Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Weekend Report

This has been a busy weekend for us. We had my daughter's thirteenth birthday party yesterday, and just to keep things interesting, the baby started throwing up that morning. Curt stayed at home with her while I ventured out with six giggling, giddy teens to my parents' country club for a nice lunch. I wanted to do something "grown up" for her, so a country club luncheon fit the bill. The weather was gorgeous-- a perfect September weekend. The girls acted silly and enjoyed their lunches. Every single one of them ordered pasta alfredo, interestingly enough. My parents and I sat at a separate table and enjoyed having our own lunch and visiting for a bit. We all had a great time and all too soon it was time to venture back home and back to reality. When we got home, Curt took the seven and five year old to Monkey Joe's for some playtime. The five year old "earned" his trip by bringing home ten "I had a good day" notes from school. As with most people, he responds well to incentives versus negative consequences. Must. Remember. That.

Thankfully, the baby didn't throw up again-- until this morning. And I foolishly assumed it was just a 24 hour bug and we were past it! I very quickly assessed that I would be staying home from church with her while the rest of the family ventured out. While they were gone, I made a big lunch to enjoy when they got home. I had marinated a pork tenderloin all day yesterday, but none of us were in the mood for a big dinner last night what with all the vomiting going on-- somehow that just sucks the desire to eat (or cook) right out of ya! So, I cooked the pork tenderloin and made rice pilaf and steamed broccoli to go with it. The good news is, we have enough leftovers for dinner tomorrow night as well-- hooray! The pork, by the way, was very yummy-- tasting of the soy sauce, mustard, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, and garlic it was marinated in.

This afternoon after naps all around, we took the kids to a local playground to enjoy more of the mild fall weather. Curt and I talked for a bit about some financial writing we are doing together and tried unsuccessfully to finish at least one sentence without being interrupted by some child. Then we stopped by the grocery to pick up items for the week and headed home. Since we had our main meal at lunch, we made snacks for dinner-- Curt made real popcorn on the stove (my favorite-- even better than at the movies!) and I made a caramel dip with real caramels and cream and sliced up apples to dip. This was one meal no one complained about!

And so, in a few minutes I am going to turn on some Law and Order Criminal Intent. USA Network is having a marathon all day today. This was one of those days I was wishing for a tv in my room so I could watch it. Law and Order is definitely not family friendly viewing!! But then again, I would have missed out on some great family moments. And now I have something to savor tonight.
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Friday, September 28, 2007


to all of you who wrote me such encouraging notes and comments after my last post!

One of you noted how vulnerable and open that post was-- you have no idea. After years of speaking and encouraging people to homeschool, the idea of announcing publicly to those same people that you are no longer homeschooling can be quite daunting. I will admit that I composed that post in my head for about a week before I wrote it.

After several random people in my life commented that I was going to get flamed by negative comments after I fessed up, I felt myself putting off the inevitable. I didn't want to take the heat-- not that it would change my mind or make me feel less certain, but I just don't like to knowingly invite that kind of negativity in my life. No one does. But there are folks out there who are looking for a fight. And unfortunately they do target bloggers from time to time. I know that, and I was bracing myself for it.

I am glad I braced myself for nothing. I have felt your love and affirmation. Not that I need you all to constantly affirm me and give me an atta girl. But it is good to know that I didn't lose all my readers, and that my assumptions about who you all are were correct. I see my readers as a diverse bunch-- mostly moms but not all, who love to write or have some sort of dream that is dear to them and are learning to take steps towards that dream, who make all kinds of educational choices, who have learned that life is too short to waste energy throwing judgments at others (especially when it is so hard to keep our own stuff straight), who most importantly have a deep abiding faith and love for God, and are trying to love their families to the best of their inept, inadequate abilities. Your comments have reflected just that, and I am glad to call you my friends.
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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chasing My Dreams

I had an anniversary of sorts over the summer that passed by without any fanfare or celebration. I am not even sure of the exact date-- it is more of a season I recognize in a personal way. Certainly not something I announce or make a big to do over. It is the anniversary of when I got serious about being published. Four years ago in the summer of '03 I decided that, yes, I was going to seek publication. A dream I had held in my heart was going to become a reality one way or another. I was going to stop talking about it, and start doing it.

And so, I began to make little baby steps towards achieving this rather large dream. I was going to move forward until God told me to stop, walking through open doors and learning not to shove open the closed ones. Learning instead to say, "Not my will, but yours." And mean it. I knew it would be a long road, and a hard road.

I had no idea.

I think that if someone would have told me that four years later, I would still be unpublished, I would have quit on the spot. I wouldn't have had the gumption to strike out as I did, to stake my claim on what I felt was my calling in life. To tell you of all the slammed doors, the rejections, the near misses-- it is a wonder I have lasted. It is a miracle that I am still here, chasing my dreams just as I was when I started. There have been many days I have said aloud, to no one, or to my husband, "I am just going to quit." And I have-- for a few days. And then, somehow, I go back to it. I get a fresh burst of inspiration, a word from the Bible, or another "great" idea that "can't miss" and I am off and running, my great chase on again.

So where has this led me, and why am I writing it to you, here? Because some things have happened in my life that have shifted my direction and made pursuing my dreams possible in at a new level. I have been balancing this pursuit of publication with being a full-time homeschooling mom for awhile now. And it was hard. More times than not, the homeschooling got my full attention for obvious reasons, and the writing got the dregs.

Conversely, the worst was when my passion for writing overtook my commitment to homeschool. More times than I care to admit, I sat at the computer working towards a deadline or responding to emails while my kids entertained themselves or waited for me to attend to them. I felt bad about it, and it nagged at me. I knew something had to give. There were three things that took up the bulk of my energy-- the toddler, the homeschooling, and the writing/speaking. Since the toddler wasn't something that could "go" in my life, that left two things.

Last year, I put my oldest in school at a great little charter school just down the street. He had a phenomenal year and I was quite pleased with this little school. I call it "the land that time forgot." It isn't just the school, it is the town it is in and the community of folks that are there. It is small town life at its finest, and fit us like a hand in glove. As I observed this little school, I realized that they were accomplishing some of the same things I was seeking to accomplish at home with my children. Since I was doing so poorly, could they possibly do it better?

And furthermore, would God open those doors and give me permission not to homeschool my children? Could that even be possible? I had never even considered that God would ever call me out of homeschooling. I began to pray that God would show me the way to go.

I will add here that I prayed for Him to show me the way to go. Not my friend or my mom, not my neighbor or Bible study teacher. Me. I really struggled with this-- perhaps I am the only one, but I don't think so. I wanted to go where He led, yet I kept offering up other people whose lives I found myself striving to imitate. (Does anyone else find themselves doing this?) So, a lot of this was learning that He had a plan for me and my family that was unique-- that no matter how hard I tried or how much I wished, those other people's lives were never going to resemble mine. Even reading other people's blogs caused me to stumble in my thinking as I told God how well this person or that person seemed to handle outside things and homeschooling-- why couldn't I do that? In His infinite patience, He spent a lot of time turning my head from the window to the mirror.

This summer was a time spent wrestling with this issue, and continually seeking God for guidance and wisdom and insight. I waffled daily, even hourly. Most of all, I had to re-learn how to surrender control of this situation. Because when it came down to it, I didn't have control. Only God could get my kids into this school. Only God could change my circumstances and my heart. Only God knew what our fall was ultimately going to look like. I had to offer it up to Him and trust the outcome. I have written here before that the best thing you can pray is simply, "I trust You." And so, I prayed that over and over again.

And my kids didn't get into the school. In fact, we were given little hope of the ones that weren't in to ever get in. And I was okay with that. I had spent time praying for peace to accept God's decision in this. And I had offered up the writing and speaking to Him, ready to surrender it as I knew that I could not successfully do both. (I will note that there are SOME who can. I am just not one of those folks.) And we began our school year with great excitement and anticipation. I found myself looking forward to my time with my 11 and 7 yo children.

And then, last week something unexpected happened. I got a call from the school telling me that first one, then two days later the other, got into school. I talked to my husband and asked some friends for input, as this was not a scenario I was prepared for. I talked to the teachers they would have. And ultimately, because I know that a spot in this school is very hard to come by, I decided to take the spots. And so, for about a week now, I have had all my children (except the baby) in school!

What a change. And what a blessing. This school has an extensive waiting list to get in. In fact, there are more kids on the waiting list than there are in the school! I feel so good about them being there-- and I feel like a weight has been lifted off me. The day after they got in, a friend called me to ask me about her and I writing a book together. I was able to say yes, that I could take that on without feeling guilty. This week I got two inquiries from people asking me to play a role in both my church and the ministry I work for. Again, I was able to say yes.

I feel like a new chapter has begun in my life. And I am happy about it. I feel joyous, light, carefree. I enjoy this time I have to suddenly focus on a toddler who was formerly something to simply be "dealt with" instead of savored and loved on. I have been able to run errands that have been on my "to do" list all summer. My email inbox is cleared out for the first time in months. Most importantly, when my kids come home from school, I am happy to see them. I am ready to see them. They aren't a burden or a drain. And while the homework is taking some getting used to, it is even good because I didn't have to assign it, plan for it, or think about it. And it isn't my fault that they have it, either.

Don't get me wrong-- I love homeschooling. I treasure the time we did it. We might even do it again if that is where God leads. I am never saying never. What I am saying is that I needed a break from it. And my kids are enjoying the change of pace, and the consistent activity that school provides them.

The other night at our moms' book study, we discussed where we need to work on our motherhood, and one mom said she needs to spend more time on herself-- not in a selfish way, but in a necessary way. She said that she finds it easy to pour into her family and she has the sacrifice and surrender thing down. But then those pesky negative, bitter feelings start creeping in, and she realizes that she is not flourishing in her role as a mom. Another mom added that Beth Moore was once teaching on the verse "Her children rise up and call her blessed," and that the root word for blessed actually means "happy" in the Hebrew. In other words, her children rise up and call her happy.

That really stuck with me as I thought about this change in my life and how my husband has remarked several times as to how happy I seem. Relaxed. Peaceful. Smiling. I want my children to remember me as happy mom, not stress case mom. For about two years, I have been trying to be "do it all" mom, and it didn't work. I wasn't fooling my family. In letting go of the homeschooling, I have found a way to be blessed. I am grateful for these changes in my life, and for the new and exciting direction my life has taken as I continue to chase my dreams in a whole new way.

Disclaimer: Several people have asked me when I was going to tell my blog readers about this recent development. They both separately commented that they thought I would get ugly or negative comments from you all about my decision. I told them that I didn't think that was true, as I have always felt loved and supported by you all no matter what I am dealing with or going through. I hope that stays true and I hope you will temper your comments with love. God is a very individual God and He deals with each of us in a personal way. He calls us to different things according to our bents and gifts, limits and seasons of life. I am so glad He does, or what a boring world it would be if we were all called to the exact same thing!
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Monday, September 24, 2007

Sharing A Great Song

I shared this with my friend Melanie today, and while I was at it, I thought I would share it with you.

What I'm listening to today
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Back From A Fun Weekend

Well, the weekend was a whirlwind, and now life is settling back down-- as much as my life settles down! The women's Journey Conference was great. The ladies at Bayleaf were so sweet! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and hearing their stories. The best compliment I got all day was when one of the ladies came up to me and told me that there was a point when I disappeared and it was only God speaking to her. As a Christian speaker, you don't get a better compliment than that. In fact, my constant prayer is that I would be decreased so He would be increased. That I would be anonymous and He would be famous. And so, hearing that was truly an answer to prayer.

My friend Lisa came for the day as well. It was fun to see Lisa again and get all the updates on what she and her family have been up to. We haven't seen each other in a long time! We keep up mostly through Christmas cards, which isn't nearly enough. I was so glad we were able to carve out some time to grab an early dinner at Macaroni Grill before we hit the road. Jessica did go with me, and I think she got a crash course in the life of a speaker. She seemed to enjoy it and even offered to come with me again-- so I guess that is a good sign! She was a huge help and it was fun to process the day with her on our way home. We got stuck in a long traffic jam and were even able to use that time of sitting and waiting to pray about several things. I think it is safe to say that we used every minute of the trip to the fullest!

Tonight is my Momtourage book study. Should be fun-- it is our second meeting but first one to dive into the book. I have enjoyed what I have read so far of The Mom Walk by Sally Clarkson. I wonder what people will have to say tonight. No matter what, I know there will be honesty and transparency, as that is something that this group had from the getgo. It was refreshing!

Today has been spent running lots of little errands and now I am pausing for a few minutes to write this and check emails before I run back out the door to do the carpool line. Fun, fun! I hope that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, you are having a great week and seeing God in the big and little moments of your life.
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Thursday, September 20, 2007

What WasThat I Wrote About Balance??

Wow-- could I use a dose of my own medicine these days!

Here I am again, apologizing for not being around much this last week-- and still lacking those personal updates, I will admit.

Every week I say to myself, "Next week will be better." And then the next week comes and it is just as busy. All week I have been saying that-- and then today I realized that next week I have a doctor's appointment one day, have to get a passport one day (for that cruise I won-- I know, rough life!), it is my daughter's thirteenth birthday, and I have JURY DUTY. Ugh. That will pretty much be my week. And so, I have set my sights on the following week-- and we'll see how that pans out.

This weekend I am headed to Raleigh, NC. A town I lived in for four years when I was in college at NC STATE. (Go Wolfpack!!) And a town I still love dearly-- so being able to go there is a real treat. My friend Jess is going with me-- and that is a treat as well. Not to mention, my sorority little sister might be coming to join us for the event, then going out to dinner after. Fun! I am looking forward to the daylong conference at Bayleaf Baptist, where I will be speaking on 1) a woman's journey and 2)you guessed it... balance!! Ha!! This will be one of those talks where I get up and just say, "I have no idea why God wants me to share this message, as I am not in any shape to talk about it."

The strange thing is, He can even use that. Think loaves and fishes, folks. I offer up a meager little straggly bit and He takes it and multiplies it. And that is how it works-- in so many things in my life.

I'll let you know how it goes-- and I hope to be back (and doing better with the blogging thang) very soon. My friend Lysa recently wrote that she hopes her blog readers don't break up with her because she hasn't posted in awhile-- I should say the same!
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Hearts At Home Voting

Alright, you responded last time I posted this, so don't slack off now!!

The good news is, Hearts at Home was voted in as one of the five finalists for the RK Dixon technology makeover contest. Now it is up to all of us to vote this very worthwhile organization as the winners!!

Here is the info about voting, so go vote daily from now til the voting closes!

Thank you for voting in round one of the RK Dixon Contest!

With the help of all your votes, Hearts at Home has entered the final round of the RK Dixon Make My Non- Profit Run Better contest. We, along with four other not for profit organizations, are now in the final contest to win an office technology makeover worth up to $30,000! This is very exciting for us. We have been very blessed with donations for our technological needs, but we have a huge need for some major upgrades.We still need your help!

The final round of voting will be from September 17 - September 24, 2007. You can vote once per day per computer. We need you to help spread the word. Tell your friends, tell other moms, tell your family, tell your neighbors! Hearts at Home wants to encourage, equip, and educate moms. With your help, a simple vote per day, you can help us do that more efficiently. Just go to, click on the Make My Non-Profit Run Better Contest icon, and vote for Hearts! Thank you in advance for your help. The top two organizations will be announced the week of September 24-as well as the final winner.

We will keep you posted!!

Lisa ReillyChief Operations OfficerHearts at Home
Wife to Barry, Mom to Kyle (16), Michael (14), and Ryan (11)
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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Eat, Crop, Laugh

When my friend's daughter called to check on us this weekend, she asked, "What did y'all do all weekend?" My friend replied, "Eat, crop, laugh, repeat."

I am happy to report that not only did we use ALLLLL our words this weekend-- discussing everything from the upcoming elections to husbands to bad pet stories-- we also exhausted more laughter than I thought humanly possible! We told funny stories, we had funny things happen, and we just found the humor in everything. Most things were probably not even funny-- but something about being miles away from everything that pulls at you just tends to lighten a person up.

And so, I have to say that all in all, the weekend was a rousing success. We hardly left the house we stayed in or saw the light of day as we worked tirelessly on our albums. I returned home feeling like catching up on my albums is at least within my grasp, albeit still a good ways away. I did catch my two year old up to current, and boy did that feel good. Curt enjoyed looking through the album when we returned, and I enjoyed showing off my hard work. Scrapbooks, we agreed this weekend, are a labor of love-- as well as tangible proof that we were good moms and not always raving lunatics!!

Yesterday and today have been spent running from one task to the next in an effort to take care of my usual tasks for the week, plus get my P31 devotions written that were due on Monday, and catch up on the work that went undone in my absence. Curt is great-- and a great man for staying with the kids so I can go off and do what I did-- but his attention to the details of the house are not the same as mine. And so, I have been mired down in said details since I returned Sunday night.

Was it worth it? You betcha!

Thanks again to Uncle Bob, who reads this blog, for letting us use your beach house. Although I was the only one who even ventured out to see the beach-- and that wasn't til Sunday!
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Monday, September 17, 2007

Friday's P31 Devotion

I had a devotion up at Proverbs 31 while I was out of town. I was shocked to see the number of responses emailed to me privately as well as posted on the blog site. Obviously, the theme of making time to spend with God is something lots of women struggle with! I am glad that sharing my struggles has blessed others. That's what it's all about.

Want to read it? Go here.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Personal Post

I had a complaint of sorts from one of my faithful blog readers that I have not been very "personal" in my posts of late. This really made me think. And of course, she is right. I have not been very personal or chatty lately. Mostly because I have been busy. The past two weeks have been devoted to beginnings. Beginning CBS, beginning school work, beginning some classes for the kids. Kicking off our homeschool year. And it has been good, but it has been time consuming. So, I haven't written much-- and I am sorry. I haven't shared from the heart, and that's what's been missing. Because me and my heart have been off pursuing other things.

Here is some of what I have been dealing with:
  • doctor's appointments
  • starting CBS homework
  • going to our first book study
  • ordering 150 prints of my daughter to work on her album
  • discovering wood rot on our house that will be several thousand dollars to fix
  • dealing with one out of commission toilet, the plumber, and having only one toilet in a house with eight people
  • fixing the air conditioning in my Suburban (and being without my car in the process)
  • signing with an agent that I feel really good about
  • winning a cruise (more about that later)
  • talking with coordinators about upcoming speaking engagements and dealing with other speaking business stuff
  • continuing in my quest to weed out my email inbox
This weekend I am going off with two girlfriends for a weekend of scrapbooking-- something else I have been neglecting! My albums are shamefully behind. I hope to get some work done, venture out to the beach for some sun, go running (something else I have neglected lately), and use up all my words every day chatting with these girls who have shared life with me for a long, long time. These girls were there when my youngest was born and they have walked through so much with me. We laugh together and bear each other's burdens. Getting to slip away from the noise of life is a true blessing-- a gift from God and my husband, who is allowing me to do this. Good man.

If you don't hear much from me in the next few days, that is why. I just wanted to let you know and also to let you know that me and my heart will be back with bells on next week!
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An Affirming Article for Homeschoolers (And Those Considering It)

This is a great article on homeschooling that someone sent me!

Check it out here.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Great Books To Read Aloud

I found this great link of read alouds to share with your kids.

If you homeschool, you can go to this same site to sign up for the Book-It program. We always sign up for this program and enjoy a monthly lunch out at Pizza Hut. I highly recommend it!
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Monday, September 10, 2007

Encouraging Words For Writers

I got this today from my friend Bonita-- as a blogger, this installment of her weekly encouragement for writers really blessed me to read. I thought you might enjoy reading her words today as well. Information is below as to how you can subscribe to receive this free weekly note of encouragement!

Love Letters
By Bonita Lillie
Copyright 2007
(Encouraging Words for Writers #29)
Dedicated to the memory of Melissa Gray- loving wife, devoted mother, faithful servant of the Lord.

When Missy typed the words of her online blog on that fateful afternoon in March she couldn’t have known they would be the last words she would ever write. The day started like any other. Missy, very pregnant with her fifth child, was tired, but still tending to her growing family. She was scheduled for a routine doctor’s appointment to check the status of the baby. The appointment turned out to be anything but routine and she ended up in the maternity ward at the hospital. From there she was shuttled to the operating room for a C-section. She delivered a healthy baby girl and all was well…until she developed an amniotic embolism. At that very moment Jesus reached out his hand and Missy took it and together they walked into eternity. For a moment the world paused in disbelief.

I didn’t know Missy Gray, at least not while she was alive. But I know her now. For Missy left a written legacy. She blogged, keeping an online journal of the day to day aspects of homeschooling and raising a family. She contributed wisdom and insight to various message boards online. And she offered encouragement through her email loop. In every way that she could, Missy used the written word to reach out and touch people she would never meet. And in the process, she left a part of herself for her family, her friends, and for the precious newborn daughter who would never have the pleasure of knowing Missy face to face. Missy is gone, but her words live on.

Let’s remember Melissa Gray and follow her example. Maybe you’ve never written a thing in your life, but that doesn’t matter. Expressions of the heart don’t require perfect grammar and composition. The only prerequisite is love. Ask yourself a question, “Who can I love today with my words?” Then write something, anything, for that person. Don’t wait until tomorrow because sometimes tomorrow never comes. TODAY write something for a loved one, words that can be treasured and remembered long after you are gone.

One day when you meet Missy in heaven I believe she’ll thank you for carrying on her legacy, but for today I bet she’s smiling.

** If you know someone who would benefit from these emails, please have the person contact me at and I’d be happy to add another writer to the list. If you no longer wish to receive Encouraging Words for Writers please send an email to the above address with the word “unsubscribe” in the text.**
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Welcome Laura Christianson!

The other day I received a package in the mail that is my favorite kind to get-- one that contained books! This particular package held in it two books by my friend Laura Christianson. I met Laura at ICRS this past summer, and invited her to visit my blog and talk about two of her favorite subjects-- writing and adoption! If adoption is something you are feeling led to do-- even if it is just a flicker of interest-- then these books are worth checking out! And even if you aren't interested in adoption, you can still glean from Laura's writing advice, as I know many of you who read this blog are writers (whether you freely admit that or not!)

Here is my "interview" with Laura. I hope that you enjoy getting to know her better.

What led you and your husband to adoption as a means of building your family?

After my husband and I had been married five years, we decided it was time to start producing children. Then we discovered we had fertility challenges. During the next four years, as we progressed through the increasingly painful stages of the “infertility workup,” we asked each other, “What’s more important to us: being pregnant or being parents?” We decided that being parents was more critical than experiencing pregnancy.
When several of our close friends adopted, we closely observed them, asked them loads of questions, and got excited about building our own family through adoption. We adopted our two sons when they were newborns (they are now 15 and 11 ½ years old), and we have completely open adoptions with their respective birth families, which is quite a fun adventure!

Why did you begin to write about adoption?
About a year after we adopted our first child, I took a permanent leave of absence from my job teaching high school English and journalism. I’d always dreamed of being a journalist, and the absence of zillions of papers to grade freed me up to write. So naturally, I wrote about the topic that was closest to my heart: adopting our son. My essay about the wacky wonders of the adoption process was printed in a newspaper and I’ve been freelance writing ever since, intentionally building my reputation as an “expert” in adoption issues.

How did you build your platform? How did blogging figure into that?
The three most effective ways I’ve been building my platform is through writing adoption-themed articles for magazines, founding an adoption ministry at my church, and writing the Exploring Adoption blog ( I’ve written news-features about the history of Russian adoption, profiles of singles and couples who have intriguing adoption stories, and inspirational essays about how to support a friend who’s adopting.
When I founded our church’s infertility and adoption ministry, I had no intention of building a “platform”; I was merely responding to God’s call to encourage and support others who were going through what I’d been through.
Starting my Exploring Adoption blog three years ago was my most intentional platform-building venture. A friend who’s a marketing expert recommended I start a blog as a means of branding myself as an expert in adoption-related issues. So, with hardly a clue as to what a blog was, I started one. Six months later, Forbes magazine awarded it a “Best of The Web” rating. I absolutely love blogging; so much, in fact, that a friend and I are preparing to launch a blogging/marketing/writing business called We’ll provide consulting and practical information for non-techies (those with personal, ministry, and business blogs) about how to take their blog from “potential” to “influential.”

How did your early writing efforts lead to being a published author?
Publishers who consider offering a contract to authors always demand to see evidence that you have loyal following who will rush to purchase copies of your book. So having a body of hundreds of published articles, an adoption blog with a well-established readership, and lots of contacts within the adoption industry helped convince my publisher that I was worth the risk.

What has been the most exciting part of having a book published?
For me, the real excitement is in the writing process. As I was writing The Adoption Decision, I had the opportunity to interview and tell the stories of more than 40 people whose lives are touched by adoption. What a privilege it is to share their challenges and joys with a larger audience – to serve as the catalyst for encouraging others who are traveling the adoption journey.
I feel the same way about my other new book, The Adoption Network. I have learned so much about starting an infertility and adoption support system during the 10 years I’ve been coordinating my church’s ministry. I took the things I had learned about what to do—and what not to do—and created a workbook that walks people step-by-step through the process of building and launching a custom-made adoption or orphan care ministry. My prayer is to get this book into as many churches across the world as possible, so people everywhere will feel more comfortable turning to their faith community for the support they need.

How do you find time to write in the midst of a busy family life?
I’ll admit; I spend way more time in front of my computer than I should. Last summer, I spent every spare minute writing my books, which was not healthy for my family. This summer, I intentionally took it easy and made hanging out with my family my first priority. Now that my kids and hubby (who’s a teacher) are back in school, I work like mad during the school day and try to get as much done as possible before they come tromping through the door.

What would you say to parents who are considering adoption right now?
You mean, other than telling them to run out and buy a copy of The Adoption Decision? J My advice: Learn as much as you can about adoption, so that when the unforeseen happens (and it will happen), you’ll be slightly more prepared.
Read as many adoption books as possible, subscribe to magazines such as Adoptive Families and Adoption TODAY, peruse adoption blogs, subscribe to e-mail discussion groups specific to the type(s) of adoption you are considering, request information packets from all the adoption agencies and facilitators in your region, join support groups for adoptive families, and pummel other adoptive parents with questions!

Most of us truly enjoy sharing our experiences – we’ve been where you are and know what you’re feeling. Educating yourself about adoption will give you confidence and will equip you with the practical tools you need to build your family through adoption.
Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog, Marybeth!
Laura Christianson
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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Balance Notes From My Saturday Speaking Engagement

As promised to the ladies who attended the brunch I spoke at on Saturday, here are some notes on our subject of "Balance." (They were eating while I spoke, so I told them I would post the highlights here since they couldn't really take notes.)

Be intentional about your relationship with God. Making Him a priority involves giving yourself boundaries and living accordingly.

Assess your strengths and weaknesses. God gave you strengths to bless others and weaknesses to depend on others. He never intended for you to be all things to all people-- that's His job!

Look for what can be delegated in your life. Don't just "take care of it" yourself. When you do this, you deny others the blessing of using their gifts and add to your own frustrations. Learn to love your limits and don't buy the lie that superwoman exists.

Assign yourself tasks to accomplish each day. What constitutes a good day for you? What is too much to take on in one day. Schedule your day accordingly. Most importantly, ask God what is your to-do list for that day and be willing to surrender whatever He asks you to surrender. Trust that He will fill in those gaps you are afraid of leaving. I read from this blog entry, if you would like to re-read it.

No is not a dirty word. Make a list of what you do and what you don't do. Realize that for every "do" on that list, there needs to be a "don't." Create some white space in your life by learning to say no.

Control is just an illusion. Say it again, "I am not in control, and I never will be." Don't fall into the trap of wrestling the control from God's hands and trying to do things on your own.

Eliminate the unnecessary. This means unnecessary activity, but it also means unnecessary attitudes and expectations. Where is your identity? Is it in your committees and positions? Does being busy equal to feeling valued and needed to you? Is your identity in what you do, or who you are in Christ?

Wherever you are, whatever God is speaking to your heart about, ask Him to help you start where you need to start and create a balanced life from that point.
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Our Indian Field Trip

Our day with the Catawba Indians-- in pictures:

lunch outside

everyone dancing together-- symbolic of how we pass in and out of each other's lives

the hoop dance-- an amazing thing to witness

the hunting dance-- one of the neatest parts of the dance is when the hunter thanks the Creator for the ability to hunt-- whether he caught anything that day or not... a good reminder!

Our hosts, the Indians, gather for a photo

The "fancy" dance-- a dance young girls used to do to catch the eye of potential suitors. If he liked her dance, he had to respond by picking a reed, carving a flute, and composing a song for her. Then he hid in the bushes as she worked and serenaded her. Ah, true courtship!

You can see the pow wow in the corner-- they beat the drums and sang-- loudly.

A 94 year old demonstrates making a jug from the clay they have harvested from the river for hundreds of years. This is a dying art in their heritage and she is one of the few survivors who knows how to do this.
Everyone watching the demonstration

And this is where the baby spent most of the tour-- outside on the playground! Thanks Harrella for watching the little ones so I could take pictures!

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Still Spaces To Join Us!

If any of you in the Charlotte area are looking for a great science/nature class, feel free to sign your kids up for this one. My two kids will be there and we are very excited about it!

Here is the info:

A Walk in the Woods, environmental education company, will be presenting 4 wildlife programs this fall at Growing Scholars in Stallings. All their museum based, child friendly programs have plenty of hands-on wildlife artifacts and live animals for touching. It is truly a wonderful educational science experience that incorporates a colorful and informative slide show in every session. If your child likes nature, this is for you. Time is running out to sign up. Deadline to register is September 14. This is the fall schedule

Sept. 28 Exploring the world of Reptiles "For Goodness SNAKES"
Oct. 26 Exploring the world of Bats "Munchkins of the Night Sky"
Nov. 29 Exploring the world of Coral Reefs and Sharks "Underwater Gardens of Life"
Dec. 7 Exploring the wildlife of North Carolina "Carolina Creatures & Features"

Time: 11:00am - 12:30pm
Cost 4 weeks of 90 minute sessions at $10.50 per class (registration total $42).
Recieve a 5% sibling discount
Register: Call Melody Wilkes at 704-436-9048 or email
Location: Growing Scholars, 2709 Old Monroe Rd., Stallings, NC 28104
phone: 704-821-5575 (Please contact Melody directly for information or registration of the class)
Ages: For all ages - everyone learns!
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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Am Feeling a Bit Better...

...and it is a good thing! Because from the minute I got up to just a moment ago, I have run, run, run. This morning Curt took the kids to school and I was looking forward to languishing at home, taking my sweet time to enjoy the morning. I got a quick shower and decided to go ahead and get a few chores out of the way that needed to be done since at that point I only had one child awake. I cleaned the bathroom while the seven year old Windexed the glass surfaces downstairs. We worked silently and contentedly until the other two children got up. I had originally planned to get together with some girls from my church and their kids this morning, but we all needed a catch up day after the long weekend, I think, and mutually cancelled our playdate. And so, with our plans cancelled, the day was peaceful and calm. I was working on an errand list and deciding about what I felt like doing.

And then the phone rang. It was the company that schedules home showings. And while I was thrilled with having a showing, I was less than excited at the prospect of getting the house in showing condition and having to leave. But I sucked it up and did it. I decided to venture over to the other side of town to pick up my cd's that were finished-- something I didn't think I would have time to do until Friday. I called Curt to let him know we had a showing, and he surprised me by saying he would take us to lunch at an old favorite restaurant near where the studio is. So, we met him and had a nice lunch, and that made the day turn out ever so much nicer than I expected.

After lunch we had to run to the homeschool store to pick up my long awaited copy of Lessons In Leadership that I had ordered awhile back. I also picked up a tangram kit that looks like it will be good to use with the tangrams we already have. (It is put out by Learning Resources.) And I got a Professor Noggin card game "Countries Of The World" to use with our geography study. My daughter also got an Usborne Kid Kit called "Starting To Draw." She was tickled to see that the book includes lessons for drawing a ballerina-- her new passion in life! The funny thing is, I remember her sister going through this exact same drawing phase at about the same age. Cute!

Then we ran to the library to pick up some holds. The library in my town really is like Cheers for me. I half expect them to call out, "Marybeth!" when I walk in. They don't, but they do greet me and ask about the kids and stuff. I am there enough that they should know my life history by now! After the library, it was time for a huge grocery run to stock up on meals for the week. (Tonight's meal? Frozen Red Baron pizzas-- don't judge me.) Then it was time to head home, unpack the groceries quickly and go pick up the other kids from school.

And guess what voicemail message was waiting for me when I got home?

That's right-- another showing. Two in one day is a record for us after some rather dead weeks. So, for those of you who really are praying for us to sell this house-- keep praying! It's working! I quickly threw the groceries into place, instructed the seven year old to go ahead and get ready for dance class, gathered up the kids and got back in the car. We headed to the school, got the other two kids and surprised them with Baskin Robbins as an after school treat. What a great way to kill an hour while the house is being shown, right? The baby even got her own ice cream cone-- what I was thinking with that idea, I couldn't say. Suffice it to say, I was not in my right mind after all the running. But we survived. And she wasn't even that messy, actually.

After BR, it was time to head to dance class to drop off little artist ballerina girl. She just looks too cute all ready for ballet-- it's worth the price of the lessons! Then we headed home, where I got everything ready to make the gourmet frozen pizzas and told my oldest daughter what to do with the pizzas while I was gone back down the road to pick her back up from ballet (the class isn't that long). While I was driving, Curt called and we caught up on each other's day a bit. He picked up oldest son from football practice too, which is a huge help. I retrieved ballet girl, got home and cut up pizzas and poured drinks. We were supposed to have canned pineapple with it, but dontcha know I up and forgot to get it out?

As the kids were eating, our realtor came by to look over the work we had done on her punch list and give her approval. I finished feeding the kids and cleaning up the mess while we talked for a bit. Curt and my oldest got home during that time so he was able to walk her around the outside of the house while the kids were finishing up dinner. She didn't stay too long. Can you blame her?

As I write this, Curt has the two youngest in the tub and will soon read them a story: The Kitchen Knight, a story of King Arthur that my five year old is sure to love. My daughter is working on homework and the two homeschooled children are outside jumping on the trampoline. My oldest is somewhere-- no idea. Probably working on homework himself. I have read emails and Mapquested directions for our field trip we are going on tomorrow. If all goes well, I hope to have some good pictures to post tomorrow after our time with the Indians.

And in a minute, I plan to crawl into bed and page through some of the books I picked up from the library today:
Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup
How To Raise An Amazing Child The Montessori Way by Tim Seldin
The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan

A perfect way to end an incredibly busy day!
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Free Physics Kits!

I got this from a group I am on and it is legit. I signed up for mine and am excited about going through this kit with my 11 year old. I am even hoping it won't be over the 7 year old's head so we can somehow include her. Hope this is useful to someone!

Follow the link to register for a free physics kit for your middle schoolers :)

PhysicsQuest 2007: Marie Curie's Floating Classes
Marie Curie was a brilliant scientist who received two Nobel Prizes. She had to fight hard to become a scientist because she was a Polish female growing up in Russian-controlled Warsaw – some of her classes had to constantly change locations to avoid being detected by the police.
This fall take your middle school students back in time to the Warsaw of the late 1800s. Their mission: keep the police from finding Marie’s classes by correctly completing four physical science challenges. The challenges center on heat, temperature, and energy.

Sign up for the kit now and your class will receive a FREE kit, which includes a PhysicsQuest manual and the materials necessary to complete the challenges. Classes that correctly complete them will be eligible for prizes.
Register now, FREE kits are limited to the first 7500 U.S. classes to register. Please email questions and special requests to
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Monday, September 03, 2007

Oh wa ta gu fiam

say that ten times fast and you will get the theme of this post.

First of all, I have spent most of this day on the couch coughing until my ribs ache and my head hurts. I also squeezed in as many episdoes of the Law and Order SVU marathon as I could when the children were not in the house-- which was spotty, at best. But I sort of knew what was going on for most of the episodes.

I also continued my reading of Elizabeth Foss' book Real Learning. Am gearing up for a big "back to school" week. Have decided to have a sloooow start with the way I am feeling. Am aiming for the big kickoff to be our field trip scheduled for Wednesday. I couldn't start tomorrow because I am coughing too much to communicate with any effectiveness, much less read pages and pages aloud.

My husband scurried around fixing stuff and pressure washing the house. We (don't you love how I say we, considering I have already admitted that I laid on the couch most of the day) are laboring to get this house sold! The realtor suggested we pressure wash the house, sidewalks and driveway. We also discovered a little problem with the shower leaking, which had to be fixed as well. Also, there was a door that needed to be replaced but alas, is an odd size of course that can't be bought at Lowe's. Curt also had to go to Matthews Alive fair to sit at the Matthews Playhouse booth and answer questions from passers-by. That took about 2.5 hours out of his day. We were supposed to do it together, but I felt that my coughing fits might scare people away. So I stayed home with the kids. It was a very hit or miss day for my poor, under-appreciated husband. Not that that stopped me from sending him with all the kids for Chick fil a while I languished on the couch. The dear sweet guy also brought me back some dinner!

Just for the record, when you run out of sweet tea from CFA and try to psyche yourself out by pouring your own homemade tea into the cup, it just doesn't work.

Finally, in true nerd fashion I will admit that right now on my Ipod is playing...

...dare I even admit that I actually downloaded this song and am enjoying it immensely?

You Don't Bring Me Flowers by Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand

and boy they just don't make songs like that anymore-- Barbra can flat belt out a song, ya know? And those lyrics, "But used to be's don't count anymore, they just lay on the floor til you sweep them away."

Make fun of me if you must... I deserve it. I am too tired and sick to care. When I come back to my senses, I just might remove all evidence that this post ever existed.
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An Exciting Life

I read this post this evening and just had to share this with you all. Why? Because, as I wrote to the author in her comments, she put something into words that I knew, but didn't realize I knew until I read her words.
So, enjoy this post and I hope it helps you put your exciting lives into perspective for the coming week.

You can find her blog at
Here is another excellent post by her, if you are interested (and you should be, cause it is good):

An exciting life
One thing I've always wanted is an interesting, exciting life. By "exciting" I don't mean that I need all my days to be packed with BASE jumping while handling rattlesnakes, but just that I've always craved a life where I'd be challenged and stimulated, where there'd frequently be something new and different going on, where I'd not spend much time stuck in a rut or bored.And back in my pre-conversion life, I was pretty sure I'd hooked that up.

When my husband and I were first together we traveled extensively, lived in the downtown entertainment district, went from zip-lining in the jungles of Costa Rica to underground raves in San Francisco, took big risks with our careers, involved ourselves in interesting side businesses and organizations, etc. etc. I felt like I had done what I wanted to do: I felt like I lived an exciting life.This has come to mind lately as friends who've known me for a long time have called to ask how I feel about tomorrow, when I'll have my third baby in three years.

A couple of girlfriends who have known me the longest have expressed a particularly pointed curiosity about what I think of all this. "Your life now is so, umm," one friend said as she struggled for a way to phrase it, "so different now than it used to be. Do you miss it?"When she asked that question, if I missed my old life, I realized that I really don't at all. The biggest reason is, of course, that back then I didn't know that God existed. As I've said before, the worst day with God is far better than the best day without God. But there's another reason I don't miss it, one that may surprise some people: it wasn't that exciting. Not compared to my life now, anyway.

While I probably experienced more surface-level thrills back then such as stepping off of a plane in a new country, or shaking hands with some political bigwig whose fundraising party we had managed to sneak into, it was all basically predictable. Scheduled. I was firmly under the illusion that my life was mine to control, so all excitement had its proper place on the calendar. And when events played out that I had not anticipated, that did not fit with my plans for my life, I'd go into a mode of trying to get everything back in line with an iron fist, wallowing in frustration and angst until I forced things back on track.It was like riding a roller coaster at an amusement park: exciting, yes. But nice and safe and orderly. Plenty of surface-level thrills without much unpredictability. The car stays safely on the tracks and your route is carefully controlled.

Discovering God and deciding to trust him with my future and to live my life according to his rules has been like getting off the roller coaster and leaving the amusement park -- not for a life of boredom, as I might have imagined it to be when I was younger, but for a life of true excitement. If all the carefully planned activities of my early 20's were like riding a roller coaster, turning my life and my future over to God is like whitewater rafting on an uncharted river. It's a life filled with plenty of slow, steady parts where I'm just floating along and taking in the scenery; and sometimes there's rough water; other times there are huge rapids and real danger; but I never really know what's around the next corner.

When I was younger I would have been shocked and a bit incredulous at hearing that living with a strict faith like orthodox Catholicism would lead to a more rich, more exciting life than anything I'd ever experienced. But, really, it makes sense. What is more intriguing than the fact that the Creator of the universe has a will for each one of us at every moment of every day, and that we are able to tap into that knowledge? What is more exciting than knowing that all we need to do is take life day by day, discern where God seems to be leading us this morning or this afternoon, and then just sit back and hold on for the ride, which may very well take us into uncharted territory that we would have never discovered by ourselves?

I've thought about this many times over the past few weeks as I've worked to get the house ready for the baby. As I was assembling the new crib yesterday I thought with a smirk, "Boy, I would have never guessed that this is what I would be doing this weekend." A year ago I would not have imagined that I'd have another baby in August 2007. That certainly wasn't my plan. But these past nine months have been a wild ride, and something tells me that after tomorrow I'll have eight squirmy pounds of living proof that God's plans are always more exciting than our own.
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Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Course Of Study

Note: I have revised this post from the original, as I decided to change things a bit since I wrote the entry. That's the beauty of homeschooling, right? You can do what works for you!

With only two students for the year, I have had the chance to shift my plans slightly from the original. Knowing that I have more flexibility with only three kids at home has lent itself to taking on more outside activities. (If you are wondering why I didn't attempt much outside the house when I had all six, please see the post about the grocery shopping experience.) But with only three, I can do more. Not only that, I have now enlisted my mother in law as a cohort for doing some of the field trip type things, which will provide me with an occasional break.

One of the things Curt requested in regards to this year was for the kids to get out more. When I first began homeschooling, I was involved in lots of field trips and co-ops and groups. We got out a lot and it made a big difference-- for the kids and for me. But as we added more babies and more students, I started spending more time at home. I was quite tied to the house and it did not help my attitude to be honest. I have found that I need the support and fellowship of other homeschooling moms in order to persevere. And so, I am being very intentional this year about reaching out to other moms and signing up for events, classes, etc. I think this is a part of homeschooling (one of the best parts) that my middle kids missed out on. So I am happy to have the time this year to redeem some lost time and lost opportunities.

With that said, here is what I have planned for the year.

The 11 year old will be doing:
Lessons In Leadership copywork
Write With The Best
Study Skills/Learning To Learn
Reading Notebook (I created a list of books to read by the end of the year, with a list of response questions to be answered about each book)
Horizons Math (5th grade)
Manners Made Easy
Training Hearts, Teaching Minds (catechism devotional)
A Child's Geography

The 7 year old will be doing:
Memoria Press Copybook, book 2
Steck Vaughan Phonics, level B
Reading list based on Sonlight recommendations for Grade 1 and 2
Growing With Grammar, Grades 1-2
Calculadders, Book 1
Mathematical Reasoning, Level C
First Language Lessons
Little Annie's Book of Manners
A Child's Geography
Training Hearts, Teaching Minds
She is taking Ballet I at a local Dance Academy as well.

We are going to be participating in these activities this fall:
Community Bible Study (they will have their own homework geared at their age level)
A Walk in The Woods nature science classes (once a month, held at a local homeschool store)
Latta Plantation nature clubs for homeschoolers (each Wednesday through Nov.)
Various field trips and classes-- In the fall so far we have signed up to go to the Catawba Indian reservation, to take part in the Charlotte Museum of History's homeschool day, and to Latta Plantation's colonial history day for homeschoolers. The kids are also signed up for a one time art class on Contour drawing.

Here is what our daily routine will look like:
Assigned Chores
Morning Meeting: Catechism devotion, reading from Everyday Graces, daily assignment for Little Annie's and Manners Made Easy, activity or exercise from 365 Manners Kids Should Know
Journaling with prompt-- set timer for ten minutes
A Child's Geography read aloud-- activities/assignments from the book
Individual Work assignments-- one on one time with me as needed
Lunch-- listen to The Bible Experience cd's while we eat
Mom reads aloud from a selection of books (see note below)
Naptime/Quiet Time-- finish individual work, independent reading from individual lists, browse through magazines

I plan to have all of this wrapped up by 3:15, when I need to run carpool for the other kids. After school time, then, becomes time for computer time, outdoor play, and other free time activities.
Obviously, on days when we will be out of the house, this schedule will be out the window. I learned a long time ago not to count on getting much (any!) schoolwork done on days when we leave the house.

Note on read alouds: Reading Elizabeth Foss' book has prompted me to change things a bit from what I originally posted. I have decided to have my fifth grader read from the Apologia text on his own, and then use the read aloud time that I was going to devote to science to read from a selection of books. Since I have now signed the children up for several nature-themed classes, I feel that especially the seven year old will be getting enough science through this. And the truth is, I wanted to devote time this year to great read alouds, but couldn't find the space in our day to do so. This was bothering me, so I tinkered a bit with the schedule and adjusted the plans to make it happen. To enhance the "nature study" classes, I am going to purchase several of the "One Small Square" books by Donald Silver and read them aloud to the kids. My mother in law is also buying subscriptions to Nature Friend magazine and Zoobooks magazine. (She is also buying Learning Through History magazine-- hooray!) I will have them read through/look through these publications when they arrive in the mail as well.
Some of the books we will be reading this year are favorites from my childhood. Including North To Freedom, Danny The Champion of The World, and Mandy. I am so excited about sharing these books with my children.
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I Am Sick

Moms shouldn't get sick. Especially on a holiday weekend when said mom had lots of grand plans of accomplishments, errands, and endless merrymaking.

Instead I am sniffing and sulking, dragging around the house looking especially pitiful. I did have the thought that it is nice to be sick when my husband is home to pick up my slack. But if I had a choice, I would choose to be well.

I am not going to church today. Me and the seven year old will be here, coughing and sniffing in unison. Fun times all around. In the meantime, I am taking advantage of the downtime by hunkering down with Elizabeth Foss' book, Real Learning. This is my second time through the book. Instead of devouring it quickly as I did the first time, I am taking my time this time, making notes and underlining important quotes. Check out her blog to find out more about her. I highly recommend this book for all homeschoolers. Even though she writes from a decidedly Catholic perspective, it is still a very inspiring book even if you aren't a Catholic homeschooler.
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In Case of Emergency, Dial M-O-M

My daughter told me that last night she dreamed that she and her brother had an emergency and had to dial 911. She said that the odd thing was, I was the one who answered the 911 call. "Isn't that funny, mom?" she said. "I guess I just naturally think that when something happens, you're the one there to help me."

Yes, this will be a speaking example in the near future. You can count on it.
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Something I Could Have Written (If I Were That Funny)

They were talking about it in FL.

My pastor's wife (who has one child) thought it was worth posting a link to on her blog.

Apparently, many, many people have read and enjoyed this Ebay post that serves to explain why a mother of six is selling Pokemon cards. Which goes on to be a detailed explanation of her grocery shopping experience with six kids.

So, in case you missed it, here is the link to what used to be an Ebay post, but with the auction over is now going to be removed. So, she posted it to her personal blog.

Read it with the understanding that she is not exaggerating. It really is like that. Which is why I hardly ever shop with them all.
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