Monday, December 21, 2009

You know you're a mom when...

You wake up, thrilled to have a slow day with the kids. No school or activity schedules to worry about and not much going on.

You just need to clean up a little bit, do two or three loads of laundry, make a quick trip to the grocery store, wrap half a dozen gifts, do a little baking, host friends for play and lunch, return a few phone calls and bring a meal to a neighbor.

Not much.

Friday, December 18, 2009

life lessons

“Dear God,” Twin A. prayed, “Please help *Susie…” He paused and turned to me, “I don’t know what to say.”

“I know. Me neither,” I told him. “But God knows how much you care about your friend. He hears you and understands your heart, even when you don’t know what to pray.”

As a mother, I want to have all of the answers for my children. When they hurt, I want to make it all better. But sometimes we can’t, and I believe the important thing in those moments is to teach them—show them—how to handle those moments when they come. Because they will come.

We can’t fix things for our neighbors, who are grieving the loss of a wonderful husband and father. But we can be a friend and build snow forts and play. We can make them a meal. We can make a donation. We can pray.

And in doing these things, we teach our children that people and relationships are important.

We’re holding each other tighter this Christmas season, savoring each moment. Because truly, none of us has any guarantee of tomorrow.

Enjoy your family. In the midst of the chaos and the errands and the wrapping, savor the moments when you’re together. Forget the mess and turn on some music. Dance. Hug.

We only get one life. Enjoy it to the fullest.

**name has been changed to protect privacy**

Thursday, December 10, 2009

neighbor update

Thank you for praying for our neighbor, Jay, and his family. I'm saddened to update this blog with news of his passing. My heart is heavy this morning for his wife and two children. Pray for them.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

please pray

I don't often post prayer requests on my blog, but this one is very close to home.

My neighbor was in a terrible car accident the day before Thanksgiving. Would you please keep him and his family in your prayers?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving humor

At the dinner table last night…
Llama Papa: “Boys, our house is really clean right now. We need to work together to keep it clean for Thanksgiving in two days.”
Twin A.: “We need to keep it clean for TWO WHOLE DAYS?”
Twin B.: “I think we should just leave.”

Recurring conversation with the preschooler…
The Preschooler: “Are we going to eat turkey on Thanksgiving?”
Me: “Yes.”
The Preschooler: “Is it already dead?”
Me: “Yes.”
The Preschooler: “So we’re going to eat a dead turkey?”
Me: “Well, we’ll cook it. But, yeah.”
The Preschooler: “Who killed him?”
Me: “Um. The turkey farmer I think. They call it butchering.”
The Preschooler: “Did it hurt his feelings?”

Yes, I fully expect that he’ll eat nothing but green beans and mashed potatoes tomorrow.

And my personal favorite, yesterday before naptime…
The Preschooler: “I made a card.”
Me: “Nice! What does it say?”
The Preschooler: “Dear God, thank you for making me.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! I’m beyond thankful for my house full of noisy boys. (Well, most of the time anyway!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

canned carrots

What possessed me to buy these? I must have had some recipe in mind, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. That’s how long these have been sitting on my shelves. Going through the pantry today, I scooted them over to the side—after all, they’ve been there forever. I’m used to seeing them every time I put away groceries. But today I stop and think: why am I keeping these?

I collect things in my heart, too. Grudges, ways of coping, reactions to people. Some of these served a purpose for a time—it’s the way I got by. But now, today, they’re useless. I don’t need them anymore. So why keep them?

It’s time to throw out the carrots.

Monday, November 2, 2009

painting tips

Preschoolers love paint. Moms don't. It's messy and, well, it's messy.

I'm afraid I can't offer you much advice for making it less messy, but I DID repurpose an item destined for the garbage can into a cool paint holder.

Introducing, the camping egg carrier.

I bought this eons ago when it was just me and my husband darting off for a weekend of camping in California. Six eggs was plenty. Pancakes one morning, scrambled eggs the problem. Enter three hungry boys. Now, six eggs don't get us through one morning. Last time I packed for a camping trip, I laughed at my tiny egg holder as I was putting an 18-count package of eggs into the cooler.

It's amazing how life changes.

Anyway, since our last camping trip, the egg holder has been floating around. The preschooler likes to carry things in it, so I let him play with it for awhile. I was just thinking it was time to toss it when the preschooler asked, "Can I paint today?"


Introducing: our new paint tray. Perfect for a morning of messy painting!

Friday, October 23, 2009


There’s never enough of it. Like most of you reading this blog, I’m busy. Juggling three kids, a part-time job, a work-from-home editing gig, and finishing a novel has proven to be a bit much. And before you get too impressed, keep in mind that by “finishing a novel” I mean “spending a few hours editing and writing at some point every week.”

Since there’s never enough of it, I’m learning to make time for what’s really important to me. I try to carve out time each day for each of my kids. Sometimes it’s just ten minutes of one-on-one conversation at the end of the day, or a game of yahtzee or chess (I’m learning! And believe it or not, the kids are teaching me).

Last week, I was story mom in Twin B’s class, and I decided to surprise him and take him out for lunch before my volunteer shift. I dropped the preschooler off to play at a neighbor’s house and caught B. as he was waiting in line to go into the cafeteria. I hope I never forget the look on his face when I called his name and invited him out to lunch. His entire face lit up, and he just grinned as he followed me out to the van. We chatted over burgers at Wendy’s and he kept saying, “I just can’t stop saying thank you!”

It wasn’t just the burger he was thanking me for. It was the time. He knows I’m busy and have a million things I could be doing with an hour of free time. The fact that I was choosing to spend time with him—not because I have to, but because I want to—made a huge statement to him. You’re special. I enjoy you. You’re worth my time.

We all get 24 hours a day. How will you spend yours?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where are my chickens?

Every day is an adventure with a preschooler in the house. Honestly, I’d forgotten how cute a three-year old can be. He loves going to school like his brothers (two mornings a week), and helping me with jobs around the house. Amazingly, his favorite “job” right now is cleaning the toilets. And everywhere we go, he checks the bathroom and often announces, “That potty looks dirty. They should clean it.”


But by far my favorite part of this age is watching his imagination explode. Some days, he’s a cat, crawling around and meowing and telling me “the kitty likes to be petted.” Other days, he’s a “good guy,” keeping all the bad guys away with his assortment of pretend guns. (Don’t lecture me. I lost the battle against non-violent toys long ago.)

Even as I type, the preschooler is managing a small farm of chickens in a laundry basket. Invisible chickens, of course, which makes it tricky to play along. He just yelled out, “Mom! My chicken got away!” I tried to grab the invisible chicken, but when I gave it to him, alas, that was not it. He was looking for the OTHER chicken.

So he grabbed two plastic sandwich bags and put them over his hands for “glubs” and is off to recapture the escaped chicken.

All this fun and it’s only 6:08 in the morning.

The farmer has just invited me into the chicken fort and assured me that he’ll keep me safe. Because, according to the farmer, "the chickens really like you."

Which is why I love having a preschooler.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


This past few weeks have been difficult. Not in a crisis rush-to-the-ER kind of way, but in a nagging, worrying kind of way. Llama Papa and I have been talking through family decisions,** and in the midst of it all, I became just a tad bit overwhelmed. Or maybe a lot overwhelmed.

Somewhere in all of my worry, I cried out to God. It was one of those really articulate prayers that went something like this, “God? HELP!” And while there were no magic answers emailed from heaven (I’ve always thought God should get email), I did begin to loosen my grip on all of the what-ifs. Breathe. Trust.

If you’re at a crossroads today, give it a try. Ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

** edited to add: We're not moving or planning any kind of radical change in our family. It's more day-to-day decisions with the kids that feel big and overwhelming sometimes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

mock chicken casserole

I was eating Mrs. Mike’s potato chips last night, and noticed a recipe on the back of the bag. I am not making this up.

Mock chicken casserole

Prepare cream sauce with the following ingredients: 1 T butter, 4 T flour, 2 ¼ C milk, ¼ tsp pepper, salt to taste. Simmer until smooth.

To this add the following: 1 can flaked tuna fish, ½ C sliced mushrooms, 4 oz always fresh potato chip crushed. Season to taste.
Pour in buttered casserole, sprinkle top with crushed potato chips. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) for 30 minutes.

I almost hate to ask, but, well, why not just call this tuna casserole? I see no possible way this concoction could taste even the slightest bit like chicken.

I’m just sayin.’

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Walking back from the school drop off, I’m struck by the strength of the women in my company. Each day we walk back and forth, chatting about homework and diapers and soccer practice and carpools. Most days we laugh, but occasionally we cry.

When I think about each woman and what’s on her plate, I marvel: how on earth does she do it? How do any of us do it?

Up before light, we pack lunches and fold clothes and unload the dishwasher. We check homework tucked into backpacks. We get the kids up and fed and off to school. Then we return to tend other kids, chores, and sometimes work. Pick-up in the afternoon is a bright spot. A chance to laugh at the things that didn’t go quite the way we’d planned. Playdates planned and favors freely given, we’ve formed a community for which I’m grateful.

And then we’re home for snacks and playdates and homework. We make dinner, clean it up, and make sure reading is done. We work some more.

And at the end of the day, we collapse and wonder why we’re so tired.

Today, women, I’m struck by our strength. Too often we complain of our weaknesses: too much chocolate, not enough exercise, our houses aren’t clean enough and on and on we list all the ways we don’t measure up.

But look at all the ways we do measure up. Take a good, long, honest look. And today, my friends, let’s celebrate who we are and what we do. Because it’s awesome.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Us and Them

I don’t like to think of myself as a person with prejudices. I don’t think many of us do, and yet lately I’ve been struck by how often I put people in “boxes” and label them without even knowing them.

Boxes like:
Working mom

The list goes on. Your list may look different than mine, but we all have them. Maybe you classify people based on race or gender or socioeconomic status. And as much as we know that these labels are not helpful, and certainly not the way Jesus rolls, we do it—many times unconsciously. Becoming aware of it is often the first stop toward changing. (And now I’ll stop being all Dr. Philish. I promise.)

I’ve recently jumped categories. From stay-at-home mom to part-time working mom. I took a part-time job at a Music and Art Academy working a few evenings a week and the occasional Saturday. And I love it.

I’ve been working from home for awhile now, but I love actually GOING to work. Leaving my house and looking nice and talking to real live people. Not to mention starting a project and finishing it from beginning to end with very little interruption. It’s a beautiful thing.

And with the boys back in school, I’m aware of the other big label—especially in the Christian community: public school mom versus homeschool mom.

How many times have I sat in a circle of well-intentioned women and heard someone make an off-hand comment, “Well, it’s a sacrifice, but I just love Johnny so much, I COULDN’T send him to public school!” And as a public school mom, I’m sitting there thinking about how much I LOVE my kids and am doing what I believe is best for them. Did that homeschooling mom intend to slam me? Probably not. But in our judgment of the “other” we unintentionally hurt one another.

So, Moms. Can we try to lose the labels? Can we all work together and trust that we’re all doing what we feel is best for our kids? After all, we all have the same goal: to raise healthy, happy kids who are productive members of society.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

new blog

One of the amazing writers in my critique group, Kathy Bolduc, is blogging!

Kathy is a talented author and a deep thinker. Do me a favor and go check out her blog and leave her a comment with your very best blogging advice!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

back to school

I can’t believe summer break is over and the boys head back to school tomorrow. The noisy boys are looking forward to second grade, and the toddler can hardly wait to start preschool. (I guess we can call him “the preschooler” now!)

We’re all ready. I love the early-to-bed, early-to rise routine of the school year. (Or, at least, I love the memory of it. Ask me in two weeks how I feel.) The lists by the door. The new pencils and notebooks and markers. Our daily walk back and forth with the other kids in the neighborhood. New teachers to get to know. Old relationships to build on.

And, of course, the lunches. We don’t have hot lunch at our school, so we pack lunches every day. My goal this year is to get the noisy boys more involved with the packing and decision making. If you’re looking for creative and healthy lunch ideas, check out the Kitchen Stweardship blog. She’s compiled a great list of fun and nutritious on-the-go food.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I need you

“Mommy, I need you!” The toddler grabs my cheeks in his hands and pulls my face toward his.

“Mom? Can you help me?” Twin A. calls out an hour later. With his broken arm, it’s hard to navigate the dark upstairs to use the bathroom.

Never mind that it’s the middle of the night.

Have you ever noticed how children don’t ever consider what may be convenient for a parent? They never think, “Wow. It’s 2 a.m. Maybe I should just try to deal with this terrible nightmare by myself.” Of course not. (Or at least not in my house!) They cry and call out for mom or dad, and one of us shows up at their bedside.

I’m so reluctant to ask for help from anyone—friend, neighbor, even God Himself. I try to do as much as I can on my own before I even think to ask for help. And yet I believe God delights in our childlike trust when we call out to Him first.

I didn’t do much for the toddler in the middle of the night. I let him hold my face for a few minutes as he said, “I need you, I need you, I need you.” I told him he’d be fine and gave him a kiss and told him to go back to sleep. That’s all.

Sometimes it’s enough just to know we’re not alone—especially when we feel needy.

How can you reach out for help this week? Do you trust that God will be present with you as you cry out to Him?

Monday, August 3, 2009


We’ve had quite a bit of excitement around our house. Too much, really. Thankfully, things have settled down. Twin A. is healing just fine, and doing great. (Thank you for praying, friends.)

I’m at one of my favorite writing retreats ever, hosted by The Writing Academy. This community of writers has blessed me in too many ways to count. And it truly is a community—they’ve been meeting together every year for over thirty years. And still they welcome me warmly into their community and put up with all my talk of blogs and twitter and networking.

During open mic night, I timidly read a chapter from the young adult novel I’m working on. (I scanned it carefully to make sure there were no swear words!) I didn’t dare look up, but when I finally did, people were wiping away tears and grinning. The next person got up to read and gestured to me and declared, “This is the future of the Academy!”

No pressure.

The theme this weekend is “Apples of Gold,” taken from Proverbs 25:11. (A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.) As a part of the weekend, we were each given thirty beautiful stamped note cards and asked to write a word of encouragement for each of our fellow WAMS.

I just finished reading mine, and…I’m speechless. Oh, the power that exists in our words. Power to bless or curse. Today, the blessing overwhelms me.

Surround yourself today by people who can speak a word of life into your soul. And through your words, breathe life into the people around you. You will be blessed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


One day at a time. This is our motto around here. Along with, this will not last forever.

Twin A. is still uncomfortable whenever he moves. We’re managing the pain as well as we can, and doing lots of deep breathing to try to relax. Last night he told me the fear of the pain is actually worse than the pain itself. He has been through so much.

The Llama Papa took our other two boys on to the family reunion campout in Michigan. (God bless him.) A. is sad to miss it, but has no desire to drive 3+ hours, even if we stay in a hotel. We’ve promised him a campout when he recovers.

And today is the toddler’s third birthday. For the last six months, he’s been talking about his “birthday party on the camping trip.” So I loaded him down with Elmo partyware and wrapped presents, and expect that he’ll fully enjoy his special day today. And, of course, we’ll have another party at home sometime next week. But in the quiet of this morning, can I just admit to you all that I’m hating this? Those of you who know The Toddler personally know that he is a bundle of energy and personality, and absolutely delightful. I hate missing his camping birthday party. Happy birthday, little buddy. Mommy can’t wait to throw you another birthday bash and watch your face light up with each new surprise.

The hardest part of this whole thing has been watching Twin A. in pain and being unable to fully take it away. Or worse, actually causing the pain. A few times a day, I need to help A. elevate his arm. It hurts to get in this position, but is essential for his healing. Moving him around while he cries for me to stop is the hardest thing I’ve had to do as a mom.

I’ve thought more than once about how God must feel with me at times, pushing me to look at places that are painful while I scream “stop!” And yet He knows what’s best for me. I believe this. And just like my heart skips a beat when A. chooses to trust me, even though it’s going to hurt, I have to believe God is thrilled when we choose to trust Him just a little bit more.

One of the things I’m most thankful for are the seeds of faith planted in A.’s heart. In the most difficult moments, he says, “I want to pray.” He told me he wishes God would just magically heal his arm, even though he knows that’s not how it usually works. We’ve talked about what God HAS promised us: that He’ll always be with us, no matter what.
So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

I’m also thankful for incredible friends and neighbors, who keep sending cards and dropping by with goodies and movies and games. And I’m incredibly thankful for my friend, S., who has some downtime before her classes start, and offered to come stay with us for a few days. I can’t imagine this past few days without her, honestly.

God is good. God is faithful. God is trustworthy.

This is what we’re learning over here…well, that and that malt chip blizzards from DQ are really, really good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


What a day.

I’m sitting here next to Twin A. writing on my laptop while he sleeps comfortably in his bed. At the hospital.

Not where we thought we’d be tonight.

We were at my sister-in-law’s house and the cousins were all playing on the playground across the street from her house when A. fell off the monkey bars and started screaming bloody murder. He broke / dislocated his arm. I won’t describe the break here except to say that it was really bad.

(Llama Papa actually passed out while the ER doc examined A. For about thirty minutes, I was afraid he would be admitted too! Thankfully, he's fine.)

Long story short, I’m here with my boy after a long day at the hospital and surgery to put his arm back together again. (With three pins!) His surgeon anticipates a full recovery.

I feel like I should say something profound, but I just don’t have it in me tonight. I can't rehash the details of the day's events, not yet. This mama is exhausted—physically and emotionally. I feel like I need to just crawl into the corner and cry for a good long while, preferably with a large stash of chocolate, but that will have to wait.

So until then, I’ll just say that I’m grateful for my amazing family, who steps in without being asked and does whatever needs to be done. (Including putting my toddler down for his nap and showing Twin B. such a grand time!) I’m grateful for good healthcare and health insurance. And in this moment, I’m grateful for the quiet of this hospital room, and the grace that’s been here with us all day. God is good.

Monday, July 20, 2009

you can just make vanilla pudding?

“What should we have for dessert?” I asked Twin B. His teacher is coming over for dinner tonight, and we were getting ready yesterday afternoon.

“I don’t know,” he said.

I looked in the fridge and saw three baskets of strawberries. “What can we do with these strawberries?”

Then I remembered the pound cake in my freezer downstairs. (Leftover from a 3-pack from Costco’s bakery—delicious and a great deal!)

“Let’s make a trifle!” I said, running down the stairs to get the pound cake. Then I reached into my pantry to grab some vanilla pudding, but couldn’t find any. I checked my overflow pantry in the basement. Nope. I really didn’t want to go to the store, but I also really wanted to make this trifle. I considered going door-to-door, asking neighbors for vanilla pudding when it dawned on me: I can probably just make it.

I googled “homemade vanilla pudding,” and sure enough, dozens of simple recipes popped up.

I quickly gathered the ingredients and got to work. Five minutes later, I was tasting the most amazing vanilla pudding I’ve ever eaten. Seriously. So creamy and delicious, I don’t think I’ll ever buy a little box of pudding again. It was that good, and I swear, so easy to make.

In an age of convenience, I tend to forget that some of the “ready made” products I use are really convenience foods. Truly, I thought of boxed pudding as a “staple” not a “convenience.” But homemade is so much better, less expensive, and uses ingredients I almost always have on hand.

And our trifle? I’m guessing it will be the best we’ve ever had. And I pray Twin B.’s teacher will feel honored and appreciated for all of her hard work last year.

Simple Vanilla Pudding

2/3 cup sugar
4 tbsp cornstarch
3 cups milk
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, mix together the sugar and cornstarch. Gradually add the milk and egg yolks. Stir it until blended and them cook on medium heat stirring constantly until mixture boils. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it right to the top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming.


(To make a simple summer trifle, layer pound cake, vanilla pudding, and sliced fruit in a clear bowl. Top with whipped cream, if desired.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

The difference between men and women

We were at Lowes on Saturday for their kid’s building clinic, and as we walked through the front doors, Llama Papa said, “Oooh, oooh, oooh DeWalt!” In that super guy grunty, drooly way, kind of similar to the way I talk about dessert. Kind of. Anyway, I assumed he was interested in looking at the drill section after helping the noisy boys build their treasure chests.

After the class, I had a question for customer service, so Llama Papa grabbed our three boys and said, “I’m going to check out the DeWalt display.”

“Sure honey!” I waved. A few minutes later, I asked my question and started looking for the rest of my family. They were nowhere to be found.

I circled the store several times. Nope. Nowhere.

Now, I have to say I wasn’t too upset. After all, he had the kids. But I was curious. Where are they? In the bathroom? Plus, the store was entirely too quiet. Usually our toddler acts as a portable homing device everywhere we go. Just follow the screeching, laughing sounds.

Finally, I called his cell phone.

They were outside. At the DeWalt display out in the parking lot. And we laughed because, I swear I am not making this up, I didn’t even notice the semi truck full of power tools that we walked right by on our way into the store.

And that, my friends, is the difference between men and women.

(Or at least between the Llama Momma and the Llama Papa!)

Monday, July 6, 2009

baked ice cream

Are you a “YES” Mom? Jill Savage issued a challenge for the month of July over on her blog that’s right up my alley. Saying “yes” to our children instead of “no.” (She’s not talking about the absence of boundaries or never saying “no,” but rather, saying “yes” whenever you can.)

When Twin B. saw this book on clearance at Border’s, he went nuts. “Can I buy it, Mom?”

“Sure,” I told him.

“It’s only $1.99. That’s a good price!” He exclaimed.

“It is. And a good value.”

And so we began our summer of science experiments. There was the raw egg that turned into a bouncy ball when submerged in vinegar…for a week.

Twin B. has spent hours pouring over this book, gathering random supplies, and excitedly conducting experiments.

But the one he really wanted to try, more than anything else, was the baked ice cream. At first, I put him off. “I need to make a trip to the store first,” I told him. “We need more vanilla ice cream.” But he persisted. Every few days he’d ask, “Can we try it tonight?” And I would say “Not today.” It just looked like a big mess.

But if you know me at all, you know that I love to foster my children’s imaginations. If it’s not dangerous or unkind, I’m usually fine with it. (I mean, come on, I let a raw egg sit on my kitchen counter for a week, people!)

So, one night, I said “yes.” We worked together to make the meringue. We put the ice cream on top of cookies. (Cheap, Aldi cookies in case the experiment didn’t work. You wouldn’t want to waste a good cookie on a science experiment.) Then we carefully covered the whole thing with meringue and put it in the oven. For an hour. Now, according to the book, the cream of tartar in the meringue acts as a sort of insulation for the ice cream. But an hour? I started to wonder if that’s why the book was on sale. None of the experiments actually work.

We watched through the oven window while the ice cream slowly melted, and cut bait after forty-five minutes.

We laughed and laughed at the craziness of putting ice cream in the oven for an hour…and then enjoyed “real” ice cream sundaes for dessert.

How about you? Are you a "Yes" mom?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity

All week I’ve been blogging about Keri Wyatt Kent’s new book, Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity. I jumped at the chance to review the book because, a) I love free books, and b) I love Keri Wyatt Kent.

I’ve read numerous books on Sabbath and rest, and they’ve all contributed to my desire to observe the Sabbath. Keri’s book stirred the desire again with the reminder that, truly, God designed us to work hard, and then take a day to rest.

Stay-at-home moms, I can hear you clamoring in my head, “But I’ve got four children under the age of six! How can I possibly rest!”

Relax. Take a deep breath. God is not asking you to neglect your kids. But if you’re exhausted, and I know you are, I want you to read this book. If you’re local, I’ll loan it to you.

The thing I love about this book is the complete absence of guilt. I read it cover to cover and have a renewed desire to take my Sabbath observance a bit further—not because I think I should, but because I desire to experience all that God has for me. And it’s not just about the Sabbath—it’s about creating a life of sanity and balance, where we make room for relationships with God and others. We stop in order to connect with the people we love most.

I’m a fickle observer of the Sabbath. We usually attend church in the morning, and take naps in the afternoon, so the rhythm of the day feels different from the average weekday. Sometimes we invite friends over for dinner on Sunday night, and sometimes I go grocery shopping. Ahem. (Notice I said “fickle observer”?)

I’m wondering what it would be like to take this further. To work together to pick up our house early on Saturday, get the grocery shopping done if I need to, whatever needs to get done. To enjoy a leisurely dinner on Saturday night, turn the television off and play a game or go for a bike ride or a walk. Put the kids to bed and just be with my spouse, with no distractions.

Sunday would be for worship, rest, and fun. After church, we have a simple lunch, take our naps (the big kids can watch TV or read), then we enjoy family time together. Maybe we go swimming or biking. Maybe we have friends over. Maybe we play a game.

This sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

And now I’m asking myself what it requires of me: being willing to work hard on Saturday to make preparations for Sunday, being disciplined to keep the computer off for a full 24-hours, and being fully present to my family. For me, those are the big ones. No doubt the list looks different for you.

One of the things Keri stresses in her book is to simply start somewhere. If you’ve never observed the Sabbath before, maybe just giving yourself permission to leave the laundry and read a book instead is the place to start. Wherever you’re at on your spiritual journey, Keri’s book will encourage and inspire you. It’s like taking a huge breath of crisp, fresh air.

If you’d like to purchase Keri’s book, Rest. A group study guide is included at the back of the book, making this a great “book club” choice!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. Do you observe the Sabbath? What has been the greatest reward to you, personally, from this observance? What are the biggest obstacles you face?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rest on the Lake

This photo captures a moment between my twin boys and my dad that is precious to me. Watching them ride a paddle boat out to the dock together and just relax in the sun epitomizes vacation in my mind: reconnecting with people we love, having fun, relaxing. And here are three of my favorite people doing all three.

This week, I’m writing about Keri Wyatt Kent’s book, Rest. One of the things she writes about that really resonates with me is the idea that to rest—whether it’s a daily rest, a weekly Sabbath rest, or an extended vacation—is to trust God.

Think about it. When we take a deliberate break from activity in order to reconnect with God and our families and friends, we’re trusting that God can keep on being God while we take a break. We don’t need to keep on consuming and working and checking email and being productive…we can stop. We trust that for today, we have enough.

Do you have a hard time stopping, even on vacation? What can you do ahead of time to make your time away more restful?

Monday, June 29, 2009


Mom guilt has plagued me since the beginning of my motherhood journey. Truly. I even feel guilty about feeling guilty.

One thing I’ve stopped feeling guilty about, however, is napping or going to bed early. I’ve learned that in order to do this job day in and day out, I need to take care of myself. Getting enough rest is a big part of that.

With a two-year old in the house, naptime is still a part of our daily routine. At seven-years old, the noisy boys don’t need naps anymore, but taking a break in the afternoon from hard play is still a good thing. So when the toddler goes down for his nap, the rest of us have an hour of “downtime.” Downtime is any quiet activity that you can do by yourself, including napping, reading, working a puzzle, painting a picture…you get the idea.

Instituting “downtime” for all of us this summer has been a win-win. The house is quiet for our napping toddler, and we all feel refreshed after at least an hour of rest.

And, yes, sometimes I’m tempted to plow through the afternoon to get more work done, but I’m learning that for me, in this season of life, this just isn’t wise. Honestly, the days I do that I get less done, not more. I’m learning to pace myself as a mom. It’s not enough to get the floors mopped and the laundry done in the afternoon…I need to be able to make it through the evening—fix supper, get the kids to bed, and—ideally—have some energy left at the end of the day to hang out with my husband.

This week, I’m privileged to participate in a blog tour for Keri Wyatt Kent’s new book, Rest. I’ll be sharing more thoughts later this week, and you can also check out the other bloggers participating in the tour by clicking here.

I don't do many blog tours because, well, this isn't a book review site. But every once in awhile a book comes along that I feel passionately about. Rest is one of them. Plus, I've been following Keri's blog for quite awhile now, and I'm excited to partner with her on her new book!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

and the winner is...

The winner of the book, My Body Belongs to Me, is Much Afraid. I'm glad this book is going to one of my faithful, long-time readers! I hope this book speaks to you, Much Afraid, and to your son...and any other child who is able to read it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

summer survival cooking

I love spending hot, summer afternoons at our neighborhood swimming pool. Love it. What I don’t love is figuring out what to make for dinner when we walk through the door and everyone is starving!

Summer cooking is all about survival at my house. Here’s what works for me:

Keep raw veggies and dip in the fridge to pull out as soon as you walk in the door. The kids will chow down, and if they spoil their appetite for dinner, who cares? They’re eating vegetables.

Ditto on the fruit. A bowl of washed grapes or sliced apples is easy to pull out for a quick and nutritious snack. (Just toss the apples with a little orange juice to keep them from browning.)

We like to grill. Did you know you can freeze your meat right in the marinade? So, when you find chicken on sale, buy a bunch, whip up a double batch of your favorite marinade, divide it into ziplock bags and freeze the meat right in the marinade. Here’s one of my favorite recipes for chicken and pork:

(Cooking Light, July 1997)

1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Combine all ingredients, and stir marinade well. Yield: 1 1/2 cups.

Head over to We are That Family for more great tips!

Monday, June 22, 2009

childhood sexual abuse

Not a fun topic, I know, but one we as parents need to talk about. We need to talk about it with eachother and we need to talk about it with our children.

In the year 2000, there were 879,000 substantiated reports of child abuse in the United States alone. 10% of those were cases of sexual abuse. (You can see the statistics here:

And those are just the kids who told. There are many who never do.

When Jill Starishevsky contacted me about her new book, My Body Belongs to Me, I was intrigued. As a mom, it’s not easy to bring up these tough topics with my kids. And I have to say, after reading the book with my kids, I’m impressed.

My Body Belongs to Me is short, simple, and easy enough for a preschooler to understand. Written for children ages 3-10, it explains in a straightforward and appropriate way what sexual abuse is, and how children can protect themselves. (In the story, a girl is touched inappropriately by a family friend, and she yells and tells her parents right away.)

Incidentally, one of my boys commented, “Well, you can’t always yell.” I asked why not, and he said, “You’re not allowed to yell at school.” We’ve had this conversation before, but we needed to have it again. The you-can-break-all-the-rules-to-protect-yourself conversation. You can yell, scream, kick, hit—whatever you need to do to get away from someone who is trying to hurt you, even if that person is a grown up that you’ve been told to obey.

The author of the book, Jill Starishevsky, is a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City. The case of a 9-year old girl who had been raped by her stepfather over a three-year period of time compelled her to write this book. Jill writes:
“One day, the girl saw an episode of ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ about children who were physically abused. The episode, ‘Tortured Children,’ empowered the girl with this simple message: If you are being abused, tell your parents. If you can’t tell your parents, go to school and tell your teacher. The girl got the message and the very next day went to school and told her teacher. I prosecuted the case for the District Attorney’s office. The defendant was convicted and is now serving a lengthy prison sentence.”

I don’t know about you, but thinking about a child enduring this kind of nightmare rips me up. I want to be the kind of adult that children can trust—my own kids and the other kids who are in our lives.

So parents? Talk to your kids about the tough stuff. Open the lines of communication and keep them open. Listen well. Our children need us.

And now I’d like to give away this book that Jill so graciously sent me. So leave me a comment and on June 29, I’ll pick a winner at random!

And if you’d like to order a copy of Jill’s book, click here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

writing retreat

Four years ago, I attended a writer’s retreat that was so much more than a writer’s retreat. It was a vibrant community of writers who had been encouraging and supporting eachother for years.

The Writing Academy offers online writing classes, critique groups and an annual weekend retreat. If you’re a writer in need of community, I can’t recommend this group enough. Whether you’re a seasoned author with numerous publications or a newbie just starting out, you will find encouragement in this group.

I’m excited to have the opportunity to attend the writer’s weekend again this summer, and want to encourage you to sign up if you can. It’s affordable, it’s beautiful, and it will breathe life into your writing journey. (And if you’re a local, we can carpool!)

So, who wants to join me?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


How do you deal with disappointment? I have to confess, my first reaction is usually to pull the covers over my head and just hide. Or eat chocolate. Or both.

As many of you know, my husband, Llama Papa, has been looking for a job since last fall. He’s had some great leads and some great interviews, but no offers. Yesterday, he found out he didn’t get a job he really wanted.

Which sucks.

Financially, we’re in good shape. God has been abundantly gracious to us, which we’re beyond grateful for. But still. It’s disappointing to not be able to find a job.

Beyond disappointing.

So if you think of us, say a prayer that the right job would come along for one of us. And if you’re looking for a great IT guy or a snarky writer, drop me a line.

Monday, June 8, 2009

dry roasted edamame

Leaving 7-year olds in charge of the toddler while I take a shower can work out pretty well. Or not.

Technically, they didn't break any rules.


Some days, all you can do is laugh, take a picture, and move on.

Today is turning into one of those days.

When I asked the toddler what he was doing, he told me he was making a pie for his aunt. Such a thoughtful boy.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I scream, you scream...

Today was our last day of school, and we’re living it up over here at the Llama household. Each of the boys invited a friend over to play, and they had a blast playing kickball, having relay races, and making ice cream in ziplock bags.

That’s right.

Ice cream in ziplock bags.

Curious? Here’s the recipe:


1/2 cup milk or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
6 tablespoons rock salt


Put cream, vanilla and sugar into a pint or quart-sized freezer bag. Seal well.

Fill a large, gallon-sized freezer bag with ice. Add the salt.

Put the smaller bag into the larger bag and seal.

Shake and mix until the ice cream thickens, about 10 minutes. You can also let the kids gently throw the bag back and forth to help mix the ice cream. The bag gets very cold, so you might want to use towels to hold it.

Makes 1 serving.

We are that Family is hosting a carnival of ideas, so click here to read more fun summer boredom busters!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

booger soup

I love having boys. Talk about keeping it real. I’ve been consulting with a nutritionist to help me improve my own diet—and consequentially, my whole families’ diet—and one of her suggestions was to use barley in soups instead of noodles. The consistency is similar, and it just takes on the flavor of whatever it’s in. So a few weeks ago, instead of chicken noodle soup, I made chicken barley soup.

The toddler immediately exclaimed, “There’s boogers in my soup!” (Incidentally, it didn’t slow the boys down at all. Turns out they love booger soup.)

Today before church I started this recipe in the crock pot. It was ready when we walked in the door, and I served it with wheat thins and a bowl of grapes. Zonya calls it Beef Barley Soup, but here at the Llama household it’s “Simple Sunday Afternoon Booger Soup.”

(I made a few changes to the recipe. I didn't have celery or peppers, so I used 3 cups of carrots. Oh, and I ran out of basil, so I used Italian seasoning. I bought the barley at Trader Joe's and everything else at Aldi.)

You can find this super easy recipe here. Nobody has to know it's healthy. Truly. This soup is delicious!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

not my final answer

What a day.

I babysat for a friend this morning, so I had the toddler and an eleven-month old. The toddler was so excited when she came over, exclaiming, “Can we keep her?” By lunch he changed his tune. “I don’t like her.” Nice. And I don’t like you, buddy. (I’m kidding. Sort of. Don’t send me hate mail.)

Holy cow, I’m tired.

A few days ago, my friend, Em, asked a question on facebook. When do you clean? Or something like that. We all chimed in with our schedules and routines, but this woman has an almost three-year old and a six month old. Honestly. I wonder now, was she really asking us, how the hell do you ever do anything?

Because that’s how I felt today. Like I couldn’t even pee, let alone sweep the floor.

Things got really interesting when I tried to put the baby down for her morning nap. I was rocking her and just as she dozed off, the Toddler ran up the stairs and yelled, “Can I get myself a drink?”


The baby’s eyes popped open.

A few minutes later, the same thing happened.

“Can I have a snack?”

“Yes. You can have a snack.”

The baby was wide awake. I finally gave up on the whole nap thing and we came back downstairs. And found this.

That would be a leftover baked potato. What a great snack, don’t you think? I mean, why go for the apples on the counter or the actual snack box in the pantry when you can have a cold, leftover baked potato?

And the drink? Don’t take the sippy cup of milk in the side door of the fridge. Go ahead and pour blue kool-aid all over the floor.


So, Em? I’m officially changing my answer to your question in light of the day I had today. When I had two very small children in my house, as I did today, I didn’t get much cleaning done. I just did the best I could every day, and that was that.

When the baby’s mom came to pick her up this afternoon, I breathed a sigh of relief. She’s still alive and in one piece and on her way home. And then I remembered my own motto, or shall we say goal, when the twins were small:

Everyone alive at the end of the day.

Sometimes that’s good enough.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

potty training


A week ago today, the toddler got up and asked, “Can I wear undies and use my little potty today?"

And I said, um, “SURE!”

It’s been three steps forward, two steps back, but all in all he’s doing great. And today? Today he pooped on the potty.

I know. It’s TMI. But at my house we’re throwing a party! Well, not really, but we are doing a lot of dancing and clapping. Stop by and we’ll teach you the “potty dance.”

Good times. I can’t believe my “baby” is using the potty. And for the record? Potty training one at a time is a lot easier than two at a time. (At least it has been at my house.)


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

breakfast cookies and shakes

I just gave the kids cookies and shakes for breakfast, and was glad to see them gobble them up. That’s because the cookies were packed with nutritious whole grains and nuts, and the shakes were actually smoothies loaded with fresh fruit and yogurt.

And my kids think I’m the coolest mom in the world.

The smoothies were simple: frozen mangoes, vanilla yogurt, and a little bit of orange juice. Often I use frozen fruit from Trader Joe’s for smoothies--the three berry blend is awesome--but I’ve also taken to freezing my own. Overripe bananas are a great addition to smoothies. Just throw them in your freezer—peel and all—and whip them up with other fruit. (Take the peel off before you put it in the blender.) Have a handful of strawberries leftover from dessert last night? Throw them in the freezer. Overripe pineapple or papaya? Throw them in the freezer. You get the idea.

I found the mangoes on the “clearance” shelf yesterday—four overripe mangoes for a dollar. What a bargain! I chopped them up, put them in my freezer, and was ready to roll this morning. Poke around the produce section of your grocery store for these deals, and if you don’t see a bargain shelf, ask. I’ve bought beautiful, ripe and ready-to-eat fruit for a song, and most grocery stores are thrilled to sell it to you.

You can find the cookie recipe here: Zonya’s Breakfast Cookies.

Don’t let the oat bran and ground flax seed scare you. You can find them in the bulk section of many grocery stores, or in the baking aisle. They may seem expensive at first, but a little goes a long way. Whole grains are so important, and most of us don’t eat nearly enough of them. I made up a huge batch of these cookies a few weeks ago and keep them in the freezer. I pulled a dozen out last night for our breakfast this morning.

And voila. Breakfast is served!

Nutritious. Kid friendly. Economical.

Three of my favorite things.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

naked and unashamed

According to my husband, a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast can fix just about anything. Well, not really, but it can give a person the needed perspective to simply deal with what is.

After a great night’s sleep in my quiet hotel room and a hot breakfast prepared by someone else, I enjoy a leisurely morning of writing, reading and email.

Then as I get ready to climb into the shower, I glance at my reflection in the mirror. (For the record, there are good reasons I don’t have a very large mirror in my bathroom.) As I climb into the shower, I begin to beat myself up. You really need to tone up that flab, lose some weight. And where did those wrinkles around your eyes come from? Is there cream for that? You should pay more attention to these things.

And then I hear myself and stop. Because, really, why do I need to beat myself up when I’m on a desperately needed getaway? What does God want for me today? Surely He’s not looking down at me thinking, “Wow. She’d be great if only she’d drop a few pounds and work out more.”

How can I see myself the way God sees me? Can I see the woman in the mirror, in need of rest, and just curl up and take a nap? Can I see the wrinkles around my eyes with gratitude, for the years and laughter He’s blessed me with? Can I see my chipped nails and chapped hands and acknowledge my own hard work caring for my family each day? Can I look at a body that has had the privilege of hosting life, and respect myself for that sacrifice? Can I see a woman who nurtures her children day in and day out, remembering all that I do, not all that I don’t do?

I stand in the shower and let the water wash over me. I remember grace, and breathe a prayer of thanks. Yes. Grace. It’s the only way I can stand before God. The only way any of us can stand.

How does God see you today? How do you see yourself?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mother's Day gifts

Okay ladies, this post is for the guys. So feel free to leave your browser open for your husband (or sons) to read.

Last year, I posted about mother’s day gifts and got such a great response, I thought I’d do it again. (You can read last year’s ideas here.

So if you’re anything like my husband, the Llama Papa, you really want to do something special for your wife for mother’s day to show her how much you appreciate her. You want to make her happy…you’re just not sure how. Maybe money is tight. Maybe you have no time between now and Sunday. Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to juggle honoring your wife and honoring your mom, and you’re not sure how you’ll fit it all in.

My first suggestion? Ask her. Tell her you want to celebrate her as a mom and ask what would be meaningful to her. And ladies? Tell him. The truth. (If it helps, I told Llama Papa I wanted to be completely alone for two days to celebrate mother’s day. So I’m heading to a local hotel on Friday…home in time for a large family celebration on Sunday.)

Now, I want you to think about your wife (or mom). What does she love to do? Shop? Talk with her girlfriends? Read? Garden? Now, given your particular circumstances of time and money, how can you make that happen for her?

With so many families on tight budgets this year, let me suggest a few low-cost ways to celebrate the moms in your life. (Because, let’s face it, if you can afford nice jewelry and days at the spa, you don’t really need to read this. Go. Now. Book the spa! Buy the jewelry!)

Maybe this is the first year you can’t afford to buy your wife a fancy gift and you feel crummy about it. Trust me. The fancy is optional. Do something thoughtful just for her and she will be thrilled.

For book lovers, give her a book she’s been wanting and a gift card to a coffee shop…plus a day “off.” Maybe Saturday can be her afternoon, if you have family obligations on Sunday.

If she’s nursing and can’t leave the baby, or doesn’t want to, spend some time tidying up the bedroom and tell her you’ll take care of everything for an entire day. Manage the children and household and let her just lounge around her bedroom (with the door closed) and read magazines or nap. Bring the baby to her when it’s time to nurse. Tell her how much she means to you. Bring her meals on fancy dishes with a flower from the garden. Let your children see you honoring their mother for her hard work.

If she likes to shop at garage sales, give her a card with $20 in small bills, the newspaper ads (or if you want to be fancy, a google map of garage sales you know she’d enjoy), and an entire Saturday morning to shop. (By herself or with a friend.)

Does she love to hang out with girlfriends? Give her a gift card to a restaurant you know she likes and send her out for lunch with a friend. Or coffee. Or a movie. Really, just give her time and your blessing to hang out with the girls. (This can work out as a "double" gift if you contact her friend's husband and organize it together.)

Weather permitting, skip the restaurants on Sunday and pack a picnic. This is great with little kids. Find a fun park, eat lunch and let the kids play. It’s way less stressful than eating out on a busy day, and you might actually fit in some adult conversation.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you tell her what you appreciate about her. A mother’s work really is never done, and a kind word can go a long way in encouraging her.

Now, women, one more reminder: don’t make him guess. Tell him exactly what you’d like to do for mother’s day—maybe you want breakfast in bed, or flowers—tell him that. Would I have liked my husband to surprise me next weekend with a “weekend away” to write at a local hotel? Sure. Would it ever have happened if I didn’t actually TELL him this is what I wanted? Probably not. Not because he isn’t fantastic, but because he isn’t a mind reader.

I’d love to hear more suggestions in the comments…what is YOUR ideal mother’s day celebration?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Cars whip past us as we walk to school. Slow down. This is our neighborhood and our children are trying to walk to school, I think. Ever since construction started at a major intersection near our home, people have been taking a shortcut through our neighborhood to avoid the mess.

The unmarked police car comes out of nowhere, lights flashing. As if by magic, the cars slow down.

If I was driving the car that got pulled over, I’d be bummed, thinking, Why should I get a ticket? Everyone is speeding! Getting caught is never fun. And yet the boundaries are there for a reason. In this case, the boundaries protect my children.

How often do I rail against the boundaries, without ever considering why the boundary is there? Not to ruin our fun or stifle our creativity… but to protect.

Monday, April 20, 2009

isn't that the way?

My basement is one big pile today. We’re getting ready for a garage sale with friends this weekend, and using the opportunity to really clear things out. Not only baby toys, but toddler toys too. (Our toddler doesn’t need two sit-and-spins, two rocking chairs…the list goes on.)

And you can guess what the toddler is doing right now as I write this: playing in the basement.

All of the toys he hasn’t looked at for a year seem oh so exciting now that they’re in the garage sale pile.

I can relate. It’s hard to let go of the stuff of life, even when I know I don’t need it. I don’t tend to hold onto things as much as I do emotions. It’s hard to let go of those, even when they hurt me and the people around me. Anger, grudges, even sadness sometimes feel like a warm security blanket. But I know that in order to make room for emotions like joy and contentment, I need to let go of some of the other stuff.

And like the big pile of stuff sitting in my basement, I know I won’t miss it when it’s gone.

Monday, April 13, 2009

teen readers?

Anybody know any teenagers who would be willing to read the first few chapters of a young adult novel and give me their honest feedback on it?

It's about teen pregnancy, targeting young women ages 16-20. If you know anyone in that age range who likes to read, leave me a comment with your email address.

(And if you're the mom of a teenager and would like to read it, leave me a comment too. I'd love your feedback as well!)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jesus and the Easter Bunny

Me: We need to get ready for our party on Sunday.

The Toddler: Party my house?

Me: Yes, we’re having a party at our house with our friends for Easter.

The Toddler: Yay! Jesus!

Me: (Thrilled that my toddler is making this connection between Jesus and Easter. Must be the deeply spiritual home he’s being raised in.) Yes! Easter is all about Jesus being alive!

The Toddler: Yes. Jesus. Alive. Church. CANDY! Easter bunny come my church bring CANDY!

Me: The Easter bunny is coming to church?

The Toddler: Yes. Bringing candy after lunch. Jesus comes too.

Allrighty then. Nothing like lunch with Jesus and the Easter Bunny. I can hardly wait.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

lost in translation

A Brit, and Aussie, and an American walk into a bar…well, not really, but it sounds clever, doesn’t it?

Actually, I just flew in to the Brit's house for the weekend to catch up with my friend who's visiting from Australia for a few weeks.

When I first met D, my Aussie friend, back when we lived in California, I realized that even though we technically speak the same language, communication is not always straightforward.

One time she left a message on my answering machine, “Hey! Do you mind bringing supper for the group tomorrow night?” I listened to the message and thought, “Well, she has some nerve…asking me to bring supper for the entire group!” (We were in a bible study group together that met at her house.)

When I called her, I asked what she had in mind—spaghetti maybe?

“Nah, just a packet of cookies or something.”

Of course. Supper. A light snack.

And so we learned to overcommunicate everything to avoid misunderstanding.

I found myself chuckling yesterday at all of the ways we clash cultures. The Brit has a teenage daughter who asked for a “ham toasty” for lunch. I expected some kind of grilled cheese sandwich, or at least, ham. Nope. It was two pieces of toast with some turkey in the middle. A ham toasty.

Last night we had the loveliest curry for dinner--er, tea--and I noticed everyone used their knifes except me. For curry over rice. How they put up with this barbaric American, i'll never know. But I'm glad they do. My life is richer for knowing them.

Now, I’m off to the coffee shop to get my morning caffeine fix. Not that I don’t enjoy a cup of instant coffee now and then, but, well, um. Right. I’ll be back.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

move back four

Sorry. This is one of Twin B’s favorite games. Yesterday while Llama Papa took the toddler and Twin A to the park, Twin B opted to hang out at home and we settled in for some quality game time. Twin B will be quick to tell you that Sorry is mostly a game of luck, not skill, but still—nobody likes to lose. And about halfway through the game, Twin B. was losing badly.

Just when he would start to pull ahead, get some guys out of start, he would fall behind again. I would get a Sorry card, or trade places with one of his guys, putting him back where he started. And then came the true bad luck—the move back four card. This is a great card to get when you’ve just let your guy out of start, but a real bummer when you’re halfway around the board.

And Twin B. got six in a row.

When he drew the last one, he exclaimed, “Oh, man! Are you kidding me?” And then he flashed his toothless, first grader smile, threw his head back and laughed.

I laughed with him, and we both shook our heads at his rotten luck.

It’s just a game, but I’m glad he can laugh when things aren’t going his way. Sometimes life keeps giving you one Move Back Four card after another, and what else can you do?

Have a good laugh and keep moving.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

shopping and toddlers

It’s like pickles and peanut butter—they’re both great, but they just don’t go together very well. Now, usually the toddler is a good sport, and we have a nice time shopping.

Today was not one of those days.

He didn’t take his nap, which happens now and then. (Especially since he needs to nap early, so he’s up in time to walk the noisy boys home from school.) The plan was to have a snack, do homework, and head to the shoe store. (Buy one, get one half off!)

This is usually a fairly simple process. Measure feet. Pick out shoes. Try shoes on. Buy shoes.

Not today.

Today it was, “pull shoes out of the box and try them on without even checking the size because Mom is totally busy chasing our wild maniac toddler brother around the store to keep him from destroying things.”

Yeah. One of those.

I declared defeat after about twenty minutes, and we headed to the van. “We’ll have to come back later, guys. Without your little brother.”

About halfway home it sunk in, and Twin A. said, “You mean all of that was for nothing?”

“Yup,” I confirmed.

“Oh, come on!” He moaned.

I couldn’t agree more. Now on to the dinner hour. Always an adventure!

Monday, March 16, 2009

big mac attack

I saw my first Bulls game on Saturday night. I’m not a huge sports fan (and by huge I mean not at all unless it’s MY kid playing), but it was fun.

We went with friends from Intervaristy. They received a donation of fifty tickets to the game by a generous donor who wanted them to be able to connect with supporters in a unique way, and we enjoyed hanging out and doing something we wouldn’t normally do. ($46 for EACH TICKET? REALLY?)

The crowd was jazzed. (And by jazzed I mean they could have been a little bit quieter so I could talk to the woman sitting beside me without shouting.)

The whole night was fun, until the end. The Bulls won the game 97-79 against the Hornets. Which is great, right? Except we all had these cards in our hands that said if the Bulls won by 100 points, we could exchange our card for a free Big Mac. So as the clock ran out, people started chanting, “Big Macs! Big Macs!” And then this poor guy (who probably makes quite a lot of money) took a shot and MISSED, and as the clock ran out, the crowd booed. Loudly.

And I thought, didn’t their mothers teach them anything?

Is this what America has become? Our team wins and we boo because we don’t get a free Big Mac?

Thursday, March 5, 2009


The toddler and I went grocery shopping on Monday. He loves cantaloupe, so I was thrilled that they were on sale for only $1.79 each. As soon as I put it in the cart, he started asking, “CANLOPE NOW?

Cantaloupe isn’t really a good “shopping snack,” so I explained that we’d have to eat it at home—after it ripened.

After we got home and unloaded the groceries, he went into full meltdown mode. “CANLOPE NOW! CANLOPE READY NOW!”

But it wasn’t ready. It needed to ripen. I tried to explain that the cantaloupe would be yucky if we ate it now, but he kept insisting, “NO! FINE!”

Toddlers and waiting patiently don’t go together very well.

I can relate. I hate waiting. We’re in a season of waiting right now, and it’s driving me up a wall. And yet God knows what’s best for us. He knows what we need, and He knows when we need it.

(Incidentally, the next morning Llama Papa fed the kids breakfast and sliced into the cantaloupe, much to the toddlers delight. When I walked into the kitchen he smiled and said, “CANLOPE NOW! DADDY SAID YES!” He ate almost the whole thing.)

Friday, February 20, 2009


Anyone know where to find it?

Between three kids, a husband engaged in a job search, writing a novel, and trying to be a halfway decent friend to the people who hang with me in real life, (Hi Dianne! Hi Dana!) I can't seem to keep up with my blog.

I'm still writing, though. I'm working my way through the young adult novel I wrote in November, and joined a critique group to help with the editing process. I officially hate my novel now, but everyone else seems to think it has potential, so I'm sticking with it.

Like everyone else in the Midwest, I'm tired of winter and ready for spring. We're expecting another big snow this weekend, so a few more trips down the sled hill are definitely on the agenda.

And hot chocolate. That's on the agenda too.

Monday, February 9, 2009

elbow envy

This story is just too good not to blog about, but in an effort to thwart any attention from naughty google searches, let’s just rename that special part that only boys have—yes, that one—and call it, oh, an elbow. Hang with me here.

A couple of weeks ago, the toddler was sitting on the potty, and Twin B. was cheering him on. “Look at you! You’re such a big boy, going pee-pee on the potty!”

“Elbow!” The toddler said, pointing at his, um, elbow.

“Yeah, that’s your elbow,” Twin B. said.

“MY elbow.”

“Yes, that’s YOUR elbow. I have an elbow too. And Twin A. has an elbow, and Daddy has an elbow…” his voice trailed off and he whispered, “Mommy doesn’t have an elbow, but we don’t talk about that. It might hurt her feelings.”

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Nice try...

"Hey!" I said to the noisy boys this morning, on the way to their basketball game. "I'm going to stop by the library today and see if we can borrow the CARS movie for family fun tonight."

"Awesome!" Twin A. said.

The noisy boys saw the movie in the theater when it came out and loved it, but haven't watched it since, and our toddler has never seen it, but loves the character "Mater." He will go nuts over the actual movie.

"B. will love it, don't you think?" I asked the noisy boys.

"Totally," Twin B. said, "And if they don't have Cars, why don't you pick up Batman instead?"

Right. Because that's a totally even exchange. Cars. (Rated G) Batman. (Rated PG-13)

Nice try, boys!

(Lucky for us, they had Cars. I love our library!!!)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

let the good times roll!

We know how to party here at the llama household. Or at least the toddler does...

(Those would be sprinkles. All. Over. The. Floor. If you need me, I'll be sweeping. Until sometime next week...)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

for my writing friends...

I have a guest blog post up at the Writing Academy blog.

I went to a writer's retreat sponsored by the Writing Academy a few years ago. (2005 maybe?) The members I met there are some of the finest writers I know, and they continue to encourage me on my own writing journey.

If you're looking for a great faith-based writing group, check them out!

You put what, where?

Winter in the Midwest is harsh on the skin—especially the hands! After a recent round of a nasty cold and flu virus, I found myself with chapped and bleeding hands from washing them so often.

It was just before bedtime, and I couldn’t find my favorite hand cream. (The good, expensive stuff that actually works.) So I grabbed what was handy: Diaper rash cream.

We’ve used Paladin cream since our twins were born seven years ago, and love it. It’s thick and when the babies had a rash, it went away quickly with a thick layer of this stuff.

So I tried it on my hands overnight. And sure enough—in the morning, my hands were soft again!

It sounds strange, I know. But diaper rash cream on my hands in the winter is what Works for Me! Now head over to Shannon’s for more great tips!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I enjoy cooking. Multigrain waffles from scratch, homemade granola, Alton Brown buttermilk pancakes… the noisy boys know good food when they taste it.

Last week they went grocery shopping with me, and begged me to buy these. (It was Aldi, so hey, at least they were cheap.)

(Note -- ours didn't have the chocolate chips, though I'm sure that would have made a lovely addition to an already oh so nutritious breakfast!)

Last Monday I made them for the first time. Just unwrap, heat in the microwave for a minute, and voila. Breakfast on a stick.

Twin B. exclaimed, “This is the best breakfast you’ve EVER made!”

Twin A. agreed. "Yeah, this is a HIT, Mom. Put this on the 'family favorites' list."

And the toddler? He was too busy scarfing his down to say much of anything.

Alrighty then. It's good to know where I stand!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wait! I know the answer to this one...

The noisy boys are growing up fast, and their questions don't always have simple answers. Can they invite so-and-so over to play? What should they do when someone says a bad word at school? What if someone is mean to them, or to one of their best friends?

Behavior that is clearly black and white in early childhood takes on grayish tones as they mature and grapple with relationships and making good choices.

But I'm happy to report that tonight, Twin A's question was easy to answer:

"Mom?" he asked.
"Yeah?" I answered.
"Can we cut a hole in the wall of the basement?" He asked.
"No," I said.

Yup. No problem.

Don't you just love it when it really is black and white? So easy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I take it back


Who was that upbeat woman who posted yesterday and said she was enjoying winter in Chicagoland?

Doesn't she realize it's -20 degrees outside?

Um. Yeah. Everything I said yesterday? I take it back.

I'm cold, people.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

enjoying winter

It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Enjoying. Winter.

Yesterday I was walking the noisy boys to school, pushing the toddler’s turbo jogging stroller through a snow drift, and I had a sudden realization: I don’t hate this. In fact, I kind of enjoy bundling up and walking to school every day.

I’m a California girl at heart, and let me tell you, I hate being cold. I used to wear a coat in fifty-degree weather and stay in because it was, well, raining.

The first few years after moving from the Bay Area of California to the tundra that is the Chicago suberbs, I used to regularly think, “Why did we come here?” It was just so cold, and the memory of California’s sunshine was still too fresh.

Now I walk my kids to school when it’s three degrees.

And I like it.

Who would have thought?

Friday, January 9, 2009


The other night Llama Papa and I were both crashed on the living room floor watching our three boys run around, when the toddler decided to give Daddy belly kisses. He lifted his shirt up and gave it his best slobbery try, and laughed hysterically, though the sound effects weren't exactly what he had hoped for.

Twin B. was observing this, and immediately stepped in to provide big brother guidance. "Here, B. Let me show you," he said, "You do it like this," and proceeded to give Llama Papa a loud and long raspberry kiss, much to the delight of the toddler. Twin B. sat up and said proudly, "Don't worry, I can teach you how to do it. I've got skills."

It's good to have skills. And a sense of humor.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I’ll never forget sitting across from the noisy boys’ preschool teacher for my first ever “parent-teacher conference.” I was nervous and concerned. How were my three-year olds really doing? I wondered.

I got tears in my eyes as their teacher went on and on about how wonderful my boys were, how much she enjoyed having them in her class, and—this was the one that made me cry—how well adjusted they were.

(I secretly feared that I had somehow irreparably screwed them up, in only three short years. Little did I know there would be plenty of time for that later.)

The only thing we needed to work on? Their cutting skills. I remember staring blankly at her across the miniature table thinking, you mean I’m supposed to give these little people scissors? Really? I thought I was doing a good job keeping the scissors away from them.

Fast forward a few years and here we are with another toddler. Another chance to “get it right this time around.” So, you guessed it, I give this one safety scissors to practice his cutting skills.

It’s been interesting, to say the least.

Using scissors is probably his favorite activity right now, besides scooting his chair up to the kitchen counter and stacking up piles of bread in the toaster oven, preferably with butter.

The funniest thing is when he disappears for awhile, then comes back with scissors—usually when we’ve said something truly unreasonable, like “no we’re not having macaroni and cheese for breakfast today.” He goes and finds his scissors, and goes to work on that box. Like if he could just get those noodles out, there might be a chance.

Never a dull moment...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

first humbling moment of 2009

The toddler had an unfortunate run in with a cement floor earlier this week and as a result, has a black and blue eye. As in, it looks like he’s been beaten up. Badly.

Yesterday I needed to run to the store for a few things, and brought the toddler with me.

That was mistake #1.

Every time I turned around, a new stranger was smiling at my child saying, “Oh my goodness! What happened to your eye?” I smiled back and explained the fall, trying my best not to look like a child abuser or neglectful parent.

In the meantime, the toddler was busy wreaking havoc in the produce section. First, he wanted to walk. Fine. Then he wanted to sit in the basket of the cart, which just never works out, so I said no.

That was mistake #2.

Have I mentioned that the toddler is two-and-a-half now?

You already know what happens next. The screaming and crying and full blown temper tantrum because he’s not getting what he wants. I calmly picked him up and wrestled him into the cart seat and strapped him in while strangers stopped to stare at the abusive mother in the produce aisle.

It was a proud moment.

I handled it the way any self-respecting mother would—I strapped him in and gave him a chocolate donut.

(I know, I know. This is not a good way to handle a temper tantrum. But we’re talking extenuating circumstances here.)

And what better way to ring in the New Year than with a reminder to not judge others? I rarely know the whole story of what’s really going on with someone else—or their kids.

Grace. If there’s one word to define my life for 2009, I pray that this is the one. We all need more of it.