A Year of Change

Today is the first day of Fall, my favorite season and the change in schedule and weather has brought me back from my blogging sabbatical. This year has been so full of life and change sometimes its best to just be still and embrace it. Which is what I did. However, I do not wish to forget so I am going to start catching up! As I remind myself from time to time, life streaks by as a blur and it is the goal of this blog to remember all the little things that make it so perfect.

Here’s a quick recap since March, all of which I will post about soon:

  • Kitchen: We finished our kitchen! After an 8 week full on kitchen renovation, I am happy to say we survived and I have the pictures to prove it!
  • The Natural Disaster: At the end of April, while my husband was on a trip (of course!) we got about 8″ of rain which flooded not just our valley but our home too.  Let’s suffice it to say I now have a streak of white in my hair and I officially look like Anna from Frozen.
  • Girls Trip: My first girls trip to Nashville, TN for my birthday!
  • Potty Trained: Everyone, it happened. I don’t know how we made it here, but we are finally out of all diapers. Which is a huge accomplishment for anyone, even more so when you consider how many this house went through. Shall we say FREEDOM?
  • First Family Vacation: Okay. This post will be full of vulnerability and lessons learned because it was pretty much a nightmare. So – no, our pictures did not make it to social media. However, we may consider selling movie rights if anyone is interested. (Making lemonade here…)
  • Anniversary: 8 Years in August! This was a different year for us as a couple for several reasons. Mainly because, this season in life tends to be demanding. Brian and I saw growth here in 2019. Growth isn’t always pleasant, but if we want our marriage to be stronger and closer it is necessary to work through all the things this season threw at us.
  • Back to School: We made it. It is always a day of tears for me but gosh I am just so proud of these kiddos!

This is all for now. It’s more of a teaser for you and an outline for me! But, I am happy to say that I am back and excited to be actively posting again. I have missed you all! Besides, what better season for you and I to reunite in than the Pumpkin Spice season?

Question for my followers: How important are the recipes to you? Do you want them in the post? Should I simply add them to the home page menu? Remove completely? Please post your thoughts below, I love to hear from you! 

Leslie

What I have learned from school

Here I am in my office wondering how many oatmeal creme pies I can eat before turning into one. Now, I’ll need a new helper day snack for Micah’s class because I have officially eaten too many of them. (Don’t tell Autumn Calabrese, she wouldn’t understand.) What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Micah will likely never find out unless I publish a book about this time in our lives when I used to hide and binge on creme pie cookies.

This new season of school was like going from my slow and steady pace of staying at home all day every day with five little kids, to voluntarily going through one of those old fashioned wringer washers. Between kindergarten and preschool, drop offs and pickups equaled about 3 hours  driving time before one o’clock. Once home, the kids would go nuts while I silently watch the clock count down to “quiet time.” (This is my new version of nap time because I am hopelessly dependent upon those two hour naps and I have discovered the travesty of my kids outgrowing them.)

Although we have five children, they didn’t come one at a time while we acclimated to parenthood. Rather, our first three stormed into our lives in eleven months. For the first time in six years, I am at home with just two and oh how I love these precious hours! Yesterday we read Dr. Seuss’s Sneetches and What Was I Scared Of? (my personal favorite) twice each. Pure bliss.

As the youngest in my family I have often heard the theory and even been accused of the youngest being the favorite. However, it occurred to me this year that the youngest are not favored in a family. They are simply on the receiving end of parents who are waking up to the fact that this family is growing up and will soon be gone. The youngest are around to experience the polished, parenting methods we did not yet have with our first.  It appears like parents favor the youngest but truly, it’s simply a shift of perspective that affects our behavior. By the time our youngest children cruised onto the scene, I had only begun to learn which battles are not worth fighting.

For example: every night Esther used to want to wear her princess dress to bed, and it was a fight  to get her into her pajamas nearly every night. Now, Ruthie wants to live in her Rapunzel dress day and night and I simply don’t care if she does. I realize now what seemed so important in principle earlier, is really not a big deal. In the end my relationship with them supersedes any costume-pajama combo they may come up with. And really – there is such a short window in our lives when we can dress up as a princess every. single. day. Or Captain America if you are my like my boys.

So here’s a toast to this new season and all that I will be learning. This parenthood thing is a refining fire, and it can be easy to focus on the ashes, but more and more I see the strength and beauty of what remains. God has shaped and strengthened me through these little people. It amazes me the impact such a tiny person can have. After all, “A person is a person no matter how small.”

 

 

 

I said “yes”

There is a time and a season for everything. For me, summer is the time for “Yes.” For example:

Mommy, can I have a popcicle? -YES

Mommy, can we stay in our bathing suits all day? -YES

Mommy, can I play in the rain? -YES

You can imagine my answer when Esther said, “Mommy, can we have a kitten?” … That’s how Cupcake entered our lives today. What can I say? It’s summer.

We are not an animal rescue farm, but years ago I made a commitment. With Jesus being the Author of Life, it is my personal conviction to fight for life when it is within my power. In an effort to raise up children who will also value and fight for every life no matter how small, I said yes.

And you know what? I’m not sorry. The look on my daughters face was more than enough justification for that yes. 

All day Esther has been bathing her, naming her, cuddling her, moving her from indoors to outdoors and all kinds of other locations. Eventually, I had to put my foot down and say, “Sorry honey, you cannot sleep with her.” Welcome to the family Cupcake. You are already loved.


Pray for them

The myriad of life-giving choices and decisions are as different as the colors in a sunrise.  Whether it is small, every day choices or big life decisions, lets pray over our loved ones that they will be a source of God’s living water to those around them.

Lord, I ask that (Name) would be given a heart of humility and love. Please do not let (Name) “become conceited, provoking [others], envying [others].” Rather, I pray that (Name) will be a constant source of your living water that is both refreshing and life giving to all who encounter (him/her). In your name I pray, amen.  – Galatians 5:26

Prayers taken from the BiblicalPrayers mobile app. Download today on the App Store or Google Play store.


Chick-Fil-A

When it’s 5:30 and I am still on the road with still no dinner plan in sight, I’ll throw the kids into the car with me and go to Chick-Fil-A. Sometimes I feel like I am cheating, but I then I look in my rear view mirror and see them happily munching away. In my books, that’s a win. So, on this blog there is no shame for the nugget. Especially when it comes with sauce.

Just like riding a bike

This last week, on the fourth of July my oldest three learned how to ride their bikes without training wheels!

I honestly believe we were a little bit behind on this as parents, but these kids were SO ready. With just a few runs each, they took off like pros. The biggest struggle was learning how to start on their own, and how to push through their own disappointment when it took more work than they expected.

But I am so proud of my three musketeers! Now, every morning after breakfast I wait to find out who will say it first:

Who wants to go ride bikes with me?!

Tiny helmets and shoes on, they go flying out that back door as fast as their feet can carry them.

Of course, we’ve had to come up with some safety rules, like…

  1. Don’t drive your bike into anything including other bikes, fences, cars and animals. (Boys naturally try to crash into things I think it’s in their genetic makeup.)
  2. Yell “Coming up behind you!” before you pass someone.
  3. Don’t swerve when someone is passing.
  4. Don’t go near your sisters.
  5. Always wear shoes and helmets.

Rules for three new bikers probably looks different than a single rider.


Pray for Them

Letting go of control can be hard as a parent. As much as we want to see them succeed, it can be scary to cut the apron strings, or in our case, take off the training wheels. But, wisdom and understanding are both gifts from the Lord and are derived from experience self-learned or by watching others. At some point, you gotta let go and pray for wisdom and understanding.

Lord, let (Name) be blessed when (he/she) “finds wisdom, and [becomes] the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.” In your name I pray, amen. – Proverbs 3:13-14

Prayers taken from the BiblicalPrayers mobile app. Download today on the App Store or Google Play store.


Snacks

There are two times a day that are set in stone at our house. If we miss them, it isn’t pretty. It’s usually on a Saturday when I drop the ball because Brian is home and I’ve the freedom to focus elsewhere. About 10:30 he frantically looks at our screaming children and says, “What just happened?” And I answer, “It’s probably 10:30.” To which I get a blank stare… “Snack time, love. Did they have a snack yet?”

So here is our family favorites:

  • Cheese Sticks – full fat.
  • Graham Crackers (Daddy puts Nutella on them, mommy doesn’t. I guess you can see who the favorite is here.)
  • Baby Carrots and Hummus
  • Something leftover from breakfast like a biscuit or a pancake.
  • Bananas, apples or oranges

I would love to hear what you have in your cornucopia! We could all use some fresh ideas.

Fun fact: Between the 7 of us, we go through 16 bananas a week. They range between $0.50-.60 per banana. A budget friendly option.

 

“Pacemaker”

There are so many names I use to describe my roll as a mom. In the height of our baby days, I often referred to myself as the “Family Pack Mule.” With 5 kids born in 3.5 years, I spent my days loaded down with all kinds of paraphernalia.

“Me” in the baby stage.

Now, with school days around the corner and both Brian and I embarking on new ventures, I am realizing I have taken on a new role. As keeper of the schedule, it is now my job to be the “Family Pacemaker.”

Before Fall rushes upon us, I like to take time to step back and fit together the puzzle pieces of our future schedule. It is way too easy to become that crazy, busy family that never has time to cook a meal and eat it. Always zipping from one appointment to another, I am already noticing those uninterrupted conversations between Brian and I are more elusive than ever. Last night I found myself thinking about our future Fall schedule (at 11pm… of course).

Families have a rhythmic heartbeat and maintaining that healthy pulse creates a thriving environment for kids and parents alike. (Truth is, if we aren’t thriving neither are they.) Every family is different and runs to the beat of their own drum. You’ll have to find your own “family pulse.”

Personally, as I look to the upcoming season in our lives I am realizing that we will soon need to make some hard decisions about which commitments God has called us to.

If it isn’t life-giving, it is life-sapping.

Saying no can be hard, and leaving a commitment is even harder. It is the heart of a servant to see a need and want to fill it. But, we see God’s best work when we stick the plan He has for us, not the plans everyone else has for us.

So, here is a word of encouragement to the Pacemakers who are hard at work creating a healthy, life-giving foundation for our families: Find the heartbeat. If it’s too fast, be bold and slow it down. We all need flexibility and down time in our lives. Since we will not magically wake up to it, it is up to us to evaluate and make changes.


Pray for them

Know someone who needs to step out of “busy” and into the plans God has prepared for them? Let’s pray for clarity and discernment.

Father, I give you praise for all you will do in and through (Name). I pray according to “your eternal purpose that [you have] realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” that (Name) will, in Christ, “have boldness and access with confidence [the wisdom of God] through [his/her] faith in [Jesus].” In the name of Jesus I pray, amen.   -Ephesians 3:11-12

Prayers taken from the BiblicalPrayers mobile app. Download today on the App Store or Google Play store.


Brisket

This was so easy it made my fingers tingle. Put a 3 pound frozen brisket (or roast) into a dutch oven and add these ingredients on top:

  • 1 12 oz can of beer
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tsp chili paste (from the Asian isle)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pop the lid on top and put it into the oven. Set to 350 and let it roast for 3-4 hours. Check on it, cut into smaller pieces and let it roast for another hour. Once tender, shred and serve.

Strawberry Fields

Twenty minutes north of our house is a field of 36,000 plants of delicious, organically grown strawberries. They let you come in and pick your own at $2.50/pound (eating as many as you can on the spot for free of course!).

The kids had strawberry juice dripping off their chins and running down their elbows. They had a blast. We picked about 40 pounds and it was a perfect morning. Right now those strawberries are resting in my deep freeze ready and waiting to be made into smoothies, strawberry shortcakes and strawberry jams.

We learned about what they look like ripe and when they are still growing. We learned that strawberries do not ripen after they are picked, so an unripe strawberry off the vine will stay that way. We learned that Grace and Ruth will take one bite from each strawberry they pick and then put it into the basket. We learned that if I time it just right, I can come and get their old plants for my own garden at the end of the season when they clear them out. WOO HOO!!

What a great way to spend the morning. If you are looking for a fun thing to do with your kiddos, I suggest you find out what fruit is in season and go pick it for yourselves! It is so much more fun than the grocery store, you get only the best, for those of us who are budget minded it is much more economical, and most importantly  you can make some great memories with your family.  Win-win-win-win!

P.S. Don’t judge us by our clothes. It had rained the night before!


Pray for Them

Of course… there is always a good teaching lesson to be found here as well!

Lord, create in (Name) a heart of “good soil,” so that when the kingdom of God is sown into (him/her), (Name) will be “the one who hears the word and understands it. [May (Name)] indeed [be one who] bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” In your holy name I pray, amen.  – Matthew 13:23

Prayers taken from the BiblicalPrayers mobile app. Download today on the App Store or Google Play store.


Book Review: Adamant

This may be one of the best books written by Lisa Bevere because the message is so prevalent to today’s church. There are some difficult truths to be discovered here, but they are truth none the less. It is amazing how difficult it can be to discern truth in a culture that lives in various shades of grey.

….to continue reading this book review, please read it here on Book Review: Adamant.

 

Kick ‘Em Out!

It was nap time and they were all supposed to be going potty and getting in their beds. As I was tucking in Grace the uproar began. Annoyed at Esther and Micah for being unable to carry out my simple request of “go potty and get in bed” I took a quick evaluation of the situation.

Apparently Esther got to one bathroom first and Micah wouldn’t leave. Micah knows better. So I sent him to his room and I took a deep breath. (Because I have been working on this!!) Sitting on his bed I very calmly I explained to him that if someone is in the bathroom he finds another one. That when Esther asks for privacy he gives it to her and vice versa. He is never to enter the bathroom while someone is trying to use it.

Happy with my cool, calm and collected response I could tell something was wrong. I wasn’t yelling. Why was Micah crying so hard? “Micah, do you feel like you have been treated unfairly?” All I got was blubbering. Micah’s lips swell when he cries so it really is a blubbering mess with more lips than he knows what to do with.

Eventually he took a gulp of air and said, “yeah.” And I said, “Why? Did Esther ask you to leave?” “Yeah.” “Did you?” “No.” “Then why are you so upset? You know that isn’t how you behave. You knew you wouldn’t get away with it.” “She was kicking me.” “What?” “When I didn’t leave Esther starting kicking me hard!” “Okay. Well she should not be doing that either. I’ll have a talk with her. But next time someone is in the bathroom just find a different one.”

So I moved to Esther’s room to clear up this mess. “Where you kicking Micah?” “Yeah. He wouldn’t leave.” “Okay, I know you need your privacy and I’m proud of you for not going in front of him, but you can’t just kick people to make them do something.” “You told me to! You told me that next time I need to get dressed or go potty I am to kick the boys out of the room!” Oops! I did say that. “Sorry Esther, it’s my fault for using that wording. I meant for you to make sure they leave the room. We don’t hit, kick or push people. This whole thing could’ve been avoided if you had just asked for help. Try that next time.”

Sigh. Time for a brownie.


Pray for them

Lord, empower (Name) to “keep [his/her] tongue from evil and [his/her] lips from speaking deceit.” May (Name) “turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” For, “the eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ear toward their cry.” In the name I Jesus I pray, amen.    -Psalm 34:13-15

Prayers taken from the BiblicalPrayers mobile app. Download today on the App Store or Google Play store.


Brownies with a twist

Speaking of brownies… I have taken to the habit of making my brownies with coconut oil instead of regular vegetable oil. It is so much better for you AND it adds that delicious suggestion of coconut. Make sure you get the extra virgin coconut oil that is solid or it will not have the flavor. Coconut oil liquidates at 76 degrees, so it just needs a little boost from room temperature before you can stir it in, but oh my is it good!