Homemade Funnel Cake

I just got back from taking my High School choir to Silver Dollar City for a music festival. It was such a great trip!  The kids behaved really well, and the parents that went along were a huge support.   After singing in Silver Dollar City (and earning top honors…cough cough) we got to experience the ShowBoat Branson Belle dinner cruise. They had a magician comedian, tap dancers/cloggers, and a men’s vocal group that made the evening a delight.

Rachel and Me

I shared a hotel room with Read more

If Valentines Reflected Real Life

I’ve been thinking about love a lot the last few days as we meandered through Valentine’s day,  about the heartbreak of my teen years and wondering how I could protect my kids from some of that.  I wouldn’t insulate them from all of life’s heartbreaks. That would be robbing them of crucial character development.  I would, however, like to Read more

Choosing Joy

Choosing Joy

I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving.  Ours was lovely.  I was determined not to be stressed, and it worked out except for about a half an hour on Thanksgiving morning. That’s the half hour, I feel compelled to tell you about.

I already mentioned Friday that my dad was released from the hospital on Tuesday, then was right back in on Wednesday for more tests checking for complications.  My mom still planned on hosting Thanksgiving for 20 at her house.  It was easier to do that for my dad than to try to move him or make him spend the holiday alone.  I went over that night to help Mom carry the tables and set a few things up.  Nothing major.  Then I convinced her to let me bake the rolls and sweet potatoes to lessen her stress a little.  She still had the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, salad, and pies to do. That was still too much.

Master Bedroom winter 2015 2

I determined to get over there by 10am to help and had a perfect checklist in my mind.  Get up; make the bed all cute with my new allergy free bedding; turn on the parade; bake the sweet potatoes and then head over.  But no one in my house was cooperating.  Darren wouldn’t get out of the bed so I could make it. The kids complained about having to watch the parade (and I couldn’t’ see it from the kitchen), and when I looked at the sweet potato recipe, it was going to take an hour longer to prepare than I was counting on. There was no way I could get to my mom at 10 and I didn’t like leaving her alone with all the prep work.

I could feel things start to boil inside.  “Fine, you make the bed!” I yelled at my husband.  Muttering under my breath why he couldn’t grow up and help out a little.  He is a smart man, and he got up and made the bed.  It looked absolutely nothing like I had planned it to look.  I boiled up a little more.

He tried to tell me things would be fine.  “So we get there at 11.  What’s the big deal?” he wanted to know.  The big deal is my dad is sick, my mom is stressed, and the SOURCE of the irritation doesn’t get to say it’s not a big deal.

I stomped and huffed around the kitchen a bit and when he got too close I glared at him, “I’m angry at you because you made the bed and it looks STUPID.” And then the humor of the whole thing kind of hit me.

Who cares if the bed looks stupid?  My dad is alive.  My husband is alive.  My kids are healthy.  We have a big family to gather with.  Get a grip, Woman! I calmed down and apologized to my family and we had a really nice day.

I wish I could get a better handle on my emotions when things start to spiral out of control. It triggers when I have a goal and I think others are purposefully blocking my goal. Usually it’s because I didn’t communicate it clearly or early enough.  The reason really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I understand that the only thing I can control is ME.  So, I choose JOY.  I want to influence others with my love and happiness instead of trying to control them with my anger.

Christmas Tree 2015 3

So Friday, when it came time to decorate the Christmas tree, I thought ahead of time about the things that matter to me (hang the balls towards the inside of the tree) and I communicated it clearly.  I decided on the things that didn’t matter and let the kids have free reign with them (put the silver and gold on this tree, but put it anywhere you want.)  I limited what mattered to me to just one or two things. The kids aren’t used to a pleasant Christmas decorating mama and they asked me a lot of questions about what goes where and what to do with this or that.   They were surprised with how much freedom I gave them and we all had a really pleasant day.

Christmas Tree 2015 2

Any time I had a strange feeling of “don’t put that there” well up in me, I swallowed it and reminded myself that I could change anything I wanted another day.  What I got in exchange was beauty.  Our decorations this year are so very human.  The kids will never be this age again and I loved watching them put things in places and step back to judge their work. It won’t end up in a designer magazine, but it’s a special collage of their current ages and thought processes represented in design.

Am I the only Mom out there that gets a little freaked out on special days?  If you haven’t seen it already, this video could have been taken at our house.

“If you haven’t made your bed already, throw it away.  It’s too late.”

This Changes Everything


Two people in the exact same circumstances, one is happy and the other is miserable.  Why?


The character quality that influences our happiness the most, is gratefulness.  Gratefulness is a seed that flowers into contentment and joy.

When we have it we spend less money. We smile and laugh more. We can rejoice in other people’s blessings.

There’s an herbicide that will kill it all.  It has the generic label Complaining but can be found under the brand names of Comparison and Envy.

DCF 1.0

Sometimes reading someone else’s grateful list brings up some jealousy.  This time of year, I wonder if I should share my grateful list or if it is better to tell it to God.  When I list off my list of things I’m thankful for, I naturally leave out the things that we are struggling with.  It would defeat the purpose to complain and be thankful at the same time. That can leave an impression that my life is perfect and make someone else wonder why theirs isn’t.

In this human experience we will all have trouble.  If it’s not happening now, it’s coming.  Our gratefulness is interwoven with tragedy. The contrast is beautiful.

autumn leaves

My goal is to become thankful no matter my circumstances.  It’s easy for me to be thankful when I look at those who are less fortunate.  If comparison is the thief of joy, then I want my gratitude to be independent from comparison .  There will always be someone better off or worse off than I am.  My joy and my gratitude has to be unaffected by circumstance.

There is one constant to be grateful for,  Jesus.  He remains unchanged no matter my circumstance. He lived and died and lived again so that whatever happens in this life is a blip in the scheme of eternity spent with Him.  If your Christmas tree is already up and you’re singing Christmas carols while you work, it doesn’t bother me.  It’s just another reminder of the reason for our gratitude this Thanksgiving day.

Happy Thanksgiving from Our Family to Yours

I’ve sent up special prayers for those of you with family members who have already been welcomed into the arms of our Savior.  It seems like we miss them more on days like today.


Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

We had an unexpected death in the family last week. Darren’s Grandma was 92, but still living alone in her own home with her mind, sight and hearing sharp as a tack.  He lived with her during the summers after his family moved to Texas and again when he graduated from High School so he could farm. They were very close. I lived with her part of the time when I was student teaching and she taught me a lot of things about frugality, being a homemaker, wild edibles and frying mountain oysters.

Lest you think she was all sugar and spice, she was a person who told things as she saw them.  Every time she saw me she complained about my long hair, big earrings and tall heels. When I got pregnant with our 4th baby, she offered to teach me about birth control. I learned to smile and roll with it. If she didn’t care about me, she wouldn’t say a word.  It was her way of saying, “I love you.”

She had a deep faith and prayed poetically. When Darren and I had been married 2 years, her son died in a tragic car accent.  It was a serious time of grief for all of us.  She told me death was beautiful and not to be sad.  She had already buried her husband and oldest son.  She KNEW they were in the arms of Jesus.  During her service I kept hearing her voice say those words, “Death is beautiful.”  But I still miss her.

My oldest son was acting up in the car during the funeral procession to the gravesite, poking his siblings and making them scream. I told him, “Your grandmother is in a hearse 10 cars ahead of us.  Remember what we are doing here and what your frame of mind should be.”

My oldest, Heidi, chimed in, “Yeah if grandma were here right now, she’d whack you with her cane.”

He said, “If she were here right now, I wouldn’t dare.”

After the funeral Saturday we went to her house with all her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren (28!) and a few extended family.  The church brought over the funeral meal leftovers and we ate and visited just like we would have on Christmas day.  The only thing missing was her and we all felt it. It was a lovely day until it was time to leave and I realized it was probably the last gathering like that in her home.  The last time there would be fig Newtons in the jar put there by her own hands.  The memories flooded in as tears running down my face.  My first date with Darren was there, a whole day of learning to farm. Not long after she decided Darren was taking too long and offered me her wedding ring set so we could just go get married.  She didn’t see any point of big weddings or long engagements.  If you love each other, go make a life together. What’s so hard about that?

I had plans to finish Kids and Money month strong with some posts about Kids and Christmas spending, but it was just more important to be with family.  I’ll come back and visit the topic again in a few weeks, but first I want to get some recipes out there.  Too many times I’ve searched my own site for a favorite recipe to refresh my memory on some of the details and find it wasn’t there.  Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas 2

This recipe is my go to when life gets really busy.  It throws together in 15 minutes and then just has to heat through in the oven.  Every ingredient is available at Aldi making a very frugal main dish. Add a tossed salad for a complete meal or make it bigger with sides of Spanish rice, corn, and fruit.  If you are gluten free, grab some gluten free tortillas.  Low carb tortillas work great here too, for a THM S Meal (You can have up to 3 Tbs of refried beans in an S setting.)  You can also assemble the whole thing in a slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours.



Day 1: Summer Here We Come

Storm Clouds

Today is our first Monday of summer vacation.  I’m a barrel of mixed feelings about school being out.  I love having the kids home and the sound of stirring in the lego bin as they search for that perfect piece. We are making different education choices for next year and I am mourning the change.  I’m not ready to talk about it publicly yet.  Soon, I hope.  For now, I want my friends to know we weren’t offended or upset in any way.


I’m still trying to figure out the whole summer vacation thing. In the past, I’ve written a summer bucket list and then had terrible Mommy guilt when I didn’t do much of it.  Last year I made a list of things I wanted to do around Kansas City, one a week. We did 2 things, then adrenal fatigue had me mostly bed bound the rest of the summer.


I want to be a fun mom.  I look at the pictures on facebook of families doing things together, like eating in a restaurant, going to the trampoline park, or in an extreme case, taking a girls’ trip to England….and I feel a little small inside.  It’s dumb to compare, I know.  But I do it anyway–it comes naturally.

I hope my kids tell their therapist that I really loved them.  That they know I tried.


I need summer to be as restful as possible.  School is hard.  Teaching; spelling lists, math facts, reading charts, reports and posters, fund raisers, and things to sign x 5  nearly puts me under.  Then we also have ballet class, soccer teams, basketball teams, violin lessons and piano lessons.  Plus Zion’s League and YAChoir for the High School one; Zioneers for the Middle School ones; Young Adults for the parents; Priesthood classes, Gatekeeper training; and family visits for the Daddy who also helps lead the Trailblazers group….and takes the boys to Boy Scouts too.  There’s Handmaidens and Lamplighters for the girls.  The only night we can be home as a family is Wednesday night, and the church would prefer we come to prayer service instead.  We don’t usually go. I have stay at home guilt on those nights, but if anyone walked a day in my shoes, they wouldn’t judge.

We’ve talked about limiting activities more.  We haven’t come up with a perfect solution.  The kids each have special needs that make a certain activity important for their development. The ones that aren’t crucial for congnitive and physical development are the church activities–and that feels kind of wrong to quit.  So we stay with the crazy and ask ourselves often if we’re doing the right thing.


This summer I have no bucket list. The 4 oldest kids will each go to a summer camp.  I will take the children to a family camp (we call it Reunion) while my husband stays back to earn money and hold down the fort.  We are going tent camping in the Rocky Mountains at some point.  And there’s a week of Bible School for the little ones.  There will be a lot of time just at home though.  If I can keep the screens off until 3pm, I will consider it a win, plus minimal fighting, and maybe cleaning once a month week.


Maybe we’ll air up the bike tires and send restless kids out into the neighborhood.  And a summer membership to a local pool.  That was a good thing last year.  I have a few house projects I’d like to squeeze in, but I’m hoping to find lots of peaceful moments.  Lots of peaceful moments.



My mediation:

Drop Thy still dews of quietness.

May all our strivings cease.

Take from our souls the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess the beauty of Thy peace.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Read These This Weekend

Hi Friends, there are 3 blogs I want you to read.  These ladies are among my favorites and they all have a similar message:  We are perfect because Jesus completes us, but that doesn’t mean we’re flawless.  Those flaws can be beautiful, because they are real.

Don’t get me wrong this is not an “I’m ok, You’re ok” message.  It’s the “YOU have value, because God made YOU” message.  I’m all for improving ourselves and stomping out sin.  I’m against hiding or not trying something new because we don’t think we can do it good enough.  It’s good to remember that we’re all a lot alike: beautifully flawed.

1.  Home Decor:  Nesting Place Her motto is “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful” Nuff said.  Her imperfect is definitely beautiful. She’s the reason I took a risk in my master bedroom the last two weeks.

To turn this:

Master bedroom before

Into this:

Master Bedroom After

Even unfinished, it has gone from my yucky place to my favorite place.

2.  Makeup: Maskcara  This girl is the queen of highlighting and contouring.  If you have fat cheeks, she’ll tell you they’re beautifully youthful.  If you have hooded eyes, she’ll show you a picture of every super model with hooded eyes just to prove how gorgeous you are.  You can’t get past her without feeling like the most beautiful creature.  She can teach you how to do this:


And this:


All while almost convincing you that you’re too beautiful to wear makeup at all.

If you can’t see beauty in your naked face, you won’t feel beautiful with makeup on either.

3.  And Mothering:  Finding Joy  This girl will not make you feel inadequate for eating box macaroni, or buying your Valentines ready made at Dollar Tree.  She will love you where you are and remind you that you are the best Mother for your kids. They don’t want any other. No tutorials, no recipes, just encouragement.



A Drop in the Bucket

A Drop in the Bucket

Right after we got out of debt, my husband received word that they were transferring us to Indianapolis, Indiana and renting us an apartment so he could open a new department in that branch.  It would be for about a year and then they would transfer us back. It sounded like a fun adventure.

We gave notice on the house we were renting and our landlord quickly found a new renter to move in as soon as we were gone.  I set aside the bare necessities for living (one set of dishes, one pot, one set of towels etc.) and packed the rest up into a storage unit. Not too long after, my husband’s work changed their mind. The move wasn’t going to work out after all.  And just like that we were homeless.

to farm 037The West view from their porch

Even though we had 3 babies, my in-laws invited us to come and stay with them until we could figure something out.  Their house was a charming 1920’s bungalow with only one bathroom featuring a cute cast iron tub. For cleaning up after coming in from the fields, there was an open shower in the basement.

Yellow Bucket

The plumbing in the house was old (and plumbed backwards so the left handle was cold water and the right hot ) The bathtub faucet dripped.  My mother-in-law put a bucket under the faucet and then used the water to water her plants, or to get a head start on the bathtub filling when it was time.  It just dripped once every second or so, but if we didn’t watch the bucket it would overflow in just a few hours. She couldn’t keep the bathtub stopped up all the time to catch the drips or by the end of the day we’d have a tub full of cold water and not enough room to add hot water to warm it up.

Gray bucket

When I look at our finances I catch myself saying stuff like, “And that’s not even a drop in the bucket.”  Meaning, we could save a few dollars here or there, but it won’t make a difference.  That’s wrong.  A few cents or dollars here and there if found CONSISTENTLY and at increasing frequency will fill a bucket in no time.

Leave a comment and give us some ideas. Where can you find a drop for your bucket?

P.S.  Keep in mind that if it costs more than you save by driving too far to get a special deal…that’s not saving anything.  If you cancel a membership or subscription that is saving you money than it costs you (like a Costco membership or a Grocery Shrink Plus subcription #shamelessplug ….. then that’s going backwards too.)  Take some time and look at the numbers so you can make your decisions with wisdom.

A little Christmas sewing


Here’s what I’ve discovered about handmade Christmas.  It’s not stressful if the projects are small enough, fast enough, and easy enough (and the supplies are easy and cheap to get-stash is all the beter.) It is not my season in life to draft my own patterns or make up a new way.  All of these were made from scraps in my dwindling stash from free patterns.  No new money spent.



In progress:  A pretend campfire from this book (I borrowed from the library.)



Finished:  A tiger/fox/racoon–whatever.  Super soft from minkey, felt and knit terry with polar fleece scarf.)  From this free pattern.  I changed the eye placement but otherwise kept it the same.IMG_0072.JPG

A hard to photograph infinity scarf.  Would you believe it’s adorable?  One seam, boom. I used this fabric, because I had a scrap left that begged to be a scarf.  I didn’t hem any edges, just stitched it into a loop with a French seam.  Nice and light and drapey.  Someone’s going to be very happy.

Yes, my bedroom walls are mustard yellow. I’m pretending I love it temporarily.

Now off to finish a Christmas movie while I stitch.


The Filthy Rich

credit: Saine

photo credit: Saine

Lately at Sunday School, the pulpit, normal conversation …  discussions about the rich have been more frequent than usual.  Most of the conversations have been about the evils of wealth and the scriptures that talk about how hard it is for a rich man to get into heaven.

In all of these discussions, no one talking about the wealthy considers themselves to be wealthy.  Wealth is relative.  Someone who has more than us, is wealthy.  Someone who has less is not.  And it almost nearly follows that someone who has more than us is evil and someone who is “poor” is more righteous.

When you think about who the rich are, you might consider that over 50% of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day.  Over 80% live on less than $10 a day. Things like indoor plumbing, electricity, elementary school, and clean water are reserved for the world’s top income earners.

At our house we also have the internet, a washer and dryer, central air, a piano, and a car.  I’m thinking we might be part of the wealthy.  The fact that our budget discussions include whether we can afford music lessons and school tuition—not if we know where our next meal will come from, seals it.  You might as well stamp “filthy rich” on my forehead.

I didn’t know the rich young ruler personally, but I’m guessing if you put his possessions and mine side by side, I’d have more stuff.   He went away sorrowing because he didn’t realize that all his stuff really wasn’t his.  It was God’s.  God gave him a large share to manage for Him and when He asked to be able to use it, the young man couldn’t let go.  Christ’s point was that no one can keep all the commandments.  No one can earn his own salvation, it’s not humanly possible alone.  It takes God.  It really wasn’t a discussion about the evils of wealth at all–that was an example of the many ways we can stumble.

Teaching against wealth building is a dangerous thing.  The most reliable way to build wealth is to manage money properly: Avoid debt, live on less than you make, save monthly, invest conservatively.  Building wealth requires hard work, patience, self-control, humility, self-denial, sacrifice. These are all things we should have in our lives.

It is never more righteous to be a HOT IRRESPONSIBLE MESS with our money.

When we have wealth we can DO great things with it.  We can give, fund missionaries, build relief shelters, support adoptions…anything!  Wealth gives choices.

Because we live in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, we are likely to have some rich people discussions.  Such as:  Should I buy organic?  How can I afford supplements?  How do you budget for college? Does cleaning with vinegar really work?  Understand that someone who doesn’t know where their next meal would come from would find these discussions ludicrous. It would be even more shocking how we can tear each other down over things like homeschooling, gluten, chevron, and high fructose corn syrup.

There may be times in our financial journey that our income barely covers our basic needs–shelter, food, clothing. In order to make progress we have to get a little crazy and do without some “necessities” like heat, toilet paper, organic food, and paleo ingredients.  In the scheme of things, we’ll still be living better than 80% of the planet.