us. Every night we prayed as a family that God would just show us clearly what we were to do. We didn't ask for a house, and we didn't ask to stay in our rental; all we prayed for was clarity--that whatever the answer, we would never doubt it because we would be so sure of his leading.

Months passed, and our time was running out--the program's qualification expires after a certain number of weeks. The boys began asking us if God was really saying No to a house; we told him we couldn't be sure. We encouraged them and continued to pray with them, and told them that we would obey whatever we were asked to do in this situation.

So much time passed that I began expanding my searches. I looked for houses out of our price range, anticipating possible drops in the market. We abandoned our hopes of living close to our current community and began looking at listings farther and farther away. Still, there was nothing....

In July I stumbled across yet another listing that piqued my interest (as so many did at first)--but this one had major problems right up front. It was $60K out of our price range, it was twice as much land as we were allowed to buy, and it had certain outbuildings that disqualified it from the program (yes, the rules were that specific!). It seemed so obviously wrong for us, but we were willing to go down every path until a door was closed. I asked my realtor to ask the listing realtor if the seller was willing to consider any variations of offers on what was actually for sale. Surprisingly enough, the answer was yes, so we made an appointment to see the property--just to verify that it really was out of reach--to get it out of our minds!

Upon seeing the house & property, Justin and I shook our heads at how perfect it seemed for our family. But there were still so, so many obstacles. The first one we had to conquer was the problem of the outbuildings. We photographed them and sent pictures to our lender--again, just so we could get the big "NO" once and for all....and she okayed the buildings (subject to physical inspection) within a matter of minutes. Stunned, we considered what our next move was: the price, and the size of the property. Justin met with the listing agent the next day, explained our unique circumstances (and limitations), and the listing agent gave him a scenario that he knew his seller would approve: Split the property the way his client would prefer, and make an offer. After discussing it, we realized that his scenario would STILL keep us outside the confines of our loan regulations, so we went back to him apologetically and told him: thank you, but that doesn't work for us. Shocking us again, he immediately abandoned his request, and told us to just write an offer for exactly what part of the land we wanted. He even told us how much to offer--and it was tens of thousands less than we planned to spend.

At this point, we were beginning to feel that God was going before us and making a way where there had been none. We still moved cautiously, but we felt that we were seeing a miracle play out, and that possibly our dreams were coming true in a very memorable way. But there were still so, so many obstacles. The main things we worried about were 1)building inspections (we didn't know the condition of the house and whether or not it would be approved by the lender) and our lender's specialized inspection (which we assumed would shut down the project, as we still didn't think the outbuildings would qualify). The only thing we didn't question was the funding, because our lender had assured us that was the only certain thing about the whole process.

Our building inspection came back with flying colors. The inspector could find nothing wrong other than broken lights, a broken door, some missing outlet covers...all elementary findings. So then we called to schedule our lender's inspection, still fervently praying...and were told that they were "temporarily waiving all rights to a physical inspection". They told us that as long as we completed our basic inspection (which we already had)--those results would suffice.

At this point in the process even my children were wide-eyed, convinced that they were seeing their God at work. Cole knew enough about the process that he could not BELIEVE our lender's inspection was being waived, and refused to believe it was anything less than the work of God. There were still obstacles at this point--funny little regulations we had to meet all through the purchase process--but they were seemingly becoming fewer and far between. We actively began sorting through our things and preparing to move into our new home.

And then, two weeks ago, out of the blue, as we were preparing the final closing documents, we received an email from the lender saying that she was very sorry, but the funding had run out for the program, and our loan would not be written. We were completely blindsided. We knew that the house had not been delivered into our hands yet, but we no longer had a guess as to what God was doing. All of these months of expended energy--for nothing. While we had been waiting for closing, our original application had expired--so if our loan fell through, we knew we would be back at square one. We could stay where we were at, or we could begin the application process all over again. We weren't sure that we had the energy to start all over.

Unsure of our next step and with extremely heavy hearts, I asked our lender if we could have a little bit of time before calling our realtor and the listing agent. We knew the purchase & sale would need to be dissolved, but we needed a few days to breathe, and she graciously told us that was just fine. She told us that if were able to get an extension granted, that she could possibly fund the loan next year...but there was a slight possibility of that, as the seller had already been lenient with us on several other details and may not have agreed to one more thing.

We went to bed that night with heavy burdens, continuing to petition God for wisdom and clarity. By the next morning, we could still not speak of it to each other, and had not told our children--but when I turned on my computer and checked my messages, there was an immediate email (again) from the lender, saying: Never mind, someone else's loan fell through and their money has just come available, and your paperwork is next in line---closing will be in a matter of days, get ready!

It has been such a roller coaster. The house closed on Tuesday, and by Monday evening, we still could not be sure it would even go through. Tuesday morning, I was sitting at the table doing school with the boys when I heard the phone ring; not picking it up (because we were at our studies) I heard my machine come on and the clerk from the title company tell us that everything had closed beautifully with no complications and I immediately burst into tears, unable to believe what God had done...

Here are a few pictures of our new home. That building that Reuben is climbing on is our root cellar, and that field (with woods behind) is our new backyard!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Recipe Post

At long last, here is our trout pie recipe...and a few other favorites, for good measure!


We adopted this recipe from Jamie Oliver's "jamie's dinners" cookbook. We all adore it, even the kids, and lick the platter clean. I make it in my cast iron skillet so that I can saute the onions & fennel seeds, pile the other stuff on, and send it directly into the oven without switching pans. I don't use the fennel bulb because I think the seeds are fennelly enough for me, and I've never used the anchovies, simply because I don't keep them on hand. I throw a couple of slices of whatever store-bought bread is around into my food processor for fresh breadcrumbs, and I use extra of the fresh-grated parmesan. We've only used trout, but if you search online you will read reviews where others have used salmon or haddock or whatever and had it turn out just as yummy.

Disclaimer: Not a one-pot meal, and not a great weeknight dinner (in my opinion). It would be much faster if you used a larger fish that was already filleted (like salmon) and less dishes with store-bought crumbs; my pie takes me forever to make (mainly preparing the fish) and lots of dishes (separate pot for potatoes, food processor etc) so I don't make it often because of that. But it's SO good. Jaime says to serve with plenty of lemon slices and plenty of cold beer. To that I say: hurrah! And a salad doesn't hurt either!

14 oz potatoes (we use reds), scrubbed and thinly sliced
4 T olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 bulb of fennel, trimmed and sliced
1 tsp of fennel seeds
4 medium or 8 small fillets of trout, pinboned
1 1/4 cups half and half
2 handfuls of freshly grated parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
2 anchovy fillets
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 400. First of all, parboil the sliced potatoes in salted boiling water for a few minutes until softened and then drain in a colander. Place an 8 inch casserole-type pan on a low heat, and add the oil, garlic, onion, fennel and fennel seeds. Cook slowly for 10 minutes with the lid on, stirring every so often.

Take the pan off the heat. Lay your trout fillets over the onion and fennel. Mix together your cream, parmesan, and anchovies, season with salt and freshly ground back pepper, and pour over the fish. Toss the potato slices in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and layer these over the top. Place in the oven for 20 minutes, sprinkling with the breadcrumbs and a little grated parmesan 5 minutes before the end.


Earlier this month we took a day off from school to acknowledge Rosh Hashanah. Every year we tend to make the same traditional foods, but this year we had some new favorites: Apple Honey Challah instead of regular challah, and our favorite roast beef recipe instead of roasted chicken...if you have never tried your hand at making challah before, this recipe is divine! It's worth a go. Justin loves challah but it is a little dry for my taste; this version is much more moist, and sweeter too, following the Rosh Hashanah tradition of eating sweet food in hopes for a sweet new year!

1 stick butter (plus some extra for the pan, bowl, etc.)
3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (and extra for your counter-top)
3/4 cup warm water
2/3 cup honey
2 large eggs & 3 large egg yolks
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp coarse salt
1 1/2 apples peeled and cut into slices

Butter a large mixing bowl to prevent the dough from sticking to the bowl. Melt 2 TB of the butter and let it cool for a few minutes. Mix together in your greased bowl the melted butter, flour, water, 1/3 cup honey (not all of the honey!), the eggs and egg yolks, the yeast and the salt. Mix the ingredients until it comes together into a dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 10 minutes or until the dough looks smooth. (I did this step in my stand mixer.)

Melt 1 TB of butter and let it cool off for a few minutes. Place the dough back into your buttered mixing bowl and brush the dough with the 1 TB of melted butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1.5 hours or until it doubles in volume.

Move the dough back onto your floured countertop and form it into a rectangle that is roughly 8.5″ by 14″. Place the peeled and sliced apples on top of the rectangle of dough and knead to incorporate. If pieces of apple start falling out of the dough, do not get frustrated or worry, just push it back into the dough when you put it back into the bowl for its second rise. Don’t worry if it feels or looks wet at this point! The wet dough will also pick up a bit of extra flour from your floured countertop. Put the dough back into the greased bowl and brush with another tablespoon of melted & cooled butter. Cover the bowl again and let it rise for another hour, or until it has doubled in volume again.

Butter a 9″ round cake pan. Remove the dough from the bowl and form a rope that is around 24″ long. Coil the rope into a circle and place it in the pan. Butter a piece of plastic wrap and cover the dough in the pan. Let it rise yet one more time for about 45 minutes.

Preheat the over to 375 degrees. Mix together the remaining 4 TB of butter and 1/3 cup of honey and melt it together to form a delicious glaze. Let the glaze cool for a few minutes and then brush the dough with half of the glaze. Bake the challah until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when you knock on it (the true test of whether a challah is cooked or not!). Cook 35-45 minutes. The original recipe said 35 minutes, but it was closer to 45 minutes for me. Check it after 20-30 minutes--if the top is browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil for the remainder of the cooking time.

As soon as the challah comes out from the oven, brush it with the rest of the honey & butter glaze. Let the challah cool for about 30 minutes on a wire rack and then transfer the challah out of the pan.


...and here is the roast recipe we had for the holiday--a recipe we have made dozens of times. I have one son that has been able to eat an entire steak + since his first birthday; roasts or steak are still his absolute favorite foods, but all the boys devour this one. And Justin and I think that the dipping sauce makes the meal, but the boys just have theirs with yellow mustard for dipping. Great with garlic smashed potatoes!

Roast beef:
2 T ground coriander
1 T cracked black pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 3-pound sirloin tip roast

3/4 cup creamed horseradish
1/2 cup stone-ground mustard
1/4 cup white vinegar

Preheat oven to 450. To prepare roast beef, combine first 4 ingredients; rub over roast. Place roast on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Insert a meat thermometer into thickest portion of roast. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 (do not remove roast from oven), bake an additional 40 minutes or until thermometer registers 140 (medium-rare) or desired degree of doneness. Place roast on cutting board; cover loosely with foil. Let stand 15 minutes. (Temperature of roast will increase 5 degrees upon standing.) Cut roast against grain into thin slices.

Combine sauce ingredients and serve alongside roast beef. Yum!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Mama's quote of the day (eating a date): "I would like this better if it came in a Hershey's wrapper."

Cole's quote of the day: "Once I had a burp that was so long that while I was burping I was able to say, 'Be careful, people. Be CAREFUL!'"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How Many Things Are Wrong With This Sentence?

Quote of the Day:

"Mama, when you lay a baby and it's a mom, THEN you can be a mailman." --Reuben, age 4

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Most Important Thing About Motherhood

Daddy: "...and thank you for Mama, and for all the hard work she does for us, and we ask that you give her extra blessings and rest. Amen."
Reese: "Mama, you are the best mama ever."
Mama: "Thank you Reese."
Cole: "Well I think you are the BEEEST mom."
Mama: "Thank you Cole. That's sweet."
Cole: "I think that you probably are the woman that has been the nicest to me."
Mama: "Thank you, Cole."
Cole: "And you always will be the best mom to me. Even if you die and Dad marries somebody else."
Mama: "Oh, uh-huh."
Cole: "And even if she has way more surprises, and makes school way more fun, I will still think that you are the best, and nicest, mom."
Mama: "Hmm."

So there you have it, folks. For anyone that has been wondering: Apparently "niceness" wins out over surprises, and fun in school, and death. At least in this house.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Heard Around The House

Reuben, age 4, holding his arm and hopping frantically around the kitchen after whacking his elbow on the edge of the stove: "Ow! OW! Owowowowowow OW! I think I hit a nerd!"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back to School (for lack of a witty title)

Hello, all!

We started our new school year yesterday with a bang. Or actually, with the absence of a bang, which I prefer; often the first day of school is met with a lot of sadness/apprehension/skepticism around here. Remember our "first day" photo from last year? Cole told me the other day, "Mom, when I think about starting school, it feels like my worst nightmare. And like my best day EVER." I guess that about sums it up.

But really, can you blame them? School for boys typically means having to give up the stuff they like (playing outside) for the stuff they don't (working sums and practicing handwriting), and so I understand the apprehension...conversely, I understand that on some level they are desperately bored and hopeful that this school year will bring some wonderfully messy projects and possibly another Greek War Ship made entirely of ice cream, whipped cream and frosting (a favorite from last year!).

Oh, and I am hopeful too. I still only have one child that is legally obligated to be schooling, and a gaggle of other wee ones that want to be included, but not forced to work. Ah, the complexity of homeschool! We are also coming off of nearly 6 weeks of 'making do' while Justin has been working out of town, and we are preparing to move for the first time in nearly 7 small task for people as 'packratty' as my beloved and me. It's a bit of a whirlwind. Big shout-out to my Big Sis who brought her two ones up to add in the chaos for an overnight...and then returned for another visit a short two weeks later to help with our yard sale. B: We are ever so thankful for your help and for all the fun!

Guess that's all for now, as I've just noticed the two-year-old is sitting in front of the oven LICKING IT. Apparently a bit of parenting is required.

Friday, July 30, 2010

20 A Day: Day 11

Well, here we are on Day 11 and still limping along. I will confess that I am in the hole $20 at this point--there was one day at the beginning of this week that I actually had all the groceries for lunch & dinner, but was just too wiped by the afternoon to make up the bread dough--which of course was the basis of our dinner. We swiped a twenty and bought Subway sandwiches for everyone. We could have made it. I could have cooked a big pot of oats and called it good. But it was Day 5 or 6 and we were hitting a wall, tired already of all of the work required to live on so little!

But for the most part, the experiment is going well. We've managed to do just fine with meals (other than that one little hiccup...which actually provided the next day's lunch, too, now that I think about it) and even add in little bits of gasoline here and there, toilet paper, and a birthday gift.

I'm going super-economy on meals though, folks. Like, taking a roast chicken and making it into three meals economy. My new favorite dinner is grilling up a whole mess of veggies (my eggplant, zukes, onion, and bell peppers from Haggen), mixing up some bread dough and making flatbread rounds that we cook on the barbecue until they are hot and puffy. Then I dump on some of the vegetables, add a sprinkle of mozzarella (2 pounds at Costco for only $3.99!) and put the lid on the 'cue for another minute to make it all melty and yummy. The vegetables are my favorite part, but I'm pretty sure Justin & the boys would be more than content to just live on the hot grilled flatbread.

Other favorites we've had this week are Trout Pie and a sweet onion quiche, made with the Walla Wallas that are on sale everywhere. The boys didn't go for the quiche, but Justin and I ate it for three days. And the Trout Pie was gone that night--it's a big seller every time I make it (I'm sure only due to the fact that it's a Jamie Oliver recipe...). Maybe I'll post that recipe tomorrow, in the event that anyone else has a sweet neighbor like we do that provides them with fresh fish all summer long!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Heard Around The House

Cole: "I know how to make a chicken bomb! You take a roast chicken, and put some dynamite inside..."

Sorry, folks. He walked out of the kitchen after that. You'll have to imagine the ending on your own.

Friday, July 23, 2010

20 A Day: Day 3

We went out as a family yesterday morning to the library to restock our movie & book shelves (free entertainment) and stopped at Haggen on the way home so Mama could restock a few of the refrigerator shelves. For the bargain price of $25, we bought:

1 can of pine-orange strawberry juice, 3 packages of bagels, 4 pounds of carrots, 3 cucumbers, 1 eggplant, 2 heads of lettuce, 1 package of cream cheese, 3 pounds of tomatoes on the vine, 1 pound of zucchini, 2 red bell peppers, 2 orange bell peppers, and 1 yellow bell pepper (can anyone guess what dinner I'm envisioning?). It felt good to leave the market with an entire twenty dollar bill still in my pocket.

Breakfast: Omelettes with sauteed mushrooms, sauteed sweet onion, and cheddar.
Lunch: Bagel sandwiches with cream cheese, tomato, cucumber, shredded carrot and mustard, and juice.
Dinner: Hamburgers (Birthday leftovers again) and pasta salad.

Start of Day: $45
End of Day: $20

Quote of the Day:
"When Ari is a toddler, I'm going to teach him. I only like babies. I don't like toddlers. Toddlers get into your stuff and mess everything up. I just like taking care of babies" --Smack-In-The-Middle Reuben, age 4

Thursday, July 22, 2010

20 A Day: Day 2

We did much better with our stipend yesterday-- only spent coins out of the coin jar for a cup of coffee at Small Group last night.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with brown sugar & raisin.
Lunch: Hotdogs (left over from Cole's birthday on Sunday...we're going to be floating on that food for a while!)
Dinner: From-scratch pancakes with fresh berries and fried eggs.

Start of day: $25
End of day: $25

A grocery trip is on my horizon for today; I've moved from Find-A-Recipe-That-Sounds-Good-And-Buy-The-Stuff-For-It meal planning to Read-The-Ads-Buy-What's-Cheap-And-Create-From-It meal planning (I typically use some combination of the two). I am armed with $45 and will be looking at every display with a critical eye...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

20 A Day

I've implemented a sort of social experiment around here: to see if we can live on twenty dollars a day. (Maybe "social experiment" isn't the right phrase? Monetary experiment, possibly? Though before too long we may begin fighting over the last piece of bread and then it will be more social than we desire...)

I digress. The twenty dollars doesn't include housing, or heat, or any of those things: the bills are paid. I just wondered what it would be like to give ourselves a $20 daily allotment and try to live within it. The money needs to cover groceries, household purchases (diapers, laundry soap etc), gasoline, and spending money. I set a single twenty dollar bill out every morning and whoever needs something can grab it and spend it. If there's any left over, it gets added to the next day's twenty...and so on. We're going to try it for about 3 weeks and see how feasible it is. I'd love to eventually get to the point where we are providing so much of our own food that a Grocery Budget is nearly non-existent.

Day One:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with brown sugar & raisins.
Lunch: Two loaves of homemade bread, fried eggs, yogurt with berries from the garden, watermelon, lemonade (left from Cole's birthday on Sunday).
Dinner: Barbecued trout (caught by the neighbor), basmati rice pilaf, salad.

Spent: $10 at the grocery store (a bag of rice, a half gallon of organic whole milk, green onions and cilantro for the pilaf.)
$5 at Dairy Queen--Mama needed ice cream, and Daddy says 'you shouldn't eat alone'...

We had so much food floating around from the weekend that I thought we'd at least be able to get through the first day without spending, and yet there is only a fiver left. This may prove more difficult than I anticipated.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


So apparently I have a tendency to go weeks, nay, months without updating this blog. I'm sorry. That must be terribly frustrating to those of you that like to have a semi-regular glimpse into our lives. What is even more frustrating is that sometimes I go through seasons when I like to update daily, and other seasons, there is only silence...

I am realizing that is how my brain works, too. There are times when everything is cheery and the details of my days are tangible. It takes no effort to record daily happenings and funny little quips. But then inevitably, I dip into waters that are deeper, more complex, and my mind goes black for some time as I seek to process what I am thinking, what I hear God saying to me, and where I am being led. And then somehow I get out of the habit of communicating daily events and don't know how to enter back in.

So let's just start, awkwardly. Shall we?

For some time now I have felt gentle nudges to simplify, simplify, simplify. I don't think it's an uncommon message. We live in this culture that is so absolutely oppressive. Stuff EVERYWHERE. Things to do. Places to be. MONEY TO SPEND. It's so burdensome, isn't it? We watch TV shows about hoarders, feel guilt, and purge, frantically. We spend hard-earned dollars on storage solutions, organizational books, and systems. We neglect our kids to read websites and blogs about ways other people are doing "it" (whatever "it" is: organizing, parenting, creating, living), and bite our nails with anxiety that we don't know where to start. It appears that everyone else has it all together and we are the only ones that are lost.

Is anyone else feeling this? Is it only me? Maybe I should have said "I" instead of "we"...

Okay, then. Here is my confession. I did those things, I did. I spent hours trying to figure out better systems to do my daily tasks. I pushed my own children aside while sitting in front of the computer trying to figure out how to be a better parent. And then it struck me how absolutely silly it all was!

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. But how, Lord? What does that mean? How do I know what it looks like? Where do I begin?

For one, we have determined after nearly 10 years of marriage that, for us, it doesn't mean birth control. The concept that a "smaller family equals a better life" has become a lie to me, because I know my own greediness and how quickly it would take over. Money for vacations? Done. Money for sports lessons? We're there. Money for nicer cars and lots more stuff? Yes, yes, and yes...

But an ever-growing family that ties me to home feels calmer and more secure. I know it doesn't make sense. Here is the best example I can give:

When Cole was a toddler, he was manic. He had problems processing sugars (that we hadn't discovered yet) and in addition to his food issues, he was a typical active little boy. He ran non-stop, always in a straight line, always away from me. Never looked back. I was exhausted for years, parenting just that child, but what I found as he grew is that he exhausted himself, too. He didn't always like being manic and active. Before he could even speak, he developed his own little sign for "go car" and when it all got to be too much for him, he would ask me to take him for a drive. I was always so amazed at how much calmer he would become the instant he was strapped into his 5-point harness. This look of pure relief would come over his face as if he knew it was going to be better now, for a time, because he didn't have to run and be crazy and control his body. He could just rest within the restriction. Now, looking back, I realize that I feel the same way. This world has too many things that lure me in and distract me. The (few) times that I have had plenty, I find myself immediately swayed by options. I'm too weak against them, and it's too easy to whip out my check card. There are too many bright lights and colors. It feels manic. I find my heart whispering, "five-point harness, Lord"...

The main thing that I feel God telling me these days is to adopt a posture of humility; now I am in the throes of trying to figure out what that looks like. I know it will be a process. But I can tell you that living a life with just enough manna for today feels peaceful and safe. Listening to my children and petitioning God for answers when I am up against a wall is calmer than doping out in front of the computer, looking for solutions in an endless sea of information. I don't think I want to give up this blog, and actually there are several things currently that I'd like to share with you...but I have to warn you that I might disappear from time to time when all this technology gets too much for me.

I guess those are all the things I have floating around in my head tonight. If anyone is still out there, come on back soon and we'll head for lighter topics for a while...

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Earth-Conscious Family

Mama's quote of the day (during a discussion about ecology and how even humans, yes, are 100% recyclable): "Mama's in the 'reduce' stage so she can be reused again!"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Still Learning Tact

Reuben: "Mom, it's after lunch, can we eat one of our candies?"

Mama: "Can you wait for a little bit please?"

Reuben: "Why?"

Mama: "Because Sean really needs to have a nap today, and it will be easier for me to get him into bed if you and the boys haven't pulled your candy bags out. So wait for just a few minutes and I will put him down, and then you may have a candy."

Reuben goes downstairs to play; he and Sean are swinging on the rope.

Reuben: "Seanie! Go see Mama! She wants to give you ICE CREAM!"

Mama: "Reuben, come here right this minute please."

Reuben (tromping up the stairs): "What?"

Mama: "DO NOT tell Sean I am giving him ice cream, you know that is not true! You are telling Seanie a LIE. Do you know what happens if you tell lies?"

Reuben: "I get into trouble."

Mama: "You get into BIG trouble. Lying is not permitted in this house. Do not do that again, please."

Reuben goes back downstairs.

Reuben (in his best sing-songy voice): "Seanie! Go see Mama! It is NAPTIME! Well, I mean, not for all of us. JUST you. It is just naptime for you. You are going to go to bed and then all of us are going to EAT CANDY!"

Mama: "Reuben, will you come back up here please..."

Monday, May 3, 2010


During school today:

Mama: "Okay, for Bible time we are going to read the passage where Satan tempts Jesus. 'Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."' (luke 4:1-3)

Cole: "Wait. I don't know who the devil is."

Mama: "Satan."

Cole: "Who is Satan again?"

Mama: "He's like the biggest bad guy. He's the one that is fighting against God."

Cole: "OH! OH! I remember him! We saw him on Oprah!"

Mama doubles over and tries to be nonchalant about it.

Cole: "Remember? We saw him. I know exactly who he is. Remember? He was walking on the air between those buildings."

Mama (using her arm to hide her hysteria): "Um, that was someone different. That was Criss Angel."

Cole: "Wait. So now there's TWO bad guys?!"

Thursday, April 15, 2010


On month four now of thrice-weekly visits to the chiropractor. Little time for anything else...well, other than cooking, potty-training, and washing dishes. We are plugging away at our schoolwork; dissected owl pellets on the dining table last night with the older three after Sean went to bed. Switched math curriculum (from Horizon to Singapore) and Cole is saying (so far) that he likes it much better. Having fun learning Latin verbs, and making up our own (English) madlibs in our spare time to cement the ideas of nouns and verbs. Taking walks to clear Mama's head. Washing machine has been broken for two weeks now, I've spent nearly $100 at the laundromat and there is dirty laundry EVERYWHERE. Packed 5 boys and as much dirty laundry as I could fit around them into the Volvo this morning, drove the minute and a half to the laundromat and discovered that they are closed on Thursdays. Which wouldn't be quite so sad of a story if I hadn't done the EXACT SAME THING LAST WEEK. It's possible that there is a neural connection missing in my head. Hmm. Not willing to switch laundromats because mine uses cards, I've already started one and I don't need more than one laundry card floating around my kitchen. We made an outing out of it anyway and spent a bunch of time wandering around the grocery store; picked up a few things for dinner but forgot the salad dressing. Have just enough balsamic vinegar in the bottle to mix some up.

Weather is nicer and boys are dying to be outside. The only complication is that outside = dirty clothes and I'm not sure there are any clean ones left. Appliance repairman just called and said my machine is completely shot...apparently a nail pierced a hole in the that any surprise?

My favorite romantical quote from my spouse this week:

"Baby, one day this merry-go-round will stop. We'll puke, and then we'll get back to our lives."


While packing @! loads of dirty laundry back into the kitchen this morning, along with three bags of groceries:
Mama: "Boys, this is the loading zone. Please, unless you are helping unload, please move out of the way so the rest of us can get through. REUBEN. Scootch out of the way PLEASE."

Friday, March 19, 2010

(Typical) Conversation with Reuben

Reese: "Mom, Reuben is calling me names."

Mama: "Reuben, we don't call brothers names."

Reuben: "Why not?"

Mama: "Because it's not speaking with love and kindness."

Reuben: "Not even Cole and Reese?"

Mama: "What do you mean?"

Reuben: "I can't call them Cole and Reese?"

Mama: "Well, of course you can call them by their REAL names. That's not the same thing. Please say you're sorry for...Reese, what did Reuben call you?"

Reese: "Evil Contented Waste."

Mama: "Please tell Reese 'Sorry for calling you Evil Contented Waste'."

Reuben: "But I didn't CALL him that name, I just said it TO him"....

Friday, February 26, 2010

(Typical) Conversation With Reuben

Mama: So are you excited for Co-op today?

Reuben: Yup.

Mama: Today is the last day of your Bible class!

Reuben: I know! And my teacher will never know that I'm not wearing any underwear.

Mama: Oh. Hmm. Well, please get some out of that laundry basket over there. I washed some especially for you.

Reuben (almost toppling the huge pile of laundry): Is all of this whole basket MINE?

Mama: Oh, no. It's for the whole family. Everybody's laundry is all mixed together in there.

Reuben: Like mine? And the boys? And God and Jesus?

Mama: No, not God and Jesus. I don't think God and Jesus have laundry.

Reuben: Yes they do! They have INVISIBLE LAUNDRY! Like underwear, and tee shirts, and they put them on... oh but NOT jammies.

Mama: God and Jesus don't have jammies? Why don't they have jammies?

Reuben: Mom! You know! Because they stay up late, with you guys!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Call me crazy, but sometimes the highlight of my day is simmering a pot of something on the stove and watching condensation build on the windowpane of the kitchen door...keeping one ear out for the sound of a sneaky little boy climbing the stairs up from the basement to stealthily write "Poo" in the steam. And then hearing his indignation later when he brings a brother up to witness his crime and finds that Mama has changed his creation to "Boo"...

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I have recently begun seeing a chiropractor for the first time. Not because of any injury or accident; just because five big boys and one miscarriage in 8 years does a number on the body. After all this time, I still remember that sudden, jarring, change-your-life-in-an-instant moment during Cole's delivery when I felt my bones shift and I knew things would never be the same. Add a few more babies to that--a few of them close to ten pounds--and, well, it would serve to reason that my structure is a bit out of whack.

I'm going to go off-topic for a minute, but bear with me and I'll come back around. About a year ago, I read Debi Pearl's article "A Whole Boy" and I have not been able to get it out of my head(see the article here). In it, Pearl describes a painful encounter with the hurting mother of an out-of-control eight year old boy. There are problems on top of problems. The boy is spiraling downward. The mother is begging for The Answer, and Pearl is backed into a corner. What advice should she give? Organic food? Structure and discipline? Homeschool? Repentance?

Oh, there are so many moments when I am the mother in this story! My heart feels dischord in my home and I am at a complete loss for what to do. I am desperate, angry, biting, silent. I see smart-mouth boys that act disrespectful and lazy. I hear impatience in my raised voice, oozing sarcasm, and bitterness at perceived injustice. I feel the weight of piles of junk and extra pounds that I refuse to let go of. The anger and frustration wells up that things are not different. And I think, what is the answer?

I have run full-bore down the rabbit-trails of answers. A Montessori Homeschool Model. A Kosher Diet. Monitored Sugars. Carefully-Scheduled Calendars. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...

But I am a Whole Mother. These are Whole Boys. And Jesus has come that we may have (a whole) life, and that we may have it more abundantly (john 10:10)!

Clean. He needs to be made clean. He needs a clean body, free of poisons, sugars, and dyes. He needs a clean home, free of anger, Hollywood, and deceit. He needs a clean day, free to roam the countryside until his body is relaxed and tired. He needs a soul cleansing that can only be found in Jesus and His shed blood. He needs a clean daddy whose heart wants only to bring healing for his son. He needs a clean mother, whose heart is turned to honoring and reverencing her husband. He needs a clean world, both physically and spiritually.

....How do I tell his mother? Where does she start? ...It must start with her, for she is the one seeking a solution. This mother can't clean up the world. She can't dictate to Daddy; that would create further strife. But she can decide to honor and reverence her husband, thus bringing to her son at least one area of peace and security. She can go to the library and study the effects of foods, dyes and sugar, then take that information and act on it. She can take him to a place where he can run for hours, instead of forcing him to labor over a workbook that will never make a difference now or in eternity. She can pray, asking God for a miracle both in herself and her son. She can laugh and sing the joy of the Lord right into his presence. Everyday, he needs her smile. If she will do these things, it will be a beginning. Like a young tree bent in the wrong direction, she can begin to straighten that which is crooked (Debi Pearl, "A Whole Boy").

Isn't that the most beautiful list? It makes me take a long breath somewhere deep in my soul. This is what I am looking for. It reminds me of another list I love, one about a beauty who seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands; who rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household; who considers a field and buys it; who girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms; who extends her hand to the poor, who reaches out her hands to the needy; who clothes her household with scarlet, who makes tapestry for herself; who watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness; who opens her mouth with wisdom, and on whose tongue is the law of kindness (from proverbs 31:13-27).

Slowly, I am pursuing Wholeness, for myself and for my family. I have a little grab-bag of tools that I use. I have spent four years researching the effects of different foods and have barely scratched the surface....but I see change in my sons, myself, and my husband. I am working towards allowing my boys to have independence in the things that are not too large for them to handle (a Montessori method), and in the understanding that those boundaries are often much farther out than my controlling spirit perceives them to be. I read the Flylady emails to tackle my superfluous 'stuff', and to kick the negative thoughts in my head.

And I go to the chiropractor now, to take care of me. The aches and pains that began with my first pregnancy have slowly worsened over the years, as is to be expected....but they increased exponentially after Sean was born (face-up) two years ago. I don't know if it was his position during delivery per se, or if a fourth pregnancy was just this body's final straw, but things have not been great for a while. Justin has been wanting me to do something about it for a long time, but I just wasn't ready.

Then a friend told me about a clinic nearly an hour away, where a family of doctors would work together through gentle biofeedback techniques to help me begin to heal, and I was sold before I even met with them. I think they were who I was waiting for all this time. By the time I finally went for my first adjustment, the bones in my feet felt at times as though they were broken, I had shooting pain down my right leg, I couldn't sleep, I had no nerve reflexes in my left arm and couldn't turn my head to check my blind spots, and I had to manually adjust my hips at times just to get out of bed in the morning. I was in pain all the time, but for so long, I had been reluctant to get better. The thing about pregnancy is that it pretty much forces you to come to terms with being uncomfortable. There is no other option. And I've been in and out of this pattern for so many years, I forgot what it was to feel healthy. I had actually lost the desire to have things be any other way.

At my first adjustment, I was asked to write down up to three sites where I was experiencing symptoms. I had to consider the page carefully before deciding what to write--I had pain radiating everywhere; how could I pinpoint a location? My subsequent appointments followed suit. And then suddenly, when I was in the clinic this week, I realized suddenly as I was filling out the form that there was only one place I could legitimately say was hurting. One place. After only a handful of short adjustments. The difference still astounds me.

There is still a lot of work to be done, and I'll be living at the chiropractors' for a while. But I've been so absolutely blessed by this experience and by the parallel it is playing to the rest of my life. See, that overall pain, that radiating discomfort, it's not there anymore. There is life returning. And I see it in my home, too---there is life, there is peace in so many areas. There are things that are working as they should. The time and energy spent in making corrections are paying off. And you know what? The closer things get to good, the easier it is to see what is out of alignment, what isn't working. When we are all getting enough rest, and eating clean food, and encouraging one another, and working together, and one member of our little clan suddenly has a tantrum, it's blazingly clear who has the issue that needs to be dealt with in that situation (and yes, sometimes it is the parent!). When the pain is everywhere, and everyone is losing it simultaneously, it's pretty difficult to pinpoint where the adjustment needs to happen.

So it's a new year, and time for resolutions I guess, but I am content to just plod along my little path in pursuit of alignment in all areas of my life. I know that this life is fleeting, and that I am not meant to love the world, but I know also that I can experience God here, and right now, that is all that my soul is longing for.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lunch Conversation

Cole: "So, Mom, how do staffs work, anyway?"

Mama: "What do you mean? What kind of staffs?"

Cole: "You know. The ones with crystal balls on top. I mean, I know they need magic to work, but I also know the STAFFS don't have any magic inside of them--it's the guy holding it that makes it work. So if the guy is the one who has the magic, he doesn't really need the staff, right? I mean, instead of using his magic to TURN THE STAFF ON, why doesn't he just use it for whatever it was he wanted to do, anyway?"

The calendar may have flipped to a new year, folks, but nothing much has changed around here. It's life as usual. Just in case you were wondering.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Five Little Acorns

I'm thinking it's about time to clean up this blog!
Hope your Christmas was merry!