My Struggle for Control

Before I was born I had already lost 2 siblings. I don’t mean they went missing, I mean they were gone. They’d died.

One was a miscarriage and one died when she was 2 because she had a hole in her heart.Again before I was born, my 2 surviving older brothers were diagnosed with the disease that, through complications, would take their lives: type 1 diabetes.

 Obviously, none of these things were something that I could have changed had I already been born. Even if I was the oldest child and some type of a medical prodigy, I couldn’t have cured all of their ills. I couldn’t have stopped this from happening.
 
But from the way it affected my life, you would think that I alone decided the number of their days and the way that they spent them.
 
My brothers were 14 and 16 years old when I was born. I was a bit of a surprise. I was also well loved, encouraged, built up and…we might as well admit it, a bit spoiled.
 
Okay, a lot spoiled. My childhood pediatrician said I didn’t have 1 mother, I had 4: my mom, my dad, and my 2 older brothers.
 
While my brothers picked on me, teased me, and harassed me, they also took me to the fair, won prizes for me, captured pets in the woods for me, and brought me my first kitten. I adored them.
 
I was 17 when Jim died. I was at school when they took him to the hospital. If only I’d been there.
 
I later graduated and, almost against my will went away to college. I didn’t like being away. Oh, granted I also left a boyfriend at home, but that wasn’t the main problem.
 
The problem was that I wasn’t at home to control things. To make sure that nothing else bad happened. So I quit school and came home.
 
Actually, I quit making friends, quit going to classes, quit doing homework and quit being granted a scholarship…..and then I came home.
 
I was embarrassed and ashamed; but I was where I thought I wanted to be. At home. In control. So that nothing else bad could happen.
 
And that’s the way I continued to live my life for years. For YEARS, y’all. If I was just THERE then nothing bad could happen.
 
So I stopped pursuing my goals…actually didn’t even take time to think about them. My only goal was to control everyone and all of the circumstances around them…so that nothing bad would ever happen again.
 
Well, you can guess how that turned out. People don’t like to be controlled. I lost friends and boyfriends and finally a marriage.
 

But I still thought that I needed to be in control.

 
Eventually, I got married again to a pretty awesome guy. He’s patient and kind and there’s not much that bothers him. And with this awesome guy came 3 pretty great kids.
 
This made me so happy. More people that needed me to help them, protect them, keep them from all harm. Because that’s what I am supposed to do, right?
 
Eventually we added 2 more little girls to our family. And that’s when I broke. Up until now, I’d been able to at least keep some semblance of sanity about our lives. Now it was all gone.
 
Because now I ALONE was responsible not only for creating but for caring for, supporting, providing, loving, nurturing, educating 2 tiny people that I loved more than I ever thought was possible.
 

So I stopped sleeping.

 
I stopped sleeping because a lot can happen when you’re asleep. Binkies fall out, stuffed animals are lost and oh yeah….babies sometimes stop breathing.
 
So I just stopped. I stopped sleeping for almost a year.
 
You probably think I’m exaggerating, but you should ask Johnnie how long the baby monitors stayed in our room, and how often I slept on the floor beside the cribs, and what I looked like and smelled like and acted like for a year or so after our last child was born.

Looking back now, it scares me.

 One day I came out of my stupor and realized that my children were now 2 and 3, and I needed to be a better mom. So I went to a Bible Study. Makes sense, right? And I thought it would be a good example for them.
 
It was. That Bible Study changed my life.
 
Oh, I already knew the Lord, but I’d chosen to live in a way that said I didn’t. I was living as a captive and slave to Fear. I didn’t make a move or even think a thought that I didn’t run by Fear, first:
 
Have fun! Oh, but be careful.
 
I love you. Really? For how long?
 
Your kids are beautiful. But will they even survive being toddlers?
 
You have the best relationship with your step kids! Some days. Most days I think they hate me. I don’t deserve them.
 
You must be so proud of your husband for being a firefighter. I almost throw up every time he walks out the door to go to a call. Will he come back?
 
You have the best friends! I do. They’ll probably turn on me. I don’t deserve them.
 
I wish I lived in the country, like you do. Why? So no one can hear you scream if someone breaks into your house?
 

Not a word.

Do you see what was happening here? Not a word could be said to me that I didn’t twist. I thought I was in control but I’ve never been in control. I was allowing FEAR to control me.
 
I was allowing Satan to control my thoughts. The Father of Lies and I was buying everything he sold; and paying dearly.
 
Thank God for Jesus and His ability to break strongholds. Through His word, God started speaking to me. Through His people, He started teaching me and holding me accountable.
 
I finally not only heard but listened to the truth: I am not in control, HE is. I am not in charge, HE is. I cannot change the future, HE can.
 
This has been a journey for me. A path with some setbacks and detours and quicksand; but I am on the path and I am moving. Sometimes bounding over fallen trees and thorny vines. Sometimes barely dragging through the mud; but I am moving.
 
Friend, do you think that you are in charge?
 
Are you blaming yourself because your husband or son or daughter or friend or brother or sister has pain in their life? Don’t you think you could have fixed that for them? Don’t you think that is YOUR responsibility?
 
It’s not.
 
I think some of you need to hear this tonight. Do you have a kid making foolish and painful decisions that is tearing up their life? Do you have a husband or wife who has lost a job or is sick or hurt or just plain mean? Why don’t you fix that?
 
Because you can’t.
 
That’s not your job, my friend. That is God’s job. And His way of fixing things doesn’t always look like our way. But that’s the thing.
 

Either He’s God, or He is not.

 
If He’s not, if you don’t believe He’s God then by all means, keep trying to fix things. Keep trying to control things. Keep trying to build your bubble around your people. It’s okay. I have several boards left over that you can use.
 
But if He IS God. If He really is (and you know I believe that He is) then you have to let go. Erase your outline, put down your boards, and pick up you Bible.
 
Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8) And as you draw near to Him, you will get to know Him more. And as you know Him, you will trust Him. And as you trust Him, you will love Him. And that is the biggest blessing you can imagine.
 
And occasionally, you will pick up your hammer and your boards again; you will want to build that shelter and get all your ducks in a row and all your chicks in the coop.
 
I understand. I’m away from my husband tonight and I both called and texted him to make sure he’d taken his meds and then recorded his blood pressure. What can I say? I’m reforming; but I’m not completely reformed.
 
I’m still a work in progress. So are you. Even if you’ve given up on yourself, I haven’t given up on you. Neither has God. He’s just waiting for you to lay that hammer down and rest in Him, so He can do the real work …… on you.
 
If you’re struggling with this tonight, I want you to know that you’re not alone. I may know about your struggles, or I may have no clue. But if you are struggling with this, I am praying for you. Because I have been there too.
 
Sweet dreams, my friends. I love you. God loves you more.

Books, Bags, Bonfires, and…..Coffee?

There’s so much to love about October!

It’s October and I plan to spend the month with a few of my favorite things:  books, bags, bonfires, and coffee. It’s no secret that books and I are in an exclusive relationship. I can live without television, Instagram, and maybe even FaceBook (for a limited time 😀 ) ; but please don’t ask me to live without books.

October is the perfect month for creepy supernatural thrillers, and Wendy Webb really delivered!  I was super excited to see her book  in the Kindle First Amazon list. Daughters of the Lake entranced me from the first page:

It was finally time for the lake to give her up. And so, one morning in late summer, her body washed gently into the shallows, as though it, she, had simply been floating in a peaceful, watery slumber. She was wearing a white gown, a long, billowing, delicate thing still tied with a bow at the neck, the sort of garment one might imagine wealthy women of the past wearing to bed. A tangle of auburn hair cascaded around her face. ..Her appearance was all the more remarkable since she had died nearly a century earlier.

Eeeeeek! What happened to her? Where did she come from? How are we going to solve a crime that was committed over 100 years ago? This book is the perfect blend of suspense and eeriness for cool autumn nights. Let me know if you read it!

Rain, rain, go away…

For some of us, October has been a ridiculously wet month so far. I was glad to see some sunshine this morning, but for the past 2 weeks we’ve had rain almost every. single. day.

I don’t know about you, but a couple of weeks of clouds and humidity makes me feel like even my mood is growing mold! The girls and I were starting to snap at each other over math papers and piano lessons, so I knew it was time to change our focus.

A few years ago when our family was struggling with some pretty heavy life stuff, a friend brought something she called a blessing bag or sunshine bag. It was thoughtful and cute, and a great reminder that someone was thinking of us.

I couldn’t remember what all she put in that bag, just remembered that there was a loooootttttt of yellow stuff! So the girls and I hit Walmart, Hobby Lobby, and the dollar store with our bag budget.

I know, I know, the kitchen’s terrible; but some days are just like that, you know?

I meant to get a better picture, but we were so excited after assembling the bags (we made 3) that this is all I’ve got:

I can tell you that all of our attitudes made a complete 180 degree turn while planning, purchasing, assembling, and delivering these bags. And so far, the change has lasted! I saw a quote yesterday that said “When you feel down, go bless others.” We definitely learned the truth in that saying.

Fall means bonfires

Some of my best memories have been made around fires. That may seem a little ironic since I married a firefighter but hey, life is full of contradictions!

Growing up in city limits, I didn’t get to have a lot of bonfires, but whenever we went camping, or to my grandma’s house in Arkansas, they were a highlight of the trip.

My family lives outside city limits now, so you better believe I’m collecting sticks all year and waiting for that first temperature drop! I think my my husband and the girls’ favorite part is the marshmallows; but I love the sparks, the dark, the moon, the music (if we can persuade someone to play their guitar), and the conversation.

It’s also a great time for the kids to enjoy time with their friends, making memories.

Coffee, the new love of my life

Y’all, seriously, why didn’t any of you tell me???????? Okay, maybe a few of you tried, but obviously you didn’t try hard enough. (I’m talking to YOU Mandy and Heather ).

A few years ago, one of the girls in our youth group felt led to start a Bible Study for girls, 7th grade and up. Kate wasn’t old enough to go the first year, but as soon as she WAS old enough, she was excited to join. And, since we knew the girl leading the study and couldn’t possibly ask for or imagine a better role model, Johnnie and I were excited for her to join, as well.

Such amazing girls. They bless me!

It’s been a couple of years now, and the girl who originally started the study is off at college. Fortunately, God called others to lead, and Jill has now joined the study, as well.

I can’t tell you what a highpoint this is for my kids. Weekly meetings with like minded girls, many of them a bit older and who have been where my girls are now.

Usually I just drop them off once I see that some of their friends are there and run a few errands. However, about 2 weeks ago………my  life changed. I didn’t have time to grab a snack before taking them to Bible Study, so I went in and just ordered “something chocolate and cold.”

Hello, my new friend: Iced Mocha. Yum. In so many ways just….yum.

I felt like my life had started over. I was instantly 20 years younger and running, no, WINNING a marathon.

I was an award winning author, a concert singer, a neurosurgeon. I was…. the best of the the best of THE BEST. This is what coffee does for you, my friends.

Because I am a book nerd, and because I am me, I instantly became a bit obsessed with the coffee bean. We made a trip to the local library and collected all of the data we could possibly gather in such a short amount of time:

Hurray for Ms. Jo and the inter-library loan system!

I actually read some in each of these books, and skimmed more.; but the one that caught my attention, because it provided coffee/latte/mocha/mochiato recipes (hello, more coffee) was I Love Coffee! Over 100 Easy and Delicious Coffee Drinks

Wow. Just…..wow. This book has pretty drinks and skinny drinks and fancy drinks…..and it even talks about different machines and beans!

I may have checked it out from the library, but it’s now on my Amazon Wish List.

I’ve shared a few of the things that October holds for me…what about you? And for any of my coffee drinker friends: what’s your drug of choice? 😉

I’m Over Heeeerrrreeee (new bed)

We’ve needed a new bed for quite some time, since our last one was almost 14 years old. I know this because we bought it when I was expecting Kate and guess what: she’s almost 14 years old. 🙂

Sale, sale, sale!

Labor Day was approaching and I knew that this was (for some obscure reason) the time to buy a mattress because there were always lots of sales. I decided to try something I’d never tried before. I withdrew cash and walked in prepared to haggle. Of course, I didn’t want to reveal my hand so I walked around, sat on several beds, and chatted with the sales person. One thing working in my favor was that it had been raining all day and I was the only customer in the store.

After sitting and lying and bouncing and getting back up to do it all again, I’d settled on a mattress. Now it was time to see what kind of a bargain we could agree on. Of course it was already on sale, and we could get either free delivery or a base that made the bed go up and down IF I purchased today. We agreed on the sale price and the bed base; but I said I needed to talk to my husband and then we’d both come back later in the weekend.

The salesperson looked disappointed as she handed me her business card until I asked “Is there any way to get a better discount if I pay cash, right now?” It turns out, I could. By the time we finished talking and I walked out the door, we’d gotten a free delivery, new pillows, and an additional discount. All because I paid cash on a rainy day.

The only problem was, Johnnie wasn’t thrilled about the purchase. Oh, he knew I intended to get a new bed; he’d been wanting one for a year and we’d discussed a budget and done research on what type of bed to buy. The only thing he wasn’t excited about was the size. He wanted to stay with a queen sized bed, and I was determined to get a king. He finally agreed if I could stay in our budget. I did.

Since then, his attitude has been rather amusing. He loves that he gets better sleep and wakes up without a hurting back, but still isn’t overly happy about how big it is. Still, he can’t outright complain, because he agreed to this so he likes to be a bit more subtle:

Me: Ow!

Johnnie: Oh, are you in bed? You’re so far away I didn’t know you were there.

Me: So you just started throwing things at me til I yelled?

Johnnie: Of course not! I was gently tossing a pillow so you’d have it for later. I just had to throw really hard because it’s so far away.


*5 minutes after I’m in bed

Johnnie: Marco!

Me: …….

Johnnie: Marco!

Me: There is no one named Marco here. Just me. Ayme. Your wife.

Johnnie: Oh thank goodness! I thought you were lost. Babe, when I say Marco, you’re supposed to answer “Polo” if you’re here….so I can find you.

Me: Oh good grief!


Unfortunately for him, his subtle remarks have started to backfire. The girls have picked up on them and started saying things like

Mama, I put a water bottle by your bed. You know, so in case you want to go find daddy sometime tonight you won’t get dehydrated on the journey!

This was actually the remark that made him laugh at himself and quit harassing me. Mostly. Although I will still hear the occasional “Marco” as I’m drifting off to sleep.

All of this Marco-Polo-ing reminded me of a comedy show we saw in Tennessee several years ago. It was at the Comedy Barn and I highly recommend attending any of their shows if you ever have a chance. Clean, hilarious, and family friendly entertainment. But I digress…

In one set, an entertainer asked if you ever wonder what dogs are barking about all night and came up with the answer that they were yelling back and forth. Fido: “I’m over here!” Benji: “I’M over HERE!” (repeat eternally). It may not sound funny now, but as part of the larger routine, it was great.

The thing is, as Johnnie was performing his Marco Polo routine and I was thinking about the dogs barking, I also started thinking about marriage. (Stay with me now, I’m going somewhere with all of this).

Although Johnnie and I were mostly joking about the bed situation, we’ve also had our share of serious disagreements. What about you?

I couldn’t help but compare our negotiating and compromising skills with the dogs barking all night.

Johnnie: I think we should do this….

Me: Well I THINK we should do THIS….

(repeat eternally)

Fences

And while property fences are built to keep our pets contained and safe, I’m guilty of constructing fences in my marriage as well.

The fence of tradition: We’ve always done it this way or MY family does it this way.

The fence of record keeping: I gave in last time. It’s his turn to give in now.

The fence of past offenses: He was a total jerk and hurt me. I’m not going to give him what he wants after he caused me to suffer like that.

While I’m not a marriage counselor, I know what has worked for us; and what definitely hasn’t. We don’t have a happy or successful marriage when I am insisting on having things my way, or keeping records of wrongs, or nursing a grudge. We don’t have a happy or successful marriage when I refuse to compromise or negotiate.

Oh we can have a marriage. Just not one that sustains and encourages both of us. I can harden my heart and hold onto past hurts and we can still have a marriage, but what kind of relationship is that? Not one that I want.

There’s a quote about bargaining that also delivers sound marriage guidance:

You must never try to make all the money that’s in a deal. Let the other fellow make some money too, because if you have a reputation for always making all the money, you won’t have many deals.
–J. Paul Getty

Maybe you’re better at debating than your spouse is. Maybe you’re more forceful; or maybe, like me, you’re just hard headed. The thing is, marriage isn’t about individual trophies and goals. It’s about the team. Marriage is a team sport. Your husband needs to feel as  loved, fulfilled, accepted and appreciated as you do. And honestly, a Biblical marriage is about putting his needs and wants ahead of yours, and trusting God to lead him to do the same.

God has been working on this in my heart for …… well, forever, but especially the past few months.

It’s not easy

Putting someone before yourself daily doesn’t come naturally. It’s a God thing. But I don’t want to stay behind my self-erected fences, constantly yelling “I’m over here!”

I want Johnnie to be able to find me. I want our lives to be the best that God has for us. I want us to journey together.

I am working on this and praying for this for my marriage, and I’m praying for yours too. Don’t give up. Keeping moving those fences!

I believe in you.

Food for a Crowd

Foodie Friday!

It’s Foodie Friday, the day where I will share what we’ve been cooking this week, what’s worked for us, and what definitely has NOT. Trust me, there’s always plenty that has NOT worked 😉

While I’m not really one to enjoy entertaining every weekend, I find once the weather cools I love to become a hostess….at least occasionally. My kids are at the age where they want to hang out with their friends, and I want to be the house where the kids hang out, so that means coming up with food for a crowd! Actually, the way our family is growing, when all of our kids and their sidekicks are here, we number 11, so we are starting off with a small crowd of our own.

However I do NOT enjoy stressing, and I’m down to cooking on one burner (more on that in a later post) so how to get things done? The first and main step of course, is to come up with a plan. I like lists and I like plans. There’s nothing like scratching things out and watching the list shrink, task by task! Fortunately, over the years we’ve got the list simplified:

*Invite friends
*Choose meal
*Order groceries through Walmart pick up (life changing,  y’all)
*Clean house
*Pick up Ingredients
*Cook
*Set out paper goods (soooooo much easier on the cleanup)
*Enjoy company
*Enjoy company going home (I had to add this. One of the best parts of a good party is seeing everyone depart…and knowing your house is still mostly clean!)
*Relax

I’m sure y’all can handle all of that on your own, but I thought I’d share a few of our favorite company recipes that don’t involve slaving in the kitchen all day.


When our girls want to have a small group of their closest friends over, the first recipe they think of  is always pizza. Everyone likes it, it’s easy, and making our own is much more economical than ordering out! A friend shared this recipe a few years ago https://www.pinterest.com/pin/37788084359908797/from Crystal at Money Saving Mom, and we’ve been enjoying it ever since. You can even freeze it if you make enough…although ours has never made it to the freezer 🙂

 


October means…….TACOS!

October in our church youth group means that their will be theme nights planned once a week. This week was food week, and since it was the day before National Taco Day, we decided to host a Taco Bar. Ours wasn’t that cute (do a search on Pinterest for some fancy ideas) but it went over with a bang! Different parents brought taco meat, tortillas, veggies, cheese, salsa, and of course…….dessert! Since I knew there would be plenty of ground beef, we decided to try a chicken recipe

and I have to say, it was pretty amazing. I actually came up with this recipe myself, after experimenting with several other chicken recipes.

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchiladas (this was a hit)

4 lbs chicken breasts
1 – 2 chopped onions
4-5 garlic cloves
2-3 chopped jalapeños (with seeds)
2 T cumin
2 T Adobo seasoning
1 T chili powder
1 can green chili sauce
1 c water
Salt and pepper
Add all of this to a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or longer.

Shred chicken and add
2 pkgs cream cheese (8 oz each)

Allow to melt then stir in and serve with tortillas.
SOOOOOOO GOOD!


The next recipe is one we just tried last night. Honestly, it makes enough to feed a crowd but our family of 4 (at home) consumed a ridiculous amount. It was just. that. good. As the recipe’s creator says: We may be dying young, my fellow Americans, but we will die happy. Fat and so, so happy. 😀 You can find the link to “Literally the Best Mac and Cheese Ever” right here:

https://thefoodcharlatan.com/literally-the-best-mac-and-cheese-ive-ever-had/

The only variation we used was to cut up a ham steak and add it to the bottom of the pan. Honestly, the mac and cheese is enough to make a meal on its own; just throw a happy green salad on the side to appease your conscience. However, my husband thinks that a meal without meat is……..not a meal, so that’s why the ham was added. Definitely a comfort food meal!


Unfortunately I don’t have a picture to go with last crowd pleaser recipe recommendation, but I’ll work on adding that, soon. Most of you have probably already heard of Taco Soup, but in case you haven’t you really need to check this out:

Taco Soup
1-2 lbs ground beef
1 diced onion
1 can pinto beans
1 can light red kidney beans
1 can dark red kidney beans
2 cans corn
1 can diced tomatoes and chilis
1 pkg dry ranch seasoning
1 pkg taco seasoning
3 c water

Directions are simple: Brown the beef and onions. Drain. Add this along with the rest of the ingredients to a slow cooker and cook at least 4 hours.

This recipe is sooooooooooo easy and can simmer all day in the slow cooker. Serve it with corn bread or Fritos, shredded cheese, and sour cream and everyone will be coming back for seconds!

You can also easily adjust this recipe to your taste: more or less water, black beans instead of pinto beans, etc. Experiment with whatever you like best!

What are your recipes to feed a crowd? I’d love to find some new ones to share with our family and friends! Let me know what you think if you try any of the recipes I’ve mentioned. Have a great weekend and happy eating!

 

Books, books, and more books: 5 of my all time favorite books to read aloud with your family

Books, books, books

Anyone who knows me knows my love of books.

While other women dream of Prince Charming stopping by to sweep them off their feet, I just want him to drop me off at the nearest Barnes and Noble with a $500 gift card, please and thank you. If he could manage to reserve one of those comfy chairs while I sort through the aisles, that would be great, too.

Reading is a passion, and I’ve spent way too much time and money through the years supporting my addiction. It wouldn’t be so bad if some of that time weren’t wasted reading books that end up in the garbage because they’re poorly written or just plain trashy.

I don’t like to waste time, and I certainly don’t like to waste money, so I’ve often asked my friends for book recommendations, especially when it comes to family read aloud books. While I’ve had some success with their recommendations, I’ve also had some great disappointments.

It turns out that sometimes your absolute favorite book isn’t the best choice as a read aloud book. There’s also the factor that different families have different choices and timetables as far as when they want to introduce their children to difficult topics such as peer pressure, death, and divorce.

That being said, I decided to make a list of several of our favorite read aloud books with a brief synopsis of each one. We’ve read each of these books within the past few years and we have all enjoyed them. So I guess that makes them suitable for ages 8 to 40-something 😉

I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these books and what you think of them.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien


I had to write about this book first, as it is MY favorite read aloud book. Well, one of my favorites. When it comes to books, I tend to have a lot of favorites.

I remember my school librarian, Mrs. Kirk, reading this to my 3rd grade class many years ago. Anything that sticks with me that long has to be good, and I was so excited to share this title with my girls. I wasn’t disappointed.



In this Newbery Medal book, Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse with four small children who is faced with a problem that could destroy her family. With a sick child and moving day fast approaching, she finds unexpected allies in the rats in the local farmyard.

The characters are so well done in this children’s classic. There are mysteries, conflicts, courage, and loyalty repaid in each chapter. We were truly sorry to say goodbye to these characters. This story is timeless and our whole family enjoyed the book.


Whatever After Boxset, Books 1-6 (Whatever After) series by Sarah Mylnowski

This series currently has 11 books with the 12th due out on October 30.

In each book, the main characters, siblings Abby and Jonah, are transported into different fairy tales (Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, etc.) via the magic mirror in the basement of their new house. Somehow along the way, each tale gets messed up, and Abby and Jonah have to “fix” them. Fortunately and amusingly, they aren’t always fixed in the way we’d expect.

As the series continues, the children are frozen, turned blue, forced to flee from giant spiders, and learn to swim underwater without breathing. The tales are fast paced and perfect for upper elementary readers, especially girls. 

I was happy and surprised to discover that each story covers something that kids who are Abby and Jonah’s age may very well be dealing with: jealousy, choices, friendship, moving, problem solving, and fear of new experiences.

The only concern I had with this series is that the children are keeping secrets from their parents. While I realize that all children keep some secrets, Jonah and Abby have to lie to their parents about the magic mirror in the basement in order to keep the secret. I’m hoping that this is resolved by the end of the series, but as it is now, my family discussed this and the girls have agreed that it really would be best, and more fun, to let mom and dad know if they discover a magic mirror — that way we could all participate in the adventures!

If you enjoy light hearted, fast reads with quick humor, the Whatever After series is definitely for you!


JEREMY THATCHER DRAGON HATCHER (Magic Shop Book)by Bruce Coville

My family discovered this book (which is actually book 2 in a series called the Magic Shop Books) on a road trip from coastal Texas to Dillon, Colorado and oh, how it made the miles go by!

In this book, Jeremy, fleeing from the unwanted attention of a girl (that must be read with the disdain of a 5th grade boy) comes upon a small shop he’s never seen before. He enters and has an odd conversation with the owner before purchasing what he thinks is a marble. Of course, it’s not a marble because what kind of story would that be? The marble turns out to be a dragon’s egg and once it hatches the adventure really flies.

This story is fast paced and hilarious. Our family enjoyed it so much that we purchased and read 2 more in the Magic Shop series during our trip. 

Each book in the Magic Shop addresses issues that children may face in 4th grade and up: bullies, crushes, jealousy, and irrational teachers. I hope you enjoy the books as much as we did!


The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

The title gives a pretty apt description of this National Book Award book that I absolutely loved. (I know, I know….I’ve said that a lot but hey, these ARE my favorite books). 

The editorial review says that the Penderwicks series is Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day. I agree! In every page I was pulled back to my childhood vacations in the countryside of Hot Springs, Arkansas — running wild with cousins through the fields, woods, and parks from early in the day to late in the evenings.

Batty, Sky, Rosalind, and Jane are being raised by their father since their mother died of cancer shortly after Batty was born. This summer their father is taking them for a summer holiday in a cottage next door to a mansion. Soon they meet Jeffrey, a boy who is close to their age and the perfect friend for adventures in the lawns, gardens, and attics of the neighboring house.

Of course, what would vacation be without a few close calls, near misses, and frustrated plans? With several sympathetic adults around to guide but not smother them, the children have a summer they will never forget.


From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

Poor Claudia Kincaid. She just isn’t appreciated by her family; no one understands her. This being the case, Claudia decides that she will run away.

Since Claudia is a sensible and practical soul (being the oldest of 4 children will often do that to you) she decides not just to run AWAY from something but to run TOWARD something. The something she has settled on is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Realizing that she wants to live in a style that her allowance alone won’t afford her, Claudia decides to invite her younger brother, Jamie, to go along for the adventure. Somewhat reluctantly, Jamie agrees, so long as he is in charge of the finances ( we all have a sibling like that, don’t we?)

After they arrive and settle into the Met, Claudia is entranced by the discovery of a new addition to the museum: an angel statue that some say was made by Michelangelo himself. Claudia and Jamie use their time alone in the Met after hours to research the mystery of the statue and its origins. They soon discover some truths about the statue, and themselves.

As soon as we completed this book, my girls immediately wanted to search for others by this author. It’s one of the classics that we will read again and again.

These are some of the books that our family has fallen in love with while reading them together over the years. They are appropriate and engaging for almost any age.

What about your family? Are there any books that you’ve read aloud and absolutely loved? Please share them in the comments!


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It’s a GOOOOAAAALLLLL! 3rd Quarter Assessment

October 1st

The first day of the last quarter of the year.


Yikes! How did this happen…… again? Anyone else surprised by the way time continually progresses? I’m constantly surprised at the way the holidays roll around every year. Obviously I planned to start budgeting for Christmas in January, and here it is October and the coffee can’s still empty!

That being said, I thought today would be a good day to sit down and take a look at the list of goals I’d made for 2018. Of course this should probably be done more on a monthly assessment basis but weren’t you reading? The time snuck by on me this year!

So let’s take a look and see how I’m doing:

I wanted to plan a date night at least once a month:

(This is a stock photo, not us :D)

 

I didn’t.

I wanted to attend an exercise class and complete it:

I missed almost 20% of the class.

I wanted to be the best wife/mom/daughter/friend EVER:

I’m not.

I intended to send at least one hand written note of encouragement every week this year:

I haven’t

I wanted to be more positive:

I experienced what I would describe as clinical depression for the first time in my life.

Oh, and we just found out that some of our very good friends are moving out of state – that’s THREE sets of good/BFFs who have moved in 8 years. What is happening here?

Oh yes; and I definitely, DEFINITELY had a hard deadline of publishing my blog by June 1st.

It’s now October 1st and while I’m writing, I haven’t gone public. Actually, I’ve had the goal to start a blog for quite a few YEARS. When I first starting thinking about it, our kids looked like this:

 

(blame their father)

 

Now they look more like this:

(They were SUPPOSED to be posing for Christmas pictures!)

 

WOW! How far could one person fall from their goals? It’s almost like I went BACKWARDS. At least, that’s one way to look at it. Orrrrrrrrr……..

OR, I can say:

We had 8 date nights this year — twice as many as the previous year!

I finished an exercise class — for the first time in over 25 YEARS!

I am not the best — but I am a GOOD wife/mom/daughter/and friend – most days. And I am better this year than I was last year!

I have mailed at least 23 hand written notes/cards this year — that’s at least 23 people who have (hopefully) smiled because they opened their mailbox and pulled out something that wasn’t a bill!

(Perfect timing. Didn’t get this in the mail, but when my husband went to clean out the ice chests that a friend had borrowed for a fundraiser, he found this note. A little bit soggy, but it sure made me smile!)

 

I survived a genuine bout of depression — and I can now relate at least a tiny bit to others who have experienced this. I am also regularly tracking my diet/exercise/habits because I never, ever, EVER want to feel that way again!

And during this time God showed me how I can be very real with many of my friends – and how very much they love me.

The fact that I have always had the most amazing friends in the world humbles me beyond description. The fact that all 3 sets who have moved/are moving are in my faith family means that we will always be connected. We aren’t friends for a reason, a season, or a lifetime: our futures are connected for ETERNITY!

Oh and on the blog thing, hey, look at me, I’m working on a real live blog post — right now!

 

So friends, if some of you (like me) haven’t exactly met your goals for the year, that is okay. If you haven’t met ANY goals for the year, that is okay. And guess what: you still have 3 months to do something.

If you are still here and trying, that is a victory! Keep going! I believe in you! You are God’s BEST and most BELOVED creation. Don’t give up. He loves you. I do too. And I am praying for you tonight. Let’s finish strong!

Happy Fall, Y’all

It’s here, it’s here!

Fall is finally here! At least, that’s what the calendar says. Located in south Texas as we are, you can’t really tell by the weather. However, it makes me happier that there’s at least a hope of cooler days and fewer mosquitos!

That being the case, we like to encourage the temperature drops to arrive as quickly as possible: going through pictures of past fall vacations (that’s my parents with Kate and Jill in Arkansas a couple of years ago), pulling out the plaid flannel shirts, decorating the house with fall colors and pumpkin spice candles, and of course: making PIE!

It’s time for PIE!

My girls and I love to cook together, or at least at the same time since we all have our own ideas about decorating and the amount of time that should be spent thereof, so we set aside last Friday as a pie baking day. Fortunately, we had company coming in for the weekend, so we weren’t being ridiculously extravagant by baking three pies on the same day.

There was a bit of a dispute about who got to make what kind of pie but we finally agreed on a cherry cobbler (Jill), an apple pie (Kate) and a pumpkin pie (me). Actually, I just kind of took what was left in the choosing game but since mine was the easiest one to make, coming out of a can and all — I WIN! 😉

Once we had the ingredients assembled, or at least some of the ingredients, it was time to pull out my old recipe book. You would not believe how long it took me to learn to make pie crust. As a matter of fact, Jill, out youngest daughter, mastered the art long before I did! That humiliation was enough to spur me along to finally nail down the process and recipe.

The only recipe we use is found in my old cookbook that my mom started assembling for me years ago; so please excuse the wear and tear. It’s seen a lot of cooking incidents and accidents along the way. 

Here’s a more legible version for “Mom’s Tarts,” which is what we use for pie crust:

2 C flour & 1 t salt sifted together

2/3 C Crisco (cut in)

5-6 T water

Seems simple, right? Yeah, I thought so too. I have no idea why it took me so long to get this right but hey, mom’s still the undisputed pie crust champion.

We had to make four batches of this recipe, because we wanted to make sure we had plenty of extra crust for decorations.

Jill was finished first, and her cherry cobbler turned out great. She took the easy way out and dumped a couple of cans of cherry pie filling into the dish then covered with a lattice work crust:

It SHOULD have been simple…

My pie should have been just as simple, except that I didn’t read the direction on the back of the pumpkin pie can. I mean, hello, it say right there on on the can, pumpkin pie mix. I assumed (in error as it turned out) that meant that everything was included. But no, no it did not mean that. It meant that everything was included EXCEPT eggs and evaporated milk, which you would think most people would stock in their pantries.

Alas, I am not most people, apparently. I had three cans of sweetened condensed milk in the pantry, but no evaporated milk. So — back to the store I went. I didn’t want to be seen walking into the same store for the third time that day, so I made Jill go with me to buy the milk while Kate stayed and made more pie crust. What are kids for, right? 😀

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, oh I mean house….back at the house, Kate was busy preparing her apples:

placing them in the bottom crust:

and hand cutting designs into the top crust:

I know, the patience of this child is admirable….and slightly insane when compared to that of her mother!

She used the Splenda Apple Pie recipe, which can be found here: https://www.splenda.com/recipes/nostalgic-apple-pie-recipe

Now y’all, I will be the first to say I don’t like sugar free desserts. I mean, what’s the point? And I know that you, like me, have probably been lied to by many, many people about this tasting like that… when this doesn’t taste like that AT ALL. (Cauliflower is NEVER going to taste like mashed potatoes, people, stop saying that it does please and thank you!)

That being said, I am telling you, this is the best apple pie ever, and no one EVER guesses that it is sugar free — and many of them still don’t believe me when I tell them! As a matter of fact, one time I had to pull the Splenda bag out of the trash just to convince my brother in law that we hadn’t used sugar! (We host a lot of skeptics around here, folks).

When I finally returned from the store, Kate had the extra pie crust made and Jill even rolled it out for me (thanks, girls)!

So I was able to mix up the filling and then start the fun part: decorating! Only, I don’t do much of the hand decorating that Kate does. I cheat. That’s right, I cheat. I like to use the pastry/fondant cutters found in this handy-dandy little assortment here:

Make it fancy:

For $12.99, this set has helped us make some pretty impressive pies!

33pcs Pastry Cutters Tools Sugarcraft Cake Decorating Mold Fondant Icing Plunger

When we were all finished, we had some beautiful, and rather tasty desserts to share over the weekend,

that everyone seemed to enjoy. One family brought in some Blue Bell Vanilla Bean ice cream and we were set for the weekend. Of course, the most difficult thing was to make everyone wait from Friday evening until Saturday afternoon to be served, but with threats and bribes, (and locks and hiding spots), we were able to get through. We even had enough pie that there was a bit of the pumpkin left after everyone had returned home Sunday afternoon.

The girls asked if they could have pie for breakfast Monday morning. I agreed but told them to leave some for their dad when he got off work. This is what happens when you say “leave some for dad” but you don’t specify how much to leave for dad:

Ooops! Sorry, babe.

Are you ready for fall? Have you decorated yet? Do you have any recipes to share? We always love to try new recipes, so please feel free to share something special in the comments!

The links in this post are affiliate links, and we may be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking through our links.

Hello, my name is Ayme; and sometimes I like to pretend I’m the Holy Spirit

Hello, my name is Ayme; and sometimes I like to pretend I’m the Holy Spirit. Can anyone else relate to this? I hope not, but at the same time I’d like to think I’m not alone.

It just seems like so many people NEED my help. I mean, why else would they be making the decisions they make?
For example:
— I know people who constantly mourn about being too busy – but they keep saying “yes” to everything they’re asked to do.
— I know people who consistently gripe about their husbands griping about THEM – but don’t listen to what their spouses are actually saying or give any importance to their words.

— I know people who lose sleep over being in debt or just not having enough money – yet spend a ridiculous amount of money going out to eat on a regular basis because they exercise poor planning skills.

Don’t they NEED my help?

In case you haven’t guessed: each one of these situations could describe me on some days. But hey, since I’m actively working on these areas, shouldn’t I be helping others, too? And by “helping” I mean offering my opinion about their lives and how they should be living them.

I’ve decided that part of my problem is that I’m a fixer. I like to fix things. When I hear of a problem or just a job that needs a volunteer, my automatic response is “Let’s get this done.” I’m a list maker, and whatever the next thing is, I want to check it off the list and move on.

The problem with that is, some of the things I hear about shouldn’t ever be on my list. They should be on someone’s list, but not necessarily mine.

For example, I was recently leading a Bible study from 5-7 on Sunday evenings. One of the ladies who heard about it told me she’d really like to be involved, but she could only attend about half of the meetings because every other Sunday she had a commitment to get her kid to a puppet ministry meeting.

Without even thinking, I responded “Hey, I can probably do that for you, then you can be at the study every week!”

Fortunately, my friend is smarter than me and realized “Yeah, then I’d be at a Bible Study with no leader!” Sometimes I think God just smiles tolerantly and shakes His head at me and the things I get myself into.

I need to pause and pray and listen to what God is telling me to do, not jump in and put everything on my list.

Another way I like to play a third of the trinity is to “let people know” the circumstances of a given situation. You know, things they might not have figured out themselves.

There was this one time…

For example, awhile back someone new to our community was taking a leadership position and I was concerned because there were some major power struggles going on around this position. Struggles that I’d been quite shocked to stumble on myself. I was torn about whether or not I should warn the new leader about what he was walking into. I didn’t want him to take months to discover what I’d recently figured out, but I also didn’t want to label myself as a gossip, which is close to what I was about to become.

Again, I was fortunate enough to have a friend who is wiser than myself. When I asked her advice about what I should do, she shared some words that I imagine I will apply to many situations in the future. She said “Ayme, if God revealed this situation to you, don’t you think He can reveal it to this leader without your help?”

Well yes, actually, I think God can do that. He doesn’t need my help here.

While I prefer to refer to my desire to fix things and share information with others as “helpful concern,” the truth is: it’s meddling.

According to Google dictionary, to meddle means to “interfere in or busy oneself unduly with something that is not one’s concern. To touch or handle (something) without permission.”

Oooops.

Wow. Interfere isn’t a very nice word, but did you see what I just learned there? My helpful ways could actually be INTERFERING with the work of the Holy Spirit. So instead of helping, sharing, and fixing…. I could be making things worse; I could be a stumbling block.

That’s not what I want to be.

So how do I stop taking on the role of the Holy Spirit? It’s actually a pretty easy fix, although I use that term hesitantly, now. Pray.

That’s the answer.

Pray and ask God before I speak or act on anything. Stay in God’s word. Listen to His voice. He’s not hiding and He wants me to know and follow His plan for my life.

Let me be clear, not meddling is not an excuse not to be involved. God has specific tasks he’s set aside for each of us. If you’ve read some of the things I’ve written in the past, you probably know that one of my favorite Bible verses is Ephesians 2:10; For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God has plenty of stuff on our to do lists. He has things for us to fix and words for us to share and causes for us to pursue. We just have to make sure He is the one who put our list together.

So I intend to keep sharing and caring and working, and I hope that you will do the same. But let’s be sure to pray first, because I don’t think any of us is up to taking on the role of the Holy Spirit.