Wednesday, December 28, 2011


For those who follow this blog religiously (hi, moms of mine), my apologies on the lack of... much.  The family equilibrium changed with the sudden addition of a teenager, and I'm still adjusting to the new normal.  As my energies are redirected, blogging has fallen lower on the totem pole of priorities.

I (naively) hadn't expected to feel much of a pinch in adding someone who's mostly self-sufficient to the household.  I was wrong.  Every day I find myself giving more energy, more time, more love, more grace.  I worry more, cook more, delegate more, advise more, chauffeur more, study more, pray more.  

I get more hugs.  I hear "I love you" more.

I feel an urgency in parenting this young man, more so than with our biological sons.  He's already so grown up.  We have so little time with him.  He has so much still to learn.  He plans to go to college in a year and a half.  Even if he's with us until then, is that enough time?  Enough time to impart wisdom?  Enough time to teach faithfulness?  Enough time to train him in grace and respect and humility and honesty and love?  And yet, I know that on our own, we can teach him none of this.  Only God can move hearts to resemble His.  We can only model.  And pray.  And love.

And so we do.  We love more.  We give more.  We pray more and hope more and trust more and by the grace of God we receive more, too.  More than we had ever asked for or anticipated!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Feeling Better

Christmas break has begun!  The counter is strewn with school papers that need filing and pencils that need sharpening, but I don't even care (they'll still be there for me tomorrow, right?).  I'm on vacation!

The break was ushered in delightfully with a long drive, much of it just me, Nicole C. Mullen and Rebecca St. James singing Christmas songs loudly, and softly.  A brief sundown stop at a lonely campground staging a lit nativity dusted in snow was the cherry on top of the sundae-sweet ride.

To those who worried over me after my last post, I'm sorry -- I didn't mean to be dramatic!  To those who prayed for me after my last post, thank-you -- they were felt!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Stirring

It's 38 degrees and completely dark outside.  Wade and the boys are roasting marshmallows as part of a fire-building badge project Isaac is working on for Boy Scouts.  I'm staying inside and sipping tea.  And one of my precious pink-cheeked striplings just brought me a caramel-golden marshmallow.  They're sweeter when they're outside and I'm in (the boys, not the mallows).

A feeling of ennui has been hanging over me today.  Maybe I'm looking forward to Christmas vacation and visiting too much to be thrilled by today's mundane to do list.  Maybe I've eaten too many cookies (and marshmallows) today.  Maybe I need to take a nap.  Or a walk.

But this sense isn't just today.  Advent is, second to summer, my favorite time of year.  I love the lights, the smells, the tastes, the music, the candles, the feeling of it all.  And I just haven't felt as Christmassy as usual.  I feel watery, like chocolate milk left sitting too long, with all the good stuff settled to the bottom.  I wish to be stirred.

Part of me wants to "fix" myself from the outside in -- steep a cup of tea, run a warm bath, light some candles, sit down with a good book, I'll be sure to feel better soon.  But the better part of me knows external comforts won't significantly alter my inner drear.  I'm craving a swift kick to the heart, a shot of passion, a reckless act of love, the ability to truly bring joy to the world.  And here I sit feeling blah.

Well, at least feeling blah is an impetus to write with some semblance of passion.

And yet I know I can't rely just on feelings to keep my heart warm and my outlook bright.  My words and actions must show love, even when my head is foggy and my body shlumpish.  Perhaps this is an opportunity to love more selflessly, a chance to deny myself a dose of melancholy and love exuberantly in spite of whatever doldrums may hover, not as a fake show of cheeriness, but as a faithful witness to the Light that shines in the darkness, a stirring.

I wish you all a truly joyous Christmas, infused with the joy, hope, peace and love of the One who loves us enough to die for us.  May that thought stir us all to praise Him and pass on the secret of the season.

Friday, November 25, 2011


In no particular order, my 2011 thankful list:

- Family: immediate, extended and non-biological
- Friends nearby and far away
- Holland Center Church, which could easily slip right into either of the above categories
- Jesus and eternity, halleluia!
- Modern transportation and communication devices

Monday, October 24, 2011

Comic Relief

A fellow homeschool mom shared this recently and I felt compelled to pass it on.  Oh, the brilliant ideas some people have!

Friday, October 21, 2011

No Calendar Needed

Bright jars in the pantry.
Bare stalks in the garden.
Silver in the grass.
Gold in the trees.
Geese in the sky.
Nip in the breeze.
Hot mug in my hands.
Feet in warm socks.
Fall in the air.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bible Study Debate

There was discussion during our last Bible study on whether or not we should give thanks for everything. The first point was made that all things -- even tragedies -- work together for good to those who love God, so we are able to give thanks for all things, knowing they are for our good. Another point was proposed that we were to give thanks in all things because God's grace is sufficient for us even in disaster, but we aren't necessarily supposed to be thankful for disaster.

As I pondered this at home later on, I reasoned that if I were to take the first viewpoint, that we can be thankful for everything, then sin in the world must be incredibly limited -- God could only allow sin that will be good for us in the long run. But then I realized I am limiting God with that notion. God is so powerful and omniscient that he could use any sin, any disaster, any tragedy and work good from it. For instance: Jesus' death on the cross. The most horrible thing to ever happen was also the best thing to ever happen.

And yet I struggle with this view. Famines in east Africa may turn some hearts to God and inspire generosity in the hearts of others, but so many will fall to hopelessness that it seems the collateral damage could be greater than the good. And even if we're able to give thanks for every problem in our own lives, how can I thank God for the disaster in a non-beleiving friend's life -- disaster that does not work for good for her and perhaps even leads to eternal damnation?

Sigh. I know, God's ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my own. And for that I can most definitely give thanks, because to have to figure God out would certainly cause me to despair rather than revel in the amazing truth that it doesn't matter what I understand, as long as I trust that God is good.

Nonetheless, I'm interested in hearing anyone else's thoughts on the "thankful for all things" vs "thankful in all things" debate.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Harvest 2011

October 10 saw the boys and I pulling, digging, husking and picking as we performed a final garden harvest of the fall. In rather random order, here is the pictorial evidence and accompanying descriptions of our endeavor.

One of our largest tomatoes weighed in at barely two pounds.

Having left all the carrots in the ground until after first frost, we have wonderfully sweet carrots this fall! A few were rather wonderfully deformed, but tasty nonetheless.

You know it's fall when the trees drop their... pine needles?

One of our first art projects this school year was etching pumpkins. I like how they turned out!

The heirloom pineapple tomatoes were fabulously beautiful and delicious. Isn't this thing just a work of art? And so yummy. Now my mouth is watering. I'll be right back after I satisfy this craving.

Isaac spent most of the harvest time picking and husking Indian corn.

Levi kept busy pulling carrots.

And 'Lijah dug potatoes. Okay, you may remember way back in planting season I mentioned a new potato growing tactic I was trying this year. It didn't work. At all. This link shows what I tried -- Maybe only certain varieties grow this way?

While most of the pumpkins were picked in September, a few are still working on their color.

This corn certainly has the color change thing down! Perhaps it could give the pumpkin a few pointers.

Still a few flowers around! This was one of the last bloomers in the yard.

The whole shebang! Lots of produce, proud boys, very happy mama!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yard Bard

My helpers in the flower beds needed some shade so they "weeded" their heads.

Levi thought these were particularly nice. He'll gobble them up with tomato spice.

The morning glory is up to the deck, just in time for frost, what the... oh wait, I don't say that word.

You can tell the time by how nuttily I write. I think it's time to say goodnight.

A Morning Cuppa

"Tea contains high levels of antioxidants, some of which are called polyphenols, flavonoids, and catechins, and all of which take on the 'free radicals' in the body and prevent them from harming the healthy cells on board."

Not that I needed the aforementioned reasons to enjoy my daily cup of tea. But I like knowing something I do for pleasure is actually good for me. Just don't tell those scientists about how I doctor it up. They might say it cancels out the good stuff. But I know that any scientifically proven health benefits or detriments of sugared, milky tea are really secondary to the pleasure of holding a hot mug in my hands, sipping a sweet, warm beverage on a cool fall morning and basking in the momentary relaxation of a tea break. That's gotta counteract free radicals like crazy!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

In Garden News

I know it's September, but these pictures really were taken last month -- we truly did harvest a little bit during August!

Three of the five kinds of tomatoes have begun ripening. Those are beef steak, black cherry and yellow pear. We're still waiting for color on the roma and pineapple tomatoes.

Some might accuse Levi of playing with his food. I prefer to say he has a bent for creating pieces of abstract edible art!

In an effort to fit more garden into not more space, I planted things a little closer together than normal. Not a good idea. Those with claustrophobia would not do well in these bean rows. The vines reach out and ensnare unsuspecting pickers with their velcro tendrils, and hoppers pounce on invaders.

The gourds are also invading the lettuce and carrots' space.

And the tomato plants, though caged, are sprawling wildly, leaving no trace of the orderly grid in which they were planted. Though the tomatoes don't show up well here (because they're all still so green!), the bushes are loaded. I'm hoping the weather holds long enough for them to ripen up.

This pumpkin seems to be trying to show up the tomatoes. "Come on, you slow pokes," he taunts. "Do you need lessons in ripening? Look at me and learn -- this is how you blush!"

And in non-edible news, my two show-stoppers right now are the blanketflower...

... and the coneflower. Delightful!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Blame it on Hormones

Every so often (with regularity that rivals that of the moon) I have a couple days of particularly passionate and convicting devotional times. During these phases I praise God more adoringly, search my heart more deeply, bemoan my sinfulness more loathfully and find renewed vigor for pursuing holiness.

However, as much as I enjoy a really inspired time of worship with my Lord, I sometimes wonder whether it's right for me to take advantage of these hormonally induced feelings or if I should try to temper them, realizing that I can very easily become carried away by them.

I find myself questioning my motives for homeschooling my kids, trying to adopt, volunteering, wearing make-up to church and even blogging. And sometimes I become convicted about these issues, but then, after the "feeling" has passed, I wonder if it was an authentic conviction or just an emotional fancy. Are decisions made on a hormone high legitimate and binding?

So here I am, at the end of my little rant, without a nice, tidy conclusion. This time of month I don't have nice tidy conclusions, only questions and uncertainties. Ugh. What an ending. Comments welcome.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Patriotic Art

We were supposed to be camping on Friday, but since we weren't, I felt like we should do some school work, but I just didn't have the heart to say, "Hey boys, guess what, since we're not camping right now, we get to do school instead! Yea!"

So we did PE: we biked the long, long route to the park (The regular route is straight down Main Street and across the train tracks at the pedestrian crossing. The long is route is down the highway to the railroad crossing on the west end of town. The long, long route is the other direction to the crossing on the east end of town).

And we did science: the boys love our Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day textbook so much that's it's not even like "doing school."

And we did art: Voila!

Our basement wall now sports this very patriotic mural.

It's fun, it's one-of-a-kind, it's huge, and it's someday going to be covered up when (if) we ever finish the basement.

As I stood back and admired the boys' work of art, it occurred to me that the red we used is really quite a bit deeper than normal flag red, but hey, it's what we had on hand (no pun intended). It's actually more crimson than red. It would make a perfect "blood" red, should we ever want to paint something bloody.

And the way it drips down the wall is very, um, dramatic. One without such a pure and untainted mind might think it looks like a thousand bloody handprints covering the wall. Not that I would ever think that about my kiddo's art work.

Okay, so maybe the thought would cross my mind. And maybe, just for a minute the whole thing might look really creepy. And maybe I'd feel the need to touch it up a little by painting over the places where red lines ran down the white handprints, even though modifying one's children's artwork is expressly prohibited in the Good Mother's Handbook.

But afterwards, when it no longer looks creepy, such a mother probably would feel a lot better about having it in her basement. And after all, she probably just wanted to have a hand in it herself! (pun very much intended)

No, the handprint in the last picture is not my own. It's E's. Ain't it cute?

PS - the stripes are supposed to be "blood red," so says Woodrow Wilson.

"When I think of the flag.... I see alternate strips of parchment upon which are written the rights of liberty and justice, and stripes of blood to vindicate those rights, and then, in the corner, a prediction of the blue serene into which every nation may swim which stands for these great things."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Legs of Steel

Levi held this position for eight minutes before his calves gave out. Ouch!

What's he doing now? Timing how long he can hang from the balcony.

That's Levi.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Warring Fancies

I love the idea of living simply, frugally and healthfully. But as I've wrestled with incorporating more of these aspirations into my home, I've come to realize they are, at least to some degree, mutually exclusive. Food is one area where the battle is particularly fierce. Here is a an excerpt of a conversation between warring fancies in my mind.

Simplicity: There's enough busyness in your life, Kerri, why don't you just buy some nice, easy, convenient foods for this week's dinners and simplify your life.

Frugality: No way! You know those pre-cut carrots cost twice what the whole ones do!

Healthfulness: You know, you really should plant your own carrots. Not only is it more economical, you can avoid all those nasty chemicals and live more healthily.

Frugality: Amen! Seeds are cheap!

Healthfulness: And while we're talking about good health, you should really buy all organic fruits and vegetables, whole wheat grains, cereals and breads, and low-fat low-sodium snacks.

Frugality: Whoa, just a minute now. Don't get carried away. Have you seen the sticker difference between the organically grown bananas and the regulars?

Healthfulness: There is no cost too great for the health of your family!

Simplicity: Just get what you like and can prepare easily. There is no cost too great for having more time to spend with your family by keeping meals quick and easy!

Frugality: As long as they are quick and easy and inexpensive! Because when you get your next credit card bill you'll know exactly the cost of all those convenience foods!

Healthfulness: What is convenience if you're not healthy enough to enjoy it? Buy the health food!

Frugality: No, grow the health food if you must have it! Ten bucks on seeds packets and you'll eat all summer long!

Simplicity: So I can spend all my long and healthy life slaving away in the garden and in the kitchen?

Alas, the warring factions cannot all be appeased. However, those who know me well know that simplicity lost the battle long ago, at least in the gardening arena. It exerts its sway in other areas, sort of. Okay, not really, but I like the idea of simplicity, so maybe someday it will have influence. Healthfulness and frugality can both win in the summer when we dine well out of the garden, but come the first frost of fall, it'll back to mentally grappling over groceries.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Traveling Scrapbook

A couple years ago I read through the complete Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and loved it (except for book four, they grew up too much at the end). The reading generated a severe case of nostalgia which lead to me send sentimental e-mails to several of my closest friends. And Becky, who is brilliant, by the way, came up with the idea of creating a traveling scrapbook. See, I told you she's a bright one. It was decided that six of us should share and contribute to the book, and thus The Traveling Scrapbook was born in the summer of 2009.

Becky picked up the actual book, collected old pictures and put together a "back when" section. Then she added her own "now" page and passed the book on to me.

The idea is to add a "now" page every time each of us get the book, and any older photos we may want to mix in. There are also pages for journaling and writing notes. Each of our weddings has a page, too.

It takes about a year to make a full round, and it's a treat to see what's been added since the last visit.

It has its own traveling box, though its getting a little travel-torn.

It's getting pretty full at this point -- over 40 pages, and it has traveled over 12,000 miles bouncing between Washington, North Dakota, Illinois, New Mexico and Montana.

And I'm the lucky one currently in possession of this capsule of happiness and reminiscence. Yea! It makes me happy.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

I'm not the only one who loves this fabulously warm weather we've been having. The garden is lovin' it, too! (Oh, and the weeds, the weeds, have been lovin' it, too) After a very slow start this spring, everything is finally looking awesome! (Even the weeds)

The beans are climbing voraciously (I'm hoping to see blossoms before too long).

The corn, while still shorter than it should be, has grown exponentially during the past two weeks, and a couple of the tallest plants are beginning to tassel.

I had to thin the carrots (sad!) but at least we got to enjoy a handful of very tender baby carrots (happy!). We've been enjoying lettuce for several weeks.

The greenhouse-bought tomato plants are fruiting... and so are some of the plants I started at home! The dozen I started from seed were so small and scrawny when it was time to move them to the garden that I went ahead and bought four more plants from the local greenhouse, just to make sure we get some toms even if we do get an early frost. I'm now optimistic about getting fruit from many of the 16 tomato plants! I'm hoping to can a lot of sauce :)

Let's see, the pumpkins have spilled from their bed, over the retaining wall and are trying to creep across the alley. The gourds aren't quite there yet, but are filling in nicely.

The potatoes, which are planted in a "box" this year (more about this experiment in another post) are lush and blooming. (Those tall things in the background are volunteer hollyhocks from where I dumped last year's stalks. I love volunteers!)

The one volunteer sunflower I let stay is huge and happy. Not as tall as usual (yet), but massive in girth. I'm excited to see the blossom!

And the strawberries, after an onslaught of tiny berries in late June/early July, are pulling out of their July lull and beginning their all-the-way-until-really-hard-frost run of much more decently sized berries.

For the first time since we planted these babies we've gotten more than 12 berries! The bushes are loaded and we're eagerly awaiting full ripening!

Garden space was at a premium this year, and yet this enormous wild thing has found its way into my heart and comes back year after year in the vegetable garden where it takes a rather large bite out of the row real estate. Oh well. Hollyhocks make me happy.

All this makes me very, very happy. If I could break out in song in a blog post, I would.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Good Reads

I don't read a lot of nonfiction (unless you count all the textbooks we go through in the course of a school year), but the last two books I read were "Miracle at Tenwek" on the life and ministry of Dr. Ernie Steury, a missionary doctor in Kenya, and "In His Feathers," the journals and letters of Sharon Bomgaars as she walks the road of ovarian cancer.

"Tenwek" was about a life well lived; "Feathers" about a death well met. Despite the books' very different foci (yes, foci is the plural of focus, I checked), each character inspired me with their strong and sure faith, touched me with their struggles, clinched my sympathy with their wrestlings between desire and contentment, and brought me to tears with their deaths. (It's awkward to cry at the pool during swimming lessons -- I should learn to bring lighter books to read while the boys swim!)

While reading "Miracle at Tenwek," I was blown away by the impact of one man fully committed to God and doing his will. The Tenwek mission hospital's motto is "We treat, Jesus heals," and Dr. Steury made certain that each patient who came into the hospital heard the gospel message, even when the beds were overflowing and over half the patients were sleeping on the floor. It made me think I live far too comfortably.

"In His Feathers" I found particularly riveting, perhaps because I know Mrs. Bomgaar's brother, and brief parts of her story were set in areas very familiar to me, but mostly because of her heart's cry. For years, though healthy, she prayed God would allow her to live to see her children grown, so when she was diagnosed with "a tiger of a cancer" in her 40s, she wavered between longing for more life and feeling God had already given her so much time.

At one point she described her feelings in this way (if she hadn't written this over 10 years ago I might have thought she was eavesdropping during my devotional time!):

"I have less control, much less control over my life than I thought I did. That realization is a sort of acquiescence -- a wimpy acquiescence, as if I'm saying, 'Oh God, I hate to let you control things because I'm afraid you will mess them up; but since you are in the driver's seat, I'll shut my eyes and hang on and hope for the best.' That's NOT a full-blown trust. A real trust says, 'God, you are good and what you do will be the best for my children whom you love more than I do.' That is the kind of trust I need!"

"Tenwek" inspired me to live more fully devoted to God, no matter the struggles around me, and "Feathers" inspires me pray that I will be gracious and grateful in my death, no matter its circumstances.

Now on to something that I hope won't make me cry!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Tempest

They rolled into town mid-afternoon, dressed in black and ominous. The locals cast furtive glances their way. Most headed for cover. Everyone knew what was coming.

For a couple hours all was calm, but the stifling heat that lay over the town like an itchy blanket took its toll. A flash and a bang and thunder rolled like gunfire through the streets. Hoofbeats of rain pounded the ground raising a steamy mist off the overheated streets.

The tempest ranted and raged and blustered, but the thunderheads could not sustain their barrage indefinitely. Ammunition soon ran dry, and the blustersome force rolled grumbling out of town. A few parting shots rang out as their dark backsides disappeared over the horizon. The storm moved on to terrorize another town.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


The boys are developing a new line of kitchenware.

In case of breakage it can be rebuilt easily.

It comes in a variety of colors.

And I've been given a complimentary set!