Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This Man is on Fire

Just overheard Sean running through the house yelling, "My hair is on fire!" and then saw him come out of the bathroom a minute later with his head sopping wet. 

"It's's out now" he told me. 

 I didn't ask.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Good Thing We're Not Dramatic

Ari: "Mom, I need some play food."

Me: " I'm sorry Buddy, I don't know where it is right now."

Ari: " But MOM, Sean and I are playing house. And if we don't have any food, then we have to play that we are DEAD."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Words Can Hurt, You Know

Sean: "Mom, guess what? I like Tinkerbell now!"

Me: "Oh? You didn't before?"


Me: "Well, I'm asking you. You didn't like her before?"

Sean: "MOM! Every time you say that, a fairy just...DIES!"

Friday, October 25, 2013

Healthy Eating

Sean: "Hey Mama, whatcha doin'?"

Me: "I'm making a salad."

Sean:  "Oooh, yum, can I help? Can I pour in the Pop Tarts for you?"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


At only eleven months, Beatrice threw the tantrum of all tantrums Saturday night.  She's been having more and more difficulty getting to sleep lately, and as she's just on a mattress on our floor and not in a crib, I don't really have the option of putting her somewhere to just settle in on her own (and freak out safely).  Our house is very small and the only bedroom door is the one to the boys' loft upstairs, so I've moved quite far from the "cry it out" techniques I may have used on some of my earlier children.  Now I use what I call my "Little House" model, which is to keep the peace in the house as well as possible, to use the outdoors when really big tantrums occur, and to overall teach the other children to just sleep through it as best as they can.  I think that the model works, as a general rule.  But I also recognize that all children (and probably all adults too) reach the point physically and emotionally when they just WON'T respond to coddling anymore.  They don't want to be held and rocked and shushed back to sleep.  They don't want to go halfway to Freak Out and then recede.  They want to just hit the punching bag as hard as they can and wail for a while and then feel better and get past it.

Haven't you seen that, too?

So here comes Bea with this tantrum that has been building, and she's been growing like crazy, and cutting her first teeth, so I know there's a lot of pent-up energy all in there.  She wouldn't take "no" for an answer.  She didn't want to nurse, to rock, or to sit.  I put her down on the carpet to play with some toys and she crawled over to me and cried.   If I picked her up and held her, she cried.  So finally I did what every good mother would do:  I set her in the exact middle of the room and walked away.  She lost it.  Justin paused our movie and we sat on our couches and just watched her.  She hit it good.  She screamed, she flailed, she rolled over and over.  She knew that we were there and that we were watching her, but she didn't come to us...even though she could have, easily.  She just let the world have it.  She kicked her feet and yelled her little heart out, getting out all that extra growing energy that was stuck somewhere inside of her.  She hollered for probably twenty minutes, and we just sat and watched her and let her have her say.

Finally, she started to quiet and began to make her way over to me.  I picked her up and walked into our dark front room.  She clutched me and was still crying, gasping.  I sang to her then, the first chorus that sprung to mind on that dark night:

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot
Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well
With my soul!

Oh, this daughter of mine.  I have come to call her "Sister" more often than Bea or Beatrice; what began as a simple family name (I often call any of the boys "Brother") has become a sacred name with deep meaning to me.  Yes, she is my daughter and not my sibling, and yet I feel that much of my role as Mother to her is to teach her the things that are common to all women---joys and sorrows that we will someday share as sisters in this world.  Certainly the loftiest of all these lessons is to learn to bear the weight of vast joy and sorrow; as a woman she will know heartache, groan through the pull of labor pains and grit her teeth against the burdens of dirty dishes, diapers, and the overturned toy basket that never seem to cease.  She will counsel her husband and hope that he listens to her wisdom.  She will give the same instructions to her children hundreds of times just before lunch.  She will know the ecstasy of looking into a newborn's eyes that she just convinced herself would never deliver, she will be caught speechless at an unexpected blessing, and she will wish fervently during a fleeting moment on Christmas morning or at a toddler's dance recital that time would please just stand still and allow her to stay in this happiness forever. 

Our circumstances do not define who we are.  This precious moment, this stomping of feet, this beautiful wailing that my daughter indulged this past weekend is just the first of many.  What a sacred thing to witness, the tantrum of the soul; yet I pray the day will come when she will be able to look into my face and say

Whatever my lot
He hast taught me to say
It is well, it is WELL
With my soul!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Halloween Menu better believe that these little lovelies will be on our table come Halloween night! Nobody tell the boys!!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mondays, October style

Two oldest boys are in a rice fight in my front room. Four youngest boys are jumping on my bed. I'm retreating to the kitchen to eat a chocolate eyeball. These are October Mondays, people!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Club

"I belong on a farm. I'm never lonesome here like I used to be in town. You remember what sad spells I used to have, when I didn't know what was the matter with me? I've never had them out here. And I don't mind work a bit, if I don't have to put up with sadness." --excerpt from My Antonia, by Willa Cather

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Barn Raising

Quote of the Day: "If the Teen Room goes into the hayloft, then I can ACTUALLY say that I was raised in a barn." (cole, age 12)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Eat Plants, Be Healthy

LOVE this! I get asked sometimes how having a large family DOESN'T prove to be a drain on resources. My stock answer is that we have to grow as much as our own food as possible due to budget restraints, and we use VERY little fuel as we don't fit it a vehicle and can't go anywhere! Our latest venture has been to move to a mostly plant-based diet, eating meat only for a hearty Sunday Dinner. This author shows just a little glimpse into the economy of eating healthy plant foods!

$1.50 a Day Challenge 

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Last year, we spent Rosh Hashanah with the Zollitsch family, who had been unemployed for nearly a year with no end in sight. We invited our friend Maria to join our table, and when she called me with her regrets, she said excitedly that she had "met someone". I cooked dinner slowly, very pregnant with what I was sure was our seventh son. We broke bread and thanked the Lord for His everlasting goodness, praying blessing and sweetness over these three households and the year to come. Today, the Zollitsches are employed and living in Texas, Maria is a happy newlywed, and I am ironing a dress for my daughter's first Jewish New Year. What a difference a year makes! All thanks to the Lord for his provision and care!

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Burnin' Ring of Fire

Henry just walked past me singing Johnny Cash. Thank you, 18-hour road trip!

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Justin: Look at that little bus over there! Now THAT'S the kind of car we need!

Me: That's a prison work van.

Justin: Well...yeah. But wouldn't it be great to have one of those cyclone fence dividers? We could dress the kids in little worksuits that are all the same would make laundry so much easier for you. And we could have a WARDEN--I mean, a nanny--sit in back there with them while we're driving. Don't you think?

Friday, August 9, 2013

School Planning

Boxes of books for the boys are starting to arrive every day in the mail, so it is time now to make a Back To School list for Mama. On my list this year: A devotional, a watch, a coffee pot, a juicer, and a trip to the chiropractor. They are coming out of the school budget, because I'm pretty sure I won't make it through the year without them!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Chocolate Cake

Mama's QOTD:

"You don't eat chocolate cake because you're hungry.  You eat chocolate cake because you have emotional problems."

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Trying to finish a conversation with my husband in this house is like

Thursday, July 18, 2013


My oldest turned 12 at 11:47 this morning. I unpacked my grandma's cake pans to make his waterslide birthday cake. It will be my first time working with them...but she used them to bake wedding cakes, and they are well worn.   LOVE!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Admittedly I have nothing in common with Kate Middleton...BUT I so vividly remember this very week twelve years ago, so hot and uncomfortable and wondering if my first baby would EVER come. Makes me feel just the tiniest bit of kinship with the beautiful duchess right now!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


My children are playing tennis in my front room. You know, the one that's filled with windows.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer School

I try to reread this at the beginning of every summer just to scare myself into being super-aware. This article is so, so powerful. Save lives!

Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Christmas Story Explained

Mama:  "And when John saw Jesus in the crowd, he said, 'This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!' Now, can any of you tell me why Jesus might be called the Lamb of God?"

Reuben: "Ooh ooh! Because he was BORN IN A PASTURE!"

Reese: "Jesus was NOT born in a pasture."

Reuben: "Oh yeah...I mean, because he was BORN IN A FEEDBOX!"

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Just rockin' a little Jillian Michaels kickboxing when Ari saunters by, glances at the TV screen, and asks, "Hey Mom, is that you?" Um NO. But my week appears to suddenly be looking up!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day, Philips Style

I was naive to think that the five- and seven-year-olds would hear "broken dryer, dentist appointments for 6 and company for dinner" and correctly translate it into "STAY OUT OF THE MUD PIT." Well played, Earth Day. You little stinker.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Heard Around The House

Reese:  "I just gilgameshed.  I just gilgamushed."

Cole:  "Reese, you are so funny.  How are you so funny?"

Reese:  "I just think of the first thing I think of...and then I think of the very next thing I think of.  And then I just blurt it out."

Cole:  "What is that smell?"

Mama:  "What smell?"

Cole:  "It smells smells like...lentil soup."

Reese:  "I might have just lentil souped."

Monday, March 4, 2013

Birthdays in the Mid-Thirties

Turning 35 means the wish list includes such exciting things as Not Cooking Dinner. And Taking A Nap.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


My favorite quotes from the first 72 hours after Beatrice was born:

Delivery nurse: "Oh honey! I think you're in shock!"
Karissa: "Sobbing in my bed. Thrilled beyond measure that you have a DAUGHTER"

Brenda:"Is this a joke?"
Casey: "SHUT UP!"

Meshak:  "Are you sure?"
Cole: "A sister, I've always wanted a sister, I can't believe I have a sister! I have to wake up from this dream!"
 Brigitte:  "Mom's trying to find something to wear that is pink and wishing she had a pink boa."

Sam:  "I think I heard your mom scream."
Justin: "Honey, when I was holding the baby this morning" (1 hour old) "I just kept trying to think of having to marry her off, and I couldn't do it. I'm not ready. I think it's too soon."
Cole: "She's going to be such a beautiful woman some day!"
Ari: (jumping up and down): "I! LIKE! BABY! BEA! I! LIKE! BABY! BEA!"
Sean: "Can I hold her?"
Cole: "Can I hold her?"
Reese: "Can I hold her?"
Sean: "Can I hold her?"
Reuben: "She's so fragile, if she just tapped her fingers against something, they would all break off. You have to be CAREFUL."
Justin: "I have to build her a bedroom!"
Sean: "Can I see her possibility cord?"
Justin: "Sean, you can't run around naked anymore. Go put your underwear on RIGHT NOW!"

Oh Baby Bea, how you rocked our were worth our wait!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bringing Home Bea

On November 16th, 2012, I gave birth to our first daughter.  I have been trying for two and a half months now to write this post in my head, and I just haven't been able to do it.  It feels like trying to pin down air.  My words are stupid, fumbling, inadequate.  And she is pure love.  How can I confine her to a box of language?  Why should I be so naive as to try?  And yet her story must be told...

Here is her story, from the beginning.

My pregnancy this time was difficult.  It wasn't terrible physically, but the emotional discomfort was there.  I often felt maxed out and tired of a body that was all used up.  My third trimester schedule of medical appointments (4-5 per week) overwhelmed me.  I looked in the mirror and saw a decade's worth of pregnancy pounds.  I wanted space, time to myself, a vacation with my husband.   I wanted to be selfish and do something for ME.

For nine months, I struggled with the indecision in my head.  Time and time again, God has told me to go forward, to continue on this childbearing road.  It hasn't been easy, but I have obeyed.  This time was different.  This time, I was ready to throw in the towel.

For nine months, I watched my husband.  I took silent note of the times he seemed stressed, frustrated or overwhelmed, and hid them away in my heart, telling myself that he would support my decision to end our family line.  I wrote in waves of bitterness to the friend that I knew would hear me and not judge me.  I am certain that I hurt her with my self-centeredness.  I recognized how easy it was to misspeak and to hurt, and used it as further proof that I was beyond my capacity as a mother.  Further proof that I should get out now, and cut my losses.

I made a stealthy plan to become friends with the pill just as soon as I was able.  I knew that Justin would trust my intuition and would not question my judgment in the matter.  I ignored the lingering uneasiness and told myself that "just a little time off" would be so good for me...for my body, for my marriage, for my family.

It was about two weeks before I was due that I began getting bombarded with messages in regards to how very wrong I was.  Suddenly, everywhere I looked, people were sending me articles about the importance of the large family in today's society, sending me encouragement, urging me on.  All of the correspondence came from the most unlikely sources, and none of it was weighted--no one was privy to the decision I had already made within my own heart.  Like Jonah, I turned my back and ran, ignoring every word that came my way, trying not to think about it, telling myself that decision was already made and the messages weren't meant for me.  I knew it would be better for my sanity and my bank account if I just closed my ears and continued on the path I had chosen.

Then---- Justin was encouraged to apply for a promotion at work.  He did, though uncertain about whether he really wanted it, and assumed he bombed the interview when he told the VP honestly that he hoped to eventually leave the company and move on to other things.  We were both shocked when, despite his damning interview, he was chosen for the promotion and given a significant bump in salary.  (He had been promoted just 4 months prior, and for the first time then we were able to pay our bills and have just a bit left over.)  This new position gave us quite a bit of "fluff" in a budget that has always been brass tacks.  The cracks in my resolve when he got the new job began to grow.  God was financially making a way for us to bring this new baby home...and I was about to throw it back in his face?  I wavered.  A week went by, or two, and suddenly it was the night before my induction.  I worried over the details at the house, writing lists of instructions for care of the boys, and filled the fridge with food, while Justin worried over his desk at work, dotting every i and crossing every t.  He came home late that night, finally away from the papers and numbers, looked at me sheepishly and told me that he had been told privately that afternoon that he was getting a large Christmas bonus...from a company that hasn't given bonuses in years.  I stood in my kitchen and shook my head at him, astounded.  Finally I said, "You have to stop this.  You have to stop bringing money home.  This is getting ridiculous!"

I slept restlessly all that night.  Part of my restlessness was certainly due to the monumental thing I knew I had to do the next day, but most of it was because of the dreams that plagued me all night.  ALL NIGHT, I dreamed of all of the concrete ways that God would provide for my family.  The dreams were very specific.  God gave us shoes, he gave us bikes, there were rooms and rooms of schoolbooks.  And throughout the whole dream I wandered, wide-eyed, and kept saying to my husband (who was with me), "I didn't know, I didn't know.  I didn't know it would be this easy, I didn't know that it was all within grasp!"

At 5:00 the next morning (November 15th), the alarm went off.  I think I was already awake, sorting through my dreams, and as soon as I heard Justin stir, I sat up in bed and burst into tears.  I blubbered hysterically.  "I can't do this anymore, I can't even sleep now, I thought I could ignore all of the messages but now they are in my dreams!  I can't even SLEEP!"  He was dumbfounded, had no idea what I could be speaking of.  "Slow down, start from the beginning," he murmured, and I blubbered my way through the whole long two week window, every message, every encouragement I had shut my eyes tightly against.  I confessed my secret plan and told him why I couldn't possibly follow through now.  "This is ours now," he told me, "you can't keep these things to yourself, you have to tell me."  I assured him that no 9-month pregnant woman literally on her way to the Childbirth Center would be advocating for having MORE children if it were not by divine intervention.  He understood.  He prayed with me, I wiped my eyes, we woke the children to take to the sitter's, and we were on our way.

I'm telling you all of this back story to try to explain the level of peace I had when we were finally admitted and I was lying in that bed.  I was diabetic, facing my second VBAC, and there were risks abounding, but I had so much peace about that day and about our future as a family.  I had been having nightly anxiety attacks for months but they were all gone now.  There was a bigger picture.  It would all be okay.

And then... came Bea.  She was delivered from me at 12:27 am on the morning of the 16th.  I cried when they announced her time of birth.  When I first met Justin, he was young and stubborn, with the world on his shoulders, and he had boldly made a pact within himself that he would take control of his life and would not marry until he was 27 years old (just an arbitrary number).  In reality, on his 27th birthday, I was already pregnant with our third child.  But the further we have gotten in our life together, the more that God has reassured us that he knows the plans we laid forth for ourselves, and that he has a better way.  Ari was born on August 27th, Henry was born on May 27th, and our first daughter--Beatrice--was born 27 minutes after midnight on the 16th, just a few short weeks after Justin and I celebrated 16 years together.  Somebody planned her arrival.  Somebody knew, all this time, that she was coming.  She was meant to be.

So many people have asked me what I felt when she was born.  I really can't put it into words.  I was so thrilled, and so shocked, on such a deep level that I'm still coming up out of the fog.  When I saw my 18 year old niece for the first time after Beatrice was born, I told her, "It's as if you have this person, this one person that you love most in the world.  And he wants so much to have this one particular gift, but you can't give it to him.  And then one day you get to give that gift, and the feeling is more than you can bear."  Handing my husband his daughter was one of the single most greatest moments of my life.   It takes nothing away from the elation we felt when each of our sons were born.  But Bea was a special little seed inside Justin's heart--she is the one he has been watching for--and seeing the look on his face when he got to be a daddy to her for the first time--a daughter's daddy--is beyond what I can describe.

We named our daughter Beatrice because it means "Bringer of Joy".  Her middle name is Ruth, which means "Companion, Friend".  She changed our whole lives.  She changes our future.  She made me a liar---all of the things I have insisted for years that I would NEVER do if I had a daughter, I have already done.  When I myself was young, I despised girly things, hated girly colors, climbed trees with the boys and tried to rip holes in my dresses before Sunday School so that I could get away with wearing pants.  I had one dress that I loved but it was blue.  My bedroom was a sunny yellow.  When well-meaning friends tried to tease that I would go over-the-top GIRL should a daughter enter our fraternity, I told them they didn't know me well enough.  She would wear her brothers' hand-me-downs, I insisted--no sense in spending valuable dollars on a second wardrobe when the original Levis would do.  And then this little sunny spot was born, and all of my days were brand new.  All of the rules were different.  I immediately began growing my nails and dropping baby pounds.  I had the sudden urge to call my father and apologize for all the years I have worn ripped jeans instead of long skirts.  I was shocked at the fierce protection I felt for her--totally different emotions than those that flooded my heart in the boys' first days.  I dressed her in purple one day and spent the whole day mad at her clothes because they weren't pink.  Seriously, people.  I have lost my mind over this girl.

To my darling Baby Bea,

You were known before there was time.  We have been waiting for you!  We didn't know how full we would be with you in our lives.  Beauty begins with your name; you are what men have built ships for, sailed seas, and climbed mountains to find.  Three days after your birth I danced with you and Daddy to "Great is Thy Faithfulness" while Daddy told you that he couldn't wait to braid your hair some day, and I cried.  Every time I see the way he looks at you, I cry.  You are the jewel in my crown.  You are my daughter, my sweet Baby Bea!  Nana wants to buy you purses.  She wanted to stop and buy you a purse when she drove us home from the hospital, but it was too soon.  There will be plenty of time for purses!

You are such a special girl.  Your smile lights up the room.  Your brothers revere you, stand in amazement at you, soothe you when you cry.  Reese sang you Cami's Lullaby and you went right off to sleep.  Daddy lulled you to sleep with his mandolin, and the moment changed him forever.  That man would fight dragons for you.

Bea, your daddy and I could have missed you.  We could have so easily missed you. 

"Weeping may last for the night, but JOY comes in the morning!"  psalm 30 verse 5

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I played restaurant with the boys today and made them a menu from which they could order their lunch. Sean took the cake for the biggest meal....he ordered 1 1/2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a green salad with grated beets, grated carrots, red bell pepper & balsamic dressing, potato chips, corn chips & salsa, black olives, plain yogurt with sliced bananas, walnut brownie with whipped cream, hot tea and a glass of milk. And he ate every bite...except for the salad!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Settlers of Catan

The boys got a gallon-sized ziplock stuffed to the brim with homemade Chex Mix from their nana in today's mail. They dumped their portions out onto paper towels and immediately began sorting into individual commodities...and the bartering is about to begin!