our additions.

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Notice I said additions, not addition. I don’t have house addition news quite yet, but we got a few other additions in the meantime.

Eight, to be exact.

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David has been wanting chickens literally since the summer we moved back from India. That’s when he developed an enthusiasm for having a backyard homestead. He decided bee-keeping may be a bit ambitious, but built our garden the month we bought our house (number one priority). The time hasn’t been quite right for chickens (number two priority).

Thankfully David’s parents, Steve and Linda, moved from Pennsylvania into our neighborhood two years ago and got chickens soon after. We lived vicariously through them for awhile, got to help out with the chores, and loved being out in their “living back yard.”

The chickens provided a source of endless entertainment for our three youngest, animal-loving kids, especially Amie. The chickens were Mum-Mum’s girls, but I think they were also her girls.

Last and best of all, we got free eggs, and they were delicious.

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Steve and Linda decided to give away their chickens for a few reasons this winter, and we were all disappointed, but Amie cried and cried.

In the weeks since, we’ve been surprised by how much we really miss having them around, and we miss their eggs.

It seems the time is finally right.

And so here we are, today, with eight two-day old chicks, who will live in our basement for a few weeks until they’re old enough to move to a coop (which David will build). We are all enamored.

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Everyone will get to name one when they’re older and we figure out their gender (any roosters have to go away because of the city regulations). We will all learn how to help take care of them. I can’t wait to teach them to eat slugs, which are prolific in our yard in warm weather. Ugh.

Amie told us, “This is the best day in my whole universe. I’m begging God not to let any of them die. Can I sleep with them tonight?”

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P.S. I know I’m running late, but I’m just about finished with my children’s bookshelf post! Happy Friday!!



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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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



Amie, Daddy, and Rover’s adventure.

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Dictated by Amie:

Last week we went in the car for our adventure and Dad told me that we are going to see some cats and dogs and pet them. And then Dad asked somebody if we could take a dog with us. She picked a dog, his name was Rover. I was happy and Rover jumped and licked me! He was light brown and black and he was very fun actually!

When we got to the woods, Daddy let me hold the leash. We walked and it was fun! It was so fun! We walked three miles in the woods: we went on some bridges and after all that stuff we took a break and had a snack. Dad tied Rover on a tree. We took some other rest stops, then we kept walking. The thing about Rover on our adventure is he was trying to keep up with Dad.

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I have lots of favorite parts, but one of my favorite parts was Rover coming with us. I let Dad hold the leash a little bit, because when we were walking to see the river, I walked but there was a tree and Rover jumped, so when we went out of the river I let Dad hold him.

When Dad and me stopped to use the bathroom and took turns holding the leash, Rover was trying to get us! He didn’t want either of us to leave.

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Finally we rested. Dad tied Rover up and slept on a picnic table. I laid right next to Rover until Dad woke up. He untied Rover, and I ran around in the free grass with Rover until we had to go.

When somebody opened the door to let us back in the shelter, Rover was pulling me back out. He did not want to leave me. Dad helped me pull him back inside and then we said bye. When we came home I took a bath, and then I pretended to be a dog!

That’s my whole blog post.

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guy day at the congaree.

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Dictated by Judah

Last week I got to take the day off school to go on an adventure.

When we were riding, me and Dad talked about the Bible and life. We talked about the book of Mark which I just finished the day before our adventure.

We were riding to our hike that we have never been to. We got a little confused finding it, but soon John texted us and then we knew where to go. When we started our walk, it was leafy and a little downhill until Dad marked a little trail and then we kept walking. There was a little stream that was deep, we walked by it and Dad said, “Always keep the stream on your right.”

We found a little branch and we realized the stream ended here. When we looked around, it looked like there had been a forest fire, but everything felt wet. We ate some cookies while we were taking a little rest, then we went back and kept exploring.

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My favorite thing was that I had to lead Dad back to the trail he marked, but we realized the sticks that he put there were gone! Dad didn’t know if that was the right tree. There was a tree that fell down across the river, we crossed it and went back to the other side. I had a little trouble though.

My least favorite part is that we almost got lost, plus we had to go to three different places because some areas were flooded. And then we thought about going home, but Dad said we could stop for lunch. I had pizza and he had salad. Then we went to the library; he picked out two books and I picked out one book, a Lego Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Then we were done with our adventure. We went home and I took a bath, then I began play time with Amie.

And that was me and Dad’s amazing adventure, just him and me together.

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morning fire pit.

Morning fire pits are a tradition we developed last fall and winter, and we introduced Gabe and Noah to it on Saturday. I remember having a fire pit one evening the first weekend we adopted them, back in April (yes, we like to make fire pit season stretch as long as possible), and it was nothing short of terrifying. I was every moment afraid they’d stumble into the fire, touch the hot stone surface, throw random objects into the flames. What were we even thinking?

Fast forward six months, and we spent a much more relaxing hour together around the fire. We all slept in ’til 7:30 (and Judah until nearly 9!), David started a French press of coffee then went out and built the fire, while the three youngest kids and I bundled up a bit and headed out to join him.

The boys did fantastic. Of course they were closely supervised the whole time, but they’ve learned an amazing amount about boundaries and had a healthy fear of the fire. They loved it, especially helping Daddy add sticks to the flames. Noah shrieked for a good 20 minutes with sheer delight over the “pire-works” (no we didn’t have fire works; anything related to fire is a pire-work). David and I even got to sit and finish a full travel mug of coffee while the kids played together. We’ve come a long way.

Here’s to a winter full of fire pits!

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camping trip.

By David

I  took our two oldest to Dreher Island State Park campground.

Campground is a wistful word.  I’d consider it more of an RV parking lot with trees.  We parked on concrete pad #38 in the shadows of massive, bedazzled travel trailers.  The scope of some of the setups was staggering.  Do people live here?

Lawn chairs, loveseats, lampposts, mini fridges, televisions, full sized gas grills jostled for flat space between pines.  Folding tables groaned under the bounty of red and yellow Sizemart condiment jugs.  A din of barking dogs, country music, and laboring AC units served as the soundtrack to the island.

If you consider tailgating roughing it, then Dreher might just be the ticket.

But I digress.  It’s close to Columbia, it’s cheap, and it’s outdoors.  If you’re waterfront – and like Lot’s family, if you don’t look back – it’s a pretty nice view.

It was our first time camping in a long while, so our goal was simple: make it twenty-four hours without asking for mom.

We accomplished that and more.  We set up our tent, met our neighbors, took a half a dozen dips in the lake, laughed around the campfire with marshmallow-glazed grins, and counted stars till we couldn’t keep our eyes open.

As we nestled into sleeping bags, Judah, our seven year old, said, “This reminds me of my childhood.”

There were a few hairy moments.  Amie fell backward into the fire pit (unlit, thankfully).  Judah went off to befriend the roving RV children and came back with his hands tied behind his back.  A third, unidentified member of our party, dropped the entire fishing worm stash into the lake.

But that’s the stuff of memories.  I can’t wait to rent a U-Haul, load up our living room furniture, and go back for round two.