Hearing shark music?

Photocredit: Jeremy Giddens

I’m very much enjoying the new book by Daniel Siegel titled No-Drama Discipline.  Last night I read a bit to John that had both of us laughing with rueful understanding.  Siegel was writing about how our kids’ actions can be very alarming to us at times, leading our over-active imaginations down scary paths.  He warns about being too quick to hear ‘shark music’ — you know, that stressful music in a movie that warns you that a bad thing is about to happen? He says, “Before you know it, your adorable ten-year-old has become a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart toward the cardboard box she lives in under the bridge down by the river— all because she got mixed up about which way the “greater than” symbol points!”

I’ve had moments like that even with toddlers.  But I’ve found ‘shark music’ moments to be increasingly common when parenting teens.  I think it’s because decisions begin to feel like they have higher and higher stakes. It can seem obvious to an experienced adult that a teen’s decision is unwise, but not nearly so obvious to the teen. Instead of viewing an action as a single isolated incident, it’s soooo easy to feel stressed, imagining a future path filled with similar (or worsening) choices.  Pretty soon your anxiety level is all out of scale with your kid’s current decision, making it almost impossible to respond in a wise and caring way.

Thanks to Siegel, John and I now have a new shorthand way to remind ourselves to chill out and stay in the moment:  SHARK MUSIC.  :)

Ever hear shark music at your house?  How do you help yourself get things back in perspective?

Need a getaway with a friend?

So today is a big day at the Owlhaven– it’s release date for Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting!

The prayer of my heart for Forever Mom is that it will encourage and equip adoptive mommas to love their children well.  I went into adoptive motherhood having read many books, and thought I was well prepared.  But still I was surprised by some things, ill equipped to deal with others, and at times didn’t truly understand my kids’ hearts or love them as well as I longed to.

In thinking through and living through some of the challenges at our house, and in talking with lots of other adoptive mommas, I discovered that there were lots of us– ready to love our kids, but not quite aware of the different needs of kids who didn’t begin life in your home. Over the years I’ve shared some of what I’ve learned here on my blog.  Forever Mom shares what I’ve learned in greater detail, as well as telling stories from many other moms on this wonderful, blessed, yet challenging path of adoptive motherhood. And the crazy/wonderful bonus is that the skills that help us better parent adopted children also can help us more empathetically parent any child!

With Andrea, the lovely founder of Created for Care

So, to celebrate Forever Mom‘s release, I have a really, really fun giveaway.  For several years I have had the pleasure of attending and speaking at a wonderful adoptive-momma getaway near Atlanta, Georgia, called Created for Care.  The event is so popular that the creators of the event now host it twice a year, once in February and once in March.  And still it sells out completely  within hours of tickets going on sale.   The 2015 events, as we speak, are both completely sold out.

BUT, thanks to Andrea Young, founder of Created for Care, and my awesome publishing team at Thomas Nelson, here I am with TWO tickets to the February 6-8 Created for Care conference, as well as a hotel room for two nights.  Win this package and you and a FRIEND can attend the conference together!  All you have to do is get yourselves there, and all meals, lodging and activities will be covered from Friday dinner through Sunday breakfast. Snacks, too–the Created for Care team will pamper you like crazy! Isn’t that a sweet deal?

If you are interested in this lovely package,  look below for the ways that you can enter the contest.  Make sure your friend enters too, to increase your chances of winning!  SO excited that two of you will have the chance to go to this fabulous adoptive-momma retreat!

And don’t forget– everyone who buys Forever Mom before November 4th gets some neat freebies!


To get those freebies, just send proof of purchase (ie- receipt, order confirmation, etc) to ForeverMomBook@gmail.com, and the free package will be emailed to you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Some most exciting news! (photos!)

JarednErika (640x427)

Something rather thrilling happened around here over the weekend.

Our oldest son Jared, who graduated from college in May, asked his Erika to marry him.

And she said yes! We are so thrilled for them!

The Proposal

proposal2PS:  The photographers were Jared’s brother Daniel and their roommate Luke, who were hiding off in the distance unseen.  :)

Frugal Friday

At the corn maze

This week was quieter than we’ve had in….maybe months.  It was lovely to have no early appointments on multiple days, in fact, no place go *at all* some days.  Ahhhh. It bores my teens to tears, and truthfully I’d have happily watched at least twice as many soccer games as I did this fall.  I love watching Josh play.  But I just love the quieter days too.  They restore my soul. And funny thing– they also are good for our budget.

I think I did pretty well budget-wise this week. We canned another 9 jars of tomatoes, probably some of the last of the year. It hasn’t frozen yet, but by the way the flies are trying to get in the house every minute of the day, I’m guessing the frost won’t hold off much longer.  I’m trying to get up enough gumption to can some more grape juice– I hate to waste anything that’s in the garden– but I’m really getting tired of canning. And hey, the birds will eat the last grapes if we don’t, right?

With cooler weather, I’m always inspired to make soup.  I already mentioned my Creamy Chicken and Potato Soup.  Earlier in the week we also did a ramen noodle soup, which always makes the kids happy.  I know the nutrition of the noodles is terrible, but I feel like I improve it greatly by adding lots of garlic, slivered cabbage, onion, and chicken.  Sometimes even real bone broth when I have it.  (Here’s another version of jazzed-up ramen.)

I also made some really good spaghetti sauce– cooked pureed tomatoes in the oven in a dutch oven for a few hours to simmer lots of the liquid off, then pureed it even smoother with my immersion  blender, and gave it some fresh garlic and basil and salt and pepper.  It gets soooo rich and thick that way, and is very easy.  No worries about it boiling over or burning to the bottom of the pot on the stove top.  I’ve discovered that the kids like spaghetti the very best when I use sausage for at least half of the meat.  They really like the way the sausage flavors the spaghetti sauce.  They also like it best when I keep the noodles and the sauce separate, so that each person can decide on the perfect sauce/noodle ration himself.

Thursday evening I made split pea soup for dinner with cabbage, onion, carrots, and bacon sprinkled on top.  I cooked the bacon first, and then began the soup by sauteing the veggies in a couple tablespoons of the rendered bacon grease, which adds lots of flavor to the veggies.  Since we (still) had lots of corn tortillas but no tortilla chips, I made homemade tortilla chip by simply quartering corn tortillas, tossing them in olive oil, and baking them in the oven til light brown.  They were very firm and crunchy, but I think they turned out good, and people gobbled them til they were gone.

Today I think I’ll make some bread– I haven’t done this recipe for awhile and it always disappears quickly.

Before I forget, I also want to tell you about a few free things.

  • First of all there’s an e-book written by the author of an adoption blog called Copperlight Woods.   It is written to support adoptive families who are dealing with attachment issues, and to inform the friends and family of such familes.  It’s a great resource, wisely and compassionately written, and is free at Copperlight Woods.
  • Second, if you haven’t yet entered the drawing on Lisa’s blog for a free copy of Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting, go do it quick!  She’s announcing a winner soon.
  • And if you’re interested in hearing more about FOREVER MOM, you might want to check out the radio show this Saturday on  Adoption Perspectives Radio where I talk with Rebecca about the book.

What about you?  Did you have some frugal wins this week?  I’d love to hear about them!

Josh, playing soccer

Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting (and free wall art)


My new book!

I wanted to tell those of you who are interested a little about my latest book Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting.  It is coming out on October 28th, and I must confess to a crazy mix of excitement and tremulous nerves about this book.  My greatest longing is that it will encourage and equip moms along this adoptive parenting journey.

This book is very vulnerable, a true window into my heart as an adoptive mom.  There’s been so much joy– adoption is an incredible gift– but also much struggle, much lurking fear that I wasn’t doing this hard job well enough. But praise God, He’s been strengthening and growing me all the way. Even as I wrote about our journey, God was gifting me with more growth, more compassion for my precious ones, and a greater ability to more clearly see my own personal ‘stuck’ points. I’ve come to a much better place as a mom, better at releasing my desire to control outcomes and speed healing and growth, instead leaning on God’s providence in my kids’ lives as well as my own. But wow, it has been a long hard path. I hope that sharing my struggle will help other moms know they’re not alone, and that there is a way through difficult waters.

If adoption is a topic that interests you or you’d like to read more of our story, I hope you might consider pre-ordering Forever Mom?  If you know me, you know I feel really funny about doing the pushy sales-person thing. But in the publishing world, all pre-release sales on amazon are counted as first-day sales of a book. It really helps a book gain more attention (and more orders in stores and from libraries) if those first-day sales are strong.  I’d love for this book to be widely available to prepare moms before adoption and to come alongside mommas who may be struggling, letting them know they’re not alone.

And here’s some really fun news– everyone who buys Forever Mom before November 4th gets some neat freebies!

  • Freebie#1– A little e-book I’ve written called ’50 Things Adoptive Parents Should Know’
  • Freebie #2- 8 custom Forever Mom downloadable prints for framing  (see samples below)
  • Freebie#3- all 8 of those same custom prints as phone lock screens/screensavers!

To get those freebies, just send proof of purchase (ie- receipt, order confirmation, etc) to ForeverMomBook@gmail.com, and the free package will be emailed to you.

Here are some additional ways to support this book:

  • Mention FOREVER MOM on facebook or your blog
  • Pin this post on Pinterest, mentioning the freebie
  • Request FOREVER MOM from your local library
  • Give it as a gift to adoptive families that you know

Feel free also to share the video and graphics below, either on your blog, pinterest, or on facebook.  Thanks so much for your support!!

Remind them how precious they are





Back home again

OH my goodness. I am so very out of it, people.  I feel like I haven’t been here on the blog forever.  I have NO frugal things to tell you about, no recipes to share, no wise thoughts.  So I think I’ll just catch you up on what’s been keeping me so darned busy.

I mentioned that last weekend I went to a retreat in the Seattle area, a lovely precious time. It was so wonderful, in fact, that I felt intimidated, expectation-wise, about the retreat I’ve been planning for some other adoptive moms in McCall. The Seattle retreat was very low key.  No real agenda except fellowship, conversation, and a few times of Bible study.  It was just wonderful, so relaxing.

I had been planning my retreat in McCall to be more structured, since I’d been planning to share some DVD’s from the Created for Care conference that I attended in Atlanta last spring.  And, frankly, there was this tiny fear that I’d get all these lovely people gathered together, and then have no idea what to do with them. That they’d stand around bored, making stilted, polite conversation, the kind that happens in a room full of strangers.  Which they mostly were, before this weekend. So my subconscious thought was to keep them busy.

When I came back from the awesome retreat in Seattle, I decided McCall needed more empty space, more time just to BE.  I ended up sharing just three DVD’s.  The rest of the time was free for visiting and talking.  And, praise the Lord, my worrying about them not enjoying the time was totally unfounded.  The talking started instantly and never let up the whole weekend. Very little sleep was had, but, oh, the conversations we had. It was just a constant roar all over the house.  SO rich.  So good.

I felt almost apologetic interrupting those conversations to gather everyone together for the DVD’s.  But it turned out that those were appreciated as well; talking together on the last day many moms mentioned good tidbits they’d gleaned from the DVD presentations.  I really should not have worried.  They were a really, really neat group of ladies.  And God was obviously right there in the midst of us, personally meeting our needs in such encouraging ways.   I am so thankful to have gotten to know each of these ladies better.   And if you can believe it, this group of 21 ladies has a combined total of 102 children.  Neat, huh?

These mommas represent a combined total of 102 children!

As you can see in the photo, there were also three infants in attendance, who did a great job tolerating our noise and managed to sleep and nap OK in the midst of it all.  The house where we stayed turned out to be really neat too. Here’s a link if you’re interested– I’d highly recommend it for anyone planning a retreat for up to 30 or so people.

My wonderful husband John came along, and did a TON of work in the kitchen so that I could really just sit and visit and enjoy the retreat myself as well.  Due to the late nights, I suspect that nobody went home very well rested.  But we had a really great time getting to know each other.  Such a blessing.

I hope to get back to a more regular blogging schedule this week.  I have some Stitch Fix clothes to tell you about, and a recipe to share.  I also really need to get back to my old frugal ways.  Being crazy-busy is just not very conducive to thoughtful spending, ya know?  Hope you had a good weekend and are doing well!

down from the mountain


blessed space

blessed space

I had the great and delightful privilege of spending last weekend on Puget Sound with a handful of mommas whose hearts and greatest challenges and greatest loves in life are similar to mine.   We laughed and cried and prayed for each other and encouraged each other and took walks together and sat around a campfire hoping the next door neighbor boys wouldn’t go skinny-dipping again.  And talked some more, and did Bible studies together, and basically ended up feeling like we’d all be best friends for life.  It really couldn’t have been a more delightful weekend.

But the thing I brought away that is more valuable even than that awesome sense of community, is what I came away deeply knowing about God.  That in all the challenges and trials of my life, no matter how deeply humbling, no matter how hard, He truly is sovereign, and He’s good, and He loves me with an everlasting love.

So often I take it upon myself to be the problem-solver, the mover, the shaker, the do-er.  And then when things don’t go my way, it’s easy to flounder, to feel inadequate, to fear that if only I could do a better job of figuring out this thing called life, that I and my family would all be living in this perfect tranquil place that looks a lot like the picture at the top of the page.

Except really God has called us to rest, to abide in him right in the middle of the storm.  To keep our eyes fixed on Him. And then to point our loved ones to that perfect Place of rest that is Jesus.  The One who is constant whether I’m sitting on a sunny deck surrounded by quiet and sunshine and precious friends and miles and miles of water, or scurrying around in my kitchen cooking dinner while the dog whines and the kids argue and we need to be in the car in 10 minutes in order to get to that soccer game on time.

A peaceful weekend is a short-term gift, no matter how wonderful.  Being equipped to rest more fully in the true peace that  is in Jesus– that gift is priceless indeed.

on the water

Buy a sweet treat and support adoption

This post was sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Wendy's coupon books are here!

Wendy’s coupon books are here!

I have something really fun to tell you about this week. Every year, Wendy’s sells Halloween Frosty™ Coupon Books and gives $3 million of the profit to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Not only is this a great cause, but the coupon book is only $1 for 5 free Jr. Frosty coupons (at participating Wendy’s for a limited time). Talk about a sweet deal.

Wendys2The coupons are on sale during October  (get yours quick before they run out!)  and they’re good from November 1st to February 1st. This means they’d be awesome for all sorts of fall and winter giveaways.  Halloween is an obvious time where it’d be easy to give them away.  (Parents, don’t be surprised if they show up in some of your kids’ Halloween treat buckets!)   But I also think they’d be great to stick in a card as part of a birthday gift, or even in a Christmas stocking.  Who wouldn’t want a free Frosty?

The best thing is that this promotion benefits adoption from foster care, a cause that was very near and dear to the founder of Wendy’s since he was an adoptee himself.  My adopted kids came via international adoption, but this weekend I had the chance to visit with ladies whose kids were adopted out of foster care.  The need is absolutely tremendous, and the really wonderful thing is that adoption from foster care is a very affordable option. Click here to read more about the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.

If you have a heart for adoption, I hope you’ll consider buying some of these coupon books for your gift-giving needs.  I’d also love it if you’d share this post on facebook or twitter by clicking the social media buttons below this post.  Kids need families. Wendy’s is committed to helping this very important cause.  And thanks to Wendy’s Frosty coupons, you can help too.

Learn more about how Wendy’s supports foster care adoption.


Being Real


I’m preparing for a couple of different get-aways during October. I already mentioned the adoptive momma retreat that I’m planning locally, which I hope is going to bless the mommas attending. I’ve also been invited to attend a different adoption retreat in Seattle soon, also quite small and intimate. At each retreat there are mommas I’ve known for awhile, and others I’ll be meeting for the first time. But we all have adoption as a common thread. I’m looking forward to curling up on couches with hot drinks, sharing stories and hearing stories, and being encouraged.

My prayer for both events is that God will move powerfully and personally in the lives of each attendee. That He will speak the words each woman needs to hear. That we will leave the event, each having encouraged someone else and each having been encouraged herself.

But about that encouragement thing.  How do we best give it?  Receive it?

When preparing for a gathering with other women, it can be easy and tempting to pack our bags with our cutest (thinnest? most flattering?) items of clothing.  To do our nails and get fresh haircuts.  To dust off our happiest stories and our proudest moments, prepared to smile and show the bits of our lives that look most pulled together.

There’s nothing at all wrong with sharing happy stories.  They’re tremendously powerful and we all need to hear them.  But I’ve found that equally powerful moments in relationship — moments when encouragement is just as rich and long-lasting– come when we are real about both the joy and the hard inherent in motherhood. When we’re brave enough to say that this part or that part of our life is a real struggle. When we admit how we don’t have it all figured out. Where we transparently share the real aches and the true sorrows that go hand in hand with the shining moments of joy.

When we share from the full range of our experience, we give each other a chance to say, ‘Me too.’  The stories of struggle reassure that quiet momma in the corner who wouldn’t bring up the topic on her own but fears she’s the only one struggling with that particular thing.  The stories of joy give hope that good moments are coming and remind us of joy we’ve maybe forgotten in our own lives.

So as I pull out my bags and prepare to head off for each of these weekends, along with my comfy yoga pants and my softest socks and my adoption-themed t-shirts– OK, and some cute clothes too–  I’m planning on bringing my real, honest, authentic struggling self.  Yes, there’s a bit of me that’s still tempted to only show the shiny side of my life.  That’s afraid being real will be too much for some.  But in my heart I believe that real community only happens in a spirit of honesty and truth.

Beth Guckenberger, at the Created for Care weekend I attended last spring, said, “May we be more real than impressive.”  To that I would add, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”  (Col 3:14)  I think keeping those two things firmly in mind open us up to be encouraged by others and to be encouragers ourselves– to really grow in relationship and in community.  And that’s something I very much want.


And, remember, we encourage each other in tiny ways every single day:  Dear You…a letter for all of the hard days

My girl at 12

This girl of mine. I got a few pictures of her at her little niece Ali’s first birthday, and I just love how they capture her. She’s growing up on me lately– is only half an inch shorter than I am at barely 12. I think she’s going to be a tall lady. Two years of being an auntie have made her proficient at baby-handling. She just loves the little ones, and totes them around with assurance and joy.
Em and Ali

She’s also quick to clown around with her big brothers, will still play Barbies happily with her baby sis, and is overall just so much fun to have around. She’s one of those people who can converse graciously and happily with anyone, whether she knows them well or not at all. And she has the most humorous way of expressing astute observations about life and the people around her. She is a true natural people person.

Em and Daniel being silly

She’s becoming such a young lady.  She has definite opinions about fashion, and is beginning to experiment with her own hairstyles.  Lately she’s been wearing it down a lot, which I absolutely love, but didn’t do often in the past because it got so tangled.  But these days she can get the tangles out herself, so the style decisions are hers to make.  I adore the beautiful girl she’s always been, and am loving to see the wonderful woman she’s becoming.  What a blessing she is in all our lives!

Em with the kiddos