Archives for June 2014

The Pharisee in me

On the water

Funny thing about life before parenting, and even life before you’ve had the chance to parent a challenging child. You can be really smug thinking you’re a pretty decent person, that you’re good at loving and good at forgiving. You may glimpse a bit of less-than-awesome lurking in there, but it’s still possible to fool yourself that most of the time all is fairly decent inside that heart of yours.

And then. Challenge comes.

Maybe it’s a defiant kid. Or a wounded one. One who struggles with anxiety, and shows it by trying to control everything, including you. Or maybe it’s not even a child. Maybe it’s a teen. Maybe it’s a spouse who hurts you, challenges you to the core. And you find yourself looking at a person in your life whom you’ve promised to love, whom you’ve been called to love, whom you desperately WANT to love.

But instead of love, if you’re being honest, you sometimes feeling pretty much the opposite. Sometimes you’re even acting pretty much the opposite.

And all of a sudden you’re face to face with just how bankrupt that heart of yours can be, when you’re running on your own power.

Because real love isn’t the kind that only loves someone who’s smiling sweetly back at you and agreeing that all your ideas are stellar. Real love carries on, reaches out, gently directs, shows kindness, even in the face of rejection. Yes, there is a place for limit-setting too– some situations where you legitimately need to say, ‘No more’.  But real love keeps seeing the struggling soul inside that person who’s hurt you.  Real love keeps being willing to go to the cross daily for that person.

I can’t love like that on my own.  I can only do it with the power of Jesus in my life.  And even then, imperfectly.

In the past, there were times I judged people who were struggling to love those around them. It seemed so obvious to me what they should be doing.  Lose that grudge. Love your kid.  Love your spouse. Forgive your friend.

Except, wow, that job is exhausting some days.

These days, thanks to the hard bits of my own life, there’s a new compassion in me for folks struggling to love well. Life is hard.  Relationships are hard.  We’d all be better off if we judged less and forgave more.  Offered grace more freely, especially when folks don’t deserve it. We’re all going to hit those hard moments when we need someone else to reach out with more grace than we deserve, and love us in spite of ourselves.

And sometimes the person I most need to forgive is myself. Yes, I can do all things, but ONLY through Christ who strengthens me.  And the wonderful thing about Jesus is that He’s always there to pick me up when I get foolish and try to walk on that water all by myself.

Raise the Banner


Here they come
We are surrounded
We’re out numbered
With no place to run

So we’re staying here
Lifting up a prayer
Deliver us

t-shirt makeover

the starting point
Recently in a bag of hand-me-downs I spotted a ladies top whose fabric I really liked but the style of which did not appeal to any of the girls in the family. That set me to wondering how I could remake the shirt into something that someone would enjoy. The fabric was soft and stretchy and reminded me a lot of the maxi skirts I’ve been wearing a lot lately. So I decided to remake the shirt into a skirt for my youngest daughter.

I began by laying out the top as smoothly as possible on my cutting board and cutting off both sleeves right where they attached to the body of the top. It might be a good idea to turn the garment inside out before beginning to cut, but that idea didn’t occur to me til later.Step 1: Cut off the sleeves



Next I cut off the neckline of the shirt in a straight line just below the lowest point of the neckline.  I also trimmed away the sides of the top in a (kinda) straight line, angled just a little inward toward the top, which was now going to be the waist of my skirt.  I left the bottom of the shirt alone, as that was going to be the bottom edge of my skirt.  (Yay- the hemming was already done!)

Step 2: Trim away the top and sides

Next I turned the skirt inside out and sewed up the side seams of the skirt, doing my best to make a smooth transition from the existing stitching to the new stitching where I’d trimmed away fabric.

Step 3: Sew the side seams

Next I sewed the ‘tunnel’ at the top of the skirt into which I could thread elastic for a waistband. I happened to have elastic that was about 3/4 inch thick, so I folded over about 1-1/4 inches of fabric, tucking about a 1/4 inch under again before sewing, so that no raw edges would be exposed on the waistband.

Step 4: Sew the waistband

Once I’d sewn my waistband, leaving a 1-inch opening into which to thread my elastic, I put a safety pin into the end of my elastic and threaded it through the ‘tunnel’ of the waistband.  Once that was done, all that was left was to sew the two ends of the elastic together!  Here’s the final product.

Completed skirtMy sweet little model


And here it is on my little girl.  It ended up being too short to be a true maxi skirt for her, but it’s still really cute, I think.  I think I’ll keep an eye out for a large-sized striped shirt so that I can try this technique again and make another one that is actually long enough to be a maxi skirt for her one of these days.

This project was a lot of fun and took me only half an hour. I was amazed at how fast it came together. Have you ever remade a garment into something else?  How did it go?


how to turn a shirt into a skirt

Camping fun

Here’s at least some of what’s been keeping me away from the blog during the past week. I’ll write more later. Hope you’re enjoying your summer as well!






Games in the lodge



Sweet little Ascher
Too busy to blog today, but thankfully my lovely daughters have somehow found time to blog even with teeny ones!  Maybe you’d like to pop over and see what’s new with them??



face to face with the younger me

Hit rewind
Click delete
Stand face to face with the younger me
All of the mistakes
All of the heartbreak
Here’s what I’d do differently

Frugal successes, frugal fails

Frugal (640x220)

  • Success:  This week I had several days where I didn’t go anywhere. When you’re trying to be careful with your money, just staying out of the stores can be a big thing.
  • Fail:  When my husband needed to replace a water timer  (to water our garden while we’re gone) I suggested he try a different brand than the one that needed to be replaced.  This other brand was available on amazon and had two day shipping and cost half of what the other brand did.  Got it home and it did not work one bit.  So back to amazon it went, and off to the store my husband went.  Ah well.  On the bright side I was delighted with Amazon’s UPS return shipping.  I printed out a label, requested that UPS pick up my package, and the UPS man showed up at my door 15 hours later.  Then– just as surprising– the refund for the item was credited to our account by the end of the day.  Hooray!
  • Success: I found bananas for 25 cents a pound at Walmart and bought lots– enough finally to make a batch of my favorite gluten free banana bread.   I added chocolate chips– yum!
  • Success:  One of our married daughters brought some clothes to share with her younger sisters, most of which were absolutely perfect for my fast-growing just-turned-12-year old.  And she actually liked them!
  • Success:  I found several just-right birthday gifts for that same birthday girl that I’d stashed away weeks earlier, making her birthday much easier to prepare for.  One was this LOVELY coloring book.  If you have an artist in need of a project this summer, click on the photo and check it out. (affiliate link)
  • Fail: When I went to the store with my son to exchange a few things, I found a couple things for myself as well.  I probably should have resisted the $25 shorts, but they actually looked nice.  I also found a pair of black capris for $14.  Was rather pleased with that find. And most likely I will wear both lots this summer.  So maybe not a total fail.
  • Success: I cooked several meals even when I wasn’t in the mood to cook, and did a good job using/repurposing most leftovers.
  • Fail:  I forgot about some bacon in the fridge and lost it to mold.  Bah.  I hardly ever do that, especially with meat.  I blame vacation-brain.

How did your week go?  Successes?  Fails?

Recipe: BBQ Meatballs for a Crowd

meatball subs

When all our kids are home for Sunday dinner, I’d much rather be visiting and playing with babies than cooking.  Because of that, I’m always on the lookout for meals that I can prep ahead of time.   A few weeks ago I made a big crock pot full of meatballs, and topped them with my homemade barbecue sauce.  I served them with hoagie rolls and hot dog buns, so that everyone could make their own meatball sandwiches.

Here’s the recipe I used.  It’s enough to serve two dozen people generously.  Any leftover meatballs can be frozen for later, or added to spaghetti sauce on spaghetti night. To make this recipe gluten free, serve over rice instead of on rolls, and use gluten-free oats and gluten-free soy sauce.

BBQ Meatballs for a Crowd

Yield: 24 servings

4-6 meatballs per serving

BBQ Meatballs for a Crowd


    For the meatballs:
  • 8 lbs lean or extra-lean ground beef
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 T. salt
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • dash of liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • For the barbecue sauce:
  • 1-1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 of a small white onion, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspood dry mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Combine all meatball ingredients in a very large bowl. Mold into balls about 1.5 inches in diameter and set on a large cookie sheet in a single layer. Broil in the oven about 8 inches from the element for 6-8 minutes, turning once. Keep a close eye on them during the last few minutes to avoid burning.
  2. Broiling meatballs first helps them hold together while being cooked in the barbecue sauce. By the time you remove them from the broiler, they should be cooked through, with no pink in the center. At this point you can refrigerate or freeze them until they will be used. If you choose to make the barbecue sauce at this point, you can go ahead and pour it over the top of the meatballs to marinate together in the fridge or freezer until you heat them up again for serving.
  4. Combine all sauce ingredients in a medium size saucepan, whisk together, and simmer over medium heat 10-15 minutes. This sauce may be cooled and stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.
  5. TO SERVE:
  6. Combine thawed meatballs and barbecue sauce in a large crock pot and cook until hot. Use the high setting if you would like to serve the meatballs within an hour, or low if you'd like to let them simmer 2-4 hours. Serve in hoagie rolls or hot dog buns, or over the top of rice. Enjoy!


Thoughts on a life lived looking down


When our oldest daughters became teens a decade or so ago, none of their friends had cell phones. Since then electronic communication has exploded.  These days most young teens have cell phones, along with many elementary school kids.  And most of these phones have internet access built in right along with calling and texting. Everywhere I go, I see kids looking down at screens.  Walking down the road.  At stop lights. In restaurants. Even tiny children clutching screens sitting in shopping carts as their mothers shop. This is one trend we’re trying hard not to encourage with our kids.

Our 18 year old waited til 18 to get her first ‘dumb’ phone, and til high school graduation for a smart phone.  Our two 16 year old sons would love phones, and when they get their driver’s licenses in September, it would probably be really convenient.  But we really, really don’t want them to have the terrible temptation of internet any time, anywhere.  And we really don’t want them to live the last years of their childhood looking down at screens.  We’ve opted to charge one old ‘dumb’ tracfone with minutes, to be shared by both of them at times when it would be good for us to easily communicate with them.  Other communication can happen, in moderation, on our home phone and on facebook for 15 minutes or so most days. But not constantly.

As you might guess, some of our kids don’t love it.  They’re itching for more access, more ability to communicate with friends. And yes, we’re fully aware that once they’re out on their own, they’ll be making their own choices. When that time comes they may live for awhile constantly connected, heads down, tapping away at screens, forgetting to look up. But I don’t want that time to come just yet.  I want them to have a few more years to facing up and out, looking the ones around them in the eye, and sharing thoughts face to face.

Our hope is that more time in real life as kids will make it easier  for them to find a good and healthy balance later as adults.  To be the type of person who can use tools as they were intended, but also be able to set gadgets aside, maybe even for hours at a time, so that they can really live and breathe and inhabit the one precious, wild wonderful life that is theirs.

Other writing on this topic

The real reason I say no to electronics

What that ipad is doing to your kid

Are we starving the hearts of our children?


Frugal Friday


You know, at first I was feeling like I didn’t have a lot to say about frugality this week.  After all, we just got back from a week at the beach where we stayed in a lovely house right on the water.  Bliss, but not the most frugal of adventures.  Except– and I think this is such an important thing to remember in the discussions about frugality— that’s exactly why live carefully the rest of the year.  Trips with our children are important to us, something we want to be part of our family’s collective memory.

Other people’s reasons for frugality may be different.  Maybe you’re working to afford gymnastics for your daughter, or you want to be home with your kids, or you are saving for a new car, or you’re paying off credit cards.  Whatever your goals are, it helps to keep them high in your mind.  They are what gives you the oomph to keep making wise money choices day after day, especially in those moments when frankly it would be a lot easier to order take-out than to cook dinner.

So for us, last week was our least frugal week of the year.  But you can’t take the frugal out of us that easily– we still kept an eye on expenses.  Here are some of the ways we did it.

  • necklacesDuring our week of vacation we ate all but three meals at the house, to keep our food costs down.  We ate sandwiches for several meals while driving places, and at the house served affordable things like clam chowder, chili, tacos, and potato soup. Everyone took turns cooking and doing dishes.  My mom was a huge help in the kitchen, and it was really fun to cook together. My grown daughters also helped for several meals, and various kids helped with smaller cooking tasks all week long.  Many hands make light work.
  • We walked to the store multiple times during that week.  It was only a mile away, and we all enjoyed being close enough to the store that a drive wasn’t required.  It ALMOST makes me wish we didn’t live so far out in the country in ‘real’ life.  🙂
  • The very last day of our trip we made a conscious effort to serve ALL of the leftovers from the week.  We did such a good job that that fridge was practically bare the morning we headed home.  And yet we fed people well all week.  That last night we had meatloaf, salad, fried rice, and chicken enchiladas to choose from, topped off by fresh brownies for dessert. (Never underestimate the ability of fresh brownies to make a meal of leftovers still feel like something wonderful.)
  • We went thrifting at Goodwill one of the days on the coast to help satisfy kids’ wish to shop.  We went to a farmer’s market and a roadside farm stand where we got good prices on fresh green beans, tomatoes, and avocados.  The farmer’s market is where I found these sweet glass-bead necklaces that I got as souvenirs for the girls in our group.  They were $4 each when bought in groups of 5, which I thought was a very reasonably-priced little memento of our trip.  (Erika, the orange one is yours  🙂  )

Less-frugal happenings that week: my daughter forgot to pack her tennis shoes and my son forgot his soccer ball, so both items were re-bought on the trip.  But my daughter was outgrowing her old shoes anyway and we found her a nice pair for 40% off.  And my son bought the soccer ball himself.  So it was all good in the end.

How did your week go?  What were some of your frugal victories?  Did you have any fails?