Thursday, December 27, 2012

Looking Back on 2102

So, this is the time of year when we look back before looking ahead. So many changes always happen in a year - and so many things stay the same. Isn't it always that way?
The clan at the end of 2012
Buttercup - 4, Bruiser - 8, Chef - 10, Mr. Magoo - 22 months, Maestro - 13
and the White Knight

Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Birthday, Bruiser! (and the give away winner!)

This post is late - his birthday was last Thursday AND I was supposed to announce my drawing winner long before now, but other bloggy things took precedence this week, so I'm playing a bit of catch-me-up! I know some are waiting for the drawing winner but my recent birthday boy gets first turn this post.
2007 - around 2 or 3 years old

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Crew Review:

The results of my drawing will be posted on Saturday along with Bruiser's 8th birthday note. That will give me time to put it all together so I can crow about take a picture of exactly what the lucky winner will receive! In the meantime, I'd like to give a bit of a nudge to a great new-to-me site that I've found...

For some time now I've been looking at various homeschooling websites for new ideas that might excite and motivate the older boys in their studies. I've signed them up for classes over the years, or brought out classical books to read aloud with them, or let them play around on various websites on their own. Sometimes the content of the sites, classes and books lures them in and inspires them to learn more, and sometimes it falls flat and we move on.


One of the sites that I've found more recently is run by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, called Schoolhouse Teachers and is geared towards Christian homeschooling families and has gobs of great stuff! The site breaks the topics out first by grade/level - Pre-school, elementary, junior high, etc. - then has topics below that. Because of how much the site offers, I had to really get specific about what I wanted to try out first.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

29 Gifts - Day 26 - Buttercup's 4th Birthday (and a Give Away!)

This post was going to include a recipe for Sweet Vanilla Pecans. It was going to include my give away and an invitation (pleading?) to help get my numbers up by sharing my blog with those around you. It was going to be those things - but it's not.

With her Pop at about six months - wearing a dress that I wore as a baby
It's not because it is Buttercup's 4th birthday. She is spunky and clever and sharp as a tack. She challenges us at every turn - both delighting and... well, challenging us beyond what one would think endurable. With her three older brothers, our lonely-only girl often holds the reins. She comes by it honestly. She adores her brothers. She delights in being big sister to Mr. Magoo. Above all, she is Absolutely. Awesome. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

29 Gifts - Day 24 - Care Packages (and a give away)

In addition to Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, we have several events this time of year: Maestro, Buttercup, Bruiser and Jeff all have their birthdays in those weeks from October 31st to December 25th, and our anniversary is in that time as well. You can imagine it's a busy, fun-filled time!

Last year's birthday bash
On top of all that, this year Jeff has been away and I've been really working on changing the look of my blog - adding new pages, selling some things, etc. In short, I've decided to start working a little more "business" into my blog, without making it all-about-business.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

29 Gifts - Day 22 - A Gift of Faith

There is a new Orthodox chaplain at the base near us. He kind of travels around from parish to parish for Sunday Divine Liturgy but he'd like to start holding mid-week services on base as well. His first effort at this has been to start holding Akathist services three days a week. Well, I took all of the kids on Thursday (day 21, for you who are counting). The Catholic church/chaplain gave him the use of a small side-chapel so we were able to be in a smaller, more close-in setting for the prayers. That is a good thing with restless younger kids around!

Actually this is a window from the back of our last church in Maryland, but it fits in until I can get a better picture of the little chapel.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

29 Gifts - Day 21 - Encouragement

Today's gift was an opportunity almost missed. 

As we wandered the narrow aisles of Michael's Craft Store looking for items for Sweet Nuts, Christmas wrapping and gift-giving, and Maestro's magic show/kid drop in tomorrow night, Chef bemoaned his fate of not having a way to earn money. 

*** Interruption for a shameless plug: did you see that I've added two new pages at the top? If you haven't checked them out, please make sure you do! ***

Back to the almost-missed opportunity... Chef went on for some time about not having a way to earn money, and to be honest, he was getting really. really. irritating. (I'm not a perfect mom, just an always-there Mom, and I pray that in the end it is enough!)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

29 Gifts - Day 14 - Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce

Ah, how the days fly past when we have so many birthdays, holidays, our anniversary, and other great things to celebrate! My gift for day 14 is homemade hot fudge for the kids to have on their ice cream before bed - and I'm sharing our recipe here with you as well. It is super simple, and as hot fudge syrup goes, it is healthier than what you get in the bottle at the store.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

29 Gifts: Day 8 - Happy Birthday Oldest!

I'll recap my gifts of these past few days. Right now, something important has come up in the middle of my journey. Not a surprise, it happens every year, but important is important, and this is Important.

Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you my Oldest - Maestro - as an emerging TEEN. This child is my first gift to the world as a "Mom." He is special. Don't break him. He is wonderful. Help him stay that way. He is unique. And I am in awe of him as he grows into a young man who is now big enough to almost fill Pop's shoes (he is in a bigger shoe size than dear Mom now, poor soul!)

2012 - playing around in the garage in VA. Love that we can still laugh this way.
When he was born, we had to find "preemie" clothes for him to wear for a week or two, he was "on time" but just so tiny. Now, he can wear some of his pop's old pants (glad I saved them!) and shirts. He can help keep the house going when I am not at hand. And yet... he can laugh with his friends and play tag with his brothers and sister, and handle her sometimes-screaming fits with aplomb.

Monday, November 12, 2012

29 Gifts: Day 4

Gifts of time and books

It took me a while to get to my gift today. I had a list of things to do and as so often happens not a lot of spare time it seemed. But the truth is I did have spare time. I puttered around, I perfected my molasses bread (mentioned in Gift #2) and I got a number of things done for "me." But as I drove around in my newly-repaired Pilot, it occurred to me that I hadn't really given a Gift yet. Not really. 

I hadn't spent extra time with my kids or picked up the phone to talk to anyone or given anything away... I just hadn't. 

29 Gift Challenge - Day 3

Today was a pretty good day. We got up way too late, we spent time puttering around the house (had to skip church because the car window is shattered and it was not safe to drive in it to get there), the kids spent time with their friends and I spent a chunk of the day trying out a different version of a new bread I'm working on (Multigrain Molasses Bread, in case you're interested.)

And then I checked my FaceBook messages. I got a message asking for my Molasses bread recipe.


Hmmm... This could present a problem.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

29 Day Gift Challenge - Day 2

Today, I gave something special to my girlie and her friend to use. I have had a little girl's tea set for years. It's a little "Hollie Hobby" thing, with four cups, four saucers, etc. And Buttercup is finally old enough to use it, I think. So when she asked if she and her friend could have a tea party, I pulled it out and it is hers now. I set up a nice little tray for the girls, with carrots, graham crackers, four little sweet pieces and four banana chunks. We put it on a special tray that was given to her before we moved from Maryland. She had a great time and I loved seeing something that I enjoyed once-upon-a-time being loved that way again. That was my first gift yesterday.

But the funny thing about giving gifts is that a) the more you give, the more you find new ways to give, and b) the  more others end up blessing you.

Friday, November 9, 2012

29 Gifts Challenge

In the past, the boys have done prank wars to varying levels of success, until someone gets too overzealous and ticks someone else off in a real way. So with our birthday and holiday season upon us, and the house ready to hit high levels of
 fun and tension, I have challenged the boys to two things: The 2nd is to do "sneak" gift attacks on one another, without looking for the "glory" of a thank you or the accolades, etc. of doing something good for someone else. Doing good for the sake of doing good.  (The 1st I'll talk about a bit more below.)

Photo: In the past, the boys have done prank wars to varying levels of success until someone gets too overzealous and ticks someone else off in a *real* way. So with our birthday and holiday season upon us and the house ready to hit high levels of fun and tension, I have challenged the boys to two things: a 29 day challenge, in which we give a "gift" (can be time related or object related) to someone every day for 29 days and write about that gift in a journal before bed at night. The 2nd is to do "sneak" gift attacks on one another, without looking for the "glory" of a thank you or the accolades, etc. of doing something good for someone else. Doing good for the sake of doing good. 

Got downstairs after tuck in tonight to find this on the counter waiting for me: (the oj is a prize as it is the last in the house and EVERYONE loves it!)

Got downstairs after tucking everyone in to find these goodies on the counter waiting for me: (the oj is a prize as it is the last in the house and EVERYONE loves it!)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Cruelty of Lazarus and the Rich Man

Last Sunday in church was probably one of my least favorite Bible readings. It was the telling of Lazarus and the rich man. It has always seemed to me to be a very cold, unforgiving, in-your-face sort of story. Leaving church, I mulled over my thoughts on the verse, before I had time to read more on it. My thoughts were that it is a cruel thing for Lazarus and Abraham to sit there and watch the rich guy burn and offer not even a word of consolation - just hard, cold you-should-have-acted-differently admonition. No empathy (is that the touchy-feely Politically Correct person in me? Probably.) is shown for his plight at all. (It does not help that I forgot that it is a parable and not necessarily a literal event.)

The reading was this:

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Copied from the NIV version as printed at

The Lesson of Repentance

Jeff pointed out the "often unnoticed key to the story: the rich man never asks for forgiveness."


Jeff continued, "in fact, he goes right back to his old ways, demanding that Lazarus bring him water to quench his thirst."

Well, there is that. And it occurred to me that not giving him water may have been an act of mercy in and of itself. Like when you're hungry but you're trying to eat healthier or on a diet, so you take just a bite of something. Then you want More, but you can't have it, and it becomes it's own torment. The pain of the fire the rich guy was feeling would hardly have been quenched by dipping a finger in and having that drop might have been torture since he couldn't have more.

More from Jeff, "I don't think it's so much that Heaven is denying him water, as that Heaven is no longer allowing him to exploit Lazarus for the sake of his material comfort. Note that his first instinct, from within the very mouth of hell - is not to say, 'I see now what I have been and I have done. Father forgive me and comfort my victims,' but to brazenly tell Heaven, "Send Lazarus with water - I'm thirsty."

Heaven's answer: Lazarus is safe from the likes of you now.

I mentioned that I thought men have an easier time being cold when it comes to discipline than moms do. 

So Jeff pointed out one more thing, and it was a good one: If you look at the "guff" as proceeding from the rich man himself, from his own impenitence and intransigence, it may seem less cold. It was merciful of Heaven to allow the rich man life at all.

How long are the rich men of the world supposed to have to come around? How long are the Lazarus of the world supposed to endure it? The hard truth is, not everybody repents.

The Unforgivable Sin is to refuse forgiveness - how can it be otherwise?

To be clear, he was not railing about rich vs. poor here - there are good and bad people in each group, but those questions caught me. How long...? 

Asking for forgiveness should be our first priority. Treating others well and being kind should take place over our own comfortable little world. But there is a place for being put out of the larger group until you can behave well.

What Many Children Are Taught Using Lazarus and the Rich Man... 

The meaning to this group of verses is often taught (and certainly was to me in some of my Sunday schools growing up) from a literal viewpoint, and presented to Christian children as a means of teaching how to treat one another and as a description of the firey place of Hell. As a child, I found this idea that my loved ones - or even myself! - could be burned in a pit for all eternity, and further that God could allow such a place to exist when He was supposed to be a good and loving God, terrifying. I worried over it for years, actually. There is an example of that here in this Sunday School handout lesson.  

The message is very watered down in the lesson, of course and left open to interpretation. There are many interpretations of Verse, so the takeaway here could well be to keep a close tie with your children and discuss what they are told by their teachers whatever class they are in! 

Two Different Ideas on Lazarus and the Rich Man from Other Sources 

The ideas as presented in the two resources below were never presented to me in Sunday School, but I can see validity to both of them. Whether those more learned that I on each side would agree with one another, I don't know, but they both make sense to me.

I found a pretty thorough explanation of the various symbolism on in which the assertion is that the symbolism actually posits the listening priests of the day as the Rich Man and the "five brothers" as the other Jewish branches, and Lazarus as a stand-in for the Gentiles of the day, who will come to God and salvation through Christ. This series of verses one of many parables that Jesus told to send a message to his listeners. I am not educated enough in all the various symbolism of the Church and the Bible to speak about that (but I am studying on it with these verses to try to understand more). offers a somewhat different explanation. In this second version we're back to a slightly more literal meaning in which Jesus is said to be describing a state of the sinner's soul as it relates to the (for lack of a better word) energy of God. In this telling, that energy is felt by both Lazarus and the sinning Rich Man, but felt differently. The Rich Man feels that energy as a fire as he is in need of cleansing and not ready to perceive that energy as a loving, warming Light; Lazarus had his time of scourging while on Earth and so perceives God's Light as a warm, healing energy. 

What have you found to be the message in Lazarus and the rich man? 
How has your Bible affected you today?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kindess at the Checkout Counter

This was posted on a Yahoo group that I'm part of by a woman named Cath. It was originally in response to a younger military wife who has five children. The issue was that she was embarrassed at the commissary check out register because so many of the items that were WIC approved at the local Wal Mart were not okay at the commissary for some reason. Cath put out this post as a reminder to us all (and echoing the general support of this poor young wife) - I asked her if I could share her words here as we approach the holidays and as our economy continues to slide. Please share with others, so that all may be blessed.

(no pictures today while I am on a different computer - my laptop will be righted again soon as will my 2000 pictures therein!)

~ Melissa 

***And also this is a good reminder for those of us not in your situation
to POLICE OURSELVES. Stand up for the mom with a full cart, busy kids, and
a blur of coupons and/or WIC slips. They are not a nuisance, they are our
sisters in this military family. We should never get so old and comfortable
in our pay grades (which all started equally teensy) that we forget the
struggles of the early days of babies and military life. So how can I with
22 years in and kids who are 10 and over help?

Help a mom unload her cart. I get my kids to help the people behind us in
line often. Sometimes they have babies and busy kids, sometimes it's an
older person.

Help a mom engage a child in line. My oldest is a pro at playing peek-a-boo
with toddlers. She has even squatted down to floor level in long checkouts
and played finger games (itsy bitsy spider) to help keep the kid focused in

Compliment the mom! Do you remember how hard it is to carry a diaper bag,
chase a child with another one latched on nursing, and not lose your place
in line? Well, remember quick and offer the mom some loving affirmation.
Even or especially if she is doing an imperfect job! That mom whose
frustration level has her standing there yelling at her kids may well have
been up all night with a child throwing up and a husband deployed and the
rumblings of her own stomach getting the virus. Don't assume you know white
trash when you see it (or brown trash or Asian trash.....). You do not know
their life story but you can remember your own. Reach down into your soul
and affirm that girl: offer empathy, share warmth.

Reassure the person ahead of you in line with an issue that "it's just a
checkout line" and that you are in no hurry. EVEN IF YOU ARE IN A BIG HURRY
because ladies--- it's just a checkout line and scowling and muttering does
not make it go faster.

And finally, when you can, be generous. Last winter I was at the checkout
with a mom getting just bread, peanut butter, jelly, and milk. It didn't
even cross my mind that she was a WIC mom because she had a credit card.
Reading up on this, that is what Texas has is a card system. She must have
had the wrong bread or was at her bread limit or whatever -- I thought her
debit card was at its limit because she was handing the bread over to the
checkout lady to reshelve it. I butted in and said can I get that for you
and handed her a few dollars. For me it was no big deal. She hesitated and
I said, I would love to be able to help, I've been there, too. She looked
uncomfortable accepting but she did. If we can fund a federal government
program to support young families in need with our tax dollars, why can't we
also start even closer to home with our neighbors in the checkout line? We
can't always do this but when you can, people, be generous.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Christianity in Orthodox Countries?

I  haven't written in a while. Sometimes life gets in the way, and it has lately, but I aim to fix that. But I am also jumping on here quickly to Rant for a brief moment. 

I receive posts-by-e-mail of probably a dozen different blogs on various subjects: several "organizing" blogs, a few home school blogs, Thomas Jefferson education blogs, and, of course, several that are put out there as "ministries" of various kinds by Protestant women. I like some of what they write; in spite of having never met these women, I can say that they seem to be good and decent folk and I appreciate some of the points they make. However, one of the blogs I follow (and have only been following for a few months) has included a comment that hits a hot-button point for me. It is this:

(Note from the translator: In the Ukraine, there are two kinds of Christian… the orthodox church which is essentially pagan and just Christian in name only. The other kind is typically called “Believer” instead. There are only 0.4% Believing Christians in the Ukraine. To the Ukrainian being Christian reflects something on the outside but a believer is one who believes in Christ. Very Different Concepts. That is why there are very few believers in her school, even though Marina says 40% of people are Christians. There is a difference in the Ukraine between believer and Christian.)
She had done an interview of a 16-year-old girl in the Ukraine on her daily life as a Christian there, and this was a comment, as you can see, by the translator. Here is why it sticks in my craw:

I have heard many western Christian people talk about a need to go to traditionally-Orthodox countries and "teach" them about Christianity and "convert" them from their pagan beliefs. I have heard missionary types talk about how they need to "reach out" to the folks in Orthodox countries because "many of them have never heard of Christ." I respectfully (though adamantly) disagree. So I've responded to the blog post above (the rest of the interview was not worthless, so here is the original post) and share my response below - and open myself up for comment, question or criticism, as your own beliefs lead you to respond. I also see there is a need for more of my own posts to introduce Orthodox faith and practices down the line!

Here is my response:

To start with the positive, I want to say that I look forward to reading more interviews and sharing parts of the answers with my home schooled children. However, I must confess to being somewhat irritated. As an Orthodox Christian in America, I get tired of hearing people say that people in Orthodox churches in other countries (or even in our own country) are “pagan”. I have heard MANY Protestant folks talk about a need to go to these countries and “convert” them to Christianity, when they are practicing the Christian faith as the earliest Christians practiced that Faith. We are *not* pagans, our faith and love for God is real and abiding – at least as much as one finds in churches populated by humans everywhere, whatever your professed Christian following (Baptist, Catholic, ‘Non-denominational’, etc.) The thing of it is, because so few people know about Orthodox Christianity, they assume that because we use icons that we “worship” those icons (we don’t), because we have liturgical services (instead of services that are ‘non-scripted) that our prayers are not real or genuine (they are – and our use of ‘scripted’ prayers gives us a *starting* point for our own prayers), and on and on. I am fairly new to your blog and have enjoyed it thus far, but this is a sticky point for me because we do not need to be “converted,” we are Christian already. In fact, my husband and I were both raised in the Baptist church and the Church of Christ, respectively, and converted to Orthodoxy as adults after much research and travel – when going to Israel, the oldest churches look VERY much like the churches in which we Orthodox worship today, it is similar when traveling to Ethiopia – again, an ancient bed of Christianity.

I will not throw the baby out with the bath water; your interview here was an interesting one to read and I appreciate it, but had to address that one aspect and I hope you’ll forgive any offense if I have made any.

I'll make my own posts later about Orthodoxy, from my - still-being-educated - perspective.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Motivation for a Budget in Life

First, a nod (and a prodding to you to check it out) to Maestro's blog - he is using blogging as part of his writing this year, and is turning out to be pretty amusing. Take a look at his (current) mini-series on Three Types of Businessmen! And another to my shared fitness blog, with an Outside-Looking-In Perspective on running (or not!)

Now to what I wrote out a month ago while still packing... This is a short-and-sweet post as I need to get back to unpacking the boxes! But I really need to say it before it goes out the other side of my mind.

Along with our move, we've decided to make some huge changes in our lives. We're getting stuff out by the bagful to give away, even as we pack up. We are getting things fixed on the house that have needed to be fixed for a long time, but we just didn't have time and/or money to fix (and sometimes both!) We're looking forward to making some changes in terms of budgeting our

  • time,
  • space,
  • healthy habits,
  • money, and
  • family dynamics.

Increasingly, "budgeting" is taking on a far broader meaning than simply pre-planning and knowing where are finances are going. I've begun hitting the climbing gym whenever I have time and money to go, which encourages me to take better care of myself. We've been looking carefully at how we - and our children - spend our free time and have been working on ways to increase our time together as a family. To encourage me in my run-up to budgeting our finances, I've been listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts while I declutter, pack boxes and work on general clean up around the house. 

This got me thinking today: What am I doing to encourage me in following my faith? 

Could I switch from Dave Ramsey to the Bible on CD on occasion? The Orthodox Church in America has podcasts too, or how about the podcasts presented on Ancient Faith? There are several avenues out there for me to learn more about my faith and the Bible and what it contains.

What do you do to keep you motivated and ready to take on life? 

(the next post will be on tackling the papers in my life - still researching on that one! Stay tuned!)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sharing My Joy

Oh. My. Goodness! Living in this place is like being at an air show Every. Day. It have long been a fascination and a dream of mine to fly, and one day, I'll make the dream of a pilot's license come true. But when I was a girl, I always wanted to fly the jets - even before Top Gun made it "cool."

We live near a place where the jets fly around frequently and I am in Heaven. I run from room-to-room trying to track them down in the sun. I don't care how geeky that looks. I even think it's good for the kids to see enthusiasm in something, to see joy and excitement and to share that.

What gets you passionate for life? 
What makes your heart jump? 
What JOY do you find to share with those around you each day? 

When I was younger, I was moved one day - by what exactly, I don't know - but I threw my arms out from my sides and enjoyed the sensation of the wind and the joy of the moment. The friend who was with me at the time asked, "What are you celebrating?"

I had no response then. I was embarrassed for my moment of child-like joy and revelation (I was 18 and that wasn't "cool.") Now, how I wish I had said that I was celebrating LIFE and the JOY of the moment. That friend, though we are no longer in touch, would have understood. I pray to show my kids that having that kind of love for life and joy is "okay." And if someone else doesn't like it, does that person's opinion matter?

I'll get pictures of my plain-jane house up before long (when it's no longer plain), but for right now, you'll find me on the porch, soaking in mild weather, cup of coffee in hand and enjoying the noise and excitement of my own little Air Show.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I'll Be in the Kitchen

Moving status update: 

We're about 2/3 of the way packed.

One room that has remained largely out and unpacked is the kitchen. Jeff has talked about how much is left in there and what all is left to be done.

I suppose there is a reason for that. I packed a lot of the kitchen six weeks ago - but nothing since then. My kitchen... I start to pull boxes into that room, and I find some reason to deflect to another room to pack first.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lessons Learned While At Tea

Buttercup wanted to have a tea party with a neighborhood friend before we leave for our new home. So we invited the friend over once she returned from her summer vacation with her family.

I go out to a teahouse with Spinster Beth and Slick once a year for a birthday celebration. At our little teahouse, we have goodies like finger sandwiches, fruit, scones and little desserts to go with our high tea. I had a slightly toned down idea of this sort of tea for Buttercup and her friend, but being that I'm still packing and moving I didn't make it to the store to get the goodies to serve. On top of that, it occurred to me that perhaps the friend won't like actual tea so lemonade might be a better option.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Whew! Another "Quickie"...

I have three other posts started and saved but no time to finish them right now while we pack up to move. So to keep things relatively "fresh" on here, I'm going to keep things simple with pictures of every day life over the last week or so...

 Baby boy hanging out, getting photographed by someone small. He's pretty amiable. I tried to get a picture of him with his purple ball, but he wouldn't sit still for me, just them.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Vulnerability, Patience and Trust

We are smack in the middle of a move and it has taken over the bulk of my life's existence lately. The cleaning, packing, organizing, getting-rid-of-stuff... Life right now is a constant struggle between the chaos of five children and the chaos of keeping the house "show ready" for potential renters! (Want to see tips on a somewhat stress-free move? Head over to the newest blog that I write on: Rose From a Rock. If you're tired of me and the dog-gone move, head over to Three Friends Fitness to see my new sporty passion: Indoor Rock Climbing! And believe me, I am hooked!)

The front of the house, after we set it up for "curb appeal". Cute, huh?
It's a bit of a struggle for me. It's so hard to open what has been our home up as "just" a house. It's hard to not think that just because my house isn't right for that person, it isn't a rejection of me or my family. And every time someone calls to say, "Can I come take a look?" There is excitement there - "will this one be it?" - and fear anew. So it is not just business for us.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Saving Money While Feeding the Masses

I have begun to notice a curious phenomenon when I finish with checking out at the grocery store. My cart is ... perhaps... getting bigger or something because I have spent the same amount of money but the cart is not as full as it was a year (or two?) ago. This is only confusing until I stop to think it through. It is then with a big sigh that I begin to push the cart to the car and load it all up. Food prices have indeed gotten higher. As a result, we've had to make some adjustments to keep our food-buying in check while accommodating the growing appetites of three boys (and BOY-OH-BOY can they eat!) I thought it might be helpful to some folks though to see what we buy to feed the five (and the grown-ups too!) and what we make with those groceries to get by.

For the record, we are not a family to suffer silently so I make sure our food is filling, mostly nutritious and will last a week. I spend an average of $200 a week and there are some "junky/snacky" things in there for the biggest of the big (Jeff.) So here is the pie chart on what we buy and how healthy it is (or is not.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Reflections on the Fourth of July

Every day at around 5 p.m., on U.S. military posts and bases all over the world, the world stops. Only for a moment does time stand still, but there is a sound - sometimes a cannon shot, sometimes a bugle call - a sound that invites all who are within hearing range to stop and take note. A sound that invites the listener to contemplate the event taking place over at the flag pole. The sound... of Colors.

A song is played as the flag is lowered down to waiting hands of the Honor Guard members. Just moments before, the men and women of the honor guard stood at attention, waiting, watching for the flag to flutter down within their reach. Their job is to catch its leading edge; pass it from hand to hand to keep the cloth from touching the ground; fold it with care and reverence.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Manic Monday

Before TWO weeks go by, I figure I'll take a minute or two to put an update on here. There is SO much going on that I don't know where to begin, but the quick run-down is:
  • that I am going to be posting on a third blog as well as this one and Three Friends Fitness. I will make a bigger announcement and a link to the third blog as soon as I figure out their system - it is on Wordpress and so far I have not been able to figure out how to get pictures to upload but I will succeed in the end!

  • Baseball and track seasons are O.V.E.R. and though I enjoyed watching the boys succeed (and boy did they!) I am glad to have my weeknights back. It was rough trying to keep up with everyone's events, Jeff's work stuff, finishing the work projects I have going on and keeping up with the house and the move. I'll be glad for life not to be so chaotic for a time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tell It Like It Is

If you follow social networking sites at all (or even if, like me, you are only on Facebook and really don't touch Twitter or MySpace or the like), you've seen the video clip of the high school teacher who gave The Graduation Speech of the Year. This is the guy who told it like it is, the guy who told the graduating students that they are nothing special; that there are so many other high schools out there and each one has a valedictorian, and each one has the prom king and queen or whatever. Basically, he reminded them that there is competition in the world and that even though we parents have told our kids all their lives that every time they pee in the toilet and not on the seat they're winners... well... maybe all that's great, but not so true.

Bowling champion? Not yet, but maybe some day... with hard work!
I saw that guy sometime last week. While his words were true and the kids to whom he was speaking (and so many more of us!) needed to hear the message, they weren't significant enough for me to really comment on them here on my blog until today. You might ask the question: what happened today to change your mind?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Just the Pics Please

Summer is here. The lethargy of hot days has hit (and the busy-ness of getting other things done intervenes!) but I don't want my blog to lag either so I'm going to put some simple summer pics up on here for today and then go update the Three Friends Fitness that I have with my closest friends Slick and Spinster Beth. Be sure to check that one out as we introduce a gal who started running in her 30s and now runs Super-Marathons at 41! She is one awesome, inspiring gal and her answers to our interview questions are worth taking the time to read!

Anyway, here are some shots as we wrap up spring activities (baseball, track, "official" schooling) and begin summer fun (moving, swimming, gardening, lazing).

Sprinkler fun

Friday, June 1, 2012

Precious Moments

What is it... 

that is so soothing about laying your head on someone's chest, hearing the air whoosh in and out of their lungs, and the steady thump-thump of a strong heart? Is it a throwback to when our mothers carried us inside of them, floating about, safe and secure from care and harm? Is it a remembrance of the times when a parent or (much) older sibling cared for us, carrying us in sleepy haze into the house and laid us gently into a warm bed? Whatever it is, it is soothing and comforting.

There is safety there, in trusting someone and being so close. There is security in the temporary reminder that you are not alone in this world.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Game of Not-My-LIFE

Chef loves when we have game night - he loves the challenge of trying to beat Papa, even if it is only in a game of chance rather than skill. But the problem is that sometimes, lots of times, he either wants to play games that are out of his league (and thinks he is top-of-the-line at them) OR he wants to play a game that everyone can join in but that is so mind-numbingly boring that we sometimes question why we ever brought it into the house! This past weekend, the choices were "LIFE" or "Super-Scrabble". We love Scrabble, but it is a four-person game and every one of the kids wanted their own piece of the board game pie, which would have dragged it out waaaaaaayyyy past bedtime, at the least!

So Scrabble was set aside for another night and we cracked LIFE out of storage. We started out by taking our little $100,000 bank loans to go to college and rolled downhill in our opinion of the game from there. Now that we're looking with more scrutiny at our lives and what values we endorse through our actions and possessions, we notice more than we might have before.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fantastically Frugal: At-Home Wine Night

Spinster Beth, Slick and I talked about possibly going to the Columbia, MD, Wine in the Woods this past weekend. Slick had a wedding to be at and my own husband was working at Preakness, so I gave it some thought. It could have been fun to go out and enjoy the sights, the people and (who are we kidding?) try some new wines. But alas, five children would have to go along (which I am okay with), and the tickets were $30 per adult and $20 per child (which I am not okay with.)

So putting our collective heads together, we have instead decided to do a wine tasting night at home, where our collective money can be better put to wine and goodies to eat. Each of the three families will bring a new wine to try (we've decided to stick to all whites), a couple of appetizers, and fruit or desserts to share. What a great way to have fellowship, try something new - and still be frugal!

First, some of the appetizers: (total cost, roughly $30)
Just add sour cream and mayonnaise!

  • Cheese and Crackers
  • Guacamole (home-made!) and Chips
  • Veggies and Dips
  • Olives and Garlic
  • Chocolate for dessert
  • Roquefort to go with the dessert wine

Delicious Mango dip (recipe on the back of the bottle)

We decided to do whites for this weekend, and save reds for another time. A "traditional" wine tasting would start with the lighter whites, progressing toward the heavier reds. Since we were doing it our own way, we stuck with whites. 

Next, the wines... (Total cost, minus the Sauternes, - it was a gift - but including the sparkling white, roughly $40)

Left to right, we have the...
  • Apothic White - a "Winemaker's Blend" with Muscato grapes, the Muscato gives it a slightly sweeter taste
  • a Chateau des Palmiers Sauternes - Jeff's favorite little dessert wine that we were given as a gift for Jeff's graduation
  • Yalumba Viogner Chardonnay - from "Australia's oldest family-owned winery"
  • Wente Chardonnay - from San Francisco Bay in California, this was the driest of our four here, but (I thought) quite tasty

The cost breakdown: About $70, split between three families still means we spent less than we would have if we had gone to the local wine event!

We also had a sparkling white, but I don't have a picture of that one. There is value in jumping out there and trying new flavors, but not in breaking the bank. Looking forward to Red Night!

What are your favorite goodies for Wine Night?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Power of Words: Going on a Date?

Dating vs. Courtship

Side note: "Teen" vs. "young wo/man" is a post for a later time, but for this particular post, I'll use "teen" in its most literal sense of "someone with the word -teen in his age."

Anyway... Especially as Maestro reaches his teen years, the topic of "dating" and "courtship" has been taking up more and more of my attention. I have talked with the boys about both concepts many times through the years, but before I know it, push will come to shove and we'll have girls knocking at the door for more than "can so-and-so come out to play??"

So what is the big deal about dating, anyway? 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Maintaining Focus

First, an announcement: 

After a lot of hard work, time and (ahem)
focus, Jeff graduated with his Bachelor's of Arts in History this past weekend. This is a big moment for us - and the best part about it is that his brother also graduated a few weeks ago, just as my sister and I both graduated in 2010. 

What a huge achievement for two wonderful men and their proud Mama and wives!

And now a story... from the every-day "life with boys"...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Power of Words - Going to the Prom?

"Prom" vs. "Ball" (or: Why not the prom?)

Okay, here comes my inner Prude. I've learned to embrace her. Prude is my friend and moral helper. Dear Reader, meet "Prudie".

Maestro made a comment on the way to church this morning that really got me thinking. His comment revolved around my insistence in using more specific words for various things and events in life: "prom" vs. a "Ball" (in this case military); "Dating" vs. "Courtship"; "Young lady/man" vs. "Teen", etc. Since I have talked with my very word-specific husband for hour upon hour, I suppose a bit of his... obsession... has rubbed off on me!

"What's the difference?!" says a very exasperated Maestro.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Growing Through Challenges

We have a lot going on in life this year - well, we will have. We are dealing with physical, financial, and emotional challenges, things that will stretch us to think about, things we worry over and carefully weigh the end results of the decisions made. We're looking at: a move (after 10 years of being here in this same house), a mortgage that is "upside down" (for the first time ever), whether to sell or rent out our house when we move, how to deal with the kids' braces upon moving (do we wait to get them started or do we start now and then find a new provider when we get to where we're going, car repairs (I whacked our car into a tree last weekend and it needs fixing,) new home school laws in the state to which we're moving, and on and on and on.

Positive thinking helps overcome so many challenges in life!
It's a lot - and we can look at it and say it's a lot and focus on the difficulties therein, or we can look and remember that we have a strong family; we have good friends; we have options... We can decide to see this as a time of spiritual, emotional, mental and family growth. A time when challenges will make us stronger all around.

It seems like such a small matter to make these mental shifts but the difference is so important. Here is a challenge: next time you're driving around town, look for other cars that are the same color as your own. If you are looking for only red or blue or black cars you're going to see them in droves!

The same concept rings true for the challenges we have in life. If we're looking for the good that life give us, the blessings, we're more likely to see the blessings before we see the "I can't"s.

Isn't it better to look at life and feel like you have the bull by the horns? Like maybe there is struggle involved, but you have it covered. You're going to handle it, whatever "it" is.

What are you struggling with? Share your thoughts below and we'll pray for your success!

Linked to: 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Requiring Respect in Children

As a young child, my mother taught me that children should respect adults ... just because they were adults. That my respect was simply a requirement of my very existence. As an early teen, I had some friends convince me that "adults should have to 'earn' my respect." Actually, I had some adults who believed that as well. I carried some of that "earned respect" belief right up into adulthood.

Then my first child made it to five years old and decided to show that he didn't respect me as his mother. *ahem* His military Papa didn't agree with my earned-respect philosophy and our precocious boy got into trouble. In our sometimes heated discussions about this issue, he pointed something out to me that hadn't occurred to me before - something that I suppose should have been obvious:

A child's respect has already been earned!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Recipe Day: Kale Crisps

Okay, ya'll, this is probably one of the easiest healthy snacks going - and it is so good I couldn't get Jeff and the boys to leave them alone to serve with supper tonight! Kale Crisps taste a bit like potato chips (as told to me by Maestro), take just a couple of minutes to throw together and about twenty minutes in the oven. Leave them out on the counter for hungry snackers and I promise they'll disappear - and you'll be happy knowing that they're eating healthy and not potato-chip crunchy. For you home gardeners - kale is a cinch to grow a LOT at once, you do have to keep an eye for worm infestations though - they love it too!

I served them on top of and alongside a very pungent garlic-mashed cauliflower dish. Also totally tasty and complimentary to the Kale - while I don't have a picture of the cauliflower, I might just throw it in at the bottom as a "bonus" recipe for you faithful readers. Enjoy!


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