Archives for September 2012

Cookbook winner

The winner of Jessica Fisher’s Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook according to is commenter #155- Molly. For those of you who didn’t win, the book releases October 9th. Go grab your copy now and you should have it in your hands by the middle of the month. Thanks, Jessica, for this fun giveaway.


Fit some fun in your life

My daughters Erika, Amanda and I (inspired by the Nesting Place) have been cooking up a scheme for October, and we’re hoping you’re interested in joining us.  Each of us has some projects we’d like to do, and some ways we’d like to be better focused in our lives, and so during October, we thought we’d work on some of those things and blog about what we’re doing.

Here are my 31-minute goals for October:

  • CRAFT MORE -Spend 31 minutes/day organizing OR crafting. (I’ve got lots of Christmas craft ideas– so much fun!)  Too often I don’t start projects because I know I don’t have time to finish that day.  But I’m betting that committing 31 minutes a day will help me make some headway. I’ll post my progress at least a couple times a week.
  • WRITE MORE– Spend 31 minutes/day writing something non-bloggy. Remember that e-book I promised you last spring winter? Yeah, I almost forgot it too. Then there’s the adoption book I’m writing.  I’ll set the timer for 31 minutes and see how far I get.  Repeat the next day.  And the next.
  • PLAY MORE–Spend 31 minutes/day playing games with or reading stories to my kids. Lately I’ve been bad at playing.  We do usually play cards a couple times a week, and my hubby always reads to kids at bedtime.  But I’ve gotten out of the daily story-reading habit lately and I want it back.
  • SURF LESS –Spend NO MORE THAN 31 minutes/day on Facebook.  Erika’s going much more hardcore, but my plan will be hard enough for me.  I will easily find an extra 93 minutes a day to do the first 3 activities on this list by cutting back on Facebook.  (Yikes– the truth hurts.)
  • FOCUS DAILY ON TRUTH — I’m going to choose a new Bible verse each day and write it down on the whiteboard in our kitchen as our thought for the day.

SO– that’s my October plan, and I’m thrilled that Erika and Amanda are in on it with me.  Erika will be hosting a link-up on her blog on Monday, for anyone who’s interesting in joining our FOCUS/ REFRESH challenge.  I hope that you’ll consider joining us.  Set whatever goals will be helpful in your own life.  Then each time you write a post about your progress, go over to Erika’s page and link up.  That way we can all keep up with each others’ progress.  Are you in?  What would you like to improve in your life? Think about it.

Taking great fall photos of your kids

The other night when taking pictures of my little girls playing in the leaves, I found myself nostalgic thinking of similar scenes when our big kids were small, and wishing I’d known more about photography back then. I’m still not a professional– talk to my son-in-law or his brother if you want the real deal! But I’m getting better at capturing the glow of sunshine on fall leaves and the faces of my precious ones. I thought I’d walk you through the pictures I took the other day, and talk about what I did in case you’re hoping to capture some everyday moments with your own children.

1. Go with evening light.  An hour before sunset when the light is warm and low and golden usually works best.

2. Turn off your flash if possible.  Natural light is going to give you a much warmer, softer look.  If the light is fading, turn your children so that their faces are at least partially toward the light, or use fill flash from at least 6 feet away to avoid that white washed-out look.

3.  Keep the background as simple as possible.  See that cow in the photo below?  He does give you a sense of the place where we live, but he’s also distracting.  Ditto for the red wagon and the garden hose.  Sometimes you may need to move clutter out of the way, and other times you may be able to declutter the background by taking a few steps to the right or left, or shooting from a higher or lower angle.


4. Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty.  Get some shots with your camera almost on the ground, so that lots of grass and leaves are in the foreground of the picture between you and your child (make sure your camera’s focus point is still your child tho!)


5. Angle upward.  Lie down on your back near your child, point the camera up toward your child’s face, and ask him to throw some leaves up in the air.  This is a great way to get just your child’s face, flying leaves, and sky.


6.  Get high and shoot down.   Ask your child to lie down in the leaves, with you standing overhead shooting downward.  If you’ve got several kids and need to get higher to include everyone, try standing on a deck or porch above your kids.  Or get out a stepladder to gain some extra height.  (Just don’t get so involved in your shooting that you forget your elevation!)


7.  Shoot close up, far away, and in between.  For example, get a closeup of just your child’s hand clutching a wad of leaves, then try a faraway picture showing the height of a tree with your little one standing underneath it.


8. Capture motion.  Give your kids something to do, whether it be jumping into the leaf pile, throwing leaves up into the air, or shaking the branches of trees.  Then take lots of pictures rapid-fire, to increase your chances of getting your timing right.


9.  Set your child off-center in some of the photos.  This look is often more interesting than putting her right in the middle of the picture.


10. Embrace imperfection.  Don’t be too quick to delete blurry shots– they often give a photograph a nice feeling of movement.  And I personally think that a laughing kid in everyday clothes is much more interesting than a stiff kid in immaculate clothing.  So run, chase and play as you snap away. With fun in the wind, you’re sure to get a few photos that catch that joy!


If you’ve got more tips, add them in comments, below.  I’d love to learn more.  And if you found this post useful, I’d love a pin on Pinterest.

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Giveaway: Freezer Cookbook

  Today I’m giving away a copy of a new book by Jessica Fisher called Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze  Cookbook.   Jessica is the mom of 6 kids and blogs at Life As Mom and at Good Cheap Eats.

She and I have a lot of similarities in the way that we feed our families, and in the time constraints that we have in the kitchen.  Getting dinner on the table just can’t take forever, and it’s gotta appeal to at least 80% of your family on any given day.  Jessica has put together a great cookbook that steps folks through mealtime planning with a heavy emphasis on that most wonderful of kitchen appliances:  the freezer.  Her book contains 200 recipes, and lots of step by step how-to’s for folks wanting to do a cook-and-freeze day for themselves.

If you’d like to win a copy of this book, comment below and tell me how you currently use your freezer.  At the moment my freezer contains 2 casseroles, several packages of precooked ground beef, frozen raspberries, cubed sweet peppers, sliced mini zucchini, grated zucchini, and several homemade peach pies.  I love having complete meals AND partially prepped food in my freezer to speed meal prep on busy days.

So tell me how you use your freezer!  If you’d like to get an additional entry for this giveaway, share this post on twitter or facebook (buttons below) and come back to comment again and tell me where you shared it.  I’ll choose a winner on Monday.

Leafy girls

Something about being gone for a few days leaves me all lazy and noodly, disinclined to do anything but putter. Today I did give the kids a biology test. I also got my bags unpacked, made the bed, made dinner….and, hmmm, pretty sure that’s about it. Then this evening our 7 year old coaxed me to come out into the cool and see what she and the 10yo were doing. Definitely the highlight of a lazy day.



Raising Boys and Girls

Friday evening’s DotMom keynote was done by David Thomas and Sissy Goff, two folks who’ve done counseling with kids and parents for years. They also wrote the book “Raising Boys and Girls” which I’ll be reviewing on my blog sometime in the next few weeks.  (I’m also hoping to wrangle a copy to give away to a reader too!)

David spoke about boys, and the unique contributions their mothers make in their lives.  As a mom of four teen-and-up boys, I was fighting back tears for most of his talk.  I’m not 100% sure why, but I think it was partly because that thought hadn’t been phrased to me in that exact way before, and it just made me conscious of just how crazy I am about my guys.  (Good thing I haven’t put on my makeup yet this morning, because here I am tearing up again!)

As mom to my boys, I’m irreplaceable.  I’m their first female relationship, and I mirror the love of God to them in a way that no one else can.  I’m unconditionally devoted to them.

David talked about the differences in the male and female brain– how a momma will sometimes give her boy a 4 or 5-part instruction and expect him to do it.  And then he’ll just kinda wander off dazed, and do maybe half of it.  Boys are not multi-taskers, and so we as moms need to realize that it may be more productive to just give them a thing or two at a time, instead of saying so many things at once.

There are several unique challenges we have as moms of boys:

~~We are called to be safe.  For years we’re the utter center of these little guys’ lives. But as they grow they’ll often also start pushing us a bit, stretching us to our limits. They know they’re safe in our love, in a way that is different than is typical with the father-son relationship.

~~Then at the right time, we are called to let them go, and to bless them in that process, even when it is hard.

David told a story that demonstrates the boy-girl difference:  A couple of parents took their son off to college, got him all settled in.  (Again this was making me cry because we just did this with our 4th child a month ago!)  When finally it was obvious that it was time to say goodbye the dad just hugged his son and cried.  All he could say was ‘I love you so much.  I love you so much.’

Then the mom turned to her son. “Now remember, that milk in your fridge will spoil if you don’t drink it in time.  Change your socks every day, and don’t forget to add money to your meal plan, because they won’t do that for you.”  She gave her son a hug and got in the car, and just as they were ready to drive away, she rolled down the window and yelled, “No matter what, don’t drink!  That’ll get you in a world of trouble!”

I could so relate to that momma, trying to prepare her kid for all the eventualities of life, and just hanging onto him with her words as long as she could.  It’s so hard to let kids grow up and go.  We just love them so much.


Sissy Goff is a partner in the counseling practice with David, and she spoke to us about mothering girls.  She began by asking if we thought boys were harder to raise or girls.  By a show of hands, girls won out by a large majority.  She explained that we tend to find mothering daughters much harder because of the relational aspect of the female brain.  She said that we as moms have four things to do for our daughters.

~Support her.  She defines herself by the way we see her.  We need to help our girls develop their voice, learn to ask good questions.  We need to listen well.

~Differentiation.  At first a girl worships her momma.  But she eventually needs to see herself as a separate person, and since we as moms often see our daughters as an extension of ourselves, this process can be painful for us mommas.  She gave us the picture of a pendulum, and said girls kind of kick off away from us for awhile, to get that distance and separation before they come back toward center as adults. 

Since we are relational beings in a way that men are not, we often blame ourselves when the relationship with our daughters is difficult. We hate it when we feel a divide growing between us and our daughters.

~Enjoyment.  Girls who are delighted in feel more delightful.  We need to find a ‘thing’ we do with our girls, something that we’re not teaching them, or correcting them about, just something we enjoy together.

~Inspiration.  We need to give our daughters an example of what it means to be a woman.  Sissy encouraged us to think of 5 traits we would like to see grow in our daughters– and then spend some time praying over that list and asking God how we can make those traits more evident in our own lives.


She ended by saying that girls tend to ask themselves two main questions, and these are questions that a good mom can help her daughter answer.

~Am I too much?

~Am I enough?

This was such a hard talk for me. I grieved missing all the tranquil little-girl time with my older girls, the time when they were crazy for their momma. We leaped into our relationship at puberty, exactly when the mother-daughter relationship is hardest, when they’re pushing away, and (in our case) when our girls were mourning the loss of their first momma. Such a challenge to grow a relationship at that point, to love in a Christ-like way even when all I as the momma feel is the pushing-away. It all gave me lots to think about, lots to work on, while also reminding me that the difficulty in the relationship is not my fault. It’s a function of where the kids are in life, and is likely to grow and get better as they gain maturity and an adult perspective on life.

I really appreciated the reminder at the end of Sissy’s talk– that God is a God who liberates us, who frees us to love each other, who restores relationships, who grows us along with our children, and who cares for our children even more than we do.

DotMom – Friday afternoon keynote by Jen Hatmaker

(my best paraphrase of Jen’s message)

Jen said she feels like as a mom maybe she fits better into the 70’s than the current day.  You know the era when moms would say, “You’ve got a bike. Go do something.”  She said her mom would tell her to be home when the stars come out.  (The rule at my house growing up was that you had to be home by the time the sun touched the horizon.)

Back then moms didn’t worry so much.  They gave kids space and didn’t feel like they had to entertain their kids all the time.  Jen said these days she gets worried when a friend straps a booster seat in her car for carpooling– to transport an 11 year old.

Though she’s a more laid back mom than some, she’s still struggled with her share of worries.  She said, for example, that she’s mapped out a plan of what to do if her minivan ever went into a river.  Down to the second, she knows what she’d do– starting with opening the windows after the car has left the road and before it hits the water.  (I wish I could say my thoughts have never gone in that direction.  But yeah, I’ve got that scenario mapped out– and also the one for when your van-full-o-kids stalls on train tracks.  And a few others.)

Fear makes a mom’s job harder.  We want our kids safe and happy and protected.  But as moms when we get bound up in fear, we’re forgetting that God often teaches folks through challenge, through hard times.    We want to wrap our precious kids in bubble wrap.  And yet, when has God grown you the most?  Think  about it:  was it in times of ease, or during great struggle, failure and loss?

Sure, we want to be wise in our parenting.  We don’t want to be neglectful.  But we want to grow up kids who are brave– who don’t avoid the risky or the hard because “mom and dad would freak out”.  We need people who are courageous enough to go out into this broken world and make a difference.  Our kids belong to Jesus.  Let’s parent without fear.  Let’s rest in His grace.

Heading off to DotMom

A day of airplanes (including all-out running between two of them) and an evening of chatting with friends (old and new) has me all worn out. I was especially delighted to see Keely, Jennifer, and Mel, all folks I met on our Compassion trip to the Dominican Republic a few years back.

I’m eager to see what the Lifeway DotMom conference has in store tomorrow. I’ll be blogging highlights of talks by Jen Hatmaker and many other fine folks! Jen and I actually spent 3 minutes talking this evening and I’m pretty sure we’re now BFF. OK, I’m exaggerating, but I’m pretty sure she and I could effortlessly fill an hour with talk about adoption and Ethiopia and solving the world’s problems.  You know, if she didn’t have about 40 other people wanting to chat with her at any given moment.

For now, here’s a view of my hotel. Looks like the outside of the building, right? It’s actually the inside, looking down into a big open area.  I’m up on the 8th floor, close to the right-hand side of the picture.  More tomorrow!  Goodnight!