vlog vednesday: what's in my purse?

I thought I'd give you guys a peek into the cavernous depths of The Carpet Bag: my Mary Poppins-esque purse.  I don't carry a diaper bag, so this is where all the Out in Public stuff is kept.  There's some weird stuff in here, including Spice Girls stickers.

callista is still tiny, right? (alternately titled, "I DEFY YOU, FATHER TIME!")

We have done birth announcements for all of our kids, and because Callista is our sixth baby, we're kind of behind the eight-ball on getting them ordered.  (Whoops; hopefully we can get this done before she turns eight months old, but there's no guarantee.)  But we definitely want to keep the tradition alive, even though we are a little late this time around.

So I was looking through photos we took of her early on - photos that were only taken a couple of months ago - and I am so in awe of, and a little bit sobered by how much she's grown.  I know it always happens this way, but I never stop feeling blindsided.  How has she grown so much since this sweet photo was taken?

Did she really like being swaddled at one point?  Did she really fit inside the Boppy, and fall dead-asleep on the couch in the middle of all the chaos?  Did she really have patchy newborn hair?  No, that can't possibly be the case, because none of those things is currently true, but she's still brand new and tiny.  Right?  Right?

Or... maybe she has figured out how to get to sitting from her belly by herself in the last couple of days.  Maybe she is working on that funny rocking thing they do right before they start crawling.  Maybe she has tried (and hated) little bites of real-people food.  Maybe she's getting big.

No.  Nope.  Noper.  She's just tiny and that's the end of that.  She will always be tiny, and I will never have to grapple with how little control I have over how quickly this life moves.

it's a two-fer! just to prove mondays really are the best.

Today I have not just one, but two vlogs to share with you!  Look at me, learning how to work the internet with aplomb!

Marriage Monday, Episode 3: Insist on Being First

Sharing the Gospel With Our Kids Through Discipline and Correction

what's up weekly.

This week was intensely normal.  We went to a wedding last weekend.  (Or, sort of.  We got there late because: six kids, and we left early because: six kids.  So we missed the wedding itself, and left before the reception, but we ate a bunch of hors d'oeuvres and mingled for an hour before going home, which I didn't hate.)

We tried to make it to church on Sunday, which would have been my first Sunday in church since January 14, but it was too icy.  We had freezing rain all night on Saturday, and by Sunday morning the ice on the windshield was a good quarter of an inch thick, and Todd could barely chisel it off.  By the time a lot of it had been painstakingly chipped and scraped and hacked at, it occurred to us that we might not even be able to get out of the driveway if we did get the ice cleared - we live on a verrrrry steep hill.  Todd went to investigate, and as I glanced out the side mirror, all I saw was him flailing his arms around and grasping for the mailbox to steady himself as he began to slide down the hill.  That sealed our fate.  We were stuck at home, yet again.  So we did 'house church' in the basement, singing worship songs and listening to a Mark Driscoll sermon together.  It was actually really nice, but I'm looking forward to getting back into a normal routine of being at church.

This week was full of holidays of sorts: Monday was Lincoln's birthday, which is a day observed with respect at our house.  If you're new around here, you will soon find out that I have a deep, abiding, consuming obsession with Abraham Lincoln that I will never recant.  I love him.  I loooooove him.

Tuesday was my sister's birthday, which is another major landmark in American history that should be talked about with the hushed tones of the reverent.  I only wish I could have spent it with her!

Wednesday was Valentine's Day, which was so much fun!  Todd came home on his lunch break, bringing flowers for the boys to give the girls.  Everyone loved it.

Rocco, I mean, Batman didn't really get the concept of handing the flowers over to the girls, so he just kind of ran laps around the living room, whipping the flowers around his head until they met their death.

And, because I resisted having my photo taken because I was dressed like a hobo and wasn't wearing makeup, but Todd encouraged me to stop being such a dummy; and because I need to be more okay with looking less-than-made-up on the internet, I give you this: my Wednesdays At 1:30 P.M. Look (But This Time With Flowers).

One of the college girls I meet with offered, along with her boyfriend, to babysit the kids so we could go out to dinner, which was incredible.  So I did actually end up getting dressed and putting on makeup later in the day - woohoo!  We went to Hu Hot, because I love it and because we didn't think it would be crazy-packed like a lot of places in town would be.  On our way home, we stopped at Natural Grocers for some sauerkraut and deodorant, because we like to keep things sexy on Valentine's Day.

Yesterday, it was seventy degrees out, so the kids spent much of the day playing outside, so I spent much of the day inside plugging away at my second read-through of Wild.  Today is supposed to be in the 30's.  And not to jinx anything, but that's prime let's-catch-the-flu-again weather, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed it passes over our house this time.

And that was our week!

how i store essential oils (and my favorite brands)!

I like to do things pretty naturally around here.  We brush our teeth with soapI take weird supplements.  (Right now, my favorite 'cocktail' to carry around the house all day is a potion of apple cider vinegar, ginger juice, magnesium powder, collagen and seltzer.)  Annnnnd... I love essential oils.

Yeah.  I know.  Me, and everyone else on the planet, amiright?

I'm not a super-oiler by any means.  I don't have microbrewed specialty concoctions of oils hanging from vials around my neck.  I don't have all of the really peripheral oils with names like Dragon's Blood and Loyalty.  I have a pretty straightforward, basic set of oils that I lean on pretty heavily for our straightforward, basic health and first aid needs.

I was going kind of crazy with how disheveled my oils organization was getting.  I was having to dig around in cupboards to find whatever oil I needed at the time, and if you know me at all, you know that when my stuff isn't organized, I feel all convoluted and discombobulated and claustrophobic, so I knew I needed to deal with it.  I wanted something that would allow me to see all my oils at a single glance, without needing specialty stickers for the caps, and something that didn't take up a bunch of room.  Enter: Nail Polish Organizer.

It's perfect.  It fits well on the shelf in my linen closet.  The shelves are deep enough to hold small (4 oz) bottles of carrier oils, as well as the weird, kind-of-superfluous refiller cups that come with every diffuser.  (Why diffuser companies don't think I can figure out how to just use a normal cup is beyond me.)  All the labels of the oils are visible.  There's quite a bit of room to expand my collection.

As for brands, I've tried all kinds - from Aura Cacia, which you can get basically anywhere, to NOW, which is sold at most health food stores, to Edens Garden, Plant Therapy, Young Living, and DoTerra.  And my favorite is...

Plant Therapy!

When I first started buying oils, I went with Edens Garden, and most of my collection is still comprised of their oils.  I liked the quality and felt comfortable using them, without having to sell my own blood in order to afford them.  (That was super important to me as a beginner!  I wanted to be able to try them out without having to bottom out my grocery budget for a couple of tiny bottles.)   They also have an explicitly child-safe line, so I didn't have to spend hours scouring the internet to figure out if I could use such-and-such oil on a four year old.  Plus, call me shallow, but the labels are pretty. 

In doing a bit more research, I have started moving more toward Plant Therapy.  They are very transparent in their GC/MS testing, and offer the test results for each oil and batch, so not only am I comfortable with their quality, but I completely respect their honesty and commitment to educating consumers about what they're getting.  They have aromatherapists on staff to educate their buyers about safe oil usage.  Plus, they're still really, really affordable, and they, too, have a KidSafe line.  (The only thing I don't like about them is their labels.  Again, call me shallow.)

And to be honest, while I haven't had the opportunity to compare multiple types of oils, peppermint is one we use a lot of in our house for headaches and belly aches.  I have used Aura Cacia, Edens Garden, a random brand I got from my chiropractor, Young Living, DoTerra, and Plant Therapy, and Plant Therapy is hands down the most potent and effective in our extensive personal experience.

I know there's a lot of info floating around out there, and I'm not here to tell you what to buy.  I really have no skin in the game when it comes to your own medicine cabinet!  I will say I don't believe that a single brand has the market cornered on purity or effectiveness.  I think there are quite a few great brands out there, and if they're safe AND affordable, that's where my money's going!

*Legal disclaimer: I don't get anything from Plant Therapy, or any other EO brand, and they don't even know I exist, so there's that.  In case you'd like to check them out, these are affiliate links through Amazon.

vlog vlednesday: talking to our kids about Jesus.

Today's video is up, in which I cover how we talk about faith with our kids when they're young.

Two things:

One, I think the cord on my webcam is a stinker, which makes the video act weird in a few places.  I'm in the process of figuring it out, but in the meantime, pretend I'm like a hologram on Star Wars, instead of someone posting videos even though they're wonky in spots.  Holograms have permission to be kind of erratic.

Two, I forgot to cover one other way we like to talk about the Gospel with our kids, so I'll be adding a second video this week with some bonus material - I'll keep you posted!

my kids fight with each other. i just thought you should know.

I was talking to my sister the other day, and saying how I wish I didn't feel so alone in struggling with my kids' bickering.  I get why it isn't talked about much in parenting circles: we really have little right to be airing our kids' sin struggles to the whole world.  It's my job to cover their multitude of sins, just like I would hope that someday they will be gracious and forgiving with my multitudes and multitudes of sins, when faced with the opportunity to air them in public.  That's what love does.

However, it is possible to discuss it honestly without going into the specifics that would throw my kids under the bus.  So if you're in the same boat, here's some company for your misery:  my kids bicker.  I often feel frustrated and unequipped to deal with it.  It sometimes feels like I'm failing, and it sometimes feels like it's pointless to even try to combat it.  I yell way too often, and I'm guilty of just wanting them to knock it off instead of putting the work into addressing the heart behind what's happening.

I have no answers.  Is that comforting?  I think sometimes that would comfort me to hear from other Christian moms - to know that managing frustrating relationships between kiddos seems it's just par for the course.  To be reminded that they really do struggle with sin, and it will feel like it.  To be cheered on knowing that it can't be 'controlled,' and the best we can hope for is to take the perspective that each opportunity for correction is yet another opportunity to share the Gospel.  Not because it will 'fix' them, but because it is powerful to make them new, which will then motivate them to love the things worth loving: peacemaking.  generosity.  kindness.  It will come - but only with lots and lots and lots of opportunities for correction and discussion, which seem to be most present in the midst of lots and lots and lots of offenses.

So take heart if that's where you're at.  It's where I'm at, too.  There is no fix.  There is just endless opportunity to enter the ring on their team, and to trust the Holy Spirit to do the work in them that we can't.  I needed this reminder, and need it fresh every day.  Maybe you do, too.

teaching the liturgy to our kids.

I didn't have a strong church background before I started attending a Lutheran church with a friend in middle school.  While Todd and I haven't chosen to be part of a traditionally liturgical church in our adulthood, we have a really deep love for church history and the comfort that believers have found for hundreds of years in the creeds of orthodox Christianity.

Earlier this year, I was prayer journaling, and suddenly a Lutheran confession of prayer immediately rose to mind - a prayer I had recited dozens, or maybe even hundreds of times in my pre-conversion days without giving much thought to it.  But in reciting it recently, I found so much comfort in the deep truth I had unknowingly and almost effortlessly stored away in my heart and mind in those years.

Most merciful God,
We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.  We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.  We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.  Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.

It got us talking about the importance of liturgy, tradition, and rote memorization in the life of faith.  While I don't think it should make up the entirety of our interactions with God, it is so helpful to enter into words and actions that have been clung to for generations.  So because our church isn't liturgical, Todd has really started making it a priority at home to help our kids memorize and understand some of the creeds and foundational texts.

One thing that has really helped us is finding resources where they're set to music, to make it easier for the kids to enter in, and quicker for them to memorize.  Here are a couple of our family's current favorites!

In Wednesday's video post, I'll be talking about other ways we initiate faith discussions with our kids in our everyday lives, so make sure to check that out!

*Unrelatedly, just a reminder that today's Marriage Boot Camp vlog will post today at 10 a.m. CST on my YouTube channel.  (Will someone let me know if that link works?)  I'll be talking about one tiny, seemingly insignificant word that has made a huge difference in my communication with Todd, and can likely help you, too - I bet you'll be surprised to find out what it is.

it's the weekly 'what's up.'

We were supposed to head up to Iowa last Friday to spend the weekend with my family, but the kids were still (still) under the weather.  A couple of the kids still had gurgly bellies, and Penelope has been dealing with some stuff that makes me wonder if she doesn't have a latent strep infection somewhere in her body, so we thought it best to stay home.

She also lost a tooth this week!

While it was a bummer, we found out later that on Sunday, the day we would have been driving home, there was a 70-car pileup accident nearby in Iowa, and a 100-car pileup accident nearby in Missouri... so apparently the roads would have been really bad on our way home.  It made me glad that we didn't have to experience any of that!

So instead of loading up the van and heading out on Friday night, we decided to rotate the living room rug.  I had asked Todd at Family Table to help me with it at some point in the future, since the wear patterns were becoming pretty noticeable.  He put it on his to-do list, and I walked into the living room as he was already moving stuff out of the way to get it done.  It has helped us in so many ways to be on the same page, with eyes on each others' goals.  Thanks, Family Table!

The weekend was pretty chill still, since everyone was still (still) recovering from illness.  We didn't go to church or really do much of anything.

Monday night, a friend of ours offered to watch the kids so Todd and I could go out on a date.  It was so appreciated - it has been a really, really long stretch of being chained to the house.  It was nice to get to dress up and go eat fancy tacos.  (And have the best margarita of my liiiiiiiiiiife.)  We stopped to grab coffee on the way home, but I've found that one of the lingering effects of being so sick was that I still can't stomach coffee.  (I also have sustained some really intense thumb/hand/wrist pain and weakness.  I think the virus has somehow set up residence there and done some damage, which is weird and unfortunate.)

The rest of the week was normal and low-key.  We got through the whole week's school work, which is a huge blessing after having missed the last week and a half.  Our van battery died last week, so while we were able to make it to the Amish (Todd jumped it before we left, and I never turned the van off from the time we left the driveway until the time we returned), there were other things we had to cancel because we weren't able to get out, like speech therapy.

SPEAKING OF SPEECH THERAPY, I have had some really, really, really wonderful news come out of the woodwork with that.  An amazing family member of mine who is a speech therapist has offered to work with Atticus via Skype, so we may not have to set aside entire mornings for all of us to go!  What an amazing answer to prayer.  I'll keep you posted on those developments.

And other than that, the best news this week involved food.  First of all, Todd's mom sent us oranges from their tree in Arizona.  THEY ARE THE BEST.  Sunshine in a box!

Second of all, I grilled.  There is very little February can offer me that's better than grilling weather.

And that was our week!

And just in case you missed any of the goings-on around here this week:

Family Table: Todd and I have started using Friday nights to sit down and get on the same page, and it's a seriously sexy time.  Better than date night.

My favorite chicken-bacon-rice soup recipe.  This is a seriously perfect soup, with some photos that don't do it justice.

Marriage Bootcamp, Episode 1: Teamwork.  Where is the center line in your marriage?  It's really one of the most important questions to ask yourself, especially in the middle of an argument.

And the best newborn advice I have to offer, after much time spent learning things the hard way.

Have a great weekend!  See you next week!

creamy chicken-bacon-rice soup. prepare to be impressed.

I make a lot of soup.  A loooooot of soup.  Why? Because #1. I love soup.  I could eat it every day.  #2. It's cheap and easy.  #3. It stretches to feed a lot of people over a lot of days.  #4.  You can make it early in the day so dinner time is less stressful.  #5.  Very little clean up.  #6.  Who doesn't like soup?  #7.  I could really keep going with this list.

Of all the soups in the whole world, I would like to submit that this is the best soup.  It is the Soup of Soups.  It will win over even the staunchest of the soup-averse.  It will win you friends and help you influence people.  In short, it will change your life.

I have two secrets to making an extraordinary soup, which I'll share with you if you promise not to tell anyone.  Are you ready?

1.  Don't use a crockpot.  Please swear to me you won't use a crockpot.  Crockpots take everything good and wonderful in this world and turn it all into flavorless, textureless sadness.  Don't try to convince me that you have some miracle crockpot recipe that will change my mind.  It will not change my mind.  I am unconvinceable.

2.  Cook each component of the soup as though you would be eating it on a plate.  What I mean by that is, like, season and grill the chicken; don't boil it to death.  Would you eat boiled chicken by itself on a plate?  No.  Would you eat grilled chicken?  Yes.  Sautee the veggies in some good fat; again, don't boil them in the soup broth.  You would not enjoy eating mushy boiled vegetables by themselves.  Think of a good soup as basically a complementary marriage of some awesome individuals; not a hot tub full of the old and leathery.

Okay, so with that in mind, here is the recipe that has won me more friends in the course of life than my mediocre personality has:


1 onion, chopped.
2 carrots, peeled and chopped. (or equivalent baby carrots chopped)
2 stalks celery, halved and chopped.
4-6 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped.  (so much chopping!)

1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
1 chicken breast, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces.  (grilled*, baked, or roasted in advance.)

1-2 cups cooked rice, cooked in broth. (I like jasmine or brown basmati because they maintain their structural integrity)

4-6 cups broth
1.5 cups heavy cream

1 tsp (ish) salt
1 tsp (ish) pepper
dash of cayenne
1 tsp (ish) rosemary

Okay, before we move on, let me give you a head's up that my photos are terrible; also, I forgot to take a photo of the finished product because I was too busy eating it (I'll try to snap a picture later today in the daylight); also I was making a quadruple batch when I took these pictures, so you're seeing a a ton more food here than this recipe will yield.  (Unless you quadruple the recipe yourself.  Which I would recommend.)


1. Cook bacon in soup pot until crispy.  Remove bacon, but leave a couple of tablespoons of the bacon grease in the pot.

2.  Add veggies to hot bacon grease, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until the onion is translucent and the carrots and celery are soft but not mushy.

3.  Add bacon, cooked chicken, and cooked rice to pot, and add enough broth to cover ingredients by an inch or two.  Add cream.  Heat through, and season to taste with salt, pepper, rosemary and cayenne.

4.  Serve to guests and accept their eternal gratitude with grace when it's offered.

Like I said, I triple or quadruple this recipe when I make it.  I serve one batch (or two, if we're having guests), and freeze the other batches for later.  I just leave the broth and cream out of the ones headed to the freezer, and add the liquids later when I'm ready to heat it through and serve it.

*Here's a little tip: my favorite way to grill chicken for this is to pound the chicken breasts flat, rub them with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper and paprika.  Then I grill for 2-4 minutes per side.

And there you have it.  The best thing that's about to happen to you.