Wednesday, September 8, 2010


We're It's time that Ari gets a nod in the address. Come on over!

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!