Friday, February 29, 2008

House For Sale

Today is the day our house goes on the market. We are still not totally ready for showings, but the realtor and I decided we could still stick a sign in the yard and get the house into the MLS listings. It is a good feeling, but it is also something I am sort of not ready for. I am not ready to keep my house "show ready" at all times. I am not ready to live in that limbo of wondering if every showing is "the one." But I also know that going through this is the only way to get to the desired outcome-- a home that we can fit into better.

As I was writing this, it occurred to me how very much like the Christian life this is. You commit your life to Jesus and follow Him in spite of the cost this life requires. Yesterday at CBS, our core group discussed how unpleasant this walk can be at times. Since we are going through Acts, this theme is woven throughout our study. To follow Christ does not mean that you are assured of a pain-free, stress-free life. There are many battles to fight, many hurdles to overcome. There is rejection and hurt and struggle. Not all the time, but it is definitely part of the mix. And yet, to reach our desired outcome-- that moment when we hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant"-- we must endure.

And so, that is my deep spiritual thought for the day. The carpet being done is helping my perspective a lot. In the end, I did learn to "count it all joy" and to "be thankful in all things." By the time the carpet guys left, I was sitting in the living room with my kids, watching them install the carpet on the stairs, laughing over the two year old's continual fascination with the one guy. I learned their names finally (Jesse and James, isn't that funny?), and even told them about our church. I couldn't beat em, so I joined em. And I had a good time in the process. Imagine that.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Conversation

Two Year Old: "I don't want to go to CBS (Community Bible Study) tomorrow."

Me: "Yes, we need to go to CBS. You like CBS. Mommy likes to go to CBS. This week mommy really needs to go to CBS to get some Jesus in her heart."

Two Year Old: "You could just get a shot."

This is the same child who apparently has a crush on the carpet guy. She hangs out by his side and talks a blue streak to him. He is very patient with her, to his credit. She just got dressed and immediately went out to show him her ponytail.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Revenge Of The Carpet People

I am pretty slim on the deep thoughts. I apologize. This can happen when your house is torn up from the carpet people. The carpet people and I have an odd relationship right now. I love them because they are the final frontier to the sign going in the yard. They bringeth carpet from afar, and all that. But I am having serious angry thoughts toward them because they are moving at a snails' pace. And my house is disaster. Disaster, I tell you. Everything from upstairs is downstairs. There is stuff everywhere. It looks like a stuff explosion. I took pictures, but it didn't even do it justice. Have I mentioned that I don't operate very well in disorganization and chaos?

(And please, please don't write me comments about how God must want to grow my character through this or how I should be grateful for the means to buy new carpet and all that good stuff that on one level I so know is true. For now, I need only nice comments offering to bring me gifts or affirming me in other ways. Deal?)

Obviously, I am too distracted and overwrought to write posts that make any kind of sense.

It's been a long, long day. A day that involved noise and staples and finding carpet nails in places that make NO SENSE AT ALL and banging and crying-- much crying-- and just, well, chaos. Chaos describes it all best. And there is more to come tomorrow. There wasn't supposed to be. The carpet people told me it would be one day. Has anyone seen Money Pit, when they ask how long it's going to take and they all say, "Two weeks." By the end of the movie everyone is laughing at that because they know two weeks means nothing. It is just something to say. Yeah, my one day is their two weeks. I am seriously wondering if they will finish tomorrow. It surely doesn't seem like it from where I am sitting. Not one room is finished. Not one room. A day of work and not one room.

I wonder how many times I could say, "Not one room?"

Did I mention that my house is torn up?

And I know that I am being whiny and spoiled and that there are much bigger things in life than having your house tee-totally torn apart for a few days' time. I know that. On one level. But on a day-to-day, I-can't-believe-I-have-to-do-this level, all rational thought just flies out the window. Bye bye! Bye bye rational thought! Nope, I am not into thinking about those less fortunate than me. Am not into doses of reality or healthy doses of perspective. I just want to whine, and wallow in my misfortune. And throw mental daggers at the perfectly nice carpet people. Who are just trying to do their jobs.

I am thinking it will just be best for me to return after the carpet people are gone and my house is back in working order. I consider it a public service to spare you from any further unpleasantness.
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Monday, February 25, 2008


This is what I am spending my time learning about these days. There is more info on the internet on this subject than you can shake a stick at! If you are interested in learning more about what lapbooks are and how to implement them into your homeschool experience, here are some excellent links to get you started!

You can also search "lapbooks" on YouTube and find several informative short videos on how to make the different folds. Also, googling the word "lapbooks" will get you more links than a busy mom has time to get to-- ask me how I know!

You can also go to and click on the "lapbooks" button in the sidebar to find several unique products Tammy Duby has developed and has for sale if you, like me, like to hold a book in your hand.

Have fun researching this useful and creative way to make learning fun!
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Night Post

Well, it's Sunday night and I am feeling like I need to check in to let you know that I am here, but I am the first to admit that I have nothing to say that is either a) insightful b) witty or c) interesting. Just letting you know that from the get-go.

We had a good weekend, but I did not take the day off on Saturday as I had originally planned. I am sorry to not do The Motherhood Emancipation Project proud as I had hoped. Life just got in the way, as it tends to do.

We ended up spending most of the morning at a housing development we were interested in, walking through different floor plans and talking to their reps. By the time we were done, we had just enough time to run to Walmart for a baby gift, run through the McDonald's drive through and take me to the baby shower. Curt took the kids home while I was at the shower and then came back and picked me up. I felt like one of my teenagers must feel as I waited for my ride. The shower was fun, but sad as we said goodbye to Holly.

A personal aside here: Holly, I will miss you and wish you weren't going so far. Be sure to stay in touch and let us know when you come in town for visits! And Holly, I just have to say publicly that I do think you should start a blog so we can watch this little girl grow up and hear all about your FL adventures!

Today was spent at church, making lunches, going to see a house (do you notice a trend here?), having coffee with a friend, going to Target and having dinner. Not exciting per se, but a good, relaxing Sunday. And I have to say that if you are a parent of a teen, please check out my pastor's sermon from today just as soon as it is up. It was one of the best sermons I have ever heard him preach. (I seem to say that every week, though.) This one was right on target. I was nodding my head so much, I just about got a neck-ache! You can access the video by clicking on "My Pastor's Blog" in the sidebar section titled "Momtourage/Elevation Blogs." He has a little icon you can click on in the top right corner that will take you to the video. It will probably take a few days before it is up, so keep checking back. It's worth persevering to see/hear it.

And now I am going to climb in bed and read my book... the one that the writing is good but there is not much action. It is picking up, though. Slightly. I am still holding out hope that it is going to be worth sticking with.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Here's hoping for some exciting posts in the coming days! Because this one was not very. But neither was my weekend.
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Banana Bread

If it seems like I make banana bread a lot, I do. So you are correct if you think that. I make it several times a month because it is quick and easy to do, my kids love it and it is a nice snack and a quick breakfast on busy mornings. All in all, worth the small effort it takes to prepare it. And I used to think it was foolproof. I truly thought you could not mess up my recipe.

Well, it turns out I was wrong about the "foolproof" part. Last night, I decided to make two loaves of banana bread with chocolate chips. After dinner I whipped up a double batch while fending off the two year old and five year old "helpers" who were determined to stir the batter. Between the requests for help with homework, the incessant requests for various other things, and the little hands that constantly tried to "help," I was not totally paying attention to what I was doing. But I figured it didn't matter because it was hard to mess up this recipe.

Just as I put the two loaves in the oven to bake, I realized I left out the salt. Oh well, I figured, it would still taste good. Well then I sort of got busy and forgot to get the bread out of the oven at the time it was supposed to be done. So it got really done. Not burned, mind you, but really done. As in, there is a hard crust around the outside-- too hard to cut with a regular kitchen knife. As for what leaving out the salt did, I can't really tell. And did I mention that I did not have quite enough butter, so I made do with about 3 Tbsp. less than it called for? All in all, it is still edible. But it is not near as moist as it usually is and somehow just doesn't taste like it should.

I decided not to reveal to my children what I had done. I went ahead and put it out on the counter to see what they would do. One by one, they came in the kitchen and started eating while I watched for their reactions. No one said a word. One by one, they all came back for seconds. By the end of the morning, one loaf was gone and another one was half eaten.

Which proves my theory that children will eat just about anything if there are chocolate chips involved!
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A Day Off

After spending most of a week alone with six kids, rainy weather, sickness and sniffles, and having serious conversations with short people in which I discuss in detail why we don't hit each other with stuffed monkeys, I sent this email to my husband this morning.

Dear Sir:

This is to inform you that your wife, Marybeth Whalen, has been awarded a day off from motherhood and wifehood and general familial obligations. Her designated day is Saturday, February 23, 2008. This will involve her being absent from your home for the duration of that day, in which she will run errands alone, work on some writing projects, and attend a baby shower. We at The Motherhood Emancipation Project have deemed this day necessary and paramount to her mental health.

Please note that this does not absolve you from going to visit a home she has her eye on on Sunday immediately following church services.

In the case of your objection to this notice, please forward all complaints to They will get to your complaint just as soon as possible.

That might just be awhile, though.
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

And The Winner Is...

Another faithful reader emailed me to remind me that I had not announced the winner for the Rattled book by Trish Berg. (Man, you guys are on the ball today!)

Here are the results:

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:4
Timestamp: 2008-02-21 21:33:40 UTC

The number that generated was FOUR!! Which means that Lori Cortright won! Congrats Lori! Lori said she wants to send the book on to her sister, who is due with baby number two soon.

For all of you who didn't win, stay tuned for several other giveaways in the next few days/weeks. I am doing a giveaway with Karen Ehman, Leanna Ellis, Accountable Kids, and Mary Kay Larmoyeux. So keep checking back for a chance to win free books... and who doesn't love to win FREE STUFF! Especially free books-- you all know I have a weakness for books!
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Trying Again

Ok, if you are looking to leave comments about what makes good writing, let's try this again! Sorry for the confusion! I still don't know how that happened with no comment section on the last post-- I never claimed to be a techno dynamo!

Some wonderfully devoted readers sent me comments via email, which I am going to include here just to get the ball rolling... I hope this will inspire some of you to add to the discussion-- no answer is too silly! I mean seeing as how mine is "including scenes with food!" Ü

Here is Bonita's:
I can't get your blog commenting thing to work today so I'm sending my comment here. What makes good writing? I have to divide it into two categories.

Fiction- NUANCES! It's all about those little subtle things the characters do that make them the individuals they are and all the little social things that happen when they interact, things that are usually under the radar. So, when it comes to fiction I'm all about people, people, people and how they interact with others and how they think in their minds.

Nonfiction- Tell me a story from real life! I cannot stand preachyness which is why I rarely read books written by clergy or T.V. preachers. I want to hear a story that shows how something applies to real life. This also helps me identify with the author. I want to be able to say either, "Me too, I'm just like that," or "Wow, this author is really different from me."

Patti said:
I was reading your most recent post and wanted to share my comment about what I find most interesting in writings...I love to learn about people and how they "tick" so when a writer describes a person so that I can visualize their expressions that keeps my attention. Not a profound answer by any stretch but maybe this will get the ball rolling for others to comment??

So writers and readers out there-- what say you??
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What Makes Good Writing?

Last night I was reading a fiction book, and just enjoying the good writing. This particular novel has been slow moving thus far... not a lot of action but some good character development and a lot of examination of the thought life of the characters. But good writing overall. (Better than I can do!)

Anyway, last night as I was reading one of the scenes, I noticed yet again that I am particularly drawn to scenes where the characters are eating, specifically when the writer includes details about the specific foods the characters are eating. Is this odd? I have noticed it a lot when I read-- which is perhaps why I love Elizabeth Berg's writing so much. She is a bit of a foodie, and thus, her characters eat a lot. (Just read the last part of her writing book, Escaping Into The Open to understand this.)

Last night the character made some toast and slathered it with almond butter. And I sat there and wondered how many people eat almond butter on their toast. I, for one, have never tried almond butter. Is it sweet? I just found it fascinating and felt that this scene really played into who this character is-- no regular old butter for this girl! Her tastes are a bit more refined, more cutting edge. It made me sympathize with her even more.

All of this got me thinking about how I am drawn to food scenes, how I feel like it makes the writing better. Makes it stand out. And so, I am posing the question to you all. What do you think makes good writing?

Don't give me the standard "writing class" answer. Let me know what resonates with you. It can be something silly or serious. Something playful or deep. I want to know! And don't hesitate to answer because you feel like you won't answer right-- I am admitting that food scenes do it for me!
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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tuesday Plans

Today I have already put a roast in the crockpot to cook all day. We will have it with mashed potatoes (the real kind, thank you very much) and green beans.

Since my kids are out of school today, my daughter and I are planning to make this as well. I think it will make a perfect dessert served with a dollop of whipped cream (not the real kind, thank you very much) after our meal.

I have a list of errands I need to run, but there is a man here measuring my house right now, so we have to stick close to home. Which means I have no more excuses for not organizing all the kids books upstairs like Curt has asked me to do. He wants me to pare down the books in hopes of getting rid of some of the clutter upstairs.

And speaking of getting rid of stuff: Yesterday my fifteen year old was playing with the two year old and decided to jump on the bed-- the antique, very fragile bed given to us by Curt's grandparents-- yes, that one. Well, the bed is simply no more. You've heard of "the walls came a tumbling down"? Well, this was similar. My five year old (the one who slept in the bed) spent the night on a sleeping bag where his bed used to be.

On the plus side, the room looks much bigger without the bed in it, which we figure will help with showings. And the five year old is tickled to be allowed to sleep in a sleeping bag! So, everyone wins.

Me especially. I never did like that bed.
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Welcome! (Again)

I have a devotion running today with Proverbs 31, so I wanted to say welcome to those of you who come here as a result of clicking on that link. I hope you will stay awhile and get a glimpse of my crazy life as a wife and mom of a half dozen!

This devotion is about installing Runaway Ramps in our lives. Why don't some of you leave a comment and share what your Runaway Ramps are in your life? It would be fun and it might give others of us some good ideas!

Want to read the devotion? Go here!
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This post will resonate with some of you-- and some of you will totally not get it. Because some of you have being emotional and revealing your weakness down pat. But some of you will know what I am talking about and will identify with my struggles. You will know what I mean when I talk about feeling like you have to be tough all the time and never show weakness. If so, this post is for you.

Last week I was at my Momtourage group and we were sharing areas where we have "weeds" in our marriage. (We are going through Melanie Chitwood's book "What A Husband Needs From His Wife" and were answering a question she had included based on an illustration she used in the book.) I had just shared that one of the weeds in my marriage was struggling with anger against my husband for "leaving me" to travel with his new job. Just as I laid all this out there, my cell phone rang and my daughter told me that Curt was at the grocery store without his cell phone and the baby had woken up and wouldn't stop crying and would I please come home. So, I had to leave early-- just after I said all this to these ladies and without any time to share that I am really working through these things and slowly coming to terms with this new life. I hated that I left them thinking I was really struggling.

Sure enough, at church on Sunday, I had several of them come up and ask me how my week had gone and share that they had prayed for me through the week. I nodded my head and thanked them, but deep down inside me, something rebelled. I didn't like it, as crazy as that may sound. They were perceiving me as "weak." I could hear them clucking their tongues and saying to each other, "The poor dear, she just needs prayer." (Though I know they didn't do that. They don't even talk like that!) Instead, I wanted to be strong and in control.

I wanted to be the one praying, not the one receiving the prayers.

And then God reminded me. "What kind of week did you have?" He asked me as I stood in the lobby, absolutely mortified by what my flesh perceived as pity from my friends. I ran through the week in my mind-- some great things had happened, I had had a good attitude, and life had been pretty good.

Like a petulant child I mumbled, "A good one."

And He answered back, "Silly girl, your week was blessed because they prayed you through it. Rest in those prayers. Appreciate those prayers. And learn what your weakness can bring you."

I remember as a young teen watching the movie "The Outsiders." (Did anyone else have their room decorated with clips from teeny bop magazines featuring the stars of this movie? Just askin'.) I can still vividly remember a scene where Dally says, "You gotta get tough so nothing can touch you." And for some reason, that resonated with me. I was going through the pain of my parents' divorce and remarriages and I thought, yes. That's the key. Just get tough. Don't let anyone close enough to hurt you. But let me tell you that eventually, those pesky people slip in the cracks. And yes, eventually, something does touch you-- and no amount of "getting tough" can keep that from happening. Nice idea. But it totally doesn't work.

Posts like this and this show my weak spots. I am learning to be more honest about my weaknesses-- and that I don't have to always be "on top of things" and "in control of the situation." I was raised to believe this was best-- and indeed my toughness has helped me weather many of life's storms. I am thankful for my emotional fortitude-- but I am also learning that being weak is when God shows Himself strong. Going around acting like we don't struggle, don't cry, don't doubt is never giving God room to move on our behalf. It is never giving others the blessing of interceding for us. And so I am learning to honestly say some of the toughest words of my life: I need prayer. And then to rejoice in those who will pray for me instead of being ashamed of needing it.

I am learning to love my weakness and to reveal the parts of life that bring me to my knees. It is freeing, but terrifying. It is being "tough" in a most unexpected way.
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Monday, February 18, 2008

Dear Katya

It has been coming up more and more lately... your name. The thought of you. It happened again today, in conversation with a total stranger. For me, this means the thought of what almost was. And the strange desire for what I still wish could be. You, here, with us.

In just the last week, your story has come up in conversation at random times, with people who never knew the saga of our efforts to adopt you years ago. I can not tell you why this is happening now, after so much time has passed (nearly five years!). Yesterday, Curt told me he found your photo in some old things. He told me that even though we never got to meet you, he misses you. Just last week, I found the folder I had begun of important papers we would need if we got that far in the adoption process. I remembered all over again the daily trek to the computer to see if there was word of you. If our contact would have news of your availability. If this would be the day we would find out you could be our daughter, against all odds. It was an absolute rollercoaster of emotions.

We had unwittingly gotten locked into an overseas custody battle. Them: the people in Italy who wanted to continue hosting you, but had no plans of adopting you. And us: the family who so desperately wanted to give you a permanent home with sisters and brothers. But first we had to get the Italians to relinquish their prior claim on you as their host family. It was highly unlikely, we were told, that this would happen. People told us that the Italians especially like to get a good child to come through the hosting program because they could use them to work. Cheap labor, one person told us, and rolled her eyes as if to say, "What are you gonna do?" We knew what we were going to do. We were going to get you out of there and home with us. That was our intent, at least. It became my personal mission, even to the detriment, I will admit, of our family. I got so focused on you I stopped seeing the children I did have.

And then your country stopped all adoptions. And the Italian family refused to relinquish their hold on you, claiming that they were suddenly going to adopt you. Our contact said they were probably lying, but we couldn't prove it. And so, our hands were tied. And I will always wonder about you. You are never far from my heart. I still see your best friend, the little girl who introduced us to you, to your story. She is good, and happy. Please know I tried everything I could to reunite the two of you. I can't imagine how powerless that must have felt to say goodbye, knowing that your best friend was going to a strange country and you would never see her again, nor would you know where she was in the world.

I know your birthday is in February. I do not know how old you will be or even what specific day it is. Perhaps God is reminding me of you because of that. Keeping you still on my mind so I will not forget to pray. I will admit, I am sorry to say, that in the busyness of life I have gotten bad about remembering to pray for you. I have made my peace with knowing that that is the role God decided I would have in your life. And if I can't know you on earth, then, perhaps I will someday meet you in heaven. Perhaps you will walk up to me on the streets of gold and say, "I am here because of your prayers." And I will know in that moment as I give you the hug I have waited so long to give you that it was enough. I am still hopeful that you will come to know Jesus in spite of the odds against that in your country. I am hopeful that you will not become another statistic, another throwaway child falling through the cracks.

I will never forget the woman who told us that to bring you into our lives would be a mistake. That you were "bad." My heart broke to think that someone would pronounce you as bad or damaged goods. It breaks my heart to think that any child would come to believe that about themselves. But your face made it painfully real to me. The pain and loss you have experienced in your short little life-- the utter hopelessness you must feel each day-- grips my heart like a fist. It is odd to say you miss someone you have never met, but I miss you too. And I wish that I was powerful enough to find you and bring you home. But our experience-- and the many avenues and tactics we tried-- taught me that I am not.

Some days I am relieved that it didn't work out, to be totally honest. To hear of what the adoptive parents of internationally adopted children have had to endure seems harrowing. Words like reactive attachment disorder and post traumatic stress related to extreme abuse stick in my brain like flashing warning signals. I have friends who did adopt and they have gone through so, so much. Many are weary and exhausted now, yet hanging onto hope that God's plans for their children will be accomplished one painful step at a time. To think of what you could have done to our family-- to the environment of our home-- makes me thank God for allowing us to dodge that bullet. That He closed that door because for whatever reason it simply wasn't part of His plan for you or us. And most days-- most moments-- I walk in that truth and do not question the outcome.

But then there are the moments when I find some reminder of you or hear a song that makes me think of you and I wonder. Were God's purposes accomplished or is your story simply another example of living in a fallen world? I remember one time when I was praying about you, begging God again to intercede, and He whispered as He has so many times since I prayed "Lord, break my heart with the things that break yours." (A prayer no sane human should ever, ever pray. Take my advice.)

"You asked," He said.

And my eyes filled with fresh tears as I glimpsed the heartbreak our Heavenly Father sees all over the world. Those tears were not my own. My heart broke for you and for all the children in the world who go to bed at night without a mommy and a daddy to love them. Without medicine or a warm bed. Without security or love. And I think of you seeing our photo and hearing the words from whomever sat you down and explained that we wanted you. I wonder what that must have felt like to hear for perhaps the first time in your life. "Do you want to be a part of this family?" they asked you. And you said yes.

But we never came. I hope that someone explained it was nothing you did. I hope that someone cared enough to tell you that this was about government red tape and not desire. What I wouldn't give to somehow make sure you know that. And so, I have asked God to whisper those words to your fragile heart, to wrap His loving arms around you when you are all alone. To let you know that your life has already mattered.

I make you this promise: I will still come and get you if God ever opens that door, though you and I both know how highly unlikely this is. I still mean the words to this song. Every single one.

With love on your birthday,
The Woman Who Wanted To Be Your Mom
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A New Mom's Impression Of Rattled

The previous post I included from Trish Berg for her book Rattled was so long, I did not want this to get lost in the shuffle. I sent this book to my sister in law, Tonia (who is a first time mom to my six month old nephew Landon!) and she loved it! She wrote the following impression of the book:

I consider Rattled part of the essential baby gear for the first year of motherhood- just as important to Mom's sanity as the bouncy seat and favorite bedtime blankey! Trish seemed to get inside my head and heart and put into words my feelings about the new experiences a mother encounters. Then, as an experienced mom of four, she added expert advice, humor, and spiritual guidance for all the things that rattled my world with the birth of my son. It made me laugh, it made me cry, often on the same page! This book will be part of all future baby shower gifts I give!

Would you like to win a copy of Rattled? Leave me a comment and I will choose a number through for you to win for yourself or pass along to a new mom in your life! You have until Wednesday, February 20th to leave your comment for a chance to win, and I will draw the winner on Thursday and announce it here.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Trish Berg's New Book: Rattled

BLAST OUT Blog Tour for Trish Berg’s Latest Release… Rattled: Surviving Your Baby’s First Year without Losing Your Cool!

Can you change a diaper faster than a rodeo cowboy ropes a calf? Need more sleep,more laughter, and ten minutes in the bathroom – alone?

You must be a mom….Don’t let the clutter, chaos, exhaustion and Cheerio-dust get you Rattled.

With practical advice and scriptural reminders, author Trish Berg can help you not only survive the chaos and clutter of motherhood, but get back to the simple joy of being a mom.

I am excited to welcome Trish Berg, joining us today to talk about her new mom book, Rattled, Surviving Your Baby’s First Year without Losing Your Cool!

Trish is a national speaker for Hearts at Home, author of The Great American Supper Swap and Rattled. She has been published in Today’s Christian Woman, MOMSense,, P31 WOMAN, and numerous regional and national publications.

Trish earned her MBA before leaving the workforce for motherhood, then earned her Doctorate in Diaper Changing in Ohio where she and her husband, Mike, keep busy raising their four children on their family cattle farm.

Trish, welcome. Thanks for taking time to be with us today.

Thanks for having me.

So why is it so easy for moms to get rattled during their baby’s first year?

Motherhood is simply draining and exhausting. Hands down the toughest job I have ever had.

But moms are not alone, and I want moms to know that God walks with them through these exhausting years.

What stresses moms out the most?

I think moms put a lot of pressure on themselves to do it all by themselves, and to do it all the right way. They need to simplify, let go of many details, and ask for help, from their husbands, and from neighbors and friends.

Rattled actually begins by looking at the months of pregnancy. How can moms use this time to prepare to survive baby’s first year?

Nine months is not nearly enough time to fully prepare for motherhood. I am not sure there is enough time to fully prepare.

I remember when our first child, Hannah, was born, I felt that my world had been turned upside down. Hannah did not like to sleep, and so we spent many nights walking the floor, bouncing her up and down, trying desperately to settle her down. My husband, Mike, and I took turns walking laps around the house, like the Indy 500 with a lot more bouncing.

I am not sure I could have prepared for that.

But during your pregnancy, you can prepare in other ways. Like arranging for help. Ask your mom or mother-in-law if they can spend one day with you each week during the first few months. Just knowing someone is coming in the morning to help with the baby can make the being up all night not seem so terrible.

You talk about surviving motherhood. How do you help moms do that?

In Rattled, I talk about a mom’s survival kit. If you were thrown out into the wilderness, you would need FOOD, SHELTER, FIRE and WATER to survive.

Well, moms have been thrown out into the wilderness of motherhood, and to survive, they will need:

Water from the word (2 Samuel 22:3a) –To be in God’s Word.

A fire like desire for prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17) – Moms can pray their way through their day.

Nourishment body, mind and spirit (1 Corinthians 13:13) – Love on all levels nourishes us.

Shelter from life’s storms (Proverbs 17:17)-Friends to lean on, trust, and support us.

In Rattled, I spend some time talking about how moms can use that survival kit to get back to the joy of mothering.

You spent a lot of time listening to what other mothers had to say. Share with us your best advice for new moms.

I would tell moms to relax. No one does it right all the time. Let the laundry pile up. Leave the dishes in the sink, and just enjoy holding your baby today.

Don’t worry about doing “it” right, just enjoy the moments you have.

That is sound advice...

But what aboud dads? Give us a few tips into what dad is going through during the first year.

Dads are just as insecure as moms are about parenthood. Even more so in many cases.

Moms do much of the baby feeding, diaper changing, and baby care. So dads can sometimes feel left out, and incapable of caring for their own baby.

One thing moms can do is encourage dad to be involved. But in doing so, moms must let go of “their way” of doing things, and let dad discover his own way.

For example. When Hannah was a baby, every time Mike would change her diaper, I would criticize the way he changed it. I tried to teach him how to put his fingers under the leg elastic and make sure it wasn’t bunched up, preventing a future leak.

But every time I criticized him, he stepped back and became less involved. And you know what? Even when I did the diapers the “right way” they still sometimes leaked.

So I had to learn to let Mike change her diaper his own way. I let him put her to bed his way, bathe her his way, and be the dad God wanted him to be.

That can be difficult for moms who can tend to be slight control freaks when it comes to baby care.

But let me just encourage you that the help you will get from dad if you can let go of those details will bless you in more ways than you can imagine!

In Rattled you’re very open about the loss of your own pregnancy in 2002. How has that loss changed your outlook on motherhood?

I in the 2nd trimester of my fourth pregnancy when I went in for a regular check up. I was not having any problems at all, and went in alone.

My OB/GYN performed an ultrasound just to check for twins, and suddenly my world turned upside down when he could not find a heart beat.

I was completely devastated. Mike and I had two weeks of further testing before we had assurance that our baby had died. And through it all, I prayed for a miracle, my miracle, that my baby would be alive again.

But in the end, God’s miracle was not that my baby survived. God’s miracle was the reassurance that He used me as a vessel to bring a tiny soul to Heaven.

A year later, I lost another child to miscarriage.

Today, I have a greater sense of love and appreciation for my four children here on earth whom I hug with my arms, and a closer tie to Heaven where my two babies are waiting for me, whom I can only hug with my heart for now.

Today you’re the mom of 4 happy and healthy children. What do you see as the greatest blessing about being a mom?

I would say learning patience, but my husband would laugh out loud at that…since I am probably one of the most impatient people there is.

So I guess I would have to say enjoying the journey. I live Psalm 118:24 every day of my life.

“This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Life is messy. Things break. Kids get sick. But moms need to remember to enjoy the journey no matter where the journey leads.

Today at the Berg house, our washing machine is broken. Our mini van needs new tires. We are hanging onto Mike’s 1986 Jeep on a wing and a prayer, hoping it makes it another year or so.

There is mud on my kitchen floor, crumbs on my carpet, and I can honestly say that I love my life. Just as it is.

Now, I certainly have moments where I get stressed and discouraged, and can even lose my temper (just ask my kids), but I am also learning to enjoy each moment of every day as a gift from God.

And thorough it all, my simple hope and prayer is that I can be the mom that God wants me to be.

Where can readers learn more about you,
Rattled, your other books, and your ministry to moms?

My website at offers tons of FREE resources, links and downloads for moms, as well as mor information on my books and ministry.

Moms can also purchase their own copy of
Rattled by clicking here.

And I will be speaking at all 3 Hearts at Home Conferences in 2008, I would LOVE for you to join me there. The National conference is in March in Illinois, and in the fall there is a conference in Michigan and Minnesota. You can get more information and register at

Thanks, Trish, for joining us today. What a joy to meet you and learn more about your new mom book

Thanks for having me. Blessings to you.
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Saturday, February 16, 2008


"Mom," my son says, waving an empty toothpaste tube around. "We're out of toothpaste."

I stare back at him, blinking silently as I try to take in what he has just said. No toothpaste? How can that be? I think back to what seems like only a few days ago, when both my husband and I had unknowingly bought toothpaste and brought it home on the same night. We had stashed our extra supply in the linen closet and chuckled about how we would be stocked for a good long while, now.

No toothpaste? I check the linen closet to discover it all gone, just as my son said.

It is only as I am going to the grocery list to write the word "toothpaste" down for what seems like the millionth time that I realize that this little scene is just like life.

There are the times of "too much."

And there are the times of "too little."

And the times of "just enough" are simply lost in the shuffle.

I want to live my life noticing-- and savoring-- those "just enough" times.

ETA: And then I find this quote on Keri Wyatt Kent's blog:

Listen to your life
See if for the fathomless mystery that it is.
In the boredom and pain of it
no less than in the excitement and gladness:
touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it
because in the last analysis all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.
Frederick Buechner
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What I Will Spend My Saturday Doing

This morning I declared an office day for mom! It is much needed and allowed me some uninterrupted (in theory) time to pare down all those emails I have saved to deal with... later. I went from 71 down to 15! Hooray! I just feel cleaner when I don't have all those emails cluttering my inbox. I also made a new menu plan and a grocery list.

Now that the morning has passed me by, here is what I am going to spend the rest of today doing, Lord willing.

  • Going running
  • Taking a shower
  • Going to the grocery store, the library, the teacher supply store, the video store, the cleaners, and Starbucks-- because after all that running, I will need a pick-me-up!
  • Catching up on Heart Of The Matter-- too many posts I have missed plus their February issue is out and I want to read every article!
  • Making dinner
  • Planning school for next week
  • Writing and sending out a query for an article idea I had yesterday

Some of this may spill over into tomorrow... or Monday since that is technically a holiday. (Though Curt doesn't have off, the kids do.) This is just what I am aiming to do-- it may or may not all get done. And that is okay!

How are you spending this Presidents' Day weekend? Catching up or having fun-- or a little bit of both?

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A Day In The Life

As I wrote earlier, we began homeschooling the kindergartner this week. It was a hectic week with some of my kids home sick. But thankfully, Curt was in town. For the sake of posterity, I decided to keep a running account of one of our days. I share it here just to give a glimpse of what our days look like. I had intended to post this earlier in the week, but the week got away from me!

Ok, so here's an ordinary day at our house:

5:30 am: wake up to Curt's alarm. Lay awake thinking for about an hour. Drift back to sleep wishing I had the motivation to just get up and get a jump on the day.

7:25 am: Eyes pop open. We're late! We overslept! I run out to the den to find the kids packing their own lunches and Curt answering emails via his cell phone. (Did I mention that he spilled tea on his computer and had to get a new one-- so we have been back to a one computer family for about a week-- again?) They seem to have everything under control so I flop back down on my bed, and soon am joined by the kindergartner (who doesn't have to go to school he happily reminds me) and the two year old, who is up extremely early for her.

7:45 am: I slice banana bread for breakfast for the 2yo and help the two children who are well enough to go to school today get out the door with daddy. (The high schooler is already gone-- he leaves at 6:45 am, bless his heart.) So, if you are counting, today I have three at home and three at school. My friend phones to say that she and her daughter are coming over and will bring McDonalds for our lunch. She takes my order for a salad. I feel very healthy for not choosing a quarter pounder and fries.

8:00 am: Make a cup of coffee and eat the small piece of banana bread the 2yo left on her plate. This usually passes for breakfast for me! I check and answer a few emails and read a few blogs while I sip my coffee. The 8yo is home sick today and wanders in to find me watching a ventriloquist video on my friend Amy's blog. We get so fascinated that we watch all the videos on YouTube we can find on him. Since we didn't watch America's Got Talent, we then have to go to the website to find out if he won. He did!! Hooray!

9:00 am: Tell 8yo she can play Webkinz while I instruct the 5yo to watch SuperWhy on PBS. I have included this beginning phonics tv program in our school day each day. If you haven't checked it out, you should. The 2yo, I have noticed, loves it too! They are both mesmerized for thirty whole minutes. Thirty minutes, people. Do you know what I can do with thirty whole minutes?? I wash the breakfast dishes, fold a load of clothes, start a load of clothes, take some Ibuprofen for a dull, nagging headache I have, drink an Emergen-C (with all the sickness going around I am taking at least one each day), jot down some notes for this entry, tidy the house for my friend's visit, and write up a new menu plan for the write on/wipe off board on the refrigerator.

9:45 am: The 2yo is very fussy and seems sleepy, so I put her to bed. Since she has been sick, her sleep has been affected-- so I figure an extra nap can't hurt. I know it wouldn't hurt me if I were her! After she is in bed, I go over my master to-do list, adding and crossing off things for the week. I pull out our school books for the day and make sight words card based on the page he is doing in his sight word workbook for the day. (Just index cards with those words written on it in magic marker.) I review our plans for school that I made over the weekend, just to familiarize myself with what I have to do.

10:00 am: Have circle time to start our school day. (Note: This is much later than I want to start, but I am easing into this.) We read from Leading Little Ones To God, go over the memory verse from the reading, practice skip counting by two's, five's and ten's, and go over the sight word cards I made. The 8yo joins us.

10:15 am: I assign a few pages in his Number Skills K-1 workbook (got it at the Dollar Store for-- you guessed it-- $1.00!), his Sight Words workbook (basically handwriting practice), and Explode The Code Book One. While he is working, I get a shower, check emails, and get dressed.

11:00 am: He is done with his assignments. I check over his work and start making their lunches. (I am eating with my friend when she comes.) They eat sandwiches and chips while I take a phone call from Curt. When they finish up, I mop the floor and clean up from lunch.

11:35 am: We all gather on the couch for reading time. We read Emily's Everyday Manners and Emily's Magic Words to introduce the ongoing study of manners we will be doing this year. We also go over a list of manners in the book 365 Manners Kids Should Know. I like this book because each day they introduce a concept, then have an activity you can do with your kids. We will not use it in order, nor will we cover all the sections. I just thumb through it til I find something I think we need to work on. We also do Can You Find Me? which he really enjoys doing. He doesn't want to stop!

12:00 pm: I pronounce us done with reading time and instruct them to work in their art books (He uses "Baby Lambs" art and the 8yo pulls out her copy of "Little Annie's Book of Art and Manners.") While they are working, I make a poster for the fridge of the manners rules we just read. (This was the suggested activity for this entry.) This poster becomes a conversation point for the rest of the week. The 8yo particularly enjoys "catching" people who are breaking the rules and marching over to the refrigerator to point out their transgressions according to the poster. We dub her "The Manners Police" based on a Full House episode when Michelle does the same thing.

12:20 pm: My friend calls to say that they are running late. We pick up the house a bit more while we wait. The 8yo has read about a relay game where you race holding cottonballs in spoons in her Little Annie's book, so she gathers supplies and creates a relay course so they can do that with my friend's little girl while they are here. The 2yo wakes up from her very long nap.

12:45 pm: My friend arrives. We eat lunch while the kids play. We talk. I make us coffee and our "quick visit" stretches to two and a half hours. My son arrives home from high school and chats with my friend a bit, as she has not seen him in awhile.

3:15 pm: My friend leaves and we jump in the car to get the kids from school.

3:45 pm: We arrive home and discuss the various plans, projects and updates from the older kids. I field several sibling disagreements and assign the 11yo to make peanut butter crackers as a snack for everyone while I check emails and take a phone call from my mom. After I am done, I start the chore process-- they each have a list they must complete before they go off and play after school. This is how we keep our house clean as it really is true that "many hands make light work."

5:00 pm: I start frozen pizzas for dinner. Curt was supposed to be out of town so this is the meal I had planned in his absence, but alas he did not end up going. He will not be impressed when he walks in! But I am not flexible with my meals once I have planned them and bought everything. So, he will adjust for one night. When he is home I usually do make nice meals. When he is gone, I make much more "kid friendly" (read: easy) food.

5:30 pm: Curt arrives home from work early-- hooray! We are all so glad to see him-- especially me! He helps me process the pizzas through the oven as we can only cook one at a time and we have four pizzas to get through. After dinner, he does a family devotion at the table. We are sloooowly working our way through Training Hearts, Teaching Minds. With his travel schedule, this is very hit or miss. But the point is to at least get to it once or twice a week. At this rate, it might take us three years to get through the book! Voddie Baucham's seminars have inspired us to teach the Catechism and this book walks you through it in very manageable short sections.

6:30 pm: We spend the rest of the evening with homework, some tv time for those who have done chores and finished homework, computer time for those same folks, and bedtime stories. Curt and I talk a lot, then get the two youngest to bed and run a quick errand to the grocery, the video store and to Chick Fil A for sweet teas for both of us! We fall into bed, exhausted, around 10:30 and read til we fall asleep.

And that's a day at our house! Thanks for sharing it with me!
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Friday, February 15, 2008


Welcome to all of you who find your way here because of the Proverbs 31 devotion that is running today. I have to confess, this devotion is one that is dear to my heart. Why? Because I love Peter, first of all. I am so reminded of my own actions when I read his stories. One of my favorite speakers in the world (Mark Hamby) says Peter was born with a foot-shaped mouth. Ever feel like that? Also, Peter is constantly proclaiming his loyalty to Christ, then falling short when the rubber meets the road. Ever feel like that? Well, then maybe you love Peter too! Most of all, I love that God left those parts in the Bible. The parts that are filled with people who fall short and do the wrong thing. People just like me!

I hope the devotion today spoke to your heart. Ironically (or not), I was up in the middle of the night worrying over what house we are going to buy! So this devotion was a nice reminder for me as well!

Want to read the devotion? Go here.
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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Falling... and I Don't Mean Falling In Love

Yesterday afternoon my daughter went to a Valentine's tea in a neighborhood that a friend of mine just recently moved to. So, since we were literally in the neighborhood, I called her and told her I would drop by just to see her new house really quickly and then go. I had a pork roast to get in the oven after all.

And so, I got out of the car and ran to her house-- I guess just to illustrate how quick I was going to be about things. But something happened as I tried to go over the curb. The toe of my shoe caught the curb and sent me flying-- and I do mean flying-- into her yard. Into the mud. New construction plus a rainy day equals mud people. I was covered in mud. And then, to make matters worse, I had to go to her door that way. I was just praying she had not seen my most ungraceful run to her door. (She hadn't thank goodness!) But my children did. Don't you worry about that. They never miss my worst moments.

Fast forward to today. I am in Bible study, sitting in the seat at the end of the table. Then another girl came in, very pregnant and a bit late. So, deciding to do the nice thing and give her the seat at the end of the table where she would have more room, I tried to gracefully slide over to the seat beside me. Only the corner of the table caught me and knocked me off balance just enough to send me tumbling into the floor.

And so, one minute everyone's like "Oh hey" to the pregnant girl and welcoming her and the next minute there is a crash and I am on the floor. I had an insane moment where I wondered if I could play it off like I hadn't just fallen into the floor completely sprawled out. And then everyone jumped up from the table and came running. They weren't coming to laugh at me (like my children might or might not have done). They were genuinely concerned. I alternated between laughing it off and admitting that it really hurt to fall into the floor. I all but said I meant to do that.

And so, my track record for the past two days isn't very good.

Why I'm confessing this to you is still unclear to me.
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It's what we are all thinking about today, right? Love is in the air... everywhere I look around. Love is in the air... every sight and every sound.

But I digress.

As I drove to Bible study today, I heard this song. And though I have heard it a hundred times before (and I do not think that is an exaggeration), I listened to it today with fresh ears. Ears that were not predisposed to dismiss the song as "overplayed" and "old." Instead I really took in each word. And as I listened I felt God whisper, "This is the love you seek."

And I realized that all over the world today, as people celebrate love, they are, to quote the old song, "Looking for love in all the wrong places." Everywhere there are broken hearts as people grieve a love they can't have, a love that they tried to hold onto and lost, a love that remains just beyond their grasp. A love that is never quite what they desire it to be.

Because it was never designed to. Human love has always and will always disappoint us. While the love of another human is a great bonus, it can't be our all in all. The love we long for, the love people seek on this and many other days is described in that song. A love that offers forgiveness and acceptance. A love that remains. A love that reaches through time and space, past hurt and rejection, to the very heart of us. A love that is held in those scarred hands.

And so today, instead of seeking human love, I celebrated God's love. In the faces of my children, in the new daffodils just beginning to make their appearance, the promise of spring so near. In the sounds of a group of women singing Jesus, Lover Of My Soul and sounding like angels more than I have ever heard them sound before. And as I sang with these ladies, I celebrated the only love that really matters for now and all eternity.

Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Jesus, I will never let you go
You’ve taken me from the miry clay
You've set my feet upon the Rock, and now I know
I love you, I need you,
Though my world may fall, I’ll never let you go
My Saviour, my closest friend,I will worship you until the very end

As you celebrate love today, don't forget the most important love of all.
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Blessings On Valentine's Day

I have had one of the best Valentine's Days I can remember in a long, long while. I think in part because I stopped having expectations of how the day was "supposed" to be a long time ago and learned to take holidays like today as they come. This has caused much less anger and stress, which is always a good thing.

And so, here are just a few "unexpected" Valentine blessings I received today:

  • a dish of dark chocolate hearts on our table at CBS (Community Bible Study) this morning for our core group to enjoy as we discussed our lesson-- digging deep into God's word and eating chocolate-- two of my favorite things!
  • a family lunch at Chick-fil-a with buy one/get one free combos
  • meeting another large family at lunch and talking to them for a bit about what a blessing children are
  • leaving the kids at home while the baby napped to slip away alone-- what we like to call a pseudo date
  • a perfectly made Cinnamon Dolce Latte at Starbucks on our pseudo date
  • going to look at a house that is big enough and affordable-- a house that is exactly what we have described that we wanted... now to just sell our house before someone else buys it!
  • preparing our traditional Valentine's Day "red dinner": spaghetti with Cherry 7Up to drink and Cheerwine cake for dessert
  • a sweet card from my husband when I woke up this morning
  • watching him give our daughters sweet cards-- and knowing I am giving my daughters the love of a father-- something I never really had but something I vowed I would someday give my own children
  • my 13 yo daughter making our table look pretty with Valentine's decorations all by herself while we were on our pseudo date
  • grandparents popping by to give the kids bags of candy, hugs, and cards declaring their love
  • the faces that looked back at me from around our candlelit table as we ate dinner, dreaming about whether we would be eating dinner in another house this time next year!
  • Lost is on tonight-- another pseudo date on the couch with my hubby to cap off a great, great day!
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Long Way Home

As many of you know I struggled my way through most of last year and into the summer as I decided what to do about school for my kids. I was beyond burned out after ten years as a homeschool mom and wanted/felt I needed to spend more time on writing and speaking. I reasoned that if my kids were in school I would only have more time to give to serving God through ministry. I thought that, by freeing myself up from homeschooling I would be ready and able to take on more writing and speaking. And besides, my kids would be in a good school, so what was there to worry about? And so I prayed like crazy that they would get into the charter school near our home. And they did. Case closed... or was it?

So I sent them off. It was great! I was free! I had time to spare! And this feeling lasted a good while. And then, inexplicably in the late fall, I started missing them. At first I chalked it up to "transition." But as the year has gone on, I am finding that the feelings are not going away. I miss them. As much as I wanted them gone this time last year, I want them home now.

Crazy, I know.

Make up your mind, I know.

"Waffle" should be your middle name, I know.

Don't I know my own heart? Aren't I equipped to make adult decisions for my children without constantly rethinking everything?

Apparently not.

None of these feelings gelled with the whole "devote more time to writing and speaking" idea. I had freed myself up to do more, and yet more did not happen. Actually, a strange thing occurred. Less happened. Last spring I was convinced that I needed to take things off my plate because of all that was happening. I signed with an agent who assured me he could get my writing launched. I made a new cd that looked and sounded better to send out to people who were interested in me coming to speak. I really thought that I was poised to see big changes. I couldn't have anything weighing me down. Not only that, but I had had enough flabbergasted people ask me how I do it that I started doubting how I did it. And so, I did what I thought was smart. I freed myself up, I made myself ready to embrace all that was surely going to come my way.

My kids started school. I sat at home, rubbing my hands together in anticipation of all that was getting ready to happen. And then, nothing happened. Nothing at all. Not one thing. Getting the picture? No bookings-- not even any inquiries for speaking. My agent called and said that he was mystified by the response to my proposal. He had felt certain that I would have multiple offers roll in right away. But nothing. Nada.

And so, I had a conversation with God. I told Him that I had really thought I was doing the right thing. I was serving Him by writing and speaking. I was freeing myself up to be more available to Him. My heart had been in the right place, so why was He not opening the doors I had felt certain He would open? And I told Him that if I had gone the wrong way... if He really wanted me to surrender this ministry thing and just homeschool the kids, I would do it willingly. Because what I want most is to please Him. To honor Him with my choices. To never go my own way and to always trust Him. No book contract or speaking engagement was worth doing without His blessing on it.

And in the silence after I told Him all that, I heard this verse. My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in your weakness. He proceeded to show me how my striving and working was all in my own strength. My putting the kids in school so I could be free to write more and speak more was all about my ideas and my agenda. It had very little to do with His plans for us: to do what He had called me to-- to balance writing and speaking with homeschooling. Yeah, that thing that totally didn't make sense and everyone kept asking me how I did. Yeah, that. That life of the past. That daily incremental, do-the-next-thing walk He had called me to. That was where it was at. He was perfecting me through my weaknesses, showing Himself strong. He was making it happen. It just wasn't always clear back then how it would happen. But when it did supernaturally come together, I always knew it was Him, not me. Oh no, not me by the longest shot. But this life, this new tapping-my-toe-waiting-for-the-opportunities-to-begin life was all about me. Me with a cleared schedule. Me calling the shots. Me in control. Exactly where I like to be. And exactly where God simply can't do what He wants through me.

And so, last Friday I took my five year old out of school. He had a teacher who was not bringing out a love of learning for him. Instead he was begging not to go, falling apart when he got home, and I was getting notes home about how he was "disorganized and irresponsible." I am not kidding. He's five, people!

Please understand, I am not bashing this teacher. She is doing the best she can. At the beginning of the year, she told us (the parents) that she is under a tremendous amount of pressure to take this group of kindergartners who are at a variety of levels and get them to a certain place by year end. A place, I will tell you, I don't think any kindergartner should be required to be. A place I especially don't think little boys should be required to be. And yet, the state says so, and if the teachers don't produce, then their jobs are on the line. So, I know what she must feel. But I don't have to like it or go along with it. Not when homeschooling is still an option for our family.

What this time in school has taught me is that the grass is not greener on the school side of the fence. This morning as I rose at 6:30 to prepare a dessert project my son had to have at school this morning, all I could think of is, I never had to do this kind of stuff when they were homeschooling!

My son in just a few days' time has gone from sullen and angry and weepy to the happy, sunny little boy we used to enjoy. I am so glad to have him back! As for the rest of the children, I do want to teach them to finish what they start. And so I plan to keep them in school-- and decide what to do for next year. This school is a good school. But it is still a state-supported, government-run school. In the end, I have too much homeschooler in me to embrace some of their ideas. And it is as simple as that. In the end I am discovering what I guess I knew all along. That in my chest beats the heart of a homeschooler.

I have some kids who are doing well at school-- and some that desperately want to come home. I, on the other hand, struggle with having an "all or nothing" nothing mentality. Either we are a homeschool family or we are not. God is teaching me that that may not necessarily be what He has in mind. He is an individual Heavenly Father, and I am learning to be an individual mom with Him as my role model. I am thankful He did not create us as "one size fits all" humans. And I am learning that with my children one size definitely does not fit all-- much as I try to squeeze them into my ideals and my agendas. It never works.

So, that is where I have been this week. (All over the place, as usual...) Adapting to the new pace of having a kindergartner in my midst. Adjusting my rather relaxed life to including a regimen of some sort of academics for him each day. I am enjoying it, though. And what's more, he is enjoying it. We took the long way home this year. But we still got here. And that is what matters.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a post condemning those of you who choose other methods of education... It is merely me reflecting something I feel in my heart. I am not one of those people who thinks that everyone should homeschool. I just know that, for us, homeschooling has been a family-defining endeavor. Though no one has commented about feeling condemned by my comments about government schools yet, I did want to head it off at the pass!
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Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Ceramic Panic Party!

One thing I always hesitate to do when birthday party time rolls around is to hold the party at my house. As much as I want to have a nice party for my kids, I also don't want the headache of hosting 10-15 of their peers in my small-ish home for 2+ hours! When I saw an ad in a local small newspaper for Ceramic Panic, I knew I had found the perfect solution! Why? Because the ad said that you could hold the party at our local Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins store. I was sold! I arranged to hold the party last Saturday and we had 10 little girls come.
Waiting in line to choose their pieces to paint.

They could choose between a castle, a butterfly or a pony. This is just one of the groups to choose from. She has lots of themes. I chose the "pink" package-- a package fit for a princess!

Learning all about handling the paint and how to select colors, erase mistakes, etc.

Happily painting her butterfly.

Waiting in line to choose their scoop of ice cream from Baskin Robbins. This was part of the package price. I provided the cake-- a large chocolate chip cookie cake at the local grocery store for $7.99. Not bad, not bad at all.

Enjoying ice cream. A good time was had by all-- and no mess to clean up for mama! Which makes me very, very happy.
If you are in the Charlotte area and would like to book a Ceramic Panic party, just click on the link and get started. (I got no compensation for doing this... I just want to support a stay at home mom trying to launch a new business.)
This would also make a great event for groups or even a girls' night out for the moms.

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Great Offer!


I took this photo this summer and have loved it ever since. I even thought about changing the campfire photo at the top of this blog to this photo-- but then I didn't. I have always wanted to do something with it. Then I read about this offer and couldn't resist! In just a few hours, I will have an 8X10 suitable for framing for F-R-E-E! Plus extras for gift giving or just to put in the kids' scrapbooks. And it took only minutes to do! Gotta love that!

I received this on an email loop I am on:

If you have a Walgreens in your area, today only, you can upload photos to their photo center and get a *free* family pack (1-8x10, 2-5x7, 4-4x6).

If you use in-store pickup, then this is completely free.If you don’t have a Walgreens near you, you can have them shipped.

But here’s how it works:

1. Go to Walgreens Photo Center by going here.

2. Log in, or if you are new, create an account.

3. Upload your photos that you want printed.

4. When you are ready to select the photo sizes from the View Cart page, you will see several boxes where you can enter the quantity. The fifth one down says Family Pack(s). Go ahead and put a 1 in that box. Make sure all the other boxes say 0.

5. Scroll down a little more on the same page and you should see a section and a box for Coupon. Enter the coupon code VALENTINE.

6. Go ahead and click CHECK OUT, and continue the checkout process. When it comes time to pay, you should see it as $4.99 minus a $4.99 credit making it free.
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Before And After

Yesterday I was watching tv. (Yes, I ran and watched tv in one day. I know.) Anyway, I don't even remember what I was watching (some kid program) and I noticed there was an abundance of weight loss commercials on. I guess because it is daytime tv and who else but moms who constantly struggle with weight (Joni, I loved your comment about our weight loss goals never being enough-- right there with ya!) are watching daytime tv? That is what the advertising people count on, at least.

But yesterday as I watched all these ads, I realized that one of the key elements of a successful weight loss ad is the before and after photos. They really are amazing when you see them, and they are what draws you in, and makes you believe. You think, "Wow, if she looks like that, then just think what I will look like if I 1) buy that system, 2) buy that video series, 3) buy that pill or 4) buy that counseling program."

But then I thought about those folks who had to force themselves to pose for that "before" photo. In a bikini no less. I know that right now I am not going anywhere near a bikini. And I am definitely not signing up to be photographed in one!! I thought of my friend Karen, who lost over 100 pounds in a little over a year. She told me that, when she was asked to give her testimony about this at Hearts At Home, they wanted a "before" photo to put up on the screen. She had to search long and hard to even find one. And she realized that there really weren't any because she had been avoiding the camera for years.

Which brings me back to those weight loss ads. And how the effectiveness of the ad is based on the before and the after. We have to see the transformation with our own eyes. We have to know how far they have come. The further, the better. "From a size 22 to a size 6!" The words flash on the screen. And we marvel over what this person accomplished. Their story somehow translates to our story. If she can do that, we think. Then maybe...

I realized that this is true of so many things. We need to see that transformation is possible. We need the encouragement of the stories of others. Most of all, we need their courage to share the reality of where they were so that we can be encouraged by where they are now. I am glad that my friend Karen is willing to share her story. And I applaud those brave souls who put on a bikini and posed for the camera-- not because they were proud of what they looked like-- but because they were filled with enough hope about where they would end up. They admitted the before because they were confident in the after.

Do you have some befores that you need to share? I am not talking bikini pictures. I am talking honest, transparent openness. This is where I was. And this is where God has brought me. Maybe for you it is weight loss or fitness. Or maybe it is beating some addiction. Maybe it is making strides in the way you speak to your husband-- reverencing him instead of talking trash about him. Maybe it is in the way you have embraced your role as a mom-- embracing it instead of running from it. It is in sharing the before that people can appreciate the after. Though Satan tries to keep us bound by the shame of our befores, we can only celebrate God's transforming power when we expose that part too. Is there something God is prompting you to share about where you have come from? I know that it is only when I am real and open and honest and vulnerable that I reach people in an impacting way. Even when it makes me feel exposed in a most uncomfortable way.

But you're still not getting me in front of a camera in a bikini.
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A Lot Like Life

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1

If you can't tell from my previous post, I went running yesterday for the first time in several weeks.

It was grueling. It was ugly. It was painful. It was torture. It was not pretty. I was not a candidate for a marathon. I was not even a candidate for a sprint. I breathed like an asthmatic. I thought I was dying. I questioned more than once why I was spending valuable free time like this.

And then I hit the place in my run that I always hit. This one certain dowhill slope when the run gets suddenly easier. It was beautiful. It was exhilarating. It was inspiring. I was an inspiration to myself. The sun was shining on me! The air was fresh and clean! The birds were singing! I was outside, enjoying nature. I felt free and purposeful.

As I ran, I listened to Matchbox 20 sing these words: "Everyone here hides shades of shame. But looking inside we're the same, we're the same. And we're all grown now, yeah but we don't know how. To get it back to good." And I thought about how true those words are. And how, apart from Jesus, we can't ever get back to good.

And as I rounded the corner and saw my home up ahead, beckoning to me, I realized that this run had been a lot like life. We all have our times we struggle and strain, pressing on against pain and uncertainty for reasons we can't quite name in the heat of the moment. We lose sight of our calling, our purpose, the greater good, because it just hurts too much to keep going. We want to quit. And that is what the voices in our head scream at us.

And then suddenly, it gets just a little bit easier. We hit our stride. The pain eases. Our perspective is renewed in this respite. We look around for the first time and see what's out there for us to enjoy. Up ahead we see our home, shining like a beacon. Our true home, the place our souls were created for. And we are renewed as we run just a bit faster, straining towards that home, and the Father who waits for us there. Knowing that this is why we run. This is why we endure. And this is what we were created to do. That the key to getting back to good is getting back to our true home, for what waits for us at the end of this race.

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31
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How To Avoid Running

1. Complain that it is too cold outside.

2. Excuse yourself from doing so because your older children are in school and can't listen out for the baby while she is napping and you are on your run. Tell yourself, your mom, your friends, and your husband (especially your husband) that you simply can't be expected to run any other time. Lament over what you are going to do as the months slip by one by one.

3. If one day it is pretty mild outside and your older children happen to be home sick, admit that there are no more excuses and determine that today you are going for it! Then go around the rest of the day wondering if maybe your chest feels a little tight and perhaps you shouldn't push it because you might be getting what the kids have. Dodge the bullet for one more day.

4. If the next day you still have not come down with anything and your kids are home and the weather is nice again, determine there is no more stalling allowed. Decide that you will go running... later.

5. Edit the blog post you wrote 15 times.

6. Pull ingredients out for dinner.

7. Switch laundry from the washer to the dryer. Fold the load that was in the dryer.

8. Hunt around for the missing headphones to your Ipod. Tell yourself that it is not your fault if you can't find them and you don't have to go because running without music is just about impossible.

9. Pause by the monitor when the baby coughs in her sleep and wonder if maybe you shouldn't leave, because she might wake up while you are gone.

10. Stand around in the kitchen and stare at the minutes ticking by on the microwave clock. Realize that now you have dawdled long enough that you only have enough time to run, come home, jump in the car and head to the carpool line to pick up your other children. Think about how gross that is. Consider not going at all. Then remember the last time you stood on the scale. And run out the door.
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Friday, February 08, 2008


Warning: honest, vulnerable post ahead.

Someone I thought was a friend lists her favorite blogs... but doesn't mention mine. She lists several of our mutual friends' blogs. But not mine. I feel rejected... and then stupid for feeling rejected. It's only a stupid blog list, I say to myself. Get over it. It doesn't define your worth or determine your identity. But I can't shake it, much as I want to. I can hear the musicians warming up for a rousing chorus of "Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I'll go eat wo-orms."

I stumble across a website and enjoy looking around...until I notice her TTLB ranking is higher-- much higher-- than mine. Inexplicably, I feel like I am not accomplishing what I want with my own blog. And then I can't even feel happy for her.

Someone writes a blog post about something that involved me but doesn't even mention my name. I am stung by this. I spend a few hours feeling utterly superfluous.

I notice people posturing themselves to get more hits, higher rankings, more visibility, and admittedly, more popularity. I don't like when I see this-- most of all I don't like seeing it in myself. I grimace at my own reflection in the mirror. It is high school all over again. Make that junior high.

Another friend gets way more comments than I ever thought about getting. And I think that must mean she is a better writer, better friend, better person than I am. Am I the only one whose brain goes down these well-worn tracks unbidden?

Another blogger mentions me in a positive light in one of her posts and I spend the day thinking I am valuable after all. And then I wonder why I am giving anyone that kind of power-- for the positive or the negative-- to speak into my life. When there is only One voice I should be listening for.

Another friend decided to close her blog--which I love and will miss dearly--because of some changes in her life. And while I certainly understand and support her decision, I will miss her blawg and the way she inspired us all and went where some people would not dare to go-- including me. She made me feel a bit more courageous, but in the end the public scrutiny just proved to be too much in light of the changes she and her family are making in their lives. And I totally get that. But I still feel sad for the loss of her voice in the blogging world.

I read a beautifully written, thought-provoking post and feel two simultaneous reactions: 1) I am so thankful she wrote that, and 2) I am a terrible writer. I don't help people like she does. Why am I even bothering?
Guess which voice is the loudest?

I read of another person who is fasting from blogging for Lent. Good, I think. Good for her. Another writes of getting back to the simpler things in life-- of a life spent reading by firelight and pursuing creative things apart from technology. And again I say, Good for her.

I have a friend who noticed she was becoming too obsessed with her stats on her blog. In recognizing this, she put controls on herself by telling her husband to create a new password to her stats that she didn't know. Now he can check it and keep track of her growth, but she has no idea. She is reveling not in the numbers of hits, but in the impact she is making on lives. She hangs onto comments that say, "You made a difference in my life." Not on numbers. I admire her for that. How she caught herself going down the wrong path and stopped herself short.

Another person filled me in on how you can go to different sites and plug your name in and they will rank where you fall amidst all the other blogs. And all I can think of while she is telling me all this is: why? What purpose does knowing where I stack up serve? And yet later I have to literally fight off the urge to go sign up for these services. Because deep down, I want to sign up and find out that I AM NUMBER ONE. (I wouldn't be, mind you, but that is what I long to hear. Don't we all?) And then I think: Will your life be any better if you do find that out? Will that really bring you true happiness-- true joy? The answer, of course, is no. Duh!

Please understand, I am not knocking those of you who do these types of ranking things-- not at all. I just know my own limits. In theory.

Which leaves me wondering where I fit in all of this and if there are changes I need to be making along these lines. I ask myself:
Where are my priorities? Am I living them in real life or just pretending to on the blog?
Am I doing this for the right reason? (Hey, that would make a great title for a book! Ü)
Is my focus in the right place?
Am I trying to make you think things about me that I wish were true instead of what is actually true?
Do I balance being positive and encouraging with being real and ugly and extremely faulty? And in that balance do I depress you more than uplift you-- or vice versa? (Take this post, for instance...)
Most of all, why am I doing this? Why am I blogging? Is it for marketing purposes or to build relationships? Is it to have the best numbers or create the best connections?
If I discover that all I care about is getting more and more and more of you to come and visit, would I be courageous enough to just stop? Or would I shake it off and keep posting and keep checking stats? Am I listening to those gut checks in my life-- to that voice I mentioned earlier-- that One that counts?

I think that sometimes the stupid stuff-- the human insecurities-- can overtake what we do, and why. I began my blog with a handful of readers that grew over time. Back in the day, 30 hits a day was awesome. It was all I could hope for. (And it is. As one article I read stated, it is like having a classroom of people who come every day and listen to you. And that is worth something.) And then my blog grew. And grew again. And then I noticed a curious thing about me. I am never satisfied with the growth. Never do I sit back and say to myself, "There. This is exactly what I wanted." And yet, the reality is, my numbers have already surpassed what I could have dreamed of when I began.

And so, I issue this post as a challenge to not only myself, but to all of us. Yes, blogging is fun. It is community. It is a hobby. Even a passion for some of us. But to regularly process why and how and what we are doing is also necessary. To let God speak to our hearts about this whole thing and where it fits in who He has called us to be. To not get swept up in it and lose our perspective. To make this about sharing life and not competing for popularity. I don't know. Maybe it's just me who struggles with this. But somehow, I doubt it.

In the end, I think of the times I struggled with isolation and feeling alone and overwhelmed with a new baby-- and then I read a few blogs and somehow felt reconnected and renewed in the process. I think of the ladies who blog about homeschooling and family and living the calling of being a great wife and mom. And how every single time I spend some virtual time with them I come away inspired to live the calling more passionately than before. I think of the stories I have shared in, the requests I have prayed for, the scriptures I have found anew, the sage words of experience that have been a balm to my soul at times when I needed it most. And I know that blogging is not bad or wrong. It is, as I shared with another friend, a 21st century time at the well or quilting bee. In a very busy, disconnected society, we can all connect with each other, support each other, seek advice or encouragement, pray for each other.

And who among us doesn't need that?
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A Weekend Off (From Cooking, Not Life)

This weekend, I am taking the weekend off from cooking. I will make a nice, nutritious dinner tonight (a whole chicken cooked in the crockpot with carrots, potatoes and onions, with lima beans on the side) but then I am done until Monday night. Ahhhhhh.

I have had quite a week nursing a plethora of sick people. And I need the break. I have cooked like crazy this week too. I made a decent dent in my baking list (see my post from Monday), plus made meals every night. So, I figure I have a break coming.

So what will my family eat during this time? Chili dogs and chips one night. Frozen pizzas the next. Don't judge me. You know you want to do it too.

And so, I give you permission. Take the weekend off, or at least a night. Tell your family there's cold cereal in the pantry, or pb&j's. Or really go the extra mile as I did and go buy some frozen convenience foods. Then put your feet up and read a magazine. Taking a break is not a bad thing. I am certainly savoring mine! On Monday we can all get back to the business of joyfully serving our families-- rested from the break and ready to tackle another week.

PS. I planned these easy meals because I was supposed to go to my cousin Nancy's for a girls' weekend this weekend, but I had to cancel when everyone in my family (just about) got sick. She and I are going to plan another weekend, which, as we decided, gives us even longer to anxiously anticipate our time together! And in the meantime, I thought, why not just serve the easy food I had purchased for them in my absence? Why not, indeed!
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