Ten Years and Text Prayers

Ten years ago I prayed very short prayers, mostly in the form of an S.O.S. “Jesus, help me,” or “Your patience, Lord.” There simply wasn’t time for long, theologically impressive prayers.

One day I went to my bedroom, left the door open so nobody would think I was in there, lay behind the bed out of sight, and this is what I prayed: “Please, don’t let me hurt anybody, Jesus.”

I finally set up our desktop computer this week. Yes, a whole year after we packed it for our move. We can access our photo library now, an endless source of amusement.

This was our family on my husband’s thirtieth birthday. He was in nursing school, working part time to support us. Addy was one week old. Alex was eight. Rita was two, going on twelve. It was a sweaty eyeballs time, as Rachel Jankovic would say. It’s a good thing that breathing can be done without conscious effort, else we both would have gently expired for lack of oxygen at some point.

I thought back to this time last week when we went out to eat for Gabe’s fortieth birthday. We used a gift card Alex gave, and everybody had dressed themselves, including footgear. We ate at a steakhouse, and we didn’t have to clean up any spills, or take anybody to the potty, or even cut up their meat.

I thought about it again a few days ago when we ambitiously planned a full day of cooking for the freezer, seeing as the kitchen redo is coming right up and we will be limited in the kitchen for a while. Rita mixed up a triple batch of bread rolls for VBS, her lifelong fascination with patting and shaping yeast doughs having at last come to fruition. Then she mixed up four pounds of meatloaf, again digging in with no qualms because she loves to knead and stir. Addy made monster cookies, also for the upcoming VBS. For some reason those are always huge batches in the Amish cookbooks, but she nailed it perfectly. Olivia assembled beef and bean burritos for an easy future supper, and Gregory peeled 5 pounds of potatoes in less time than it takes to bake a pan full of tater tots. Then he lit the grill and cooked a bunch of pork, both chops and sausage. I floated on the periphery and did quality control. Olivia had been doing laundry all day, and about the time we put away the clean dishes, she was putting away the stacks of folded clothes.

This level of house help wasn’t even imaginable to me ten years ago. I had help: generous, constant help, and I was grateful for it. I just had to be careful not to trip over anybody, and that can be so, so trying. Many of those days felt like it was one step forward, two steps back.

“Don’t let me hurt anybody.” Somewhere in Elizabeth Elliot’s wise writings, I picked up the concept of communicating with short prayers and I continue the practice even now. They are kind of like texting a friend, not nearly as satisfying as a sit-down conversation, but still a way to stay connected.

These days the most frequent snippet is a simple, “Into Your hands.” I don’t even bother to name the concern/fear. I just verbalize the relinquishing and then I (try to) leave it. Sometimes multiple times in a day.

A friend on Instagram (@heartofthebison) has blessed me with her phrase, “I see You, God,” when her eyes light on a beautiful thing in creation. That perfectly tender cucumber I just picked. The folds and folds of a dahlia opening out of a tight bud. The soft edges of the clouds at sunrise. The coincidental arrival of a note in the mail on the very day I need to read it. “I see You, God, and You see me.”

Do you “text” God?

Change Is In the Air

We are still alive here. I experienced the very first sickness of the winter last week when I contracted a miserable head cold that drained me for 3 days. (Get it? Sorry, I know that is obnoxious.) I found myself dragging along in a haze of Vicks, carrying a tissue box, so far behind with normal life that writing seemed downright frivolous. In fact, I entertained discouraged thoughts of shutting down the blog entirely. Then I started to feel better and got over it.

I have noticed some milestones recently in my children’s lives. My absent minded son was on kitchen duty the week I was dragging. “Mama, what in the world are all these pills doing on the counter? You would think they have no home!” Not only did he quote my words back to me, but before that he had actually noticed some stuff that needed to be put away. I am sure I cannot really describe to you what a marvel that is to me. Until very recently, this child saw no reason why anything should have a spot. His practical idea of locating missing stuff was always traveling with a mother. I must have explained to him twenty-eleven times why he should always put his treasures away in his drawer, his boots on the rug, and his bike in the shed. So even though I felt like snot, I got a little burst of encouragement from that conversation. I think there may come a day when he might actually become neat and organized. I see some small signs and how they do cheer me!

I saw some buzz on the web for using a system of mom-bucks to reward a child’s responsible behavior and decided to give it a trial shot. Obviously, penalties involve paying back some bucks to mom. Thus fixing the bed earns a buck, but leaving the pjs on the floor costs a buck. It is impossible to redeem privileges from the mom-store if all your bucks were frittered away in penalties because you neglected to put your folded piles of laundry into the proper drawers or you quarreled with a sibling. I picked some specific behaviors to reward and zeroed in on some especially entrenched habits. There is no way I can keep up with anything complicated, but I think I can cautiously say it is helping my boys to be more heedful.

Gregory seems to have hit his stride with baking. Just a year ago I groaned (privately) when he asked to cook something. He does so dearly love to mess in the kitchen, going into a really happy place, humming, measuring with flourish, the dry ingredients puffing this way and that, the eggs unpredictably doing their oblong rolls off the counter, the whisks and scrapers all saved for licking with gusto when his project is safely baking. At first I had to watch every step of the way or he would use a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon, or forget to grease his pans or use a little more sugar than the recipe called for “to make it better”. I will be honest, it was a trial. The cleanup was dreadful. We blundered along like that for a very long time until he graduated to me just carefully explaining a recipe to him, then forcing myself to let him alone, only coaching him as he came up with questions. Last month for the first time ever he made cookies all on his own steam. Even scooping out the dough. Even putting the baking sheets into the oven. Even cleanup. Whew! Then he did it again and again. We had snickerdoodles one week, chocolate chip cookies the next, and brownies the next. I can see that this could pose a problem, so we will need to work on spaghetti or omelets or chicken soup for a while. 🙂

Olivia is losing teeth with alarming rapidity this spring and now she talkth with a charming little lithp. And she can read. Just like that, she finally got over the hump of great effort in sounding out to reading for fun. I just sat and got all sentimental while she read Ten Rubber Ducks to her little sisters. Forgive me for the little rave, but it thrills me every time it happens for the first time. And every homeschool mom said Amen.

I won’t go down the whole row of children and their changes, but I should tell you that I started about 120 little plants in peat pots: tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, etc. There they are, all plucky and greenish, straining to the sunshine. I keep them on the warm floor of the kitchen, where they may not always be safe from stomping feet, but on the sunshiny days I set them out on the deck. Today I thinned out the extras and I ate them. It was such a lovely, wheatgrassy thing to do.

I also freed the bulbs and perennials from the winter’s accumulation of blown leaves and junk, so that now they can reach for the sky. It always reminds me of Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, setting the little plants at liberty to flourish. Strange as it may seem, I like weeding, especially my flower beds. I find it about ten times more fun than wiping the dirty handprints off the walls in the hallway. Mmmhmmm, that explains a few  things.

Change. It is good. It is delightful to feel the cocoon of winter slipping into a memory. I sneeze an average of 17 times a day, so pollen is also in the air. Oh, how I do love this time of the year!

I Am From

Recently a friend found an old picture of our family and posted it on Facebook, a picture from an era of exceedingly large glasses and hair parted straight down the middle. In the comments my sister mentioned that better haircuts and cuter clothes might have helped, but what can you say, we were secure and happy children. I have been thinking about that and decided to do something I have wanted to do ever since Shari put a link to this template on her blog. I am posting this today in honor of my mom’s birthday! Many happy returns of the day, Mom!

I Am From

I am from a wide, extended table, whistling tea kettle, and chocolate chip cookies.

I am from the teeny yellow cottage by the creek and the square farmhouse in Dutch Corner.

I am from restoring a log cabin on the hill overlooking the sunset.

I am from the ancient apple tree whose brittle limbs threatened to drop us on the ground every time we picked its bounty.

I am from a crackling fireplace and praying every night before bed.

From three siblings and many “adopted” little ones.

I’m from coffee with creamer and dunking donuts and from “hols hocka” which is fried batter in hot salted milk.

I’m from you may not ever pout, we don’t work on Sunday, and it’ll heal before the cat lays an egg.

I’m from Saturday night games of chase and give-away chess.

I’m from Indiana and Ohio blended in Kentucky, from ancestors ages ago in Switzerland,

From homemade scrapple and creamy mac n cheese.

I am from Aunt Ruth’s cherry delight made with lime jello and Uncle Tim eating his noodles.

From The Ten Commandments hung on the living room wall, carven camels from the Holy Land marching in a row, wobbly stacks of books on every nightstand.

I’m from relentless teasing, laughter, and inside jokes.

I am from a secure and happy place.

Snow Day, 2


My children asked me, “What’s a snow day?” And I had the startling revelation that they really don’t know. We used to sing a song at school, “Whatever the weather, we’ll make it together,” but we should have added a quick clause: “Except when it snows and sleets and freezes too much.” Homeschoolers, however, do the whatever the weather thing. It’s the time of year when too much study drags down little people but we have to keep on going. So we think up excuses to have tea parties. We always make a party for the beginning of school, the half-way point, and the grand finale at the end. We have tea parties on birthdays and holidays and as rewards when the house is all cleaned up. Even the boys love it! We just eat our ordinary food, except we pretty it up with garnishes and cut teeny squares of bars to serve on glass plates and everybody gets a little candy favor.

I have no glass-fronted hutch to display my pretty dishes, so unless I use them, I never see them. We keep watch at second-hand stores to replace the teacups that happen to get broken. None of them are heirlooms or priceless, but it is so much more fun to drink out of teacups with dainty handles.

Now I decided that we will also party for snow days. Because snow days should be fun! While the boys were finishing up with their history classes, the girls dressed in pretty dresses with flowers in their hair. We spread the lace table cloth and got out the brand new tea party dishes! (Goodwill, 2.99 🙂 ) It took us about an hour to prepare and then it was time for fun! It was a Snow Day!






Be Kind to Everything and Don’t Say “Stupid”

Nap time. It is so restful when the time comes to settle down quietly after a strenuous morning of striving to be nice to  each other despite… everything. That includes the slow start in school, with a wrestling match that abruptly vanished without a trace as soon as my feet hit the staircase to go down to the schoolroom.  By the time I hit the bottom step, the boys were busily pulling out math books. It also includes juggling Learning to Read, spelling word lists, grammar quizzes, and laundry for a few hours, secure in the knowledge that the two smallest ones were sweetly playing babies in their room.  Later I discovered that in the course of the morning  they were also skinning a cucumber and feasting on it in the top bunk bed; they were peeling oranges in the living room; they were eating a lot of sliced lunchmeat and graham crackers. For some reason, they still ate salad like starved bunnies with a ranch dressing love affair at lunchtime. One would think there has been naught but bread and water for days if one didn’t distinctly recall feeding them quite often and well.

So yes, naptime: when all efforts of goodness and mischief are suspended for a while. It is my favorite time of day every day when I lie beside my two year old until she falls asleep. Much of the day I am too distracted to listen closely to the piping little voice that is Addy, but at naptime she unwinds by saying every thought that enters her little head until suddenly she conks, just like that. I get much amusement out of her chatter. There are only seconds between each of these bits of  confidences.

I like dogs, mama. Do you like dogs?”


Little dogs. Not big dogs. Do you like big dogs?


We just like little dogs, right, Mama?

I have lots of excuses, Mama.

I’m sorry.  I’m a little tired in the bed.

Mmmhmm. Me too.

Lollipops are sour, Mama.

But we don’t have any lollipops, do we, Mama?


Maybe I could have some candy when I wake up?

That would be fun.

We don’t have any candy, do we, Mama?

Do you like candy?

You shouldn’t snip yourself. You might get hurt.

And then you would cry. You would cry for a bandaid.

Do you know where the bandaids are, Mama?


When I have a bleeding owie, I cry for a bandaid.

And then I need a Mama.

If I eat too much toothpaste, I might get sick.

Then I would have to go to the doctor. And pump my belly out.

Yeah. Now shhhh.

(Quiet little whisper) I can talk, Mama.

No kidding.

The Bible says be kind to everything. And don’t hit.

And be kind and don’t say “stupid”.

We like little dogs. But we don’t have a dog.

We just have cats.


And a rabbit at Jakes.

But no dogs, Mama.

Am I your baby, Mama?


Be quiet now.

I love you, Mama.

I love you, too. But no more talking.

Okay, Mama.


Unthankful, adj.: not feeling gratitude

Well, it has been a while! I sat down at least three times to write a Thanksgiving post. It is my favorite holiday, the one with absolutely no controversial pagan underpinnings. 🙂 I love the traditions of turkey and cranberries and family. This year we had our traditional meal almost a week early to include two of my siblings as well as two of my aunts and their husbands.

The actual Thanksgiving Day found me cooking a birthday breakfast and playing Catan with my husband and little boys until I had to stop and cook up some delectables for an early afternoon supper with the aunts. No turkey at all, but such a fun day. Camaraderie with loved ones, good food (possibly the best date pudding ever constructed in Osterburg, if I do say so myself) and good cheer. Do you ever feel like you are so blessed, it isn’t fair? It is easy to list all the cozy things, the smiley things, the kindnesses.

I set myself a challenge, every year, to find the things I am most tempted to grouse about and be thankful for them. The list is both revealing and embarrassing. Also private. But I will give you one example.

A few weeks ago a bunch of us ladies from church were polishing fruit for baskets to distribute to our neighbors. My nurse friend who works nightshift and I were talking about how nightshift just stinks, me from my perspective and her from hers: how the rhythms of normal life get so mixed up, the social life withers and all but dies, etc, etc. Someone else observed, kindly and truthfully, “There are probably worse things.” I suppressed the sudden urge to lob an apple across the room and we dropped the subject.

But it kept coming back to me, “This is your unlikely thing to become thankful for.” Okaaay. I started thinking about it. I write in the evenings when I am alone, after the bedtime drama is over and I don’t have my husband to converse with. Without so much night shift this past year, the blog would probably only have half the posts, or fewer.

Nightshift means much less cooking for me, since “the rhythms get all messed up” and my kids think Ramen noodles are a party. It means long evenings to read stories to the children and play games and having all the pillows and the bed to myself. 🙄  Nightshift is mostly calmer for the nurses and pays a teeny bit more.

It is easier for me to be thankful for nightshift, since my man now has enough time at his job to state his preferences for next year, and he stated his preference to be day light hours. Oh glory! I think I can stay thankful for the month of December, yet.

 “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is

To have a thankless child!”- Shakespeare