Friday, November 18, 2016


I've been wearing real clothes more lately.  I'm talking jeans instead of pajama pants.  Shirts instead of t-shirts.  Real bra.  Even jewelry sometimes.  Yes, these are accomplishments for me.

The fact that I'm sitting at my computer typing something resembling a blog post is a good sign.

For those of you just joining the party, my son has had a headache for almost one year.  It has flipped our life upside-down and brought challenges that can't be explained.  My husband says we have gone through the stages of grief, and it seems we are finally landing at "acceptance."

We didn't lose our son, but we sure lost our vision of what life would look like right now.  Over the last year I experienced denial ("This is just a headache.  It'll end soon."), lots of anger ("Why can't any doctors help us?!  People don't understand what we are going through!"), a bit of bargaining ("I'll take his pain so he can be a kid."), and lots and lots of depression.  It's apparently a shameful thing for a deeply rooted Christian to admit to experiencing depression.  But it's the truth, and now that I'm camped out in Acceptance, I don't see any good reason to pretend I didn't spend entire days in pajamas, not cleaning my house, too tired to accomplish much.

Here in Acceptance, it doesn't much matter if people don't understand our circumstances or how we cope with them.  Nolan's greatest love is basketball.  We found a way to let him play by switching to a less competitive league and having Jared coach his team.  Nolan is on homebound schooling, meaning he is home all day, goes in after school for tutoring, and does most of his work at home.  Earlier this week someone made a negative comment to Nolan regarding the fact that he doesn't feel well enough to go to school but he was able to play basketball.  Nolan told me about the comment and I simply told him that that person doesn't understand what we are going through, so--respectfully--their opinion doesn't really matter.  I didn't get my feelings hurt on his behalf.  I didn't go talk to the person.  I just brushed it off.  Another great accomplishment for this girl who has never been a brusher off-er.

When Nolan's headache started ripping responsibilities out of my hands, I resented it greatly.  I did not like giving up my areas of ministry and volunteering.  I loved being a Sunday school teacher, throwing baby and bridal showers at church, helping at my kids' schools all the time.  I did not appreciate having to give these things up.

Here in Acceptance, I see the value of a more open schedule.  I don't fret having to say "no" when asked to do something that doesn't fit well into my current life.  I used to feel trapped at home.  Now I use my days at home to make and shop for Christmas gifts--and even have many wrapped!  I poured myself into a Beth Moore Bible study and now I'm reading a fiction book just for entertainment.  I took and edited family pictures for several of my friends.  This is a very time-consuming process, but I had the time to give.  Last year I went shopping with a couple other moms to buy all the goodies to be sold at the school Santa Shop.  This year I worked out deals online and placed an order from my couch. 

Since I'm not teaching my Sunday school class, I was free to go to my brother's church for my nephew's dedication.  When Nolan is having a bad morning, we go to one church service and then come home.  We haven't experienced this freedom in the decade+ that we've been at our church.  I used to think that people who went to one service and then went home were not as committed.  But I have had to struggle just to make one service work for our family, so I soak up that time amongst brothers and sisters in faith.  I miss some of the extra time with believers, but I find other ways to meet my spiritual needs.  And let me tell you that my faith in God is more real during this season of my life than it was when I was at church many hours per week.

There's a lot of drama going on around me, and I just don't have the energy for it.  Apparently exhaustion can serve a good purpose when it forces me to not let things bother me that would have sucked me in before.

And this new place of acceptance is not just a place to lie down and stop fighting what's happening.  I finally cracked the door open enough to let Hope in.  Hope can be a tricky thing.  Every time we went to a new doctor or tried a new medicine or treatment, I got my hopes up only to have them crash and shatter.  So then I just stopped getting hopeful.  Hope can hurt.  And at some point I had to minimize the hurting as much as possible.

I've never lost sight of God's ability to heal, and I know He has walked through this with us.  Holding my trembling, bawling son while knowing that God could heal him in the blink of an eye and yet He chooses not to...boy, that is something to wrestle with.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9
"[Job] said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.'" Job 1:21  
I used to be able to quote these verses.  Now I know what it is to live them.

Baking used to be a fulfilling hobby for me.  Over the last year baking became a lot of standing and a mess to clean up, so I quit doing it.  Yesterday I spent the day baking homemade rolls for Thanksgiving next week.  Accomplishment.

My sister's family will be staying with us next week.  My house won't be spotless with little gifts to welcome them (as I used to do), but I will be DELIGHTED to see them and have them in my home.  Accomplishment.

I have more weight and less hair than I did this time last year, but I will dress up next Thursday and enjoy special time with every family member possible.  I won't get caught up in making the cutest dessert or the most delicious side dish.  I will be thankful.  Accomplishment.

There's a lot more suffering going on than what's happening in my little world.  And there's a lot more good in my life than hard.  I want to be a woman who praises God right now, before Nolan is healed.  I want to someday look back and know that I never let go of God's hand.  Even just envisioning being past this season and being able to look back is a big accomplishment for me, when not too long ago I declared that there is no light at the end of our tunnel.

I'm a work in progress, but the point is I AM making progress.  It feels good to start plugging back into my life.  It feels good to accept where we are and believe we won't always be here.  Honestly, it felt better to wear pajamas, but I'm grateful for the desire to get dressed and accomplish something.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Easy Dinner Planning

I'm not quite sure how we got here, but I'm told we are into October already.  Since time just keeps picking up speed, I wanted to share with you one way that I save time and sanity:  I plan my dinners for a whole month at a time.

This makes it easy to compile a weekly grocery list.  This also helps me with my least favorite time of day:  the after school tornado.  School pick up is crazy.  Then we have back packs everywhere and papers to be signed and filed and adored.  There are snacks.  There's homework.  And just about the time I am ready to drop, I have to make dinner.

Gone are the days of facing the giant dreaded question, "What should we have for dinner?"  Now I don't have to think about it.  I simply check my dinner calendar and get to work.

A friend recently asked me to share my whole process with her so she could start planning her dinners using her own recipes.  I thought maybe there's someone else out there who could benefit from a simple step-by-step guide.

1.  Start by making a list of dinners your family eats regularly.  You may have to sit and think through these, or you may want to go through your recipe box and/or cook books.  This is probably the most time-consuming part, but you only have to do it this one time.

These are the dinners my family eats regularly.
2.  Make a list of any dinner recipes you would like to try.  Flip through cook books and peruse Pinterest.  It's time to actually try those recipes you pinned.  Since my family has specific dietary restrictions, I made a list of dinners I want to try for my whole family and a list of recipes that would just be for Jared and me.  On nights when I try a Jared-and-me recipe, my kids will eat chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, leftovers, or something else simple.

3.  Get a blank calendar.  Thanks to amazing graphic artists who post their work online, you can get all sorts of adorable printable calendars.  This year I printed my totally free and completely adorable calendars from Short Stop Designs.  You can find them here.  If you're ready to plan ahead (overachiever), you can get the 2017 free printable calendars here.

These super cute calendars print with a "Notes" section on the bottom.  I trim mine off, and you'll see why in a minute.

4.  Write your dinners on your calendar.  I like to sit with my family calendar (on my phone), my dinner calendar, my dinner lists, and a pencil.  I start by checking the family schedule for days when we will need a Crock Pot meal or something quick and easy.  I fill those in first.  I put new recipes on days that are less hectic.  Sometimes I get all responsible and line up dinners in a row that will use the same produce or add-ons.  Just keep filling in until you have a dinner for each day.

Now you can see why I cut off the bottom of my calendars.  I display my dinner calendar on this awesome reclaimed wood clipboard that a friend made for me.  It's part of this gathering of decorations in my dining room:

Every time I change the monthly dinner calendar, I change the paper on the right to go with the season or current holiday.  I change the Bible verse on the chalkboard whenever a new one strikes me.

Anywho, back to dinners.  So you can see that this process is very straightforward and simple, but some of you may be like me and just need someone to tell you step-by-step what to do.  Once you do it once, it's faster and easier for future months.

When the next month comes, you can simply copy your dinners in the same order onto your new calendar.  However, I like to customize each month.  I like to take our schedule into consideration and space the easy and more time-consuming dinners accordingly.  Plus I just need a little variety!

This is what works for our family.  It only takes me about 15 minutes to plan an entire month's worth of dinners, and my grocery shopping and meal prep are simplified.  I hope this helps some other tired mama bring a little order to dinnertime!


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Where's the Line?

There are a lot of things about my appearance that I would change if I could.  I have about five short eyelashes total.  My skin has mysteriously aged much more quickly than the simple passing of time.  Four year ago when I lost a bunch of weight, my hair started coming out by the handfuls, and it hasn't recovered even to this day.  Don't even get me started on my actual body (saddle bags, chunky calves, droopy chest).

There are some things I can do to improve my appearance.  I color my hair to hide my grays.  I try to style my hair in a way that covers the thinnest spots.  I combined a sale and a big coupon to buy Crest White Strips for my teeth, but they didn't actually seem to make a difference.  I buy concealers, foundations, powders, blushes, bronzers, primers, anti-aging moisturizers, and under-eye creams.  I'm not sure that any of these products actually help any of my "problems," but they at least mask them so I can try not to think about them when I'm with other people.

A friend of mine recently opened my eyes to an entirely new realm of possibilities.  She has contraptions and products I hadn't even heard of before.  She uses some sort of light-up device to instantly whiten her teeth.  She uses a needle roller on her face and stomach before applying special skin-tightening serums.  She uses a boar hair brush on her body and an expensive rotating brush on her face.  She has special beauty masks and hair products.  I always admire her abundantly long eye lashes, and she recently told me that she uses Latisse to make them grow.  She has had the one surgical procedure I would actually consider to improve my body.  She has even tried Botox.  She has special nutritional drinks that give her energy for her daily workouts.

When I found out the full extent of what this friend does to enhance her appearance, I started wrestling with something in my own mind.  Then I went to a hair appointment last week.  My stylist was baffled as to why my hair will not stop thinning and barely grows.  She strongly encouraged me to try a particular line of hair care products.  They cost $99 for a set of shampoo, conditioner, and hair mask.

I've been looking over all these newfound options and wondering what could be beneficial to me.  Some of these products, gadgets, and procedures could actually make me look better.  Looking better could make me feel better about myself. 

But I've really been wrestling with this question:  Where is the line between self-improvement and vanity?

I think it's okay to wear makeup to hide flaws and accentuate features.  I think every woman should find hair products that work with her natural hair type.  There are ways to dress any body shape to accentuate the good and downplay the not-so-good.  I protect my skin from UV damage and try to slow the formation of wrinkles (apparently unsuccessfully).  Freshly painted nails make me happy, so I get a cheap thrill from a new polish (at home, not even at a salon).

So where are my boundaries?  How much of this new stuff can I try before I have officially moved into the land of vanity.  What will help me focus less on my flaws and what will make me focus too much on my appearance?

I don't think there's a clear answer to any of these questions.  But I needed an answer so I came up with a couple of new questions to aid in my decisions.

1.  What is my budget?

This is fairly simple.  I shouldn't buy anything that I don't have money for.  It was only a few years ago that we struggled to buy basic necessities for our kids.  We very rarely ever bought anything for ourselves.  As Jared has been promoted, and we have done our best to make smart financial decisions, we finally have a little extra to spend on wants rather than needs.  So we are still learning how to manage our wants.

I buy concealer from Ulta but powder from Walmart.  I alternate between expensive salon-brand shampoo/conditioner and inexpensive shampoo/conditioner from the drug store.  I can buy new jeans when my old ones are worn (or are too tight...ugh), but I can't just pick up a new pair of shoes because they are cute.

So the very first test of whether a new item fits into my beauty routine is whether or not there is room in our budget to pay the price.

2.  What is my motivation?

Even if I can buy something, that doesn't necessarily mean that I should.  I need to look at why I want the item.

When I lost all that weight four years ago, I wasn't trying to look good.  I didn't want attention for my new body.  I actually wanted the opposite.  I was so consumed by feeling unhappy with my overweight body that it overshadowed everything that I did all day long.  I felt fat as I volunteered at the school.  I was heavy playing with my kids.  I was chubby whenever I had to speak in front of a group.  I decided to lose weight so I could STOP thinking about my size.  I wanted to be able to focus on life again, rather than constantly focusing on my body image.

So, do I want my skin to look better so people will admire it or so I will actually look my age (and not my mother's)?  Do I want my hair to fill back in so I'll get compliments or so I can stop vacuuming stray hairs daily and feeling like I should join Hair Club for Men?

I can honestly say that I have a couple of insecurities that probably just need to be released.  I need to embrace some of my imperfections as just how I'm made.  But there are also a couple things that really could be improved in order to free up some mental space and allow me to focus on more important things.

For me, the Botox is outside the line.  I don't know that I'll be rolling needles over my face anytime soon.  But I just may try that expensive shampoo and conditioner just in case they'll keep me from having my grandpa's hairline.  And I still can't shake the desire I've had since high school to have one particular surgery (hint:  puberty hit me early and hard, and I nursed three babies, and now I have a lot of back and shoulder pain).

I think each person has to find their own boundaries.  I really don't think many people have the exact same lists of what's acceptable and what's ridiculous.  I keep thinking of 1 Corinthians 10:23, which says, "'Everything is permissible,' but not everything is beneficial.  'Everything is permissible,' but not everything is constructive.'"

Using fancy contraptions and products is not forbidden, but it might not be the best use of time, money, energy, and focus.  So each of us must look at our own motivations and budgets and decide where our line is.


Monday, August 15, 2016


I randomly woke up in the middle of the night last night.  As I laid in bed, I started thinking about my friends.  I have been so blessed with friends.

My longest friendship is with Leslie, whom I met in 6th grade.  It was my first year in a new city, at a new school, with a new stepmom.  I had become friends with the girls in my neighborhood, and one day they told me they didn't want me in their circle of friends anymore.  God tapped Leslie on the shoulder and she obeyed by giving me a place to sit at lunch.  Soon we were exchanging creatively written Bible verses and mixed tapes of DC Talk songs.  Our technology may have changed, but we still send each other Bible verses and song lyrics via text.  She's one of my prayer warriors.

I'm still friends with two of my college roommates, and my family recently drove to Kansas to visit one of them.  It was amazing to see her and her husband and children.  I love that we've known each other at different stages of life.

Megan moved here when our girls were chubby little babies.  We have journeyed together through play groups, potty training, preschool, traveling husbands, family trauma, school drama, Bible studies, and the ups and downs of being entrenched in church ministry.  Megan possesses strength that few people do.  We have seen each other sick and unshowered and ugly crying.  We operate completely differently but I appreciate learning from her.

I couldn't find a good picture of Megan and me, so here are a few pictures of our kids together early in our friendship.

About two years ago, Michele and her daughter Abby were walking towards the school as I was walking out with Nora.  Abby declared to her mom that "that girl" (Nora) would be her best friend.  A few months later Michele and I started talking and getting to know one another, and we became besties right along with our daughters.  Michele is very generous and has forced me to accept her help.  She keeps my kids when I have an appointment for myself or one kid.  She offers whatever she has to people around her.  I never clean my house or put on makeup before Michele comes over.  Plus I got to be part of Michele finding God and allowing Him into her heart and life, and there is no greater joy than that.

Me and Michele

Kim moved into the house across the street from me about a year ago.  We waved when we passed each other.  One day we bumped into her in Target while she was carrying her teeny newborn baby and we were worn out from the battle for Nolan's health.  We got to talk more about real life, and she said she would be praying for Nolan.  There's nothing that sucks me in more than a little baby.  So every time I saw Kim outside with her kids, I found a reason to cross the street and hold her little guy.  This summer my kids have fallen in love with Kim's older two kids and play together nearly every day.  Kim and I have had many in-depth chats and know a lot about each other's struggles.  Each of our interactions has been like a thread that God is weaving together as part of His plan.

Last week I got to spend time with Jess, whom I have known for a couple years but don't see all that often.  In the last few days, I have learned so much about Jess and her history and where she is in life right now.  I treasure these moments where she trusts me with her story.

I have fabulous groups of friends as well:  the school moms, the church family, the Bible study ladies, the neighbors.  I'm even close friends with some family members.  Recently one group of my friends had pictures taken together.  Getting my picture taken is one of my least favorite things ever, so this was sacrificial love for me. :)

These friends are my "Crew"

Over the last week, God has really been moving in the circle of Michele, Kim, Jess, and me.  It's been so exciting!  But I also found myself worrying what my "old" friends might think of my increased involvement with new friends.  I actually worry about this a lot.  I want every one of my friends to be my best friend.  I don't want anyone to ever be left out or feel forgotten.  I recently read a blog post about how God brings you some friends for a season, and He eventually leads you on to new relationships in His timing.  I had such a hard time accepting this information because I just love all my friends so much and don't want to let go of a single one!

One friend told me the other day that God has given me the gift of loving and caring for people.  I hadn't really thought about it that way before.  But the more I thought about it (what else am I gonna do when I'm wide awake at 4:00 am?), the more I could see that maybe the way I feel about my friends is a gift from God.

I love my people so deeply.  I sometimes feel a physical ache in my chest when I miss someone or a surge of joy when I get to see one of my peeps.  I genuinely care about what is on their minds and I often feel whatever emotions they express.  I crave close connection with people.

The irony of how God made me is that I have this deep love for people but I'm also an introvert.  So after I get to spend time with people, I need alone time to recharge.  It would have been more convenient for me if God had made me an extravert!

Another downside of how I experience emotions is that while I love deeply, I also hurt deeply.  Both of these weaknesses of mine lead me to seek comfort and renewal from God.  So I suppose He knew what He was doing when He made me this way.

This has been a season of uncertainty for me.  I don't know if Nolan will be able to handle traditional school or if I will be his full-time caregiver and educator this year.  I don't know if Nora and Griffin will get the teachers I want for them or if we might have a year of learning to deal with tough people.  I have no idea what my daily life will look like starting next week.

So I'm following little bread crumbs God has been leaving me.  The season of Nolan's health struggles has been a time of letting go of responsibilities and activities.  We've been simplifying life as much as possible.  After all of this stripping away, I keep waiting for the rebuilding to start.  This past week or so I have felt a long-lost glimmer of passion as I've been talking to new friends and sensing where God might want to use me.  There are so many questions unanswered, but I think God waking me up in the middle of the night to talk to me about my deep love for people is a good lead to follow.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Lazy Way to Fix a Big Waistband

At the end of the season last summer, I bought some clearance swim suits/trunks for my kids.  There was one pair of swim trunks that Nolan wouldn't wear this year because the waistband was too big and they didn't have a drawstring or any way to adjust them.

I kept putting off fixing them because fixing them the "right" way seemed time-consuming.  So today I fixed them the lazy way!

I bought shoestrings that matched the swim trunks.  The only other supply I needed was some FrayCheck, which I always have in my sewing arsenal.

I needed to cut two openings in the waistband, one on each side of the front center.

I gathered up just the front layer of fabric and made a vertical cut.

I did the same on the other side of the front center.

It's hard to see but there's a cut near each of my fingers.
I coated the new openings with FrayCheck to keep them from, well, fraying.

Then I fed one end of the shoestring through one opening and pushed it through the waistband until it came out the other opening.

And they're done!

Now Nolan can tighten them and avoid any embarrassing swim situations.

P.S.  Neon yellow is hard to photograph!


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Let's Catch Up!

I haven't posted on here in a ridiculous amount of time.  So let's catch up, shall we?

I'm just gonna give you the main bullet points and a few pictures of what's happened in our world since my last post TWO MONTHS ago.

Nolan, my firstborn baby, turned 10!  I struggled with moving into double digits.

He had a friend party with basketball as the theme.

Then he had a family party with basketball as the theme.  I let him choose anything he wanted as the family meal, and he chose cereal. :)  He wanted strawberry shortcake for dessert, so I made two types of shortcake from scratch.

Nora lost two more teeth.

I got bit by a mystery bug and had to track the swelling/spreading with markers.

I did a lot of puzzles.  Like, a really lot of puzzles.  This is only a sample.

I planted a garden.  It started to grow.  Peter Cottontail ate said garden.  So Jared put a chicken wire fence around the garden to see if anything could be saved.  Since putting in the fence, the garden has gone from this:

To this:

Jared's oldest brother and his two boys came to visit.  We had some fun cousins time at Wildlife Prairie Park.

Griffin became obsessed with our family history and he read every page of a book my dad made about our family.

Then he took and edited this picture of himself to look like the old pictures in our book:

Griffin kept up with piano lessons this summer.  That was our only kid activity.

We went strawberry picking with some friends.

They were the best strawberries I have ever tasted!  We ate so many of them just straight up.  Then I made strawberry rhubarb jam.

We made "The Blob" that I've seen over and over on Pinterest.

Nolan hurt his shoulder playing basketball.

My brother and I met my dad for lunch on Father's Day.  Our kids had so much fun together at the restaurant!

We watched every single game of the entire NBA Finals.  Jared was out of the country during the very last game so Nolan and I stayed up late to watch it together.

My niece Layla flew here from Florida to visit.  We were so happy to see her!

We went to Kansas so Jared could attend some meetings for work and I could spend time with my college roommate Angela and her two adorable boys.

I helped a friend paint a couch.  Yes, I do mean we painted the fabric cushions and all.  It was an experience.

My sister and her husband and son arrived from Florida and were reunited with Layla.  They all stayed at my house for half of their visit and I so enjoyed my time with them! 

They were here for the 4th of July.

I bought lipstick.  Yes, this is newsworthy.  Lipstick scares me.

After driving some distance to an appointment for Nolan, I took the kids to a nearby museum called the Wheels O Time Museum.  It was so cool!

We had a dinner to celebrate my brother-in-law's 40th birthday, and Nora fell asleep on me at the dinner.

One of the most exciting updates of all:  My brother and sister-in-law had their fourth baby!  Little Lyle is so tiny and perfect.

Finally, my sister and I had pictures taken with three very close friends.  I'm still working on editing the pictures, but here's what I have done so far.

Did you recognize the couch in the pictures? :)

Whew!  I don't know about you, but I feel MUCH better now that we are up to date!  I have been avoiding blogging because there was just too much to share.  Also, the one topic I didn't address is Nolan.  He continues to struggle with daily headaches and nausea.  I had so hoped that this summer would bring great relief for him, but this dark cloud seems to follow us wherever we go.  That's a discussion for a different day.  For today, I wanted to tell you about the rest of life that's been going on around here.  Until next time!