Looking Ahead....2013

This has been quite a year, but I'm thankful for so much.

Thinking about the year to come, I'm using the word "more" a lot. Personally, I'm hoping for:

1. More grace, patience, long suffering and forgiveness extended towards others.

2. More joy in trial and annoyances.

3. More serving and loving those in need and trial.

4. More Hospitality

5. More relationship building

6. More margin. More staring at the clouds and stars.

7. More cuddles, more singing and more playing with my children.

8. More loving, helping and treasuring Tuan.

9. More family time with our extendeds.

10. More prayer.

11. To be more like Jesus.

12. More exercise and time outdoors.

13. More reading.


Save the Mums!

A few years ago, I was visiting with a gardener friend who was showing me her garden. I commented on the beautiful mums in one of her beds and she nonchalantly informed me that they were leftover from the previous fall's decorating.


I had just assumed that potted mums were a one hit wonder , that should be thrown out when Christmas arrived. No way!

After Thansgiving, chuck your pumpkins, haybales and cornstalks in your compost piles and stick those tired old mums in your flower beds. Choose a semi-sunny spot. When they seem to die off, cut them back almost to the ground and leave them be until next spring. They'll start growing back in May and be blooming by June.

Faithfully water them, cut them back in early Summer so they don't get leggy and snip off spent blooms. Come September, you'll have a jump start on your fall decorating!

So, save your mums! Don't throw them out! At the very least, give them to me!


Getting Ready!

T's surgery is next Tuesday, first family for Thanksgiving arrive on Wednesday with the next batch of guests on Monday! We are hosting Thanksgiving and will have a minimum of five cooks cooking all week.
It's lots of fun, but our kitchen had reached a state of deplorable disorder. Today is dedicated to getting things in order, so no one has to ask where things are or what is what.
I was inspired by Edie of LifeinGrace who did an incredible 31 day series on hospitality.
Today's goals: 1. Dedicated beverage center for coffee, tea, cups and glasses. It's next to the fridge--brilliant (!). 2. Baking center with all the staples labeled and close to the bowls, mixer and oven. 3. Tidied up spice cabinet and 4. A Cleaned out pantry.

I also treated myself to brand new glassware. It was a minor splurge at Walmart that has made a HUGE difference. Seeing the non-scratched, shining everyday glasses on the shelf gives me a domestic thrill every time I pass by. I'm also less embarrasses to offer folks a drink! I also bought a package of new dish towels at Sam's. They are a great value (24 for 12.00) I never use paper towels in the kitchen, so our towels take a beating and were pretty grungy. The old ones will go to the storage room for really nasty and outdoor work. Here are some photos of the ( very much still in) progress:


Finally . . . A Project!

For months--14 weeks--to be exact, I have been itching to do something creative; to move furniture; to totally throw the whole house in chaos. . . . Having a newborn however pre-empts that. It's really just surviving that first bit+the other three kids+soccer and, just, life!

Tonight, I finally got some of that itch out. We moved all the kids (excepting R who is still in our room) into one bedroom and turned the now spare room into a school room. I have had this recurring dream that I find a spare room in our house. Although this is not quite the fulfillment of that dream, it is kind of like gaining a bonus room!

We have a small-ish house which I LOVE. I like small space living a lot. However, the reality is that there is one dining room, one living area, our laundry is in the kitchen and there are no bonus spaces. So up until now school happened at THE table. The one we breakfast at, lunch at, have company at. This meant that after breakfast we pulled EVERYTHING for school out and whether or not we were done at lunch, EVERYTHING had to be either stacked all over the dining room or whisked away. And being sort of laid back (and a bit lazy) and loving naps, the thought of picking up with lessons after lunch (and dragging it all out again) was enough to call it quits for the day.

Now that we have a dedicated space, it will be much easier to run down for lunch mid-math lesson, leave everything out and after lunch get right back to work--at least I hope so! We can also let Mr. O nap in his own bed and J can still play with his toys.

We are putting the kids in the smaller of the two bedrooms because it has a bigger closet for clothes storage and the schoolroom will also serve as the play room. The kids are excited to be together and have a play room. Miss A has gotten this idea that the playroom is going to have a ball pit. Yes, indeed. A ball pit. This cracks me up because of the idea of it and the fact that no matter how many times we explain that, no, we will not have a ball pit, she keeps on believing.

Things are not really "done" yet, but I thought I'd share pictures thus far because it's been so fun to work on this. The pictures are all leftover from the boy's occupation. After T finishes the bunk beds, the black desk will probably go into the kids room.

 Looking in the door. Yes, that's a trampoline. I guess if you have a trampoline in your bedrooms, there's no reason why a ball pit doesn't make perfect sense!
The curtains really need hemming. Also, the beloved German Shepherd needlepoint is crooked! Gasp.
 Here is another view of the table. This table was in our first apartment and house. I had forgotten it was in the attic (I know, right, I hate it when people are all like, "I had furniture in my attic that I forgot about and we just pulled it down and it worked perfectly for us" and here I am doing just that). I had not forgotten about the chairs, though. Love these girls and am glad to have them back in use. Stink! Another crooked picture!

The blue bookshelf is called "the Library" in our house it holds all of the little children's books. We have a mate for the blue bookshelf that is in our room right now. Whenever we find a piece of furniture for our bedroom to replace it, I'd like to put the other shelf beside the kitchen. Now that J is beginning to read, I'd like to have the big kid stuff more accessible.
 Almost all of our toys but the Thomas track are in this room. Miss A has my old dollhouse and all the doll "stuff" is kept in the drawers below. She is a bit of a messy housekeeper and her domestic sphere is rather dismal.Wonder where she gets that from?
And the closet . . . blergh. It needs some serious work--mostly another shelf to separate school stuff from toys. It's very visually bland and I'm only sharing it because 1, I always wonder what's behind closed doors, and 2. Maybe it will motivate me to do something about it!

That's the schoolroom so far. Still a few things to move into the room like games, puzzles. I'm very excited that with the holidays coming it it will be easier to host folks and keep up with schoolwork. I'll try to post more as we do more.


The Storm

(This took place on Tuesday)


And I want to remember.

I should have known. There were signs everywhere that today was going to be odd--something was up. It was a lot like the feeling one gets when a severe summer thunderstorm is coming. Things are just a bit off and the atmosphere is different. Baby R woke up at 3:30 to eat (which is odd) and again at 6:45. When she finished, Toddler O was up, so T kindly took them downstairs so I could get a bit more sleep.

"A little sleep, a little slumber..."

I woke up much later than planned and started dressing for a church luncheon. Baby R was asleep and the big kids were mostly dressed and ready to head to town. Looking at the clock, I realized that we were in a "tight spot" for nursing. It was time for R to eat, but I decided that since she was happy, I'd to put off nursing until we got to church.

Everyone was loaded up and I just could not get out the door. I kept forgetting things! In and out, in and out. My sunglasses were hiding somewhere. We finally got on the road, flew through McD's for the kids lunches and by the time we reached the stacks, Miss R was M-A-D. We pulled in to the church parking lot which was particularly full and parked VERY far from the nursery entrance. Baby R is a 45 minute nurser and by then it was really too late to nurse if I was going to get everyone dropped off and in the nursery by the time the luncheon was starting. Thankfully, I had a bottle on hand.

We unload from the car, I get everyone's happy meal in a bucket in their happy hands and we head towards the nursery from the far reaches of the parking lot. Halfway there, I realize we'd left the emergency formula in the car. We turn around and go back to the van. Did I mention that baby R was STILL crying?

By the time I herd all the crew down to the nursery, get screaming baby R settled in with a bottle and the big kids in their rooms, I was a bit frazzled. Someone asked how I was doing and I just laughed. It had been a morning!

But that was only the beginning.

After the luncheon, my plan was to put a movie on the portable DVD player and nurse R in the car. It had been six hours since she'd last nursed and may I say it was time?

The clouds were gathering and the winds were blowing while I was at the luncheon. When I picked up the kids, everyone was fine except J. "My waist is hurting!" He kept saying that again and again. On the way to the car, Toddler O fell in the parking lot and hit his head on the concrete. A lovely scrapped goose egg was popping up on his temple/forehead.

Then the storm hit.

By the time we got to the car and had everyone strapped in. J was crying and repeatedly telling me his "waist hurt". Miss A waited until we reached the car (parked a hike and a half away from the church) to tell me that she needed to use the bathroom.

I don't know what other moms with lots of kids do in these situations, I really don't. How do you safely send a kid to a bathroom without getting EVERYONE else out of the car?

I checked J for a fever and looked at his belly which was distended. No fever, but I could tell he was really in pain, so we drove to the nursery entrance, parked in a handicap spot (I NEVER do that, but desperate times, folks) and I sent A to the nursery entrance to use the bathroom. Naturally it was locked and she couldn't reach the buzzer, so she had to run back to the car. I left my other three in the car on Pinehurst and dashed to let her in, then dashed back and had to turn right back around because she couldn't get the bathroom door open. I'm trying to call the pediatrician at that point and I'm on the phone running back and forth between the van and the door like a crazy lady. I propped the bathroom door open with a garbage can so she could get out and ran back to the van to make sure no one had stolen our lovely eggplant of a nine-year-old-Sienna (I hear they're a real hot ticket for car thieves-heh).

Quick call to the pediatrician and left a message with the nurse. Quick call to T for help and advice. By then A is back in the car and we are heading down State St. Since it made no sense to head home, we started driving towards the Peds office in Flowood. I called again and got the receptionist and begged them to work us in. It was 1:50 and there was a 3:00 available.

Now we are on the way down Lakeland, J is crying, I haven't nursed in seven hours, I've got a toddler who needs a nap and a mercifully compliant four year old. Not only was the thought of J being really sick  overwhelming, there were three other kiddos to care for, feed, etc. It was a logistically crazy moment. It was time for most folks to pick up kids from school and for the life of me I couldn't think of anyone to call on for help. T couldn't leave work, so I was on my own.


I called one of my prayer warriors, Sheila and filled her in. Just then J goes from crying to SCREAMING. I would have turned on my flashers and floored it down Lakeland, but traffic was too packed for speeding.

We reach the Cheddar's and J is begging for the bathroom. By the time we get to Chik Fil A it is too late. The plan to nurse in the car before the appointment was out.

We park at the Peds and I get everyone out, plus my nursing pillow, nursing cover, diaper, purse, and a jacket for J (why?). Oh, and R is in the carseat. We were quite the spectacle.

J goes straight to the germy bathroom and I sign us in and take O and R into the bathroom, leaving A in the waiting room.

Everything gets even more interesting at that point. J's pants are ruined and the turkey was going commando (!). O gives up his pants for the cause, so now I have one child stinking up the bathroom, a toddler wearing a T-shirt and diaper, a four year old who has no idea where we are (oops) and a baby who is waking up and ready to eat.

A kind mom brings A to the bathroom who simultaneously informs me that she didn't know where we were and that the bathroom stunk. No kidding. The receptionist locates a bag to put the stinky stuff in and I leave J in the loo and take R, O, and A back into the reception area.

R really needed to nurse right then and the only private area was in the newborn waiting room--since I had no idea what we were dealing with germ-wise and didn't want to expose any newborns or leave J completely alone, my only option was to nurse very publicly.

I'm a bit modest about public nursing, but that was the least of our concerns at that moment, so I plop into a chair, boppy and all and start feeding R in the well child area, while A and O (in a diaper and T shirt, mind you--no shorts) frolic merrily around the fish tank with the children from the SICK CHILD waiting area. I was beyond caring at that point and had moved from tears to laughter. I called T to check in and we both started laughing that at least DHS wasn't going to intervene because they were the group he was leading through our team building course right then!

When the nurse comes to take us back, I have to quickly re-dress, decide what not to take back with us (I mean, one small exam room, two adults, four children---there's just not much room for the carseat and boppy at that point, so I left those things and the bag of stinky stuff), herd O and A up, call J out of the bathroom who comes out wearing a pair of khaki shorts two sizes too small--they could either be described as hipster or skimpy, I'm not sure which. Naturally the worst has passed, so J is all cheerful and smiling, the others think its a big party and are all trying to be weighed on the scale at once and I'm completely oblivious to the fact that I still have my name tag on from the luncheon and the nursing cover draped as jauntily as a parisian scarf . . . .

"It was really awful--he was screaming . . ." I say this rather pleadingly, trying to sound credible to the nurse, who missed all the fun and was, I'm sure, thinking I'm some kind of drama mama.

Our pediatrician is always and ever wonderful and examined J, talked to us, joked and diagnosed constipation. The pain? Bowel cramps. The solution? Miralax, Miralax, Miralax.

The storm began to clear at that point except for R squalling at the check out.  We nursed in the car outside the office, while the big kids listened to Lord of the Rings. I figured if we were going to buy Miralax, we might as well do it at Target, so we spent a blissful thirty minutes in Target enjoying some retail therapy and left with new play-doh for everybody and a Venti Iced Latte for me. (If any day this expenditure was justified, I figured this was the day) O still had no pants on.

By the time we got home, it was time to nurse R again. J went to play a video game (again, totally justifiable at that point), A was busy with play-doh and O was sound asleep on the couch. T called to check in on us and everything was fine, dandy and sunshiney and calm. Just like after a storm.

In fact. It was so calm it was almost as if it had never happened.

But it did. And I want to remember.


Long, wonderful days

This is one of those mishmash posts. Ay yi yi, there is so little time for blogging these days! I wrote the birth story of our sweet baby R out, but need my husband to proof read and fact check it before publishing, because so many details are blurry! I will say that it was a wonderful labor, delivery and hospital experience. God has been so gracious to us! Here go the random things on my mind:

1. Life with four: Mercy. We are loving it, but tired. Going from one-to-two-three had their own challenges for us, but were not super difficult--HOWEVER, four has been the kicker. Our little R has certainly had us scratching our heads at times and wondering what in the world was going on. After one crazy, trying day, I was blow-drying my finally washed hair at midnight if only to feel human long enough to crawl into bed. : ) Recovery has been more challenging, getting things back in order and keeping the family in somewhat order has also kept us on our toes. I'm thankful for my grandmother who has stayed with us a good bit and helped me get desperately needed rest. Also thankful for: casseroles from our SS class, a loving husband, and sleep training (I say this as I duck my head and wait for people to start screaming at me through their monitors--but rest assured there's little crying and lots of eating going on now that we are sleep training).

2. Life with four: Bliss. As challenging as these days have been, they have been so, so sweet. We have savored and reveled in these newborn days, because by now we are really understanding how fleeting the time is. T and I will just stare at Little Bit after her last feeding, soaking it all in and hating to put her down. We are also enjoying the big kids as well. J is SIX and I can hardly believe it. A is loving being a big sister and Mr. O has become exponentially more cuddly and fun. They are all crazy about R and love to hold her and keep informed of her activities.

3. Life with four: Disasters---the house is on a rotating wreck schedule. If I were to divide homekeeping into four quadrants (upstairs, downstairs, laundry and exterior/auto),   I can safely say only 1/4-1/2 of the quadrants are acceptable and the remaining ones are chaos. I'm outnumbered and nursing and have to confess that I stayed in my bedroom a little bit more today than I should because the upstairs was at it's best and the remaining 3/4 were sketchy. We have also left home with shoeless children and suffered embarrassing crying sessions in department stores.

4. Life with four: Aging. I need intensive moisturizers on my face, my hair is drying and I'm not sure if the lightness is highlights from the summer or premature gray that graces the women in my grandmother's family.

5. Life with four: Homeschooling. I LOVE homeschooling--even in the midst of all the madness. : ) Our days are a bit more helter skelter than last's year's orderly mornings, but the kids are doing fine, learning lots and there is more independence in their work this year. Miss A is flying through her Sing Spell Read and Write. I'm trying to keep up with her.


6.Thomas the Tank Engine is a lifesaver---O has taken to it like wildfire at just the right time! Whoo-hoo. He has a nest behind the couch where all the track is stored and it keeps him busy. The Take Along track is the best!

7. Whatever happened to staying in the hospital/bed for two weeks after baby arrived? I vote we bring that back. Hospitals should have a spa/swingbed unit. Amen?

8. I'm really pondering turning the kids rooms topsy turvy and creating a play/school room and having them all in the other room with clothes storage. T is ordering wood for bunkbeds today.

9. Although he's about to have knee surgery, if you ever need something built, I highly recommend my husband. He does great work and can make just about anything!

10. I'm reading the Odyssey as part of an online classical bookclub. I'm usually a speed reader, but old Homer is slowing me down.


2012: The Summer of UP

I was texting a dear friend yesterday and was talking about how I will forever remember Summer 2012 as "The Summer of Up." Where to even begin!?

Perhaps with an apology as this is one of the corniest things I've ever written--even though I speak in truth and from the heart!

I certainly had my own expectations of what camp would be like this year and the Lord continually surprised me--and it all begins with up.

For starters, I was pretty "Knocked Up" this summer, going into camp around 31 weeks along. I realize that "knocked up" can be slang for unintended pregnancy with a boyfriend, etc (and given my Iphone's auto-correct tendencies, you've all been wondering about Ryan-lol). However, bear with me. Pregnancy and camp is quite challenging and interesting--from hormones to aches and the limitations, to the fun of having 75 staff following your progress and even placing bets on the arrival date. : )

That alone was interesting, but out of the blue and in the middle of camp, we found ourselves: "Throwing Up", "Laid Up", "Drugged Up",  and "Cooped Up" thanks to everything from stomach bugs, pink eye, fever viruses and a back that went out. It has been wild. I cannot begin to describe how crazy life has been with camp+sickness and injury. What would normally be a mildly inconvenient time of quarantine and recovery is multiplied when the whole family would much rather be at camp with the staff and campers.

At this point there were times when I bordered on being rather "Fed Up" as I struggled with contentment in times of Providentially ordained interference with my plans and sin struggles. God didn't just send frustrating circumstances, he also kept me struggling with sin this summer. Caedmon's Call had some lyrics about, "I had to laugh, because the same old struggles that plagued me then are plaguing me still." Yes and no. I discovered this summer there were victories over old sins and a multitude of new struggles and battles to be fought--all beginning in my own heart and stemming from my own sinful nature. While they were only amplified by crazy pregnancy hormones, the showers of grace God also gave give me such encouragement that He has not failed me and is continuing to do the good work he promised to do!

The Lord gave such contentment with each obstacle--even in moments of tears and "how can we deal with this now!?", contentment would gently wash over me. Psalm 121, which I've been meditating on in preparation for the baby's birth has also been useful in daily life this summer:

 lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

We've also been "Lifted Up" this summer--time and time again. The delight of having a prayer partner who I can call or text at any time of need has been sweet (Thank you, friend!). God has blessed me with a sister in Christ who knows very particularly the challenges and joys of camp life and is willing to listen and pray for me. Not only that, the body of Christ in general has lifted up prayer after prayer for us and also practically served us again and again. The camp staff have been the hands and feet of Jesus to us as they've spoken kind words, loved on our kids, chased our wayward toddler, returned our wayward toddler and chased him again. We've been encouraged and built up by the very people we are called to serve. It's humbling and so encouraging!

So this summer we've been knocked up, throwing up, laid up, drugged up, cooped up, borderline fed up, but always lifted up and by the grace of God never did we ever give up.

And fortunately we weren't held up either.


Slow Progress

Have you ever started a status on Facebook and realized how it was so trivial that you should instead insert it into a blog post? Ahem, well, I've never . . . .

We are 38 weeks, 1 day. My Doc is going to Haiti next week for a mission trip and last week offered the option of induction this week. T immediately said no and I felt the same way, but prayed about it and was worried there would be a good bit of pressure from him today to consider it. I'm grateful he accepted my refusal so kindly. There were a LOT of reasons why we said no: my mom is having a cochlear implant surgery on Friday (!), we weren't sure if J's fever virus was done with, we are training O to stay in his bed right now . . . . but the bottom line is we want the best scenario for our sweet girl.

Miss A was induced around 38 weeks and had the easiest, breeziest, most painless of all our deliveries (went in at 5:30, delivered at 9:30)--THEN she went into the NICU and spent five days there because she wasn't ready to be born.

I'm willing to wait and take the chance of greater personal discomfort or having a baby "too big" or my doctor in the country for the sake of giving our girl the best possible scenario for delivery--I am so, so grateful for medical interventions and care, but I want to avoid the slippery slope that can occur when you begin intervening here, then there, then there.

Come 40 weeks, I am open and willing to induce. God knows if we will make it that far and if he sees fit to bring her on, so be it. Every week brings a waxing and waning of different symptoms, amusements and discomforts.

This particular week I cannot get full. It's crazy. I am also having such weird issues with the lower ligaments that I can no longer carry laundry up and down the stairs or vacuum. Giving up vacuuming is hard. I tried today and my right ligament would not cooperate with my right ligament, whilst my left arm had NO strength to push and pull the vacuum that seems to have doubled in weight. I LOVE to vacuum, so this is no copout. We are going to require domestic vacuum intervention as my kiddos seem to multiply tiny pieces of paper all over the house.


Coming Attractions

As crazy as camp life can be, I am honestly enjoying this time of relative peace and quiet, because the more I think about what is ahead in the next weeks and months, the more I begin to quiver in my Chacos.


Baby #4 due July 21st, possibly arriving anytime

J begins soccer in August--two practices and one game a week (we've NEVER committed to anything like this before)

Ramping up our homeschoool curriculum with the addition of history and science

Starting back our Friday homeschoool program in September

T's brother will be getting married in Japan late September--we are hoping that T and I (plus a newborn) can go, or at the very least, T will get to go.

T has ACL surgery scheduled the first week of October which means six weeks minimum recovery and twice weekly physical therapy (since this is the right ACL, he won't be able to drive for about six weeks--mercy)

We don't do busy and this is going to be CRAZY! I may be a nutcase by Christmas. Thankfully it our tenth anniversary is December 28th and since T is not going to Peru this year, we might get to have what will then be a much-needed vacation!

I'm going to savor these last two and a quarter weeks of camp and hang on for dear life in weeks to follow! You can pray for us. : )


37 Weeks--3 weeks of camp to go, too!

Oh, my this summer has been crazy. I keep waiting for us to slip into the sweet rhythm of camp like we did last summer and it is just.not.happening!

Our summer camp season is about nine weeks total--
1.pre-training week, when all the ropes and wrangler staff and early staff arrive
2. Staff training
3. Overnight 1
4. Overnight 2
5. Day 1
6. Day 2.
and 7.8.9. Overnights 3,4,5 respectively

We are entering week seven and I'm still learning names and getting the hang of things!
Staff training is always crazy and fun, then I strategically signed us up for VBS (I said, YES to the VBS) because O-1 is so stinking crazy and busy for T that we might as well be out of the way. We had a blast at VBS--what a fun, wild week!

Then, O-2 hit and we were all ready to get our camp groove on (and go on a much-anticipated date!), when all of a sudden early Thursday morning we all came down with the stomach flu. I'm talking sleeping on the floor 'cause you can't muster the energy to get off of it stomach flu.

Finally, D-1 came--and my sweet nieces who along with J and A were all Day campers. We had a blast having them stay with us, but the mornings were much earlier than normal and the week FLEW by. I barely remember it!

This week was D-2 and I was all geared up to get into a rhythm, have some fun with the staff and BOOM! Sunday night T and I headed to the hospital to find out if the pain in my back and cramping in the abdomen I was experiencing was labor or something else. No baby arrived and we were sent home, but my back was messed up. The next day I saw my doctor and begged for pain relief, which he graciously prescribed and thus began the week of nearly non-stop sleeping on the couch, interspersed with pill-taking, water drinking and going straight back to sleep. Thankfully, my sweet mom came to help and took O home, J went to Day camp and Miss A played with our camp Mary Poppins most of the week.

Now we are thirty-seven weeks and while I'm a bit weary of being pregnant, I'm also trying to savor camp, get ready (because that hasn't been happening these last weeks!) and just focus on parenting our three children who have been living the wild and crazy life of camp and grandparents. : )

Oh, and I need to clean the house. I feel like we are on a rotating cleanliness carousel where one area will be nice and calm while everything else is in disarray. It's like a juggling act around here, really.

This is such a random post (hello, it's not even technically morning, yet), but here are some more random things:

1. Chik-fil-A sauce and fries must have some sort of legally addictive ingredient. I cannot get enough.

2. Cookies and Cream Ice cream is a good consolation for the ridiculous distance that Chik-fil-A is from our house.

3. I get ravenously hungry between 3:30 and 6 am--nearly every morning.

4. The blessing of being in the body of Christ has been so felt by the kind care shown to us by the staff during all the illness and injury we've dealt with. I'll never forget how three of the female staff took (unsick) O to camp the day the bug hit and just took care of him. We didn't have to ask, nor did we have to worry about his safety or what he was doing. What a blessing! My goal this summer was to more intentionally serve the girls and it has ended up that we have been the recipients of service from them ten-fold. More examples come to mind--the guys who will take O from me to run around and wear him out (and give me a break), the kind words, the sweet attention given to our children.

5. I love my husband. Wouldn't trade him for the world. He is such a servant and so kind and gracious. He's also kind of cute. : )

6. This summer, as I've struggled with sin, it's been encouraging to look back and see that there has been victory over previous "major struggles' and that the Holy Spirit really is working in me--even as I grapple with new and fresh temptations. One of my greatest fears is becoming stagnant and looking back on a time of life where no growth happened.

7. After four pregnancies in six years, I am totally okay with never wearing maternity clothes again. I don't take lightly the blessing of fertility and good pregnancies we've enjoyed, but I am very excited to put away the maternity clothes and even wear the transitional things I keep hanging onto for the post-partum time. I cannot wait to be able to walk (not waddle) and sleep on my back and belly and eat raw fish again. Also margaritas and mojitos.

That, too.


To the Young People of Today: Things I want to yell on Facebook

I'm always seeing things on FB that make me scratch my head and I just itch to make comments.

First of all: Facebook Drama. Unlike the real world, you don't have to keep people as friends. (Or maybe it is like the real world) That means that if someone is cussing you out on your wall or in the comments on your statuses: YOU CAN DELETE THEM AND REMOVE THEIR FRIENDSHIP! It is so easy.

Second of all: Facebook Drama. When you are fed up with whatever drama in your real life is that is apparently overflowing into Facebook and making your life so stressful that  you need to clean up your friend list, announcing it with a post is kind of silly. "I'm so sick of this drama. U r all making me crazy and I'm so sad that I have to do this, but I'm about to clean up my friend list." If you have so much drama in your life already, why create more by announcing that you are going to delete people from your list?

Third: Your relationship with Jesus is dependent upon his love for you and dying on the cross---it doesn't have to be proved by clicking "like". Jesus loves you even if you don't click "like" regarding some stranger's picture of clouds superimposed with Scriptures. Likewise, just because someone posts a picture that moves your heartstrings, you don't have to click like just because they said so, or to prove you would feed a starving child, etc . . .

Fourth: Self-adulation/congratulation. If you post something, be it a status update or a cute picture, then it can be assumed that you "like" it. There's no reason to like your own status--it's like patting yourself on the back.  (Engagement pictures, excepted. : ) )

Fifth: General relationship advice: If you are fighting your so-called friend over a boy who is cheating on her/you about who he loves the most: HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND!? How is this person worth it? Move on. Move on. Also, just because it's a song lyric, doesn't make it wise advice. Thank you.

I could say more. Perhaps I shouldn't have said this much. Click like if you agree and I'll give you a TBH. ; ) J/K


Yard Tour Part 1

When we moved into our current home, we inherited a yard full of potential. It has been a fun, but slow journey and this year we are seeing some big results! I never dreamed that I'd enjoy yard work as much as I do, but find myself knowing every plant and fussing over them like so many children.  I thought  it would be fun to show some of our progress and projects. 

The big improvement of Spring 2012 has been The Gazebo. We inherited a firepit from the previous residents that we fiddled with and worked on, but always hoped to do more. You can see in the above image (from the bleak midwinter) what the firepit area looked like. There were some foundational stones and two variegated privets we'd planted last season and not much more. 
At least the fire was delightful. Note the juxtaposition of iced tea and a fire--so southern.

Then in the case of one thing leading to another to another. T built a trail at camp with the help of some Boy Scouts and needed to construct some bridges. A stand of black locust trees on our family's property provided the perfect lumber for the bridge and got T thinking.

Black locust is a phenomenal wood. Often used for fence posts, it is sustainable, reproduces quickly, becomes so hard when dry that it can be a challenge to drive a nail into! My grandfather planted a stand behind our barn for supplying fence posts and there is plenty to be had. In fact, the day T went to cut a tree for the bridge project, dad called to say two trees had fallen overnight--a hot providence, I must say!

So the blessed abundance of access to black locust trees combine with some internet searching and my dad's need to clear some of the stand led to the discovery of a type of gazebo built with a reciprocating roof that requires no center supports, etc, etc. I don't really get it, but for someone with an engineer's brain it was too much for T to resist. He made a plan, cleared the sight and headed to the farm with a trailer and a chainsaw.

Here is the former firepit area, cleared and ready. It was incredibly wet and spongy in that area, so T brought in several tractor loads of mulch and worked a good bit to level and prepare ground.

How convenient to have a front end loader at camp! Also, how convenient to have a wife who can operate the front end loader and drive the tractor--making it so much easier to unload the logs. Nothing quite like a pregnant lady operating the John Deere.

The logs were shaved to remove the bark and over several days, T put the posts in the ground. They were sunk with concrete.

I read online that dried black locust is twice as strong as concrete!

I don't have good pictures of this, but two former staff guys gave us a hard days work to help finish off the gazebo. (Thanks Justin and Justin!)

You can see from this picture of the finished project the inside of the gazebo and some of the wondrous reciprocating roof.

We were really fortunate with this project to not only get the wood for free, but also the tin roof! It came from a barn original to the property (before it was the camp, even!). The barn was torn down a few years ago and the tin was unused. I love the history behind the roof.

All we had to buy was the Quickcrete. Even the sandstone and mulch came from the property. A recent timber cut turned over a lot of rocks--which we love for edging beds.

One view of the gazebo. The not-dried wood is a bit Tiki, but should weather down.  We were gifted with some lovely plants that I'll share about later. But I wanted to talk about the left side of the area first--since we seem to be on a thrifty, recycled  good-stewardship kick!

Folks tend to approach the gazebo from the left if they aren't coming from the house, so T made some log steps flanked by two garden beds.

We've planted clematis on each of the trees that border the area in hopes that they'll make a loverly entrance one day. The bark shavings from the locust trees provide a sort of paving for the trail. In the mean time, this is really a utilitarian side of our yard. There is a trail for the kids that runs alongside the gazebo and off into the woods. On the left are two of our favorite parts of the yard!

This is T's fish cleaning station! I'm sure he could describe it's wondrous features in greater detail, but being all engineer-like, he really thought this thing through. A water hose clamps on the back for rinsing and the top is sloped so the water runs away from the cleaner. Unseen, a bucket hangs off the back of the table behind the cutting board to catch the guts (it has holes to drain the water). Nails cleverly hold the cutting board in one place and the tin (from the same barn) keeps the fish cleaner from being splashed with guts. Always a nice thing, I'm sure. I have no clue what the big bucket on the front does,

Last of all, but precious to me, is our compost pile! I've wanted one for a long time and would just toss things hither and yon, but finally decided to pick a spot and a natural hole in our yard seemed like a good location, which providentially worked out to be just the right spot.
It is not at all scientific, but I appreciate Felder Rushing's advice to just go for it and so I toss it all in and every now and then add some leaves. The cinder blocks came first from construction leftovers, and then from the former firepit. It's been fun to see the decomposition process working. A friends daughter thought it was an animal's nest!

So that's our yard! Part of it at least. This digging and planning and pruning and dead-heading sure gets into one's blood! I never thought we'd be yard people, but here we are and loving it. It's neat to see how all these things came together in a thrifty, reusable and lovely kind of way.


Happy Birthday to the Ground (I mean, to my husband)!

Today my beloved husband turns 32! Happy birthday, babe! I'm going to indulge in naming a few of the gazillion reasons I'm crazy about and thankful for my spouse:

1. He is tender and compassionate, patient and long-suffering (I'm sure this is why we're still married 'cause I tend to go the opposite directions).

2. He has a servant's heart and considers nothing beneath him as he labors for me, the kids and the Lord.

3. He is content to serve and not get the glory.

4. He does not hold grudges.

5. He has integrity, hates injustice and is not content in his struggles with sin.

6. He listens to me when I give advice and has the wisdom to not follow the bad counsel I so frequently offer. : )

7. He listens to me in general--a big deal cause I say a lot!

8. He is amazingly gifted mechanically--he can build, rig or fix just about anything he sets his mind on, be it furniture, gazebos, bellies of the large fish . . . .

9. The man can cook--he can fry, grill, broil, concoct--his abilities make me swoon and of course he LOVES meat--note the above picture. : )

10. There is no one else I'd rather hang out with, work alongside with, bicker with, laugh with, tease, pester or love than this manly man--Happy Birthday, T!


Year in Review

We are so close to finishing the school year that I can barely contain myself! Not that it's been tiresome, boring or awful by any means, but camp is close (and the baby!) and there are so many projects and fun things I want to accomplish before camp life sets in.

I can't believe we're almost done with our official first real year of homeschooling. Two math lessons, some reading, worksheets and a test remain. The lessons will be done tomorrow and the last reading by early next week.

It has been a great year. We averaged three days a week of school at home, one morning in the homeschool room while I had Bible Study and Friday's at a homeschool enrichment program.

I can't say enough about the quality of the programs we used this year:

Saxon Math K was gentle and fun for the kids. There was no "paper" work, but the entire program was manipulative based and systematic. I loved how the calendar is part of each lesson and how these bigger math concepts are being introduced through "play." The calendar portion did get tedious at times (J opened the book and began drilling me on the usual questions today!), but the repetition was so helpful. Miss A did every lesson with us. I don't know if she'll be up for Math 1 next year, but we are going to let her go along for as long as she can handle it. She's four, so next year will not be her kindergarten year.

Sing, Spell, Read and Write: Oh, how I've loved this program!! It gives the student the tools to read. Mr. J can read even new words by himself (up to the level we're at). We used the first grade books this year and are halfway through the second book. He needs oral testing on spelling (where he dictates to me otherwise we'd never finish a test), but I'm so pleased with his progress. I could have waited to do it all next year, but I'm glad we went ahead with the program. Miss A will do the first book next year and she knows most of it already--the trickle down effect has been fun to watch, as she has picked up on a lot of things. There is plenty of writing and spelling, too. I appreciate that it is sort of all-inclusive program.

Rod and Staff Preschool: As we got further into the school year, I realized Miss A wanted and needed something to do with us. These preschool workbooks were fantastic and affordable! The plain-jane appearance is deceiving--she really enjoyed the pages. The curriculum is written by Mennonites and I just know the author is a melancholy type-A person--it's very "follow the directions exactly, color in the lines the colors you are told to," however it worked just fine with this type-B free-spirited mom and daughter. Miss A stayed busy cutting, coloring, pasting, following directions and writing numbers. We have only used up two of the five workbooks, so they will keep us busy next year. She took a lot of pride in her school. : )

Susan Hunt's ABC Bible Verses: This was our morning devotion during school. It has been a joy to memorize these verses with the kids, to read the devotions and call the verses to mind at the appropriate time. She emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in obedience which has been so encouraging to me. We combined this with the catechism.

Reading Aloud. We didn't do as much as I wanted, but we've read a bit and Tuan reads with the kids every night. They've gone through several Bible "story" (I don't like that word) books and are in the Jesus Storybook Bible right now. He also reads books to them. I think they've gone through the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Trumpet of the Swan, The Complete Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, most of the Hobbit and are on the Dawn Treader right now. I'm honestly so done in by the time bedtime rolls around that I happily delegate to T. My goal is to seize more opportunities to read aloud with the kids in the mornings next year.

One of the biggest challenges to our school year (apart from pregnancy!) has been dear, dear Mr. O. He dropped his morning nap not long into the school year which left me with an 18-24 month year old who is insanely busy, scary smart, doesn't sit still and found coloring and table activities for the birds. It was quite the year with Mr. O! I spent a lot of time teaching him to play in the pack-n-play near us. It has paid off as he has learned to sit and focus and play and just in these last weeks we've been able to keep him with us at the table for longer periods of time--he cuts and colors and does play-doh and aqua doodle and I-know-not-what. I'm hoping by next year he will be more trust-worthy to play in his room and with A when I'm working with J. He knows the first catechism question which cracks me up.

Despite the fact that I majored in art, I'm terrible in the intentional crafting department. Deplorable, really. The kids have lots of free access to cut and color and paste, but this mama is a Pinterest-Inspired-Crafting-Failure--and I'm okay with that! Thankfully, the homeschool program J participated in more than made up for it. We were so, so pleased with what J learned, got to do and the friends he made on Fridays. Every Friday I picked up a happy boy with projects dangling from all arms and a backpack of papers. He brought home a "portfolio" of other art projects that we have not looked through and the entire school did a musical program last week. It was a treat!

One of the best parts of homeschooling was the freedom and flexibility for our family. Sometimes we did school on Saturdays because T was working and then we'd take off when he was off. It was great to let our little ones sleep in four out of three mornings a week and deal with well-rested kids. Seeing them play together and just being near to instruct and teach and train (as much as I failed) was a joy. Teaching them to know and love God was priceless. I love our family culture and the mostly slow pace that we live. I love that we ate breakfast, lunch and supper together almost every day (and often with T) and that our kiddos have such funny conversations with each other.

Lest I paint a too-rosy picture, there were many days when I longed for lunch alone, coffee with friends and in my sinfulness deeply resented my friends who had preschool, mothers morning out and were able to run errands ALONE. Many times I wished that there were not THREE meals a day to plan and cook and clean up after, but generally I wouldn't trade it for the world. I am so, so grateful that this is what the Lord has called me to do and that he has provided for me to stay at home with my babies--even if it means driving a minivan that resembles an eggplant--ha!

This summer we'll keep up some reading and writing and crafting, but school will be VERY minimal with camp going on. There's a lot to do this summer and in preparation for the new one.

Next year is going to be crazy! New baby, first grade (adding in history and science), and T is having ACL surgery sometime after the baby arrives. I may really be longing for some MMO or pre-school then. : ) At the very least, the budget may be stretching for some housekeeping. Whatever comes, the Lord is faithful and true and he directs our every step. He is good!


Real Work

Today, I:

1. Played Zelda with my family
2. Prepared, served and cleaned up breakfast
3. Taught my oldest children while tending a two year-old
4. Mowed our yard with a push mower.
5. Vacuumed and spot cleaned all the upholstery in our living room
6. Vacuumed and tidied the entire house
7. Cleaned two bathrooms
8. Dusted our bedroom
9. Put away two baskets full of laundry
10. Helped bathe the kids
11. Spent time with my children and am about to spend some time with my spouse.

Good gravy, I'm tired. I'd hate to know what "real work" feels like as apparently stay at home moms don't do any "real work." : )

Ps. This is NOT intended as a boast. It was an exceptionally busy day. I do, however take offense at the implication that a stay a home mom doesn't do real work.

Dreams Last for So Long . . . .

I have always had strange, vivid and memorable dreams, and pregnancy only adds to the fun. The past few nights, however, have been particularly interesting.

1. In my dream, I was in a large house looking from a balcony onto a manicured lawn. It was night, and there were torches lit. An angry mob, dressed in french, pre-revolutionary garb (think Marie Antionette) were storming the lawn, wigs askew yelling and hurling bags of flour at us.

2. In my dream, I was with T and his boss and found out that Disney and T.L. were part of the same company! It was so excited because it meant I might get to stay at the Grand Floridian one day. We went on a tour of the place and ended up at this animal rehabilitation place that had been built from an old general store. There was 70's wood paneling everywhere and as we looked at the animals being helped, I noticed that most of them were large, blueish sloths.

3. In my dream, I was with a few people from RUF and we were playing ticket to ride--the wrong way. We ended up at a church where Cold Play was giving a concert. All the songs were so vivid and there were no instruments, just those "trax" that play over the sound system. The whole time I was trying to figure out if they were a Christian band.

It's funny how random details of these dreams relate to actual life events, but the French mob--well, I'm stumped.


Watch out for the Crazy Lady!

Oh, my. These hormones! I don't struggle with morning sickness or varicose veins but my hormones run amok during pregnancy. With O, I was so ready to deliver so that I could be a nice person again. : )

The blessing of pregnancy #4 is that I've come to the the place where I can (generally) recognize that the bizarre and ridiculous thoughts and urges I'm having are not at all rational, acceptable and must be fought. This is a huge change from the pregnancy with A where I decided that a certain piece of furniture was in the way and it would make PERFECT sense to just throw it out the window. ha!

Hormones must be the culprit of last night's reaction to waking up and finding the kids in our room . . . . I went to bed early (for us) and fell asleep around nine forty five and had already been awakened twice by this and that became indignant, angry and despair filled at waking the third time (in an hour and a half!). "What are you doing in here!?" I was wailing, pleading, crying and begging, "don't you know it is so rude to wake people up? It is so, so rude. Why? Why? Why won't you let me sleep?" (I was paranoid, too, apparently--my children were obviously on a mission to keep me up. : ) ). Yes. Not my best moment. Nor is it a great example of keeping hormones in check. Fortunately, T arrived on the scene and got everyone back in their proper places and I dove back under the covers.

This morning it all seems like a strange dream. And speaking of reality seeming like a strange dream. The other night, I was up late cleaning and T had gone to bed. As I straightened the drapes, I saw a HUGE spider in the folds of our curtains. She was kind of sketchy, so I googled "brown recluse" and saw a lot of nasty flesh wounds as well as a lot of spiders that looked just like the one in our drapes.

I am generally medium-tough on such matters, but this girl was weirding me out and I needed to know if she was what I thought she was, so I headed upstairs where Tuan had JUST fallen asleep. I know that is the worst time to wake someone (ahem) and gingerly approached him. Graciously, he came downstairs carrying a wife beater (?) and looked at the spider and the images of spiders and necrotizing wounds. It was not a brown recluse (!), but now we had to dispose of this beast and T refused to employ the dustpan relocation method. So, we hauled the vacuum out, sucked her up and he went back to bed.

The next morning, T wanted to know if that really happened. All he could remember was bringing the wife beater downstairs (we still don't know why), looking at spiders on the computer and doing something with the vacuum. We both thought that the wife beater thing was hilarious.

You know how people tell pointless stories and at the end you're all like, "what? why did they share this?" Yeah. I know.


Keeping it Random

1. I ordered a new HEPA filter for our vacuum. It was long overdue as I just didn't want to spend the money (20.00 at Walmart!). Then, I found it on Amazon for 7.00! I was so excited to put it on and vacuum. I LOVE to vacuum, BTW. I vacuum the car, the mats, the rugs, the carpet, the vinyl, the baseboards, the fans. We own three vacuums (Eureka, hard floor and Shop Vac) and I really want one more for the stairs.

2. My phlegmatic child showed his personalities failing this morning and DUG his heels in and stubbornly fought against a simple task. All he had to do was draw a picture from the story we'd read and he fought and fought and fought. Bear in mind he had just completed two far more challenging worksheets!

3. If you are thinking about pre-schooling at home, I cannot recommend Rod and Staff's pre-school/kindergarten books enough. It has been amazing to watch Aubrey's progress in numbers, hand/eye coordination, motor skills, etc . . . I was not sure about them at first, because they are not frilly or colorful or "Fun" looking, but she loves them and can do most things independently.

4. I learned about them from Preschoolers and Peace--one of my favorite blogs, particularly the archives. You should check them out!

5. The other day I was discouraged by some hard things I'd read. Then, in church our choir sang an excerpt from Handel's Messiah,

Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows! He was wounded
For our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the
Chastisement of our peace was upon Him. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

I may be interpreting this wrong, but how encouraging that Jesus has borne our sorrows. He sympathizes with us and bears our burdens because we cannot.

6. I keep hearing people say that "God doesn't give us more than we can handle." That is not in the Bible. There is a verse regarding temptation that says something like that, but God doesn't promise us that He won't give us more than we can handle. He DOES promise to be with us, he promises that when we pass through the waters HE will be with us, that the flames will not consume us. He tells us not to fear because he has called us by name and we are his! (Isaiah 43) Bible promises are far better than worldly promises.

7. Tuan is building a gazebo with a reciprocal roof. It is going to have a firepit in the middle. He is a man with a plan, for sure! The wood (Black Locust) came from our family's land and Tuan was out until midnight last night driving posts. Didn't I say we thrive on projects?

8. I'm painting shelves today and just itching to go through all the kids clothes, but lately I'm either super energized or incredibly exhausted. This week has been more of an exhausted kind of week. : )

9. As a mom, I seem to have days where everything goes great and I feel a bit superwomanish or days where it takes four hours to do school and the floor never gets swept. I call those the "just keep swimming" days, where I just take the next step and the next and the next and probably anticipate rest time more than I should. : )

10. The baby kept jumping at the thunder the other night. So fun!