96% efficient?

One of the features of my new fitbit is that it evaluates the efficiency of your sleep on any given night. This morning the fitbit informed me that in the 8.5 hours during which I was in bed, I woke TEN times, which sounds absolutely horrible.  Except I still slept a full 8 hours, which the fitbit rated as 96% efficient. Nevermind the whole ‘awake 10 times’ thing.

efficiency-expert-cartoonI’m not sure how the fitbit sleep algorithm works– how can a good night of sleep include so many wakenings?  But it got my mind wandering to my own ‘efficiency rating’ as a mother, and how so often I judge my effectiveness as a mother by the last time I was impatient, or didn’t really meet the needs of one of my kids.  If there was a gadget to rate me as a mom, I’m kind of afraid  my efficiency rating wouldn’t be in the 90’s.  Some days I’d probably be an outright failure.

Except it depends on where I’m focusing, doesn’t it?  What if, instead of noting every failure, I was noticing every time a child and I had a good moment together, a point of connection.  Times where I guessed someone’s feelings, or validated them, or gave them a hug or a cookie or a ride home when they needed it.  Times when I prayed for them, cheered them, loved them well.

Too often I am way too focused on the ‘wakenings’ — the bumps in the mothering road–the times where I don’t get it right— so much that I am not noticing the times I’m doing well.  I know I’m not perfect, and maybe not even 96% efficient most days.  But if I can remember to notice the times I’m getting things right– instead of mentally tallying every oops in my little black book of mothering– most likely I’m going to have more energy for the things that I want to do more of.  More energy for the things that really matter.

Come to think of it– that’s probably what my kids need more of, too.  More focus on what they’re doing right, and less on the moments of ‘oops’– the wrong turns and the mishaps and the bumps in the road that we all have.



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?



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)

Password, smashword

I had this post all ready to go the other day, but then my blog went toes up and now here it is a week since my last post.  The good news is that (obviously) the blog is fixed.  My computer is also fixed, finally.  Hooray!  And a final (also overdue) bit of good news is that I finally can announce the winner of my last week’s book giveaway Every Bitter Thing.  It is commenter #8 Suzanne Slagell.  Suzanne, email me your address and I will get this book headed your way.

Overall, work is going very well, but ohmygoodness– last week I was ready to scream from password frustration.  So.many. You see, charting on the OB labor unit  happens in two different computer programs, and nurses are also constantly moving back and forth between computers in patient rooms and  computers at the nurses’ station, with each separate program on each separate computer requiring a new login.


Some things have to be charted at the bedside, and other things can more conveniently be done at the desk, so it’s not like you can just use one computer.  You can also expect that any time you walk away from the computer for more than 5 minutes, you’ll be automatically logged out.  On top of that, labor and delivery nurses need to chart every 15-30 minutes. It is completely normal to have to type in your password three or four dozen times in 12 hours.

Three days of that, and last week I came home needing to pay bills, with the banking software logging out automatically every time I’m idle for 3 minutes, and John’s computer doing the same thing to me every time I went idle for 10 minutes.  And then came the grocery store and trying to remember the PIN # for my new debit card. This week I’ve come to a truce with the situation.  But last week– yikes= I was SO tired of passwords.

On the bright side, I got to help with TWO births last week, and another this week– an utter delight and privilege.  I really love helping laboring women. To make it even nicer, for all three of those births I got to work with the only two doctors who actually still know me from years ago when I worked.

Though lots of the workflow is still unfamiliar, I have the feeling that once I master the equipment and become familiar with all the various protocols, the stress level will go down markedly and I will be able to move through the day with less of the scatter-brain feeling and more efficiency.  Already the IV pumps that felt hard a couple weeks ago feel very doable.  I am feeling very encouraged overall.

Even better, the kids seem to be doing well at home.  We’ve been arranging fun activities a day or two a week for the younger girls, which they enjoy.  The kids are getting their school done.  It is fun to get texts from the teens now and then during the day, and the younger girls come snuggle with me on the couch in the evenings when I get home.  We’re making this work!

Good news in the mother of the groom dress department too.  I ordered the dress on the far right in this post, and ended up loving it.  I think it’d be a dab better if I lost 5 pounds or so, which I want to do anyway. (As infrequently as I’m managing to eat while at work, I’m thinking that’s going to be happening soon!) And I’m also trying to get back to running every couple days.  But my girls say it looks great just as it is, so I think it just may be the winner.

In other news, the new baby chicks that we got this spring are getting big.  I’l have to get a picture of them for you soon.  They are lots of pretty different colors.

I must head off to bed now, as I have one more early morning this week. Then Friday is a date with the grandbabies!  :)  What fun!

Book giveaway: Every Bitter Thing

About three years ago at a blogger’s dinner for the Dot.Mom conference, I had the privilege of sitting next to Sara Hagerty with some time to talk for awhile. As a fellow adoptive momma, I felt an immediate kinship with her, and an understanding of some of her life. But the evening left me wishing I’d had time to visit longer, as I could tell that she is a beautiful person and I just knew there was a lot more to her story than we’d really had time to talk about. I had the sense there was lots more to know.

So when I heard a few months ago that her book had just been released, I was thrilled, and eager for this chance to know a little more about how God had been working in Sara’s family.  Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things  is a deeply thoughtful, sometimes heartbreaking, always truthful telling of Sara’s story through infertility toward adoption.  Whether or not you have experienced infertility or adoption, I think you’ll find her story to be compelling.

I have the privilege of giving away a copy of Sara’s book to one lucky reader this week.  I am planning on selecting a winner on Monday, and to enter the drawing, all you have to do is comment below.  Simply tell me you’re interested in the book, or if you’d like, share one sweet blessing in your life this week.

One thing I’m enjoying is my new co-workers at the hospital.  They’re smart and funny and energetic, and I’m looking forward to knowing them better.

If you would like an additional entry for this giveaway, share this post on facebook or twitter, and then come back to comment again and tell me you did so.  And as long as you’re in the giveaway mode, you may also want to go over to Copperlight Woods where Shannon is doing another adoption book giveaway, featuring her book Upside Down and my book Forever Mom!

My computer? Still broken.

It’s about time for an update from here, right? Here’s a quick shot of my new haircut– the light is funny but you get the idea.  It is a little harder to style than I’d like, but it is fun to have something different, and hopefully I’ll get quicker at it as I get more experienced.haircut

I’m still contemplating the whole wedding dress question.  Good thing I have awhile to decide.  I have a dress on the way to try– I’ll show it to you if it turns out to be a contender.

My computer is still out being repaired.  Between sharing a computer with my hubby and working full time this month, it is HARD to make time to write.  I do have a giveaway post planned for Wednesday, so stay tuned. But mostly when I sit down to write, I find myself wanting to reflect on all the life change related to my new job.

Part of it is just about the job itself.  Each work morning I wake up excited to go learn ALL THE THINGS– preferably yesterday- and get capable quickly. I even find myself practicing new skills in my sleep.  Last night I dreamed I had a really demanding patient who was frustrated with me, and demanding an IV even though I was sure she really didn’t need one. (Strange person, eh?)  My brain is definitely on OB overdrive.

But the rest of my mental energy of course is focused on my kids, and how they’re doing with all this.  I still want to be fully present and available. John and I have been watching a really good TV show called Blue Bloods–and in one episode the wise police commissioner/family patriarch said, “The hardest day at work is easier than any day parenting teens.”

Oh, that resonated with me. But it also made me wince,  and to wonder if part of the reason that this whole job thing felt okay to me at this point in life is BECAUSE teen parenting is so very challenging.  I don’t want to use the busy-ness of work– the importance of it, or even the whole getting-paid aspect–oh, the novelty– as an excuse to disengage from the home-drama.

I think a bit of occasional distance could be good, especially in the case of older teens.  Homeschooling doesn’t give you breaks from each other, and I think maybe (once this intense month of full-time work is done) my bits of time away could be a chance to regain perspective.  Maybe they will even appreciate me more?  (Or not…)

But just two weeks in, I can already feel the pull in many directions, the need to streamline.  John and I are talking about making the garden smaller this year.  I’m double-batch cooking every chance I get.  Leftovers are easy meals for the home folks.  I’m trying not to get to bent out of shape over cluttered corners and projects that aren’t getting done this month.  Major in the majors.

Sleep is important, and so is keeping laundry done and food in the fridge.  People are important– taking time to talk, to have the hard and the easy and the big and the little conversations.  Asking kids about school and finances and work and friends and the state of their hearts.

That’s a huge takeaway from this experience so far: I really, really need to be intentional about taking moments to talk.  When I’m here, I really need to be here.  Not on facebook or pinterest. My youngest two girls seek me out, and I naturally seek them out too. Our relationship is easy and fun and gratifying.  But I need to also continue to pursue these teens of ours.  Even the prickliest ones.  The ones who don’t think they need me.

Last evening I was up late, chatting with a bunch of the boys, about lip piercings and oddly-named Dutch Bros. drinks, and random other things. It was nice time. Then I was up early for a zoo date with three of my girls and some of the grandbabies.  I’m yawning today, and am considering a nap. But before I sneak in that nap, I’ll play a round of Phase 10 with my 10 year old and make a doctor’s appointment, and pay some bills. Dinner this evening is fried rice, with Costco pot-stickers on the side, so that should be pretty easy.

How are things with you?  I’d love to hear from you if you have a moment.  Be sure to check back in with me on Wednesday for a book giveaway from a fellow adoptive momma.  And thanks, as always, for reading.  I appreciate you stopping by.

A brand new week!

The winner of last week’s adoption book giveaway is commenter #30, is Rebekah of BekahCubed. Email me your address, Rebekah, and I’ll get your books headed your way!


Whew!  We made it through our first week of mom back at work!  My head is swimming with random factoids that I learned in orientation, to the extent that I found myself dreaming about computer charting last night.  In my dream it was going very well– let’s hope it goes that well in real life.

The kids did really well last week– checked off their check-boxes and seemed to have gotten a decent week of school in without me.  I’m glad this orientation month is happening at the tail end of the school year as subjects are winding down.  Two of the girls are already completely done with math as of this week, and most everyone is on track to be done by mid-May.  So that feels good.  Even if things don’t happen quite at full speed now, the majority of our school year is already successfully completed.

SaffronLast week Emily and Julianna spent 3 afternoons at their oldest sister Amanda’s house, which was nice for all involved.  Emily and Julianna got to do something unusual and fun, the teens had quiet time at home, and Amanda  (resting after the birth of brand new baby Saffron) had some good help as her little sisters played with the preschoolers and helped with dishes and cookie-baking.  (The essentials of life, right?)

I was assigned boatloads of online education to meet employment requirements. Among other things, I learned surgical fire prevention, fall prevention, and workplace violence prevention.  Most of the learning went well, but I totally bombed a test on the inner workings of FEMA– anyone else ever have to take that one?  My eyes glazed over in the middle of an involved 2 hour description of FEMA heirarchy and disaster management work flow, and my hope to get by on cuteness and good luck pretty much failed. 😉  Sadly I will need to retake that test.  The website didn’t even have the grace to tell me which questions I got wrong or how close I was to passing.  Bah.

However, I aced the first of three classes/tests on monitoring a baby’s heart rate in labor. (Whew!)  I was really pleased that I still remembered the vast majority of that information. Still to come: the next two fetal heart monitoring classes, an EKG class, adult and infant advanced life support, and a 16 hour breastfeeding class. (Apparently breastfeeding 7 kids does not give me an automatic pass. :)  ) It’s a good thing that (despite the FEMA failure) I’m generally a person who likes to learn.

This week I only work three days, which I’m hoping will feel fairly easy compared to last week’s five. In preparation for the week,  I made a big pot of soup to serve as a couple of easy lunches.  Julianna’s hair is freshly braided.  Meals are planned for the week.  The whiteboard is re-done to reflect the new week’s schedule, and I think we are just about ready to hit it again.

My computer will probably be in the shop this whole week, which means John and I are sharing one computer.  But I’ll try to check in with you a time or two more. What’s new with you?  Are you making plans for the summer?  What else are you looking forward to?  I’d love to hear from you if you happen to have the time….

Day 4

Just heading off for day 4 of orientation and wanted to check in with you all. I’m hanging in there with orientation– sometimes doing fine, and sometimes feeling like an utter dunce.  (So far it’s the equipment that is making me feel more foolish than the computer charting– go figure!)  But I am sure it will all come together.

Today after work I need to take my computer to be fixed– for weeks I have been coddling the spot where the power cord connects to the computer, and since the bad spot is actually IN the computer, not the power cord, it is unfortunately going to be a harder fix.  So off to the shop it goes.

I will check in with you on Monday and let you know who won the book giveaway– thanks for all your entries!  I also wanted to let you know that for the next week, my homeschooling ebook Practical Homeschooling for Real-World Families is going on sale sometime in the next 24 hours and will be only $2.99!  So check it out if you haven’t had a chance to do so yet!

My computer power is down to 24%, so I’ll have to check back in with you later– have a great weekend!


Because He lives

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy He gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days, because He lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives

Saffron Merry

Today we  joyfully welcome a precious new granddaughter, born yesterday, and rejoice in the risen Saviour from Whom all hope comes.

balance and intensity in family life

For many years while decision-making, I’ve fallen back on wisdom from my mom: “Moderation in everything.”

Often those sage words point me toward a path that will make sense for my whole family, whether I’m making out a learning plan for our school year, or trying to decide how clean the house really needs to be for my sanity, or monitoring my kids video games or phone time, or deciding how much time we can squeeze in on the beach this year. Wow, it can be tricky to decide where to go or what to do and how much of it will fit. But very often the best, most reasonable answer for our clan is not at the fringes of possibility but somewhere in the middle of that pendulum swing.

Balance in everything.Finding Balance in Motherhood

And yet, there is such intensity in family life, isn’t there? Those bedtime moments when everyone is losing it and you’re trying to bundle multiple little ones off to bed before the very.last.iota of your energy forsakes you.

Days where two or three or four kids need toting to all different places at the same time while also somehow you need to fit in grocery shopping and and a doctor’s appointment or a work meeting, plus laundry and dinner.

Days where a couple of different kids come off the rails emotionally and you set aside a lot that needs to be done for what really, really must be done right.this.minute. And the dinner burns.

Days where a child is sick and all you can do is rock and console and give baths and change sheets.  And the laundry piles high.

Times like that, there is no moderation or balance– or at least it doesn’t feel like it. It’s just triage –dealing with the very most pressing needs at that moment and letting the rest fall where it falls.

Those inevitable times of intensity in life can sometimes point out places where my family’s balance isn’t quite right. But not always. Sometimes they’re just signs of the season I’m in right at that moment.

When my house is full of tiny ones and I don’t yet have bigger ones to help, there will most certainly be times of day that feel chaotic and messy and not a bit scripted or organized. No matter how many systems I put into place (put the jammies and towels on the bathroom counter, set the sippies by the beds, follow a simple calm bedtime routine) there are just so many needs, and sometimes they’re gonna clash.

When my family is large and growing toward the teen years and I want to give each child opportunities and activities and time for friendships, I will be the car-mom in the afternoons and evenings, and sometimes I’ll wish I could split myself into two or three or four to meet those needs.September canning

When multiple teens are reaching lift-off phase, I’ll be spending lots of time talking through logistics and counseling regarding money, and doing practice-driving with kids, and showing kids how to write resumes, and coaching them to smile and shake hands and look potential bosses in the eye. It’ll take tons of mental energy and wisdom to think through ways to handle problem behavior while nurturing connection. I’ll be yawning late at night and looking at the clock and listening for cars to pull in the driveway and praying, praying, praying.

Then of course there are the times when projects create times of chaos. When painting bedrooms or canning tomatoes or sorting summer clothes takes up every speck of slack in your life and all manner of other things go by the wayside.

It doesn’t feel the least bit balanced in any of those moments of intensity, does it? It can feel like you’re just hanging by a thread, doing the minimum on most of life just to meet those most pressing needs.

Certainly the more balanced the underlying structure is, the more energy you’ll have to meet needs in those times of great intensity. A huge part of that balance is remembering my true priorities in life: faith in God and relationships with the people around me. But also I have begun to take comfort in reminding myself that in life, chaos happens. It just does. Doesn’t mean I’m doing a thing wrong. Doesn’t mean that I need to be casting about for some perfect fix to stop this from happening tomorrow.

No matter what I do, there’s gonna be time like this. It’ll all be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

So I keep breathing, keep praying, keep loving my people, and keep trusting that God has this all figured out.  That’s where the real balance is.

Come to think of it, my momma taught me that too.