Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Taming the Toddler?

I SO crave order. Order in my life and order in my home. I am often fighting a losing battle. The children are passing around a fever and cough (AGAIN), not to mention I have a mischievous 14 month old and a lively 2 year old, both of which can create havoc in mere seconds. Just to give you an idea of what I'm up against here...

I look over one minute and he's on top of the table (apparently Mommy wasn't giving him grapes fast enough)...
I don't know if you can tell or not, but we have the dining room table pushed over against the wall to deter him from climbing up on at least one side of the table. Less area for him to work with...

And so much for showcasing the lovely table runner that we received as a gift last Christmas. You can't see how pretty it is because he's sitting on it. I guess we will have to save that for putting on the table only when we have guests.

Of course, I take him off the table, give him more grapes to snack on in a safer location and it's not long before I hear an unfamiliar noise coming from the laundry room...

and apparently Mommy needed a reminder to take the bag of recyclables out to the garage. This kid is into EVERYTHING!!!
I can't seem to keep up with him, which explains why our Christmas tree looks like this...

Notice how Zeke is demonstrating how he figured out how to pull a chair over to reach higher:) He's too smart for me.

And as for our 2 year old, he needs a little motivation to be a good "listen boy" (as he calls it), so we are using window clings as a fun way to encourage/reward good behavior...

My kiddos have always been big into stickers and so last year I bought a few Christmas/winter window clings and decided to use them as motivational tools throughout the season. They seem to really dig it, so I bought a few more this year but notice that we only have the pieces of the nativity up so far. Looks like we've got a little work to do...

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

"Lord, please help me do that!"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Inexpensive gift idea: Hair accessory organizer

I mentioned in my "Beauty Tips" post, that I pray for my girls to know about True Beauty. Since Christmas will be here in just a few weeks, I thought I'd take a moment and share an inexpensive homemade gift idea that can help encourage the little girls in your life to remember that they are beautiful (with or WITHOUT fashionable accessories:)

I made this one for my girls last Christmas and spent about $10 or less on materials. (I did have a super good coupon to use at the craft store when I bought the materials though!)

Here's what you'll need...

-an inexpensive, unfinished wooden plaque (whatever size or shape you like...I was making mine for two, so I went BIG!)

-4 ribbons (1 cm wide) each measuring 15 inches in length

-5 ribbons (2 cm wide) each measuring 13 inches in length

-acrylic paint, paint brushes and an acrylic paint pen

-a glue gun

-embellishments of your choice, such as the wooden photo frames that I used, or you could use other wooden items (flowers, animals, etc.) or stencils or rub on many choices..get creative with it:)

General idea of putting it together:

1. Paint base color on plaque. Set aside to dry.

2. While paint dries, cut ribbon to desired lengths. Take two of the ribbons (the ones that will be placed at each end) and on each of those ribbons, make a loop (at whichever end will be at the bottom) big enough to wrap around two fingers and glue with glue gun. The loops are to hold headbands, just slide them through the loop.

3. Use glue gun to glue embellishments on plaque.

4. Paint the Scripture (Psalm 45:11) on the plaque and let dry. If you are making a smaller plaque, you could choose a different verse or even just use the child's name. **If you are nervous about doing it freehand-- I chose a font that I liked in a WP document and printed it out on my computer in the appropriate size. Then I laid the paper down on the plaque and used the pointy end of the paint brush to trace over the letters. This made indentations that I used as a guide to paint the words.

5. Glue ribbons to the bottom edge of plaque with glue gun. Voila!

You can keep it simple or fancy it up as much as you want! I've seen fancier ones on Etsy for anywhere from $30 to $50 dollars!!! I tried to keep mine pretty simple, more affordable, and hopefully, made it extra encouraging for my girls by adding an important message from God's Word:)

Anyone have any other easy, inexpensive gift ideas? It doesn't have to be crafty. Leave a comment and share some of your ideas.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:16-18

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Avoiding "The Gimmies"-Part 3

I have been so blessed to hear from you about all the Thankfulness trees and turkeys that were growing in your homes! I pray that your families are also being blessed with the joy that a grateful heart can bring!

Another way that we try to avoid "The Gimmies" is we...

4. Celebrate Advent at home

I'll just get it out in the open right away...we don't do Santa with our children. I only reveal that fact to give you a little background on how we began celebrating Advent in our home. We do exchange gifts but we really felt God leading us to keep our main focus on the best gift of all, the birth of our Savior.

In an effort to find a Christ-centered tradition for our family, I researched the celebration of Advent. I was raised in a denomination that observes the season of Advent and remember the purple banners and decorations, the lighting of candles, and a special time of anticipation leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. When my husband and I starting having our children, our home church did not observe Advent. But I was very interested in the idea of celebrating Advent at home, so we got our own Advent wreath and began doing a specific reading each night when lighting candles on our wreath. We have used Getting Ready for Christmas: A Daily Advent Prayer & Activity Book for the Family by Yolanda Browne
and The Christmas Touch: Making Christlike Connections during the Holidays by David and Karen Mains (and others).

In my research of Advent, I discovered the tradition of the Jesse tree. If you want an excellent, detailed explanation of the Jesse Tree tradition, you can find one at this link. The name "Jesse Tree" comes from Isaiah 11:1: "A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots." (referring to the coming of Jesus Christ). The ornaments you place on the tree tell the Story of God throughout the Old Testament, and focuses on the faithfulness of God and the anticipation of the coming Messiah.

A simple way of explaining our Jesse Tree tradition is that each day we do a specific scripture reading and make an ornament based on a particular person or event in the Old Testament. This Jesse Tree link is where I found a wonderful detailed plan for daily scripture reading and ornament making for your tree. Here are some examples of ornaments that we have created for our tree. We like to use all types of materials, such as rocks and straw. The kiddos think it's super fun!

We choose to make our ornaments for several reasons:
1. the lil Shoes enjoy being crafty
2. it gives them something to do with their hands while their ears listen to the Scripture reading
3. and they really enjoy looking at the ornaments that they made over and over again, year after year, which gives us even more opportunity to talk about the meaning of each ornament, which helps the kiddos retain the information we have learned through Scripture.
Now again, it doesn't have to be crafty. Here's a link for Jesse Tree ornaments that you can download and print. The craft is not the focus of the Jesse Tree. The reason for the Jesse Tree is to keep a Christ-centered focus as you anticipate the celebration of Christmas.

Advent begins tomorrow, but don't think you can't celebrate because you're not prepared. It doesn't have to be fancy. All you need is a desire to keep Christ at the center of your Christmas preparations, the rest will fall into place.

A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots. Isaiah 11:1

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"My plate runneth over:)"

I'll be posting more about avoiding the gimmies soon but I thought right before Thanksgiving was a great time to share this with you.

I really enjoy reading. I try to read as much as possible, but I'm sure I don't have to tell you, I don't read as much as I would like because there is not a lot of space for quiet, grownup reading time in our "schedule" (and I use that term loosely).

I do consistantly read daily devotions from Proverbs 31 Ministries and also follow the blog of one of my favorite P31 authors, Lysa TerKeurst. If you don't know anything about Lysa, she has an amazing testimony and is hilarious and down to earth and so relevant, while at the same time seriously crazy about sharing her faith in God and her knowledge of God's truth through Scripture.
I say that like she is my best friend but you almost feel like you've just been talking to her after reading her writing. God has blessed her with an amazing ability to help women apply Scripture to real, everyday life. I'm working through the end of her book, Becoming More Than A Good Bible Study Girl. Such a great book! I would encourage you to check her out at her blog and also at Proverbs 31 Ministries!

Anyway, she is about to release a new book, called Made To Crave and I thought the trailer was so cute and clever (I especially like the "my plate runneth over" part), I had to share it with you! So without further ado, here it is...

I may have to run out and get this book after eating Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday...and Saturday:) Have a wonderful day giving thanks!
Come back soon! Blessings until you return!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Avoiding "The Gimmies"-Part 2

I used to be "that mom". You know, the mom who thought she would never let her children watch too much TV.

I was a preschool teacher, remember, so I was used to managing a room full of preschoolers, while also facilitating specific learning activities. But what I didn't envision is trying to manage five children (ages 7, 5, 4, 2, and 1), that are all wanting to do age appropriate stuff, while at the same time, doing laundry, making lunch, planning my late night grocery trip and finding the appropriate coupons, picking up what seems like a hundred toys that find their way on the floor, changing diapers, sneaking in sips of coffee because I'm running on about 5 hours sleep, helping the 2 yr old "go potty", while spelling "tornado", finding lunch burning in the oven, sending someone to the "time out" step for hitting, taking a book away from the baby as he rips the pages, then fishing the marker lid out of his get the idea.

So, sometimes, if I really need to get something done without too much interruption, we have TV time. And sometimes, when the children wake up at 5:30 and I'm slightly grumpy because I didn't get to bed as early as I should have, we have some TV time. And Tuesday nights are "Daddy works late" nights, so it's movie night (with popcorn!) And when the kiddos are sick, well, those days PBS is my best friend. Most days I try not to abuse it, but we are getting into cold and flu season, and when one (or more) of the five is really under the weather, TV often helps us get through what could otherwise be a some very, very hard days. Just being honest. Please tell me some of you can relate.

Anyway, as hard as it sometimes is for me, for the months of November and December..

3. Turn Off the TV (as much as possible)

As I mentioned in the previous post, the onslaught of holiday advertising has begun and most times, the target is our children. Now, we don't have cable or satellite, so it's a little bit easier for me than most to limit what and how much the kiddos watch. For those of you who have the fancy DVRs and whatnot, you could just skip commercials, which is really a good idea all the time anyway. It's a blessing for us that PBS doesn't even have commercials:) But even without commercials, once the pre-holiday programming begins, children can become totally consumed with the thoughts of Christmas presents.

And the fact that everything has characters on it these days...Now stop right there, I'm not totally anti-character. I, myself, was a hugh Strawberry Shortcake fan back in the day. And Smurfs and anything Disney and Care Bears...the list could go on and on. But to give you an example-we have a Blues Clues Memory game but my crew saw a Toy Story Memory game at Target and well, apparently, the Toy Story Memory game would be SO much better, because it's Toy Story.

Sorry, no can do. It's still Blues Clues memory at the Shoe house. Don't think the Lil Shoes are immune to "the Gimmies". We just do what we can to keep it to a minimum. What I'm trying to say is, don't feed the "I want" monster. Limiting TV and character exposure, as much as you feel you can, helps keep "the Gimmies" manageable. We still watch some TV during the months of November and December and we enjoy many of the Christmas specials (especially Charlie Brown). But the reality is, children can't WANT what they don't even know exists. So we try to keep the TV off, as much as possible. And we avoid the toy stores and malls like the plague:) Another way that the Shoes try to AVOID "THE GIMMIES" next time...

"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good" -Psalm 136:1

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Avoiding "The Gimmies"

Well, my cup runneth over again...this time with blog visitors! First off, I'd like to say a BIG thank you to those of you who are regular visitors. While I was gone my visitor counter moved to over 1060!!! Yes, some blogs get that many visitors in an hour, but to me, that's really something exciting! Apparently, my 12 "followers" must re-read the blog about 5 times a day. Wink. I can’t really explain it any other way, unless of course there are some of you reading that I don’t know about...I’d love to know who you are out there, so if you are feeling spunky enough, leave me a comment and let me know how you found your way to Simple Living With Seven.

Speaking of simple living... It's something we try to embrace here at the Shoe household. Now don't get me wrong, we are blessed beyond belief with "stuff". Sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed. But one of the things my husband and I have really tried to be intentional about with our children is avoiding"THE GIMMIES". You know, like when the onslaught of holiday advertising begins and you hear children saying, "I WANT THAT" about every toy/game/electronic thingamajig on the planet. I thought I’d share a few strategies/activities we’ve used, not only to avoid the Gimmies but also in an effort to cultivate an attitude of gratitude throughout the year.

1. Celebrate Thanksgiving all month long...
On November 1st, we started adding leaves to our thanksgiving tree as a fun way of listing people, places or things for which we are grateful.

We’ve done this several different ways, depending on how creative I was feeling at the time. Another idea, if you are up to the challenge of something a little more artistic, is creating a turkey and adding feathers each day.
**Now, keep in mind that I was a preschool teacher before I became a stay-at-home mom, so I am fully trained in Cut and Paste. But seriously, you don’t have to do a tree or a turkey, just make a list on a big piece of poster board. If you have older children, you could start a Gratitude journal together or have each family member write what they are grateful for on slips of paper, place them in a jar and then share them with each other on Thanksgiving day. The basic idea is making an extra effort each day to “count your blessings”.

This activity helps us focus on the fact that we have more than enough to be grateful for and changes our thought process from "I WANT" to "How can we share our abundant blessings with others?".

2. Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes

This is a relatively “new” tradition in the Shoe household. This will be our 3rd year packing shoeboxes.
I believe that supporting organizations financially is wonderful and can also be a very important part of teaching children about giving and about how to be good stewards with God's money. But young children often need something more concrete when learning about giving to others. They need to be able to see and feel the actual items that the child in a far away country will be receiving, which is why I really like doing the OCC shoeboxes with the Lil Shoes.

My crew is always amazed at the list of suggested items to pack in the boxes. The fact that some children don't have soap or toothbrushes is so foreign to them. Here in the "Land of Plenty", stores sell special soap for kiddos that is colorful and foamy and comes in different fruity smells. We have hand soap at our sinks and different soap for taking baths and even fun "kid" shampoo. There are motorized toothbrushes with characters on the handle or even ones that play music to help them brush longer. Don't get me wrong, we really dig that stuff sometimes. But the OCC shoeboxes are always a great reminder that even the simple things that we take for granted, like soap and toothbrushes, are a blessing to have.
Last year was the first year we were able to track our boxes and find out where they went. The children were really excited/interested about that and we were able to turn that into a mini geography/world culture lesson:)

The Shoes enjoy music AND the VeggieTales AND the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox program, so I absolutely have to share this video with you...(it's not just for kids, it's for you, too, and just to warn you...I got a little teary when I watched it)

Shoebox collection week is coming up soon (November 15-22), so if you are interested in this idea, you'll have get a move on it! If you have never done this, whether or not you have children, I would really encourage you to try it. You can put together a shoebox relatively inexpensively. They suggest that you donate $7 to cover the cost of shipping, but if that's tough for you, no worries. They have people that "sponsor" boxes and donate money to cover the cost, if you aren't in a position to do so yourself.

For more about Operation Christmas Child or to find a drop-off location near you, go to
(Sorry, my link insert isn't working for some reason, so you'll have to copy and paste)

More on how the Shoe Seven tries to avoid "The Gimmes" to come...

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beauty Tips

Since we are on the subject of Audrey...When I was in college, I discovered Audrey Hepburn movies. I became enthralled with all things relating to Audrey Hepburn. It's funny to think about, but back then it was the 90's and the internet was a relatively new thing:) I even did a little online research (as limited as it was back then) to find info about Audrey Hepburn, her life, her character, etc. One of the things that profoundly impacted me, as a young woman who was desperately searching for herself, was this poem that I stumbled upon, which was sited as Audrey's favorite poem. I plan on sharing these beautiful words with my daughters (and sons) when they are a little older and my prayer is that they will be impacted by them also.

Time Tested Beauty Tips by Sam Levenson

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!

I pray that my daughters will embrace the profound message of this poem and that of God's Truth that He created them to be women of True beauty and character. They were made for so much more than just trying to live up to the world's standard of "beautiful".
And my prayer for my boys is that they will learn to respect and appreciate women, not just because of how they look but more importantly, for who they are.

Big prayers for my little ones...only by the grace of God will this lesson be possible to teach in a world where my children can't even go along to the grocery store without being bombarded by images that speak louder than words about how a woman should look, dress, and behave. Some days it seems hopeless...they can't watch Saturday morning cartoons without commercials for BRATZ dolls or Hannah Montana (which if you haven't heard yet, apparently Miley Cyrus ain't the squeaky clean teen she used ta be). They can't watch sports with Daddy without seeing barely dressed, well endowed "pro cheerleaders" (I use that term loosely) and advertisements for "adult products" (and I'm not talking about beer commercials). How does a mother go about fighting against all that? At times I could just cry about the whole thing...But then I'm reassured and encouraged by all the verses in Scripture that speak to this issue. And again I pray... that my children will know that they were created by God and that fact alone makes them special.

Psalm 139:13-15 (New International Version)

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

The same God that placed each star in the sky, created each one of my children. The same God that designed the change of the seasons, created each one of my children. The same God that planned for each individually unique snowflake, created each one of my children. They grow, they learn...How could they not be considered beautiful? I pray that each one of them finds encouragement in the fact that "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."(1 Samuel 16:7)

May each of you be encouraged today by the fact that you were created by the amazing hand of the Creator and that no matter if you are having a "bad hair" day, don't have anything to wear that isn't from the 1990's, wishing you could shrink a few pants sizes or haven't had a chance to shower because you are more focused on taking care of little ones than you are of yourself...the Lord is only looking at your heart and He loves you simply because you are His creation! Blessings to you until you return.

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Since I'm on the subject of God's protection, that reminds me...

Our newest baby niece, Audrey Rose Schneider...I see great things in her future. Whatever her future holds, I predict that she will be described as unstoppable. At least that has proved to be true so far. Apparently, she waits for no one...doctors, nurses, her mother, absolutely no one. I mentioned back in July that I had a story to share with you and boy, is it ever a doozy. But I thought that instead of trying to relay this unbelievable story second hand, I'd ask my dear sister-in-law to do a guest post to share the details with you. So here is the absolutely amazing story of Audrey's birth straight from Jill...

“It’s baby time!” I shouted to Lincoln. I got the go-ahead to make our way to Riverside as my contractions were seven minutes apart. Our son, Eli, was so quick to arrive (we were at the hospital for just 5 ½ hours before he popped out) so my doctor wanted me to come in a little earlier this round. We met my mom at the valet so she could take Eli home with her and we were admitted into the triage area. Time check: around 7:00pm. We were so excited but quite anxious because it seemed like we were waiting forever for the nurse!

 Well, Nurse ManHands (as I like to call her) hooked me up to some monitors and Lincoln, being Lincoln, was trying to talk small talk with her. He had her knocking on wood that triage would slow down because they were super busy. She wasn’t much for small talk. Then she did an initial check. “Two centimeters, 80% effaced; go ahead and walk around the floor for an hour and we’ll check you again.” I always see this on the Baby Story, so it was no shocker, although I was hoping I would be a lot further along.

So off I go in my oh-so-trendy gown making me look more of a whale than I already was but hey, my eggo was preggo, I had an excuse. I sent Lincoln to the cafeteria so he could eat dinner because who knows how long we’d be there and I wanted him to be on his A-game. So I walked. And I contracted. And I avoided all windows where I could see my reflection. Once Lincoln got back, my contractions were getting stronger and closer together; so much that it stopped me in my tracks. Yay, it’s really happening!

An hour went by and we moseyed back to our triage curtain. ManHands came back in and does another exam. “Two centimeters, 80% effaced, no change; we’re going to send you home.” WHAT? “I’ll give you an Ambien and you can sleep through your contractions and maybe we’ll see you here tomorrow or later on in the week.” I told her that I wasn’t a pill popper but she highly recommended it...four or five times even. I then asked, “well, when should we come back in?” ManHands said, “When your contractions are 2-3 minutes apart.” WHAT WHAT? To that, we told her that we live forever away and if Lincoln would have to leave work, we’d be a good hour plus to get to the hospital.

“Then 3-5 minutes apart,” she said. NOTE: Keep in mind we had timed my contractions at 5-6 minutes during our walk on the floor. Skip ahead to lots of waiting, more contractions and Nurse ManHands coming back in with my discharge papers and a big see ya later. I remember thanking her as we left.

So, we left. Well, we had to wait awhile for the valet guy to bring our car around. There was actually another girl and her hubby waiting—a familiar face too; she was the other whale of a woman who was walking the halls and they served her with a see ya later too.

So we called mom and told her we’d be coming back to pick up Eli. Time check: around 10:00pm. So we drove. And I contracted.

We got to mom’s and I just had to lay down. So I went back to my brother's old room and things didn’t get better. After about 40 minutes of pain and some loud grunts and groans, Lincoln called the on-call service and told them we were coming back in. Mom grabbed my arm and was helping me out the door and as I stepped off the front stoop, GUSH…my water broke. (At this point, I remember stepping out of my body and thinking “my girlfriends always said I’d know when my water would break”—sure enough).
Sidenote: I also remember hearing mom say something about how it got on her foot. Hilarious. Mom kept asking Lincoln if we should call the squad but he said he could get me there quicker. What a man. 

So we hopped in the van and sped down the road. Well, sped is an understatement. Flying is more like it. I remember zipping over the railroad tracks and thinking my stomach was going to come out my mouth. I was shouting many expletives. During this time, Lincoln is on the phone with the on-call doctor (not my doctor) and she can hear me yelling.


“Tell your wife to calm down.” Scream, scream, curse word, scream. One push.
Lincoln-- “She says she can feel the head.” (I never really felt the head, I think he misunderstood what I was saying.)
Doctor--“You’ve got to tell your wife to calm down.”

Lincoln--“The head’s out.”

Doctor--“Call 911.” Click.

Push number two and I’m holding our baby. I don’t remember much after this. I just remember praying the same thing over and over…”God, please take care of our baby.” At this point, I probably sounded like RainMan, but what else was I supposed to do? I’m holding a tiny little thing (thank goodness she was tiny) in a blood bath in the front seat of our van!

Lincoln’s on the phone with 911 and I, out of nowhere, tell him to stay straight and go to a much closer hospital. Not sure how I came up with that one. We had every intention of veering right to get on the freeway and head back to Riverside. One of the traffic lights was red and had four cars stopped on both sides. Lincoln honked, flashed the lights and sped right through and we made our way to a the horribly marked hospital after doing a u-turn.

As we pulled up to the emergency room doors about 8 doctors and nurses were there waiting for us (thank you 911 dispatcher) and I apparently tried to get out of the van. They sat me back down and went to cut the cord but 3 of the OB kits didn’t have scissors. Lincoln remembers hearing the doctor say, “that’ll do.” I can only imagine. They rushed the baby off (at this time, we still didn’t know it was Audi—Lincoln asked a few minutes later—“well what did we have?”) and also rushed me off to my own room.

We welcomed Audrey Rose at 11:20pm-ish on Sunday, July 18th, 2010. The nurses calculated Audi’s arrival time from the 911 call they received minus a couple minutes-- Hence the 11:20-ish. She is beautiful and healthy and doing fantastic!

A million and one things could have gone wrong—a deer crossing the road, a horrible car accident from speeding & talking on the phone & seeing a small head out of your wife’s hoo-ha, the baby being turned wrong or me passing out. But none of them did. Two pushes, that’s all it took. I like to think that God was watching out for our health and safety and that my Dad was guiding us through our high speed pursuit and dodging traffic. He was, after all, nicknamed “Fast Tommy.”

So here are some of the common questions we’ve been asked, answered!

• No, the baby did not drop on the floor. I caught her. I attribute that to my mad softball skills.
• Yes, I was in the front seat. I don’t know why I didn’t get in the back; I wasn’t planning on having a baby in our Odyssey.
• No, Lincoln did not pull off the side of the road. Driving 80 mph made more sense at the time.
• No, I was not wearing pants, but a really cute purple dress, now nicknamed, “the dress” and yes, I was still wearing my undies when they wheeled me in the hospital. Yeah, I don’t know either. I remember the nurses asking me if I’d like to keep them. Uh…no. Although they were super cute.
• Yes, our van looked like something from CSI. My amazing brother and mama “took care of it.” Enough said.
• No, we are not getting a new car. We just bought the thing and it has low miles! We did talk about it though. This has a whole new meaning to the “Swagger Wagon.”
• Total time elapsed? We left Riverside at 10pm and delivered Audi at 11:20pm-ish.
• No, I do not plan on doing a home birth with our next child. Are you nuts?

God has truly blessed our family and I am continually amazed at His power. We have quite the story to tell Audi when she’s older!

Psalm 28:7
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts In Him and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song.

Well, there you have it folks. My sister-in-law is tough as nails and we are so proud of her! Audrey is absolutely beautiful and we have thanked God many times for her safe arrival and the hand of protection that was on the whole family as they took their very memorable trip to the hospital! May God continue to bless you, Audrey. We love you!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's all about perspective...

Now, lest any of you start entertaining some grand idea that I'm some Supermom that has it all together cause I have five kids and I blog and make graduation slideshows and do cooking days and even have my little ones help in the kitchen, I thought I'd put an end to your wild imaginations right now:) Anyone who knows me well or has dropped in unexpectedly can attest to the following confession...I'm not always good at keeping up with the housework. (GASP!) Hard to believe? Not really. I get a little distracted with other things. Five of them, to be exact:)

I thought it might reveal a lot if I snapped a photo of what my kitchen counter often looks like. Truth be told, this is not the worst it has been. I wasn't exaggerating when I compared it to a picture out of an I Spy book in a previous post. It's a dumping ground for anything and everything...

What you might find on our kitchen counter:

-misc. small choking hazards that were fished out of the baby's mouth
- 1/2 a cup of coffee that has been waiting for me since 8:30am
- change from my husband's pocket
- a Bible
- a library card
- a plastic container of chocolate chip cookies
- my open planner
- magazines/books that I keep hoping to read while the littles are napping
- hair rubber bands
- our "correction jar" (I'll explain that some other time:)
- a few socks that are missing a match
- CD's on Christian parenting, and misc. music
- a bib
- sippy cups
- a ball cap
- a wadded up bunch of "Silly bands"
- a canning lid
- a Chipotle gift card (YUM, jackpot!)
- a rock?!
- a golf ball
- a small container of buttons
- school papers and mail

There you have it, ladies...I'm an open book. This is the real me. I'm not afraid to be honest.

The word I most often use to describe our house is DISARRAY. It's not absolutely filthy (as in dirt), althought it's not uncommon to be able to write your name in dust in multiple places in our home. We try to keep the house relatively clean. Our problem is just that things pile up and nothing is "in it's place." DISARRAY. Anyway, I hope that helps y'all feel better and puts any Supermom thoughts to rest:) Just out of curiosity, I'd love for you to leave a comment and tell me the craziest thing I might find on your kitchen counter.

On a different note, I'm praising God today for the hand of protection that was on my children this weekend...the guardian angels were working overtime:) We had two major injuries, and amazingly, neither of which required stitches! Saturday Mattie was sitting in a camping chair on our porch and a certain someone, who will be left unnamed, pushed her. She fell backwards and bashed her head on a very large rock/piece of cement that was on our porch (which didn't belong there, go figure). I don't usually flip out in emergency situations but there was a small puddle of blood under her head and man, was that thing bleeding! After getting her cleaned up, it ended up being a rather small cut. Obviously, I didn't have time to shoot a photo. It's healing nicely.

The very next day, Silas took a pretty good tumble down several of our stairs. No broken bones, but bless his heart, here is a day by day progression in photos of his eye injury...

Is he not like the sweetest thing ever, even with a black eye? Other than his eye, he seems fine. Still as goofy and silly as ever:)

Sometimes it's all about perspective...
and it's weekends like these that remind me that there are five little blessings that need my time, cuddles, love, help, encouragement, tickles, baths, band-aids, and attention, and often times, those things can't wait. Cleaning up a messy kitchen counter...well, that's something that can:)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Once a Month cooking day (with children:) Part Four

We've survived another canning season...although there are many projects throughout our home that had been shoved aside that need my attention. But back to the cooking day:)

Here are two chicken recipes from our church cookbook that are some of my "easy, throw in a bag" OAMC recipes:

Chili Sauce Chicken -- Laura Miller

1 1/2 lb. uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bottle chili sauce
1/3 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. olive oil
10 to 12 garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in gallon zipper freezer bag. Freeze. Thaw the day before you want to serve. This recipe is best on the grill but you can also bake at 350 for about an hour or until chicken is cooked through.

Creamy Italian Chicken --Karen Brown

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 envelope dry italian dressing mix
1/4 c. water
1 8oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 8oz. can sliced mushrooms

Combine dressing mix and water in gallon zipper freezer bag. Add chicken. In a quart zipper freezer bag, combine cream cheese chicken soup and mushrooms. Squish to mix:) Label bags, tape small bag to large bag, and freeze.
Thaw at the day before you want to serve. When thawed, place chicken in crock pot. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 hours. After 4 hours, add the cream cheese, soup, and mushroom mixture to crock pot. Cover and cook 1 hour longer or until juices run clear. Serve over rice or noodles.

The great thing about the previous recipes is that you just throw the stuff in a bag. But even though it seems too simple, it saves me the prep on the day I want to serve it. Normally I would have to marinade for 2 hours or mix up the ingredients before cooking. This way it has already been marinading as it froze and as it thawed and it saves me a little time since everything is already mixed, I just throw it in! Even if it saves me 15 minutes of prep, to me, it's worth it.

As far as the enchiladas, sloppy joes and taco meat go, I do not have some magical freezer recipe to share with you...Just take the recipe that you usually use when you make 'em fresh and throw them in the freezer. Just cook up the meat, add seasoning (and for the enchiladas, wrap them up and pour your sauce over them), then freeze. It's as simple as that:) I usually freeze my sloppy joe and taco meat in a gallon freezer bag. I know, I'm really a lot of help, aren't I? But really, if you already have a great recipe, USE IT!

Once you've chosen your recipes, you need to compile a list of all quanities of like ingredients (i.e. if you have three recipes that call for chopped onions, add the quantities and note the total amount) so you know, first, how much to buy and then, the night before, you can do all the chopping. If you have multiple recipes that call for cooked chicken, figure how much you need cooked, then note how much you need chopped or shredded and cook, chop, shred, etc. the day before. The goal is for all your ingredients to be ready to go for "recipe assembly" on cooking day. This process may take you a few times to work through. The first time I did an OAMC day, I messed up the figuring and had to chop up a little more of this or that. But now that I've done several cooking days, I have a better handle on the process. You may want to assemble your more involved recipes first and leave your easy "throw in the bag" type recipes for last. That way when you are getting tired and close to reaching your limit of cooking for the day, you'll have your easier recipes at the end.

If you aren't brave enough to do a whole cooking day and you happen to be making any of the above or some type of casserole, just make an extra to stick in the freezer. You can accumulate a great supply of meals if you just make an extra of each meal for about a week. Little by little you can have a few weeks worth of meals to share with others or add to your menu, here and there.

And as for the kiddos helping...

a chopper comes in very handy for all kinds of things. Hope chopped onions for me--until she couldn't see anymore because her eyes were watering so bad. They were some strong onions! Green peppers are also a frequent ingredient in our recipes and you can let the kids chop away!

She also sliced some mushrooms for me. Her first time using a paring knife...Aghhhhhhh! She was very careful and did a great job. I tried to trust her with some "grown up" jobs since she IS seven years old. Wow, how will I ever survive when she's learning how to drive?!

Mattie really enjoyed mixing up the enchilada filling:) Dump, dump, dump, stir!

And Hope, Mattie, and Silas all had a hand in making the muffins. Hope even made the box of Fiber One blueberry muffins ALL BY HERSELF! Oh the joy of being able to read:)

I snapped this photo on cooking day...I had to be quick because the muffins were disappearing as they cooled. Needless to say, they don't last long around here. We only have one bag of mini muffins left and are also on our last bag of pancakes. But we do have several freezer meals still left to go through. Looks like it won't be long til we need to restock...good thing we are almost up to 20% off our groceries at Giant Eagle with our FoodPerks. I'm gonna have to be really saavy with my coupons that week to make the most of our trip. Let me know of any good coupon sites that you use/love!

May your mind, body and spirit be filled with good things this week! Blessings to you until you return!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Once a Month cooking day (with children:) Part Three

Since it's been awhile, let me just refresh your memory about what we made...

Muffins (some zucchini, some Fiber One blueberry from a box--4 doz. large & 3 doz. mini)
Beef and Bean Enchiladas
2 lbs. Taco Beef
Hearty Tomato Beef Stew
French Stuffed Potato Topping
Chicken Enchiladas
Chili Verde
Creamy Italian Chicken (for the crock pot)
Chili Sauce Chicken (for the grill or oven)
Herbed Chicken (for oven)
Southern Noodle Bake (my husband calls this "Amish Lasagna")
4 lbs. chicken, cooked and cubed for salads
Sloppy Joe beef
12 "uncrustable" PB&Js
Approx. 70ish whole wheat banana oatmeal choc. chip pancakes

Here are some tips for doing your own Freezer Cooking Day:

1. The most important part of doing a cooking day is to HAVE A PLAN! It's all about the preparation. This is usually a week long process for me. Several days of planning, grocery shopping day, prep the day/night before, and then the actual "Cooking Day".

2. Take stock of what you already have in your pantry. Try to choose recipes that include ingredients that you already have on hand.

3. Plan around a good sale. In my case, it was boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.99/lb.

4. Decide which recipes to use and how much you want to make. If you are new to freezer cooking, you may want to try just 4-5 meals to get used to the process. Here are some things to keep in mind:

** If you need some ideas on what freezes well, you may want to invest in a good Once a month cooking cookbook. A good one to get you started would be Once a Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg. Or check into the menus for places like Touch of Gourmet or Super Suppers. Search internet sites for OAMC recipes. Or heavens, just take a walk through the freezer section at your grocery store. My initial interest in freezer cooking came when I thought to myself, "Well, if they can freeze peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, why can't I? How hard can it really be?" Most items in the freezer section can be recreated by you at home. Think pastas, meatloaf, pancakes, cookie dough, smoothie kits, muffins...the sky's the limit. If "they" can freeze it, SO CAN YOU:) But if it's something you've never frozen before you may not want to make multiples of it until you are sure it worked.

**Make sure to take into consideration how much freezer space you have. When you have a big family like ours, it helps to have a chest or upright freezer available.

** Think about what type of container you will use for each recipe. If it's a recipe that I might possibly take to a potluck or give to another family, I tend to use foil pans, so as not to have to get them back. Soups, stews, marinating meat can all go in zipper freezer bags. Plastic containers (square or rectangle) that can stack are also a good choice, to make the best use of your space.

Hang in there with me...I know you want even more details. No worries, I'm just getting started. There are whole books on this, people. I'm trying to break it down into little bit size chunks. No, I didn't say break dance, although I must say, I did my share of trying to spin around on a cardboard box back in the eighties:) So come on back and next time, I'll get more specific on the grocery/prep/cooking day info and how you can get your own little aspiring chefs involved:)
Shoot me some questions, if you have something specific you are wondering about. Or comment on what ideas you have about recipes you'd like to try (or have tried before) on your own cooking day!

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Makeover of the Heart

Pardon me once again as I get distracted from my Once A Month Cooking posts...

I'm starting a new online bible study today and I thought I'd share the link, cause I would SO love for any (or all) of you to join me.

Seems like lately I've had some "heart issues" to deal with and I just know that God has led me to this study for a reason. I would appreciate your prayers as I dig deep into God's Word and open myself up for a Heart Makeover:) Clink on the link and check it out for might just be where God is leading you too. Leave a comment and let me know if you decide to join the study, so I can pray for you, too. Blessings to you until you return!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Can you ever can too much???

Okay, so I said "Come back in a few days to get the details on the Once A Month Cooking" and what I really meant was...I have five children and more than I can handle on my plate, so I'll do my best to get around to telling you more about our cooking day, whenever I get around to it:) I'm still working on my Part 3 post because we've been a little busy around here canning large amounts of produce and sending a five year old to his first few days of Kindergarten.

Here's some of our bounty...



Green Beans and Tomatos...

**These beans are not all from this year...I think we did over 100 quarts last year! And most of what we canned did not come from our own garden. We are blessed to have some very skilled (and generous) gardeners in our family!

We also made a little applesauce, of which I forgot to snap photos. Anyway, now you understand why I'm a little delayed in my post about the cooking day. Apparently, cooking day slid right into canning month. I'll do my best to post more in the next week but we've got more green beans that are waiting to be picked and I still have to do something with all these...

Praise God, yet again My Cup Runneth Over...this time with vegetables:)

Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us.
-Psalm 67:6

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Once a month cooking day (with children:) Part Two

I'll start off with the list of what was made...

Muffins (some zucchini, some Fiber One blueberry from a box--4 doz. large & 3 doz. mini)
Beef and Bean Enchiladas
2 lbs. Taco Beef
Hearty Tomato Beef Stew
French Stuffed Potato Topping
Chicken Enchiladas
Chili Verde
Creamy Italian Chicken (for the crock pot)
Chili Sauce Chicken (for the grill or oven)
Herbed Chicken (for oven)
Southern Noodle Bake (my husband calls this "Amish Lasagna")
4 lbs. chicken, cooked and cubed for salads
Sloppy Joe beef
12 "uncrustable" PB&Js
Approx. 70ish whole wheat banana oatmeal choc. chip pancakes

Whew! even typing the list makes me a little tired:) but it is SO worth it!

Some of you may be saying to yourselves, "That's only about 16 entree meals...How does that feed them for a whole month?"
Well, first of all, many of those meals will provide AT LEAST one night of leftovers. And in addition to that, I already had a few things in the freezer...chuck roasts, pork roasts, stuffed pork chops, frozen meatballs, steaks, hamburger patties, etc. What I made, plus what I had stocked up on when particular items were on sale, plus a few "order pizza" nights should actually stretch us about a month and a half or more. I'd still like to do a round of breakfast burritos also but I need more eggs and a few empty hours (wink) to accomplish that.

Anyway, that should be enough to "whet your appetite" and get you to come back to hear my tips and suggestions on how to pull off your own "OAMC". Ciao for now! Blessings to you until you visit again! does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.--Deuteronomy 8:3

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Once a month cooking day (with children:) Part One

Once a month cooking day...I've attempted it solo several times, but this time was different. As I mentioned before, chicken breasts were on sale and I was determined. With this being my first year as a "soccer mom" and school starting, I knew if I wanted to make it through the next few months without pulling all my hair out, I'd have to be on top of MY game, especially where cooking is concerned! Soccer practice is from 5:30-6:30!!! Now when is a mother of five supposed to make and serve her family a hot, delicious and somewhat healthy meal?! So when I saw chicken on sale, I started some intense planning...I even went so far as to defrost and reorganize the freezer, cause this was gonna be a big one!

After scouring my cookbooks and recipes, deciding what and how much I wanted to attempt and making my OAMC plan, I was ready to conquer the grocery store. One problem. My trip kept getting delayed a day and finally, I just HAD to go because it was the last day before the sales changed. So off we, my stack of coupons, 5 children and 2 carts (one being a hard to steer kiddie car cart). Boy, were we a sight! Our trip went pretty smoothly, for several reasons, but mostly because I recently discovered Plan to Eat. This helpful website really simplified and organized my very large shopping list, which cut our shopping time considerably! Click on one of the Plan to Eat links to check out my new favorite thing!!!

Anyway, I digress. We bought almost 12 lbs of chicken, plus I had one small package in the freezer already. Plus we recently bought a quarter of beef, so we had a ready supply available for the meals containing ground beef. Come back in a few days to read the rest of the details on how I (with the help of a few Lil Shoes) made all this...

And this...

and more!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Taste and see...

Okay well, here's where we get to the "simple living" part of the blog...

One thing I have discovered REALLY makes my life easier is freezer cooking. I figure, if I'm gonna mess up the kitchen anyway, why not make multiples of the recipe and save myself some clean up on other days. It's amazing how much time it can cut out of daily food prep and clean up. And it's nice to always have something on hand for a church potluck or the times when I'd like to take food to someone to lighten their load. I've found lots of really good recipes that freeze well. Periodically I'll share some of these with you. And chicken is on sale this week, so I'm gearing up for a big Once A Month Cooking Day, and I'll try to do a post explaining how and what I did. Some of the recipes I've tweaked a bit to suit a larger family such as ours.

I don't know about you but The Shoe Seven enjoys a hearty breakfast. I just recently discovered a good recipe for basic whole wheat pancakes and here's what I did with it...

4 cups whole wheat flour
2 T. baking powder
2 t. salt
6 eggs
4 cups milk
3 large, ripe bananas (mashed)
1 c. oatmeal
2 c. chocolate chips

**For those of you that don't have as many mouths to feed, you can half this recipe but use 2 bananas.**

I like to add as much fiber as possible, hence the oatmeal. And my kiddos will eat bananas in pancakes, as long as the flavor is not too overwhelming. You may want to cut the chocolate chips back a bit, but I figure, with the healthiness of the whole wheat, oatmeal and bananas, I can treat the Lil Shoes (and myself) to a few extra chips:)

So anyway, for those of you who enjoy the Pampered Chef scoops as much as I do, this recipe makes approximately 40 medium pancakes (when using the large size scoop). I make the pancakes, cool them completely on a cooling rack, lay them out on a cookie sheet and freeze for several hours. After frozen, I place them in freezer bags and I can pull them out individually, warm them up in the microwave and voila! a quick, easy breakfast...WITHOUT ALL THE CLEAN-UP!!!

I was actually trying to perfect my recipe, so I could enter it in a Better Homes and Gardens pancake recipe contest...but whoops, I missed the entry deadline. Oh well, no fame and fortune this time (wink), just a happy bunch of kiddos with chocolate mustaches, sticky hands and full tummies running around ready for a new day!

Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.--Psalm 34:4

Saturday, August 7, 2010

If the Shoe fits...

There has been so much happening in our lives since I started this blog. I've been very sentimental, up to this point, but I thought I'd lighten it up a bit this time and finally give a little explanation on The Shoe photo. Obviously, each shoe represents a member of our family...

The Work Boot--my dear, hard-working husband. One of the things that I've always loved about him is his amazing work ethic. He's not afraid of manual labor, getting his hands dirty, or DIY projects. He's a wonderful provider for our family and a great dad to our five children.

The brown (Payless shoestore) ballet flat--me, Momma Shoe. I'm a stay-at-home mom that is busy keeping up with five young children and all the things that go with homemaking. Although my husband is definitely the head of our household, the responsibility of raising our children in faith is primarily mine. Like my shoe, I'm comfortable (with who I am, thanks to my faith in God), with a touch of fun. I almost chose a tennis shoe to represent me because some days can be tough... but I wouldn't trade these times with my young children for all the money (or fancy, matching home decor:) in the world.

The pink sport sandal--Hope, our 7 year old. You may have read a little about her in the previous post. She's our first born and like her shoe, so versatile. She's active, yet girly. Practical, yet cute. She's everything you could hope for in an oldest child.

The cleat--Hank, our 5 year old. He loves anything that involves a ball. His favorite sport is...whatever season it happens to be. He's all about ball, all of the time. He really loves all his siblings, even if wrestling and teasing is how he expresses it. He's got a great laugh, which we hear often when he's watching his favorite Tom and Jerry video. In a few weeks, I'll be putting him on the bus for the first time to head off to Kindergarten.

The sparkly, Dorothy shoe (with the scuffed toe)--Martha Jane, our 3 year old. We usually call her Mattie. I see theatre in her future. She's our dancing, singing, drama queen. She likes to wear dresses and dig in the dirt. She's all girl, super sassy, with a little bit of roughneck thrown in. She likes to keep things lively around our house. And she loves a good round of applause for her performances.

The green frog rubber boot--Silas, our 2 year old. He's our wacky, silly, anything for a laugh kid. His grandma got him those green boots for his 2nd birthday and they fit him to a T. He wore them constantly for months, no matter whether it was raining or not. Describing Silas...well, think Little Rascals. He's got the facial expressions of Spanky (bottom lip out and brows furrowed when he's angry...and eyebrows raise with eyes as big as silver dollars and mouth in the shape of an "O" when surprised) and tries to sing like Alfalfa. He's ornery, to the bone.

The little tennis shoe--Ezekiel, our 10 month old baby. He's a roly, poly, chunka chunka burning love. So cuddly. He's happy to just take in all the action of our household and roll with the punches (sometimes literally). His siblings love the stuffings out of him. He's going to be a tough little guy, with a happy heart.

Now you know a little bit more about who we are as individuals.
Put us all together and you get one crazy family:)
Crazy, yes.
Lovable, absolutely.

All praise, honor and glory to God... My Cup Runneth Over.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Our Hope

Seven years ago, we experienced the miracle of having our first child. After two miscarriages, hope and prayer were all we had left. I don't know that any other name would have fit her more. She IS our Hope. Hope that there is still good in the world. Hope that there's so much more to this life than fancy things and having all the stuff that other people have. Hope that the love of family and the grace of God can help a child become a shining light in a sometimes very dark world. Our Hope has helped us learn so much more about the unconditional love that God has for His children. What a joy and blessing she has been to us. We've watched her grow, learn, discover, and bloom into someone so beautiful throughout these quickly passing years.

God has blessed her with many gifts, most of which make her an amazing big sister. I'll never forget the first time she met her baby brother, Hank, at the hospital the day after he was born. She was so excited, she could barely contain her joy. Possibly the biggest smile I've ever seen on her face. And she absolutely had to hold him, right away!!! She held him for the longest time, smiling all the while. And when we finally had to take him from her, she cried. She already loved him SO much. I truly believe that is the best example of the kind of love she has for each one of her siblings. She has such a nurturing nature. And a loving heart. Sure, sometimes it's hard being the oldest, but she's stepping up to the challenge of being an example that her younger brothers and sister can look up to. She'll make an amazing mother someday.

And our Hope's got a huge heart full of compassion for others in need. A few years ago, we were shopping at Christmas time for a few children that we had chosen from the "giving tree" at church. As we shopped for a few toys, we talked about why we were buying presents for children we didn't know and about why these families might not have much, if anything, for Christmas. I could tell she was really thinking about this and processing the situation. Later that day, Hope asked me if it would be okay to make the children cookies and include them with our gifts. It brought tears to my eyes. It was clear to me that she understood. Not only did she want to help pick out "store bought" gifts, but she wanted to go the extra mile and make them something special--our homemade chocolate chip cookies. Her compassion continues to grow. She's often putting money in her "world" bank, which she has designated as her place for saving money to send to Joel, the child we sponsor through Compassion International. She enjoys drawing pictures and writing notes to people that are needing a little something to brighten up their day. She's thoughtful beyond her seven years.
...our Hope that love can change the world, one person at a time.
That's our daughter. Happy Birthday, Hope. We love you more than you know.

And speaking of birth days...have I got a story to tell you, about how the newest member of our extended family made her grand entrance into the world. But that will have to wait until another time...

Friday, June 25, 2010

What love isn't...

Love isn't a $3.99 greeting card. It isn't a bouquet of flowers or sparkly jewelry. Love isn't going out to an expensive restaurant. Love isn't even a beautiful white gown and a big huge celebration with all your family and friends.

Love is still being happy to see each other at the end of a long day. Love is a sweet kiss on the forehead. Knowing what the other person is going to say, before they even say it. Love is being able to laugh with each other when you are sleeping on a mattress in the living room with three children who are taking turns waking up every half hour to vomit. Love is supporting each other's tough decisions. Love is encouraging each other to grow in faith. Love is biting your tongue instead of grumbling about things that don't really matter. Love is 10 years of marriage and knowing you would do it all over again. Every bit of it.

Yesterday, my dear husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. Well, really, since we were high school sweethearts, we actually celebrated 21 years of being together (which in today's culture is like a little piece of fairy tale in the making.) A story like ours doesn't happen very often and I don't have the time to tell it all now but we've got a lot of great memories together. I can't imagine being married to anyone else.
Yesterday was a pretty typical day. We did order some Chinese for supper though, which is kinda a special treat for the 7 Shoes...Yum! Anyway, I'm sure we'd get quite a few really sad reactions to the fact that we didn't even really exchange cards or have at least some attempt at a romantic dinner together. The world has tricked us all into thinking that love is a thing that you can buy or gift or exchange on significant occasions, but true love is simply being content enjoying life together.

We don't have to buy or give each other anything to show our love...

-he works hard to provide for our family and often times helps me "catch up" on his days off.

-I don't mind if he goes for a run, even if I haven't had any "free time" in days.

-he doesn't complain when he walks in the door after a long day of work and trips over toys on the floor and can't find something he needs because our kitchen counter resembles a picture out of an "I Spy" seek and find book.

-I don't complain when there is a major home improvement project that he started over a year ago and has not yet finished.

-he tries really hard to teach the children to respect me and be grateful for my "homemaking".

-I've done my best to teach the children that one of the best things in the world is the time when Daddy gets home from work.

-he still finds me attractive after my body has been forever changed by 5 pregnancies and the fact that I'm often found wearing my unshowered hair in a "mom ponytail" and sporting a t-shirt from the 1990's.

- I don't make "Honey do" lists or grumble about picking up his dirty socks off the floor.

That, my dear friends, is the kind of love I'm talkin' about. Like I said in my original post, we try to keep it simple. Truly, no amount of money or vacations or stuff could ever replace the love my husband and I have for each other. It's the best kind of love: faithfulness, devotion, encouragement, stability, laughter, tears, five beautiful children... What a blessing. How could we ask for anything more?

Don't worry...we are planning a much needed mini get-away in the near future. But it's hard to find a time to sneak away, when you have 5 little ones, there's always something going on.

Like a first-born daughter turning 7 in about a week...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

To everything there is a season...

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says, " There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace."

Well, it's officially over...not just the graduation festivities, but my sister's childhood. Unfortunately, as probably often happens with a sibling who is 18 years younger, I missed a huge part of it. Her firsts of everything took place as I, myself, was experiencing what my sister just finished enjoying...the last Homecoming, last exam, last times with high school friends. Being away at college got in the way of my opportunities to go to soccer & basketball games, school concerts/programs, and getting to know the little friends she was making. I vividly remember the tears streaming down my face as my heart broke, leaving her standing in the driveway waving, as I made yet another trip back to college. But as they say, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." The time that I did get to spend with her was even sweeter and more cherished because I was away so much.

And now after a weekend of celebrating her grand accomplishments, I've had a chance to ponder how proud I am of the beautiful woman she is becoming. She can't possibly comprehend how much I love her and how much she means to me. May she stay Forever Young, not in the literal sense, but that she would always find joy in the little things of life. I pray that she would learn to be "content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want" (Phil. 4:12). So many verses come to mind...Romans 12:9-16...Romans 12:2...1 Sam. 16:7...too many to list here.

I gotta be honest, I've really struggled with what I wanted to include in this post because there are so many ways I could have gone with it. Reminisce about memories? Give advice? So many choices...I'm so overwhelmed with emotion that I can't really find the words for all I want to say, so unfortunately, I have to lean on my internet resources. I like the way explained Ecc. 3:1-8, when it says "...this passage teaches that there's a time and place for everything. On the one hand, it's a sobering reminder that nothing lasts forever; but it's also encouraging to know that difficult times will eventually but inevitably be followed by times of peace. God is in control of it all."

Remember that Jac. Whatever the future holds, God is in control of it all. Becoming a "grown up" is not easy but you are soooo ready for this (Phil. 4:13). Trust Him and His perfect plan. Just keep smiling that beautiful smile and let the joy of the Lord be your strength. Pray hard. Use the gifts God's given you. Serve others. Be thankful for the life He's blessed you with. Congratualtions, Jacci. Go out there and knock 'em dead! Not literally, though, cause you're gonna be a nurse and all. Love ya, Sis!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hop on over to Red Thread Stitches!

I don't know if any of you have checked out any of the other blog links listed on the left hand side of my page but I thought now would be a great time for all of you to do that...Red Thread Stitches is a really wonderful blog and they are currently raffling off an absolutely gorgeous quilt to help raise money for an overseas adoption. I found this blog through a few friends of mine (Megan and Tiffany:), who had organized a "Fun Run" to help this family raise money to bring a beautiful little girl named Mia Hope to the U.S. from China. Red Thread Stitches has been a way for Mia Hope's family to raise money for overseas adoptions, not only for their family but also for others who are struggling with the outrageous costs that go along with saving children through this type of adoption. I don't have the words to explain it all, but Robin clearly has a heart for children and I hope that you will hop on over to the Red Thread Stitches blog to check out the raffle and while you're there click on their family blog button to visit Dreaming of Tea for Three to find out more on this family's heartwarming story.

**I'm busy as a bee helping with a few things in preparation for my "baby" sister's graduation, so I won't be posting again until next week. So take this opportunity to check out a few of the blogs on my list. Peace.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Tide is High...but I'm Holdin' On

Well, as I said in the last post, Mondays are often times a good day here. But sometimes, by Wednesday, we get a little squirrelly. Yesterday was one of those days when I looked up toward the sky and said, "Really? You think I can handle this?!" I know God gets a kick out of me sometimes, and this was probably one of those days...

We've had a few children with colds. Nothing major, like fevers and such, but coughing at night has been frequent. And sleeping for me has been next to non-existent -- partly my fault because I'm a night owl and don't go to bed as early as I should. But although I learned about 6 years ago how to live on little sleep, I'm gonna be honest, I get a little crabby sometimes. And yesterday, I was not on top of my game.

My saving grace was laundry detergent. I'm not kidding. A few years ago my friend, Molly, who discovers all kinds of fun things, introduced me to the idea of participating in consumer market research studies. It has been such a great thing for me, as a stay-at-home mom who doesn't get out of the house much. It gives me a reason to get out occasionally and I make a little extra cash in the process. I'm currently participating in a study on laundry detergent and I went to pick up my "product" yesterday. My dear friend (and next door neighbor:), Lindsey, so kindly agreed to watch the children while I went on my mission. Not the most super-exciting venture out, but I did have a peaceful drive and 2 whole hours out on my own! And the BEST part is, if I complete the whole eight week study, they pay me 100 bucks!!! They're paying me to do laundry (that I would be doing anyway) AND giving me FREE laundry detergent! Am I dreaming?! It's the little things in life that brighten up a Wednesday. **For those of you who are new to consumer product research, maybe I'll do a separate post on that another time.

And I know, I've probably broken some unwritten bloggers oath by using a an 80's Blondie song in the post title. But since I'm not really allowed to reveal much about the laundry study, I thought it would be reassuring to you to know that it is a high quality brand name detergent. So I'm hopeful that the whole family won't break out in some incredibly itchy rash. That would SO not be worth the $100.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A little bundle of promise wrapped with a pink bow...

Monday. The first day of a new week. A chance to start off on the right foot. Some people don't like Mondays but after being refreshed and recharged on "church day", as my kiddos call it, I often have new perspective on Monday. Especially if I was able to sneak in a little nap the day before:)

Our weekend was a very full one, but full of the very best kinds of things. A chance to serve others, a 1st birthday party for my niece, and a graduation party. It's interesting how the combination of the birthday party and graduation party can turn me into a sentimental mess.

Two celebrations. One celebrating the firsts of everything and the other celebrating the lasts. Both take me on a walk down memory lane... I remember when I got the call that my niece was born. I had been awaiting the news and knew I would be hearing something soon. I could hardly bear the anticipation. So much excitement for my brother and sister-in-law. Excitement because I know that feeling...the feeling of holding your first born child. The excitement of becoming a mom and dad. The unbelievable knowledge that you helped God create a miracle. I was excited for my brother and sister-in-law on so many levels. Knowing the love, that would make them feel as if their hearts would bust, was just beginning. And the indescribable joy that would accompany the first smile, first step, first word. I was filled with so much excitement for them, I could hardly bear it. And instead of being there, I was far away, yearning to see the teeny, tiny hands and feet of that precious baby girl. I had to go, the sooner the better. But who can make a trip to welcome a newborn baby without rushing to Target to buy gender appropriate clothing first? Not us Shoes. Only AFTER a quick trip to Target (with preschoolers in tow), and securing child-care for my little love bugs, I would be able to make the trip. But then, there was that small little detail of four very excited little cousins that would not be able to tag along. They, too, had been anticipating the call. Anxiously awaiting to hear if it would be a new boy or girl cousin. I promised I'd take pictures. That satisfied them for a little while.

I did finally get to hold her at the hospital and she was so sweet, and tiny, and precious. Like a little bundle of promise wrapped up with a pink bow. And this week, she turns one. Where does the time go? She's developing her own little personality. Her uniqueness is just beginning to show itself. She's not a "baby" anymore. I love her. We all do. Happy Birthday, Annabell! We look forward to seeing the little lady that you become.

And well, as far as the graduation thing is concerned, my "baby" sister graduates in less than two weeks and I'm sure there will be an upcoming post about that. Right now, I can't write about it because maybe, just maybe, if I pretend like it's not happening, she'll just stay a kid forever. Maybe she won't graduate and become a grown-up and live on her own and become a nurse and end up getting married and have a baby. Well, I guess that wouldn't be so know I love a newborn baby.