Saturday, July 30, 2011

About What Do You Wonder?

Papa's working late.  "Let's go to Friendly's for dinner, boys!"  A special treat.  Just me and three little guys.  We sat, waiting for our dinner, me reading aloud, The Wheel on the School by Meindert Dejong.  Six little ears, attentively listening to each word.  Six hands busily coloring their placemats.

Dinner arrived just as we'd finished the first chapter.  (Mac n' cheese with broccoli for Eli and Noah.  Their favorite.)  A chapter about Dutch school children wondering why storks don't live in their village but nest in all the surrounding villages, caught our interest far more than any of us expected.  We set the book aside, Noah offered a sweet prayer of thanks with chubby, dimpled fingers folded.  "Dear Dog... Tank you for our food, our fam-ee, and our friends.  Amen." and we began to eat.

"About what do you wonder?"  I asked them.  We giggled over silly things.  Then the oldest, Isaiah, spoke up, having drowned his fries in ketchup.  "What God looks like", was his simple contribution.  A simple statement from one often lost deep in thought.  A simple statement to steer the conversation in such a direction as to facilitate fellowship between my sweet sons and I.

Isaiah continued to steer the conversation~ a conversation that began with the reading of a simple story book~ at the dinner table that night.  A glimpse of the man he will one day be.  A picture of the young man he has become.  As I look at him beside me, I see his plate smothered in ketchup, his fingers red.  He looks up at me, smiles his toothy grin and asks to visit the playground on the way home. ...  I'm reminded that in many ways, he still is just a boy.  I'm reminded to be sure he has plenty of free time.  Time to simply wonder... and wander.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

In case you were wondering-

How do eight adults occupy fourteen little ones and still find time to visit?  The answer is fairly simple, though it does take a lot of work, consistency and.... a bit of planning.

The children are all raised on biblical principles.  They are expected to listen to and respect authority, they are expected to obey, they are expected to treat each other with kindness.  These expectations are not reserved for times such as our get-togethers, but are the expectations of everyday life.   

When we gather, the children are able to enjoy each other's company because they truly care for one another.  They are learning to be selfless.  The children at whose home we gather know that they are to be good hosts and share their things with their friends.  The host family sends out a list of house rules ahead of time and each family makes a point to go over these things before arriving.  This helps all the children to know what is expected of them before the 'vacation' begins.  The house rules are things specific to the host family's home.  For example, in our home there is white carpet throughout so we do not wear shoes nor do we eat anywhere except our dining room and kitchen, so as to not damage the carpet.

In addition to the fact that all the children are generally obedient, and when they are not they are reminded or disciplined appropriately, there is a bit of planning that takes place before hand.  Over email, the women plan an itinerary for the days we'll be together.  We plan family friendly, typically free, activities and outings.  One day is spent by a nearby lake swimming, another is spent at a playground.  This year we walked to our town common to attend a free children's concert, stopping for ice cream on our way.  

We plan for a rest time each afternoon, where ALL the children nap or read for a few hours, while we parents all take a deep breath, lounge back and enjoy each others company without the business of little ones.  Because the children are given rest times as a part of their normal routines, there is no argument from the children and this is a peaceful time.  This also recharges the children (and the adults too!) so that everyone is refreshed before sharing our evening meal.

We enjoy time together after all the children are put to bed at night.  Each family has trained their children to sleep at bedtime.  This allows for evenings that go quite smoothly, bathing 14 kids and getting them all tucked in and settled, typically by 8pm, giving us adults several hours of time together. 

We also throw in a few activities.  This year the older boys helped to freeze colored ice (water mixed with food coloring).  We made plenty and the children painted with the colored ice on an old white sheet laid out on the picnic table.  A cool, fun activity for a hot summer day.  
An even bigger hit was the ice treasure.  We froze water in a dishpan in layers.  In each layer we hid 'treasure'.  Plastic bugs, jewels, sea shells, colored ice cubes, small toys.  We gave the children the hose, paint brushes and a salt shaker to find the buried treasure.  Most of the children were quite engaged in this activity, and the dad's liked this one too ;)

While the planning is important and helpful, the key to a successful event such as this with the children is not the planning, but the day-to--day intentional training.  Sure, it's chaotic having an 1800 square foot house filled with 14 little ones, but we like to call it organized chaos ;)  The children are not perfect and there are bumps here and there - but all have been minor.  When the children do wrong, any adult can speak to them and the children always respond positively and respectfully, often asking forgiveness for their wrongdoing.  Forgiveness is always granted.  

These times together are a great joy, but are tiring too!  We speak often of the old college days, reminiscing over this or that.  We know though that these years with little ones will pass by quickly just as the college years did.  Before long we'll be surrounded with teens.  Then, one day, it may be just the 8 of us again and in one sense we'll miss the business of these years and will look back on these years with the same fondness we now look back at the pre-children years.

Fourteen blessings.  Each child unique.  Each one precious.  Each a gift.  What a joy to get to know these sweet little ones.  What a joy to see children being raised faithfully and being trained in the ways of the Lord.  What a pleasure to be in their company!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

As Iron Sharpens Iron...

These are the greatest of friends, with one missing from the photo.  Somehow the time passed so quickly that not one photo was had with all four.  College roommates, life-long friends.  All four married, fourteen children between them.  None ready to limit the little blessings God may still have for them.

All gather several times a year for a "family" reunion.  All four family's in one home.   One home open to all.  Everything shared.  Communal living.  Each adult known as Aunt or Uncle to the other's children.  The kids, like cousins.  Our Isaiah, 8 years old, is the oldest of the 14.  The youngest, for now is little Lu-Lu, just 10 months.  All are homeschooled.  All are well behaved, polite and respectful.

These four have consistently sharpened each other, as iron sharpens iron.  Honesty.  Accountability.  Consistency.  Sacrifice.  A most admirable picture of friendship and brotherhood.

Though the competitive basketball games of yesteryear have turned into backyard bocce and the athletic college boys once comparing their six packs are now comparing their guts, few things remain the same.
The game is incomplete without laughter and lengthy discussions on life, fatherhood, politics, faith.

They are open books, eager to hear the details of the others lives, eager to share the details of their own.  No time is wasted on small talk.  Two ordained ministers - one a public school teacher, the other an associate pastor.  One an actuary, and Dan.  All deep thinkers.  All opinionated.  All very different.  All gifted in very different ways.  Differences are debated at times, but always appreciated.  Each is always respected.  Always loved.  Always grace-giving.  Always forgiving.  Always growing.

Years of friendship, these four men.
Four grateful wives, fourteen blessed children.

Praise the LORD! 
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!  Psalm 112:1

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Babe Turns Two!

A second birthday.  A celebration.  Memories made and shared.  A small gathering at a favorite restaurant, just us, the babe, the boys and Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle Mark.  

A trip to the new sprinkler park.  "It's FUN!" exclaims the babe, over and over with a smiling face.  
A new hat to shield from the sun, a swim diaper just a smidge too small for the growing baby boy.  Dimpled arms, chubby legs, and pruny toes he calls "raisins".  A summer day- hot and hazy- filled with giggles and drops of cool water and shadows in the sun.  Big boys boogie boarding on the beach under Grandpa's watchful eye.  Papa, not a fan of water, chatting with Uncle Mark, the two keeping watch over everyone's belongings.  Grandma playing with Babe in the sprinklers, trying not to get soaked.  

Then to Grandma and Grandpa's house for swimming and cake.  Sitting on the beautiful back deck.  Children playing in the yard.  Running in the grass.  A relaxing place.  

A sweet birthday - filled with sweet memories.  Thoughtful gifts.  Hugs.  No wrapping paper, no toys to break, no unnecessary collections of this and that.  A "party", family-style.  No screaming, sticky fingered toddlers.  The only party hat - the babe's new sun hat.  Little work, no chaos, no babe being over looked by the needs and desires of other children.  Just his little self, being loved on and appreciated by those who love and care for him most.  His day.  

A perfect 2nd birthday celebration.  One to be remembered by all as joyful and sweet.  One to revel in the oh-so-fleeting days of the chubby-legged, dimply toddler.  Carefree and content.

Friday, July 22, 2011

And you're on your knees...

This summer has brought a time of reflection.  The last year of our life reminds me of the old joke about country music...  You know.  The one that says, "what happens when you play a country song backwards?"  "You get your truck back, your dog back, your girl back..."  I think they actually wrote a song about it...

Although there were no trucks or dogs involved, we seemed to lose everything else.  One year ago this month, two days after returning from having led a successful two week missions trip to the Dominican Republic, my husband was informed (on his birthday) that it was time for him to find another job.

Dan was told he would be given an unspecified amount of time with which to find a new position. There was no moral failure on Dan's part.  No seeming justification for what ended in January with Dan's reluctant resignation.  Dan's ministry had been highly successful as God had used Dan's gifts greatly in fostering relational and spiritual growth among  many children, youth and adults at the church. We had given four years of our full efforts to serving the church.  Upon hearing of his impending
dismissal, Dan immediately began searching for a new job, all the while trying to make known his desire to stay and continue to serve there where he felt God had called him.

In November, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor at which time we realized that not only did we not have a job, but we didn't have our health either.  Nothing could be taken for granted.  December came and just days before Christmas we faced the reality of being asked to find a new home by the end of the month.  With three young sons, brain surgery scheduled for mid January and with Dan not having yet found a job, the stress and pressure were awful.

By the time January rolled around, we were facing the loss of a job, a home, our health, our church, and what we thought were friendships.  By any secular gauge, we had lost everything short of our children.  Oh how we dreaded what might be next!  Just after New Years Dan submitted his resignation, his last Sunday was two days before I was scheduled for surgery.

The next day we brought our children to my parents house and said goodbye.  That day I knew that may well be the last time I kissed their sweet faces.  Tuesday came, and with it surgery.  In the silence of the early morning car ride to the hospital, Dan and I both knew that this may be the last sunrise we saw together.  Significant in that Dan proposed at sunrise one late August morning, now nearly 12 years ago.

Surgery was successful.  The tumor was removed!  I began to heal and thus begins the country song played backwards  ;)

I was discharged from the hospital.  The kids came home.  By the end of that very
long week, Dan received a call informing him that the youth pastor job he'd wanted that'd he'd applied for four months prior, he got!  Many people, people we love and invested in greatly, have had nothing more to do with us.  Many others showed us tremendous support and love.  Along with the hostility we experienced at the hands of many, more importantly was the overwhelming, prayerful, loving care of our family and friends.

In February, while I was still recovering, Dan was taking care of the kids and I, and doing everything he could to find us a new home.  He looked at dozens of places until God led him to our current home.  It's nearly perfect!  It's private, comfortable and surrounded by nature. A "requirement" according to our boys.  In March, we moved and Dan began his new job.  He loves it.  It suits him perfectly and with his job came a new church home for our family.

When looking back at the past year, much of it is a blur with the exception of the strong feelings associated with particular memories.  One of the few things that stand out as positive is our daily family worship time.   A number of years ago we replaced our time spent reading to the boys before bed, with family worship time.  Dan has taught himself over the past ten years or so to play the guitar.  He leads us in a few worship songs, we read from a family devotional and from scripture, and pray together each night before tucking the boys into their beds.

It's funny how certain songs can be identified with certain memories, but the song "Hold Us Together" by Matt Maher was one the boys requested to sing almost every night.  It is a catchy little song (Dan even made it his ringtone) with seemingly not so deep lyrics, yet, it seemed to suit our situation so well.  When it seemed so much was lost and there was so much up in the air, we held on to the hope we had in Christ.  There just had to be better days ahead even though we were unsure of where God was leading us.  We knew God would require us to persevere.  We tried to be faithful.  We knew that even though it felt that we'd been abandoned, we had the love of Jesus sheltering us from even greater unseen storms.

At the end of each day, we had each other.  We knew not what tomorrow would bring, but at the end of each day we could give thanks that we were still together and we had the love that held us together.  We had all we really needed.  Love sure didn't seem a ready-made fix to the problems and worries of the day, but it allowed us to see the light even while in the dark.  It made us a shelter to weather the storm.  It was gonna be alright.  When there really is nothing else, you're truly on your knees, and you know it's gonna be alright.

It don't have a job;
don't pay your bills;
won't buy you a home in Beverly Hills.

Won't fix your life
in five easy steps.
Ain't the law of the land
or the government.

But it's all you need and...

Love will hold us together
make us a shelter to weather the storm.
And I'll be my brother's keeper
so the whole world will know that we're not alone.

It's waiting for you
Knockin' at your door
in the moment of truth
when your heart hits the floor
and your on your knees and...

Love will hold us together
make us a shelter to weather the storm.
And I'll be my brother's keeper
so the whole world will know that we're not alone.

This is the first day of the rest of your life
This is the first day of the rest of your life
Cause even in the dark you can still see the light
It's gonna be alright,
It's gonna be alright.

Love will hold us together
make us a shelter to weather the storm.
And I'll be my brother's keeper
so the whole world will know that we're not alone.

-Matt Maher
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.Romans 5:1-5
To hear Matt Maher's song, Hold Us Together, pause the music player on the bottom left sidebar, then press the play button on the player below.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

My $23.00 breadmaker is one of my very favorite kitchen appliances.  It's a small Toastmaster brand machine- the cheapest we could find many years ago not long after we got married.  It's nothing special for sure, but it makes great bread dough.  For years we have used it for making pizza dough, dinner roll dough, etc.  This past week my friend Beth - who I think should really be writing this blog because she's so full of great ideas- wrote down a recipe for us for this honey whole wheat bread.  I was skeptical at first, in part because my children are beyond what you would call 'picky eaters' ;)  I also was skeptical because I have not found that my trusty little machine makes great bread.  It makes great dough that we transfer to the oven, but the bread is typically unsuccessful.

Regardless of my skepticism, I gave the recipe a try.  It was really delicious and the kids enjoyed it!  An added bonus is that it's far more healthy than most store bought bread and is not filled with preservatives.  Oh- and the house smelled great too!  ;)

Here's the recipe should you wish to give it a try!

3/4 cup water, heated two minutes in microwave
generous 1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup milk
3 cups whole wheat flour (or 1.5 cups white bread flour and 1.5 cups whole wheat flour)
1 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp bread machine yeast (or 1 packet)

Put in bread maker in order listed.  Set on the basic and light settings.

*To make this recipe super efficient - use a glass liquid measuring cup for all wet ingredients.  Begin by heating the water in the glass measuring cup.  Pour the water into the bread machine.  Then, while the glass is still warm, add the honey to measure.  The honey pours right out when the glass is warm.  Then add milk, to further help rinse honey from glass measuring cup into bread machine.  Then add dry ingredients.  Beth says she sometimes makes this at night, starts the machine and her family wakes to the smell of freshly baked bread and they enjoy it as it is or as toast for breakfast.

Monday, July 18, 2011


1. A house, especially a farmhouse, with adjoining buildings and land.
2. Law Property designated by a householder as the householder's home and protected by law from forced sale to meet debts.
3. Land claimed by a settler or squatter, especially under the Homestead Act.
4. The place where one's home is.

If you are at all like me, the word homestead evokes images of Laura Ingalls sashaying through the prairie, her bonnet trailing behind while tied around her neck, her braided pig tails waving in the wind as she carries her lunch pail and arm full of books tied together with a belt on her way home from the one room schoolhouse.  

I have come to realize, however, that the word homestead really does have a positive and comforting connotation, aside from the lofty images of days past.  A number of years ago I came across an article that I have since referred to often.  It was refreshing and encouraging at a point when our oldest child was perhaps about preschool age.  The premise of the article, taken from a newsletter I'd stumbled upon called The New Harvest Homestead, was about staying home more.  This article had a great impact on me because I was being hit with the pressures every mom is bombarded with regarding what "opportunities" they will provide for their child as the child moves from toddlerhood to childhood.  

My first reaction to the article was one of caution.  My husband, though not a city lover, is not a farmer either.  We were renting a small condo at the time and "homesteading" as I'd thought of it was not for us.  As I processed the article in the weeks following my first reading of it, I realized that it really did speak of a better way.  Dan and I knew we did not want to follow the crowd.  We didn't do things in our own life because it was the 'thing to do', so why would we do for our children what others said was the 'thing to do'.  We also were bound by financial constraints that did not allow for us to send our children to the fancy preschool, private swim and music lessons.  In hindsight, I'm thankful.  I'm thankful that we were bound by financial constraints because our decisions were simplified, and thankful to have stumbled upon this particular article.  

The author of the article - I'm not sure of her name and the newsletter appears to not be published any longer- spoke of the importance of being home.  She spoke of being a manager and keeper of the home.  I most remember thinking "How can you keep a home if you're not home!"  It made perfect sense.  The article validated my feelings that being home with my kids was OK.  That learning, fun, relationship, growth and service could all take place at home and it could be done together - as a family!  Without the rat race!  

I have learned that keeping a home is not just about having laundry all caught up and a freshly mopped floor.  Homesteading really refers to all the things that are done at home.  Child training, cooking, gardening... anything that requires keeping our hands busy at home to benefit the home and those who live in it.  The care of our children is care for home as well!  Home has as much to do with the people who live in it as it does the building and environment.

Although we have signed our kids up for community things here and there through the years, we have not typically found them to be worth the time or the money!  The relationships Isaiah built through playing teen-led, unorganized community flag football were nothing more than acquaintances.  That's fine, but he didn't really learn to play a new sport, most children are not expected to behave and listen to instruction and he wasn't able to speak long enough with any of the children to build a lasting friendship.  On the other hand, we have taken advantage of the lake in our community.  It's free for residents to get a parking pass and we have enjoyed the beach as a family numerous times this summer.  The time the boys have spent playing and splashing together - having fun while taking a few informal lessons from me- has given them far more swimming instruction than the expensive lessons they took at the town pool a number of years ago.  

Opportunity?  Sure!  They swim with other kids now for free at the lake.  They enjoy each others company and their time is not wasted with one hand on the pool edge waiting for their turn to kick with a kickboard and return to the edge to wait again.  We come and go as our schedule allows.  We don't have to go on rainy days when reading an extra book sounds more appealing than heading off to a swimming pool.  There is no stress or panic to be on time.  There is no rush, no "hurry we're late"!  It really does make me think of a trip to the swimming hole, much like Laura Inglalls may have taken. ;)

A great friend of mine, whom I shared the article with a while back, said recently that it had impact on her too.  She was at the time convinced that she had to take her young son out somewhere each day because "that's what he needed".  Now, three more children later, she realizes that it was not what he "needed" but what made life easier for her.  Away from home, there was less opportunity for training.  There was built in entertainment and stimulation.  Her son did not need to learn to play by himself or sit quietly while others rested.  She learned, in time as did I, that children do not need to be entertained all day.  They need to be trained in matters such as self control and patience.  With such training comes much joy and peace!  

I challenge you.  What can you do to be home more?  Is the pace of your life overwhelming?  Does the way in which you spend your time reflect your priorities?  Are you the 'taxi driver' bringing each child here, there and everywhere?  The parallel is often joked about, but is it really funny?  Is it necessary?  How is a hurried lifestyle effecting your relationships with those you care for most?  It's OK to be home.  It's OK not to entertain your children.  It's OK not to rush through each day meeting deadline after deadline.  It's OK to be still.  It's OK to be quiet.  In a fast paced world, filled with noise, it's easy to forget....

1O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
   my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
   too great and too marvelous for me.
2But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
   like a weaned child with its mother;
   like a weaned child is my soul within me.  

Psalm 131:1-2

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Watermelon Pops

Last week we had a houseful!  A house full of our best friends, 6 of them, and our combined 14 children!  ;)  Posts on preparing for such a time, and for pulling off the logistics of that many house guests will come at a later time.  For now, I just want to share a simple summer time idea!  My kids were playing with popsicle sticks, making the usual creations, while I was slicing watermelon prior to our friends' arrival.  It occurred to me that the two could go together!  The boys helped me put popsicle sticks into the watermelon rinds making a handle for each slice.  The watermelon disappeared faster than candy that day!  There were fewer sticky fingers and I didn't see any dropped on the ground to be enjoyed by the ants.  There sure was no waste either with everyone loving how simple it was to grab a piece and eat it so easily!  This super simple idea was a huge hit!


Friday, July 15, 2011


A sampling of my favorite selections from Lisa Corinne Handmade.....

This first one resembles "Mimi".  Mimi is my youngest sons very favorite blanket.  It's called Mimi because when he was very small and just learning to speak his version of 'blankie' was Mimi.  It has just stuck ;)  He sometimes looks like Linus from the Peanuts as he drags his mint green blanket around, sucking his two fingers.  Poor Mimi doesn't look quite as lovely as the one pictured here.  After being well loved for two years, it has it's share of stains and tears.  That said, Noah won't be parting with Mimi anytime soon ;)

Sweet Noah is partial to "Manket" too.  His version of blanket.  ;)  It's like this flannel blanket pictured below with crocheted blue trim.  It's a very soft flannel with soft yarn edging.  It's the perfect size and weight for a little guy.


Baby Mary Janes!!!  Some day perhaps we'll add a girl to this clan of boys!  ;)

I just love this big pouffy flower thing!  The colors are quite stylish as well.  High fashion!  ;)

Handmade hats and shoes for boys too!  Check out this newsboy hat and !oafers!

And one more sample!  Ballerina slippers!

There are numerous other styles and colors to choose from at Lisa Corinne Handmade!  I love them all, but wanted to post here a sampling of some to encourage you to take a peek at Mom's beautiful Etsy site!  ;)

Lisa Corinne Handmade

Are you looking for a special gift for a newborn baby?  Handmade items, especially those of exceptional quality are often hard to come by.  Well... look no further!  My talented mother has begun making these precious little crocheted baby shoes, hats and blankets.  Each item comes perfectly wrapped and ready for gifting, with prompt delivery.  The sweet shoes pictured here are ones my mom made for my good friend Wendy's little girl Ava.  Wendy took this beautiful picture of the rose bud design, ribbon tied heirloom baby booties on sweet Ava's tiny feet.  The prices are very reasonable and my mom's entire Etsy shop, named after me by the way, is CPSIA compliant.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Today is a very exciting and joyful day in our household!  Great friends of ours delivered their first baby early this morning, a little boy named Jackson.  These friends are very precious and live life with us.  They have, for the past five years, loved and cared for our children almost as if they were their own.  The birth of this child is truly like an addition to our own family.  We are so excited!  Even Noah is walking around saying, "SO citing!" (translation: so exciting).  The little ones already love him to pieces - all 7pounds 4 ounces of him.  I pray that our shared life continues, and that we are able to care for Jackson and be as helpful to and supportive of his mom and dad as they've been to us.
Also today, I received an email containing a link to a blog post from another great friend.  As if the birth of a new baby boy isn't enough to cause a mom to reflect on the birth of her own children and the time that has passed oh so quickly since,  this blog post, contributed to the reflection on time passed.  Time that will just never stand still.  We make a conscious effort in our family to not run a rat race and compared to many our life is very slow paced.  Even still, the children grow and change so quickly.  This post served as a beautiful reminder that each day IS the destination, that our slow life can be slower still, and that days lived intentionally will help us to reap the greatest harvest and make the most of the time we have with our children before they enter adulthood.  I have only read small bits of the A Holy Experience blog, but all that I have read has been wonderfully written and Christ centered and it's highly recommended by my greatly trusted friend, Beth.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.  Psalm 127:3-5

...And if the birth of a new little one weren't enough to make for a joy-filled day, today is my and Dan's eleventh anniversary!  ;)


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