Wednesday, March 27, 2013



That's how I'd describe our existence these days. We've got about 72 plates spinning and I'm sure, even though the circus music is blasting the appropriate soundtrack, plates are about to start crashing to the ground...soon!

Pappa had been called on early in the week to help with the most urgent of the spinning plates,

...a bedroom reassignment project that affected all four children and involved all of their clothes and all of their books and all of their toys being un-shelved, un-contained, and un-drawered.

All beds were disassembled and a few were reassembled just in time for much needed tuck-ins at day's end.

Yesterday the kids and I worked trying to sort through all of the piles of clothes and toys and books (oh my!) before we turned our attentions to shopping for and packing my men's supplies for shipping for an upcoming international mission trip.

We also gathered the last of the Easter outfits for Sunday and are making plans to attend and participate in activities at church for the next three evenings.

Softball practices have begun and birthday season will begin tomorrow and I'm not at all prepared to celebrate a certain special kiddo's big day in the fashion that is expected :-).

I haven't seen a treadmill for days and the laundry is piling quickly!

Each of my tasks springs from a good place. I'm thankful to live in a home that will hold four active children and allllllll of their belongings. I'm thankful that this home houses a family whose goal is to provide each of us with a strong sense of belonging both to our Savior and to one another which is far more important than all of the tangible stuff upstairs that must be sorted and managed and organized.

It's wonderful that my teenaged son and his dad are getting the opportunity to serve on a mission trip this summer even if the work involved to prepare them has to be squeezed into a very full Easter week! Having Easter to celebrate and a dynamic church family with which to celebrate it pretty much crowns all else and provides a needed perspective to our chaos of late.

So, although upheaval aptly describes this short harried season here, a far better phrase arises...

Looking toward the piles and the plans and the projects my goal is to remember what a blessing getting to live this life really is. I hope and pray that as this season of celebration comes upon us, you are able to count your life and its ridiculous blessings as well...though for your sake, I hope that all of your blessings are not flung about your home like mine currently are!!
Happy, Happy Easter!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Gonna have to need...

"Mommy, I'm gonna have to need some help wiff dis." 

It makes me grin every time. Wouldn't it just be easier to just say, "Hey Mom, help!!" That's not what she says though. She phrases it so that her request sounds like she'd rather not ask for help, but sees no other way to accomplish her goal so, she's gonna have to need me.

I'm a lot like that. Sometimes my Man will come home from work, or from being away for a few days and say, "It seems like you could use a little break." Then the part of me that likes to pretend that I'm in a "SuperMom" contest answers quickly, "Absolutely not! I'm doing fine. Whatever makes you think that I need a break?"

Then depending on the level of crazy that my Man reads in my eyes, he will either say 1) "Okay, I was just checking." or 2) "What makes me think that you need a break is that you've been with the children and the dishes and the  laundry for about 643 straight hours and I've noticed that you are developing a slight tick when one of us says your name or when you hear the buzzer on the dryer." 

I hate response #2. I shouldn't because it is the response of a husband who is paying attention and who cares and who is seeking my best, however, it causes me think all sorts of things about myself. 

~God gave me a husband and children and a home to care for and I love what I've been called to do, and needing a break from that might mean that I don't love it all...enough. 
~My friends who have more responsibilities in life than I do NEVER talk about needing breaks from their lives, so why in the world would I need a break? 
~Aren't breaks for weak people who aren't tough enough to handle things?
~Really, Gretchen, is it that difficult to fold a load of towels? How terribly taxing is it so unload a dishwasher…some folks don't even have dishwashers and I'm SURE they aren't needing a break!
~Take a break? The kids are growing like I'm feeding them fertilizer and I'll miss so much if I take a break. I'm sure I'm supposed to be with them each and every minute so I don't miss anything.
~I haven't made it through my mental 'to do' list once this week so what exactly am I needing a break from?

…and on and on it goes. Until all of those self-defeating thoughts have made me even MORE in need of some space and some air and some inner silence. It turns out at those moments that though I may not want to, and though that nasty inner voice thinks otherwise…

I am gonna have to need a break.

We all know by now that the break I did not want to take soundly answers each objection that my self-chatter raised. A break makes me better at my job, it makes me enjoy my calling with fresh energy, it shines a light on just how weak I'd become while I was attempting to be too strong and mighty to stop and sit a spell. After a break, my 'to do list' is no big deal and neither is the buzzer on the dryer. 

I'm gonna have to need is a telling admission but at its core it's an honest one. Often, I'd rather endure a root canal than admit that I have a need, but I'm trying to learn that needing does not equal weakness. Instead, I'm beginning to wonder if admitting need may be somewhere on the road to maturity. 

Acknowledging that I have a need I am unable to meet on my own is difficult, but I'd never ever deny that anyone else in my own little world has needs with which they need assistance. Why am I surprised that I'm just like everyone else? (Perhaps that speaks to the maturity issue as well? Yikes!)

I sent my Man a text a few days ago which said in essence "I'm gonna have to need…" I was a little uncomfortable after I hit the SEND button, thinking that there was no time for him meet my need, thinking that he had much more important things to do, wishing I could un-send that text, thinking so many other things…but you know what happened? 

My need was met, my resentment over having the need in the first place was put to rest, and my Man was able to take the opportunity to be the hero on the white horse coming to my rescue. None of which would have happened if I'd still been competing in the "SuperMom" contest and denying that "I was gonna have to need…"

I love it when a friend calls me with a need that I can meet, a question I can answer, or a situation for which I can pray. If no one ever called, I'd never get to experience the joy and satisfaction of meeting needs. I'm understanding more and more that when I don't make a need known, I'm not allowing those around me to experience the same joy and satisfaction.

Can it be that I'm making the case for acting more like Molly?
 I'm gonna have to need to think about that one for a bit!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Puzzle of Sorts...

I passed by my desk the other day and noticed something extra displayed on my day-by-day calendar...

"Hey! Who wrote on my calendar?"

"Mom...if you can't figure it out from the front... (I could)...

"...the answer's on the back." 

I'm thinking it was Molly Write, is that the same answer you got??

Just checkin'. Me too!

In related news...

...reading lessons seem to be going fairly well.

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested. 
- Francis Bacon

Monday, March 11, 2013

via Email

I email my older kids a lot these days which is a little odd if you consider that these children and I spend most of our waking moments together.  Usually my emails originate at night, after they've put their growing frames into bed. I love to read...had you heard? I find merit in online reading as well as plain old-fashioned book reading and during these online escapades I find little blurbs of information that are interesting to me and I wonder if maybe a friend or one of my sisters might benefit from my find and so I share these things sometime via email. Now and then I'll even come across an article that a fine-looking preacher may be interested in and I email him too. It is with increasing frequency, though that I find things that I think my kids should read. 

Sometimes I'll send them recipes like this one that I know they'll be willing to attempt with me. Other times, I'll send Cole an article on a sports figure or an issue that has been getting lots of air time on ESPN or maybe it'll be an odd bit of trivia that has touched both of our worlds like an article on Sriracha sauce. Meg often receives links to blog posts from writers whose work we both admire like Annie Downs and Ann Voskamp or maybe even Emily P. Freeman, three women whose writings cause us to ponder big topics and small ones alike.

When I go throughout my day, taking in the sights and sounds of it, I consider how those very sights and sounds will be absorbed by the kids. Will they see it in the same light that I have, or will they come at that topic from a different point of view? Will a book that has lit my fire light theirs? Some of my favorite conversations with the kids have begun with their current event assignments. It's every bit as interesting to find out what they've chosen to report as is the report itself.

It's not all butterflies and basketballs as the weeks and months progress. There are on occasion, strongly held opinions that stand firm and deep and there are also volatile emotions that spill over the edges once in a while. I hear from those who've gone before me that all of this is to be expected and experienced and maybe even embraced as part of a healthy process of growing up. While I'm all about the healthy part, I'm still working on that growing up reality. 

I'm watching those bodies grow right up past me, to heights I've never reached (and without a stool never will)! I'm also watching those minds grow and what a gift to behold. 

I like to think that my little emails might help to fill those minds with little drips and drops of things I find interesting and think are worth their attention. What I really want them to know, more than anything, whether via email or by sitting across the table from me or beside me on the couch, is that what I find ridiculously interesting and highly worthy of my attention is them, both who they are now, and who they are becoming, and who they will be after that. 

...and also, I really really want who-they-are-becoming and who-they-will-be-after-that to send me interesting emails every now and again too!

Monday, March 4, 2013

On This Week's Table...{Daddy's Gone Dinners}

It was a late night for all of us last night and therefore a late morning this morning. Most of us kind of stumbled awake, some of us reaching desperately for our coffees, others of us simply sitting, staring with glazed expressions at the breakfast which was laid out in front of us. It was an odd assortment of left overs and snacks from last night's gathering. Not the breakfast of champions I admit, but Girl Scout cookies in four varieties were involved so at least our breakfast supported the greater good...or at least, the greater Girl Scout.

My Man gets to travel to lands that are sunny and bright this week and the rest of us are just a bit jealous about being left behind in what the weather forecast for us promises to be another round of snow and drear. As is our tradition when My Man travels, the kids and I have planned a menu of "Daddy's Gone Dinners" which, this year has a note or two of international flavor.

Slated for our table this week...

  • Thai Chicken Pizza from The Pioneer Woman (pictured below) - which was a total hit last year and so a must in our line up.
  • Cheesy Rice with Broccoli from The Mom 100 cookbook. Usually in these parts, broccoli must be sortable, that is, removable from the other parts of the entrée, but not in this one! We're partying now! 
  • Sesame Noodles with all the fixins and a lovely peanut-y sauce. Even though the kids are still a bit shy about adding peanut butter to savory dishes after a disastrous Daddy's Gone incident, we are confident that this Asian staple will hit the spot.
  • Sloppy Joes...we know that this selection is hardly "out there" in the food universe, but My Man has long nursed an aversion to the Manwich product and we have not, as a result, ventured boldly into sloppy joe land. However, the kids are certain that they will not be well rounded citizens in their adulthoods if we do not get in the sloppy joe gear and so my Ant Sab shared her top secret recipe with me and we're off!
  • Everyday Curry (pictured below)...from the Super Natural Every Day cookbook by Heidi Swanson. We thoroughly enjoyed this one last year too and happily, asparagus is just now coming into season for us to use in this beyond-our-comfort-zone favorite.
  • Creamy Millet with Roasted Portobellos - say what?! Here's the scoop...we are, Cole, Meg and I, learning about mushrooms and by learning about I mean we are figuring out how to prepare them in all of their different forms and fashions. This recipe from The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook will be far from our regular fare, but hey it's all about the adventure, right? There will most certainly be a big pan of hot bubbly mac n'cheese at the ready in case our adventure gets the better of us!

  • Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas---Olé! Mexican is our absolute favorite and even when My Man is in town we eat super-sized burritos on nearly a weekly basis but since Daddy's gone this week, we're kickin' it up a notch!
  • Stuffed Spud Soup...the hands-down favorite of the younger set which I somehow managed to ruin recently when serving it to friends which was embarrassing enough but when the girls requested their fav for the week, they both added that they hoped I wouldn't make it taste awful like I did last time!
Now Daddy's not gonna be gone long enough for us to fix and eat each of those meals but if we have some of them for lunch we should be able to polish most of them off. To add the grand finale to our parade of food and to celebrate Daddy's return we're planning...
  • Smitten Kitchen's Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes...sounds like a Daddy's Home Dinner if ever I've heard of one...minus all of those little pieces of green of course!

We'll let you know which meals were our favorites, and if you'd like to see pictures of each meal on the days we prepare them, you are welcome to follow us on our Instagram feed where you are sure to find many, many "slice of life" moments captured in pictures that never make it to the blog!

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