Archives for April 2013

Ants, ants, ants

How to battle ants

I discovered an unhappy side effect of my new kitchen floor the other day.  The lovely wood does a MUCH better job of hiding ants than our previous ugly white vinyl.  Apparently we have them.  When I spotted them, I sprayed the corner with windex– a quick fix for any visible ants.  Then I found a tip that suggests making a boric acid solution to kill the ants.  But with the pets and babies around here, I wasn’t sure about doing that.

I came across another suggestion on for ant-killing.  It turns out that borax is a milder form of boric acid  AND — bonus– I already have it in the house.  So far the ants are only coming in one corner of the kitchen behind a garbage can, so I think I’ll sprinkle the borax back there.  Other years we’ve also had ants in a corner of the laundry room, so I may sprinkle a bit in there preemptively.  Both of those places are not places that babies play, and if I just brush the borax down the cracks, it’ll be inaccessible to cats as well.  I’ll give it a shot and see how it goes.

Do you have a good ant-fighting tactic?


Mother’s Day ideas?

If you’re looking for a gift for Mother’s Day or maybe for a wedding that you’ll be attending this summer, may I suggest that you consider my books?

Family Feasts for $75 a Week: A Penny-wise Mom Shares Her Recipe for Cutting Hundreds from Your Monthly Food Bill shares my best money-saving grocery shopping strategies, along with 200+ kid-tested recipes.  Lots of the recipes are gluten-free or easily adapted to be gluten free.  Almost all are quick to make and feature affordable, healthy ingredients.  Check out the reviews on amazon if you’re interested in reading what others have to say about the book.  The best bit?  You don’t have to coupon (unless you really want to).  🙂

I wrote A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family with mommas of many in mind, but regularly hear that moms of small families have found the book useful too.  In it I share organizing ideas, ways to connect with your kids, tips for juggling activities,ways to nurture your marriage in a busy household, and ideas for prioritizing and simplifying your life.



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Four healthy-eating bloggers I enjoy

Gorgeous veggies at a market in Chile

I was raised by a momma who routinely fed us things like raw milk, homemade bread and yogurt, liver and granola. And my dad gardened and had beehives in our back yard. Truthfully, I wasn’t always a fan of my parents’ healthy-eating practices as a kid– the liver just about finished me off, and I really loved Cap’n Crunch.  But in college I found nutrition class interesting enough that I wondered briefly about becoming a nutritionist myself.

John and I have always gardened, which automatically boosted our family nutrition, even during the years that I served lots and lots of pasta.  Lately I’ve been reading lots more about nutrition, am getting more healthy fats in our diet, and am gradually edging towards paleo-style eating.  A true paleo diet is basically plants and meat, with no grains.  I aim for lots of plants, eggs, and meat, with just a dab of rice, barley, or non-wheat bread here and there.  My family still does wheat, but I’m trying to make it a smaller portion of their diet.

Here are some of the healthy-eating bloggers I’ve found most helpful and most inspirational lately.

Healthy Home Economist —  Here’s a good article about the safety of raw milk.

The Spunky Coconut  –These banana coconut pancakes look lovely.

Wellness Mama — Here’s a recipe for carrot ginger soup I’m looking forward to trying.

Nourished and Nurtured— I also have it on my list to try this blueberry custard cake recipe.

What healthy-food bloggers do you enjoy?



Sunday: We will see You face to face

When I stand before Your throne
Dressed in glory not my own
What a joy I’ll sing of on that day
No more tears or broken dreams
Forgotten is the minor key
Everything as it was meant to be

And we will worship, worship
Forever in Your presence we will sing
We will worship, worship You
And endless hallelujah to the King

I will see You as You are
Love You with unsinning heart
And see how much You paid to bring me home
Not till then, Lord, shall I know
Not till then, how much I owe
Everything I am before Your throne

And we will worship, worship
Forever in Your presence we will sing
We will worship, worship You
An endless hallelujah to the King

No more tears, no more shame
No more sin and sorrow ever known again
No more fears, no more pain
We will see You face to face
See You face to face

And we will worship, worship
Forever in Your presence we will sing
We will worship, worship You
An endless hallelujah to the King

An endless hallelujah to the King
We’ll sing
An endless hallelujah to the King

Potato Salad Recipe (& question about biographies)

The winner of the subscription to For Girls Like You (chosen by is commenter #2 Jennie C.   Jennie, email me your address and I will get it forwarded on to the right folks!

LEarringsYesterday we went to the mall and our 15 and 17 year old daughters had their ears double-pierced.   Their ears were first pierced when they were little girls in Ethiopia, so it was really fun for me to be there when they had this second set done.  They’d been wanted to do it for awhile and were thrilled that Dad said yes.

Today we’re scurrying around getting ready for a barbecue after church on Sunday– our usual clan, plus some of our college-sons’ friends from church.  Should be good fun!  I’m going to try this potato salad recipe recommended by my MIL.  Since I despise mayo with a passion, I rarely make potato salad, but this one is mayo-free AND has bacon in it!.  We’ll give it a whirl.  I’ll add a picture once I make it.

German Potato Salad

Serves 10-12

  • 8-10 medium potatoes (white or red) baked in their skin
  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • 10 strips of bacon, diced and cooked until brown
  • 1 large white onion, minced, and fried in bacon grease til tender
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1 t. black pepper

Peel and cube potatoes once they’re cooled enough to handle. Combined  potatoes and fresh parsley.  Fry diced bacon in skillet until just brown and remove bacon to a bowl.  Leave about 1/4 cup of bacon grease in the skillet and fry onion until soft.  In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and water.  Add to onion mixture in skillet and cook until it thickens.  Pour hot dressing over parsley/potato mixture.  Add bacon.  Serve at room temperature.

Finally, I have a question about biographies for you all.  One of my daughters just read The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt by Day, a slightly fictionalized biography about William Tyndale.  I thought it was a really worthwhile read, and would love to find other similar biographies for my teenagers to read.  Do you have any recommendations?

Preparing for what lies ahead

FlowersLast evening I learned about a precious little boy, now five years old, who has spent his life in a crib simply because he was born missing one foot.  As I read about little ‘Jackson‘, my heart broke in half. You see, John and I also have a son who was born missing a foot. Our son, however, came to us before he turned two.  By the time he was five he could walk and talk and feed himself.  He could even ride a bike.  Most importantly, he loved us and he knew we love him.

Oh, I pray that soon this little Jackson will have the blessing of a family. (Please, dear Father in heaven?)  And I pray that the folks whose hearts are moved will also be equipped to parent him in the way that he will need.  Sure, his needs include a prosthetic leg.  But because of all the life he’s lived in a crib, it’s even more important that he be parented in a way that heals his heart, that builds attachment.  He will likely retain scars from his beginnings for his entire life. He needs parents with an unbreakable commitment to him, and the resilience to reach out to him in love, over and over and over.

My friend Lisa Qualls writes often about the incredible task of parenting kids from hard places.  (I’m hoping to meet her in person some day– we have so much in common!)  Here’ s a bit of a post that she wrote about this amazing assignment we take on when we choose to adopt:

When we adopt children from “hard places,” we are willingly devoting our lives to a challenge.  We must prepare ourselves for battle, not with our child, but for our child.  We may find ourselves fighting for her physical health, emotional health, and mental health. Without a doubt we will be fighting a spiritual battle like none other.

I have found her words to be so true as I’ve parented my precious ones.  Click through to her blog to read the full post.  And please join me in praying that the right parents will come forward for little Jackson, ones ready and willing to do battle on his behalf.

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Jam Thumbprint Cookies
Our family has been making these cute little cookies for years.  They’re an ideal project to do with little children because the dough comes together very quickly, and even small children can help with several steps in the process.


Makes: 2 dozen

Time: 30 minutes





1. Cream butter and sugar together. Mix in flour.

2. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet.

3. Flatten each ball with a glass dipped in sugar.

FFlatten with a glass dipped in sugar



4. Use your thumb to make a little hole in the top of each cookie.




5. Place 1/2 teaspoon of jam into each impression. (It is best to use a tiny amount of very thick-set jam.  Freezer jam tends to be too watery and dribbles off the sides of the cookies.)


6. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes or until cookies start to get just a tiny bit of golden brown around the edges.

7. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before moving to a cooling rack.  Let cool fully and enjoy!


  • Jam Thumbprint Cookies

    Jam Thumbprint Cookies


    • 1 cup butter
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 cups flour
    • 2/3 cup jelly or jam


    1. 1. Cream butter and sugar together. Mix in flour.
    2. 2. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet.
    3. 3. Flatten each ball with a glass dipped in sugar.
    4. 4. Use your thumb to make a little hole in the top of each cookie.
    5. 5. Place 1/2 teaspoon of jam into each impression. (It is best to use a tiny amount of very thick-set jam. Freezer jam tends to be too watery and dribbles off the sides of the cookies.)
    6. 6. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes or until cookies start to get just a tiny bit of golden brown around the edges.
    7. 7. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before moving to a cooling rack. Let cool fully and enjoy!
    8. For more affordable recipes, check out Mary's cookbook Family Feasts for $75 a Week


For more easy family-friendly recipes, check out my free recipe index.

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Because I’ve been wanting to tell you more about that book

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m working on a book about adoptive motherhood, but I didn’t want to get too deep into talking about it until I’d actually signed a contract to write it.  Well, that day came.  Last month I signed with Thomas Nelson–happy dance!!– and have a December deadline–eek!

Making donutsThis is the book my wonderful agent Angela Miller has been asking me to write for years, and for years I’ve been hemming and hawing and vaguely thinking that I need to be further along this journey before writing about it.  Finally I realized that a perfect-sounding, happily-ever-after, tie-a-bow-on-it end of the story might not come til heaven, and that’s not what other mommas need from me anyway. We’re all a work in progress, parents and kids alike.  The story that really needs telling is about God’s faithfulness along the journey, not some illusionary ‘perfect ending’.   And so I’ll be sharing how God is using the twists and turns of my own journey to grow my faith, to teach me more about Him, and more about mothering my precious ones—yes, exactly here when things look lumpish and I can’t quite see the end of the journey.  Are you there right now too?  Good.  Then we’ll keep each other company.

AmpAlong with sharing about my story, I also want to better equip mommas for this important job.  Mothering children who’ve experienced loss can be hard, but it feels more doable when you’ve got insight and tools and ways to cope with the tough days.    Since different things work for different folks, I’m going to continue to ask for your help and your input.  I’m truly touched each time someone takes a moment to share your insights along this journey. The more you can share about your experiences and your successes, the better this book will be.

This week I’d love to hear your thoughts about helping newly adopted older kids settle in. As much as I tried to prepare myself for challenges when adopting our older girls, I don’t think I truly had a grasp on how hard this life change would be for them.  I started out feeling very compassionate towards them.  But once they’d been here a year or so, there was a part of me that expected them to move on already, and felt frustrated we were still working through the same stuff.

The longer I walk this road with my kids, the more I realize that grieving great loss is a life-long journey, not an experience it is possible to tuck away neatly after a few months.   My recent reading of Daniel Siegel’s book The Whole-Brain Child gave me a lot of new insight, and also a renewed compassion for the way a child’s past impacts his future. I wish I’d read the book much, much earlier.  (Praise God for being there to redeem my feeble efforts!)

What about you?  Have you brought home a child older than age 2 on homecoming?  What worked well in those early months and years home?  What helped you connect?  What was hardest?  How did you make it through the most difficult times?  What do you wish you’d known from the start? Please share your thoughts below, or write to me privately and anonymously if you prefer.  mary dot owlhaven at gmail dot com .  I so much appreciate your wisdom and your sharing!

Giveaway: For Girls Like You

For Girls Like You  is a magazine written for girls age 6-11, and shares stories about interesting places, positive role models, and creative projects, without the negative imagery and advertising that often appears in mainstream entertainment.  The creators want this new magazine to entertain and inform young girls in a God-honoring way. Each issue features many opportunities (called Sprinkles) where they ask girls to contribute their own thoughts and ideas.

For Girls Like YouI was sent two issues of this new magazine, as well as a copy of their ‘maga-book’  which features lots more stories, crafts, writing prompts, and activities.  My 8 and 10 year old daughters have been poring over the magazines ever since they arrived a few days ago, and have really enjoyed the various features and stories about people.  My teen daughters have also spent some time checking the magazine out.

I love that the magazine features girls of every color in a very balanced way.  Too often magazines feature endless blonde white girls, with a light brown girl tossed in there every now and then as a nod towards folks who aren’t pale-skinned.  My girls especially enjoyed the feature about Jamie-Grace, who is one of their favorite singers.

This week I’m giving away a one-year subscription to For Girls Like You to one of my readers.  Enter the drawing by commenting below and telling me a little about the girl you’d like to give this magazine to– what does she like to read about?  What kinds of activities does she like to do?   (I’m sure the editors of For Girls Like You would love ideas for future issues!)  If you’d like an additional entry to this giveaway, go ‘like’ For Girls Like You on Facebook then come back here and comment AGAIN, telling me you liked them. Bonus points if you write on their wall and tell them where you heard about their magazine!

I’ll choose a winner on Friday!