Saturday, September 28, 2013

food prep - how we do it

Every once in awhile I throw out a "how we do it" snapshot into how we work different situations as a bigger than average homeschooling family. What works changes often, but here's a new little gem that has been keeping us floating recently.
{To see more How We Do It posts, click HERE!}
Food seems to be kind of a big deal around here... With kids home all day, there aren't any lunches to bag, but there are 3 square meals to think of, plus all the snacks that keep our crew going. Often I feel like our kitchen just has a revolving door - some kids are still making toast for breakfast as i'm trying to do food prep for lunch. Food prep is interspersed with little ones needing my help with school, and a hungry baby who wants his lunch early. We barely get the kitchen cleaned it seems, when I realize it's supper time and that I've used all my culinary creativity for the day and I should have started early because this kid is babysitting, has gymnastics, is going to work, etc...
I decided I needed a food prep day - and I needed some help from my bigs. The day that we decided would work best was Sunday afternoon. We made a list of things that it would be nice to do ahead of time. Some of the things we do are:

soups: broccoli, potato, autumn
doughs: bread, buns, pizza dough, pie crusts, cinnamon buns
ground beef: meatsauce, seasoned taco beef, meat buns (stuffed buns), lasagne, chili, meatloaf/meatballs, enchiladas
casseroles (I've got a few "often do" casseroles that everyone seems to like).
chicken pot pie
pre-cook chicken breasts so they're ready to use
cookies, muffins (or even just a large batch of muffin batter), apple crisp, nuts & bolts
pre-cut veggies or fruits
a big pot of quinoa - (it stays nice in the fridge & can be pulled out for a simple salad with lemon & olive oil, salt & pepper dressing & whatever veggies are on hand).

i'm sure we'll add to this little list over then next while as we figure out what works & what doesn't. It's not intended to replace all meal prep, but it does give me a leg up on the week to have devoted a few solid hours once a week to get a nice little chunk done ahead of time. We decide what we're going to do before the weekend so we can shop if we need to - and then on Sunday, we're ready to roll. We pick a few things - (this past Sunday, we made 2 large casserole sized chicken pot pies, plus a little extra crust to make pies in jars for a snack one day and we made huge batches of both potato and autumn soup. We were also going to make muffins, but we ran out of time and energy, so we cut it short). This week - when lunch came, I could pull the soup out of the fridge to warm on the stove and make some fresh biscuits to go with. Easy.
Now that I have so many nice little women in my house, we divide the work and it's actually so fun to work in the kitchen with my people - not worrying if someone should be doing math or getting some other must-do school-day subject done. This week, charter & mollen peeled veggies, Cai made the pie crusts, I made the chicken pot pie filling, Sloan kept the kitchen sparkling so we didn't have to stop and clean and we divided the work on the soups. Pey was out with a friend, but she's often my extra set of arms when Elmer would rather be held than put down.
It feels like it takes a lot of energy to keep this family rolling - and with daddy on the road more than he's home, I've made it my goal this year to plan ahead, to ask for help, to look for the areas that are driving me crazy and to make my best effort to find solutions.
This one has been a gooder!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I love my little ones... like, I crazy love them.
I walked past my son in the kitchen tonight. He was getting advil because his teeth were hurting pretty bad from his braces. He is almost my height now - and as I pass him, he seems like a man.
He's more like me than like his dad. His hair is fair - and he talks too much and feels so deeply.
I stall him... I ask him about school, about his friends, about his faith... but in moments, his little sister is hissing up the stairs, "Charter! What's taking you so long?"
I should have known she wouldn't be asleep yet...
She peeks up the stairs and sees me. She smiles and climbs into my arms.
Her hair is like silk except for the tiny piece where best friend's mom sewed a feather in it. She still fits under my chin - even though she's tall for nine.
And I know they're tired... they need to go to bed... but I wrap one arm around my boy... and one around his littlest sister. They pull in close - and awkwardly tuck their other arms around their own body.
"No." I whisper insistently... "Each other too..."
And they do.
We're wrapped in a little huddle - just the three of us - and I can't help but burst into prayer.
I get one line in - and we hear a whimpering wail from downstairs... the little brothers have discovered their big siblings are missing.
They laugh - and they break our sacred huddle and tiptoe down the stairs whispering reassurances in sleepy tones.
And I?
I feel the emptiness of arms that want to grab hold of those two siblings and make them see the precious thing that they sometimes treat with scorn...
Oh babies... can you see how each of you has been gifted to the others? Do you understand how much these relationships mean? Will you throw them away like trash? Or could it be... that when my arms are laid to rest... it will be in the arms of your brothers and sisters that you will find comfort?
And this mama wants to absorb each hurt that you inflict on each other, because, my precious babies? They're not as big as you imagine them to be.
And this mama wants to reinvent bad habits - I want to make you smile at the one who drives you nuts, compliment the one who makes you jealous, be generous to the one who always seems to take...
But I can't do any of that. Because these relationships aren't mine to orchestrate or manipulate or force... no, these relationships are YOUR gifts.
And so I watch - smiling when you work together, laughing when you play together... crying when I see you making music together... cheering when you stand up for each other, weeping when I see you dancing, worshipping, praying together ... drenched in hope when I see your secret friendships forged with laughter... but then begging mercy for the one who shouldn't have done it - pleading grace for the one who doesn't deserve it...
I know i'm a hot mess as a mama (and wife - and human being)... but the one thing... *the one thing* that I have going for me - is that I don't think it would be possible for any other mama to love you all more than I do - and the best thing that I know to give you - the ones that I love so desperately...
Is each other.
Treat each other well.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


This post is a rewrite of a throwback post from the very earliest beginnings of my pregnancy with elmer. i accidentally deleted the entire completed post  (i do that more often than i care to admit...) but here's the bits i could put back together again...


Two different women from completely different walks of life contacted me within days of each other. The first sent me two different emails and in each one, she encouraged me to pray for the Archangel Michael's protection. This confused me - as there isn't much that i do understand about angels - and so i wrote her back and told her that yes, i would surely be praying for God's protection.
But then, the second woman - one that i really love and respect wrote me the following email:

"I am reminded of this passage in Daniel, where it talks about the struggle in the spiritual world and how the Archangel Michael comes to intervene.
Keep going, keep trusting, finish well because God is going with you."

And then she cut and pasted the entire 10th chapter of Daniel...
And i decided then... that despite my discomfort - i would pray in a different way; one that made me uncomfortable and uncertain.
It took me three days to gather up the courage to actually pray. i was embarrassed by the idea of saying words - forming a prayer - about something that i didn't really understand. During those three days, i prayed about other things, i talked *about* prayer, i read my bible and mulled over the idea of protection - but finally amidst the hubbub that is my house on any given day, i threw my dish towel on the kitchen counter and asked my daughters to hold down the fort - that mama needed 15 minutes to herself.
Slowly, crimson cheeked, i climbed the stairs. Locking myself in my room, i sat down on my bed and checked my phone for messages before finally throwing it down on my bedspread muttering, "Enough, Paige. Do it already... "
Flushed, mouth dry and feeling foolish and wordless in my very own locked bedroom, i knelt - because i do that sometimes... and i held my palms out just the tiniest bit... because it's how i'm most comfortable when i come to my Father... and then i blurted out something like, "God? i have no idea how angels work... and i feel stupid asking, 'cause it seems like such a crazy thing to say out loud, but do you think that you could send Archangel Michael to protect me?"
And then i started to cry.
i wasn't expecting to - as most of my thoughts were pretty shallow in those moments leading up to my pathetic little prayer...
But i cried and cried and cried as if a little dam had just burst.
My prayer continued and flowed like a river after the first spring thaw - all muddy and impatient and cleansing and raw... And He met me.
What a funny thing - that small change in posture brought... A reluctant willingness to make myself foolish allowed a brokenness and an acknowledgement of my Papa's goodness that could have happened no other way.
And when my time was up, i gathered myself up off the ground, wiped my tears and went down to my little ones. No angel appeared in flaming glory, no life-changing epiphany, no bright lights or rolling thunder...
But i learned - yet again - that if i am willing to humble myself - my Papa is so faithful to meet with me, to gently lead me... and He wants me to ask for His protection - knowing i'll find comfort there.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." - 1 peter 5:6&7

Friday, September 20, 2013

Season of the hallelujah

Daddy has been gone for a week and I've only spoken to him once. And it was loud, and little hands kept reaching for the phone, and I couldn't hear or think... and so when he said, "I gotta go..."
I just let him go.
Little Elmer hasn't been sleeping, and so i'm sloppy with sleep deprivation - the little boys are getting away with more and there is mess and disorder and all that, and it's covered in the glaze of, "oh, but if I weren't so very, very tired... I would certainly do better..."
Last night, Elmer started his night wakings at 11:30pm. I had only shut my eyes at 10pm, and I couldn't believe my eyes as I looked at the glowing clock and realized that this was all I was gonna get.
And so we began what has become our nightly routine... my tiny son calls, and I go to him... I pull him into bed with me - because my bed is too big without daddy anyway. We nurse and doze, nurse and doze, nurse and doze... hours pass... i'm not sure how much I've slept and how much I've been awake... I pull his little body close. At three months he's several pounds smaller than any of his big brothers were at his age. He's still so little.
In a dopey haze, I feel little lips rooting at my nose. We must have fallen asleep again. Now it's 4am. I pull my face away from his pink mouth. It's dark in my room, but the light of the street lamp leaks through my window blinds and in the dim orangey glow, we make eye contact.
His smile lights up the entire galaxy.
My stomach flip flops and I want to laugh... loud.
He's three months old and he thinks it's funny that he was trying to latch onto my face... and I think it's funny too.
He coos and talks. And in my froggy voice... I talk back.
i'm glad in that moment that Neil's gone.... that we're not disturbing him... that he's sleeping peacefully in some hotel room on the other side of the country...
i'm happy.
i'm really happy.
i'm not all, "praise you in this storm" happy... but i'm genuinely happy... like "things are laugh out loud funny" happy.
And I know why - and I know how - and the first word in my mind is (I kid you not) - a little, "Hallelujah"...
Because He's speaking so loudly - and so profoundly - and it feels like one of those shifts that are so big that they permanently change you... like down at the very core of who you are.
He's calling me into the season of the hallelujah.
A season of praise.
It's as if He were in the room and the arrows are flying and fear is chasing me with his horrible throaty growl - and my Father flings a thick protective cloak over my shoulders...
What's this? I wonder - fingering the fabric and breathing in the fresh scent of it and recognizing the aroma of Spring that brings Life...
And it's praise... He's letting me be covered by praise... calling me to it... inviting me to live on it like bread and water... like air and the sleep that I lack in this temporal realm...
It's deeper than gratitude. It's lighter than obligation because it's fueled by love.

I do love Him.

And it's funny... there are parts of me that feel like a crickety old woman.  Is this what it feels like to be 80 years old, and to be called to fling wide your arms and dance for your King? What will it do to my wrinkled old brow to be called to laugh and cry and praise in what looks like an ugly howl to the world, but what my Father treasures because in it He recognizes my very heart? And it's like a morning stretch - and bones crack and muscles ache and it feels so good... to praise Him.

You are who you said You were... and that's who You'll always be.
It's worth a Hallelujah.


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