Archives for May 2015

Weekend happenings

First off, I wanted to mention that I’ll be speaking at the CHOIS homeschooling convention next weekend, on Friday about adoption and the homeschooling family, and on Saturday about joy in the journey. Friday I’m moderating a discussion time about the decision to adopt.  I would love for any adopting homeschoolers in the Treasure Valley to come join the conversation!  Or stop in and say hi at my book table in the vender hall– I’ll be there both Friday and Saturday.

Yesterday I zipped over to the DMV with my girls to get Lidya’s new car registered, and (I was hoping) Zeytuna’s driving test.  Except it turns out that the DMV has recently changed its rules about foreign-born adoptees, and we didn’t have quite all the paperwork needed to prove that she is a citizen.  Nevermind that I’d already given them copies of her birth certificate and adoption decree clearly showing she’d been adopted by US citizens. Nevermind that there are many websites that clearly tell that children in her situation ARE already citizens.   We were refused and will be going back another day with even more paperwork.  Bah.

Tomorrow we’re planning a graduation party in the park for Ry, our unofficial 11th kid.  It’s supposed to be 93–whew– so I am planning on lots of watermelon, ice and lemonaid to go with the hot dogs.  Should be fun!  Bless him for suggesting the park as a good party location– our yard is NOT company-ready.

I feel like the busy-ness of life lately has been catching up with me.  My full time orientation stretched a bit longer than I first thought it would, but there are only two weeks left, which I think will be really good. I keep feeling like little things are sliding through the cracks, and we’re definitely eating a lot more fast food and easy stuff than usual.  It will be good to be down to two days a week, and hopefully the night shift thing will work well too.  (We’ll see!)

What do you have going this week?  Any fun plans this summer?


Wednesday night ramblings

This evening I made a nice stew for dinner in my pressure cooker something along the lines of this, except I did it in the pressure cooker (in half an hour) instead of the slow cooker all day.   Also  I used about 2/3 white potatoes and 1/3 sweet. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. Hopefully the author of this blog will forgive the flagrant piracy of her photo, since I am sending you to see the recipe at her site.  (Go see it!)

sweet-potato-korma-wmI cannot even explain how much I love my job helping women have babies. The challenge. The patients who need extra TLC.  The nurses I work with and who are so graciously helping me learn. (Even with the occasional, “Chop, chop!” to hurry me along when I’m going a bit too slowly. 🙂 )  The new things to learn.  The knowledge that this job makes a difference in womens’ lives. The feeling that if I just hang in there that soon I could actually be good at this. Ahh. LOVE it.

Tuesday was a tremendously challenging day and when I got home there were two thoughts running through my head.
1. I’m so tired, and so glad to be home.
2. I’m so glad I get to go back to work Thursday.

Weird and cool, huh?

I was so encouraged to read all your comments about the vacation house dream. I hemmed and hawed so many times before sharing it with you because- oh my! — it feels like a crazy big extravagant thing. So your comments and encouragement meant a lot. Then this evening I read a quote from a NYC businessman. Something along the lines of: “Dream bigger. Because no one else is going to do it for you.”  Yeah.  That.

Meanwhile the raising-teens roller coast continues.  Sunday evening I was in my robe on the front porch waiting for a kid to get home.  Arg.  Thankfully the arrival was safe, if late, and we survived yet another bit of drama.  On the fun side, another teen just today purchased a first car.  After literally months of looking, she was thrilled  to find a very cute PT Cruiser in her price range.  Here’s hoping it doesn’t have too much wrong with it mechanically.

That’s about it from here…will get a pix of the new car and hopefully its owner in a day or two to share.  🙂

Hope the rest of your week is great!

Could there be anything better…

… than five adorable little grandbabies all in a row?



Five sweet kiddos


Well, how about grandbaby #6, due in September?  Her big brother is holding a new little outfit, all ready for her.  🙂  We feel so very blessed!




Five  (plus one!)



And while I’m sharing photos, here are a few more photos from our trip.  I’m sure I didn’t get everyone included in this little sample, but we were all there at one time or another and much fun was had by all, including many games of pinochle and lots of time on the beach.  You can click on the photos to enlarge them.


Frugal Friday: 6 ways we save money on trips

Frugal vacationing

I’ve skipped Frugal Friday way too many times in a row but I thought this would be a good day for a quick post about ways to be frugal even when you’re on vacation.  I’m hoping you’ll also chime in below and tell me ways that you save money when you’re traveling.

1.  We camped for a lot of years and of course that is a super affordable way to sleep your family on vacation, especially when you also do a lot of the cooking yourself.  Here are a few fun camp-food ideas.

2. For a mob as big as ours, a vacation rental is also a good way to sleep a lot of people on a budget.  A house that can sleep a dozen or more can run $250-$400 a night, but divide that among 4 or more households and all of a sudden it starts looking more affordable, especially when you compare it to the cost of sleeping that number of people in a hotel.

3.  Whether camping or staying in a vacation home, a fabulous way to save money on a trip is to cook for yourself. In 9 days of vacation this past week  our group of 16+ people ate out exactly twice, and one of those times was on the way home. Also remember to use those coolers, and pack lunches and snacks for driving days.  If you feel too disorganized to pack a whole meal remember that even apples, cookies and juice boxes in a cooler will help ward off the hungries and save you money.

4.   When you do eat out– we all need a break from cooking sometimes!– choose your restaurants wisely. We tend to gravitate toward Mexican restaurants or pizza when we are on the road, since those types of restaurants tend to be more affordable.  Another bonus of Mexican restaurants– free chips while you wait for your meal!  That’s a big help when you’re traveling with hungry kiddos:)

Swimming5. If you’re hoteling it, stay in hotels with free breakfast. We also try to find hotels with sleeper couches and extra cots, to limit the number of rooms we’ll need.  And remember to read the reviews so you won’t be surprised by what you’re getting for your money.

6. Splurge a little. On trips even when we’re cooking at the house, I lean a bit heavier on convenience food and often serve snacks that I don’t buy any other time.  That keeps the trip feeling special, and makes life easier and more fun for everyone.

What about you?  How do you save money on vacation?



Ocean dreams

I’m sitting here in a sunny house with the roar of ocean in my ears, and sunshine flashing off water before my eyes, and all around me is my family.  It’s our week at the beach, a big long exhale of relaxation for us all in the midst of the busy-ness of life.

ocean view

Here my kids have time to play pinochle with their grandparents, and work on puzzles together.  Kids are playing video games.  This morning John and our youngest girls have been trying out a skim-board on ocean waves.  I’ve snuggled with grandbabies and carried then around long enough each day that my biceps are sore.  We’ve read stories and played games and eaten meals together and cleaned up afterwards together.  We’ve shopped and watched TV and lazed around eating too many snacks. We’ve taken long walks on the beach. We’ve even celebrated a certain kiddo’s third birthday.

Always this time is a highlight of my year, a time where we actually slow down for awhile and enjoy each other.  Ahhhhhh……

And now I’m sitting here trying to get brave enough to tell you about our big crazy-audacious ocean dream, one that John and I have held close to our hearts for a lotta years.

Ever since our very first vacation trip to the Oregon coast on our honeymoon,  we’ve been dreaming of having our own house near the ocean. It sounds crazy and pretentious to even write it, and–  I know, I know–  not frugal in the least.  But the beach has always been our happy place. One of the reasons we drive old cars and go to thrift stores and cook at home is so that we can afford this much-anticipated week or two at the beach each year.

For the past five years, as we’ve gradually gotten closer to paying off our own house, we’ve been looking at land on the Oregon coast, wondering if we could have a space here all of our very own.  And finally last fall we found a lot on a hill looking out at the ocean listed at a really doable price.

We bought it, and we’ve jokingly christened it our mid-life crisis.  It’ll be a few years before we build, but it feels really good to be moving from the dreaming stage (gradually) toward the doing.  First up is to pay off of our current house– 9 more months should do it!  Then we’ll save up a good solid down payment for the new build and go from there.  We’re so excited!

IMG_1984 (457x640)What we’re planning to do is build a house on the lot that would work well for large groups like our family.  Times together are so precious, and I love the idea of designing something that would wisely utilize a space for maximal efficiency for a big group, and make time together easy and comfortable.

In a decade or so of renting vacation houses for our clan,  we’ve learned a lot about what works and what isn’t essential.Sure, size is nice, but layout of the space, and location of bathrooms is a lot more important.  We’ve stayed in homes where the master suite is a palace, and all the other bedrooms are microscopic.  That’s not what we’re going for.  We’d like space where many people can feel comfortable, with great places to gather and also comfy places to be alone. It’s a different kind of frugality, I think, to make every square foot be functional for a big group. If you follow me on Pinterest you’ve seen some of the home ideas that have caught my eye.  I’ve also had help from a really neat computer program called Chief Architect Home Designer .  What fun it’s been to design and dream and rearrange on the computer screen.

The current rendition of our dream plan is 6 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, and 3200 square feet.  Big, yes. But there are no mega-closets, no mega-master suites, no two-story entries. It’s a comfortable two level home with kitchen, dining room and living room on the top level so we can sit and see the ocean while we visit.  (The very first photo in this post is actually a picture of ‘our’ view as close as we can get it so far, from the next door neighbor’s deck.  🙂   And to tell the full story, we’ll be looking over the neighbor’s roof tops to see that view of ocean.  But it’s a big lovely view anyway.

We’re thinking to build the house with three master suites so several couples can have private space, with one of those suites being wheelchair accessible so folks can travel with their elderly parents or others who are in wheelchairs. We also plan to  install a stair-chair to make the entire home accessible.   There are bunk beds and extra sleeping spaces  for cousins, and John also has ideas for a really neat play space that I’ll tell you more about later.

KiteOur hope is to offer the home as a vacation rental during the parts of the year that we wouldn’t be using it ourselves.  Best case scenario: it could provide us a bit of retirement income.  Or who knows? Maybe it will only  rent out every now and then, and simply defray a bit of the cost of our own vacations.  We’ll be doing some of the building ourselves to keep the costs affordable.  And I’ve been doing tons of research about vacation rental properties.  I love the idea of making a beautiful welcoming space that would be a place where wonderful memories are made for many families, not just our own.

It’s SUCH a big dream that it feels audacious and nutty to even tell you about it.  But we’re going forward step by step, and waiting to see when doors open finance-wise.

I’ll keep you posted on the whole process. In the meantime– I’d love to hear from those of you who’ve rented homes before, or even considered it.  Do you ever vacation with a large group of friends or extended family? What features are essential to you?  What kinds of things are deal-breakers? I’d love to hear about what’s important to you when you’re vacationing with loved ones.

Good pressure cooker recipes?

pressure cookerMany years ago I inherited a pressure canner from John’s grandmother.  It made a great boiling water bath canner, but since it was so very elderly, I honestly didn’t feel comfortable using it as a pressure cooker.   Recently I’ve been hearing about the more modern pressure cookers, and how quickly you can get a meal to the table with them.  I did a little investigating, saved up some amazon credits and ended up purchasing this pressure cooker.

Now I’m on the hunt for good recipes to try in my new gadget.  I’ve pinned a few on Pinterest so far.  The mac and cheese one was fabulous!  But I’d love some more ideas and suggestions.  Do you have a pressure cooker?  What do you most like to cook in it?

Work is going well– actually, I LOVE it– and the kids continue to do well with the transition, but between work and home and school and various recertifications, I am lucky to get my email read most days, let alone do much here.  (Sorry!!!) My full-time work has been slightly extended  (through mid-June) to give me some needed experience assisting with c-sections.  But I’ll have a bit more time after that, and get back to checking in more often. This afternoon I am getting certified in neonatal resuscitation– wish me luck!  If you’re curious, here are a few brief video clips highlighting some of what I’ve been studying.

One other little note:  if you’ve hunted for a recipe here lately, you may have noticed that some of them are missing.  I just migrated my blog to another server and in the process seem to have lost some of the recipes. (Boohiss…)  My bloggy expert is on the job and will hopefully find those lost recipes. But if not, I’ll gradually try to work on restoring them.  Thanks for your patience.  Thanks, as always, for checking in. And also keep in mind that some of those missing recipes can be found in my cookbook, Family Feasts.  Hope you’re enjoying your spring!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Just stopping in quickly to wish you all a very blessed Mother’s Day, and to share a photo from our daughter Lidya’s graduation this weekend. After a year and a half of hard work, she earned her technical certificate in dental assisting, and we’re so proud of her!

Lidya's graduation

Recipe: Restaurant-Style Guacamole

The other day I had the brilliant idea of sharing our favorite restaurant-style guacamole recipe in honor of Cinco de Mayo. I didn’t get around to it.  Instead I spent the day with laboring women whose baby’s births have now given them an extra-special reason to love May 5th.  🙂  So the recipe ended up late for Cinco de Mayo.  But, hey!  It’s four days early for Mother’s Day, and even earlier for all sorts of summer celebrations, all of which will be improved by a hearty dose of guacamole. I’ve discovered that for our weekly Sunday crowd of 20 or so people, 8-10 avocados is about right. So that’s the size recipe I’ll share with you here. Feel free to cut it in half if your group is smaller. And remember my handy-dandy tip for freezing avocados if your avocados are ripening faster than you can use them!  We’ve never had enough guac left over to try freezing it, but I’m sure it would work great too.



Easy Restaurant-Style Guacamole

  • 8-10 medium avocados, soft and ripe
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, minced finely
  • 2 small Roma tomatoes, diced finely
  • 6-8 stems of fresh cilantro, minced finely
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup lime juice, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt, to taste

Peel, de-seed, and mash avocados in a medium sized mixing bowl.  I like to use a heavy wire whisk for this task.  Once the avocado is well mashed, add all the remaining ingredients, combining well. If you like your guacamole spicy, try adding one finely minced serrano pepper to the mix. Enjoy!

Hint:  if not serving immediately, cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap against the surface of the guacamole, to prevent browning.  I like to make my guacamole no more than a couple hours ahead of time, so it stays a nice bright green.







the muddled middle

A few months ago I was doing that thing when the weather is foul where you look around your house and it starts feeling like bear cave. Everybody’s been inside too long and you haven’t found a place for Christmas presents yet, and all you can see is the clutter built up around the edges. 

That particular day I’d already thrown away three bags of junk from my laundry room and two out of the linen closet and I was about to start in on the coats in the front closet. That may not have been a strategic move considering there was a foot of snow in the front yard—but I was done with coat-chaos in the entry way! Thankfully logic prevailed. Instead of throwing away coats completely, I decided what would really complete my life was a new coat rack on the wall by my front door. 

So I did what any smart woman with an idea does—I looked on Pinterest for the perfect heavenly vision of what was in my head. Then I went to Lowe’s and picked out wood and coat hooks, and had a buff young man in a Lowe’s apron cut the wood for me.

I went home and started pounding nails into my trim boards. The first couple went OK, except then I couldn’t find the studs in the wall, which meant my boards were just stuck in sheet rock, and if anything bigger than a Barbie coat ended up on that thing, it’d all come crashing down. I gotta mention here — I have a husband who is a woodworker—he does gorgeous work—but Pinterest had me convinced I could totally whip this out myself.

I prayed for studs and pounded more nails. And it turned out my wood was that fake stuff that’s basically glued-together sawdust. Which totally works for folks like my husband who actually hit the nail every time. But that’s not me. And when my hammer missed both nails—the actual nail AND my thumbnail, then the hammer would smash into my fake wood and make a nice divot. 

Partway through the project it was looking pretty scary. My fake wood was all dinged up. A couple of the nails – the ones that had actually HIT studs– would NOT go all the way in no matter how hard I pounded. And by now my husband was only an hour or two from coming home. My inner two year old was bound and determined to do this thing BY MYSELF without any male help (well, except that cute young man at Lowe’s, but my hubby didn’t have to know about him).

Every now and then one of my kids would come over, look at the wall doubtfully, open their mouth to say something– and then notice the steam coming out of my ears and retreat.

Finally I got most of my nails pounded in and the coat hooks screwed in and it even felt reasonably stable. I got out the putty and filled in my mistakes, and slapped a coat of white pain all over the whole project. DIY coat rack

While I was standing back looking at it with my head cocked over sideways trying to decide if it actually looked OK, or it that was just my hopeful imagining, my daughter came up and stood beside me. I’ve walked through fire trying to love this precious one well, and on that long journey, she has been the one God has used most often to show me my own flaws and imperfection. So that’s the kid who came alongside me companionably.

And she tipped her head sideways too and she squinted at my project and she said, “It looks pretty good.”

I told her I’d been really doubting for awhile that it’d be OK.

She looked me in the eye and said, “Yeah, lots of projects look kind of messy in the middle, but they usually work out OK in the end.”

Do you know what it meant to me to have that child—out of all my ten– speak those words to me? It was as if God himself whispered in my ear, “It’s going to be all right in the end.”

As Christians we know it’s going to be all right in the end, right?

Then why, so often, do we judge our success as mothers by looking at the muddled middle of our child’s story? The muddled middle of our own story?

And– another thing–how often do we try to do this project of motherhood ALL BY ourselves even though we’ve got the limitless power of God RIGHT there? Totally forgetting that our Father in heaven loves us and our precious kids more than we ever can. Forgetting He has every resource at His disposal, and He’s working powerfully in all of our lives this very minute.

He’s even preparing a place called Heaven for us some day.

Never forget: Our God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ever ask or hope or imagine according to his power that is at work within us.

Do not be weary in doing well, for in due time – after you get through the muddled middle – you WILL reap a reward if you do not faint along the way. I think it’s the King James version that talks about fainting along the way and I really, really appreciate that translation because so often as a momma I feel like today might be the day I faint along the way.

But let me say it again: Our God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ever ask or hope or imagine according to his power that is at work within us.

It’s all Him. It’s all Him.

Walk humble. Love deep. Be faithful. Don’t lose hope.

He is mighty to save and He loves you and your precious children with an everlasting love.

Don’t be afraid of the muddle in the middle.


(Excerpted from Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting)