Because you NEED an antelope

me with Sophie Hudson and Melanie Shankle at dotMomI discovered blogs way back in 2006, and since then have found lots of good ones.  But only a handful have remained steady favorites, and Melanie Shankle’s blog Big Mama is one I’ll read as long as she’s game to write it. Her sense of humor is priceless–in my next life, I want to be as funny as she is.  I had the fun of traveling to the Dominican Republic with her on behalf of Compassion International several years ago, and also attended a dotMom conference where she and fellow blogger Sophie Hudson (A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet) spoke. (I begged this photo with them at the end of that conference.)

Anyway, Melanie’s SECOND book was just released:   The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life.  It’s a delightful story of married life that I think a lot of us can relate to, even as we’re chuckling over some of the funny moments. I read it in two days and loved it.  My husband is currently reading it, which is a testimony to how funny it is– he rarely reads the same books I do.  Several of our teens have read and enjoyed bits of it too. SO!  I am delighted that I get to give away a copy of this fun book to one of YOU!

All you have to do is comment below and tell me the funniest or most shocking or most controversial item that you or your husband brought home, to the dismay of your partner.  For John and me I think it would have to be a plush recliner that we found next to a dumpster at the nursing home where I worked, and brought home as newlyweds.  One of us (OK, it was me) naively thought a good scrubbing with baking soda would get it smelling like roses.  Ah, notsomuch.  Let’s just say that chairs residing next to nursing-home dumpsters are there for a good reason.

So what was it for you? Tell us your stories.  And by all means, if you have more than one funny story, comment twice and share both stories for two entries.  You can have another entry by tweeting or sharing this contest on facebook, and commenting yet again.  I’ll announce a winner on Monday!

my (un)Valentine’s weekend


It’s funny how you get used to all the rhythms that are peaceful in your home, and begin to take them for granted.  It’s much easier to focus on the hard parts of living in relationship.  Any marriage, no matter how happy, consists of two souls with different needs and wishes and sometimes widely varying ways of seeing this big world.   It can be easy to focus solely on the squeaky spots, the places that lack harmony, to feel frustrated that even after years of living together it can be hard to see the world through another’s eyes.

But the good.  It’s right there all around me too.  If only I would remember to see it and savor it and breathe it in.

Over the weekend my husband took our teens to snow camp, which left me home alone with our two youngest girls on Valentine’s Day.  The girls and I look forward to this weekend each year almost as much as the folks who actually get to go someplace.  We’ve turned it into a girls’ weekend, where we stay up late and sleep in the living room and watch movies and paint our nails and play games and go on little outings that we rarely make time to do during the rest of the year. Oh, we had a good time!

But this year, maybe because of the Valentine’s-Day-that-wasn’t, I also felt the absence of my husband much more keenly.  It seemed that everywhere I turned, there was something not quite right because he wasn’t there.  The fire in the wood stove went out over and over, all weekend long. We forgot to feed the cows in the evening until it was nearly dark. No firewood magically appeared on the hearth when we needed it. I woke in the middle of the night realizing I’d forgotten to lock up the house, then scurried barefoot to lock everything up, pushing back a hint of the dread I felt as a child when walking through the dark night to the bathroom alone.

Each little moment of unbalance reminded me how much I take for granted.  How much my husband nurtures and cares for me, quietly and automatically, simply because he savors his role as my lover and protector. There have been moments where I resent his protectiveness, crankily ‘reading’ it to mean that he thinks I am not competent.  But this weekend of missing him made me see it clearer.  He serves me in these little ways because he cherishes me, plain and simple.  He wants me to move through life with warmth and safety and comfort and ease.

That’s all it is.

And yet it is so much.

Things I’m loving


Randomness that I’m enjoying lately:

Gluten Free Blueberry Cake Donuts– yumminess. I found that they cooked more evenly if we just formed them into donut ‘holes’. Lots of times when I make gluten free things, the kids taste them and don’t like them too much, but these donuts were eaten by all until they were gone. One of the kids said they get better after a few hours, when they’re cold. They have a nice tender crumb and we all loved them.

This post from The Better Mom,  especially, ‘what makes us crabby often reveals where our idols dwell.’  So true.

I literally found this  Organic Wear Face Sculpting Trio clearanced at the grocery outlet a few months ago for $5, and have only found it on amazon since then, but I love it.  I wear it on top of foundation, and it adds a glow and a smooth look that I love.

COVERGIRL Bombshell Volume Mascara is another makeup find that I have been loving lately. It is a two-step mascara that really maximizes your eyelashes. Love it. (Hint: I linked to this on amazon, but you can get it cheaper at WalMart. $8, I think?)

This hairstyle is going to be my next cut, I think. So cute.  I might even get some red highlights. Maybe.

StitchFix Stitch Fix is just too much fun.  I keep saying each fix will be my last but then I get lured in wondering what cuteness they might send me next.  And face it, when shopping on my own I all too often default to a blouse that is either turquoise or black.  Seriously, I am so stuck in a rut.  I have another box coming on the 22nd and I am so much looking forward to it!

Isn’t this garland sweet? I don’t know how to crochet, but I’m going to see if I can talk my daughter into making it for me!


Have you pinned or discovered anything interesting lately?

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Conversation Starters for Holiday Dinners

Conversation Starters

Last night we were invited over to my parents’ house for dessert and a few gifts.  While we were visiting, my dad asked everyone to tell about a favorite gift they’d gotten a different year.  It turned out to be really fun going around the table and hearing what was most memorable to all the various people.

My mom and dad both have memories of getting Christmas bikes that were joint gifts to them and a sibling or two or more. One of our kids declared gummy bears to be the best gift ever. :) Of course my fingerprint Christmas was my very favorite, but I also remembered getting the gift of piano lessons one year as a child, with a prelude of dozens of cryptic clues smilingly supplied by my mom, none of which helped me guess a bit. John remembered the lengths to which his dad went to ‘prove’ to the kids that Santa did exist.  (Tape recordings of the jolly elf saying ‘ho, ho, ho’ and rattling packages pretty much seal the deal, right? :) )

Anyway, the conversation was so delightful that it got me thinking about other conversation starters that a family could employ at a holiday meal that would provide interesting conversation and leave everyone knowing a little more about each other.  So I did some thinking and some looking at similar lists and compiled one of my own:

1. Tell us about a favorite gift from a different Christmas.

2.  If you could eat only three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

3. What was a job you hated when you were younger?  One that you like now?

4. What is one thing you wish had more time to do during the next year?

5. What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done in your life?

6.  What is one adventure you’d like to have in the future?

7. What is the hardest thing about your current age?  The best thing?

8. What is your earliest Christmas memory?  Your best?

9. What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten?

10.What’s one thing you got better at this year?  What would you like to get better at next year?

Have any questions you would add to this list?  I’d love to hear them.  And here’s hoping holidays with your family will be treasured memories!



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Weekend blessings

The winner of the Veggie Tales DVD is commenter #25, Heather. ONE of the three Thanksgiving tables at John's sister's house!

TAscherThanksgiving was truly something to be thankful for– we are blessed with much wonderful family.  Wednesday evening lots of my brothers and sisters got together at my mom and dad’s house for food and fellowship.  Then on Thursday my sister in law put on a lovely spread for both sides of her family, which numbers 30+ people.  Much visiting and yummy food was had by all, and the afternoon was finished off with an epic Nerf war, in which even little Ascher (18 months) participated happily.  (People were amazingly successful at avoiding him as he toddled around the room.)

Shopping this weekend wasn’t terribly successful. One of my daughters and I did venture to Target on Thanksgiving evening in hopes of getting ONE particular thing.  But it was a total zoo and we were mostly unsuccessful. As you might imagine, many, many more people are up for shopping in the evening than early AM, which means the best deals were gone within minutes of the door opening.  I definitely won’t be shopping on Thanksgiving in the future.  I did have a bit of luck online, and the kids have been tortured lately by the arrival of many mysterious packages.

TWarriorsI spent a lot of time over the weekend finishing my book.  When I hit ‘send’ there was much rejoicing.  We were all getting sick of it, thanks to the amount of time I’ve been putting into it lately.  I will send it on for edits and trust God to guide that final stage of telling our adoption story, just as He has guided us along in the whole process. The title is ‘Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting’ and it is scheduled to be released next November.

A fun tidbit about Friday– as I walked into my favorite coffee shop to work on Friday, there was my sister in law, visiting from Seattle, who I hadn’t gotten to visit with yet this weekend.  So we had a nice visit in an unexpected place.

John and the kids decorated the house for Christmas on Friday while I worked, so we are all enjoying the twinkle lights, complete with angels and sparkly glass balls on the dining table.  I am planning on sewing a new table runner today with some remnants I bought awhile back.  (Because the book is done and I CAN– hooray!) Maybe something like this or this.

Addy Lou Creates

With the book done, I’m feeling a wonderful sense of freedom.  We have school for two more weeks, but Christmas is coming soon!  And I have many lovely things to do.

five things this fine Monday

Running with my girlies

The winner of Cool Creations is commenter #34-Amy O.  Amy, send me your address and I will get the book headed your way!


Today I am again writing with Journey Mama sharing snippets of my life.

1. Canning.

Today we are plowing through (hopefully) a good morning of school before beginning in on applesauce this afternoon.  We got about 3 bushels of apples off the tree and I am hoping we can get most of that turned into sauce this afternoon.  We’ll see how fast we go.  Saturday we got 22 quarts of tomatoes, along with some pickles.   Lotsa work but I had lots of help.

2. Our future garden.

Our garden these days is about 100 feet long and 40 feet wide, with a couple other dibs and dabs in smaller beds elsewhere. I am already foreseeing the need to cut back on our garden size as we will have fewer eaters (and fewer garden/canning helpers.) We usually plant somewhere in the range of 80+ tomato plants, along with lots of other things. Ten years from now I can picture being very happy with 5 tomato plants, 5 peppers and a cuke or two.  Not sure if John would be happy scaling back that much, but every September I fight an overwhelmed feeling, trying to get school off to a good start while also preventing the contents of the garden from rotting on my kitchen counter.  I do enjoy the money savings all winter though.  And the garden will freeze soon enough.

3. The adoption book.

I’m enjoying driving two of our teenagers to their college classes this fall. I’ve been using their class time to work on my book, and look forward to having those set times to write during which no one needs anything from me.  I am on track to get half the book to the publisher by the end of the month, with the second half due December 1st.   I find I am learning so much about myself as I write about adoptive motherhood.  I’m figuring some stuff out– some places where I’ve been stuck as a mom without realizing it.  It’s a really good thing to be figuring things out, hopefully in a way that’s allowing me to be a greater blessing to my kids.  I think  my stuck places were making it harder for me to help them past their stuck places, and I am feeling more lightness in my soul and in theirs as I’m finding ways to interact with them in more grace-filled ways. I’m looking forward to writing more about it.

4.  Running.

I ran a little one mile race on Saturday just to keep my youngest girls company, and it was really fun.  I’ve been running all summer– in the range of 5-8 miles a week– but the heat has slowed me down to more of a run/walk pace.  I’ve been feeling a little out of shape.  But on Saturday, in my determination to not let my 8 year old smoke me too horribly, I ran the mile in under 10 minutes, faster than I’ve run in quite a while,  and wasn’t even sore the next day. Maybe I’m not as out of shape as I’ve been feeling.

5.   Doing things well.

I’ve come to the conclusion I can really only do 3 things decently in my life at any given time.  This fall it’s school, and the book, and helping my grown daughters with the babies as much as I can.  I’d really like to get back to journaling my food, because for me it is a key to weight loss and I really want to (re)lose the 10 pounds I gained back after I lost 22 pounds a couple years ago.  I’m still better off than my original high weight, but concentrating on counting calories is not really something I have the emotional energy to mess with right now in the midst of book and school and everything else.  So instead of beating up on myself for not being the leanest I can be, I just need to get this book written, and help my kids through school and new motherhood, and exercise enough that I don’t lose more ground in the weight department, and that needs to be enough.  So easy to be hard on myself.  But I just can’t do it all, not all at once, anyway.  Right now the people and the book need to be at the top of my list.


What is at the top of your ‘juggling’ list this fall?



Supporting mothers

Auntie MA couple days ago I picked up my oldest daughter Amanda and her two little ones (10 weeks and 16 months) and brought her and three other daughters on the trek to Boise to visit new-momma Erika and her two precious little ones. (It’s actually only a 40 minute drive, but any trip that involves toddlers and hungry nurslings always ends up feeling like a trek.)

When we got to Erika’s, new big brother Ranger greeted us with much happy squealing, and the baby-admiring commenced. Once we’d done a bit of baby snuggling and picture taking, Erika, who is a very smart momma indeed, confessed (only slightly sheepishly) that she had a list of things she was hoping we could help her with while we were there.

Auntie BWe all plunged in and made ourselves useful.  Some of the girls played with the little boys outside.  Others of us straightened the living room, did dishes, helped Erika put away her maternity clothes, tossed laundry in the wash, and warmed up dinner.  By the time we left, Erika’s world was a little more orderly, and we all had the fun of knowing we’d blessed her with our assistance.

On the drive home, I was thinking back to my own days of new motherhood. I’m pretty sure I was way too independent for my own good, and not near as good as Erika at asking for help. I can think of a few times I asked my momma for help, and of course lots of folks brought meals when new kiddos arrived.  But I’m sure that I plowed quietly through the fog of exhaustion lots of times when friends and family would have been happy to lend a hand.

I think sometimes we don’t ask for help because we don’t want to be a bother.  But mothering is such hard work.  We all could benefit from a bit more support.  And really, the helpers are just as blessed as the folks they are helping– it’s a good feeling to know that we made someone’s life a little easier.  I think  we mommas need to keep that side of the coin in mind, and not be so slow to ask for help.

The beauty of Erika’s list was that we could help her in exactly the way that most blessed her.  I’d not have thought to help her put away maternity clothes– I still needed mine for at least a couple weeks (months?) after birth! But it was one of the things she most wanted done. It’s also a really beautiful thing to be a part of a community of folks who take turns supporting each other. A couple months ago Amanda was the one whose house we were whirling through, setting things to right.  This week Amanda helped do the same thing for Erika.  And the grown girls have already told the younger ones that when it’s their turn to have babies, the kids that are now babies will be helping them. (That idea brought giggles to my little girls– it sounded so far away to them!)

What did people do for you that was most welcome?   I’d love to hear ideas for adoptive families too.   Casseroles are always welcome contributions to new families, as are offers to stop by the grocery store for a few items. There are lots of other things we could do to support the mommas around us. Some needs will be slightly different for adoptive moms than for moms of newborns.  For example, newborns don’t usually mind being passed around from person to person, but the last thing a toddler from an orphanage needs is to be passed from stranger to stranger.  But all moms need to be loved and supported during this time of huge adjustment in their lives.  Whether you’re an adoptive mom or a bio mom, I’d love to hear from you.  What ideas do you have that could bless a tired new momma?

And finally, I just have to share this picture of my girls with their precious ones.  They are such good mommas and I am so very proud of them!



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sweet Alison

Today we were blessed with an utterly lovely new granddaughter.  Isn’t she precious? She arrived after less than 3 hours of labor ON her due date, and all is well with momma and baby.  We are so thrilled!



This morning my little Julianna came to me all excited, telling me that now she could shuffle cards two different ways.  ’Watch me,’ she said.  And she demonstrated the normal way, as you see above, both hands equidistant from her body.

“Now look at this new way I can do it.”  She started to demonstrate, then looked at where I was sitting, and said, ‘No, wait, I need to turn around sideways so you can see how I’m doing it.”

And then she did it this way, with one hand close to her body, and one further away.

From a different angle

I praised the skill that she was obviously so proud of gaining, and realized she’d demonstrated another skill along with card-shuffling.  Her moving to accommodate what I could see in my line of sight demonstrated that she’s now old enough to envision something from another human’s point of view.

I think we all wax and wane in showing that ability sometimes.  There are times when I get so bound up in frustration over my child not doing something that I think he should do, that I forget to make that mental switch, to envision how things might look from inside his head.  When people have conflicts with friends, it is often for the same reason:  we forget to try to imagine life from their point of view.  Of course none of us can do this all the time perfectly.  Sometimes when understanding is hard to find, it’s because we need to take the time to ask a few more questions.  (And offer more forgiveness and grace, always.)

But I’m going to remember this picture of my daughter’s graceful little hands moving her cards so that I could see them better, and try to give folks around me the grace of taking a moment to imagine life from their viewpoint.

In which I feed my kids fast food twice in one day

Saturday, 7 AM– Get self and 4 kids up.  The kids had two Missoula Children’s Theater performances that day, but before their 10AM drop-off we had a few things to do.

8AM — Arrive at Bountiful Baskets pickup site and wait in line for 20 minutes to get my fruit and veggie basket, which that day also included 8 lbs of lovely strawberries.  Most of the kids sat in the van and waited since it was COLD in line, but my 10yo daughter snuggled with me and chatted while we waited.

8:30 AM — Hit McDonalds for breakfast with the kids, a fact which disturbed one very health-conscious son.  Gave him a banana from the Bountiful Basket.

8:45 — Stop at Winco to buy a lunch for same health-conscious son who’d sadly forgotten the lunch he’d packed for the day.

9AM — Drive to the next town to pick up dog from the vet.  She’d scared me the day before by acting very ill, and had spent the night at the vet getting a barium swallow and x-rays.  They hadn’t managed to figure out what distressed her, but said she’d probably eaten something that she shouldn’t have.  Grand total: $280.

9:30 AM– Stop at Walmart and Walgreens so kids could hunt for a specific candy bar that they knew the Missoula Children’s Theater piano player enjoyed.  He’s volunteered with Missoula for many years, and knows many of our kids now.  We weren’t successful finding the ‘right’ kind of candy bar–Idaho Spuds are apparently getting hard to find–so the kids substituted some other candy bar, and got one for each of the Missoula directors too.

9:45– Drop Missoula kids off, and the dog and I continue on home.

10:10– Arrive at home, where I make a cheesy hash brown casserole and a jello.  We were preparing to have John’s family over to our house on Sunday after church for a late- Easter celebration.  The two teens who hadn’t wanted to do Missoula this year helped me set up tables and figure out how to seat 27 people.  We ended up fitting 19 at two big tables strung together in the dining room, and 8 kids upstairs in the family room.

12:00 John and the two teens leave to go to a friend’s dairy to pick up five newborn calves.  For quite a few years we’ve raised calves for beef, but we’ve always bought them when they were at least a couple months old.  This year my dad finally managed to talk us into getting bottle babies.  He thought it would be a fun project for the kids, and a good way to make the cow project a little more affordable.  After much discussion we decided to get five calves.  Two will go to my dad’s pasture to raise once they’re big enough.  Two will be for us to raise.  And the final calf will be for our teen sons to sell.  Since they are the ones officially in charge of this calf project, they’ll get to keep the cash from the fifth calf as their pay.

1:10– Just as I am ready to leave to watch the first performance of the Missoula play (it’s Blackbeard this year ), John and the kids drive up with the calves.  I peek into the trailer to see much tiny adorableness.  Jersey calves have got to be the cutest cows on earth.  They weighed maybe 50 pounds each and had all been born within the past few days.Calves

1:20– John and the two teenagers start getting the calves unloaded and I leave to go to the first showing of the play.  When I’m almost there, I realize I’m really hungry, and stop at Fred Meyers for some sushi, some of which I gobble down before running in to meet my parents and sit down for the show.  Erika, Israel and 1yo Ranger also attended.

2:00– Time for Blackbeard! Here are our girls hamming it up.  Our 15 year old son was one of the assistant directors backstage, something he really enjoys.  The kids all did a good job and I was proud of them.


3:30 PM– After the first play we had less than two hours before we had to be back for the 6PM show.  The kids and I ran to exchange a shirt at JCPenneys and then at 4:00 headed for Pizza Hut where we’d arranged to meet John and the other kids for an early dinner before we all went to the second show.  John and the teenagers who’d helped with the calves showed us pictures they’d taken, and our 15yo daughter told us all their names.

The actors had to be back at the Civic Center at 5, so after I dropped them off, I ran to Fred Meyers once again, this time hunting for something fun and affordable to use as a table runner down the center of our Easter table tomorrow.  I ended up with pansies and a roll of bright orange floral contact paper.  I decided to combine that with yellow candles, clearanced Easter candy  (an unexpected plus of our late Easter celebration) some bright tangerines, and orange and red sweet peppers that we’d gotten in our Bountiful Basket that day.  Eclectic but fun.

6:00 — The evening play was attended by the rest of the kids’ adult siblings, as well as cousins and their other grandma.  A good time was had by all. Afterwards our college-age sons, who have many fond memories of being in Missoula plays themselves, helped take down the set and stuff it into the little red truck, then did a little dancing on the empty stage with their little sisters.  Obviously all that homeschooling made them shy and self-conscious. ;)   Such fun that our little girls have big brothers to play with!

Little sisters and big brothers

 8PM– When we were done visiting with friends and family after the play, we headed home to see if the new calves had settled down enough to be interested in food.  At one point there were 9 of us all crammed into a 12×9 foot space in the barn along with 5 calves.  The calves didn’t seem too adept at eating from bottles and we certainly weren’t good at feeding them.  But by the end of an hour or so, we’d managed to get most of the milk into the calves.  We all trooped inside to shower and change out of mucked-up clothes.

Josh feeding one baby


Zeytuna, John and me all feeding calves

 10PM– Since I didn’t want to be setting tables after church tomorrow, the bigger girls and I laid everything out while John read the little girls bedtime stories, and the teenage boys helped with a few other last-minute cleanups.  At last everything was all set up for our party.  The day was done. (Whew.)  I’ll share pictures from our Easter party and more of our baby calves soon!