Kidding season begins…

We’ve had two out of six goats deliver so far.  This year we are hand raising our babies on bottles.  Certainly more work.  Also exponentially more fun. The goat kids live in the house for a few days while they get settled and we feed them their mama’s milk in a bottle.  There isn’t anything quite like coming downstairs in the morning to a pen of these little cuties waiting for you in the living room.  They are quickly imprinted on humans.  They adore our children and climb all over them at every opportunity.





When life is too much

I find it abundantly ironic that in the ‘draft’ folder for my blog, from about one month ago,  there is a blog titled:

Road signs of ‘too much’

It is blank.

Not a single word written about the given topic.  Obviously there was a bit of “too much” even then or I wouldn’t have felt apt to write about it.  And obviously the too much was too, too much because I didn’t write about it.  Or anything else for um, how long since my last post?

Perhaps you thought this was an “on purpose blog break”.  Well, no.  I would like to say there was great intentionality in my not writing.  But it’s so much less lovely than that.  It was more like a barreling freight train of one thing after another.

It was too many early (and I mean early!) morning wake ups with Finn thinking that the rooster’s crow was actually meant to beckon him out of bed.

It was drives to co-op/church/grocery/, teaching classes, keeping on top of kid schoolwork, chores and projects and all end of year things.

It was my sister in the hospital for a 5 days and the wanting answers to hard questions and not being able to understand why.

It was the list of the little things that only grows and never diminishes and stares me in the face every single morning like a bad report card.

It was losing any reasonable sense of rhythm or routine and being too many steps behind before my feet even hit the floor every day.

It was the ever present fact that seven people here need to eat every day, many times, and they need appropriate clothing to wear and the young ones were created with daily need to be nurtured, cared for and loved.

It was the giving without end and not stopping to see the writing on the wall.

So it truly is no wonder that once the kids caught a cold virus and I succumbed as well, my body would give me up.  It’s as if it said, “we can only handle one of you, so we choose baby and you’ll have to fend for yourself”.

It started out innocently enough, a fever, cough, sinus congestion.  I took all the herbal goodies I give the kids and expected a full recovery the next morning.  When our pastor announced I was home sick from church and would anyone like to help with meals I thought that was WAY overboard.  If I’d been there in person I’m sure I’d have mustered the gusto to say “oh no, we’re good, we’ll be fine, someone else must need it more!”.

Humble pie my friends, a giant serving.  Monday rolled in and I could not see past the pressure in my head and the pain in my ears and the burning in my throat.  The fact that kids weren’t well either made survival more doable.  Lots of couch time and resting and I tried driving to do something I deemed “imperative” but prayed all the way home my failing body would get us all home in one piece.  It would be almost a week before I felt well enough to even drive again.

Kids began to mend and I sat on the couch unable to even lift my head for more than five minutes.  Eyes half glued shut from symptoms of complete immune failure.  Unceasing pain from my eyelids to my toes, which until now I never knew could ache.  A fever that wouldn’t break for six days. Broken blood vessels in my cheeks, nose, inside my ears and an eye half bloody from all the trauma.  I have never been so sick I could not think or read or properly respond to people.  I could not think myself well or will myself strong enough to heal.  Everything felt like it just quit.  And entirely without my permission.

The fact I would asked my mother to drive all the way out to our house, drive me and my five children to a doctor almost an hour away from here speaks to my diminished state.  I sat sobbing in a doctor’s office, whom I’d never seen before, trying to explain to him my stamina and strength so he would understand how completely incapacitated I was.  He gave me something but it wasn’t strong and said no to my begging requests for more intervention, he was confident it was viral and my body would eventually “turn back on” and conquer it.

8 days was the sum total, in bed or on the couch directing life and children and living helpless, dependent on the kindness and care of all sorts of people.  And when I felt the fog begin to lift and I could sit upright and think with actual words, my mind trailed back.  To weeks and weeks of no margin, of no rest.

I sat outside once I was well enough, in the hammock (that never gets used, because there’s never time to lazy away in a hammock…) holding a book about rest.  My mind said I should be reading it but the rest of me still refused.  All it could do was note the dozens of shades of green in the trees in our yard.  Listen to the birds all fluttering in their spring time flurry.  Watch the kids play in the sprinkler.  Be thankful my eyes could open without pain and see all the loveliness.  Say yes to popsicles and yes to most things because saying no was too much still.  And they’d been such troopers.

Just when I thought they weren’t onto quite how ill I was, Kyler blurted out at dinner one night “Mama, I sure hope the baby in your belly doesn’t die because you’re so, so sick.”  I explained the incredible design and how the body can take good care of baby even when mama isn’t well.  He was mostly relieved, but still skeptical.  We all breathed easier last night when we got to see little 14 ounce baby sweetness on the ultrasound monitor.  Most darling tiny hands and feet and nose and everything.

I’m still waking up, but doing it as slowly as I can.  Fairly certain that this was not without purpose and I’ve some things yet to learn about how to be me, how to live this life of mine in a way that can keep going, keep growing.  I don’t want to miss any of it.  Being a spectator to my own life for over a week was so much less than wonderful.  But the observations and takeaways can change me, they need to change me.

Farm baby

It’s been exactly one year since we moved out here. Since I told the kids this bedtime story.  To the big yellow house at the end of the road.  The one I’d bookmarked as a “dream” on my computer that for a year I would compare every other house to and come up lacking.  The one with space for kids to run and gardens to grow and goats to graze.  The one with the “revolving” front door that welcomes a couple dozen people on a weekly basis.  Not into perfection or Martha Stewart life but into our mess.   On our knees as we scrubbed blueberries out of the off-white carpet two weeks ago, he said to me with a smile “You know, not too many places could withstand this…”.  True.  But that’s our life in a picture….loving people and blueberry stained carpet instead of pristine spaces and no one to share them with.

I don’t know when I won’t drive down our county road and not marvel at the mountains God moved to get us here.  Hopefully never.  Forgetting the goodness is a such critical piece of what makes me forget to be thankful.

There have been countless “firsts” here.  Today was our first farm picnic next to a big John Deere tractor:


And the first time we watched posts get slammed into the ground for our fence:


As well as the first time I caught all five of our kids on a tractor…


But the favorite first of all is this one:


First farm baby, due mid-September!

We may not have clean fingernails…

…but we sure know how to catch frogs.

and we can gently hold a bee flower for a long time and watch its tiny parts move

we love to share frogs with our little sis

and dig for carrots in the garden then peel them for Mama

and disappear with baby brother to snuggle him in a chair while Mama cooks

and delight in setting tea tables with mom’s wedding china and a flannel pillow case for a table cloth (can you see the flower petals they put in the sugar cubes?!?)

and share…because what else can you do when there are five kids in this cozy place?

# 501 – 508 on my thankful list this week

Godly Play

A couple of months ago, as a couple, we’d been talking a great deal about the way we teach children the message of the Bible within the church.  Over the years we’d wearied of flashy, hip, expensive curricula that seemed more geared toward entertaining children than helping them encounter God.  Some kids programs seemed watered down, others focused on having awesome toys or handouts, loud videos on fancy TV screens, some were haphazard and felt thrown together.  On our long summer visiting churches last year we experienced all sorts of things.  What struck us most was that some places our kids were treasured and some places they weren’t even allowed in the main meeting area.

So when I received a random email from my mom with a link to a young church in our area that was implementing something called Godly Play into their children’s ministry, it immediately caught my attention.  The heart behind it can be summed up but the logistics of how it plays out is a bit long to explain:

Godly Play is based upon the recognition that children have an innate sense of the presence of God. All they lack is the appropriate language to help them identify and express it so it can be explored and strengthened. The Godly Play approach teaches classical Christian language in a way that enhances the child’s authentic experience of God so it can contribute to the creative life of the child and the world.

I loved that it acknowledged a child’s capacity to experience God.  I believe that to be true.  I think it’s easy to put children in a box, try to keep them busy,  give them a printed coloring sheet and hope they turn out okay.  It’s easy to read a kid-version of the story of Adam and Eve and make a quick moral lesson of it…”They sinned, things went bad for them, so you see you should obey God and not sin”.  That is oversimplified obviously, but at the core, that is usually the way church teaches the Bible to children.  I don’t believe it is tremendously effective or holds much meaning.

Godly Play draws children in to experience the incredible story of God through a very deliberate, intentional time together.  Truly, I can’t put words to what it felt like to experience a whole Godly Play session this past weekend at a training event I attended.  I was enraptured as the storyteller smoothed out a pile of sand on the floor and talked about the dessert and then told the story of Abraham and Sarah and all that took place in their life in beautiful, captivating story form.  She used little wooden people to represent them, built rock altars with pebbles, blue yarn for rivers…simple.  But when I got home and replayed the whole thing with Chris, I was almost embarrassed.  I retold the story of Abraham with more knowledge, more passion and more detail than ever and from a lesson intended for a 5 year old.

In the fostering of discovery learning children are welcomed into a room that has been deemed and designed to be a sacred space.  They are welcomed by name, brought into a circle time and then drawn into a great story.  Walls are free of bright, garish decor.  The place is meant to inspire and allow children a chance to hear from God.  They even have moments of silence.  On shelves there are simple but beautiful trays that hold sets of elements to all the great stories of the Bible.  Children learn respect of these lovely things and at a set time they can interact with the stories.  They are also offered an artistic response time after the story and offered all sorts of art supplies and their own tray to do this.

If you are familiar with Montessori, this way of engaging children is similar in many ways to that.  But it obviously brings in the spiritual dynamic as central.  There are some fairly significant ways our team agreed we would have to change things to fit our own beliefs but in general the method is rich with so much that we were thrilled about.

One of my favorite things is that instead of forming the lesson principle for the whole group, the storyteller asks them “I wonder what you think about this story” or “I wonder what you love most about this story”.  This allows for children to experience and enter in to the great Story for themselves, to process and ponder deep things (even though they may not realize they’re doing just that!).

I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface!  For those of you who were curious, I hope this is helpful.  I’m by no means an expert and don’t want to make it sound like this is the only way/best way.  It is simply one of many wonderful ways that can be useful in helping children understand the great mystery of God and the incredible story of the Bible.

Why does biblical literacy matter?

“Biblical literacy is a precursor to biblical transformation.”

“More than 200 million people have no access to spiritual food, with no Scriptures in their own language,” says Krish Kandiah, a director at the Evangelical Alliance UK. “Yet we in the West, despite owning more Bibles per household than we will ever use, are slowly starving to death because we have lost our appetite for Scripture.”(CT article May 2010)

These quotes and much more reading sparked my interest into a deeper look at biblical literacy and why it matters.  Raising children in today’s culture presents itself with a myriad of challenges and obstacles.  Each one is it’s own blog post (or book!).  But what my husband and I were increasingly aware of, even before having children when we led jr high ministry, was that we rarely observed young people with passion for God’s word or even an appetite for it at all.  Like Kandiah states above, we’ve got more Bibles that the rest of the world but we, in general, aren’t feasting on it and most don’t even know what it says.

How can the Bible change our life when we’ve got no idea what it actually says?  How can we attempt to live like Jesus when we’re just making a best guess as to what he would do?  How can we share the incredible story of Hope that was meant for all mankind if we can’t even articulate the message?

We can’t.  And this is why it matters that we know what mysteries and miracles the Bible holds.

In this quest for how to facilitate this in our own family and in our lives, several things popped up.

  1. We invested in the Bible on CD (actually I asked for it for my birthday) and it is deeply blessing our family
  2. We implemented a very simple reading time (like only a few verses) after dinner every night
  3. We prayed for new ideas on leading children in the church setting since we’re about to jump in with both feet joining a new church that is just beginning

That last prayer led us on a fascinating journey and discovery of a way of teaching the Bible to children called Godly Play.  My next post will explain what that looks like and share about our one-day training yesterday.

A lesson in toilet purchasing


You get what you pay for.  This is virtually true in every aspect of life.  I know sometimes we aren’t able to pay for the better option.  But sometimes getting the cheaper version ends up not being worth it in the end.

For instance-last year we had a major bathroom problem and no money to do the repair.  I wrote here about the sweet college student who came to do all the (hard and disgusting) work for free.  The boy was a saint.   But we still had to buy the toilet.  So naturally, given that it wasn’t in the budget to do a bathroom overhaul, we bought the cheapest one.  Not giving any thought to the fact that many small children use our bathroom all day long.  That toilet had to be ready to work hard.

When my husband called home at dinner time to say he’d be later than expected, I believe my words were something like “Our toilet is not sufficient.  It is not up to the task at hand.  It cannot manage our children and what they give it.  I have to go now.”

After surviving the week with the flu, the kids missing out on all their fun activites, driving the kids in the car all morning waiting for a prescription to be filled, having someone clean the house, realizing that I would miss my best friends baby shower/a special dinner with friends/our last family dinner before my parents go on a month long trip all due to said ‘flu’….you can imagine my dismay and temptation to scream at the top of my lungs when

someone yelled  “FLOOD!”

I ran to the bathroom.

The inept, incompetent, insufficient toilet had plugged up for the hundredth time.

But this time was special.  It had flooded almost out to the carpet in the hall.  It was standing raw sewage nicely sealed in by my recent top-notch caulking job along the flooring.  The smell overwhelmed me.

The fact that hours before we’d actually paid someone to clean that bathroom and it had sparkled, forced me to count to 10 and take a deep, nose-plugged breath as my four little people watched from the doorway.

I grabbed towels.  Most of the towels we own.  The older kids kept Audrey out of the way as I mopped and filled towel after towel of absolute nastiness trying not to gag every step of the way.

I don’t clean with bleach based products, we try to be green with our cleaning.  But in the moments after I got all the *stuff* cleaned up I was more than tempted to pour a bottle of bleach on the floor.  I rummaged around till I found some Pine-Sol.  I scrubbed and scrubbed for 20 minutes.

There was poop water on my jeans, my arms and my bare feet.

This had to be one of my least glamorous moments ever.

I took a quick shower.  I sprayed (a lot) of my new favorite perfume.  I could smell again.  I smelled dinner and realized it was still waiting for us on the stove, thank goodness it hadn’t burned.  I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have survived that.

We ate chicken soup and pumpkin bread and all was well in the world again (as well as life with four kids and the flu is!)

Next time we buy a toilet, it will be a good one.

Just Heard Thursday


(One day late) – it’s been a long week!

Audrey has decided it’s time to be done nursing.  It feels strange to have an almost 18 month old baby and to not be pregnant again.  By this time with all the others, we already were expecting another.  Somehow this week, Kyler became acutely aware of his sisters’ other food source (me) even though she hardly ever nurses anymore.


Kyler (forlorn, watching Audrey nurse):  “I wish I could be Audrey.  I wish I could snuggle an’ have what she’s havin’.  Yeah, I like mama so much.”

Kyler (again later, just staring at Mama):  “Yummy mama (sigh)”.


Caleb:  “Can we play that fun game?”

Mama (knows he means UNO which lasted a LONG hour yesterday):  “I just woke up, I’m not ready for that yet.”

Rylee:  “But I heard you get Audrey up early.”

Mama:  “Well I did, I got up two hours ago with her cause she was screaming her little head off.”

Caleb:  “Well then you lied to us.  You didn’t just wake up, you’ve been up a long time, you can play the game.”

Mama:  Okay, what I meant was, I’m still just waking up.  I haven’t woken up enough to play the game.

(I shuffle away sleepily)

Rylee:  “See Caleb, she can’t even make the right words yet.  She’s definitely not awake yet.”

Sunshine and cousins

We hustled our buns this morning to get our morning school work done so we could go for a walk down our favorite trail.  The nice, clear, blue sky/cool air days are such a delight.  Having a cousin to share them with is even better.

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Audrey was a little sad that she didn’t have a stick like her buddy Isaac. But she found one then continued her ‘baby chatter’ with her cousin.

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How sweet are they?  They are so their own little people already.  Audrey throws fits over what shoes to wear.  Isaac finds danger at every possible opportunity.  Audrey’s face crumples if you look at her sternly.  Isaac is so tough that he does remarkably well ‘wrestling’ with his big boy cousins.

We thought it would be fun to have same-gendered cousins since they would be 6 weeks apart in age…but wow, we both feel abundantly blessed to share our lives with these two little people.   They are both such perfect gifts to our families!

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“Got my pink shoes, my pink kitty, my pink jacket and my favorite lovey-what a lovely walk!”

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“Got my stick.  What else is there?”

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It is possible this one needs a haircut.  But man is his straight, soft hair so handsome.

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And this one?  He was carefully holding his treasure in the lid to my coffee, a super fuzzy caterpillar that he brought home with us today (he also-unknowingly-brought a shoe covered with fresh dog poop into the van, that was fun).