Monday, October 28, 2013

This week

This past week was busy - evening meetings, full school schedule, places to go, people to see.
This week is also going to be busy, but a rather different kind of busy. Toby and I will be attending the Sovereign Grace Pastor's Conference in Orlando. Just to be clear, we will not be visiting the Magic Kingdom, but I suspect it will certainly be magical to spend a couple of days among adults, hearing some good teaching and relaxing in the sun. My children will be having a magical time with their grandmother, who's chief aim is to love on them and spoil them stupid.

A word about my mom...

I heard this story about my mom (from my mom) a while back. Apparently some neighbors had a squirrel problem in their attic, and the cost to have a guy come and "deal with it" was exorbitant. I'm not fully sure how my mom got called in, but it didn't take much to get her climbing up into a tight space with a hand gun. It seems there were no working lights in the attic, but there was a busted vent that she could tell was the squirrel's main entrance, which was also the only source of light. As soon as one of the little stinkers' silhouettes filled the hole, she fired.

When they found the squirrel later, they found one shot - right between the eyes. My mother shot a small, moving target in the dark, right in the head. She laughs this off, amazed at such a lucky shot, but I know better - I know my mom!

So when people ask me who's watching my children while we're out of town and if she'll be okay, I smile and nod. Six kids might be overwhelming for a lot of folks and she'll be tired by Friday, but I know she's got this under control. Clearly, there's not much they can do that I haven't already done, and there's not much she can't handle. She (and they) will do just fine.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Rental decorating

When we moved in, we decided that even though we have loads of pictures and paintings for the walls, we weren't going to hang them all because we (Toby) didn't want to deal with filling in lots of holes at the end of the year. At the same time, we (I) didn't want to live inside a bare shell for almost a year. So, we compromised.
There are a few of our special pieces up, but not in the kids' rooms yet. So, the kids' rooms became my first project.
In the boy's room, I made a little banner out of some leftover fabric and yarn.
 Since it was only a matter of cutting, and threading the yarn through holes poked into the corners of the triangles, this little project sits firmly in the "no-sew" category.
 In the little girls room, I used an idea I found on Pinterest to iron these little dots onto the walls using fabric circles I'd cut out for something years ago and some heat and bond fusible backing.
 Iron the circles to the backing, cut them out with the backing on and iron them to the wall. Avoid scorch marks by placing some fabric between your circle and your iron.
 The pin that served as my inspiration recommended doing it with your child's name, but that involved more than I could handle with half a dozen excited people around and bedtime approaching.
All photos taken by Anna!
Currently, Abigail and Caleb have a banner that I made years ago gracing their walls, and for now, it'll do. I'd love to do something else for them soon - just waiting for (more) inspiration to strike!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kentucky Horse Park

 Last week we had a chance to visit the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, an hour away. Toby was even able to join us, and thanks to some free passes, it was very affordable!
 Noah, Ellie, and Dan had a great time riding the ponies...

 ...whereas Abi and Anna ventured out on a 45-minute trail ride - their first time!

Caleb made do with a little bronze donkey - it was more his speed.
There was a trolley tour that took you all over the park that was actually rather helpful... 
...and a fun Kids' Barn, where the kids even got to brush one of the horses (for those who felt brave enough).

 This is Ollie, a Norweigen Fjord horse. He's pretty, and he's got seriously cool hair.
They even had, on display, some of the jumps that they've used in shows and competition. These two chairs would hold one of the jumps (it took some explaining that not even the horses could jump over the chairs!

In one of the museums (there are a few, and they are thorough!), they had a blue screen where you could pretend to ride some show horses...
My cowboys.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Old Pop

Last Saturday, we received news that Toby's paternal grandfather, Pop, had passed away.
This was not unexpected - he was 96 years old and shutting down. We had even had a conversation with Toby's dad earlier in the day about how Pop was no longer eating or drinking or even really conscious. So, though we were expecting it, there is still a sadness and finality that comes with it.

Unfortunately, the kids didn't really know "Old Pop" (to distinguish from "Pop", which is Toby's dad) very well. Some of the kids had never met him at all, whereas others haven't really seen him in years. In fact, I think Ellie got confused about who we were talking about and started sobbing - it took some time to confirm that everyone she knew was alive and well, and she didn't know the man we were talking about.

The way our family works through grief is to tell stories, so the kids enjoyed hearing some stories about this man who lived through so many interesting times and places. The kids' favorite was the story about when a lion at the zoo cocked its leg and peed all over Pop's trousers. What kid wouldn't love a story about an adult getting peed on?

If you're so inclined, keep the Gayner family in your prayers. While my kids may not remember, there are many others who do, many who will miss him. We continue to take comfort in the Word:

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning   Psalm 30:5b

The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.  He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
Psalm 147:2-4

Friday, October 18, 2013

Back on the needles

It's been a while since I've shared anything I've made, and there is a very simple reason for that - I haven't been making much. I had knitted some washcloths to give to friends before we moved, that's been about all I'd been able to managed the past couple of months, with the packing and moving and unpacking.
I've recently gotten back into the needle swing and started on a cardigan for Abigail. It's a pattern I've used several times before (projects here, here, and here), and I'm about halfway done the body. I should be able to finish it in time for her to wear it as the weather cools.
The funny thing is, Abi's always really excited about my making things for her, but she's usually not always that interested in wearing what I've made. Glutton for punishment that I am, I keep making things for her, thinking that "finally, this she'll love!". (I think she likes that hats and "accessories", rather than the clothing.)
I suspect that we continue to do this little dance because at the end of the day, I love the challenge of finding what she really likes, and she loves the idea that I'm making something special for her.
I'm also comforted by the knowledge that there are two other girls here that are not quite as particular, waiting to snap up some of Mommy's hand knits (weird, I know). So, on we knit - me enjoying the process, and my girls enjoying either the theory or the finished product. It all comes right in the end, just so long as no one throws it in the dryer...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Learning the humble

It was kind of a rough week, last week. You ever have one of  those weeks, the kind that seem to be a big dose of humility fertilizer? For instance:
  • I did something to my back - not really bad, but bad enough to bring me up short when I twist or bend, enough to be a regular niggle.
  • We've had teething kids, and with teething kids comes clinginess and horrible diaper experiences. Fun for the whole family.
  • One night, I started to walk down to the basement, but somehow manage to slide halfway down on my butt, gaining a few colorful new bruises along the way. It was mainly funny, but rather painful. Every time I thought about the painful, I could just picture how funny I must have looked, surfing down the stairs, and I got the giggles again. It was so loud, too, that Abi came running downstairs to see what had happened. It's a rather humbling to have your 11-year-old escort you to bed.
  • I somehow manage to overfill the reservoir in the coffee pot, not a few drops, but so that it overflows all over the counter. At this point, there was nothing else for it but to laugh. And mop up.
It's good to be reminded that I am I finite person with questionable depth perception and a tendency toward colorful bruises; it helps keep my tendency toward smugness in check. Here's hoping some of my ongoing lessons in humility are a little less painful this week.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Avian neighbors

For at least two days this week, we've had a beautiful red shouldered hawk perch on the trampoline behind our house (no, the children don't use this trampoline. It's not actually belonging to our house, and I believe some of the neighbors have affectionately nicknamed it "The Death Trap"). Right around dinnertime, he turns up and just sits there, presumably working on catching some dinner of his own. Clearly, to a house full of people who fancy themselves amateur "twitchers", this is very exciting.
 I spotted him the first time, noticing him out the dining room window. I snuck outside and grabbed these photos as I slowly crept up on him. Not that I would somehow go unnoticed or something - he could probably hear my heartbeat from inside the house.
The second time was even better - Abi spotted him from her bedroom window while changing Caleb's diaper (yay for helpful older children!). She can dashing through the house, almost-naked baby on her hip, muttering to herself. Evidently she was looking for binoculars.
It's always nice to get to know your neighbors. I hope this one sticks around for a while.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pineapple upside down cake

I served this to some friends we had over a couple weeks ago, and it was a hit. It's fun, old-fashioned and easy. And really, really good.

Pineapple upside down cake (from Mom's Best Desserts)

You’ll need:

1 20oz can of sliced pineapple (not chunks)

4 tbsp butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

16 pecan or walnut halves

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp ground ginger

6 tbsp butter or shortening

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup pineapple juice, reserved from can


1.       Preheat the oven to 350

2.       To make the topping, drain the pineapple, reserving 2/3 cup of the  juice for the cake. In a 9 inch glass pie/cake plate, melt the butter in the oven. Then sprinkle the brown sugar over the melted butter and spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat. Arrange pineapple slices over the brown sugar. Fill the centers and spaces between the pineapple with pecan halves placed flat-side up.

3.       To make the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt. Set aside.

4.       In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the pineapple juice, mixing just until the batter is smooth and blended. Spoon the cake batter over the pineapple.

5.       Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

6.       Cool for 5 minutes. Loosen the cake around the edge, then invert onto a serving platter. Serve warm.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My job

 Chalk-art modeling. Cute candids. Photo bomber.
My children.


These kids? They are my job.
Obviously, in every job, there are parts that we love and are passionate about (I hope). Likewise, there are parts of our job we are less enamored with. The same applies to being a mom. I love the hugs, the laughs, the snuggles, the warm baby-breath and sweet-skin smell. I love teaching them new things and seeing them "get it", hearing their prayers and seeing how their creativity expresses itself.
I gotta be honest, though - there are a few things I don't love. I'm not terribly fond of the diapers (that I've been changing for more than a decade, now), I don't care for the endless questions and invasion of my headspace, and I can't stand the temper tantrums (mine or theirs).
For a long time, I've focused on the parts of my job that I didn't like and have the tendency to moan and complain about them. But you know, the real professionals that love and excel at their jobs, they don't do that. They approach their jobs with passion and joy, determined to do their best and seek to grow in the need-improvement areas. I want to do that - I want to parent like a pro.
There is one difference, though - even the pros get to go home at the end of the day. If you've made motherhood your job (and if you have a child, you have), whether you work outside the home or you're home all day, you don't get to leave your job. There's no checking out, calling in sick or taking a break. Whether you get away for a night on your own or are holed up in the local coffee bar for a couple hours, you are always a mom, always on call. So, how do you maintain passion, enthusiasm, and joy in a 24/7/365 job?
You soak in the gospel. Seriously. For some church folks, this can sound like a cliché, but it's the total truth, because as soon as you get distracted from the knowledge that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, you'll either slide toward self-sufficiency or despair. Both are just rocky cliffs with nothing good at the bottom.
You connect. The smartest people are those who know they don't know everything, so they have people speak into their lives, both to encourage and correct. The Bible calls this fellowship, and whoever you are, you need it. And don't be tempted to think that gossiping with a "co-worker" about your crazy "subordinates" is what we're talking about here - fellowship means being open and honest about your struggles and being willing to ask for help, prayer and counsel. It also means celebrating joys and triumphs with those who really care that little Johnny just peed on the potty, 'cause man, that's huge.
You remember that "one day" is coming. I know it seems like "retirement" will never come, that the kids will never sleep through the night and these tantrums (from toddler or teenager) will never change, but I'll wager that before you (and I) know it, they'll be calling us and asking what to do with their own kids' tantrums and 'tudes. And when it seems like fruit is slow to grow, remember the gardener that faithfully and lovingly tends his tender plants - not to get fruit right then, but in its due season. For we harvest more than we sow, later than we sow.

They are my job, these kids. I want to parent them like a pro.

Monday, October 7, 2013


We've lived in Louisville for a whole month, now, and this month has gone pretty quickly. The days are so full, delightfully full. One thing that Toby and I have noticed is how, in spite of how much reading and studying he's doing and how busy I've been in keeping on top of school, house, and life in general, our time seems much freer than it had done. Because we are here for the sole purpose of attending the PC, our time and purpose here is rather singular-focused. We don't have the same level of commitments in so many different areas - we're not spinning so many plates. It's been like a deep intake of breath - very refreshing.
Of course, this is for a finite period of time, as it should be. A singularly focused season of life is for a purpose and is rather intense. Just as it's good to have a break from the norm for a while, you can't live on a vacation schedule, nor would it be good to do so. This season isn't exactly a vacation, but I do think it's been a break that God is using to teach us, grow us, and make us ready for the next thing He's got planned for us, whatever that may be.
The whole point of taking a deep, cleansing breath is to let it out as you move into a new thing. My prayer for our family and those of the other PC families is not that we would breathe in this time of grace for our own comfort, but that we would be preparing to breathe out God's praise both now and in all the "nexts" He's got planned for us.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Knowing His Name

On Sunday, we sung a song that was fairly new to me, The Gospel Was Promised. It's speaks of how the coming of Jesus was foretold in Old Testament, and what His coming accomplished for us.
As I sang with Caleb in my arms, I whispered the words in his ear:
His name is Jesus,
His name is Jesus,
His name is Jesus Christ, our Lord.
 More than anything else I want for my children - more than success or happiness or their dreams come true - I want them to know Jesus. I want them to love Him, to cherish Him, to follow Him. As their mom, it's my job, my responsibility, and my privilege to tell them. To tell them who Jesus is, to tell them what He's done for me and what He's done for them. I need to tell them about Jesus when all's well with the world, and I need to tell them about Him when nothing is going right and the world seems against them. I need to tell my 11-year old that He loves her and can help her through her every trial, and I need to tell my 1-year old about this name which is worth more than any riches.
So, maybe it's a little silly, singing this song into my baby's ear. But I'll do whatever it takes to make sure my kids know and love this name. Because it's all about Him.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Make your life easier

I don't know anyone who doesn't want to make life a little easier on themselves. How we go about it tend to differ from person to person, though. Here are a few things I've found to help smooth our family's wrinkles:
  • Don't snack. I have a confession to make - I am a professional snack-er (it's a shame I don't get paid for it). I could eat all. day. long. For real. However, my metabolism isn't what it was 20 years ago and my waist (or current lack thereof) can't cope with the extra food. Then, of course, there's the six little people who call me "mom" - they inherited my love of food and my habits. I was finding it positively stressful to keep them in food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus at least 2 snacks a day! Then I remembered this book I read earlier this year and how the French don't really snack, and I thought, "If a whole country of people can live without snacks, I think we probably can, too." And you know, it's worked! We all eat better at our meals because we're hungrier for them, and there are less food-breaks in the day, which means less food prep, less clean up, and less money at the store! Hopefully, it'll eventually mean less numbers on the scale, too...
  • Meal plan. I know most people know that they should plan dinners and do so, but recently I've been planning our breakfasts and lunches, too. It's a rolling plan - every Monday lunch is this kind of sandwich, Wednesday is soup day, etc. It means less money at the store (again) because you don't need to rely on cereal and lunch meat everyday, and it fosters a little creativity in the kitchen. I know my family appreciates that.
  • Know when to multi-task and when not to. I know there's a lot said about how multitasking is bad for us (like here and here and here), and I know that it's a concept that many of us are somewhat addicted to. So, here's my thought - know when you can spare the mental space to multitask, and when to be fully "in the moment". I've recently been spending 20 - 30 minutes on the exercise bike every morning, so I've been reading on the Kindle while I cycle. It's been a good time for me to get some regular exercise and get some reading in - and I'm more faithful to workout when I've got a book I'm into. That's a good time to multitask. A good time to be fully in the moment is when my child is talking to me. Heaven help me, this isn't easy for me. I have to often stop what I'm doing and look at them. This is especially helpful for me, as I struggle to hear them when there is a lot of background noise, so making eye contact when they are speaking really helps me to tune into what they're saying. Trying to continue typing at the computer while my son is showing me his Lego creation would not be fully engaging and a poor attempt to multitask. Ahem.
What is something you do to make your life a little easier?