It’s a beautiful sun-shiney day in the south. Warm and balmy. Perfect for a walk or a run. At least it appears that way. So far my motivation has stayed indoors today. :)

Well, it’s been an eventful past week and a half. When I last posted, saying it was a “relaxing and quiet week” I had no idea what lay before me!

Christmas is my VERY favorite season of the entire year. I say “season” because the entire month of December is included in that. It’s a feeling the whole month long. The Christmas music [my new favorite this year was Bing Crosby. :) Something about that old crooning made me smile every time!]. The “Merry Christmas!” wishes everywhere we go. The festive decorations. The remembering the miracle of the Incarnation.

[Olivia being caught after sneaking off with the gingerbread house.]

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We watched The Nativity as a little family, thankfully being warned beforehand that there are a few scenes which are best to be fast-forwarded for a very young and innocent audience. Those scenes would include the soldiers taking the babies [mildly put] and the birth scenes of Baby John (the Baptist) and Baby Moses [almost mildly put].

Zoe was absolutely enamored. She was absolutely spellbound, soaking it all in. It was so precious. She could not stop talking about it! Taking too much in, really, because afterward she asked, “Why wasth Mary thcreamin’ when Jostheph wath pullin’ the baby out?” My answer, “Well, uuuuuuuuuuhhh, because it hurts to have a baby, honey child!!” [was that answer enough?!]

When I went into the girls’  bedroom later that night to say goodnight, Zoe’ said, “I want to be Mary.” And when asked why, she said, “Becausth I want a little baby.” “When you get bigger and are married, then maybe God will give you a baby,” I replied.

“And then daddy [her assumed husband of the future is always Ben] can hold the sthringsth on the donkey, and I can thit on it, and he can take usth to the plathe where the theeps and the cowth and the animalth are. And then our baby will be BORN!! And it will be Baby JETHUTH!!” [the ending said with great excitement].

I couldn’t help but laugh aloud at her, so innocent and sweet and funny. But then after she was asleep I went back in and kissed her cheeks, and looked at her and cried. She is so innocent, so pure.

A role model of Mary. Not Barbie. Not some silly little cartoon character. Just precious…

I was thanking God that night for the privilege of being a parent.

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A few days later I was thinking the parenting thing is slightly over-rated, as I sat at home on Christmas Eve, stroking fevered brows, reading stories to two little girls who were down-and-out SICK. It had started Wednesday evening, and I had hoped it would be a 24-hour sickness that runs its course quickly and be done with. Not so.

I will say, I actually rather enjoy taking care of my children when they’re sick. The mercy and servant side of me [which remains dormant most of the time] comes flowing out of my pores in circumstances like these, and I love to do anything I can to help them feel better. I found myself constantly saying, “Oh, I just feel so sorry for them!!”

Perhaps it’s partly my fond childhood memories of being “babied” by my mom when I was sick, even when I wasn’t a baby anymore. There is just something so good about knowing someone feels so sorry for you in times like those!

But when Christmas Eve Day came around and I realized that they were not going to be better by Christmas,  I was an emotional wreck. Ben’s family was all in the area for the whole weekend, and I realized sick children meant no getting out and seeing anybody. No dinners, no parties, no extended family, no Christmas??

[anyone else’s kitchen ever look disatrous??]

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God and I had a lot of “time-outs” on Friday. I couldn’t believe this was what my Christmas was going to be like, and had a really difficult time accepting the hard reality. Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and it was just going to be… nothing this year??  I thought about calling this post “Tears on Christmas Eve” but thought that’d be too morbid. :) That, however, is an accurate picture.

I finally made it to the shower around 1pm, and just cried. Cried out of disappointment. Cried because of how this Christmas was not what I expected or desired. Cried for strength to be a gentle mother to my children. And cried for strength to be a good wife to Ben despite my many emotions… Praying for it to somehow still be a special Christmas, to still find Jesus in it.

Christmas Eve night Zoe was not only sick, but feeling worse. We were concerned she had strep throat, and were contemplating an emergency room run. Zoe had been a patient little girl until that evening, and despite the sore throat, almost complete voice loss, and fever, had been holding up well. But that night she lay in her bed and just sobbed, or I should say squeaked – as much as a voice-less little girl could squeak out. It was awful.

Up to that point I had been fairly strong outwardly [the shower tears didn’t count!]. A few inward crumbles, but still holding together. But those painful little squeaks just set me over the edge. I just lay there beside her and cried along with her. So much for being a strong, comforting parent. I would have done anything to be sick in her place. There are few things worse than seeing your child in pain and not being able to do anything about it.

We did not take her to the hospital, but instead gave her some painkillers and other CVS remedies that Ben’s sister brought over late at night [BLESS you, Sonya!] to try to ease her misery. We fell into bed exhausted around midnight.  The rest of the weekend seems like a blur – a cycle of holding, comforting, caring for, reading to [until I was almost hoarse], sleeping in their room at night with the girls [which meant the worst week of sleep of my entire life].

[we look like a pharmacy around here]

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Christmas Day dawned clear and bright. And warm. Almost air-conditioner weather, but we built a fire in the fireplace anyway, just for atmosphere’s sake. :)

We exchanged our gifts as a little family in the morning, which brought smiles from the girls for the first time in over two days. We went very simple with gifts for the girls – gave them both a doll and some little German-made animals, which they absolutely LOVED. You’d have thought we spend our life’s fortune, so happy were they. :) I splurged on Ben completely, and bought him an ipod touch. I had been saving money from My Faire Lady, a few little photo things, and piano money, and he was thrilled to pieces. He’s been wanting one, but ever-frugal husband that he is, didn’t want to spend the money.

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[sick children mean extra privileges, i.e. pacifiers even when it’s not bedtime]

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Ben spent the afternoon with his family on Christmas Day since all of his family was together, a rare event. I stayed home with the children, and they both took LONG naps which was so refreshing for me. I was able to spend a few hours reading a book of my own calibar, and this quote struck me so powerfully:

“The future greatness of our race depends upon
those noble women who are able to pass on to
their sons and daughters a life which is true,
and brave, and worthy;
a life whose foundation is self-sacrifice,
whose cornerstone is loyalty,
and from whose summit waves the banner
of unsullied love of hearth and home.”
[Florence Barclay]

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Ben returned home early in the evening and we spent the rest of the evening together – reading more books to Zoe, watching Tom & Jerry on youtube… much to Ben’s delight. :) Hey, on a sick Christmas Day, you’ve got to do something to brighten the moods!! :) Christmas Day was actually a better day for me than the one before – I had enough time to mentally prepare to just be at home that I was okay. Not so many tears that day. :)

My mom is so good for me in times like these. She listens to me over the phone, and I feel her sympathy, yet I always know a particular question is coming, to not let me stay in the dumps: “Well, think of what you DO have – what would be worse than this?” I thought initially that there is not much worse than sick children on Christmas Day [!!], but really, there ARE much worse things.

I could have a child with a chronic illness on that day, I could have a child no longer living that day… Yes, I had sick children that day. But I had children. Children whom I dearly love. Children who ARE going to get well one day. I have full arms. I really am blessed. Even if it was the saddest Christmas I’ve ever had.

Well, it didn’t end there. Ben got sick on Sunday, and spent most of the day in bed. Olivia was feeling much better by that point, so I took care of her while Zoe slept the day away with Ben. By Monday Zoe still wasn’t much better, so Ben took her to the doctor. No strep, like we thought it surely must be, but the doctor thought it was probably mouth sores down her throat, which just need to run their course…

[a bit of the outdoors brought inside]

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Later that week the girls were both feeling better, but somehow when kids are getting better, but not all the way better, they get g.r.u.m.p.y. Or maybe it’s just my kids?? As in, ridiculously grumpy, where we had battles over the silliest things. Not carrying Zoe from Point A to Point B, about 15 feet, [she is three and a half years old] resulted in a tantrum. I’ve never known her to throw a tantrum all her three point five years, but she threw one that day. We had a little session in the “woodshed” and she now thinks tantrums are definitely not worth the effort.

[When “the sick” become “the grumpy”, I will admit my mercy and servanthood and all those other warm and kind emotions that flowed out of the pores before suddenly cease. Clogged pores somewhere. Bad attitudes don’t stand well with me. If you’re sick, be sick and I’ll nurse you and care for you and deal tenderly with you. But don’t be sick AND grumpy. All baby treatment ends at that point.]

But one day I called Ben in tears and asked if he could please come home for lunch? I was emotionally and physically exhausted from hardly sleeping at night due to sick girls, and was just wore out. We were still having ridiculous battles, and I felt like I wasn’t able to hold up anymore. He was working locally, something very rare, and I needed him desperately. He was a lifesaver. He stepped through the back door. I tried to be brave for 5 seconds, then fell into his arms, sobbing, “It’s SUCH HARD WORK being a mom!!!!!!”

My whole Christianity seems to be tested these days. How two small children can make me feel and act so selfishly is scary. No, not make. No one can make me act a certain way. Just bring out what is really inside. There is still so much work that Christ needs to do within me. SO much.

I thought of the quote by Amy Carmichael:

The cup that is brimful of sweetness will not spill a single drop of bitter,
no matter how suddenly jarred.”

 How I long to be like that sweet cup. But I know there has been a lot of “bitter water” that has been jarred out of me over the past two weeks.

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A week later, the sores are mostly better for Zoe, Ben and Olivia are both recovered from their sickness as well, but all three of them have begun a really bad cough… So we’ve pretty much been cottage-bound for the past 2 weeks, with the exception of two outings over New Years’ weekend, and an amazing delightful gourmet meal prepared by my sweet friend Linda… Olivia has begun to BEG to go “bye-bye”, almost to the point of tears. We are all ready to be done with all sickness… and ready to get out and see people again!

So, Christmas of Twenty-Ten, a Christmas to Remember [and hopefully never to be repeated] is now history. Interesting, though, how I feel as though God prepared me for a different kind of Christmas. Sometime in December the thought came to me that this Christmas is not about me. I don’t think I’ve idolized Christmas before, but it’s always been my favorite time of year. And this year? It just felt different from the start.

“It’s not about me…”

Little did I realize how true that would be. Because this year instead of receiving much of anything, it’s been about pouring myself out of for my little family. Somehow, that is the place God had for me this Christmas – in our little cottage, holding and loving sick children and husband, and reading Bible stories to Zoe for hours upon hours. Truly, she should be literate in the history of the entire Bible because of how much she was read to!

Part of me is sad about “missing” Christmas, because to us it feels like it hasn’t happened yet. And I hear about snow up north, and I would love to be somewhere like that. But perhaps this Christmas was CHRIST lived out in our little family like I’ve never had to do before? Or Christ teaching me that CHRISTmas is about giving to others, even if it’s in ways that I would rather not do?

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I had been thinking I would really enjoy having a particular older man over to our house, one that I doubt has 5 people in his life that he could say are his friends. And give him a Christmas. Show him love and friendship. Or have a family over from church that doesn’t have other family in the area. That was my kind of sharing-love-on-Christmas idea.

But God’s idea was different. And I admit, I didn’t like it. I wanted to be the strong, brave mother and wife who beamed all Christmas long despite the change of plans. Instead I felt like the weakest of all women, who desperately needed [and needs] God and my husband, who cried because I needed strength and grace, who sometimes lost patience with the grumpy children, who gets irritated by the constant coughing around here…

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever learn. Ever learn the lessons God is wanting to teach me. Ever learn to just REST in His Sovereignty, even when His Sovereignty looks so different from what I was expecting.

[a lovely arrangement made by my friend Bethany, given for my birthday]

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I might not have passed the Test of Christmas, Twenty-Ten, with flying colors, but I did come through it hanging onto Jesus with everything I am.

I might not pass the Tests of Twenty-Eleven with flying colors either. 

But I want to walk through this year holding on to God with everything I am.
Just God.
Not expecting a lot of grand, huge things.

But wanting GOD.

That’s my heart for this new year…




This has been the most relaxing Christmas I’ve had in a long time. I miss not going home [childhood home] for Christmas, but it definitely makes it feel quiet around these parts…

There is time to do a little bit of baking – some pans of cinnamon rolls to deliver to neighbors, both those we’ve met and those we hadn’t. As well as stick a plate in the mailbox for the mailman/lady [we happen to not have the same person each day]. I always thought that would be so nice to do, give the mailman a little plate of something baked, but I never had. Today was the day, but I forgot to look out of the window when he or she came by… I wonder if they’ve ever been given that before. :)

Looks like a balmy weekend is in the forecast for us. So I’ll just be listening to songs of white Christmases and dreaming while we sit in air conditioning. :)


Almost two weeks ago, Ben and I went on a weekend getaway- just the two of us! That hasn’t happened in over 2 years, that it’s been just us. Definitely past time! A huge thanks to Ben’s parents for watching the girls for us!

This was also a late anniversary getaway [yeah, our anniversary is in June]. For our 5th, we really wanted to do something exotic, like somewhere in Europe, or perhaps Antigua, Guatemala, where I spent a few months before I got married. But in between our 4th and 5th anniversaries, we bought The Cottage. And hence, no $$$$$$ to go somewhere exotic. :)

So we went to Jacksonville. And let me tell you, just going somewhere alone, just the two of us, well, it felt rather exotic to me! Especially when I saw the place Ben had pricelined for us…

The Hyatt Regency.
3.5 star. 19 stories. Ballroom.

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Ummmm. Let’s just say we felt a little out of our league!!

Fancy-shmancy. SWANKY.

We like nice hotels, but this, we found, well, a little too nice.

-No free breakfast [please eat at one of the 3 restaurants located on the ground floor]
-No free water bottles [“Hey babe! How’s your $4 water bottle tasting?”]
-No free wi-fi [please pay $14.95 per 24 hour usage (which we didn’t)]
-No free carts [please pay bellboy who MUST attend all departing or incoming luggage]
-No free parking [$15 per night for the parking garage]

So, all in all, the super good deal we pricelined turned into a bit more expensive than we expected. Not that the room was that expensive, oh no. Super cheap, actually. But all the extra “amenities” that we really didn’t anticipate sucked up some money.

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So now we know. For next time. Stay under 3 star. :)

But for then, we enjoyed it. Because, really, why not?

We had a wonderful time!

I began reading a book, lent by a friend… I’ve only read one of Florence Barclay’s books before, and LOVED it.

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We slept in [no pictures of this, please]. The week we were going we were saying to each other that we were both really tired, and were looking forward to catching up on some sleep. Little did we know how serious we both were. Twelve hours of sleep the first night and ten hours the second night. Yup, we sure were caught up after that! :) Ready to face the world of children again!

We went to a local shopping center on Saturday. This was a mostly window-shopping day. Bless Ben’s soul for going with me! I’m not a bit clothing shopper, as in can just walk for hours and hours looking at clothes, but I DO like to look at home furnishings/interior design stores.

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We were in luck. High-end stores like Pottery Barn and anthropologie were both there, among other super-expensive, far-out-of-our-price-range stores. I can just get LOST in places like that!! Not that I buy a lot, but I love the ideas… Like these:

This was my favorite kitchen apron. I’m a sucker for these, because I wear one every single day. But $60? I’ll pass (and maybe try to copy one day).

But seriously, how fun would it be to cook in something this precious?!

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I thought this was such a cool idea. I haven’t had time to make them this Christmas, but I’ll store away the picture for another year… Muffin and coffee pot liners, who would have thought?!

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This tray grabbed me with all the white, the many tiers, and just the creativeness of it… I’m mentally pulling out my hot glue gun for a future project… :)

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As did this lamp. Not sure where I’d put a lamp like this, but it sure is cute.

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THIS I thought was the coolest thing there: a dictionary-inspired lamp. Only $360 for the lamp and shade *cough*.

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Closer-up… because I really want to make one like this one day. Seriously, how cool is that?!

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And that was my trip into anthropologie… That place gets the creative juices stirring, I tell ya.

And then we went and sat at Barnes & Noble together for a while, which, in my opinion, is one of the very happiest things to do… :)

Another very happy thing was going to the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra for a Christmas concert. It was absolutely SPLENDID! Our small-town doesn’t offer a lot of Christmas programs/concerts, so being able to attend anything with quality is a great treat!

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And the two days flew by… And we enjoyed each other so much. It had been so long since we just had fun together, and this was the weekend to catch up on just enjoying one another’s company. Not just as husband and wife, but also as friends. I married a good man. :)

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And I’m already looking forward to the next getaway. Hopefully in less than two years from now. ;)





Oh, it’s been a good week! A busy, fun-filled week!

It started out last Friday with a weekend getaway with my husband and me – something we haven’t done in far. too. long! A weekend with no schedules, no deadlines, no responsibilities, no children… Those kinds of weekends are every-few-years kinds of weekends! Just so fun!

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[front door wreath]

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[front porch table]

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We returned home on Sunday, and some dear friends from Ohio stayed with us for a few days. We all enjoyed our “COM-pa-nee” [Zoe’s term of endearment for them) so very much. You know how some people you just love hosting and some people you just can’t wait for them to leave [though you’d never say it aloud]? Well, these were definitely the stay-as-long-as-you-want-cuz-we-couldn’t-get-tired-of-you kind of friends…

And now, it’s just our little family, soaking up the 70′ weather. Yep, that’s s.e.v.e.n.t.y. degree weather. We had a cold spell the beginning of this week, but that didn’t stick around long… I’m already seeing visions of the air conditioner running on Christmas Day, and I can’t say I’m too thrilled with that idea. I’ve been going back in the photo archives [definitely glad I paid an arm and leg to rescue pictures] and just gazing at snow pictures from a trip up north last winter. I just feel a little snow deprived right now! :)

[music room mantel]

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So, about looking like Christmas… The house is all decorated, the fireplace has been keeping us cozy if we’re in the living room on chilly days [which is needed, because the term “drafty old house” has definitely taken on new meaning since we live in the Cottage].

[the little tree in the girls’ bedroom]

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But somehow, I was telling my husband last week, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas. I was explaining to him how the whole month of December normally has this aura about it – a festive feeling the whole month long, just a happiness. It just, well, feels like Christmas. And somehow, this year, it doesn’t.

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He kinda chuckled when I was finished with my long explanation, and I looked at him extremely puzzled. “You’re just so funny,” he began [which I’m glad he didn’t end there, because wives don’t like to be told they’re funny if they’re disturbed about something], “you’re all about the Christmas spirit for weeks and weeks, and me? Well, I just like to get together with family on Christmas Day. That’s all I care about.”

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At least I understood where he was coming from. Maybe my expectations are still that of a little kid. Christmas was my most favorite time of the year as a child – not that we even received a lot of gifts, but we did all kinds of fun things, went to lots of Christmas plays and programs and concerts, baked dozens of cookies, visited elderly people… Maybe I’m just expecting a childhood Christmas even now that I’m an adult?!

Or maybe I’m expecting a perfect world, like my world felt when I was a child? And right now I am very aware of an imperfect world.

Yes, in some ways I feel incredibly blessed, and in other areas I have such a longing for Heaven for when everything will be absolutely perfect. No pain, no sadness, no separation in death or relationships.

[Christmas carolers, minus poor little brother who has only shoes]

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So last week we invited an older man to eat supper with us, someone who has lived a very sad story of a life. He’s someone Ben and I want to especially care about this Christmas, in different ways. And I think we need to do more of that kind of thing – to not just interact with people who have happy stories and have something to give me in return. For me to realize that Christmas isn’t just about festivities, but about Jesus coming to save the world… And for me to brighten my little corner of the world…

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Because, you know, Christmas isn’t about me and my childhood memories, however delightful they are.

[pillows I made for the living room, inspired by Pottery Barn]

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Christmas is about Jesus,
and sharing Jesus with people who don’t know Him…

It’s about getting to know HIM –
whether He chooses to reveal Himself as
Sovereign God,
Holy Father,

‘Sovereign God’ is how I am learning to know Him right now.

Some years it feels like the ‘Sweet Baby Jesus’ learning center.
Now it’s about His Sovereignty.


Along with that, I love to decorate the house for Christmas. This year it didn’t seem to “flow” like it did sometimes, but still, fun. I should have gotten pictures of the girls diving into my boxes, and the disaster for half a day – a whole day?? – before we finally got a bit of order. Because these pictures show everything once it’s in place, and well, it doesn’t really look that way for long around here. Two little girls, a father, and mother, make a house look very “lived in” quite quickly. :)

I was reading somewhere about adding Christmasy touches in unexpected places, like the kitchen, or the bathroom. I liked that idea, and added just a few simple things…

I mostly decorate with greenery – cedar and pine. It makes a mess by January but I LOVE how it smells and it makes everything seem so cozy!

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[this makes me go, “EEEEeeee, too much bling-bling.” But it stays nonetheless.]

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The dining room:

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I made a mini-garland for the curtain rods, with hanging ornaments. These almost blend into the wall too much, but it sparkles and adds just a bit without overpowering.

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girls bathroom:

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This was inspired by my friend, Bethany, who is an amazing floral designer. She just goes outdoors and finds all sorts of nature and brings them indoors. This is bark with dried moss that I found around our property that I just loved!

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Master bath:

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Master Bedroom:

little snips of greenery…

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A Christmas stocking hanging on a coat rack, now turned hat rack. I have a fetish for hats.

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Living Room:

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The nativity set. Within eye-sight of the girls. I must say too, Mary and the wise men have quite the conversations, courtesy of Zoe’ and her wild imagination.

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This is the only snow found in the state of ________, unless someone else uses faux snow. :) Zoe’ thinks it’s the coolest thing ever. :)

Pottery Barn sells it for $12.99 for a bag. Target sells is for $1.99 for the same size bag. Just in case someone else wants some – don’t want you to be ripped off like I almost was! :) You know, fellow bargain-seeker here…

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Did you notice that I now have a mantel for the living room here?? Very simple and rustic, but definitely easier to place things on the shelf without my items feeling very precarious.

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[yes, that is a c.a.t. in the house. he normally stays outside, but it was so cold the beginning of the week we felt so sorry for him… and he gladly took up the offer]

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And that’s a little house tour for ya!

Enjoy your Christmas, but most of all,
enjoy JESUS…





Lest you think I dropped off the face of the planet, well, I almost did.

A week with no internet in today’s cyber world feels like falling off the planet. :)

I actually kind of enjoyed it though. And was amazed at how much time I had! I read a whole book, and am partially through two others. That usually takes me a month. That was a rather sobering thought for me though, and now that I have the computer back I’m determined to gage my time better online… I want my children to remember me for fun things (reading books to them and me, baking, playing…), not for sitting in front of the computer…

But our computer got MORE viruses (yes, we did have anti-virus protection that we actually paid a lot of money for, thus all the more frustrating), and after a week I went in to receive an overhauled computer. I walked in, handed him an enormous wad of cash (he only takes cash, smart guy) and said, “Here’s our life savings.”

See, the week before when the computer got viruses, it was a simple matter. A hundred dollars, but still, simple. And I did back up alllllllmost all the pictures the very minute of opening the screen. Except a few. The few that wouldn’t fit on my memory stick. But I thought I at least had a week to get a new stick. Bad thought.

This is one of the pictures I would have lost, and it was just too much. So, you could say, this is my
$400 picture of  Olivia at the Zoo.

[unedited, since I haven’t loaded that program back on yet]

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Everyone probably wonders why I didn’t just let the pictures go into the lost world of cyber space, but this day at the zoo was just too fun. I’m too sentimental, I know, but the sight in my memory of a little girl toddling around with two little piggies, a monkey backpack (please don’t call it a leash), saying, “UH! GOOK (look)!!” all day was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

And I could not bear for the actual pictures to be lost. I think I’ll learn my lesson now about backing pictures up… :(

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So, that, and a week in Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving is why I seem to have vanished.

[Zoe seems to take nice photos… :)]

for audrey

Today is a lazy morning… I woke up to a fire that my husband built in the living room before he left for work at 6AM (!!), and to me, that is one of the very nicest things he could ever do for me.

If you’d come to my door now (yes, it’s lunchtime) you’d think we all just woke up, because we’re still in jammies, every one of us girls. :) But that’s the fun of Mondays, right? :)

And after we get dressed, we’ll head out the door to the country and the Christmas tree place to gather greenery to finish up the Christmas decor… And I’m happy it’s actually COLD this week. There is something about 70 degree weather, barefeet, and open doors that don’t really feel that Christmas-y! :)

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And  a happy start to a week to you all! May Jesus walk with you through every moment…




This is a post that dwells on the delightfulness of my children. :) Little snippets of life over the past few weeks. It’s not all catastrophic. :)
Sometimes I have to remember that!

[the most colorful tree is all the county is in our front yard]

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You know, there are some weeks where I look back at journal entries I’ve written about my children… and just smile to myself…

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Such as this one from a few weeks ago:

“I am absolutely LOVING the stages right now with my girls. They play together so well most of the time… ” [!!!!]

And then the opposite not too many days later:

“Zoe’s question to me yesterday: ‘Why are you not happy, mommy?’ I had been impatient with her last night, and honestly, quite a bit yesterday. It my paint day to finish up some things, and she wanted to be omnipresent, right there all the time, sticking fingers into everything. I became easily frustrated. Thus was her comment to me after she asked the zillionth question of the day. I had also just said I had a headache, and she kept on talking… ‘Why do you have a hea-gache? Maybe you have a hea-gache because you weren’t nice to me. Sometimes *I* get hea-gaches when I’m not nice to people.’ I sat there wincing. Ouch, ouch, ouch…”

Children are ever so extremely convicting.

[most of the fall/autumn scape is only brown.]

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And a few days later:

“And my girls… I am just having love fits over them! They’re soooo CUTE!! Yes, they do have their fighting episodes… but right now they’re both SINGING at the top of their lungs – madeup songs by Zoe, while Olivia belts along with her. Off-key, of course [Olivia], but precious as can be! Life is good, life is sweet. Very, very sweet.”

It’s the life of a mother…
Learning to run to Jesus at all moments –
the happy ones,
the ones that feel like we can’t make it through,
the ordinary moments,
the exciting moments.

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It’s a good life. It’s a sweet life. Very, very sweet. :)

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The vocabulary of a three year old. It’s delightful.
It’s confusing.
It’s creative.
It keeps me laughing. :)

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This was the “chump,” “ponk,” “tingernails,” and “little mommy” that my title says. Yes, I’m getting to it eventually! :)

According to Zoe’s usage of these words, here are the definitions:

Chump” – to cut up in little pieces, or to flatten something with repeated motion
         example:  “I want to chump that egg in the pan.” [to flatten the yoke with tiny pricks]

Ponk” – to poke at, to prod with a finger
         “I ponked the kitty when I was outside.”

Tingernails” – a combination of fingernails and toenails
          “I want to paint my tingernails.” [hey, saves time smooshing them into one word!]

Little Mommy” – her phrase when referring to or talking to me
         “Don’t worry, Little Mommy. I’ll take care of it!” [when I spilled chicken and juice all over the kitchen floor]
          “Little Mommys, like you, really, really, really, love Jesus…” [she told me at naptime, and melted me in a puddle, because I feel like the past few weeks I’ve been an epic disaster as a mother. somehow she sees Jesus in all that?! it must be only God!]

When I was big and you were little…”
           After noticing a ruffly shirt I wore one day, “Ooooh, that’s sooooo cute! [pondering a moment] When I was big and you were little, I made that shirt for you!”

There are many times when she refers back to “when I was big and you were little”… There are times when we are almost worried about her living in an imaginary land, but you know what? She’s three, and she has a great imagination. If she’s 8, or 10, or 15, and still lives in an imaginary world, THEN I might be worried. But now, I just love the imagination. Hey, it keeps me laughing!

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Her little baby doll is also part of the imaginary world. Or no, let me re-phrase that: her baby doll is actually part of the real world. Truly, her baby is so real to her, it tickles me to death…

One evening we were entertaining guests, and they wanted to look around the house a bit while dinner was being finished up. I suddenly heard Zoe’ just waaaaaaaiiiiiiiiilling and she can running full-tilt into my arms, sobbing so hard she could hardly talk. I finally got her to calm down and she told me, “My baby is sleeping in your bedroom, and there are people going in there and I don’t want her to wake up!!!!!!!”

And the other evening we were driving down the road with the kids. An exasperated Zoe’ handed her baby to me over the seat, saying, “She’s SOOOO WIGGLY!” :)

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And after a great Sunday afternoon and evening at home, playing memory together, a fire in the fireplace, reading books, she prayed,

“Dear God,
thank you for this
very very very very very

Melt me in a puddle. That’s what really matters to a child.
Time. Love. Enjoyment of each other…

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Zoe’s stack is the biggest. Yes, she won.
If you can call peeking-at-6-cards-during-one-turn winning. :)

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She was quite pleased.
And I shan’t tell who those other respective stacks belonged to.
Because of all due respect, of course. :)

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If I thought last week was falling down around my ears, this week was For those of you who have facebook, you may have seen my agitated and distraught post one day this week.

Monday morning started out with my camera sitting on the floor awaiting the weekend’s pictures to be uploaded to the computer. Olivia walked by, picked up the camera, and threw it on the hardwood floor. Cameras are no-no to begin with, and throwing cameras? Most definitely a no-no. It wasn’t until a few moments later that I realized my best camera lense was completely broken in half. It’s my 50mm lense. No, not professional, I’m not professional, but it’s my favorite one to use when I’m taking pictures. I went into the bathroom and locked the door before I said or did anything unkind to my semi-innocent 17 month old daughter! It seems as though the camera lense is ruined. I’m still going to check with a camera shop to make sure that they can’t repair it, but there are broken pieces and I’m very doubtful of recovery.

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Monday night I was working on editing Christmas pictures on the computer. After I was finished, I turned off the computer for the night and went to bed. The next morning I turned the computer back on, and the wallpaper was different. I was going online to print out coupons before going shopping (yeah, trying to get back into that again!), and noticed all my favorites in my favorites tab were gone.

To remove several unneeded paragraphs, my computer looked wiped clean – everything from favorites to files to documents to pictures. It was unbelievable.

After calling Husband, we both agreed that a computer repair shop was in order. After running into the bathroom, shedding a few tears, and putting on my face, I immediately ran over to the smokiest, stinkiest, dirtiest computer shop in town. After describing to the tech what had happened, I told told him I need a miracle worker.

I awaited in great suspense throughout the next 24 hours until the much-longed-for phone call. I had approximately 80-90% of my pictures backed up, but nothing since August, which is really really bad. And no files backed up for the Bible Study I’m doing. I was thankful I had backed up as much as I had, but the remaining 20% was enough to send me for counseling if it wouldn’t be able to be recovered!!

Throughout the next day before the phone call, I kept talking to God about this…
Telling Him how sacred my pictures are to me. That other than people, they mean more to me than almost anything else because they hold so many memories. That I don’t want the last 3 months of my children’s lives to be lost just because I didn’t back up my pictures.

And also telling Him that I don’t want my pictures to be my idol. And that somehow, if He chooses to allow all those to be erased, that He will get me through it. Without a mental breakdown. He will still be good. Wow, how my heart was tested as I thought of all this, and pledged Him my love regardless.

And finally the call came. Talk about stomach-churning when I realized who the call was from. After great gulps of air, I talked to Mr. Smiley (really) and he told me the amazing news that everything was INTACT; what had happened was that our computer had gotten 2 viruses that had moved and hid all the files/documents/pictures, but everything was still there.

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I could not get done voicing my gratitude. The dirtiest, smokiest, dingiest computer shop in town was also the most wonderful, in my opinion. I didn’t know how to thank him enough!

He could not get done exclaiming how many pictures I had. “You have an astronimal amount of photos on your computer!” he said on the phone. And when I picked up the computer,  he told me I have the most pictures he’s ever seen on a computer.

Which really made me chuckle to myself, and think what a small town I must live in. And that he must never have worked on a real photographer’s computer, like Marylou’s. :) And that most people in this town really must not take a lot of pictures. Just really tickled me.

So, the first thing I did upon opening up my computer at home, was insert my memory card and SAVE ALL PICTURES. That’s right. I think I’m going to be OCD about that from now on. I do need to get another card, because I wasn’t able to get quite all of them on…

So that was my scare and my happiness for the week…


After my previous post of talking about mothing, I’d like to say thank you for the comments and support! I think there are so many intentional mothers in my life right now, and I can’t even describe how encouraging that is.

Sure, we ALL have our bad days, with babies playing in toilets, where the house looks like a hurricane hit it, where it seems children cannot get along – you name it! We’ve all got our own nerve-racker, I’m sure! But what I want to hear from other moms is not, “My kids are driving me crazy!!!” [even if we wonder if we are about to lose it sometimes.]

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Rather, I want to hear an honest, yes, this may be a really bad day, and this is the hardest thing we’ve ever done, and I might have been crying over the plate of oatmeal that Olivia threw on the kitchen floor TWICE this morning, and the cup of coffee that she dumped over the jute rug in the living room yesterday,
 [yes, some of last week’s catastrophes continue on] 
but it’s also the most wonderful work we’ve ever been given,
and that we’re going to encourage each other and we’re going to make it.

[little charmer who is so precious and so naughty [without realizing it] these days…]

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We’re going to stand together, we’re going to run to God for ourselves, and for each other. We may have days where we feel like we completely blow it as a mother, but we’re not going to end on that note.  We’re going to get on our knees, beg God for fresh mercy and strength, and try again. These may be some of the more weary years of our lives, but we’re going to take a day at a time, or sometimes one moment at a time, and try to find joy and delight in these days.

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I love to hear from older mothers, those women who have done this before, and are willing to take the time to encourage us younger moms. Women who are humble and yet strong enough to admit their mistakes, and share those with us so that we don’t have to make the same ones. Women who have families I would like to be like when I grow up :) and who are humble and yet strong enough to walk alongside of those just beginning their own families.

Sometimes I wonder why a Ph.D. isn’t required before one begins the career of a parent. Because truly, it is a 24/7 job like none other on the planet.

There is no getting off of work,
there is no calling in sick,
there is no vacation time stacked up,
there are no paid holidays

It’s an always and forever job. And we have zero experience upon entering this career. Sure, we may have grown up in a family with a sibling or two or five or ten, which definitely cushions entering the field, and perhaps makes one feel more comfortable initially. But having a sibling, or being a nanny, or working in a child care center, is not even remotely like having your very own child.

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But, I think the reason God allows us into it so green is so we seek Him above all else in raising our families. To where we don’t go to a manuel – we go to God. To where we don’t depend on logic – we depend on God. It really all comes back to God.

 I read a book by Dan Allender a year or so ago, entitled, “How Children Raise Parents.” It sounds like a strange title but it’s an excellent book. His main point was that God uses children to point parents to God like nothing else can.

S. Gingerich said one time [not exact quote, but general idea], “Isn’t it crazy how a two-year old can get a full grown adult to completely lose their temper? How can a little child do that? Who really is the strong one in that situation?” Saying that most adults don’t know how to control themselves in the face of a child who needs discipline, much less control the child, and they’re respond in anger instead.

I’ve been there.

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I look back at my initial theories of child-rearing as an older teenager and even as a young married women. “If they’re good, you kiss them! If they’re bad, you spank them!” Of course I had more ideals than that, but it was basically summed up in those two theories. Let me just say, I wasn’t into motherhood long before I realized this was something much bigger than me! Sometimes when a child is grouchy, what she needs is not a spanking, but a snack, or a nap, or a diaper change, or some tylenol, or a hug, or a story read, or….. I still haven’t exhausted the exception clauses.

But I still stick to my theory that when they’re good, you kiss them. :) And hug them, and love on them, and tell them how happy you are that they’re yours, and rub noses with them, and look in their eyes and say you’re proud of them.

So thank you, my own dear mother, my old friends from way back, my new friends from recent years, my online friends whom I’ve ever met but have been so encouraged from – you all bless me!! THANK YOU. Truly, we need each other. *I* need other women!


And perhaps one of these days I’ll have a very short and sweet post again. :)

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It’s been quite the week at the Cottage @ 341 South.

This time change on Sunday sure seemed to affect us greatly all week, and in not so good ways. The girls are waking up at very early hours, somehow not aware of the blessed time change. This was always the time change I looked forward to all year!

And somehow this is the week for them to spill everything – candle wax all over the floor, an entire glass of milk at a friend’s house, and entire glass of milk at our house. And I KNOW, it’s just milk, for crying out loud.  But somehow milk is not my friend this week. Let’s stick with solids from now on. But then solids crumble in a million pieces, so what’s worse? And then Zoe came running to me this morning telling me Olivia is playing in the toilet with her hands. And Zoe’s been having allergies, which swell her sinuses, which make her semi-deaf to where I feel like I either repeat myself a hundred times to answer her question or else talk LOUD just so she can hear.

I told my husband last night that I think I should just come to expect catastrophes all day with children. Then I won’t be so worked up when it seems like that’s all that happens…

We haven’t had a busy schedule. In fact, I told a friend this week that I’ve been “hermit-ing” after all the busyness of the past few months. So there is really no explanation for a week that feels a bit over the top…

I’ve thought so often of a quote I read on this site several weeks ago. When I read it, it hit me in the depths of my heart and I felt like God was speaking Truth to my heart. Truth that I have had a hard time accepting before this, perhaps. This is the quote:

“I don’t know if most women have given themselves totally to motherhood,
understanding that it will take their all –
their time, body, life, moments, rights, everything really,
to build a godly legacy.
It seems they think their children are “taking up their time”
without realizing that God gave them children in order to provide them
with an eternal work to do –
that it is their best way to influence eternity,
that it is the most strategic work of their lives and will outlive them.”
[Sally Clarkson]

Giving myself totally to motherhood…
Understanding that it will take my all…

I want well-behaved children that are always obedient and never play in toilets and spill candle wax or milk and that play nicely together all the time and that don’t get allergies and are essentially deaf for several weeks a year because of it and that don’t unravel toilet paper for miles and where a potty-trained girl doesn’t still pee herself and another little girl doesn’t eat catfood every chance she gets and where she doesn’t tear pages out of books…

But is that really the full extent of what I want? Is that all? Well behaved children? Is that the epitomy of life?

Elizabeth wrote a beautiful post about children, about what is really important. And it blessed my heart beyond words. It’s worth your time to go read and comment!

And a quote I heard while listening to a sermon from Eric Ludy yesterday while knitting…

“Dependence [upon God] proves it is GRACE that truly saves.”

Because being a mother has made me feel weaker than I ever have in my entire life.
Never have I felt such utter dependence upon God. As in, I will not make it if God doesn’t come through. As in, I can’t do this on my own.
Never have I felt like my own sin shows so blaringly clear.
Never have I felt like I fail so much.
Never have I had to ask for forgiveness so often.
Never have I needed God so much.

And really, I think this is right where God wants me. Where I am desperate for Him. Where He is my life-line, and nothing else comes close to Him. It’s a hard, helpless place to be. And yet somehow I’m believing [or to be perfectly honest, WANT to believe] that it’s a good place to be.

In our weakness, that is when God is strong. Because then God is glorified, not our perfect mothering…

Audrey also wrote a beautiful post about this…

I really wasn’t intending to go into all that, but this has been OnE oF tHoSe WeEkS and my heart is full…

But I feel His Spirit breathing Life into my heart, giving me Grace. And Love in the midst of the mini-catastrophes.

And that is all that I need.
Him. Just Him.


And on to what I was originally posting about! How these women can think about many things at once…

Quite a few people have asked me about the tissue paper balls, after seeing them on my dining room post.

I work best when seeing things visually, so what follows is a tutorial on making tissue paper balls.

By doing this, I very humbly acknowledge that this is in NO way original to me. This goes way back, probably to my grandparents’ era or older, so I am only passing along information that I learned elsewhere.

When people have asked about how to make the balls, the second question I almost always get is “Is it hard to make them?”

Let me answer that question right off the bat and say that these are so super easy and FUN to make. There are unlimited styles and colors and sizes you can make. I’ve love to see some of your projects!

This girl has made a lot of flowers with the same idea, that are just gorgeous.

And I came across another site one day with some cool ideas as well but can’t find it today. Big help that is, I know…

I love this, because you can use your imagination and just create away!

The Tutorial:

Since I work best with pictures, I’ll show the steps with pictures to show my description.

#1.  Choose a pack of tissue paper that you like, in your preferred color.

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#2. Take a stack of about 10 sheets.
[if it’s square, make it rectangular shaped; square will not work]
Fold, beginning on the shortest side, accordian-style, in about 1-2″ folds, until the entire stack is folded.

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#3. Secure in the middle with a thin wire.

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This is what you’ll have.

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#4. Trim the ends into a round shape or a > shape.

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#5. Beginning on one end, separate each paper from the stack, like so:

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Continue to separate each paper, pulling very gently so it won’t tear.

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If you want a flower, end here.

If you want a ball, keep doing the same thing on the other side, and you’ll have this:

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Super super easy, and it doesn’t take long at all!

The larger your sheets of tissue paper, the larger your ball. And vice versa.

Combine several different sizes like this:

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or different colors and sizes like this:

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And put large flowers in groupings on your wall,

or hang them from the ceiling (which I’m very extremely doing all over my house)

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in your nursery.

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And that’s it!

Happy crafting!

I’d love to see what you’ve done! Leave me a little linky so I can see your project!



This was a truly beautiful weekend.

[mosquito-bitten feet in cozy slippers]

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The first Saturday home as a family in two months.

[my latest read: The Scottish Chiefs]

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The first fire in the fireplace.

[apparently not too far into my book.
and just in case these pictures speak “perfect day” let me just say this:
it was a truly beautiful day,
I had literally 5 minutes of time alone Sunday afternoon
in which everyone was napping at the same time
in which I documented it with pictures.
rare things mean picture documentation.
as much as I would like to say it was a3 hour stretch, I can’t say it was.]

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A surprise package in the mail from a sister. ♥

Biscotti baking and pumpkin roll baking.

[my mantel-less living mantel, with teetering decor balancing on the edge]

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Time change, which gave us an extra hour Sunday morning
[definitely a good thing. Sunday mornings can be rather harried here].

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[this picture looks very strange to me.
yes, i’m in the south.
sweet tea,
woolly slippers,
and a fire in the fireplace, thank you.]

Happy little girls who were delighted with have several days with their daddy at home.

[headless child pausing a rare, brief instant to allow me snap a picture of her tights]

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Ben’s parents and siblings at home that came for Sunday lunch of a Belizian meal.

Creative little minds who pretend they are making oatmeal on a Monday morning…

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[little bed-heads whose mother failed to comb them]

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I just want to re-live it again.