Going nowhere

As an introvert and avid indoorsman living with nine active and socially-functional family members, I’m often excluded from activities that the rest of my family participates in.  This is perfectly fine with me.  My husband likes to go all the places and do all the things so he handles most of the parent-y stuff around here.

The more kids I have, the more of a hermit I become.  That’s not because I’d rather stay home or because I’m anti-social or because leaving the house requires that I put on a bra, although all of this is true.  It’s also because going anywhere with eight children requires a MASSIVE amount of preparation, coordination, organization  and patience.  None of which I have in any great (or even moderate) amounts.  In his book Dad is Fat, Jim Gaffigan writes: “if one body exerts force on five other bodies, no body goes anywhere.”  This is an accurate description of exactly what happens every time my family tries to leave the house.

Jon, of course, is much better about this than I am.  He doesn’t let little things like cleanliness get in his way at all.  He has no problems taking the kids out looking like a group of Fagin’s orphans exiting the slum to pick pockets.  (I found out the other day that he recently took one of our children to the grocery store barefoot.  Not the baby,  [I do that, too] but one of the older children.)  Usually, he’ll ask if I’d like to participate in whatever “fun” activities he’s thinking up and usually, I’ll decline.  This is an actual transcript of our weekly conversations:

“Do you want to go-”
“Do you want to play-”
“Do you want to have-”
“Well what do you want to do?”
“I’ll take the pictures.”


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Eau de Skunk

My oldest two girls have started making soap to help support their horse, for which I’m selfishly grateful. For one, I’m allergic to every type of artificial smell there is and I looooove homemade soap, and secondly, I love the fact that on the day they make soap, the house smells like lavendar or lemon or ylang-ylang instead of poopy diapers and spoiled milk.

We’ve had a lot of interesting smells in and around our home over the years… eight kids, a small farm, roughly 6,738 pets including one very large rottweiler with bowl control issues… I’m sure you can imagine.  (Actually no… you probably can’t.  It’s really better that way.)  I think the worst, though, was the time my husband killed a skunk… on our back porch.

I’ve asked him to share the story, in his own words:

We’d just moved the chickens to the new coop when a skunk started eating the eggs.  This went on for weeks and it was obvious the creature wasn’t interested in my attempts to negotiate. Had there been some type of diplomatic approach to the situation, I’d have gladly taken it, but since individual property rights were clearly being violated, another alternative had to be found.

Thus, the hunt began.

I started creeping out to the chicken coop each night with a pistol and a flashlight, waiting for the opportune time to wreak havoc upon my quarry.  But it seemed as soon as I began to hunt the skunk, he stopped coming around. Then one evening, just after Rina had left to go to town (which is the ONLY reason it was possible for ANY of the following events to take place,) one of my daughters pointed to the back porch and said excitedly “Daddy! There’s the skunk!” I ushered the small children to the back bedroom and quickly retrieved my weapon. Leaning out of the bathroom window, I fired one round which found it’s target. In my zeal to remove the egg-stealing marauder, it never occurred to me that executing a skunk on the back porch might not be the best idea. I really should have known better.  As a nurse, I know that smooth muscle relaxes with sudden trauma, but it hadn’t occurred to me to consider how this might affect this particular creature’s anatomy before slaying it so close to our residence. My private celebration over the killing of my prey quickly turned to dread as I noticed copious amounts of liquid stench oozing from the backside of my recently dispatched foe. The odor quickly filled the entire house. I returned to the children’s bedroom to inform them of the news only to find all three of them hiding their entire bodies under their covers, with just their eyes peeking out over the edge. They had only one question: “Daddy… how long is that SMELL going to last?” I gave the most intellectual answer I could think of at the moment: “I don’t know.”

I’ve since learned the answer to that question: Long enough to make me happy to donate a few eggs each night to the local skunk population in order to avoid ever experiencing it again.


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Time Marches On…

The wrist brace I now have to wear to prevent pain when I’m working at the computer or sewing machine. Talk about feeling OLD!


“Just wait until you’re older,” my friend, just a few years older than I, told me.  We were training for a half marathon and although it was grueling for us both, my friend was complaining of aches and pains that I wasn’t feeling at all. Inwardly, I scoffed at her warning and thought to myself “age is just a number! I’ll never let myself feel old.”



Something seems to have happened as I move closer to the ripe old age of 40. Some cosmic light has switched on (or off, as the case may be,) and it seems that every time I look in the mirror, there is some new evidence of my slow degeneration. Wrinkles that weren’t there the night before. Loose skin under my neck. Bags under my eyes, super-sized pores and I swear my butt hangs several inches lower than it used to. My eyebrows, once my best feature, are now in full- out rebellion and must be trimmed and gelled into some semblance of submission as the hair that was once on top of my head migrates to all sorts of regions it decidedly does NOT belong. I have AGE SPOTS, GRAY hairs on my chin and EXCEEDINGLY LONG nose hairs.

But an interesting thing has happened as I’ve been faced with these changes I can do little about. I find I’m making peace with my body, exactly as it is. Because lets face it: barring surgery there is little I can do that will alter much at this point. My breasts, long and flat from nursing eight children, just aren’t going to get any perkier. My upper arms, loose and floppy, aren’t going to firm up any time soon. My stomach, stretched again and again from multiple pregnancies, will probably always look more like a lump of dough than a washboard. Time’s march along my body is, for the most part, irreversable. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

Maybe it’s because, along with the physical changes time brings, there are mental shifts that come along. Maybe it’s because… well, I’ve had eight kids, for goodness sakes, and it’s about durn time I give up hoping to look like anything other than the grand multipara that I am. This is the body the Lord gave me and every stretch mark, age spot, dimple and stray hair that I’ve picked up along the way tells a story. It might not be the story that I would have liked to tell, of hours spent at the gym, consistent healthy eating or regular spa treatments (ha!) But it tells the story of a woman, a family, and a little farm. It tells the story of eight beautiful, healthy children and a life lived, to the best of my ability, walking with the Lord. It’s my story. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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The Perfect Day

Sometimes God blesses us in unexpected and surprising ways. I was 21 years old and visiting my grandmother as I’d been doing every weekend for several months. She was taking a late nap and I was enjoying the splendor of the view from her front porch as the sun began to set over her many-acred farm.  It was a particularly gorgeous day and though I consider myself an “indoor girl” who doesn’t handle boredom well, this was one day I was happy to be outside with nothing at all to do but take it all in.  In a moment of girlish excitement, I tilted my face to the sky, beaming up at God and thanking Him for such a wonderful – almost perfect – day.  I could think of only one thing that could possibly make it more wonderful and I childishly told God so: “the only way this day could get any better is if I had a HORSE to ride!” Within seconds, I spotted a figure in the distance. As he came closer I saw that it was not one figure, but two, for emerging from behind a hill just up the road was a man… riding a beautiful chestnut gelding. I stood in silence, overcome by emotion, as horse and rider drew closer.  It was the first, and turned out to be the only, time I’d ever seen a horse on that road and when they reached my grandmother’s house the man offered to let me ride.  Ben Hewitt recently wrote that life is mostly a series of moments in which nothing very much is happening and so often the things that give us joy are not the things directly before us, but things that live in some unrealized future “and therefore do not live at all.” Perhaps he’s right. But that evening, in that moment, joy entered the present and flooded my body, carried by a crimson answer to prayer on the eve of a perfect day.

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Quick Takes – June 2017


Kidding season has started and once again I’m thankful to have my own personal goat midwife to help in times of trouble, because I’m just awful at the job.  Every time these goats are in labor, I fall to pieces.  I’m completely, utterly, useless.  My youngest son feels the same way I do.  So while Bunchkin and the other kids are right in there (and I do mean IN THERE!) with the goats:

Bee-Boy and I stay a safe distance away, until it’s all over


Did I mention I don’t handle crisis well?  A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law gave me a  brand-new (to me,) heavy duty sewing machine. I bought myself the sharpest, sturdiest needles I could find for the project I’m working on and upon my very first use of this new, super-tough equipment, I put the needle right through my finger when my youngest bumped up against me. I stared in horror at my finger, pinned to the machine, screaming “help!  I don’t know what to do!  I don’t know what to DO!!!”  My three youngest burst into tears.  My five oldest (ever level-headed in times of crisis [they take after their daddy]) ran for the bolt cutters.  Somehow I managed to extract my finger (without use of the bolt cutters) and a neighbor (my new best friend!) was able to take out the needle and thread. I can now testify that this machine, combined with the proper needle, can sew right through ANYTHING!!!


I’m doing a lot of sewing, lately (now that my finger has healed,) because the kids are making cloth pads for a friend to save up for a saddle (you can find them on her website  www.joyfullivingnaturals.com.)  My sister-in-law and I were joking about how they force me to spend hours at the sewing machine, doing all the stitching, but in all seriousness, they’re KILLING it! These are all the pads they’ve made JUST THIS WEEK!!!  They’re determined to have that saddle by the end of Summer.

Creating these pads requires a bajillion steps and everyone helps:

The family who works together, rides together!


The lack of a saddle doesn’t keep the kids from riding and they hop on bareback whenever they can.  Even the lack of a horse doesn’t keep them from “riding” … in fact, they’ve gotten pretty good at cross country:


There’s no doubt that even without a saddle, the kids are better riders than I am.  A few nights ago I tried getting on my very tall horse without the aid of a mounting block.  I somehow managed to get my foot into the stirrup, hoist myself up halfway, and then sort of dangled for a little while trying to get the rest of my big ole’ butt up there. Finally, I gathered all my diminutive strength and gave one last heave up… and right off the other side!!! Sometimes I really think maybe I’m not cut out for this whole riding thing.


Speaking of things I’m not really cut out for…. Bunchkin and I are learning a song on the violin together that I’ve wanted to play for years.  Or, rather, she is learning both parts the song and then teaching me my part because I don’t know how to read music (bless her heart.)  So far it’s going really well.  When I asked the other day if I sounded like a “squeaky rat” she looked at me sadly and said “yes.” Then informed me: “it just gets harder from here.”  She’s also been giving me lots of helpful tips, like:

“You hit the wrong note.”
“Your bowing is backward.”
“You’re supposed to play that on the A string.”

She’s a bit of a perfectionist.
Personally, I’m taking a page from Florence Foster Jenkins.  They may say I couldn’t play, but no one can say I didn’t play!


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Thriving Because Of


“The reality is that some spouses never change, and some marriages don’t get better.”

– Charles and Michale Misja, Thriving Despite a Difficult Marriage


I’ve come to the conclusion that all marital problems stem from one major flaw: they involve people.  Sinful, selfish, imperfect, ever-changing (or never-changing!) human beings.  A few months ago, I found myself right back where I was at the end of last year – emotionally distant, angry and ready to give up on my marriage.  Once again, I found myself struggling with my own expectations and felt that Jon and I were caught in a cycle that would never end.  Once again I found myself asking the question: “should I leave?”  But then I realized there was another question, a bigger question, from deep within my heart demanding an answer: “what if everything I’ve always said I believe about marriage is true?”

What if God’s desire is that, except in extreme circumstances for which my own marital problems don’t qualify, marriage be a life-long bond, regardless of how hard it gets?

What if marriage isn’t as much about getting my own needs met or desires fulfilled, as it is about loving and serving someone else, no matter the difficulties?

What if marriage is the ultimate ministry, the ultimate mission, the ultimate battleground at which the most selfish, sinful parts of my nature are slain?

What if, as Gary Thomas so eloquently put it, God designed marriage to make us holy, more than to make us happy?

In the following days, I struggled with these questions and could come up with only one solution I could make within my understanding of who God is, and who He wants me to be: I would have to give up hope.  My hopes for marriage, for Jon, for the way I thought relationships ought to be and what “love” ought to look like.  I would have to lay down my desires and expectations.  I would have to truly accept my marriage, and Jon, for exactly what they were instead of what I thought I wanted them to be.  I would have to make thankfulness for what is a part of my daily routine, rather than constantly striving for change.  Sure, I could divorce my husband and go chasing rainbows somewhere else, but no matter where I went or who I found I’d be taking my own flawed, human self with me and “Mr. Perfect-Until-I-Got-To-Know-Him-Better” would, too.  I’d be trading current problems (and standards, and expectations) for new ones, while irrevocably destroying precious, beloved parts of my life in the process.  Instead, I asked myself the cliche question “what if this is as good as it gets?” and determined to find a way to “thrive despite” … or maybe even “because of.”

After speaking with a friend about what I was going through, I wrote the following:

I feel like I have to let go of my desire for a lot of things that I want and expect from a marriage because they’re never going to happen. But in the same way that I have to believe it’s possible to be happy no matter what my circumstances are, I also have to believe that a good marriage – a fulfilling marriage – IS possible. So I think… I think I’m going to spend some time in prayer today.

Today, I’m going to pray for my marriage. I’m going to pray that God does absolutely whatever he has to do to break whatever destructive, harmful, sinful things [have led us to this place]…

But I’ll only pray this once.

I’ll only be able to pray this once.

Because I really do believe that in order to heal, in order to move forward I must – MUST – lay down my expectations for my marriage. I have to somehow give up expectation without giving up hope and the only way I know how to do that is to allow myself to hope, allow myself to pray, allow myself to believe. ONCE.

And then lay it down. (And keep laying it down, and keep laying it down, and keep laying it down because I don’t believe this is going to be a one-time deal.) And let Him, if He chooses to do so, do the rest.

Since then, I’ve come to discover an interesting thing about expectations.  You can’t hold expectations in one hand and thankfulness in the other.  At least, I can’t.  Not in this.  I’ve kept my commitment to strive to be thankful for what is, instead of striving to make things the way I think ought to be, and an interesting change has taken place.  It’s becoming easier to find things to be thankful for (and there really is so, SO much to be thankful for!)  I find myself less critical, not just outwardly, but inwardly as well.  I’m less angry, less irritable, less likely to inflict wounds with my words and more content, in general.  (An interesting thought to explore would be whether there is a correlation between the number of things we try to be thankful for and the number of things there actually are to be thankful for.  It seems to me that the more we do of the first, the more there are of the second.)  I sense a settling within myself, a peace as I make the effort to cease looking to Jon and my marriage as a source of happiness.  Interestingly, though, I feel my marriage has gotten better, although I wasn’t seeking that.  Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that my marriage hasn’t really changed at all, but, similar to what happened last year, I have.  I’m beginning to understand, just a little, what Paul meant when he wrote: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

This may be an education that requires multiple lessons, but for now, in this moment, I am learning.

“The first purpose in marriage- beyond happiness, sexual expression, the bearing of children, companionship, mutual care and provision, or anything else – is to please God. The challenge, of course, is that it is utterly selfless living; rather than asking, “what will make me happy?’ we are told that we must ask, ‘what will make God happy?’ [Paul writes]: ‘those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again’ (2 cor 5:15)… Happiness may well be beyond [us] but spiritual maturity isn’t – and I value character far above my emotional disposition.”

– Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage


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Getting Close

Asterion and I had one of the best rides we’ve ever had today and I thought this would be a good time to post an update on my “Move Closer, Stay Longer” experiment.

If you recall (you can read the original post HERE), after a bad fall several months ago, I wasn’t able to trot Asterion without almost paralyzing fear.  After reading the book Move Closer, Stay Longer by Dr. Stephanie Burns, I committed myself to tackling these fears.  I made a list of all the things I was afraid of (see link, above) and decided to face them one tiny step at a time.  I chose to do this bareback for a few reasons.  First, I knew the saddle would give me a false sense of security and I really wanted to jump right into battle with the biggest fears I felt (somewhat!) capable of fighting.  Second, I knew riding bareback would be much more difficult for me, without the stirrups for balance.  I often joke that I always choose the hardest possible ways of doing everything, but in a very real sense I do like challenging myself (for the most part!) and it was no different in this case.

The first fear I decided to tackle was the trot.  I wasn’t too afraid of riding bareback at a walk and the canter was too far in the “too much fear” column to even think about attempting (with OR without the saddle!)  So armed with determination and lots of prayer, I got to work.  With my heart in my throat, I led Asterion to a small, “safe” paddock, wrapped my legs around him, practically laying on his back with a death grip on his mane, and trotted him for, literally, 3 or 4 seconds. Other than asking him to trot and walk (he responds well to voice commands), I couldn’t direct him at all because it was all I could do to just to force myself to hang on and not burst into tears. I couldn’t even THINK while I was trotting him, because everything in me was trying SO HARD not to panic that it crowded out every other thought I might have had.  During those first few weeks, I built up my time in the trot literally a few seconds each day.  Every time I grew too afraid, I’d force myself to keep going just a few seconds more.  It took weeks before I could trot sitting up and over a month before I could trot for an entire minute.  Progress since then has been excruciatingly slow, but consistently steady.  Five months later, we’ve worked our way up to a canter and today I was able to maintain my balance (for the most part!) during a five minute trot without holding on at all – something I truly wasn’t sure was possible five months ago.  (In fact, not long ago I was searching YouTube for videos of people trotting bareback, semi-convinced that it wasn’t physically possible to do so without holding on for dear life!)  Granted, the trot was slow and on a generally level area of ground, but when I consider those first few weeks and how terrified I was, I can’t help but feel proud of how far we’ve come.

Here’s what my “move closer, stay longer” list looked like, five months ago:

And here it is today:

We’re getting there!!!

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