What I Spent/What We Ate (2020.01.12)

January 14th, 2020
What I Spent:

Monday, January 6

Sam’s Club $18.23

Sam's Club trip (2020.01.06)

Walmart $51.55

Walmart Trip (2020.01.06)

Thursday, January 9

ALDI $43.90

Aldi Trip (2020.01.09)

Saturday, January 11

Daniel ran by Walmart to pick up an extra gallon of 1% milk for $3.32

Sunday, January 12
Since I haven’t gotten back into a bread-making groove, we dropped by Panera and picked up a loaf of oatmeal bread for with our soup – but I’m counting that in our “dining and entertainment” budget instead of grocery because I feel like it :-)


That’s $117, which is comfortably under my current budget of $123 per week.


What We Ate:

Monday, January 6

Roast Pork, Fried Apples, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roast Pork, Fried Apples, Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Tuesday, January 7

Orange Chicken with stir-fry vegetables over rice, pineapple chunks

Orange chicken with stir-fry vegetables over rice, pineapple chunks

Wednesday, January 8

Pork, Green Chili, and Bean Enchiladas with Corn and Lettuce Salad

Pork, Green Chili, and Bean Enchiladas, Corn, Lettuce Salad

Thursday, January 9

Barbecue Beef over Rice, Broccoli, and Berry Gelatin Salad

Barbecue Beef over Rice, Broccoli, Berry Gelatin Salad

Friday, January 10

We had a long day at the end of a long week and I didn’t feel like cooking. So I didn’t. We ordered pizza instead.

Saturday, January 11

Great Grams’ Spaghetti, Lettuce Salad, and leftover Berry Gelatin Salad

Great Grams' Spaghetti, Lettuce Salad, Berry Gelatin Salad

Sunday, January 12

Lunch: West Virginia Soup with Buttered Oatmeal Bread (from Panera) and Cheddar Cheese Slices

West Virginia Soup with Buttered Bread and Cheddar Cheese Slices

(not pictured)
Supper: Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese with Frozen Vegetables (I don’t remember what kind) and grapes


This represents the first week of my new winter menu cycle – and I managed to get several recipes of Orange Chicken, a pan of enchiladas, a recipe of Great Grams’ Spaghetti, and a recipe of West Virginia Soup in the freezer, which should make things easier for the next time around (and maybe will mean I’ll have time to write up the recipes for here on the blog – well, a woman can hope!)

Tending my little farm

January 10th, 2020

Five years ago, as a newly minted mother of a 4-month-old baby, I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy and reflected on the chapter “Springtime.”

Laura writes

“There was no time to lose, no time to waste in rest or play. The life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime. All the wild seeds of weed and thistle, the sprouts of vine and bush and tree are trying to take the fields. Farmers must fight them with harrow and plow and hoe; they must plant the good seeds quickly.

Almanzo was a little soldier in this great battle.”

I wrote:

“This year… this passage reminds me of [the] springtime of our lives and the great trust that parents are given of sowing seed and cultivating little hearts. It’s easy to be complacent, to assume that children will learn what we want them to learn, that they’ll establish good habits, that there’ll be plenty of time to teach them tomorrow. But the best time to plant a seed and kill a weed is springtime. And the best time to communicate the gospel and establish good habits is early in life.

Which is why I am resolving to be a little soldier in this great battle – and to establish my own habits now, while Tirzah Mae is tiny. Now is the perfect time to get into the habit of speaking the gospel to my daughter, the perfect time to steep us both in Scripture songs, the perfect time to live a visibly Christian life around my home.

Because the life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime. And I want the life that grows in my daughter to be a good planting.”

Yesterday, I listened to Cherry Jones read this same chapter as we work our way through the audio versions of the classic “Little House” books on our way to and from various activities.

I reflected again on the metaphor of springtime and our young children. Now the mother of four (on the outside – plus one on the inside, one in heaven, and two reintegrated into their biological families), I see even more how tireless the springtime work must be – and how important.

This is springtime. Evil ideologies vie for my children’s minds as we peruse the picture books (in order by author last name) from the library. Corporate interests try to imprint their names and logos into my children’s imaginations, try to get my children to beg for their products, ensuring customers for life. My children’s sin natures spur them to do whatever they want, following the desires of their wicked hearts. Voices from all over encourage my children to follow their hearts.

Weeds, threatening to choke the good seed of the gospel. Weeds, desirous to take over any structure or order I might impose upon my children’s lives.

But this is springtime, and I would rather be fishing, like the naughty boy in Almanzo’s story – I would rather dump my seed in one corner of the field and head off to Facebook or Feedly or whatever my latest amusement might be. Yet I know what happens to that naughty boy’s field. It is overtaken by weeds.

So I must dry the dishwater off my hands and deal with the children who are bickering in the living room. I must drag myself off the couch to deal with the disobedient child (instead of endlessly repeating myself with escalating threats.) I must be a little soldier in this great battle.

God, grant me grace to tend my little farm well.

The Gravity of the Story

December 15th, 2019

“Every family needs to get a lamb – a young lamb, a perfect little boy lamb, a lamb without any problems. Keep the lamb as a part of the family.”

The three-year-olds eagerly reached out their hands to stroke the beautiful oh-so-soft stuffed lamb mat I’d brought in for our lesson. We all imagined having a lamb come to live with us.

“After two weeks, you are to kill the lamb.”

Every eye turned from the lamb to me in horror.

I’d written “Oh boy! How sad!” in my lesson – but the looks on their faces said far more. This was not sad, this was devastating. I started to wonder if parents would be coming to me, wondering what I’d done to tramautize their children so.

But I continued on:

“But this was part of God’s great plan. God decided that the lamb could die instead of the firstborn child. After the lamb was dead, the people were supposed to paint the lamb’s blood on the doors of their houses.

All the people who believed God got a lamb. After two weeks, they killed the lamb and painted its blood on their doorposts.

That night, God sent the angel of death over all of Egypt. If the angel of death saw blood on the door, he passed over that house. But if a house didn’t have blood on the door, the firstborn child died.”

The horror remained, the kids silent in the face of such a terrible thing.

I started keening, only a fraction of what I’m sure was happening across Egypt that night. “All over Egypt, the people who didn’t believe God and didn’t kill a lamb started to wail. Every family’s firstborn child was dead – all except for the ones who had been saved by the blood of the lamb.”

“That’s so sad!” a little boy whispered, almost distraught.

And I recounted how Pharoah at last told the Israelites to go. I retold how God led the people of Israel with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire.

Their faces brightened.

They tensed as I told them how Pharaoh changed his mind and began the chase.

And their faces showed their elation when God opened the Red Sea so the children of Israel could pass through and then smashed it closed over the Egyptian army.

As for me, I was still struck with the gravity of the Lamb. The story I’ve told so many times I forget the horror. A perfect young lamb, a spotless baby come to live with a human family. One of our own, our companion, dwelling among us. Dead.

All this, so that the firstborn needn’t die.

The first lamb, and the lamb of each Passover thereafter, was chosen by its family – destined by its perfection among the flock to be a sacrifice.

The final Lamb, the one to whom each little lamb points, chose willingly, of his own accord. He made his first sacrifice, to become flesh. He made a second, to dwell among us. And finally, he sacrificed what remained, emptied himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. Bearing the curse of all mankind, he did so to save the ones he sacrificed to make his brothers.

What a grave and terrible and sobering thought.

What a wonderful and terrible and awesome reality.

Do you feel the world is broken?

October 26th, 2019

It was sometime after Easter (which is shorthand for sometime after our miscarriage) when the church choir got up to sing a special piece.

Tears sprung into my eyes at the very first line:

“Do you feel the world is broken?”

My heart answered back with the choir: “We do”

And in the darkness and difficulty of the past six months, that line has come to mind many a time.

I hear stories of domestic abuse. I listen to the squabbling of “friends” online. I see drug abuse. I ache against the terrible realities of our foster care system, with so many problems, so many hard decisions. A friend’s baby develops an unknown, most likely life-threatening condition. Car accidents land people in the hospital. Uncertainty abounds.

“Do you feel the world is broken?” my soul whispers as I read and as I live. “We do,” I answer back.

And as I ache under the brokenness of this world, the cry rises up within my soul: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

And, tears still coursing down my cheeks, I sing the rest of the song.

Do you feel the world is broken? We do
Do you feel the shadows deepen? We do
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? We do
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? We do

Is all creation groaning? It is
Is a new creation coming? It is
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? It is
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? It is

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is

Does the Father truly love us? He does
Does the Spirit move among us? He does
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? He does
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? He does

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son
Is He worthy?Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
He is! He is!

As I groan, I wait in eager expectation for the day when Christ will return to make all things right. He will execute righteous judgment. He will gather his people from all nations. He is worthy. He is!

Cleaning enough to make the next mess

October 17th, 2019

It’s been an age since I got out the paints and let the kids play.

And the dining room wall, our “art wall” for the time being, still wears spring’s butterflies overlaid by “Happy Birthday” posters from papa’s birthday last month.

The butterfly wall

It’s time for a change.

But first, to clean the dining room floor enough that dropped paintbrushes don’t result in painted toys… or a mixed media of cut-up paper, food debris, and days worth of “dust” that materializes with alarming speed on every surface of our home.

I spent a half hour, maybe an hour cleaning up the dining room, taking off the tablecloth, covering the table with butcher paper so we could paint some fall leaves (I cut some leaf shapes from old cereal boxes using the die-cut machine our church has).

Painted leaves

And now I need to clean the table outside so we can eat there, since the dining room table is otherwise occupied.

Don’t even ask about the living room.

The living room (have mercy!)

On Mental Health

October 10th, 2019

I slept four hours last night. Or maybe less. It’s hard to say.

Louis woke me up at two. He wanted a new pull-up since his was wet.

I changed him and got back in bed. I turned on twenty minutes of “waves”, intending to heed my mental health nurse’s advice to get back up and do something boring if I couldn’t fall asleep after twenty minutes. But then the waves turned off and my bed was warm while the rest of the house was cold. I stayed in bed, awake – for four more hours until my light-on-a-timer turned on to tell me it was time to start the day.

It’s one of the many paradoxes of depresssion. All I want to do is sleep, all the time, everywhere. But I can’t fall asleep when I have the opportunity – or I wake up frequently and can’t fall back asleep.

I want to eat but nothing sounds good. Or I have no appetite but want something in my mouth nonetheless. Another of the paradoxes.

I simultaneously don’t care about anything and care far too much. I play worries over and over in my head but don’t feel like I even have the energy to take the first step toward resolving them.

Depression affects every part of me. Physically, emotionally, mentally. It affects what I eat and how I talk. It affects how I keep my home and how I parent.

But, in spite of all this, I am often able to keep silent, to just “do the things” in public. To respond, “Great! – and how are you?” when I’m asked how I am. To laugh off the work that it takes to just survive.

But this year, I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t pretend anymore. I was truly not functioning and I knew it. I was putting my children to bed a little after noon and heading to my room myself and staying there – until my husband put food on the table for supper and coaxed me out to put the kids back to bed for the night.

I didn’t have the strength to ask for help.

I waited until my scheduled prenatal appointment and mentioned it to my doctor. He started me on some medication and referred me to a mental health practice. The practice he’d referred me to turned out to be not taking new patients. I didn’t have the strength or energy to find a counselor on my own.

But, by God’s grace, my husband’s workplace participates in a wellness program administered by one of our local hospitals/healthcare systems. Their prenatal nurse navigator contacted me to ask if I’d like to participate in their prenatal program. Now, I’d declined to participate with Beth-Ellen, figuring that I’d given birth twice in the previous three years and knew the basics. And I still feel that way – I’m kinda a pro at this whole pregnancy thing. But pregnancy combined with severe depression? I hadn’t really done that before and I thought maybe the program could do what I didn’t have energy to do – make me an appointment to see another mental health professional.

But what they did was even better. Apparently, they have a mental health program too – and the Mental Health nurse navigator called me a couple days later to get me enrolled and to talk through what was going on. She encouraged me and helped me to identify and take small steps to get through. We visit by phone once a week.

And then there are the people who have responded to my “Not good.” The friend who asked what she could do and then brought my family lunch and played with my kids for hours so I could take a nap on several different occasions. The other friend who brought dinner. Another couple of ladies who baked us muffins and banana bread, supplying several days worth of “teatime” snacks. The multitudes of other women who have spoken encouragement and prayed for us and given us hugs.

Despite my failure to ask for help, God has provided it abundantly.

On this “World Mental Health Day”, I am thanking God that although depression touches every part of me – God’s mercy touches far beyond.

I Take Everything You Say with a Grain of Salt

October 1st, 2019

For another month here, I have four children four and under (plus one in the oven).

Two in diapers, one in the middle of potty training, one potty trained with not-infrequent accidents.

I have three children who can turn on the sink faucet, two who can turn it off. All four can climb to get their hands under the faucet and splash water over the entire room (and beyond).

I have four children capable of pulling clothes out of drawers and dragging them through messes. None of them can wash, dry, fold, and put away those clothes.

I have four children who need fed four times a day. None of those children can provide any meaningful help in the kitchen.

This is an exhausting season.

I’m clinging to the idea that it’s just a season.

One day, these children will be able to consistently go potty in the potty chair and be able to wipe properly once they’re done.

One day they’ll all be able to turn off the faucet after washing their hands AND they’ll be able to clean up the water they spilled on the floor.

One day, they’ll be able to do their own laundry – and if they don’t do it I can let them deal with the natural consequences of their inaction.

One day, I’ll be able to send them off to the kitchen to tend the oatmeal in the morning or to reheat the leftovers at noon or to prepare tea in the afternoon. One day I can turn over even some dinners to the children.

These days of doing everything for everyone are numbered.

That’s what I’m telling myself.

But so many of you other mothers say “It only gets harder” and “just wait until they’re teenagers.”

I try to smile politely, but I just can’t believe it’s true. Sure, the rest of parenting isn’t a walk in the park, but it can’t be like this or worse for twenty years.

And then a fellow mother of many, a dozen years beyond me in the parenting journey, asked me how I was doing. I told her a bit about how hard right now is, how I feel like all I can do is put one foot in front of the other, trusting God to carry me through the next hour (sometimes even just the next minute).

She said she remembers that. When she had five under seven, it felt that way. And then, somewhere along the way, the children started to be able to do some things for themselves, started to be able to actually help. And it’s not just making it through the next hour for her anymore.

I could have cried with relief. Someone to confirm that the hope I’ve been holding on to isn’t a vain one.

Now, maybe it’s just confirmation bias. I want to hear what this woman had to say and I don’t want to hear what all those other mothers have to say about it only getting harder.

But the reality is that the mothers who were telling me it only gets harder? They’re mothers of two, three or four years apart. They haven’t experienced the utter exhaustion of having five little humans completely dependent on them for every aspect of their care.

So forgive me that I take what you say with a grain of salt while I cling on to every drop of encouragement that falls from the mouths of the women who’ve done this “many small children at once” thing.

It’s not that I don’t love you and value your input – it’s just that this crazy life my family is living right now is a whole ‘nother ball game.

Reading My Library (13 Years)

September 23rd, 2019

I briefly resurfaced from under the dark waves to discover that I’d missed an important anniversary – the 13th anniversary of my massive project to read every book in my local library. So, instead of giving my totals as of September 5, I’ve got totals as of September 23 – when I realized I’d forgotten to write an update.

TOTALS as of Sept 23, 2019 (13 years and 18 days or 4766 days)

Category Items this year Total Items Total Categories Closed
Juvenile Picture 323 1980 611
Juvenile, Board Books 31 543 285
Juvenile, First Readers 2 77 3
Juvenile, Chapter 0 92 7
Juvenile Fiction 4 324 25
Juvenile Nonfiction 133 413 14
Teen Fiction 3 52 5
Teen Nonfiction 6 11 0
Adult Fiction 22 490 78
Adult Nonfiction 49 1002 52
Audio CD 488 1421 116
Juvenile DVD 8 61 2
Adult Fiction DVD 5 112 9
Adult Nonfiction DVD 18 63 2
Periodicals 33 127 2
Total 1125 items 6786 items
2.94 items/day 1.21 items/day

We made two big gains in the past year, closing the board books entirely per challenge rules (543 total books by 285 different authors) and closing the picture books by author last name B (979 total books by 335 different authors).

I’ve also made significant headway with the audio CDs, trying to listen to one CD from each Library of Congress classification. I’ve “cheated” a bit with these, though, listening to albums that are available on Spotify that way and (mostly) only checking out stuff that isn’t available on Spotify. That way, I’m listening at home in addition to in the car. I have not, however, been faithful with recording what we’ve listened to on Spotify – which means I likely have an additional couple dozen albums that haven’t been logged.

I was hoping to get picture book authors “C” read in 2019, but it’s looking like that might be a bit of a challenge since the kids have decided that nonfiction is really where it’s at. We have read just about every book the library owns about new babies and about construction vehicles, as well as a fair bit about tools and floods. And then, of course, there are giraffes and states and butterflies and “black knights”. The children almost always tell me as we’re walking in to the library what topic they’re interested in researching this visit.

I’m a little surprised to find that I read a little over 80 books for myself (not counting re-reads). I really thought my personal book consumption had slowed almost to a halt over the past year, but apparently not!

Why We Waited

September 13th, 2019

I’ve never been one to delay telling the world I’m pregnant.

A baby’s a baby no matter how small – and I’m no good at secrets after all.

But after we miscarried in April, life has been hard. We didn’t get pregnant for several cycles (okay, just three – but we’d always gotten pregnant on first try before). We’ve had uncertainties with our foster daughter. We’ve traveled a lot, which kept me off-kilter. And I’ve been depressed – debilitatingly so.

I spent the summer worried we wouldn’t be able to get pregnant again. Worried that Beth-Ellen would be our last biologically. Worried that we’d also lose our foster daughter and that it would tear me apart.

We found out we were pregnant the day Daniel left town to pick up our beef. I started bleeding the next day.

The bleeding stopped, but my worry didn’t. My basal body temperature has never been consistent (probably because I never sleep for 3-4 hours at a stretch), but it bounced up and down instead of staying high like it should for a pregnant woman. I stopped measuring it after a month. It wasn’t serving me – but the worry remained.

My depression deepened. I was grieving I wasn’t sure what. Grieving the baby, certainly. Grieving the closely-spaced family I’d dreamed of. Grieving the difficulties our foster daughter has faced and still may. Grieving saying goodbye to two foster children already. Grieving the things I used to be able to do but couldn’t now.

How could I share the joy of a new baby in the womb when joy wasn’t even half the emotion I was feeling? When I thought of saying something, I contemplated what I might say: “We’re pregnant again and I’m just hoping the baby’s alive. No, I haven’t had any morning sickness, really, I just can’t function after 11 in the morning because I’m too exhausted and everything is overwhelming and all I want to do is cry and scream and cry some more.”

When they offered me an appointment on Daniel’s birthday, I thought “Great. Daniel can get the news that this baby is dead on his birthday.” But I didn’t ask for a different day. I know that only means waiting longer, and I’d much rather know than keep worrying.

I’ve never had an early ultrasound before. I know exactly when I ovulate – no need for an ultrasound to check dates. But this time, I didn’t have any of my normal questions prepared. I had one main question: is our baby alive?

After I knew that, I had decided, I would tell the world. Then they could rejoice with me or grieve with me with some level of surety as to which I ought to be experiencing.

The baby is alive. Moving around enough my OB couldn’t really show us what was what in real time.

A weight off my heart.

But not the whole weight. No, this weight is much heavier than one baby or even two.

And that is why I, so unused to delay, waited so long (okay, nine weeks gestation) to tell you all that we were pregnant.

It was complicated. It still is.

Please pray.

Thankful Thursday (2019.09.12)

September 12th, 2019

Friday
… thank you, Lord, that my children love to sing and dance. Louis was singing a new song: “Everybody dance for God the King” and leading the others in a circle dance of sorts. Such a delight to a mama’s heart.
… thank you, Lord, for a husband who holds me as I cry and prays for me at 3 in the morning when I can’t get back to sleep because I’m so overwhelmed.
… thank you, Lord, for easy-to-assemble shelves and being able to see (some of) my fabric collection again
… thank you, Lord, for children’s naptimes
… thank you, Lord, for hot tea with honey to soothe a raw throat

Sunday
… thank you, Lord, for plant sales and finding everything we needed
… thank you, Lord, for Daniel’s diligence with tiller and shovel to get our new bed prepped
… thank you, Lord, for easy-to-plan Sunday school weeks
… thank you, Lord, for hugs from former students
… thank you, Lord, for honey from our neighbor
… thank you, Lord, for mail order curtains that turned out to be a lovely color

Monday
… thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to futz with prototypes
… thank you, Lord, that my sewing space is starting to take shape
… thank you, Lord, for children singing praises
… thank you, Lord, for news of a coming baby now made public. My brother and sister-in-law just announced baby #4 – who will be my parents’ 16th grandchild (plus a foster grandchild and 4 in heaven)
… thank you, Lord, for a little girl who stays in bed (even when she’s chattering her whole naptime away and is perfectly capable of opening the door)
… thank you, Lord, for not-too-messy sensory play this morning
… thank you, Lord, that your mercy is more – more than my sins, more than my failure, more than my lack of energy, more than my unmet aspirations – and that your grace is sufficient for this weakness

Tuesday
… thank you, Lord, for encouraging evenings
… thank you, Lord, for a relatively smooth morning (kids dressed and ready, bags packed, breakfast eaten, lunch packed, supper in the crockpot, books dropped off – and still made it in time to drop the kids off in three different rooms on three different levels of the church and get to my Bible study before it started at 0915).
… thank you, Lord, for several encouraging interactions with women from church
… thank you, Lord, for grocery pickup
…thank you, Lord, that I’m home at last and can emote freely while the children nap (I’m exhausted, which means I’m also kinda a wreck)

Thursday
… thank you, Lord, for crayons and big paper and how long those keep my kids occupied
… thank you, Lord, for my husband’s gracious acceptance of a doctor’s appointment on his birthday that meant no birthday cake, no birthday meal at all, and a dirty house to boot.
… thank you, Lord, for a doctor who takes me seriously when I say I’m depressed
… thank you, Lord, for a baby who is jumping around vigorously and whose heart is beating strong. It’s such a relief after the past couple of months of wondering if we got pregnant only to experience another early loss.
… thank you, Lord, for a new Bible study (Nancy Guthrie’s Better Than Eden) that reminds me of your good purposes amidst the wildernesses and teaches me to long for the consummation of all things – which will indeed be even better than Eden