new van.

Three weeks ago David flew to Nashville for a pastor’s training conference. Quite unexpectedly, as we turned onto the airport drive, our van began making very strange noises. Minutes later, it wouldn’t transition from first gear. We had to turn it off and turn it back on multiple times to limp to David’s departure gate.

And there we were, all six of us. Thankfully, it didn’t happen on the highway. Thankfully it didn’t cause David to miss his flight. Thankfully it didn’t happen when I was alone with the kids. Or on our road trip to Pittsburgh that weekend.

There are a lot of things to be thankful for! Still, our dear Honda Odyssey van, which we bought a mere two years ago — the day before adopting the boys — was dead.

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David raced to catch his flight, and his parents came to our rescue by calling a towing service through our auto mechanic and driving to pick us up. The process took awhile, and so I treated my kids to lunch in the Columbia airport lobby ($15 for four bags of Cheez-Its and a Clif bar). And we waited!

David spent the week in Nashville, and the kids and I used his Civic. Our mechanic told us that the transmission died (at just over 100,000 miles), and took a few other parts with it. The amount it would cost for all those replacements was close to the amount of money the van was worth. Ah well.

Judah isn’t quite heavy enough to sit in the front seat, but was an emergency. David arrived home Thursday night, and Friday morning we rented a van for our long weekend in Pittsburgh.

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It was actually fun to test drive a completely different van: a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica. We’d gotten a little spoiled by our Odyssey’s DVD player, so it was also nice to take a road trip and realize we really don’t need one. We listened to How To Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell, on audiobook (highly recommend!), and brought toys and books for the kids and listened to lots of music.

After we arrived home we car-shared with Linda, and were very thankful we didn’t have to rush to find a van immediately.

Our mechanic told us his top choice for a reliable minivan is the Toyota Sienna; Consumer Reports and lots of our friends seemed to agree, so we began looking for one after our Pittsburgh trip. After much deliberation, we decided to look for something newer with lower mileage, because we’re dreaming of some big family road trips in the next decade.

We found it last week! It was a rental owned by the local Toyota dealership. They gave us a loaner car while it was cleaned and detailed for us, and we brought it home yesterday.

We’re so excited about our Sienna — especially after squeezing into sedans for nearly three weeks (isn’t it crazy how you take things for granted until you don’t have them?). Our new van is more spacious and has more leg room in the back two rows than either the Odyssey or the Pacifica, which feels very important looking ahead to three teenage boys. We were a little bummed to lose the leather seats and some of the amenities of our EX, but the feature we’re most excited to gain is the Bluetooth and GPS.

As we drove the van home, I told the kids I promised their Dad I’ll drive it until Noah goes to college, at which point Noah became very depressed and said, “But I’ll be scared in college. I don’t want to leave you and Dad.”

Noah, I wish I could record those words. We’re so happy college is a long way away!

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this week.

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You guys are truly the best. Thanks so much for checking in to see how we’re coping with our house craziness. Here’s a few things we’ve been up to this week:

– Gabe turned six years old on Saturday! We celebrated with a walk at the Farmer’s Market in the morning, and then met cousins and birth family at a splash pad in the afternoon. He got some fun gifts and felt very special. Six is when you start getting a weekly allowance at our house so he’s pretty excited about that too.

– David and I celebrated 13 years of marriage on Monday. Guess what our totally awesome anniversary gift was: we got to move into our new bedroom! That’s right, it’s pretty much completely finished. We even postponed the anniversary date night Steve and Linda gave us in order to hunker down and hang blinds and move furniture. It was amazing.

Like I said, it’s not finished and my temptation is to wait to show you photos until it matches the Pinterest-worthy image in my head, but you know what? That’s silly. When is anything in real life truly Pinterest-worthy? You’ve been cheering us on the whole time. So I’ll be posting some photos this week.

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– David’s anniversary gift to me was to buy a CSA share with a local farm. It lasts for 18 weeks and we pick up our produce on Saturday mornings at the Soda City Market downtown. We joined a CSA years ago in PA when Judah was just a baby and I’ve always wanted to try it again.

There have been many years in between where it was simply not a priority for our family, but I’ve been day-dreaming about reconnecting with this passion. There’s something magical about casting your lot with one farm, for better or for worse, and getting to know the people who grow your food. Happy Earth Farm is about 45 minutes away and we plan to take the kids out soon. They even have an Airbnb glamping tent if we want to stay for a night!

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In the meantime, I met Steve and Karen on Saturday and instantly liked them. Who wouldn’t melt at the sight of those cute cloth bags? And I’m not kidding, the food is just plain delicious. Suddenly our salads have sparkle and verve again. My favorite part of our first produce share was the recipes Karen included. I feel like David didn’t just give me food, but a hobby.

– Speaking of hobbies, Amie started a six-week sewing class on Friday that a neighbor is putting on for a few girls. She came bounding home with great enthusiasm, and a notebook syllabus full of homework and a fun schedule for the summer. If you’re wondering whether I’m the sewing type, I’m desperately not. But I love that my girl is excited about this and vow to do all I can to help her practice this summer. Thankfully I get to sit in on the class with her. And there’s always YouTube to help us out in a pinch, right?

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– You may be wondering whether I’ve given David his anniversary gift yet: our backpacking trip, and the answer is “no.” We’re going Thursday and Friday of this week. As you can see, we practiced setting up our (adorable! new!) two-person backpacking tent this weekend and wearing our packs. Don’t I look like I know what I’m doing!?

If you’re also wondering how a not-so-rugged girl like me is gonna do for two days in the sticks with no running water (and, um, no restroom), the answer is “Who knows!?” But I’m game to try something new! And no matter what, two days of just the two of us is going to be fun. It’s like a sort of marital team-building exercise, right?

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– Guys, I love summer, but I don’t love being out of our regular routine. Wait: I say this every.single.year don’t I? So now that things are slowing down with the renovation, I’m going to sit down tomorrow and write out a little schedule for us. Hear me out: I don’t do it to be rigid and over-bearing.

I just realized that what I want from summer is to spend unhurried time with my children. But somehow, when we don’t have a routine, I don’t slow down and spend time with them, I just find new, non-homeschooling things to busy myself with.  I start thinking that what my kids need is to be entertained, but what if they just need me?

I’m fairly good at being a chauffeur yet terrible about just relaxing and really connecting with each of them. So that’s what our routine will consist of. Also, remember chores? Remember baking projects? Yeah. That’s not really happening either. So this week is about getting us organized to make good use of our summer. If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.

– Finally, I’m trying to be very selective about internet time these days, but one of my favorite bloggers and her family are spending a couple of months in China, working with kids in a foster home. It makes me so happy to follow along with their adventures. You should check them out.

Happy Memorial Day, my friends!



lately

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Hi friends!

I thought I’d do a quick photo update post of what we’ve been up to the last couple of weeks.

If you can believe it, our church just had our first official church-wide picnic a couple weeks ago! It was a lovely, 70-degree Sunday afternoon and a great time was had by all. The consensus was: Let’s do this more often!

And, now, onto the house update . . .

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Weeks 4 and 5 have been all about framing. Yesterday the heating/air guys came, as well as the electrician. We asked our contractor if our friend Ben could do the electrical work, and it’s fun having him apart of the project.

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Seeing the walls and roof go up made it all seem so much more real! Currently we all climb through the windows to work/see inside. Our builder, Scott, is trying to wait as long as possible before he cuts the hole in our living room wall, which I very much appreciate!

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Look at those nice, big windows! Don’t they make the addition seem so cheerful?

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In the meantime, David finished the chicken coop! He has a couple last touches to do, but the girls have lived out there for nearly a week now, and are doing great. We were a bit scared with this extreme cold snap we’ve had the last few days (it was 27 degrees this morning!), but they have all their big-girl feathers on and haven’t seemed to mind a bit.

David and Amie still have to coax them up the ramp into their coop at night, but they make it down in the morning all on their own.

(Also you may be thinking: Girls? Are you sure? The truth is, we won’t know their gender for a couple more months, but we like to pretend they’re all girls)

It’s an amazing feeling of relief to have that project over with.

Now I feel really dumb about the silly fights David and I had over it. Why did I care so much? Why did I have to prove my point all the time and generally be so difficult?

It’s funny how that works.

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We’ve had the strangest weather lately: weeks of 70 degree days, followed by snow flurries this weekend. Seeing ice mixed with a thick layer of pollen on Sunday was a first for me.

Just last week I organized everyone’s clothes and stashed winter things in the attic! I literally threw away Noah’s coat because it had officially been through four boys and had holes in it. So we’ve done a bit of improvising this week.

We all managed to venture out on this freezing-cold morning to swim practice, and were thankful to come home to hot chocolate and heat vents.

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If Organization is one of my keys to staying sane right now, Routine is the other one.

With all the construction noise and interruptions, it is so tempting to throw our entire schedule out the window and spend hours scouring Pinterest for bathroom faucets and paint colors, but that makes everyone crazy (myself included). I’ve learned these last five weeks to allow interruptions to happen, and then as best I can, pick right back up with our routine afterwards.

We still do school. We go to CC and swim practice and play with cousins. I cook dinner. We have pretend “quiet rest time” in the afternoon from 1-3 even when the house shakes with drilling and pounding. Am I getting as much done? Absolutely not. I’m just doing the best I can and letting the rest go.

Routine has been our comfort.

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Somewhat ironically, Judah chose to take a really big test for Classical Conversations called Memory Master. He’s working on memorizing every single piece of information we’ve learned this year. The testing starts in three weeks, and so we’re doing what we can in-between answering questions about light switch placement and shower tile. Thankfully we’ve been reviewing ever since August, which makes it not nearly so big and scary.

I just have to laugh at the timing of it all; also I’m very proud of my boy for how hard he’s working even though I know lots of loud noise is not easy for him (he and I hate the noise; the other three kids seem totally oblivious, ha!).

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We’re getting down to all the fun interior details which I’ve daydreamed about forever, but still make my head spin. This weekend our roof will be replaced, and hardwood floors go in next week.

Oh yeah, I’m also head to a homeschool conference Friday and Saturday in Greenville, and we have our CPC New Members class at our house on Sunday! Hopefully all the new members will have a sense of humor when they see our craziness.

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When the busyness presses in, I imagine myself laying on my bed under that lovely vaulted ceiling, in a room filled with light.

All of this is just the biggest gift. There are no words to explain it. I often have to remind myself that it’s really, truly happening.

I walk through the shell of our new bathroom and walk-in-closet and it feels surreal. Lovely and surreal. Like living inside an Apartment Therapy post.

We heard all kinds of horror stories about builder/homeowner relations, but I have to say thus far our builder, Scott, could not be more pleasant and easy to work with. He’s very experienced but never makes me feel like an idiot for the things I don’t know. I’ve taken to asking his opinion about decisions, and I like his ideas.

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We got a whole lot of rain this weekend, and since a portion of our roof is under tarps, we had some leaks, as you can see from the ceiling and the way we had to pull the bed out when water streamed down onto David’s pillow the other night.

The good news is: Amie will get a new ceiling for her room! You can’t really tell but the ceiling of this room has always been a strange, almost drop-ceiling-like material, because this room was actually an addition too. I’m thrilled to see it go. Tomorrow they will be sealing that window on the left off and make it a wall (our new bathroom is just on the other side!).  We also have an exterior door in that room, behind the door, which will be sealed off (pictures to come).

Isn’t this so fun!?

Happy Hump Day!

 

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five things on friday.

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1. We’re recovering from two weeks of sickness. Not the flu, thankfully, but a bad virus that we all passed around and just lingered until I finally took the kids to the doctor on Tuesday. Turns out the three oldest had sinus infections and Noah had a double-ear infection. Poor things! It was kind of miserable, because I caught it on the front end, got better for a few days, then caught it again from someone else.

Thankfully I’m healthy again, and after a few days of antibiotics the kids are much more like themselves too, although let me tell you what, dispensing different doses of antibiotics twice a day for four children is not for the faint of heart.

Now we’re all more than ready to resume our normal routines next week. I consider myself a homebody but this bout of illness made even me stir-crazy!

2. Judah and Amelie finished their first swim competition season on a great note. They worked hard and overcame some fears and their last meet at the end of January was the smoothest yet. Still a little nerve-wracking, but no tears. More smiles and more thumbs-up to their cheering section in the stands. They’re both great swimmers and I love seeing them gain some confidence.

Before the meet, David said to Judah: “You know what buddy, after your very first race when you messed up and were embarrassed and wanted to quit? You know how you came back and swam again and finished the whole meet? Well, that was the proudest I’ve ever been of you.”

Later Judah said, “When Dad says stuff like that to me, I feel like I can do anything.”

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3. All eight of our chickies are alive and growing and as cute as they can possibly be. It turns out I’m a very happy chick-owner; and I’m more surprised about that than anyone.

I put off getting animals because I thought they’ve be a nuisance; one more chore that falls to Mom. But first of all: Amie adores her girls and, along with David, does most of the feeding and watering. Of course I think it makes a big difference that they’re outdoor pets. I just cannot imagine owning an indoor pet with all these kids.

But also, I care about them a whole lot more than I expected. I love their bright, curious eyes and how they each look just a little bit different. I like that some are feisty and wild and some like to be held. I even liked scrubbing their Tupperware bin home in the sunshine on Wednesday, and then making it all cozy again with a layer of pine shavings. I try to take time every single day to walk down to the basement and hold them and talk to them and freshen up their water.

It’s simply impossible to be in a bad mood when holding a baby chick.

4. Which brings me to my next point. This morning some fun plans we had were canceled and the kids were very disappointed. We had to talk through a couple of their reactions, but Judah came back said later, “You know what, Mom, after I heard the news I went to my room to build Legos because I knew it would make me feel more calm.”

And so that launched a discussion about things we can choose to do when we’re feeling angry or frustrated to help us calm down, rather than lose our temper. I was amazed that each of the three oldest had something that they knew right away makes them feel better.

Judah: “jump on the trampoline or build Legos,” Amie: “curl up with my stuffed animals, visit the chicks”, Gabe: “build a puzzle.” We all told Noah his calming activity is to go outside and dig for bugs (and when available, fire pits are a close second). Mom: “go for a walk, hold the chickies, go to the library.”

It was such a sweet, rambling conversations, one of those that made me think, Wow, my kids are actually becoming my friends.

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5. I’m making it a goal to learn names of native South Carolina trees and shrubs. My mom and Linda are a fount of information, and when I walk with them I ask them to tell me names of things. It feels very overwhelming to begin, so I’ve decided to focus just on what’s in bloom. Then I try to write what I learned in my bullet journal so I can practice on my run or when I’m driving.

Here’s what I learned to identify (and what’s blooming!) this week:

Forsythia

Camellia

Tulip poplar

Loropetalum

Nandina

What’s blooming where you live?

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Happy Friday!



steve and linda’s sunroom.

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One of my favorite features of David’s parents’ house is their little side sunroom. They’ve worked hard to make it a bright, inspiring space in the last several months, and I wanted to show it to you!

I always enjoy getting inspiration from other people and want to know how they find furniture and other decorative items, especially on a budget.

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The two metal chairs have been in Linda’s family for years, and she found the wood glider at an antique store in town.

The chairs were green and looking a little worn, and the glider was pink. All the furniture got freshened up with a couple of coats of cream paint, which makes it look clean and cohesive.

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Don’t you adore the white footrest too!?

The indoor/outdoor throw pillows from Wal-Mart provide a pop of color, and the plant stand was a thrift shop find in Dewey Beach, Delaware years ago.

I’m very partial to the plant (Alocasia) with its big glossy leaves.

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The rug is from Lowe’s, and Linda found that charming mirror at Tuesday Morning, which to me is the perfect focal point of the room. I feel like if you can find one item with lots of character, everything kind of comes together around it.

Linda’s stroke of genius was that she had a vision for a great mirror but didn’t actually find it until the end!

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The vintage pie safe cupboard tucked back in the corner was a roadside find, and blue watering can is from a local nursery

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Steve brought in the knotty log scrap from the backyard, and naturally it needed a stuffed chipmunk (this is Noah’s favorite part of the sunroom).

Don’t you just want to go sit there with a cup of tea?

Great job, Steve and Linda!

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a new way to spend tuesday afternoons.

On Tuesdays at 1:00, my mother-in-law, Linda, comes over to sit with my kids. She reads or works while they have their afternoon room time until 3:00, then walks them two streets over to her house to play until 5:00.

Tuesday afternoons are one of God’s gifts to me in this season. For the past six months I have exercised, gone to counseling appointments, scheduled my trip to the dentist, and run errands in a blessedly quiet van.

My counselor is so great that she works herself out of a job; currently I’m seeing her once a month, which leaves many Tuesdays wide open. I guess ideally I would use those afternoons to write, but like I shared with you, recent attempts to do this have me sitting in Starbucks, drinking tea and staring blankly at my computer screen. Or even worse, browsing Pinterest and Apartment Therapy for two hours.

So this month I’m trying something different.

This week, before Linda arrived, Amelie and I scrambled to load up my purse with a stack of white paper, kids’ scissors, and scraps of dollar store stickers, then when she got here, we set out to visit our friends.

If we drive downtown south down Huger Street, we can hang a right on Taylor and find ourselves in West Columbia. Just eight minutes or so from our house, before you hit the string of restaurants and Lexington hospital on Sunset Blvd, tucked into a side street, is an apartment complex.

Our new friends from Afghanistan live there. God plopped them into our lives, literally out of the blue, last month. A friend at church spends a lot of time with refugees, and met a couple of families. One family was looking for an English conversation partner for the mom/wife, and the other some after-school tutoring for their sons.

David passed along the email and asked, “Should we meet them?” And I said “Yes!”

You may remember my New Year’s resolution of making friends with people different from me.

I had that growing feeling inside of me but looked around at my daily life and said, “Lord, can you help me with this? I don’t know where to start.”

And so David responded to our friend, and one of the Afghani families immediately invited us for dinner. All six of us.

This did not surprise us one bit. In our time spent in other countries, we’ve been enveloped by the goodness of cultures far more hospitable than our own. It has soaked into our very bones and changed us from the inside out.

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So Amelie and I pulled up to Shafiqa’s apartment on Tuesday and knocked on the sliding glass door and kicked off our flip flops as she opened it wide, beaming. She pulled us into big hugs and urged us inside. Her four-year-old daughter Ranna hopped around with glee and laced orange-coated fingers with ours to come see the big pail of cheese puffs she’d gotten into.

Shafiqa is expecting her fourth child this spring. She stays home with Ranna during the day while her husband goes to work and her two elementary-aged sons take the bus to and from school. And so her life is motherhood and laundry and cooking and boisterous children, just like mine.

Her apartment has no furniture, save a small TV stand in the corner, and a little round kitchen table. There are low cushions on the floor against the wall, which enchanted all of my children when we went over for the first time. What delighted the kids even more was the big vinyl tablecloth Shafiqa spread on the floor at dinner time, which we all gathered around, sitting cross-legged.

The plan is for me to visit Shafiqa most Tuesday afternoons for an hour and a half or so to practice her English. I text to make sure it’s good for her (it always is) or to let her know if I can’t come. Her English is limited, so I’m gathering ideas on the fly of what she wants to learn and what to focus on first. I neurotically pull out my bullet journal to record ideas, which makes her laugh.

I’m  discovering that she is an ardent student. This week we sat on the floor together and worked on English phrases (basic greetings) and some vocabulary for an hour. It’s slow going, mostly because we can’t understand one another. I downloaded an English-Pashtu app on my phone and attempted to translate sentences for her. That’s when I learned that she can’t actually read Pashtu.

She told me that in Afghanistan she was not allowed to go to school. She told me, in short words and mostly with hand motions, what the Taliban does to girls in her village who try to attend school, how glad she was to leave, to bring her children to a land where they can read and write and be free.

And then I had to somehow turn and explain to curious Amelie what all of this means.

Suddenly I understood everything, and said, “Shafiqa! Do you want to learn to read English?” and she said, “Yes!”

I said, “And then if you learn to read you can drive!” and she said, “Yes, yes!”

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You know what? There are a lot of things I can’t do, but I can teach someone to read!

Not only can I do that thing, but I enjoy doing it!

Now it’s crystal-clear in my mind. We will read and we will speak.

Mostly, I think, we will become friends. I can’t wait for next week.

You know what my seven-year-old was doing this whole time? Entertaining Ranna, making crafts with stickers, chatting, asking Shafiqa how to write her name in Pashtu. My beautiful girl, who not two hours before was sitting, crying over letters and numbers that get mixed up and turned around in her head, was just beaming and happy.

After our lesson, Shafiqa jumped up and served us fresh-made Pakoras with mint chutney. She loves that we lived in Bangalore, loved seeing photos of me in a sari and salweer kameez. Shafiqa learned Hindi by watching Bollywood movies. Her mother has spent time in India, and Shafiqa wears Indian clothing, with a simple scarf over her hair. Much like the Muslims in our Bangalore neighborhood.

She knows that I love Indian food, and so she makes it for me when I come over. Amelie, who cut her teeth on spicy masala dosa and sambar dal, gobbles it up too. She says, “Mom, I remember this Indian food!”

Too soon, the boys traipse in from school and ask in perfect English where my other kids are, why I didn’t bring them over, when they can come play at my house. We chat and Amie and I pack up and say our good-byes and promise to come next week. Then we run our errands together: Wal-Mart for an air-conditioning filter, and Grease Monkey for an oil change, with a quick, necessary stop at Dunkin’ Donuts of course. We have fun together, just the two of us.

You know that I’ve been in a bit of a tired slump lately.

I thought that what I needed was more alone time, but when I had those hours I didn’t always use them well. Sure I’d go for a run, but I’d also sit staring blankly at Starbucks, or drive to Target and Michael’s craft store to spend money I don’t need to spend. I’d coming home from my afternoons out tired and listless, not wanting to face my family and my chores.

Suddenly, like a light bulb, I realize that I don’t need more alone time.

What I need is to find the thing God wants me to do, something which will make me come alive, and do it.

In the past few months, my counselor has talked a lot to me about motivation.

She said, “Julie, commitments and relationships aren’t good or bad in and of themselves. What you need to start asking yourself is, ‘What is my motivation for doing this thing — or seeing this person?'”

We get ourselves into trouble by doing good things with bad motivation: because we feel guilty, maybe, or to impress people, or simply because we feel like we “should” do it. She asked, “How many of those things do have in your life right now? What needs to change?”

Sometimes we can have a great motivation, but it’s just plain bad timing. In this season, at least.

In another season, it may be the perfect thing.

And so, that is the long and short of how I came to spend Tuesday afternoons sitting on the carpet with my friend Shafiqa using exaggerated hand motions and short phrases and laughing a lot, and leaving her apartment with a spring in my step.

Now I want to bring one or two of my kids every single time. She adores them, and the feeling is mutual. I want so badly for them to find the joy I’ve found in making friends with people who are different from us; even if we live right here in Columbia, South Carolina, rather than in overseas. They are already doing it.

Maybe I don’t need to escape my children on Tuesdays so much as find something I’m passionate about, and bring them along.

And of course wonderful Linda says to me, “No matter how long it takes, drop them off at my place and go for your run at the end of the afternoon: I’ll just let them dig in the dirt a little longer.”

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last week in photos (or: thanksgiving gratitude).

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Hello friends!

How was your Thanksgiving? Ours was full of people and lots of really yummy food.

Here’s what we’ve been up to lately!

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Judah and Amelie had their first swim meet last weekend at USC. Judah has been swimming with Columbia Swimming for 15 months, and Amelie for nearly a year. We wanted them to have a good year under their belts before starting swim meets, and I feel like this is the perfect time.

They swam Saturday and Sunday: I’d say the first day was super overwhelming and a bit traumatic and we definitely had some tears, but the second day went way better. Navigating the crowds, noise, and constant commotion is not for the faint of heart. Amelie swam freestyle and backstroke, Judah swam freestyle, backstroke, and breast stroke.

We’re so proud of how hard they worked. Their  next meet is December 10th in Rock Hill, SC, and they said they’re ready! We love our swim team!

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We had a lovely Thanksgiving.

David took the kids hiking in the morning so I could bake (baking in a quiet house is one of my favorite things in the world), then we had a pot-luck dinner at Barb’s (my sister-in-law’s mom). I love that we do holidays with my family, Shari’s family, and David’s family. It keeps things simple!

After dinner Judah, Owen, and Amelie read Psalm 100 and we all sang a couple of hymns. Then, we broke out the dessert and poker (because what goes better together than family worship, pie, and poker?).

This is the first year in forever that I took ONE measly photo on Thanksgiving, but I guess you could say I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot!

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On Friday some friends that we lived in India with came for an overnight visit. They’re in the States for a few months, and it was so, so good to see them — it’s been nearly three years. They got to meet Gabe and Noah. Our big kids got to reconnect. It took them about an hour, and then they chattered non-stop as if they’d never been apart.

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We drank coffee and wine, ate chocolate pecan pie with mounds of whipped cream, and hiked and had a fire pit. We talked about ministry and homeschooling and travel and cooking. The kids played outside a whole lot. Seeing them was good for my very soul.

I’d never trade our life here in Columbia, but I miss our friends.

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Finally, a very sweet couple from church gave David and I an overnight at Whispering Willows, a B&B about 20 miles north of Columbia. We packed up and headed out Sunday after church. We stopped for coffee and then a leisurely dinner downtown, then drove to the B&B. It was a truly wonderful getaway, so good for our marriage.

And now it’s Tuesday and nearly December already!

Can you believe it?

I’m very thankful we resisted decorating for Christmas until this week and have that tradition to look forward to (although I have not resisted turning on the Christmas music). The kids and I started an Advent unit in our homeschool for the first time, and we are loving it.

Hugs!!!



six things on friday.

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Happy Friday, dear friends!

Here are six things that are making my life a little happier these days:

1. We have a holiday and birthday cinnamon roll tradition. David’s birthday was October 7, but we had a few busy weekends in a row, so I finally made his cinnamon rolls this week. Homemade cinnamon rolls are something I was intimidated by until my friends in India showed me how very easy they are. Now I’m teaching Amie how to make them.

If you’re interested, here’s our tried-and-true recipe. I prepare them the night before and then bake them the next morning and whip up a quick glaze.

2. A monumental event happened in our house yesterday: at 11:45 AM I told my children I was going in my room to exercise for 30 minutes, and I’d make their lunch when I was finished. Well, they got hungry and decided to make their own lunch (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), and the big kids made one for Noah.

Of course they scampered in and out of the room asking questions, chatting with me, picking up free weights to follow along, but I did it! I did the entire work-out and when I was finished: my kids had eaten lunch, carried their dishes to the sink, and we could move on with our day!

This may just be the dawn of a new era, folks.

3. One more note on fitness. A few weeks ago, David and I started ROMWOD, which is the CrossFit daily stretching program. I am not a CrossFit person and doubt I ever will be, but I can carve out 15 minutes a night to stretch alongside my husband. We do it immediately after we put Gabe and Noah to bed, and the big kids often join in. It feels very restful (so much so that Amie has been known to fall asleep on the floor by the end of the routine).

This habit has been so, so good for us! I’m gaining some flexibility, my posture is improving, and my form is better when I exercise. Perhaps best of all is that my psychiatrist and doctor have been after me to do daily deep breathing exercises for my anxiety, and ROMWOD includes that.

Having said all of this, fitness and exercise still do not come naturally for me. I’m learning that, at the end of the day, taking care of my body doesn’t involve some grand game plan or even subscribing to an expensive program but small, daily choices to get up and move around.

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4. I’m cautiously optimistic that my anxiety is lessening. I don’t know if it’s the deep breathing, the medication, the therapist, prayer, boundaries, or all of the above, but David and I noticed this week that in some ways I seem to be much more like my old self.

Anxiety is a funny thing: I can now become obsessed with looking for these improvements and then spiral down if I have one bad day, so I’m trying to be very even-keel about these latest victories. We had a wonderful new members’ class at our house two weeks ago with 40 people here. I felt happy and calm and loved cooking chili for them all. And we’ve had a couple other social events this past week that I thought would send me into a tail-spin of panic, but turned out to be enjoyable.

Now the other temptation is to say, “I’m all better!” and start stacking back up commitments and obligations. So I’ll resist that. My life continues to be stream-lined to the barest of necessities. And when once in awhile we add something in and it goes well, I give thanks.

I know this probably deserves a blog post on its own, but I really can’t describe how good this time of my extreme limitations has been for my family. I’m home more. I’m not rushing around frantically trying to please a whole load of people and live up to an image I’ve given myself. I have more energy for homeschooling and for gardening and exercising.

I feel like I’m truly learning, in tiny fits and starts, to live out of a place of rest instead of a place of performance and striving.

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5. I’ve started my first bullet journal!

This is something I’ve had my eye on nearly this whole calendar year, through the blogs I follow. At its simplest, bullet journaling is just using a blank notebook to create your own day planner and organizer, tailor-made to your needs. I thoroughly read these two posts as I got started: one from the official Bullet Journal website, and this detailed one from the Lazy Genius Collective, and at their advice, practiced for a couple of weeks in a cheap notebook to make sure I like the method.

Per both of those websites (and a post here for all you Modern Mrs. Darcy lovers), my bullet journal is very plain and simple. No fancy drawings or artwork. I love looking through the elaborate journal spreads on Pinterest but I know that trying to keep up with that would stress me out. So I stick to the basics.

The biggest reason I like the bullet journal method: all the random thoughts and bits of paper scattered throughout the house and notes on my phone and craziness in my head are now consolidated into one place. It travels with me in my purse. It keeps me from staring at a screen. I even use my bullet journal for my grocery list.

David has seen how well this new system is working for me, and ordered his own notebook today. Actually Amie started her own bullet journal with a pretty notebook someone gave her, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that thus far her pages are as fancy and colorful as mine are plain. I love it. Soon I’ll give you a blog post with our favorite tips.

6. And finally, the things we see/hear on news are depressing, but there is so much good in the world, you guys. Let’s look for the good and also be apart of the good, in small, faithful ways. One story: our friends from church, Ben and Jeanette, are approved to adopt a five-year-old boy from China (see photos of him on Instagram @thewalkersadopt). They had an adoption fundraiser on Sunday night with live music, chili, and s’mores, similar to ours in 2014.

And they raised $10,000 in one night.

That is just one example of many I could tell in the life of our church and our community. The generosity and courage of the people around us is heartening. God is at work.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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