Currently//Volume Two

I mentioned I'm taking an online photography class through the Define School, so currently, I'm basically thinking through my vision for photography (and for blogging, and for parenting, etc, etc), and having my camera at the ready to take note of our life in its *normalcy.* So this week, you get a sneak peak into my life via photos....these are what my days are looking like right now.

(*Please note: parenting has been extra hard lately, so having pictures of joyful kids playing together is such a rare treat that dinner got literally put on the back burner so I could capture some of these moments. They aren't the "norm" right now.) Also, consider this your warning--there are lots of pictures (but I've been a major slacker lately with photography so I think this just makes up for all the phone pictures I've used on this blog lately...)

please notice that dinosaurs will always dominate the world....

and this picture is entirely too grainy, I'm not sure why (suspicious of my ISO setting)

Does anyone else walk through their bedroom and look longingly at their bed????

*I'm linking up again this week with the Currently series on A Mama Collective blog...


Hospitality--Thinking Beyond the Walls of Our Homes

Labor Day came and went, and I think it took me all week to recover from sweating so much, because we took our kids to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, along with every
other person in San Antonio (or so it seemed) on perhaps the hottest day of the summer (or so it felt).

They advertised a great Labor Day sale--buy season passes now and use them until the end of next season. We've never had passes to Fiesta Texas, but we decided this would be a fun thing to do when the weather gets better. Of course, they offered this deal but then made everyone wait in three different long lines--you had to go through the first line with 500 people in front of you, only to be told to go to the next line and wait all over again, and repeat that one more time. It took way over an hour just to get into the park.

By the time we got into the final line, we had gone through all sorts of emotions by then--frustration, anger, sarcasm, almost tears, and finally were at the point of just cynicism and whatever-will-be-will-be feelings. Our clothes were drenched with sweat and we had already drunk all of our water.

But then we got behind this sweet little family in line, and the mom turned around and offered us an umbrella to shade us from the scorching sun, which we accepted with grateful hearts. Then she offered misting spray bottles to the children to keep them cool, complete with really sweet words and smiles, which quickly lifted our spirits and made me think, "She must know Jesus, she just must."

This woman had the gift of hospitality--she shared her things and was purposing to make us feel comfortable, even in the hottest, sweatiest south texas amusement park line. What a gift! And it was such a reminder to me of how we have the opportunity to make people feel "at home" and at ease, even when we aren't at home.

Sure, hospitality by it's definition has definite connotations of being "home" related...but it definitely can transcend the walls of our houses and reach out beyond the actual comforts of our home. It has more to do with putting other people first, even in our own discomfort (that sweet lady was hot and sweaty too), and finding simple ways to cause people to relax and feel less worried and frantic.

After that encounter, I wondered what ways I can be hospitable, even when I'm not at home. I feel like I'm striving to be the kind of woman that welcomes and helps people feel comfortable in my home, I so desire that! But it truly is work, looking past a mess to see the person who's there needing love, forgetting my to do list and turning on a cup of coffee for a friend. This striving for a hospitable heart reminds me that it goes much further than our literal homes.

How can I welcome someone into the environment we are in and make them feel comfortable and at ease...this lady really did relieve that desire to complain about our situation, and her efforts truly lifted our spirits and caused us to forget about our annoyances and begin to be happy again--just a simple act of sharing an umbrella and offering misting bottles.

Cultivating hospitality starts in the heart and overflows from there--your home doesn't have to be perfect in order to begin hospitality. You don't even have to be at home to be hospitable, if your heart is seeking to put others first and show love in all areas of life.

What ways can you (and I) be hospitable this week, when we aren't in the comforts of our home???



I've been enjoying reading some other bloggers on A Mama Collective, from the Currently link-up, so I thought I'd join in too, because it seems like so much fun, and a great way to sort of analyze what's going on in my heart and life.

Thinking About//  Okay, honestly, I've been thinking a tiny bit about my upcoming birthday--it's a big one for me--35. I know, I know, it's still so young to some of you who have been here many years before me, but please tell me you remember feeling like this was a turning point in your mind, not to mention, your body...

I do believe this has been one of the years that I am feeling the onset of my 30's--ummm, things like my body doesn't bounce back to it's happy weight like it used to after indulging in too many sonic happy hour drinks over the summer or too many late night bowls of ice cream. Oh, and also, I now have joined the ranks of moaning when I squat down to pick something up off the floor. I really try not to, but I catch myself, or even get kind of stuck in the kneeling position and have to push off to get up. And now I have officially shared too much with you and am not helping myself feel younger at all!!!!

And as far as birthdays go, I usually can't think of anything exactly that I want, but this year I'm looking for a new leather tote...OR a new leather jacket...(having gone hunting for totes to try them on for size before I order one, I ran into a jacket I've drooled over approximately every single time I've seen it and it made me wonder if I'd rather wear new leather, or carry new leather this fall/winter)...

Feel free to weigh in on this subject, I'd love to hear your take on my current (very 1st world) dilemma.

Reading//  I wish I could say I read a book a week this past summer, but I can't. I watched way too many episodes of Leave it to Beaver with my children, and actually read books to them instead (which is the story of my life these years--I read a ton, but it's usually to my children). We happen to be interested in the World War II time period right now, so we finished a really good book Snow Treasure, by Marie McSwigan and are currently in the middle of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, by Judith Kerr, which is wonderful as well.

For my own reading I am working my way through The Art of Neighboring, by Randy Frazee, which I started after my sister in law Naomi mentioned it on her blog a few months ago (although I can't find that exact post). I'm enjoying it immensely--it's a look at the great commandment Jesus gave to love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself, expounding on the neighbor as being your "actual" neighbor and not just your theoretical neighbor (everyone loves to use the word neighbor broadly, like it can mean anything, but in this book they want us to approach it as if it really is talking about the actual people who live by you). And even I'm very much finding that I align with it in many ways and we have thought through so many of the things it mentions, I'm still so convicted, especially when it asked me to list the names of 8 neighbors that live around me, and something personal about each of them.

Can you do that? (I can't).

Listening to// My favorite place to listen to music is in the car, and I sing out and harmonize and everything. I sometimes wonder if it bothers my children, but they sing too so it must not. Right now we are loving the Seeds series of CD's which I've mentioned before, so that's pretty much always on.

When I need some music for me, I'm stuck on the Gungor radio station on Pandora. I love, love, love the music put out by the Gungors, and then you get a variety of other really talented Christian artists on this station too. When we just need to jam, like on the way to the pool, we turn on the Owl City radio on Pandora. And then when I need to zone or cover up the noise of children fighting or yelling in the background I turn up the Classical Music station real loud and honestly it usually helps to soothe and silent the crowd (and sometimes we just listen to it for enjoyment, not therapy).

Watching//  As mentioned several times before, Leave it to Beaver has made it's way into our family. We really enjoy this series, and it makes me laugh to see the dilemmas even the Cleaver family had back then and the similarities to now--for instance, in one episode Ward and June are wondering if it's time for Wally to have his own phone upstairs...aka our dilemma of getting our oldest her own cell phone...proof that there is nothing new under the sun.

But when Luke and I need a moment together of non-childish tv watching, I have to admit that we watch Jimmy Fallon on Late Night, except I'm too old to watch it the same night, so we record it and watch it the next night. Sometimes, you just need to end the day with a good laugh. (but please, don't take this as an endorsement for the show--as usual, crudeness happens on this show sometimes and so you must use your own judgment here, as always).

Thankful For// Our community, especially those who have been faithfully meeting with us in our home once a week for the last few months. My heart is so encouraged by the families God is bringing into our lives, how open and comfortable our dialogue has been, how free we are to share with one another, to throw ideas into the discussion that are risky or different, and to embrace each other's thoughts and explore them. I'm looking forward to how the Lord will knit our lives together in deeper and more meaningful ways as the year rolls on.

And then, as always, I'm thankful for kissable squishy cheeks to kiss, and when Landis tackles me for an impromptu hug, which happened multiple times this week; and how can I forget his bright blue eyes that pierce my momma heart.

Excited About//  Naomi and I are taking an online photography class together this month through the Define School, and I'm looking forward to it, even though I'm shaking in my boots (I feel so inadequate, and wonder if I'll be able to accomplish anything worthy, but excited for this opportunity).

What are you up to, currently?

*check out this Currently post to see more links....


Life in Community//Words of Encouragement from a Friend

Sometimes all you need is someone to say this one thing and all of a sudden the missing piece to the puzzle in your brain has been found. And tonight after our community group, that's what happened. It's funny because it was nothing profound--just a simple after conversation I had with a friend, a seasoned mom who has been through much in her life and has plenty of experience and wisdom to share. I was bemoaning the fact that I have to sit in the car so long everyday picking up children, and she simply said, "You just have to get to where you think about it as part of your day's work."

And it clicked--it's extremely weird but it clicked! Probably due to my homeschooling background where every moment is a treasured moment and a learning experience, I just feel like I'm losing two hours of my life (and my kids' lives) by just being in the car.

But this is my work. I may not be hovering over a desk next to my child teaching her to divide, or diagramming sentences on a board, or cutting up veggies for dinner, or folding clothes, but this job of hauling children around and waiting, sitting, driving, inching forward, passing out snacks, handing out devices, listening to books on CD's, this is part of my work. And I can either complain about it in my heart and constantly wish for something else, some way to make it easier, or I can embrace it as part of my job description and make the best of it.

I can get creative, listen to new things, play road trip games with the kids who are in the vehicle, look for grassy knolls to hang out in, stop in for frozen yogurt, play at the playground. I don't want to live this year and the rest of my life feeling like the drive to and from school is a waste of time. However menial it may seem, this is part of my work.

So thank you friend, if you ever read this (I sent you a text so you know I appreciated your words)...

And this is one more reason I love community--time spent with people, sharing our lives together, experimenting with Luke's new smoker and eating together, serving my favorite potato salad, loving on each other's kids and washing sticky chocolatey fingers, watching as the beach ball was kicked repeatedly into the ceiling and the marshmallow gun was aimed one too many times at an innocent bystander, talking about our lives--because we can encourage each other in such simple ways.

And it truly makes me worship the Creator even more because of His beautiful gift of the church. He did not leave us alone, friends. He left us to be Jesus followers with other Jesus followers, what a sweet and precious gift.


A Debriefing of the First Week of School//Some Quick Lunch Ideas

I need to debrief a little, because this was our first week back to school, and there was no slow gentle entrance to it all. Monday morning came and we've been going at a whirlwind's pace ever since.

First of all, Amaleah is now in junior high. This just can't be, has it really been that long since I pushed that girl out of my body? So, this just means that we are discussing things like which emoticons are appropriate to use with your friends while texting, how messy is too messy for a messy bun (yep, there's an exactness about messiness, it has to look just right), and why in the world did some kid show up to school in a limousine on the first day? Not to mention that she has a PowerPoint presentation due on Friday and has needed to use my computer way more than I'm comfortable with this week (but surely it's not time for her to have her own, I mean we just went through a whole summer trying to figure out if she should have a phone or not and I don't think I can handle any more major life changes than that right now.)

notice the glow of Amaleah's phone against her shirt. still working on boundaries here...

But because of this whole new junior high thing, now I have two kids at two different schools (and technically three for three starting next week when Landis starts preschool again). What this means is that we have to leave 10 minutes earlier so as to swing by the elementary school and drop off Julia, then forge our way through school zones to get to the junior high, where no one cares where you drop your kid off they just need to be in their class by 8:15 sharp...and then do this all over again in the afternoon except it takes an hour because she gets out of school 30 minutes after Julia does, which means a really long time in the car with my other two children who either are fighting or climbing all over the car like hooligans.  All this leads to starting our afternoons one hour later, with kids wondering why dinner isn't on the table earlier (why must we always explain things!) and then shuffling kids around to various and a-sundry activities. I feel a little panicky right now just thinking about it. Next week we add L's school, which should be exciting.

And to get back to Julia, she's in 3rd grade now and I can hardly believe that either--she graduated from a backpack to a messenger bag and is entering the phase of sport shorts and T-shirts. And she has two teachers this year which makes her seem all that much bigger switching classes and all, and has a poster board project due on Friday. There aint no easing into things around here, they mean business. And she's not the new kid this year...she has already reached out to a new girl and made friends with her, and I couldn't be more pleased with her for that.

So while we are adjusting to the rigor of the school year, and dreaming back to the days where we could sleep in and head to the pool whenever we wanted, the plus side of all this is special time with my boy. He randomly told me yesterday that he's so glad to be home with me and have special time with me...melt a mother's heart right there. And, I up and decided to open the phonics book again with him and he's reading! Seriously, this boy was obviously ready because I barely even had to explain how letters go together to form words, he just started sounding things out and voila that kid is reading!

I'm sure most of your lives have been the same too, and it's at these times I find myself remembering that there are seasons for everything, and it's okay to be busy, as long as our business is well chosen and we are making time for moments together. I sometimes wish I could just have my kids home with me all the time, but then that would be homeschooling, and at this point that's not for me, and that doesn't fix everything anyway. I find my soul and heart are more at rest these days when my job is nurturing, providing for, hauling, snuggling, helping with homework and doing behind the scenes things, even if our activity makes us feel busier. I remember the days of homeschooling and seriously my spirit seemed to be in so much more turmoil with handling all the things at home while balancing educating my kids and attempting to inspire them to love learning, all while dealing with attitudes and the like. For me, summertime is now the time I use to embrace being with my kids all the time and to soak it up, enjoying just focusing on them and including them in the everyday life.

Ah, but I ramble. All this to say, we are tired this week but hopeful for the settling in of a routine, and enjoying the difference in seasons and what that brings. I'm remembering from the book A Praying Life that it's okay to be busy, but it's not okay to have a busy mind.

So here's to all of you, in whatever stage you are in, as you merge into this new season and settle into what's best for your family.

And for your enjoyment, here's a list I came up with last year of things to add to your kids lunches. I keep mine on the refrigerator for when I'm wandering around the kitchen with no clue what to send. Click here for the full post from last August.

Main ItemsFruitsVeggies/ Side Items
taco meatmelonsfrozen peas (will thaw)
shredded chickenblueberriescarrot sticks/ baby carrots/ carrot coins
chili/ taco soupstrawberriesbroccoli florets (raw or steamed)
beansgrapescucumbers (rounds or sticks)
chicken saladclementines (easy peel)olives (pitted, any variety)
diced thick cut hamdiced kiwisteamed snow peas
cubed chicken meatpetite apples, wholeplain pasta
meatballsmangoes (diced)rice (mexican, brown, stir-fried)
turkey burgerspre-pkgd apple saucenuts (if allowed)- cashews, pistachios, walnuts
fajita meat diceddried fruitgrape tomatoes
soup (canned, leftover)red, yellow, bell peppers
dinner leftoversdiced sharp cheddar
chicken nuggets, coldcheese sticks/ string cheese
pigs in a blanketpre-pkgd cheese rounds
pizza rolls
mini quiche
macaroni and cheese
pepperoni slices

Snacky SideFun ItemDips
tortilla chipssemi-sweet choc.chipsranch dressing (made with yogurt, opt)
goldfish/ cheeze itsdark chocolate marinara sauce
saltines/ ritz crackerschoc. covered pretzelketchup
whole wheat crackersyogurt cupchic fil-a sauce
pita chipsdrinkable yogurthummus
tortillas, cut in stripsone hershey's kisswhite bean dip 
pretzelsyogurt cov. pretzelyogurt fruit dip
Lara bars/ cliff barsfruit chewshomemade pimento cheese
granola barfruit leatherpeanut, almond butters
meat stick/ beef jerkymini muffins 
whole grain bread