Monday, December 31, 2007

Embrace the Chaos

Those were the Coach's words to me on Saturday. "Don't fight it." he said.

We've been having way too much fun around here over break. I'm exhausted. I think the kids are, too. And I know, after putting in 300 feet of line for a sprinkler system in our back yard in the last four days, the Coach is dead on his feet.

What I don't know is how to embrace all of the activity, fun and memory making without wearing myself out.
You can't stop the daily work of life, but I want to do the things that we enjoy doing together and will leave lasting memories for our children.

I haven't found that balance, yet.

For now, we are just surviving. Trying desperately to enjoy the kids, have fun as a family AND get all of the work done, too.

I need a 10 year nap.
Christmas Eve Morning - Stockings!

Christmas Eve Morning - Breakfast

Friday, December 28, 2007

Warning: You Can't Plan for Everything

Years ago, I gave up on creating the "perfect" Christmas for my children. Truth is, I just kept falling so short that it was painful. However, they don't seem to mind a bit. We have a few things that we make a priority, and the rest is just optional.

Even with our low expectations, Christmas was full of surprises!

We managed to have our yearly "Christmas Lights" drive the evening before Christmas Eve. Usually we follow with hot chocolate around the fire. But this year it took so long to get out the door (I was finishing up the baking) that we missed dinner completely so our drive ended with picking up pizza for a late dinner. Maybe that's a new tradition!

Christmas Eve morning Daughter (#2) woke up feeling puny, running a temp and her throat hurt. So after stockings and our breakfast (yes, I DID manage to get the coffee cake made on Sunday!) we added a new event to our schedule and I took her to the walk-in clinic. Her strep test was negative, but we came home with an antibiotic, anyway, which seemed appropriate considering the timing!

We chose mostly games, books, doll clothes and Leapster games for gifts this year. A new BB gun for Son (#1), boots for Daughter (#2), and some new clothes for Baby Boy (#8). Everyone was grateful, happy, and we spent hours playing games together, dressing dolls, looking at books. A wonderful day.

Our plan was to end the day with the candlelight carol service at church. Well, Dad needed help getting rid of dead skunk smell under the deck (they had some surprises at their house, too!), so Coach headed over there and we switched to the late evening service, but since some weren't well, we didn't all make it. The service WAS lovely.

By the time we got home from church, I wasn't feeling too great. And it only got worse. I went to bed early with Ibuprofen, thinking I could knock it. But when I woke up Christmas morning running a fever and aching all over with a very sore throat, I gave up. After helping the Coach get the girl's hair fixed for Christmas morning at his parent's, I went back to bed.
I didn't get up until 5:00. PM.

The Coach handled it all wonderfully, of course. It was a lot of work carting everyone to his parent's for breakfast, handling all of the gifts, getting it all loaded up and back here. Between all of this he managed to call Dr. Kevin (our BLESSING) for meds and picked those up for me, as well. Then off with all kids, again, to my family's Christmas. More gifts, Christmas play, and dinner. My Sweet Parents kept the six oldest for dinner while the Coach came back with the two youngest to check on me.

My very kind brother and sister-in-law turned the whole mess into a sleep over at their house with our six oldest and their six. What fun! That was a treat for all of the kids, for sure.

So ended Christmas Day. The Coach and I at home with two children (he asked, "How can anyone say having two kids is hard?"), quiet, and me feeling much improved by evening.

No, it wasn't what we planned. It certainly wasn't what I expected. And part of it wasn't at all fun. I hated missing my children on Christmas. Their joy and delight. Their laughter. Seeing them all in the Christmas Play. Never mind how crummy I felt.

But there were a lot of blessings, too. A sweet Coach who stepped up beautifully. Kind family who helped out, took pictures, and even took kids home! A Dr. friend who saved the day. And no one else getting sick.

So, no, things aren't always we think they will be.

But God is still on His throne.

He's in control.

And I'm glad.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How the Coach Won My Heart - Part Four

So began, for me, a balance of asking, waiting. Wondering, trusting.

I suggested to Daddy that we invite the Coach over and he surprised me right back by telling me he was planning on inviting him to lunch after church. I struggled a bit with that - we would have other people with us - but Daddy assured me that that was part of his plan.

Turns out (I learned later) that the Coach was at the lake with his family for the weekend. This was before the days when we all had cell phones, but he planned to be back for church (even though his family was staying longer) just encase an invitation came!

I spent the entire weekend worrying about what to wear, doing my nails, primping for the occasion. After all, the "meetings" had been going on for 7 months at this time. I definitely had butterflies!

The lunch was perfectly wonderful. He made the effort to sit by me, even though other people were there. We visited comfortably. I remember distinctly that when we walked outside to leave I felt, for the first time, that I didn't want him to go. There was so much more to learn about each other.

Shortly after that, the Coach called my dad. Daddy and I laughed about it when he told me. Apparently he wanted my dad to know that he was still interested in getting to know me. Even after he had had lunch with us! He told the Coach that the next step was spending time with us, and he would start inviting him.

We discussed opportunities to have him over. A few sentences later my mother mentioned she needed to go trim the grass at my grandmother's grave. I piped up, "See. There's the perfect opportunity."

My parents and I talked and laughed about it all. Their support, their hesitant encouragement. I asked my father what he thought about the Coach. He said no one had woken him up in the middle of the night and said, "He is THE ONE." I told him I was usually asleep in the middle of the night. Then he told me that the Coach was a Godly man and really had a heart for the Lord. He said he didn't want things to move too quickly (as if all of us weren't aware of that!).

I was so blessed to have precious friends who encouraged me to seek the Lord for His will. And to enjoy every moment and not lose the joy wondering what would happen next.

One night I heard my dad making plans to meet the Coach for breakfast. When he came to say goodnight I said, "Can I go?" He looked at me and said, "What?" I repeated the question and as he walked out of the room he said something about how he didn't think so.

Right after the Coach's birthday in July my dad invited him to Sunday lunch, again. This time it was just the four of us. It was an amazing feeling to not be the "odd" one. I was used to that with two married brothers and my parents. But it was wonderful to look across the table at him.

Soon after that my parents gave me the assignment of writing down the things that I wanted in a husband. Unfortunately I seem to have lost that list. But I wrote in my journal that even what little I knew about the Coach, I knew he fit the list. He had the character, the relationship with the Lord, the family. The things that mattered. And determination. Definitely.

But I also realized that in spite of my father's blessing (should it come in time) and the Coach's persistence, I would need to know myself if this was the Lord's will. I needed to hear from the Lord about it. Everyone around us seemed so sure. I felt the tug on my heart. The Lord was in this. But I didn't, yet, have the certainty that this was it.

It wouldn't take long.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas to All - and to All a Good Night

Time hasn't permitted another part to our love story saga before Christmas. Hopefully after the big fun on Monday and Tuesday I will have a chance to work on it some more. It's been such a delight to read through my journals and talk to the Coach about all that happened during those days. What an amazing and wonderful blessing to be part of God's working in our lives.

Tomorrow we will have Christmas in our own home. Stockings early, a big breakfast, presents to unwrap and candlelight service at church. Tuesday we will spend with family. The Coach's family (and most of the 50 grandchildren!) for breakfast and the morning and my family for the afternoon, dinner and a special Christmas play put on by the 20 grandchildren.

I think tonight, as we prepare to celebrate the Savior's birth, of how it must have been that night that Jesus was born. Sweet, young Mary, with all of the unknown. Joseph, and his heavy burden of responsibility for them both. The pain and wonder of childbirth. The glory of the Son of God. It's beyond my understanding and I am in awe of it all.

God becoming Man. Spirit taking on flesh and later the sin of the world. So that man - the work of the Creator Himself - could have a way back to God. Eternal life. Abundant life on earth. Hope.

From our family to yours~
May the "Hope of Glory" be with you as you celebrate this Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

How the Coach Won My Heart - Part Three

Somehow I can't seem to make the rest of life slow down so that I have TIME to write! I've been reading my old journals at night - when I should be sleeping. And this week as I was reading I found myself thinking, "I'll just read to when we start courting." - like I didn't know when that happened! I'm getting lost in the story!

Shortly after my dad heard back from the Coach that he felt the Lord was directing him to pursue getting to know me, my daddy and I had lunch. We had been having lunch together almost weekly - a habit that I loved and had started when I was in elementary school. (One that still continues today! Except that it's lunch with grandmother and granddad and a troop of kids!) Dad gave me three options. 1) He could "blow the Coach off", which we laughed about. 2) He could invite the Coach to spend time with our family (the thought of which made me a little uncomfortable), or 3) He could meet with him a few times to see if he had "potential". We agreed on the third option.

At the time, even though I didn't know the Coach, I was strangely drawn to him. My dad once told me that there is often a second best before God sends His very best. Something in me sensed that this was what I should have been waiting for.

Before long, the weekly lunch turned to breakfast (Dad and the Coach). It continued for about 7 months! During that time, Dad said very little to me about the Coach. Or what they talked about, or what he was like. A sentence now and then was about it. Most weeks I didn't even know when they had gone.

Now, this was all part of God's plan. I had a lot of healing, growing, submitting to do. And during those months (some of the hardest in my life), the Lord began to soften me, show me that I could trust Him, and restore the relationship with my parents. One of the things I wrote in my journal during that time, "I'm far too independent. I love to be in charge, have my act together, I even love time alone. I'm so used to going where I want to, when I want to. Spending what I need to (or want to) - generally not very good marriage material." I realized that I was a long ways from where I needed to be at that time. But on the other hand, the Lord began to give me a desire to experience the blessings of marriage. Sharing my life with someone.

During these months, we had a few brief conversations at church. Neither of us were very out-going, so it was a funny sort of thing. The planets all had to align for us to make the effort to talk! We both knew that he was meeting with my dad, but he thought I knew more than I did, and I thought he knew more than he did. It's humorous looking back! All God's protection. We had two blessings in the communication area. One was his older sister, who was expecting her 8th child and homeschooling three or four of her kids at the time (HOW did she have the time to talk to me, I want to know?). She helped me think through a lot, as she knew the Coach well, and wanted to protect him, but also was supportive of our relationship. The other was a friend of the Coach's sister and mine. Another link in the "lack of communication" chain. They both gave me a sounding board and kept up with what was going on. And I gleaned a lot of wisdom from them in the process.

Once, I got word that the Coach's little sister (who was 10 at the time) couldn't remember my name and said, "You, now, that girl that the Coach goes out to breakfast with her dad all the time." On another occasion, I met his parents when they came to our church for a special service. Awkward, of course. I hadn't even really talked to the Coach!

I wrote this sometime in June (they had been meeting for almost seven months). "I've felt a squeeze in my heart when Daddy talks about how wonderful the Coach is. And I don't know him at all. Yet, when I observe the respect that my father has for him, I find myself having the same respect. And I've realized that I trust my father. If he thinks the Coach is wonderful, than I know he is."

There were a lot of questions. But I trusted God to show me His will (and the Coach, first) and even though I didn't know much about him (not the typical "dating" things, anyway), I knew what mattered. I knew his character. It means something when every person you mention someone's name to says, "Oh. He's a great guy." And it started happening a lot!

I began to have to field a lot of questions when word began to get out that he was meeting with my dad. It was easy, for awhile, because the Coach and I talked so little and so seldom saw each other. But anyone who knew my dad, knew that if he was meeting with a guy it meant something. Once we began to talk a bit at church (I detailed each and every conversation - there weren't many - in my journals), I began to tell people, "We are just friends". One very perceptive friend from church said, "You will be 'just friends' until you are married!".

Over all of these months, I had a growing desire to be with a get to know the Coach. Everyone I talked to had such respect for him. He was obviously persistent and determined. And to last as long as he had, there was something in him that my dad must have respected a great deal. But I felt out of the loop. I couldn't help but start to wonder when my turn would come.

I didn't know it was right around the corner!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Fairies

A transformation has taken place at my house.
It all started with a delicious dinner from Ted's (YUM!).
The kitchen was cleaned.
The laundry folded.
And wonder of all wonders - EVERY SINGLE Christmas gift was wrapped.
(It even required a trip to get more paper)
HOW, you ask?
HOW was this accomplished in one single night?
Well, it certainly wasn't me.
But I'll let you in on a little secret.
I have Christmas fairies.
Actually, they come other times of the year, too.
But at Christmas time when the to do list is too long for the paper,
and the house is a mess,
and the kids are hungry,
and the gifts are all thrown in the closet in piles,
and I am generally OVERWHELMED,
Here they came.

People ask me almost every day HOW DO YOU DO IT?
And you know what I tell them? I have an amazing husband AND great kids.
But I also have HELP (the fairies - otherwise known as my sweet parents).
That's how I do it all. Lot's of wonderful, generous, kind, giving HELP from my mom and dad.

What a blessing!

I'm Workin' On It

I know you are all (ha!) just holding your breath - waiting for the next installment of How the Coach Won My Heart.
However, there seem to be some needs going on here today.
For one, the bathrooms. Somehow I missed doing that last week between the power outages, the stay at my parent's and the kids being out of school. Ugh.
Also, the mess. Things seem to get out of order so quickly here. Is it the amount of stuff, or the amount of hands getting out stuff or the number or shoes (don't get me started!) or what?
At any rate, some tidying is in order.
AND it's our "short" day - the kids get out at noon today - so time's a wastin'.
So I'll keep working on Part Three and get it out as soon as I can. I'm just hoping that it's before Christmas! It's getting busy around here!

While you're waiting, here's the baby's new trick. Isn't he a doll?

Monday, December 17, 2007

How the Coach Won My Heart - Part Two

From the time I was a very little girl, my dad had made a point of talking to me about boys. To save my heart, to protect my heart. We had lunch often (still do) and he always showered me with affection and most of all, his time. He was/is the best Daddy.

Later on, I learned about courtship. I made a commitment to wait for God's timing and only enter emotional attachment with my parent's blessing when I was old enough and ready for marriage. You can learn more about courtship here. It made so much more sense than just giving pieces of my heart to guys that I "liked". I wanted to give my whole heart to ONE man.

But in the meantime, that ONE man didn't come along. In my immaturity and impatience, I began to doubt. I was only 20, but it felt like I was destined to be an old maid. I figured no one that I would be interested in would pass the requirements that my dad had. I began to think there was no one like that out there.

So when the opportunity came along to renew a relationship with a guy that I had always liked, I let it happen.

At first it really was no big deal. But when it was apparent that he needed to take some initiative with my dad, things got ugly. My parents didn't believe he was the ONE for me. They began to put the brakes on.

I didn't really want to continue to hide from them or do things without their knowledge. I couldn't figure out why they were against a relationship with him. He was a nice guy - a Christian - great family. In my mind it made no sense, and only served to convince me even more that in my dad's mind, no one was good enough.

My parents instructed me to end the relationship. I didn't.

I'm so grateful, now, that the guy was a gentlemen. That God protected both of us. The problem is, when you are out from under authority and outside of God's will, you just dig yourself in deeper and deeper.

I was in a huge amount of inner turmoil. I truly believed this guy loved me. And I desperately wanted to be married and have a family. But I wanted more.

I wanted to marry WITH my family's blessing. I wanted a love story that glorified God. I wanted a man that would do whatever it took to win my father's approval and my heart. Someone who thought I was worth it. Whatever it took.

Problem was, I didn't think it was possible. I had lost the hope of that dream.

Until that day when the Coach called. HE was the kind of guy I'd dreamed of. And he was interested in me.

And I had completely blown it by settling for second best.

From that moment on, things began to change. I saw that phone call (not the Coach himself, necessarily) as the Lord saying to me, "See, I'm big enough to handle this. Let go." It took awhile, but God began to break me and bring me back to Himself. Once again, under my parent's authority and submissive to Him. It was a long, horrible, painful process. But through it all, even though I didn't know anything about the Coach, he was in the back of my mind.

Would he think I was worth it? Would he do what it took? Would he be able to please my father and win his approval?

How the Coach Won My Heart - Part One

I began writing our story for the first time on June 22, 1994.
At the time, I had no idea how it would end. However, I knew something amazing was happening and I wanted to remember every detail. Somehow I knew that God was working in my life and I wanted to give Him the glory.

Truth is, as we celebrate 13 year together, today, my memory isn't sufficient to give you the full story - the amazing details - the tremendous miracle that our marriage is. So to keep it real, I'm referring back to my journals of those days and the Coach's much more accurate memory! Too many sleepless nights, pregnancies and the demands of motherhood have taken away some of the details from my mind. Gratefully, I wrote it all down. And it's been great fun for me to read about how it all happened and remember it, again. Because it's an incredible story!

The most amazing part is that the man you will learn about in these accounts, the man who pursued me, fought for me and won my heart, is the very man that I have the blessing of waking up to each and every day. The same man that shares the joy and the difficulty of raising eight wonderful kids with me. I live with the blessing of a man who is determined to obey God no matter what the cost. These are the things you will see in our story. The same things that make him *still* the man of my dreams!


It all began one Wednesday afternoon in January of 1994. The phone rang at my parent's house and I answered it. It was a young man from their Sunday school class, asking for my dad. I attended the women's class that my mother taught and he attended the men's class that my dad taught with his brother and brother-in-law. I had no idea why he would be calling, but it didn't seem unusual. I gave him my dad's work number.

We had spoken once before - a month or so earlier - when he had attended the Christmas party for the class at our house. I had been surprised to see him there (it was all couples!). My best friend from out of town and I served at the party, but planned to skip out, since we didn't really fit in. But he showed up and hung around long enough to help us clean up afterwards. She and I talked about him, later, of course! He was really cute!

So the phone call didn't mean anything to me, at the time. But later that night my dad mentioned that the Coach had called him at work. I said I already knew that, because I'd spoken to him earlier. I was completely unprepared for what he said next. That he had called to ask permission to get to know me.

I was completely shocked. "You're kidding, right?" I couldn't imagine that a guy like that would be interested in me. He didn't know anything about me. We weren't even friends. And had only spoken, really, that one time. I did however, know who his family was. I was friends with his sister and sister-in-law (from the Sunday School class). More than that, though, I had SEEN him. He was incredibly handsome. Already out of college, teaching and coaching at a great school. I knew enough to know that he was quite the catch!

Dad didn't give him an answer. However, they met for lunch two days later. I found out (much later, of course) that during that lunch, my dad explained to him that he had very high standards in dating. That the Coach really needed to seek the Lord and determine if He was leading him in the direction to pursue a relationship with me.

You have to understand something. The Coach, unbelievably, had made the huge step of calling my dad in the first place. Before he even tried to be my friend! My dad isn't easy to approach. Especially for a young man who was interested in his daughter. I'd sent many a potential boyfriend his way, only to have them mowed down and never heard from again! They would SAY they would talk to my dad, but most of them never did.

When I heard my dad's report on the lunch and what he had told the Coach, I was horrified! How could he know if he wanted to make a commitment to this when we didn't even know each other? There was no way he'd call back. I was sure he had been sufficiently scared off, just like the rest.

About one week later, on a Saturday afternoon, our unlisted number rang. I, of course, answered, as I always did! And it was the Coach's voice on the other line. I ran upstairs as soon as my dad hung up the phone to see what he had said. Dad (surprised as the rest of us) told Mom and I that the Coach had prayed about it and felt like the Lord was leading him to pursue a relationship with me!

I don't think the three of us ever expected that answer. Or had thought about what would happen if it came.

Of course, the whole thing was very flattering. He didn't know me and yet was somehow drawn to me. I couldn't believe it all. It amazed me that he had the guts and determination to not only initiate a relationship with me, but hadn't been intimidated by my dad or his declaration of the seriousness of the prospect of befriending me. I was impressed. Tremendously impressed. And have I mentioned, yet, that he was really handsome?

It was all very incredible. There was only one problem. Secretly, behind my parent's backs and against their wishes, I was dating someone else. . .

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's Anniversary Eve

Betcha didn't know.

Today is an important day!

No, not Christmas Eve - you don't have to get the kids dressed up for the candlelight service just yet.

No, not Christmas, you still have a week of shopping left.

It's Anniversary Eve!

And tomorrow the Coach and I celebrate 13 amazingly BUSY, wonderful years as husband and wife.

To honor the occasion, I have a special post waiting in the wings.

The very first installment of our love story!

So get your Diet Dr. Pepper or hot chocolate, or whatever makes you feel warm and cozy, and join me tomorrow for a wonderful story.

By the way, just a hint - the wonderful part is the Coach! You're gonna love it!

See you then!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thankful Thursday - Ice Storm Edition

Can it really be Thursday, again?
Feels very much like a roller coaster.

In the spirit of the adventure that has been this week, today's list of thankfulness will have a theme - here goes:

2. HEAT (powered by, you got it - electricity)
3. LIGHTS (yep, again, electricity is involved)
4. Candles (that's encase of NO you-know-what)
5. Blankets
6. Fireplaces (ours is gas - so it was nice and toasty - and expensive!)
7. Parent's house (WITH electricity)
8. Brother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece and nephews (Also WITHOUT electricity and camping out with us at the aforementioned parent's house)
9. Hot Chocolate
10. Microwave popcorn
11. Cable TV (at the parent's house - not here)
12. Washer and Dryer (I can't adequately describe the amount of laundry that piled up during the power outage - wait a minute, we weren't even HERE! There must be devious little elves that come into my house when I'm gone and get things dirty! AAARGH!)
13. School IN today (can I say QUIET?)
14. That the Coach is diligent in trimming trees (and we have many) away from the house on a regular basis - I guess the chainsaw was a necessary purchase, and not just an excuse to buy something loud and dangerous, after all.
15. The Coach's 4 wheel drive Monterro. It DOES NOT slip or slide. Ever.

I realize that I have a strange perspective on gratefulness after the week that we've had. But truthfully, how many of us take these basics for granted?
Did I mention ELECTRICITY?
Oh, and card games and puzzles and mittens and stocking caps and boots and coats and. . .
Don't forget to leave me a comment and tell me what YOU are thankful for today!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday - Keeping up with School

I often tell the Coach that our family is personally responsible for the destruction of several trees each week.
With five children in elementary school, the amount of paper that comes home with them is insane.
Over the years, I've come up with a simple system that helps me keep it all straight.

1. If it needs a response (signature, money sent, etc.) I do it THEN and return it to them or their folder or backpack (for the younger ones). The FIRST thing we do each afternoon is sit at the table and go through folders, sign papers, and get things organized for the next day. I if I try to wait, it doesn't get done.

2. If it's already in the past, or doesn't need any action, I throw it away.

3. If it's in the future, I put it on the calendar. Every child has a letter (for their name) - followed by the activity or what is needed (ex. T-sack lunch, or B-school shirt) on the appropriate day. Sometimes I use a sticky note on the top of the calendar if it needs more of a discription. Like this:
Day of the Week


After they leave for school WITH it that day, I throw the note away.

4. If it needs to be saved for reference at a later time (study sheet, list of requirements for a project, etc.) I put it in their folder.
Each child has a pocket folder, labeled with their name. ALL school stuff goes in these folders. Papers they bring home, pictures they draw, notes from teachers, report slips, etc.

5. Each week or two, I sit on the floor with all five folders and clean them out. If it's something I need to save for them, they have a file in the filing cabinet with their name and school year. If it's past, I throw it away. If it needs further action, I put it on my list. If it's not finished yet, back in the folder.

For the last 6 years, I've used this system with great success. Without some kind of organization, I know I would miss a lot!

Hope it helps you, too!

Be sure to check out the other great ideas at Rocks in My Dryer, WFMW!

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful

Well, Folks. It's not pretty. The downed power lines, the tree branches littering our yard, the MESS everywhere. But we are home. After 30 hours or so camped out at my parent's house with the Coach's brother and his family, we have ELECTRICITY and we are home.

I knew the ice storm was coming, though. So we were prepared.

With popcorn and hot chocolate, you can survive anything. And electricity. That's important.
You can't see this, but the hot chocolate says, "GREAT FOR: Offices, Restaurants, Schools, Daycare."
Yep, that's us.

Friday, December 7, 2007

What IS that smell?

Our house is full of excitement.
Excitement, I'm telling you.
Of the greatest kind.

Sometimes, it's billows of smoke coming out of the oven.
I'm SO generous with my advice to you all, I hope you appreciate it.
Here it comes: Lego's will catch fire.

But other times, there are good smells.
Not over on the boy's side of the house, of course, but that's just the way it is.
Tonight, in our kitchen, it is smelling lovely.

Believe it or not, I have three 6th grade boys making candles in my kitchen.
With the help of the Coach, of course.

There are certainly days when the school projects wear me out. Seriously. A poster on games played in ancient Egypt? Please!
Or a map of little Christian's journey? With 3-D images? Oh Boy.
On on those days, I contemplate the possibility of homeschooling. Surely we could get by with math, grammar, the basics. Forget the projects. Forget posters and dioramas (don't get me started!), costumes, authentic pioneer lunches and bake sales. I have eight children, for heaven's sake. I don't have time for this!

However, we have good moments.
And tonight, with the green apple scent permeating the kitchen and candles being cranked out by the dozens (or at least ones), all is right with the world.

Just don't ask me later when I'm trying to get these boys to be quiet and go to sleep.

Soup - tacular


Happy Friday, All!

Boomama is hosting a soup-tacular today, so I'm jumping right in. We LOVE soup around here. Lots of it. Beans and sausage, taco soup, tortilla soup, potato soup, as well as the two listed below. Our very favorite thing of all is chili, but I'm not sure if chili is really "soup", so here's a chicken recipe, as well.

Happy Cooking!

And be sure to check out all of the other recipes at BooMama's Soup-tacular.

Quick Chicken and Noodles

3 or 4 chicken breasts
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
2 cans of milk

Cook in slow cooker all day, then take chicken out, shred, and return to sauce.
30 minutes before serving, add one package of frozen egg noodles.

Turkey Chili

No one will ever guess this chili is made with ground turkey. And guess what? It's not only lower in fat - it's CHEAP! So give it a try.

4 lbs. ground turkey
1 onion, chopped (I use my Cuisinart - no one likes "pieces" of onion at my house)
2 bell peppers (again, Cuisinart)
4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 large cans of tomato puree
3 cans of chili beans (not drained)
1 can of corn (drained), or a couple of handfuls of frozen corn

1 pkg William's chili seasoning
1 T cumin
2 T chili powder
3 T parsley
2 T butter
2 t salt
3 T honey

Brown turkey in large stock pot while chopping the onion, pepper and mincing the garlic. Add vegetables to browned turkey. Mix in tomato puree, beans and corn. Add seasonings.
Simmer for an hour (or more) on low.

At our "house of many children" I serve this with Fritos, grated cheese, and sour cream on top.

Enjoy the warmth!

Here's a bonus recipe, for those who have asked. It's one of our favorites.

Creamy Chicken and Rice

4 C cooked rice
1/2 C butter, divided
1/4 C flour
2 C milk
2 t chicken bouillon granules
1/2-1t seasoned salt
1/2 t garlic powder
1/4 t pepper
4-5 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
12 oz. Velveeta
2 C sour cream
1/4 C cracker crumbs

Spread rice in a 9x13 pan. Melt 1/4 C butter, stir in flour. Add milk, bouillon, seasoned salt, garlic powder and pepper. Bring to a boil, cook and stir 2 minutes until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat and add chicken, cheese and sour cream. Stir until melted. Pour over rice. Melt remaining butter, toss with cracker crumbs and sprinkle over casserole.
Bake uncovered at 425 for 10-15 minutes (I usually bake for longer - maybe 30-45) until heated through.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thankful Thursday

It's already Thursday, again!
In spite of the fact that some moments drag - like last night when the baby wouldn't go to sleep - time seems to fly around here.
And don't forget to leave me a comment and tell me what YOU are thankful for this Thursday!

1. A Warm Home
2. Cabinets full of food
3. Plenty of clothes to wear (never mind the washing)
4. Gas in the Van
5. Short hair (does 5 minutes to get ready mean anything to you?)
6. Colored Pencils (my kids' very favorite thing)
7. Christmas Music
8. Diet Dr. Pepper
9. My Vacuum (yes, I don't get it out as often as I used to, but I love it, still)
10. Three full bathrooms (last night was bath night - still not sure how we did that with one bathroom)
11. Hot Water (usually we can get everyone clean before we run out - on a good night!)
12. Trees (a listing for our house would say "Wooded Acreage") - Love that.
13. A baby pulling up on my chair, as I write
14. Big 12 Championships
15. That tomorrow is Friday!

And most of all, I'm grateful for the hope we have in Christ. Because without it, I wouldn't be able to get up and do it all again every day. Because the truth is, sometimes the work of life gets to me.

But I can keep going when I remember that motherhood is a privilege and a blessing. That I have the opportunity to teach my children the character of Christ. Through serving, responding in love, and giving of myself. I can only do that because God gives me the strength.

I'm over thinking I can do this by myself.

But I still find myself trying, sometimes.

"Lord, give me the grace today to show You to my children."

And just to help you out with a little advice - because that's just how generous I am, People - a bottle of formula left upside down on the couch WILL drip it's entire contents down in between the cushions and cover the underside of the cushions, the frame of the couch and all of the cracks in between with stinky formula.

And a little bonus advice - generous, that's me - while you are cleaning the couch, make sure that your child doesn't move her (or his, you know, either way) cereal bowl full of sugary milk to the living room floor to watch (because it's the excitement of the day, No, week! when we clean out the couch, let me tell you). Because (and here's more advice - it's just oooozing out of me today!) when you get the baby out of his (or hers, you know, doesn't matter) highchair the very first thing he will go for is that bowl of milk.

I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

WFMW - Mexican Casserole

It's Works for Me Wednesday over at Rocks in My Dryer!
Today is "What Do I Fix?" Edition, so here goes:
One of our favorites - for those "What Do I Fix?" evenings - is Mexican Casserole. Here's how I do it, but the possibilities are endless.

Layer in a 9x13 baking dish:

2 cups of cooked rice (usually left over from another meal)
1 lb. cooked ground beef or chicken
1 can of chili beans (or black beans or any beans)
1 cup of frozen corn
1 can of enchilada sauce (it's good without it, too)
1 cup of shredded cheese (I use Colby/Jack)

~As you can see, this has too many substitutions to mention. But I most often have these ingredients on hand.

Bake until it's heated through and serve with warm tortillas and salsa. Sometimes when I only have a few minutes, I mix all but the cheese in a large skillet until heated through, top with cheese and serve it from the pan.

My troop loves it - and it's cheap, quick and simple.


And be sure to check back at WFMW for more ideas!

The Evolution of "Clean"

I'm working on our love story, Folks. But it's not ready, yet. It's hard to write in any kind of continuity when I only have five minutes at a time! I don't know how Pioneer Woman does it!

Have you ever thought about how your standards of housekeeping change as you have children? I washed our sheets (just ours - one bed out of 9) yesterday and couldn't remember the last time I did it. Was it two weeks ago? Or two months? Yuck.
There has been a gradual change in my definition of "clean" over the last 12 years as our family has grown from 2 to 10. There was a big decline when #4 came along, for sure. And maybe another decline when I was expecting #8 and felt horrible.
I grew up in a home where cleanliness was really next to Godliness. Really. And it was clean, my friends. My mother trained me well. And for awhile I managed to keep up. Then life happened.
Overall, my conclusion is, we live like pigs.
No more vacuuming each and ever day.
No more washing all sheets once a week.
No more mopping all of the hard floors twice each week.
Washing windows? Only if there are fingerprints where I'm trying to look out.
And baseboards? When DID I have the time have to clean them so often?
The bathrooms, well, that's necessary. At least when they reach "disgusting".
I don't iron anymore.
And the oven only gets cleaned when someone leaves Legos in it and I preheat it for dinner and it catches on fire.
I can't remember the last time I dusted. O, yeah, when the Coach's family came over two weeks ago. But before that. . . eewwww.
Scrubbing tile grout - well, isn't that what bathroom cleaner is for?
My cleaning toothbrush and I are distant friends rather than close companions.
And I'm sure the light fixtures are full of bugs. Not that I've looked.

And yet, days go by. The children are happy. And I'm learning.
Learning that it doesn't really matter.
That "clean" is relative.
That compared to the rest of the world, we live in amazingly sanitary environments.
Except for my boy's bathroom.
But that's another story.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I'm Buried!

Truth is, I'd rather be writing.
I'd rather be telling you my love story.
I'd rather be doing anything else.
But I'm not.
I'm folding laundry.
Lot's of it.

Yes, it's true. We have so much clean laundry to fold that it's now the fun thing to play with.
Maybe I can get through it this weekend and get back to writing on Monday!