Thursday, October 25, 2012

Love ...

Big sister love ....

Little sister love ....

Baby love ...

Mom's day off .... LOVE!!!

Brother love?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Having a week (or so ... !) of being challenged by my own stinking attitude when it comes to kids and being overwhelmed by attachment issues, complaining, lack of gratitude, you name it.  It has been long enough, I think, that these behaviors should be starting to subside a little.  My "look-the-other-way, cut-you-a-LOT-of-slack, make-excuses-for-you" mode has, well, ended.  Almost one year has passed and what I realize about me is that I am patient, but not really extra-patient.  I'm done.  Over it.  Ready for everyone (everyone!) to pull up the boot straps and fall in line.  Done with the lazy approach to learning, done with acting as though you're on a long vacation and it's the job of some in this family to serve your every whim and complaint.  Done, done, done.  I know you can do better than that.  I expect you to do better than that.  You owe it to your birth mom to do better than that.
Which lead me to feeling utterly justified in catering to my flesh and my desire to unload "with both barrels" (as my mom used to say).  Not a good place from which to start - tired, irritated, filled with some not-so-nice thoughts as to your behavior and just what I'd like to do if I hear it one more time.  Nope.
And then, when I was knee-deep in my feeling justified and forming the words for the very next opportunity that arose, I came across this ...

Took the wind right out from under my attitude.  Ugh.  Slowed down my beating drum of anger and 'doneness' and made me think.  I really, really felt justified in my sin abounding.  Wanted to not only live in it, but get right down and wallow in it.  And, to be honest, there have been days when I did just that.  It felt pretty good for a minute or three.  And then, it didn't.  It felt a lot like NOT walking in newness of life.  It felt a lot like death.  Death of relationship, death of a happy home, death of safety to speak up, death of my heart when I see the look of pain that comes from me acting on the conversation in my mind, and death of a child's heart and trust when a not-so-happy-mama unloads "with both barrels".

Sometimes God uses a seven-year-old little boy to do his bidding.  So thankful He does.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

If My People Will Humble Themselves

President Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation:

A Day Of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer
in the The United States Of America on April 30, 1863

WHEREAS, the senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and Just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has by a resolution, required the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation:
And whereas, it is the duty of nations as as well as of men, to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord:

And, in so much as we know that, by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request , and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have here unto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventy.
By the President:
William H. Seward, Secretary of State

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cornbread Muffin Goodness

With autumn making her appearance here in the Midwest (love the cooler mornings and looking forward to sweatshirt weather!) I'm sharing one of our favorites.  Serve these with a big bowl of chili or bean soup and enjoy.  These also make a great after school snack.
Corn Bread Muffins (with some 'extra' yumminess mixed in):
Corn Bread "Base"
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease (or use cooking spray) muffin or mini-muffin pan. Combine dry ingredients.  Stir in milk, oil and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. 
Here's where we ramp it up ....
Get 1/2 lb. to 1 lb. of bacon.  This is your call.  How much do you love bacon?  Do I really need to ask that?! I fry bacon in the oven - MUCH less mess and faster - but you can also do this in a skillet if you prefer. 
Line a cookie sheet with foil (make sure the cookie sheet has sides!) and lay bacon slices on it side by side.  Place in 400 degree oven and cook for about 20 minutes.  Check after the first ten minutes.  There is no need to turn the bacon but  I usually rotate the pan at least once.   Easy!
While the bacon cooks, grab a large onion and dice it up.  Heat a skillet on  medium high with a small amount of oil (about a tablespoon or so) and add onions.  Throw in a pinch of salt, pepper and a little bigger pinch of sugar.  Stir and allow the onions to caramelize.   This will take about 5 minutes.
When the bacon is cooked, take it out of the pan and blot it on paper towels to get rid of excess grease.  Then, crumble it up ...
 Grab those onions ....

... and stir both into your batter.  To make these EVEN better, at this point you can also throw in about a cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese.  I didn't do it this time, but trust me, you should definitely try it.  Diced jalapenos or a little crushed red pepper could also be added now for some 'heat'.

Spoon batter into muffin tins.  I almost always use the mini-muffin pans and fill them to the top.  This pan holds 24 minis ...

Bake muffins for about 12 minutes then check.  If you use the mini pan, 12 - 14 minutes should be good.  Larger muffins will obviously take a little longer (probably about 20 minutes).  Just keep an eye on them and when they spring back from a finger poke and the edges are a little golden, you're good to go.
Do I even need to tell you what comes next?  Eat them warm with butter.  Butter is necessary, required, a must.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I have been so negligent with the blog these past few weeks!  So much has happened - birthdays (5 of them!), swimming for the first time (an experience none of us will forget!), the first summer at the lake for all 13 of us, lots and lots of cooking, gardening and canning, and visits with friends new and old.

It's late and this mama is headed to bed, but I wanted to post SOMETHING to get me back in the swing of blogging.

Here are a few photos of Jesse on his 13th birthday.  The boy loves his bicycle.  He's growing up and growing into such a neat young man.  He started basketball conditioning with Isaac this summer preparing for the long season coming up in October.  He's been taking guitar lessons . . . more on that later . . . and really loves church.  We were talking about tithing tonight and he said, "Mom!  EVERY Sunday I want to take dollar to church.  When I get there, I forget and then I almost cry."  Sweet, sweet boy. 

I have so many posts and photos to share.  Some fun, some funny, some serious, some informative and hopefully helpful to someone.  If there's anything you'd like to ask or know about large family life, homeschooling, and/or adoption of many and older children, please feel free to ask.  I could use a few good prompts to get me writing again!

I'm knee deep in planning for the upcoming year with ELEVEN students!  Feeling pretty good about what's to come and praying for a good year.

Adoption is beautiful, but also stretching in ways we could have never imagined.  Just when we feel like we've figured something out, a new issue arises.  No sleeping on the job around here!

Hope you're all surviving the heat!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dirty Opportunity

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

- Thomas Edison

Oh, I so love spring and the WORK of getting a garden ready. Soccer mom, me? Not on your life. Give me dirt and lots of it and a boat-load of kids and I am in my element. Shiny happy dirty faces all around and hearts full of HOPE for what is to come of their effort. If there is a better lesson or more life-giving task for kids than gardening, I am sure I can't think of one. Life and death, work and reward, sowing and reaping . . . tend to your life's soil and keep it fertile or neglect it and let it grow all full of rocks and weeds. Oh, the parallels I can draw during a day in the dirt! They listen . . . Some roll eyes, "MOM! Do you have a metaphor for EVERY single part of gardening???"  Some laugh, "Does it really say THAT in the Bible???"  Some are quiet and ponder the lesson. All take it in. I know this because I knelt in the dirt so many years ago with my mom and dad. Learned just about everything I've ever needed to know there.

This year, we are growing more than vegetables and fruit. And the work of it all is intense and good and who would have guessed that this gardening would also grow a family. Here, the new kids can show their stuff. For this is their element too - farming and living off the land. You can almost see the relief rise up in them. They know dirt. Love it too. This has helped them remember Africa and call back good memories of mother and father and a family that was. It has also helped them heal and create memories of a family that is to be.  It has helped brother bond with brother and sister with sister.  It has made small ones feel important and oh, so big.  Truly, every single person has an important part to play.  A level playing field here, and all bets are off as to who is M.V.P.  Just might be the wee one picking up rocks.  :-)

We are working swift and sure, growing and saving and storing away for winter.  Building a farm that will hopefully build character and integrity and profit of many sorts.

Pulling up the overalls and preparing for the opportunity to come . . .

Friday, March 23, 2012

Poured Out, Worn Out and Filled Again


Day begins with oldest daughter's alarm blaring.  She is not at home this morning because she slept over at a friend's house last night.  It is 7:24 a.m.  Time for any respectable person to be out of bed and well on the way to beginning the day.  But I am not.  I am clawing for any extra minutes of sleep before day begins.   Praying that the alarm in the room that also holds two little girls, does not wake them.  Knowing that it would be a miracle for it not to.  Jump out of bed and run to turn it off, realizing that there is no escaping the day at hand, yet ever-hopeful.  Just 15 more minutes, Lord.  Mercifully, they do not wake up.  That, in itself, is a minor miracle (if there is such a thing).

Later, at the breakfast table, young daughter starts the day with complaining.  Ever complaining.  Never enough.  Not the right kind of cereal, not the right shoes, not the right shirt, not the right snack. 
Breathe.   And pray.  And remember to smile. Will she get to me today?  Not today . . . she will not.

A gentle answer turns away wrath

Drop her off at school and head home to seven kids waiting.  School calls.  Math and grammar and Bible and writing.  Laundry calls.  Load upon load upon load.  Younger daugher wet her bed last night.  Again.  More sheets and blankets to wash.  I walk into my laundry room and I swear some days I hear laughing.  Mocking from the machines standing at attention.  "Did you really think you'd get caught up?" 

My flesh wants to be mean to her.  My flesh is TIRED of washing sheets, yet doesn't want to give in to Pull-Ups.  Her eyes dance way too happy with the mention of wearing baby pants.  Not going down that road with a little girl who is almost four.  Not going backwards.  So I paste on a smile and load the sheets into the machine.

A gentle answer turns away wrath

Later in the day and it's time to pick up young daughter from school.  Will she be happy?  She hops in the car, all smiles and happy to see me and "Mama, today was a good day!"  Thank you, Lord, for this.  Home again and within minutes she is not happy.  All full again of never enough.  Sitting on chair, scowl on face, and yet showing incredible restraint.  A few short weeks ago she would have been writhing on the floor, crying and making life miserable for any person within earshot.  Thank you, Lord, for this.

Off the chair, happy again, out the door to play.  Ah, sweet silence in the midst of this beautiful day.  Five minutes pass, happy face fades to black.  My flesh?  It would love nothing more than to lash out.  I have had more than enough.  More than enough scowling.  More than enough complaining.  More than enough it's never enough.  Oh, the thoughts that roll like thunder through my mind. 

And I confess, my answer is not gentle. 

New son, ever quiet and like pulling teeth to get him to talk. some days.  Today though, he has decided to use that silence to rebel.  Gets in a fight with younger son and refuses to talk to me.  Refuses.  I wonder for a brief second if the child has gone mute.  Hmmmm . . . Dad is out of town for the week and I will admit I have taken a back seat to disciplining this son.  Dad has been the bad guy here.  Today though, there is no dad to deal with him so it's all me.  One more chance, one more request and still silence.  Later in the evening, he plays a game of Sorry with the younger boys.  He is getting beat fair and square and is a sore loser so he takes his arm and swipes it hard across the game board.  Pieces fly and game is over and he retreats in silence to his room.  Younger boys crying and confused by this ten year old who acts more like seven. 

When I return from soccer practice, the stories fly.  I missed the game incident, but there are plenty of eye-witnesses to fill me in on the details.  Said son is nowhere to be found.  I call for him and he ambles out into the kitchen.  A look of innocence and that blank stare I am growing tired of.  He knows he is in trouble, but still he retreats behind those eyes.  He is here and ever-present and yet he is not.  He has learned to feign an inability to speak English when it will be to his benefit.  I see in his eyes a flash of rebellion and I know what he is doing and I know what he has been doing all this time.  And I am annoyed beyond words and my flesh wants to shake him and yell, "Talk to me and use English or suffer the consequences!"

A gentle answer turns away wrath

And baby is sick.  Is she a baby?  She still is to me.  Holding fast to these last baby days.  Cheeks all chubby, golden ringlets and all full of "Mama, hold me".  And yes, you'd better believe the answer is "Yes".  I will hold her for as long as I can.

And I am worn out.  I am.  It is the wrestling of flesh.  The dying to self in all of  us.  I am keenly aware that every single person in this house is on the floor, sleeves rolled up, pants ripped and rolled up and wrestling.  Oh, the dying-to-my-way-right-this-minute, hurts.  Physically hurts.  I am reminded of Eustace in Voyage of the Dawn Treader when he has been turned into a dragon.  And I can feel the skin and the scales being peeled off of him by Aslan.  And I know, we all know, that we are in the midst of being peeled away at and it hurts.  And oh, how we all want to lash out and run away and escape the pain.  But we cannot and deep down, with each day that passes, we know that we must not.  We are all beginning to see that under those scales there is new skin.  And the getting to it hurts, but it is more beautiful than the old and the pain to get there is so totally worth it.

And I crawl into bed tonight.  Eighteen hours later and yes, I am tired.  But I am not defeated.  And I am not without hope.  Because even with all of the day's challenges, I can see beauty rising up in this house.  And it is real.  And it is not perfect.  But the One who is sustains us is and He is writing a beautiful story inside these walls.  He most certainly is.

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his GLORY, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."   - John 1:14, 16

Friday, March 16, 2012


This week we celebrated Ben's birthday. His first ever birthday cake, first ever birthday gifts, first ever LOUD and joyful rendition of "Happy Birthday".   It was a very good day.

The weather was nice so we spent the afternoon outside taking photos and waiting on Dad to get home. 

Susannah, trying her best to persuade me to slip her a cupcake before the party . . .  hard to resist.

Ava and Zane . . . waiting on the rest of the crew to show up for a group photo  . . .

Georgia . . . just up from her nap and so.very.happy. that cake was in her near future!  Love the wild bedhead.  :-)

Olivia . . .  it is such a joy to see her grow into a beautiful young woman.  She's usually the one behind the camera, but I caught her off guard this day and captured a really great shot of who she is.

Phoebe . . . silly, exasperating, LOUD, energetic, full-of-life Phoebe.  Proof of one of three things:  God has a really interesting sense of humor . . . OR . . . He has way more confidence in my ability to parent than I do . . . OR . . . He's sent a special little girl to show me my weak spots.  She will either be the death of me or help me become a much, MUCH more patient woman.  Anyone want to make a wager?

And, the rest of the crew . . .  Oh, my  heart.  I love each and every one of them so much.  It has been an indescribable privilege to see them grow up, and now to see them stretch and grow and welcome each other as brothers and sisters.  God is good.

The day was really great and Ben, well, the boy was beside himself with excitement in anticipation of opening all those gifts.  In our family, all of the kids go on a shopping trip with me to pick out gifts for the birthday boy or girl.  They each get a $5.00 budget and get to be as creative as possible with that money.  Surprisingly, they pick out some really great stuff.  This is when being in a big family REALLY pays off.  You're guaranteed 10 sibling gifts AND gifts from Mom and Dad!  Makes all those annoying siblings totally worth it.  :-)

Lovin' being in the birthday seat and wearing the hat . . .

This year, some of them decided to pool their money and buy something bigger. Ben LOVES soccer and will start his first ever soccer practice for his first ever team next week, so soccer gear was on his list. (So was a motorcycle.  The boy has expensive taste and isn't afraid to tell us. His dad replied with, "I have three letters for you pal . . . J - O - B!") 

First practice next week and he's dying to lace up the cleats and strap on the shin guards.

And the best gift of all?  His first ever bicycle.  Oh, to be able to hold the memory of his face when he laid eyes on this.  Not sure there's ever been a happier boy.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

There Was an Old (ish) Woman Who Lived . . .

Today was a beautiful day and a first-time-ever celebration.  More on that tomorrow, but thought I'd share our first candid photos of all the kids together.  Wow!  A lot of kids and oh, such fun.  These aren't the greatest, but it's a LOT of work to get eleven to kids to look at the camera all at once.  Smiles . . . well, almost everyone cooperated.  A certain little boy was ticked off that he had to stand one step below a certain little girl.  Up until today I'm pretty sure he was certain he was older.  :-)  

Luckily, he doesn't hold a grudge for long.  :-)

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Since bringing our new kiddos home, we've been on a bit of a learning curve when it comes to hair.  Thankfully, we have some really great AA friends who have shared their secrets for great hair and we're starting to get it down (I think!).  Hair has become much more of a daily focus around here. No more quick brush-it-out, throw-it-in-a-ponytail-and-go. Now we have misting and moisturizing and sometimes puffs. Can't just brush and go with the new girls. 

The girlie side of me loves having all these new products to try out and two sweet little girls to practice on.  Luckily, they're game for it.  Hoping by practicing now, they'll be used to sitting still when their hair grows out and is ready for more complicated styling.  And now, our 'normal'-haired girl, Georgia Boo, wants mama to put a little of that shea butter in her hair!  Jealous, jealous, jealous!

I came across this video on fellow adoptive mom's blog when I was looking for more hair ideas.  It is so funny, but also really clever and leads right to the best place of all.  Gotta love that . . .

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Brothers and Sisters

The three littles havin' some fun . . .  

Sisters . . .

And this guy . . . 

. . . he's got nothing on her!

Life is a crazy kind of fun right now . . .

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Comfort Food for a Winter Day

My dear friend Jeannine made this soup for us last year.  At first, I admit, "French Carrot Soup" did not sound all that great to me.  I was skeptical that it could really be as good as she claimed.  Boy, was I wrong!

So, here's the recipe with a few add-ins.  The original recipe is more like a first-course soup.  I tweaked it just a little to make it more of a meal for our family.  Add a loaf of good bread, salad and you've got a great winter meal.

First, wash and peel 12-14 medium carrots . . .

Next, clean 2 leeks.  You will use the white part only (trim off the roots).  Slice the leeks lengthwise, separate well and rinse.  Sand and dirt may be trapped between the layers so it's important to wash well . . .

Next, peel the skin off a large onion and thinly slice, slice peeled and cleaned carrots and thinly slice the leeks . . .

Place 4 tablespoons of butter in a large stock pot and heat to melt . . . (This is 8 tablespoons.  Gotta double the recipe for this family!)

Add carrots, onions and leeks.  Saute over medium heat until soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Add chicken broth . . .

. . . bacon (uncooked), sugar and seasonings. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer slowly for 20 to 25 minutes (longer is fine) or until carrots are tender . . .

Add rice; cook an additional 20 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Now . . . soup doesn't look all that great does it?  Kind of runny.  Weird with that raw bacon.  Very weird.  But . . . this is where it all comes together.  That raw bacon, well, that is THE very best part of the soup.  We have a saying in our house, "Bacon makes everything better!" and it is so true for this soup.

Take the soup and puree in SMALL batches in food processor or blender until smooth.  It is critical to do this in small batches.  If  you load the blender too full, the steam will build up pressure and blow the lid off the blender.  Messy and HOT (and dangerous if it explodes in your face).

I usually ladle the batches into the blender, then pour pureed soup into another bowl until the whole pot is blended.  Then, I pour it back into the stockpot.

Next, add 2-3 cooked, shredded chicken breasts.  I usually buy a rotisserie chicken (or two) and shred those up.  Easy, fast and they add more flavor.

Last, stir in the heavy cream and garnish with fresh thyme or rosemary.  It is equally good with either.  Toss a few croutons on top and serve with good French or a rustic whole grain bread.

I know, it doesn't seem like it could be that good does it?  Trust  me.  The bacon is the key and it is so yummy and the perfect comfort food for a cold day.

Here's the recipe in full:

French Carrot Soup

4 Tbsp butter
10-12 medium carrots, peeled, sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 leeks, white part only, carefully washed, thinly sliced
10 cups chicken broth
1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (uncooked)
1 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup uncooked white rice
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2-3 cooked, shredded or cubed chicken breasts
croutons or toasted bread cubes
Fresh thyme or rosemary (your preference)

In large saucepan or stockpot, melt butter. Add carrots, onion and leeks. Saute over medium heat until soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Add broth, bacon (uncooked), sugar and seasonings. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer slowly for 20 to 25 minutes (or longer is fine) or until carrots are tender. Add rice; cook an additional 20 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Puree in small batches in food processor or blender until smooth. Do this in SMALL batches!!! (The pressure builds up in the blender from the steam. If you get the blender too full, the lid will blow off. Messy and HOT!!) Add cream; heat just until thoroughly warm. Serve immediately.

This can be made ahead and kept in Crockpot on warm for a party. Will hold on warm all day.