My Dream

Every week, my kids look forward to their “day” with the baby.  Contrary to popular belief (which seems to be that older kids will resent having to take care of their little brothers and sisters) my kids were having arguments over who would get to take care of her!  So, at the advice of one of our midwives, we decided to assign each of the older kids their own day with the baby (and on “their” day, they share her with one of their younger siblings.)

My oldest just looked up at me and said:

“What I love about having the baby in the carrier is that I can just lean my head down and kiss her whenever I want to.”

baby carrier

I took this picture after she said it, and she said I should entitle this post “my dream,” because: “I’ve been dreaming about carrying the baby around on my day!”

People who frown on large families really don’t know what they’re missing.


Posted in Bunchkin, Daybook, Parenting, PERSONAL, The Seven of 'em | Leave a comment

You’ve got the cutest little… SISTER!!!

Manuela and I have had the privilege of photographing “E” and her little brother since they were born, and we recently got to meet their new baby sister!  These kids are so incredibly precious, and they all look so much alike!  Here is the newest adorable addition to the family!

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15-03 W-1398 copy (1)

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And last but not least, here are two special pictures that may look very familiar to long-time visitors!  (See the big brother and sister versions Here and Here.)

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15-03 W-1427 copy



Posted in - PHOTOGRAPHY -, Newborns/Babies, Portfolio | Leave a comment

Am I my brother’s keeper?

example of a “neglected” child: “dirty AND unbathed”


(this was written almost a year ago.  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but these same conversations [and cases] keep coming up and I feel it’s finally time to discuss it.)

“I think we have a general problem in our society when our first response is to call on a government organization instead of attempting to TALK TO THE PARENT(S) and offering help.”

I’d just written this in response to someone asking if they should call CPS on a family when I heard a knock on the door.  Our local sheriff was standing on the porch and in an eerie twighlight-zoneish scene, I listened in shock as he informed me that someone had made an allegation against our family.  I don’t want to get into too many details, but suffice it to say that although the charges were declared unfounded, our world was turned upside down and for better or worse, I don’t think we’ll ever be the same again.

The comment I made just before the sheriff came to our door was in response to someone in a facebook parenting group asking if they should call the authorities because a child was overweight and “smelly.”  (According to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services the answer, by the way, is no.)  Shortly after that, I saw this little gem being shared around facebook:


Dirt and “unsuitable clothing” are signs of neglect?  Really?!  According to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, listed among reasons NOT to call CPS are:

“A child who is improperly dressed, but the clothing deficiency does not result in harm to the child” and “hygiene, that although not optimal, does not adversely affect the well-being of the child.”  Children being “unsupervised” is incredibly subjective and as for #3, if a child is really hungry and parents are struggling to feed him/her, should our response really be to call in the authorities?  Or should it be to help a struggling parent?!

Since I made that statement, this same group – comprised mostly of so-called “Christians” – has been mired in more debates over whether it’s appropriate to call the authorities for various situations and I can’t help but be saddened by our obvious willingness to report each other rather than help each other.  Over the course of the week, I heard the following reasons given as a justification to call CPS, rather than help:

“I don’t have time”

“It’s not my responsibility”

“If parents are dumb enough to ___ (insert parenting decision you don’t agree with here) _____ the parents deserve to lose their kids.”

And we’re not talking about physical abuse here, we’re talking about situations where others have looked in and judged that something is inappropriate or “unsafe” without ever speaking to the parents or attempting to gather any facts.  You don’t have time to help?  It’s not your responsibility?  These are lies straight from hell and this is not how Jesus admonished us to treat each other.  Is it worth a few hours of your time, to help a family in need?  Is it worth being late somewhere, skipping an event or two, or missing your favorite TV show to ensure that a family isn’t wrongfully accused of neglect or abuse and children aren’t wrongfully taken away from loving parents? 

Is it worth a little inconvenience to actively love those around us? 

I think it is.

Our actions have consequences.  Several parents during the course of these discussions made the point that “if the authorities are called and nothing is amiss, nothing will happen.”  Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Although many social workers do everything in their power to help families, abuses within the system – within any system – do happen.  Mistakes are made and families lives can – and are – ruined by false accusations and assumptions. Am I saying that the authorities should never get involved?  No, I’m not.  But I am saying that as so-called “Christians” (as the majority of people in America still claim themselves to be), as neighbors, and simply as decent human beings, there is absolutely no excuse for not making the time to help those around us whom we perceive as being in need.

There is no excuse for reporting someone to a social worker simply because they have a different parenting style than you.  There is no excuse for reporting a family if you haven’t taken the time to find out if they really need help.  And there is absolutely no excuse for reporting a family who does need help if you haven’t already done your level best to help them.  There is no excuse for commissioning the government to take care of a problem that Jesus Himself commissioned YOU to help with. 

But, of course, we don’t have time to do that…. and it’s not our responsibility.  Every day, we echo the words of Cain: “Am I my brothers keeper?

I mentioned in the beginning of this article that thanks to the person who called CPS on our family, our family will never be the same again.  Our children learned about prejudice, apathy, false accusation and (dare I say it?) cowardice first-hand.  Their innocence, their trust in the world and those around them, has, in some ways, been taken from them.  As for me, it’s impossible to describe what it feels like to have your worth as a parent weighed by people who don’t know you, yet have the power to take your children away from you and there is nothing you can do about it.  It’s impossible to describe what it feels like when every day you find yourself thinking of a hundred different things someone could misunderstand or judge you for… if our 1 year old plays outside in only a diaper… if our yard gets messy… if the kids have bruises from climbing trees… if they play outside unsupervised… WILL SOMEONE CALL AGAIN?  It’s impossible to describe what it feels like when you no longer feel safe in your own home.

But we also learned about true love, and what it means to be a family in Christ.  Friends we’d known for years, friends we’d met only recently and complete strangers rallied around our family, offering both physical and financial help to help us meet the demands of the social workers – and even go beyond what they’d asked us to do.  Without hesitation, they took time out of their day to support us in every way imaginable.  They cried with us and laughed with us and prayed with us and loved us in unimaginable ways.  We got to see love – true love – in action.

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading [of it]?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain [man] went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded [him], and departed, leaving [him] half dead. “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. “Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. “So he went to [him] and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. “On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave [them] to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

– Luke 10:25-37


Related Article (outside link)

Would you call 911 on another parent?



Posted in Daybook, Parenting, PERSONAL, Politics | Leave a comment

Thursday’s Thought – A Folk Tale About Worlds

A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.

“What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”

“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.

“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”

“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

Posted in Criticism, PERSONAL, Thursday's Thought | Leave a comment

Want awesome kids? Treat them as well as you’d treat your dog.


*Disclaimer!  I’m not perfect, my kids aren’t perfect, and I don’t employ anything I’m writing about here nearly consistently enough.  But I have some amazing kids and I’ve had at least a few successes so I’d like to employ the old adage… do as I say and not (always) as I do.

Last week, we finally brought our dog, Daily, into the house.  We always meant for him to be an indoor dog, but after I got pregnant I felt too miserable to do much of anything with him and outside he went.  But now things are starting to settle down around here, so he’s back inside.  I’ve been watching some training videos and as I’ve been walking him through the training steps, I’m struck by how much sense it makes … not just for training dogs, but for training kids, too.

Most of us understand that dogs need to be trained, at least to some extent.  We take our dogs to obedience classes, or find online videos and books to learn how to train them at home.  But how often do parents think of training their children?  How often do parents make plans to teach them desirable behaviors, as opposed to punishing undesirable behaviors?  If you were to raise a dog the way most people raise their kids, you’d end up with a spastic, aggressive dog (I know, I raised several of these before I knew any better.)  I think one of the reasons there are so many reports on how damaging spanking is stems from the fact that parents who spank their children are often parents who don’t train their children. Rather than teaching a child, in a stress-free environment, the behaviors they want from their kids (training), parents correct a child after he/she has done something they don’t want them to do (punishing.)  For example…

If I want to teach my child not to throw food from his highchair, it’s going to be 1,000 times less stressful for all of us if I don’t wait until he’s throwing his snacks across the room while I’m busy trying to cook lunch or field an important phone call.  If I’ll instead take a few days to teach him what to do with his food while I’m not stressed or busy, I’m much less likely to react out of anger or frustration if my child does throw his food.  Considering the fact that throwing food is fun, instead of telling him “no” or punishing him for throwing food, I could spend some time figuring out a way to make keeping food on his tray rewarding. As a wise mother once told me: it’s always best, when possible, to tell your children what to do, not what not to do.  (And as a wise dog instructor once said: if you have to correct your dog, you’re not being creative enough.)  A great example of this can be seen in the following video… a woman is teaching her dog to stay out of the road without punishing him when he does go into the road.  She makes staying in his yard rewarding for the dog… with a little thought, this can be done with kids, too!

As I’ve been going through training sessions with my dog, it has occurred to me how similar dog training is to child training (and I unapologetically use the word “training” here.  No, I’m not equating my children with dogs, but by and large most of us are probably a lot less stressed out by our dogs than we are by our children, and that’s probably because we’re afraid to “train” our children.)  Few people ever even consider training their children.  Here are some things I’ve learned from training my dog, that I think every parent would benefit by practicing with their kids.  According to the “experts,” there are three phases in training:


During the “learning” phase, dogs are taken to a place that is free from distraction and taught a simple command (one at a time.)  This is done entirely through rewards (we lure the dog into a sit and as soon as his bottom hits the ground, he’s rewarded.)  No corrections are given, we’re simply teaching the dog how to behave and rewarding correct behavior.

During the “distraction” phase, we continue teaching the same command as before, while adding distractions on an increasing level.  For instance, we might take bring someone into the room while we’re telling our dog to “sit.”  Having successfully achieved this, we might take him to a busy street and tell him to “sit.”  Again, good behavior is rewarded.

During the “correction” phase, we teach the dog that he is required to obey, regardless of what he’s doing (or would rather be doing) at the time.  The correction phase doesn’t start until we are 110% positive that the dog knows the commands we are giving him, and corrections are consistent and immediate (withholding a treat, a firm verbal “no,” a snap of the collar, etc.) displeasing enough that the dog doesn’t ignore us but not so intense that the dog shuts down (the type of correction needed varies for every dog.)  Done correctly, the correction phase is over very quickly, and results in a dog who obeys 100% of the time.

Sounds pretty simple, right?  But the majority of parenting isn’t done this way – far from it!  Parents wait until children do things the parent thinks they shouldn’t do, and then children are punished for it – often without even realizing it’s wrong.  Punishing a child for drawing on the walls comes to mind… was the child ever taught not to draw on the walls?  Or were they caught, marker in hand, and punished?  Another example is a child throwing a tantrum in a grocery store.  Was the child ever taught how to act at the grocery?  I’m not asking whether the child was told how to act at the store, I’m asking how many parents take their kids on mock grocery runs where the only objective is to train their children on how to behave in the store.  Waiting until we’re trying to fill a cart on a thirty minute grocery run is not the best time to teach Little Johnny how to behave at Kroger.

What if, instead of telling Johnny how he’s expected to behave at the grocery and then taking him in at 5:00 on a Friday night, we practice at home for a few days?  What if we make it a game, emptying our cabinets and playing “Grocery Day?”  From there, we could take Johnny to the store on a Monday afternoon when the place is practically empty and spend five or ten minutes playing “Grocery Day” in real life.  This could happen quite a few times before we attempt a long day out during a busy day.

Seriously, want to raise great kids who are well-adjusted and respectful?  Learn how to train a dog!  (Learning the principals behind clicker training would, I think, be especially beneficial.)  As one author wrote:

“If they can teach a 9,000 pound Orca to do tricks at Sea World, we can teach our kids to take out the garbage without complaining.”


Related Articles:

How have you raised such well-behaved kids?

Posted in Discipline/Discipleship/Raising Godly Children, Parenting, PERSONAL | Leave a comment

But God…


The bible says that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy.” (Rev 19:10)  I heard a pastor say once, in reference to this verse, that giving, hearing, and sharing testimony builds our faith and draws us closer to God.  Since then, I’ve discovered that whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by fiances or circumstances or just life in general, if I’ll go back and consider consider the things that God has done for us in the past it gives me a sense of peace and helps me to rely more fully on His promises.  Not long ago, in reference to the subject of God’s miraculous provision, I told a friend: “I have a story to tell you!”  He answered, “you always have a story to tell me!”  And I guess I do.  God has done SO MANY incredible things for us and with us and to us.  This is another story….

A couple of months ago, things were looking pretty bleak around here, financially speaking.  We were about to have a baby (and had paid almost nothing toward our midwife bill,) our car was totaled during an accident on the ONLY snow day we’d had all winter and our basement had finally been fixed but cost us over $1,000 more than we thought it was going to cost us.  Music tuition was due, we needed new homeschool curriculum and, more importantly, a new car, our clothes dryer was broken (which was fine – even preferable – during the warm months but was not going to work during the winter), our cow had to be butchered ($100 to transport her and an additional $250 for processing), we needed clothes for the baby (we’d lost all our old clothes in the basement flood,) the broken window in our living room still needed to be fixed and we needed to start buying hay for the animals, now that the growing season was over.

We had approximately $0.00 to spend toward any of it.

Sitting down together to figure out what on earth we were going to do, we realized that we were going to have to make some sacrifices.  Big ones.  First of all, we were going to have to drop music lessons for a semester.  Not only could we not afford the lessons themselves, we couldn’t afford to pay the gas to get the kids there every week and we didn’t have a vehicle to get them there, even if we could.  We also decided to stop renting the land next door.  This meant keeping six milk goats, two bucks, three sheep and a very large calf on our one acre of property.  But considering that rent on the land next door was an additional $125 per month and we were going to have to spend an additional $200 each month on hay, we didn’t see that we had any other choice.  Jon would also pick up as much extra work as possible.  Other than that, our plan included “just hang on” until we got our tax return and pray that we’d have the additional who-knows-how-much we’d need to cover everything else.

But God

When they found out we were not going to be able to give the kids music lessons, some amazing people stepped forward to make it possible for us.

When we spoke to our neighbor about no longer leasing his land, (without explaining why or letting him know that we couldn’t afford it) he actually offered to lease it during the winter for FREE, if we could pick it back up during the Spring (which we can, since we won’t be feeding the animals hay by then.)

Our midwife asked if I’d be interested in paying off our bill by making cloth pads for her (check out her site at, she also sells cloth diapers, clothing and salves made with natural ingredients.)  In another few weeks, our bill will be completely paid off.

My mother-in-law sent us money we were able to use toward baby clothes

My dad sent money to help us with our window and “whatever else we needed.

My sister-in-law, who had a baby just a few weeks before we did, gave us her old dryer when her dad bought her a new washer and dryer as a baby gift.

Our friend’s Patrick and Manuela paid our cow’s hauling and butchering fee in exchange for beef.

My aunt sent the kids a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble which we were able to use to purchase ALL of our homeschool books for this year, as well as some other things, and she also sent money for the baby, which I was able to put toward material for making more cloth diapers (just in time, as she’s almost outgrown all her newborn diapers, and we’ll have TWO in the same size diaper.)

Manuela and I had a very large photo shoot resulting in quite a few orders, which will enable us to buy a plethora of little things we need.

Jon was able to pick up an extra day of work every week.  Where he works, this is not always (or even usually) possible … he’s had more work in the last two months than he’s EVER had before, which enabled us to save money toward buying a car.

And tomorrow….

We are going to purchase a really nice car from a friend very inexpensively and my brother has offered to pay for the repairs it needs!!!

So there we were, just a few short months ago, with no idea how we’d ever take care of all our needs…



Related Articles:

Testimony of Providence

Unless the Lord Builds the House

Should I pray for that, too?

Ask (for what?) and you shall receive

Daily Bread



Posted in Daybook, Inspirational, Victory Journal | Leave a comment

Kids Need a Life

Not long ago, I had a comment on my article, In Defense of the Duggar Defenders, that went something like this:

“Kids need to be able to pursue their own interests… helping out around the house is fine, but kids should have a life.”

The interesting thing about this statement is the assumption that a child’s “own interests” will automatically fall outside the realm of household responsibilities, and that in order for a child or teen to “have a life” that “life” should be experienced away from home.  I think the shift in the way we raise our kids has caused this false idea to flourish.  While parents are now becoming busier and busier, chauffeuring their kids to this activity and that activity, kids used to be raised to pursue domestic activities which actually served to help their family.  That’s not to say that pursuing activities outside of the home is wrong or bad or somehow not as good as pursing domestic activities, it’s only to say that our culture now accepts the false idea that only interests pursued outside the home can be exciting and fun and that those pursued inside it are somehow less important, or not valuable at all.  The older my kids get, the more I’m realizing that people really don’t understand that kids can actually enjoy cooking and cleaning and that children may actually  want more responsibility as they get older.


The reality is that children will enjoy whatever they’re taught to enjoy, whatever they see those around them enjoying, and whatever they have a positive experience doing (if you have any doubt about that, just consider the fact that some children actually want to walk around hitting a little ball again and again until it lands in a little hole – up to eighteen times.)  Baseball is fun for the child who grows up playing catch in the backyard with mom or dad and watching the Red Sox Yankees on TV.  It’s miserable for the child who is pushed to achieve, ridiculed when he strikes out and is forced to practice against his will.  In the same way, we can make domestic activities fun or drudgerous.  We can make them something to look forward to or something to avoid.  We can actually raise our children in an environment where cooking, cleaning, sewing and helping others are the activities they look forward to… just as much as other kids look forward to that friday-night football game.


How do I know?  Because I’ve seen this play out in my own life.  Inadvertently, and without consciously being aware of it, we’ve raised children whose favorite things to do revolve around family life.  They love to cook, sew, hunt take care of the animals and – believe it or not – some of them even like to clean.   My third daughter (age 10) recently started to do an amazing job on her chores, because my oldest daughter told her I wasn’t going to give her any more chores until she could be trusted to do a good job on those she already had.  She’s now determined to prove to me that she deserves more chores.  My oldest son asked me not long ago if he could have cleaning the toilet as one of his chores every day and my oldest told me, while I was pregnant and feeling miserable: ” I’m really glad that you haven’t been feeling well with this pregnancy… I feel like it’s a God-thing… I feel like you and I are a team now and I feel like we’ve gotten a lot closer.”  If any of the children were asked to help me more around the house during my pregnancy it was definitely my  oldest.  And yet, instead of feeling resentful or angry about this, she felt thankful.  Not long ago, she wrote me a letter which, among other things, said: “I love to cook, sew, practice, and do school with you!”


As I wrote in my response to the commenter, it’s unfortunate that we live in a society that considers “having a life” to mean going to the movies, playing sports and watching TV when none of these things actually have to do with living. 

It really doesn’t have to be that way.

LR -8107


Related Articles:

Helping Hands and Tying Heartstrings

Helping Hands and Willing Hearts

Why we don’t let our kids read books (it’s not what you think)

Do all things Without Grumbling or Complaining

“Just wait until they’re teens” … I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it.

Sibling Rivalry?  Sorry, don’t buy that, either.

“How have you raised such well-behaved kids?”

“Fair” is where they sell pigs

My Dream

baby carrier


Posted in Baby Bug, Bitty, Bunchkin, Bundle, Daybook, Discipline/Discipleship/Raising Godly Children, Homemaking, Parenting, PERSONAL, Pookey, Seven Quick Takes, Shmooey, The Seven of 'em, Who-Be-Bee | Leave a comment