Archives for September 2014

Being Real


I’m preparing for a couple of different get-aways during October. I already mentioned the adoptive momma retreat that I’m planning locally, which I hope is going to bless the mommas attending. I’ve also been invited to attend a different adoption retreat in Seattle soon, also quite small and intimate. At each retreat there are mommas I’ve known for awhile, and others I’ll be meeting for the first time. But we all have adoption as a common thread. I’m looking forward to curling up on couches with hot drinks, sharing stories and hearing stories, and being encouraged.

My prayer for both events is that God will move powerfully and personally in the lives of each attendee. That He will speak the words each woman needs to hear. That we will leave the event, each having encouraged someone else and each having been encouraged herself.

But about that encouragement thing.  How do we best give it?  Receive it?

When preparing for a gathering with other women, it can be easy and tempting to pack our bags with our cutest (thinnest? most flattering?) items of clothing.  To do our nails and get fresh haircuts.  To dust off our happiest stories and our proudest moments, prepared to smile and show the bits of our lives that look most pulled together.

There’s nothing at all wrong with sharing happy stories.  They’re tremendously powerful and we all need to hear them.  But I’ve found that equally powerful moments in relationship — moments when encouragement is just as rich and long-lasting– come when we are real about both the joy and the hard inherent in motherhood. When we’re brave enough to say that this part or that part of our life is a real struggle. When we admit how we don’t have it all figured out. Where we transparently share the real aches and the true sorrows that go hand in hand with the shining moments of joy.

When we share from the full range of our experience, we give each other a chance to say, ‘Me too.’  The stories of struggle reassure that quiet momma in the corner who wouldn’t bring up the topic on her own but fears she’s the only one struggling with that particular thing.  The stories of joy give hope that good moments are coming and remind us of joy we’ve maybe forgotten in our own lives.

So as I pull out my bags and prepare to head off for each of these weekends, along with my comfy yoga pants and my softest socks and my adoption-themed t-shirts– OK, and some cute clothes too–  I’m planning on bringing my real, honest, authentic struggling self.  Yes, there’s a bit of me that’s still tempted to only show the shiny side of my life.  That’s afraid being real will be too much for some.  But in my heart I believe that real community only happens in a spirit of honesty and truth.

Beth Guckenberger, at the Created for Care weekend I attended last spring, said, “May we be more real than impressive.”  To that I would add, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”  (Col 3:14)  I think keeping those two things firmly in mind open us up to be encouraged by others and to be encouragers ourselves– to really grow in relationship and in community.  And that’s something I very much want.


And, remember, we encourage each other in tiny ways every single day:  Dear You…a letter for all of the hard days

September grocery challenge, week 4

I keep thinking that I’m actually going to get less busy and manage to post here more often, but then the week runs away with me. Again. I also imagined that with both our teens sons now having licenses and cars, my driving load would be less.  And it is– except for the 7x a week driver’s ed that our 16 year old daughter has been doing for three weeks.  But that’s done today, so maybe, maybe I’ll get to stay home more soon.

But then starts another 6 months of driving with a student driver.  She’s #8 to take driver’s ed, so we’re starting to feel like campaign-hardened veterans in the driver’s ed department– harder to scare, and a bit better at predicting the typical things that kids have trouble with. This is also our 4th new driver in 2 years, so I’m starting to feel sorry that our preteen daughters once again get to sit in the car and again hear my play-by-play direction of new drivers.  Heck, even I’m getting tired of the sound of my voice pointing out possible hazards.  On the bright side, they’ll probably be excellent drivers by the time it’s their turn to learn.

Another thing that’s been taking some time lately is really fun.  I’m pulling together final plans for a Created for Care mini-retreat in McCall, Idaho in October.  Twenty ladies have signed up to attend, which is a nice number for the house that we rented, and I’m just praying the weekend will be a delight and a blessing to everyone.  We’ll be watching some really good DVD’s from the ‘big’ Created for Care event that I’ve attended for several years, plus have time for sharing and fellowship and encouragement. And chocolate.  🙂

So.  On to the great grocery adventure.  I went to the store twice this week, for essentials like potatoes, Her first apple pieonions, dish soap, milk, yogurt, eggs and a watermelon. OK, the watermelon wasn’t an essential, but the affordable watermelon season is getting near its end.  Better enjoy before the prices go up. I also grabbed some peanuts for munchies for my college-student girl who’s working so hard, and probably not eating great with all the studying and early rising.

As of Thursday I was up to $290 which I call a great success for the month. I don’t really even feel like the cupboards are bare. I have been a bit more repetitive with food this week, but I attribute that to being busy as much as to the $300 budget.

Julianna made her first apple pie this past week, using the press-in pie crust recipe from Family Feasts for $75 a Week. It was yummy and she was very proud of herself.  I canned some apple pie filling which will be really yummy this winter, and I also began canning grape juice.  Lots more grapes on the vines but I don’t know when I will get to them.

Here’s what we ate:



  • Breakfast-Buckwheat cereal that had been languishing in the pantry forever, canned plums from last year
  • Lunch-  Fried rice, sliced tomatoes, cookies
  • Dinner- Injera, West African peanut chicken, made with almond butter instead of peanut butter, cucumber salad





  • Breakfast- Eggs and toast
  • Lunch-  Tomato melts
  • Dinner- Hot dogs and cheesy potato casserole



  • Breakfast-Hash brown combo
  • Lunch-Pizza rolls, pizza
  • Dinner-Pizza, apple fritters



  • Breakfast-Pancakes
  • Lunch-Ramen and Stirfry veggies, dinich wat
  • Dinner-Hamburgers and rice, watermelon



  • Breakfast-Eggs and leftover apple fritters
  • Lunch-rice, quesadillas
  • Dinner- empanadas from Tango’s  (after being gone ALL day)


  • Breakfast- Scrambled Eggs, muffins (from the freezer), plums, apples and grape juice
  • Lunch- chicken veggie wraps, made with rice paper, spring roll style
  • Dinner-  Chicken and rice soup (made with bone broth)


How did your week go?  I’d love to hear some of your budgeting successes.  Did you make a meal that your family particularly enjoyed?

Recipes I’ve pinned that I’d like to try:

BBQ Chicken Street Tacos

Korean Marinated Pork

Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

My girl at 12

This girl of mine. I got a few pictures of her at her little niece Ali’s first birthday, and I just love how they capture her. She’s growing up on me lately– is only half an inch shorter than I am at barely 12. I think she’s going to be a tall lady. Two years of being an auntie have made her proficient at baby-handling. She just loves the little ones, and totes them around with assurance and joy.
Em and Ali

She’s also quick to clown around with her big brothers, will still play Barbies happily with her baby sis, and is overall just so much fun to have around. She’s one of those people who can converse graciously and happily with anyone, whether she knows them well or not at all. And she has the most humorous way of expressing astute observations about life and the people around her. She is a true natural people person.

Em and Daniel being silly

She’s becoming such a young lady.  She has definite opinions about fashion, and is beginning to experiment with her own hairstyles.  Lately she’s been wearing it down a lot, which I absolutely love, but didn’t do often in the past because it got so tangled.  But these days she can get the tangles out herself, so the style decisions are hers to make.  I adore the beautiful girl she’s always been, and am loving to see the wonderful woman she’s becoming.  What a blessing she is in all our lives!

Em with the kiddos


September grocery challenge, week 3

I spent $129 shopping this week, bringing our total for the month to $231. Given the fact that it’s Sept 19th, I think we’re doing great. I still have $70 to spend! This week I bought milk, eggs, oil, vinegar, cheese, butter, potatoes, oatmeal, raisins, yogurt, day-old bread, corn tortillas, onions, avocados (a splurge), and about 15 pounds of chicken thighs marked down to an amazingly low $.80/lb. We did eat at Panda Express one day this week, but a meal out every week or two is pretty normal for us.  In a less busy time I might have made my own yogurt and bread.  But– this happened instead.Canning

This week was a crazy whirl of canning and more canning.  As far as school, we did get math done most days and reading done some days, and our college kids kept up with their work.  But the rest of homeschool went by the wayside in the great apple onslaught. I think our applesauce total ended up around 78 quarts, and we still have 3 bushels of nice apples to save and/or give away. Not only was the apple harvest HUGE this year, but also the apples were good quality, with a good percentage of them being worm-free, and most of the rest only lightly damaged

This weekend we’re starting in on grape juice which is much less labor-intensive than applesauce– hooray! I also did 13 pints of sweet relish, and another 10 or so of apple pie filling. If we do any more apples, I think I’ll do them as apple pie filling because it is a yummy easy way to have dessert in the winter time and also is more interesting-looking in the pantry.

Speaking of the pantry, I’m seriously running out of space.  I already moved all my less-used small appliances out the the garage shelves, and the pantry is still packed.  I may need to put some jars on laundry room shelves this year.

Potato Pancakes


Breakfast: Eggs and toast
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: ?? I forgot to write it down and that was AGES ago

Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Chicken fajitas with homemade flour tortillas (yum!)
Dinner: Pizza

Breakfast: French toast
Lunch: Leftover pizza
Dinner: Vegetable pancakes, cucumbers, tomatoes, applesauce

Breakfast: Eggs and toast
Lunch: Takeout tacos and burritos (thanks, Eldest!)
Dinner: Sandwiches and applesauce

Breakfast: Eggs, toast, apples
Lunch: tomato melts
Dinner: Panda Express (a splurge after a long day canning
Breakfast: Eggs and toast, apples, pears
Lunch: Tacos with ground beef, sauteed veggies and guacamole
Dinner: Chicken and veggie stir-fry

Breakfast: French toast
Lunch: Costco pizza
Dinner: Cheesy enchilada rice


canning craziness


We canned 14 quarts of tomatoes and 35 quarts of applesauce in the last two days. And still we have at least 3 bushels of apples to process, with more on the tree. So. tired.

September grocery challenge, week 2

birthday time

This week I went to the store twice, but didn’t spend too much either time. Saturday I bought milk, butter, potatoes, onions, coffee creamer, and Kleenex for a grand total of $37.

Sunday we had the family over for dinner to celebrate Lidya’s 19th birthday.  We had barbecued hamburgers, salad, pickles, cucumbers, watermelon, jello ice cream, and two kinds of birthday cake, lemon and chocolate.  I already had everything except hamburger buns, which my momma very kindly brought.

Thursday evening I went to the store again and got milk, cheese, chex, yogurt, oatmeal, oranges (5 lbs for $1.25), a few peaches,  chicken ($1.37/lb chicken breasts), vanilla, chocolate chips, and toilet paper.  Grand total on that trip was $65 which brings our total for the first 11 days of the month to $102.  I’m trying not to run out of things that my husband really cares about, since that leaves him very dubious of the virtues of this spending challenge idea.

I still have lots of meat and the garden continues to overflow with veggies.  So I’m hoping that getting by for the rest of the month on only $200 more should work just fine.

Here’s what our food looked like this week.

Breakfast: Eggs and toast
Lunch: Turkey sandwiches
Dinner: Ham and bean soup, zucchini muffins

Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Corn dogs and tater tots, cucumbers
Dinner: Hamburgers, jello, salad, watermelon, birthday cake

Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch:  Baked potatoes with bacon, cheese and sour cream. Watermelon, cake
Dinner:  Rice, turkey, sauteed cabbage, cucumbers

Breakfast: Pancakes, apples, milk
Lunch: Turkey noodle soup
Dinner:  Hamburger enchiladas (from the freezer, basically this recipe but with ground beef)

Breakfast: Cereal (we’re low on eggs) and apples
Lunch: Leftover corn dogs and hamburgers, rice
Dinner:  Hamburger zucchini stir-fry, pickles, pears

Breakfast: Hash brown combo with peppers and tomatoes
Lunch: Tomato melts, cucumbers, apples
Dinner: Baked chicken, potatoes, sauteed zucchini and eggplant, angel food cake

Breakfast: Eggs and toast
Lunch: Leftover fried rice, cucumbers,
Dinner: Pizza and garden cantaloupe, apple pie

Our tomatoes are already slowing down– it’s a cool September here– but today I think I have enough tomatoes and peppers to make some salsa. Our apple trees are still groaning with fruit.  We made and canned applesauce twice this week.  Once the younger kids and I worked through it together, and another time my oldest married daughter came over and helped us get a lot done.  I’m hoping to cut more apples today and freeze a few apple pies, and maybe even some baked apple donuts.  We love applesauce, but it is soooo labor-intensive.  Plus it will be fabulous to have some ready-made dessert in the freezer.

Are you doing the spending challenge?  Do you have any frugal wins to share today?


Our day, in miles

aka: why I’m so tired.

I suspect this could be deathly boring.  Read at your own risk.

On the road

6:30AM- 18yo Lidya leaves for college classes in the ‘teen’ minivan, about 40 miles round trip.

8AM=everyone else up, breakfast, school.

9:15AM =John leaves in the Festiva to take Josh (16) to his college class (20 miles round trip).  Josh has his license as of last week, but Lidya has the teen van, so he needs a ride.

9:30 =I go to run (2 miles)

10AM- Ben (16) leaves to go to the orthodontist for a broken bracket, driving his own car.  (Hooray!)  The orthodontist office is about 15 miles round trip.

10:30 AM = John gets home from dropping Josh off at class.  I work on more homeschool with the 3 kids still home.

11:10AM -I leave in the Festiva (it gets 42mpg– hooray!) to pick up Josh from class, then take him car shopping in Meridian, Nampa, and Caldwell for about 3 hours.  (maybe 40 miles altogether?)  No luck finding a car.

12:30- 18yo gets home from class with the mini-van.  Hooray!

1:40- John leaves, driving the ‘teen’ minivan to take 16yo Zey to driver’s ed (first drive ever is today!) at a high school about 10 miles round trip.  Her drive there in driving class probably totaled 10 miles or so in an hour of driving.

2:15– I get home with Josh, and text John to ask where the teen van is, since Josh needs it to go to soccer in 15 min.

2:30- John gets home with the teen van, and grabs the Festiva to go pick up Zey from her first drive.  Josh leaves for soccer in the teen van (10 miles) where he will then board a school bus to ride to yet another high school in a town about 10 miles further for a soccer game.  I work on more homeschool with a couple kids for a little while.

3:00- John gets home with Zey.  I chat with her to see how her first drive went.

3:30– I leave in the Festiva with two youngest to go watch Josh’s soccer game in Boise (20 miles).  Just when we arrive I get a text from Josh, saying the game has been delayed half an hour.  Since we’re near Target, the youngest girls and I use the extra half hour for a bit of shopping (3 more miles) then drive back to watch Josh’s soccer game at 5.

4:30 PM– Ben leaves home to go to Kuna for a shift at Dominoes, driving his own vehicle, using his own gas. Hooray!  (20 miles round trip).

5:40- John leaves home in the big van to drive Zey to driver’s ed class (not driving practice this time) which is about 10 miles round trip.

6:30– I leave Boise with the girls after the soccer game heading for Nampa, where we go into town so they can try out for a children’s choir.  (about 20 miles).

7:40PM- John leaves home again in the big van to pick up Zey from driver’s ed (1o miles round trip). The girls and I are still in Nampa at try-outs, by this time eating snacks from a vending machine since try-outs are taking much longer than we expect.

8:30 PM-Ben arrives home from Kuna.

8:40- Josh arrives in Kuna on the school bus (10 miles from Boise), and gets into his car to head home to Nampa (10 more miles)

9:15 PM  The girls and I arrive home from choir. (12 miles)

And finally, everyone is home.

Grand total

-six vehicles including one school bus and one driver’s ed car

-7 drivers, counting one school bus driver and one brand new driver on a learner’s permit

-5 towns

-267 miles of driving, only 97 of which I did myself, thankfully.



I am now going to sleep.


Why it (sometimes) doesn’t matter how you feel about your kids

The River

In the midst of the challenge of parenting many teens, inevitably there are moments where my kids see me as enemy number one, the  one thwarting their dearest-held wishes. Moments like these frustrate me as much as they frustrate them.  I want them to be happy and to grow in wisdom, and to never doubt my love for them.  I do my best to make decisions with those goals in mind.  (OK, sometimes I want to stay home for an afternoon instead of running kids everywhere.) But the vast majority of my decisions truly are motivated by love, so it can be incredibly frustrating to be seen as the enemy.

There’ve been moments where I’ve outright told them that they’re not going to find a bigger fan on this earth.  That I’m ALWAYS on their side. Yeah, sometimes being on their side looks like making them sit next to me and talk through a confusing assignment when they’d rather go to bed.  Sometimes it means them having to dig through the pit on their bedroom floor before they can use the phone.  Or finishing their math before they can hang out with friends.  Which to a teen doesn’t feel like love.

And there lies the problem. It’s not enough for me to be certain of my intentions and feelings for them, and to be making decisions in love.  If I’m not loving them in ways that feel like love to THEM, it honestly doesn’t matter how much I love them. 

Now, don’t get me wrong;  most well-bonded, reasonably mature kids understand that moms make kids do un-fun stuff for their own good, because they love them.  But (adoptive momma alert here) kids from hard places often have a terrible time interpreting a mom’s less-than-fun decisions and actions as loving.

In seeking to love my kids well,  I can’t be a complete and utter push-over.  It’s good and needful for me as a mom to make my kids do chores and memorize times tables and wear seat-belts.  But at least part of the time (hopefully even a few times a day?) I also need to be loving each child in ways that make that particular kid feel loved.

For one of mine, it’s gummy bears. For another, it’s a cup of coffee, set down right next to that textbook.  For another, it’s being allowed to chat on the phone, a lot longer than I strictly think is needed. Another happily snuggles in next to me on the couch for little chats. Another likes to paint fingernails with me. Yet another grins when I playfully punch him in the ribs as I’m walking past.

Especially during the teen years, it can be very easy for the negative interactions to start to outweigh the positive.  I’ve found I need to be very observant and very intentional in fitting in positive interactions too, or it all goes downhill fast.

1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  I think especially when kids are struggling, they really need to see our actions, and so I’m always trying to add ideas to my repertoire. What does love in action look like at your house? I’d love to hear what actions make your children feel especially loved.


Additional reading

Love and gummy bears

Love Languages and Your Teen



September spending challenge, update #1

Almond ButterAfter just 6 days of eating out of the pantry and freezer, I can already find things in the freezer SO much more easily. I hadn’t realized how often I’ve been frustrated trying to find things in my overly crammed space. We’re eating much more variety than usual, just because I’m trying to use things that have been ignored for awhile.  Tuesday we had enchiladas for dinner made with trout.  Odd, but pretty good.  The trout was caught by some of the kids in June and has been languishing in the freezer ignored since then.  About time we did something useful with it.  I confess, however, that I gave the last dabs of the trout to the chickens, and they gobbled it down, little omnivores that they are.

For Wednesday dinner we had turkey dinner.  John’s mom is in the process of moving, and while cleaning out her freezer, gifted me with a turkey.  It was the most enormous bird I’ve ever cooked– 30 pounds.  We’ve had sandwiches several times since then, I froze several baggies full of cooked meat, and still there’s turkey in the fridge to eat.  A nice problem to have!

For quite a while at breakfast we’ve been in the habit of eating eggs, but as the weather cools a little, the hens are slowing down in their laying, and since I don’t want to go to the store too soon, I’ve been doing some alternative breakfasts.  Wednesday was french toast made with multiple bread loaves that had been stuck back into the freezer with just a few slices left on them. Thursday morning we had polenta with flax seed and cranberries.

I’ve also been making a concerted effort to can a lot this week  (that and school account for my almost-absence around here).  So far this week we canned 22 quarts of applesauce and about 8 quarts of tomatoes.  And still there are so many apples to deal with.  I think I’ll be asking our grown kids to do a bit of picking off the trees to help me out.

Here’s what we ate.

Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Tacos
Dinner: grilled pizza and watermelon

Breakfast: Pancakes and apples
Lunch: Tuna sandwiches and cucumber-tomato salad
Dinner: Hamburger veggie chowder and watermelon

Breakfast:  smoothies and eggs
Lunch:  Veggie chicken stir-fry
Dinner: Trout enchiladas

Breakfast: French toast
Lunch: fish sticks, leftover rice, carrot sticks, apples
Dinner:  turkey, sweet potatoes, cuke-tomato salad

Breakfast: polenta with flax seed, cranberries and apples
Lunch:  turkey veggie wraps
Dinner: turkey fajitas

Breakfast: Eggs, toast and apples
Lunch: Turkey sandwiches
Dinner: Chicken sandwiches, grilled cabbage, fresh applesauce, fresh raspberries

I have to say, it’s been a dog of a week.  Tons of driving kids everywhere, plus we started school again, and with the canning and our fair share of cranky kids, it has been SOOOO very tempting to grab a pizza or burgers or something easy several different evenings.  But we’ve resisted so far- haven’t even been to the grocery store yet.  So far we’ve run out of milk, potatoes, bananas, peanut butter, cinnamon, and sour cream.  The milk and the potatoes are the first things I’m buying when I next go to the store, I think. 

As far as peanut butter  (which hubby is really missing) I decided to try something new– making almond butter, since we have a lot of almonds from my sister whose husband grows them.   I roasted about 4 cups of almonds on a flat skillet, then tossed them into the food processor with half a cup of olive oil, a half a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 cup of honey.  Lo and behold, it made perfectly excellent almond butter.  My hubby is now at peace with the lack of peanut butter in the house.

How did the week go at your house?  If you’re doing the spending challenge, I’d love to hear how your week went.

What we’re reading

Books this year

Today I finally got all my planning done for the school year, including who gets the computers at what time, when the teens will be taking their science tests, and which books all the kids will be reading this year.  Our three teens, all juniors, have just one book a month of assigned reading, which they’ll read during the first two weeks of the month, then write about during the second half of the month.  In conjunction with that, we’re working our way through a world view book called The Eternal Argument.  They’re kinda yawning through this one so far, but I at least think it’s interesting.

Our 7th grader has three books a month of assigned reading.  I was going to have her also do some essay writing like she did last year, but after going through the bookshelves upstairs, I realized there are great quantities of wonderful books there that she’s never read. Since she has really taken off with her interest in reading lately, I decided to make it a reading year for her.  Plenty of time to work on more essay-writing for next year. My 4th grader, who still reads best when reading to me, has a book or two a month that we will work through together.

To make the books easier to find, I set all their books for the year together on one shelf. The teens are reading some of the same books, and some fairly deep ones, including the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and few others that are no slouch. One interesting new addition to our library is Worthless: The Young Person’s Indispensable Guide to Choosing the Right Major. It is an uber-practical and irreverent look at selecting a college major that I have really been enjoying reading, and that I thought might give some guidance to the teens who don’t yet have a game plan post high school.We’ll see how it goes.


One other new addition this year for the teens is a College Prep Genius program that we started last week.  It is proving to be absolutely excellent, and while (again) it’s not riveting to the teens, it is exceedingly practical.  Over and over while watching the DVD’s with them, I’ve said, ‘I didn’t know that!’  And these are not the first kids I’ve helped prep for SAT’s.  I think it will offer them some major help on the PSAT in October, and the SAT next year.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

That’s enough for tonight!  I’ll check in with you on Friday and tell you how I’m doing on my grocery savings challenge.