Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Growing Up

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about how life is changing for our family and how our family dynamics have begun to change.  Oh, there's no major change on the horizon like moving to a new home (we did that last year) or having a baby (we did that the year before), but there are changes just the same.  Instead of being a family of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, we are currently a family of toddlers, preschoolers, and older kids, and while having older kids is easier in so many ways, it brings its own share of insecurities.  

When we had only little ones,  I struggled with finding the time to do the simple things like shave my legs, vacuum the dining room, or return books at the library drop box.  Having to do all of those things on the same day  had the potential to send me into a panic.  Adding in extras like blogging or sewing were a luxurious bonus. 

When we had only little ones, I often didn't have enough hands to go around.  There was always someone to hold, someone who needed a mouth wiped, or someone with their hands in the bag of flour.  I often got touched out.  As much as I loved baby snuggles, I still wished for a full night of sleep without tiny arms flailing out and hitting me in the face. 

Transitioning into an "older" family means that I have helpers.  When I am getting everyone ready to go out for the day, Gavin takes Benjamin to the potty and Maddie finds Alaine's shoes while I make sure the diaper bag is ready to go.  Owen holds the back door open for us like a gentleman while someone grabs Alaine's hand as she walks down the deck steps.  When we get back home, Maddie sits in the car with a sleeping toddler while I unlock the door.  Gavin hangs all the coats back on hangers and everyone tucks their own gloves back into their hats before putting them into the bin that holds our winter gear.

I am still close enough to the hard(er) days to remember how they feel, but far enough away to look at them with  perspective.  I know how tiring and draining each day can feel, but I know how much joy the weeks bring and how quickly the years pass. 

The thing is, now I'm in new territory.  Though I'm still fully entrenched in the baby years, I'm also experiencing new hard things.  Now the trials are on a mental and emotional level.  Now I listen to made-up jokes and laugh even if they don't make sense.  I have to learn not to take it personally when someone sheds tears over a math lesson or doesn't want me to call them 'cute' anymore.  Now I have to figure out whether a stern word or a hug is more effective when someone has a unwarranted meltdown.  I go to bed wondering what my kids will think of me when they grow up.  I wonder if I bark out too many orders without taking time to listen.  Now I can't even resort to spelling when my husband and I are having a private discussion in front of the kids! 

So while I readily agree that it is easier being the mom of older kids, it's harder, too.  It reminds me of my own weakness.  It reminds me that Christ says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  I thank God for  His grace

{Read Amy's thoughts on this parenting transition, too: Like junior high, we hope the bad parts get forgotten.}

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Finn's Story

I tell a lot of stories.  I've told our home story.  I've told our van story.  I've told our love story.  I've  told three birth stories.  I just wasn't sure anyone wanted to hear our dog story, too, but when I shared pictures on Facebook last week, several friends jumped in saying they'd love to hear how Finn came to be part of our family. 

I guess the story really began about three years ago when Maddie began begging for a pet.  Since we lived in a townhouse, no furry pets were allowed so we bought three fish.  The fish were a disaster and it seemed that I was always the one to find one dead after the kids had gone to bed and I had to sleep all night knowing that I had to share the bad news in the morning.  It has scarred me for life and I can't even look at the fish in the Walmart tanks without getting a sick feeling in my stomach.  {Really.} 
Repeatedly, Maddie asked for a pet and we held her off by saying, "We can't, but when we move to our own house someday, we'll think about it then."  Last May, we moved to our own house.  I mentioned getting a cat, but Maddie kept saying she'd like a dog.  I wasn't ready for how much work a dog involves so we  stalled. 

The week after Christmas, I was looking through the newspaper's classified ads and saw a listing for free black lab puppies.  Brian and I discussed it, and he decided to call the owner.  She only had one puppy left and there was another interested family, but she promised to call if that fell through.  We never heard anything and Maddie was none the wiser. 

At the end of January, Brian's boss came by to drop off some paperwork.  He mentioned that he had been to a local animal shelter and seen three black lab puppies up for adoption.  The shelter required that our whole family come visit before adopting so we tentatively told the kids that we were thinking about getting a dog.  Maddie was elated and the boys were warming to the idea, too.  (Until recently, Owen had been afraid of dogs and Gavin was more of a cat lover.)  We put in an application on one of the puppies, but again, another family was ahead of us and all three puppies were adopted. 

Since we were not in a hurry (well, Maddie was, but we were not), we decided to take our time and not rush things, but I continued to check the animal shelter website.  Most of the dogs that came through were older dogs, and we wanted a puppy that could grow up with our family and be trained to follow our house rules. 

In mid-February, another black lab puppy named Gideon came up for adoption.  This time, our application was first in line so we anxiously awaited its approval.  We waited an entire day and heard nothing, but we assumed the puppy was ours since there was no reason to think otherwise. Finally, there was a phone call two days after we applied.  The lady on the other end of the line was friendly.  "I have a few questions," she said.  "Are you planning for this dog to live outside?"  
"Yes," I answered. 

"Oh, well, we're going to have to stop this application right here.  We only let our dogs go to homes where they will be kept indoors." 

Brian wasn't home so I had to break the news to Maddie alone.  She held it together at first, but then she broke into sobs.  We talked about how we had prayed that we would only get  this puppy  if it was His will and that the Lord must have other plans for us.  If anything, that made her cry harder.

That same day, an ad on Craigslist caught my eye.  This time, a mother dog at a private residence had given birth to eleven black and white lab puppies and the owner was looking for new homes.  I corresponded with the lady via e-mail and phone and we set up to visit the puppies on a Monday morning.  This time we had the option of keeping it a secret.  I wanted to protect Maddie's heart from another disappointment, so we arranged for Brian's mom to come stay with the kids while we ran this special errand.

As soon as we met the puppies, we knew that we had come to the right place.  There were four left, two males and two females, two black and two white.  We chose a black male, snuggled him in the truck on a blanket, and began our drive home. 

Since this was to be a family dog, we wanted the whole family to have a part in naming him. During our puppy search, the kids had been name brainstorming and had compiled a list of about thirty names.  As we neared home, Brian and I started getting silly and calling out names we saw on signs and billboards. 

When we got home, I walked into the house and said hello to the kids.  They were busy coloring at the table, but glanced up a me briefly.  Brian walked in behind me holding the puppy.  Maddie looked up at him and said, "Hi, Daddy," then went back to coloring.  Then she stopped and looked again, before jumping up from the table.  Gavin said, "Is he our puppy?" 

That afternoon, we sat down to have an official naming meeting.  Brian and I had narrowed the list down to three names and we did a silent family vote.  The choices were Barker, Finn, or Cole, and Finn won the vote 4-2. (Alaine didn't vote!)   It's appropriate since now every one of our first names ends with a "n" sound-- Brian, Kristin, Gavin, Madelyn, Owen, Benjamin, Alaine, and Finn!

Winter seems to have passed us by this year so Maddie has spent every spare minute of these mild February days outside.  She rubs Finn to sleep and hold him while he naps. She brushes him and feeds him and trains him.  She plays and runs with him.  Her dream has come true.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Winter Bloom

It's cozy and fuzzy.  It's colorful.  It's cheerful. 

It doesn't need to be watered.    

It makes me smile.


Friday, February 24, 2012


Alaine and  Aunt Kati

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Linking to...


{this moment} by Soulemama - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How Do You... Meal Plan?

How do you plan what your family is going to eat?  

When I menu plan, I work two weeks at a time.  I grocery shop every other week so it makes sense to plan meals the same way.  I start with a piece of notebook paper and fold it in half the long way.  I write the days Monday through Sunday in the margins with one week on one side of the paper and the other week on the other side.  If I know of plans we have for a certain day (co-op or a birthday party, etc.) I'll pencil that in, too, since that could determine how much time I have to cook or if after-dinner clean-up needs to be speedy. 

Next I start filling in meals.  Over the summer, I made a list of over fifty meals choices.  It is not as varied as it sounds.  Spaghetti, pasta pie, and skillet pasta were separate entries on the list, as were Mexican casserole, taco soup, and bean & rice burritos.  At first I made an effort to try something different every night, but once I made everything on the list once, I loosened my standards and we  mostly rotate through our favorites. 

Once the schedule is made, I post it on the refrigerator, but it is not strict!  If I forget to pull ground beef from the freezer, I scan the list for a substitute.  If plans are changed and we need to go out unexpectedly, I switch meals with another night.  Writing a meal on a particular day does not set it in stone. 

Meal planning is an easy way to ensure my family eats a planned meal every night and not be left with what I can scramble to throw together at five o'clock! 

How do you plan for meal times?    Let us know in the comments! 
If you have a question for a future "How Do You...?" post, share that in the comments, too.        

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Baby Number 6

Oh, it's not what you're thinking, but life is about to get even crazier around here.  The interrupted nights and potty training has already begun. 

We brought our sixth baby home yesterday afternoon, much like we've brought home the other five, tucked between Brian and me on the seat while the older kids waited at home for our return.  

His name is Finn and he is nine weeks old, born six days before Christmas.  

Part of a litter of eleven puppies, he is used to large families and fits in well around here.  He certainly doesn't lack for love and attention. We refer to him as the "little brother."  He's spunky and energetic, but he melts like butter in your arms when you pick him up. 

As Gavin said tonight, "Finn has already become one of our family." 

Tri-Moms: Romancing Your Husband

This week the Tri-Moms discuss Romancing Your Husband.  Back in November when we were selecting topics for the coming season, we settled on the first February topic (Frugal Date Ideas) and then someone suggested rounding out the love month with Romancing Your Husband.  There was some discussion as to how this topic was different than the first until one of us said, "Romancing your husband is more than the things you do together.  It is letting him know that he is still the man you love." 

Brian and I met almost half of my life ago.  (I was sixteen and I turn thirty-two this year.)  We went on our first date thirteen years ago, we got engaged eleven years ago, and we've been married for ten-and-a-half years.   While we've also rejoiced in many, many ups-- the birth of five babies, a new home, job promotions-- we've also experienced our share of downs-- money struggles, miscarriage, and death of a parent.  In our experience, the tough times truly brought us closer as we shared in the pain together.

Our Wedding Day

Even in the day to day minor difficulties, the rough days bring us closer together.  Spring is the biggest strain on our marriage because Brian returns to work (after the winter off) and grass grows with a vengeance.  Being in lawn care, growing grass is great for business and we are thankful (!), but it also means that he works long hours and some weeks we don't see him at home nearly enough.  When we do see him, he is tired and often stressed with the business calls he needs to return and the nightly paperwork he brings home.  But you know what?  When the house quiets at the end one of those days, we have the best late-night talks when we are both exhausted and half dead on the sofa.  They are better than the late-night talks that we have any other time of year because they mean more and we don't take our precious few minutes for granted.

August 2008 (and 7 months pregnant with Benjamin)

It is easy in the blogging world to only show the rosy, happy side of life.  It is easy to sweep the dirt under the rug and only show the good stuff (both literally and figuratively).  I mean it when I say, though, that our marriage is good stuff. 

So you want to know my secrets for a happy marriage? 

1) Don't consider divorce an option.  When we said our wedding vows, we meant them and we don't give ourselves the option of getting out when it gets hard.  I am continually saddened when I hear of marriages falling apart.  Especially in the celebrity circuit, you hear of couples who have been together seven years or five years or sometimes even less, say things like, "It wasn't working anymore," but marriage isn't an appliance that breaks and quits operating.  It is a sacred covenant so we've always planned for forever and never considered any differently. 

2) Don't talk negatively about him in front of the kids...or anybody else!  I've made it a goal of mine to not speak negatively about Brian in front of anyone.  It doesn't mean I don't grumble to myself when he does something that annoys me.  It also doesn't mean that I don't giggle along with the other ladies when we talk about how men leave their laundry strewn about or draped over the chair, but as far as complaining about him or putting him down, it just doesn't happen.  I like Brian to know that he has nothing to worry about when we are apart, and it is  important to maintain that respect in front of the kids, too. 

3) Tell him I love him. 
Maybe it goes without saying, but knowing I love him is not the same as verbalizing it.   I tell him I love him every morning when he leaves for work and every night before we go to sleep. 

4) Place our marriage in the Lord's hands.  "Unless the Lord builds the house,  the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain." (Psalm 127:1 NIV)  Regardless of all my effort, it all truly depends on Him and we have Him to thank as each minute and day and week and month and year of our marriage passes. 


As always...take a moment to visit my fellow Tri-Moms,

Coming Soon:

March 6: Celebrating Spring
March 20:  Gardening with Kids
April 3: Celebrating the Meaning of Easter
April 17: Spring Cleaning
May 1: Reflecting on the Past School Year
May 15: Summer Learning Plans

Monday, February 20, 2012

Adding Pizazz to Pizza

Pizza eaters fall into two categories:  those who eat the crust and those who don't. 

I am a crust eater, but when I served my own homemade pizza (which I do often), something was lacking.  Brian never (never!) complains about what we eat for dinner, but he did admit that the taste was a bit bland and he never specially requested homemade pizza for dinner. 

Still, we all love pizza so I worked to come up with a solution.  At first I tried experimenting with the toppings, thinking that maybe adding more diverse flavors would be the key, but no, something still wasn't right.  I tried adding more cheese, less cheese, various varieties of cheese.  I tried different sauces and different amounts of sauce, and while we ate many good pizzas, none of them were great. 

A few months ago, I focused in on the crust.  I started by adding ingredients to the dough, but they were barely detectable.  One night, I was inspired.  Instead of putting things into the crust, I brushed on some butter and sprinkled things onto the crust. 

That night at dinner, there were oohs and aahs around the table as everyone bit into their slices.  Flavor predominated from that first cheesy bite all the way to the finger-licking crust! 

   Easy Pizazz-y Pizza Crust

Start with a basic crust recipe.  Roll out your dough and assemble your pizza.  Before baking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  In a separate bowl, mix
¼ cup Parmesan cheese with 1 tablespoon of garlic salt.  Brush melted butter around edges of the unbaked crust and sprinkle generously with the garlic mixture.  Bake pizza as directed and enjoy! 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tri-Moms Share the Love Giveaway: Day 6

Giveaway is now closed.  The winner is Hannah.  Congratulations! 

Welcome to the final day of
Tri-Moms Share the Love Giveaway Week!


Today's giveaway would be the perfect companion to Day 3's giveaway

This Dover paper doll set  (American Family of the Colonial Era)  contains 8 dolls with 32 costumes and is sure to delight any little girl. 

No need to click away!  Today's giveaway is hosted right here!  Follow the directions in the Rafflecopter form below to enter.  Giveaway ends Saturday, March 3.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


There is still time to sign up for all of the Tri-Moms Share the Love Giveaways:

crochet patterns from Knot Sew Cute Etsy shop
Mornings With Jesus 2012 devotional
A is For Abigail by Lynne Cheney
Don't Make Me Come Up There by blogger Kristen Welch
Speak by Laurie H. Anderson

And please do, come back the first and third Tuesday of every month for fun discussions. 

Upcoming Topics:

February 21: Romancing Your Husband
March 6: Celebrating Spring
March 20:  Gardening with Kids
April 3: Celebrating the Meaning of Easter
April 17: Spring Cleaning
May 1: Reflecting on the Past School Year
May 15: Summer Learning Plans

Friday, February 17, 2012

Finished Friday

When we moved into our home last May, our first goals centered around the obvious things that needed doing.  The front door had big sheets of peeling paint that needed to be removed before the door could be primed and re-painted.  The pump house needed to be emptied of the previous owner's (literal) junk and the truckload (!) of stuff hauled away.  The door frames to the bedrooms and the kids' bathroom needed to be repainted.  The dishwasher needed repair.  Dead bushes needed to be uprooted.  We spent many a busy summer evening and fall weekend working on house projects.  Then Christmas arrived with its flurry of going and doing. 

It was the middle of January before we sat back and said, "Okay, what can we do now?"  With the pressing projects out of the way, we turned to the more frivolous list of to-dos. 

I've been asking Brian for years to paint something (the side of a dresser, a section of the wall...) with black chalkboard paint, but he has never shown any interest, so when he showed me a picture in a magazine of a kitchen cabinet chalkboard and said he like how it looked, I jumped into action. 

We bought the paint and a small roller and set to work.  It was a slow process.  Each coat of paint took about five minutes to apply, but we had to wait twenty-four hours between coats...and it took three coats for adequate coverage!  Then we had to "prime" the chalkboard with a layer of chalk for another twenty-four hours before the project could be called complete. 

And what did we choose to write on our new kitchen chalkboard first?  Another to-do list of home projects!    

Linking to...

Tri-Moms Share the Love Giveaway: Day 5


Please join Christy @ A Living Homeschool where she is hosting today's book giveaway.  (Click here to go to Christy's blog for a chance to win!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How Do You... Find Time To Blog?

How you keep on GOOD blogging? {submitted by Kathi} 

How do you find time to do all the important things and still blog? I've been staying up late to do the little I've done and I know there must be a better way. {submitted by Allyson}

This is a tough question for me to answer for several reasons.  
  1. It's hard to answer because I've gone through many phases of blogging-- phases where I have very little extra time and consider giving up blogging altogether... phases where I agonize over every little post and wonder if I should post more frequently or less frequently...and phases like the one I'm in now where I post often because I have ideas and I have a bit of free time.   I know firsthand the struggle to find where blogging fits into the job of mothering and caring for a household.  I also know that each of our situations is unique and that my schedule may not be your schedule, and my convictions, not your convictions. 
  2. It also hard to answer because I'm a night owl and I do sometimes stay up late blogging so if you are looking for a "better" way, you might not find it from me!   I'm not sure if it is because I naturally don't need hours and hours of sleep to function or because my body has adapted after many years of waking for nursing babies, but either way, I am able can go to bed at midnight and wake when the alarm rings at 6:45 with little problem.  I guess maybe I'm a morning person, too. 
My days are busy, busy, busy, and my nights are restful and restorative. I've set a computer standard for myself during the day.  I check my e-mail after breakfast and I check it again sometime in the afternoon, but all other fun online work occurs at night after the kids are in bed.  That means that I have all day to devote to the important things-- school, running errands, reading storybooks, playing peekaboo, preparing meals, washing dishes, cuddling, mending clothes, folding towels-- so that by the time I put the kids to bed at 8 or 9 o'clock, the house is in order. 

Of course, I occasionally fold a load of laundry "after-hours" and I always wait to start the dishwasher right before I go to bed, but as a general rule, my evenings are free of housework and open to leisure activities.  This could all change if we have another baby or extra activities are added to our daily schedule, but in this season right now, it's the way things work.

As far as my frequency of blogging, I used to struggle to post more than a couple of times a week.  I'm a slow writer and it took time to get my thoughts typed out.  In October, I took on the challenge of posting for 31 Days in a row on the same topic.  During the month, writing became a habit and ever since, my ideas and words have flowed more easily. 

It may sounds silly, or maybe not, but if you have concerns about your blogging habits or you have a passion to write yet can't seem to find the time or inspiration, PRAY ABOUT IT.  Ask for wisdom, ask for clarity, and ask for ideas.  He will meet you where you are. 

How do you find time to blog regularly?  Let us know in the comments! 
If you have a question for a future "How Do You...?" post, share that in the comments, too.        

Tri-Moms Share the Love Giveaway: Day 4

Welcome to the Tri-Moms Share the Love Giveaway Week!

Today, please join Allyson @ A Heart For Home for your chance to a copy of Don't Make Me Come Up There by blogger, Kristen Welch.  (Click here to enter at Allyson's blog.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tri-Moms Share the Love Giveaway: Day 3

Giveaway is now closed.  The winner is Pamela H.  Congratulations! 

Are you looking for a book to share with your children on President's Day (February 20) or for Black History Month? 

A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women
by Lynne Cheney could meet both criteria.  Jam packed with FUN information on the women who influenced American history, each page is a work of art with tidbits of information literally tucked into the corners of the colorfully sketched illustrations. 

No need to click away this morning.  Today's giveaway is hosted right here!  Follow the directions in the Rafflecopter form below to enter. 
Giveaway ends Wednesday, February 29th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

This is love:

Not that we loved God,

but that He loved us.

I John 4:10

Tri-Moms Share the Love Giveaway: Day 2

Happy Valentine's Day!
Welcome to the Tri-Moms Share the Love Giveaway Week!  

Today, please join Christy @ A Living Homeschool for your chance to win Mornings With Jesus 2012: Daily Encouragement For Your Soul.  (Click here to go to Christy's blog for your chance to win!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tri-Moms Share the Love Giveaway: Day 1

Welcome to the Tri-Moms Share the Love Giveaway Week!

Christy, Allyson, and I will each be hosting two giveaways this week, providing you with six days of giveaway fun!  I'll be back each morning through Saturday to let you know what will be up for grabs and where you need to go to sign up

Today, please join Allyson @ A Heart For Home for your chance to win crochet patterns from the Knot Sew Cute Etsy shop.  (Click here to enter.

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