august.

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Hello friends!

Can you believe that we’re in the second week of August?

We officially started school last Monday. We attempted to start back in July. I wanted to try my hand at more of a year-round-schooling schedule because I fancy myself to be one of those mothers for whom the world is a classroom and life is our education and every walk outside fosters a love of nature. Why would we take a man-made break from learning for two whole months?

Well, after about two days, we quit viewing the world as our classroom. The little boys loved it because they crave more structure, but the big kids weren’t ready. More importantly, perhaps, I wasn’t ready. I suddenly began to adore the idea of a man-made break.

So we took a few more weeks off and tried again on August 1st, and we all felt much better about the arrangement. We still started a bit early because we’re taking a week-long vacation in September, and I want to be able to leave the school books at home, guilt-free.

I know I wrote an inspiring homeschool post earlier this summer, and last week I was as organized as could be, but the truth is, it’s hard to get excited about homeschooling right now. I feel tired, and I’m still trying to coordinate exactly how to homeschool three grades now that Gabe is starting kindergarten.

But you know what I realized?

I don’t think I’m so much tired because of homeschooling, I think I’m tired because of parenting. I think it’s the natural state for parents of young children to be tired, and also it’s the natural state of people to be discontent. It’s easy to look at my public or private school friends or even my working mom friends and feel that the grass is greener on their side. But I know that just isn’t true. Life generally isn’t smooth sailing for any of us; we just have different stresses, amiright?

Tired as I am, I feel at peace with forging ahead in our homeschool journey this year. Coffee helps.

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Speaking of which, I’m drinking coffee again, even though in the past I’ve quit because of anxiety. But I’m taking a heftier dose of medication and so I just need it. For now, at least. Come to think of it, maybe the medication is another reason I feel tired?

The good news is, my spirits are better and I’m cautiously optimistic that my anxiety is lessening. I’ve had a couple really good days, and at the moment I don’t live in fear of the next social situation. Thanks for your prayers.

But back to school. By God’s grace, even with the other stresses in life, our start of a new school year truly couldn’t have been smoother. I noticed a marked improvement in the little boys’ behavior from the very first day. I realized once again that our normal routine is restful for them. They know exactly what to expect and the world is as it should be. Gabe is beside himself with joy to start kindergarten.

Now I can’t say that the big kids have the same attitude. I know they struggle to get in the rhythm of school before Classical Conversations starts, and that makes sense to me, so I’m trying to give them some space. What this means is we’re doing a lot of school-in-PJ’s.

I’m thankful for a good schedule for this year, and trusting God that we’ll get all our work in. I’m thankful that David will be teaching Judah third grade math, which takes a huge load off my shoulders and makes Judah happy. I’m thankful for lots of fun books to read aloud together. I’m thankful for the blossoming relationships among my children; this past month Judah and Gabe have been connecting in a way they just didn’t before. I love watching them go out to the trampoline together to battle.

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What else have we been up to?

We’ve been trying our hand at some new recipes. David made carnitas last week, and we made our first ever homemade corn tortillas. They were delicious! And then our tortilla press broke. Ah well.

He also tried grilling pizza, and, believe it or not, we made waffles last night for the first time in our married life.

David’s parents babysat Saturday morning so the two of us could go tubing on the Saluda River. We used a company that shuttled us up to the zoo, and we floated/paddled back down to the Gervais Street Bridge. It was so fun! David of course splashed around in the water and jumped off rocks, and I mostly stuck to the tube. We saw wildlife. We chatted. The water felt amazingly cold against the heat of the day, and thankfully we went early enough to avoid getting sunburned.

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We’re on a two-week break from swim team, and still very thankful to be swimming often at my brother’s pool. It’s been a lovely haven for me this summer, to be outside and with our family.

Are you watching the Olympics?

If you aren’t, please watch a bit just to see Rio! It’s probably my favorite Olympic venue ever, and I want to be there so badly! I just finished my first Ann Patchett novel, State of Wonder, which I loved, and takes place in Brazil.

I’m a HUGE Olympics fan, have been all my life. This is my favorite year to watch since we’ve had kids because they really get into it too. We have lots of little gymnasts and hurdlers around here, and I’m positive something in our house will be broken before the two weeks’ are over (hopefully it’s not a bone).

All in all, I’d say our month is off to a great start.

Happy August!



the veggie box.

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One of our favorite things to do together, both as a couple and as a family, is to cook and bake.

For several years now, we’ve been trying to move in the direction of a healthy, whole-foods based diet. This doesn’t mean we’re health nuts, and it doesn’t even mean we buy everything organic. You’ll find cereal and store-bought bread in the pantry, and the kids have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch most days.

David’s good at helping me be inspired to make and eat healthy food but not let it take over my life. I had a friend once advise me, “Instead of obsessing about what to cut out of your diet to make it healthier, just focus on adding good, whole foods, bit by bit.” So thanks to her inspiration we now have green smoothies for breakfast and we make salads for lunch. We make the kids smoothies and they eat veggies or fruit as a side at most meals and often for snacks.

Of course it’s our job to see that they eat a relatively balanced diet, but what I really want to do is inspire my kids to enjoy good food. This is hard. Often I’m discouraged at the dinner table when I make a fresh, healthy meal and the kids labor through it (they don’t have to like it, but can’t make rude comments. so we hear a lot of, “I don’t really prefer quinoa”).

I’d say David and I are pretty healthy eaters, but it’s hard to man-handle our kids into being healthy eaters. We keep junk food out of the house for the most part and they have to eat some of everything we serve for dinner.

But I understand what it’s like to be a kid and want sandwiches and cereal and ice-cream. I don’t want to have anxiety over food, and I definitely don’t want my children to.

All of this to say, I hope that our kids see David and me buying and enjoying good food, and learning to be creative with eating it. I hope they see that we love to cook together. I hope they taste lots of different foods — multiple times. I understand that their taste buds will grow and change over time. I hope that as they help their grandparents with the chickens and help us grow a small amount of what we eat, they’ll develop an appreciation for where our food comes from and feel part of the process.

I hope to continue to grow on this journey myself.

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And so enter: the veggie box, which is quickly becoming a Soda City Farmer’s Market sensation. For 10 dollars you can fill a cardboard box with as many fruits and veggies as you’re able to — just look for the stand with the long line of people snaking around the block.

Not all the vegetables and fruit are local to South Carolina; I try to ask questions and keep my eye out for the obvious exceptions (pineapple, bananas). I still buy those things at the supermarket, but want as much as possible to save room for the local, in-season stuff in our box.

The above photo is two boxes’ worth of food. We found that one box wasn’t quite enough the week before for a family of six. I wanted to see if we actually ate all the contents of two boxes in one week, and for a couple of the things it was closer to two weeks. But they kept in the vegetable crisper, and we did it! We ate everything and didn’t throw any of it away. Now we buy one or two boxes depending on what our week looks like, what we’re getting from our own garden (not much in this 100-degree weather), and how many meals we will be eating at home.

I’m always looking for healthy food ideas from my friends, so thought it might be fun/helpful to list out for you what we did with all of it.

1. 2 heads of kale – morning green smoothies (recipe below)

2. Spinach – mixed with lettuce for salads, green smoothies

3. Radishes – salads

4. Mushrooms – Frittata with mushrooms, bell pepper, grated Parmesan, and fresh parsley

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5. Corn on the cob – side dish for dinner

6. Cherries – gobbled up for snacks

7. Blueberries – snacks, smoothies, topping for granola

8. Carrots – side for lunch, snacks with hummus

9. Romaine lettuce – Lunchtime salads!

10. Sweet potatoes – baked , topped with butter and cinnamon and served as a side dish

11. Broccoli – side dish with dinner (and all the kids’ favorite vegetable)

12. Peaches – Peach cobbler! Also snacks

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13. Bell peppers – Frittata, pizza, salad toppings (we’re getting peppers from our garden now too)

14. Zucchini and squash – the amount you see above made a side for two dinners, sauteed with butter, salt and pepper, leftover corn cut from the cob, topped with chopped fresh basil (sadly all my kids’ least favorite veggie. and they really hate mushrooms. (although not a veggie))

15. Tomatoes – sliced on David’s homemade pizza

We’ve loved our weekly box of produce. I enjoy seeing the kids help choose it and discover new fruit, like cherries.

What I don’t like is the overwhelming crowds of people at the market (although I love how well it’s doing!), and was happy to find out through my MIL that our veggie stand opens at 7:00am. If we arrive between 8 and 8:30 the line isn’t too long yet, so we can zip in and zip out. Some mornings we linger and buy coffee at Indah and snow cones and an enormous cinnamon roll. There are so many delicious things to eat at Soda City that have nothing to do with our veggie box! 🙂

Here’s to everything in moderation!

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Smoothie recipe (adapted from Thrive, by Brendan Brazier)

Makes 2 large glasses (these are rough estimates, we eyeball the proportions):

– 2 cups ice and water
– 1 banana
– 1 apple
– big scoop raw hemp powder
– scoop raw cacao powder
– spoonful tahini
– 2 cups kale or spinach
– handful of berries if we have them
– splash of unsweetened almond milk
– if it’s not sweet enough or we need more volume we add a couple of pitted dates or another banana
– Blend well



annie comes to columbia.

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Hi friends! I hope you’re finding ways to stay cool and hydrated in this sweltering heat. David’s cousin Annie left behind her mild 70-degree weather and flew out from Seattle for a week. We had a wonderful visit with her.

She’s a rising high school senior, and so we’re thankful for extra time with her before she becomes a super-busy college student. Annie’s adopted, and is one of the big inspirations for our wanting to adopt children ever since we got married. I’m so thankful for the special bond she’ll always share with Gabe and Noah, and for the way Judah and Amie adore her too.

She stayed at Steve and Linda’s, and spent lots of time over here too. We did so many fun things together during our stay. Here are a few of them!

I recently invested in my first ever flat-iron and had absolutely no idea what to do with it, so Annie gave us a tutorial on how to make “beachy waves”:

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We went to Richland Mall to watch Judah and Steve play table-tennis. They play with a group there an evening or two a week. Judah loves going, and has learned so much:

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Steve and Annie got into mischief, like target practice with the BB gun, and figuring out Pokemon GO:

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David slow-cooked a Boston butt on the Big Green Egg and made his own mustard-based BBQ sauce so that Annie could get a taste of the south:

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We spent a day at Folly Beach, and were thankful to be able to spread out in the shade of the pier. It wasn’t too crowded, the water felt amazing, and no one got sunburned. I’d say it was a successful day!

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The girls did a sewing project over at Steve and Linda’s. Annie is very talented at sewing, and has made Ams AG doll dresses in the past. This week she made bags for each of Amie’s dolls.

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We took her to Chick-fil-A for the first time!

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A friend of ours works at USC and gave Annie a campus tour (our attempt to lure her south for college). Along the way they saw this very interesting, very tall plant.

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It was a full, very fun week for everyone. We miss you already, Annie!

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mnm camp.

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Last week my mom, my mother-in-law, and my brother’s mother-in-law joined forces to put on a cousins camp for our kids. My parents live in Blythewood, just a few miles outside of Columbia. David’s folks live around the corner from us. And as of this year, my sister-in-law’s mom, Barb, lives in Kenny and Shari’s neighborhood. Thus, the three grandmothers plotted a week of fun for the six cousins.

Shari’s mom is “Mimi,” my mom is “Nina,” and David’s mom is “Mum-Mum,” and so they very cleverly created “MNM Camp.” We kicked off the week with the 4th of July cook-out at Steve and Linda’s, and for the next four mornings, the kids gathered at one of the grandma’s houses.

They had a camp theme: The Three Little Pigs. They did story time, crafts and games, a song, made t’shirts, and memorized a Bible verse. On Friday afternoon, we all gathered at Mimi’s house for their final production, which included a play called The Fourth Little Pig.

The kids all had a blast at MNM Camp, and could hardly wait to wake up and go back each day. And of course the moms had a blast too! We soaked up our free mornings.

Thanks, Mum-Mum, Nina, and Mimi, for giving our kiddos (and us!) such a special week!

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4th of july.

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David’s parents hosted our family 4th of July pot-luck celebration this year. We had some very tasty food and drinks and topped the evening off with fireworks. Steve and Linda’s backyard is a wonderland of fun, even in 98-degree heat, and Steve’s addition of a 30-foot tether-ball game was a big hit, no pun intended. A great time was had by all!

 

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elmwood roy lynch park.

I want to practice photography more this summer, and in the past I’ve been spectacularly terrible about taking my camera out and about. Most of that is because I’m picky about taking photos: I want it to be a cloudy day, and I don’t like photographing indoors. But I’m trying to stretch myself by showing you some of our favorite haunts around Columbia.

Before we bought our house, we rented an adorable and decrepit 1930’s bungalow a couple miles away in Elmwood Park. We adored that neighborhood, particularly the fact that we could walk to the neighborhood playground — although back then it was sort of a sad hodge-podge of dirty sand (the kids loved to “treasure hunt” in it), broken playground equipment, and a little sprinkler splash pad that never turned on. Elmwood is a beautiful historic neighborhood, and so its park always seemed a bit incongruous.

However, this year the park was completely remodeled, and it couldn’t be more different. There’s a sprawling playground, trees that provide patches of shade, flowers, and a wide expanse of grass. And a splash pad! Ironically enough the splash pad was closed for maintenance when I brought my camera, but the kids still loved playing in the early morning cool.

I can’t describe how restful it feels to have this peaceful, green oasis right downtown. I’m sure we’ll log many hours in our new park.

 

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soccer camp.

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Hi there friends!

We’re enjoying our summer and managing to keep it just-the-right-amount of busyness. Last week David flew to Alabama for PCA General Assembly (an annual gathering of pastors), and Judah went to his first soccer camp at CIU. He had such a great time: learned some skills, saw some old friends and made new friends, and really liked his coaches.

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With David out of town, it was nice for me to have just three kids during the day; I was also thankful for help from family and friends. In the evenings, Judah, Amie and I made slice-and-bake cookies, cuddled on the couch, and watched episodes of The British Baking Show on Netflix. Amie jumped at the chance to sleep with me every night. It was a great week, but we were all very happy to have David back at 3:30 am on Saturday.

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We’re so proud of Judah for working hard at camp!